Harlequins have continued to bolster their squad ahead of next season with the signing of Stormers and Springboks prop Wilco Louw.
The 25-year-old is the London club’s second signing so far this season following the announcement of fellow Springbok Andre Esterhuizen. Paul Gustard also brought three more South Africans to the Stoop last summer, Stephan Lewies, Simon Kerrod and Travis Ismaiel.
The 13-cap Louw will serve as a perfect replacement at tighthead for Kyle Sinckler, who will be moving to Bristol Bears next summer.
This approach of recruiting South African players is not new in the Gallagher Premiership as Sale Sharks brought in six players for the 2019/20 season.
The du Preez brothers, Robert, Dan and Jean-Luc all arrived as well as Akker van der Merwe, Lood de Jager and Coenie Oosthuizen to join the likes of Faf de Klerk and Rohan Janse van Rensburg who were already at the AJ Bell Stadium.
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With the South African Rugby Union scrapping its policy of only selecting players based in South Africa, or with a certain number of caps, there has been an exodus in recent times and Sale have been beneficiaries.
With clubs consistently trying to work within the salary cap, South Africa is effectively an untapped resource as wages are not be as high as having an English player in the squad.
So Harlequins going all Sale Sharks now with all the South Africans they getting for next season.
— Wiehanndup (@wiehanndup) February 13, 2020
Part of English rugby's problem right here.
— Kevin Thompson (@KevT0M0) February 13, 2020
Good signing, but does this mean all Prem clubs are now going to follow the Sale model, ie fill the ranks with massive SA's because they won't play in the 6 Nations so will be available for whole season. Not sure this is great development with regards nurturing English talent.
— Saltysnowflake (@EricAnbo) February 13, 2020
The added bonus is that these players will not be away during the Six Nations, meaning there is more game time for the players from the southern hemisphere.
However, the growing concern for supporters of English clubs – and England rugby – is that the drive to recruit players from South Africa may stultify the growth of younger homegrown players.
Oh dear another influx of SA players feel coming, not another Sale Sharks please! ?
— Calcutta Cup Winner #itscominghome???????? (@Stuart_E40) February 13, 2020
Another PRL side bringing in South Africans rather than developing EQP.
— karen Wright (@RuggerHugger70) February 13, 2020
If a club wants to achieve as much success as possible, the logical option is to load their team with as many quality players as they can and the avenue of buying South African players seems to be the best option at the moment.
France had to introduce a new ruling in which clubs are required to have a minimum number of French players in their squad, as the Top 14’s wealth meant national players had been ousted by big signings from abroad.
— RugbyPass (@RugbyPass) February 13, 2020
The English game could well be going in that direction as well. Having said that, Quins will still have a large contingent of English players next season despite the departures of Sinckler and Chris Robshaw.
Rumours are also circulating that World Rugby player of the year Pieter-Steph du Toit may be moving to south-west London as well. While that will be beneficial to the squad and the players around him, it will only raise more concerns.
WATCH: RugbyPass Rugby Explorer takes a trek through South African rugby, stopping off in the rugby communities of Port Elizabeth and Cape Town
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