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Jacques

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Better known as Bunny, Took over after Pissant went over to the "Dark Side"

Preview Super Rugby 2018 – Vodacom Bulls

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One of the sides I do feel particular excited about this year is the Vodacom Bulls who have not done well the last couple of years in Super Rugby.

The franchise have gone through allot of changes which contribute to their poor form on and off the field.

In any team sport you have cycles with some teams preparing well when players leave and others struggle. It will be fair to say the Bulls struggled the last two years with not planning for the player exodus and not recruiting well either.

Their is some ill-feeling in the union as well with Xander Janse van Rensburg who is not a popular man at the moment and also by some account the one responsible for most of the Blue Bulls and Bulls problems.

At the end of the day we can name a 100 reason for the Bulls poor form in Super Rugby but at the end it comes down to the players and the coaches showing us on the field.

The Bulls have a international coach in Mitchell who has been working with the players since the Currie Cup last year, so no excuses anymore.

The Bulls currently have a wider training squad which they have been working with since November last year.

Part of Mitchell team will be Skills, attack and kicking Hayden Groepes, Forward Coach & Lineouts Pote Human and Forward Coach & Scrums Gary Botha.

His wider squad is:

Props: Pierre Schoeman, Trevor Nyakane, Lizo Gqoboka, Conraad van Vuuren, John-Roy Jenkinson, Frans van Wyk, Mox Mxoli, Matthys Basson, Gerhard Steenekamp (Apprentice, injured).

Hookers: Jaco Visagie, Adriaan Strauss, Edgar Marutlulle, Johan Grobbelaar, Jan-Henning Campher, Corniel Els (injured)

Locks: Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman (both Japan), Lood de Jager, Aston Fortuin, Ruben van Heerden, Eli Snyman, Abongile Nonkontwana

Loose Forwards: Roelof Smit, Jacques Potgieter (Japan), Hanro Liebenberg, Ruan Steenkamp (injured), Jannes Kirsten, Nic de Jager (Japan), Hendre Stassen (injured), Tim Agaba (SA Sevens), Thembelani Bholi, Shaun Adendorff, Boom Prinsloo, Marco van Staden, Denzil Hill (apprentice), Eduan Lubbe (apprentice), Jaco Bezuidenhout (apprentice), Kwezi Mafu (apprentice), Ryno Pieterse (apprentice).

Scrumhalves: Rudy Paige, Ivan van Zyl (injured), Andre Warner, Embrose Papier, Theo Maree

Flyhalves: Handre Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Manie Libbok, Tony Jantjies, Tinus de Beer.

Midfielders: Jesse Kriel, Dries Swanepoel, Johnny Kotze, Ulrich Beyers, Stedman Gans (SA 7s), Burger Odendaal, Francois Brummer (Japan), JT Jackson (injured).

Outside backs: Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jamba Ulengo, Duncan Matthews, Jade Stighling, Franco Naude, Divan Rossouw, Andell Loubser (apprentice).

First glance over this squad feels like a quality unit and with the injury god staying on their side the Bulls can may as well be a contender this year.

There are a few players we can a look out for this year with Warrick Gelant one of the names that makes any rugby supporter smile.

Gelant got his change finally last year with Coetzee but still has allot to grow this year to make a Springbok number 15 jumper his.

The ability and skills of the player has been brilliant last year and the one thing Mitchell and Co needs to help him improved is his defence.

As a Springbok fan we need Handre Pollard to have a big year as well. Jantjies had to carry all the weight the last couple of seasons and with the World Cup approaching we need options at ten.

Pollard have a brilliant eye for the game and with great feet and hands add that extra option at ten we so desperately need.

He is not afraid to to attack the line and have a monster boot when on song.

The final player I expect more from this year is Burger Odendaal. It seems all he needed was a quick stop at the barber and his rugby will improved.

He has been brilliant for the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup and not just a great play maker in the team but also lead the team as captain well.

He is a proper big and strong boy who can turn on the speed if needed. Was massively impressed by his defence and attack in the Currie Cup and expected him to take another step forward in this years Super Rugby.

Off the field the Bulls have set the tone as well with their away strip which incorporate the local Sundowns Football Club.

This for me was a stroke of genius to not just bring all supporters together but to help make rugby a sport for all people in Pretoria.

Their has been a long standing relationship between the Bulls and Sundowns and it is great to see two different sport codes in partnership for their supporters.

The Bulls have always been the team which most South Africans through all races have supported and they have just added to that with this away kit

It is not going to be easy for the Bulls with new coaches and players but they have enough to make the Loftus faithful smile again and come to the stadium.

Bulls should make the play-offs and anything can happen from there.

Pre-Season matches:

27 January
Lions vs Bulls
Bulls vs Sharks
3 February
Stormers vs Bulls
10 February
Bulls vs Jaguares

Disgruntled quintet drag Bulls to court

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Five former Blue Bulls Company employees will fight their retrenchment in the labour court of appeal.

The BBC retrenched several staff members towards the end of 2017 because of financial restraints.

Now former employees Tim Dlulane (team manager), Pine Pienaar (defence coach), Nqubeko Zulu (U21 team manager), Dewey Swartbooi and Denzil Frans (both U19 coaches) have decided to take the matter to court after a Commission for Conciliation, Mediation and Arbitration (CCMA) hearing failed to reach a favourable outcome.

ALSO READ: ‘Bulls treated me like a dying horse’

At the conclusion of the arbitration hearing, the Bulls presented the quintet with improved ‘retrenchment settlement’ packages, which were immediately turned down.

‘The issue was unresolved at the hearing and we have the right to go to the labour court. Unfortunately, it [the court proceedings] will obviously take a while,’ Piet Heymans, CEO of the Sport Employers Unite trade union told Rugby365.com.

‘It will be a very interesting case. We are of the opinion that these five employees were targeted and that the selection criteria [for determining who is retrenched] is vague and unreasonable. What we feel very strongly about is the process used by the BBC. They will have to explain themselves in court.’

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Photo: Johan Rynners/Gallo Images

Munster – Getting to know JP Ferreira..

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New Defence Coach JP Ferreira has had a hectic month since joining Munster in December from Super Rugby side the Lions.

He arrived at the province just before Christmas ahead of three Interpro derbies and is set to experience the Champions Cup atmosphere at Thomond Park for the first time on Sunday.

JP spent a decade working with the South African club across a number of coaching and analyst roles before joining the Munster coaching team of Head Coach Johann van Graan, Forwards Coach Jerry Flannery, and Backline and Attack Coach Felix Jones.

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FNB Tuks name new captain

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The start of a brand new chapter is how Denzel Hill (FNB Tuks captain) views the team’s first FNB Varsity Cup encounter against Kovsies on 29 January at Tuks.

FNB Tuks are the defending Varsity Cup champions. Hill is adamant that he and his teammates won’t fall into the trap of reminiscing about what happened last year.

“To be honest, we are not concerned about the past and what teams think about us. The last chapter has been written, and we have closed that book. I will admit we have taken a lot of confidence from what happened last year, but now we are at the start of the new book which I hope is going to be equally as exciting.”

Hill rates FNB Shimlas as a “tough nut” to crack.

“The biggest mistake we can make is to underestimate them. Shimlas are very good with the ball in hand and have mastered the art of exploiting the opposition’s weaknesses by taking the ball wide. However we are not going to be obsessed with what Shimlas do or don’t. We are going to stick to a gameplan that suits us. It will entail trying to keep the ball in play for as long as it is possible.”

Captaining teams is nothing new to Hill. He captained the Blue Bulls under-21 team last and quite a few other teams throughout his playing career. He admits being the leader comes with responsibilities.

“I won’t describe myself as a natural leader. It is something I’ve got to work on continuously. I try and lead by example, but there is more to captaining than just putting your body on the line. I also believe in encouraging the guys around me and try and put them in the best position to play the game they are comfortable with and want to play.”

When asked Hill said that there is a right balance of experience and debutants in the FNB Tuks team.

Hill could just be one of the fastest loose forwards in the Varsity Cup tournament. At Jeppe High School he used to be a sprinter. He is not sure as to what exactly his best time in the 100m was, but guesses it could have been around 11.1s which is indeed not shabby for someone who 1.91m tall and weighs 101kg. He is quite frank about why he plays rugby.

“I will be honest. I really love playing rugby. My most significant motivation is to make my family proud. Rugby is also a way for me to support and make a difference for my family.”

Hill finished his BCom Marketing degree last year. Currently, he is doing a postgraduate diploma in entrepreneurship.

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Notshe in Sevens squad

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Sikhumbuzo Notshe has been included in the Blitzboks squad for the Australasian leg of the World Rugby Sevens Series.

Notshe, who started training with the squad in October, will travel as a replacement player.

Dylan Sage and Stedman Gans have also returned to the squad.

Sage, who missed the last two tournaments in Dubai and Cape Town due to a back injury, comes in for the injured Chris Dry while Gans replaces Branco du Preez, who picked up a hamstring injury in training last week.

‘We made the call to take Sikhumbuzo along as a reserve player in order for him to get first-hand experience of what a Sevens Series tournament is all about and he will be called upon if anyone picks up an injury,’ explained Blitzboks coach Neil Powell.

‘Dylan has been training solidly over the past couple of weeks, while Stedman was in very good form for the Academy side in South America, so I am expecting solid contributions from them next weekend. We are losing four players to their Super Rugby teams after the Hamilton tournament, so we need a strong tour in order to stay in contention for the overall title.’

The Blitzboks are currently second after New Zealand on the overall Sevens Series log. They are the defending champions in Sydney and will face Papua New Guinea, Spain and England in Pool C of the tournament, which starts on 26 January.

Blitzboks squad – Tim Agaba, Philip Snyman Dylan Sage, Kwagga Smith, Werner Kok, Kyle Brown, Stedman Gans, Rosko Specman, Justin Geduld, Cecil Afrika, Seabelo Senatla, Ruhan Nel, Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

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New Stormers to get run in George

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New DHL Stormers recruits Sergeal Petersen and Raymond Rhule were both named as part of the squad to face SWD Eagles in a pre-season match George on Saturday.

DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck has named a 32-man squad for the encounter, which will be played in four chukkas and kicks off at 15h00 at Outeniqua Park on Saturday.

In addition to the playing squad, there will be a further 13 DHL Stormers players who will travel to George in order to take part in a Fun Run at on Saturday morning.

Captain Siya Kolisi will be there with the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Dillyn Leyds on the 5km fun run, which starts at Outeniqua Park at 08h00 on Saturday.

Petersen and Rhule will be joined by fellow Springbok Damian de Allende in the squad for the warm-up clash, along with exciting young talents such as Salmaan Moerat and Juarno Augustus.

Also included in the playing squad are five members of the DHL Western Province U21 team that won the national championship last year in Eddie Zandberg, Ruben de Villiers, Paul de Wet, Herchel Jantjies and Wikus Groenewald, along with U19 talents Christian Ambadiang, Sihle Njezula, Rikus Pretorius and David Kriel who will all be at the Western Province Rugby Institute this year.

Players who were not available for selection due to injury include Eben Etzebeth (shoulder), Jean-Luc du Plessis (groin), Dan du Plessis (shoulder), Frans Malherbe (neck), Jano Vermaak (knee), Jan de Klerk (knee), Scarra Ntubeni (hamstring), EW Viljoen (foot), Michael Kumbirai (back), Grant Hermanus (groin), Johan du Toit (knee) and Justin Phillips (rib).

Etzebeth has seen a multidisciplinary team of doctors regarding his shoulder injury and is being evaluated weekly, but is not yet fit to train and will be out for at least four months.

Jean-Luc and Dan du Plessis are both expected to be sidelined for a further eight weeks, with Jean-Luc recovering from recent groin surgery in the USA and Dan out with a shoulder injury.

Vermaak will also be out of action for a further two months with a knee injury that was seen to in the off-season, whilst Malherbe continues to recover from his neck injury and is only expected back later in the season.

Fleck said that the first pre-season game will give him a chance to give a wide range of players some game-time against a competitive SWD outfit.

“We always look forward to our pre-season trips to George and we are expecting the usual spirited opposition from the Eagles, which is just what we need after a hard pre-season.

“While we will be getting in some valuable preparation on the pitch, it is also exciting to be able to connect with the community in George through the Fun Run some of our players will take part in on Saturday morning,” he said.

DHL Stormers playing squad: Christian Ambadiang, Juarno Augustus, Jaco Coetzee, Damian de Allende, Ruben de Villiers, Paul de Wet, Stefan de Wit, Wikus Groenewald, JC Janse van Rensburg, Herschel Jantjies, Eduan Keyter, Dan Kriel, David Kriel, SP Marais, Salmaan Moerat, Dean Muir, Sihle Njezula, Caylib Oosthuizen, Sergeal Petersen, Rikus Pretorius, Raymond Rhule, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, Chad Solomon, Joshua Stander, Luke Stringer, Kobus van Dyk, Chris van Zyl, Ali Vermaak, George Whitehead, Cobus Wiese, Eddie Zandberg.

Bekker retire from the game

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Former Springbok and Stormers lock Andries Bekker has announced his retirement following the conclusion of the Japanese club season.

Bekker confirmed his retirement after the Kobelco Steelers’ final game of the season, when they beat Toshiba Brave Lupus in the fifth-place playoff on Saturday.

Bekker made his debut for the Springboks in 2008 against Wales in Bloemfontein and earned 29 Test caps. The 34-year-old left the Stormers in 2013 to join the Steelers.

Eddie stay with England till 2021

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England coach Eddie Jones has been awarded with a contract extension by the RFU.

Having previously been contracted until the end of the 2019 World Cup in Japan, the extension will see the Australian remain in the role until August 2021.

“Coaching England is a dream job for me, and I was delighted to be asked to stay on after Rugby World Cup 2019,” said Jones.

“I have been completely focused on developing a team capable of being the number one rugby team in the world and winning the World Cup in 2019. I never take my role as England head coach for granted and did not presume I would be asked to stay on, but, once the conversations started very recently, it was not a difficult decision to make.

Toulon confirm Vermeulen leaving the club

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Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Duane Vermeulen will leave the French club at the end of the season.

The Bok No 8 is set to rejoin the Stormers in Cape Town.

‘Vermeulen is leaving, he will be replaced by an international level player that we will announce in the next 48 hours,’ said Boudjellal.

Vermeulen’s replacement is reportedly All Blacks flank Jerome Kaino.

‘Duane is leaving because he wants to prepare for the World Cup [in Japan in 2019] – we had offered him a contract that corresponded to the amount of time he works,’ added Boudjellal, suggesting that had meant a pay cut.

‘We wouldn’t have had him for half the year – over 24 months he would have been at the club for 11 months.

‘We made him a great offer but he wants to go home and his national team coach is relying on him.’

Support Fiji bid to host a leg of the HSBC Sevens

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Rugby Sevens is our sport. It’s time to share our passion with the world and get behind Fiji Rugby’s bid for a leg of the World Series Sevens. Now, more than ever, we need every Fiji Rugby Fan to help make this dream a reality. Join our army of support to see the Gold medallist Fiji 7s team battle it out on home turf in front of our passionate Fiji Rugby supporters. By registering below you’ll also go in the running for a trip for two to the Hong Kong Sevens, including Fiji Airways return flights, 4-nights’ accommodation and 3-day match entry.

We have proven to the world we are champions on the field, now it’s time to showcase all that Fiji has to offer in terms of its passion for rugby, hospitality, fun, sun and friendly people.

So come on, get behind the FRU and join us in the bid…

Fiji for 7s – IT’S FIJI’S TIME!!!

Simply log on to the site and do your thing to support the boys

https://www.fijifor7s.com/

 

Saffas Abroad – Viljoen saves Docomo from relegation

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SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s European Champions Cup, European Challenge Cup and Japanese Top League matches involving South African players.

CHAMPIONS CUP

Pool 1

– Louis Ludik started at outside centre for Ulster in their 20-13 win against La Rochelle. Rob Herring was Ulster’s replacement hooker and Paul Jordaan came off the bench in the second half for La Rochelle but was yellow-carded for tackling an opponent in the air.

– Harlequins came from 28-12 down to beat Wasps 33-28. No. 8 Nizaam Carr and hooker Ashley Johnson both scored tries for Wasps, who also had Willie Le Roux at fullback.

Pool 2

– The Northampton Saints produced the upset of the round as they rallied to beat Clermont 34-21. Nic Groom started at scrumhalf for the Saints, who also had prop Francois van Wyk on the bench. Groom was replaced by Cobus Reinach, who sealed the victory with a late try, while former Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe started for Clermont, who named Scott Spedding on the bench.

– Centre Brad Barritt captained Saracens to a 15-15 draw against the Ospreys, a result which saw the Welsh region retain second place in Pool 2 behind first-placed Clermont. Tighthead prop Vincent Koch and flank Michael Rhodes started for Saracens, who had Schalk Burger on the bench.

Pool 3

– Flank Don Armand scored one of the Exeter Chiefs’ three tries in their 41-10 win against Montpellier. Frans Steyn and Jan Serfontein formed the centre partnership for Montpellier, who also had Bismarck du Plessis, prop Johannes Jonker and lock Nicolaas Janse van Rensburgin their starting XV.

Pool 4

– Racing 92 moved to second place in Pool 4 with a 34-30 victory over Munster. Lock Jean Kleynscored a try for Munster, who had CJ Stander at No 8 and Chris Cloete starting at flank.

– The Leicester Tigers’ poor run of form continued as they lost 39-0 to Castres. Prop Pat Cilliersstarted for the Tigers. Castres named tighthead prop Daniel Kötze on the bench.

Pool 5

– The Scarlets moved four points clear at the top of Pool 5 with a 35-17 win against Bath. Lock David Bulbring started for the Scarlets, who had former Bulls prop Werner Kruger on the bench while hooker Michael van Vuuren was named on the bench for Bath.

– Toulon moved up to the top of Pool 5 with a 36-0 win against Treviso. Prop Marcel van der Merwe, lock Juandré Kruger and No 8 Duane Vermeulen started for Toulon while JP Pietersencame off the bench for the French side and Irne Herbst started at lock for Treviso.

CHALLENGE CUP

Pool 1

– Scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius and lock Ligtoring Landman were included in the Dragons’ starting lineup in their 36-28 defeat to Bordeaux. Pretorius and his replacement Carl Meyer each scored a try, while Pat Howard was also used as a second-half substitute.

Pool 2

– The Cardiff Blues, with lock George Earle in their ranks, advanced to the quarter-finals following their 18-13 victory over Toulouse. Cheslin KolbeRynhardt Elstadt and Maks van Dyk featured for Toulouse, with Kolbe scoring their only try of the match.

– The Sale Sharks pipped Lyon 15-13 to keep their slim chances of reaching the knockout stage alive. Centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg and eighthman Jono Ross started for Sale while Lyon had Etienne OosthuizenDeon Fourie and Francois van der Merwe in their team.

Pool 3

– Prop Lourens Adriaanse and his Pau teammates defeated Zebre 42-14 to book their place in the last eight of the competition. Derick MinnieLuhandré Luus and Johan Meyer turned out for Zebre, who have lost all five of their matches in this competition.

– Flank Marco Kotze, lock Christie van der Merwe, scrumhalf Ricky Januarie and centre Johann Sadie were part of the Agen outfit which slumped to a 45-24 loss at the hands of Gloucester, who qualified for the quarter-finals.

Pool 4

– Flyhalf Jaco van der Walt crossed for a try and a kicked a crucial penalty as Edinburgh edged Stade Français 33-32 at home. Wing Duhan van der Merwe started alongside Van der Walt for the hosts, who are safely through to the next stage.

– Sebastian de Chaves’ London Irish hammered Russian side Krasny Yar 47-17. Both teams look set to miss out on a spot in the quarter-finals.

Pool 5

– Connacht, with lock Quinn Roux in their run-on XV, erased a 10-point deficit to snatch a 24-24 draw with the Worcester Warriors. Wing Dean Hammond, scrumhalf Francois Hougaard and No 8 Gerrit-Jan van Velze were on duty for the Warriors. Connacht topped the pool and progressed to the knockout rounds.

– Brive beat French rivals Oyonnax 29-19, although both sides failed to reach the last eight. Fullback Bjorn Basson and scrumhalf James Hall did service for Oyonnax while locks Jan Uysand Peet Marais started in tandem for Brive.

JAPANESE TOP LEAGUE FINALS

– The Yamaha Jubilo defeated Toyota Verblitz 28-10 in the third-place playoff match. Prop Ruan Smith, lock Jason Jenkins, flyhalf Lionel Cronjé and fullback Gio Aplon represented Verblitz, who had to settle for fourth spot.

– Lock Andries Bekker formed part of the Kobe Kobelco Steelers side that thumped the Toshiba Brave Lupus 41-17 in the fifth-place match while Coenraad van Wyk played fullback for Toshiba.

– Flyhalf André Esterhuizen contributed 13 points, via two tries and a penalty, as the Munakata Sanix Blues crushed the Coca-Cola Red Sparks 32-5 in the 13th-spot playoff game. No 8 Nardus van der Walt and prop Hencus van Wyk played alongside Esterhuizen for the winners.

– Lock Franco Mostert’s Ricoh Black Rams cruised to a 44-20 victory over the NEC Green Rockets, who clinched seventh-place.

– The NTT Communications Shining Arcs – with lock Willie Britz and flyhalf Elton Jantjies in their ranks – beat the Canon Eagles 38-32 in the ninth-place match.

– Grant HattinghLappies Labuschagne and Lionel Mapoe turned out for the Kubota Spears, who beat the Toyota Industries Shuttles 31-10 in the 11th-place playoff. Hattingh scored a try for the winners.

– Flyhalf Riaan Viljoen kicked 11 points – three penalties and a conversion – to help the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes to a 21-13 win over the Kintetsu Liners in the 15th-place playoff match, which doubled up as a straight shootout for immediate relegation from the competition. Lock Wimpie van der Walt and No 8 Warren Whiteley were selected in the Hurricanes’ XV alongside Viljoen.

Compiled by Mariette Adams and Dylan Jack

Gatland names two uncapped players

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Wales have named a 39-man squad for the Six Nations, led by Alun Wyn Jones and featuring two uncapped players, James Davies and Josh Adams.

The uncapped duo are called into a Wales squad for the first time and will link up with the experienced squad when they convene at the National Centre of Excellence next Monday.

Rob Evans, Wyn Jones and Nicky Smith who all featured in the recent Under Armour Series are named with Dillon Lewis, who made his debut on the 2017 Summer Tour, Tomas Francis and Samson Lee. Scott Baldwin is recalled to the squad and is named alongside Ken Owens and Elliot Dee at hooker.

57-times capped second-row Bradley Davies features alongside skipper Jones, Cory Hill, Seb Davies and Adam Beard.

In the back-row Davies joins Cardiff Blues duo Ellis Jenkins and Josh Navidi, fellow Scarlet Aaron Shingler and British & Irish Lions Justin Tipuric, Ross Moriarty and Taulupe Faletau.

Aled Davies, Gareth Davies and Rhys Webb are named as the scrum-halves, with Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland and Gareth Anscombe as fly-halves. Owen Watkin and Hadleigh Parkes, who both made their debut last autumn, feature alongside Owen and Scott Williams.

Worcester wing Adams is named alongside Hallam Amos and Steff Evans along with Lions quartet George North, Liam Williams, Alex Cuthbert and Leigh Halfpenny.

Wales head coach Warren Gatland said: “It is an exciting opportunity for the two new caps. James’ form over the last couple of years has been impressive, he’s in a competitive area but we look forward to seeing what he can do. For Josh it’s a great opportunity, he’s been on great form and the back-three is somewhere we are looking to create depth in.

“We have selected a larger squad and it is an opportunity for us to work with a wider group and continue building for the next 18 months. It’s important to have a group of players who are used to the environment, know what is expected and are familiar with things and that will really benefit us going forward.

“We have included a couple of players who are carrying injuries. With Taulupe we are hoping he will be available towards the end of the campaign and Rhys (Priestland) picked up a knock at the weekend so we will see where he is at. It’s useful to have these experienced guys around camp and to have them included and to work with them.

“Last autumn was about exposing and developing players as part of the two-year countdown to the RWC, the next couple of months are about testing those players in tournament rugby – we know how important the Six Nations is.”

Wales squad:

Forwards: Rob Evans, Wyn Jones, Nicky Smith, Scott Baldwin, Elliot Dee, Ken Owens, Tomas Francis, Samson Lee, Dillon Lewis, Adam Beard, Bradley Davies, Seb Davies, Cory Hill, Alun Wyn Jones (c), James Davies, Taulupe Faletau, Ellis Jenkins, Ross Moriarty, Josh Navidi, Aaron Shingler, Justin Tipuric

Backs: Aled Davies, Gareth Davies, Rhys Webb, Gareth Anscombe, Dan Biggar, Rhys Patchell, Rhys Priestland, Hadleigh Parkes, Owen Watkin, Owen Williams, Scott Williams, Josh Adams, Hallam Amos, Alex Cuthbert, Steff Evans, Leigh Halfpenny, George North, Liam Williams

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Four uncapped players for Scotland in Six Nations

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Scotland head coach Gregor Townsend has named four uncapped players in a 40-man squad ahead of this year’s Six Nations Championship.

The potential debutants are Edinburgh trio Blair Kinghorn (full-back), scrum-half Nathan Fowles and prop Murray McCallum, plus Glasgow Warriors prop D’arcy Rae.

Kinghorn, McCallum and Rae are all graduates of the BT Sport Academy.

The squad is also boosted by the return of several experienced players, absent from recent campaigns, including scrum-half Greig Laidlaw (Clermont), lock Richie Gray (Toulouse), centres Mark Bennett (Edinburgh) and Duncan Taylor (Saracens); and Worcester Warriors back-row David Denton.

Laidlaw, Gray and Bennett haven’t featured for the dark blues since last year’s championship, while it was 2015 when returning prop Jon Welsh last saw international action and longer still for veteran hooker Scott Lawson (2014).

A sequence of untimely injuries has meant Denton has been absent from test duty since the 2016 summer tour to Japan, while Taylor and London Irish prop Gordon Reid missed the 2017 year-end Test campaign with a knee and head injury respectively.

Scarlets back-row John Barclay will continue to captain the side since taking on the mantle from Laidlaw in last year’s championship, leading Scotland to victories in six of nine Test matches.

“With the announcement of this 40-man squad, we are now entering the key stages of our preparation for this year’s NatWest 6 Nations Championship,” said Townsend.

“It’s a bigger squad than we originally planned –which is largely down to the competition for places – with a number of players having performed well in the Autumn Tests and a few others putting their hands up for selection in recent weeks.

“We welcome Blair Kinghorn into our group for the first time, who has been in excellent form with Edinburgh this season, and also three of our most experienced players in Richie Gray, Greig Laidlaw and Scott Lawson.

“We are looking forward to working with them and the rest of the squad to ensure that we build on the momentum the players generated in 2017.”

In addition to the squad, three players have been invited to train with the group: Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh), Darcy Graham (Edinburgh) and Adam Hastings (Glasgow Warriors).

Scotland squad

Backs: Mark Bennett, Alex Dunbar, Nick Grigg, Chris Harris, Stuart Hogg, Pete Horne, Ruaridh Jackson, Huw Jones, Lee Jones, Blair Kinghorn, Greig Laidlaw, Sean Maitland, Byron McGuigan, Ali Price, Henry Pyrgos, Finn Russell, Tommy Seymour, Duncan Taylor, Nathan Fowles

Forwards: John Barclay (c), Simon Berghan, Jamie Bhatti, Magnus Bradbury, David Denton, Cornell Du Preez, Grant Gilchrist, Jonny Gray, Richie Gray, Luke Hamilton, Rob Harley, Scott Lawson, Murray McCallum, Stuart McInally, Gordon Reid, D’arcy Rae, Ben Toolis, George Turner, Hamish Watson, Jon Welsh, Ryan Wilson

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Vodacom Bulls and DHL Stormers LA tour cancelled

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The Vodacom Super Rugby pre-season warmup match, that was supposed to be played between the Vodacom Bulls and the DHL Stormers in Los Angeles has been cancelled due to issues regarding the agreed upon transfers and logistics.

Player welfare and the management thereof are extremely important to the Vodacom Bulls as well as the DHL Stormers, and will not be compromised on in this regard.
However, both teams are extremely excited to announce that the fixture will still be played locally at the Boland Stadium on 3 February 2018, with kickoff scheduled for 16h00.

More details regarding the game and availability of tickets will be made public in due course.

EPCR investigating controversial claims by Toulon president

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THE EPCR IS carrying out an investigation into comments made by Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal in response to Mathieu Basteraud’s citing for calling an opponent a “fucking faggot”.

Boudjellal’s remarks were published in an interview with French rugby website rugbyrama.fr, and accused ‘the Welsh and Irish side of the EPCR’ of hypocrisy, suggesting members from both countries lacked morality.

The 57-year-old businessman went on to claim that he, like Basteraud, wasn’t homophobic, but that he has ‘called someone a faggot’ as the term has ‘entered into common usage’, and that it might be the first thing that springs to mind during a verbal argument.

“What I fear is the ‘mormon’ side of the EPCR with the Welsh and the Irish,” Boudjellal told Rugbyrama.

These are people who preach morality although they haven’t any themselves. The same people who have [government] ministers who get themselves whipped in private but pass themselves off as ‘clean’ guys in public.

“In my view, we’re talking about an insult that has entered common language. At no point did Mathieu Bastareaud seek to make a judgment as to the sexual orientation of the player in question. It’s like when I call someone a son of a bitch. Generally I don’t know his mother.

I’m not homophobic either, but I have called someone ‘a faggot’. It has entered into common usage, it’s what comes to mind first in a row. But we’re in an age in which morality has taken on a great importance.

“[It’s] as if people are incapable of understanding that, and to take things into consideration… The only area in which humour doesn’t have a place is paedophilia. What Mathieu said was a slip in the heat of the action.”

If EPCR considers that the comments amount to misconduct under its Disciplinary Rules, Boudjellal may face disciplinary action.

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Champions Tuks embracing the Power Play and raring to go

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The current FNB Varsity Cup champions, FNB UP-Tuks, have enjoyed their holiday and are back in full training with defending their title being their highest priority.

FNB UP-Tuks will play two warm-up matches against FNB CUT (12 January, Kroonstad) and FNB NWU (17 January, Potchefstroom) as they look to iron out the kinks ahead of their 2018 FNB Varsity Cup opening match against FNB UFS-Shimlas on Monday, 29 January at the Tuks Rugby Stadium. Kick-off 16:45.

FNB UP-Tuks will be coached by David Manuel and while his position has changed he is by no means new to the University of Pretoria’s Varsity Cup structures as he been involved since 2011 and he feels that it is this experience that will help him in his new role as head coach.

“My time in the UP-Tuks structures can best be described as a safe place to learn. I assisted very good coaches and learnt a lot while developing my own philosophy,” said Manuel.

The 11th edition of the FNB Varsity Cup will see a new law innovation where teams will have the option of using a Power Play which will allow a team to remove any two nominated backline players from the opposition for a period of three minutes of playing time.

The Power Play can only be called by a team while in their own half, must be called by the captain and can only be called once. If the team whose players have been removed score a try during the Power Play period, they will be awarded an extra two points (seven points before the conversion).

Manuel admits that at first he was hesitant about the law innovation but it has since grown on him.

“To be honest, many coaches were unsettled by the idea of losing players during a match but after Varsity Cup explained the reason behind it, we all got onboard and I’m personally looking forward to implementing it and defending against it especially during our warm-up matches,” he said.

Personal development of players and management is of critical importance to Manuel and he wants to start implementing this from the get-go.

“A major discussion point we had as a group is that we all need to improve because if the individual improves so shall the team. We are fortunate to have the vast majority of the 2017 squad back this year while the new players are excited to get stuck in. We are focused on going from match to match with our current attention solely on the two warm-ups,” explained Manuel.

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Waratahs sign New Zealnd U20 Hooker

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Former New Zealand Under 20s hooker JP Sauni is the newest recruit for the NSW Waratahs after signing with the franchise for 2018.

Sauni’s signing secures a group of young, up and coming front-rowers alongside Harry Johnson-Holmes, Shambeckler Vui and Cody Walker who have the opportunity to be mentored by current Wallabies Tom Robertson and Sekope Kepu.

20-year-old Sauni is no stranger to the Australian rugby landscape after moving to Melbourne with his family in 2010 and finishing his schooling at Hallam Senior College in the Victorian capital.

And it didn’t take him long to make an impression, playing his way into the Melbourne Rebels Under 20s side in 2016.

He returned to New Zealand the same year and after an impressive season with the Auckland Under 20 side, he forced his way into the New Zealand Under 20 team for the Junior World Championship in Georgia earlier the year. Ironically, his new Waratahs team mates Harry Johnson-Holmes, Vui and Walker were in the Australian team.

Sauni said: “I had no hesitation in moving to Sydney because the Waratahs offered me the best opportunity to develop my game. I am on a massive learning experience but I am prepared to do whatever it takes to play international rugby.”

Simon Cron, former Australian Under 20s head coach and now NSW Waratahs forwards coach, speaks highly of Sauni.

“In our first meeting with JP we were really impressed by his professional approach to everything that he does. He is a great addition to the team and will provide added competition for the No. 2 jersey. He is still young but has shown that he is a talented player and I cannot wait to help him fulfil that potential,” Cron said.

Sauni isn’t the only rugby player in his family and grew up hearing about his uncle Filipo Saena’s achievements for Manu Samoa.

“He played for Samoa at the 1991 Rugby World Cup and I think hearing about his career inspired me to one day play international rugby as well. He has had a massive influence on me, especially when my weight ballooned to nearly 150kg a couple of years back. He motivated me to eat well, to start training, to be disciplined and to stay focused.”

Toulon back Bastareaud after homophobic slur

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TOULON HAVE DEFENDED their France international centre Mathieu Bastareaud after he used a homophobic insult against a Treviso player over the weekend.

The French club said 29-year-old captain Bastareaud was “in no way homophobic” despite the incident involving Sebastian Negri in Sunday’s European Champions Cup match.

Bastareaud, who has played 42 times for France, appeared to call Negri a “fucking faggot” after an altercation in the final minutes of Toulon’s 36-0 European Champions Cup win.

Video of the incident appears to show Bastareaud responding to a similar insult from Zimbabwe-born Negri.

Source: Raw Rugby/YouTube

The club said it was “convinced that Mathieu used these unfortunate words while agitated as can happen regularly in rugby and he is in no way homophobic”.

“This kind of language should in no way allow people to cast aspersions about our captain who has always defended the rich diversity of individuals and who proves it every day in an eclectic Toulon squad,” the club added.

Bastareaud tweeted an apology after the match, saying: “I apologise for my reaction to insults from the Italian player.

I reacted badly by responding to his provocation, I’m truly sorry for the people I might have hurt.”

European Professional Club Rugby, the organisers of the European Champions Cup, said it “had received a citing complaint against the RC Toulon player, Mathieu Bastareaud”.

He is due to be heard by the EPCR on Wednesday and could be suspended.

Any suspension levied against Bastareaud could have an impact on his participation in the Six Nations, with France’s opening game at home to Ireland on 3 February.

Former England fly-half Andy Goode condemned Bastareaud’s comment in a tweet on Sunday, saying: “No place in the game for homophobia.

“Absolutely disgusting. I hope EPCR make an example of Bastareaud and ban him for a long time. Should throw the book at him.”

thanks to

SA Sevens Academy go back-to-back

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The SA Sevens Academy won the Sudamericarugby sevens tournament in Vina del Mar, Chile over the weekend.

The South Africans also claimed gold in Punta del Este last weekend in the first of two tournaments held to determine the final two South American qualifiers for the Sevens World Cup, which will take place in San Francisco in July.

The victory in Chile completed a very satisfying trip for the Academy side, where Sharks fullback Rhyno Smith, and three former SA Schools Sevens players – Muller du Plessis, Angelo Davids and Henk Cilliers – were introduced to the rigours of international sevens rugby.

‘We are delighted with the outcome of the trip,’ said coach Marius Schoeman. ‘Not only did the squad play to their full potential on Sunday to win the title, we also ticked other important boxes like blooding new players into the system and confirming the belief that our sevens structures are sound.

‘We faced a host of international teams in South America and with two spots for the Sevens World Cup on offer, they came with a great purpose. Congratulations to Chile and Uruguay, who in the end qualified.’

The South Africans had a tough opening day in Vina del Mar, where they lost to Ireland and drew against Brazil. They were in top form on the second day, though, and dispatched Germany 26-12 in the quarter-final and Uruguay 29-7 in the semi-final.

In the final, the SA Rugby Sevens Academy beat the French Academy 34-7.

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Reports suggest Vermeulen and Steyn to return to SA

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All the starts are aligning for Duane Vermeulen to return to South Africa at the end of the current European season.

SARugbyMag reports that a respected French sports daily L’Equipe, reported that Vermeulen departure from Toulon has been made official, and he is now expected to return to the Stormers and Western Province.

Vermeulen will add value to the Springboks in the run-up to the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Vermeulen can even be considered as captain of the Springboks if he returns to South Africa as reported.

Vermeulen left Cape Town in 2015 to head to France.

Reports are also doing the rounds that Frans Steyn will also return to South Africa which will boost the Springboks in the midfield, fullback and fly half.

 

Vunipola fracture forearm

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England and Saracens have been given another blow when it was confirmed that Billy Vunipola fractured his forearm during the 15 all draw against Ospreys over the weekend.

The number eight was replaced at half-time after a collision late in the opening period and had an x-ray on Sunday to verify the injury.

Vunipola, who recently returned from a knee issue, will now see a specialist and is a significant doubt for the Six Nations, although a timeframe has not yet been set.

“Billy is due to see a specialist later this week, when a timeframe for recovery may be defined,” said a Saracens spokesman. “But until that time Saracens will make no further comment. Saracens will issue a further statement once Billy has seen a specialist.”

Toulon reach top of pool with dominating win over Benetton

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Josua Tuisova touched down twice as Toulon moved above the Scarlets to the top of Champions Cup Pool 5 following a dominant 36-0 triumph over Benetton.

The Italians were unfortunate not to emerge victorious in the reverse fixture, with Francois Trinh-Duc’s late penalty snatching a late victory for Fabien Galthie’s side, and they gave a good account of themselves in the first half at the Stade Mayol.

Talented fly-half Anthony Belleau had given the hosts an ideal start but the visitors soon began to irritate their opponents.

They forced the Frenchmen into a number of mistakes before the home team finally got their second score via the boot of Belleau.

Toulon effectively needed three more tries but they upped the intensity in the second period and Tuisova (twice), Mathieu Bastareaud and Hugo Bonneval efforts secured the bonus-point and took them to the Pool 5 summit.

The French club will now head to Wales to take on the Scarlets in a clash which decides who finishes top, while Benetton will face Bath having suffered a fifth successive defeat in this season’s Champions Cup.

It was a result which also continued Toulon’s inconsistent form as they followed last weekend’s disappointing loss to Brive with a comfortable victory on Sunday.

Despite the rain-sodden conditions making it difficult for expansive rugby, it arguably suited the hosts, whose power game gradually ground down the Treviso-based outfit.

They began on the front foot and, after a period of pressure inside the opposition 22, Belleau broke through a couple of tackles to touch down.

Toulon initially struggled to build on that positive opening, however, and the visitors duly grew into the contest, frustrating the French outfit with some stubborn defence.

Benetton also began to create a few half-chances but they failed to take advantage and the home side were next to get on the board.

Although Galthie’s men required the bonus-point victory, they decided to go for the posts when they were awarded a penalty – a decision which caused much angst amongst the home supporters – and Belleau converted for a 10-0 lead at the interval.

Evidently disappointed by their first half performance, the French outfit improved significantly after the break and Tuisova’s outstanding catch and finish set them on their way.

Bastareaud then crossed the whitewash following a dominant driving maul before Tuisova went over for the all-important fourth try.

The hosts could now relax and duly began to open up, creating several opportunities, but they could only add one more via Bonneval.

The scorers:

For Toulon:
Tries: Belleau, Tuisova 2, Bastareaud, Bonneval
Cons: Belleau 3, Trinh-Duc
Pen: Belleau

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Racing edge Munster

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Racing got one over Muster on Sunday when they won the crucial European Cup match 34-30.
They got their first European match win at the brand new U Arena but Muster did get their crucial bonus point for losing within 7 points.This kept them at the top of pool 4 for now.
Machenaud finished the game with 20 points which put them one point behind Munster on the log.
This will put some extra pressure on next week pool stages which will be and exciting weekend of rugby.
Both sides score tries in the first half with Machenaud boot the difference which gave Racing a 13-7 lead at the break.
The missed penalties by Murray and Keatley proved to be very costly for Munster.
Racing got over in the corner in the second half through Andreu but a great try by Earls saw Munster pull back the score to 18-14.
Farrell try gave Munster the lead but some penalties from both sides saw the lead exchange several times in the second half.
Racing then struck a big blow, when Thomas set up Szarzewski to put them in a 28-17 lead.
A huge penalty by Murray was followed by three points by Machenaud as he clinched a dramatic win with another late kick.
Munster will end up at a guarantee top spot if they beat Castre next week with a bonus point.
Racing will play Leicester must better must better Munster’s result or face the perils of the best runners-up calculator.

The scorers:

For Racing 92:
Tries: Nyanga, Andreu, Szarzewski
Cons: Machenaud 2
Pens: Machenaud 5

For Munster:
Tries: Kleyn, Earls, Farrell
Cons: Keatley 3
Pens: Keatley 2, Murray

Bulls away Jersey

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Rugby catches football fever this weekend ahead of the Sundowns vs Pirates match as technical partner PUMA unveils the 2018 Vodacom Bulls Away kit in blue, white and yellow – a tribute to fellow city sporting giants Mamelodi Sundowns, the CAF Champions League winners and most successful team in the PSL era.

Not being one to shy away from a bold shirt design, the Vodacom Bulls will face their opponents in true Bafana Ba Style fashion emulating the Brazilians flair on field whilst carrying the same elements found on the Bulls Home kit – a 20180 graphic on the chest in celebration of the Rugby Union’s 80year anniversary in 2018 – ultimately opening up the doors for football and rugby fans to join the Bulls as one family.

“Great uniforms are based on teams, not individuals and because PUMA is extremely privileged to be the official technical partner of both Bulls and Sundowns, we are in the position to exercise our creative license in terms of team kit design,” said PUMA Marketing Director Brett Bellinger.

“We believe this one-of a kind kit is going to be a sought-after collector’s item for both rugby and football fans, especially those who follow both of the city’s giants – two of the strongest sporting brands in South Africa.”

CEO of the Bulls Company, Barend van Graan, said: ““The Vodacom Bulls have always believed in a bigger dream of uniting Tshwane, one that ensures that we fight to uphold the pride of our city. Both teams represent this beautiful city and we believe that sharing our colours is a great way of expressing that. This alignment no doubt also shows an amazing unity, not only between the brands but also the sporting codes. The bold move also shows the Vodacom Bulls’ willingness to embrace and unite, to be leaders and torch bearers in the process of continually unifying our people.”

Bold progress in kit design doesn’t have to hamper tradition. PUMA is taking this statement to new levels with an Away kit representative of new traditions which are culturally rich with the intention of strengthening their commitment to fans and supporters.

The Vodacom Bulls Away jersey will hit stores 1 February 2018 for R799 at PUMA stores, Totalsports, The Cross Trainer, Sportsmans Warehouse and selected retailers nationwide.

#20180

#BullsFamily

Saracens and Ospreys plays to boring draw

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A last-minute penalty from Dan Biggar rescued Ospreys a 15-15 draw at the Liberty Stadium against Saracens.

It was a tightly fought first 40, with three Owen Farrell penalties putting Saracens into a narrow 9-6 lead in Swanse. Biggar had the better of the second half though and his kick right at the death made it a 15-15 tie.

The final Champions Cup tie of the day pitted second against third in Pool 2, with Ospreys sitting narrowly ahead of their Premiership opponent with victory a must for both sides. It was Saracens who had the edge in their previous meeting though, beating Ospreys back in October. And if they were to go any further in defending their European crown, they had to replicate that result.

Saracens were able to hand a start to Liam Williams for the first time since November, whilst the main bit of information in the hosts’ line-up was the fact they could call upon captain Alun Wyn Jones, who recovered from a blow suffered in their last outing.

It was the visitors who started the stronger and after surviving an early onslaught, Ospreys did fall behind when Farrell slotted through the first attempt at the sticks of the night. Saracens threatened to add to that early advantage, and spent much of the first 20 minutes pinned metres from the hosts’ try line. Though they couldn’t get over, Farrell did double the advantage with a second penalty.

The hosts got off the mark on the half hour point through Biggar, but Farrell restored a six point advantage as Saracens kept Ospreys at arm’s length. Biggar was on hand right at the end of the half though, kicking another three as Ospreys went into the break trailing 9-6.

Biggar made it three from three a couple of minutes into the second half to level, only for Farrell to go up the other end and put the three point gap back in a match dominated by both playmakers. And for Farrell, he moved up to fourth in the all-time European Cup points scoring, overtaking Diego Dominguez as he moved to 647.

Ospreys were the better side in the second half but couldn’t turn possession into meaningful points. They were given a big helping hand though when Saracens lost a man. Sam Davies leapt for the ball and he piled over the frame of Chris Wyles, who was shown yellow.

Biggar was on hand to make good use of the extra man with his fourth penalty of the night, but Farrell remained in fine form and made it 15-12 with just five minutes remaining. Right at the death though, Biggar made it all square with a penalty. His kick was pretty much the last action of the game, and Ospreys remain well set for a place in the knockouts thanks to their number 10’s heroics.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Pens: Biggar 5

For Saracens:
Pens: Farrell 5
Yellow Card: Wyles

French sides victories in Challenge Cup

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The French sides came out on top in the late Challenge Cup matches played on Saturday with Pau, Brive and Bordeaux-Bègles victorious.

Pau 42-14 Zebre

Pau ran in five tries to secure an emphatic 42-14 victory over Zebre at Stade du Hameau in Challenge Cup action on Saturday.

Tries from Jale Vatubua, Laurent Bouchet, Masalosalo Tutaia, Peter Saili and Frank Halai proved too much for Zebre who scored through a Giovani Licata brace.

Vatubua gave Pau a second minute lead but Licata squared matters up in the ninth minute. Bouchet put the hosts back in front in the 16th minute.

Pau’s lead was further extended with a penalty try and yellow card to Valerio Bernabo rubbing salt in to the wounds. They asserted their dominance with one more try before the interval through Tutaia, taking a 26-7 lead into the interval.

Saili got in the act for Pau after the interval in the 47th minute before Halai put the cherry on the top with a well-taken try in the 52nd minute.

Zebre’s consolation try through Licata in the 57th minute was the only remaining scoring action of the game as Pau ran out comfortable 42-14 winners.

The scorers:

For Pau:
Tries: Vatubua, Bouchet, Tutaia, Saili, Halai, Penalty Try
Cons: Lebail 4, Fajardo

For Zebre:
Tries: Licata 2
Cons: Palazzani 2
Yellow Card: Bernabo

Oyonnax 17-29 Brive

Brive ran out 29-17 winners over Oyonnax at Stade Charles Mathon in Challenge Cup action on Saturday.

Tries from Alfi Mafi, Felix Le Bourhis, Seremaia Burotu and Benito Masilevu proved too much for Oyonnax who scored through a Jose Lima try while Julien Audy slotted four penalties.

Brive scored two in the first half through Mafi (8) and Le Bourhis (26) but Audy kept Oyonnax in the game with four first-half penalties as Brive took a slender 15-12 lead into the interval.

The second half saw no action until the 60th minute when Masilevu scored for Brive, a Nicolas Bezy conversion making it 29-12.

Oyonnax were determined not to roll over and Lima scored a consolation try on the final whistle.

The scorers:

For Oyonnax:
Try: Lima
Con: Fuertes
Pens: Audy 4

For Brive:
Tries: Mafi, Le Bourhis, Burotu, Masilevu
Cons: Bezy 3
Pen: Bezy

Bordeaux-Bègles 36-28 Dragons

Bordeaux-Bègles claimed a hard-fought 36-28 victory over the Dragons at Stade Chaban-Delmas on Saturday.

In the first action of the game, Angus O’Brien faced the sin-bin with a quarter of an hour gone on the clock. Matthieu Jalibert put Bordeaux-Bègles on the board from the resulting penalty.

Soon after, the Dragons responded through a Dorian Jones penalty. Five minutes later, Dragons had the game’s first try through James Benjamin.

Three Jones penalties brought Dragons back in to the tie but Jalibert’s try ensured the French side would pull away once again to take a 16-8 lead into the break.

Seven minutes after the interval, Blair Connor’s try converted by Jalibert brought the home side storming back into the game one point behind.

Five minutes later, Sarel Pretorius scored for the Dragons. However, the home side put the icing on the cake with tries from Fa’asui Fuatai (56) and Geoffrey Cros (61. 70).

Dragons’ late consolation try through Carl Meyer meant they lost by eight points at 36-28.

The scorers:

For Bordeaux-Begles:
Tries: Jalibert, Conor, Fuatai, Cros 2
Cons: Jalibert 3
Pen: Jalibert

For Dragons:
Tries: Benjamin, Pretorius, Meyer
Cons: Jones 2
Pens: Jones 3

How Rassie plans to realign SA rugby

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Lima Sopoaga’s departure to Wasps at the conclusion of this year’s Super Rugby season is another example that the overseas player drain is not exclusive to South African rugby writes Mark Keohane for Sport24

New Zealand manages the consequence of the player exodus better than the rest because of the national coaching structures and also the quality of those coaches.

Ireland’s very successful Kiwi coach Joe Schmidt was schooled in the New Zealand professional structures. He transferred that thinking to Ireland and implemented very similar structures and also forged a very strong working relationship with the four provinces.

It’s Ireland first now in Ireland and the four provinces place a premium on Schmidt’s input. The provinces have also aligned with Schmidt’s thinking when it comes to managing players who are nationally contracted, in terms of their game time and there is a two-way stream of communication.

Rassie Erasmus, as Director of Rugby for Munster, worked closely with Schmidt for the last two years and he experienced first hand the benefits of the Irish system, both for country and for province.

He knows this working system thinking can be transferred to South Africa’s four Super Rugby franchises and also the two PRO14 franchises. There are adaptations because South Africa is not Ireland; nor is it New Zealand.

The rugby coaching and management principles applied by Schmidt and All Blacks coach Steve Hansen are consistent with Erasmus’s and primary to those principles is that those involved with the national set-up from within the coaching and analytical structures work all-year round. Their roles are not restricted to the international season that starts mid-year. Their role is also not exclusive to working with the selected Springbok squad at camps and also during the international season.

Erasmus and those in the national coaching structure will be a presence all-year round on the South African professional rugby scene. Erasmus wants to get an understanding and appreciation of how each of the four Super Rugby and two PRO14 franchises function. He wants to contribute where needed or wanted and he wants to learn as much as he believes he can teach.

He coached the Cheetahs in the Currie Cup and also headed up the Stormers Super Rugby challenge. He had a stint at the Cats in Super Rugby early in his coaching career.

His journey as a coach has been longer than most think because he finished playing professionally before he turned 30 and he was a head coach of a professional team as a 30-year-old. He is now 45 and while many still think of him as a relatively recent Springbok, the reality is that Erasmus’s professional coaching career has been longer than his professional playing career.

He certainly has done his apprenticeship, from Johannesburg, to Bloemfontein, to Cape Town within the South African professional structures, and most recently in Ireland as Munster’s head of rugby.

Erasmus accepts the realities of drain on player resources because of the lucrative lure to players of going to Europe, the United Kingdom, Ireland and Japan. It is never going to change and the increasing strength of the Euro and Pound in relation to the rand means it is delusional to think there will be a decrease in player departures.

What has hurt South African rugby the most is how the player drain has weakened the Super Rugby franchises. The Test team should be able to survive, as New Zealand has shown in refusing to select overseas-based players for the All Blacks.

The underbelly of the All Blacks, the Super Rugby franchises, have been vulnerable at times over the last decade but excellent coaching and player identification has ensured that New Zealand has still continued its dominance of the competition despite losing close to 150 players, which if you do the math translates to five Super Rugby squads

New Zealand, in the time of losing those players, have continued to win the title and all five franchises have won Super Rugby at least once.

Erasmus believes that there has to be greater alignment with his national set up and the six main professional coaches in the country. There needs to be a vision around how best to improve South African rugby as a collective and this doesn’t mean every team playing a similar pattern or being a clone of the other.

The collective he talks about is intellectually, where coaches brainstorm and strategise together and where the four Super Rugby and two PRO14 coaches actively and operationally are a part of that bigger South African picture.

He doesn’t see it as a justification that because South Africa loses players to overseas clubs then the natural knock on effect is South African teams must be expected to lose.

New Zealand has 31 All Blacks among the 147 players overseas and they have lost 12 of their last 52 capped Test players. There are also 15 others who left who now play for other countries internationally. But their domestic product remains strong.

South Africa’s domestic game, according to Erasmus, can also be strong but it has to be a collective, in which he wears those franchise caps as much as he wants the franchise coaches to wear the national cap.

The South African Rugby Union offices reopen on January 15, but Erasmus and those coaches already contracted to his new national structure (Jacques Nienaber and Pieter de Villiers) started working on January 3. They’ve already started engaging and interacting with the franchises, in some instances purely as observers.

Erasmus appreciates, having been that franchise coach, that no one knows the player better than the franchise coach, who spends most of the year with the player. He also knows that a national squad is only as strong as the competition structure and franchise environment from which those players are chosen.

If he can contribute to a making the franchise environment stronger from a rugby intellectual position, then those six franchise coaches will naturally make his national environment stronger.

It’s a win-win situation and while most of the media attention this week has been on where England coach Eddie Jones has been spotted visiting South Africa’s franchises in preparation for England’s three Test series later this year, the most significant visits have been the ones by Erasmus and his team.

They’ve been on the road from January 8 and will be for most of the next six months as Erasmus actively works an on-field player blueprint that finally speaks to the collective of South African rugby.

Stormers send SOS to Whitehead

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The season has not even started and the Stormers has already send out a SOS to Griquas ten George Whitehead as reported by  Netwerk24

WP Rugby has confirm the arrangement when the player joined the pre-season squad on Wednesday.

With Robert Du Preez moving to the Sharks last year the Stormers look a bit thin on the number 10 position with D Plessis return still unknown.

That leaves them with Willemse, Stander in the squad.

Stander signed from the Bulls last year and will certainly future for the Stormers this year with Willemse most properly the number 1 choice at this stage.

Whitehead, 28, has spent time at the Cheetahs, Kings and Griffons before joining Griquas in 2017.

The Stormers open their 2018 Super Rugby campaign at home against the Jaguares on Saturday, February 17.

 

 

 

Genia ready to earn Rebels starting berth

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He may be one of the most decorated players in Australian rugby but Melbourne Rebels new recruit Will Genia has no expectation of waltzing straight into the starting line-up.

Despite boasting 111 Super Rugby appearances and 88 Test caps, Genia has arrived at the Rebels for his first day of training on Thursday prepared to work hard and earn his selection for the opening round.

Genia kicked-off his pre-season campaign in warm and muggy conditions on Gosch’s Paddock after a well-deserved six-week hiatus following the conclusion of the Spring Tour.

“I’ve got a bit of work to do, I had a good six weeks off,” Genia said after his first session in Rebels colours.

“I did a little bit of training but nothing compares to getting out there and stuck in with the boys. I’ve got six weeks to get myself ready for that first game.

“I just need to concentrate on my job and try to get myself an opportunity in the starting line-up as well so we’ll just train hard and see where we go.”

His arrival in Melbourne marks the much-anticipated return of the scrumhalf to Australian rugby after two years with Stade Francais.

A move that excites Genia as he begins a new chapter with the Rebels.

“It was something I was looking forward to,” Genia said of his return to Australia.

“Once my duties with the Wallabies were done at the end of last year, I was really looking forward to having a break then getting stuck in.

“Super Rugby is a competition that I definitely enjoy playing, I love the level of rugby that’s on offer.

“It’s great to be a part of a new group that’s building something special here in Melbourne.”

The 29-year-old was wary of the expectation surrounding the revamped Rebels ahead of the 2018 Super Rugby season.

Genia quick to point out that a quality squad on paper doesn’t necessarily translate into immediate success without hard work behind the scenes.

“We, ourselves, set high expectations,” Genia said.

“You can look at the playing group on paper and people think that we should do this or could do that but the biggest thing is that we build that environment and culture,” Genia said.

“The one thing about having all these high-quality players is that there’s a lot of competition for spots.

“If we can have that healthy competition it will only drive each other to get better individually and collectively as a group.”

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Munster’s Jones turns down Rassie

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Munster skills coach Felix Jones has rejected an offer from South African director of rugby Rassie Munster to join the Springboks’ back-room staff.

Having already secured the services of former Munster coach in fitness guru Aled Walters, Erasmus has, according to the Irish Independent, reportedly been unsuccessful in recruiting another former colleague in Jones.

Erasmus’ hopes of keeping the same coaching group together that saw Munster finish top of the PRO12 log in 2016/2017 have been dashed by Jones, who comes highly-rated.

Jones is seen as a central part of Irish Rugby’s plans going forward having been recommended for the Munster head coaching position by Ireland coach Joe Schmidt, whom he helped on Ireland’s tour of Japan last June.

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Here’s how to pick a captain – Woodward

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The Springboks are expected to unveil a new coach in the coming weeks, and one of his first tasks will be to decide on a captain, presumably to lead South Africa to the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan.

Allister Coetzee went with Warren Whiteley after Adriaan Strauss retired from Test rugby in the wake of the worst season in team history. And when the Lions greyhound broke down, Eben Etzebeth was promoted.

Siya Kolisi was a fan-favourite for the job in 2017 and the peerless pedigree of Malcolm Marx makes him an obvious candidate.

Duane Vermeulen has been linked with a return to the Stormers and, if Rassie Erasmus has the final say on the matter, the bruising No 8 will be on the shortlist to run Friday sessions.

While the Boks have lost their spring under Coetzee, England have rebounded spectacularly under Eddie Jones. The former Australia and Japan coach has, to the consternation of some, been unwavering in his choice of captain, abrasive hooker Dylan Hartley.

Sunday Times rugby scribe Stephen Jones has accused the England coach of “having tunnel vision”. England have won 22 of 23 Tests since 2016.

Clive Woodward, who knows a thing or two about winning, having guided England to a world title in 2003, likes the call to back Hartley, despite a track record of disciplinary issues.

“Eddie Jones was unambiguous in his backing of captain Dylan Hartley earlier this week… and rightly so,” Woodward wrote in his Daily Mail column.

“The relationship between an international coach and his captain, like any selection issue, is an art not a science. Jones and Hartley clearly works, as their record of just one defeat in two years testifies. I like Hartley as a player and a captain and I say that as one who has backed him all the way since his controversial appointment two years ago. It has worked and both Jones and Hartley should be applauded.

“Hartley is Eddie’s man, a player who has never once let him down either as a captain or as hooker.”

During his term, Woodward picked Lawrence Dallaglio and then Martin Johnson to lead England, and he did so based on the following weighted, five-point checklist:

1) 50 percent weighting: Is the player an automatic first choice who will play every minute and get into any team in the world?

2) 20%: Do I trust the player to deliver what my team will represent on and off the pitch. When I am not in the room, what will he be saying?

3) 10%: Does he have the unequivocal respect of the team in how he operates as a professional?

4) 10%: Does he have the ability to perform under pressure and make the big decisions at critical moments? Is he prepared to learn this skill? Ideally, he will also captain his club side successfully.

5) 10%: Do I enjoy his company? We do not need to be mates but we do need to have an ongoing relationship and consistent dialogue on everything to do with the team.

The Bok coach will have his own checklist, but if Woodward’s five points are applied to South Africa’s leading candidates, who comes out on top?

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A second South African prospect joins up with Munster’s academy

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Another young South African player has joined the province’s ranks.

Outside centre Matt More moved to Ireland late last year around the same time as Knox, having finished school in South Africa in December.

19-year-old More is also rated as a fine talent within South African rugby circles, having excelled for St. Andrew’s College in the Eastern Province region.

More played for the Eastern Province Country Districts provincial side at the 2016 Craven Week during his penultimate year in school, impressing at the famous underage competition, while he also received a call-up to the Eastern Province U19 team.

This year, More was not eligible to play for the Eastern Province side at Craven Week, but he helped St. Andrew’s to a superb season in which they lost just two games.

A pacy, intelligent presence in midfield, 97kg and 6’2″ More scored a record-breaking 29 tries for the school in 2017, meaning he dotted down a remarkable 45 times in 43 games over the course of three years for St Andrew’s 1st XV.

It’s understood that a number of professional sides in South Africa were interested in More, including the Bulls, but he has instead made a move to Munster and is now training with the province’s academy alongside tighthead prop Knox.

More, who is also capable of playing at fullback, is not Irish-qualified. However, both More and Knox are understood to have arrived in Ireland in 2017, meaning they would potentially be able to complete a three-year residency period before the altering of World Rugby’s regulation to five years on 31 December, 2020.

With the two South Africans not being contracted to Munster’s full senior squad, they will not be counted among the province’s batch of NIQ players in the shorter term.

Qualifying the players for Ireland under the residency regulation is understood to be far from the thoughts of Munster at this point, as they assess the quality and potential of both young men.

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Steinhoff out of Varsity Cup

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Steinhoff is no more at Varsity Cup after they also pulled out of their sponsorship with the Blitzbokke last month.

Steinhoff CEO Marcus Jooste resigned in early December due to financial irregularities, and the company’s shares crashed by 61%.

On Wednesday it was confirmed that Steinhoff will no long sponsor South Africa’s intervarsity tournament.

The process has already begun to secure a new sponsor for the competition but for now FNB will most properly pull all the weight.

The first round of matches will commence on 29 January.

Round 1 Monday 29 January 2018

 

Saffas Abroad – Faf shines for Sale Sharks

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SARugbymag.co.za looks at the past weekend’s English Premiership, Pro14 and French Top 14 matches involving South African players.

Pro14

– Wing Duhan van der Merwe and flyhalf Jaco van der Walt both played crucial roles in Edinburgh’s 37-7 win against the Kings. Van der Walt kicked three conversions and two penalties while Van der Merwe scored a try in the second half. Cornell du Preez started at No 8 for Edinburgh.

– The Scarlets extended their lead at the top of Conference B with an emphatic 47-13 win against the Dragons. Lock David Bulbring started for the Scarlets, while scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius came off the bench to score a consolation try for the Dragons, who included wing Pat Howard in their starting XV. Lock Ligtoring Landman came off the bench for the Dragons in the first half.

– Flank Abraham Steyn and lock Irne Herbst helped Treviso to a 27-21 comeback win against the Cheetahs. The result leaves the Cheetahs in third place in Conference A.

– The Ospreys saw off a spirited Cardiff Blues side, with a 29-28 win over their local rivals. Lock George Earle came off the bench for the Blues early in the second half.

– The Glasgow Warriors extended their lead in Conference A with a 40-20 win against Zebre. Former Stormers players Oliver Kebble and Brandon Thomson came off the bench for Glasgow in the second half. Zebre included flank Johan Meyer in their starting XV, with flank Derick Minnieand hooker Luhandre Luus on the bench.

– Leinster closed the gap on Pool B leaders, the Scarlets, with a 38-7 win against Ulster. Jean Deysel started at No 8 for Ulster, with former Sharks prop Weihahn Herbst among the replacements.

– CJ Stander led Munster to a 39-13 win against Connacht, which put them 15 points behind Conference A leaders Glasgow. Lock Jean Klein started for Munster, while Quinn Roux started for Connacht but was yellow-carded in the second half.

English Premiership

– Bath broke a three-match losing streak with a 46-25 win against the Worcester Warriors. Hooker Michael van Vurren came off the bench for Bath, while Francois Hougaard and Gerrit-Jan van Velze both started for the Warriors.

 Petrus du Plessis and Franco van der Merwe both started for London Irish in their 19-15 loss to Leicester Tigers. Flank Sebastian de Chaves came off the bench for London Irish.

– Nic Groom scored a crucial try for Northampton Saints in their 22-19 victory against Gloucester. Ruan Ackerman started at No 6 for Gloucester. Northampton brought Cobus Reinach and prop Francois van Wyk off the bench in the second half.

 Rohan Janse van Rensburg scored a brace of tries, while Faf de Klerk kicked a conversion and match-winning penalty for Sale in their 30-29 win against Harlequins. Jono Ross started for Sale, while Renaldo Bothma was part of the substitutes for Harlequins.

– Former Sharks hooker Kyle Cooper barged over to score for the Newcastle Falcons in their tense 28-20 win over Exeter Chiefs. The result brings Newcastle up to sixth, two points below fourth-placed Gloucester.

– Saracens, led by Brad Barritt, moved within five points of Exeter with a 38-15 win against Wasps. Schalk Burger scored a try for Saracens but was then yellow-carded in the first half. Prop Vincent Koch and flank Michael Rhodes both started for Saracens. Willie le Roux scored just before half-time for Wasps, who had Juan de JonghAshley Johnson and Nizaam Carr in their starting XV.

French Top 14
 Jandre Marais started for Bordeaux in their 19-10 win against Lyon. Ettienne Oosthuizen started for Lyon, who included Albertus Buckle and Henrik Roodt on the bench.

– Brive caused an upset as they beat Toulon 13-12. Peet Marais started for Brive, who had lock Johan Snyman on the bench. Duane VermeulenJuandre Kruger and Marcel van der Merwe all started for Toulon, while JP Pietersen was part of the substitutes.

– Agen gave their hopes of survival a massive boost with a 30-3 win over third-placed Castres. Johann Sadie and former Springbok scrumhalf Ricky Januarie both started for Agen, while Castres started with Robert EbersohnRory KockottDaniel Kotze and Jody Jenneker.

 Bjorn Basson scored the opening try for Oyonnax as they salvaged a 38-38 draw against La Rochelle. Paul Jordaan started at outside centre for La Rochelle.

– Montpellier climbed to the top of the table with a 28-16 win over Stade Français. Centre Jan Serfontein, lock Paul Willemse and prop Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg all started for Montpellier, with hooker Bismarck du Plessis and prop Johannes Jonker on the bench. No 8 Willem Alberts and prop Heinke van der Merwe started for Stade.

– Pau stayed in touch with the top eight teams after they beat Toulouse 11-10. Prop Lourens Adriaanse came off the bench for Pau. Fullback Cheslin Kolbe put wing Wandile Mjekevu away to score for Toulouse, who started with Rynhardt Elstadt at flank.

– Racing 92 ran riot with eight tries in their 58-6 victory against Clermont. Scott Spedding started at fullback for Clermont, who dropped to 10th on the table.

Compiled by Dylan Jack

Sopoaga’s exit signals new norm

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Lima Sopoaga’s decision to forgo a prized tilt at his first World Cup in favour of a lucrative overseas deal reflects the mindset of many modern professional athletes, by Napier Liam Napier is a sports writer for NZME

Leading New Zealand players cashing in offshore is nothing new but the age of their exits are rapidly decreasing. And these moves are, clearly, no longer timed purely around World Cup cycles.

While South Africa and Australia are regularly picked off, we like to think the core of the All Blacks squad at least is somewhat immune from poaching.

Sopoaga’s exit after one final Super Rugby campaign with the Highlanders, the team he helped clinch their maiden title in 2015, tells us otherwise. It tells us the lure of the black jersey is not always enough.

Welcome to the new norm.

As it stands, Sopoaga was a lock in the All Blacks match-day 23, and near certain to go to the 2019 World Cup. His assured goal kicking alone is a valuable asset.

Sure, he didn’t take his chances in 2017. But he still played 12 matches for the All Blacks, enjoying significantly more game-time than his previous two years at the elite level. The All Blacks don’t cast aside that investment lightly, and would back Sopoaga to grow and respond to the challenge.

But with young daughter, Milla, to consider, and soon-to-be installed Chiefs playmaker Damian McKenzie and Crusaders talent Richie Mo’unga nipping at his heals, Sopoaga has prioritised banking £500,000 to 600,000 ($1.13 million NZD) per season at Wasps over furthering his international career.

That’s his prerogative.

He may eventually return from England, but history tells us two-and-a-half years abroad will not enhance his skills, and others quickly step into the void.

The 26-year-old is far from alone. In recent times he joins All Blacks Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua, Aaron Cruden, Charlie Faumuina, Victor Vito and Tawera Kerr-Barlow as those to leave in their pomp.

With each such deflection the All Blacks lament impatience, believing the money will always be there.

Many of those players grew tired of warming the All Blacks bench waiting for chances, and fear serious injury could quash life-changing deals for themselves and family.

The reality is rugby players now view themselves as a business. Much like cryptocurrency, those on the fringe are far more intent on striking while their stock is high, rather than waiting to do so while winding down.

The catch for Sopoaga is he will walk away from a World Cup; a chance to potentially be a part of the first All Blacks team to win three successive Webb Ellis crowns.

That’s not being presumptuous, merely stating what could be on the table.

Rightly or wrongly, Sopoaga has shunned that chance. At the time of signing for Wasps he was the second choice first five-eighth in New Zealand behind Beauden Barrett.

And as the most experienced and established deputy, the next in line should Barrett fall over.

No doubt the All Blacks will be frustrated with his move, having groomed him over the past three years, a period which includes two starts at No 10. They are now left to largely start again with McKenzie and Mo’unga, both unproven.

Sopoaga nailed his first start at the intimidating Ellis Park caldron in 2015 but it wasn’t enough to gain inclusion over Colin Slade for the last World Cup. His second start last year he struggled to assert himself in a collectively poor All Blacks defeat in Brisbane.

The way the All Blacks operate, that could be it; Sopoaga’s All Blacks days may be done. Their stance is to select the best available players but if two are considered similar the one staying will be picked.

Certainly, the door is now fully ajar for McKenzie and Mo’unga to make their cases for promotion during Super Rugby.

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Bulls add to pre-season matches

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The Vodacom Bulls have added another pre-season match as they prepare for this years Super Rugby which kick off in February.

They have added a match against the Jaguares at Loftus on the 10 February which will make it four matches to get things right for the men from Pretoria.

John Mitchell has been hard at work to turn a dismal 2017 around for the Bulls. With four pre-season matches Mitchell will have enough time to use his full squad and see where players are at.

Super Rugby is not a sprint and you need a full fit squad to get close in winning this thing and Micthell knows that.

The Bulls will play the against the Lions and Sharks on the 27 January before taking on the Stormers in the USA.

A week later they will end the pre-season against the Jaguares.

The Los Angeles game is part of a double header in the US, featuring the US National team against an Argentine XV in the other game as the Bulls look to take their brand to new markets.

Bulls pre-season fixtures

27 January v Emirates Lions, Johannesburg

27 January v Cell C Sharks, Polokwane

3 February v DHL Stormers, Los Angeles

10 February v Jaguares, Loftus Versfeld.

Four New Zealand rugby players banned for doping

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TWO FORMER NEW Zealand representatives are among four players suspended by the country’s rugby authorities for doping offences.

Zoe Berry played one Test for the Black Ferns against England in 2012, while Glen Robertson turned out for the New Zealand U20 side in 2010 and 2011 and is a former member of the New Zealand Sevens squad.

Both were suspended for four years.

The two others, Ben Qauqau-Dodds and Rhys Pedersen, both played at senior club level.

Qauqau-Dodds is listed as the grandson of a former Fiji representative, while Pedersen was voted the “best and fairest” club player in Manawatu province last year.

Qauqau-Dodds received a two-year ban and Pedersen was suspended for 21 months.

“What this investigation has revealed is that there is a lot of ignorance in our community game on the issue of performance-enhancing drugs,” New Zealand Rugby general manager Neil Sorensen said.

“What has happened to these four rugby players serves as a reminder that all athletes have to be very careful about what they put into their bodies.”

Berry, Pedersen, and Robertson were accused of possessing and in some cases the use or attempted use of Clenbuterol, a stimulant. Qauqau-Dodds was charged with possession and use or attempted use of anabolic steroid Metandienone.

They all pleaded guilty to at least one of the alleged offences.

The charges were laid by Drug Free Sport New Zealand, which enforces World Anti-Doping Agency codes, and follows an investigation into the website Clenbuterol NZ.

It identified a number of athletes from a range of sporting codes as making purchases from the website in 2014 and 2015.

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South African teenage tighthead links with Munster’s academy

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PROMISING SOUTH AFRICAN tighthead prop Keynan Knox has linked up with Munster’s academy.

The 118kg front row only finished school late last year, but has already moved to Ireland and is training with the southern province’s academy.

Munster have not yet confirmed what kind of contract Knox has signed but the 18-year-old appears to have a bright future in the game.

Knox was the 1st XV captain of the Michaelhouse school last year, as well as starring for the KwaZulu-Natal Sharks provincial side at the U18 Craven Week – one of the most prestigious schoolboy competitions in world rugby.

Michaelhouse has produced Springboks such as Ruan Combrinck, Ross Cronjé, Patrick Lambie and Pat Cilliers, as well as Ireland international Robbie Diack and former Munster back Pat Howard.

Knox, who is over 6ft tall, is thought to have impressed with his set-piece work and general play at the 2017 Craven Week – a tournament that is followed closely by scouts from around the global game.

The mobility and dynamism he brings, along with his size, appear to have attracted Munster’s interest and it’s understood that CEO Garrett Fitzgerald played a key role in organising Knox’s move to Ireland.

Munster have already looked outside these shores for academy talent on a number of occasions in the past, with Alex Wootton providing one particularly successful example of the benefits.

Wales-born fullback James McCarthy joined Munster’s academy at the start of this season, having come through the Dragons U18 ranks before representing Wales at U18 level.

McCarthy’s father is Irish, however, and the IRFU’s IQ Rugby branch identified him as a good prospect, leading to a move to Munster, where he is now attending the University of Limerick and playing club rugby with UL Bohemians.

McCarthy has played for the Ireland U18 Sevens team and is currently part of the Ireland U20 squad, featuring in warm-up games for Noel McNamara’s side ahead of the Six Nations.

IQ Rugby were not involved in Munster’s move for Knox and he is not Irish-qualified, but he adds to the potential within the province’s academy ranks.

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Munster fitness chief to join Springboks?

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Munster have confirmed that Head of Athletic Performance Aled Walters will depart the province in March, with reports linking him to the Boks.

Though Munster do not mention South Africa, they do reveal that Walters is to lead “a national team’s strength and conditioning programme”.

With the squad informed of the departure in December, Team Manager Niall O’Donovan said: “Aled has been an integral member of this backroom team for the past number of seasons, and oversees a great S&C department here within the High Performance Centre where our programmes and processes are well established. We thank Aled for his contribution on and off the field, wishing him all the best with the next chapter.”

Several reports in South Africa suggest that Walters is set to link up with former Munster and now Springbok rugby boss Rassie Erasmus.

Six-week ban for Marler, two for Ioane

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Harlequins prop Joe Marler has been suspended for a period of six weeks, meaning he will miss England’s first two Six Nations matches.

Marler appeared before an independent disciplinary panel this evening after receiving a red card from referee Matt Carley against Sale.

He was sent off in the 58th minute for striking with the shoulder and making contact with Sale Sharks’ TJ Ioane, contrary to law 9.12.

Marler pleaded guilty to the charge. He is available to play again on Tuesday, February 20, which means he misses the Italy and Wales fixtures.

The chairman of the panel Philip Evans QC said: “The panel found that contact was made with the head of TJ Ioane and as a result the mandatory entry point is mid-range.

“The panel considered that the player’s previous record was such that it required an additional period of suspension of one week, however because of his plea, his conduct since the incident took place and other personal mitigation, the panel allowed some reduction.”

Meanwhile, Sale’s Ioane was cited by independent citing commissioner Shaun Gallagher for striking Harlequins’ Marler with the arm, contrary to law 9.12.

The incident occurred in the 53rd minute and he consented to the matter being dealt with on papers and pleaded guilty to the charge. He has been suspended for a period of two weeks and is available to play again on January 23.

The panel comprised Philip Evans QC (chair) with Aidan O’Brien and Becky Essex.

Gatland warns England rugby

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Wales coach Warren Gatland has warned England that its rugby could be set to go the same way as English football with its international game suffering because of its use of overseas players at club level.

Players from around the globe were attracted to play in England’s Premiership as a result of the large amounts of money being offered.

But Gatland told The Rugby Paper allowing foreign players to shine could ultimately be at the expense of the national side.

“You can understand people doing the best for their clubs and competitions, but you have to look at the bigger picture. What drives rugby globally is the international game. They’re the things we need to consider and protect,” he said.

“My big fear is you want competitions to grow and develop, but I’d hate to see the English game get like the football where there is so much money and resources going into it that it dominates the game globally and all the best players congregate in the competition to the detriment of everything else.”

At international level in football, England have won nothing since the 1966 World Cup yet its Premier League is one of the great competitions in the world.

Gatland reminded rugby’s Premiership club bosses that it was the international calendar which drove World Rugby’s agenda.

“We want to grow the game,” he said. “I understand things from the point of view of the owners, Premiership Rugby Limited and the RFU.

“They want to make their competitions as strong as possible, but it’s also important to get the balance right. Make it strong, but not to the detriment of other areas of the game.

“That’s why I’m saying the power brokers and people involved in the game have to have everything represented.”

Having had to coach the British & Irish Lions in New Zealand last year while hindered by the failure to get adequate preparation time, Gatland repeated his call for more time with players before future tours.

“People should be doing as much as possible to protect the future of the Lions,” he added. “In my opinion that has to be rugby people who see the value of the Lions, understand it and what it means to a lot of people.

“I hope there are power brokers who consider the importance of the Lions for the future and not just their own self-interest. It would be a shame if that were the case.”

Similar concerns have been expressed with the number of foreign coaches being given leading roles with sides at the expense of home grown talent. Six of England’s top 13 jobs are held by overseas coaches with Eddie Jones the leading example with the England side, but also Pat Lam (Bristol), Todd Blackadder (Bath), Johan Ackermann (Gloucester) and Matt O’Connor (Leicester).

Premiership Wrap – Saracens thrash Wasps

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All of the top three were in action on Sunday in the Premiership as Saracens won the big clash of the day, while Newcastle Falcons impressively defeated leaders Exeter Chiefs.

Wasps 15-38 Saracens
Ricoh Arena

Alex Goode touched down twice as Saracens made it three successive Premiership victories following a 38-15 win over Wasps.

Mark McCall’s men were absolutely superb in the opening half-an-hour, touching down three times via Chris Wyles, Goode and Schalk Burger.

Owen Farrell surprisingly struggled from the tee, however, and missed all three conversions, but did kick a penalty to take Sarries 18-3 in front.

Danny Cipriani responded for the hosts from the tee before the match turned on its head five minutes shy of the interval.

With Dai Young’s side rumbling towards the line from a driving maul, Burger came in from an offside position, which led to a yellow card and penalty try.

Farrell was also sin-binned for a high shot on Dan Robson and, with the visitors down to 13, Wasps immediately benefited as Willie le Roux touched down.

To their credit, despite the two-man disadvantage, Saracens initially maintained their lead and then increased their buffer when the players returned through a second three-pointer by Farrell.

The Londoners had regained their composure and Goode and Ben Spencer completed the win with late tries.

The scorers:

For Wasps:
Tries: Penalty try, Le Roux
Pen: Cipriani

For Saracens:
Tries: Wyles, Goode 2, Burger, Spencer
Cons: Farrell 2
Pens: Farrell 3
Yellow Cards: Burger, Farrell

Newcastle Falcons 28-20 Exeter Chiefs
Kingston Park

Exeter Chiefs’ lead at the top of the Premiership was cut after Newcastle Falcons produced an outstanding display to earn a 28-20 triumph.

Although Toby Flood and Gareth Steenson traded early penalties, the first half was all about the Falcons as they went into the break with a 22-point buffer.

Exeter, usually so assured, were put under pressure and they struggled to retain the ball. Turnovers significantly hampered the visitors and, with Vereniki Goneva and Sinoti Sinoti on the wings, the Tynesiders were always going to be a threat.

The Pacific Island duo both touched down to move Newcastle 15-3 in front before Joel Hodgson added a penalty and Kyle Cooper scored their third try.

Rob Baxter’s men improved in the second period and reduced the arrears via Sam Simmonds’ close range burst.

They continued to press and closed the gap further via Olly Woodburn and Toby Salmon, but Hodgson’s late three-pointer completed the win for the Falcons and denied the Chiefs a losing-point.

The scorers:

For Newcastle:
Tries: Sinoti, Goneva, Cooper
Cons: Hodgson 2
Pens: Flood, Hodgson 2

For Exeter:
Tries: S Simmonds, Woodburn, Salmon
Con: Steenson
Pen: Steenson

Saturday Premiership Wrap – Saints finally gets a win

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Leicester, Northampton and Sale Sharks beat London Irish, Gloucester and Harlequins respectively in the Premiership on Saturday.

Leicester Tigers 19-15 London Irish

Leicester’s run of four straight defeats came to an end at Welford Road with a 19-15 win over London Irish.

One loss away from a record breaking five in the Premiership, Tigers went into this in a turgid run of form that threatened to mark their worst run of home defeats in more than 40 years. Thankfully, they came up against an Irish side who have been in even worse form, with just one win in 17. It was never destined to be a classic.

It was Irish who had the better of the first 20 minutes or so and they took the lead through a Joe Cokanasiga try. The hosts made a mess after regaining possession from a line-out, spilling the ball and Cokanasiga was given the thumbs up from the TMO, the conversion failing to follow.

But it was Tigers who took a lead into the break. It took them 35 minutes to trouble the scoreboard, with Matt Toomua finishing off a Brendon O’Connor pass to cross the line. George Ford gave them a slender 7-5 advantage at 40 minutes.

And they stretched that lead straight after half-time with a second try. Having gained a line-out inside the Irish 22, the ball was worked into Jonny May and he made it 12-5.

Greig Tonks reduced that lead back down to four in what was a very tight second half. But Tigers’ woes were about to come to an end when Manu Tuilagi sealed the win with a third try on 71 minutes.

They were given a scare with four minutes to go when Irish went over courtesy of Alex Lewington. But the hosts hung on for the 19-15 win.

The scorers:

For Leicester:
Tries: Toomua, May, Tuilagi
Cons: Ford 2

For London Irish:
Tries: Cokanasiga, Lewington
Con: Tonks
Pen: Tonks

 

Northampton Saints 22-19 Gloucester

Saints ended their woeful run of losses with a last gasp 22-19 win over Gloucester at Franklin’s Gardens.

Much like Tigers, Northampton came into this looking to avert a run of losses that stood at seven before kick-off. Gloucester on the other hand have lost just one in eight, and the points only looked like going one way before 3pm.

But five minutes into it, Saints caused a bit of a surprise and gave the Gardens faithful a bit of hope. Having created an overlap, Ken Pisi chose to go alone and opened the scoring on 10 minutes. Harry Mallinder saw his kick strike the post, and Gloucester soon bounced back with their first try. Having pushed for the line, Saints were unable to stop the charge and referee Ian Tempest awarded the penalty try, which was swiftly converted. He added extra woes to the hosts, showing yellow to Api Ratuniyarawa in the process.

The visitors couldn’t add to their lead and as Saints returned to 15, Mallinder sent a penalty through the posts for the hosts. But Gloucester continued to look the better side and James Hanson got away from the defence and over the line on the half hour, Owen Williams making it a 14-8 advantage at half-time.

They increased that advantage 13 minutes into the second half with another try. John Afoa got their second of the afternoon when Williams broke through the backline and found his teammate. Williams missed the kick though, and Saints quickly got themselves right back into it.

Nic Groom snuck his way through the Gloucester defence to reduce the deficit, Mallinder kicking through to put Saints within a score of the visitors.

Williams missed another penalty to keep the gap at just four points, Saints still well in the game going into the final stages. And they stole the points right at the death. The TMO was into the action to take a look at a possible try, and he ruled that he could award a penalty try on behalf of Saints to take the points in a 22-19 win.

The scorers:

For Northampton:
Tries: Pisi, Groom, Penalty try
Con: Mallinder
Pen: Mallinder
Yellow Card: Ratuniyarawa

For Gloucester:
Tries: Penalty try, Hanson, Afoa
Con: Williams
Yellow Card: Symons

 

Sale Sharks 30-29 Harlequins

Sale left it late to beat 14 man Harlequins 30-29 at the AJ Bell Stadium.

Strong home form for Sale was met with a disappointing string of performances away from The Stoop for Harlequins, who have just one win away from home soil since March. And it all went to script with two early tries putting Sharks right into the ascendancy.

It took nine minutes for Byron McGuigan to get on the end of a move from the backs, crashing through and the two from AJ MacGinty making it a solid start. Two minutes after McGuigan’s try, Rohan Janse van Rensburg followed up. Sale turned possession over, passes were exchanged and the South African starlet added to the lead, with MacGinty again adding the conversion.

Quins gave themselves some hope with their opening try on 21 minutes. A driving maul saw Quins’ Alofa Alofa get over from just in front of the line, the conversion missing the sticks. MacGinty added a further three to the lead though with his next effort, Quins kept at arm’s length at a 17-5 scoreline.

They were improving though and when Mat Luamanu kicked downfield, Charlie Walker was first to it and the lead was cut to just five points. And against the expectations, they took a lead into half-time. Having dominated possession after their second try, Alofa danced around a challenge and fed Ross Chisholm who levelled. The conversion followed, as did a Marcus Smith penalty for a 22-17 half-time lead.

But if they were to hold the lead, they’d need to do it with a man less as Joe Marler saw red on 58 minutes. He left the referee with little choice after a dangerous challenge on TJ Ioane. MacGinty quickly narrowed the gap down to a couple of points, but Quins added to their lead against the odds.

The bonus point try was secured only six minutes after the dismissal of Marler, turning over possession and seeing Jamie Roberts break through for a converted try. It was always destined to be a thrilling finale, and it promised to be so 11 minutes from time when Janse van Rensburg nipped through a gap for a converted effort.

27-29 in favour of Quins as the clock ran down, they lost that lead as a penalty from Faf de Klerk with four minutes to play put Sale a point ahead. And 30-29 was the way it ended, although Quins did take two bonus points from the game.

The scorers:

For Sale:
Tries: McGuigan, Janse van Rensburg 2
Cons: MacGinty 2, De Klerk
Pens: MacGinty 2, De Klerk

For Harlequins:
Tries: Alofa, Walker, Chisholm, Roberts
Cons: Smith 3
Pen: Smith
Red Card: Marler

Saturday Top 14 Wrap- Montpellier overcome Stade Francais

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There were wins for Bordeaux-Bègles, Brive, Agen and Montpellier while La Rochelle were held at Oyonnax, meaning Montpol go top.

Saturday
Bordeaux-Bègles 19-10 Lyon
Brive 13-12 Toulon
Agen 30-3 Castres
Oyonnax 38-38 La Rochelle
Montpellier 28-16 Stade Français

Sunday
Pau vs Toulouse
Racing 92 vs Clermont Auvergne

Bordeaux-Bègles 19-10 Lyon
Stade Chaban-Delmas

Rory Teague’s tenure at Bordeaux-Bègles started with a win as they beat Lyon 19-10 in a dour Top 14 match at Stade Chaban-Delmas.

It was a forgetful first period with no tries to speak of, in fact neither side came close to scoring in a dull 40 minutes that finished 6-0.

Lyon missed the chance to take an early lead when fly-half Mike Harris hit the post from a long-range penalty after flanker Liam Gill’s excellent work at the breakdown. Bordeaux-Bègles’ Matthieu Jalibert made no such mistake on eight minutes to give his side a 3-0 lead.

A dominant scrum allowed Jalibert to make it 6-0 just on the half-hour but that was the last of the scoring before a much-needed break.

Jalibert struck again two minutes into the second 40 following a high tackle and at 9-0 down, Lyon were staring down the barrel of defeat.

Delon Armitage did get them back into matters from range on 51 minutes following a scrum penalty, giving them hope of sealing victory.

But that was soon chalked off by the impressive pivot Jalibert, whose penalty from distance took UBB into a 12-3 cushion on 54 minutes.

And the result was sealed on 61 minutes as Jailbert set up number eight Marco Tauleigne for a powerful try, making it 19-3 with the kick.

Former UBB full-back Jean-Marcellin Buttin did cross in the game’s final play but it was only a consolation for Lyon who were well beaten.

The scorers:

For Bordeaux-Bègles:
Try: Tauleigne
Con: Jalibert
Pens: Jalibert 4

For Lyon:
Try: Buttin
Con: Michalak
Pen: Armitage

 

Brive 13-12 Toulon
Stade Amedee-Domenech

A last-minute try from former Toulon back Benjamin Lapeyre, converted by Gaetan Germain, saw Brive claim a shock 13-12 win on Saturday.

The 12th-placed side beat their heavyweight visitors in a big setback to Toulon’s season, as they missed the chance to push for the play-offs.

Toulon led 6-3 at the break thanks to two Francois Trinh-Duc penalties to one from Germain in another low-scoring first-half in the Top 14.

Trinh-Duc and Anthony Belleau took Toulon into a 12-6 lead as time began to run out for Brive, who are just above the relegation places.

But Lapeyre’s 79th minute score left Germain with the pressure kick, which he slotted, as Brive claimed a priceless four points at home.

The scorers:

For Brive:
Try: Lapeyre
Con: Germain
Pens: Germain 2

For Toulon:
Pens: Trinh-Duc 3, Belleau

 

Agen 30-3 Castres
Stade Armandie

Castres had their play-off push halted by an impressive Agen, who ran out 30-3 winners at Stade Armandie to boost their hopes of survival.

Before kick-off Agen were second bottom with just four wins to their name, but they impressed in this win over a side that was sitting third.

A low-scoring first period saw the hosts go in 6-3 to the good but second-half tries from Mathieu Lamoulie, Yoan Tanga and George Tilsley proved too much for Castres, who had number eight Maama Vaipulu sent off in the 63rd minute, summing up a disappointing day at the office.

Unfortunately for Agen, Brive also won on Saturday so they remain in 13th place, but this result with have given them a lot of confidence.

The scorers:

For Agen:
Tries: Lamoulie, Tanga, Tilsley
Cons: McIntyre 3
Pens: McIntyre 3
Yellow Card: Nakosi

For Castres:
Pen: Urdapilleta
Red Card: Vaipulu

 

Oyonnax 38-38 La Rochelle
Stade Charles-Mathon

An 87th minute penalty from Ben Botica helped Oyonnax take a share of the spoils against high-flying La Rochelle at Stade Charles-Mathon.

It had looked like La Rochelle were heading to the four points but a converted try and then Botica’s penalty all came after 79 minutes in a thrilling finish, which was crucial seeing as relegation rivals Agen and Brive picked up wins elsewhere in Saturday’s Top 14 matches.

Oyonnax led 18-17 at the break thanks to tries from Bjorn Basson and Daniel Ikpefan, with Jean Charles Orioli and Vincent Pelo replying.

After the turnaround Axel Muler’s 44th minute try put Oyonnax in a strong position but then the league’s pace-setters struck with three unanswered tries from Gabriel Lacroix, Kevin Gourdon and Kini Murimurivalu, as they raced into a 38-28 advantage with eight minutes left.

Then came Maxime Veau’s try for Oyonnax, converted by Botica, before the former Harlequins fly-half stepped up to level with the last kick.

The scorers:

For Oyonnax:
Tries: Basson, Ikpefan, Muler, Veau
Cons: Botica 3
Pens: Botica 4

For La Rochelle:
Tries: Oriolo, Pelo, Lacroix, Gourdon, Murimurivalu
Cons: Lamb 4, James
Pen: Lamb

 

Montpellier 28-16 Stade Français
Altrad Stadium

Montpellier climbed above La Rochelle to the Top 14 summit after they overcame Stade Français 28-16 with a bonus-point victory at Altrad Stadium.

Vern Cotter’s men led 14-13 at the break, somewhat fortuitously, as Stade Français enjoyed the better of the first 40 minutes of the game.

Marvin O’Connor went over on 14 minutes for a deserved try on the right and with Jules Plisson’s conversion, the visitors were 7-0 ahead.

However the hosts hit back on 20 minutes when Aaron Cruden crossed almost in slow motion from five metres out. Benoit Paillaugue levelled.

Plisson kicked two penalties to nudge his side 13-7 in front but Louis Picamoles crossed before the break to give Montpellier the buffer.

The hosts came out strongly after the interval as, following a couple of offloads, prop Mohammed Haouas collected the ball and dived over.

Plisson then missed a shot before being successful from 40 metres out to keep Stade in touch at 21-16 down.

But it would be the devastating wing Nemani Nadolo who sealed the victory for Montpellier on 66 minutes as he slipped O’Connor wide on the left before strolling over from 20 metres out.

The scorers:

For Montpellier:
Tries: Cruden, Picamoles, Haouas, Nadolo
Cons: Paillaugue 4

For Stade Français:
Try: O’Connor
Con: Plisson
Pens: Plisson 3

 

PRO14 Saturday Wrap – Yellow card cost Cheetahs

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Benetton came from behind to defeat the Cheetahs while there were also victories for Ospreys, Glasgow, Leinster and Munster on Saturday.

Benetton 27-21 Cheetahs

Benetton recorded their third successive win with a 27-21 victory over the Cheetahs at Stadio di Monigo on Saturday.

Fred Zeilinga notched three first-half penalties but Benetton hit back just before the break with a fantastic team try, the move rounded off by Monty Ioane as the away side took a 9-5 lead in to the interval.

The Cheetahs added their second try shortly after the break just after a Marty Banks penalty when Oupa Mohoje bashed over after good work by the Cheetahs backline.

The Cheetahs were reduced to 14 men when Torsten van Jaarsveld was penalised for not supporting his body weight and cynically slowing down Benetton ball deep in Cheetahs’ territory.

The visitors were subsequently reduced to thirteen men when scrum-half Shaun Venter was guilty of a deliberate knockdown at a defensive scrum.

Benetton duly capitalised on their numerical advantage when the ball was swept out all the way from the right wing to the left wing with full-back Jayden Hayward providing the killer pass for replacement hooker Hame Faiva to finish clinically in the corner to cut the deficit to three.

Soon after, the home side took the lead when Federico Ruzza got over and Banks added the extras to make it 20-16 to Benetton.

Faiva then grabbed his brace as the hosts extended their lead. Banks converted brilliantly from deep out on the left touchline to extend the lead to 27-16 with 10 minutes to go.

With two minutes to go, Mohoje grabbed his brace showing his finishing qualities with a good stretch and grounding.

However, it was not enough as Benetton grabbed their third win on the bounce; something that has not happened in the PRO14 for the Italians since 2012.

For Benetton:
Tries: Ioane, Faiva 2, Ruzza
Con: Banks
Pen: Banks

For Cheetahs:
Tries: Mohoje 2
Con: Zeilinga
Pens: Zeilinga 3

Referee: Frank Murphy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Stuart Gaffikin (Ireland), Gianluca Gnecchi (Italy)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)

Ospreys 29-28 Cardiff Blues

Ospreys held on for a dramatic 29-28 win over Cardiff Blues at Liberty Stadium on Saturday.

The Blues took the lead thanks to great work from Josh Navidi at the breakdown to win the penalty for his side which Gareth Anscombe slotted betweem the posts.

Good interplay between Willis Halaholo and Rey Lee-Lo earned the Blues a penalty and they opted for touch. Navidi took the ball down from the blindside and made decent metres. The ball was recycled to Nick Williams who was always going to be impossible to stop from that sort of range making it 8-0 to the visitors.

Soon after, the Ospreys were right back in it courtesy of a Jeff Hassler intercept try in which the winger showed his poaching abilities and searing pace. Dan Biggar converted to cut the deficit to one at 8-7 but Anscombe’s penalty made it 11-7 to the Blues.

Then out of nothing Biggar showed his vision as he collected his own deftly-weighted chip and chase and set half-back partner Rhys Webb over for a scintillating Ospreys try. Biggar added the extras as the scoreline read 14-11.

Anscombe pegged the hosts back with a penalty after the Ospreys were penalised for going off their feet at the breadown for the second time in the match.

But Biggar responded with a penalty to restore the hosts’ 17-14 lead by half-time.

10 minutes after half-time, Biggar’s sublime cross-field kick was well collected by Ashley Beck who fed instantaneously on his inside to Justin Tipuric whose offload was collected by Webb stepped his way past a couple of defenders in a consumnate finish. Biggar added the extras and make it 24-14 to Ospreys.

Biggar caught the Blues sleeping at a set-piece when he produced another gorgeous cross-field kick for Justin Tipuric to dot down.

Despite being a man down due to Alex Cuthbert’s yellow card for a cynical infringement, the Blues and Owen Lane in particular showed wonderful fighting spirit as he muscled two defenders on his way over the line.

The Blues’ next try was even better, with Steve Shingler collecting his own chip and chase in much the same way Biggar did igniting the move. Tomos Williams and Anscombe were also involved in a lengthy build up before Garyn Smith scythed his way through the Ospreys defence. Anscombe’s conversion brought the deficit to within just one.

But Ospreys held on for a hard-fought 29-28 victory.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Tries: Hassler, Webb 2, Tipuric
Cons: Biggar 3
Pen: Biggar

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Williams, Lane, Smith
Cons: Anscombe 2
Pens: Anscombe 3
Yellow Card: Cuthbert

 

Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Dan Jones (Wales), Adam Jones (Wales)
TMO: Jon Mason (Wales)

Zebre 20-40 Glasgow Warriors

Glasgow Warriors recorded a comfortable 40-20 victory over Zebre at Stadio Sergio Lanfranchi on Saturday.

Tries from Matt Fagerson, George Horne, Nick Grigg, a Lee Jones brace and a penalty try proved too much for Zebre who scored through Renato Giammarioli, Maxime Mbanda and Tommaso D’Apice.

Fagerson opened the scoring for Glasgow from a driving maul with seven minutes gone but Giammarioli hit back three minutes later for the hosts.

Jones then glided over for Glasgow as first receiver from a five metre attacking scrum. The visitors began to turn the screw and were rewarded with a penalty try for their dominance.

Glasgow had four before the break when Horne tiptoed around a defender after Adam Ashe had barged through a tackle and got the hands free for the offload.

Zebre had a response immediately after the interval with a try from Mbanda. Any hopes of a Zebre comeback, however, appeared to be extinguished when Jones grabbed his brace ten minutes later.

Soon after, Grigg scored what would be the final try of the game.

The scorers:

For Zebre:
Tries: Giammarioli, Mbanda, D’Apice
Con: Canna
Pen: Violi

For Glasgow Warriors:
Tries: Fagerson, Jones 2, Horne, Grigg, Penalty Try
Cons: Russell 4

 

Referee: Andrew Brace (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Eddie Hogan-O’Connell (Ireland), Manuel Bottino (Italy)
TMO: Brian MacNeice (Ireland)

Leinster 38-7 Ulster

Leinster continue to march on as they smashed Ulster 38-7 at RDS on Saturday.

It took the hosts seven minutes to break the deadlock. Fergus McFadden did well to make the initial break from the line-out and had the vision to feed full-back Jordan Larmour to finish off.

More good backline play from Leinster with Larmour heavily involved once again saw Barry Daly dart over 10 minutes later.

McFadden turned from provider to try-scorer when Scott Fardy’s excellent pass found him in open space on the left wing to dot down.

Leinster’s next try came from Ulster losing possession and the ball going through the backline in another impressive move that saw McFadden pop up to grab his brace and make it 26-0.

Larmour scored his second after excellent hands between Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw set him free down the left to make it 31-0.

With eight minutes to go, Ulster scored a consolation try. Tommy Bowe was halted inches short after making a fantastic break. The ball went quickly through the hands for Jacob Stockdale to dot down.

Not for the first time, Leinster scored from turnover ball and it was Sexton at the end of another scintillating move.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Larmour 2, Daly, McFadden 2, Sexton
Cons: Byrne 3, Sexton

For Ulster:
Try: Stockdale
Con: Cooney

 

Referee: George Clancy (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Joy Neville (Ireland), Shane Kierans (Ireland)
TMO: Peter Fitzgibbon (Ireland)

Munster 39-13 Connacht

Munster recorded a comprehensive 39-13 victory over Connacht at Thomond Park.

Tries from Darren O’Shea, Andrew Conway, Keith Earls and Conor Murray (2) proved too much for Connacht who scored through two Jack Carty penalties and a converted Tom McCartney try.

Carty kicked a penalty to give Connacht an early lead with three minutes gone on the clock.

After 20 minutes, Munster got the game’s first try. Chris Farrell made good ground with a powerful carry up the middle and from the recycled ball O’Shea bashed over from close range. Ian Keatley slotted the resulting conversion to make it 7-3 to the hosts.

Soon after, Carty kicked a fantastic long-distance penalty to reduce the deficit to one. But Keatley responded with a penalty to restore the lead to four points at 10-6 at the half an hour mark.

Keatley maintained his one hundred percent kicking record with his third penalty after Connacht were penalised at the breakdown.

Not long after, Conway chased Keatley’s grubber kick through to dot down. Keatley made no mistake with the conversion as the hosts took what looked like could be an unassailable 20-6 lead even though only 54 minutes had passed.

Keatley and Conway combined next to set Earls clear on a free run to the line with an easy finish capping off a promising team move.

The game turned spiky with a number of off-the-ball scuffles and one big brawl which saw Quinn Roux deservedly sin-binned for fighting.

Munster capitalised on their numerical advantage when Murray sneaked over after a series of powerful carries from the hosts’ forwards. Keatley added the extras to make it 32-6 in favour of Munster with 64 minutes gone before Murray crossed again on 70 minutes.

Connacht scored a consolation try in the closing stages through McCartney.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: O’Shea, Conway, Earls, Murray 2
Cons: Keatley 4
Pens: Keatley 2

For Connacht:
Try: McCartney
Con: Ronaldson
Pens: Carty 2
Yellow Card: Roux

Thanks to 

Vacancy Griquas – Forward Coach

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Steinhoff and Blitzboks part ways

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The Blitzboks and Steinhoff, their major title sponsor, have parted ways following the financial meltdown of the retail giant.

According to a report on Netwerk24, the parties came to an agreement on the termination of the partnership in December, but it has not been made public yet.

At this stage, it is not clear who will sponsor the Blitzboks moving forward, but their #LoveRugby logo will appear on their jersey for the time being.

The Blitzboks are next in action on January 26 when they will take part in the Sydney Sevens, followed by the Hamilton Sevens in New Zealand the following weekend.

The report further indicates that Steinhoff’s relationship with Varsity Cup Rugby is also uncertain at this stage.

Steinhoff have sponsored the Blitzboks since 2015, but after financial irregularities within the organisation forced CEO Markus Jooste to step down towards the end of last year, the share price of the company has plummeted.

Bath back to winning ways

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Bath put their disappointing run of Premiership form behind them to inflict a chastening 46-25 defeat on Worcester Warriors and maintain their play-off push.

The West Country outfit had suffered three consecutive league defeats but they controlled this match from start to finish.

They wore the hosts down in the first half, maintaining control of the ball and going 13-6 up via Paul Grant’s try and two Rhys Priestland penalties.

Chris Pennell had kept the Warriors in the game at the break, kicking a brace of three-pointers, but efforts in the second period from Matt Garvey, Anthony Watson, James Phillips and Kahn Fotuali’i (twice) eased Bath to victory.

Worcester have enjoyed a resurgence over recent times but, although David Denton, Joe Taufete’e and Perry Humphreys got consolation scores, they were outplayed by Todd Blackadder’s men throughout.

The visitors controlled possession and territory, showing patience by going through the phases, and they earned a penalty which Priestland kicked for an early 3-0 advantage.

Watson, continuing his fine form from last year, was particularly spritely and his mazy run almost led to the first try, but they had to be content with another three-pointer by their fly-half.

Alan Solomons’ side had barely touched down the ball but they finally got themselves into the game and Bath infringed as a result of the pressure.

Pennell, usually so assured off the tee, initially failed to convert before the full-back was finally successful, kicking a long-range effort to reduce the arrears after half-an-hour.

Unperturbed, Bath simply regained their composure and put together their most incisive move of the match. Once again, they went through the phases and Chris Cook displayed excellent dexterity to draw a defender and offload for Grant to power over.

Although the Warriors hit back via Pennell just shy of the interval, the Midlanders were surprisingly lacklustre and they failed to impose their style early in the second period.

The West Countrymen duly controlled matters and a free-flowing move, which went through several pairs of hands, ended in their fly-half feeding Garvey to cross the whitewash.

Worcester then briefly threatened but their five-metre scrum came to nothing and the visitors effectively sealed the win when Cook broke two tackles and sent Watson over unopposed.

To their credit, the home team hit back as Denton scored but Bath soon had the bonus-point when Phillips went crashing over the line.

Two opportunistic touchdowns from Fotuali’i added to the Warriors’ embarrassment but a Taufete’e effort, which was sandwiched in between those tries from the replacement scrum-half, gave Solomons’ men a chance of a bonus-point.

However, Worcester fell short, despite Humphreys’ try, as they went away with yet another defeat, while Bath moved level on points with local rivals Gloucester.

The scorers:

For Worcester:
Tries: Denton, Taufete’e, Humphreys
Cons: Pennell 2
Pens: Pennell 2

For Bath:
Tries: Grant, Garvey, Watson, Phillips, Fotuali’i 2
Cons: Priestland 3, Burns 2
Pens: Priestland 2
Yellow Card: Phillips

Preview – Strong Cheetahs team to take on Benetton

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After a second successive win in the Italian derby against Zebre, Benetton will return to Stadio di Monigo to face the Cheetahs.

Coach Kieran Crowley makes only two changes to his starting XV that defeated Zebre.

Full-back will be Jayden Hayward, on the wings Luca Sperandio and Monty Ioane, Tommaso Benvenuti and Alberto Sgarbi will be in the centres and the half-backs are Tito Tebaldi at scrum-half and Marty Banks at fly-half.

The front-row will consist of Nicola Quaglio, Luca Bigi and Tiziano Pasquali, locks will be Irné Herbst and captain Dean Budd, who makes his 100th appearance for Benetton, and finally the back-row sees Whetu Douglas, Abraham Steyn and Marco Barbini complete the XV.

Meanwhile, Francois Venter is back at centre for the Cheetahs and will be taking over the reins after his impressive performance for the Springboks on the end-of-year tour.

Craig Barry moves to full-back, replacing Clayton Blommetjies who has been sidelined due to a cold. William Small-Smith will be starting on right wing.

Springboks Oupa Mohoje (flanker) and Uzair Cassiem (number eight) are both in the starting line-up. Cassiem will be making his PRO14 debut. Rynier Bernardo and Junior Pokomela will be providing cover on the bench.

Tian Meyer is suffering from a groin injury giving Zee Mkhabela the opportunity on the bench. Niel Marais and AJ Coertzen will both be making their PRO14 debuts when they set foot to field.

The teams:

Benetton: 15 Jayden Hayward, 14 Luca Sperandio, 13 Tommaso Benvenuti, 12 Alberto Sgarbi, 11 Monty Ioane, 10 Marty Banks, 9 Tito Tebaldi, 8 Marco Barbini, 7 Abraham Steyn, 6 Whetu Douglas, 5 Dean Budd (c), 4 Irné Herbst, 3 Tiziano Pasquali, 2 Luca Bigi, 1 Nicola Quaglio
Replacements: 16 Hame Faiva, 17 Federico Zani, 18 Cherif Traore, 19 Federico Ruzza, 20 Marco Fuser, 21 Sebastian Negri, 22 Edoardo Gori, 23 Ian McKinley

Cheetahs: 15 Craig Barry, 14 William Small-Smith, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Uzair Cassiem, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Reniel Hugo, 4 Carl Wegner, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Charles Marais
Replacements: 16 Jacques du Toit, 17 Ox Nche, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Rynier Bernardo, 20 Junior Pokomela, 21 Zee Mkhabela, 22 Niel Marais, 23 AJ Coertzen

Another use lost for Kings

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Edinburgh maintained the pressure on third place Ulster in Conference B following a comfortable 37-7 triumph over the winless Southern Kings.

Conditions meant that free-flowing rugby was at a premium and the supporters had to wait until the second quarter for the first score.

That came through the home side’s fly-half Jaco van der Walt before the floodgates opened and Grant Gilchrist touched down after displaying some impressive footballing skills.

Blair Kinghorn then crossed the whitewash as Richard Cockerill’s men moved into a 15-0 lead at the interval.

The Kings, alongside fellow South African side the Cheetahs, had a break over Christmas and New Year, but it did not seem to do them any good as the hosts continued to dominate.

Van der Walt kicked a second three-pointer and Duhan van der Merwe then went over to effectively complete the win.

Edinburgh then went in search of the bonus-point and they duly got their reward through Cameron Fenton and Dougie Fife.

Ntabeni Dukisa’s effort was sandwiched in between the Scottish outfit’s last two tries but it was another disappointing evening for the Kings.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Tries: Gilchrist, Kinghorn, Van der Merwe, Fenton, Fife
Cons: Van der Walt 3
Pens: Van der Walt 2

For Kings:
Try: Dukisa
Con: Dukisa