French club Racing 92 are all set to lock horns with South first-ever South African Super Rugby side Cell C Sharks in Hong Kong next year in the Natixis Rugby Cup.
The high-profile fixture conducted by an association of Natixis and TeamOne Groupe with support from Hong Kong Rugby Union will take place at the Aberdeen Sports Ground on 3rd February.
Racing 92 is presently in third place in the French top league and is within striking distance of securing another title after winning the French championship in 2016. The club is also taking part in the European Champions Cup. Among the bevy of French and international stars in the Racing 92 side are Dan Carter, voted World Player of the Year in 2005, 2012 and 2015, and up-and coming local player Matt Worley, who most recently appeared for Hong Kong in September’s Word Rugby U20 Trophy in Uruguay.
“Natixis is delighted to once again welcome Racing 92 to Hong Kong, and particularly excited at the prospect of the team including one of Hong Kong’s native sons, Matt Worley,” said Mr Alain Gallois, Chief Executive Officer, Natixis, Asia Pacific.
Natixis has a long commitment to rugby and, in France, has sponsored Racing 92 since 2007. In the region, the bank has also been the proud sponsor of the Hong Kong Football Club rugby section since 2014.
“The Natixis Rugby Cup offers us the opportunity to bring our local and international rugby partnerships to life, as well as to engage our clients and staff in a unique and emotive way,” Mr Gallois said. “This is a very significant engagement for Natixis, and one that provides an opportunity to spread the positive values of the game to wider audiences and we hope that all of the local fans will enjoy the match once again.”
Philippe Spanghero, Chief Executive Officer of event promoters, TeamOne Groupe, added: “I would like to thank Natixis for bringing this event to Hong Kong. The Natixis Rugby Cup is a formidable opportunity for the large rugby playing and following population in Hong Kong to engage with the world stars of rugby and to attend a world-class sports event just a few weeks before the kick-off of the renowned Hong Kong Sevens.”
Robbie McRobbie, Chief Executive of the Hong Kong Rugby Union was similarly excited about the event. “The Hong Kong Rugby Union is delighted to once again host the Natixis Rugby Cup in 2018. This innovative series has made Hong Kong a home for Northern versus Southern hemisphere rugby matches and helped us deepen our engagement with Hong Kong’s growing French community,” Mr McRobbie said
“We are particularly excited to be welcoming the first-ever South African Super Rugby side to play in Hong Kong, the Cell C Sharks, this February. They will join the likes of the Highlanders, the Chiefs, the British & Irish Lions, the Home Nations, France, the All Blacks and Wallabies among the ranks of international sides that have delighted rugby fans in Hong Kong over the decades,” added Mr McRobbie.
The Hong Kong tie will present an important pre-season opportunity for the Cell C Sharks to fine-tune their squad for the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign. The Sharks have reached the Super Rugby final on four occasions (1996, 2001, 2007 and 2012) and the semi-final on four further occasions, with the most recent coming in 2014.
At the beginning of 2017, The Sharks announced the appointment of Robert du Preez as their new Head Coach. Du Preez coached a young and talented side to the Vodacom Super Rugby quarter-finals, topped the table at the end of the pool stages and contested a home Currie Cup final, leading the team into a new era of success.
The team has also announced the appointment of Dick Muir, the former Springbok and Sharks player and coach as a consultant responsible for the team’s attack and backline play for the 2018 season. Muir coached The Sharks to the final of the 2007 Super Rugby tournament and was also an assistant coach of the Springboks from 2008 to 2011.
“We are delighted to participate in the Natixis Rugby Cup 2018. Racing 92 is an impressive team with quality players. A match against them will be the ideal test that we require at the start of the 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament, in terms of preparation and the fine-tuning of our game plan,” said Cell C Sharks Head Coach, Robert du Preez.
“Through the Hong Kong Sevens, we have seen how popular the game is in that part of the world, and look forward to playing in front of a great crowd and making new memories,” Du Preez added.