SARU confirm Toulon request
Fri, 23 Aug 2013 07:56
No answer till next week
The South African Rugby Union on Friday confirmed that they had received a request for star wing Bryan Habana to be released to his French club Toulon next week.
Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal first raised the issue at a media briefing on Thursday, but admitted that he has heard nothing back from SARU.
Boudjellal wants Habana, whom they are reportedly paying an astronomical €50,000 (about ZAR685,000) per month, to be available for his team's Top 14 encounter with Grenoble next Saturday, August 31.
He feels that because it is a bye weekend in the Rugby Championship Habana should be made available for his club.
However, SARU will wait until after this coming Saturday's Round Two fixture between Argentina and South Africa in Mendoza before responding to the request.
"We have received a request from Toulon and are considering it, but won't confirm any decision until after the Test [in Mendoza]," a SARU spokesman told this website.
Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has been under the spotlight since his Rugby Championship team announcement, which featured 10 players playing abroad.
Scrumhalf Fourie du Preez, who produced a Man of the Match performance in last week's record 73-13 victory over the Pumas in Soweto, is only available for the Boks' home games.
He has already returned to his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, and won't feature for the Boks till they return home from Australasia - for the matches against Australia in Cape Town on September 28 and New Zealand in Johannesburg on October 5.
Apart from Habana and Du Preez, other players in the Bok squad that are currently attached to teams abroad are Zane Kirchner, Juandré Kruger, Francois Louw, Ruan Pienaar, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Gurthrö Steenkamp, Morné Steyn and Jano Vermaak.
Some critics claim the Boudjellal 'request' is the first case of what is likely to become a major issue for Meyer as he builds his team ahead of the 2015 World Cup in England.
While South Africa are set to fly to Australia next weekend, for the Brisbane Test on September 7, Habana could instead head to Europe if SARU agrees to the Toulon request.
There has been reports that other French clubs could also lay claim to their Boks for next week - which would mean Steyn (Stade Francais), Kruger (Racing Metro), Steenkamp (Toulouse) and Vermaak (Toulouse) could join Habana in France.
There has been no confirmation of any requests other than that of Habana.
Habana became the highest paid South African player in France when he recently signed with the European champions, Toulon.
It is unclear if Boudjellal wants the flyer released for the second bye weekend, September 21, as well.
If SARU agrees to release Habana, the record-breaking wing would then only join up with his Bok teammates in Brisbane in the week leading up to the Round Three encounter.
By Jan de Koning
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