Springbok and Lions scrumhalf Faf de Klerk is the latest high-profile South African player to quit the country and take up a contract in the northern hemisphere.
Yesterday, English club side Sale Sharks claimed that they had signed the lively halfback on a three-year deal as part of their ambitious plans to become a top club in the English Premier League.
Rugby director Steve Diamond said De Klerk‚ who has 11 Bok caps‚ was a key player in their push to challenge the country’s elite teams in the coming seasons.
But the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) yesterday would not confirm the move.
Lions Rugby Company chief executive Rudolf Straeuli said: “Negotiations are under way and I have not signed anything regarding the offer to De Klerk.
“The team is focused on their third game on tour and an official announcement will only be made once they are back.”
However, Sale confirmed the move, although they did not specify when De Klerk would join the club.
“I am made up that Faf has decided to join us next season‚” Diamond said.
This indicates that there is a verbal‚ but not written, agreement in place.
“He is tenacious with a fantastic work rate – he dictates the tempo and direction of the game and I think he will fit in well both with our style of play and with a young‚ ambitious squad.
“He’s an unbelievable ball carrier‚ has a solid kicking game and he is exciting around the pitch.
“He sees the weakness in his opposition and can leverage this to his advantage.
“He’s young but has massive experience, and this will be crucial in helping us to build on the foundations we have put in place this year.
“Faf has the vision to see where the club is heading and wants to be part of it.
“This signing, as well as the signings of Josh Strauss and Jono Ross, will help us collectively achieve our desire to be a topof-the-table team.
“I’m sure there will be a lot of excitement in the AJ Bell Stadium come our first home game of next season.”
Meanwhile, Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has a lot to ponder, but his worries have increased with the news that flyhalf Rob du Preez has a torn pectoral muscle.
The injury‚ sustained in Friday’s 41-22 loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington‚ might still require surgery‚ which would mean a lengthy layoff for the pivot.
The Stormers are already without firstchoice flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis and third choice Kurt Coleman.
Du Plessis has a groin injury while Coleman has torn ankle ligaments and is also set for a lengthy spell on the sidelines.
There was no indication from the Stormers of a search for a new flyhalf.
Damian Willemse‚ who is part of the greater Stormers squad and has played off the bench this season‚ has been named in the Junior Springboks’ squad for the World Championships in Tbilisi‚ Georgia.
Fleck would not easily deny the youngster the opportunity to play at the event‚ but he might be forced to.
Dillyn Leyds has played flyhalf and could do the job on a short-term basis – he stood in when Du Preez left the field late in the first half against the Hurricanes. But it would be a makeshift job at best. Another option would be to start Dewaldt Duvenage at 10. It is a role he has also performed in the past‚ but again‚ it would be stopgap measure.
The Stormers have a bye this weekend‚ which will allow Du Plessis more time to recover from his groin strain.
He was originally ruled out for six weeks in mid-March‚ a period that has lapsed‚ but he did not return to training yesterday.