Lions led up the garden path

Fri, 17 Aug 2012 14:42
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Lions President Kevin de Klerk slammed the "poor" leadership of SARU and accused them of leading his team up the garden path.

Golden Lions Rugby Union President Kevin de Klerk slammed the "poor" leadership of the South African Rugby Union and accused them of leading his team up the garden path.

His attack on the hierarchy at SARU headquarters in Cape Town follows the decision to instate the Southern Kings as the fifth franchise in the SA Conference and axe the Lions from Super Rugby.

After months of haggling and postponed meetings SARU on Thursday confirmed that the Southern Cape-based Kings will join the Stormers, Bulls, Sharks and Cheetahs in the SA conference.

The Lions will sit out of the 2013 Super Rugby season and will play in a promotion/relegation match - against the last-placed SA team - for a spot in the 2014 competition.

It is a decision that did not go down well with De Klerk, who said he will reveal his union's plans at a media briefing on Tuesday.

However, he did not hold back when he expressed his disgust with the SARU leadership.

"Bitterly disappointed in the result, but even more disappointed in the leadership displayed by SARU in this entire saga," De Klerk told this website in an exclusive interview.

"We were under the impression that the outcome would have suited everybody. This must be seen in the light of what was said to the Sports Portfolio Committee, that the Kings would come in, but not at the expense of any other team.

"However, that statement [by SARU] held no value, as it appears the writing was on the wall."

It has to be pointed out that the statement - 'not at the expense of any of the other franchises - was a creation of SARU and was never discussed at any meeting.

"I raised it in the meeting, before it went to the vote," De Klerk said, adding: "There is no Plan B in place, a back-up plan for the team falling out.

"I am bitterly disappointed in the leadership of SARU in this matter."

De Klerk was also disappointed with the behaviour of some of the other franchises - who initially stood together and sent a letter to SARU as a unit, saying: 'That none of the existing franchises shall be eliminated from the tournament in 2013 or at any stage thereafter as a result of the inclusion of the Kings.'

"The other guys ran, just like we expected them to run, especially my 'pal' there in the Free State ... he is known for that," the Lions boss told this website.

However, he had kinder words of the Stormers hierarchy, who are believed to have been one of only two unions who supported the Lions that lost heavily (6-23) in the vote.

"We never really knew where we stood with Western Province, but since the change in leadership this year they showed their true colours and we know exactly where we stand [with them]."

De Klerk also dismissed SARU suggestion, at a media gathering on Thursday, that there are guarantees in place for the team that lost out.

"We know about nothing, there are no guarantees," the GLRU President said, adding: "We were under the impression that the Kings would come in through the Currie Cup.

"That [proposal] disappeared like mist in the morning sun. We heard all kinds of proposals, a seven-seven or eight-six [Currie Cup competition].

"We were lead up the garden path.

"I was dumbfounded when I arrived there [at the meeting] and realised this thing was a done deal ... we needn't have bothered with the meeting.

"[We knew] it was a fait accompli."

De Klerk spoke about honour, or the lack thereof, among SARU's bosses.

"For me it is a lack of leadership - it is the worst leadership I ever experienced.

"They can say that the other unions voted at the beginning of the year that the Kings will come in, but it was never decided on a method [to implement this].

"SARU claimed that nobody came with a proposal ... that is not true.

"The Kings' entry was also based on the transformation issue, which is an outstanding matter for some time now.

"On that basis the unions said 'yes' to the Kings, but never was a method [on how it should be implemented] decided on.

"We agreed on the basis that SANZAR would be lobbied for an additional team and that also didn't materialise," he added.

De Klerk they are planning a media conference next Tuesday, where they will reveal their plans.

"We are just sitting back first, take a breath, and get our ducks in a row ... get the correct [legal] advice.

"We won't lie down in this matter."

* Meanwhile the GLRU dismissed media speculation of an immediate exodus of players - which have created uncertainty amongst supporters and stakeholders.

"The Lions management deem it prudent to confirm that the larger group of senior players are contracted at least until 31 October 2013.

"This list of senior players so contracted include, amongst others: JC Janse van Rensburg, CJ van der Linde, Callie Visagie, Pat Cilliers, Hendrik Roodt, Franco van der Merwe, Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Michael Rhodes, Stephan Greeff, Josh Strauss, Warren Whiteley, Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Whestley Moolman, Elton Jantjies, Guy Cronje, Jaco Taute, Alwyn Hollenbach, Lionel Mapoe, Dylan des Fountain, Bradley Moolman, Deon van Rensburg, Deon Helberg, Andries Coetzee, James Kamana.

* Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies has a clause in his contract which allows to play at a different franchise if the Lions are not participating in Super Rugby, but he remains contracted to the Lions and will return for Currie Cup rugby if he is not required by the national team.

By Jan de Koning

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