Akker van der Merwe in full flight for the Sharks against the Blues last Saturday. Photo: Gerhard Duraan/BackpagePix

Rassie Erasmus’ announcement about the new way of doing things at the Springboks weren’t even cold before two national players stated that they’re leaving Mzansi.

Just a few hours after Robert du Preez’s departure to English club Sale was unveiled, his Sharks teammate Akker van der Merwe was also revealed as a Sale player.

The aggressive No 2 will join his current flyhalf at the Manchester club, where they will be made to feel at home by another familiar face, Faf de Klerk.

Van der Merwe is arguably fourth in line in the Springbok hooker pecking order behind Malcolm Marx, Bongi Mbonambi and veteran Schalk Brits, but will use this Super Rugby season to prove that he should move up that list.

And that list will be something official, as Erasmus announced at the weekend that as part of a new contracting model for potential national team players, there will be a group of 75 rated and paid an additional amount of money, apart from their franchise contracts.

The 30-cap eligibility rule for overseas-based Boks will also be removed, opening the way for players to be based anywhere in the world and still have the chance to make the national team.

All the changes come as a result of SA Rugby realising that there is no way they can compete with the pound, euro and yen any longer.

Van der Merwe earned three Test caps against England last year, and will look to force his way into the World Cup squad this season.

“I feel the time is right in my career for a move away from South Africa. I have just started a family, and after considering all my options with them, I feel this is the best one to take for us as a family,” the 27-year-old – who got married recently – said in a statement.

“I am good mates with Faf de Klerk, and having spoken with him, he only has good things to say about Sale.

“So, we are really excited about joining the club and experiencing a new lifestyle in Manchester.

“For the meantime, though, along with Rob (du Preez), I am fully committed to the Sharks, and I will be doing everything I can to be as successful as possible in my final season in Durban.”

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond said: “In order to really compete in this competition, you need to have two good options in most positions.

“And we are specifically targeting forwards with our recruitment drive this year, so I am delighted to announce the signing of Akker.

“He is a world-class player, and he will be an excellent addition to the squad, alongside Rob Webber.”


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