Lions coach Swys de Bruin has quelled fears that an expected exodus of players after the current Super Rugby season will cripple the side.
Burly centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg became the latest star to seek greener pastures in being released to join Bok scrumhalf Faf de Klerk at English side Sale Sharks.
He adds to a list that includes Jaco Kriel (flank, Gloucester), Ruan Dreyer (prop, Gloucester) and, despite a tug-of-war over his contract, Franco Mostert.
There are reports that flyhalf Elton Jantjies and fullback Andries Coetzee are being hounded by French clubs.
“I’m someone that believes in ‘seasons’,” said De Bruin.
“We had this group of players together for at least six seasons. Yes, it’s not nice losing reliable players that have contributed so much but that’s how life works.”
Thankfully, the union wasn’t oblivious to the fact that its success over the past few years would mean more attention from rich European clubs.
“We’ve known for some time that our best players will be targets for other local unions and foreign clubs. There are parties that know they can make a lot of money by sourcing new opportunities for our star players,” said De Bruin.
Yet even if more departures are announced, the Lions at least have three crucial players staying put to assist in the rebuilding process.
Captain Warren Whiteley and dynamic hooker Malcolm Marx are both on national contracts while nippy flanker Kwagga Smith signed an extension till 2019.
“I believe we’re still keeping our spine. We still have Warren, Malcolm, Lionel Mapoe, Courtnall Skosan and Ruan Combrinck here,” said De Bruin.
The Lions extensive youth recruitment looks also set to bear fruit with Junior Springbok stars such as Wandi Simelane, Gianni Lombard, Manny Rass and Tyrone Green waiting in the wings.
“I’m cool with the fact that there’s probably going to be a dip in performances possibly from next year because we’ll be building with new, exciting players,” said De Bruin.