AFP
Wire Service
2 minute read
14 Mar 2017
9:07 am

Merger of two French giants could leave various Boks jobless

AFP

Racing and Stade Francais' move to join forces will mean both squads need to be trimmed. That's bad news for several local players.

Morne Steyn, who plays for Stade Francais, is one of several Boks in the firing line due to a merger of his French club with Racing. Photo: David Rogers/Getty Images.

French rugby giants Racing 92 and Stade Francais, winners of the last two Top 14 titles, announced Monday a shock merger to create a ‘super club’ that leaves many top stars in limbo.

The merger from next season came as a lightning bolt for European rugby.

Yet the biggest current concern is where this leaves foreign stars, including several South Africans, playing at both clubs.

Stade Francais in particular has a massive contingent of Springboks in their squad.

Willem Alberts (flank), Morne Steyn (flyhalf), Heinke van der Merwe (prop), Craig Burden (hooker), Meyer Bosman (centre) and Gerhard Mostert (lock) have all appeared in the Green-and-Gold.

Racing also have three South Africans on their books.

It’s been reported Johan Goosen, who mysteriously retired at the end of last year, would also need to report back for duty.

There’s simply no way all those players can all stay at the new “super club”.

Rivals expressed concern about the creation of a rugby behemoth as Racing’s real estate billionaire owner Jacky Lorenzetti said he wanted to “build day after day the reference of French rugby.”

But there’s a problem.

Lorenzetti said in a letter to supporters that the two Racing coaches Laurent Travers and Laurent Labit, who will take over coaching duties at the new club, would have to “make choices”.

“Players will be axed,” he warned.

“They’ve got 45 players, we’ve got 45 players, 45 + 45 = 45. Merit will be the criteria, probably youth and the factor of being selectable” for France.”

Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal – who has Bok No 8 Duanne Vermeulen and winger Bryan Habana in his squad – said the deal would change the face of Top 14 rugby.

“We have entered a new era of big capitalism, where money comes before the human aspect,” he said, decrying the fact that top players would lose their jobs.

 

Opposition to the merger came swiftly from disgruntled Stade Francais players with French international fullback Eric Bonneval tweeting: “13/03.2017: END.”

“This is not a merger. Stade Francais has been bought by Racing… This is the death of our club… ” said lock Paul Gabrillagues.

“I won’t be part of this,” said Stade backrower Sekou Macalou while teammate and international lock Pascal Pape tweeted: “My sadness is so great.”

The news sent shockwaves through France’s rugby federation (FFR).

“The FFR is shocked to learn via the media this project leading to the disappearance of one of the two biggest clubs in French rugby,” a statement announced.

The federation added it was “extremely stunned at the supposed creation of a new club without being consulted”.

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