Saints sign former South Africa Under-20 forward
Saints have signed former South Africa Under-20 international Michael van Vuuren to help deal with injury issues at hooker.
Dylan Hartley continues to recover from a knee problem, while Mike Haywood looks set to remain sidelined until at least November due to an ACL injury.
Reece Marshall picked up hamstring problem that ruled him out of the closing stages of last season, leaving James Fish and Darren Dawidiuk, whose loan spell has now finished, as the men in the mix for the Gallagher Premiership play-off semi-final defeat at Exeter in May.
Samson Ma'asi missed England Under-20s' World Rugby U20 Championship campaign on medical grounds, but he and Marshall have played a part in pre-season training.
Nevertheless, van Vuuren's arrival will give boss Chris Boyd more options at hooker during the new season, which starts on September 21.
The English-qualified ace arrives at Franklin’s Gardens from Gallagher Premiership rivals Bath but boasts a wealth of experience playing across the globe.
He has enjoyed stints at Free State Cheetahs, Stade Français, Eastern Province Kings and Leicester Tigers.
Van Vuuren has racked up 25 Premiership appearances to date, while he also played a part in London Irish’s promotion from the Championship last season.
“We’re thrilled to add Michael to our stable at hooker,” said Saints boss Boyd.
“He has experience beyond his years having played all over the world so he brings a wealth of knowledge with him to Northampton which I’m sure some of our younger hookers can tap into.
“He’s ripped into training already and will offer us some great competition for the shirt in that front row this season.”
Van Vuuren turned out in the Currie Cup, the Vodacom Cup, and the Top14 before his switch to English rugby and the Gallagher Premiership.
And the 27-year-old said: “I’m really excited to get an opportunity to play for a club like Northampton Saints – the decision to sign on was really a no-brainer.
“Saints has a great set-up; the stadium is superb while the training facilities are also top notch. I know first-hand that the club’s supporters make Franklin’s Gardens a formidable place to play, and I’m looking forward to having that support behind me this season.
“I’m really excited about the prospect of playing for Chris Boyd and such a talented coaching group, and hopefully I can give a good account of myself so I can push for a regular place in the side.”