Cape Town - Western Province have confirmed that Jaco Taute has signed for them in the first of several expected moves ahead of next season’s Super Rugby campaign.
The Springbok utility back picked up a season-ending injury earlier this year while playing for the Stormers, who secured his services following a loan agreement with the Lions.
Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said on Monday Taute was unlikely to play again this year, even if he returned to fitness at the tail-end of the Currie Cup season.
"The player negotiations we are busy with presently are aimed at strengthening our Super Rugby squad for next season,"Coetzee said.
"Taute has agreed to terms and there are more negotiations going on to secure other players.
"At this stage the signings are not for the Currie Cup squad.
"I want the local talent to use the Currie Cup to prove their worth and possibly earn a contract for next year."
Forwards Duane Vermeulen and Michael Rhodes returned to training on Monday after injury-enforced layoffs.
Both were about three weeks off in terms of availability.
"It is very likely that Duane might go straight into the Springbok squad as soon as he is ready to play, but I’d like to see him play one or two games for us," Coetzee said.
"The Bok squad will be announced in a fortnight’s time and I expect Duane to get the nod."
Hooker Tiaan Liebenberg was still out with injury and was expected to return to training in three weeks’ time.
Schalk Burger would see a specialist on Wednesday and only then would Western Province know when he was able to return to action.
SA Under-20 and Sevens star Cheslin Kolbe suffered whiplash playing for the Vodacom Cup side and would be rested this week. He was in the running for the No 15 berth in the WP team.
"Cheslin has been playing non-stop for several months and he needs a break," Coetzee said.
"His injury is nothing serious but the rest will do him good at this stage."
Coetzee was considering using Kolbe on the wing initially and using Gio Aplon at fullback.
"Out on the wing may be a better option to blood Cheslin in the Currie Cup," he said.
"Gio has played so well there when called on in the past."
Coetzee also announced wing Gerhard van den Heever would be released after the season in order to join Irish side Munster.
Utility forward Deon Fourie would again captain the WP Currie Cup side this season.