What’s Next For Taku Ngwenya?
In seven seasons with Biarritz Taku Ngwenya has amassed quite an impressive career. He has a total of 196 appearances for the club with 151 of those coming in the Top 14, 10 in the Amlin Challenge Cup, and 35 in the Heineken Cup. In total he has scored 70 tries for the club as they have gone on to the heights of French and European rugby. Ngwenya has almost started every single one of his matches as well. Of his 196 appearances only five of those have come off the bench. During his time with the club he also won the Amlin Challenge Cup and came in runner-up in the Heineken Cup.
Even in this disastrous season he has been a stalwart as Biarritz suffered relegation. Of the team’s 25 matches he’s started 20 of them, scoring five tries in the process. He also started four of the team’s five Amlin Challenge Cup matches, scoring twice. That’s basically where his production was at last year and the year before that. However, he hasn’t started the last two matches since the team was relegated. Biarritz could either be resting him, giving time to younger players, or it could signal that he is on his way out.
According to the team’s website he is one of the players still under contract with the club for next season. That said, any time a team is relegated it often triggers out clauses in players contracts. The team also usually looks to cut back on its wage bill and tries to shed some salary. That is already happening at Biarritz with several players on their way out. For Ngwenya it could go either way. On the one hand Biarritz are the only club he has ever played with. There is a sense of loyalty and wanting to get back into the Top 14. On the other hand he might feel its time for a change. After all, he is still one of the best wingers in the Top 14 and other clubs would love to have him.
Either way Ngwenya has a decision to make soon. One factor in his decision if he decides to leave is where he would play rugby next. Having played in Europe for so long he knows what the culture is like in other countries. He is definitely comfortable in France and with higher wage bills he could probably make more money. However, much of the prestige lies out of France and with clubs in the Premiership or the RaboDirect Pro12.
The RaboDirect Pro12 is more unlikely than the Premiership. The Italian sides aren’t attractive at all, Ireland only brings in former All Blacks and players that could potentially become eligible for Ireland, Scotland is like Italy, and the Welsh teams are a mess. The Premiership is the most likely if he doesn’t stay in France. Any team in the competition would love to have him. Imagine him pairing with George North at Northampton or joining a team like Saracens or Leicester. He could instantly step into those sides and be a star.
More remote options for Ngwenya include heading to Japan or Super Rugby. Japan would offer him a big payday but it wouldn’t provide a lot of rugby and at that high of a level. Playing in Super Rugby would be great but physically he wouldn’t be one of the biggest wingers, which might be a problem. He may also have to settle for being a role player, something he hasn’t done since earlier in his career.
In the end we think he stays in France but doesn’t stay with Biarritz in the Pro D2. We think that one of the bigger teams in the competition are going to come calling. It wouldn’t surprise us at all to see him land with Toulon, Castres, Montpellier, or Clermont. In the end it all comes down to what he wants to do. At this point in his career he has earned the right to decide his future. This is the probably the only chance he will have in his career to pick where he wants to play. Expect him to take his time and evaluate his options. Who knows, a change in club may also reinvigorate his international career.