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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

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.

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Schalk Ferreira

Schalk Ferreira

The Southern Kings continued their recruitment drive ahead of their re-entry into Super Rugby next year.

Veteran prop Schalk Ferreira, who played Super Rugby for the Kings in 2013, is the latest recruit for the Port Elizabeth-based franchise.

He will be returning to PE on a 2-year contract and will join them ahead of the Eastern Province Kings’ Currie Cup campaign that gets underway in August.

The 31-year-old Ferreira – who also played for the DHL Stormers before moving to PE – has been playing for Toulouse in France since 2013.

The have recently also confirmed the signing of centre JP du Plessis and prop Basil Short.

This also follows the announcement of a loan agreement with the Blue Bulls for the services of Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht to join the squad for the Currie Cup season, as well as the signing until 2016 of young prop Nicolaas van Dyk.

Du Plessis and Short are already taking part in a training.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

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.

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Semi Kunatani

Semi Kunatani

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.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

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.

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Gurthrö Steenkamp

Gurthrö Steenkamp

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.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is set to join the Stormers at the end of the season after 2 years with Toulouse.

The former Lions and Bulls scrumhalf joined the 4-time European champions in 2013, and featured regularly in his 1st season in the Top 14.

He has fallen down the pecking order this season however, with Sébastien Bezy and Jean-Marc Doussain both ahead of him, making just 2 starts so far.

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Frans Malherbe

Frans Malherbe

Siya Kolisi

Siya Kolisi

French Top 14 club Toulouse are reportedly eager to attain the services of Springboks Frans Malherbe and Siya Kolisi.

French rugby newspaper, Midi Olympique, reports that the Stormers duo are on the shopping-list of the French giants who want to bolster their ranks after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Prop Malherbe has played 4 Tests for the Boks, while flank Kolisi boasts 10 caps.

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European Rugby Champions CupJake 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.

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Glasgow WarriorsGlasgow Warriors head to Bath this Sunday with a number of outcomes still possible in Pool 4 of the European Rugby Champions Cup with quarter-final places at stake.

The Warriors will be looking to qualify for the knockout stages of the tournament for the first time in their history.

Toulouse are currently top of the pool with 16 points while Bath are second with 15 and the Warriors have 14. Montpellier are out of the running for a quarter-final spot with three points.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak, one of South Africa’s most experienced scrumhalves, is believed to be on the Stormers’ shopping list for their 2015 Super Rugby campaign.

Vermaak currently plies his trade for French Top 14 club Toulouse. He is a former SA Under 21 representative who has also played for the SA Sevens side as well as the Emerging Springboks.

The 30-year old was a member of the Springbok squad for most of the 2012 season, with Ruan Pienaar and Francois Hougaard as the two first choice scrumhalves in the squad.

The native of Graaff-Reinet made his Test debut for the Springboks on 8 June 2013 against Italy at Kings Park in Durban. He suffered a hamstring injury in the 62nd minute of that Test and had to be replaced. Since then he has played three Tests for the Boks.

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Glasgow WarriorsRichie Vernon will start at outside centre for Glasgow Warriors, when they host French Top 14 side Toulouse at Scotstoun Stadium tomorrow lunchtime (kick-off 13:00 BST, 15:00 SA Time).

Vernon impressed from the bench in the narrow 19-11 defeat at the Stade Ernest Wallon on Sunday and replaces Peter Horne for the European Rugby Champions Cup encounter, with Alex Dunbar moving to inside centre.

There are two other personnel changes with Tim Swinson coming in for Leone Nakarawa in the second-row and Ryan Wilson replacing the injured Chris Fusaro in the backrow. Wilson starts on the blindside, with Rob Harley moving to openside.

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Brad Thorn

Brad Thorn: Still going strong at 39

Leicester Tigers have confirmed the arrival of World Cup-winning former All Black second row Brad Thorn.

39-year-old New Zealander was referred to by Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill as “one of the great all-time rugby players the world has ever seen.” He is expected at the club at the end of September.

Thorn became the first player to win World Cup, Super Rugby and Heineken Cup titles and arrives from the Highlanders having previously represented the Crusaders and Leinster.

“He is a very driven individual,” Cockerill told the Leicester Mercury.

“He wants to play in the Premiership and he wants to win the Premiership.”

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Hosea Gear

Hosea Gear

Former All Blacks wing Hosea Gear is quitting northern hemisphere rugby and heading to the Chiefs in a bid to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Gear, 30, has signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs to play in next year’s Super Rugby competition as he makes a bid to return to the international stage and challenges again for a World Cup wing spot.

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Corey Flynn

GETTING READY: Corey Flynn, who leaves for French club Toulouse after the Super Rugby season, hopes to collect his fourth title before he departs Christchurch.

Corey Flynn concedes there’s nothing like a jolt of electricity to help determine a career path.

Things are trucking along pretty nicely for the 33-year-old these days but if he wasn’t a professional rugby player he isn’t certain what occupation he would have chosen after leaving Southland Boys’ High School.

Well, he is sure about one thing: He wasn’t going to work in an industry where he risked getting zapped from bare wires.

“I was looking at an electrical apprenticeship but that wasn’t my forte,” Flynn reflects. “Electricity scares the hell out of me because you can’t see it and I took a couple of boots.”

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Florian Fritz

Battered Florian Fritz being led off the field, only to return

French rugby powerbrokers have confirmed no decision will be taken on the Florian Fritz concussion saga until the LNR Executive Committee meets in early September – some four months after the Toulouse centre was led bloodied and reeling from the Stade Ernest Wallon pitch.

In the wake of the incident during the club’s Top 14 barrage against Racing Mètro on May 9, the player’s ill-advised return to the game and the apparent misconduct of head coach Guy Novès are the subject of an investigation from a panel of doctors assembled by the LNR.

Repeated attempts from the IRB – who requested the French bodies launch the investigation – to press both the FFR and LNR for answers proved fruitless until Tuesday (yesterday), when a spokeswoman for the professional league administrators confirmed no action will be taken until after the September meeting.

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Chiliboy Ralepelle

Chiliboy Ralepelle

Springbok Mahlatse “Chiliboy” Ralepelle faces a two year suspension after reportedly testing positive for a banned substance in France.

Ralepelle, who is currently recovering from a knee injury, was tested out of competition, with his A sample containing traces of Drostanalone, an anabolic steroid that is often used in bodybuilding.

The French daily L’equipe reported Saturday that Ralepelle was now “under investigation” and his club had been informed of the positive test.

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top14logoflorianfritzOn Friday night Toulouse locked horns against Racing Metro in the Top 14 playoffs for a much-anticipated game at the Stade Ernest-Wallon.

Nineteen minutes in, with Racing Metro 6-3 up, Toulouse’s centre Florian Fritz was tackled and as a result made contact with the onrushing knee of Racing Metro’s Francois Van Der Merwe.

It was a sickening blow, with the results clearly shown on television, as Fritz had blood pouring down his face and splattered on his arm. As play stopped and Toulouse’s medics tended to Fritz, it was clear he was visibly dazed. He had to be escorted off the pitch and stumbled onto the ground when he decided to walk off instead of being carried off on a stretcher.

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Heineken CupThe tug of war regarding the premier club competition in European rugby has been conducted very publicly for a long time and a week ago it was reported that an announcement on the structure of future competitions was imminent. However, it all seems to have gone quiet and no final announcement has been forthcoming.

There are rumours that the Italian clubs and their representative bodies were needing to discuss a few details of what should otherwise be a done deal. Furthermore there is the question of the broadcasting battle between Sky and BT Sport which is apparently in the process of being sorted out with a joint broadcast agreement likely for next season. The final rumour is that the parties involved may not have wanted to make any announcements this week in the lead up to the quarter finals of the current Heineken Cup competition.

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Heineken CupAmlin Challenge CupRound 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.

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Heineken CupIt is crunch time in Europe’s premier club tournament, as we enter Round Five of the Euro Cup.  The build-up this week may have shone the spotlight on the heavyweight Anglo-French clashes – between Toulouse and Saracens, and Harlequins and ASM Clermont Auvergne – but two other French giants will also be in crucial matches.  Defending European champions Toulon host Cardiff Blues in Nice on Saturday, while French champions Castres  are at home to Leinster on Sunday.

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ERC French rugby is currently full of news regarding player movements and player contract offers and extentions.

Toulouse has offered South African prop, Schalk Ferreira a 3-Tear extention to his current deal after some outstanding performances by him. Toulon has extended Deon Armitage’s contract for 2 years whilst Maxime Mermoz has signed on till 2017.  After some speculation about Jonny Wilkinson’s possible retirement, it appears he might want to continue on at Toulon for another year.

Tommaso Allan, Italian international flyhalf, has also won him a contract extention with Perpignan.

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Jano VermaakSpringbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was the hero for Toulouse as he scored a crucial try in Saturday’s top-of-the-table clash against Toulon in the Top 14.

With the clubs level at the summit of the standings at kick-off, the match was the highlight of the French rugby weekend as Toulouse came back from 12-0 down at half time to win 13-12.

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South AfricaThere was much annoyance among Springbok fans when it was announced not long before South Africa’s test match against Argentina in the Rugby Championship that the release of Bryan Habana was required by his new club Toulon.  This increased even more when it came to light that five of the players in the current Springbok Squad for the Rugby Championship were being ‘released’ to go back to their clubs in France while the rest of the players would return for a break to South Africa.

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Heineken CupThe draw for the pools for the group stage of the 2013/14 Heineken Cup took place on Wednesday.  Reigning champions Toulon will be in Pool Two along with RaboDirect Pro12 semifinalists Glasgow Warriors, as well as Cardiff Blues and Exeter.

English champions Leicester are in Pool Five with Ulster and Montpellier.

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Chiliboy RalepelleThe Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd announced on Thursday that Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle did not accept an offer to extend his contract past October 31st, 2013. The hooker indicated that he will instead take up an offer with the French club Toulouse.

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heinekencupHarlequins, Clermont Auvergne, Ulster and Toulon have all qualified for the quarterfinals of the European Cup, but who will join them in the last eight?

Unbeaten English champions Harlequins are the only ones so far guaranteed home advantage in the quarterfinals, so with plenty to play for in Round Six here is the state of the Pools going into the final weekend of group games.

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heinekencupUndefeated Harlequins and Clermont can book European Cup quarterfinals this weekend with Toulon also close to securing their spot in the last eight. English champions Harlequins, bidding to make the knock-out stages for just the fifth time, already have 19 points from four Pool Three wins and on Saturday tackle Connacht where just a losing bonus point will be enough to see them through.

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heinekencupTwo-time defending European Cup champions Leinster host Clermont in the fourth round of the competition this weekend in the knowledge that they will have to dig deep for a “vital” bonus-point victory.

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