Rob Baxter believes new signing Shaun Malton can make a real impact next season having joined the Exeter Chiefs on a two-year deal.
The 25-year-old hooker is Baxter’s fifth foray into the market having previously added fellow forwards Geoff Parling and Ollie Atkins, as well as back Ollie Woodburn and Michele Campagnaro in recent weeks.
Baxter says the arrival of the Durban-born player is a timely addition, especially as current Chief Greg Bateman will be heading to pastures new at the end of the current season.
Commenting on his latest deal, head coach Baxter said: "Greg Bateman is moving away and one thing we have learnt from our time in the Premiership – although we have been relatively lucky this year with the amount of hooker injuries we have had – is that we normally go through four or five through the course of a season.
"Probably the biggest indicator of that was the season we signed Jack Yeandle from Doncaster. He started the season out on loan at Pirates and he finished it as our starting Premiership hooker.
"Making sure you have strength in depth in your specialist positions is very important because you can’t make do there. I like having four hookers backed up by some quality in our academy and I believe that is what we will have by signing Shaun.
"That will give us Jack Yeandle, Luke Cowan-Dickie, Elvis and Shaun, plus Jack Innard in our academy group too."
Like with all his recruitment, Baxter has left no stone unturned in ensuring Malton offers the credentials he wants in an aspiring Chief.
Baxter continued: "We have looked through an awful lot of Championship hookers and some Premiership ones too, but like a lot of players we have brought through, he has a good work-rate and physical presence.
"Shaun is not the biggest of guys but he is very powerful, very quick and he gets involved in the game, and that always gives you a foundation to work from.
"Someone needs to have something to make them selectable and the nice thing with Shaun is that, if you put him on the pitch, he is going to have an impact. He is going to get involved and make tackles.
"Watching him reminds me a lot of Chris Whitehead when I started first looking at him. He is a bit of an action-packed package, although – and Chris won’t mind me saying this – Shaun is probably a little bit quicker.
"He is aware that his set-piece will be key for him, but any player is aware of that when they move to the Premiership. Making the basics one of your strengths is always going to be very important.
"I quite like guys who are prepared to go into the Championship to play regular rugby to become a better player. It is a different route into the Premiership and some guys need that time to mature and show their real qualities, and that is what Shaun has done.
"You can tell from his physical test at his medical that he works hard, keeps himself fit and gives his best with his natural attributes.”
Meanwhile, Baxter also confirmed that current Chiefs youngster Kieran Davies – who has spent this season on dual-registered terms with the Cornish Pirates – will be moving in the opposite direction next season.
Baxter said: "It is almost the flip-side of a Shaun Malton, a Tom Francis or a Mitch Lees in that now the next stage of him really making a step towards where he is going as a rugby player is to get into a Championship club and a Championship environment full-time.
"That will help him as he is only a young man. His opportunities here to move into the senior squad would only have limited him to what we are doing now which is having him out on loan to a Championship club and seeing how things go in the future.
"This way, he will be able to buy into the Championship and a Championship club can buy into him. That will be his best opportunity to develop now.
"I have said to Kieran and all the academy guys who leave that we will keep a close eye on them. If they become a good player in the Championship, you give yourself a great opportunity to be picked up by a Premiership club, whether that is us or someone else.
"It is the right time for an academy guy to move on if they haven’t had a breakthrough at this stage and Kieran now has the ball in his court as to where his professional rugby career goes."