Li­ons leav­ing pack af­ter SA U-19 event scrapped

Saturday Star - - SPORT - Jac­ques.vd­west­huyzen@inl.co.za

JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

THE de­ci­sion by the South African Rugby Union to do away with the na­tional Un­der-19 com­pe­ti­tion has forced fran­chises like the Li­ons Rugby Com­pany to off­load sev­eral of their play­ers.

This was con­firmed by the Li­ons’ high per­for­mance man­ager Bart Schoe­man yes­ter­day. He said they wanted the process to be done and dusted by Novem­ber 19.

“That is when the pre-sea­son (for 2019) of­fi­cially gets un­der­way at the Li­ons. We’re hop­ing to be done at that stage, so that the play­ers af­fected can start afresh at other unions.”

Schoe­man said the Li­ons had taken the de­ci­sion to end the con­tracts of sev­eral of their play­ers, mainly from the ju­nior ranks, but that some se­nior play­ers were also af­fected.

“We’re in the process of of­fer­ing them sev­er­ance pack­ages. Fol­low­ing Saru’s de­ci­sion to scrap the Un­der-19 com­pe­ti­tion next year, we’ve got play­ers here who’re go­ing to be com­pet­ing with the Un­der-21s to play in only one ju­nior com­pe­ti­tion and the Su­per­sport Chal­lenge in 2019.

“It doesn’t make eco­nomic sense and by hold­ing onto the play­ers we’re po­ten­tially deny­ing them op­por­tu­ni­ties else­where.”

Schoe­man said the de­ci­sion by the Li­ons to off­load what could be up to 20 play­ers was taken in con­junc­tion with the South African Rugby Play­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (Sarpa) and Sareo, the em­ploy­ers union.

Saru an­nounced ear­lier this year they in­tended to halve the num­ber of pro­fes­sional play­ers in South Africa in the com­ing years, be­cause of the fi­nan­cial pres­sure put on unions.

Schoe­man said the Li­ons started the process of offloading play­ers this week, fol­low­ing dis­cus­sions with the play­ers, their par­ents and agents.

“But not all the Un­der-19s are af­fected ... we still have sev­eral young play­ers stay­ing on, which is im­por­tant for our feeder sys­tem. We’ve had to plan care­fully to en­sure a sus­tain­able fu­ture,” said Schoe­man.

Gen­eral man­ager of player af­fairs at Sarpa, Man­disi Tshonti, said the de­ci­sion to ter­mi­nate the con­tracts of the play­ers was in the best in­ter­ests of the play­ers and the union.

“With unions ex­pe­ri­enc­ing on­go­ing stress de­ter­mined by fac­tors in the in­dus­try, we can ex­pect more of th­ese pro­cesses to fol­low in fu­ture,” said Tshonti.

“As rep­re­sen­ta­tives of the play­ers we were in­formed of planned con­sul­ta­tions with the play­ers. From past ex­pe­ri­ences we have seen that if the process is fol­lowed cor­rectly it will be ben­e­fi­cial for both par­ties but we will none­the­less stay close to the process and ad­vise the play­ers.”

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