Sale Sharks have emerged as a possible destination for tight-headed World Cup-winning prop Vincent Koch in a development that could have major ramifications for the Premiership title race.
It is understood that Koch, one of the Price assets to leave Wasps, visited Sale’s training center in Carrington on Tuesday as Alex Sanderson’s side hosted the Argentina squad to help them get on prepare for a top-flight clash with Saracens this weekend.
The Springbok is a wanted man, having been heavily linked with Stade Français in the Top 14 as well as a return to his native South Africa with the Sharks franchise. Reports in South Africa have indicated that Koch could join the Durban-based Sharks via a short-term deal at Saracens.
A source close to the Springbok has suggested that Koch, who was also spotted at Stade Jean-Bouin on Saturday as Stade Français beat Brive 22-0, according to French publication RMC Sport, is currently considering a number of options as his representatives open negotiations with Sale.
Should Koch stay in England, it would be a boon for the Premiership that would add some fascinating dynamics to the title chase over the next few months. Saracens and Sale currently occupy the top two spots in the league and are due to meet at the StoneX Stadium on Sunday.
Koch spent five seasons with Saracens, where he worked closely with Sanderson, before joining Wasps this summer in what was to be a lucrative move that demonstrated how a lower salary cap could redistribute talent around the competition.
Saracens then strengthened their stable of tight heads, which already included Italy internationals Marco Riccioni and Alec Clarey, along with Christian Judge and Edoardo Bello.
In the end, Koch never represented Wasps. Following his involvement with South Africa in this year’s Rugby Championship, he was named in the squad to face Northampton Saints at the Coventry Building Society Arena before withdrawing due to the flu. Wasps would enter administration just over a week later, with Koch one of 167 employees to be fired immediately.
Despite significant recruitment over the past year or so, adding George Ford, Jonny Hill and Tom O’Flaherty before this season, Sanderson has always insisted he still has room in the salary cap for new additions. . The respective predicaments of Worcester Warriors and Wasps have created unexpected opportunities in the market.
“It’s an ever-changing environment, the climate right now,” Sanderson said last week. “It’s a bit of a buyer’s market. It’s a horrible expression, but that’s because there are so many players out there. You just have to keep having constant conversations. It’s a never-ending task, recruitment and retention. These things go side by side because all the pieces of the puzzle have to fit within the salary cap.
Sanderson revealed last week that he would be holding Zoom interviews with an undisclosed number of Wasps players. Burger center Odendaal is believed to have been one of those targets, with Sale eligible for injury credits to cover the absences of Connor Doherty and Luke James. That hit now seems less likely, though.
Even so, Koch would swell a South African contingent at Sale which remains strong even after the departures of Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Faf de Klerk and Lood de Jager. Dan and Jean-Luc du Preez have recently re-signed with the club, with their brother Rob in exceptional form at flyhalf. Jono Ross, Akker van der Merwe, Cobus Wiese, Nic Schonert and Coenie Oosthuizen are also part of the first team. Indeed, Oosthuizen and Schonert are two of Sanderson’s frontline bareheads along with promising youngster James Harper.
Koch, one of the sport’s most dangerous first-tier porters, is sure to be in South Africa’s plans for their November fixtures against Ireland, France, Italy and England . His availability during the Six Nations and until the end of the Premiership campaign would be a huge boost for Sale should they secure his services.