Golden Lions Rugby Union Chief Executive Manie Reyneke has hauled out the chequebook, saying that he will “buy” a team capable of winning the Super 14.
Speaking to rugby365.com, as the fall-out over the controversial sacking of popular coach Eugene Eloff continues, Reyneke revealed that he is ready to enter the transfer market to replace a host of senior players that are on their way out.
The senior management, led by GLRU President Jannie Ferreira and Reyneke, 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 Eloff.
As rugby365.com reported earlier, the GLRU were facing a possible player strike, following their decision to axe Eloff, on Wednesday.
The strike would have placed in jeopardy the Golden Lions’ match against the touring British and Irish Lions, scheduled for next Wednesday, June 3. The match will now go ahead.
Reyneke, like Ferreira, said the reports of a strike threat was “over dramatised” by the media, but admitted that there was a certain amount of unhappiness as a result of Eloff’s axing and the manner in which it was done.
“There will always be players for a coach and players against a coach,” Reyneke said.
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.
While Reyneke and Ferreira managed calm the situation down and got all the players to return to training, reports of a mass player exodus continued to gain momentum.
Reyneke, while confirming that a number of senior players are on their way out, denied that it was indeed linked to the coaching drama and also revealed to rugby365 that he already has in place a plan to replace them.
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 – the same club that had earlier signed the Lions’ Vodacom Cup captain and hooker Ethienne Reynecke.
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. Most of them are looking to move abroad.
To counter the departure of players like Van Zyl, Joubert and Alberts, the Lions have apparently offered 34-year-old second row forward Willem Stoltz a chance to resume his stalling career in Johannesburg.
Boland’s journeyman lock Brad Mockford is also on trial in Johannesburg, while University of Cape Town centre Pieter Engelbrecht has joined the Lions ahead of their showdown with the B&I Lions next week. He has been offered a contract.
But Reyneke says the quality of the players he will be chasing will be good enough to ensure the team can win the Super 14.
“We were aware of those [senior] players leaving before the coaching drama unfolded this week,” Reyneke told rugby365, adding: “The two issues are totally unrelated.
“We are planning to replace them with players of the same quality or even better.
“I have to get together a squad that can win the Super 14 and that doesn’t just mean players, a coach as well.”
Reyneke added that while Coetzee and his back-up team have been listed as “interim” coaches, they do have an opportunity to book themselves more permanent posts.
“If all goes well he [Coetzee] may well stay on,” he said of the game against the B&I Lions next week.
“He could stay on for the Currie Cup competition and maybe even the Super 14 next year.”Tweet