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Daily Archives: March 22, 2014

SR: Vodacom Bulls 23, Cell C Sharks 19

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imagesThe big questions is: Can anyone beat the Sharks?

The Bulls believe they can, if they play to their true potential – more like their performance against the Blues a fortnight ago. However, they are up against a team blessed with having two genuine playmakers in their backline in Pat Lambie and Francois Steyn. The Sharks have shown they can play both an expansive game and handle a gruelling forward battle up front. A trip up to Pretoria looks to be their toughest test to date, although they did record a comprehensive 15-point victory over the three-time champions in Round One this year.

Back on track after two straight victories in the opening weeks, the Bulls have shown they might not be a spent force in Super Rugby after all. Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White admitted they are looking forward to finally playing on a dry field on the Highveld – after some testing and humid conditions in all four their home games. “I don’t think anybody can say we are conservative, given that we have scored the second most tries in the competition,” White told this website in an interview. The Sharks have scored 12 tries in their four games, and conceded five – with only the Blues, in 11th place and Hurricanes in 12th place who have more, both scored 13 in the same number of games.

“Our outside backs have scored 80 percent of our tries,” the Sharks boss said. “To get up there on the Highveld, with a nice hard field, and be able to move the ball around is something we are looking forward to.” The Bulls are determined to kick on from their two recent wins. “For us every game is important,” coach Frans Ludeke told this website.

“We are up against a team in good form, playing good rugby and unbeaten,” he said, adding: “That makes the challenge so much more interesting. “However, we have to put the past [last four games] behind us and come up with an 80-minute effort. “We are at home and must win if we want to have a say in the competition.” While a lot has happened since the Sharks beat the Bulls in Durban in Week One, Ludeke admitted some tough lessons were learnt from that outing.

“Our reaction at the breakdown was slow and our ball carriers turned over too much possession at the breakdown – that put us under pressure,” he said. “We created opportunities, but were disappointed that we didn’t convert those into points. “That [converting opportunities into points] will be critical this weekend. “Discipline is another factor.

“We need to ensure we are on the right side of the calls in all aspects – set pieces, breakdown, etc.” Both teams have the ability to put the opposition under pressure on the scoreboard with penalties, which means dominating up front will be crucial. Both teams have lost Springbok locks to injury – Pieter-Steph du Toit out for the rest of the year with a knee injury and Flip van der Merwe for a couple of weeks with a hamstring strain.

Recent results:
2014: Sharks won 31-16, Durban
2013: Bulls won 20-19, Pretoria
2013: Bulls won 18-16, Durban
2012: Sharks won 32-10, Durban
2012: Bulls won 18-13, Pretoria
2011: Sharks won 26-23, Pretoria
2011: Bulls won 32-23, Durban

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Jurgen Visser, 14 Sampie Mastriet, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Francois Hougaard, 8 Dewald Potgieter, 7 Jacques du Plessis, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Victor Matfield (captain), 4 Paul Willemse, 3 Werner Kruger, 2 Callie Visagie, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Morné Mellett, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Grant Hattingh, 20 Jono Ross, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Ulrich Beyers.

Sharks: 15 SP Marais, 14 JP Pietersen, 13 Sibusiso Sithole, 12 Frans Steyn, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Patrick Lambie, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Ryan Kankowski, 7 Willem Alberts, 6 Marcell Coetzee, 5 Stephan Lewies, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1 Tendai Mtawarira.
Replacements: 16 Kyle Cooper, 17 Dale Chadwick, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Etienne Oosthuizen, 20 Lubabalo Mtembu, 21 Charl McLeod, 22 Tim Swiel, 23 Andre Esterhuizen.

Referee: Mike Fraser (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Craig Joubert (South Africa), Jaco van Heerden (South Africa)
TMO: Deon van Blommenstein (South Africa)

SR: Lions 23, Reds 20

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imagesThe Reds are determined to bounce back from last week’s disappointment, when they felt hard done by a few decision from the match officials.

They will encounter another South African referee, Stuart Berry, who has come under fire from SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray for his handling of the Blues game against the Lions last week. However, the Reds can’t blame all their problems on the referee. There were three blown tries – and some ill-discipline – that robbed Richard Graham’s men of a chance at upsetting the unbeaten Sharks. They now have to turn their attention to another South African side on a roll.

The Lions have racked up three wins already in 2014 to be the surprise packets of the competition and will take some beating at Ellis Park. As well as being on their game the Reds will want to be on their best behaviour, with Lions superboot Marnitz Boshoff – who has already booted 20 penalties among his 96 points so far in 2014 – sure to make them pay for any indiscretions. Lions coach Johan Ackermann has repeatedly warned that his team, despite their impressive form, can’t take anything for granted.

“They certainly bring a new challenge,” he said of the Reds. “We can’t just look at their game against the Sharks this past Saturday,” Ackermann said, adding: “We have to accept that they may have been a bit below par [in a 20-35 loss in Durban]. It was their first game on the road and we have to realise they will be a much bigger threat. “We know how dangerous their backline can be and we will certainly have to improve our defence.”

Graham said the team had prepared well despite a few injury setbacks and was looking forward to the contest. “The Lions have been one of the form teams in the early rounds of Super Rugby. They are a young, energetic team who fight and scrap for everything,” Graham said. “We have spent a large part of the week focusing on our own game and wanting to improve certain aspects around the contact areas.”

The Reds and Lions have met 17 times in Super Rugby, with Queensland winning 13 of the encounters and drawing one. The Reds’ record in Johannesburg against the Lions is seven wins, one loss and one draw.

Recent results:
2012: Reds won 34-20, Brisbane
2011: Reds won 30-25, Johannesburg
2010: Reds won 41-26, Johannesburg
2009: Lions won 31-20, Brisbane
2008: Lions and Reds drew 24-24, Johannesburg
2007: Lions won 26-20, Brisbane

Teams:

Lions: 15 Coenie van Wyk, 14 JW Jonker, 13 Deon van Rensburg, 12 Stefan Watermeyer, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Marnitz Boshoff, 9 Francois de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (captain), 7 Willie Britz, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco van der Merwe, 4 Franco Mostert, 3 Julian Redelinghuys, 2 Willie Wepener, 1 Schalk van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 Mark Pretorius, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Ruan Dreyer, 19 Luvuyiso Lusaseni, 20 Stephan de Wit, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Lionel Mapoe, 23 Ruan Combrinck.

Reds: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Rod Davies, 13 Ben Tapuai, 12 Mike Harris, 11 Lachie Turner, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Jake Schatz, 7 Liam Gill, 6 Eddie Quirk, 5 James Horwill (captain), 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Greg Holmes, 2 Saia Fainga’a, 1 James Slipper.
Replacements: 16 James Hanson, 17 Albert Anae, 18 Jono Owen, 19 Ed O’Donoghue, 20 Beau Robinson, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Anthony Fainga’a/Ben Lucas, 23 Dom Shipperley.

Referee: Stuart Berry (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), Francois de Bruin (South Africa)
TMO: Johan Greeff (South Africa)

A bitter pill to swallow – Coetzee

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Stormers Press
The Men from Cape Town conceded a last-minute penalty try to the Brumbies to miss out on a losing bonus point as they suffered a third tour defeat in the process.

Speaking to the www.iamastormer.com website from his team’s base in Canberra afterwards, Coetzee said: “This is definitely a bitter pill to swallow for us, even more disappointing than the losses to the Crusaders and the Chiefs. “It’s frustrating as we’re our own worst enemies at the moment. Individual errors and poor decision-making at key moments continue to cost us,” he added.

“But we’re not about to give up. I’ve said it before, no DHL Stormers team will ever give up and we will be putting everything into securing a win in our final tour game next week (against the Reds).” The DHL Stormers lost by one point to the Crusaders two weeks ago, conceding a late penalty goal to go down 13-14, and last weekend they were trailing the Chiefs by four points (20-24) before conceding two late tries to miss out on a losing bonus point (as they lost 20-36).

“It’s the third week in a row that we’ve not stuck to the plan in closing a game out,” said Coetzee. “It’s a lack of composure in pressure situations, but hopefully we’ve finally learnt our lesson.” The team also suffered a blow shortly before today’s clash against the Brumbies when veteran flanker Schalk Burger was forced to withdraw with a torn quad muscle. To make matters worse, Burger – boasting 91 Super Rugby caps – will head back to South Africa on Sunday.

“It’s always a big loss losing a player at the 11th hour – especially someone of Schalk’s calibre,” said Coetzee. “But we’re fortunate to be able to call upon someone like Siya Kolisi, who is of course a Springbok himself, and then there’s also a quality player like Nizaam Carr in the mix too. “Schalk will head home,” added Coetzee, “and we will call up a lock replacement as Jurie van Vuuren, who made his Super Rugby today, is (first and foremost) a flanker and can provide additional loose forward cover in Schalk’s absence.”

An announcement on Burger’s replacement will be made on Monday, either by flying in a lock from within the union or outside the Stormers region, whilst Coetzee also confirmed that Kolisi (who took a slight knock to his head) and fullback Gio Aplon (knee) would be fit for next week’s clash against the Reds. A call on the fitness of Jaco Taute – who missed today’s match with a shoulder injury (AC Joint) – will be made next week.

“The other positive was the return to action of Juan de Jongh,” Coetzee told the official DHL Stormers website. “Juan looked very sharp when he came on, despite limited game time for him this year, and it adds crucial depth to our backline with one week left on tour.”

SR: Force 18, Chiefs 15

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The Western Force return home to take on the two-time defending champions, the Chiefs.

A big crowd is already building for Saturday’s clash, following the Western Australians’ consecutive bonus-point wins in their last two outings and the side is looking to continue that momentum against the unbeaten Chiefs. What has emerged from the past fortnight is that the Force can actually play a bit – producing outstanding efforts for a team that has barely secured two four-try bonus points in the last three years.

The opposition is obviously a step up on last week and they’ll suffer greatly with the loss of the competition’s form No.8, Ben McCalman. Just a solitary point separated them the last time the two sides met, with the Chiefs prevailing 22-21 in Pukekohe in Round 13 last year. This week the Force welcomes Wallaby forward Hugh McMeniman back from injury, as he returns at blindside flank. Angus Cottrell shifts to the back of the scrum in place of Wallaby No.8 Ben McCalman, who will miss the match after being suspended for a dangerous tackle against the Highlanders.

The Chiefs have made a number of changes to the side that defeated the Stormers last weekend, with lock Mike Fitzgerald and flank Sam Cane named in the forward pack, while wing Asaeli Tikoirotuma, utility Tim Nanai-Williams and club legend Mils Muliaina helping to form a new-look backline. Cane the sideline was the best place to assess progress. With his leg up, Cane was buoyed by his side’s performance against the Stormers last week. The Chiefs enjoyed a decent share of possession and, thus, displayed their lethal attacking abilities.

“We had two gutsy wins and, maybe, in other years we would have lost those,” Cane told the Waikato Times. “It’s pleasing to get those type of wins,” he said, adding: “We definitely enjoy scoring more tries, like we did against the Stormers.” Despite being unbeaten, assistant coach Wayne Smith made it clear the defending champions would not become complacent.

“This competition is all about keeping your feet on the ground. Past success doesn’t guarantee anything,” he said. “You’ve got to keep working on the character, attitude and spirit and keep improving your skill and decision-making execution. There’s a few more months of that yet.”

Recent results:
2013: Chiefs won 22-21, Pukekohe
2012: Chiefs won 20-12, Perth
2010: Chiefs won 37-19, Perth
2009: Chiefs won 31-13, Hamilton
2008: Force won 22-21, Perth
2007: Chiefs won 64-36, Hamilton

Teams:

Western Force: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luke Morahan, 13 Junior Rasolea, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 Nick Cummins, 10 Sias Ebersohn, 9 Alby Mathewson, 8 Angus Cottrell, 7 Matt Hodgson (captain), 6 Hugh McMeniman, 5 Wilhelm Steenkamp, 4 Sam Wykes, 3 Kieran Longbottom, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Pek Cowan.
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Tetera Faulkner, 18 Ollie Hoskins, 19 Adam Coleman, 20 Brynard Stander, 21 Ian Prior, 22 Zack Holmes, 23 Marcel Brache.

Chiefs: 15 Gareth Anscombe, 14 Mils Muliaina, 13 Tim Nanai-Williams, 12 Tom Marshall, 11 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 10 Aaron Cruden (captain), 9 Tawera Kerr-Barlow, 8 Liam Squire, 7 Sam Cane, 6 Liam Messam, 5 Brodie Retallick, 4 Michael Fitzgerald, 3 Ben Tameifuna, 2 Mahonri Schwalger, 1 Jamie Mackintosh.
Replacements: 16 Rhys Marshall, 17 Pauliasi Manu, 18 Josh Hohneck, 19 Kane Thompson, 20 Tanerau Latimer, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Andrew Horrell, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Referee: Lourens van der Merwe (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Will Houston (Australia)
TMO: Steve Leszczynski (Australia)

SR: Brumbies 25, DHL Stormers 15

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imagesThe Brumbies, after a slowish start to the season, are beginning to find their true form.

A bruising win over the Waratahs last weekend has set the tone for the rest of the season, but it has come at a cost for the Brumbies. Three key players – led by wing Henry Speight – picked up injuries in the match and won’t take the field on Saturday against the Stormers. In addition to Speight, prop Scott Sio and lock Leon Power, Wallaby centre Tevita Kuridrani is also unavailable after flying home to Fiji for a funeral.

Wallaby flyer Joe Tomane and centre Andrew Smith are handy replacements in the backs, while Cape Town-raised prop Jean-Pierre Smith and flank Jordan Smiler come into the pack, with Scott Fardy shifting from the side of the scrum to lock. Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham admitted his team is in for another tough test, especially they have not defeated the Stormers since 2010 in Cape Town – with losses in Canberra (2011) and Newlands (2013).

“Traditionally we find them very difficult to beat,” Larkham said. “They’ve had a tough start to the season and will be desperate for a win in Canberra to get some pay from this tour.” The Stormers are on the back-end of a tough Australasian tour, falling to the Crusaders and Chiefs before facing the Brumbies and Reds on their way back to the Republic.

Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot believes the hard work the players put in at training this week will put the team in good stead. “We’ve been really critical of ourselves, isolating where we need to perform to get the result we want,” Proudfoot said in an interview on the Stormers website. “On that note, the players have responded well at training [this week].

“You know, there’s not a lot of time to train when you’re on tour. You need to be accurate when you do and the players have responded well on that level.” The Stormers have won just once in seven games in Canberra. However, that win came in their previous encounter in Canberra (in 2011) and nine players – including captain Jean de Villiers and vice-captain Schalk Burger – are back for this fixture some three years later.

Proudfoot added: “We do take a good feeling out there [from last time out], but we know that this is probably Australia’s best side and they are playing well at the moment. We know it will be a very tough game. “We watched their game against the Waratahs, who they dominated, so it was a sobering experience to see that [having watched it together as a team]. We know what we have to do, the detail has been good this week and we hope to take our energy with us to Canberra.”

Recent results:
2013: Stormers won 35-22, Cape Town
2011: Stormers won 16-3, Canberra
2010: Brumbies won 19-17, Cape Town
2009: Brumbies won 17-10, Canberra
2008: Stormers won 20-10, Cape Town
2007: Brumbies won 26-13, Canberra

Teams:

Brumbies: 15 Jesse Mogg, 14 Joe Tomane, 13 Andrew Smith, 12 Pat McCabe, 11 Robbie Coleman, 10 Matt Toomua, 9 Nic White, 8 Ben Mowen (captain), 7 Jarrad Butler, 6 Jordan Smiler, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Scott Fardy, 3 Ben Alexander, 2 Stephen Moore, 1 JP Smith.
Replacements: 16 Siliva Siliva, 17 Ruan Smith, 18 Ruaidhri Murphy, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 Lachlan McCaffrey, 21 Michael Dowsett, 22 Stephan van der Walt, 23 Lionel Cronje.

Stormers: 15 Gio Aplon, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Jean de Villiers (captain), 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Sailosi Tagicakibau, 10 Peter Grant, 9 Nic Groom, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Schalk Burger, 6 Deon Fourie, 5 Michael Rhodes, 4 Ruan Botha, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Tiaan Liebenberg, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Oliver Kebble, 18 Brok Harris, 19 Siya Kolisi, 20 Nizaam Carr, 21 Louis Schreuder, 22 Demetri Catrakilis, 23 Juan de Jongh.’

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: James Leckie (Australia), Andrew Lees (Australia)
TMO: Peter Marshall (Australia)

Tokyo IRB 7’s

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IRB_Sevens-300x186 South Africa head into this weekend’s Tokyo tournament only two points behind IRB Sevens World Series leaders New Zealand.

With try-scoring machine Seabelo Senatla back in the team, the side will be aiming to reclaim the Series lead at the Prince Chichibu Stadium. South Africa lost to New Zealand in the Final of the Wellington leg the last time the two teams met and that result also handed the World Series lead back to their rivals. Should the Springboks defend the title they won 12 months ago in Tokyo, it would allow them to reclaim pole position on the points table.

Speaking to the Japanese media ahead of the event, South Africa Sevens coach Neil Powell said his charges have no wish to become too caught up in the World Series title race.

“The squad is really looking forward to their title defence this weekend in Tokyo,” said Powell. He added he would seek to use the experience gained by his team at the same venue last year to assist them in their challenge of defending their title. “We will fall back on the guys that were here last year, and especially the management, considering I have never played or coached here before. We must not get too caught up on the table and the log points because we will place too much pressure on ourselves. It is all about the process, and if we do things well on the field the outcomes will follow,” according to Powell.

Despite going down to New Zealand in the Wellington Cup Final, the Springbok Sevens approach their Tokyo challenge with a rich vein of good form. After their fourth place at the season-opening tournament in Australia, South Africa have reached the last four Cup finals this season and their mantra has been consistency. While many think the season boils down to a two-horse race, Powell admits Fiji and England could still upset the apple cart with big performances in the remaining four rounds.

“Fiji is a great team and England are playing some good rugby at the moment,” added Powell.

“I think any of us could (still) win the Series. If either New Zealand or us slip up in one of the tournaments, the other sides will have a chance, so it is important to tick that consistency box. We want to reach at least the semi-finals and hopefully we can do that here as well as next week in Hong Kong.”

Junior Springbok Senatla will provide extra speed in an already quick backline, while Justin Geduld takes over the flyhalf duties in place of Cecil Afrika who was unable to travel to the Far East because of a hamstring strain.

Pools:

Pool A: New Zealand, Canada, Wales, Portugal
Pool B: South Africa, Argentina, Kenya, Japan
Pool C: Fiji, Samoa, France, United States
Pool D: England, Australia, Scotland, Spain

SR: Blues 40, Toyota Cheetahs 30

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imagesThe Super Rugby season may be just over a month old, but already the Blues and Cheetahs are entering must-win territory when they go head-to-head at Eden.

The Blues have been all about big-name recruitments in the off-season, none of whom has repaid their hefty sales tags. Benji Marshall, after one start at fullback, is back on the bench – again producing a mixed bag in the loss to the Lions last week which suggested he is still struggling to inject his considerable skills into a game unfamiliar to him.

All Blacks stars Ma’a Nonu and Jerome Kaino have both been named among the replacements as well – Nonu finally returning from injury after his high-profile move from the Highlanders (his fourth franchise in as many seasons), while loose forward Kaino returns to Super Rugby after two years in Japan. Then there is the fact that the Blues, after two bruising encounter, with the Bulls and Lions, had to endure a 20-hour flight from South African and reduced training this week. Cheetahs assistant coach Hawies Fourie admitted the extended travel and accompanying jet lag will play a role. However, the Blues will be determined to make amends for their a disappointing tour of South Africa, where they collected just two bonus points.

“We are certainly not expecting any favours or an easy game,” Fourie told this website from the Cheetahs’ training base in Auckland. “It is going to be very tough, given they are getting a few of their All Blacks back from injury – guys like Jerome Kaino and Ma’a Nonu, so that won’t make the job any easier. “However, I feel we play so far below the potential we have, that our main goal should be to perform to our true potential.”

The Cheetahs, despite being on a three-match losing streak with just one win from five starts this season, believe they can win against any team on any given day. The Blues are pretty much in the same boat. The thrill and excitement of their last victory against the Crusaders last month has all but evaporated, following disappointing losses to both the Bulls and the Lions. Currently sitting in 11th position on the Super Rugby ladder, a third consecutive loss, and one at home no less, would be a significant blow to the Blues’ play-off chances even this early in the competition.

After conceding almost unassailable leads in all four of their matches before charging back into contention late in the game, Blues coach John Kirwan said he was looking for much more hunger, energy and work-rate from his side. “We just need to play for each other this week,” Kirwan said in an interview on the Blues’ website.

“We need to make sure that we are excited off the football and running. “I think if we are missing one thing it’s a little effort so we’re looking for more effort this week and making sure we’re playing for each other.”

Recent results:
2013: Cheetahs won 34-13, Bloemfontein
2011: Blues won 29-22, Auckland
2010: Cheetahs won 36-32, Bloemfontein
2009: Blues won 46-12, North Harbour
2008: Blues won 50-26, Bloemfontein
2007: Blues won 26-8, Auckland

Teams:

Blues: 15 Charles Piutau, 14 Frank Halai, 13 George Moala, 12 Jackson Willison, 11 Tevita Li, 10 Simon Hickey, 9 Piri Weepu, 8 Peter Saili, 7 Luke Braid, 6 Steven Luatua, 5 Tom Donnelly, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Charlie Faumuina, 2 James Parsons, 1 Tony Woodcock.
Replacements: 16 Tom McCartney, 17 Angus Ta’avao, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Jerome Kaino, 20 Hayden Triggs, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Ma’a Nonu, 23 Benji Marshall.

Cheetahs: 15 Willie le Roux, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Ryno Benjamin, 11 Hennie Daniller, 10 Johan Goosen, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Jean Cook, 6 Johannes Prinsloo, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Nicolaas van Dyk, 2 Adriaan Strauss (captain), 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Replacements: 16 Ryno Barnes, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Rossouw de Klerk, 19 Andries Ferreira, 20 Pieter Labuschagne, 21 Shaun Venter, 22 Elgar Watts, 23 Howard Mnisi.

Referee: Francisco Pastrana (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Garratt Williamson (New Zealand), Shane McDermott (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)