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Daily Archives: March 24, 2014

Smal in WP & Stormers shake-up (Update)


Gert Smal 16/4/2004Western Province and the Stormers are set for a major shake-up next week, when Gert Smal will be appointed as Director of Rugby.

The former Stormers head coach, who was Ireland forwards coach for four years and was also a Springbok assistant coach for the same period, returned to Cape Town and has been seen at Newlands – with agents in tow. This website has been reliably told that Smal’s appointment is “a done deal” and will be confirmed next week – once the Stormers return from their disastrous Australasian tour.

There has been persistent rumours in recent weeks that the heads of Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee and backline mentor Robbie Fleck are on the chopping block. However, their roles in the new dispensation has not been clearly defined. WP Rugby Football Union President Thelo Wakefield, who is on tour with the team in Australia at present, has been central to the proposed changes.

He has been coy about the details of the shake-up, but hinted strongly that some management changes would take place. One suggestion has been that the current coaching structure – which include Coetzee, Fleck and forwards coach Matt Proudfoot – will remain in tact for the remainder of the Super Rugby season, but further changes could be in the offing for the Currie Cup competition.

Brendan Venter, a Cape Town resident who masterminded the Sharks’ win over WP in the Currie Cup Final last October, has also been linked to the shake-up. However, this website’s sources said no definitive role has been defined for Venter.

Coetzee was non-committal when asked about the proposed changes.

Speaking in a teleconference call from Brisbane, where the team was preparing to face the Reds in a Round Seven Super Rugby match on Saturday, he admitted to having had a “meeting” with Wakefield on Monday. “However, at this point in time my focus is on the Reds,” the Stormers coach said. “We are preparing to ensure we get a result [victory] this weekend,” he said, adding: “I am not going to comment on the meeting.”

Asked if he was willing to take on board any consultants, Coetzee again produced the ‘no comment’ card. “I am focussed on getting this ship sailing in the right direction. Our focus is on the Reds.” He said team management had a “great meeting” with the players and there is a lot of positivity in the squad. Smal and Coetzee were the assistant coaches of Jake White, when South Africa won the World Cup in 2007.

The 52-year-old Smal, who played six Tests for South Africa between 1986 and 1989, held a number of coaching positions in South Africa – including at the Border Bulldogs (1998 to 1999), Western Province (2000 to 2002, when they twice won the Currie Cup) and then with the Stormers in the Super 12 between 2003 and 2005, reaching the semifinals in 2004.

In 2004, Smal was appointed to the South African team management as assistant coach to Jake White, during which time the Springboks won the Tri-Nations championship in 2004, before winning the 2007 World Cup. In June 2008, Smal was appointed forward coach to the Irish team under Declan Kidney. During Smal’s time at Ireland, they won the 2009 Six Nations, completing the Grand Slam for the first time in 61 years.

His assistance was key in Ireland’s victory over the 2007 World Champions and Tri-Nations champions South Africa during the year-end tour in 2009 – where he taught the Irish pack some Afrikaans so that they could read the opposition’s line-out calls. In June 2011, he signed a contract extension with the IRFU.

Smal was replaced as Ireland forwards coach in 2013 by former Sharks mentor John Plumtree.


Henning Gericke, a psychologist who worked with the Springboks when they won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, is set to help at the Stormers.

The Stormers have only won only one game out of five in this year’s Super Rugby competition and are languishing in 14th spot on the overall log. According to Die Burger’s website, Gericke will be asked to help a team struggling to close out tight games. Gericke is well renowned in his field and also worked with South Africa’s swimming team ahead of the 2012 Olympics, while also working with the Proteas cricket team in the past.

Gericke has a PhD in Clinical Psychology from the University of Pretoria. His addition could be one of a few changes made in personnel at the union, with former coach Gert Smal expected to be appointed as director of rugby. WP Rugby President Thelo Wakefield indicated there will be changes in personnel but did not state if any of the current coaching staff would be axed.

The Stormers face the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday (10:40 kick-off) in the last game of their Australasian tour.

Ikeys packing for Potchefstroom


Varisty Cup Logo
A late penalty from replacement Rhyno Smith saw FNB NWU-Pukke clinch a 19-18 victory over NMMU in Potchefstroom to set up their first-ever home FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final.

NWU-Pukke will host the FNB UCT Ikey Tigers in the final on April 7 after edging the Madibaz in a dramatic finish as the Eastern Cape side went down by a single point in their second consecutive semifinal. The home side made the early running as they surged into the NMMU 22 with purpose, and it was not long before flank Rhyk Welgemoed dived over for the opening try next to the posts.

There was no respite for the Madibaz as NWU-Pukke got right back on the front foot and some quick hands saw wing Luther Obi get over for their second try which gave them a healthy 13-0 lead inside the opening ten minutes. NMMU had hardly got their hands on the ball, and they made their first foray into opposition territory as they looked for a response, but Andile Jho was denied a try after being put over the line by a forward pass.

Two penalties from NWU-Pukke centre Adriaan Engelbrecht early in the second half saw them stretch their lead to 17-8, before some last-ditch defending saw them deny the Madibaz from scoring in the corner. However, the visitors struck soon afterwards as they launched a breathtaking counter-attack from their own territory after absorbing plenty of pressure from the hosts.

Fullback Jarryd Buys picked the ball up off his bootlaces and threw a neat dummy before releasing wing Tythan Adams who finished well, with Hauptfleisch’s conversion reducing the gap to 17-16 at the second strategy break. NMMU took the lead for the first time with just 12 minutes left to play when Buys slotted a drop-goal which set up a tense finish as both teams chased a first-ever home final.

However, Smith stepped up with just two minutes left on the clock and sent the ball sailing through the uprights to the delight of the crowd to break Madibaz hearts.

The scorers:

For FNB NWU-Pukke:
Tries: Welgemoed, Obi
Con: Engelbrecht
Pens: Engelbrecht 2, Smith

For FNB NMMU Madibaz:
Tries: Cloete, Adams
Cons: Hauptfleisch 2
DG: Buys

In Cape Town

FNB UCT booked their place in the 2014 FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final with a dominant 20-8 victory over Maties on a wet Green Mile.

The wind and rain in Cape Town made it a tricky prospect for both teams, with UCT adapting best to conditions as they scored all of their points after half-time following a scoreless first half. The visitors made a positive start to the game, pegging the Ikeys back in their own half in the slippery conditions, but they were unable to make it count on the scoreboard as the UCT defence held up well after conceding a string of penalties in their 22.

The battle up front was always going to be key given the persistent rain, and Ikeys struck a big blow when they shoved the Maties pack backwards in the first scrum of the game, which set the tone for the rest of the match. They kept the pressure on and camped on the Maties tryline for a while, but the team from Stellenbosch showed just as much resolve on defence to keep the game scoreless after an intense opening 15 minutes.

Maties made their move once more, rejecting a few opportunities to kick at goal as they looked for the opening try, and although Ikeys wing Richard Stewart was shown a yellow card for repeated infringements the Stellenbosch side could not find a way through as they went into the first strategy break without bothering the scorers. Maties looked certain to score after the ball was sent wide following a turnover in UCT territory, but left wing John Durr was forced into touch just short of the tryline as the Tigers hung tough.

Maties continued to hammer away, but Ikeys clearly had the upper hand in the set-pieces and they managed to keep them out as the teams went into the half-time break still deadlocked at 0-0. The home side had the wind at their backs in the second half, and it paid off straight away as Lihleli Xoli followed up well on a chip kick to score the opening try, with Dean Grant’s conversion putting them 8-0 up.

Grant added two penalties which took Ikeys’ lead to 12-0, and it looked a long way back for Maties with the wind and rain blowing in their faces. Some clever kicking from Grant kept Maties back in their own 22, where the Ikeys scrum put them under some considerable pressure, and it finally told as a massive shove saw UCT No.8 Michael Botha crash over for a pushover try which made it 20-0 once converted.

That left Maties with it all to do in the last ten minutes, and they were given a glimmer of hope when Ikeys captain Liam Slatem was shown a yellow card for a dangerous tackle. His opposite number Jean Nel took advantage straight away when he slid over for a try in the corner, which was converted from the touchline by flyhalf Robert du Preez, but it was not enough to avoid defeat as Ikeys booked their place in the final.

The scorers:

Tries: Xoli, Botha
Cons: Grant 2
Pens: Grant 2

For FNB Maties:
Try: Nel
Con: Du Preez

Lambie’s season curtailed


(Gallo Images)
(Gallo Images)
The Sharks have been dealt a sizeable blow with the news that highly-rated fly-half Pat Lambie’s Super Rugby season is over.

Lambie picked up a knock early on in the Durban-based franchise’s narrow defeat to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld, and though the initial prognosis was not too severe, it has been confirmed the pivot has torn a biceps tendon.

That rules Lambie out for the remainder of the Sharks’ campaign, with the recovery period likely to take around six months after surgery later this week.

Scrum-half Cobus Reinach picked up a fractured hand during the same match and underwent surgery on Monday.

He will be out of action for up to eight weeks which means he misses the match against the Waratahs this Saturday at Kings Park as well as three matches in April (Lions away and at home to the Cheetahs and Highlanders) and some – if not all – of the tour to Australia and New Zealand where the Sharks play the Rebels, Brumbies, Crusaders and Blues in May.

Liebenberg joins walking wounded


Stormers Press
DHL Stormers hooker Tiaan Liebenberg has also flown home from his team’s Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australia, joining Schalk Burger who returned to Cape Town on Sunday.

Burger is out with a slightly torn quad muscle, whilst Liebenberg suffered a lower neck impingement against the Brumbies on Saturday and will consult a specialist this week once he arrives back home.At this stage Liebenberg will be out of action for at least three weeks, with Coetzee also sweating over the fitness of lock Ruan Botha who took a knock to his ankle during his team’s gut-wrenching 15-25 loss in Canberra.

“Ruan injured the ankle that was operated on last year and, at this stage, he has a 50 percent chance of being fit for the next match against the Reds (on Saturday),” DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told www.iamastormer.com from the Gold Coast on Monday. “In the case of Schalk (Burger) we’ll wait and see what the specialist’s report says before we know how long he’ll be sidelined,” added Coetzee, “but we expect Siya Kolisi to be ready since he has responded well to ongoing treatment (on his AC Joint).”

Powerful lock Tazz Fuzani and 20-year-old flanker Sikhumbuzo Notshe – two stars of the DHL Western Province Vodacom Cup team – departed for Australia on Monday afternoon and will join up with the DHL Stormers squad in Brisbane. Said Coetzee: “We have flown over Tazz Fuzani (lock) and Sikhumbuzo Notshe (flank) as injury replacements and both of them will come in the reckoning for the matchday squad this week.

“Deon Fourie will start as a hooker this week and Stephan Coetzee, who joined us on tour last week, will be the reserve.”

With Fourie set to move from the side of the scrum back to hooker this week, that would leave space for both Nizaam Carr and Siya Kolisi to combine with Springbok star Duane Vermeulen in a new-look loose trio. “Duane Vermeulen has been playing so well this season and I would not like to move him (from No.8),” said Coetzee. “Nizaam and Siya will come into contention for places on the side of the scrum.”

Fullback Jaco Taute, who missed last week’s match because of an ongoing AC Joint problem, will come back into the selection equation for the DHL Stormers’ final tour match against the Reds on Saturday. (Kick-off 10h40 SA time.)

The DHL Stormers team – to take on the Reds in Brisbane – will be announced on Wednesday mid-morning (SA time).

Aussie get domestic series


Australian-RugbyAustralian Rugby Union today announced nine teams will compete in the inaugural season of its new domestic rugby competition, the National Rugby Championship, which will kick off in August this year.

The competition will include two teams from Queensland, four from New South Wales and one each from, Victoria and Western Australia. Australian Rugby Union CEO Bill Pulver said he was delighted that the entire Australian Rugby community has come together to form teams to take part in this exciting new competition. “The National Rugby Championship is an important strategic development for the growth of Rugby in Australia.”

“For Rugby fans it will provide an opportunity to engage with an elite Rugby competition during the second half of the year, once the Super Rugby competition is completed. “For players it represents the missing link in their development pathway towards Super Rugby and ultimately Wallaby selection. “It will also support the ARU’s objective to create additional compelling content for broadcasters with a quality local competition to rival New Zealand’s ITM Cup and South Africa’s Currie Cup.

“Consistent with our commitment to continually enhance the entertainment experience from Rugby, the ARU plans to launch a social media competition inviting Rugby fans to suggest law changes and match day innovations that could form part of this new competition. “This is an opportunity for our supporters to have their say to create a more innovative and exciting game of Rugby,” Mr Pulver said.

Teams to compete in the 2014 season are:

Brisbane City
Queensland Country
North Harbour Rays
Sydney Stars
Greater Sydney Rams
NSW Country
University of Canberra Vikings
Melbourne Rising
Perth Spirit

The National Rugby Championship will kick off in late August following the State Premier Rugby Competitions and will run until the beginning of November. The competition will run for 11 weeks and include eight preliminary rounds, with each team playing four home and four away games, one bye week and finishing with semi-finals and finals. All Super Rugby players will be required to play in the National Rugby Championship, with a quota system in place to ensure each of the nine teams have a mixture of Super Rugby players and the best up and coming players from their local club competitions.

Wallabies players will be playing Tests while the National Rugby Championship is on, but each member of the Wallabies squad will be allocated across the nine teams and will play if they become available.

Aplon leaves, Sevens Bok signs for Stormers


Stormers Press
Veteran WP and Stormers utility back Gio Aplon will further his career abroad at the end of the 2014 Super Rugby season.

However, two young backline talents have been signed to make up for his departure. With Aplon set to join French Top 14 club Grenoble later this year, two younger players will be available to Western Province from the start of the 2014 Absa Currie Cup season – fullback/flyhalf Dillyn Leyds and SA Sevens speedster Seabelo Senatla. Aplon has played over 160 matches for Cape Town-based teams – at Super Rugby (81), Currie Cup (73) and Vodacom Cup (nine) level – but will now move on to the next chapter in his impressive first-class career.

Comfortable at either wing or fullback, he made his Western Province debut in 2005 and his Stormers debut two years later – quickly becoming a darling in Cape Town with his quick feet on attack and bravery on defence. Allister Coetzee, WP’s Senior Professional coach said Aplon has been a “loyal servant” of WP Rugby and a true son of Newlands. “He will be missed, but he goes with our blessing,” Coetzee said.

“At almost 32 years of age, having just got married and starting a young family, we were never going to stand in Gio’s way when he asked to be released – having first played in the Blue and White hoops [as a Vodacom Cup player] back in 2005.” Meanwhile, Coetzee was delighted to have secured the services of Leyds and Senatla, two of the country’s brightest backline talents, with an even younger player, the WP Rugby Institute’s EW Viljoen, the next fullback in waiting within the union.

Leyds is currently part of the Western Force Super Rugby squad, whilst BlitzBokke sensation Senatla will join Western Province in a unique twin deal with the SA Sevens side. “We are naturally elated that Dillyn is returning to Cape Town – especially after the starring role he played for the cup-winning Western Province Under-21 team in 2013,” said Coetzee.

“However, as with Demetri Catrakilis – who rejoined us from the Kings last year – we understand that a move away from Cape Town can only be a good thing for his development as a player and a person.

“Seabelo’s signing is a real coup too, especially given the nature of the deal between us and SA Rugby. Seabelo has impressed at Junior World Cup level and on the international Sevens circuit. He has out and out pace and a high work-rate and we look forward to working with him later this year.”

Super Rugby refs axed for poor displays


South African official Stuart Berry – who whistled the Queensland Reds off Ellis Park in Johannesburg on the weekend – is among four Super Rugby referees axed for poor performances. Berry, compatriot Lourens van der Merwe, Argentina’s Francisco Pastrana and Australian referee Angus Gardner were all stood down by governing body SANZAR on Monday.
March 24, 2014 – 6:36PM

Jim Morton

Stuart Berry during the match between the Lions and the Reds at Ellis Park at the weekend.Stuart Berry during the match between the Lions and the Reds at Ellis Park at the weekend. Photo: Getty Images


The quartet paid the price for sub-par displays as SANZAR referees boss Lyndon Bray takes a hard stance on improving the competition’s standard of refereeing. Bray last week indicated there would be a purge of officials at the end of the month but has wielded the axe a week early, following continued on-field controversies.

Berry had come under widespread criticism – from Australia, New Zealand and South Africa – after he penalised the Reds 17-4 against the Lions, who came back from 20-3 down to win 23-20 in Johannesburg on Sunday morning Australian time. Reds coach Richard Graham, particularly incensed by the final 10 minutes of the game, said he’d never seen such a lop-sided count.

Berry was due to stand as assistant referee in Pretoria this weekend but has been taken off duty for at least two weeks, as has Gardner.


The performances of Berry, who awarded a controversial try to the Lions against the Blues the week before, and van der Merwe in South Africa had sparked renewed calls for SANZAR to return to neutral referees.

Graham had previously made a formal complaint about van der Merwe’s display in Queensland’s 35-20 loss to the Sharks in Durban the week before.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske was just as cutting after panning Pastrana following his side’s 40-30 loss to the Blues in Auckland.

Van der Merwe has been stripped of controlling this Saturday’s Blues-Highlanders clash in Auckland, while Pastrana has been replaced by Nick Briant, who will referee Friday night’s Crusaders-Hurricanes game in Christchurch.

Bray has dismissed the need for neutral referees but said decreasing the pool of officials would see more consistency, with the very best handling more games heading into the finals. ”One of our core strategic objectives is to grow the depth of the team that is able to referee ‘any game, any time’,” he said. ”In line with this, we have reduced the size of the team heading into the next phase of the competition and in doing so, have recognised who has performed to expectation and who has not.”


Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/rugby-union/union-news/super-rugby-refs-axed-for-poor-displays-20140324-hvm8h.html#ixzz2ws8VvSnN

Matfield mastermind in Bulls


Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said that a few key ajustments made by Victor Matfield have been central to their recent success.

The Bulls beat the Sharks in their return match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, handing the visitors their first defeat of the season. When the two sides met in the first round of the competition in Durban, the Bulls were convincingly beaten by their coastal rivals. Ludeke said that the difference had been a few tactical changes made by Springbok veteran Matfield who was the team’s attack coach before making a return to the playing field. “A lot of things we worked on over the last few weeks came through. Victor made a few smart adjustments to our attack in the week and it paid off for us today,” he said.

The victory was affirmation to the Bulls coach that his side was on the right track as they cemented their place among the top sides in the competition with only five points separating them from the log-leading Sharks. “If you get a win against the Sharks, the way we played, it is a good reward for us and playing against a side that is on top of their game,” Ludeke said after the match. Matfield, who took over the captaincy after lock partner Flip van der Merwe, was ruled out due to a hamstring strain on Friday, lead a spirited Bulls pack.

The return of former Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter to the side also added a new dimension to the side as he formed a handy trio with Deon Stegmann and Jacques du Plessis. The 20-year-old Du Plessis is clearly coming into his own as he was again valuable with ball in hand and defensively. Stegmann and Potgieter were equally impressive with the former terrorising the Sharks at the breakdown area.

The Bulls lay down the gauntlet after the restart with Du Plessis breaking through a tackle in the 47 minute to score, with flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter converting to level the scores on 13-13. “We felt at half-time we created opportunities that we didn’t use, we gave away soft penalties that kept them in front,” Matfield said. “But 20 minutes into the second half we were good and we can take a lot out of that, there are still a lot of mistakes but we are a work in progress.”

Matfield said the secret to beating the Sharks brimming with Springbok players was the fact that they aimed at playing as a unit instead on relying on individual stars. “Against the Blues we were very happy about how we played, tonight we always knew it would be tough because the Sharks are a very good team, they haven’t lost yet,” he said. “We really had to fight till the end with 23 guys giving their best, playing for each other and really showing great commitment out there.”