Bakkies Botha’s transfer saga continues to get more twisted, with both the Bulls and Toulon laying claim to him.
Botha is one of a number of elite players targeted by the French second division club, who already own Botha’s Springbok lock partner Victor Matfield, legendary Australia scrumhalf George Gregan, All Blacks Anton Oliver and Andrew Mehrtens, while All Blacks great Tana Umaga coaches the galaxy of stars.
When keo.co.za spoke to millionaire Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal on a recent visit to the club, he explained that Botha had signed a pre-contract with them, and would join on 1 April. He said the document indicated Botha’s intent to sign an official contract but explained that Botha was now legally obligated to join the club.
The Bulls, however, refused to release the player, despite his request, citing the fact that he was bound to the franchise by a four year contract he signed in late 2007.
This website has learned that Boudjellal last week showed the Toulon media the contract with Botha’s signature on the dotted line. Boudjellal insisted that they would secure Botha’s services irrespective of the Bulls’ assertions to the contrary.
If Botha failed to arrive on the specified date, Boudjellal said the club would proceed with legal action against the player. As it stands Botha is with the Bulls in Perth preparing for their Super 14 match against the Force. Unless the lock has developed a supernatural ability to teleport himself across the world, he is unlikely to show up for work in the south of France.
Toulon claim they have sent a copy of the signed contract to the South African Rugby Union [Saru]. However, Saru general manager of policy and regulations, Christo Ferreira, insists he has not received anything of the sort – but explained that manager of national teams Andy Marinos may be in possession of the document. Marinos asked to be contacted later on Tuesday, but would neither confirm or deny having received the contract.
“If the two parties are looking for mediation on the matter, the IRB usually deals with that. But Saru may intervene if they are requested to [by the IRB] although that hasn’t been the case to date,” Ferreira told keo.co.za.
Botha’s agent, Bernie Habana, failed to respond to questions around where the process stood, while Bulls CEO Barend van Graan was vehemently opposed to discussing the matter. “Please don’t ask me about Bakkies. I’m not talking about that. No comment,” Van Graan barked.
As it stands both the Bulls and Toulon have a contract with Botha, and Toulon will feel they have a watertight case should they opt to take legal action. The Bulls won’t relent on their position that the player has committed to them for the next four years, so the battle could get even messier in the coming weeks.
How Botha got himself into this situation is perplexing. He has no escape clause in his Bulls contract. In fact, he requested a long-term contract from the Bulls so that he would have financial security. Yet he, or his agent acting on his behalf, felt it appropriate to sign a legally bonding document with Toulon and he now finds himself in the middle of a brutal battle.
By Ryan Vrede