Sharks Head North To Toulouse

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Toulouse president Rene Bouscatel arrives at the press conference
Toulouse president Rene Bouscatel arrives at the press conference

TOULOUSE, FRANCE – South African Super Rugby franchise The Sharks will head to France next year for a second year in succession.

They will play Top 14 side Toulouse at Stade Ernest Wallon on February 11, 2016, organisers revealed at a press conference this week.

Toulouse will field a side likely to be missing a number of international stars, as the game has been slated for the Six Nations window, while the Sharks will use the match as preparation for the new Super Rugby season.

Despite missing several key players, Toulouse coach Ugo Mola insisted the game will be beneficial for both sides. He said: “This match will allow us to face a different style of play.”

He said the game would will allow him to blood a number of upcoming players, and keep those not involved in the Six Nations match-fit.

And Sharks’ marketing and sales director Eduard Coetzee, who played for Bayonne and Biarritz during a six-year stint in the French top flight, said: “Stade Toulousain is a club that for me is ahead of his time. It’s interesting for us to come to Europe.”

Sharks' Eduard Coetzee
Sharks’ Eduard Coetzee

He added: “For me, France has the best club rugby tournament the world.”

It is the second time the Durban-based side has ventured north during pre-season. In February 2015, they beat a Toulon side shorn of its Six Nations stars 10-12 at Stade Mayol.

And organisers hope that an annual Hemispheres Cup competition could become a regular fixture in the rugby calendar in future.

Philippe Spanghero, director of SL Events which has organised the fixture, said that he hoped the fixture would develop into a two-leg game.

The match was announced days after a planned game in Hong Kong on February 6 between European champions Toulon and Super Rugby winners Highlanders was called off.

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal said he had received a letter saying that European Champions Cup organisers EPCR had ruled that European champions were banned from playing Super Rugby winners.

According to reports in France, Racing 92 have replaced Toulon in the northern hemisphere’s representatives for the match.

Earlier this year, a ‘Hemisphere Cup’ challenge involving English Premiership side Saracens and a side representing Super Rugby outfit Crusaders in New Orleans that had been organised by RugbyLaw was also cancelled.

In a statement at the time, RugbyLaw said the match had been called off because USA Rugby refused to approve the artificial pitch at the Mercedes Benz Superdome. But George Robertson, then part of the RugbyLaw set-up told Rugby Wrap Up’s Matt McCarthy that poor ticket sales forced the game’s cancellation.

Shortly after his interview with Rugby Wrap Up, Mr Robertson and RugbyLaw parted company.

Meanwhile, Toulouse have signed former Sharks’ wing Paul Perez as a medical joker for Yoann Huget – who was injured playing for France in the World Cup. And Sharks have signed shamed ex-Toulouse hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle. He will be able to play for the Natal side once his doping suspension runs out in April.

About James Harrington 196 Articles
James Harrington... Before injury brought his rugby career to a timely end, journalist James was equally useless whether he packed down in the second row or at number 8, positions in which he represented his school and university with indistinction. The prolific one now lives in France with his journalist wife and three children and watches as much Top 14, European and international action he thinks he can get away with; justifying his obsession by claiming: "But it's all work, Honey!"