MUNSTER could be set to lose BJ Botha when his current contract expires at the end of this season.
The South African tighthead prop is understood to be keen to stay with the two-time Heineken Cup champions but negotiations over a new contract are believed to have stalled.
Botha (above) is not Irish qualified and, as a result, it is believed the IRFU have sanctioned only a one-year contract offer from Munster. Botha wants at least a two-year contract so as to afford him and his young family some security.
Munster cannot hope to match the financial clout of the big-spending French clubs and Botha would command a salary in the region of €400,000-€500,000 in France, but he is happily settled in Limerick and is keen to stay on, under the right terms.
Botha, who has 25 international caps with South Africa, joined Munster in 2011 after three seasons with Ulster.
He will not be short of suitors – especially from France and England – if Munster are not able to offer him agreeable terms.
Munster signed Botha as a direct replacement for John Hayes after it was decided that long-time heir apparent Tony Buckley was not the solution to their scrummaging deficiencies.
Botha has been a big success for Munster. He has anchored their scrum excellently, despite the difficulties experienced against Saracens over the last two weekends when Munster were penalised heavily at scrum time.
Meanwhile, Botha's is not the only contract up for renewal at the end of the season. Senior players Ian Keatley, Felix Jones, Simon Zebo, Peter O'Mahony and James Coughlan are also up for negotiation.
And a number of Munster's Academy and Development players – including Dave O'Callaghan – are also due for negotiations with Munster Rugby chief executive Garrett Fitzgerald in the coming weeks as Rob Penney seeks to finalise his roster for next season.
Both Penney's and Fitzgerald's hands are somewhat tied by the workability, or otherwise, of the IRFU's proposed controversial Player Succession policy. This has yet to be clarified but it is proposed that it will limit the use of non-Irish qualified players (NIQs) to position-specific roles from 2013/14.
Botha's case, however, is the most serious as Munster have no ready-made replacement for the former Springbok. Stephen Archer is the man being groomed for succession but he is still developing as a tighthead and might not yet be ready to be in the spotlight at Heineken Cup level.
Meanwhile, Sean Cronin is likely to remain with Leinster. The players' representatives are currently negotiating with the IRFU but the hooker is keen to stay with the Heineken Cup champions.
"I don't know what my future is at the moment but I'm happy and I'm enjoying my life here at Leinster. I love Dublin," he said.