Super Rugby

WRAP | Who's IN and OUT on SA rugby's deadline day

Pieter-Steph du Toit (Gallo Images)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (Gallo Images)

While the dreaded midnight deadline for local players to opt out of their existing contracts with South African franchises might've passed, there still a significant amount of anxiety over what the true extent of clause, part of SA Rugby's Industry Mitigation Plan in response to the Covid-19 pandemic, will be on playing rosters.

Lions chief Rudolf Straeuli on Friday confirmed the widely held belief that the process would be characterised by brinkmanship as players tried to inform unions of their plans as late as possible to avoid potential complications.

And it duly proved that way with several defections occurring within the nick of time.

Sport24 keeps you abreast with all the comings-and-goings as they unfold.


Given the circumstances, it's been a spectacular few weeks for the men from Loftus, who are the only Super Rugby franchise to have made more additions to their roster rather than losses.

The earlier re-signing of national stalwart Duane Vermeulen precipitated a fruitful spending spree during the 'opt-out' window, with three other Springboks in Marcel van der Merwe, Gio Aplon and Arno Botha signing on for new director of rugby Jake White's project.

Significantly, all four players have seemingly been earmarked for specific roles in need of attention.

Aplon will help mentor an inexperienced but exciting backline, Vermeulen and Botha add beef to a loose trio that looked underpowered at times this season and Van der Merwe adds class and depth to an already formidable front row featuring Lizo Gqoboka and Trevor Nyakane.

And for good measure, Cheetahs locks Sintu Manjezi and Walt Steenkamp are also being targeted for a move to Pretoria.

Utility backs Johnny Kotze and Manie Libbok are moving to Japan and Durban respectively, while Blitzbok and centre Dylan Sage announced on social media that he's embarking on a new chapter too. 


Duane Vermeulen

Marcel van der Merwe

Gio Aplon

Arno Botha


Johnny Kotze

Manie Libbok

Dylan Sage


Deadline day proved highly damaging to the Johannesburg-based franchise.

There will be a sense that Malcolm Marx's is relatively palatable as he was bound to miss the whole of 2020's Super Rugby campaign anyway due to his commitments in Japan and had already forced coach Ivan van Rooyen to blood alternative options.

However, his experience and leadership would've been vital to the Lions' efforts at being better equipped for next year's tournament.

That's not going happen now.

Perhaps more devastating was the blow of losing Tyrone Green.

The nippy 22-year-old back has been one of the few 'next generation' players at the union to step up in 2020, displaying glimpses of class that suggest higher honours beckon.

It's one thing losing senior players with high market values, but seeing important rookies depart feels frustratingly wasteful.

Elton Jantjies' signature was also chased with fervour though it seems he's staying.


Malcolm Marx

Tyrone Green

Ruan Vermaak

Shaun Reynolds


That the Durbanites managed to cling on to various stars is a testament to the new culture of inclusivity and excellence that has been cultivated at King's Park.

Andre Esterhuizen's move to Harlequins was confirmed during the Super Rugby campaign already, meaning the reliable and possibly underappreciated (at least from a broader perspective) Tyler Paul was the only deadline day defection.

Even so, it took a second offer from a Japanese club to finally prise the bruising blindsider away.

Makazole Mapimpi also said no to a handsome pay day to remain in Durban, providing ample evidence that something special is brewing under the tutelage of head coach Sean Everitt and chief executive Eduard Coetzee.

With other Springboks like Thomas du Toit, Curwin Bosch and Lukhanyo Am staying put, the Sharks arguably now have the strongest playing group in the country.

The diminutive Manie Libbok also joins from Pretoria and provides valuable depth at flyhalf and fullback.


Manie Libbok


Andre Esterhuizen

Tyler Paul

Andisa Ntsila


Officially, the damage sustained by the Stormers is surprisingly mild.

Like Esterhuizen, Wilco Louw's departure was announced slap-bang in their campaign, while Dillyn Leyds' move to France was made public comfortably before deadline.

Unofficially, it seems like potential bloodbath is on hand.

Confusion reigns over Pieter-Steph du Toit's sojourn to France and Jean-Luc du Plessis and Cobus Wiese are also understood to be on their way to Japan and England respectively.

Similarly to the Lions' situation with Green, Wiese leaving feels rather agonising given the future role he could've played, even if there's decent competition at flank.


Kade Wolhuter

Keke Morabe


Wilco Louw

Dillyn Leyds

Cobus Wiese

Jean-Luc du Plessis

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