If the Lions are clever and really serious of turning a corner they should take the Jaque Fourie case which they lost, and turn it into a positive.
Yesterday evening Frikkie Erasmus confirmed that an independent arbitrator found Jaque Fourie’s contract non-binding, which basically opens the door for Fourie to now move to Province and continue his career with the Stormers next year.
A lot has been said about the Fourie issue, with the general public and media divided on the merits of the case and the lengths Fourie has gone to in an attempt to get out of his contract. What is clear however, is that the Lions did stuff up on the legal side of this case, which in essence, could be turned into a positive.
Local blogger Pietploos made a point in an email to me which made a lot of sense to me.
Cape media reports last week suggested that the Lions have as many as 7 current players on a similar type of contract than what Jaque was on, and if an independent audit report which I read is anything to go by, that figure might well exceed that mark.
There is no doubt that the Lions union has underperformed in recent years, with their administration in shambles which reflected in the on-field performances of the senior teams. IN addition to that, the Lions have lost just about all their star players over the last 5 years – either directly because of the state of the union, or by personal choice.
The PR spin in recent weeks suggested that the Lions have turned a corner. They have a no-nonsense guy in Kevin de Klerk running the union and recently appointed Dick Muir as their Director of Rugby and Super 14 coach. During the year Jake White and his Winning Ways company also got involved to get the Lions on the right track and although their results on the field only earned them a 6th place on a 8-team log at the end of the season, the way in which they ended the season off by beating home semi-finalists Western Province suggested that there is a new found belief in the Lions camp.
The news of Fourie leaving however is a major setback for the Lions. He was one of their most loyal, not to mention incredibly talented and senior players the Lions need to make this transition from a poor team to a good team.
But all should not be lost for the Lions. Whereas senior players are vital in any team to help facilitate a positive turn-around, it is not essential, it just means it might take a bit longer now.
The positive for the Lions through this Fourie saga is that players and management members that has been sucking the union dry over the last couple of years, might also now be relieved of their ‘non-binding’ contracts given the precedent set by the arbitration findings without the Lions running the risk of landing in financial turmoil having to dish out golden handshakes.
It has been reported before that the Lions are spending close to R70-million on players and management members (coaching), some of them not even present at the union, or some not having pitched up at the union to do their jobs in more than a year (according to a statement by Jake White).
Many of these individuals were contracted during the same time and era as Fourie, and many under previous management and coaches.
Therefore, if the Lions are serious in cleaning up their act, a good place to start would be to get rid of the deadwood dragging the union to the bottom of the ocean, and that might all be thanks to the fact that Jaque Fourie succeeded in getting out of his contract which was found to be non-binding.