Fans of the Emirates Lions finally got something to cheer about after the club announced it had strengthened its squad with three signings.
The Lions signed two new players while one committed his future to the club with a contract extension.
Fullback Divan Rossouw signed for the Lions from fellow South African side the Vodacom Bulls and Maties Under-21 fly-half Jordan Hendrikse joined from Maties both on two-year contracts. Meanwhile, centre Wandisile Simelane extended his contract by a further two years.
Until now, unlike the Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers who have announced a number of recruitments, the Lions had not seen acquisitions during this off-season period due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Lions had instead seen departures which are expected to inevitably impact the team’s strength.
The Lions grabbed the headlines following news that five members opted to capitalize on South Africa’s Industry Salary Plan and canceled their contracts with the Lions.
The most notable name among the five was 25-year-old Springbok hooker and Rugby World Cup winner Malcolm Marx. The others to depart from the Johannesburg-based side were lock Ruan Vermaak, utility back Tyrone Green, fly-half Shaun Reynolds and coach Neil de Bruin.
The disruptions to South African rugby by COVID-19 saw SA Rugby announce an Industry Salary Plan (ISP) which included a range of cost-cutting measures, among them huge wage cuts, to save 1.2 billion Rand in expenses. As part of the ISP, South Africa’s professional rugby players were given a 21-day period in which to request contract termination and leave their franchises and provinces immediately.
The Lions have been a force in Super Rugby reaching the finals thrice in the last four years. However, their performances in 2020 have drastically dropped with the side recording just one win in six matches so far. The Lions lie bottom of the South African Conference and 13th out of 15 teams in the overall table.