Deadline day: Sharks hold onto World Cup Boks, lose Paul on deadline day
The Sharks have held onto their 2019 World Cup winning Springboks, including Makazole Mapimpi, after South African rugby's very own transfer deadline day on Thursday.
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Professional rugby players in the country had until midnight on Thursday - the end of a three-week window - to leave their existing contracts with their unions.
It was a clause was agreed upon by the SA Rugby Industry, MyPlayers and the South African Rugby Employers' Organisation (Sareo) last month as part of SA Rugby's efforts to cut costs in the face of the global coronavirus pandemic.
On Thursday, the final day of the window, Super Rugby coaches and union administrators endured a nervy evening in the knowledge that their players could exercise their option to exit their contracts immediately.
That happened in Durban, where 25-year-old lock Tyler Paul on Thursday night informed the franchise that he would be leaving. Paul is understood to have accepted an offer in Japan and Sharks CEO Ed Coetzee was informed of the decision after 22:00.
The good news, though, is that star Springbok wing Mapimpi is staying.
The 29-year-old had been the subject of much speculation and is understood to have received a lucrative counter-offer from a Japanese club after initially turning them down.
There was uncertainty over his future as recently as Thursday evening, but after communication with Coetzee, the Bok speedster eventually gave his commitment to the franchise.
Lukhanyo Am had been linked with a European move, but he has also committed to the Sharks.
Speaking to Sport24 on Friday morning, Coetzee acknowledged that the money on offer had made it a difficult situation for Mapimpi.
"It's a tough decision to make," Coetzee said.
A further complication in the clause stipulated that the franchises were not allowed to make counter-offers for their players - a ruling that has been a source of much anguish for local coaches and administrators.
Coetzee, though, is pleased with how the Sharks have emerged from a situation that had the potential to be a lot worse.
"We're very happy and I think it's the fruit of the system and the way we treat our players," he said.
"If the players were not happy, they would have left.
"There is a strong leadership group here within the players and Sean (Everitt, coach) has done a fantastic job. I think the players actually sorted it out themselves and they want to be part of a successful era at the Sharks.
"We're relieved, but also proud."
The Sharks were top of the combined 2020 Super Rugby standings after seven rounds of fixtures when the tournament was suspended due to the coronavirus.