The senior management, led by Golden Lions Rugby Union President Jannie Ferreira, managed to avoid a player strike on Thursday, following a meeting with players to explain the reasons behind a sudden about turn and the axing of head coach Eugene Eloff.
As rugby365.com reported earlier, the GLRU were facing a possible player strike, following their controversial decision to axe the popular coach, Eloff, on Wednesday.
The strike would have placed in jeopardy the Golden Lions’ match against the touring British and Irish Lions, scheduled next Wednesday, June 3.
The match will now go ahead, according to Ferreira.
The Lions boss, Ferreira, confirmed that he and GLRU Chief Executive Manie Reyneke had a “meeting” with the players on Thursday morning in which some “frank discussions” took place.
Ferreira also confirmed that at the heart of the player unhappiness was a sudden about turn by the union over the future of Eloff.
On Monday the players were still given the assurance that Eloff would be coach for the match against the B&I Lions next week.
However, following a decision to appoint World Cup winning coach Jake White to “audit” the union, the decision was made to send Eloff packing – with the announcement coming on Wednesday, just 36 hours after players were given assurances that Eloff’s job was safe.
This caused great unhappiness, especially amongst the core of players loyal to Eloff, and the strike threat was relayed to the union – with a number of players, initially, refusing to train under interim coach Hans Coetzee and his back-up staff, Wimpie Vermeulen and Ian McDonald.
However, Thursday’s meeting managed to “clear the air” and all the players returned to training afterwards to start preparations for next week’s showdown with the B&I Lions.
“We had a frank discussion, in which we [the GLRU] explained our position and they [the players] gave their view,” Ferreira told Rugby365′s Jan de Koning.
“Afterwards all the players, without exception, returned to training and they are ALL available for next week’s match,” Ferreira said.
However, he admitted that it was a difficult meeting.
“Obviously there were some players that were unhappy about the sudden about turn of the union,” Ferreira said, adding that he felt the media exaggerated some aspects of the strike threat.
While Ferreira and his management have dodged the bullet for now, there has been reports of a mass player exodus looming in Johannesburg.
Already lock Anton van Zyl has announced his decision to return to Cape Town, while regular captain and No.8 Ernst Joubert has signed with Saracens in England.
Star Springbok centre Jaque Fourie has been linked to a move to French club Clermont – while other senior players like Willem Alberts, Jano Vermaak, Louis Ludik, Doppies la Grange and Willie Wepener have also been listed among those looking for an early exit.
Eloff said he is not interested in the “redeployment” offer on the table from the Lions and will discuss his future with his agent.
He does have an offer from the Western Force on the table, while he is said to have been looking for a job in Europe as well.
The news of Eloff’s departure – or redeployment as the Golden Lions Rugby Union called it – follows a media release on Tuesday that World Cup-winning Springbok coach Jake White’s company, Winning Way, will do “a full assessment and audit on the structures of the [Golden Lions Rugby] Union”.
While Coetzee is the interim coach it is believed that White has been earmarked to take over Eloff’s position as head coach … maybe even before the start of the Currie Cup competition in July.
rugby365 have reliably heard that White’s role at the Lions will go beyond just an “audit” and that a fulltime coaching role may well be on the cards.
Eloff’s contract with the Lions run until the completion of the Currie Cup season, at the end of October.Tweet