Big in Japan

2011-12-03 00:00

A LUCRATIVE contract in Japan has seen Springbok Jaque Fourie turning his back on South African rugby.

Fourie has accepted a R11-million-a-year offer to extend his stay in Japan and this has opened the Stormers’ door to discarded Sharks centre Adi Jacobs.

Fourie, on a short-term contract in Japan, was expected back in Cape Town for the Super Rugby season.

But Western Province officials confirmed yesterday that Fourie, who is currently playing for the Wild Knights in Japan’s Top League, will not return to South Africa next year to play domestically, either in Super Rugby or the Currie Cup.

The 29-year-old Fourie is regarded as one of the world’s top outside centres and the two-year offer is believed to be one of the biggest contracts ever offered a rugby union player.

“Fourie’s two-year contract with WP Rugby ended after the 2011 Currie Cup, and despite efforts to secure his services, Jaque has opted not to return.

“The deal is simply too big for us as a South African franchise,” said WP Rugby MD Rob Wagner.

“While we are obviously disappointed, Jaque made a huge impact during his stay in the Cape and we wish him well with his career in Japan.”

The Stormers midfield feast has suddenly turned into a famine.

This year the franchise had three Springboks centres in Fourie, Jean de Villiers and Juan de Jongh under contract and this forced up-and-coming players Johann Sadie and Tim Whitehead to seek greener pastures.

Sadie has signed with the Bulls while Whitehead is in Durban with the Sharks.

Fourie’s decision to leave Cape Town has now left coach Allister Coetzee with limited midfield options and, without obvious and experienced back-up to De Villiers and De Jongh, it seems increasingly likely he will contract Jacobs.

The stocky former Sharks centre arrived home in Cape Town last month.

Initially, the 31-year-old Jacobs was considering retiring from the game, but he later said he would jump at the chance of playing for the Stormers if offered a contract.

The departure of Fourie has added to the list of senior players who have quit the Springboks since the Rugby World Cup.

John Smit and Victor Matfield have retired from Test rugby, Fourie du Preez, Danie Rossouw and Jaque Fourie are playing in Japan and Bakkies Botha and Gurthrö Steenkamp have joined Frans Steyn on the French club circuit.

Of course, some of these overseas-based players could still be involved internationally if the new Springbok coach — be named by the South African Rugby Union in January — opts to keep them in the mix.

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