Fijian Kunatani quits Harlequins to become one of 13 new signings at Castres

Semi Kunatani of Harlequins is one of 13 players unveiled by French Top 14 side Castres as a new signing for the 2020/21 season.

The Fijian ran into controversy after he returned to Fiji at the start of the lockdown caused by the coronavirus pandemic.

Before Kunatani left for the shutdown, there was no firm indication that he would be exiting Harlequins following a two-season stay. However, it has now emerged that a February 29 appearance in the Gallagher Premiership in the win over Exeter Chiefs was his final outing for Paul Gustard’s side. 

Having previously spent three years in the French Top 14 with Toulouse before his switch to England, the 29-year-old now heads back across the Channel to link up with a phalanx of new players signed by the 2013 and 2018 champions.

Kunatani said: “I’ve been honoured to play for a club as famous as Harlequins over the last two seasons. Even as a young kid in Fiji, I grew up knowing about the famous jersey. It is a great source of pride to me to have worn the colours and be able to call myself a Harlequin.

“I want to thank all my teammates, coaches, and staff for making my time here so enjoyable. Knowing the squad as I do, I’m excited to see what they can go on to achieve with so many exciting young players.”

Kunatani, who played for Fiji at the recent World Cup in Japan, isn’t the only Fijian incoming at the club as centres Vilimoni Votitu (21, Fiji Sevens) and Adrea Cocagi (26, Perpignan), as well as wingers Bastien Guillemin (22, Grenoble) and Osea Waqaninavatu (20, Fijian Drua) have also been signed for the new season.

Castres’ other recruits are Julius Nostadt (27, Aurillac), Gaetan Barlot (23, Colomiers), Tyler Ardron (28, Chiefs), Ryno Pieterse (21, Bulls), Florent Vanverberghe (19, Toulon), Kevin Kornath (23, Montpellier), Stephane Onambele (27, Toulon) and Santiago Arata (23, Penarol).

“This recruitment started early in the season because we knew that we had to renew part of the workforce and replace emblematic players of the club, champions of France with Castres, such as Rodrigo Capo Ortega, Christophe Samson, Robert Ebersohn, Jody Jenneker, Alex Tulou and Julien Caminatu and to replace others who, for different reasons, had not been able to fully assert themselves in our workforce or wished to give a new orientation to their career,” explained president Pierre-Yves Revol in a statement. 

In addition, Castres also announced the signing of first professional contracts for two young hopefuls at the club, second row Dorian Clerc (22) and scrum-half Jeremy Fernandez (23).