Despite protestations to the contrary by the Bulls, the speculation surrounding French club side Toulon’s attempts to sign Bakkies Botha refuses to die down.
Simnikwe Xabanisa writes in the Sunday Times that following reports that the Springbok lock had agreed in principle to join the French second division club, the Bulls released a statement this week saying they had denied Botha his request to be freed from the remainder of his contract, which runs until 2011.
But the rumours from France persist. The latest claim is that Botha had signed for Toulon by fax this week and was expected in France as early as Monday a week from tomorrow.
Should this be the case, the action would be reckless on Botha’s part, as both he and the Bulls have taken legal advice to determine whether they had a case in sticking to their guns over the nature of the contract.
It was also suggested that Toulon’s chairman, Mourad Boudjellal, had agreed to buy out Botha’s contract from the Bulls for an estimated € 1-million.
But Bulls chief executive, Barend van Graan, has denied the speculation.
“All I know is that Bakkies put in a request to release him and we declined it. I don’t know anything about what you’re telling me, and we can’t be expected to respond to what the media are saying.”
Botha’s agent, Bernie Habana, was unavailable for comment.
The soap opera nature of Toulon’s courtship of Botha is symptomatic of the pickle local provinces have found themselves in with regards to European clubs bent on snatching Super 14 and world champion players.
Success in the Super 14 and the World Cup has apparently left a lot of senior players in the system with very little to play for but money.
The Bulls have suffered heavily, with barely a week passing without one of their star players being snapped up.
Of particular concern to the Bulls should be Boudjellal, who seems intent on building a little Pretoria in the south of France by raiding Loftus of all its talent.
Boudjellal, a cartoon and comic strip publisher, already has four former Bulls in his team in Victor Matfield, Wessel Roux, Francois van Schouwenburg and Norman Jordaan.
He also recently tried to hire their former coach Heyneke Meyer after he failed to land the Bok coaching job.
But this was aborted when his current coach, former All Black captain Tana Umaga, objected to another coach’s signature being sought while he was on top of the French second division log.
Umaga is said to have been given a one-year extension, but this has not ended talk that Meyer might still end up in Toulon.
Controversially, Toulon’s supposed next target — for when they are promoted into the French first division — is Bulls captain Fourie du Preez.
The world’s best scrumhalf has still not signed a lucrative contract he was offered by the South African Rugby Union , which in the current climate fuels the rumours regardless of what his intentions are.
All in all, the player market has become a place where a contract is not worth the piece of paper it is written on as players, agents and provinces try to out-flank each other to cash in on the opportunities brought by Super 14 and World Cup successes.Tweet