Springbok prop Vincent Koch will complete his Currie Cup obligations to the Pumas before joining English club Saracens at the end of the year. CRAIG LEWIS reports.
Earlier this week, it was confirmed that Koch had signed a two-year contract with the English and European champions, and the 26-year-old was expected to join his new club after Super Rugby.
However, the Pumas have insisted that they require the services of Koch for the Currie Cup Premier Division, and will not grant any early release.
‘I just think the whole matter has been poorly handled,’ Pumas CEO Pieter Burger told SARugbymag.co.za. ‘We’ve recently lost two props to injury and we really can’t afford to now be without Vincent for the Currie Cup.
‘There was talk of a transfer fee that equated to R240,000, but besides the fact I think that figure would be a slap in the face, it’s not about the money. We invested in Vincent as a youngster and believe we played a big part in his development as a player. We’re proud of the product and just want Vincent to return, see out his contractual obligations and pay it forward to the Pumas and the next group of young props.’
The matter has been complicated by the fact that Koch has been managing a knee injury for some time, and there was the threat that he might go under the knife after Super Rugby, and then begin his rehab at Saracens.
Burger said they also took exception to this.
‘We have nothing against Vincent and believe he is an excellent procurement for Saracens. But we’ve always given him the benefit of the doubt, and our feedback suggests he is medically fit to play. So, to use the threat of his knee injury as a reason he can’t join us seems like blackmail to me.
‘We have formally requested a medical report and also issued a complaint with SA Rugby over the manner in which the whole matter has been handled. To me, it felt like I was manipulated into a position to take the offer, which we couldn’t afford to do, and it happens too often.’
In the end, though, Burger said they were pleased that Koch would report for duty after completing his Super Rugby commitments with the Stormers.
Koch’s agent, Gert van der Merwe, confirmed to SARugbymag.co.za that they had come to an agreement.
‘There are two sides to the story. We did contact the Pumas to ask for an early release, but they wanted to keep him for the final part of his contract. It is common knowledge that Vincent continues to manage a knee injury, but he is a professional and has said he is willing to see out his contract with the Pumas.
‘Obviously it’s not an ideal situation, and he was looking forward to linking up with Saracens after Super Rugby, but they understand that he does have a contract with the Pumas, who don’t want to release him. So he will finish the Super Rugby season with the Stormers, then head to the Pumas, and then join Saracens.’
Photo: Johan Pretorius/Gallo Images