Eben Etzebeth: Saracens move for South Africa lock 'unlikely to happen'

By Chris JonesBBC Radio 5 live rugby reporter
Eben Etzebeth
Eben Etzebeth has won 53 international caps for South Africa

Saracens boss Mark McCall says a deal to sign South Africa international Eben Etzebeth is now "unlikely to happen".

The Premiership and European champions are looking for a replacement for lock Alastair Hargreaves, who has been forced to retire because of concussion.

McCall confirmed talks had taken place about bringing Etzebeth to England, but the move has now fallen through.

"We are exploring some options, but that one is unlikely to happen," McCall told BBC Radio 5 live.

"Trying to find somebody of the right quality who is available and eligible to come to the UK isn't all that easy at this time of year.

"He would have been an interesting option, but it doesn't look like it will happen."

Because of his contract with SA Rugby, Etzebeth, 24, would only have been available on a short-term deal until February, but McCall says the Allianz Park outfit would have been happy with that solution.

"We thought [we could] get ourselves to the end of January and then maybe find another solution, but as I said I don't think that is going to happen," director of rugby McCall added.

Ahead of Saracens' Champions Cup game against three-time winners Toulon on Saturday, the Olympic triathletes Alistair and Jonny Brownlee have visited the club's St Albans training base to address the squad.

"They were brilliant, they really were," McCall said. "It was incredible to hear their story, what sacrifices they make and how motivated they are to go again and again.

"[They are] two of the most down-to-earth sportsmen you could wish to meet. There were a lot of messages they have which resonated with the players."

Jonny Brownlee and Alistair Brownlee
Jonny Brownlee (left) and brother Alistair (right) won silver and gold respectively in the men's triathlon at the Olympic Games in Rio

Second row Maro Itoje added: "What struck me most about them was how normal they are and how diligent they are, but also how they take such ownership over their sport, which can definitely translate [to rugby]."

Saracens have regularly used guest speakers in the past, such as athletics great Michael Johnson and racing legend Sir AP McCoy.

"It's healthy for us, it gives the players a different perspective not just on sport, but on life as well," McCall added.

McCall also confirmed England pair Owen Farrell and Alex Goode are on course to be fit for Saturday's match in the Stade Mayol.

Farrell has yet to play this season because of a back problem, but McCall says if the fly-half reacts well to training he will be available for selection.