Biarritz Olympique have set the cat amongst the pigeons by announcing that they have signed Sharks prop Eugene van Staden as a replacement for compatriot Eduard Coetzee, forced to announce his retirement earlier in the week on medical grounds.
We reported a few weeks back that van Staden had agreed to join Biarritz on a temporary basis during the South African off-season, but that he would be back in Sharks colours ahead of next season’s Super Rugby competition. A tweet from the player himself a few days later seemed to confirm this, when he indicated he was going “to help Biarritz out for a couple of games”.
The wording of the French announcement, though – issued via AFP and picked up by many websites in South Africa – makes it sound as though van Staden has signed on with Biarritz as a permanent replacement for Coetzee, rather than as a short-term “medical joker”. Apparently the fact that Coetzee has retired outright changes the French regulations somewhat, meaning that his replacement can come in as an additional contracted player.
We are trying to get hold of Eugene to get a final answer, which is proving tricky because he may already be in France, as Biarritz would like to field him against Saracens this weekend. There is, of course, no word from the Sharks themselves as to whether they expect van Staden back, or if he has been released from the remainder of his contract, which runs until the end of 2012.
We’ll have more on this story as soon as we can find out what is really going on. For the time being, though, sources close to the French rugby scene suggest that van Staden will stay with Biarritz at least unti the end of the French season, ruling him out of the Sharks’ Super Rugby campaign.Tweet