Lions happy to hold onto talent
Ockert de Villiers, Sport24
Johannesburg – South African rugby teams are finding it increasingly difficult hold onto promising talent from the lure of foreign currency, Golden Lions Rugby Union manager Bart Schoeman has said on Tuesday.
"The European markets' targets has shifted and they are looking at your Under-21 players because they know the senior players are more difficult to attract because of Springbok contracts," Schoeman said.
"It has almost been a bigger challenge to keep our younger players here as they now see Euros and the Yen flashed in front of them.
"The senior players are almost content with what they have until next year while they also get to play Super Rugby."
Schoeman went onto say that the uncertainty over their playing future at local unions played a major role in whether young players take the bait of an overseas contract.
The Lions have made a conscious decision not to make any marquee signings since their return to Super Rugby in 2014, but instead trust in the natural progression of talent within their ranks.
This is clearly paying off with the emergence of stars such Harold Vorster, Malcolm Marx and Jaco van der Walt vying for positions in the senior team.
The Lions announced on Monday that it had extended contracts with five emerging talents and four Super Rugby players.
Marx, Kwagga Smith, Van der Walt, Lourens Erasmus and Bobby de Wee have all signed contract extensions as part of a group of future talent.
Among the current crop of Super Rugby players Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck, Howard Mnisi and MB Lusaseni also committed their futures with the Lions until the end of 2016.
"It is great for us to say that we have tied down our top young talent at this stage," said Schoeman.
"What makes it easier is the fact that some of these guys are given the assurance that they are backed in the system as a young player.
"With players like [Malcolm] Marx and [Harold] Vorster getting the opportunity to play at that level, coach Ackers (Johan Ackermann) shows that he has a policy of ‘if you are good enough, you are old enough’."
Schoeman confirmed on Tuesday that the union had secured approximately 95 per cent of their senior player stocks until the end of 2016.
He said that the first aim was to secure the majority of their senior squad for the next two years and they did not expect any major new signings during this time.
"If you think in the short term it is easy to fall back and say it would be great to get one or two star players to give us that boost, but we made the call to back the young players in our system," he added.
"Over the years the Lions have a record of bringing through young players and the current senior group is an example of that.
"Eight or nine players have the potential to play for the Springboks, whereas they weren’t even on the radar a year ago."
He said that Ackermann has made the decision to develop their talent from within instead of paying R3 million for a marquee player.