Lions boss 'open-minded' about future
REACTION: Despite being at the receiving end of another mass exodus, there will be no ‘knee-jerk’ reaction from Lions Rugby Company Chief Executive Officer Rudolph Straeuli.
Straeuli, speaking to @rugby365com in the wake of last Friday’s announcement of the departure of several key players and a coaching staff member, said he was looking at the bigger picture.
World Cup-winning hooker Malcolm Marx headlined the departures of players who had taken up the option of tearing up their contracts as part of SA Rugby’s 21-day clause – the result of the cost-cutting exercises, formulated and agreed to by bodies representing SA Rugby, MyPlayers (the players’ representative organisation), Sport Employees’ Unite (employees’ trade union) and the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (SAREO – representing the provincial unions).
Marx was joined in the exit queue by Ruan Vermaak, Tyrone Green and Shaun Reynolds, as well as assistant coach Neil de Bruin.
Last week’s departures further diluted the Lions’ already threadbare player resources – following the decampments of the previous two years.
They have lost players like Robbie Coetzee, Armand van der Merwe, Lourens Erasmus, Robert Kruger, Albertus Smith, James Venter, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Ruan Combrinck, Madosh Tambwe, Sylvian Mahuza, Ruan Dreyer, Corné Fourie, Jacques van Rooyen, Franco Mostert and Rohan Janse van Rensburg.
Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi has been suspended and former captain Warren Whiteley forced into coaching as a result of his ongoing knee injury.
Former head coach Swys de Bruin retired.
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The desperate need to achieve a sustainable model for the SA Rugby industry was at the heart of last week’s departures.
However, there will always be competition from the cash-flush clubs in Europe and Japan for the abundant and quality of talent available in South Africa.
Straeuli said now is the time to be “open-minded” about competition structures going ahead.
He added that the Lions are ready to tackle the fall-out from the COVID-19-enforced lockdown and make the changes required to survive.
“Across the board, many staff made great sacrifices,” Straeuli said of the latest batch of departures, in the wake of the salary cuts in recent weeks and months.
“[We are] very privileged to have someone like Altmann Allers, who has helped us built a strong system,” he said of the man who is their main benefactor and owns 75 percent of the Lions’ shares.
However, while there is no income – the result of the suspension of all rugby – maintaining a company or even growing it will require lateral thinking.
Straeuli pointed to the Lions’ bloody-minded doggedness – which got them through their axing from Super Rugby in 2013 and saw them reach three consecutive finals (2016, 2017 and 2018) – as an example of how they can survive the current recession.
“There will be a new normal,” he said of what the game will look like once the sport resumes.
“Broadcast deals will look different and the relationship with sponsors will be different.
“It is a time to be open-minded about competition structures going ahead.”
Straeuli said they are waiting for SA Rugby – who in turn is relying on the government for guidance – before they will have any idea when they can start implementing their return to play policy.
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