The Lions recently secured a high-profile international for their upcoming Super 14 campaign, after signing USA Eagles flank Todd Clever. Rugby 365′s Nick Pawson caught up with Todd at the George Sevens last weekend…
It’s certainly quite a novelty for Eugene Eloff’s Lions to have a foreign international in their midst, let alone a man who spent his university days not far from the bright lights and sins of Las Vegas.
But Todd Clever, 25, has without a doubt been one of the standout American players in recent years, and will be remembered most for his leaping interception against South Africa that led to “the try of the World Cup” during the Pool stages in 2007.
After an impressive burst and knocking an abrasive Butch James backwards with a massive hand-off, Clever’s efforts led to Takudza Ngwenya’s memorable blitz for the try-line…the latter rounding Bryan Habana in the process.
But in 2009, Clever will be an ally to the enemy, and by the sounds of it, cannot wait to have his first taste of Super 14 action when he runs out for Loffie’s Lions next year.
“It’s kind of a dream come true [joining the Lions],” Clever told rugby365′s Nick Pawson just minutes after USA qualified for the George Sevens Cup quarterfinal against New Zealand.
“That’s [Super 14] the rugby I watch back home and grew up on, so to get this opportunity is incredible and I’m going to try and make the most of it.”
It won’t be Clever’s first taste of Southern hemisphere rugby however. In 2006, Clever was contracted by North Harbour in New Zealand for their (former) NPC campaign, although never got the call for Super rugby – thus is reveling at the prospect of finally mixing it amongst the big guns.
“After my stint in New Zealand I went back home to train full-time for the World Cup in ’07 and was going over contracts, and heard through the grapevine there was an interest down here [in SA],” said Clever.
“I was on my way over to [play in] Europe…but that style doesn’t really suit me, you know, the freezing cold!
“Obviously [in SA] you’re not making the pound, but it’s one of those opportunities you can’t pass up. I’m in a situation where it’s not about the money, it’s about the experience and to have an opportunity to get on the field with the best in the world is great…so I jumped at it.”
Born in Palm Springs, California, Clever made the USA under-19 team after high school, and continued to rise to prominence during his rugby days at the University of Nevada, Reno, where he was named a three-time College All-American.
A mobile and hard-hitting loose forward for the USA Eagles, Clever made his international XVs debut against Argentina in August 2003, although is also a regular feature for the States on the World Sevens circuit.
As a result, Clever has been on tour for nine straight weeks – from World Cup qualifiers in the Bahamas, down to Uruguay and then Japan with XVs, and then on to Dubai and George for the 2008/09 World Sevens Series.
Surely then, Clever would be feeling worn out after such a demanding rugby schedule, in light of an intense Super 14 (and Currie Cup) season to follow in 2009?
“It [playing XVs and Sevens] has always kept me in line and kept me not being burnt out,” added Clever.
“Changing my training regiment and changing my diet and work-outs has always kept me pretty fresh…and that’s been going on for four years now.
“It is kind of wearing on me now…the body’s telling me slow down a bit! But I’m looking forward to this last week of hard training with the Lions, having a couple of weeks off [over Christmas] and then getting back into XVs fully.”Tweet