How Stormers 'family' could stave off exodus
LISTEN as Stormers forwards coach Rito Hlungwani opens up about the challenges they face during the national lockdown – including a possible player exodus.
Most franchises are sweating bullets since the announcement of a three-week window in which players could seek employment abroad.
Bulls back Johnny Kotze this week became the first player to formally tear up his contract after SA Rugby’s announcement late last week.
Unconfirmed reports have linked at least 10 to 15 additional players to the ‘feeding frenzy‘ since SA Rugby, the players union MyPlayers, the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation and the staff union Sports Employees’ Unite announced the wide-ranging plan to cut between ZAR700-million to ZAR1-billion from their combined budgets over the next eight months.
A substantial number of players are VERY UNHAPPY with the scale of the salary cuts.
Hlungwani admitted the 21-day clause – a window that allows players to tear up their contracts if they are not happy with the size and scale of pay cuts – is a “tough situation” to deal with.
Players like World Cup winners Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Herschel Jantjies and Siyamthanda Kolisi are very hot commodities.
As it is, Bok prop Wilco Louw is already heading to Harlequins in the English Premiership.
Now add in fringe players like John Schickerling, Chris van Zyl, Cobus Wiese and Jaco Coetzee and you begin to grasp the enormity of the exodus the Cape Town-based franchise could face.
However, Hlungwani said the environment they have created at the Stormers gives them the confidence that the players would want to stay in Cape Town.
“They want to play for us, for each other and for the union,” the forwards coach said.
“As much as it might be a nervous time, we feel we have done our job in creating that family environment that they wouldn’t want to leave.”
(Continue reading below … )
He admitted it is never pleasant for anybody to hear you are getting salary reductions.
“It is something that is very difficult to deal with, but it differs from person to person,” Hlungwani said, adding: “Other players have bigger struggles in their lives.
“Some guys made good investments and could survive for a month or two.
“We are in constant communications with the players to gauge where they are and how we can help.
“Yes, it is a very challenging time.”
He said that while they certainly have the rugby-playing ability and experience sorted, the coaching staff are getting tested in terms of their interpersonal skills.
“It is something we as coaching make sure we are working hard and contribute to the positivity of the morale.”