Questions are starting to surface around Commercial Manager Rudolf Straueli’s autocratic and authoritarian approach to handling contracting matters at Sharks HQ.
Sharksworld has it on good authority that a group of influential ex-Natal players are fed up with the way the disgraced former Bok mentor is going about his business. One doesn’t have to cast one’s mind back too far to remember how influential this corps of superstars has been in the past: the firing of Kevin Putt set a recent precedent.
This is not the first time that we’ve heard rumblings in the undergrowth about dissatisfaction with Straueli either. As far back as 2006, I first heard rumours that he was not well liked in Durban and that his heavy-handed approach did not go down well. It was confirmed again by another source very close to the team a month ago, before this latest bombshell dropped by a man who knows more than most about the goings on in SA Rugby.
It seems that Big Rudi was pretty much influential in the Sharks allowing Butch James and John Smit to leave. In the case of James, he was never consulted or even informed about the decision to contract Fred Michalak; rather, the first he heard about it was what he read in the press. Our source, who knows both Smit and James very well, tells us that both are desperately keen to return to the Sharks, yet neither is able to thanks to Straueli.
We all know what the problem is regarding Smit – the frankly idiotic clause in Bismarck du Plessis’ contract that will allow him to walk away should John return. Anybody watching the dog’s breakfast that was Bismarck’s performance in the Super 14 semi-final will know that he still has a long way to go before he’s worthy of being mentioned in the same sentence as John Smit – yet we won’t bring the latter in back at the risk of losing the youngster? How many other such clauses has Straueli inserted into other players’ contracts, one wonders? Will Jannie du Plessis be free to leave if his brother goes? Will Kanko be free to walk if his Durban hairdresser moves to Cape Town? The mind boggles at the possibilities.
And what of AJ Venter and BJ Botha? Something stinks about the way that Venter was released; further, it appears as though absolutely no attempts have been made to retain the services of our stalwart tighthead who has no equal in the country. Could this be a case of players being shown the door for having the audacity to challenge Oom Staaldraad? Or is it perhaps because he feels they’re trying to back him into a corner and he won’t have that?
Word on the street is that Straueli offered Frans Steyn a provincial contract for a third of what other juniors were being paid. Steyn’s old man ripped the contract up and we almost lost him as a result. Fortunately Straueli changed his mind in this case. How many other junior stars are being paid far less than their market value, thanks to Straueli? How much more money are we going to waste on big name signings that deliver no value: how many more Lensings, Farani’s, Michalaks and Taione’s will we need to endure, while other provinces, most notably WP, seem to have no problem in signing players with genuine pedigree?
The Sharks have done well thanks to a crop of incredibly talented youngsters that have come through in recent years. The stream is drying up, though and we are left wondering where the next big thing to hit Natal rugby is going to come from. Where is our quality depth? Why is our reserve team, the Wildebeest, so shocking?
Let’s just hope that those stalwarts who have the best interests of Sharks rugby at heart succeed in convincing Brian van Zyl to reign in his contracting fuhrer, hopefully in time to allow us to get back two heroes we should never have lost in the first place.Tweet