Mercurial utility back Francois Steyn’s departure to France is another step closer, after confirmation that the 21-year-old had visited Racing Metro earlier this week.
Steyn’s agent, Gerrie Swart, offered a firm “no comment” when contacted on Friday, but rugby365.com’s Jan De Koning can reveal that Steyn had visited the leading Pro D2 (Second Division) outfit on Monday and Tuesday to get a feel for the club.
However, contrary to media speculation, Steyn has been sought by Racing not as a flyhalf, but an inside centre – which is the Sharks star’s preferred position.
French media this week speculated that Steyn had already signed with the club.
However, rugby365 can also confirm that the deal won’t be formalised before next month – with the window for French clubs to secure new signings running from May 15 to June 30.
It is expected that Steyn will make a formal announcement in this period.
The player, his agent, the Sharks and Metro have all stuck by their “no comment” stance since rumours about the deal began to circulate earlier this year.
However, the player’s visit to Paris this week was in part to have a look at facilities, while he also chatted to fellow South African Francois van der Merwe – the former Stormers second row forward – about conditions at the club and French rugby.
And the key to Steyn eventually signing for the Paris outfit is that he will be able to play inside centre at the club – where he will have veteran All Black flyhalf Andrew Mehrtens on his inside.
The opportunity to learn from Mehrtens, who turns 36 next week, is one of the main attractions for the young Sharks star in the Racing offer.
Racing, who are 12 points clear of Agen at the top of the Pro D2 standings with three rounds to go, are almost certain to gain promotion to the top flight of French rugby – the Top 14.
However, Steyn – with a World Cup winner’s medal and 27 Test caps to his credit – is also hoping to feature for the Springboks in the three-match Test series against the British and Irish Lions in June and July, hence the delay in formalising his agreement with Racing.
But with Ruan Pienaar (at flyhalf) and Jean de Villiers (inside centre) the preferred choices for Bok coach Peter de Villiers, Steyn is likely to be reduced to a bench role at best – unless injuries continue to play havoc with the duo, who have both missed a number of Super 14 games this year.
The Sharks, it appears, have resigned themselves to the fact that they can’t match the money on offer in Europe, despite their stated desire to retain Steyn’s services.Tweet