Lions stars 'keeping options open'
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the six-can't-go-into-five scenario will continue to haunt the Lions.
The ongoing uncertainty surrounding the six-can't-go-into-five scenario will continue to haunt the Lions when Super Rugby resumes in less than a fortnight.
The Lions, the lowest ranked South African team and sitting 14th on the global table of 15 teams, remain the 'frontrunners' to be eliminated if the Southern Kings enter Super Rugby in 2013.
However, the uncertainty over whether that will be indeed the case - as there will almost certainly a massive legal backlash should the Lions or any of the five current Super Rugby franchises be eliminated - is making life uncomfortable for the players.
But what will happen to the team that does miss out in 2013? What is the succession plan?
While all this is playing itself out behind closed doors in the boardrooms at South African Rugby Union headquarters in Cape Town, the players are beginning to get jittery.
And Lions captain Joshua Strauss, speaking to this website in an exclusive interview, admitted that some players were "talking to their agents".
As it is, two of the Lions' most seasoned backline players have already left the pride.
Veteran utility back Doppies la Grange, who captained the Lions before Strauss took over as team leader, has signed a two-year contract at Benetton Treviso in Italy. He has already played his last game for the franchise.
Earlier this month, wing Michael Killian also announced that he would be returning to the Kings in Port Elizabeth, where he will play for them in the 2012 First Division competition.
"It is different for ever player," Strauss told this website, when asked how difficult it was to get on with their job while all this was playing itself out on the sidelines.
"Some players are talking to their agents, as you have to keep your options open," Strauss added.
"You don't want to have blind faith and in a month's time they say to you: 'This is what is going down and you no longer have a contract'. Then you suddenly have to run around looking for alternatives.
"It does differ from player-to-player - some players may have something lined up already and may be more at ease with the situation, as opposed to players who have a more uncertain future."
The Lions' three remaining fixtures this season - when the Super Rugby competition resumes at the end of the month - will see them take on the Stormers at Newlands, the Rebels in Johannesburg and the Bulls in Pretoria.
Strauss said they were determined to focus on the task at hand. "We try to think about it [the uncertainty] as little as possible, but it is in the back of our minds.
"We don't know what is happening, it is one of those issues that is playing itself out in the boardrooms, so we are also waiting to hear what will happen."
Strauss is one of the players who has not made a call on his future and is waiting to see how the saga evolves.
"As I said, we don't know what is happing. For instance, if the Lions are knocked out of Super Rugby, we don't even know what the succession plans are.
"I presume that if a team is not playing Super Rugby there will be a loss of sponsors, if a team only plays Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup rugby I don't know what attractions there will be for sponsors.
"All I know is what is in the media, so we will have to see what happens.
"If the Lions can [have the capacity to] keep the players, we will stay... but we will have to wait and see."
By Jan de Koning