Rugby transfers and rumours: Springboks coaching staff, Paolo Garbisi’s surprise move, Andre Esterhuizen’s future and more

Jared Wright
Japan coach Tony Brown, Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi and Harlequins' Andre Esterhuizen and Marcus Smith.

Japan coach Tony Brown, Italy fly-half Paolo Garbisi and Harlequins' Andre Esterhuizen and Marcus Smith.

Planet Rugby recaps some of the biggest transfer news, rumours and movements in the world of rugby union over the past week.

Jerry Flannery, Tony Brown and Andre Esterhuizen

Springboks coaching staff: Rassie Erasmus has two voids to fill following the 2023 World Cup, with head coach Jacques Nienaber and assistant Felix Jones both leaving the Bok set-up. According to Afrikaans newspaper Rapport, Harlequins coach and former Ireland hooker Jerry Flannery is one of the targets to replace Nienaber to lead the Springboks‘ defence, while former All Blacks fly-half Tony Brown is lined up to lead the attack. SARU president Mark Alexander told the paper that the coaching staff has been finalised and will be unveiled once all the paperwork is completed.

Local options: While the overseas-based options dominated the headlines, the report also linked multiple local coaches to fill the roles. Norma Laker has reportedly been shortlisted for the defence coach role, as well as Joey Mongalo, Charl Strydom and Jaque Fourie. Ricardo Loubscher and Dawie Snyman are the two local coaches linked along with Brown for the attack coach vacancy.

Bok to stay in London: Andre Esterhuizen was linked with a move to Toulon last week, but according to a report by The Rugby Paper, the Springbok centre has rejected the French club’s advances. His current contract expires at the end of next season, and the report adds that he is still on the shopping list for several clubs in Japan.

Ackermann set for Lions return: According to The Rugby Paper, Ruan Ackermann could return to his former side, the Lions, and not join the Sharks. The report states that the Lions emerged as the side ‘most likely’ to sign Ackermann from Gloucester as he returns to Johannesburg to chase a Springbok call-up. The Sharks were believed to be in the race for the Gloucester star, but the Lions are believed to have edged ahead with Emmanuel Tshituka heading to Durban, freeing up space for Ackermann’s return to his former side.

Racing 92 and Bath signings

Racing 92 confirms Owen Farrell’s signing: The England and Saracens fly-half was officially unveiled as the Top 14 club’s new signing on a two-year deal. He will link up with Stuart Lancaster, the coach who handed him his first England cap, at the French club. Following the news of Farrell’s signature, reports emerged that Racing will be offloading 12 players at the end of the season to fit him and Siya Kolisi in their salary cap.

Chile star to join Racing 92: Chile hooker Diego Escobar was a standout performer for his country at the 2023 Rugby World Cup, which has seemingly not gone unnoticed. According to a report by, the front-rower has secured a three-year contract with Racing 92 and will join the club after the Super Rugby Americas campaign, having also impressed during his trial at the club.

Bath trio re-sign: It was a busy week at the West Country Premiership club with Will Stuart, Max Ojomoh and Will Muir all extending their stays at Bath. Ojomoh and Muir have all signed on until 2027, while Stuart inked a deal until 2026.

Hardy attracts interest: Wales scrum-half Kieran Hardy is set to leave the Scarlets at the end of the season, according to Wales Online. The publication reports that the Ospreys are among the contenders for his services with a couple of Premiership clubs, and Montpellier is reportedly interested.

Sheedy off to Cardiff: According to a report by Sports Mail, Callum Sheedy will leave Bristol Bears at the end of the season to join Cardiff. The 16-Test cap fly-half has not played for Wales since 2021 due to the Welsh Rugby Union’s eligibility policies.

Dave Porecki, Alex Moon and Gabe Hammer-Webb

Porecki stay: Wallabies hooker Dave Porecki has signed a new deal with Rugby Australia and the Waratahs until 2026 at least. The 19-Test front-rower skippered Australia last year and was a regular starter for the side throughout 2023.

English lock signs for Bayonne: Northampton Saints lock Alex Moon has signed a two-year contract with Top 14 club Bayonne, the French side has confirmed. The 27-year-old will make the switch ahead of the 2024/25 season.

Saints sign cover: Meanwhile, Northampton have signed Cardiff and ex-Bath back Gabe Hammer-Webb as cover for the multiple players called into the England squad for the Six Nations.

Evan Lloyd, Angus Curtis and Paddy Jackson

Rising star re-signs with Cardiff: Evan Lloyd is the latest new Wales squad member to agree a new long-term deal with Cardiff Rugby. The recently converted hooker was a surprise inclusion in the Wales Six Nations squad, owing to his size, explosive power and ball-playing ability as a former number eight.

Angus Curtis retires: The Ulster back confirmed his retirement after sustaining two concussions earlier this season. The 25-year-old, who made his debut in 2018, was advised by a specialist that he should call time on his career.

Paddy Jackson ends speculation: The former Ireland international was linked with a move to Saracens to replace Farrell. However, he ended the speculation this week when he signed a two-year extension with Lyon.

Val Rapava-Ruskin, Jordan Petaia and Aaron Wainwright

Gloucester fan favourite re-signs: The Cherry and Whites fan favourite Val Rapava-Ruskin penned a contract extension to remain at Gloucester. The 31-year-old prop has made more than 100 appearances for the side since joining from Worcester Warriors in 2017.

Jordan Petaia on the NFL radar: The Wallabies star back confirmed this week that he is attracting interest from the NFL, NRL and Japanese clubs, with his contract expiring at the end of the year. The 23-year-old has represented Australia in two Rugby World Cups and said that he is not rushing into making a decision.

Wales star rejects Premiership interest: A major coup, the Dragons announced the contract extension of Aaron Wainwright. The back-rower has signed a ‘multi-year’ contract to remain at the Dragons beyond the 2023/24 season and followed Rio Dyer in committing his services to the region.

Paolo Garbisi, Christopher Tolofua and Pita Ahki

Paolo Garbisi to Toulon? An interesting report surfaced this week stating that Italian international Garbisi would be heading to Toulon in a swap deal for hooker Christopher Tolofua. Montpellier need cover in the front-row position, while Toulon is reportedly looking to find an injury replacement for Dan Biggar. Toulon did release a statement denying the reports, but French media were confident that the swap would be completed shortly.

Pita Ahki re-signs: The Tongan star attracted interest in France and with a Super Rugby club in recent weeks with his current contract expiring. However, Toulouse announced that he has put pen to paper on a new two-year deal with the Top 14 club.

Coaching trio re-sign: Assistant coaches Stevie Lawrie, Michael Todd and Rob Chrystie have signed two-year deals to remain with Edinburgh. The coaching trio’s extensions, which take them to June 2026, align with head coach Sean Everitt, whose new two-year deal was announced earlier this month.

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