Lions leaving pack after SA U-19 event scrapped
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.”
Janneman Malan of the Cobras|