How deep does the rot run at Ellis Park?
INVESTIGATION: Lions Rugby Company Chief Executive Officer Rudolf Straeuli may have been defensive and guarded in his responses, but the player discord at the franchise is REAL and growing!
It goes much deeper and further than just the leaked MyPlayers survey that gave coach Ivan van Rooyen a measly four out of 10 and was equally critical of other staff.
Straeuli told @rugby365com this week that he is not about to sweep any perceived administrative issues and player unhappiness under the carpet.
However, the torrent of dissenting voices is growing at such an alarming rate that it is obvious the ‘rot’ at Ellis Park won’t be solved by making the MyPlayers report public.
The most vociferous grievances are directed at the CEO, Straeuli, coach Van Rooyen and Tracy van Ginkel, the manager of Contracts and Operations at the Lions Rugby Company.
It has become so bad that another exodus of top players is likely to follow the 2022/2023 season, despite Straeuli’s recent statement that they have already ‘resigned’ most of their players.
Players indicating they are likely to follow the likes of recent departures like Carlu Sadie, Hacjivah Dayimani and Marvin Orie out the exit door list Straeuli and Van Ginkel as the main reasons for their melancholy.
Speaking with Straeuli about contracts just adds to their exasperation and anxiety.
One of the main ‘questions’ that kept coming up is the reasons for the selection and contracting of the CEO’s son, Ruhan Straeuli.
* Is he competent to play at this level?
* Does he deserve to get selected ahead of players like Johannes Pretorius, Cal Smid, Jarrod Cairns, and Travis Gordon, as well as Pieter Jansen van Vuren and Peter-John Steenkamp (both utility forwards that mostly play at lock)?
* Was the departure of players like Hacjivah Dayimani, Len Massyn, Cyle Brink and Marnus Schoeman really just about money or did the presence of Straeuli junior play a role?
* What is the real reason for the departure of former Baby Bok Emile van Heerden?
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You also have to question the coach’s relationship with the players.
* Are they really believing his explanations for his selection decisions?
* Do they feel he is competent enough to deliver a proper game plan?
It is claimed that when Burger Odendaal was captain – before his departure to the Premiership last year – he took the players on his own for a few training sessions and rejected Van Rooyen’s game plan. Those games the Lions won.
What is the influence of the CEO on the coach?
Are any of the coaching staff willing to challenge Straeuli senior?
@rugby365com was told Albert van den Bergh, Ricardo Loubscher and Jaque Fourie (the latter recently signed a two-year contract extension) are willing to stand their ground.
Van Rooyen and Julian Redelinghuys are apparently yes-men minions.
Van Ginkel has few (if any) allies in the player corps.
Terms such as ‘greedy, vindictive and the most unprofessional’ were used to describe her.
It is obvious her actions on the recent tour to Europe – where she doubled as the ‘team manager’ in place of a very ill Mustapha Boomgaard – further alienated her from the players.
If accounts of her “disrespectful” behaviour towards players are true, it would explain the apathetic performances witnessed this season.
You have to ask, given her obvious disconnect with the players, what is her relationship with the CEO and coach?
Did Van Ginkel really fly business class while the players flew economy class?
Accounts of the players having to travel for eight hours on a train to Scotland without any food or nutrition also sound like fiction rather than fact.
However, players stand by those accounts.
The reports of “undernourished meals” while on tour in a desperate need to ‘save money’ are also a testimony of an amateur administration.
Hot dogs for professional athletes about to play one of the most iconic teams in the world, Stade Francais, also sounds fanciful.
Yet, players stand by those claims.
However, the most shocking event is the claim that Van Ginkel was aware that the team’s match jerseys went missing while on tour and misled the squad.
Having numbers added to their warm-up jersey for the Challenge Cup fixture against Stade Francais at Stade Jean Bouin is downright embarrassing.
Now add in claims of ‘pub crawling’ and golf at the most expensive courses in Europe by management, and it is glaringly obvious why the team is sliding down into a mire of mediocrity.
There are also accounts of players ‘very rudely’ being told not to leave the hotel and meet up with family in Cape Town on Old Year’s eve – players from Cape Town that have family living in the Mother City.
Players who did meet up with their families were hauled before ‘disciplinary hearings’ and in some cases left out of the touring squad to Europe.
Finally, it was asked who else – apart from Chairman Altmann Allers and the CEO, Straeuli – is on the board that supports the coaching staff.
As they say in the classics: ‘Watch this space!’