Star fullback Jaco Taute might be the next player to leave the Lions as he wants to play Super Rugby next season.
Since the Lions’ relegation from Super Rugby was declared in August, six players have confirmed their exits. Flank Josh Strauss (Glasgow Warriors, Scotland), props Jacobie Adriaanse (Scarlets, Wales) and Caylib Oosthuizen (Free State Cheetahs), and locks Ruan Botha (WP), Paul Willemse (Blue Bulls) and Ettienne Oosthuizen (Brumbies, Australia) will all continue their careers elsewhere.
Utility forward Grant Hattingh also signed for the Bulls straight after Super Rugby, before Saru announced the Lions’ unfortunate fate.
President Kevin de Klerk has stressed several times in recent weeks that there won’t be a major player exodus in Johannesburg as the union has a contracted group of 26 players, who are all committed until 2013.
Strauss was part of this contracted group, but De Klerk explained that the player’s release was an exception as he has an opportunity to play Test rugby for Scotland in 2015.
However, Taute, who is signed on until October 2013, said he will also leave if possible.
‘Nothing is confirmed yet, but I definitely want to play Super Rugby,’ Taute told keo.co.za. ‘It’s one of the strongest competitions and you get to measure yourself against the best players in the world. That’s where I want to play my rugby.
‘I’m currently looking over my Lions contract to see what options I can take. I will join another Super Rugby franchise if possible.’
Last week, De Klerk told this site that there were plans being made to create an alternative tournament, with the help of Saru and the IRB. It would run during Super Rugby, which would see the Lions face teams from Europe, America and the Pacific Islands.
De Klerk believes this would allow his players ‘to feature at the highest possible levels’.
However, Taute didn’t have a positive reaction to this: ‘That tournament isn’t finalised yet. It’s unfortunate that the Lions were relegated. But like I said, Super Rugby is my first preference.’
Meanwhile, Taute also confirmed that he isn’t sidelined with wrist bruising. The Lions announced in a statement on Monday that the 21-year-old was one of four players who picked up injuries after the Currie Cup win over the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last weekend.
‘I’m not sure what that’s about,’ he said. ‘I took part in full training and I’m fit.’
By Gareth Duncan