By Alan Dymock
QUEUEING EARLY at rugby’s buffet does not appear to be a requirement for the millionaire owners of some teams, with the wealthy able to place late orders for personnel they want.
Sure, snapping up Dan Lydiate, Jamie Roberts, Soane Tonga’uiha and Brian Mujati was part of a nice, early spree from Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti, while Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal was tapping up Bryan Habana for some time. However, these men know there is not the need to do all their business early on.
Indeed, every professional club knows that there is plenty of time left to do their transfer business. With Super Rugby still to conclude, the Rugby Championship approaching and freak injuries lurking seedily behind unforeseen corners, there is always time to plot a take away.
This was evidenced recently by the news that Glasgow Warriors had signed versatile Puma back Gabriel Ascarate, just after it became public that South-African centre Robert Ebersohn of the Cheetahs is soon to be off to Montpellier to join Rene Ranger. Ebersohn’s move comes once the Currie Cup is over.
With it also announced that Munster will snap up Western Province and Stormers winger Gerhard Van Den Heever once his Currie Cup is over it becomes clear that missing pre-season or even the start of the season is no hindrance. Of course, that is with players. As more rumours waft across from South Africa that Southern Kings director of rugby Alan Solomons is still a favourite for the vacant Edinburgh Rugby post it appears that more than a pint of the black stuff comes to those who wait.
With this as background, then, the insatiable, shark-like owners in France must be watched. Deals are still there to be brokered and the richer, hungrier parties tend to get first pick.
With whispers around transfers, they tend to be pushed away with the back of the hand; the tendrils of smoke curling around our wafting palms without any fire beneath them. Unless Lorenzetti is involved.
There may not be any substance to the story about a hefty buy-out of Leigh Halfpenny’s contract, but the fact such a story exists and Lorenzetti is pushed to comment without a massive knock-back coming from Cardiff Blues first means that there could be discussions had, if there have not been already. There are other millionaires out there…
While this is going on, of course, representatives of Benji Marshall hang the rugby league master under everyone’s noses, hoping to get a bite. The Auckland Blues are still favourite to land the Kiwi, but the potential convert’s management have very publicly declared that he would not be fussed about a big money move to Japan or even France.
There is that buffet, though. Agents chirp and chatter while teams ceaselessly look for deals, even if it is for that extra spot where a utility player is needed, with the prospect of very little first team rugby.
It is in such a marketplace where the likes of Worcester Warriors and London Wasps may want to find replacements for second-rows Craig Gillies and Marco Wentzel, the latter having reversed the trend by leaving Europe to head for South African rugby. They will have to look hard and remain patient.
Even approaching the late stages, such teams may have to wait for the fatter cats to have their fill first.