BY DANIEL NHAKANISO
ZIMBABWE rugby international Riaan O’Neill has realised his childhood dream of playing professional rugby abroad after sealing a move to French side RCA Rugby Club Amiénois at the weekend. The 26-year-old Cape Town-based utility back joins RCA Rugby Club Amiénois, who compete in the fourth tier rugby union in France, the Fédérale 3 after a successful career at South African club False Bay.
O’Neill confirmed the move in a statement to his followers on his Instagram page describing the adventure as a realisation of a childhood dream.
“As a kid growing up playing rugby, I always dreamed of going to play overseas and live in another part of the world. I’m so excited to have joined my new club in Amiens, France. I can’t tell you how excited I am to be here, playing rugby, making new friends, learning a new language and opening myself up to an opportunity to grow. I am so proud of myself. When last did you tell yourself that? Also, little Riaan is definitely high-fiving big Riaan right now,” he said.
O’Neill was born in Zimbabwe and moved to Cape Town at the age of six, but travels back regularly to visit his family which is based in the country.
He attended Wynberg Boys’ High School in Cape Town and in 2012, he was part of the school’s first team rugby side which finished in the top 10 in South Africa.
Since making his Cheetahs debut five years ago, O’Neill has established himself as a key member of the Zimbabwe Sevens rugby side, representing the country in several tournaments on the HSBC World Sevens Series circuit.
Although he has also featured for the Sables, it is with the Cheetahs that he has enjoyed more success and he was part of the squad which won the Africa Sevens title two years ago.
After his move to France he will now play in the same league as fellow Zimbabwe international Shayne Makombe, who is at French side Rugby Club Compiegne.
Fellow Zimbabwe Sevens star Tapiwa Tsomondo also recently moved to France after joining third tier side Rugby Club Aubenas-Vals from South African Currie Cup First Division side Boland Cavaliers.
Tsomondo’s side is a tier ahead of the Fédérale as it competes in the newly formed FFR National Championship which is behind the second tier Rugby Pro D2 and the top-flight Top 14, which is arguably the richest top-flight rugby union competition in the world.