Home 2014 January 3

Daily Archives: January 3, 2014

Halfpenny on his way?

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I want to welcome a new member (Jack Harpur) to our Ruggaworld family from the UK who will cover all the news and reviews from up north for us.

Welcome to the family Jack and we are looking forward to get all the news from the North.

 

Halfpenny

By: Jack Harpur

Reports have suggested that Cardiff Blues and British and Irish Lions star Halfpenny could be on his way to European Champions Toulon, who are looking to replace Wilkinson who may be playing in his last year of rugby.

The Wales full-back’s Blues contract expires at the end of this season and their has been much interest from many Top14 clubs wanting the 25 year olds signature. Toulon have also recently signed Ian Evans, the Welsh lock forward will be joining Toulon at the end of the season.

Halfpenny would not be the first exodus of Welsh players to France as Jamie Roberts, Dan Lydiate, Mike Phillips are currently with the struggling Racing Metro side and Clermont Auvergne Heineken Cup finalists have signed Scarletts captain Jonathon Davies who will also be on the plane to France come the end of the season.

Halfpenny played in the Welsh region derby and hauled Cardiff back into their RaboDirect Pro12 derby game with the Newport Gwent Dragons kicking five penalties.

Back to the future for Springboks

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FourieduPreezWalesJan de Koning from Rugby 365 put forward the debate on including overseas players in our Springbok setup and to look at them for our World Cup 2015 campaign. I am sure our bloggers have some kind of opinion on Mr De Koning’s views.

Heyneke Meyer’s decision to make liberal use of players based abroad sparked a renewed debate over the home-versus-away Springbok issue.

New Zealand and Australia have strict policies, which works for them.

Meyer, as he showed this past year, feels he can benefit from making use of the large number of quality players based abroad – as he builds his squad for the 2015 World Cup.

I just happen to agree with the Bok mentor, that there is value in using players like JP Pietersen, Jaque Fourie, Bryan Habana, Morne Steyn, Fourie du Preez, Francois Louw and Bakkies Botha when they are available.

There are a few others who can come into the selection frame to ensure the Boks have both depth and experience aplenty in 2015.

But what I found more intriguing was looking at the players who are available – home and away – and how they stack up against each other.

It is an exercise in futility, but I decided to select two fully-fledged teams – one from players based in South Africa and another from players based abroad.

I managed to come up with two well-balanced teams that will – should they ever meet on the playing field – make for an intriguing match.

It also showed just how much depth is at Meyer’s disposal, although some of their appearances will be limited by their clubs.

My selection policy was simple: Each player must be listed as a Springbok. It does rule out a few quality players playing abroad, such as CJ Stander and Willem Petrus (WP) Nel.

And, of course a good number of Boks will be sitting on the sideline.

Players like Schalk Burger, Johann Muller, Pierre Spies, Peter Grant, Ryan Kankowski, Tiaan Liebenberg, Zane Kirchner, Juan de Jongh, Francois Hougaard, Bjorn Basson, Flip van der Merwe, Elton Jantjies, Marcell Coetzee, Juandré Kruger and Trevor Nyakane were among those considered.

All things considered, I feel the home-based Boks may have a slight edge, but I would not put my house on it!

Teams:

Home-based XV: 15 Willie le Roux (Cheetahs), 14 JJ Engelbrecht (Bulls), 13 Jean de Villiers (Stormers, captain), 12 Frans Steyn (Sharks), 11 Gio Aplon (Stormers), 10 Johan Goosen (Cheetahs), 9 Piet van Zyl (Bulls), 8 Duane Vermeulen (Stormers), 7 Willem Alberts (Sharks), 6 Siya Kolisi (Stormers), 5 Eben Etzebeth (Stormers), 4 Pieter-Steph du Toit (Sharks), 3 Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), 2 Bismarck du Plessis (Sharks), 1 Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks).
Replacements: 16 Adriaan Strauss (Cheetahs), 17 Coenie Oosthuizen (Cheetahs), 18 Lourens Adriaanse (Sharks), 19 Franco van der Merwe (Lions), 20 Arno Botha (Bulls), 21 Charl McLeod (Sharks), 22 Jan Serfontein (Bulls), 23 Pat Lambie (Sharks).

Overseas-based XV: 15 Riaan Viljoen (Japan), 14 JP Pietersen (Japan), 13 Jaque Fourie (Japan), 12 Robert Ebersohn (France), 11 Bryan Habana (France), 10 Morne Steyn (France), 9 Fourie du Preez (Japan), 8 Danie Rossouw (France), 7 Heinrich Brüssow (Japan), 6 Francois Louw (England), 5 Andries Bekker (Japan), 4 Bakkies Botha (France), 3 BJ Botha (Ireland), 2 Schalk Brits (England), 1 JC Janse van Rensburg (France).
Replacements: 16 Chiliboy Ralepelle (France), 17 Brian Mujati (France), 18 Gurthro Steenkamp (France), 19 Juan Smith (France), 20 Gerhard Mostert (France), 21 Jano Vermaak (France), 22 Wynand Olivier (France), 23 Ruan Pienaar (Ireland).

By Jan de Koning

Boks v Proteas … at rugby?

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Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – Forgive me my bemusement: it just seems that the Twenty20 game between the Proteas and Springboks is in some danger of being treated as an event a little more serious than it really should be.

It troubled me in the first place when the national cricket team’s selectors soberly announced before Christmas that they would favour “continuity” by naming a full-strength squad for Friday’s fixture (18:00) against the rugby specialists, marking the start of the three-day Festival of Cricket which replaces the more traditional New Year Test match at Newlands.

Surely a slightly better balance might have been struck in the competitiveness department, with respect, if the Proteas had thrown in four or five crowd-pleasing figures of, say, the early post-isolation era?

I’m thinking you could draw from names like Jonty Rhodes, Peter Kirsten, Daryll Cullinan, Brett Schultz, Mfuneko Ngam, Allan Donald, Paul Adams, Fanie de Villiers … etc.

A few golden oldies – perhaps not all of them in optimal physical condition these days, no bad “handicap” at all – wouldn’t dilute the fun appeal or have any detrimental effect on the gate, I am pretty sure.

Instead South Africa will field their T20 Full Monty, and we even saw newspaper back-page lead headlines on Thursday morning like “Kallis takes on the Boks” — as if the Proteas are having to bolster their arsenal for a genuinely weighty onslaught from the oval-ball gang.

Why, a touch of New Year madness has even engulfed that bastion of cricketing austerity, www.espncricinfo.com which, in its diary list of imminent international fixtures across the globe, duly records (thankfully in this order): “5th Test: Australia v England at Sydney”, “4th ODI: New Zealand v West Indies at Nelson” and “South Africa v Springboks at Cape Town”.

So if you can’t beat such eccentricity, why not join it? More than a little sympathetic to the excessive lead-up hype the Boks’ essentially part-time cricket personnel will have to try to live up to, I have just begun to imagine (possibly affected by this city’s mini-heatwave), the boot being placed on the other foot.

What if it was decided that the Proteas would have to cobble together a rugby team to tackle the Boks at their own favoured, XV-strong pursuit … perhaps across the road a few days later at the other Newlands?

I make no apology for the exercise not being hugely scientific – uh, blame it on the time of year – and fully appreciate that I may open myself up to such retorts as “How could you pick so-and-so at hooker when he was a scrumhalf at school, idiot?”

But in a daft few moments I imagined a random bunch of our current national cricketers (either Test or one-day, or both) standing in a group and their physical proportions in early 2014 being strongest features, in many cases, for selection for my phantom “Proteas rugby XV”.

So here goes …

15 David Miller

He hits a ball a very long way, so I’m figuring if he has a kick to match that he could just be the Proteas’ counter to Frans Steyn’s 55m dropped goals and the like.

14 Dale Steyn

His nickname is the Phalaborwa Express … which seems a good start if he is to directly oppose one Bryan Habana.

13 Faf du Plessis

With two Affies products (always a good start) in my midfield, and both their fathers having played rugby for Northern Transvaal, this was the easiest combo to pick.

12 AB de Villiers

Yes, he was a Craven Week-quality flyhalf, but sorry AB, you are famously versatile enough to make the minor adjustment to inside centre …

11 Imran Tahir

The “Slaptjips” of my team, if you like. You simply wouldn’t know what to expect of him at left wing. A bit like his bowling.

10 Herschelle Gibbs

OK, this is the one “cheat” pick: he’s no longer in the Proteas’ frame, but if you’d ever had the pleasure of seeing him at flyhalf for Bishops … let’s just say there’s a danger he’d shade Morné Steyn for X-factor.

9 JP Duminy

Well, he was hardly going to play in the second row, was he?

8 Ryan McLaren

You’ve got to be tough to take on Duane Vermeulen in this slot, and McLaren at least hails from the rock-hard pitches of Kimberley.

7 Rory Kleinveldt

A bit of assuring ballast is required at blindside flank if you are to match the exploits of Willem “Bone Collector” Alberts.

6 Alviro Petersen

Never write this guy off: amazingly always delivers just when the axe seems to be drawing closer. Clearly has the mettle to be the Proteas’ fetcher.

5 Morné Morkel

Might pinch a few lineout balls off the fingertips of Flip van der Merwe?

4 Lonwabo Tsotsobe

Tricky gig to go nose to nose with Eben Etzebeth (OK, when fit again), but at least Lopsy offers a good icy stare. Handling skills possibly open to scrutiny.

3 Jacques Kallis

Didn’t sniff this particular slot in his Wynberg heyday, it’s true, but Jakes is a rather burlier customer at 38. Gnarly right-shoulder provider … the Proteas’ own Martin Castrogiovanni, if you like.

2 Vernon Philander

He comes from Ravensmead where there aren’t too many Shrinking Violets – important for the task of thwarting Bissie. Stocky build hints at scrummaging efficiency, too. (Oh yes, if he pulled a hammie Roelof van der Merwe would earn my recall to duty for this role.)

1 Graeme Smith (capt)

Barrelling loosehead prop and inspiring, John Smit-like skipper. Give Biff a pop-pass a metre out and he’ll cross the chalk, no problem.

Any improvements on that combo, readers? Let’s hear them …

WRU u-turn in Euro stand-off

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The Welsh Rugby Union has made a dramatic about-turn in their stand-off with the four regions.

Just a day after the WRU hinting it could set up new franchises to play in European competitions and the Pro12, the national body said it would return to the boardroom with a new agreement for the current regional teams.

This follows after the four regional teams in Wales, called Regional Rugby Wales, stood their ground and declined to sign a new Participation Agreement.

The organisation, RRW, had given the WRU until the end of January 2014 to settle their differences.

On Thursday Welsh chiefs said they will present the country’s four regional teams with a new agreement.

The regions – Newport Gwent Dragons, Ospreys, Scarlets and Cardiff Blues – want the WRU to back its commitment towards the Rugby Champions Cup next season, a breakaway European competition initially forged by top English and French clubs.

And in another twist Premiership Rugby welcomed support from the Welsh regions for the creation of a new Rugby Champions Cup.

The RCC is an alternative European competition to the European Cup.

The Participation Agreement, which the RRW declined to sign, covers critical areas such as revenue and competition structure.

The regions say WRU bosses cannot currently confirm the make-up of either critical component moving forward, although the regions’ umbrella organisation has also underlined a desire to work with the WRU.

Following the tough stance by the regions, the WRU board of directors met on Thursday and then issued a statement that confirmed their dramatic about turn on the matter.

The WRU claimed the new deal would ensure “…the retention of Welsh players is properly recognised…”

WELSH RUGBY UNION STATEMENT

The Board of Directors of the Welsh Rugby Union met today and unanimously agreed that a positive way forward for professional rugby in Wales as set out in the WRU’s statement of 31 December 2013, is in the best interests of Welsh rugby.

The WRU has today informed the four Regional Organisations that they will shortly be presented with a new agreement in respect of professional rugby in Wales. A timetable for discussion has been provided by the WRU.

The new agreement will further reflect the WRU’s desire to ensure that Welsh player development and the retention of Welsh players is properly recognised. This is in the best interests of all of rugby in Wales, from the grass roots to the international level.

PREMIERSHIP RUGBY STATEMENT

On behalf of its clubs, Premiership Rugby today welcomed the news that the Welsh Regions are backing the creation of the Rugby Champions Cup next season and has endorsed the need for resolution in a short timescale.

The concept of the new competitions was announced in September last year and as well as providing a strong, merit-based sporting format, the Rugby Champions Cup will deliver higher commercial values and a platform for expansion. It remains essential within the governance structure for the new competitions that the participant clubs are able to deliver this sporting and commercial improvement under the overall aegis of unions.

“We believe that the new competitions are clearly the best solution. They will deliver more matches between the top teams, as decided on merit, and as the Welsh Regions have stated, they will generate the financial returns to ensure continued strong investment into the club game, including player development and retention,” said Premiership Rugby Chief Executive Mark McCafferty.