Toulouse targeting South Africans
Toulouse coach Guy Novès has admitted the outgoing French champions are in the market for "world class foreigners" to boost their squad.
For the first time in three years Toulouse will not feature in the Top 14 Final and Novès has conceded that if the club are to compete with the likes of Toulon, they will have to change their recruitment policy and reduce the number of French players in his squad.
Les Toulousains have been relatively quiet on the transfer scene so far with just three signatures (Joe Tekori, Jean-Pascal Barraque and Yacouba Camara) but that is set to change. Top of the list for the four-time European champions will be a hooker, a scrum-half and wing.
Forwards coach Williams Servat was forced to make a comeback this season to fill in for injured players and with Gary Botha on the departure list, Toulouse are scouring the market for a replacement.
Springboks Bismarck du Plessis and Chiliboy Ralepelle have already turned down offers in favour of staying in South Africa but with "no Frenchman available" Toulouse are set to widen their search.
With Luke Burgess returning to Australia, Castres scrum-half Rory Kockott has been approached as a possible replacement. But the South African is still under contract with the Top 14 finalists are negotiations around a transfer fee have been inconclusive. Bulls number nine Jano Vermaak has also been made an offer, but is waiting to see if he makes the Springbok side, which would keep him at home.
Toulouse are also seeking a 'medical joker' to fill the gap left by the absence of Vincent Clerc, who is recovering from serious knee surgery.
Novès has reluctantly admitted that due to the overlapping Test and Top 14 calendars, it is no longer viable to have a large contingent of French internationals.
"Our policy will need to evolve," said the Toulouse manager.
"We are proud of our French internationals but we can't have as many (as before) and get results. The two teams that contribute the most internationals to French rugby were eliminated in the semi-finals. You find the error.
"The policies of other clubs have forced us to review our own: Toulon, Montpellier, Racing and Stade Français are recruiting world-class foreigners. We've got French internationals who we demand to perform all year round but that are faced by players who only play for their clubs and are thus fresher. It's unequal.
"We'll have to stop recruiting French internationals and go get top class foreigners.
"A guy like Chris Masoe wanted to come to Toulouse but we said no because we had Gilian Galan and preferred to work with a young Frenchman.
"But the problem is that youngsters need time to evolve, and we've run out of time."