TJ makes big breakthrough into France
THABANI “TJ” Maguranyanga, one of the country’s brightest rugby prospects, has completed a dream move by signing for top French rugby club, ASM Clermont Auvergne.
He arrived from St Stithians Boys College in South Africa.
The speedster signed a pre-contract ,with one of the leading rugby sides in France, who play in the Top 14, the top level of the French league system, on January 9.
TJ, who is son of former Warriors fitness trainer Gerald Maguranyanga, was courted by several top European clubs.
But, his management team at Kyros Sports and top Australian agency, Halo Sports, settled for the French league side.
His father, Gerald, could not hide his excitement and said he is hopeful his son will make it at ASM Clermont Auvergne and the deal is the best one for him.
“He (Thabani) has signed a pre-contract with a top French side and he will be there for three-and-a-half-years, if all goes according to plan,’’ said Gerald.
“I have confidence he will make it to the top as he still has age on his side.
“We will continue to work on his fitness and, with the help of people Mugove ‘Mugo’ Muhambi (one of the country’s top karateka and fitness trainers), I believe he will be ready when the season resumes in August.
“At the moment, he will be joining the reserve side as the French season will come to an end in two months’ time and, from there, we will begin to focus on the 2021-22 season.
“I think, with the scramble for his signature where more than 10 clubs were pursuing him, it is a great move for him.’’
At 18, TJ’s career has developed very fast, after he started his rugby journey at St John’s Preparatory School in Harare, where he broke into the first team as a Grade Five pupil.
He went on to join Falcon College, in 2015, as a 13-year-old and he did not last long there after he was scouted at the Craven Week in South Africa, that same year.
TJ moved to Westview College in Durban but, with his parents wanting to visit him regularly, he was moved Johannesburg.
“For Westview, it is one of the elitist schools who focus on sports, especially rugby, swimming and tennis, but it was challenging to travel to Durban now and again,’’ said his father.
“So, we decided to bring him closer to home.
“We then enrolled him with St Stithians Boys College in Johannesburg.
“He has developed and we are looking forward to seeing him in a bigger and better league.’’
At St Stithians Boys College, TJ reunited with several Zimbabweans like Nyasha Gumbo and Munashe Mhere.
In France, he is set to follow in the footsteps of Tapiwa Tsomondo and Shayne Makombe.
Tsomondo completed a move to French side Rugby Club Aubenas-Vals, from South African Currie Cup First Division side Boland Cavaliers, in August last year.
Makombe is at Rugby Club Compiegne.
Clermont Auvergne are a French rugby union club from Clermont-Ferrand and are two-time French champions, having won the league title in 2009-10 and 2016-17 seasons.
TJ has joined the rugby section of a multi-sport club, AS Montferrand, which was founded in 1911.
Although the rugby section changed its name to ASM Clermont Auvergne, in 2004, it is still frequently referred to as Montferrand, both within, and outside France.
The team play at the 19 022-seater Parc des Sports Marcel Michelin, also known by its nickname, The Bib Park.
Clermont wear yellow-and-blue, the colours of the city of Montferrand, taken from the French tyre manufacturer Michelin, when the firm settled in the city in 1889.
Thabani is cousin to one of Zimbabwe’s United States-based sprinters, Kundai Maguranyanga, who is on an athletics scholarship at Texas Christian University.