Rob Baxter’s Exeter Chiefs jigsaw for next season is already well advanced after he today secured three more key pieces into place.
Don Armand, Will Chudley and Matt Jess are the latest names to agree new terms with the Aviva Premiership club, who in recent weeks have also tied down the immediate futures of Phil Dollman and Gareth Steenson.
And for Armand – who has signed a two-year deal – the fact he is prolonging his Sandy Park stay is a huge boost to head coach Rob Baxter, whose side are currently positioned third in the top flight and top of both their European and LV= Cup pools.
Signed last year from South African Super 14 outfit, the Stormers, the 26-year-old forward has impressed many with his all-action displays in Exeter colours.
With 31 games and five tries already to his name, the Harare-born ace says he is keen to kick on for the Chiefs having tied down his immediate future.
"I’m delighted to be staying," said Armand. "The Chiefs is a great club and it’s nice that I’m now able to set some real roots down and start building up to something special.
"Ever since I arrived I’ve enjoyed pretty much every minute of things and it’s definitely a club you want to be involved in because they are only going upwards.
"For me to be signing on for another two years is a big honour because you want to be part of something that is moving forward and winning. As I said, the club is going up and up and it’ll be great to be part of the journey."
Having swapped the hustle and bustle of Cape Town for a more serene lifestyle in rural Devon, Armand admits his switch has certainly lived up to expectations.
"It’s been great and it’s certainly exceeded my expectations," he added. "Back home the way they look at games over here is a complete opposite to what it’s really like. It’s tough rugby for sure, but I’ve loved every minute of it.
"Playing in the Heineken Cup last season, the Premiership, it’s all really helped to develop my game. Winning our first silverware last season was fantastic and this year we’re on track as well, so hopefully the guys will get hungry for more success."
With Armand’s Exeter future now in place, the player says the focus for him between now and the end of the season will be to push the Chiefs forward on all fronts.
"That’s the thing about being a professional rugby player, short contracts keep you on your toes," he continued.
"Although I’m signed, now you have to back it up. No one wants to sign a contract and then go back into a hole and not pitch up for what they have signed up for.
"Yes it’s a peace of mind that you’re not going to be unemployed, but now you have to focus on your game and pick up the guys around you."