Frans Malherbe has indicated a desire to remain committed to the Stormers, but there is still some doubt over the future of Bongi Mbonambi.
It has been reported that a Japanese club was interested in Malherbe joining them following the British & Irish Lions series this July. According to Rapport, Malherbe would stay in Japan for two years before returning in time for the 2023 Rugby World Cup.
In a media briefing on Tuesday, Stormers coach John Dobson shared the latest on the Malherbe links to Japan.
‘There is a possibility he might get a sabbatical at some stage in the next couple of years. We’ve got to work that out, but Frans has said to me directly he wants to stay and play here.’
It may therefore be that an arrangement is made similar to that between the Sharks and Makazole Mapimpi, who was released in order for a stint in Japan but is set to return to the Durban-based franchise.
Japan is a tantalising option for players as it not only offers a healthy pay check, but they typically face lesser workloads in the less physical Japanese Top League.
‘There is the opportunity of him having a slightly lighter season and [earning] a bit more yen and then coming back here [the Stormers] … whether that’s this year, next year, the year after or 2024, who knows.’
Meanwhile, there is still a lack of clarity around Mbonambi’s future. The experienced hooker is said to have been on the radar of both the Vodacom Bulls and Sharks, as well as top overseas clubs.
Although he was believed to have agreed to terms of a contract extension with WP Rugby at one point, there have since been some delays in officially signing off on the new WP deal, leading to some reports that he could be reconsidering his options.