Up until Thursday night, Western Province were confident that 2019 World Rugby Player of the Year Pieter-Steph du Toit would stay at the union.
Now, that seems far from certain.
Rumours started circling late on Thursday night that Du Toit was considering exercising the option to exit his current contract with the union in line with the 21-day window that ended at midnight that night.
On Friday, as franchises around the country confirmed who they had lost, the Stormers were mum and could not confirm that Du Toit was still a Stormer.
“We will make an announcement as soon as we are able. We’re not going to confirm, deny or comment on anything until then,” was the word from media liaison Mike de Vries.
It was initially reported that Du Toit had received a mega offer from French club Montpellier, but the club has since distanced itself from that offer by saying that it has had no contact with Du Toit.
Then, on Friday night, Netwerk24 reported that Du Toit had in fact handed in a request to leave the franchise on Thursday night – hours before the end of the contract window deadline.
Sport24 has since had that development confirmed, and it is understood that despite triggering his exit clause, Du Toit remains keen on staying at Newlands.
His current contract with the union, because he exercised his option to exit, no longer stands, but if he can have a few items amended in the form of a new contract, then he is willing to stay.
Also on Friday, speaking to the Daily Maverick, Du Toit’s agent Gerrie Swart denied that his client was moving.
“Pieter-Steph is staying at Western Province; there is just some paperwork to finalise and there may be one or two sticking points there,” Swart said.
The sudden interest from overseas clubs in South African players stemmed from a 21-day window that was agreed upon by the SA Rugby Industry, MyPlayers and the South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation (Sareo) last month in which all professional players were given three weeks – until 14 May – to get out of their current contracts with their respective unions and sign on the dotted line with those big-spending UK, France and Japanese clubs in particular.
Du Toit is understood to have had clubs from Japan and France express interest.
The Stormers are expected to make an official announcement later on Saturday.
– Compiled by Lloyd Burnard