The Lions’ euphoria of keeping talisman Malcolm Marx till the end of the 2021 season will be tempered by the fact that he won’t be available for the majority of next year’s Super Rugby campaign.
SA Rugby and the franchise on Friday confirmed that they had fended off widespread interest for the Springbok hooker, but also allowed him a “temporary release” after this year’s World Cup to play club rugby in Japan.
It continues a worrying trend of young national stars ditching the rigours of Super Rugby for the relative comforts of the East.
Lions coach Swys de Bruin though denied that Marx, who is only 24, has already been squeezed ripe by his workload over the last three years.
“It’s not just a sabbatical, it’s a huge opportunity,” he said on Friday after announcing Marx as skipper for the Lions’ final fixture of the regular season against the Bulls at Loftus on Saturday.
“These guys are professional players. It’s big money and that always plays a role. You simply can’t ignore it. We’ll have to accept it and move on.”
Marx’s absence will now force the Lions to examine their depth intently during this year’s Currie Cup as the imposing No 2 is only expected back next May.
“We already has next year’s fixtures. If he comes back in May, he might be able to help us with the last four regular season fixtures and the playoffs,” said De Bruin.
“I’m just excited that he’s actually coming back. That’s more important than him being away for a while.”
While this arrangement will make sceptics wonder if Bok coach Rassie Erasmus’ new contracting model really will make a difference, De Bruin insists it’s the only way to go.
“We must do everything we can given the value of the Rand. Somehow we have to keep our players. For him to come back is very positive. That’s how we have to see it.”
Lions: Andries Coetzee, Tyrone Green, Lionel Mapoe, Elton Jantjies, Aphiwe Dyantyi, Shaun Reynolds, Ross Cronje, Hacjivah Dayimani, Vince Tshituka, Cyle Brink, Marvin Orie, Rhyno Herbst, Carlu Sadie, Malcolm Marx (c), Dylan Smith. Bench: Jan-Henning Campher, Nathan McBeth, Johannes Jonker, Reinhard Nothnagel, Marnus Schoeman, Dillon Smit, Wandi Simelane, Courtnall Skosan.