The Lions will face a full-strength South Africa next summer, even though the national contracts of 13 players expire at the end of this month.
The Lions travel to the republic next May, with SA Rugby Players Association (Sarpa) chief executive Piet Heymans convinced that the Springboks won’t be losing any key players to European rugby prior to the start of the tour.
“We expect the players will sign and that we won’t have any issues,” Heymans told the Beeld newspaper.
“In general players are going to contract themselves to SA Rugby.”
Heymans admitted that some Boks may decide to take up offers elsewhere after the conclusion of the tour but that the lure of the Lions would ensure the country’s best players remain in South Africa until at least June of next year.
The South African Rugby Union have introduced the option of a match-fund compensation system for those who do not wish to commit to more longer term contracts and Heymans explained that this may work well for those who see the Lions as the perfect swansong to their international careers.
“There might be one or two players who will follow this option. Maybe they want the freedom to go play somewhere else after the Lions tour.
“We concluded an agreement with regards to match pay with SA Rugby in September 2007. This provides for certain escalations year on year and players will therefore earn more.
“The reality is that players in Europe are earning very good money and we simply cannot compete with that.
“Players who have Springbok contracts also have to sign a provincial contract to make it worth their while and even though a player holds two contracts, they still earn more in Europe.”