Johannesburg - Lions coach Swys de Bruin believes that despite the impending departure of some of the team’s stalwarts the union still is very much a strong position to face the future.
Recent confirmations have seen Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Ruan Dreyer and Rohan Janse van Rensburg all sign with teams overseas while there are strong rumours about a number of other players leaving as well, according to SuperSport.com.
And while the Lions remain the front runners in the South African conference, there is a worry that their stocks may be depleted.
But De Bruin sees it differently and went on a lengthy explanation why he feels the Lions are still very healthy looking towards the future.
“Firstly I believe in seasons. There are seasons for everyone. A lot of those guys are in their sixth year now with us. I understand it 100 percent that they can get a chance overseas, its bad for us but look at our junior systems. Have a look at that team playing in the Supersport Challenge. We have around 11 or 12 players in the under-20s,” he explained.
“And we are keeping our spine. We are keeping Malcolm Marx, Ross (Cronje) is still here, Nic Groom is an asset and Warren Whiteley, our captain is still sticking. Elton (Jantjies) is with us. The right seniors are still here and I am looking forward. We have three brilliant coaches who have coached with me this season, who have come through the under 19s and under-21s with the guys. There is a bright future in this province, I know it. It is a blessed union. It is a great union. I am still passionate that it is going to go well.
“There are guys who are going to go and we wish them well. We wish Ruan Dreyer and the guys well in their future endeavours. And it’s part of it. I am just pleased that we can play a part in their development.
“Just remember where they were six years ago. Most of this team that took us to two finals was rejects at other franchises. You can’t believe it if I start giving you the names. So let’s look at the positives, it is great for them and they helped us, they helped everyone. And the union is alive and well.
“I am very optimistic about the future with those going. Look at 12, there are brilliant 12s there in the under-21s and we still have Harold Vorster (who is around) and Lionel Mapoe is around. He is helping the Mannie Ras’ and the Wandisile Simelanes to come through. Ruan Combrinck is with us and is back on from. Courtnal Skosan is with us.
“I’m so flippin excited and positive about the future of this union, it is unreal. And if guys go that is life that happens. It is how you react and the reaction is very positive.”
De Bruin said while he couldn’t guarantee that others would leave, he felt the relationship with the players was based on honesty and there were “no secrets” between players and management.
“Obviously guys are chasing our good players - there are more names but the guys want to stay. There are guys behind the scenes who want to make money out of them and they chase overseas to get them better roles. A lot of these guys come and talk to us - we have a very open relationship with them in the sense of communication.
“We know exactly what their plans are and there are no secrets. A guy like Ruan Dreyer, I have so much respect for him and I just wish him well. He is great.
“Jaco Kriel is still around and is giving a positive contribution to the youngsters coming through. He is helping the guys in a mentor role. I love what I see here at the moment and I am very positive as to what I see in the future. If it may happen that we have to dip and take a season to get good again, that is fine. And that is good.”
De Bruin said that the Lions were “receiving CVs” every day from players from outside and they were “ a team of choice” in South Africa.
“It is very good to get new guys in. You look at Nic Groom and what he brought in. There is always that puzzle that you can fit someone in again and take one out.
“As long as the players understand that and work with that there will be one or two players. The one thing that excites me is that we became a team of choice as well. I know the CVs we are getting.
“ There are a lot of guys who want to be with us where we sometimes back our own players. If you hear a new guy is coming you might hear that soon. We trim the tree before we allow new shoots out.”
Either way Lions fans will not want to see too many departures, especially from players who have built the success of the union over the past few years.