Exeter add more Saffa muscle to pack

The Exeter Chiefs have bolstered their front-row options for the 2020-21 Premiership season with the signing of South African prop Maks van Dyk.

Van Dyk – who has previously played for the Sharks, Cheetahs and Griquas in South Africa, before stints with Leinster, Toulouse and, most recently, Harlequins in Europe – has joined on a one-year deal, with an option for an extension.

Exeter are likely to be without Harry Williams and Tomas Francis for the start of the season, as both players will probably be involved in the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup and Six Nations Championship. Director of rugby Rob Baxter has therefore moved to bring in the 28-year-old tighthead.

Van Dyk, a product of Paarl Boys’ High, has represented South Africa at U20 level and was part of the side that won the Junior World Championship on home soil in 2012.

‘Obviously, it’s a massive honour for me to join a club of the calibre of Exeter Chiefs,’ Van Dyk said. ‘As everyone has seen, they are a team who are not only challenging at the very top end of the game, but they are also winning the big trophies.

‘Having watched them, I like what I see and how they play the game. For me, this is a big opportunity for me to not only join a great club, but at the same time improve my own game.

‘I know the Premiership is a very tough division, much different to what I faced in France, but having been at Harlequins I do have an idea of what to expect. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be physical, but that is what you kind of expect at this level.

‘The Chiefs have shown they are a force to be reckoned with for a number of years now, getting into semi-finals and finals, so I’m very much looking forward to being part of things here.’

Having seen another experienced tighthead prop in Greg Homes depart the club last season, Baxter expressed his delight at being able to sign Van Dyk.

‘I think when we saw the makeup of the new season, particularly with the amount of international games on the calendar, we started to look at options around tighthead,’ Baxter said. ‘It’s not like we are going to lose Franny and Harry for say three or four weeks, it’s going to be a lot longer than that.

‘Obviously, we’ve got some great young talent coming through in the shape of Marcus Street and Alfie Petch, both of whom we will use over the course of the coming season, but we felt it would be a big ask on those guys to play 10-plus games on the bounce.

‘Having a player like Maks, especially with the experience he has, come into the squad – it will allow us to rotate our options a little easier. Like every player, we’ve had a good look at him and we like what we see. He’s a big, strong ball-carrier, he’s quite light on his feet for a prop, and some of those key strengths you crave from a prop, he has a lot of those qualities already. Of course, there are areas to his game that we feel we can improve on, but when you look at the whole package he brings, he ticks a lot of boxes.’

Van Dyk joins fellow South African forwards Jacques Vermeulen and Jannes Kirsten at the club.

Photo: Jean Catuffe/Getty Images