Why all the fuss over Franco Mostert?

There are many examples that can be given to demonstrate just how talented a player Franco Mostert is.

However, perhaps the clearest indication of all is the fact that in May 2018, just hours after Gloucester had announced the second-row would be joining them in November, Mostert’s former club were fighting to retain his talents. “We are in dispute,” Lions chief executive Rudolf Straeuli told reporters in South Africa. “We are contesting it because it is a transgression of World Rugby’s player movement regulations.

Franco Mostert

“I can’t go into specifics of how we are fighting this but the process is underway. Our lawyers are busy with it. This is a legal dispute.”

The crux of Lions’ complaint appeared to boil down to Gloucester announcing the move months before Mostert was due to join.

Such a situation, however, is not uncommon in rugby — certainly not in Europe — and the Premiership side insisted they had done nothing wrong.

“The reality is we’ve done the same in terms of signing Franco than we have with every single player and every other club does exactly the same thing. There have been so many precedents set anyway,” the club’s chief executive Stephen Vaughan told Gloucestershire Live in June.

The furore rumbled on into the autumn and even resulted in Mostert missing South Africa’s Test with England at Twickenham on November 3.

Premiership policy was to not release English-based Boks for the match, such as Sale scrum-half Faf de Klerk.

Ambiguity lay with Mostert given that both Gloucester and Lions claimed he was their player.

If he is currently a Gloucester player he won’t be available for the English Test match and if he is a Lions player he will be,” said South Africa coach Rassie Erasmus. In the end, Mostert was left out. “It’s such a touchy thing at this stage,” Erasmus added.

By the middle of November the second-row was back playing for South Africa in the autumn Tests, but his club future was still unclear. Lions lobbied to World Rugby to intervene and it was reported the Super Rugby club were holding onto his registration documents.

Throughout the saga, Gloucester remained calm about the matter and by December 1 their patience had paid off as Mostert made his debut off the bench against Worcester.

It had been a long and at times arduous journey to that point, but without doubt the battle for the 28-year-old had been worth it.

“We know the Gloucester fans love their physical, hard-working forwards, and Franco is exactly that,” said Director of Rugby David Humphreys.

When it comes to producing second-rows, there are few countries in the world with a better track record than South Africa. Mostert is the latest in a long line of talented players, however he is different to the likes of Eben Etzebeth. Etzebeth and others rely on their size, but Mostert is not the biggest when it comes to locks — as pointed out by Munster coach Johann van Graan this week. Van Graan knows Mostert from his time working with South Africa and as such, he knows how much of a threat he will pose tonight at Kingsholm.

The 28-year-old is excellent in the line-out, both at ensuring his own ball is won and stealing others. Indeed, during the 2018 Super Rugby season, he won 87 line-outs — 25 more than any other player.

However, it is Mostert’s work-rate that sets him apart from others. He may not be the biggest but he is a willing carrier and he weighed in with 163 for the Lions last season (the 10th-highest in Super Rugby).

Defence, though, is where the second-row’s work-ethic really shines through. He is one of the best tacklers in the modern game and he unsurprisingly topped the charts for that in Super Rugby last season. His tally of 234 was also 25 more than the next-best player. The challenge for Mostert now is to replicate that form in Europe and the visit of Munster is the perfect chance to showcase his talent. Nights like tonight are exactly why Gloucester signed him.

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