Big-spending French giants Toulon are finding the going tough in luring Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to France after this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Reports late last year indicated that Etzebeth could join Toulon as a replacement for compatriot Bakkies Botha, who is set to leave the reigning European champions.
The problem though for Toulon is that Etzebeth is still contracted to Western Province until the end of the 2016 season – and the union is reluctant to let him go.
Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal has confirmed their interest in Etzebeth, but admitted that they are finding the going tough to attain Etzebeth’s services, with Western Province believed to be upset over the matter.
Montpellier, coached by former Springbok and Sharks mentor Jake White, have announced that 19 players will leave the club at the end of the season, including former All Black Rene Ranger and ex-Springbok Wynand Olivier.
Rene Ranger is set to return to New Zealand with the Blues in next season’s Super Rugby.
There is already a large South African contingent at Montpellier.
Shaun Sowerby is White’s assistant coach, while Pat Cilliers (prop) and Robert Ebersohn (centre) already ply their trade there.
Other South Africans soon to join include Jacobie Adriaanse (Llanelli Scarlets, prop), Schalk van der Merwe (Lions, prop), Demetri Catrakilis (Stormers, flyhalf), Jacques du Plessis (Bulls, loose forward / lock), Cameron Wright (Sharks, scrumhalf / flyhalf) and Wiaan Liebenberg (Bulls, loose forward).
Former Springbok coach Jake White was being linked as a possible successor to France coach Philippe Saint-Andre.
Saint-Andre, who has won only 15 of 37 Tests in charge of France, will step down after this year’s Rugby World Cup in England and Wales.
According to Britain’s Telegraph, there is no shortage of top coaches eager to replace him, with White and former England coach Clive Woodward believed to be in the running.
Woodward, England’s 2003 World Cup winning mentor, has reportedly been involved in discussions with French bosses and it is alleged as many as 66 names were presented and they have been whittled down to a shortlist of 8.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre has favoured experience as he named Montpellier flyhalf Francois Trinh-Duc and Toulon veteran Frederic Michalak in his 36-man squad for the World Cup.
Trinh-Duc, 28, and Michalak, 32, were given the nod ahead of Clermont flyhalf Camille Lopez, 26, for the 18 September to 31 October tournament in England.
“We really chose experience,” said Saint-Andre, whose side bid to overturn a record of just 15 wins for 2 draws and 20 defeats in the past 3 years.
“Both in terms of Francois Trinh-Duc, who has returned to form for his club and knows a World Cup (2011) as has Remi Tales, who knows our systems well and the France team,” the France coach continued.
England’s Rugby World Cup winning coach Clive Woodward is in the hunt to succeed Philippe Saint-Andre as France manager, L’Equipe reported on Monday.
The sports daily says the 59-year-old’s name is 1 of the 8 candidates on the French rugby federation’s shortlist to take over Les Bleus after this year’s World Cup.
The federation, which has not identified any of the finalists, will name Saint-Andre’s successor by the end of May after the 8 remaining candidates are interviewed by the federation’s selection panel.
The names most bandied about as Saint-Andre’s successor are those of Bordeaux-Begles coach Raphael Ibanez, former Montpellier manager Fabien Galthie and veteran Toulouse coach Guy Noves, who turned down the job in 2011.
L’Equipe suggests that while Woodward may be the best qualified for the job “it seems improbable that he’ll become the 1st foreign coach of Les Bleus”.
The Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, are set to sign a deal with French club Montpellier, a report in French media indicates.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that the Springbok brothers would join Montpellier on a 2-year deal after the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but Montpellier denied it at the time.
However, according to RMC Sport, the double signing of the Sharks duo is expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Du Plessis brothers are believed to have respected their earlier commitment despite having some contact with Toulon.
Montpellier are coached by former Springbok coach Jake White, who was quoted as saying after their weekend defeat at Stade Francais: “Big names will be announced in the coming days. To win the Top 14, you need the best players in the world.”
Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak has signed a 2-and-a-half-year deal with Western Province Rugby and will be available for selection from 1 July, once he has completed his current club commitments in France.
The 30-year-old will make the move back to South Africa from French giants, Toulouse; joining Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder and Godlen Masimla as the senior scrumhalf options for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province.
The quicksilver Vermaak has won 3 Test caps for the Springboks, making his debut against Italy on 8 June 2013, before also featuring against the Wallabies and the All Blacks later that season.
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.
Tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse is the latest South African set to join Jake White at French club Montpellier.
Adriaanse, 29, will be available for Montpellier from June after ending his stint with Welsh club, Llanelli Scarlets.
Adriaanse has represented the Scarlets 51 times since joining them in November 2012.
His contract with Montpellier is only until after the Rugby World Cup (October 31).
Adriaanse said that he could consider staying longer should things fall in place.
Free-scoring Fiji rugby Sevens powerhouse Semi Kunatani has joined French Top 14 club Toulouse on a 2-year deal, the club said on Tuesday.
The rampaging 24-year-old can play as a lock, flank or wing and with 37 international tries since his debut in 2013 he is seen as one of the best sevens players in the world.
Springbok Morné Steyn’s long-range kicking capability took centre stage as Stade Francais overcame the early Red Carding of captain Sergio Parisse to beat Parisian rivals Racing-Metro 28 / 19 in Top 14 action on Sunday.
The win leaves Stade in 4th in the table behind leaders Toulon, Clermont and Toulouse, with Oyonnax in 5th above Racing in 6th.
With just 2 games of the regular season to play, the pressure will be on in the fight to nail down a spot in the top 6 for the end-of-season play-offs.
The Emirates Lions could well have lost 1 of their brightest stars as former Springbok coach Jake White snapped up prop Schalk van der Merwe to join him at Montpellier.
Van der Merwe – who is affectionately known as “hond” to his peers and is known for his strong scrumming abilities, has according to French sources signed a 2 year deal with the club and will join them after the end of the season.
It has emerged that Montpellier actually announced the deal 2 months ago, but ironically named Marcel van der Merwe as the player they signed, something the Springbok namesake vehemently denied at the time.
It seemed that somehow the French club announced the wrong prop, but considering both played for the Toyota Cheetahs, it is understandable.
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.
The Reds believe the Australian Rugby Union’s revised contracting system could convince star playmaker Quade Cooper to remain in Brisbane.
Cooper’s future remains a hot topic of conversation, following the announcement by Toulon than the 53-Test veteran had signed a 2-year contract with the French club.
Cooper, the Reds and the ARU vehemently denied his departure is a done deal – accusing the Top 14 club of jumping the gun.
It is now reported that Cooper has been offered a 4-year flexible contract by the ARU, which will allow him to play in Japan during the off-season and return for Super Rugby to remain eligible for the Wallabies.
Reds coach Richard Graham, addressing a media scrum in Brisbane on Monday, said they remain optimistic that Cooper will not take up the Toulon offer.
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.
Matt Giteau said he would love to return to Twickenham with the Wallabies at this year’s World Cup after guiding Toulon to a 3rd straight European title.
Giteau was at flyhalf in an all-star international backline featuring Wales’s Leigh Halfpenny and South Africa’s Bryan Habana as Toulon beat French rivals Clermont 24 / 18 in the European Rugby Chamions Cup Final at Twickenham on Saturday.
Having made his Test debut as a 20-year-old at Twickenham back in 2002, Giteau effectively called time on his 92-cap Australia career when he signed for Toulon after failing to be included in the Wallabies’ squad for the 2011 World Cup.
But he was given a route back into the international arena when the Australia Rugby Union announced last month it was relaxing its hardline stance barring overseas-based players from representing the Wallabies.
“I signed over here knowing I wouldn’t play Test rugby again,” said Giteau after Saturday’s match. “Now the rules have changed, it’s a possibility. I had no idea it was coming, but I’m happy it has.
“It’s very exciting for Australian rugby that they’ve changed that (the eligibility rules). For me in particular, it doesn’t change a great deal until I’m contacted.”
He will soon return home to South Africa to focus on his family and his livestock farm, but life after rugby can wait a few more weeks. Bakkies Botha wants to go out in a blaze of glory with Toulon.
With a Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, 3 Super Rugby championships with the Bulls and 2 European titles with Toulon, not to mention Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and Top 14 honours – few can match the Springbok 2nd row enforcer’s illustrious achievements.
But in the twilight of his career and savouring the prospect ahead of the “calmness of the bush”, Botha, perhaps befitting a deeply religious man, prefers to focus on the team, rather than his individual contribution.
Toulon, the Mediterranean port city he has called home since 2011, hope to be crowned kings of Europe for a 3rd successive year when they take on French rivals Clermont in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.
“I’m really happy that I came to Europe to test myself in this league and I want to end my career hopefully making it into 2 finals (Champions Cup and Top 14),” said the 36-year-old lock.
Toulon have quashed rumours that they have signed Irish captain Paul O’Connell, but it is believed that the Reds & Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper has made the move.
It was reported that the French giants were chasing another Galácticos signing for the second row, with current legends Bakkies Botha and Ali WIlliams set to retire at the end of the season.
O’Connell’s contract with the IRFU expires in June of 2016, but it was speculated that Toulon were eager for him to be released from his contract to join them after the World Cup.
Since then, a strong statement has been released insisting ‘any alleged contacts between the player and the french club are pure speculation’.
Meanwhile, French paper L’Equipe has said that Toulon have captured the signature of the mercurial Cooper on a 2-year deal.
Cooper, if reports are to be believed, would join a burgeoning Australian contingent at Toulon with Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell already there.
Toulon have already brought in All Black Ma’a Nonu ahead of next season with Samu Manoa, Salesi Ma’afu and Napolioni Nalaga also joining the reigning European champions.
France’s Top 14, the world’s richest rugby championship, suffered a record deficit of US$ 25.5 million last season, as player salaries soared.
In a recent report, it was found that clubs opted to boost their squads over cutting costs.
“Clubs prefer to strengthen their sporting power… to the detriment of reducing their deficits,” said a report by the National Rugby League’s audit department.
The Top 14 accounted for the bulk of a US$ 35.6 million deficit for all 30 professional clubs in France, which has become an increasing magnet for foreign stars.
Average player salaries have increased 12% in the past season, according to the report released Monday.
All Black Colin Slade is the latest foreign star to have signed for a French club, along with other pricey stars, such as Dan Carter.
Salaries have taken off while revenues grew only 10%, mainly through extra television income.
Only one Top 14 club is able to fully self-finance its operation, against 7 at the end of 2013 / 2014.
Once-capped All Black, Simon Mannix, has extended his contract as coach of Pau, ensured of promotion to the Top 14 next season, through until 2018, the club announced Tuesday.
Mannix, who had another year to run on his contract, extended his deal by 2 more years, according to Pau president Bernard Pontneau.
The 43-year-old, who won his sole New Zealand cap against France in 1994, cut his coaching teeth with Racing-Metro (2007 – 2011) and Munster (2011 – 2014) before taking over Pau and ensuring they topped the 2nd Division ProD2.
All Black and Crusaders back Colin Slade has signed with the Section Paloise Rugby Club (Pau), departing following the World Cup.
Slade said he had not found it easy to come to the decision to play overseas but he was now excited about the opportunity.
“This is certainly not a decision taken lightly. I have given it a lot of thought and considered all my options, but I am now satisfied that moving to Pau after this year is the right decision for me at this point in my life,” Slade said.
3-Times capped Springbok Jano Vermaak is returning home to South Africa with a World Cup dream.
The 30-year-old, who has been a shining star for the revitalised French giants Toulouse in the Top 14, spoke from the city in the southwest of France.
He was quite open about his goals, although there remains some uncertainty about which team he will use as – hopefully – as a springboard to a World Cup spot.
“I am coming back to South Africa with the goal of giving myself a chance of possibly getting into the World Cup squad,” the 30-year-old scrumhalf said.
“At this stage I do not yet know which team I will be playing for in South Africa,” Vermaak said, adding: “I have a few options, but we’ll make that call in the next month or so.”
He said he simply can’t wait to be back in SA and will arrive after the completion of the French Top 14 season in May, or June if Toulouse make the play-offs.
That will give him 3 or 4 weeks of Super Rugby to have a crack at a World Cup spot.
Australia and Reds scrumhalf Will Genia has signed a 3-year contract to join Top 14 club Stade Francais after this year’s Rugby World Cup.
“We can confirm that Will Genia will be part of our squad after the World Cup (which ends 31 October). It’s a great signing and one which will strengthen our squad in a vital position,” Stade Francais president Thomas Savare said on radio France Bleu 107.1.
The Papua New Guinea-born Wallaby had been linked with a move to Europe for months but Bath were firm favourites to sign the 27-year-old, who even signed a pre-contract with the English Premiership side.
Former Springbok coach Jake White has extended his stay at French Top 14 club Montpellier.
According to French rugby newspaper, Midi Olympique, White has signed a new deal which will keep him at the club until 2017.
White originally signed a 6-month deal at the end of December, but has been rewarded for Montpellier’s improved performances with a 2-year contract extension.
Under White’s guidance, Montpellier have moved up to 7th in the Top 14 standings, and have lost just twice in their last 12 matches.
Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez has left European champions Toulon to get ready for his wedding in May and to prepare for the World Cup.
Sanchez joined the French and European champions in October as an injury replacement for Frederic Michalak.
But after the latter returned to action on Saturday in the 34 / 24 defeat at home to Toulouse, Sanchez was no longer available for Top 14 action.
He could have continued to turn out for Toulon in the European Cup – the champions hosts Wasps in the quarterfinals next weekend – but he said he preferred to return home.
Former Bulls prop Bees Roux has signed for Oyonnax as medical cover for Antoine Guillamon, the Top 14 side announced on Monday.
The 33-year-old Roux played this season with the Lions, having previously lined out for the Leopards (2002 – 2006), the Griquas (2007 – 2008) and Cheetahs (2007).
He also played for French clubs Clermont (2008 – 2009) and Begles-Bordeaux (2011 – 2012) and Italian club Benetton (2012 – 2013).
Somewhere, shaking his cauliflower ears in dismay, a grizzled old retired prop was probably secretly wishing someone would just stick the ball up his jumper and make a cautious 3 inches.
For everyone else watching this was surely the most thrilling day that 5 or 6 Nations rugby has seen: a fantasy finale, a chest-squeezer and knee-knocker, a day to fall back in love.
There are the stats: 221 points scored across the 3 matches, the most in a single weekend – 27 tries, run in from deep and wide and everywhere in between.
There was England’s record score against France, Ireland’s biggest away win, the most tries Wales have scored in 1 championship half.
Then there was the style. This was rugby we thought had died and been laid to rest, killed by detailed analysis and the professional urge to be sensible.
Sensible? This was glorious chaos, March madness to put a spring in every watcher’s step and an ulcer in the stomach of every defence coach.
It should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.
The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.
France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.
Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.
If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.
Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).
With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.
South African scrumhalf Enrico “Ricky” Januarie will play for Top 14 side La Rochelle next season, after signing a 2-year contract.
The 33-year-old, capped 47 times and a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, will join from rivals Lyon.
Young Stade Francais flyhalf Jules Plisson has been called up for France’s final Six Nations clash with England on Saturday as coach Philippe Saint-Andre named a 16th different halfback pairing.
Plisson, 23, comes in for injured first-choice No 10 Camille Lopez, who misses the game at Twickenham due to a knee problem.
With Sebastien Tillous-Borde remaining at scrumhalf, it will be the 16th different halfback pairing Saint-Andre has picked in just over 3 years and now 37 matches at the France helm.
Clermont’s Lopez, who has been Saint-Andre’s first-choice playmaker for France’s last 7 internationals dating back to the November Tests, was on Wednesday ruled out for 4 to 6 weeks.
Saint-Andre defended his rotation, saying he had no choice in changing his halfback partnership.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday gave a strong indication that Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham would be his last match in charge of a Six Nations game.
Asked if that would be the case he replied: “the chances are high that it will be, yes.”
“But I prefer to stay in the present and on this hugely important week ahead of us,” he added.
Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for France as a wing, took over as France coach after the World Cup of 2011 and his present contract takes him through until the end of this year’s World Cup in England.
Italy (0) 0 / 29 (9) France (Final Score)
Italy and France did battle in the RBS 6 Nations at
Stadio Olimpico, Rome at 17:00 SA Time (16:00 Italian & French Time, 15:00 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 on TV in SA.
Springbok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp has announced his retirement from international rugby, stating his wish to focus his career at Toulouse.
Steenkamp, many would feel, was still heavily in contention to make the Springbok World Cup squad after featuring through 2014. His retirement may well cause Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer some headaches.
The 33-year-old loosehead prop began his career at the Cheetahs in 2002 and then the Cats in 2004 before moving to the Bulls where he played the bulk of his rugby from 2005 – 2011.
Steenkamp was also selected for the Springboks from 2004 and made 53 appearances, scoring 6 tries.
The burley prop has been a part of the Toulouse setup since 2011 and has made 76 appearances for the French Giants.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday called up prop Nicolas Mas, scrumhalf Rory Kockott and centre Maxime Mermoz for his 30-strong squad to prepare for the Six Nations match against Italy.
The French were left reeling last weekend when they lost 13 / 20 to Wales at the Stade de France – ending any hopes they had of winning this year’s tournament.
Saint-Andre subsequently launched a bitter attack on his players saying that some of them were “prima-donnas” who failed to live up to their responsibilities on the field.
Explosive attacking back Rene Ranger is to return to the Blues next season and will be available to play for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year.
The 28-year-old has gained an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after 2 seasons.
Ranger scored 25 tries in his 65 Super Rugby caps for the Blues, enjoying 6 caps for the All Blacks. He has become a fan favourite with Jake White’s Montpellier side, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and helping the team enjoy a strong season in the European Club Championships this year.
He said his return to New Zealand is primarily for family reasons.
“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my mom more,” Ranger said.