Blue Bulls & Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe has been released from his contract at the Vodacom Blue Bulls with immediate effect.
While the Blue Bulls initially decided that Van der Merwe was necessary for their ABSA Currie Cup campaign, his call-up to the Springboks a few weeks ago negated this and they had to find a way to do without him.
The Blue Bulls initially were worried about a lack of experience in the team but their good start to the Currie Cup season, where they are still unbeaten after 4 Rounds has led them to back their youngsters.
When Van der Merwe didn’t make the cut for the Springbok squad to the Rugby World Cup, it was decided to release him from his contract so that he could further his career in France.
Van der Merwe signed with French Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne during this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season, at the same time as another Bulls lock, Jacques du Plessis, signed with Montpellier.
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.
French club Clermont Auvergne have signed All Black wing Hosea Gear on a 2-year deal from the Chiefs.
The 31-year-old Gear, who played 14 Tests and scored 6 tries for the All Blacks from 2008 – 2012, completes Clermont’s recruitment campaign for next season – following the arrivals of Springbok Flip van der Merwe, French international Scott Spedding, Waisake Naholo (Highlanders), David Strettle (England), Adrien Plante and Camille Gerondeau.
Gear is returning to France, where he already played 1 season for Toulouse in 2013 and 2014.
Despite signing a contract to join Clermont next season, New Zealand Rugby is reportedly hopeful of retaining Super Rugby’s top try-scorer, Waisake Naholo.
Quotes attributed to the club’s Sporting Director, Jean-Marc Lhermet, suggest the move is not a foregone conclusion given the form of the Highlanders’ winger, who has a competition-leading 8 tries in his 11 appearances.
“As it stands we have a contract of 2 years with an option that has been signed by the player,” Lhermet told La Montagne – a newspaper based in Clermont.
“It’s true that his agent reassured us initially when there were noises about the NZRU wanting to keep him. Now, his performances in Super Rugby are remarkable and we are under an increasing amount of pressure from the NZRU. And when the All Black machine gets going, it becomes complicated.
All Black wing Zac Guildford has ended his contract with Clermont a year early to return home for personal reasons as soon as possible.
The wing has faced personal problems before under the All Blacks and Crusaders.
Guildford is looking to be closer to his family and could depart as early as this weekend.
“Faced with personal problems, Zac could not stand the distance between here and New Zealand and he expressed his wish to join relatives,” a statement read.
Australian wing Drew Mitchell’s brilliant late try ensured Toulon became the 1st club to win 3 successive Premier European titles as they beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in a thrilling European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham.
Clermont were 11 / 3 up midway through the 1st half, yet turned round at the break with Toulon leading 16 / 11 – after Leigh Halfpenny’s remorseless boot and a converted try by Mathieu Bastareaud saw the champions into the lead.
But Nick Abendanon’s converted try for Clermont just after the hour cut Toulon’s lead to a point only, only for Drew Mitchell to have the last word.
Toulon and Wales fullback Halfpenny punished Clermont’s indiscipline with 4 penalties and also kicked a conversion in a 14-point haul.
Toulon’s Australian star back Matt Giteau admits rivals Clermont are the favourites for the all-French European Champions Cup Final on Saturday, but he adds the 2-time defending champions won’t give up their crown easily.
The 32-year-old said Clermont deserved to be favourites because they were the best side this season – both in Europe and domestically – in what is a rematch of the 2013 Final, which Toulon won.
“Clermont are a wonderful team,” said Giteau, whose form looks set to earn him a recall to the Australian national side after the Australian Rugby Union relaxed its rules on players playing abroad.
“For me, they are even the best team this year,” continued Giteau, who if he stays fit is likely to reach the 100 cap mark later in the year as he was just 8 short when he was surprisingly dropped for the 2011 World Cup and subsequently moved to Toulon.
The battle for the inaugural European Rugby Champions Cup at Twickenham Stadium on Saturday won’t just be a European affair, but a truly global occasion.
Between them the 2 finalists, RC Toulon and ASM Clermont Auvergne, boast an amazing 52 international players from 13 different countries.
Between them the 2 32-man squads have 1,838 Test caps.
Leading the way are the back-to-back champions, RC Toulon, with a massive 1,189, including 100-plus cappers in Bryan Habana and Martin Castrogiovanni.
Clermont, who lost to their Top 14 rivals in the 2013 Final in Dublin, have 649.
2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.
Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.
Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.
Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.
The European Rugby Champions Cup semifinals takes place this weekend.
On Saturday, Clermont Auvergne host Saracens at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard, Saint-Étienne at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).
On Sunday, Toulon host Leinster at Stade Felix-Mayol, Toulon at 16:15 French Time (15:15 BST, 14:15 GMT).
Clemont Auvergne vs Saracens:
Saracens knocked Clermont Auvergne for 6 at the European Cup semifinal stage last season, will it be repeat or redemption this time around?
The 46 / 6 triumph booked McCall’s men a place in last seasons’ Millennium Stadium finale against Toulon. They set new semifinal records for the most points scored by a team (46), the largest winning margin (40) and the most tries scored (6). Surely lightning cannot strike twice between the Pool 1 rivals, who each scored a victory over each other in the early Rounds.
Saracens have their defensive leader, Brad Barritt, back in the side after a knee injury kept him out of action for a month. England playmaker Owen Farrell crossed for 1 of Saracens’ 6 tries last year and is set to make an impact off the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months in the last meeting between the pair.
A bumper weekend of European cup action saw the semifinalists for the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup decided across 3 days.
After an enthralling set of games on Sunday, we now know that Clermont will play Saracens in Saint-Etienne, while Toulon will face Leinster in Marseille in what are set to be 2 titanic battles.
Champions Toulon remain in the hunt for what would be a 3rd successive European title. No side has ever achieved that before but Toulon unquestionably have the players to do so.
They were too smart and too strong for a stubborn Wasps outfit at the Stade Mayol on Sunday, winning with Juan Smith and Bryan Habana watching on from the stands due to injuries. Both are expected however to be in contention for the semifinals.
Bakkies Botha did start in the second row as Toulon won 14 out of 15 lineouts, contributing to their success. Another trophy or 2 for the cabinet remain on the horizon for the Springbok legend ahead of his retirement. Michael Claassens was on the bench.
Defeat for Wasps of course also meant defeat for Ashley Johnson, as the former Cheetahs back rower’s side fell short despite a late rally in the 2nd half. Twice European champions in the past, Wasps are certainly on the up again.
Toulon will face Leinster in the semifinals after Zane Kirchner’s side knocked out Francois Louw’s Bath in Dublin. The former Bulls back was called from the bench early on at the Aviva Stadium and nearly scored a try in the corner not long after his arrival.
With 3 of the 4 quarterfinals taking place on french soil, and all 3 of those against English opposition it could feel somewhat like the Hundred year war for the Premiership sides.
In the only non Anglo-French encounter, Bath travel to Leinster while the remaining fixtures sees Clermont Auvergne take on Premiership table-toppers Northampton Saints, Racing Metro will play last year’s finalists Saracens, and finally champions Toulon will face Wasps.
The record books show that in 72 quarterfinal encounters in Europe’s top flight, 54 have been won by the home club – a staggering 75% success rate for those sides on home soil.
Premiership clubs make up half the Champions Cup quarterfinalists, although all have to play away from home.
English teams have a 20% success rate away from home in the tournament, winning only 4 times in 20 quarterfinal games to date.
For the 9 away matches against French opposition, the success rate is as low as 11%, with only 1 win – Northampton Saints’ 7 / 6 victory over Biarritz Olympique in San Sebastian in 2007.
The only other English away victories in the last 8 have been Leicester Tigers over Leinster Rugby at Lansdowne Road in 2005, Bath at Leicester in 2006 and Saracens against Ulster at Kingspan Stadium last season.
The 3 French clubs in the Champions Cup quarterfinals have never lost at home in the last 8 of Europe’s top flight.
Toulon and Clermont have won home quarterfinals in the past 2 seasons, while Racing Metro have reached the knockout stage for the 1st time in their history.
The odds are definitely stacked against the English clubs, but that does not mean that any of the French teams will take them lightly.
The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Friday confirmed that efforts to keep Vodacom Bulls locks Jacques du Plessis and Flip van der Merwe in Pretoria have been unsuccessful, with both players taking up contracts in France at the end of the domestic 2015 season.
Du Plessis has signed a two year deal with Montpellier and Van der Merwe will join Clermont, also after the completion of the ABSA Currie Cup competition.
The BBC’s High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg said talks with both players have been ongoing for some time.
Jake White’s Montpellier bounced back from their comprehensive loss away from home to Glasgow Warriors last week by beating fellow French team Toulouse in their final European Rugby Champions Pool 4 match on Sunday. Montpellier won a closely contested match by the narrowest of margins with a final score of 27 / 26 in their favour.
This victory for Montpellier meant that Saracens qualified for the last eight of the Cup in spite of losing their last Pool 1 match against pool winners Clermont Auvergne. The score in that match Clermont Auvergne 18 / 6 Saracens.
The 5 pool winners along with the 3 best second placed team advanced and Saracens made it through as the last qualifying with the lowest amount of points from their 6 matches (17). Had Toulouse won they would have qualified as Pool 4 winners along with Bath who won their Pool 4 match against Glasgow Warriors. Toulouse also ended the pool stage on 17 points but Saracens got through via a superior points difference, +14 versus Toulouse’s +2.
French rugby club Clermont will be without Zac Guildford for up to four weeks after the former All Black and teammate Jonathan Davies were assaulted.
The 25-year-old Kiwi, who had a record of ill discipline off the pitch in New Zealand before he made the move to France in the summer, was left with a badly-bruised jaw.
Zac Guildford is looking to put his past alcohol-fuelled misdemeanours behind him and launch a new chapter in his impressive rugby career with Clermont.
The bad-boy of New Zealand rugby has had his fair share of run-ins with both rugby authorities and the law, but now he says he has a more mature head on his 25-year-old shoulders.
“I made some mistakes in my youth. The time had come to make some changes in my life and coming to Clermont was one of the best I could make,” he said.
French police have questioned four men on Monday over a machete attack on rugby union internationals Aurelien Rougerie, Julien Pierre and Benjamin Kayser, officials said.
The three from French Top 14 side Clermont were set upon by about 10 armed men as they walked to their hotel in the southern town of Millau in the early hours of Sunday, according to police.
Clermont said that “machetes” and “swords” were used.
Clermont have released a statement on Julien Pierre, Aurélien Rougerie and Benjamin Kayser, saying they should return to training in a month.
The trio, who were attacked in Millau by a dozen individuals “armed with machetes, knives and swords” on Saturday night, were all hospitalised.
Pierre was in the most serious condition but the club confirmed his operation was a success and that he will be back training before September.
French internationals Benjamin Kayser, Julien Pierre and Aurélien Rougerie have been hospitalised following an attack in Millau.
The Clermont trio were attacked by a dozen individuals “armed with machetes, knives, swords” on Saturday night as the players returned to their hotel, according to the club’s website.
The players have been staying in the southern town in France for a training camp and were returning from a nightclub at the time of the attack. All three were then rushed to hospital.
The European Cup draws towards the Final with two french giants battling against the cream of the Irish and English leagues in the semifinals.
Reigning European Cup champions, Toulon, are aiming for a fourth European final in five seasons.
And although they are on the opposite side of the semifinal draw from French compatriots Clermont, successes for both of these teams could see a repeat of last years Final.
Last year’s Final saw Toulon just pip Clermont by a solitary point.
Clermont’s entire rugby union squad were drug tested on Thursday morning before the French Top 14 side meet English club Leicester in the Heineken Cup quarter-finals on Saturday.
The mass testing was carried out before the morning training session with the club claiming that the tests were commissioned by the International Rugby Board (IRB).
French centre Wesley Fofana is unlikely to play any further part in this season’s Six Nations Championship after suffering a broken rib in the 27-6 defeat in Wales according to Clermont.
Round 6 of the European Cup, which includes the Heineken Cup (Premier Competition) and Amlin Challenge Cup (secondary Qualification Competition) happened this past weekend and there was high drama and lots of action!
Sunday evening the full puzzle of who plays where in the Play-Off’s of both the Heineken Cup and Amlin Challenge cup was revealed.
In the Heineken Cup, Ulster will host Saracens, ASM Clermont Auvergne will host Leicester Tigers, whilst the defending champions Toulon will host Leinster and Munster will host Toulouse at Thomond Park. The Quarter-finals will take place on the weekend of 4 to 6 April.
In the Amlin Challenge Cup Northampton Saints, Harlequins and Gloucester have booked their spots in the Quarter-finals along with the amlin Challenge Cup Pool winners Bath, London Wasps, Stade Francais, Sale Sharks and Brive.
Bath will host Brive, London Wasps will host Gloucester, Stade Francais host Harlequins and Sale Sharks will host Northampton Saints.
The race to these Cup winners will be interrupted by the Six Nations tournament, which takes place from 1 February 2014.
Harlequins (13) 13 / 16 (3) Clermont (Final Score)
Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne did battle in the Heineken Cup at
The Twickenham Stoop at 15:35 SA Time (13:35 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & SHD on TV in SA.
Morgan Parra will make a surprise return to action against Harlequins in the European Cup on Saturday, his Clermont head coach Vern Cotter said on Thursday.
Clermont received fresh injury concerns on Tuesday ahead of Saturday’s crunch European Cup clash with Harlequins as New Zealand centre Regan King and France No.8 Damien Chouly were both ruled out.
All Black and Crusaders wing Zac Guildford has reportedly signed a deal with French Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne.
Former Wallabies and Waratahs hooker John Ulugia has agreed to play Top 14 Rugby next season for Clermont.
Wales and Scarlets centre Jonathan Davies has signed a two-year contract with Clermont, the French Top 14 club announced on Tuesday.
Wales and Clermont fullback Lee Byrne looks set for a long lay-off after breaking a bone in his back during Saturday’s European Cup clash with Leinster.
This one is brilliant, tears rolling down my cheeks I laughed so much. Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal can expect to hear from the Ligue Nationale de Rugby’s disciplinary officials after making some outrageous statements over the weekend.