Vodacom Blue Bulls hooker Adriaan Strauss could find himself at the centre of a legal tussle if he fails to resolve contractual uncertainty.
The SA U21 hooker signed a contract with the Vodacom Cheetahs midway through the Absa Currie Cup, but the move has been stifled by the fact that the Bulls have a right of first refusal clause in Strauss’s current contract.
Now a court battle looms as both unions have indicated their unwillingness to relent on the issue.
Strauss said he wanted to remain with the Pretoria-based side but was mindful of the intense competition for a starting berth and also found a return to his birthplace appealing.
“I have signed a contract at Free State and I know there is an option in my contract here. I am not even certain myself if I can go or not,” Strauss told the Pretoria News. “I want to stay, but I must consider my future. I am happy at the Bulls but I am also from the Free State and it is a great place. My decision is primarily about how much chance I will get to play.”
He added that the faith Heyneke Meyer had shown in him during his time with the Bulls made his decision more complicated.
Strauss had limited opportunities in the Absa Currie Cup, yet made a good impression when entrusted with the No.2 shirt, or as a replacement for Gary Botha. He was widely tipped to usurp Botha before the Bull’s captain found an excellent run of form.
With Springbok Chilliboy Ralepelle likely to be Botha’s back-up for the 2007 Vodacom Super 14, Strauss fears he might be spend next season in the rugby wilderness.
“The Bulls do have three good hookers and because the rotation system is not always as clear as it should be, I don’t know just how much chance I will get to play,” he said. “I also don’t know under how much pressure they will be to play the other hookers, especially as both of them are Springboks.
“Chili is in the Springbok team and you can’t expect the national coach not to want his national players to play in a Super 14 or Currie Cup. I think it isn’t a colour thing, but rather the pressure that will come with the national coach wanting to see his national team players play,” he added.
“I just want to be at a place where I can compete fairly in such a situation.”
Strauss’s quality could see him make a serious challenge to his 19-year-old brother, Richardt’s starting berth in Bloemfontein.
But his most pressing priority will be to clarify the contractual complications he finds himself in as a result of what he concedes was an impetuous decision to sign with the Cheetahs.
“At that stage (when I signed) Free State were looking for hookers and they told me they were willing to wait, but they weren’t willing to wait forever as they needed to finalise their squad. It looked as if it was the most logical decision to make,” he explained.
“I feel bad about it because I feel I am keeping both provinces hanging on a string. But at the time I had not negotiated with the Bulls or talked to them about the future.
“I am not really sure at the moment. I want to stay but Free State have also given me a good deal and I have a good relationship with them.”
The Bulls will meet with Strauss this week in an attempt to avert a court battle.