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Edinburgh lures another SA star

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Carl-BezuidenhoutCarl Bezuidenhout, who helped the Pumas regain their Currie Cup status, has become the latest South African to join Alan Solomons at Edinburgh.

The 27-year-old, who began training at Murrayfield on Monday, joins other SA players like Wicus Blaauw (from the Southern Kings), Cornell Du Preez (Kings), Willem (WP) Nel (Cheetahs) and Izak van der Westhuizen (Cheetahs) in Edinburgh.

“I’m extremely excited to be here,” Bezuidenhout said of his arrival in the Scottish capital just two months after helping the Pumas claim the First Division (second tier) domestic title in SA and then regain their Currie Cup status by beating Griquas.

“Playing in Europe is something I’ve wanted to do for a long time now, I just needed the break and this is it.

“It’s a fantastic opportunity for a new experience; different rugby, different people, different cultures, it’s all very appealing to me and I’m really glad I’m here.

“I’ve always wanted to travel with the sport. I got married in March so it’s something that we both really wanted to try as well.

“It’s just going to take hard work. I need to get stuck in from day one.

“Hopefully I’ll get a chance out on the paddock soon to play my natural game and kick on from there.

“I’m delighted about it and want to grab it with both hands and get an extension.”

Bezuidenhout is on an extended “trial” until the end of the 2013/14 season.

He was part of the Sharks Currie Cup-winning squad in 2008. Bezuidenhout then spent a season with the Eastern Province Kings, before moving to Nelspruit in 2010 where he was a key part of the Pumas’ improved fortunes. After finishing First Division runners-up last year, they went all the way this year.

After eight seasons of Southern Hemisphere rugby he now has four months to prove that he is capable of offering an equally impressive contribution to the long-term plans of Edinburgh.

“Carl [Bezuidenhout] has performed really well for the Pumas and played a pivotal role in their promotion to the Currie Cup this year,” Edinburgh coach Alan Solomons said.

“His game management is very good, he’s got a good boot out of hand and for goal, and is very athletic.

“He now has an excellent opportunity to show us what he is capable of, while also solving an immediate issue in that we are desperately short of fly-halves.

“We will have to see how he tracks for us but I think he has the ability.”

Happy New Year 2014!!

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Designs-for-Kids_-Happy-New-Year-2014-n-4-780x780From all of the us, we wish you a Happy New Year and may 2014 bring you all the love joy and wishes you may have. Looking forward to a “jam” packed rugby season lying ahead for us in the new year.

Thank you to everyone for all your support and chats over the past year and we are looking forward to clash with each Titan again as the year progress.

Be kind to your liver! (Morne and Wentzel) and enjoy 2014.

 

 

70th Straight Win for Clermont

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top-14-orangeClermont racked up a 70th straight home win and extended their lead at the top of the French Top 14 with a 33-19 victory over Oyonnax on Sunday.

Fijian born wing Noa Nakaitaci was the architect in the first half, scoring a brilliant 60-yard individual try before making a second break and teeing up Samoan No.8 Fritz Lee to go over.

Nakaitaci’s score was pure genius as he took the ball from the back of a breakdown, looped around the forwards and burst through a gap in Oyonnax’s defensive line before chipping ahead and winning the foot-race to touch down.

However, Clermont were denied a bonus point by a spirited second-half display from the second division champions.

Centre Pierre Aguillon and South African hooker Jody Jenneker both went over either side of France hooker Benjamin Kayser’s try for the hosts to at least demonstrate third-from-bottom Oyonnax’s ability to cause problems at this level, although the lack of a bonus point keeps them hovering perilously just three points above the relegation places.

Clermont moved provisionally six points clear at the top.

Stade Francais recorded their third successive home success with a 19-12 win over Perpignan in a scrappy and hot-tempered encounter.

Victory saw Stade move into second, although they could yet drop to fourth before the weekend is up.

“That is what we wanted, three straight wins at home,” said Stade captain Sergio Parisse.

“It was tough going out there against a solid and resilient Perpignan side but we just about deserved to keep our heads in front.

“Now we have Biarritz away and we want to confirm our form there, though it won’t be easy.”

Stade and Perpignan exchanged penalties early on but it was the Parisians who gained the advantage that they never let go when, against a Catalan side reduced to 14 men and their scrum taking a pounding, the hosts were awarded a penalty try.

Perpignan’s Welsh star James Hook — given a rare start at fly-half as he has this season usually started at fullback — scored four penalties but was matched by his opposite number Jerome Fillol, who also added a conversion for a 14-point personal haul.

Grenoble maintained their own fine home form and ended Castres’s three-match winning run with a 20-16 success that could see the champions drop as low as fifth by the end of the weekend.

Tries from South African prop Albertus Buckle and Fijian wing Alipate Ratini gave Grenoble victory despite Fiji centre Seremaia Bai’s score for Castres, who had to content themselves with a losing bonus point.

Montpellier bounced back from three straight defeats to get their top six bid back on track with a crushing 48-22 destruction of rock-bottom Biarritz, who are becoming increasingly isolated.

Tries from Fiji wing Timoci Nagusa, hooker Mickael Ivaldi and braces from New Zealander No.8 Alex Tulou and Georgian flanker Mamuka Gorgodze ensured an attacking bonus point.

That was despite spirited resistance from Biarritz midway through the second period as Norway lock Erik Lund, American wing Takudzwa Ngwenya and South African fullback Johan Pietersen all crossed the whitewash.

Bordeaux-Begles earned a crucial victory to ease nine points away from danger with a 27-23 win over fellow strugglers Brive, who are five points above the drop zone.
South African lock Jandre Marais scored twice while Fijian fullback Metuisela Talebula added a brilliant breakaway score, while Brive replied with tries from Australian wing Alfie Mafi and fullback Gaetan Germain.

Round 15 results:
Aviron Bayonnais 21-13 Stade Toulousain
Union Bordeaux-Bègles 27-23 CA Brive-Corrèze
ASM Clermont 33-19 Oyonnax
Grenoble 20-16 Castres Olympique
Montpellier Hérault Rugby 48-22 Biarritz Olympique
Stade Français 19-12 Perpignan
Aviron Bayonnais 21-13 Stade Toulousain

AFP

Welsh twist in Euro stand-off

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150px-Heineken_cupThe European Cup stand-off has not even taken a break over the festive season, with new reports of ‘cash offers’ to lure clubs to the breakaway group.

According to a report in the Sunday Telegraph the four Welsh regions have been offered £4-million each to join the Premiership clubs in their attempt to split from ERC controlled competitions.

And the BBC Wales reported that Cardiff Blues, Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys and Scarlets will not sign a ‘participation agreement’ put before them by the Welsh Rugby Union.

The WRU set a deadline of Tuesday, December 31, to sign a new agreement, replacing the current five-year deal that expires in June 2014.

The regions believe the funding in the new deal is inadequate for their needs and are apparently excited by the offer from the English Premiership group.
The offer from the Premiership group would cover the £1.2-million worth of funding they each receive from the Welsh Rugby Union and the £2.9-million domestic rugby brings to the Welsh regions.

The impasse between the WRU and its four teams could see the regions step up their pursuit of playing in an Anglo-Welsh competition next season.

Regional Rugby Wales, the umbrella organisation that represents the four regions, tweeted on Sunday: “The Welsh regions are continuing to work hard to try to find solutions and have a number of scheduled RRW meetings leading up to and beyond the 31st December.

“With regard to the Participation Agreement, the issue remains that neither competition platforms or revenues contained within this legal agreement are confirmed, so the commitment cannot be defined.”

The uncertainty surrounding the future of the European Cup, with French Top 14 and English Premiership clubs threatening to withdraw from it in favour of a new cross-border competition, causes further problems.

With no guarantee of what competitions the Welsh regions will be playing in future seasons they are able to make few financial decisions about their future, hence the reluctance to sign a new agreement when other parts of the jigsaw puzzle are not decided.

It has been reported  that Premier Rugby Limited, which represents the top-flight English clubs, and its broadcast partner have offered each region £4-million a season to compete in an Anglo-Welsh competition.

While the Welsh regions consider the reported English offer, any cross-border competition would require ratification from the governing unions involved – with the WRU and its English counterpart the Rugby Football Union unlikely to give their blessings at this stage.

That could set the scene in Wales for the four regions to break away from the WRU, a move that would cause turmoil in the professional landscape in Wales and feasibly lead to uncomfortable “club versus country” decisions for some players.

The WRU would not escape unscathed either, as it is legally obliged to enter four teams in the Pro12 and European Cup next season and might have to create four new sides in a hurry to represent Wales.

Television money forms the bulk of the regions’ income, with the four Welsh sides sharing a pot of around £9-million between them from competing in the Pro12 and the European Cup.

The WRU adds approximately another £6-million to the shared pot, which includes money for releasing players for international duties, a sum governed by the agreement.

The remaining revenue comes from each region’s ticket sales, sponsorship and merchandising, with further cash or loans from owners or benefactors topping up when needed.

A 2012 financial report, jointly commissioned by the WRU and the regions, warned that “the four regional businesses are not sustainable on a standalone basis in their current form without continued additional funding from benefactors or alternative funding sources”.

The regions voluntarily introduced a £3.5-million salary cap to help balance the books, but domestic television deals secured in France and England have seen their clubs able to offer players increasingly lucrative contracts.

This has seen a steady stream of leading Welsh players depart for foreign clubs, with the already cash-strapped Welsh regions often unable to respond to the wage inflation.

The situation has led to the WRU consider offering central contracts to its international players.

The impasse in Wales comes amid a festive fixture list that has produced some thrilling Pro12 derbies between the Welsh sides, played in front of capacity or near-capacity crowds.

One potential stumbling block for the Anglo-Welsh league, a tournament which would include 16 teams, is the issue of relegation. However, reports in The Rugby Paper claim a deal has been struck which guarantees top-flight rugby for three of Wales’ four regions.

If, for example, the Ospreys are relegated in the first season of the Anglo-Welsh league, they would be demoted to the Championship. But if the Dragons finish at the foot of the table the next season and the Ospreys fail to achieve promotion, the next lowest placed English side would be relegated instead of the Newport region.

Sources: BBC and Sunday Telegraph

Oud-Matie voer UP-Tuks aan

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Die oud-Matie Reniel Hugo is gister aangewys as UP-Tuks se FNB Varsitybeker kaptein vir 2014.

Die 23-jarige Hugo, wat vir sy skitterspel vir Maties in die 2013-kompetisie met die Beste Voorspeler-toekenning beloon is, is in 2014 ‘n nagraadse student aan die Universiteit van Pretoria. Die Universiteit van Stellenbosch ken op 12 Desember ‘n BCom-graad aan hom toe.

“My grootste enkele begeerte is om in ‘n Varsitybeker-eindstryd aan die wenkant te wees, wat my nie in 2012 en 2013 beskore was toe ek vir Maties teen Tuks gespeel het nie.

“My honger is dus groot en UP-Tuks kan op my staatmaak dat ek eerste uit die loopgraaf sal wees wanneer ons seisoen op 3 Februarie met die tuiswedstryd teen UJ afskop,” het Reniel gesê.

“Ek voel gevlei dat coach Pote (Human, UP-Tuks se nuwe hoofafrigter) die kapteinskap aan my toevertrou het. Soos Maties, het ook Tuks ‘n ryk rugby-kultuur en -tradisie.

“Ek beskou dit daarom as ‘n reuse-eer en voorreg om die nuwe Tuks-kaptein te wees. Die goeie tye wat ek by Maties gehad het, sal altyd deel van my rugby-herinneringe wees, maar nou wag nuwe, opwindende uitdagings op my by TuksRugby en aan die Universiteit van Pretoria, op die veld en in die lesingslokale.””

“Reniel het sedert hy in November vir die voorseisoense voorbereiding by ons aangesluit het, groot indruk gemaak met sy sterk natuurlike leierskap. Hy het boonop waardevolle Varsitybeker-ondervinding. Hy lei absoluut deur voorbeeld en dwing respek af by die ander spelers, onder wie daar ander sterk leiers is wat hom sal bystaan,” het Human opgemerk.

“Ek sal soos Reniel ook in my eerste jaar aan die stuur van afrigting by UP-Tuks baie graag die Varsitybeker omhoog wil hou. In Reniel het ek dus ‘n groot bondgenoot.”

Op moontlike kritiek uit eie geledere om ‘n oud-Matie as kaptein aan te wys, het Human geantwoord: “Die feit dat dat hy nog in die 2013-eindstryd vir Maties teen UP-Tuks gespeel het, is water onder die brug. Hy is nou ‘n Tukkie en myns insiens die beste keuse vir die kapteinskap. Ek het groot vertroue in sy vermoëns as sowel leier en speler.”

Deur Morris Gilbert

Is the scrum still a factor?

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There was a time when the scrum was the game. It was won by a goal but the road to the goal was the scrum. Then there was a time when it was regarded as essential to winning the game even if there were other ways of doing it. Now it is a troublesome nuisance, but still regarded as an important facet of the game even though reduced in incidence, so reduced that some believe rugby football would be well shot of it.

Getting rid of scrumming or de-powering it in the Rugby League way is anathema to Rugby Union traditionalists and idealists who believe that Rugby Union is a game for all shapes and sizes.

What would they do without scrums – the Franks brothers, Martín Castrogiovanni, Jannie du Plessis, Euan Murray and all the way down through Rugby Union’s many layers.

We can take this entertainment thing too far, believing that entertainment comprised solely of running about with the ball. Only a tiny minority of players are involved in Rugby Union’s entertainment business that rakes in millions and millions and more for rugby’s coffers.

In early days the main players were forwards and their main job was in the scrummage, as it was usually known though it was also called a hot. They had a few outsiders to guard their backs – a fullback, then two half backs, then three quarter-way backs and then four three-quarters. And those fairy folk behind the real men more and more wanted things to do.

The game, when it came to be played on fields as distinct from village to village or house to house, was about scrummages.

In the early days the ball would be put on the ground and the real men would gather around, standing upright ready to close with opponents in their attempts to hack the ball towards the opposition’s goal-line. They stood chest to chest, heads up. They would hack at the ball and at each other. Hacking was an art and special boots with reinforced toecaps were designed to inflict as much pain on opposing shins as possible. It died out and, like rucking, was lamented by some.

The first written laws about scrumming, in 1862 by Blackheath, stated: “Though it is lawful to hold a player in a scrummage, this does not include attempts to throttle or strangle, which are totally opposed to the principles of the game.”

No hacking, throttling or strangling – a game going soft.

The English laws of 1874 were much more specific: “A scrummage takes place when the holder of the ball, being in the field of play, puts it down on the ground in front of him and all who have closed round on their respective sides endeavour to push their opponents back and by kicking the ball to drive it in the direction of the opposite goal line. In a scrummage it is not lawful to touch the ball with the hand under any circumstances whatsoever.”

In 1888 it would be a free kick if a player intentional fell down in a scrum. In 1889 the law said that a scrummage ceased when the ball was in in-goal. Those bits of law still exist. This one from 1892 also exists and is promising to make a comeback, namely that there shall be a freekick by way of penalty if ‘any player wilfully puts the ball unfairly into a scrummage’. In 1893 there appeared one that seems consigned to a purely theoretic existence – that there would be a penalty if any player ‘being in a scrummage lifts a foot from the ground before the ball has been put into such scrummage’. The law also required players in the scrummage to have both feet on the ground.

There are aspects which still exist in practice – being on your side, not handling, not collapsing and ending in in-goal.

The changes came about largely because of the development of backs. When there were 15 players to a team and there were a fullback and two halfway backs, there were 12 forwards. When three players appeared in the quarters, there were nine forwards. When that man in Wales, Frank Hancock of Cardiff, developed a fourth three quarter, there were eight forwards, as there are now.

The forwards made changes of their own as they looked down for the ball and then bent down to see better. Then they got into a formation so that those in front could benefit from a shove from behind. This led to various scrum formations.

The 3-2-3 was the commonest for a while as giving a great shove through the locks and enabled teams to execute the wheel and dribble, break-and-take manoeuvre, better.

The New Zealanders used a 2-3-2 formation with a forward standing out as a rover. South Africa developed the 3-4-1 formation which is so generally accepted that it is now enshrined in law.

There was at one stage a squabble for the loose head. A team would slip an extra player onto the front row to secure the loosehead. A change in 1922 said: ‘It shall be illegal for more than three players from either side to form up or become part of the front row of the scrummage.’ That is still the case.

In 1931 players were forbidden to charge into the scrum, which is still law and was law all that time when there was the sacred ‘hit’. There was in 1931 the problem of reset scrums because it was hard to get the ball in as hookers used the inside foot to get as close to the tunnel as possible. The law then demanded that the ball touch ground  after it had passed  both feet of a player of each team, and when it had touched ground then the hooker could lift his foot to strike for the ball. (In those far-off days, hookers used their feet to hook the ball to their side.) And the foot had to be the hooker’s outside foot, i.e. the foot further from the tunnel. It also made it clear that flanks were not allowed to use a foot to hook the ball while it was in the tunnel – still, theoretically, law.

Gradually the laws at scrums grew, for it was such an important phase of the game. But basically two sets of eight got ready to go down and went down in their own time. The referee might have held them back for a while when the ball was faraway or medics were getting off the field. But they went down often on a ‘my ball, my call’ agreement. The scrumhalf then put the ball in – straight – and some competition for the ball and to go forward started.

That was it with some refinements about binding and not pulling down, that were made in 1967 and still exist. There were also clever people who used shortened scrums – three or four-men scrums with a quick wheel. The mini-scrum went from school up to Test level before lawmakers started to get rid of it. There was the opposite, scrums bolstered by backs to make more than eight till in 1996 it was laid down that there would be eight players in a scrum from start to finish.

In the 1980s a series of catastrophic injuries and court cases focussed on the question of player safety as coaching and ‘motivating’ brought increased aggression and refined techniques to scrumming. The particular change that had a vast effect on scrummaging was the invention and development of the bajada scrum by  Francisco Ocampo, an engineer and rugby coach at San Isidro Club in Buenos Aires, who developed the idea from seeing the 1932 Junior Springboks in action. This form of  scrumming relied on shoving power. Exit the hooker, enter three props ascowling.

Because there was  concern about the effects of this empowered scrum, there were experiments with the engagement at scrums, especially for young players, such as a staggered engagement and limiting the distance of a shove. Added to this was the increased number of collapsed scrums, a technique perfected in Australia. There was the staggering statistic that 18 percent of Test matches was taken up with resetting scrums. There were matches in which collapses, resets, penalties and free kicks outnumbered the scrums awarded in the match. It was a mess.

Enter the 2-4-4-3-3-4 engagement process, and enter, too, the dubious hit. It started with a  cadence of crouch and hold, engage. Then it became crouch, touch, hold, engage. Then hold became pause but then pause was dropped. Then engage became set, a stronger word of command though the laws insisted that set was not a command but an indication when front rows could consider getting together. The truth is that engage/set were seen as commands and the teams hit into each other. Hit was not in the law but there were referees who would sanction teams for ‘fading on the hit’, ‘not taking the hit’, as if the hit were sacrosanct.

Then came 2013 and an attempt to get back to the ‘fold in’ of old. The call now became crouch, bind, set. ‘Bind’ brought them head next to head and so set was a short forward movement. But the law-makers were concerned about the stability of the scrum. They then added a fourth ‘indication’. The referee would say to the scrumhalf ‘Yes, Nine’, and then he had to put the ball in.  Then, as of old, there could be competition for the ball.

At the same time referees were told, as they had been before, to ensure that the ball was put in straight. On occasions the referees complied and then the result was a free kick for a crooked feed, the occasional tighthead and even – though still rarely – a free kick for foot-up.

There are now fewer resets but there are also fewer scrums. When the Wallabies played Wales, Wales had made it known that they intended to target the Wallaby scrum. But in the first half of that match in the Millennium Stadium, there was not a single scrum. In the second half there were six scrums, four collapses, two resets, a free kick and a penalty against Wales. Three of the six scrums were straightforward – ball in and ball out. When Ireland played New Zealand, there were 11 scrums – three collapses, a free kick and a penalty against New Zealand. The scrummest match in November was France versus South Africa. There were 19 scrums, with 12 collapses (11 when France put the ball in), seven resets, two free kicks and two penalties. There were 10 straightforward scrums.

It may well be that Northern Hemisphere fields with their poor surfaces are the cause of falling scrums. In a European Cup match at Welford Road in December, Leicester Tigers played Montpellier. There were 20 scrums with two collapses, one reset and one penalty. But then it was on a good playing surface. It may also have helped that every scrum that could be seen had the ball put in straight.

Clearly scrums are well short of the ideal – 100 percent straightforward. Perhaps things will get better if every scrum-feed is either straight or sanctioned. That there is no foot-up and when we get away with ‘Yes, Nine” which as warning to the side not putting in the ball that the ball is coming in and they should start their pressure on those who will have seven feet on the ground in the front row while they had eight pushing. Perhaps that may encourage teams to choose a hooker instead of a prop in the middle of the front row.

Perhaps it may always help if the referee usually stood behind the scrumhalf instead, as now seems usual, on the far side of the scrum.

But for all the problems it is better to have scrums. You become aware of that when uncontested scrums are called for. Rugby should resist all temptation to regulate props out of the game.

And we don’t have to go with Arthur Budd who played for England from 1878 to 1881. He once wrote on the problems of scrumming: “The other canker-worm is heeling out. Is it possible for a man to be kicking backwards and pushing forwards simultaneously?  Of course not. Since football began it has been, and till football ends it will be, an enormous advantage to carry the  scrummage.”

By Paul Dobson

Rookies of the year

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The South African rugby conveyer belt continues to produce fine young talent; we look at five newcomers who caught the eye this year.

One of the major strengths of South African rugby is the amount of talent constantly coming through the ranks and challenging the established players.

We have chosen five players who burst onto the Super Rugby scene this year and put themselves in the frame for higher honours.

There were a number of players who made an impression in the Currie Cup this year, and we will look at them in our ‘Players to watch in 2014’ feature.

So here are the five rookies of 2013:

Jan Serfontein

Last year’s world junior player of the year has had to battle the weight of huge expectation,  but showed that he will have no problem stepping up to the next level this year.

He was consistent for the Bulls in Super Rugby and looked threatening at Test level in the few opportunities he got to come off the bench for the Springboks.

Serfontein was young enough to play at the world junior championships again this year, but was unavailable because he had already been called up to the senior Bok squad for the June internationals.

The hard-running midfielder will be a key player in a relatively inexperienced Bulls backline next year, and his goal will be to start pushing for a regular spot in the Bok starting line-up.

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The Sharks lock started the year as one for the future and ended it as one for the present when he ran on for his first Springbok cap in Cardiff.

An athletic player who also has the ability to play blindside flank, as he did for the victorious Junior Springboks last year, Du Toit is being groomed for a long career at the top level.

He makes a major impact in open play and does not stand back in the tight exchanges, but still needs to develop his abilities as a line-out co-ordinator in order to be the complete package in the No.5 jersey.

He will be watched closely next year as he looks to fulfil the promise that has many tipping him as a long-term second row partner for Eben Etzebeth with the Boks.

Sergeal Petersen

Petersen’s first year out of school proved to be an eventful one, as he started it by scoring the Southern Kings’ first-ever try in Super Rugby.

His speed and energy out wide proved a real strike weapon for the Kings as he made the transition from schoolboy star to Super Rugby regular.

There is no doubt that he can still develop his game as he gains experience at whichever  Super Rugby franchise he goes on loan to, but he certainly has plenty of raw talent.

Pieter Labuschagne

The Cheetahs seem to have unearthed a successor to Juan Smith in Pieter Labuschagne whose incredible work rate stood out in his debut Super Rugby season.

The big flank gets through a mountain of work in defence, with few able to match his tackle stats, and caused some damage down the blindside with the ball in hand as well.

He was called up to the Springbok training squad, and although he was not able to pull on the national jersey it seems only a matter of time before he does.

His mission in 2014 will be to back up his performances in Super Rugby and start competing with the top blindside flanks in South Africa.

Lodewyk de Jager

The towering Cheetahs lock made a big impression in his debut season, and having just celebrated his 21st birthday he looks an exciting prospect.

At 2.05 metres and 125 kilograms he certainly has the physicality to add grunt to any pack, and also boasts an incredible work-rate.

He was invaluable in what was the Cheetahs’ best-ever Super Rugby season, providing a reliable presence in the line-outs and making more than his share of tackles.

At this stage he is still something of a rough diamond who will benefit from getting more experience in Super Rugby before challenging for a spot in the Springbok squad.

By Michael de Vries

SA Rugby Christmas wish list – Merry Christmas to All!

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It’s been a year of great up’s and downs, many discussions around the great game we love and we will have many more in the year to come.

Ruggaworld wants to wish all our bloggers and members a beautiful Christmas. Hope 2014 brings all you hope for.

Hope you all have been nice so that you get what you wished for this Christmas.

If their would have been a wish list from the Springboks and the Super Rugby Teams I think this would have been it!

SPRINGBOKS

  • We think it’s time for the Springboks to be the #1 Test nation!
  • Some more young talent through the ranks to take pressure of our valuable veterans thanks Santa.
  • The results were so close last time, so we think we’re due for an All Blacks scalp.
  • An engraving of “South Africa” on The Rugby Championship trophy!

SOUTH AFRICAN RUGBY

  • To see the burgeoning women’s game compete regularly against their New Zealand and Australian counterparts.
  • Time for us to win another big title on the world stage
  • No more big names to depart South African rugby – better to have our stars at home please Santa!
  • Another year like that for captain Jean should see him be close to best player in the world.

BULLS

  • Will they once again, please Santa, make a mockery of heavily changed roster to remain competitive?
  • More of the same up front thanks, it is a joy supporting such a powerful pack!
  • A capable replacement for superboot flyhalf Morné Steyn.
  • A fourth title would be nice to reassert South Africa’s dominance on Super Rugby!

CHEETAHS

  • Qualifying for a second consecutive ight Super Rugby Finals Series.
  • For Johan Goosen to remain injury free and push for a Springboks spot.
  • Santa, can Willie le Roux be the best attacking player in 2013 Super Rugby?
  • A sterner defence – last season we made the Finals allowing the second-most points in the South African Conference – so there’s no telling what we can do by improving that area.

LIONS

  • To record a Lions-best 11th place or higher thanks Santa!
  • For our loyal squad, the bulk of who are from the Golden Lions, to make the big step up to Super Rugby.
  • To shock the competition and claim a number of major scalps along the way
  • Santa, can we please see Ellis Park become a fortress this year?

SHARKS

  • To win a title. Four finals is great, but it’s time for that trophy!
  • Santa, can the magic of John Smit and Jake White rub off on everything in 2014?
  • Can our muscle-bound back row bully every other team this year please?
  • Can be the season be the one where Pat Lambie becomes one of the world’s elite?

STORMERS

  • More tries please!
  • Everyone knows our defence is awesome Santa, can it win us a title this year?
  • Can Schalk Burger regain his fearsome form and become a Springbok again?
  • We’d like our coaches to look after JDV – he is very important!

HAPPY HOLIDAYS!!!

Great Rugby Quotes

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Some great quotes over the years. Let us know of any you have heard.

After an All-Blacks surprise loss to the French in the 1999 Rugby World Cup: “The French are predictably unpredictable.”
Andrew Mehrtens.

After biting Sean Fitzpatrick’s ear: “For an 18-month suspension, I feel I probably should have torn it off. Then at least I could say, ‘Look, I’ve returned to South Africa with the guy’s ear.’”
Johan le Roux

“If the game is run properly as a professional game, you do not need 57 old farts running rugby.”
Will Carling (1995)

“I’m still an amateur, of course, but I became rugby’s first millionaire five years ago.”
David Campese (1991)

“Every time I went to tackle him, Horrocks went one way, Taylor went the other, and all I got was the bloody hyphen.”
Nick England, On trying to stop Phil Horrocks-Taylor

“Don’t ask me about emotions in the Welsh dressing room. I’m someone who cries when he watches Little House on the Prairie.”
Robert Norster (1994)

“England’s coach Jack Powell, an immensely successful businessman, has the acerbic wit of Dorothy Parker and, according to most New Zealanders, a similar knowledge of rugby.”
Mark Reason Total Sport (1996)

Following Scotland’s accusations of French foul play: “If you can’t take a punch, you should play table tennis.”
Pierre Berbizier (1995)

On Wales losing 28-9 against Australia: “No leadership, no ideas. Not even enough imagination to thump someone in the line-up when the ref wasn’t looking.”
J.P.R. Williams (1984)

“The job of Welsh coach is like a minor part in a Quentin Tarantino film: you stagger on, you hallucinate, nobody seems to understand a word you say, you throw up, you get shot. Poor old Kevin Bowring has come up through the coaching structure so he knows what it takes … 15 more players than Wales have at present.”
Mark Reason Total Sport (1996)

***“The relationship between the Welsh and the English is based on trust and understanding. They don’t trust us and we don’t understand them.”
Dudley Wood (1986)

“We’ve lost seven of our last eight matches. Only team that we’ve beaten was Western Samoa. Good job we didn’t play the whole of Samoa.”
Gareth Davies (1989)

Before the New Zealand v England World Cup semi-final: “Remember that rugby is a team game; all 14 of you make sure you pass the ball to Jonah.”
Anon fax to N.Z. team (1995)

On Jonah Lomu: “I’ve seen a lot people like him, but they weren’t playing on the wing.”
Colin Meads (1995)

On Jonah Lomu: “There’s no doubt about it, he’s a big bastard.”
Gavin Hastings (1995)

“Colin Meads is the kind of player you expect to see emerging from a ruck with the remains of a jockstrap between his teeth.”
Tom O’Reilly

“In 1823, William Webb Ellis first picked up the ball in his arms and ran with it. And for the next 156 years forwards have been trying to work out why.”
Sir Tasker Watkins (1979)

“Rugby backs can be identified because they generally have clean jerseys and identifiable partings in their hair… come the revolution the backs will be the first to be lined up against the wall and shot for living parasitically off the work of others.”
Peter Fizsimmons

“I think you enjoy the game more if you don’t know the rules. Anyway, you’re on the same wavelength as the referees.”
Jonathan Davies, A Question of Sport BBC TV (1995)

“Rugby is played by men with odd shaped balls.”
Car bumper sticker

“You’ve got to get your first tackle in early, even if it’s late.”
Ray Graved

“You blindfold yourself and spin around for 10 times and then open your eyes and try to chase it down.”
Canada coach Ric Suggitt on preparing to play against Fiji’s expansive attacking style.

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“If we have to play against New Zealand, I’ll explain it like this. To win, their 15 players have to have a diarrhoea and we will have to put snipers around the field shooting at them and then we have to play the best match of our lives.”
Argentina second row Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe on a potential match-up against the All Blacks (in hindsight, beating them wasn’t so hard).

“I’d like to thank the press from the heart of my bottom.”
Nick Easter after England silenced the doubters with their quarter-final win over Australia.

“He’s the sort of player whose brain doesn’t always know where his legs are carrying him.”
Nick Farr-Jones on Campese.

“Grandmother or tails, sir?”
To Princess Anne’s son Peter Phillips, Gordonstoun School’s rugby captain, for his pre-match coin-toss preference from an anonymous rugby referee in 1995.

And now for a few quips from our friends in New Zealand:

“Nobody in Rugby should be called a genius. A genius is a guy like Norman Einstein.” Jono Gibbs – Chiefs

“I’m going to graduate on time, no matter how long it takes.” Rodney So’ialo – Hurricanes on University

“You guys line up alphabetically by height.” and “You guys pair up in groups of three, then line up in a circle.” Colin Cooper – Hurricanes head coach

“I can’t really remember the names of the clubs that we went to.”
Chris Masoe (Hurricanes) on whether he had visited the Pyramids during his visit to Egypt 
“He’s a guy who gets up at six o’clock in the morning regardless of what time it is.” Colin Cooper on Paul Tito

It’s basically the same, just darker.” Kevin Senio ( Auckland ), on Night Rugby vs Day Games

“I told him, ‘Son, what is it with you. Is it ignorance or apathy?’ He said, ‘David, I don’t know and I don’t care.’
David Nucifora ( Auckland ) talking about Troy Flavell 

“I want to reach for 150 or 200 points this season, whichever comes first.”
David Holwell (Hurricanes) when asked about the upcoming season 

“Andy Ellis – the 21 year old, who turned 22 a few weeks ago” Murray Mexted

“Colin has done a bit of mental arithmetic with a calculator.”Ma’a Nonu

“He scored that try after only 22 seconds – totally against the run of play.”Murray Mexted

“We actually got the winning try three minutes from the end but then they scored.”Phil Waugh – Waratahs

“I’ve never had major knee surgery on any other part of my body.” Jerry Collins

“That kick was absolutely unique, except for the one before it which was identical.” Tony Brown

“I owe a lot to my parents, especially my mother and father.” Tana Umaga

“Sure there have been injuries and deaths in rugby – but none of them serious.” Doc Mayhew

“If history repeats itself, I should think we can expect the same thing again.” Anton Oliver

“I would not say he (Rico Gear) is the best left winger in the Super 14, but there are none better.” Murray Mexted

“I never comment on referees and I’m not going to break the habit of a lifetime for that prat.” Ewan McKenzie

Murray Deaker: ”Have you ever thought of writing your autobiography?” Tana Umaga: ”On what?”

“Well, either side could win it, or it could be a draw.” Murray Mexted

“Strangely, in slow motion replay, the ball seemed to hang in the air for even longer.”Murray Mexted

Jean to lead cricket Boks

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jeanJean de Villiers’ captaincy skills will be put to a new test when he leads a Springbok XI in their 20 over match against the Proteas.

This match, which will be at Newlands cricket ground on January 3, will be the highlight of the opening day of the Festival of Cricket which also includes the North vs. South T20 Challenge on Saturday, January 4 and the opening round of the RAM SLAM T20, featuring all six franchises on Sunday, January 5.

There will also be signing sessions, musical entertainment and a host of other fun activities.

“We are really looking forward to this historic match,” said De Villiers. “We are all very keen cricket supporters and we would like to urge all supporters to come out to Newlands and share in a fun evening and cheer on your favourite team.”

Former Springbok captain Bob Skinstad has been appointed as Manager of the Springbok XI.

“This is a very talented group of men and I’m really excited to see how they perform against some of the top cricketers in the world,” said Skinstad.

Most of the players attended schools with strong cricketing traditions such as Grey College, Maritzburg College, Paarl Gymnasium and Paul Roos Gymnasium before opting to pursue rugby careers.

Former Springbok captain Victor Matfield was good enough as a fast bowler and big-hitting batsman to earn provincial age group colours while Butch James is a multi-talented sportsman.

Although the Springbok XI will start the match as underdogs, two things are certain: the likes of Flip van der Merwe, Bismarck du Plessis and Willem Alberts should have little difficulty in clearing the boundary ropes while others such as Willie le Roux and Fabian Juries should be masters of sharp running between the wickets.

Springbok cricket XI: Jean de Villiers (captain), Willem Alberts, Bismarck du Plessis, Butch James, Fabian Juries, Tiaan Liebenberg, Willie le Roux, Victor Matfield, Frans Steyn, Flip van der Merwe, Franco van der Merwe.

Sharks Jersey for 2014

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International Sports Apparel Company BLK on Friday unveiled the Sharks’ home and away replica jerseys ahead of the 2014 Super Rugby season, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.

The playing and replica jersey design project commenced immediately following the announcement of a partnership between the Super Rugby franchise and the rapidly expanding BLK brand for the next five years.

The BLK design team, working in consultation with the Sharks, produced an array of concepts before deciding on the designs to be worn by fans throughout the 2014 season.

The new garments offer a contemporary twist to the Sharks signature black and white outfits of previous seasons, with a subtle geometric carbon fiber print featured on both the home and away jerseys.

BLK has created a collection of technically advanced sports apparel for players and supporters, whilst ensuring a modern look is applied to the classic Sharks brand.

Complimenting this modern design, the latest innovation in jersey research and design, Exotek fabric has been utilised for the on-field garments.

Exotek has been designed and developed exclusively by BLK and feels the Sharks will enter the Super Rugby season wearing the lightest, most breathable and strongest fabric available.

The new jerseys will be accessible through major South African retailers towards the end of January 2014, with the Shark Cage Megastore selling both jerseys from the 23rd of December for R 599.00.

BLK Marketing and Digital Director Jason Sintome said the jersey release is the first event in a series of exciting announcements and events planned between the two organisations.

“The Sharks have long since been celebrated as a key global rugby brand which is reflected in their relentless pursuit of success both on and off the field.

“At BLK we are determined to be leaders in jersey innovation and will ensure players and fans receive apparel created specifically to enhance the rich heritage of the franchise and assist in their pursuit of success.” said Sintome.

SBW to be reunited with Chiefs in 2015

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Rugby : Magazine Sonny Bill Williams pour Sky Televison - All BlacksThe New Zealand Rugby Union have confirmed that cross-code rugby star Sonny Bill Williams will return to rugby union in 2015.

Williams, who will continue in rugby league with the Sydney Roosters in 2014, has signed a two-year deal, meaning he could appear for the All Blacks at the 2015 World Cup.

He will return to the Chiefs, for whom he played in 2012, in the Super 15 competition.

New Zealand Rugby CEO Steve Tew said: “Sonny showed in his two years with New Zealand rugby that he is an outstanding talent and was a real asset to our game.

“We are delighted to have agreed terms which will see him return to rugby in 2015.”

Williams won the World Cup with New Zealand in 2011 on home soil even though he had been available to play for the All Blacks for less than a year.

He originally started out in rugby league, winning the NRL with the Bulldogs in 2004.

But he missed out on the 2008 World Cup because he moved to Toulon to play in the French Top 14, a decision that saw him pick up the moniker: “Money Bill”.

He returned to New Zealand in 2010 after signing a contract with New Zealand Rugby and played for Canterbury in the ITM Cup and Crusaders in the Super Rugby competition.

In 2012 he joined the Chiefs and went on to win the Super 15.

But he then opted to return to league and joined Sydney Roosters, winning another NRL, before bidding to become the first person to win a World Cup in both rugby codes.

That dream died in Manchester, England, last month when the Kiwis were crushed 34-2 by Australia in the final.

He had already committed to a second straight season with the Roosters but has now decided to go back to union in 2015.

Chiefs Coach Dave Rennie said: “We’re rapt. We made no secret that we were keen to get Sonny back in a Chiefs jersey. He’s not only a quality player but adds huge value to our environment off the field.”

Williams played 19 Tests for the All Blacks and also won the New Zealand heavyweight belt while boxing during his off-seasons, although he was stripped of the crown last week due to inactivity.

His last fight was a controversial 10-round points victory against former world title challenger Francois Botha of South Africa in February.

Fellow SA refs hail Kaplan

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KaplanFellow South African referees have paid tribute to Jonathan Kaplan, who recently retired from top level refereeing.

Kaplan, who was the first referee to take charge of 50 Test matches, enjoyed an illustrious career which featured a series of memorable matches, including taking charge of fixtures at the 2003, 2007 and 2011 IRB Rugby World Cups, and fulfilling the role as an assistant referee at the 1999 World Cup.

He also took charge of six Currie Cup finals and three Super Rugby finals, and has the additional distinction of being the first referee to take charge of 100 Super Rugby matches.

Kaplan also had the honour of handling British and Irish Lions Series matches during his tenure.

After 21 years on the National Panel in South Africa, Kaplan decided to retire from international and provincial refereeing while continuing to referee at clubs in the Western Province and schools.

In interviews with the SA Rugby referees website, here’s what Kaplan’s former colleagues had to say about him:

1. André Watson, South Africa’s refereeing manager, the referee in two World Cup finals and six Currie Cup finals:

“He has set records. That speaks for itself, and so I won’t comment on those.

“For me, Jonathan brought to the game a refereeing style and application that was unique and he was certainly the man to call for big occasion games.

“I am sorry to see him retiring but that happens to all, even the greats, which he certainly is.”

2. Tappe Henning, a Test referee of note, one of the most knowledgeable on laws and refereeing in the world, an IRB referees’ selector who made a great contribution to South African refereeing until he went off to run Scotland’s referees:

“Jonathan created his own success in refereeing through perseverance and determination. In his South Africa career he was constantly challenged by those in control of refereeing for his individualism in the ‘team’ environment and for his individual way of thinking. His ability to think outside the box made him special in his referee style and very successful to become an International referee. It was only later in his career in South Africa that he was truly respected for his individualism. In a pretty much Afrikaans environment, Jonathan not only survived but enjoyed huge success of which his achievements are testimony.

“The person Jonathan Kaplan was not understood by many in South Africa and a lot of people felt threatened by his style. My respect for JK is not related to his wonderful achievements but for how he as an individual held himself in a tough and difficult environment and despite the unfair challenges he had to endure he achieved way beyond expectations. His individual style and presence will not grace the rugby fields of South Africa and the world anymore but the footprints JK left in refereeing and in rugby will long remain. A true ambassador for the game and South Africa.

“I sincerely hope that his knowledge and experience will be utilised in some form to the benefit of all those with high aspirations in the refereeing world.”

3. Craig Joubert, who has been at the top of the refereeing world recently, the referee of the 2011 World Cup final, the 2013 Super Rugby final and the Currie Cup final in 2010 when he became the youngest referee to do so:

“JK, Jakes, my tjom,

“It’s hard to know what to say. Throughout my refereeing career you have been there as my mentor and friend. The benefit I got as a referee and person running touch for you in a world record number of games. You really helped shape me both consciously and subconsciously. I have been so proud watching you as you have progressed your distinguished and record breaking career. You have always been so generous in sharing your knowledge and experiences and there is no question I am a better referee for having spent the hours and days and weeks around the rugby world touring with my tjom! From Potchefstroom to Twickenham, Kimberley to Sydney, every minute along the way has been a privilege. I will miss our trips together but will still turn to my tjom for that brutally honest advice that has always helped to make me better.

“Joubs”.

4. Jaco Peyper, the young referee from the Free State, who refereed his first Test in 2011 and has made such great strides since then.

“JK

“You were operating at the top level of the game when I was still a schoolboy playing rugby… I had my 15 year school reunion last month… now I am still not that good at Maths, but that surely means that when you retired the same month as my reunion you must have spent at least 15 years at the elite end of the game – remarkable!!

“As I developed through the ranks (following you with eagle eyes), I didn’t actually have a clue what it takes to remain standing at the highest level over time. Now being exposed to it for just a fraction of your career, I have the greatest admiration for your mental strength and resilience.

“Thanks for sharing your experiences/insight on the game with us and the ‘world class’ times off the field! Hopefully plenty more to come.

“Look forward to passing you a couple of tough ones in the TMO box soon…

“Peyps”.

5. Stuart Berry, who like Kaplan and Joubert started refereeing when at school and had his first Test in 2013 – Japan v New Zealand.

“I first met Jonathan when I started out refereeing in KwaZulu-Natal when JK was still based in Durban, and I clearly remember being appointed to referee in Vryheid with Jonathan – I did the second team game and he did the first team game. As a 18 year old at the time, I drove with JK to Vryheid (an eight-hour round trip) and will never forget his words after the game – he was blunt and honest and summarised clearly what he felt I needed to do to progress. I would never have thought at that time that 12 years later I would be refereeing Super Rugby alongside the same man.

“JK is a unique individual, and I’ve really enjoyed spending time with him as I have grown in my career over the past 12 years. He has a special understanding of the game of rugby, and has helped me personally to get to where I currently am. He’s a good rugby man and someone who you can always rely on to be honest with you. There’s not much more you can ask from a colleague in this game… enjoy putting your feet up JK!”

6. Marius, Jonker, whose 25-Test career started in 2005 and who refereed the Calcutta Cup match three times.

“A great moment for a great referee and friend!

“I have been privileged to be part of some rather interesting events on his way to Number 70. ‘Omkeer nou.’ Be happy, tjoppie, and well done!

7. Lesego Legoete, nicknamed Pro, who refereed the first of his five Tests in 2008.

“JK,

“Wish those that don’t know you had the privilege that we had to know you on both a personal and professional level.

“It was and still is a great honour to have worked with you all these years and I hope you will continue to add value to SA Rugby and referees everywhere you go.

“I personally would like to thank you for guiding my focus especially when it came to rugby decisions.

“Thanks, Brother

“Pro”.

8. Deon van Blommestein, who was formerly a panel referee and the son of a panel referee and who is now a TMO on the international circuit.

” The credibility of a referee is determined by the quality of his decisions on and off the field. Jonathan Kaplan is synonymous with credibility. To be able to perform with credibility for the period that he has, is an astonishing achievement. It also speaks volumes for the person he is. He was an unique referee who voiced his opinion, but contributed to the development of the game over the last twenty odd years. The quality of the game is determined by the quality of referee. Jonathan contributed to many quality games, testimony to his attitude towards the game, general public and players. There is no better way to be remembered. His records will be broken, but his credibility will last for ever.”

9. Lourens van der Merwe, who became a Test referee in 2012 and has had a wonderful experience of whizzing around the world with his whistle.

“When I was starting as a young South African referee in 2001 it wasn’t only a privilege to meet a referee of JK’s stature, but a  (sic) learningful journey during the years to come. JK’s taught me on and off the field valuable lessons that had a big impact on my career.

“What impressed me most about JK, especially the last two/three years, was JK’s ability to read a game and putting game related situations into perspective. His willingness to share his knowledge about the game taught me a lot!

“I wish him all the best and may his presence always be part of the game!”

Big boost for Cape Town Tens

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The Cape Town Tens rugby event on Wednesday announced plans for a ground breaking sponsorship of the 2014 event.

Food Lover’s Market has become the exclusive food partner of the event and will be delivering a unique and premium food experience for players and spectators alike – including hot and cold food zones, buffet breakfasts and a sushi area.

Launched in 2009 by rugby legends, Bob Skinstad and Robbie Fleck, the Cape Town Tens is now the biggest ten-a-side tournament in world rugby. It’s a unique sports lifestyle event that provides a winning formula of rugby, sunshine, banter and live entertainment to more than 2 000 players and 12 000 spectators over two days. It was recently short-listed as a finalist in the Best Live Experience category of the upcoming Discovery Sports Industry Awards.

Brian Coppin, the MD of the Fruit and Veg City Group, said: “We see a great fit with the Cape Town Tens audience and are excited to deliver a world class food offering at one of South Africa’s fastest growing sports lifestyle events.”

“Under the auspices of the Food Lover’s Market Love Health initiative, we are encouraging consumers to live a healthy and active lifestyle and be conscious of their relationship with food  – and the Rugby Tens tournament is the perfect vehicle for us to share our message of nutrition and wellness. In the weeks leading up to the tournament we will be offering consumers and teams great nutritional and wellness advice via our digital platforms and media partners.”

Skinstad added: “The event experience is paramount at Tens and our exciting partnership with Food Lover’s Market takes this experience to a new level. Food Lover’s Market is one of the fastest growing brands in South Africa and we are delighted to have them on board. We are sure players and spectators alike will be delighted with the high quality food zone at our forthcoming event. ”

Now in its sixth year, Cape Town Tens will take place at Hamilton’s Rugby Club, on Friday 7 February and Saturday 8 February 2014, with more than 90 teams set to take part.

The event will also feature live entertainment, rugby development clinics, Springbok and international legends and South Africa’s biggest beer tent.

For further information about Cape Town Tens Rugby go to www.capetowntens.com, visit the Tens Facebook page, or follow on Twitter @tensrugby.

Stormers pre-season ‘on track’

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Western Province Rugby’s contracted players have finished the first phase of their pre-season training programme, with the players now set to take a break over the festive season ahead of the DHL Stormers’ 2014 Super Rugby assault.

A big squad of players – including eight of the 2014 WP Rugby Institute intake – have been put through their paces in recent weeks under the watchful eyes of the senior coaching staff and, of course, Stephan du Toit (the Stormers’ head of strength and conditioning).

Now the players will take a deserved break – officially termed a “maintenance phase of conditioning” – before reconvening on Tuesday, January 7, 2014.

The likes of Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen and Cheslin Kolbe will all rejoin training on January 7 (2014), with an official training squad to be named later that week ahead of the team’s pre-season camp in Hermanus from Monday, January 13 until Saturday, January 18.

“It’s the fourth year in a row that we will be heading to Hermanus,” Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told www.iamastormer.com on Wednesday, the first day of the players’ break.

“It’s become a big part of our pre-season preparations and we look forward to having our Springboks back, the likes of Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villiers (to name just two), after their extended period of active rest.

“The past three weeks have been great for us (coaches), as it’s given us an opportunity to look at every single contracted player in the union,” added Coetzee.

“The eight (young) institute players have also been part of our training, which has been valuable for everyone – given that they’ve just finished school and we’ve been able to look at them closely and also broaden their conditioning base at the same time. It’s been great to expose those young players to the culture of excellence within the Stormers group and also to show them what it takes to push for senior selection with WP Rugby.

“Other players like Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Siya Kolisi, Louis Schreuder and Gio Aplon – some of whom did not play or play a lot on the Springbok tour – have been back at training for two weeks and it’s also been good to see them again, in particular Frans, who picked up an injury on the Bok tour.”

Looking back at the past three weeks, Coetzee explained further: “Pre-season training is a tough part of the season, so we have mixed things up a bit – taking the players away from the HPC at least once a week and giving them activities at the beach, on a wine farm; it’s all about making it more enjoyable.

“The players that have been here training deserve this break over the festive season, but they will have to do a bit of work too and maintain their fitness during this period of active rest (as we also like to call it).”

The Stormers will play their first pre-season match against the Bulls in Polokwane on Saturday, February 1 (2014), followed by clashes against the Kings and Boland on successive weekends.

Their 2014 Super Rugby season kicks-off against the Lions – in Johannesburg – on Saturday, February 22.

Stormers pre-season fixtures:

Saturday, February 1:
Bulls v Stormers, Peter Mokaba Stadium (Polokwane) – 17:00

Friday, February 7:
Kings v Stormers, Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium (Port Elizabeth) – 19:00

Saturday, February 15:
Boland v Stormers, Boland Stadium (Wellington) – kick-off TBC

Who is the Best Fullback?

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Asked to present my Team of the Year, I eagerly sat down, thinking this was easy. I started at No. 15 and got stuck there.

By: Paul Dobson

The problem was that there were so many great fullbacks playing international rugby in 2013. Fullback is a changed position. It used to be catch, kick out and tackle – three simple jobs.

The Springbok Jackie Tindall was praised for his skill in scooping the ball off the feet of dribbling forwards and in the same motion kicking it into touch.

Lionel Wilson was a great Springbok fullback. His nickname was Speedy, because he wasn’t. He did not have a long kick but he always got it into touch at the maximum length. His hands were safe and he could tackle.

Then it changed.

HO de Villiers, handsome, swashbuckling HO de Villiers, followed Wilson in 1967 and revolutionised fullback play.

Oh, he could catch, kick and tackle all right – a fearless player, as Wilson had been. But De Villiers longed to run with the ball. He counterattacked, he came into the line, he made tries and scored them. And how the people loved and idolised him. They went to Newlands just to see him play.

Others followed – JPR Williams, Pierre Villepreux down to the wonderful crop of 2013.

Every team this year seemed to have a brilliant fullback, perhaps the star position of 2013. Many times he was man of the match, his team’s best attacking weapon.

In the four weeks of November, Rugby 365 picked a different fullback for each of the four weeks, such was the abundant talent in the position.

Just look at them.

Australia: Israel Folau, tall and deceptively fast with a swerve and deft footwork. Given half a chance he would score a try. Kick a high ball and he would leap up and catch it, a splendid athlete. But it did take a bit of time to get his positional play right.

England: Mike Brown. He was brave and rugged, dependable and exciting. His ability to get past tacklers with skill or strength or a combination of both was remarkable. He is so strong on his feet.

Fiji: Metuisela Talebula. Remember his chip kick and catch against the Barbarians as he made a long-range try for Asaeli Tikoirotuma? With his balance, speed and strength the athletic Talebula was Fiji’s best attacking weapon, the scorer of the first of Fiji’s five tries in that weird match with Italy. In that match he also made one of Timoci Nagusa’s two tries.

France: Brice Dulin. He was a new experience for the watchers of Test rugby, a comet that flashed into the firmament. He was always looking for a chance to run and his electric running was certainly exciting. A small man, he was worth his weight in gold.

Ireland: Rob Kearney. Back fit, strong, brave and adventurous as ever. His performance against New Zealand was one of the best of the whole year. A British and Irish Lion.

Italy: Luke McLean. He is versatile and has played for Italy at flyhalf, wing and now fullback. He is strong, an enterprising runner with a big left boot. He was Italy best attacking back.

New Zealand: Israel Dagg. Perhaps not as thrilling and effective as in the past, but still one of the best fullbacks in the world – fielding the high ball fearlessly, running with speed and verve and passing with perfection.

Scotland: Stuart Hogg. Sadly a wrist injury kept him out of the November Tests but he is a thrilling player, great on the counter-attack and capable of playing anywhere outside of scrumhalf in the backline. He made his debut at the age of 19, was a British and Irish Lion this year and turned 21 in June. He is a great prospect, already an exciting player. He is Scotland’s best attacking back.

South Africa: Willie le Roux. His selection may have a lot to do with the pressure of public opinion. Le Roux can do all the basic duties of a fullback but it is on the attack that the unorthodox young player is excitingly different, quirky and different, a player with skill, speed and vision.

Wales: Leigh Halfpenny: He can catch and he can kick – brilliantly – and he can tackle. And he is brilliant on the run, getting out of seemingly impossible situations, bursting a defence open wide. He is the only one of our group of fullbacks who is a first-choice goal-kicker for his side and one of the best goal-kickers in international rugby. Like Hogg, he first played for Wales at the age of 19. He was a British and Irish Lion in 2013 and named the Player of the Series. He was one of the five nominees for the IRB’s Player of the Year, an award that went to Kieran Read.

And as this cornucopiae of players comes tumbling out, whom do we choose?

My choice was Willie le Roux because he more than the other fullbacks changed the way his side played its rugby this year. Now the Springboks can also be exciting and can also score tries.

EP Rugby’s player of the year

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Ronnie Cooke has been crowned Eastern Province Rugby’s Player of the Year for 2013, after what has undoubtedly been a very long rugby season.

“There can be no doubt that 2013 has been one of the most challenging as well as one of the most exciting years that EP Rugby has been through in recent history, and it would not have been possible without the courage, commitment and determination of the players,” said CEO Charl Crous.

Crous said that the awards, which were handed out yesterday at an informal players end of year function, were just a small way of recognising the players achievements and contributions over the year.

Starting with the U19 Player of the Year, Tyler Paul was the clear winner, while Aidon Davis walked away with the U21 Player of the Year award, as well as receiving an Achievement award for being selected to play for the SA U20 team in the 2013 IRB Junior World Championship.

The Most Promising Young Star of 2013 went to Siviwe “Shakes” Soyizwapi who, having made just four first-team appearances was called to the Super Rugby squad following an injury to Hadleigh Parkes, and made his Super Rugby debut in the 28–28 draw against the Brumbies. Soyizwapi went on to represent both the Currie Cup first division team as well as the U21s before being called up to represent the SA Sevens Academy squad in Dubai.

Tim Agaba, who played for the NMMU Madibaz in the 2012 and 2013Varsity Cup, as well as the  2013 Vodacom Cup and ABSA Currie Cup competitions, was named Rookie of the Year.

Best Try of the Year went to Sergeal Petersen for his first try against the Western Force in the debut game of the Southern Kings.

Scott van Breda was awarded a merit award for his contribution to the team in 2013, and was also named the Supporters Player of the Year, an award sponsored by the official supporters club, the Kings Army.

Ronnie Cooke received three awards in total. Aside from being elected as the Player of the Year for 2013, he was voted as the Players Player of the Year by his teammates, and was also elected the Most Valuable Player of the Year by team management. PlayerAwards047

 

Team of the Year: All stars (Rugby365)

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all-blacks-team(R)

Following a memorable international season, we acknowledge the leading players of 2013 in our annual Team of the Year. Rugby365 gives us their teams

Although the British and Irish Lions secured their first series win in 16 years when they won the three-Test series against Australia 2-1, Southern Hemisphere sides again ruled the rugby landscape this season.

That superiority is reflected in our selection with just three Northern Hemisphere players – a trio of Lions no less – cracked the nod in our 2013 vintage.

The All Blacks, after becoming the first team to complete a perfect season in the professional era, provide the bulk of our team with six players selected.

The Springboks showed vast improvement in their second season under Heyneke Meyer and are rewarded with three players in the side while three Welshmen are included after playing integral roles in Wales’ Six Nations and the Lions’ series triumphs.

Only two Wallabies made the grade after a topsy-turvy season for the Australians while an Argentine adds some Puma flavour to our granite pack.

The bubbling under section has a good mix of Northern and Southern Hemisphere players with players from South Africa, New Zealand, Australia, Wales, Argentina and France all in the mix.

Our Team of the Year:

15 Leigh Halfpenny (Wales)
The baby-faced assassin was the embodiment of a match winner this year and deservedly received the honour of being named the British and Irish Lions Player of the Series as well as the Six Nations Player of the Championship. He shattered records Down Under and proved he’s more than just a metronomic goal-kicker, the diminutive fullback rock solid on defence, dependable under the high ball and involved on attack.
Bubbling under: Willie le Roux (South Africa)

14 Ben Smith (New Zealand)
In many respects, 2013 was the year of  Ben Smith. The 27-year-old was the breakout backline star of the year, terrorising defences on the wing before moving into the midfield and making a strong case to inherit namesake Conrad Smith’s No.13 black jersey. The multi-talented utility back was the most lethal and elusive strike runner and the deadliest finisher of the year bar none.
Bubbling under: Israel Folau (Australia)

13 Conrad Smith (New Zealand)
The wily wizard consolidated his status as the world’s pre-eminent outside centre this year with vintage inventiveness and unrivalled defensive capabilities in midfield. He’s the brains of the All Black backline – a rugby genius – and one of the classiest and most respected players of all-time. He only enhanced his reputation in 2013.
Bubbling under: Jonathan Davies (Wales)

12 Jean de Villiers (South Africa)
With lingering doubts over his longevity, the 32-year-old made a definitive statement and produced consistently stellar performances that rivalled his 2008 form, when he won both the SARU Player of the Year and Players’ Player of the Year awards. The Springbok captaincy has reinvigorated and brought out the best in De Villiers, a natural leader, who led by example all year.
Bubbling under: Wesley Fofana (France)

11 George North (Wales)
Arguably the most prolific wing in the Northern Hemisphere, North starred for both Wales and the British and Irish Lions this season. He scored some sensational tries and etched his name in Lions history with a 60-metre gem of a try in the opening Test as well as with a unique feat of strength as he lifted Israel Folau while in possession of the ball.
Bubbling under: Julian Savea (New Zealand)

10 Quade Cooper (Australia)
Cooper’s resurgence was one of the comeback stories of the year. After a couple of indifferent seasons and a highly publicised spat with Robbie Deans, the outspoken flyhalf found himself in the wilderness at the start of the international season. Recalled by new coach Ewen McKenzie after the series loss to the British and Irish Lions and subsequent sacking of Deans, Cooper returned to his bamboozling best and thrived as newly appointed vice-captain. He’s a game changer for the Wallabies, who look lost without him.
Bubbling under: Aaron Cruden (New Zealand)

9 Aaron Smith (New Zealand)
The All Black scrumhalf started the Test season on a high with a string of spectacular performances against France and went on to make the No.9 black jersey his own. Fourie du Preez enjoyed a successful return to Test rugby, but the periodic nature of his Springbok comeback saw him lose out to Smith.
Bubbling under: Fourie du Preez (South Africa)

8 Kieran Read (New Zealand)
Already a virtuoso, Read lifted his game to even greater heights in 2013 and established himself as a true great. The 28-year-old is undoubtedly the best player in the world, thoroughly deserving of the IRB Player of the Year award, and is likely to go down in history as the most complete, well-rounded No.8 in history. Never before has an eighthman displayed such an astonishing array of skills – he’s the gold standard, be it his workrate, ball-carrying, defence, line-out and breakdown prowess, ability in the air, sublime offloading skills or knack of scoring tries. His man of the match performance in the epic Rugby Championship decider at Ellis Park was as good a No.8 outing as you’ll ever see.
Bubbling under: Duane Vermeulen (South Africa)

7 Michael Hooper (Australia)
Hooper was by some way the premier openside flank of 2013 and one of if not the most consistent player of the year. He made an absolute menace of himself at the breakdown which, coupled with his tireless workrate, could see him retain the Wallaby No.7 jersey when David Pocock returns from injury.
Bubbling under: Sam Warburton (Wales)

6 Liam Messam (New Zealand)
Messam’s trademark physicality and exemplary support play contributed to an influential individual campaign in 2013. His in-your-face style and aggressive defence make him the ideal man to have in the trenches, while he also possesses sublime ball skills and impressive pace, which saw him being included in Gordon Tietjens’ best New Zealand Sevens team of all-time.
Bubbling under: Juan Manual Leguizamón (Argentina)

5 Sam Whitelock (New Zealand)
Whitelock stood head and shoulders above the rest at No.5 this year and had no real rival to this distinction, which is a testament to his great talent. He ruled the skies and ran the All Black line-out with aplomb. He also hit the 50-Test milestone this year and, at 25 years of age, the best is yet to come.
Bubbling under: Alun Wyn Jones (Wales)

4 Eben Etzebeth (South Africa)
The South African prodigy grew in stature in his second international season. The hot-tempered rookie of 2012 was replaced by a mature, cerebral giant in 2013. His rapid development hints at further evolution – a daunting prospect for all who opposes him. Already the world’s apex enforcer, the 2.04m, 123kg behemoth became a force to be reckoned with at line-out time as well this year, his agility and timing proving he’s the full package.
Bubbling under: Rob Simmons (Australia)

3 Adam Jones (Wales)  
The Welsh warhorse was worth his considerable weight in gold for the British and Irish Lions and Six Nations champions in 2013. He was somewhat of an unsung hero as he anchored the scrum for both sides with his vast experience and scrummaging prowess. A real character of the game, the 32-year-old finished the year on 89 Tests.
Bubbling under: Juan Figallo (Argentina)

2 Bismarck du Plessis (South Africa)
Du Plessis was at his abrasive best as he made his return from injury. Although he rotated in and out of the Springbok starting line-up with Adriaan Strauss, he showed during his time on the pitch just why he is the world’s best hooker. His set-piece play was of the highest calibre, his bruising defence and powerful ball carries fierce and his ability to turnover possession unrivalled at No.2.
Bubbling under: Stephen Moore (Australia)

1 Marcos Ayerza (Argentina)
Ayerza spearheaded the Pumas’ scrum challenge both prior and after the implementation of the new scrum sequence this year. The 30-year-old used his brute strength and technique to turn the scrum into an attacking weapon, dishing out scrummaging lessons to the likes of the All Blacks, Springboks and Wallabies in the process.
Bubbling under: Alex Corbisiero (England)

Our individual selections:

Jan de Koning XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Israel Folau, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 George North, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Fourie du Preez, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Juan Manual Leguizamón, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Marcos Ayerza.

Quintin van Jaarsveld XV: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 George North, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read,7 Michael Hooper, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Alex Corbisiero.

Michael de Vries XV: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 Julian Savea, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read,7 Michael Hooper, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Marcos Ayerza.

Paul Dobson XV: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Ben Smith, 13 Conrad Smith, 12 Jean de Villiers, 11 George North, 10 Aaron Cruden, 9 Morgan Parra, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Adam Jones, 2 Bismarck du Plessis, 1 Alex Corbisiero.

By Quintin van Jaarsveld

Gatland with Wales until 2019

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GatlandNew Zealander Warren Gatland has extended his contract as head coach of Wales until after the 2019 World Cup, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have announced on Monday.

The 50-year-old former Ireland and Wasps coach took up the post in 2007 and has since led Wales to Six Nations Grand Slams in 2008 and 2012, as well as a semi-final place at the 2011 World Cup.

Wales also triumphed at this year’s Six Nations under interim head coach Rob Howley, while Gatland took charge of the British and Irish Lions.

“I am proud and delighted to have been chosen by the Welsh Rugby Union to take charge of Wales teams for the next two Rugby World Cup tournaments,” Gatland said in a statement.

“I have chosen to stay in Wales because of my confidence in the players we have, the coaching structures we have developed and the succession plan of talent we now constantly update.”

Gatland oversaw the Lions’ successful tour of Australia earlier this year, which was their first series win in Australia for 16 years.

He was named UK Coach of the Year at the 2013 UK Coaching Awards and on Sunday won the award for Coach of the Year at the prestigious BBC Sports Personality of the Year awards.

“I know the other major rugby nations take us seriously as opponents who can play excellent rugby and that inspires me to take this group of players even further,” Gatland said.

“There is an incredible amount of hard work ahead but, with the backing of the Welsh Rugby Union, the national squad now has the means to deliver what the Welsh public want.”

He added: “I want to personally thank the WRU and the Welsh rugby public for the fantastic support the national squad enjoys and I aim to return the compliment by devoting all my professional energy to the success of our national team in the years ahead.”

WRU chief executive Roger Lewis praised Gatland for introducing a new degree of professionalism to the Welsh set-up.

“I am pleased and honoured to be able to announce that Warren Gatland will remain head coach of Wales until after the Rugby World Cup in 2019,” he said.

“He has undoubtedly proved that he has the rugby expertise, the passion and the commitment to prepare and inspire our teams to play with the utmost skill and pride for the jersey.”

Gatland, whose contract with Wales had been due to expire after the 2015 World Cup, has expressed an interest in coaching the Lions for a second time when they tour his native New Zealand in 2017.

For that to happen, the WRU would have to grant him a sabbatical, as it did for the tour of Australia this year.

Rugby comes second to dodgy refs

4

New Zealand achievements were rivalled for attention and at times even overshadowed by the TMO and refereeing incompetence that blighted 2013.

These players made it happen

4

Dan Retief makes a very interesting choice at tighthead when he selects his World XV.

Heineken Cup Results

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heineken-cupOspreys dealt Castres a blow as they claimed the first win of their European Cup campaign, a 21-12 victory, over the French champions on Friday.

In Friday’s other fixture, Cardiff Blues produced another improbable success as they held on for a 9-7 win over Glasgow Warriors.

Ospreys 21-12 Castres

Dan Biggar won the battle of the boots to kick the Ospreys to their first win of this season’s tournament.

Catres, 15-9 winners at Stade Pierre Antoine last weekend, kept in touch for most of a lack-lustre Pool One contest through the goal-kicking of Rory Kockott but ultimately went down 12-21 in a second defeat in a group dominated by former champions Leinster.

The Ospreys were largely playing for pride in front of their home fans and in the end Castres’ poor record on the road – this was their 14th defeat in their last 15 away tournament matches – played a part in the Ospreys notching up another Liberty Stadium success.

Only Leinster and Saracens have won at the Liberty in the last eight seasons of European action and Toulouse are sill the only French side to win at the ground after this stop-start affair.

Glasgow Warriors 7-9 Cardiff Blues

Cardiff Blues took top spot in Pool Two with a second straight win over Glasgow Warriors at Scotstoun.

The Welsh side edged a tense encounter 9-7 as they backed up last week’s 29-20 success at the Arms Park to make it three wins in four in Europe.

They now sit three points clear of European Cup holders Toulon ahead of the French side’s home tie with Exeter Chiefs at the Stade Felix Mayol on Saturday.

A huge 62-metre early penalty from Rhys Patchell and another in either half from Leigh Halfpenny gave the Blues a deserved win against a Glasgow side who struggled to build any momentum throughout.

A late converted try from prop Ryan Grant gave the home team hope with nine minutes left but Duncan Weir missed a chance to win it for the Warriors when he pushed a long-range penalty wide of the posts with a minute-and-a-half remaining.

Muster 18-17 Perpigan

Munster skipper Peter O’Mahony claimed it took a ‘special performance’ from a ‘special team’ to bring his side back from the dead in Perpignan and claim a win on Saturday that keeps them at the top of Pool Six over the Christmas period.

When Tommaso Benvenuti ran in the try for Perpignan that put them ahead in the 77th minute, the game looked dead for Munster. But they conjured something out of nothing and JJ Hanrahan’s try with the last move of the match made it 18-17 to the visitors.

Toulon 32-20 Exeter Chiefs

Toulon Director of Rugby Bernard Laporte believes his team are getting better and rated the 32-20 win over Exeter Chiefs on Saturday as “our fullest game in the last two months.”

The reigning European Cup champions are now two points clear of Cardiff Blues, who they play at home in the next round, and Laporte knows that another home win over the Welsh region could see his side through to the last eight.
Harlequins 17-3 Racing Metro

Harlequins made it back-to-back victories over Racing Metro to keep their knock-out stage qualification hopes alive – but rain put a damper on their Twickenham Stoop showdown.

Harlequins, who scored four tries in their 32-8 victory over the Paris club at Stade de la Beaujoire in Round Three, had to be content with just a Charlie Walker “special” from the man of the match this time but the win took them to 11 points and four adrift of Pool Four leaders Clermont.

Gloucester 10-16 Edinburgh

Edinburgh did Pro12 colleagues Munster a huge favour as they reversed their home defeat to Gloucester to leave the Irishmen sitting pretty five points clear at the top of Pool Six.

Alan Solomons freshened up his side from the 12-23 defeat at Murrayfield a week earlier and his new-look team surprised the home side with the tenacity of their defence, control at the breakdown and patience with ball in hand.

 

Montpellier 14-15 Leicester Tigers

Leicester Tigers closed the gap on Pool Five leaders Ulster with a late win in Montpellier.

A converted try from centre Niki Goneva 45 seconds from the end snatched the victory against a determined French side.

Two tries in 10 minutes from flyhalf Enzo Selponi and wing Lucas Dupont looked to have secured Montpellier the win after Tom Youngs had crossed for the visitors but Goneva broke French hearts with his late try.

 

Super derbies to get the boot?

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SANZAR are hoping to finalise their plans for the restructuring of Super Rugby early in the new year, with local derbies shaping up as a bone of contention.

With the current broadcast deal expiring at the end of next season, speculation is rife about the form that Super Rugby will take in 2016 and beyond.

At this stage the only certainty is that there will be six South African teams involved after SARU gained assurance from SANZAR in that regard, although it is unclear whether there will be any further expansion.

There have been suggestions that teams from Argentina, Japan and the Pacific Islands could join the party, although there is nothing concrete as yet.

One hot topic will be whether the current format, which features home and away local derbies, will be retained.

The reasoning behind this format is that local clashes draw bigger crowds, which in turn means more revenue.
Super Rugby

However, New Zealand Rugby Union (NZRU) chief executive Steve Tew told Fairfax Media NZ that he is not convinced that doubling up on local derbies really does increase the viewership numbers.

“It appears looking at the numbers from this year’s competition that we haven’t increased the total number of people watching games, we’ve just moved them from some games to others,” he said.

Tew said that the players themselves are certainly not big fans of the current demanding format, as the derbies are notoriously physical.

“If you ask the high performance guys and the players, they aren’t enamoured with the idea of bashing each other up twice a year before they get together in an All Blacks side,” he said.

The derbies are particularly tiresome in the South African conference, as all of the same players are involved in the latter stages of the Currie Cup as well.

“I think the Stormers and Sharks played each other something like five times this year and we don’t want to get to the point where that’s the case here. Although I think we have a much greater differentiation between our Super Rugby teams and our NPC teams,” said Tew.

The NZRU chief said that while the way forward is unclear at the moment, there is major pressure to reach a conclusion that suits everyone as soon as possible.

“We are committed to getting this nailed early in the new year so we can present to the broadcasters on time, which is in June. Next time they meet they will almost lock themselves in a room and not come out until they’ve nailed it,” he said.

Source: Rugby365

Vermeulen’s pursuit of perfection

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VermeulenSpringbok No.8 Duane Vermeulen aims to elevate his game to even greater heights next season following a stellar 2013.

Vermeulen missed the June Tests due to a knee injury he sustained in the Stormers’ 15-21 loss to the Waratahs in Sydney in May but returned with a vengeance.

His form in the Rugby Championship, which saw him go blow for blow with All Black counterpart and IRB Player of the Year Kieran Read, and during the November internationals made him one of the standout Springboks of the season.

The 27-year-old’s consistently influential performances saw him make the green and gold No.8 jersey his own and landed him on the shortlist for the prestigious SARU Player of the Year award along with Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Bismarck du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth and Willie le Roux.

Vermeulen said he’s pleased with his 2013 form and with the improvement and development of the Springboks, who won 10 of their 12 Tests over the course of the year and hopes to go from strength to strength next year.

“I really enjoyed the year. I had some good games and the end-of-year tour was very enjoyable,” said Vermeulen, who capped the year with a try-scoring performance for the Barbarians against Fiji at Twickenham.

“We achieved good things and grew as a team. We pulled in some youngsters, which was great for us on the end-of-year tour and helped make it a memorable year.

“I’m very happy with where I am personally and with my form and the focus now shifts to making sure I build on my 2013 performances when Super Rugby kicks off in February.”

Despite his physical and abrasive style, Vermeulen said he’s injury and niggle free but admitted he’s looking forward to a timely break.

“I actually just played half a year of rugby so I’m still good to go but it’s nice to get a break and I feel it’s come at the right time,” he said.

“It’s also good to know where you stand with the coaches and to just get away, rest and come back fresh for a full Super Rugby season.”

The Stormers eighthman said the loss of prodigious lock Etzebeth to an ankle injury was a major setback for the Cape franchise and their hopes of claiming a maiden Super Rugby title next year.

Etzebeth sustained the injury in the Springboks’ final Test of the year, a 19-10 win over France in Paris last month, and underwent surgery that will keep him on the sidelines for approximately six months.

Vermeulen said that while it’s disappointing to lose a key player for most or all of the Super Rugby season, it’s an opportunity for a young player to stake his claim and make his mark at Super Rugby level.

“It’s a massive blow for us. What Eben has done over the past two years and how he’s developed in that period is incredible, but it’s important to try to look past that,” said Vermeulen.

“Teams have to play without their Springboks all the time. For us, the Currie Cup is a stepping stone to Super Rugby so I’m looking forward to seeing a new face on the field and seeing that youngster coming through.

“Eben undoubtedly leaves big shoes to fill but hopefully we can get the player who fills that void up to speed with our structures and his role within those structures quickly.”

Vermeulen added he’s confident that the Stormers will bounce back next year after a disappointing 2013 campaign in which they failed to reach the play-offs (finishing seventh) and relinquished the South African Conference trophy they’d won in 2011 and 2012.

Vermeulen said the key for 2014 success is to set clear goals and to map out their journey with great detail.

“You have to set clear long and short-term goals for yourself,” he said.

“Everyone wants to win a trophy but there are steps to achieving that and we possibly didn’t outline our path that well this year.”

“We’ll brainstorm and discuss how we’re going to approach next season but we’ll be sure to take things step by step.”

By Quintin van Jaarsveld

Preview: European Cup, Round Four

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heineken-cup

The Irish teams will be looking to back up their clean sweep last week when the second half of the European Cup double-headers get underway this weekend.

All four Irish provinces were on the winning side last week, and the challenge now is for them to repeat the feat against the same opposition at different venues in Round Four.

Leinster and Connacht will play at home this weekend, with lowly Connacht aiming to do an unlikely double over four-times champions Toulouse, whilst Munster and Ulster will have to travel to Perpignan and Treviso respectively.

Glasgow Warriors had hoped to be cementing their push for quarterfinal qualification when they welcome Cardiff Blues to Scotstoun on Friday but instead it is the visitors who are in pole position to challenge Toulon for top spot in Pool Two.

Glasgow headed to Cardiff last week knowing that victory in the Welsh capital would have seen them sitting pretty at the halfway stage of the campaign and with two home games still to come.

Defeat at the Arms Park has left them with at the foot of the table, though, and they now face an uphill struggle to reach the last eight given that Toulon won at Exeter on the same weekend.

Gregor Townsend’s men failed to even pick up a losing bonus point in Round Three, meaning a maximum point haul on home soil is now even more important to their hopes of a maiden quarterfinal.

As for the Welsh outfit, Phil Davies’ troops are on a major high after receiving rave reviews for their performance last time out. Victory over holders Toulon in Round Two was a huge result for the region but they still weren’t expected to back it up given that they sit ninth in the Pro12, some 13 points behind third-placed Glasgow thanks to just three league wins all season.

But back it up they did, and in some style, too. The Blues bounced back from a 31-6 mauling by Munster in their previous outing at the Arms Park despite missing a host of big names through injury, including British and Irish Lions skipper Sam Warburton. Warburton won’t be fit to feature on Friday, either, as he is awaiting specialist advice on a ‘stinger’ problem with his shoulder.

Lions wing Alex Cuthbert marked his return from ankle damage with a well-taken try last week but the Blues’ injury crisis has since deepened with the news that centre Dafydd Hewitt won’t be available for selection. Hewitt becomes the fourth midfielder to be ruled out, with Owen Williams, Cory Allen and Gavin Evans already out of action.

All the teams and match details:

Friday, December 13

Ospreys v Castres
(Liberty Stadium – Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)

Referee: Luke Pearce (England)
Assistant referees: Dean Richards (England), Robin Goodliffe (England)
TMO: Geoff Warren (England)

Glasgow Warriors v Cardiff Blues
(Scotstoun Stadium – Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant referees: Laurent Cardona (France), Jean-Luc Rebollal (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)

Saturday, December 14

Toulon v Exeter Chiefs
(Stade Felix Mayol – Kick-off: 14.35; 13.35 GMT)

Referee: John Lacey (Ireland)
Assistant referees: David Wilkinson (Ireland), Michael Black (Ireland)
TMO: Dermot Moloney (Ireland)

Treviso v Ulster
(Stadio Comunale di Monigo – Kick-off: 14.35; 13.35 GMT)

Referee: Greg Garner (England)
Assistant referees: Steve Lee (England), Roy Maybank (England)
TMO: Trevor Fisher (England)

Scarlets v Clermont Auvergne
(Parc y Scarlets – Kick-off: 15.40; 15.40 GMT)

Referee: Wayne Barnes (England)
Assistant referees: Matthew Carley (England), Nigel Carrick (England)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Saracens v Zebre
(Allianz Park – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)

Referee: Dudley Phillips (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland), Kieran Barry (Ireland)
TMO: Alan Rogan (Ireland)

Perpignan v Munster
(Stade Aime Giral – Kick-off: 16.40; 15.40 GMT)

Referee: JP Doyle (England)
Assistant referees: Martin Fox (England), Paul Dix (England)
TMO: Rowan Kitt (England)

Leinster v Northampton Saints
(Aviva Stadium – Kick-off: 18.00; 18.00 GMT)

Referee: Jérôme Garcès (France)
Assistant referees: Sébastien Clouté (France), Patrick Pechambert (France)
TMO: Eric Gauzins (France)

Connacht v Toulouse
(The Sportsground – Kick-off: 18.00; 18.00 GMT)

Referee: Leighton Hodges (Wales)
Assistant referees: Gwyn Morris (Wales), Chris Williams (Wales)
TMO: Paul Adams (Wales)

Sunday, December 15

Harlequins v Racing Metro
(Twickenham Stoop – Kick-off: 12.45; 12.45 GMT)

Referee: Alain Rolland (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Sean Gallagher (Ireland), Gary Conway (Ireland)
TMO: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Gloucester v Edinburgh
(Kingsholm – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)

Referee: Romain Poite (France)
Assistant referees: Cyril Lafon (France), Stéphane Boyer (France)
TMO: Jean-Pierre Pellaprat (France)

Montpellier v Leicester Tigers
(Stade Yves du Manoir – Kick-off: 16.00; 15.00 GMT)

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Sean Brickell (Wales), Wayne Davies (Wales)
TMO: Derek Bevan (Wales)

Nominations SA Rugby Player

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bokke

Five key members of the Springbok squad in 2013 will go head-to-head for the annual SA Rugby Player of the Year Award, while the Steval Pumas have been rewarded for their great form this season with nominations in four categories.

 Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, the winner in 2008 who led South Africa to 10 victories in 12 Tests in 2013, will go up against Bismarck du Plessis, Eben Etzebeth, Willie le Roux and Duane Vermeulen for the most prestigious individual award in South African rugby.

 Etzebeth is also nominated in the category of Absa Young Player of the Year, where he will face stiff competition from fellow Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi and Jan Serfontein, as well as the fleet-footed Springbok Sevens and SA Under-20 star Cheslin Kolbe.

 The award for Absa Coach of the Year is a straight three-sided shoot-out between Heyneke Meyer, Jimmy Stonehouse and Brendan Venter while the teams they respectively coached in 2013 – the Springboks, the Steval Pumas (Stonehouse also coached the SA President’s XV to victory in the IRB Tbilisi Cup) and The Sharks’ Absa Currie Cup side – are the three nominations for Team of the Year.

 Pumas try-scoring ace Rosco Speckman has been nominated in two categories – Vodacom Cup and Absa Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year – meaning the Mpumalanga Rugby Union, winners of the Absa Currie Cup First Division and Vodacom Cup runners-up, has capped a great season with a total of four nominations.

 Le Roux (Toyota Cheetahs), Vermeulen or Adriaan Strauss (Toyota Cheetahs) will be named Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year.

 Seven players were nominated in two categories. They are Etzebeth, Le Roux, Vermeulen, Speckman, Kolbe (Young Player and Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year), Seabelo Senatla (SA Under-20 and SA Sevens Player of the Year) and Fred Zeilinga (Vodacom Cup and Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year).

 “We’ve included various important stakeholders, including the media, public, administrators and the provincial and franchise coaches, in the voting process,” said SARU CEO Jurie Roux.

 “The coaches play a vital role in the success of a team, so it is pleasing to see them involved in the voting process yet again. I think the nominees in the various categories are a fair reflection of what has been a very good year for South African rugby.

 “Looking at the votes we got from the public, it is clear that our fans know their rugby. All the categories were hotly contested and I would like to wish the various nominees good luck for the Awards.”

 The nominations for the Supersport Try of the Year Award will be finalised early in 2014 and the winners will be named at a glittering function at Gold Reef City in Johannesburg on 12 February next year.

 

All the nominations for 2013 (in alphabetical order):

 SARU Rugby Player of the Year:

  1. Jean de Villiers
  2. Bismarck du Plessis
  3. Eben Etzebeth
  4. Willie le Roux
  5. Duane Vermeulen

 Absa Young Player of the Year:

  1. Pieter-Steph du Toit
  2. Eben Etzebeth
  3. Cheslin Kolbe
  4. Siya Kolisi
  5. Jan Serfontein

 Absa Team of the Year:

  1. Steval Pumas (Vodacom Cup, Absa Currie Cup First Division)
  2. The Sharks (Absa Currie Cup)
  3. Springboks

 Absa Coach of the Year:

  1. Heyneke Meyer (Springboks)
  2. Jimmy Stonehouse (Steval Pumas)
  3. Brendan Venter (The Sharks Absa Currie Cup)

SA Under-20 Player of the Year:

  1. Jacques du Plessis
  2. Cheslin Kolbe
  3. Seabelo Senatla

 SA Sevens Player of the Year:

  1. Cornal Hendricks
  2. Frankie Horne
  3. Seabelo Senatla

 Vodacom Super Rugby Player of Year:

  1. Willie le Roux (Toyota Cheetahs)
  2. Adriaan Strauss (Toyota Cheetahs)
  3. Duane Vermeulen (DHL Stormers)

 Vodacom Cup Player of the Year:

  1. Marnitz Boshoff (MTN Golden Lions)
  2. Rosco Speckman (Steval Pumas)
  3. Fred Zeilinga (The Sharks XV)

 Absa Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year:

  1. Cheslin Kolbe (DHL Western Province)
  2. Scarra Ntubeni (DHL Western Province)
  3. Fred Zeilinga (The Sharks)

 Absa Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year:

  1. Alshaun Bock (SWD Eagles)
  2. Tiger Mangweni (EP Kings)
  3. Rosco Speckman (Steval Pumas)

 Note: Other awards that will be presented on 12 February 2014 are in the categories of SARPA Players’ Player of the Year, Supersport Try of the Year, Coca-Cola Craven Week Player of the Year, Marriott Referee Award, Women’s Player of the Year and Cell C Community Cup Player of the Tournament.

 Issued by SARU Corporate Affairs

Rugby for Cyprus

6

Cyprus

Most Cypriots are blissfully unaware of it but their national rugby XV has notched up a 21st straight triumph, thanks largely to former expats and foreign soldiers on the football-mad island.

A crowd of fewer than 500 turned up at the end of November in the coastal resort of Paphos to watch the team nicknamed the “Moufflons” beat Austria 22-8 in a somewhat disorganised but enthusiastic head-to-head at the less lofty levels of world rugby.

And the language on the field, among the supporters and in the local pub after the international, was very much English rather than Greek, reflecting the dual culture of the participants.

Rugby union was long confined to the two British military bases and the barracks of Argentine soldiers in the UN peacekeeping force on the divided Mediterranean island.

Locals only came into contact with the sport about a decade ago when Greek Cypriot expatriates started returning home from South Africa in large numbers.

After starting out with beach rugby in the southern resort, the ex-South Africans in 2003 founded the Paphos Tigers, growing in strength on the back of matches against army clubs.

A year later, the Limassol Crusaders and Nicosia Barbarians were born, leading to a federation and national team being formed in coordination with Cypriots living in Britain.

The debut was a friendly against Greece in March 2007, when, strapped up in ill-fitting shirts hastily bought in a pub, Cyprus romped to victory 39-3.

The Moufflons, named after a native wild sheep, have not looked back since, fighting the tide on an island where football is by the far the most popular sport and has a fanatical support base.

Out of 26 internationals – albeit never against any giants in the world of rugby – they have only suffered a single loss and that was back in September 2008 against Israel.

“We have good players, experienced. We are very close together. We’ve got that bond. Everyone is welcome, we give everyone a chance,” says Tony Thoma, 36, the hooker and captain.

Because of injury, Touma who used to live in South Africa was speaking on the phone from England, where he works as an accountant and is also a rugby team player-coach.

Cyprus figures in the European nations championship and has since 2008 been promoted a division every season on the back of its successful run.

It now tops division 2C, ahead of Hungary, Slovenia, Bulgaria and Austria, and has its sights set for next year on climbing to 2B, which currently lists Israel, Lithuania, Andorra, Denmark and Serbia.

But it was not even in the running for the 2015 World Cup qualifiers, with the spot taken by Slovenia only to be eliminated by Luxembourg, which the Moufflons had crushed twice in 2011.

Under the rules of the International Rugby Board, its sport’s governing body, competing nations must have at least four local clubs, but four of the seven in the Cypriot league come from the British sovereign bases.

And for the IRB, the record run of international victories is held by Lithuania of division 2A which notched up 18 straight successes between 2006 and 2010.

At the very highest level of the sport, New Zealand’s All Blacks won all 14 Tests they played this year – a first for a team from a major playing nation in the professional era.

Rugby in Cyprus, to move forward, must develop beyond the circle of ex-South Africans and expats – a tall order in a country where the media long ignored the very existence of the Moufflons.

The federation, surviving on an annual subsidy of €30 000, the cost of a match abroad, and desperate for sponsors in recession-hit Cyprus – has little to offer recruits except a passion for the game.

“A lot of players have improved so much. For a long time we always had more or less the same players. A lot of older ones are now moving on, and new ones are coming,” says captain Thoma.

‘The biggest honour’

Yannis Loizias, an 18-year-old who plays centre for the Harlequins in London, was in the team against Slovenia in early November and scored two tries against Austria.

A convert, Panayiotis Nikolaidis, 27, works at the University of Cyprus and only discovered rugby through a friend last year.

Recruited after a training match against a British soldiers line-up, he made his debut towards the end of the match against Austria.

“I was so excited. I’ve experienced a lot of things with rugby. I’ve trained a lot. And that’s the highest” to play for your country, he says.

Marcus “Marcos” Holden, 24, a fullback who plays professional rugby in France, says having represented Cyprus for the past five years was “the biggest honour”.

“This is our strength, every player will say the same. It is a passion. From the national anthem to our crazy war cry at the end.”

But Holden admits the unbeaten run has to end as the Moufflons climb up the divisions towards the higher echelons of international rugby.

“It’s gonna be completely different. But until then I’m happy to be in a world record,” he says.

Why Boks can’t beat All Blacks

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Five reasons why the Springboks can’t seem to shake their All Blacks hoodoo.
By: Dominic Valentine
1. Discipline

The Springboks picked up an astonishing 10 yellow cards in 12 games in 2013.

The traditional strength of the Springboks is the physicality of their game and whilst no one expects them to take a step back in this regard, they need to match their physical game with guile and decision-making aptitude and the canny ability to adapt to the referee or the situation.

A yellow card can often change the course of a game and it is these small facets where the Springboks can hope to gain ground on the All Blacks.


The Boks need to improve their discipline. (Gallo Images)

2. Depth

The Springboks in 2013 have improved their squad with the addition of some very exciting players this season with Willie le Roux the biggest success story of the season.

 

But question marks remain over the Springboks’ depth, especially in four key positions: scrumhalf, tighthead prop, openside flank and lineout lock.

A key difference between the All Blacks and the Springboks is how the All Blacks can field a second-string team and still win in pressure situations and it would be nice to see Heyneke Meyer build a squad instead of just picking the best team available and only dealing with depth if and when an injury happens.

Who is SA’s second-best ‘fetcher’ after Francois Louw? (Gallo Images)

3. Man-Management

 

 

The All Blacks’ central contracting allowed them to rest key players during the 2013 Super Rugby season.

Captain Richie McCaw was rested during the 2013 Super Rugby season, similarly, Dan Carter will be rested in 2014.

There is a persistence in SA both at franchise and national level to play the best XV until suspension or injury intervenes and forces change.

Injuries to Jannie du Plessis and Eben Etzebeth during the current season are prime examples of players being played into the ground.

Despite key All Blacks being given proper rest periods during Super Rugby and their workload being limited, a New Zealand team, the Chiefs, still won the competition, proving that a team can practice player rotation and still win.

New Zealand take care of their best players. (Gallo Images)

4. Know thine enemy

In 2009, the All Blacks failed to beat the Springboks in three attempts.

The Springboks had managed to beat them based on a superior tactical kicking game, the rolling maul and by bullying them at the lineout.

The All Blacks held a national coaching summit to determine how they could improve in these key aspects of their game and the Springboks have failed to dominate them ever since.

Despite being the best team in the world the All Blacks have not been complacent and continue to improve.

 

 

 

Areas of play the Springboks struggled with against the All Blacks in 2013: securing their own lineout ball, fielding restarts, and competing under the high ball, areas they must show a marked improvement in if they are to defeat the All Blacks.

Heyneke Meyer must address the Boks’ weaknesses. (Gallo Images)

5. Fear factor

The Springboks need to overcome their inferiority complex against the All Blacks. The truth is out of Heyneke Meyer’s four matches in charge of the Springboks against the All Blacks, only one match (Soweto in 2012 where the Boks lost 32-16) has been a one-sided affair, all the other matches between the two teams were matches that the Boks were in a position to win – but failed to take their chances.

England’s 38-21 victory over the All Blacks in 2012, and narrow victories over France and Ireland in 2013, proved that this All Blacks team is not invincible, despite their unbeaten record in 2013.

But the Springboks must overcome their mental hoodoo against the All Blacks in 2014 if they don’t want to cede a significant psychological advantage to the All Blacks heading into a Rugby World Cup year in 2015.

The Boks need to overcome their fear of the All Blacks. (Gallo Images)

King Carlos joins EP Kings

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EP KingsEPRugby CEO Charl Crous has confirmed that former New Zealand flyhalf, Carlos Spencer, has joined the EP Kings coaching ranks for the 2014 season on a five year contract.

Crous said Spencer, who played for the Blues and for New Zealand internationally, was well known for his flamboyant, attacking play and ball handling skills and brought with him a wealth of experience.

“Carlos will be joining the EP Kings to focus on the back line as well as skills training,” said Crous.

Spencer first rose to prominence when he starred alongside Christian Cullen in a Ranfurly Shield challenge in 1991, playing for the Horowhenua team against Auckland. Auckland coach Graham Henry spotted Spencer’s talent and recruited him to play for the Auckland team.

He played for the Blues Super 12 team from the inception of the competition in 1996 until 2005, and also played extensively for the Auckland NPC side. In 2005 he signed to the English club, Northampton Saints.

In 2010 Spencer signed for the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions, to play for the team in the 2010 and 2011 Super Rugby seasons. He subsequently took up a coaching role with the team before moving to the Durban-based Sharks for the 2013 season.

Crous said as a player, Spencer was valued for his imaginative kicking and passing game, and his ability to unlock defences.

“We are excited to see what Carlos can do with our team and are sure that he will be a positive asset to the team coaching structures,” he said.

Kings must play Currie Cup!

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EP KingsHerman Mostert gives his views why the Kings should be included into the ABSA Currie Cup Premiere League.

If the Eastern Province Kings are going to play Super Rugby from 2016, it’s in the best interests of South African rugby to have them playing in the Currie Cup Premier Division.

After the proposal to expand the Currie Cup to eight teams in 2014 was withdrawn before being put to vote at a SARU Special General Council Meeting last Friday, it appeared as though the status quo of six teams in the top flight will remain for next season.

However, new reports on Tuesday suggested that the Kings may gain automatic promotion in what could still be an eight-team Currie Cup in 2014.

That would be the right call in my book.

While I’m all for playing yourself into a position where you gain automatic qualification – something the Kings sadly have not done in recent years – I do believe they should be playing at least some sort of top flight rugby.

It’s no secret that the men from PE will be added to an expanded Super Rugby competition from 2016, when a new TV broadcast deal comes into effect, so the sooner they start playing at a higher level, the better for South African rugby as a whole.

They did relatively well in their debut Super Rugby season this year but were relegated when the Lions pipped them in a promotion-relegation series.

They then failed to finish top of the First Division standings as a rampant Pumas side forced their way into the Currie Cup.

The Kings hardly boast a track record for a team that deserves any favours, but perhaps SARU should look back into the past when a fairly similar “tricky” situation played itself out.

Natal – as the Sharks were then known – were another of the so-called big unions struggling to get out the B-section in the mid-1980s. They would win the B-section only to lose promotion-relegation matches against Northern Free State on a few occasions.

The then SA Rugby Board (SARB) was eager to see Natal play in the top division and decided to expand the six-team Currie Cup to eight to allow them automatic entry.

SARB wanted a major city like Durban to have a team in the A-Section, as they realised South African rugby would benefit having Natal there.

Since 1987 the Natalians have not dropped out of the top flight and when they stunned Northern Transvaal at Loftus to win the Currie Cup for the first time in their history in 1990 – it signalled the start of a golden era for rugby in the region.

Just imagine where the Sharks would have been today if they weren’t added to the Currie Cup back then? The brand name Sharks would probably not have existed and they’d still be called the Banana Boys!

For that reason I think it’s wise for the powers that be to look at South African rugby as a whole and realise that having six strong franchises is better than five. The last thing SARU wants is for the Kings to still be playing B-section rugby over the next few years before being added to the Super Rugby mix.

Therefore, getting the Kings up to a better level – at least Currie Cup level – would surely be of benefit to South African rugby…

Adapt or die for Stormers

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Stormers coach Allister Coetzee believes that his team need to adapt their game next year if they are to challenge for Super Rugby honours.

Coetzee cites Western Province’s Currie Cup Final loss to the Sharks as a harsh lesson that teams will not make the mistake of trying to ‘engage’ with his side.

The Stormers coach believes that his team’s renowned defensive system means that the opposition are no longer willing to run at them and pointed to the kicking game the Sharks employed at Newlands as an example of what they will have to deal with week-in and week-out in Super Rugby next year.

He told this website: “Teams don’t want to engage with us anymore which is what happened in the Currie Cup Final – the Sharks weren’t prepared to run, they opted to kick so therefore your tactics have to change.

“Every game you lose you investigate and you pick up trends. We expected the Sharks to kick behind our wings in the corners; they kicked from middle ruck which was something different and someone who had an insight into the way we defend worked it out.

“On the day, I am not blaming any player, but it was difficult for the players to adjust to that but we have learned again from that.”

Coetzee said that this approach is something that teams such as the Crusaders and Reds have used against them in the past, and added that the challenge is to adapt their gameplan accordingly.

“The big thing is not engaging with the Stormers, when we played the Crusaders this year it took us ten minutes to understand that they were not prepared to run.

“Teams respect our defence so much, so we have to look at opportunities and be able to utilise the position we are in,” he said.

The Stormers boss said that he was encouraged by the way his team attacked in the Currie Cup, which is something he hopes to carry forward into Super Rugby next year.

“What we have always been striving to do is ensure we have balance in the way we play. I think we progressed in the Currie Cup in terms of our attack and the way we utilised turnover possession and counter-attacking opportunities.

“In the past we might have been conservative and defence-orientated, but one has got to understand that was done because that is how the competition goes and to put the odds in your favour you can’t do something else.

“Now we also see that there are other opportunities, that is the important thing for us next year – we have got to get the balance.

“Certain things worked in the Currie Cup and we will certainly take that into Super Rugby without deviating from our strong defence and strong kicking game,” he said.

By Michael de Vries

End of the road for Elliot?

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All Blacks hooker Hika Elliot has been ruled out of Super Rugby next year after undergoing neck surgery and may quit rugby altogether.

By: Rugby365

The 27-year-old Chiefs hooker aggravated the neck injury while playing for the Maori All Blacks against Canada in Toronto last month, with a bulged disc having a severe effect on his co-ordination to the point where he could barely walk when replaced.

“It was quite scary for myself, my brain would say something and my legs wouldn’t go,” he told LiveSport Radio.

“It got worse and worse. It got to the stage where my legs weren’t working. They said I was lucky to actually be walking.”

Elliot had his spine fused in an operation last week and will see a specialist later this month.

He was encouraged by regaining the feeling in his hands and legs after surgery, but remains realistic about the potential danger of playing again.

“Given my position and given the injury, it’s something I need to take a hard look at.

“We’re talking about people’s lives and being able to walk. I don’t want to play Russian roulette with that sort of thing.”

Elliot, who played four Tests for the All Blacks from 2008 to 2012, has represented the Hurricanes and Chiefs in Super Rugby since 2007 and played seven seasons for Hawke’s Bay before switching to Counties

SA Kiwi fans spat at Bokke

6

South Africans supporting New Zealand reportedly spat at team members of the Springbok Sevens team after they beat the All Black Sevens side in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

Blitzbokke reign on home soil

8

Blitzbokke-win-PE630

The Blitzbokke beat New Zealand 17-14 in the Cup Final of the the Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth on Sunday.

South African skipper Kyle Brown scored the only try of the second half in what was a pulsating final in front of an enthusiastic crowd to secure the title.

In the semifinals New Zealand beat Samoa 19-5 with Tomasi Cama scoring 14 of their points, while the inspired hosts were too strong for Argentina winning 31-0 thanks to tries from captain Kyle Brown, Cecil Afrika, Sampie Mastriet, Kwagga Smith and Justin Geduld.

Earlier South Africa progressed to the semifinals by beating Portugal 45-0 with Werner Kok and Justin Geduld delighting the crowd with two tries in the victory, after New Zealand proved too strong for a spirited Kenya in a 19-0 victory.

Ben Ryan’s Fiji beat France in an enthralling Plate final, following on from their Cup win in Dubai last weekend.

Julien Candelon scored two tries for France to take his tournament tally to six, but Donasio Ratubuli and Benito Masilevu also scored braces to secure a 45-19 win for Fiji against Les Bleus.

Clearly upset with their quarterfinal defeat to Samoa, Fiji impressively beat Kenya 52-5 despite playing the majority of the match with six men in the first semifinal. Samisoni Viriviri scored two of their eight tries while Emosi Mulevoro contributed 13 points in the win.

Shannon Walker scored his seventh and eighth tries of the tournament but that was not enough as England beat Australia 28-19 to go unbeaten on day two and win the Bowl final.

Having finished third and fourth respectively in the first two rounds of the Sevens World Series, England will be disappointed to have missed out on the Cup competition but ensured they went home with eight Series points by beating Mic O’Connor’s side.

It is Simon Amor’s first piece of silverware as coach however, and they booked their place in the final after earlier victories against USA and Scotland in their semi and quarterfinals.

Australia secured their place in the final by beating Wales 33-21, with Walker scoring a hat-trick in their 38-5 quarterfinal win against Zimbabwe.

Tries from Lee Jones and Scott Riddell (two) secured a Shield victory for Scotland as they beat Canada 19-12 despite a second half come back from an inspired Phil Mack, a member of last week’s Dubai Dream Team.

Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens Day Two results:

Cup Final:
South Africa 17-14 New Zealand

Third place:
Samoa 21-7 Argentina

Plate Final:
Fiji 45-19 France

Bowl Final:
England 28-19 Australia

Shield Final:
Scotland 19-12 Canada

Bok skipper on a crash-course?

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Jean De VilliersSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers found some of the form of his career this year, but how long until he breaks down?

The experienced midfielder played almost non-stop this year, with his commitments to the Stormers, Springboks, Western Province and the Barbarians keeping him busy throughout.

He will get a hard-earned break until the end of the year before it starts all over again, but he turns 33 in February and it may be a big ask for him to go through the same work load in 2014.

He told this website that he does not expect to be given any breaks next season, and highlighted the need to get a good pre-season under his belt in order to handle everything that will be thrown at him.

“I have got a contract with the Stormers, when I am needed I will play. To be really honest I have not thought too much about next year and what is lying ahead I am just looking forward to having a break.

“It is important for me to have a good pre-season and put in the hard work, that is definitely where my season started last year, throughout the season I could feel that I was in a good space.

“It is important to get that base again and build from there, if you start off from a bad base then it is troublesome throughout the year.

“If you condition yourself well then your chances of injuries are less but then there are always the broken bones which you can’t plan for, that’s rugby and hopefully we can just stay away from that,” he said.

De Villiers admitted that he was happy with his performances this year and joked that he was looking into getting a contract in Europe this month to capitalise on his good form.

“It has gone well this year, to say it was my best well that is debatable but I am feeling good.

“I have always said that it doesn’t matter what I am weighing or how fast I am running, if I’m feeling good and fresh on the field then I feel that I am performing and I certainly felt like that this year.

“I was looking at maybe getting a deal in Europe and playing over December and January as well so that this season never ends,” he quipped.

It remains to be seen whether he will be able to keep that form up through another busy year, which is why he is not allowing himself to think about going to the World Cup in 2015.

“I will go through this year and if I am still good enough after this year then I will definitely be available for that.

“Two years ago at the end of the 2011 World Cup I didn’t even think about giving it a go, whereas now halfway through it you are looking at about 18 months to the next World Cup.

“It is much more of a reality and maybe the flame of wanting to be there is burning a bit more but we will take it on a year to year basis,” he said.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer has already indicated that he wants De Villiers to continue as captain next year, but how much longer will he be able to stay on top of his game considering his heavy work load?

By Michael de Vries

SARU: Madiba a true Inspiration

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madiba-wc-IMG_0069-219The South African Rugby Union (SARU) paid tribute to Nelson Mandela who died on Thursday.

“All of our lives are poorer today at the extinguishing of the great beacon of light and hope that led the way for our country through the transition to democracy,” said Oregan Hoskins, president of SARU.

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers said Mandela had made a huge on impression on his own life.

“My lasting memory of Madiba is that of a person who had enormous ability to bring people together,” said De Villiers.

“His presence at a Test match just lifted the crowd and energised the team – it is actually hard to describe.

“Of course, as a sportsman I am so grateful for him for what he did for our country. He inspired South Africans, who for so long were very divided, to peacefully build a united Rainbow Nation.”

Hoskins said while Mandela had been in poor health for some time, it did not make the news any easier to handle.

“Madiba had a place in all our hearts and his passing is a personal blow to us all.

“The South African Rugby Union shares in our nation’s sadness. Madiba was a great man of vision, determination and integrity who performed a miracle that amazed the world as much as it amazed his fellow countrymen.

“His name will rank among that of the greatest liberators and humanitarians for as long as mankind walks the earth. It was our privilege to have lived in this country during his lifetime.”

SARU highlighted the efforts of Mandela to unite the country through sport, and in particular the 1995 Rugby World Cup which the Springboks won.

“Madiba was a true icon of inspiration and as much as South Africa owes so much to him, so does rugby,” said Hoskins.

“Through his extraordinarily vision, he was able to use the 1995 Rugby World Cup as an instrument to help promote nation building just one year after South Africa’s historic first democratic election.

“The South African Rugby Union also sincerely appreciated the many times he inspired the Springboks to many great heights on the playing field.

“However, Mr Mandela inspired the entire South African nation with his kindness, generosity and ability not only to forgive, but also to understand his fellow citizens.”

 

Currie Cup: NO for eight teams

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The proposal to expand the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division to eight teams in 2014 was withdrawn before being put to the vote at a Special General Council Meeting of the South African Rugby Union (SARU) in Cape Town on Friday.

Preview: PE Sevens (Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium)

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85791e4c30f64b31846ff486d52fb824We bring you all you need to know about the 16 teams who will be vying for top honours in the Nelson Mandela Bay SA Sevens, the third round of the IRB Sevens World Series in Port Elizabeth this weekend.

Pool A:

Fiji – Series ranking: second (Champions in Dubai)

After their Cup-winning performance at the Dubai Sevens, Fiji have named an unchanged squad of 12 for the Nelson Mandela Bay SA Sevens, round three of the Sevens World Series.

Samisoni Viriviri was named Dubai’s player of the tournament, while fans also voted Semi Kunatani as the #Sevensrookie of the tournament through interacting with the IRB’s Twitter and Facebook pages.

One to watch: Giant forward Pio Tuwai has some of the best handling skills in rugby.

Scotland – Series ranking: ninth (Cup quarterfinalists in Dubai)

Scotland have called up 20-year-old back Mark Bennett, who was involved in the recent November internationals. He is an injury replacement for James Johnstone and is joined in Stephen Gemmell’s squad by Fijian-born Joseva Nayacavou, who earned his first cap at the first round of the Series on Australia’s Gold Coast and now replaces the injured forward Chris Dean.

Of the players currently still playing the sport, captain Colin Gregor is the second-highest point scorer all-time in Sevens with 974. He sits ninth in the all-time list and needs 26 points in PE to become the eighth man to reach 1,000 points.

One to watch: Lee Jones has pace and watch for Scott Riddell’s workrate in the forward pack.

Australia – Series ranking: fifth (Bowl winners in Dubai)

On paper coach Michael O’Connor had one of his strongest squads in Dubai but the Australians struggled for consistency. They let a strong lead slip in their opening match against Scotland and failed to reach the Cup quarterfinals. They recovered well on day two, going unbeaten on the second day en route to the Bowl.

An injury to Lewis Holland has forced O’Connor to make one change, Sam Myers coming in for his debut.

One to watch: Wallaby Luke Morahan has obvious x-factor, as does Shannon Walker, but O’Connor will be asking for a big shift up front from Sean McMahon, Jesse Parahi and Ed Jenkins.

France – Series ranking: 12th (Shield winners in Dubai)

Frederic Pomarel’s experienced side suffered a disappointing weekend in Dubai, where they lost their first four matches before winning their last two to finish on a high as Shield winners.

Last year they reached the Cup final in Port Elizabeth, so will be looking for far more this weekend.

They look like they will make two changes to the Dubai squad, Julien Saubade and Vincent Martin replaced by Stephen Parez and Steeve Barry, who were involved in the invitational tournament in Dubai.

One to watch: Still no Terry Bourahoua but Julien Candelon continues to defy his age with timeless performances and Paul Albaladejo is a playmaker out of the top drawer.

Pool B:

South Africa – Series ranking: third (Cup runners-up in Dubai)

Springbok Sevens head coach Neil Powell has called Steven Hunt and debutant Albertus “Kwagga” Smith into his squad in Port Elizabeth to replace the injured Stephan Dippenaar and Jamba Ulengo.

Dippenaar was ruled out of action with a hamstring injury in Dubai, while Ulengo (foot) also misses their home tournament.

Franke Horne (leg) passed a late fitness test to make Powell’s squad, as they look to build on their Cup Final appearance last weekend.

Hunt and Smith were all in action in Dubai where they helped the South African Sevens Academy team defend their Dubai Invitational title for a fourth successive time.

One to watch: Cecil Afrika is still a menace but increasingly South Africa work off Branco du Preez and Justin Geduld.

Kenya – Series ranking: sixth (Cup quarterfinalists in Dubai)

Former Springbok Sevens coach Paul Treu has also been forced to make changes to his Kenya side.

Philip Wamae and Michael Wanjala are unavailable due to injury, while Patrice Agunda must sit exams; their places in the Kenya team are taken by Davis Chenge, Billy Odhiambo and Dan Sikuta.

Experienced flyer Collins Injera led from the front with a strong performance in Dubai, making the fans’ Dream Team. He now sits fourth on the all-time series try-scoring list, with 165.

One to watch: Captain Andrew Amonde leads magnificently and will be pleased to welcome back Billy Odhiambo as a foil for Collins Injera.

Canada – Series ranking: 11th (Bowl semifinalists in Dubai)

Canada took the eventual Cup champions Fiji to the wire in their pool clash in Dubai and also had scrumhalf Phil Mack in the fans’ Dream Team.

Ahead of the Port Elizabeth tournament, coach Geraint John has been forced into two changes through injury, Pat Kay and debutant Duncan Maguire coming in to replace Connor Braid and Lucas Hammond.

One to watch: Even after all these years playmaker Phil Mack is still Canada’s heartbeat. Captain John Moonlight is part of a strong forward pack.

Spain – Series ranking: 15th (Shield runners-up in Dubai)

Coach Jesus Delgado names an unchanged squad from the 12 that competed in Dubai, featuring the recall of some of the country’s best players in Pablo Feijoo, Ignacio Martin and Jaike Carter.

He will be looking for more from his players, though, who currently occupy that automatic relegation place, ranked 15th of the current core teams.

One to watch: Big wing Ignacio Martin is a great player to have back in the side.

Pool C:

New Zealand – Series ranking: first (third in Dubai)

New Zealand coach Gordon Tietjens names an unchanged squad from the 12 that finished third in Dubai, recovering from a heaviest ever Sevens defeat, 044, at the hands of Fiji in the Cup semi, to beat England in the third/fourth play-off.

Tietjens’ squad – now comprising full-time Sevens athletes – is the most experienced in the tournament with 293 events between them, although four players – captain DJ Forbes, Lote Raikabula, Tim Mikkelson and Tomasi Cama – account for 218 of those ‘caps’.

The New Zealanders are the defending series and South African champions.

One to watch: The list is long with New Zealand. Gillies Kaka was relatively quiet on return from injury in Dubai, so expect fireworks from him and fellow stepper Joe Webber.

Wales – Series ranking: sixth (Plate runners-up in Dubai)

With only eight players fit to contest the Plate Final against Argentina in Dubai, Wales were down to their bare bones but now start again with a full compliment of 12 after flying in two replacements.

Captain Adam Thomas and Adam Field are unable to compete in Port Elizabeth, replaced by debutant Rhodri Davies and Will Price, who comes in for his 10th series tournament.

One to watch: Loose forward James Davies has proved his fitness following an outstanding performance in Dubai that saw him named in the Dream Team.

Portugal – Series ranking: 13th (Bowl runners-up in Dubai)

Coach Pedro Netto Fernandes makes one change to the side that lost 12-17 to Australia in the Dubai Bowl Final, just a week after many of the players had been involved in Test match rugby in Lisbon against Canada.

Frederico Oliveira picked up a leg injury during the Dubai tournament and is replaced by debutant Rafael Simoes.

One to watch: Little captain Pedro ‘Popcorn’ Leal and veteran back David Mateus.

USA – Series ranking: 14th (Shield semifinalists in Dubai)

USA Sevens head coach Matt Hawkins will be asking more of the same 12 players who finished with five losses in Dubai.

Captain Nick Edwards currently sits five tries short of 50 with 45 to his name.

One to watch: Zack Test has been the USA’s outstanding player for a few seasons.

Pool D:

England – Series ranking: fourth (fourth in Dubai)

England are one of six sides in Port Elizabeth who are unchanged from Dubai, where they beat Wales to make the Cup semis but lost there to eventual runners-up, South Africa.

One to watch: Mike Ellery is still a relative newcomer but put in a strong performance last weekend for coach Simon Amor in the forwards as well as at centre and wing.

Argentina – Series ranking: eighth (Plate winners in Dubai)

Like England, Argentina’s squad is unchanged from Dubai where they put in a much stronger performance for coach, Santiago Gomez Cora.

They will be looking to emulate the kind of form that took them to the Cup semis here last year.

One to watch: Diego Palma gives them lots of pace and Axel Muller is an interesting athlete, having come from American football and represented Argentina as a decathlete.

Samoa – Series ranking: ninth (Bowl semifinalists in Dubai)

Viliamu Punivalu was disappointed with his side’s performance in Dubai, where their Cup defence faltered on Day One with losses to South Africa and Argentina.

He makes one change to the team for Port Elizabeth, the injured Misioka Timoteo replaced by debutant, Fomai Ah Ki.

One to watch: Lio Lolo is a strong player for Samoa, while captain Reupena Levasa and Alatasi Tupou are crucial to this new side.

Zimbabwe – Series ranking: N/A (Did not compete in Dubai)

Liam Middleton is back with the Zimbabwe team after a stint coaching in England but long-time manager Bruce Hobson will be missed as he steps away from the side after over a decade of service, as well former captain Jacques Leitao and Wesley Mbanje, who have also stepped down.

One to watch: The Cheetahs name a squad with five debutants as they undergo a period of change but still have dangerous pacemen in the likes of Gardener Nechironga and Tafadzwa Chitokwindo.

Pools:
Pool A:
Fiji, Scotland, Australia and France
Pool B: South Africa, Kenya, Canada and Spain
Pool C: New Zealand, Wales, Portugal and USA
Pool D: England, Argentina, Samoa and Zimbabwe

Day One schedule – Saturday, December 7:
(Kick-off times are local – GMT minus two hours)
Match 1: New Zealand v Portugal, 11.00
Match 2: Wales v United States, 11.22
Match 3: England v Samoa, 11.44
Match 4: Argentina v Zimbabwe, 12.06
Match 5: Fiji v Australia, 12.28
Match 6: Scotland v France, 12.50
Match 7: South Africa v Canada, 13.12
Match 8: Kenya v Spain, 13.34
Match 9: New Zealand v United States, 14.06
Match 10: Wales v Portugal, 14.28
Match 11: England v Zimbabwe, 14.50
Match 12: Argentina v Samoa, 15.12
Match 13: Fiji v France, 15.34
Match 14: Scotland v Australia, 15.56
Match 15: South Africa v Spain, 16.18
Match 16: Kenya v Canada, 16.40
Match 17: Portugal v United States, 17.14
Match 18: New Zealand v Wales, 17.36
Match 19: Samoa v Zimbabwe, 17.58
Match 20: England v Argentina, 18.20
Match 21: Australia v France, 18.52
Match 22: Fiji v Scotland, 19.14
Match 23: Canada v Spain, 19.36
Match 24: South Africa v Kenya, 19.58

Source: IRB

SARU revises cap policy

0

SARU) has revised its capping policy to avoid the anomaly of players becoming Springboks without ever taking the field.

RERUN: The Heart of South Africa

109

Just a very nice story worth repeating. It was printed in RuggaWorld, 12 June 2006.

Preview: European Cup, Round Three

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heineken-cup

Although rugby in the south is in a silent hibernation, the guys up north are taking too the field again to continue the Premiere European competition this weekend.

Toulouse, Ulster and Leinster will be giving their all to keep in their winning ways. These three sides are the only sides not to have lost a game this season in the competition. Traditionally, the back to back rounds go a long way to deciding which of Europe’s elite clubs qualify for the knock-out stage with increased hope of making it to the Cardiff 2014 Final at the Millennium Stadium next May.

In Pool One, Leinster and Northampton Saints renew their rivalry with a reprise of the memorable 2011 final when they meet at Franklin’s Gardens on Saturday, while in Pool Two, Exeter Chiefs take on reigning champions, Toulon, in a sell-out tie at Sandy Park also on Saturday.

Meanwhile, in Pool Six at Thomond Park on Sunday, Munster Rugby host Perpignan in what has all the makings of a typically full-on contest.  Going into the back to back games, Irish clubs lead the way with a win percentage of 75 from eight games to date, while France are next on 58 per cent from 12 matches. Scotland are on 50 per cent from four games with English clubs on 41 per cent with five wins from 12 games.

The Ospreys head to France this Friday with their hopes close to being extinguished by the halfway mark of the campaign. Back-to-back defeats to Leinster and Northampton Saints have left them marooned at the bottom of Pool One and another reverse would all but end their European involvement before the knockout stages.

Steve Tandy’s troops have failed to pick up a single point so far after a 19-9 Liberty Stadium loss to the triple European Cup kings and a 27-16 defeat to the Saints at Franklin’s Gardens. The region haven’t reached the last eight since 2010 and successive wins against Castres would now appear to be a must if they are to put that right this time around.

Castres began with a win over Northampton in Round One and were unlucky not to pick up at least a losing bonus point at Leinster last time out so victory this week is vital to their own chances of a first European Cup quarterfinal place since 2002.

Serge Milhas’ men haven’t lost at home all season, with Grenoble, Stade Francais, Toulon and Racing Metro joining Northampton and Biarritz in falling short at the Stade Pierre Antione.

Round Three fixtures and teams:

Friday, December 6

Cardiff Blues v Glasgow Warriors
(Cardiff Arms Park – Kick-off: 20.00; 20.00 GMT)

Castres v Ospreys
(Stade Pierre Antoin – Kick-off: 21.00; 20.00 GMT)

Saturday, December 7

Exeter Chiefs v Toulon
(Sandy Park – Kick-off: 13.35; 13.35 GMT)

Zebre v Saracens
(Stadio XXV Aprile – Kick-off: 14.35; 13.35 GMT)

Clermont Auvergne v Scarlets
(Stade Marcel Michelin – Kick-off: 14.35; 13.35 GMT)

Racing Metro v Harlequins
(Stade Marcel Michelin – Kick-off: 16.40; 15.40 GMT)

Northampton Saints v Leinster
(Franklin’s Gardens – Kick-off: 18.00; 18.00 GMT)

Ulster v Treviso
(Ravenhill – Kick-off: 18.00; 18.00 GMT)

Sunday, December 8

Munster v Perpignan
(Thomond Park – Kick-off: 12.45; 12.45 GMT)

Edinburgh v Gloucester
(Murrayfield – Kick-off: 13.00; 13.00 GMT)

Toulouse v Connacht
(Stade Ernest Wallon – Kick-off: 16.00; 15.00 GMT)

Leicester Tigers v Montpellier
(Welford Road – Kick-off: 15.00; 15.00 GMT)

New DHL Stormers shirt unveiled

18

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Stormers unveiled their home and away kit for the 2014 season at a launch event held at the V&A Waterfront in Cape Town on Thursday.

Three teams of “Storm Chasers” – made up of a Stormers player, media personality and a Super Fan – raced around Cape Town looking for clues to help them complete challenges akin to The Amazing Race, in order to reveal the 2014 kits.

Once all of the clues were uncovered, the three teams – captained by Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh and Siya Kolisi – raced to the finish line at the V&A Waterfont, where they entered their answers into a large safe,

which once unlocked, revealed Siyabonga “Scarra” Ntubeni and Duane Vermeulen standing fully-clad in the new home and away kits.

Afterwards, the three captains along with Ntubeni and Vermeulen, as well as Frans Malherbe, Gio Aplon and coach Allister Coetzee, held an autograph signing session and posed for photos with loyal Stormers fans that had come to get a glimpse of the new kit.

The new Stormers home jersey retains the collegiate royal blue and white colours, which was introduced in last season’s edition so as to bring the jersey in line with the traditional colour and hoops design of the Western Province jersey.

However, this season sees a chevron pattern being incorporated into the front of the jersey’s design, adding an exciting, new element to the hoop effect.

One of the most notable changes to recent editions comes in the away jersey, which has moved away from the traditional white and blue inverted colour variant.

Instead, the plain white jersey is starkly contrasted on the front by the introduction of a large royal blue and red lightning symbol – a design element taken from the Stormers’ logo.

Other design elements incorporated into the two new jersey designs include a red insert on the inside of the home jersey collar and blue on the away jersey, both of which add a subtle and visually appealing dash of contrasting colour.

Furthermore, the iconic three stripes of the team’s technical sponsor run along the back shoulder of the jersey and are thicker than in previous versions.

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers commented: “I hope and trust that our fans will take to both jerseys and we look forward to being able to represent this proud franchise in our new strips next season.”

“Our home jersey continues to reflect the traditional colour and hoops of Western Province, whereas the new away jersey has moved away from our more traditional look and should be a great hit with our loyal supporters,” stated Western Province Rugby Union CEO Rob Wagner.

The new home and away jerseys are now available at many sports retailers countrywide at a recommended retail price of R699JerseyAWAYNEW2014WEBSITEjpg

 

SARU revise Bok capping policy

0

bokke

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has revised its capping policy to avoid the anomaly of players becoming Springboks without ever taking the field.

In future only players who make an appearance in a Test match will be given a Springbok number and regarded as full Springboks.

The new policy replaces the historical precedent of awarding the status of being a Springbok to any player who departed on an overseas tour – as well as those who appeared in home Tests. It was approved by the Executive Council of SARU in Cape Town on Thursday.

“The responsibility and honour of representing the Springboks on an overseas tour was a considerable one in the days when the Boks toured only every four years or less frequently and were then overseas for months at a time,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU.

“Players deserved their national colours even though some did not appear in a Test match and a very small number, because of injury, became Springboks without ever pulling on the jersey.

“That policy was continued into the professional era where the number of matches and tours has increased dramatically with a similarly increasing number of players who have been given official status as Springboks while never appearing.”

The decision means that the only players to receive a Springbok number, Springbok cap, their name on the honours board at SARU House and the status of Springbok in future will be players to have made a playing appearance (as a starting team member or as any kind of replacement) in an official Test match.

Players who appear in non-Test matches played by the Springboks or who travel overseas with the team will be regarded as “Springbok tour squad members”.

“This change brings the policy in line with the custom and practice of the team itself,” said Roux.

“Players only get to wear the cap and blazer when they have made their Test debut.”

The policy will apply to the recently completed tour but will not be otherwise applied retrospectively.

The Exco also approved the reappointment of Ian McIntosh as a Springbok selector until the end of the 2015 season.

It means the committee remains unchanged and comprises Peter Jooste (convenor), McIntosh – the recipient of the IRB’s prestigious Vernon Pugh award recently – and Springbok coach, Heyneke Meyer.

Rose hits the comeback trail

6

Earl-Rose-630

Earl Rose is hoping that playing for Western Province in the Premier League Sevens in George will help resurrect his provincial rugby career.

The controversial utility back was a Springbok tourist in 2008 and 2009, but his career which also saw him represent Western Province, Griquas, the Cats, Lions and Stormers has been marred by off-field controversies.

He last played provincial rugby for Griquas in the 2011 Currie Cup, but has since been in the wilderness as a string of disciplinary issues cut his rugby career short.

However, the 29-year-old is now on the comeback trail and is set to be named in Western Province Sevens coach Ricky Petersen’s squad for the Premier League Sevens when it is announced on Monday.

Petersen told this website that he has been following Rose’s progress at Somerset West club Sir Lowrians which convinced him to call him up to train with the Province Sevens squad.

“I have been following his rugby, he has been playing for Sir Lowrians and he has been doing quite well.

“He is looking good, obviously I will confirm on Monday whether he will definitely be part of the team but he is in the squad,” he said.

Petersen explained that Rose sees the Premier League Sevens as a stepping stone to getting back to provincial rugby, and added that he has been working extremely hard on his fitness.

“He is keen to make it back to provincial level, he has got the vision, he has got the skill, I am just obviously working on his fitness. He has lost six kilograms already.

“He told me that he has never worked as hard in his entire life and he feels quite good,” he said.

The Province Sevens coach said that despite his issues in the past, he is convinced that Rose is committed to making the most of his talents .

“He wants to go as far as he can go still, he has got a lot to give still he says. It is about him getting back to provincial level again, he says he can.

“I had a great chat with him about his discipline on and off the field, I feel that players should not be branded on what has happened in the past.

“Coaching is not just shouting at the guys on the field but also helping them with the mental side of the game and working on their weaknesses off the field as well,” he said.

Petersen’s squad is also likely to feature Varsity Sevens stars Rob Ahlers, Ruan Mostert and Josh Bassingthwaighte, whilst he is also hopeful of being able to call on Blitzbok Cheslin Kolbe.

“I am hopeful of having Cheslin, I will know by Sunday. He is a young and exciting player but we do not have a lot of wings at the Stormers at the moment so Allister [Coetzee] hasn’t got a huge variety, we have got a lot of talent but you have to look at the experience factor.

“Allister phoned me on Friday to say that he hopefully will release Cheslin, but I am going to have to wait first and see,” he said.

By Michael de Vries

Premiership to confront Euro crisis

1

Mark-McCafferty

England’s Premiership clubs are to hold an emergency meeting in London on Thursday to discuss their future involvement in European competitions.

The move comes after France’s Top 14 clubs appeared last week to scupper plans for an Anglo-French ‘breakaway’ event by insisting they would in fact remain loyal to the existing European Cup, with the proviso that English clubs also competed in the European Rugby Cup (ERC) competition.

Thursday’s meeting will feature senior representatives from all 12 Premiership clubs, plus Bristol and Leeds who remain shareholders in Premiership Rugby Limited (PRL), the umbrella organisation that oversees top-flight rugby union in England.

“The meeting will look at the future of European rugby and the future of English clubs in European rugby over the next five years,” a club source, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP.

“It’s in addition to PRL’s usual two meetings a year and I cannot exaggerate how important it is,” the source added.

“The clubs’ view needs to be taken into account – this is not just about what Mark McCafferty (the PRL chief executive) or PRL thinks.”

The future of the flagship European tournament had been thrown into doubt when English and French sides drew up plans to launch a rival Rugby Champions Cup from the 2014/2015 season.

But last month the national unions of France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales said they would stick with the European Cup in its existing format – leaving the English Premiership out on a limb.

And last Thursday there was a major shift in the French clubs’ stance following a meeting of Top 14 presidents at Orly Airport near Paris.

The French National Rugby League (LNR), in a statement after the ‘Orly summit’, made plain they were still in favour of the breakaway Rugby Champions Cup, but only from the 2015/16 season.

“Given the amount of work that has to be done to set up the new format from the 2015/16 season the notion of a period of transition of one year…is a valid one,” the LNR explained.

LNR president Paul Goze added: “French clubs can get involved in competitions run by the ERC (in 2014-15) on condition that all the deals are signed and that the competition will be staged with clubs from England.”

PRL had been vehement in its opposition to having anything more to do with ERC-run tournaments.

But a breakaway competition without French clubs is all but inconceivable.

And, with the prospect of no English teams playing in Europe for the first time since the 1998/99 season now on the horizon, McCafferty appeared to be willing to strike a compromise deal last week when informed of the French U-turn.

“If somebody can outline what that transition would entail, how the issues would be overcome and exactly what the new structure in 2015/16 would be, then we could look at it,” he said.

English and French clubs have long complained that Pro12 sides have an unfair advantage in European competition as most of them are guaranteed entry, whereas Premiership and Top 14 teams have to fight hard just to qualify.

The dispute has also been complicated by a row over broadcast rights.

PRL have signed a television deal with BT Vision worth £152 million (178 million euros, $246 million), with £52 million earmarked for European competitions.

But ERC insist they will stand by current broadcast partners Sky, with a contract agreed until 2018.

Aussie kids who gave rugby their “MoJo”

1

Rugby League - Great Britain v Australia

Our old friend Shields gave us this story that he came across. This is a great read and many believe this is when the Aussies got their “Mojo”

It’s hard to credit in this era of 12 or 13 Test matches per calendar year by all the major Test sides but Australia did not play a single senior international in 1977. In those amateur days times were very hard, cash was short and never before or since has Union been more threatened in Australia by Rugby League.

Remarkably, however, the re-birth of Australian rugby can be traced back to that nadir and the bold decision of the Australia Schools Union, aided by the ARU, to raid the piggy-bank and send a bunch of untried youngsters on a tour of Japan and the Home Unions with pit-stops in France and Holland. It was a gamble but the result was the unexpected flowering of possibly the greatest ever generation of Australian rugby talent and a series of command performances that redefined how rugby could be played. At all levels.

The three Ella brothers – twins Mark and Glen and younger brother Gary – lit up the Aussie Schools back division with their telepathy, quick hands and short, crisp no-look passing but consider also that back division also included future Wallabies captain Michael Hawker and two Rugby League legends in the making – wing Michael O’Connor utility back Wally Lewis, above. Up front Tony D’Arcy was to become a World Cup winner while Shane Nightingale, Chris Roche, Dominic Vaughan and Anthony Melrose all become Wallabies of some stature.

Melrose, who like many of the squad played as much Rugby League at school as Union, captained the squad who were untouchable on their 16-match tour, amassing 533 points and conceding 97 while they outscored their opponents 110 tries to six.  Although tasked by coach Geoff Mould – the Ellas’ school teacher and coach at Mattraville HS – to keep the ball in hand at all costs it was the aborigine Ella brotherhood that undeniably brought a sense of the mystic. They were the X-factor.

Former England great CN Lowe quickly decided Mark was the best fly-half he had ever seen and travelled far and wide to watch the Aussies on tour, JBG Thomas on the Western Mail opined that Glen was a miraculous full-back and genius “who could do no wrong with the ball in his hands with every movement underplayed by a natural grace that belied the difficulty of what he is doing.” And despite all that it was the ‘kid’ Gary, used mainly at centre, who was voted player of the tour.

All three won senior caps although it was Mark who made the biggest impact, redefining fly-half play, before stunning the rugby world and retiring from Test rugby at the age of 25 after starring in Australia’s Grand Slam tour of Britain and Ireland in 1984 when he scored a try in all four Tests. A falling-out with coach Alan Jones is sometimes cited as the reason although Ella has never commented definitively. He made a brief comeback in Italy at the end of the Eighties with Milan alongside kindred spirit David Campese and then coached the club to two Italian titles.

Mark Ella essentially invented the flat ball and stood closer to his scrum-half than any fly-half in history. As he once explained: “Generally, I stood about five metres from the half-back and about four metres behind him. According to the old formula for the right-angled triangle, this means I was no more than three metres wide of him. When receiving the ball you must be almost abreast of the player passing to you. Because rugby laws require that players pass the ball backwards, standing flat makes it easier for the ball carrier to run ahead of his support, thus bringing them back into the game.”

The Ella Brothers

Despite attempting to keep them out of the limelight presswise the Ellas were the “story” scoring 24 themselves and being involved in some way in all but a half dozen of the team’s tries. They were unusual to say the least. Their great grandfather Alfred Ella was English for a start, one of the first white men to marry into the Aborigine community, and it was his grandson Gordon who raised a family of 12 with his wife May in the Aborigine suburb of Perouse, described once as Sydney’s Soweto. The three Ellas often slept on a single mattress at the foot of their parents bed, no wonder they seemed to poses a sixth sense as to what the others were going to do.

Generally they were inseparable  – except for the final Aussie Schools trial at the TG Milner Field when the twins were lined up for the Possibles against Gary in the Probables. The night before they refused to talk to each other at a social function and the first action of the game was Gary putting Glen into the grandstand with a piledriver of a tackle. It says much for Australia’s strength in depth that the Possibles won the match 6-3 – two penalties to one – which hardly hinted at the try-fest ahead.

Although all were selected for the tour is seemed most unlikely they could raise the A$750 each required to fund the trip until, right at the death, when a mysterious benefactor named Harry Ella sent a cheque to the school covering the total cost. The Ellas left a thank-you letter with the school to try to forward but he has never been traced. Rugby as well as the Ellas are in his debt.

Following an intensive fitness camp at Waverly, a bit of novelty in those days, the young Wallabies headed for Tokyo, where they beat Japan, and then onto Paris, via Moscow, where their match against Paris University was frozen off and they retired to the university bar for a night of eating and drinking. The tour manager, Catholic priest Father Bob Wallace from St Edmund’s College, had no problems treating his team like adults. After all they played like grown-ups.

On arrival in Britain they gorged themselves on tries, only being truly tested on a couple of occasions. An inspired Ireland Schools gave it a lash at a sodden Thomond Park but were eventually beaten 12-10 and undone by an intricate midfield move straight from the Mattraville playbook. Mark Ella passed the ball to Melrose at centre who stood still in midfield as the fly-half looped round him. Meanwhile from outside centre Gary cut a line in the opposite direction while just when it seemed Melrose would be clobbered he popped a sumptuous short ball to Glen who sliced through untouched for a try that defied the conditions.

“We had never encountered anything like them up in the Northern Hemisphere and they played a style of rugby we hadn’t seen on the TV at senior level either,” recalls Phil Matthews who captained Ireland that day. “We raised our game two or three levels and defended like dogs, our backs were incredible in defence. The weather and conditions were atrocious and still the Aussie Schools kept true to their running philosophy.

“That key try was one of those moments that even in the heat of battle you are tempted to stand back and just applaud the opposition. How did they do that? The next time I came up against Mark Ella was on my senior Test debut six years later when he scored a try and kicked two dropped goals in their 16-9 win en route to a Grand Slam. I never played against him again. He was pretty special all right.”

Onwards. Against North Wales, when the Aussies led 18-0 at half-time, Mould took Glen Ella off but thinking he needed to do more to cement his Test place he swapped jerseys with twin Mark in the changing room and played the rest of the game engineering a 66-0 win.

The triumphant march culminated with a visit to Twickenham to play England who had won their last 15 Schools internationals. Over 25,000 tickets had been sold in advance but come the day south-east England was enveloped in a freezing fog reducing visibility to 20 yards. The game should have been cancelled but Australia were on the ferry to Holland the next morning for a final game before flying home so it went ahead anyway. Mark Ella, for the only time on tour, hoisted a Garryowen at the first opportunity purely for a laugh but Australia soon knuckled down to win 31-9 and seven tries to nil, their flat short passing in midfield proving particularly effective given the conditions.

When they finally returned to Sydney the brothers were reportedly a tad disappointed not to find a write-up in the Sydney Herald sports section. It was only sometime later that May pointed to the front page – and the huge banner headline ‘Invincibles Return’ – that they realised the full impact the tour had made.

Source: Brendan Gallagher

“The Rugby Paper”

OZmob to display Gay World Cup

9

The Australian Rugby Union has become one of the first major sporting bodies in the world to display a gay cup in their trophy cabinet.

Petersen set Chiefs Alight

0

After they dazzled all with their flair and distinctive kit in their inaugural appearance at the George7s PL last year, the trend-setting Kaizer Chiefs are returning to the Garden Route with a powerful team to back up the brand on the field as well.

Former double Springbok international and Kaizer Chiefs Sevens coach, Gcobani Bobo, clearly did some clever recruitment since last year and will arrive at the scenic Outeniqua Park in George with a squad consisting of no less than four former Springbok Sevens internationals, some leading Varsity Cup players as well as the Southern Kings try-scoring sensation, Sergeal Petersen.

The sensational Eastern Province flyer highlights a squad that includes Springbok Sevens all-time try-scoring record holder, Fabian Juries, and former Blitzbokke Danwel Demas, and Norman Nelson in an exceptional line-up of playmaking and speed. Former SA Schools fullback Leroy Bitterhout will bring even more side-stepping prowess to the team that also include regular sevens exponents Reg Muller and Jason Kriel, who donned the Vodacom Blue Bulls colours in last year’s tournament.

Bobo also roped in hard-working flanker and University of Johannesburg Varsity Cup captain, Justin Wheeler as well as fellow loose forward Daneel Ellis, and SA Students Sevens ace, Vuyo Ganto from the University of Fort Hare. Former Steval Pumas and current Boland Kavaliers flanker, Junior Bester, is the sole survivor of the Chiefs squad from last year. “We have a strong squad and I am pretty happy they will do our wonderful brand justice with their performances.

The Kaizer Chiefs brand deserves nothing but the best and I am pretty pleased that we have a squad that will be very competitive and that will be able to play a kind of sevens that will reflect on our professionalism and appetite for success,” Bobo said. Kaizer Chiefs Marketing Director, Jessica Motaung, said the decision to return to the tournament was an easy one. “We have seen tremendous goodwill towards Kaizer Chiefs in last year’s inaugural tournament and we proved to be one of the most popular teams at the event.

We would like to reward our new fan base with another go at the title and I am pretty excited about the quality of our squad that Gcobani managed to put together. We created sporting history last year and our brand benefitted immensely, so we would like to give some of our gratitude back to our fan base in the Southern Cape.

We hope to expand our brand even more in this non-traditional market that embraced us with so much passion last year.” Tournament promoter Willem Strauss predicted Petersen to be one of the stars of the tournament, to be held on 13 and 14 December. “We really are blessed this year with the abundance of talent that will be on display at Outeniqua Park this year, but I think Sergeal can easily turn out to be the real stars. In my many years of involvement with the schools rugby sevens series, Sergeal stood out as one of the real prospects and I have no doubt that he will again be a star attraction. His performances in Super Rugby this year proved his class,” Strauss said. “It is clear that winning the title is high on the agenda of Kaizer Chiefs Sevens.

Their performances last year won them many fans, this time it could just win them a title as well,” Strauss said.

The Kaizer Chiefs Sevens team is: Danwel Demas, Fabian Juries, Junior Bester, Norman Nelson, Sinovuyo Ganto, Sergeal Petersen, Leroy Bitterhout, Reg Muller, Daneel Ellis, Justin Wheeler, Jason Kriel.

•Tickets for this sevens extravaganza is available at Computicket. For more information, contact Willem Strauss at 082-457-0190. Photo (L – R): Fabian Juries (KC Captain), Gcobani Bobo (KC Coach), Jessica Motaung (KC Marketing Director), Sinovuyo Ganto (KC Player), Reg Muller (KC Player) and Willem Strauss (Tournament Promoter).

Kaizer Chiefs Launch

 

Springboks call up trio as cover

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c22fb68e141946f388e72b3339703fafThe Springbok Sevens have called up Steven Hunt, Kwagga Smith and Rosco Speckman as injury cover for Stephan Dippenaar, Jamba Ulengo and Frankie Horne. The South Africans will be in action over the weekend in the Cell C Nelson Mandela Bay Sevens in Port Elizabeth.

Dippenaar was ruled out of action with a hamstring injury, while Ulengo is doubtful because of a foot injury and Horne suffered a blow to the leg this past weekend in Dubai where the Springbok Sevens finished as runners-up to Fiji in Round 2 of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

Hunt, Smith and Speckman were all in action in Dubai where they helped the SA Sevens Academy team defend their Dubai Invitational title for a fourth successive time. They arrived in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday and joined the squad for their first training session on the B-field of the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium late in the afternoon.

Neil Powell, the Springbok Sevens coach, will announce his 12-man squad at a media conference on Thursday afternoon.

Earlier today, Springbok Sevens captain Kyle Brown joined the other 15 captains at the International Captains Signing Session at Green Acres Shopping Centre. This popular tournament promotional event was again well supported by the local crowd.

The team attended a corporate breakfast in the morning and then headed straight to the Virgin Active gymnasium for an hour-long workout session.

On Wednesday Port Elizabeth fans will be able to meet the entire Springbok Sevens squad during a signing session from 14h00 – 15h00 at the Woolworths Court at Walmer Park Mall.

Read voted player of the year

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ReadNew Zealand No.8 Kieran Read was on Tuesday named as the International Rugby Board’s (IRB) player of the year for 2013.

The 28-year-old becomes the third All Black to win the award following current international team-mates flanker and captain Richie McCaw (three) and fly-half Dan Carter (two).

Read’s honour capped a hat-trick of awards for New Zealand who picked up the team of the year gong while Steve Hansen was named coach of the year.

Read edged out British and Irish Lions and Wales full-back Leigh Halfpenny, young South Africa lock Eben Etzebeth, Italy captain Sergio Parisse and All Black team-mate Ben Smith for the award.

“I’d like to congratulate Kieran on his award as it is well deserved,” said Hansen.

“He has been outstanding and has been a major contributor all season. It’s been a big year and I am incredibly proud of what the boys have achieved.

“It’s certainly special to have the All Blacks named for all three IRB awards, so it’s important that we thank and acknowledge all those behind the team because it wouldn’t happen without them — the players, our management, the other team behind us at New Zealand Rugby, All Blacks fans around the world, but most importantly, thanks to our families for the love and support that allows us to focus on this great game.”

It was the sixth time in 13 years that a New Zealander had picked up the main award while it was the seventh time both the team and coach were honoured.

For Hansen it was the second year in a row he won the coach award, although that still leaves him a fair way off his predecessor Graham Henry’s five wins.

Former South Africa coach Jake White is the only other coach to have won the award more than once having been picked in 2004 and 2007.

South Africa are three-time winners of the team award with Australia, England and France having won once each.

IRB Chairman Bernard Lapasset paid tribute to the award winners.

“The IRB player, coach and team awards bring the international Rugby year to a close and what a year it has been for New Zealand,” he said.

“They seem to reach new levels of excellence every year and although some managed to push them very close, they were clearly the stand-out team of the year.

“From a starting point of brilliance, Kieran Read has been improving steadily in recent years and is now, without question, a world-class player.

“His talent, work ethic and attitude make him an extremely valuable player for New Zealand and a formidable opponent for everyone else.

“Winning this award reflects a magnificent contribution to our game during 2013.”

With 15 tries in 61 internationals, Read is the most prolific No.8 in the history of the game.

New Zealand managed to complete the first ever perfect calendar year in the professional era having won all 14 of their test matches.

They also won the Rugby Championship this season while Hansen’s record in two years as All Blacks coach is a remarkable 25 wins, one draw and one defeat, which was against England.