Harlequins are closing in on the signature of Springbok hooker Bongi Mbonambi from the Stormers Super Rugby Unlocked franchise in South Africa. The World Cup-winning front rower would replace Welsh international Scott Baldwin on their books, with the hooker having signed for Worcester Warriors earlier this month.
Mbonambi has been capped 36 times by South Africa and featured during their triumphant Rugby World Cup run in 2019.
Last December Stormers head coach John Dobson had noted that “Harlequins are after a couple of our forwards,” with Mbonambi one of those targets. The 5’9, 108kg hooker has been with the Stormers since 2015, where he has made over 60 appearances to date.
In 2020 Jake White and the Bulls were said to be interested in bringing the hooker back to Pretoria where he had made 30 appearances in a two-year spell between 2012 and 2014. Mbonambi is contracted until 31 October 2021, but he could activate an escape clause after Super Rugby or the British and Irish Lions tour.
Mbonambi is Harlequins’ primary target for the position, as they try to lock down a much-needed replacement for Baldwin.
RugbyPass understands that Baldwin signed for Worcester Warriors prior to the departure of former Harlequins head coach Paul Gustard. Quins were said to be eager to keep the hooker, who was capped 34 times between 2013 and 2017, and a row erupted between the two clubs over his transfer to Sixways.
Baldwin, having signed for Worcester first, will honour their contract, leaving Harlequins short a hooker. The move will see the 32-year-old link up again with Warriors head coach Jonathan Thomas, a former team-mate at Ospreys.
Baldwin is the second player Warriors have signed from the West Londoners in 2021, following hot on the heels of former England wing Chris Ashton, who arrived in January in a mid-season transfer that will see him stay at Siways until the end of the 2021/22 season at least. Baldwin’s departure was a set-back for Quins, with Welshman in fine form for the Premiership club.
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