Munster set to sacrifice Du Preez for Botha deal
MUNSTER are set to give Marcus Horan a rare start in the Pro12 on Saturday when they take on Edinburgh in Musgrave Park (7.45).
Veteran prop Horan has played 216 times for the province but has started only two games this season, and neither of those has been in the Heineken Cup. He has made two appearances off the bench in Europe this season.
His selection ahead of South African loosehead prop Wian du Preez is interesting in so far as it pertains to Munster's long-term plans.
The province are desperately keen to re-sign South African tighthead BJ Botha on a two-year contract but have so far been authorised by the IRFU to offer him only a one-year deal, which the player is unlikely to accept.
Munster are loath to lose the Springbok. They have high hopes for the continued development of Stephen Archer but the Cork Con tighthead is not believed to be ready yet to replace Botha.
The contracts situation of non-Irish qualified (NIQ) players remains a mess.
IRFU legislation dropped in at the end of 2011 stipulated that from the start of next season a province will not be permitted to renew the contract of a NIQ player, or bring in a new NIQ player into that same position.
It is the reason why Munster are believed to have only been authorised to offer Botha a one-year contract, although there appears to be room for negotiation with the IRFU.
Du Preez, for instance, has fallen behind Dave Kilcoyne in Munster, and the speculation is that, even though he still has a year to go on his contract, the South African will be encouraged to move on as a compromise with the IRFU.
If, as is expected, du Preez is taken off Munster's books, the IRFU will facilitate their signing Botha to a two-year contract.