Well, what a boring transfer period it’s been so far for Cardiff Blues! It seems like every player we get linked with goes on to sign a new contract with the club they’re already at or moves somewhere else, leaving us frustrated. However, almost three months after the last instalment of ‘Comings and Goings’, it’s time to take another evaluation of where we are…
The big transfer news over the last few weeks has been the signing of Franco Van Der Merwe from Ulster. An expected announcement, with rumours swirling since before Christmas of the second row coming in, but still a good signing in my book. For a long time now we’ve been lacking some really nasty second rows, for want of a better phrase, but with George Earle now in place, his countryman could be the perfect lock partner.
With over 150 South African domestic rugby appearances, 100 Super Rugby games and a Springbok cap to his name he is certainly experienced. Add to that 69 league and European games for Ulster since 2014 and he is more than qualified to become a first team player at the Arms Park. At around 6tf5 and 18st he is certainly the right shape physique anyway.
There are some concerns over his age, Van Der Merwe will be 34 by the time that he joins, but for me that’s actually a good thing. Too often this season we have lacked leadership and experience on the field, but the South African can offer that in abundance, and has been virtually ever present for Ulster over the past three seasons, allaying fears his age will restrict playing time.
Elsewhere the only other transfer news has been short-term signings to cover the recent injury crisis. The first two were half-back duo Pele Cowley and Nicky Robinson. Obviously we’re all aware of King Nicky’s credentials, and he comes in to provide a steadying influence, as well as assist with some young player mentoring, while scrum-half Cowley is a Samoan international, and could well be on trial for a longer contract if he impresses and there are non-Welsh qualified slots available.
They are joined by second row BJ Edwards, who joins on loan from Bristol and will cover the second row, likely only until George Earle returns from suspension, and loosehead Marc Thomas who has signed short-term from Jersey as loosehead cover with Brad Thyer and Gethin Jenkins both injured. The Welshman returns to the Pro12 after making 42 appearances for Ospreys in four years, and only signed for the Channel Islanders in the summer.
So overall there’s nothing significant in the sense of long-term transfer activity, however there’s still plenty of time to do business, and generally Cardiff reserve February/March as the time for most of the signing announcements.
I’d hope for news on Leigh Halfpenny to arrive in the next week or two, and the club remain confident of landing his signature on an NDC, while Damian Welch is still strongly linked to sign from Exeter, further boosting out lock ranks. The only other vague rumour is the Welsh qualified centre Jack Roberts at Leicester, but as ever, don’t go taking any gossip as gospel.
Nobody! Moving on…..
Nobody….yet. The one big piece of contract news we’re waiting for is Gareth Anscombe, who recently made his return from injury, with his National Dual Contract set to expire at the end of the season. The good news is that the fly-half has himself agreed terms, but there is a hold up as Cardiff and the WRU argue over who pays the agent fees as part of a NDC. Ah, modern rugby!
A quieter instalment but hopefully it’s setup for a bumper blog next time…