The Western Province player exodus to France gained momentum on Wednesday with the news that promising lock Francois van der Merwe has signed up for Tana Umaga’s French Top 14 outfit RC Toulon.
SAPA reports that just over a week ago the bustling WP hooker Tiaan Liebenberg also succumbed to the lure of the Euro and was granted an early release from his contract, and also Toulon-bound.
Coetzee would not say much about the players’ movements to Europe, and referred questions to WP head coach Rassie Erasmus who is responsible for hiring and firing of players at the Newlands-based union.
“Francois [Van der Merwe] is not with us any longer,” said Coetzee. “He’s off to Toulon and will join the club with immediate effect.
“We are now in the silly season and there will be plenty of player movements because of the window period [in European rugby]. It’s a reality.”
In the wake of Schalk Brits’ unexpected call-up to the Springboks Liebenberg, who has just recovered from a knee ligament injury, would have been a brilliant replacement.
There were times in the Super 14 season when Liebenberg kept Brits out of the Stormers’ starting XV.
Van der Merwe, who is the son of the former Springbok prop Flippie van der Merwe, has never really cracked the big time in Cape Town and since the start of the Currie Cup season he always played off the bench.
However, he’s never let the side down and always proved his worth as a back-up player.
With Andries Bekker away with the Springboks, Van der Merwe had to compete with WP vice-captain Ross Skeate and Adriaan Fondse for a second-row berth in the Currie Cup team.
There has also been speculation that WP centre Dylan des Fountain and Skeate are on their way to Europe later this year but Coetzee said he was not aware of such moves.
“Speak to Erasmus. He’s the one that decides on player contracts,” said Coetzee.
“Dylan is still contracted to WP and he hasn’t spoken about moving so we’ll try to get him fit again, and back in action.”
Erasmus has said that there are far too many players under contract at WP and that he was trying to reduce that number.
Des Fountain suffered a grade one hamstring tear at training on Tuesday and is likely to be out for two weeks.
“The time out won’t be good for Dylan’s confidence and it’s a setback for his growth as a player,” said Coetzee.
“The doctors have not been able to establish the reason for the soft tissue damage but it may have something to do with the wet yielding conditions in Cape Town.
“We want to ensure that he’s heals well so that we don’t create a chronic effect.”Tweet