Western Province head coach John Dobson has emphasised that the transfer rumours surrounding a few of his players have not been disruptive to the team. DYLAN JACK reports.
Province are going into Friday’s match against the Pumas at Newlands under pressure after two successive last-minute losses to the Lions and Vodacom Bulls have damaged their hopes of securing a home semi-final in the Currie Cup.
However, with a number of senior players seeing their contracts come to an end after the British & Irish Lions series next year, there are plenty of transfer rumours swirling around the Cape side.
On Tuesday, Netwerk24 reported that should the potential deal between American consortium MVM Holdings and the Sharks go through, someone such as Province and Bok captain Siya Kolisi – a high-profile Roc Nation representative – could be drawn to move to Durban.
Rumours of Damian Willemse being a high-profile target for the Bulls started as early as April this year and have not gone away, while Dobson confirmed that promising lock David Meihuizen is the subject of a big-money investment as Scotland’s next project player.
‘There is a lot of rumour at the moment and there is a lot of smoke,’ Dobson said during an online media conference on Wednesday, when asked about the rumours. ‘There is so much smoke that you suspect there must be a fire. Nobody has told me officially that they are going anywhere yet.
‘I know that Harlequins are after a couple of our forwards. There was an article yesterday about Siya being in demand elsewhere in South Africa. There is the perpetual rumour about Damian Willemse to the Bulls. There is a lot of smoke, but the window isn’t open for those players for another couple of months.
‘David is different. He’s not a guy trying to run off his contract. He has got to make a call on his future. Obviously, I haven’t explored it in detail yet, but he is eligible for England and Scotland. He is in high demand from Scotland. There have been informal approaches via his agent. In Scotland, if you get a 2,08m and 123kg player, that’s a big unit. I know he qualifies for England and Scotland.
‘Siya is our leader,’ Dobson said when asked about the Kolisi rumours. ‘I literally asked Siya yesterday [Tuesday] if we need to have a chat and he said, “Let’s get through Friday”, which is the responsible and mature thing. I don’t think there is anything formal. There can be nothing formal until the contracting window starts. At this stage, I would think the Siya thing is just smoke.’
Despite the constant rumours surrounding the Province players, Dobson said he has no doubt in their ability to stay focused on the Currie Cup.
‘Obviously, you want to focus just on the rugby. Our group really is tight. I have no doubt that they are focused on the competition. That’s not the reason we lost the last two games.
‘You have to be realistic. I can’t wait until next year and David Meihuizen comes to me and says he got 30 minutes in the whole Currie Cup. I have to be cognisant of that.
‘As with regard to other approaches and contractual issues and people from other unions wanting players, that window is closed now. It’s not something I am overly worried about now. It’s not something we are actively dealing with. We can’t have the situation where the guys are coming off contract late next year or after the Lions series and for reasons beyond our control they leave. Let’s say JD Schickerling, for example, goes – I can’t have a situation where I haven’t brought David Meihuizen through.
‘We have to make sure we are bringing through the next tier. I think we have done remarkably well, despite disappointing results over the last two games. With respect to guys like Leon Lyons, Sazi Sandi, Nama Xaba or David Meihuizen and Marcel Theunissen, we have exposed a lot of guys. It is part of our plan. We are going to be playing in a new competition and many competitions next year and we have got a lot of players coming out of contract next year, so I have to create more depth in the squad.
‘Obviously, the primary focus is winning, creating more depth in the squad and creating an environment where players want to stay at this union is an important part of our journey. Unfortunately, adapting our playing style is also part of this because we are going to be playing in a different competition.
‘In answer to the question, it isn’t disruptive. The only formal chat I have had is with David and that’s because Scotland are offering him an absolute fortune and he is a guy we want to keep here.’
Photo: Ashley Vlotman/Gallo Images