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ABSA Currie CupThe Xerox Golden Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and the DHL Western Province all achieved successive wins in the 2nd Round of the ABSA Currie Cup played over the weekend.

In Durban, the Cell C Sharks opened their account with a win over the Eastern Province Kings, which means the EP Kings, Toyota Free State Cheetahs and the ORC Griquas are still searching for their 1st win after 2 Rounds of Premier Division matches.

At Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg the Xerox Golden Lions survived a bruising battle against the Steval Pumas to win 44 / 27 (halftime 20 / 10) on Friday night. In another Friday evening clash Vodacom Blue Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman contributed 21 points to steer his team to a 36 / 12 victory over the ORC Griquas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria. Griquas led 12 / 6 at halftime.

DHL Western Province beat the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 9 / 3 in driving rain on Saturday afternoon to hand new coach, John Dobson, his 1st ABSA Currie Cup win at DHL Newlands in Cape Town. In the late Saturday kick-off the Cell C Sharks fought off a determined challenge from the Eastern Province Kings to claim a 33 / 25 (half-time 18 / 10) victory at Growthpoint Kings Park.

The Blue Bulls and the Golden Lions have both collected the maximum 10 Log Points on offer from their 2 outings and the Gauteng rivals are closely followed by defending champions, Western Province, who have 9 Log Points.

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Jean Deysel

Jean Deysel

Paul Jordaan

Paul Jordaan

The Cell C Sharks will welcome the return of centre Paul Jordaan to their matchday-22 for Saturday’s clash with the Eastern Province Kings.

Jordaan, who is on the bench for the Currie Cup Round 2 encounter, has been plagued by injuries since his arrival at the Sharks but has shown glimpses of brilliance when he has strung some games together.

Jean Deysel is also back in the starting line-up after being sidelined with injury – replacing Jean-Luc Du Preez who copped a blow against the Pumas last week.

Elsewhere in the forwards, Juan Schoeman, having impressed off the bench last week, is handed a starting berth for the injured Lourens Adriaanse.

Brother of Jean-Luc, Daniel du Preez, replaces Khaya Majola at flank who is also out injured.

In the backline, Sibusiso Sithole is suffering from injury and is replaced on the wing by the experienced Odwa Ndungane who is himself back from a training ground knock.

Andre Esterhuizen shifts from right wing to left wing while the midfield partnership of Wandile Mjekevu and Heimar Williams remains the same.

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Jean-Luc du Preez

Jean-Luc du Preez

Thomas du Toit

Thomas du Toit

Lourens Adriaanse

Lourens Adriaanse

The Cell C Sharks are sweating over the availability of 3 players who were injured in their Currie Cup loss to the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit last Friday.

Props Lourens Adriaanse and Thomas du Toit and loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez sustained blows during the Sharks’ 33 / 24 defeat and could be sidelined for some time.

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Cell C SharksXerox Golden LionsThe Cell C Sharks scored a 33 / 29 victory over the Xerox Golden Lions in an ABSA Currie Cup warm-up match at Woodburn Stadium in Pietermaritzburg on Friday evening.

More than a win, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, asked for his team to show the necessary determination in this warm-up match, and on that score, he will come away from this match well-pleased with their effort, with a victory thrown in for good measure.

Joe Pietersen opened the scoring after both sides showed good attacking intent early in the game, each having a chance to score but not closing out, before he successfully chased his deft grubber through the middle, the ball popping up nicely for him to score under the posts.

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Cell C SharksAfter 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.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

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.

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David McDuling

David McDuling

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, ahead of the ABSA Currie Cup season.

The Sharks press release reads as follows:

We are pleased to announce the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, who will join the Cell C Sharks until the end of 2016.

Known for his never-give-up attitude and athleticism around the park, McDuling made his Super Rugby debut in 2014 against the Crusaders and has since amassed a total of 12 Super Rugby caps for the Reds. He also won the inaugural season of the National Rugby Championship with Brisbane City and had the most carries and run metres of any 2nd rower in the competition.

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Willem Alberts

Willem Alberts

Stade Français have confirmed the signing of Springbok back row Willem Alberts who will join the club after the Rugby World Cup.

The Top 14 champions have not brought in many players this off-season, generally prioritising quality over quantity, as Alberts joins Will Genia in the French capital.

Alberts arrives from the Cell C Sharks on a 3-year deal and will join a back row which already features Sergio Parisse, Raphaël Lakafia and Antoine Burban, while promising youngster Sekou Macalou also arrived over the off-season from Massy.

The 31-year-old made his Springbok debut back in 2010 and has scored 7 tries in 32 tests.

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Late Brett Williams

Late Brett Williams

The lone remaining accused, Blayne Shepard, was found guilty of culpable homicide for the incident which took place after a Super Rugby match between the Sharks and the Melbourne Rebels, where Mr Brett Williams died after assault.

 

The Sharks Media Release Reads as follows:

The Sharks welcome the judgment delivered yesterday in the Brett Williams murder case, which tragically occurred on the outer-fields at Growthpoint Kings Park in 2013.

We thrive on creating a family environment at the stadium where all ages can enjoy a wonderful matchday experience in a safe and secure environment. We have a zero tolerance policy with regard to untoward behaviour at the stadium and we don’t condone this in the strictest terms.

In the last year, we have focussed extensively from moving away from a club culture within the stadium to a more family orientated focus with the implementation of an outer-field market, a supervised kids dugout area, the Mangwanani Spa offering on matchday as well as many other exciting initiatives, which is aimed at providing world-class entertainment for our patrons.

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Cell C SharksThe Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, will be heading-up the Cell C Sharks coaching team for this year’s ABSA Currie Cup campaign. He will be ably supported by the experienced backline coach Sean Everitt and Ryan Strudwick who will look after the forwards.

The Sharks report that Sean has worked with many of the players in their current squad through the various age-group ranks and has enjoyed great success and has a fantastic rapport with them. Ryan recently won the Varsity Shield trophy with the UKZN Impi’s and has also been involved in their coaching set-up for a few years.

Gold said: “For the first time since I arrived, I am satisfied that there is continuity and clarity amongst the various age-groups and this has been achieved through the redeployment of the coaching structures. The historic structure lacked the necessary focus throughout the age-groups. We had approached and considered a replacement for Brad. However, we have after consultation with all stakeholders including the team, decided within this new framework, that it will be in the best interest of the team and for continuity for me to oversee the campaign with the assistance of Sean and Ryan.”

To this end, Michael Horak, who enjoyed great success with Varsity Cup side UFS Shimlas will head up the Cell C Sharks Under 21 campaign and will be assisted by AB Zondagh.

The Under 19 team will be headed-up by Paul Anthony who brings with him a wealth of experience as well as success having won the competition twice with the Blue Bulls. His deputy will be Andre Barnard.

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Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

The Sharks took delight in announcing the signing of Springbok loosehead prop, Coenie Oosthuizen, on a 4-year deal.

Oosthuizen made his Springbok debut in 2012 and has since amassed 21 caps in the green and gold jersey. He is a versatile prop that is able to play on both sides of the scrum and is a welcome addition to the Cell C Sharks family.

Commenting on his signing, The Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold said: “I am pleased that Coenie has taken up our offer to play his rugby in Durban. He is an exceptional player who boasts surprising pace and is known for his strong runs and work rate around the park.

“His experience will prove invaluable to our team ambitions going forward.”

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Pat Lambie

Pat Lambie

The Springboks will welcome the news that flyhalf Pat Lambie has been declared fit for action.

The Cell C Sharks pivot visited a specialist on Thursday to determine the extent of the neck injury which sidelined him for the past 3 months.

The Sharks on Thursday announced that the 24-year-old was fit to play.

He is expected to be included in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok squad on Saturday.

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Dick Muir

Dick Muir

Former Springbok and Sharks legend Mark Andrews says the Sharks need a coach who understands their culture.

Gary Gold took charge of the Sharks in Super Rugby, but it was recently announced that Gold would not coach the team in future and instead focus on his Director of Rugby role.

Andrews feels former Sharks centre Dick Muir would be the ideal candidate to take the coaching reins in Durban.

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Wandile Mjekevu

Wandile Mjekevu

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of utility back Wandile Mjekevu on a 2-year deal effective from July this year.

After having spent time with the Lions and the Sharks, the former junior Springbok joined French Top 14 club Perpignan in 2013 where he gained some valuable experience at the club and got the opportunity to further develop his game.

Commenting on Mjekevu’s signing, the Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, said they were delighted to bring the once promising young talent to Durban.

“We are delighted that Wandile has decided to return to the Sharks,” said Gold.

“He had a great stint in France and he is an unbelievable prospect. His strength and agility around the park will most certainly bolster our backline and we look forward to him progressing at the franchise.”

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Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

The tide of South Africans heading abroad continues as Marcell Coetzee is one of the latest to ink a deal in Japan, utilising the grace period after the World Cup.

The Springbok will join Honda Heat and feature in the Japanese league from 1 November 2015 to 31 January 2016. The good news for South African fans though is that he will return to Durban after his contract in time the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Honda Heat have also strengthened their side with the signing of Wallaby wing Digby Ioane from the French club Stade Francais.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

DHL Western Province Director of Rugby Gert Smal has confirmed their interest in signing Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit from the Cell C Sharks.

Smal confirmed to EWN Sport that a discussion between him and Du Toit had taken place.

Smal said the Sharks had agreed to the discussion taking place.

The WP boss said the discussion went well and he now hopes Du Toit “makes the right decision to come to Cape Town.”

Du Toit, 22, signed a 2-year contract extension at the Sharks in July 2013 which runs until 30 June this year.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Jake White

Jake White

World Cup winning coach Jake White has formally welcomed the Du Plessis brothers, Jannie and Bismarck, to his French club Montpellier.

The Top 14 outfit on Wednesday confirmed the signing of the Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, from the Cell C Sharks.

In a brief statement on the club website Montpellier said the 2 Du Plessis brother had signed for 3 years.

The 2, who won the World Cup with White as coach in 2007, will head to France after this year’s edition of the World Cup – in England in September and October.

White welcomed the signing of the Springbok duo.

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Jimmy Stonehouse

Jimmy Stonehouse

Former Steval Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse, 1 of the country’s most undervalued coaches, is rumoured to have thrown his name into the hat for vacant coaching positions at the Cell C Sharks, Vodacom Bulls and Southern Kings.

4 Of South Africa’s franchises will be looking to fill their vacant head coach positions before the start of the revamped and extended Super Rugby tournament in 2016.

Stonehouse took up a coaching job with Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus earlier this year after he declined 2 previous offers from abroad with the hope of landing a job with a South African franchise.

The Bulls head coach position opened up over the weekend when Frans Ludeke resigned after 8 years in charge of South Africa’s most successful Super Rugby franchise.

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Robert du Preez

Robert du Preez

André Esterhuizen

André Esterhuizen

DHL Stormers’ fullback Robert du Preez and Sharks centre André Esterhuizen have both been handed lengthy suspensions after performing dangerous tackles in their game on Saturday.

The Sharks won the match 34 / 12 in Durban.

Du Preez has been suspended for 6 weeks – after being shown a Yellow Card for his dangerous tackle on Sharks’ wing Lwazi Mvovo in the 76th minute, while Esterhuizen got 4 weeks after his tackle on Stormers flank Michael Rhodes in the 10th minute.

Both players were found guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and / or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Judicial officer Nigel Hampton deemed that with Du Preez the offence was more serious and thus handing the player a longer suspension.

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Brad Macleod-Henderson

Brad Macleod-Henderson

The Sharks (Pty) Ltd announced that assistant coach, Brad Macleod-Henderson has resigned from the Sharks.

Brad had been involved with the Sharks since 2012 initially with the Under 21’s before joining the senior side in July 2013.

He was assistant coach in their last 2 Super Rugby campaigns, looking after the forwards and breakdown and headed-up the Currie Cup campaigns.

The Sharks offered Brad a role within their new structures, going forward but he felt that it was time to move on.

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Super RugbyNow that the league phase of the Super Rugby tournament is finished, I have posted a SA team of the tournament article. The team is based on the form players during the tournament, with overseas based players obviously not considered.

The South African teams had a very disappointing tournament by any standards, with injuries, poor form and bad reffing decisions making life hard for the critical rugby public, but in an attempt to find a silver lining here is this author’s team of the tournament (other contenders mentioned where appropriate):

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Cell C SharksAlthough it may not be the last time we see the likes of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis at Growthpoint KINGS PARK, Saturday’s match against the Stormers may well be their last in the colours of the Cell C Sharks.

Whilst hinting that ‘you never know what might happen in the future’, Bismarck du Plessis has paid a tribute to the team where he has played all his professional rugby, and will, on Saturday, run out together with brother Jannie and their Sharks’ brother Beast Mtawarira in their final hurrah as one of world rugby’s most formidable front rows.

It will also be the last time to see ‘The Bone Collector’ – Willem Alberts – who will also feature in his last match for the Durban side.

Loathe to make this match about himself, Bismarck this week spoke of avoiding the limelight, explaining, “I don’t play for any accolades, I just play for my teammates and the respect I have for the guys who play with me.

“This is going to be a very sad day to be leaving The Sharks, I guess I never thought this day would arrive. I’m a Sharks boy through and through, I love the Sharks with all my heart.”

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Willem Alberts

Willem Alberts

The Cell C Sharks officially confirm the departure of Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis as well as Willem Alberts, who will be playing their final match for the Cell C Sharks this Saturday.

Bismarck’s career at the Cell C Sharks is now in its 11th year, having made his senior rugby debut when he joined the Durban franchise in 2005. To date he is the most capped Sharks player ever at Super Rugby level, with 129 appearances. He has also accumulated 39 ABSA Currie Cup caps, the number reflective of his Springbok duties where he has represented South Africa 70 times.

Jannie joined The Sharks in 2008 after representing the Cheetahs between 2004 and 2007. He has appeared 117 times for the Cell C Sharks at Super Rugby level and has 62 Test match appearances behind him.

They both played in 2 Rugby World Cups – in 2007 and 2011 – and together share the record (42) for most Springbok Tests as brothers.

Willem made his debut for the Cell C Sharks in 2010 after moving to Durban from the Lions and has accumulated a total of 91 appearances (72 in Super Rugby and 19 in the ABSA Currie Cup competition) as well as 32 Springbok caps.

These 3 players have been an influential and valued part of the Cell C Sharks set-up and despite Management’s best efforts; we have been unable to re-secure their services moving forward.

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Philip van der Walt

Philip van der Walt

The Cell C Sharks are continuing to raid the ranks of the Toyota Cheetahs, with loose forward Philip van der Walt the latest capture.

It was confirmed that the 25-year-old, who had just returned from a stint with Biarritz in France, will join up with the Sharks before the start of the Currie Cup season in August.

Christoffel Philippus van der Walt, who played 80-odd games for the Cheetahs (Super Rugby) and Free State (Currie Cup), moved to Biarritz in 2014 – where he made 22 appearances.

Biarritz, with a rich history in French and European competitions, were crowned French champions 5 times – 1935, 1939, 2002, 2005 and 2006. They also beat Top 14 rivals Toulon 21 / 18 in the 2012 European Challenge Cup (secondary competition) in 2012.

However, Biarritz went into a major slump during the 2013 / 2014 Top 14 season and ended up being relegated to the Pro D2 (Second Division) for the 2014 / 2015 season.

The signing of Van der Walt is another coup for the Sharks, who are in the process of ‘rebuilding’ the team under the guidance of Director of Rugby Gary Gold – with several season players set to depart after this year’s World Cup.

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Stephan Lewies & Willem Alberts

Stephan Lewies & Willem Alberts

The Cell C Sharks have paid a dear price for snapping a 6-match losing streak with a hard-fought a 21 / 14 over the Reds last Friday.

Stephan Lewies, Willem Alberts, Francois Steyn, Stefan Ungerer and Dale Chadwick were the latest additions to an injury list that already includes names like Cobus Reinach (fractured hand), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee) and Pat Lambie (neck vertebrae).

The Sharks started training in Durban on Monday – after a tour that saw them lose to the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Waratahs, before beating the Reds.

With games against the Melbourne Rebels (this coming Friday 29 May) and the Stormers on 13 June to come, with a BYE sandwiched in between, the last thing they needed was more injuries.

Lewies, who missed the 1st half of the season through injury, looks set to miss the remaining matches after he dislocated his knee cap in Brisbane at the weekend.

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

The Cell C Sharks will end their 4 match tour of New Zealand and Australia on Friday when they take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane with singular purpose in mind.

Both sides have not enjoyed the kinds of seasons their players, coaches and supporters expected at the start of the season, but for some bad luck and a host of injuries in key positions, perhaps their respective campaigns might have been different.

“You look at the players in their team – Slipper, Horwell, Genia, Turner, O’Connor – these are really good rugby players, highly experienced internationals and this is a team going through a similar season to us,” explains Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold.

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Willem Alberts

Willem Alberts

The Cell C Sharks appear resigned to the fact that loose forward Willem Alberts will be leaving them after the 2015 Rugby World Cup to play in France, judging by comments coach Gary Gold made when quizzed about their latest signing, Waratahs loose forward Jacques Potgieter.

Potgieter, a similarly abrasive forward to Alberts, will join the Sharks in early 2016 ahead of next year’s expanded Super Rugby tournament.

“We think 1 or 2 of our players are going to move after the World Cup and Jacques is a big character, a strong ball carrier and hard-hitting defender. We hope he has the same impact for us as he has had for the Waratahs. His aspiration is to play more for the Springboks and he’s not going to achieve that if he’s not based in South Africa,” Gold said.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold admitted the pressure is mounting for his team, currently on a record 6-match losing streak.

The Durban-based franchise, who take on the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, have only once before lost 6 straight matches – in 2000.

Director of Rugby, Gold, is adamant his charges can avoid the ignominy of a 7th straight defeat.

He said it is “critically important” that they finish off their Australasian tour with a win.

“We had a shocking 1st week against the Highlanders, then 2 good performances against the Hurricanes and Waratahs, where we weren’t on the right side of the scoreboard,” Gold said from the team’s base in Brisbane.

The Reds, who are 4 places (14th) and 5 points (16 to 21) below the Sharks, bounced back from their own horror run with a 46 / 29 win over the Melbourne Rebels last week.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The Cell C Sharks appear to be winning the battle to retain the services of Cape bred Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has told Durban media that he is committed to the union that he says gave him his big break in rugby.

It has been an open secret for a while now that the Springbok lock, currently out injured, was in negotiations with the DHL Stormers. Until quite recently the Western Province union appeared to be winning the battle, with informed sources confirming that Du Toit, who is from Swartland farming stock, was nearly certain to make the move down the coast next season.

However, it is understood that the Sharks then fought quite hard with counter-offers and promises that a concerted effort will be made to get the structures in Durban rugby right, and in an interview with the Natal Mercury on Monday the lock said that while he couldn’t say what would happen in the longer term, he was committed to the Sharks for now.

Du Toit has been out injured for most of the past 2 seasons and appears to feel beholden to the patience and resources that the Sharks have committed to his medical rehabilitation.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

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.”

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