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Daily Archives: March 27, 2014

Mvovo could be Bok fullback-JW


JakeIt will raise some eyebrows, but Sharks Director of Rugby Jake White feels his team selection could be a pointer for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

While some will debate the decision to name young Fred Zeilinga at flyhalf, in the starting XV to face the Waratahs in Durban on Saturday, it is the selection of Lwazi Mvovo at fullback that sparked the most interest.

The Bok wing, Mvovo, who has seven Test caps for South Africa, was shifted to No.15 and SP Marais dropped to the bench.

White, who said it has been a bit “daunting” the last couple of weeks injury-wise, said he needed to find room for both Ndungane and Mvovo.

White even drew comparisons with Bok legend Percy Montgomery, when justifying his decision to select Mvovo in the unfamiliar role of fullback.

“He’s got things Percy [Montgomery] could do, he’s really quick and he likes broken field play,” White said at a press conference ahead of the game.

“If the Waratahs kick, which they don’t do much, Lwazi is probably the guy that will capitalise most.”

Mvovo, 27, has 57 Super Rugby caps for the Durban-based franchise and White felt his form this season would have made it difficult to drop him after the availability of Ndungane, who returns after compassionate leave.

“Lwazi is probably one of our form backs and now that Odwa’s come back, it’s not a case of finding a place for Lwazi, he just merits himself a place in the team,” White said.

“There’s no reason why he can’t play fullback and I’m quite excited.

“I believe with Gio Aplon going to France, there is no reason why a guy like Lwazi isn’t good enough to play fullback for SA.”

White also spoke of the pace his outside backs possess.

“We’ve got [Sibusiso] Sithole, Odwa [Ndungane], JP [Pietersen] and Lwazi, the four are probably the quickest guys in our franchise.

“I think it’s going to be exciting to see them run.

“Lwazi’s really played well right through the season so far.”

White made four changes in total to his side, another unfamiliar one being the shifting of Willem Alberts to lock instead of the injured Anton Bresler with Jean Deysel coming in at flank.

The flyhalf position, vacated by a six-month injury lay-off to Patrick Lambie, went to Fred Zeilinga, while Charl McLeod would complete a new halfback pairing after Cobus Reinach fractured his hand in the 19-23 loss to the Bulls last week.

“Ideally I’d like Cobus and Pat to be playing, but in the Currie Cup last year Charl played most of the time with Fred,” White said of the No.9 and No.10 positions.

“So it’s a change but they’ve played a lot together and I don’t think it’s a disruption.”

White admitted that Steyn was still the preferred flyhalf option in the absence of Lambie, with Zeilinga well aware of his thinking.

“I’m still considering Frans there, it’s not ideal and wasn’t obviously first prize,” he said.

“I’d like Frans to have stayed there and Fred knows that Frans can slot in there.

“Paul Jordaan comes back next week and can play 12 and 13, so there are lots of exciting things that can still happen.”

Despite the gloom around Kings Park over the latest injury setbacks, there is some good news with the return of former captain Keegan Daniel to the bench.

Heimar Williams also returns, while Stefan Ungerer is in line for his debut after coming in as scrumhalf cover.

Vic predict a try festival


VicBulls captain Victor Matfield is predicting a high-scoring game against the defending Super Rugby champions, the Chiefs at Loftus Versfeld this weekend and warned his teammates they will need to be at their best if they are to keep their impressive record at Loftus Versfeld intact.

According to the supersport.com website, the Bulls have only lost three times in the past two seasons in Super Rugby at the ground and have a long history of success against the Chiefs that stretches back to 2001 – the last time the New Zealanders could win at the famous ground.

But with back to back titles behind their names and a solid start of three wins out of four, the Chiefs will arrive as favourites to win, and will want to put their shock loss to the Western Force behind them as quickly as possible.

This, according to Matfield, makes them even more dangerous this time around.
“So far this year they’ve been good, they’ve only lost one game.
“It will be bad for us because they will be a bit sharper this week, I don’t think they were at the top of their game last week.
“In the other three games they played they were very good,” Matfield said.

“We’ve done our planning, we’ve got the plans to go out and be successful but it is getting tougher every week.
“We played the Sharks, one of the top form sides in the competition and now the defending champions”

The games between the two sides have traditionally been open affairs, with high scores and loads of tries the order of the day, and this weekend the Bulls expect nothing different.

For this they give credit to the Chiefs, who they say play a brand of rugby that simply makes it easier to play open rugby.

“If you talk about high-scoring games, you’re right.
“When South African sides play, there is a lot of kicking, and teams almost don’t want to give opportunities in their own half, while when you play New Zealand sides they want to score tries,” Matfield explained.

“They go out there and play.
“When they play, they give you opportunities to play as well.

“When you see two New Zealand sides play each other, it is high scoring games as well.
“It is very different than when two South African sides play each other, and you have to plan for that, because when they get momentum, the chances are good they will score a try or two, so you need to score tries as well.

“It’s nice for us, we want to go out in every game and we want to score tries.
“Hopefully they will give us some opportunities so that we can have a go.”

With the Bulls only scoring eight tries in their first five games, they are hungry to cross the tryline more, but Matfield’s conclusions about South African sides may have something to do with that.
The Bulls have faced just one overseas team – the Blues – this season in between several local derbies.

“If you look at them, they are the team that kicks the least in the competition.
“They don’t just give you the ball, they hold the ball for a lot of phases.
“They’re also the team that have given away the least turnovers, although they keep the ball a long time.
“This means they’re very accurate in what they are doing.
“For us firstly, we need to not give them broken field ball, if we give it to them, it must be on our terms.

“Secondly we need to create opportunities for ourselves.
“We can’t just go out there and defend.
“We can’t go out there and make 200 tackles and just 50 carries, we need to do things for ourselves as well on attack to make them defend as well.”

And if they can do that, then the Bulls will continue their good run against the New Zealand side.
But they know the stakes are high and mistakes result in points.

But the positive attitude is refreshing, and should make for a great game this weekend.

How to fix Sormers?


Stormers logo

Tank Lanning takes a look at the on-going speculations concerning WP Rugby Union.

Ever heard of Graham Mackenzie?
Thought not…
He is the president of the KZN Rugby Union.
Ever heard of Thelo Wakefield?
Ever heard of Rob Wagner?

Perhaps a few of you…
He is the CEO of the WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd.
Ever heard of John Smit?

And therein lies the fundamental flaw at the heart of the myriad of issues facing the Cape based union… The wrong guys are on the front and back pages of the paper!

In 1996, the commercial arm, WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd, was created to deal with the growing interest from the public, media, sponsors and players, and to maximise commercial opportunities. Clever.

Not so clever, though is the fact that the WP Rugby Football Union, a non-profit organisation that still reeks of the amateur days, remains the major shareholder in WP Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

So you have a governing body that relies on votes from the amateur clubs (all 91 of them, each with an equal vote, meaning that the largest rugby club in the world, Maties, has the same clout as a club in the third division who struggles to get just one team out each Saturday), and thus perhaps more concerned about garnering votes rather than administering the actual rugby, having the major stake in the commercial arm of the union – the arm that should be running the show in today’s professional era!

Hence the much talked about boardroom politics that saw Rassie Erasmus depart the union saying that he was spending more time fighting the politics than he was on rugby, and sees the coaches having to defend their teams to the blazer brigade, based not on skill level but ethnicity and the club they play for.

It is just typical of the union to have a little Sunday meeting on tour and then openly hint at plans to overhaul the management team. Just imagine what that does for team unity… It’s no wonder that captain Jean de Villiers has voiced his concern and expressed his disappointment at the swirling rumours. The core is fundamentally flawed and rotten!

Having chosen not to fill the post of High Performance Manager after the departure of Erasmus, the role – surely vital in a pro era – has been shared amongst the coaches and administration, meaning they spend less time preparing the team for the game on Saturday.

But that seems set to change from Monday, with Gert Smal seemingly coming as Director of Rugby, and Henning Gericke, a psychologist who worked with the Springboks when they won the 2007 Rugby World Cup, set to come in as the “kopdokter”.

So not a “High Performance Manager” brought in to manage player affairs away from the four white lines, but a traditional Director of Rugby that will see head coach Allister Coetzee have to move into the shadows under a new boss! That is very different to a Brendan Venter or a Jake White coming in above a young head coach like Brad MacLeod-Henderson who is there to learn.

I was very privileged to get my first few games for WP at the time when Smal was playing his last few games for the blue and white, most of them on a tour to Australia and New Zealand. He is a top man with an excellent rugby brain, but this is a big ask!

And bringing in a shrink who worked with the 2007 Boks and now pimps himself out on the speaker circuit? Why not try something new and innovative? Young and switched on sports mental coach, Tom Dawson-Squibb from Head Start Sport has done an incredible job with the Ikeys in the Varsity Cup this year …

Look, change is without doubt needed… I have been saying so for a good few years now. A lucky Currie Cup win and two Super Rugby Conference cups in the last 13 years is just not good enough for a union that has access to so much talent.

The “Great wall of Cape Town” defensive game plan that sees the Stormers unable to score tries, and mostly via the legalised obstruction of a lineout drive when they do, is simply not good enough.

But bringing in a Director of Rugby and a shrink smacks of papering over the cracks. It is time for a complete overhaul of all structures, including the constitution.
Tank is a former Western Province tighthead prop who now heads up Tankman Media, and sprouts forth on all things rugby on the Front Row Grunt

Seven Circus moves to Hong Kong


IRB_Sevens-300x186Hong Kong remains the ultimate destination for Sevens players and enthusiasts alike, with the advent of double-dipping – two tournaments in one – making it an even more appealing stopover.

Round Seven of the IRB Sevens World Series will see South Africa and New Zealand – the current pace setters – glance nervously over their shoulders at the hard-chasing Fijians.

However, for the second year running Hong Kong welcomes 28 teams – with 16 to play for the famous old Cup trophy and points towards the World Series, and the other 12 bidding to win the separate qualifier trophy and take the one place on offer as a core team for the 2014/15 Series.

In the main Cup draw, with two tournament wins apiece in this season’s IRB Sevens World Series, South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji are the front-runners for major Cup honours at So Kon Po.

Fiji have won 14 times in Hong Kong, including last year, and also took the most recent Cup title with a superb win over South Africa at the Tokyo Sevens last Sunday.

South Africa have never won the Hong Kong title, but are currently top of the Series standings with 116 points, two ahead of New Zealand – with Fiji in third place on 95 and England fourth on 85.

Having finished in the top two of Asia’s own regional Sevens competition, host Hong Kong is one of those 12 vying nations and harbours serious ambition to join the Series.

“There’s a long way to go but qualifying as a core team would accelerate the learning in Hong Kong by playing at that competitive level more often,” said Hong Kong’s Sevens coach Gareth Baber

“It would also accelerate the numbers coming into the game, and make them realise as well that there’s a potential to be an international athlete playing Rugby Sevens for Hong Kong,” Baber added.

Hong Kong start in pool play with matches against Italy, Tunisia and American Samoa. Russia are drawn with Zimbabwe, China and Barbados, while Asia’s top-ranked side Japan starts in a group with Cook Islands, Uruguay and Trinidad & Tobago.

“We have to treat this like any other event. I know there’s a lot of emotion wrapped around it, and there’s a big party atmosphere, but the message going out loud and clear to the players is that we need consistency in what we do and not to get carried away with the emotion.

“You need to play with emotion as a rugby player, but it’s tempering that with the ability to think clearly and do consistently what you do on the training paddock.

“I’m confident my players can make that step up (from failing to qualify as a core team last year), but there are a number of other teams who are going to be thinking exactly the same. We have a competition on our hands, and that’s why everyone is interested in it.”

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

(Kick-off is local time – GMT plus eight hours)

Day One – Friday, March 28
Match 1: United States v Samoa, 18.24
Match 2: Canada v Portugal, 18.46
Match 3: Australia v Spain, 19.08
Match 4: Kenya v Sri Lanka, 19.30
Match 5: New Zealand v Scotland, 20.20
Match 6: England v Argentina, 20.42
Match 7: South Africa v France, 21.04
Match 8: Fiji v Wales, 21.26
Match 9: New Zealand v Samoa, 11.12
Match 10: United States v Scotland, 11.34
Match 11: England v Portugal, 11.56
Match 12: Canada v Argentina, 12.18
Match 13: South Africa v Spain, 12.40
Match 14: Australia v France, 13.02
Match 15: Fiji v Sri Lanka, 13.24
Match 16: Kenya v Wales, 13.46
Match 17: Scotland v Samoa, 15.14
Match 18: Argentina v Portugal, 15.36
Match 19: France v Spain, 15.58
Match 20: Wales v Sri Lanka, 16.20
Match 21: New Zealand v United States, 18.10
Match 22: England v Canada, 18.32
Match 23: South Africa v Australia, 18.54
Match 24: Fiji v Kenya, 19.16

World Series core team qualifier
Pool E: Russia, Zimbabwe, Chile, Barbados
Pool F: Hong Kong, Italy, Tunisia, American Samoa
Pool G: Japan, Cook Islands, Uruguay, Trinidad & Tobago

Jake makes the changes


imagesThe Cell C Sharks team to play the Waratahs in Saturday’s Super Rugby clash at Kings Park shows a number of changes as the team look to retain their log position and dominance of the local conference.

Four home wins so far translates into top of the overall log and the South African conference, but to remain there requires a big performance against the Waratahs on Saturday, another of the forms teams in this year’s competition, reports Sharks website editor Michael Marnewick.

“We didn’t play well and we’re not making excuses; we weren’t on top of our game properly,” said director of rugby Jake White when discussing the 23-19 loss to the Bulls.

“But it’s a new week, a new opportunity and we have a bye next week, so there is a lot to play for and no reason why we don’t give everything this weekend. The Waratahs are a good team, they have a lot of Wallabies in their squad and they have been on a good roll so far in the competition.

“Like us, they’ve only lost one game and they have a really well-balanced team. Of the three games they’ve won, they’ve scored bonus points in all three victories, so they can obviously score tries. They’re a strong, well-balanced side and that means it’s going to be a tough game for us.”

The fact that they are top of the log means the Sharks can determine their own fate – it won’t take other results to affect where they end off.

“The nice thing is that we’re still in control of what happens to us; the one thing you want to do in this competition is to be able to control your own destiny. You don’t want to get into a situation where other teams dictate where you end and who you play against. That’s what every team aspires to in this competition, making sure you control your own destiny, and the only way you can make sure of that is by winning.”

White’s changes see Lwazi Mvovo shifting to fullback with SP Marais playing off the bench and Odwa Ndungane returning to the side following compassionate leave. At halfback, Fred Zeilinga is in for Patrick Lambie and Charl McLeod replaces Cobus Reinach.

There is no place in the match-day squad for Tim Swiel, who replaced the injured Lambie early in last week’s match at Loftus Versfeld.

There are two changes amongst the forwards, Willem Alberts shifts to lock following the loss through injury of Anton Bresler, with Alberts’ flank position taken up by Jean Deysel.

There is a debut opportunity for scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer, while Keegan Daniel makes a welcome return to the side having completed his injury recovery programme.

Kick-off is at 17:05 on Saturday.



15. Lwazi Mvovo, 14. Odwa Ndungane, 13. S’bura Sithole, 12. Frans Steyn
11. JP Pietersen, 10. Fred Zeilinga, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Ryan Kankowski, 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Marcell Coetzee, 5. Stephan Lewies, 4. Willem Alberts, 3. Jannie du Plessis, 2. Bismarck du Plessis (captain), 1. Tendai Mtawarira

Substitutes: 16. Kyle Cooper, 17. Dale Chadwick, 18. Lourens Adriaanse, 19. Etienne Oosthuizen, 20. Keegan Daniel, 21. Stefan Ungerer, 22. Heimar Williams, 23. SP Marais

Secret Mission for the Goose


johan goosen

Springbok and Cheetahs flyhalf Johan Goosen has secretly flown to France to explore possible future career opportunities, the Volksblad website reports.

The Cheetahs have a bye weekend in Super Rugby which enabled the 21-year-old to head abroad.

The club Goosen went to visit is believed to be Top 14 side, Racing Metro, who reportedly see him as an ideal substitute for Irish flyhalf Jonny Sexton.

With the eye on next year’s Rugby World Cup, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt reportedly wants to lure Sexton back to Ireland as he feels he is being overplayed at Racing.

Earlier reports also linked Goosen to French big spenders Toulon, while South Africa’s Bulls and a few clubs from Japan are also interested.

Goosen’s contract with the Cheetahs expires on October 31 this year and it’s unlikely that coach Naka Drotské will allow him to leave before then.

Outside clubs are only allowed to officially negotiate with players 120 days (July 1) prior to the ending of their contract.

The Cheetahs’ next Super Rugby game is at home to the Blues on April 5.