Rugby | Bok prop shocked by ‘blackmail’ allegations

Cape Town – Tighthead prop Vincent Koch was shocked to hear allegations that he and his agent were “blackmailing” the Pumas.

It was reported earlier this week that the Pumas lodged an official complaint with SA Rugby regarding a matter involving the two-Test capped Springbok.

It comes after English club Saracens earlier this week announced the signing of the 26-year-old.

He has represented the Stormers as a loan player for the past two seasons, but is still contracted to the Pumas until the end of October.

The Pumas want him to play for them in the Currie Cup later this year before he departs for England.

Netwerk24 earlier this week reported that Koch was believed to be upset because the Pumas did not want to agree on a transfer fee with Saracens. He reportedly informed the Pumas that he will be undergoing an operation for a long-term knee injury once the Super Rugby season is over.

But the Pumas were not buying Koch’s excuse and believe that the prop and his agent Gert van der Merwe were trying to con them.

The Mpumalanga union claim they received information that Koch was not injured.

“It’s blatant blackmailing,” Pieter Burger, CEO of the Pumas said. “If Vincent’s knee injury is so serious, why is the operation postponed? It’s very coincidental that he needs to spend time on the sidelines exactly when he should represent us in the Currie Cup.”

Koch, who will start for the SA ‘A’ side against the England Saxons on Friday, has responded to the matter.

“It was a shock for me to read it,” he told Netwerk24 in Bloemfontein on Wednesday.

“I really don’t have much to comment on the matter. I’m standing here, fit and strong. It doesn’t matter where I play, I’ll always give 100%. Whether it’s here (for SA ‘A’), at the Pumas, or the Stormers.

Koch said he will not be operated on.

“I struggled a bit with the knee last year, but at this stage I’m strong and ready to play.”

He also said that Saracens know about his contract with the Pumas.

“A while back there were negotiations that I would join them earlier, but the day I signed they knew I was under contract with the Pumas. I will play in South Africa until the end of my contract, before I head over to Britain.”

Koch added that he was surprised by the Pumas’ reaction because they never took up the matter with him.

Saracens reportedly offered the Pumas a transfer fee of R240 000, but the union’s executive council turned down the offer.

“Seasoned tighthead props are scarce commodities in South African rugby. R240 000 for a Springbok prop is ridiculous,” said the Pumas CEO.

Saracens announced earlier this week that Koch will join them on a two-year deal ahead of the 2016/17 season. But there is now an agreement in place which will see him play for the Pumas later this year before heading off to England.

His agent confirmed to that they had come to an agreement.

The agent said that they did contact the Pumas for an early release but the Mpumalanga union was not keen.

“Obviously it’s not an ideal situation, and he was looking forward to linking up with Saracens after Super Rugby, but they understand that he does have a contract with the Pumas, who don’t want to release him. So he will finish the Super Rugby season with the Stormers, then head to the Pumas, and then join Saracens,” said Van der Merwe.

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