European champions Toulon of France and Super Rugby winners the Highlanders of New Zealand are hoping to face-off in Hong Kong on 6 February.
The 1-off fixture brings together triple European champions Toulon with the Highlanders, who landed their 1st Super Rugby title this month.
“Toulon and the Highlanders have sent off a request for agreement from their respective federations,” Philippe Spanghero, a spokesman for the organisers, told AFP.
“When that’s obtained we’ll put together a proposal to World Rugby to get all the required authorisation,” he added.
Former All Black winger Zac Guildford is likely to cancel his plans to play Super Rugby for the Waratahs next year.
Guildford, 26, signed a 1-year contract with the Waratahs outfit last week but last night said there was a chance he would exercise an out clause.
“I’ve had a rethink and I’ve decided it might be better to stay closer to home and family and friends.”
Those thinking Springbok lock Victor Matfield will retire for the 2nd time may well be disappointed – it seems the legendary Springbok lock is set for another swansong at English club Bath.
The 38-year old Rugby World Cup winning lock should actually retire from playing after the Rugby World Cup and is contracted to take up a coaching position with the Vodacom Bulls next season, but it seems this may not be the case as he seeks a final payday before turning to coaching.
There have been rumours that since the axing of Frans Ludeke as Bulls coach – the Super Rugby franchise has not found a replacement – that Matfield may not be keen to go into coaching just yet, especially as Ludeke’s proposal to move to Director of coaching with Matfield and Fourie du Preez taking over the coaching reigns, was rejected with the Bulls bad run of results earlier this year.
According to sources close to the Bulls, Matfield was also told that the Bulls would not stand in his way if he decided he didn’t want to take up the coaching contract after the Rugby World Cup.
With this in mind, the news that Bath may want to sign him on a short term deal – a season in England to cap off a long and illustrious career – may well suit the Springbok captain very well, especially with the Pound very strong against the Rand at the moment.
Karmichael Hunt is set for a fiery courtroom showdown with the alleged drug lord at the centre of football’s cocaine crisis.
Lawyers for John Touma, the alleged dealer, will make an application to grill the code-hopping star under cross-examination when the case returns to court on the Gold Coast next month.
Hunt was one of the first big-name sports stars caught by a crime and corruption commission investigation in to a multimillion-dollar cocaine trafficking network.
So far almost a dozen current and former elite footballers have been dragged into the mess on charges ranging from supply and possession to drug trafficking.
Originally charged with 4 counts of supplying cocaine in February, Hunt sensationally took a plea deal for the lesser charge of drug possession and has provided investigators with an explosive witness statement implicating National Rugby League stars and his former teammates at the Gold Coast Suns, in the scandal.
The Queensland Rugby Union has secured the signature of Test lock Kane Douglas for the next 3 years, adding further depth to the Reds’ forward stocks.
The 26-year-old is an imposing figure standing at 2.02m tall and weighing 119kg, but also brings with him significant experience, having already played 75 Super Rugby games and 14 Test matches since making the step up to professional rugby in 2010.
Douglas made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs in 2010 and played his 1st Test for the Wallabies in 2012. In 2014 he made the decision to experience Rugby overseas and moved to Leinster to play in the European Pro 12 competition.
Douglas has returned to Australian shores and said he was looking forward to this next chapter of his life on and off the field.
6 Weeks after Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke resigned after failing to take his side to the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs, the Pretoria franchise are struggling to find a suitable replacement coach for next year’s tournament.
While Nollis Marais has been elevated from the Vodacom Cup to ABSA Currie Cup and is currently preparing the side in Japan ahead of their last friendly match against the Canon Eagles, there is a growing desperation and worry that the Bulls might not find a top quality coach before the preparation for next year’s expanded Super Rugby tournament begins.
It was expected that Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan would be the favourite, and sources close to the Bulls management say that he was offered the job, but turned the Bulls down, choosing to focus on the Springboks.
While Van Graan hasn’t commented on the move, he is currently concentrating on preparing the Springboks for their Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Springbok assistant coach is highly rated, and has also been linked to the DHL Stormers coaching position, but apparently didn’t feel it was the right time to return to the province where he learnt most of his rugby.
New Western Force flyhalf Peter Grant says he’s excited to move to Perth where his parents and 2 uncles also live.
The Force on Wednesday officially confirmed the signing of the former Stormers and Springbok flyhalf on a 2-year deal.
Grant, 30, represented the Stormers for 9 seasons and the 5-Test Springbok most recently played a season with French Top 14 club, La Rochelle, having also played 4 seasons with Japanese Top League club, the Kobelco Steelers.
The move to Perth was made easier by Grant’s family connections there.
After a dismal Super Rugby season the Cell C Sharks have gone through a major revamp allowing a new crop of players to step up.
With the exodus of a number of the Sharks’ Springbok players to overseas contracts, and many of their big-name players plying their trade at The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup for the Springboks, a next generation of Sharks players both young and new need to man-up to the big stage.
Sibusiso ‘S’bura’ Sithole is 1 of those players that will be a key element to their success and he acknowledges that although not a senior player, he does bring a wealth of experience and knows that he has a big role to play.
All Blacks scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow will stay with the Chiefs for the next 2 seasons and has every intention of being 1st choice No 9.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the 24 year-old has displayed an amazing work ethic recovering from his horrific injury during an All Blacks match late in 2014.
“Tawera is incredibly professional. His dedication to rehab and developing other parts of his game throughout his time out has been impressive. He is in fantastic condition.”
“He is now 1 of our senior players who contributes greatly in our environment. I know he is hungry to get back to top level footy.”
The tenacious scrumhalf has no intention of playing 2nd fiddle to either Brad Weber or Augustine Pulu.
The latest instalment in the Quade Cooper transfer saga has been an exchange of words between the Toulon boss and the Australian coach.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal launched a relatively tasteless tirade against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and its prized asset Quade Cooper, whom he threatened would end up as “the 2nd most indebted State after Greece”.
The eccentric Frenchman said that the 150 000 Euros that has been mooted as Cooper’s buyout of his contract was in fact for the promise of a contract – Boudjellal claims that Cooper has actually put pen to paper, which would make that void and has allegedly threatened legal action if Cooper does not show up for his medical soon.
Boudjellal told Midi Olympique: “The moron of the Australian federation who does not understand the case needs to know that the promise of employment is no longer the question.”
The Queensland Rugby Union has signed no less than 6 more players to the Reds squad ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
In an effort to continue the restructuring and reviewing of the Reds program – these signings come after a number changes that have already been implemented in the past 2 months, including the appointment of Brad Thorn as Reds elite development squad forwards coach, Damian Marsh as head of athletic performance, the re-signing of Nick Stiles as senior assistant coach and the appointment of Cameron Lillicrap as head physiotherapist.
The announcement is headlined by the signing of 2 promising 21-year-old flyhalves in Jake McIntyre and Sam Greene.
The Reds have also added to the depth in their forward pack by adding prop Pettowa Paraka, hooker Alex Mafi and locks Lukhan Tui and Izack Rodda – all aged 21 or under.
Troubled former All Black Zac Guildford said the Waratahs had offered him a contract for next season, handing yet another lifeline to the bad boy of New Zealand.
Still only 26, Guildford’s career has been blighted by alcohol issues and he walked out of a contract with French Top 14 side Clermont in May – citing “personal reasons”.
Since then, the wing – who scored 6 tries in 10 Tests for the All Blacks – has been playing for his home provincial team Hawke’s Bay.
Guildford said Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson had approached him about joining the Sydney-based Super Rugby side, who lost wings Peter Betham and Taqele Naiyaravoro at the end of the 2015 season.
Guildford and Gibson, himself an All Black, worked together when Gibson was assistant coach at the Crusaders.
The EP Kings have expressed their disappointment after former coach Carlos Spencer voiced his dissatisfaction at unpaid wages.
Spencer earlier this week parted ways with the Kings and – through his attorney David Jones – the former All Black has attributed his departure from the Kings to their continued troubles in meeting wage obligations.
The Kings on Thursday insisted that Spencer and his lawyers’ claims were “simply not true”.
“The initial problems we had with Carlos’ salary was due to his insistence of having his funds paid into an offshore account,” EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson, said via a media statement.
Watson said this resulted in delays that arose out of the administrative compliance and paperwork issues.
Wallabies wing Henry Speight will join Australia’s Sevens programme as part of a new 3-year deal announced by the Australian Rugby Union on Thursday.
Speight’s new contract with the ARU will see him remain with the Brumbies through to the end of 2018 and join the Australian Sevens programme in 2016.
The landmark deal means Speight will be available for the inaugural Sydney Sevens at Allianz Stadium in February next year.
As part of the agreement between the ARU and the Brumbies, Speight will combine his duties with the national Sevens program and his Super Rugby team throughout 2016.
As well as the Sydney Sevens on the weekend on 6 – 7 February, Speight will be available for selection for the Hong Kong and London legs of the 2015 / 2016 World Rugby Sevens Series and – pending qualification – the Rio 2016 Olympics.
At the conclusion of the Rio Olympics in August 2016, Speight will be available for the Wallabies for the remainder of The Rugby Championship before returning full-time with the Brumbies for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons.
Could Auckland rugby icon Carlos Spencer be on the verge of making a dramatic return to the Blues as a skills coach under Tana Umaga?
It might seem a longshot but the door could be open according to Blues boss Michael Redman.
Spencer, among the most gifted footballers in New Zealand rugby history, wants to return to New Zealand from South Africa having quit Super Rugby’s Kings franchise which he says owes him substantial wages.
Redman told the Herald the Blues will decide within days whether to appoint a new skills coach, or make the job contestable. If it is the latter, Spencer – who approached the franchise this year – would “absolutely be an option and we would hope and expect he would apply.”
The 39-year-old Spencer is on the lookout for a new job after parting ways with South Africa’s Eastern Province Kings, the apparently financially troubled franchise which returns to the expanded Super Rugby competition next season.
His shock departure from the Kings, revealed yesterday, has cast a further spotlight on issues facing the expanded Super Rugby competition.
The Melbourne Rebels have signed Irish international prop Jamie Hagan for 2 Super Rugby seasons.
Hagan, 28, a tighthead prop who has made more than 100 appearances for Leinster, Connacht and London Irish, made his full international debut for Ireland against the United States of America in 2013.
Hagan becomes only the 2nd fully capped Irish international to sign for an Australian Super Rugby team, after front-rower Peter Clohessy spent the 1997 season with the Reds.
Hagan said he was looking forward to testing himself in the Southern Hemisphere’s renowned provincial competition.
The Eastern Province Kings and New Zealand born coach, Carlos Spencer, have ended their association with immediate effect.
Spencer, who earned 35 caps for the All Blacks from 1995 to 2004, finished his playing career with the Lions in 2011 and then coached at the Lions and the Sharks, before linking up with the EP Kings in December 2013. He was appointed as the attack and specialist skills coach, and then took charge of the provincial team on their return to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2014.
In 2015 he resumed his duties as the attack and specialist skills coach following the appointment of Brent Janse van Rensburg as the EP Kings head coach.
EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson paid tribute to Spencer for his contribution to the provincial team during his time with the union.
The Melbourne Rebels have strengthened their squad for the 2016 season with the signing of lock Culum Retallick from the Blues on a 2 year deal.
Retallick has made nearly 50 Super Rugby appearances since debuting for the Chiefs in 2010, also representing the Blues and Highlanders, where he played alongside future Rebels teammates Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson.
He has also made close to a century of appearances for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup since debuting as a 23 year old in 2008, and joins on a foreign developing player contract.
Retallick said he was excited about challenging himself professionally, and joining a team he has watched develop in recent years.
The Hurricanes have added another scrumhalf to their roster for 2016, signing promising talent Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
The Rotorua-born 20-year-old has been playing his rugby in Taranaki for the past 2 seasons, and has had a successful year in 2015 as part of both the New Zealand Under 20 World Championship-winning side, followed by selection in the New Zealand Barbarians team.
He was also a major player in his Taranaki club rugby side’s winning season, with his form for New Plymouth Old Boys’ helping to secure him an ITM Cup contract with Taranaki for 2015.
Tahuriorangi described the move to the Hurricanes as a massive opportunity, not only for himself, but his family.
The Melbourne Rebels have announced the signing of former Reds and All Blacks back rower, Adam Thomson, for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Thomson will bring a wealth of experience to Melbourne, having made 83 Super Rugby appearances for the Highlanders and Reds as well as winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks among 31 appearances for his country (29 Tests).
Capable of playing anywhere in the loose forwards, Thomson played alongside compatriot Tamati Ellison for both the Highlanders and All Blacks, while he worked with Rebels’ Assistant Coach Zane Hilton during their time together at Canon Eagles in Japan’s Top League. Thomson is a try-scoring back rower, having crossed 21 times at Super Rugby level.
Waikato Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge has woken up and is communicating with his family but remains in a serious condition in hospital, the Super Rugby team said on Thursday.
Strawbridge, who is also a technical advisor to the Samoa national rugby team, was admitted to an Apia hospital last week with an infection in his right eye after taking ill on a flight from New Zealand before his condition “deteriorated rapidly”.
He arrived back in New Zealand in an air ambulance last Friday and was taken to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, where he had been listed as being in a critical but stable condition since his arrival.
“Andrew Strawbridge is awake and in a serious, stable condition in the Waikato Hospital Intensive Care Unit,” the Chiefs said in a statement.
Springbok winger Cornal Hendricks has signed a contract with Western Province Rugby and will be available for the DHL Stormers from the start of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The speedster, who originally made his name at international Sevens level, will return to his roots as a DHL Stormers player – having played his early provincial rugby for Boland, before becoming a full-time Sevens player in 2012 and then joining the Free State Cheetahs in 2014.
Hendricks, 27, made his Test debut in June of last year, whilst the 2013 Springbok Sevens Player of the Year was also a key member of the Commonwealth Games Gold medal-winning SA Sevens team in July 2014.
In all, he has played 11 Tests (as well as an additional match against the World XV) for the Springboks, scoring five tries – including a try on debut against Wales and a memorable solo score against the All Blacks in their hard-fought Rugby Championship tussle in Wellington in September 2014.
French-based loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg will join the DHL Stormers ahead of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The powerful former Lions captain is currently in his third season with French club, Bayonne, but he will bolster the DHL Stormers’ propping resources as of November 1 with Steven Kitshoff having decided to further his career in France.
Janse van Rensburg, 29, toured Europe with the Springboks in 2012 (without getting any game time), as well as making over 50 appearances for the Lions at Super Rugby level and winning well over 50 provincial caps for the Golden Lions
Following a massive street parade on Monday the Highlanders will take the Super Rugby Trophy to their support base over the next few weeks.
In conjunction with their community partner PlaceMakers the trophy, which weighs and impressive 28kg, will be taken to various centres throughout the Highlanders’ region to provide photo opportunities for the fans.
Highlanders’ general manager Roger Clark said, “At the game on Saturday and at the parade on Monday, so many people, young and old, wanted photos with the cup and it just wasn’t possible to give everyone an opportunity.
Brumbies prop Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Smith will return to Cape Town from Australia and will form part of Western Province’s Currie Cup squad.
Smith is capable of playing at both loosehead and tighthead prop and he will bolster the Western Province prop resources during their ABSA Currie Cup title defence in the absence of Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, who are with the Springbok squad at present, and Vincent Koch, who is on loan to the DHL Stormers for Super Rugby only.
25-Year-old Smith is a former Paarl Gym scholar, who has represented Western Province at Under 19 and Under 21 level, as well as playing 5 senior matches for the Vodacom Cup team in 2010.
Western Province Director of Rugby Gert Smal commented: “JP’s ability to play on either side of the scrum is a big boost for us, as Currie Cup matchday squads are made up of just 22 (with just 1 prop on the bench).
Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was linked with the Stormers coaching job in 2007, and it happened again when the search for Allister Coetzee’s replacement commenced this year.
But Deans, who is in charge of Saturday’s World XV side that will take on the Springboks at Newlands, confirmed on Thursday that there had not been an official offer from the Cape Town-based franchise or any other South African franchises.
“Not South African ones, no,” said Deans.
“I had a brief conversation with Gert (Smal, Stormers Director of Rugby). I actually do a bit of work with some of the guys from down here like (current Western Province defence coach) Paul Treu. I take an interest in the game.
The Crusaders have signed Chiefs flyhalf Marty McKenzie to fill the gap left by the departing Dan Carter, Colin Slade and Tom Taylor.
McKenzie will compete with Ben Volavola and Richie Mo’unga, who have also signed with the franchise ahead of the 2016 season.
Maori All Black McKenzie will move south from the Chiefs, returning to the city where he spent the final 2 years of secondary school. Born and raised in Southland, McKenzie moved from Gore High School to Christchurch’s Christ’s College for his final school years playing in their 1st XV for both seasons.
Manu Samoa technical advisor and Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge is fighting for his life in a Samoan hospital after he took ill during his flight to the island nation to join the team ahead of their historic All Blacks Test match.
Strawbridge was admitted to hospital overnight on Tuesday with an infection in his right eye and his condition deteriorated rapidly. He has now been joined by his wife Laura, and sister Susan.
The family is extremely grateful for the care Andrew is receiving from Dr David Galler and the staff at Moto’otua Hospital.
Chiefs CEO Andrew Flexman said: “We truly appreciate the incredible support that has been provided by the hospital staff, the people of the Samoan Rugby Union, the All Blacks and the Chiefs players who are on the ground over there.”
Vodacom Bulls centre William Small-Smith will further his career at the Toyota Cheetahs from next season.
The 23-year-old will represent the Vodacom Blue Bulls in this year’s Currie Cup before heading for Bloemfontein in time for next year’s Super Rugby competition.
Small-Smith was schooled at Grey College in Bloemfontein where he represented Free State in the Craven Week.
After school, he represented teams like the Junior Springboks, Blitzbokke, UP-Tuks and the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
It is believed that Small-Smith wanted out at the Bulls and asked to join the Cheetahs.
The Sharks have released 2 Media Releases today, with the 1st 1 bearing the news that Pieter-Steph du Toit is leaving the Union. The 2nd Media release focusses on Marcell Coetzee re-signing with the Sharks and also reveals the other candidates who have chosen to continue to ply their trade at the Sharks.
Pieter-Steph du Toit:
Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit, today confirmed his departure from the Cell C Sharks at the end of his contract, which expires in October 2015.
Having made his debut for The Sharks in 2012, du Toit with his strong physicality and presence has become an influential player for the franchise with strong performances that earned him Springbok colours in 2013.
Commenting on his departure, The Sharks CEO John Smit said: “We are terribly disappointed to lose a player of the calibre of Pieter-Steph du Toit. Despite our best efforts to keep him in the province, he has chosen to move on.
Former SARU chief executive Edward Griffiths is being lined up as the new supremo at the Southern Kings as they prepare for their re-entry into Super Rugby next year.
Kings president, Cheeky Watson, confirmed that the union had discussions with Griffiths who earlier this year left his post as chief executive at Saracens after 7 years in charge.
“We have had discussions with Griffiths, but I cannot say more than that,” Watson said.
Queensland Rugby Union has re-signed Reds young guns Curtis Browning and Chris Feauai-Sautia ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Feauai-Sautia has inked a 2-year deal with the club, while Browning has signed a contract extension for 1 year.
Both players are in the early stages of their careers, are just 21 years old and have been with the Reds since they graduated from Brisbane State High School.
Feauai-Sautia famously joined the club as a teenager, signing when he was just 17 years old – following impressive performances in schoolboy rugby. He made his Queensland debut in 2012 as an 18-year-old and made his Wallabies debut the following year, scoring 2 tries in as many Tests.
While his early career was troubled with constant hamstring injuries, the power winger had arguably his most consistent season in 2015. He featured in all but 1 of the Reds’ games this season and sits in the top 5 for the team in run metres (715m), broken tackles (31), line breaks (13) and offloads (9). He has played a total 38 times for Queensland and scored 8 tries.
Elusive back Pita Ahki will be 1 player to fill the Hurricanes’ midfield following the departure of Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and Rey Lee-Lo.
Nonu has signed for French giants Toulon while centre partner Smith has joined Pau, who have been promoted to the French Top 14 next season.
Capable to play at No 12 or No 13, Ahki has signed a 2-year deal with the club, having been with the Blues since 2013.
The Western Force will inject additional experience into its young backline with the recruitment of Reds centre Ben Tapuai for the 2016 and 2017 seasons.
Tapuai will join the Force having played 66 Super Rugby matches across 7 seasons for the Reds, including starting at inside centre for the Queenslanders in their title-winning team in 2011.
The 26-year-old, who previously represented the Australian Schoolboys in 2006 and 2007, and Australian Under 20 (2008), has played Sevens Tests for the Wallabies, starting in 6 of them during the 2012 Rugby Championship and Spring Tour.
Head coach Michael Foley says Tapuai will bring further experience to his young midfield.
The Hurricanes have put the Super Rugby Final behind them and started to build for 2016 by announcing the re-signing of talented New Zealand Under 20 and Maori All Black flyhalf, Otere Black.
The 20-year-old Manawatu Turbo was part of the club’s wider training group this year and ended up playing 4 matches in his 1st season, scoring 17 points.
Despite fielding significant interest from at least 3 other New Zealand Super Rugby teams, Black said it was at the Hurricanes where he wanted to continue developing his game.