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Daily Archives: May 5, 2014

Bad Boy’s of the week

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Highlanders hooker Brayden Mitchell has been suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle in his team’s loss to the Stormers.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden accepted a guilty plea from Brayden Mitchell of the Highlanders for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Mitchell has been suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks up to and including 24 May 2014.

AND…

Reds prop James Slipper has been suspended for three weeks for a dangerous tackle in his team’s loss to the Blues in Round.12.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden has accepted a guilty plea from James Slipper of the Reds for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Slipper has been suspended from all forms of the game for three weeks up to and including 24 May 2014.

Muliaina signs with Connacht’s

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Connacht Rugby has captured a major overseas signing for the 2014/15 season. Mils Muliaina has signed a one-year IRFU contract to become the first ever All Black to play with the Irish province at the Sportsground.

Samoan-born Muliaina, who is currently in his second stint with the Waikato based Chiefs, will link up with Head Coach Pat Lam whom he played under at Auckland from 2004 -2005 and with the Asia Pacific Barbarians in 2012. The 33-year-old has been signed as a player-mentor where his invaluable experience will assist in the development of the young Irish talent at the club.

The former New Zealand fullback became the second All Black (after Richie McCaw) to reach 100 caps when he ran out against Argentina in the quarter final of the 2011 Rugby World Cup, eight years after his 2003 test debut against England. Muliaina was forced off at half time with a fractured shoulder that led to his retirement from international rugby but he did go on to claim his gold medal after the All Blacks won the trophy, beating France 8 – 7 in the final.

His Super Rugby playing career includes spells at Auckland Blues and the Chiefs, where he returned this year after two seasons playing in Japan.

Having played six games for the defending Super Rugby champions this year, the veteran back has opted to undergo surgery on a niggling elbow injury and is in line to return to match fitness prior to his arrival in Galway.

Commenting on the historic signing, Head Coach Pat Lam said:

“I don’t think I need to point out how huge it is to have Mils Muliaina as our first All Black coming to represent Connacht.  The second ever All Black and the first ever back to reach 100 test matches is some achievement but what’s incredible about Mils is the passion and professionalism he brings whenever he plays and I know he will bring that in the Connacht jersey.  At the age of 33, he still has that hunger to play competitive rugby and before his surgery last month, he showed his quality and ability to keep playing at the top level in Super Rugby. It’s exciting to announce that we’ll have him on our team next season.

“One of our main priorities as we began recruitment for next season was to bring in a quality, experienced back to help nurture and mentor our young Irish qualified backs on and off the field. With the Rugby World Cup only a year away we also wanted someone who could help prepare and guide Connacht’s current international Robbie Henshaw. Mils’ playing experience and knowledge as a fullback, centre and wing who has played in three Rugby World Cups including winning one, will be massive for Robbie and all our backs.”

“I’ve known Mils for some time now and as well as the wealth of knowledge and experience he will bring to the team, he is first and foremost a great team man and a leader who will contribute enormously to our Connacht culture and help move us closer to our vision.”

Speaking from New Zealand, Muliaina added:

“This is an exciting time for me, making the move to Connacht Rugby. I’ve obviously had a good chat with some of the boys at the club – Nathan (White) and Clarkey – and they’ve told me a good bit about the place. But I’ve learnt a lot about what to expect from my discussions with Pat (Lam). Myself and Pat have a very good working relationship. As well as Auckland, he coached the AP Barbarians team in June 2012 and I think the fact that I was still in decent shape after all those years surprised him.

“I have a good understanding about my role and what is expected of me at Connacht. I’ve heard a lot about the talented young backs at the club – guys like Robbie Henshaw – and I’m keen to help anywhere I can, both on and off the field. Being able to play some competitive football while also sharing my knowledge and helping Connacht to achieve their vision played a big part in my decision to move. I expect to learn a good bit from these young guys too and that’s exciting.

“Moving to the other side of the world is a challenge but one that I’m really looking forward to. My experiences of playing in Ireland have been memorable and the one thing that stands out to me is the people. They are passionate people who really love their rugby. I’ve been to Dublin and Limerick with the All Blacks and from what I hear about Galway, it’s one of the best cities in Ireland. I can’t wait to get over there.

“Right now I’m fully focused on my recovery and getting myself ready to hit the ground running when I arrive in Ireland.”

Mils Muliaina is expected to arrive in Galway at the conclusion of the Super Rugby season.

 

Stormers showed improvement

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Stormers coach Allister Coetzee says that his team showed a massive improvement when they beat the Highlanders 29-28 with a bonus point on Saturday.

The victory was the Stormers second one point victory at Newlands this season as they also beat the Hurricanes by a point earlier this year.

A licence to run the ball rather than stick to robotic playing patterns brought the best out of the Stormers.

The Stormers hardly looked by a bottom-of -the-standings team as their well-known defence-based game gave way to dynamic patterns which could have brought more tries had it not been for the New Zealand visitors’ superb cover defence at the Railway Stand corner flag in the first half.

After the match, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee praised his team’s transition from defence to attack.

“The transition from attack to defence showed a massive improvement,” said Coetzee.

“We’ve been in a tough place (after several defeats), both players and management, and it has been more about coping mentally. It was a necessary win.”

The Stormers’ biggest test in pursuit of this win was their ability to bounce back after they surrendered a 26-14 lead by letting in two converted tries in quick succession just ahead of the hour mark when they were left trailing 26-28.

“When things turned against us, the (onfield) leadership took control.” said Coetzee.

“They knew how to get us out there, and this was against a team that scored four tries against the Sharks last week. Our intensity was right up there and that’s what you need against any New Zealand side.”

The Stormers’ defence wide out on the flanks was an area which the Highlanders tried to exploit by using tactical kicks and the ploy nearly paid handsome dividends.

“We tried to play an expansive game and we were able to do that because we did the basics right,” said Coetzee.

“This was the team’s most polished performance this season and we managed to cut down on the rate of unforced errors.”

Matfield relieved

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Bulls captain Victor Matfield says that he was relieved that they ended a four-match losing streak when they beat the Cheetahs 26-21 at Loftus Versfeld.

Matfield rued the Bulls missed scoring opportunities and said that they still had hard work ahead of them as they need to win their remaining five round-robin matches to give them a realistic chance of reaching the playoffs.

“We will take this now and hopefully get some momentum and some confidence going into the next game, we know it is going to be another huge game on Saturday,” Matfield said.

“We will need to be even better than tonight.”

The Pretoria side are in 10th place on the overall Super Rugby table on 24 points and next face a Stormers side playing with renewed vigour.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke praised his charges for their patience after the visitors opened a 18-9 lead going into the half-time break.

The Cheetahs scored two tries in the opening 40 minutes of the match but the hosts added 17 second half points — through two converted tries and a penalty conversion — to claim the victory.

“We had momentum, they got away with an intercept try and suddenly we were under pressure — we were patient,”Ludeke said.

“They had all the momentum and all the things going their way in the first half, we just fought our way back and when we had the lead I thought we really defended well and managed the game well.”

Ludeke attributed much of their success to a well-functioning maul which the Cheetahs were incapable of stopping.

“We squeezed them into turnovers, the maul was working well for us and we got the momentum every time we got penalties and we converted. We were unlucky not to score more tries,” Ludeke said.

The Cheetahs looked the more dangerous side but they could not capitalize on their opportunities while coach Naka Drotske also felt they were in a good position following the first half.

“At half-time I thought we were doing reasonably well and in the second half the Bulls’ maul was quite effective and forced a lot of penalties and that put a lot of pressure on us,” he said.

“Every time we conceded a penalty, they kicked out and we had to defend for the next five minutes.”

Drotske said his troops had enough opportunities to score in the second half that would have increased their chances of winning the match.

“We had one or two opportunities in the second half where we should have finished and we did not and that is the way this game is at this level,” Drotske said.

“I thought our discipline let us down in the second half, too many penalties which put a lot of pressure on us and we let it slip in the second half with one or two opportunities.”

Blues midfield suffers double blow

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The Blues have suffered a double blow in their midfield as both Francis Saili and Jackson Willison have been sidelined for extended periods of time.

Willison suffered a proximal hamstring strain while scoring a try against the Reds on Friday and is likely to miss between four to six weeks.

Saili was ruled out of action on Wednesday after sustaining a high ankle sprain during team training.

Further X-rays yesterday were clear but his ankle is still swollen and he will have an MRI scan in the next few days. He is expected to be out of action for six to eight weeks.

Outside back Albert Nikoro also has a cartilage tear in his knee and requires a review with a surgeon.

On the positive side Luke Braid, Chris Noakes and Sam Prattley are all fit and available this week.