New two-year deal for Archer could push Botha closer to Munster exit
Published 23/01/2013 | 05:00
STEPHEN ARCHER and Ian Keatley have both signed new two-year contracts with Munster, increasing speculation that BJ Botha is set to leave at the end of the season.
Botha (33) has only been offered a one-year contract by Munster and is known to be unimpressed with the length of that offer.
The tighthead prop has been linked with a big-money multi-year deal with French side Toulon.
However, it has also emerged that he is a possible target for South African Super 15 franchise The Bulls, with speculation growing he has held tentative talks with them
Botha played for the Sharks from 2001 to 2008 and represented South Africa on 25 occasions. He joined Ulster in 2008 before moving south at the start of last season on a two-year contract.
Toulon recently announced they have tied up former New Zealand tighthead Carl Hayman on a two-year deal.
They have two international looseheads in Gethin Jenkins and Andrew Sheridan on the books, and signing Botha would add even more quality to their already formidable front-row.
From Botha's perspective, he and his young family would benefit from living in the south of France, and he would also have less of a workload as he and Hayman would only have to play on alternative weekends.
That Archer (pictured) has signed for two years is an indication of just how highly he is rated within the Munster set-up – he has been seen for some time as Botha's long-term successor.
It is, however, a gamble as he has yet to prove himself at the highest level of competition.
Meanwhile, Munster's third-choice hooker Sean Henry has joined Connacht on a two-year contract, and two Irish players have made it onto the longlist for the prestigious ERC European Player of the Year award.
Munster's Simon Zebo, who scored three of their five tries against Racing Metro, and Ulster's Rory Best have been included in a 15-man list. Ulster's Ruan Pienaar has also been nominated.