Springbok utility back Frans Steyn is set to join Montpellier in the French Top 14 and reunite with his World Cup winning coach Jake White.
Steyn is one of many recruits from South Africa and Australia in a completely revamped Montpellier outfit under the guidance of coach White.
White, who had coaching roles at the Sharks and Brumbies as well as the South African national side, has confirmed 20 new signings for Montpellier – with a number of them from places where he used to ply his trade.
The 28-year-old Steyn is no foreigner to France having had a spell at Racing Metro from 2009 – 2012.
His versatility at flyhalf, centre and fullback should be particularly useful to Montpellier, given the many departures announced this off-season for the French club.
The French scene is notorious for big-money signings a look is taken into the major comings and goings in the Top 14 for the season ahead.
Let’s start with none other than the new-look Montpellier where White has signed an alarming amount of South Africans.
White lured the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck from the shores of Durban to bulk up his front row. As if Bismarck was not enough at No 2 he has also sealed the deal with Craig Burdon from Toulon as back up. Schalk van der Merwe, Jacobie Adriaanse and CJ van der Linde complete big name front row recruits.
Enforcer Paul Willemse will always be sorely missed in South Africa and he has signed with White as well, giving a strong indication that he wont be back in the Republic anytime soon.
White has tapped into the Bulls loose forwards and brought Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis and Wiaan Liebenberg into his cavalry.
In the backline Australian scrumhalf Nic white and Sharks prodigy Cameron Wright make up the No 9 signings while points-machine Demetri Catrakilis is the new flyhalf.
In the midfield Francois Steyn replaces outgoing Wynand Olivier, while fullback Jesse Mogg is another signing from the Brumbies.
Ins: Jannie du Plessis (RSA / Sharks), Bismarck du Plessis (RSA / Sharks), Schalk van der Merwe (RSA / Lions), Paul Willemse (RSA / Grenoble), Jacques du Plessis (RSA / Bulls), Wiaan Liebenberg (RSA / Bulls), Pierre Spies (RSA / Bulls), Nic White (AUS / Brumbies), Cameron Wright (RSA / Sharks), Demetri Catrakilis (RSA / Stormers), Julien Malzieu (Clermont), Marvin O’Connor (Bayonne), Seveci Nakailagi (FIJ), Francois Steyn (RSA / Sharks), Jessie Mogg (AUS / Brumbies), Abdelatif Benazzi (manager), Craig Burden (RSA / Toulon), Bees Roux (RSA / Cheetahs), Andrew Smith (AUS / Munster), Jacobie Adriaanse (RSA / Scarlets), CJ van der Linde (RSA / Eastern Province).
Outs: David Attoub (Lyon), Rene Ranger (NZL / Auckland Blues), Wynand Olivier (RSA / end of contract), Jonathan Pelissie (Toulon), Alex Tulou (SAM / Castres), Maximiliano Bustos (ARG / retired), Na’ama Leleimalefaga (SAM / Worcester), Chris King (NZL / Pau).
The men from the South of France are not shy of a big signing or 3 themselves, and this season they have added more headline names to their already star-studded outfit.
In the forwards they have signed Irish international Paul O’Connell who will bring a wealth of experience including 102 Test caps for Ireland, 174 appearances for Munster and 7 British and Irish Lions caps.
Toulon have also secured the services of Springbok and Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen, while Matt Stevens will beef up the front row along with prop partner Salesi Ma’afu.
In the backline look no further that Ma’a Nonu – the All Black midfielder and World Cup winner is a monster signing. James O’Connor, Mitch Inman, Lachie Turner are 3 more Australian signatures.
Ins: Diego Dominguez (ARG / manager), Salesi Ma’afu (AUS / Northampton), Matt Stevens (ENG / Sharks), Paul O’Connell (IRL / Munster), Samu Manoa (USA / Northampton), Duane Vermeulen (RSA / Stormers), Jonathan Pelissie (Montpellier), Ma’a Nonu (NZL / Hurricanes), Mitch Inman (AUS / Melbourne Rebels), Sireli Bobo (FIJ / La Rochelle), James O’Connor (AUS / Reds), Lachie Turner (AUS / Reds).
Outs: Martin Castrogiovanni (ITA / Racing Metro), Carl Hayman (NZL / retired), Craig Burden (RSA / Montpellier), Bakkies Botha (RSA / retired), Ali Williams (NZL / retired), Chris Masoe (NZL / Racing Metro), Michael Claassens (RSA / Sharks), Juan Martin Hernandez (ARG / Argentinian side in Super Rugby), Rudi Wulf (NZL / Castres), David Smith (NZL / Castres).
The Top 14 and Champions Cup finalists have dipped their toes into the transfer market with the signings of Springbok Flip van der Merwe and All Black wing Hosea Gear.
David Strettle, Albert Vulivuli and Scott Spedding will bring value and experience to the French giants.
They have lost the services of Clermont stalwart Julien Bonnaire and All Black speedster Zac Guilford.
Ins: Iuri Natriashvili (GEO / Tulle), Flip van der Merwe (RSA / Bulls), Camille Gerondeau (Racing Metro), Albert Vulivuli (FIJ / La Rochelle), Hosea Gear (NZL / Chiefs), Adrien Plante (Racing Metro), David Strettle (ENG / Saracens), Scott Spedding (Bayonne).
Outs: Ti’i Paulo (SAM / Lyon), Julien Pierre (Pau), Julien Bonnaire (Lyon), Mike Delany (NZL / Newcastle), Zac Guilford (NZL / Hawke’s Bay), Julien Malzieu (Montpellier), Napolioni Nalaga (FIJ / Lyon), Jean-Marcellin Buttin (Bordeaux Begles).
The Parisian outfit has certainly brought in a number of All Black super stars.
Non other than Dan Carter who will fill the boots (with ease) of departing Irish flyhalf Jonathan Sexton.
Chris Masoe, Joe Rokocoko, Ben Tameifuna and Ross Filipo are the other New Zealand recruits while Armand van der Merwe, Martin Castrogiovanni and Yannick Nyanga should set the park alight in Paris.
Racing have lost names such as Sexton, Dan Lydiate and Jamie Roberts back to the UK and Ireland.
Ins: Manuel Carizza (ARG / Stormers), Dan Carter (NZL / Crusaders), Martin Castrogiovanni (ITA / Toulon), Ross Filipo (NZL / Chiefs), Chris Masoe (NZL / Toulon), Nicolas Mirande (ARG / Tucuman), Yannick Nyanga (Toulouse), Remi Tales (Castres), Joe Rokocoko (NZL / Bayonne), Ben Tameifuna (NZL / Chiefs), Armand van der Merwe (RSA / Lions).
Outs: Jacques Cronje (RSA / retired), Benjamin Lapeyre (La Rochelle), Tomas Lavanini (ARG / Argentinian side for Super 18), Dan Lydiate (WAL / Ospreys), Brian Mujati (RSA / Sale / ENG), Adrien Plante (Clermont), Jamie Roberts (WAL / Harlequins), Jonathan Sexton (IRL / Leinster), Alisona Taumalolo (TGA / Grenoble).
Racings’ Paris rivals Stade Francais attracted Springbok flank Willem Alberts and Wallaby scrumhalf will Genia as their big signings for the season.
Wallaby wing Digby Ioane has left Stade Francais for Japan.
Ins: Willem Alberts (RSA / Sharks), Paul Alo-Emile (AUS / Melbourne Rebels), Will Genia (AUS / Reds), Avenisi Vasuinubu (FIJ / Colomiers).
Outs: Jerome Fillol (retired), Krisnan Inu (NZL / Catalans Dragons – rugby league), Digby Ioane (AUS / Honda Heat), Monty Ioane (AUS / end of contract), Richard Kingi (AUS / end of contract), Juan Cruz Guillemain (ARG / Argentinian side for Super 18), David Lyons (AUS / end of contract), Pierre Rabadan (retired).
Newly promoted side into the Top 14 didn’t waste any time getting quality players to their club.
All Black legend Conrad Smith headlines the signings and they also secured All Black Colin Slade – both World Cup winners.
Munster’s Paddy Butler and Glasgow’s Euan Murray will without a doubt stregthen their pack.
Ins: Mosese Ratuvou (FIJ / Lyon), Watisoni Votu (FIJ / Perpignan), Conrad Smith (NZL / Wellington Hurricanes), Colin Slade (NZL / Canterbury Crusaders), Santiago Fernandez (ARG / Bayonne), Sean Dougall (IRL / Munster), Paddy Butler (IRL / Munster), Julien Pierre (Clermont), Euan Murray (SCO / Glasgow), Chris King (NZL / Montpellier).
There are 3 huge signings from the Southern Hemisphere for Bordeaux to look forward to.
Steven Kitshoff of the Stormers and Wallaby Sekope Kepu should light up the scrum, and Wallaby Adam Ashley-Cooper brings over 100 Test caps to the Begles backline.
Ins: Emile Ntamack (backs coach), Loann Goujon (La Rochelle), Luke Braid (NZL / Auckland Blues), Adam Ashley-Cooper (AUS / Waratahs), Jean-Marcellin Buttin (Clermont), Sekope Kepu (AUS / Waratahs), Steven Kitshoff (RSA / Stormers).
Outs: Taiasina Tuifua (SAM / Lyon), Matthew Graham (NZL), Zaza Navrozashvili (GEO / Lyon), Benjamin Sa (NZL / retired), Ben Venter (RSA / Montauban), Jayden Spence (NZL / Highlanders), Ulrich Beyers (RSA / Zebre).
Sevens speedster Semi Kunatani is one to watch as Toulouse recruit him for the season.
Big losses are head coach Guy Noves who has taken up the French head coach position and Jano Vermaak who has returned to South Africa and Western Province.
Springbok Chillyboy Ralepelle is out of contract and Toulouse are not extending it.
Ins: David Mele (Leicester / ENG), Gert Mueller (RSA / Bayonne), Semi Kunatani (FIJ), Tomas Leonardi (ARG / Edinburgh), Talalelei Gray (AUS / Waratahs).
Outs: Guy Noves (France / coach), Yannick Nyanga (Racing Metro), Shalk Ferreira (RSA / end of contract), Jano Vermaak (RSA / Stormers), Chiliboy Ralepelle (RSA / end of contract).
2 Big scalps from Toulon will bolster the Castres backline – Rudi Wulf and David Smith bring skill and pace to the side.
Ins: Antoine Tichit (Oyonnax), Benjamin Urdapilleta (ARG / Oyonnax), David Smith (NZL / Toulon), Rudi Wulf (NZL / Toulon), Alex Tulou (NZL / Montpellier), Eric Sione (NZL / Wellington Hurricanes), Lucas Martinez (ARG / Lomas Club).
Outs: Remi Tales (Racing Metro), Paea Fa’anunu (NZL / Grenoble), Saimone Taumoepeau (TGA / Brive), Jannie Bornman (RSA / Aix-en-Provence), Max Evans (SCO / end of contract), William Whetton (NZL / Brive), Marcel Garvey (ENG / retired).
Former Cheetahs centre Johann Sadie, who is now playing his rugby in Japan, is making his way to Europe and is a top signing for Agen.
Ins: Ruaan du Preez (RSA / Oyonnax), Dave Ryan (IRL / Ulster), Tom Murday (AUS / Northland), Api Naikatini (FIJ / Wellington Lions), Bautista Guemes (ARG / Benetton Treviso / ITA), Eroni Narumasa (FIJ / Nadroga), Johann Sadie (RSA / Japan), George Tilsley (NZL / Wellington Lions), Tom Murday (AUS / Reds).
Outs: Aidan Toua (AUS / Brumbies).
La Rochelle have been fairly busy in the transfer market bagging Springbok Enrico January, Western Force’s Zack Holmes and New Zealand’s David Raikuna.
Ins: David Roumieu (Bayonne), Enrico Januarie (RSA / Lyon), Zack Holmes (AUS / Western Force), David Raikuna (NZL / North Harbour), Benjamin Lapeyre (Racing Metro).
Outs: Rassie van Vuuren (RSA / Bayonne), Cobus Grobler (RSA / retired), Loann Goujon (Bordeaux-Begles), Sireli Bobo (FIJ / Toulon), Peter Grant (RSA / Western Force), Albert Vuli Vuli (FIJ / Clermont), Gonzalo Canale (ITA / retired).
South African Wilhelm Steenkamp has packed his bags down under and moved to France, joining Brive.
Ins: Saimone Taumoepeau (SAM / Castres), Johan Snyman (RSA / Scarlets), William Whetton (NZL / Castres), Wilhelm Steenkamp (RSA / Western Force).
Outs: Patrick Barnard (RSA / retired), Johannes Coetzee (RSA), Tjiuee Uanivi (NAM / Worcester / ENG), Kieran Murphy (IRL / London Welsh), Riaan Swanepoel (RSA / Aix-en-Provence), Venione Voretamaya (FIJ / Colomiers).
Ins: Fabrice Estebanez (Lyon), Steven Setephano (NZL / Osaka), Alisona Taumalolo (TGA / Racing Metro), James Percival (ENG / Worcester).
Outs: Ross Skeate (RSA / Aix-en-Provence), Paul Willemse (RSA / Montpellier), Jono Owen (NZL / end of contract), Valentin Courrent (retired), Julien Caminati (Toulon), Albertus Buckle (RSA / Lyon / Pro D2), Naude Beukes (RSA / retired).
Ins: Uwanakoro Tawalo (FIJ / Clermont), Fetu’u Vainikolo (TGA / Exeter), Eamonn Sheridan (IRL / London Irish), Nicky Robinson (WAL / Bristol), Piri Weepu (NZL / Wasps), George Robson (ENG / Harlequins), Stan Wright (NZL / Narbonne).
Outs: Christophe Urios (Castres / coach), Augustin Figuerola (ARG / Lyon), Benjamin Urdapilleta (ARG / Castres), Ruann du Preez (RSA / Agen), Johnny Ngauamo (TGA / Mont-de-Marsan), Alexander Luatua (NZL / Aurillac), Hemani Paea (TGA / Lyon).