Free State face a battle keeping two of their best young players in Bloemfontein as Western Province director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has his sights fixed firmly on 23-year-old Springbok Meyer Bosman and 21-year-old No 8 Duanne Vermeulen.
Free State president Harold Verster may have been successful in persuading Cheetahs captain Juan Smith to extend his contract with the union, but after the 60-20 humiliation suffered against the Bulls in their last game of the Super 14, Bosman and Vermeulen could be on their way to the Cape.
Dale Granger writes in Cape Argus that World Cup-winning Springbok captain John Smit’s immediate future is unclear as it appears the Sharks are sticking with Bismarck du Plessis as their first-choice hooker.
But Percy Montgomery could be heading back from France, where he played for Perpignan, for a fairytale Currie Cup swansong with Western Province, the union he started with in 1996.
The French club have apparently agreed to release Montgomery and within a few days the SACS old boy could be back in his home town.
Western Province managing director Rob Wagner said Erasmus would make the decision on the contracting of players and if Montgomery did play out his final season with Western Province, it would be in a role similar to that of All Black flyhalf Tony Brown, who was with the Stormers.
By early this week neither Bosman nor Vermeulen had extended their contracts with Free State, while both weighed up offers to sign for Western Province.
In 2005 Bosman came off the bench as a substitute at Loftus to score the try that won Free State the Currie Cup for the first time in 29 years. It was a fairytale for Erasmus in his first season of top-flight coaching and Bosman went on to be selected for the Springboks’ end-of-year tour to Europe and played against Wales and France.
This year the 21-year-old Vermeulen caught the eye in the early stages of the Super 14 as one of the outstanding South African No 8s in the competition.
Springboks Pierre Spies and Ryan Kankowski may be ahead of Vermeulen in the pecking order, but both are contracted by the Sharks and the Bulls until 2010 and are regarded as two of the biggest young stars in South African rugby.
Vermeulen, who worked with Erasmus in the Free State squad last year, may feel – along with Bosman – that the balance of power in South African rugby is shifting and that WP and the Stormers will feature more prominently than in recent seasons.
Erasmus’ interest in Vermeulen suggests that switching Luke Watson from openside flanker to No 8 was not a success for the Cape side this season.
This was particularly evident against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday when the Stormers consistently lost lineouts through poor throwing, but also without having a quality jumper at the tail of the lineout with Watson, Francois Louw and Pieter Myburgh making up the loose trio.
The Stormers used Schalk Burger in the lineout extensively before he injured his knee and in Vermeulen they would have a No 8 who, at 1.93m tall, would give them an added option in this vital setpiece.
But that will be for Allister Coetzee to decide. As expected, Coetzee was on Monday named as WP Currie Cup coach and will take charge of the team as Erasmus steps into his director of rugby role until next year’s Super 14.
Western Province have yet to name a replacement for last year’s Currie Cup coach, Gary Gold, who was an assistant with the Stormers and has now joined the Springboks’ coaching team.
They will also have to find a new physiotherapist to replace Rene Lombard, who has also joined the Springboks.Tweet