Rassie's advice to Sarries' Springbok
TRANSFER NEWS: Saracens’ demotion from the Premiership could have an unexpected spin-off for one South African franchise.
Seasoned Springbok prop Vincent Koch has been advised to return to South Africa if he does not get a Premiership contract or play for a top-tier club elsewhere in Europe.
The 29-year-old front row forward, who has 21 Test caps and came off the bench in South Africa’s 32-12 World Cup Final win over England in Yokohama on November 2, is one of several marquee players that could depart Saracens at the end of the season.
Sarries coach Mark McCall described it as the “end of an era” after the outfit confirmed their relegation from the Premiership – the result of numerous salary cap breaches in the last few years.
While the club could still make waves in Europe this year, having advanced to the quarterfinals of the Champions Cup at the weekend, they will need to offload six or seven marque players once they drop down to the second-tier Championship later this year.
“Of course there are going to be changes,” McCall said at the weekend.
“There’s no doubt the bunch of players we’ve got in our squad now aren’t going to be the same bunch of players we have in the Championship next year. That’s for sure.”
England locks Maro Itoje (Northampton Saints) and George Kruis (Japan) are amongst the first Saracens players linked to other clubs in the wake of the salary cap controversy.
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Koch’s agent, Gert van der Merwe, confirmed the Bok is looking at his options – even though he has a contract with Saracens through to 2023.
“He does have an exit clause in his contract, if Saracens get relegated,” Van der Merwe told @rugby365com.
He added that the contract also includes a clause that allows Saracens to reduce players salary by 30 percent.
However, the club at the weekend gave the players the assurance such a salary cut won’t happen.
Koch is keen to stay on in England, as he is just two years away from a British passport, having moved from the Stormers in Cape Town to Saracens in 2016.
“Vincent wanted to know what his situation would be, in terms of his Bok position, now that Saracens have been relegated,” Van der Merwe told @rugby365com.
“Rassie [Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby] said it would be best if he returns to South Africa,” the agent said, adding that there is interest from other top-tier clubs in Europe.
French club Montpellier, as well as the Premiership duo of Sale Sharks and Harlequins, have shown interest in Koch’s services.
The problem with the Sale and Quins deals is that they can’t afford to match Koch’s current salary.
That won’t be a problem in France.
However, SA Rugby is willing to look at a possible dual contract if Koch returns to South Africa.
“Premiership clubs are very cautious at the moment, as they are being closely monitored in the wake of the Saracens saga,” Van der Merwe said.
“They can’t afford to offer him a marque contract.”
He confirmed that they have had exploratory talks with the Bulls in Pretoria, about Koch possibly joining them.
They have not spoken to any of the other SA franchises.