VIDEO: Bongi departure was for 'reasons beyond our control'
The Stormers were caught ‘off guard’ by the announcement that Springbok hooker Mbongeni Mbonambi will depart the Stormers to join the Sharks.
Mbonambi will join up with the Sharks once his Springbok commitments are completed.
Even though they expected he would be departing, the Sharks appeared to have jumped the gun when they confirmed the move on their social media pages on Tuesday.
Stormers coach John Dobson said that negotiations with the World Cup-winning No.2 have been ongoing for the last five to six months.
“I am absolutely convinced we did our best to keep Bongi, both in terms of finances and the environment,” the coach told a virtual media briefing.
Dobson added that there were ‘other factors’ at play, without elaborating.
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However, it has been confirmed that Mbonambi has joined Bok captain Siyamthanda Kolisi in the Roc Nation camp and the agency was pulling the strings – ensuring the Sharks win the tug-of-war.
“We knew he was going to go to the Sharks,” the Stormers coach said, adding they have some plans for a replacement – again refraining from revealing too much.
He added that there is nothing more they could have done to retain the Bok hooker.
“We even offered him a sabbatical in Japan,” Dobson said, adding: “It was for reasons beyond our control.”
The Stormers also confirmed the departure of talented wing Edwill van der Merwe, who has agreed to join the Lions from the Stormers later this year.
Dobson said the departure of the flyer is not dissimilar to that of Mbonambi.
“Edwill [van der Merwe] has been in our system for five years, [but] he hasn’t played a lot,” the coach said.
“He got an offer from the Lions which he intends to accept.”
Dobson said they made Van der Merwe an offer some time ago, before he played the last three games.
The coach added that there are some personal reasons, with Van der Merwe’s girlfriend set to complete two years of law articles in Johannesburg.
“He also wants to play overseas and to get that visa, he needs to start 75 percent of the time in Pro rugby games.”
The Stormers already have wings like Seabelo Senatla, Sergeal Petersen, Angelo Davids and Leolin Zas on their books.
“It is impossible for me to guarantee Edwill [van der Merwe] enough game time to get visa.
” It is just not a road we are going to go down.
“It is a blow to lose him, but both players are going with our blessings.”