Exeter Chiefs have bolstered their front-row options ahead of the new 2020/21 season with the signing of South African prop Maks Van Dyk.
With Harry Williams and Tomas Francis both likely to be involved in the upcoming Autumn Nations Cup and Six Nations Championship, Chiefs Director of Rugby, Rob Baxter, has moved swiftly to bring in the 28-year-old tighthead.
Van Dyk - who has previously played for the Sharks, Cheetahs and Griquas in South Africa, as well as Leinster, Toulouse and, more recently, a short stint at Harlequins – joins on an initial one-year deal, although there is an option for that to be extended further.
A product of the famous Paarl Boys’ High School in South Africa, he has also represented South Africa at Under-20s level, helping them to lift the IRB Junior World Championship in 2012.
Commenting on his move to Sandy Park, Van Dyk said: “Obviously, it’s a massive honour for me to join a club of the calibre of Exeter Chiefs. As everyone has seen, they are a team who are not only challenging at the very top end of the game, but they are also winning the big trophies.
“Having watched them, I like what I see and how they play the game. For me, this is a big opportunity for me to not only join a great club, but at the same time improve my own game.
“I know the Premiership is a very tough division, much different to what I faced in France, but having been at Harlequins I do have an idea of what to expect. It’s going to be tough, it’s going to be physical, but that is what you kind of expect at this level.
“The Chiefs have shown they are a force to be reckoned with for a number of years now, getting into semi-finals and finals, so I’m very much looking forward to being part of things here.”
Baxter himself is delighted to add the Johannesburg-born forward to his ranks, particularly at a time when he will be without both Williams and Francis, as well as having seen Aussie international Greg Holmes also depart last season.
“I think when we saw the make-up of the new season, particularly with the amount of international games on the calendar, we started to look at options around tighthead,” explained Baxter. “It’s not like we are going to lose Franny and Harry for say three or four weeks, it’s going to be a lot longer than that.
“Obviously, we’ve got some great young talent coming through in the shape of Marcus Street and Alfie Petch, both of whom we will use over the course of the coming season, but we felt it would be a big ask on those guys to play 10+ games on the bounce.
“Having a player like Maks, especially with the experience he has, come into the squad – it will allow us to rotate our options a little easier. Like every player, we’ve had a good look at him and we like what we see.
“He’s a big, strong ball-carrier, he’s quite light on his feet for a prop, and some of those key strengths you crave from a prop, he has a lot of those qualities already. Of course, there are areas to his game that we feel we can improve on, but when you look at the whole package he brings, he ticks a lot of boxes.”