There is renewed hope – at least from a Lions perspective – that Malcolm Marx could be still be persuaded not to ditch Ellis Park for Japan.
The imposing Springbok hooker was one of the most prominent local players to take advantage of the so-called opt-out clause, which allowed him to secure an unconditional release from his current obligations should he have an overseas offer in place.
However, the drama of Pieter-Steph du Toit’s negotiations with Western Province and its subsequent resolution then prompted the Lions to re-examine their options and not stoically accept Marx’s departure.
It’s understood that the 25-year-old’s new deal with the franchise, which was announced last year, only contractually commences on 1 June.
That means the agreement technically had no bearing on “deadline day” on 14 May.
Rudolf Straeuli, the Lions’ chief executive, confirmed that the franchise has now moved on from seeking legal clarity on the matter and is now actively negotiating with Marx.
“We have a pretty clear picture of where we stand in terms of a legal standpoint. We’re not focussing on that anymore,” he told Sport24.
“It’s now about finding common ground with Malcolm and his representatives.”
The two parties were engaged in “fruitful” discussions on Tuesday night, with Straeuli confident that an amended offer from the 1 June document will prove decisive.
“Talks have been very constructive. The reality is that we have to be flexible in terms of the opportunities afforded to Malcolm. These discussions also don’t revolve around us keeping a great player, but also the Springboks.
“That means (national director of rugby) Rassie Erasmus has also been part of the process. There’s a lot at stake here.”
Straeuli also intimated that Marx’s decision to cancel his previous agreement didn’t mean he wanted to leave the Lions, a perception reinforced by the fact that the dynamic forward has never deviated from saying he’s happy at the Lions in public.
“I obviously can’t speak for him, but I’m pretty confident he actually wants to stay. Malcolm loves playing for the Springboks and he’s been a great servant here too.”
Meanwhile, the franchise is also actively engaged in seeking permission from the Bulls to negotiate with Burger Odendaal, though no official confirmation has been given yet as Straeuli is a firm disciple of transfer etiquette.
The midfielder is apparently one of the players at Loftus who’ll have to convince new director of rugby, Jake White, of his worth.
It’s also understood hooker Jaco Visagie will also creep up in discussions should the Marx negotiations take a turn for the worse.