Toulon have confirmed Eben Etzebeth has been granted an early exit from his contract and the Springbok lock is believed to be in the final stages of agreeing to terms with the Sharks.
“Eben Etzebeth has expressed his desire to put an early end to the contract binding him to Toulonnais in order to return, for personal reasons, to South Africa,” the Top 14 club said in a statement on Sunday. “Aware of the difficulties encountered by the player, the club took note of this request and accepted it.”
“I am sad to have to leave Toulon and my teammates at the end of the season but personal reasons force me to do so,” Etzebeth said in the statement. “Toulon and its supporters welcomed me … I will give everything for this team until the end of the season to help Toulon perform, move up the standings and to be contenders in the Challenge Cup.”
On Saturday, Etzebeth made his return for Toulon from a three-month break. The Bok lock stood down for a mandatory three-month period after suffering a third concussion in the space of 12 months during the Bok loss against England in November.
As a result of his absence, Etzebeth’s relationship with the French club, currently battling to escape the relegation zone, appeared to have become tenuous.
In January, Toulon president Bernard Lemaître labelled Etzebeth a “handicap” because he is “expensive, is regularly injured and is often away on Test duty”.
According Sunday newspaper Rapport, Etzebeth was exploring the possibility of a return to South Africa and sources have confirmed the Sharks are in advanced stages of negotiating a deal that would reunite him with close friend and Bok captain Siya Kolisi in Durban.
“His stuff is still a little complicated,” Sharks chief Eduard Coetzee told TimesLive on Friday. “We are looking at lock. We would love to get him, but he is on a big contract so he’ll have to get out of his contract and be prepared to take a substantial salary cut.
“I think Eben might get out. We are discussing this with his representatives and we are trying to push this to an end.”
With Etzebeth having successfully managed to exercise an escape clause in the three-year contract signed in 2020, the only remaining consideration is believed to be the value of the deal the Sharks can table.
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