Lions players opt out of domestic contracts

Malcolm Marx (captain) of the Lions during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Hurricanes at Emirates Airline Park on June 08, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Malcolm Marx (captain) of the Lions during the Super Rugby match between Emirates Lions and Hurricanes at Emirates Airline Park on June 08, 2019 in Johannesburg, South Africa.
Image: Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images

At least four Lions players have opted to slip through the 21-day window they were allowed to get out of their domestic contracts.

Hooker Malcolm Marx‚ utility back Tyrone Green‚ lock Ruan Vermaak and flyhalf Shaun Reynolds have all opted to get out‚ while assistant-coach Neil de Bruin also joined them to the Doornfontein exit.

The Lions have been ravaged by defections in recent seasons but this one will hit particularly hard as they are unlikely to immediately plug the holes left by the players.

Marx‚ who had been playing for the Shining Arcs in Japan‚ and who had been stuck there since Covid-19 lockdown restrictions kicked in‚ had been on a playing sabbatical. There had been general uncertainty about whether he would return to Ellis Park.

Lions Company chairman Altmann Allers on Thursday could not confirm whether Marx would resume his career at the franchise where he had made his mark.

While the Springbok’s sturdy presence up front will be sorely missed‚ the Lions have been dealt an equally significant blow at the back with the departure of Green. Despite the Lions’ troubles over the last season or so‚ the livewire utility back has been one of their most consistent performers. His energy and never-say-die spirit will be hard to replace.

Vermaak is a young rangy forward who can be deployed across the back and second row‚ while Reynolds has deputised for Elton Jantjies when the regular flyhalf has been unavailable.

The amiable De Bruin‚ the son of former Lions coach Swys‚ had become a valuable member of the coaching staff.

Their departures were largely made possible by local rugby’s Industry Salary Plan (ISP) to help ease the pay burden on embattled franchises amid the Covid-19 pandemic. SA Rugby introduced a 21-day window allowing for players and staff to cancel their current contracts with immediate effect.

The loss of the four players and a coach might lighten some of the strain on the Lions’ finances but it will be another body blow to the struggling team. The Lions were bottom of the South African conference and 13th out of 15 on the overall Super Rugby points table when the tournament was suspended in March.

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