In an almost comical turn of events French second division club Toulon have backtracked on earlier reports on their website that Springbok and Bulls lock Bakkies Botha had signed with them.
On Monday, the Toulon website claimed that Botha had concluded a deal with them but reports quoted a Toulon spokesperson denying that Botha was ever a player of the club.
“Nothing is happening with Botha. He is not one of our players and never has been. The reports that he has moved to Toulon are completely false. It was wrong information that was put out on our website,” the spokesperson has been quoted as saying.
Toulon’s denial emanates from threats made by the Blue Bulls Company and SA Rugby to lodge complaints to the International Rugby Board on the Toulon-Botha deal as Botha is still under contract to the Bulls for five years and to SA Rugby for three more years.
The Bulls had also denied Botha’s request to be released from his contract three weeks ago with the board of the Blue Bulls also gagging CEO Barend van Graan from engaging in talks with Botha’s agent Bernie Habana.
Another twist that probably turned Botha’s move to Toulon to join Springbok teammate Victor Matfield is the fact that Habana, father of Springbok wing Bryan Habana, is not a registered agent with the IRB or with the South African Rugby Union.
Habana, therefore, has no rights to negotiate contracts on behalf of Botha.
At the same time Habana is also the agent to Springbok and Bulls centre Wynand Olivier and his son Bryan Habana.
Both Olivier and Bryan Habana were reported to have received lucrative offers with French club Bayonne but that speculation amounted to nothing as Habana still has another two seasons to run on his contract which allegedly has no exit clauses.
Had Botha signed a deal with Toulon he would risk a lengthy ban from the game and/or including a fine.
Botha has been named in the Bulls starting team to face the Sharks in the Super 14 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday after an ankle injury kept him out of the first two games of the competition.
Toulon’s denial of a Botha deal leaves Botha no option but to remain with the Super 14 champions and the Springboks for the next five seasons.
o This article was originally published on page 25 of Pretoria News on February 28, 2008