Poaching: Lions get slap on the wrist

2012-02-03 00:00

IT has taken a year for the South Africa Rugby Union (Saru) to deliver a slap on the wrist of the Golden Lions after they illegally attempted to poach Springbok prop Beast Mtawarira from the Sharks.

The Lions — bankrolled by IT tycoon Robert Gumede who has since fallen out with the union — with former Sharks coach Dick Muir as their director of rugby, made a desperate attempt to lure Tendai Mtawariria from Durban to the highveld early last year.

Mtawarira had signed a new three-year deal with the Sharks just months earlier, but the Lions believed they could entice the loosehead away from Durban by offering him a massive increase in salary.

The illegal offer was not only unsettling for the player and the squad, but also sent Sharks officials into a spin and the matter was only resolved when they substantially increased Mtawarira’s salary package to keep him in Durban.

The Sharks did not take the attempt to poach Mtawarira lying down and lodged a complaint against the Lions with Saru.

They were convinced that the Lions were in breach of Saru’s regulations in approaching a player who already had a binding contract.

Finally, after a delay of a year, the Saru judicial committee has agreed with the complaint and this week found the Lions guilty of illegally approaching a contracted player.

The Lions were fined R100 000, but this sentence has been suspended for a year providing the union does not breach Saru’s regulations on contracting players during this time.

The judicial committee curiously also found that there was no “technical reason” why the Sharks should be compensated — in spite of the Durban-based franchise having to “suddenly and substantially” increase Mtawarira’s salary following the Lions’ approach.

With this limp-wristed response to the Mtawarira affair, Saru has ensured that players under contract will continue to be approached by other unions.

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