THE Dragons have put their hunt for a new lock on hold after a move for promising South African Deon Slabbert collapsed at the last minute.

The second row forward was set to head to Newport from the Pumas, the Currie Cup runners-up, after a long chase by the Rodney Parade club.

With the Dragons’ budget not allowing them to go out and get a readymade physical lock, they believe they identified a 23-year-old player with potential for growth.

Terms had been agreed on a three-year deal and he was set to link up with his new teammates for the build-up to the United Rugby Championship.

However, Slabbert is now unable to join the Dragons for family reasons and they have opted to not rush into signing a late replacement.

The club will bide their time and see if the forward’s situation allows him to move at a later date while assessing other options with an eye on next summer.

South Wales Argus: CONTENT: Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan is happy with his locksCONTENT: Dragons head coach Dai Flanagan is happy with his locks (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“We’ve gone about our recruitment a little differently and have been statistic-led to try and find some golden nuggets who can kick on to enhance both us and themselves,” said head coach Dai Flanagan.

“We’ve never had the big budget to go out and find a ‘rock star’ player but we had identified someone who we felt has the potential to be a superstar in the future.

“We were nearly there but it hasn’t happened because he needs to stay where he is at the moment.”

Despite the loss of Wales powerhouse Will Rowlands, the Dragons are not short of second row options with World Cup hopeful Ben Carter, stalwarts Joe Davies and Matthew Screech plus lock/flankers George Nott, Sean Lonsdale and up-and-coming Ryan Woodman their options.

South Wales Argus: GONE: Wales lock Will Rowlands has left the Dragons for Racing 92GONE: Wales lock Will Rowlands has left the Dragons for Racing 92 (Image: Huw Evans Agency)

“We are happy with what we have got – we are in a strong position at lock – but felt we had made something of a steal,” said Flanagan.

“That signing hasn’t happened for this summer but it doesn’t mean the move won’t happen in the future if circumstances change.

“As the season progresses we will keep our ear to the ground, whether it be that individual or another player.”

The Dragons are closing in on an overseas loosehead prop to follow the signings of full-back Cai Evans, wing/centre Corey Baldwin, scrum-half Dane Blacker and flanker Dan Lydiate.

With money tight in Welsh rugby, Flanagan and head of recruitment Rob Burgess are already starting to think about what they might need to add for 2023/24.

“If something crops up that we can’t refuse, and we have room in the budget, then we will act but we are actively looking towards next season because we want to be one step ahead,” said Flanagan.

“Rugby in general leaves things too late, whether that be talking to your current group or when looking at what you need to bring in. It’s important that our planning is right.”