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Lions boss issues warning to rival over player poaching

By Jan De Koning
Wandisile Simelane of Emirates Lions during the United Rugby Championship match between Leinster and Emirates Lions at RDS Arena in Dublin. (Photo By Harry Murphy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

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Lions Rugby Company Chief Executive Officer Rudolf Straeuli is ‘hoping’ for an amicable settlement, but has not ruled out the possibility of an ‘ugly scrap’ over the Sharks’ poaching of key players from Ellis Park.

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Straeuli dismissed the notion that there is not much going on in the ‘recruitment’ department in Johannesburg, saying they are “actively” recruiting junior and senior players.

However, he suggested this week’s announcements by the Sharks are “premature”, but added that skipper Burger Odendaal has signed with English Premiership side Wasps.

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The negotiations over Odendaal’s departure date are ongoing, with his contract running to its conclusion only in October.

Asked about the two big announcements by the Sharks this past week – saying that star flank Vincent Tshituka and burly prop Carlu Sadie are heading to Durban – Straeuli suggested that is not a done deal.

“Eduard [Coetzee] is currently in America, so I am waiting on his return,” Straeuli told Rugby365.com about a planned meeting with the Sharks CEO.

“I hope we can solve it on amicable terms.

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“We are reserving our rights,” he said, adding that Tshituka’s contract is only running to its completion in December and Sadie in June.

The Lions have lost more than two teams in the past two years, with more rumours of imminent departures – including reports that talented centre Wandisile Simelane is heading north across the Jukskei to Pretoria.

Straeuli said they will continue with the recent trend of developing players from within their junior ranks and not just recruit from outside the union.

“The impact of COVID has also meant we have had to stick to a tight budget,” the CEO said.

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He added that the contracting model is changing, as they approach their first-ever season in Europe’s top-flight – the Challenge Cup and Champions Cup.

“We have to relook our [recruiting] system,” Straeuli told @rugby365com, adding: “We are recruiting junior players for the junior competitions and the Currie Cup, but we are also recruiting for the URC.

“We have not even played the Challenge Cup yet, so we are a bit thin and underdone in terms of our numbers.”

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