Top 14: Sivivatu signs for Clermont; Biarritz and Toulouse both suffer injury set-backs
29 March 2011
Clermont bound: All Blacks
winger Sitiveni Sivivatu
Photo: Eoin Mundow/Cleva Media
French champions Clermont Auvergne have signed All Blacks winger Sitiveni Sivivatu, according to reports in New Zealand.
Fairfax Media said the 43-times capped international had agreed a two-year deal with the French club, who had been looking for a replacement after releasing stay-away Fijian Napolioni Nalaga.
Top 14 transfers for 2011/12
Sivivatu is the second of the all Blacks' current squad to announce a post World Cup move abroad, following Blues prop John Afoa signing for Irish club Ulster last week. More are bound to follow.
Fijian-born Sivivatu has racked up 27 tries in 43 appearances for the All Blacks, and is currently playing Super 15 rugby with the Waikato Chiefs.
The 28-year-old has also represented the Pacific Islanders rugby team, scoring twice against New Zealand in 2004. One of his team-mates from that match was Sione Lauaki, who also went on to represent the All Blacks and is now playing his club rugby with Clermont Auvergne.
Lauaki, however, has signed a pre-contract deal to join Bayonne next season - along with Stade Toulousain's former All Black Byron Kelleher - although whether those deals go ahead could well depend on the outcome of an extraordinary general meeting at the club on April 13th.
That meeting has been called after former France coach Bernard Laporte walked out on the club, citing an unworkable relationship with chairman Francis Salagoity. Laporte's resignation was swiftly followed by that of main sponsor Alain Afflelou, with the ensuing fallout prompting April's EGM.
Afflelou has been canvassing for support since his announcement and is reported to be putting together a package that would give Bayonne a budget of €16m for next season. Should Salagoity go - and Afflelou return - it remains unclear whether Laporte could be enticed back to the Basque club.
One French newspaper claimed that Afflelou was interested in trying to bring in Perpignan coach Jacques Brunel for next season. This would be unwelcome news to the Italian Rugby Federation after they previously announced that Brunel would be taking charge of the national team after the 2011 World Cup.
Another confirmed transfer sees Exeter Chiefs youngster Josh Matavesi join Racing-Métro 92 with immediate effect.
The 20-year-old has initially signed as a 'medical joker' to cover for the injured Argentine Juan Martin Hernandez, but he will then take up a two-year contract from the beginning of next season.
Matavesi has come up through the ranks at Exeter and said his decision to move to Paris had not been an easy one. "If I'm honest I don't really want to go because of the boys and that, but I need to play rugby if I want to improve. Opportunities like this don't come along very often. I've just turned 20 and playing in the Top 14 with a club like Racing Métro is definitely something special. However, I just have to really concentrate for the initial few weeks; get my head down and settle in as best I can," he told premiershiprugby.com.
One deal that won't be going ahead, however, is the transfer of former Wallaby David Lyons to Toulon. High wage demands was apparently the sticking point with the Llanelli Scarlets player, although he remains in contact with Stade Francais with an eye to signing for Michael Cheika's outfit.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal, meanwhile, has been venting his frustration after his team's weekend loss away to Castres. Boudjellal told Var Matin: "Here we are spoilt children. We all live in comfort. We are nice and friendly and don't know how to kill. Some players were ill, absent or disappointing. They do not deserve all their wages because they haven't been playing at the right level. If Philippe [Saint-André] does not tell them I'll tell them myself during the week," he said.
Elsewhere in France, both Stade Toulousain and Biarritz have suffered major injury blows ahead of their Heineken Cup showdown in San Sebastian on April 10th.
Toulouse have lost club and national captain Thierry Dusautoir after he picked up a leg injury during their 43-21 loss at Racing-Métro on Saturday. The loss of their inspirational leader is a serious setback for the defending European champions, although head coach Guy Noves said Dusautoir should return to action in no more than four weeks.
"There's a small twist of the ankle and knee, but nothing that could raise doubts about his end to the season," confirmed Noves. "It's too early to know how long exactly he'll be out, but it will not be more than one month," he added.
In light of Dusautoir's injury Noves also confirmed that he would be resting several French internationals for their forthcoming away trip to Perpignan on Friday night. Noves aid Vincent Clerc, Maxime Médard and William Servat would all sit out the Round 23 clash, which could see Toulouse knocked off top spot if they lose at Perpignan while Racing win at Bayonne.
But Noves' focus is clearly on his club's Heineken Cup quarter-final against Biarritz the following weekend as they seek to defend their title.
The Basque outfit warmed up for that match with a 40-10 weekend win against derby rivals Bayonne on Saturday - at the same San Sebastian stadium that will be used for the quarter-final. But the victory came at a cost for Biarritz, with hooker Benoit August being ruled out for the rest of the season after rupturing the anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee.
The 34-year-old is likely to be out for at least six months after an MRI scan confirmed the injury on Monday evening.
Elsewhere on the injury front, Montpellier skipper Fulgence Ouedraogo has been sidelined for three weeks with a calf strain, while Clermont Auvergne winger Julien Malzieu has already been ruled out of his side's weekend clash with Biarritz.
Racing-Métro winger Benjamin Fall is also set to miss the next month after picking up an injury against Stade Toulousain on Saturday.
Finally, Stade Francais head coach Cheika has admitted his side will not make the end of season play-offs (for a second successive year) following their weekend defeat at Montpellier. "It's over mathematically," lamented the former Leinster coach.