Deadline day: Lions set to lose Marx, scrambling to keep Jantjies
Heinz Schenk and Sibusiso Mjikeliso - Sport24
The Lions could lose two of their biggest stars with World Cup-winning Springbok hooker Malcolm Marx opting out of his contract with the Johannesburg franchise.
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Marx, who recently returned from a so-called sabbatical stint in Japan, will be returning to the country to run out for the Kubota Spears, who are coached by former two-time Super Rugby champion coach Frans Ludeke.
Moreover, Lions captain Elton Jantjies is also said to have asked to be released from his contract to take up an offer from French club Agen, but insiders say the union is still scrambling to keep him.
While he did not confirm the departures of the two senior players, Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli expressed disappointment at losing various key players.
He said confirmation of all departures would be made later today.
Another significant blow, particularly in terms of future continuity, is exciting young winger and fullback Tyrone Green, who has an English suitor, rumoured to be Harlequins.
The Lions have been on a big drive in recent years to hold onto their "homegrown" talent and Green’s loss would be a massive blow.
The good news is that they managed to hang on to centre Wandisile Simelane, who was believed to be unhappy at the Lions after being starved of game time in this year’s shortened Super Rugby season.
Simelane, who shares an agent with new Bulls director-of-rugby Jake White, chose to remain with the Lions despite the apparent unhappiness.
"We're naturally disappointed about the players who are leaving us," Straeuli told Sport24, opting not to identify any departees.
"But it's the name of the game. The clause was negotiated in the best interests of South African rugby, to keep it viable in these difficult times. It was a given that we'd only receive confirmation of players' plans at a late stage and we have to accept that.
"In the end, this is the situation we find ourselves in. We need to remember that we have a responsibility to keep the local industry alive."
Straeuli also lauded the players who will be sticking it out at Ellis Park.
"We have immense respect for them too. We're grateful for the players and staff who are making huge sacrifices."
Professional rugby players in the country had until midnight on Thursday - the end of a three-week window - to leave their existing contracts with their unions.
It was a clause was agreed upon by the SA Rugby Industry, MyPlayers and the South African Rugby Employers' Organisation (Sareo) last month as part of SA Rugby's efforts to cut costs in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.