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Nabetragting – Super Rugby Week 2

5

Super Rugby got into the full swing of things when the Aussie and New Zealand conferences joined the party this past weekend.

It was an interesting weekend of rugby and early indicators are that this is going to be a close contest this year for play-off spots.

We had three South African teams involved with the Stormers starting their tour against the Waratahs. The Lions and Bulls were at home playing the Jaguares and Hurricanes with the Sharks having a bye weekend.

The Stormers match against the Waratahs never really got going with both teams struggling to get a grip on the game.

Upfront the Stormers dominated the scrums and on the ground but they had a horror time when it came to lineouts.

It was exactly another bad lineout after the hooter that cost them the game as the Waratahs scored from that.

Lineouts throw-ins is a common problem these days in South Africa and it seems not enough work is being done on it.

The general play from Stormers was yet again poor and the backline looked clueless and without a real plan.

The Stormers and their fans can look forward to another 50 pointer against the Crusaders this weekend if they do not get their defence right. Too many easy tries was again let through.

The Lions hosted the Jaguares on Saturday and got again an early scare from the visitors.

In both the season games the Lions did not had pretty starts to the matches and something they will want to look at.

It was not the best game I have ever seen the Lions played but they took their opportunities and turned it into points.

There was allot of mistakes from both sides and coach Swys will not have been entirely happy with this performance.

There are still some issues at lineout time for the Lions but they will surely be able to correct this before they face the big guns.

The game was again turned a bit sour with the negative play from the Jaguares which cost them two yellow card which could have easily have been more.

It just seems these Argentina players do not know or do not care about the laws of the game and are really making it hard to watch the games they are involved in.

In only his second match Aphiwe Dyantyi  again showed why people are making such a big fuss about him.

Scoring two brilliant tries again this weekend and setting up another he showed that his name will be one that we will hear all over the world.

Lions coach Swys de Bruin called wing Aphiwe Dyantyi a ‘special’ player after his second Man of the Match performance in as many weeks

‘He is special. He had another good game. I want to encourage his effort to try things when it is not on.

‘If we really look after him and don’t try to push him too quickly, let him earn his colours, then he will become a legend, I predict. If we plan his future well.’

The Bulls had their first outing for the year in front off less that 10 000 fans, but they will surely pull some more fans in this week.

With the new look jersey and new look team and coach we expected a changed Bulls side but we did not expect so much change.

From the start the Bulls showed off their skills, handling and more important some intelligent play.

The game was on a knife edge right through but it was nice to see the Bulls going at it till the 80 minute.

The commitment from the players was diffident throughout the match and for the first time in years we had a Bulls scrums and pack that were able to complete.

It is never easy to beat any New Zealand side and the Bulls can feel very proud of this win but there are still allot of work to be done before one can get to excited about this team.

This weekend will be another test when they host the Lions at Loftus.

In the other results this weekend we saw the better side of the Highlanders as they beat the Blue on Friday in a high octane match which was nice to watch.

The game showed of the best of the Blues and Highlanders.

Highlanders 41-34 Blues

The Reds saw red on Friday with some pretty poor judgement from their captain Scott Higginbotham in the 10th minute of the match.

The Rebels took full advantage of the red card and later another yellow as well to outplay their neighbors.

The Rebels do look a better coached side this year with Wessels there.

Rebels 38 – 14 Reds

The Brumbies got a major scare in Tokyo when they had to work very hard to get pass the Sunwolves on Saturday.

The Sunwolves played very well in the first half and it had to a better second half for the Brumbies to pull this one out of the fire.

It is maybe to early to tell but it look that the Sunwolves may be able to compete this year.

Sunwolves 25-34 Brumbies 

The defending champions showed on Saturday just why they won the whole thing last year as they took full advantage of a Chiefs yellow card and outplayed them in the last 15 minutes of the game.

The Saders were getting on well throughout the first half but it was the Chiefs that fought back in the later stages of the first half.

Cards will play a major part in this years competition and teams will not be able to afford to get them specially against the top teams.

Crusaders 45-23 Chiefs

Here is the current log standings after week 2

PosTeamPWLDBPPts
19630330
27610427
37520424
47521324
58521124
67530024
77420521
88241214
97330214
107340214
117310013
128350113
138350012
148260212
15707022

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nabetragting – Super Rugby Week 1

3

Super Rugby is not won in February but we had three of South African teams in action this past Saturday and a mixed bag of what to take away from it.

With the World Cup around the corner and Coetzee gone all our hopes are that our four Super Rugby teams will be competitive and that Rassie Erasmus will have a group of players that can challenge the best in Japan.

In the Stormers versus the Jaguares we saw much of the same from the two teams and we can expect the same to be honest this year from them.

When Robbie Fleck took over the Stormers side he promised a three year plan to win the Super Rugby, well in the start if their third year they look the same as in year one.

The Stormers are having some injury problems but their overall game management is terrible as it looks again if they have 10 game plans for each game but cannot execute one properly.

The most irritating thing coaches and players can say at the start if the season is that they are a bit rusty

Super Rugby is suppose to be the best players in the country being professionals and I am sure when we see the New Zealand sides next week we will see no such thing or hear of it as well.

We as South Africans like  to blame something when things does not go our way.

The Stormers handling and decision making was poor on Saturday and add to that poor execution which will cost them on the tour they have to go on now for three weeks.

The Jaguares are a team that should not be in this competition if they cannot learn that negative play has no reward.

They have become a team that is not good for the game and if they do not start playing positive rugby SANZAAR should kick them out.

The Lions and Sharks game was at least a step-up from the Stormers and Jaguares fun fair

The Sharks came out firing against the Lions and looked good in stages of the match but eventually it was the Lions composer and their dominance in the set pieces that was just too much for the Sharks.

The big news before this week was Thomas Du Toit moving to tight-head and unfortunately for him and the Sharks he could not stand-up against the power of the Lions front row.

Missed opportunities will be something the Sharks will be very disappointing with. They were in the game up to the last minute but left a few points on the pitch but one always had a feeling the Lions will win this game.

The Lions again showed that they will be a team that will be there at the end. With still a few of their star players injured other teams would have take note that they are one of the top teams in this competition still.

With captain Whiteley back on the playing field, the Lions hold their composer and had an answer to everything the Sharks could dish up.

There was some brilliant moments in this match for both sides but non more so than Lions wing Aphiwe Dyantyi. This youngster have shown all the skills that will make him a household name in South Africa.

The Lions seemed to always bring some great youngsters to the forefront each year.

The try he score in the first half was just one of those unbelievable tries that will stick with you forever.

The dominance of the Lions tight five was again good to see and it was the perfect start for Swys de Bruin.

The one thing that this Lions side have shown us for 5 years has been their character on the field when the chips are down or against them.

Swys speaks about brotherhood and that is something most successful teams always have.

The Sharks have a quality group this year again but it will all now depends on how the coaching staff can put the quality on paper through to performance on the field.

With the Stormers, well they have some hard work to do if they want to be their at the business end and with so many injuries to start off with this three week tour is not going to be easy at all.

Next week we will see the Bulls in their first match and hopefully Micthell has created a Bulls side that have the ability to not just to compete but win games that matter.

With the Lions first win under the belt we can rest easy that they will be there again at the end.

Lions forwards lay foundation for win over Sharks

Stormers work hard for win against Jaguares

Current Log Standings

PosTeamPWLDBPPts
19630330
27610427
37520424
47521324
58521124

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Keep it simple then you can evolve

5

I was looking at the past two seasons of the Lions to try and see what did Ackermann do make this team so successful in such a short time.

Then I came across something that former All Blacks coach Graham Henry said and it all made sense.

Keep your game simple and then only you will be able to evolve as a team.

There is such a thing as to much coaching and that is exactly where I believe most of our coaches go wrong, especially when you start losing.

With all the Mapoe, Combrincks, Janse Van Rensburg and Faf’s of this world you still need that solid base to set it all up.

In anything in life you do not do the basics right you will not succeed and rugby works the same.

Let’s take the Bulls of the last four or so seasons, since the likes of Bakkies, Danie, Petri and Victor moved on the Bulls have struggled. Not that they do not have great players and game breakers but they did not dominate set pieces.

In the glory days of the Bulls and Blue Bulls they had one of the best packs and loose forward combinations in the world.

The Lions of Ackermann had exactly the same and with the great ball they got from set pieces and their forwards gave them the opportunity to go wide.

We sometimes hear people say you have to earn the right to go wide…..in simple terms it means that you need to dominate set pieces and upfront.

The efficiency of first few phases depend on every body knowing where to be , who clean, who align, you need structure.

We can learn from what Henry said in this piece, and we have heard it from some great players before, rugby is a simple game played between four lines, do not make it difficult.

 

Louw big blow for Stormers

1

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck has bemoaned the injury to tighthead prop Wilco Louw as a blow to their already-depleted front row stocks.

Louw came off in the first five minutes of the Stormers’ 26-26 warm-up match with the Bulls on Saturday and Fleck believes it is likely to be a hip flexor injury.

“We’ve just seen him walk out now and look, it is not good news. We think it is a hip flexer,” said Fleck.

“I’d be guessing if I said what the extent of the injury is, but hip flexers are never good news and whether it is a grade 1 or a grade 2, the grade 1 injury normally requires a minimum of four weeks out.

“It’s a soft tissue injury and those can take a while to heal. But let’s just wait until he has seen a specialist, at the moment it doesn’t look good for him when it comes to being ready for our first game.”

That first game is in a fortnight from now against the Jaguares at Newlands. Fleck will be keeping a close eye on the Louw situation as he already has to make do without Frans Malherbe, the other Bok tighthead prop in the Stormers’ ranks, who is sidelined until May as he continues his recovery from a long-term injury sustained in the series against France last year.

The Cape side’s other tighthead Michael Kumbirai is sidelined with a back injury which meant Sadie, the only remaining tighthead in the squad, played 70 minutes as Louw’s replacement on Saturday and did a solid job.

“I think if Wilco has a serious injury we will have to look beyond our region for reinforcements,” said the coach.

“We’ve got a very young tightead in Carlu (Sadie), who I thought was very good playing his first game at Super Rugby intensity.

“We were only planning on giving him 20 minutes today and he ended up playing 70-odd minutes, so we were very happy with him.

“We’ve got Neethling Fouche who’s playing for Maties (Stellenbosch University) in the Varsity Cup, but we’re going to have to look.”

Stomers and Bulls play to a draw

3

There was no separating the DHL Stormers and the Vodacom Bulls in an entertaining pre-season encounter in Wellington, which ended in a 26-26 deadlock.

Both teams scored four tries and kicked three conversions in front of an enthusiastic crowd at the Boland Stadium on Saturday.

The teams got stuck right into each other from the word go, with some big hits on both sides in a bruising opening 10 minutes.

The Vodacom Bulls struck first with a try from flank Roelof Smit, who broke off a maul to score, following some resolute defence from the DHL Stormers.

The DHL Stormers got into their work and made some forays into opposition territory in search of a response.

They would go level as some slick hands from Damian de Allende and Chris van Zyl saw EW Viljoen race over for a try, which was converted from out wide by Damian Willemse.

The teams looked set to go into the break deadlocked at 7-7, but the Vodacom Bulls grabbed the lead back on the stroke of half-time with a try from scrumhalf Andre Warner.

The DHL Stormers were back on level terms early in the second half, with Cobus Wiese crashing over from an attacking line-out to make it 14-14.

The Vodacom Bulls responded soon afterwards when they were awarded a try in the corner, which gave them a 19-14 advantage.

However, the DHL Stormers would hit the front for the first time in the game with a try from Craig Barry which saw the forwards do plenty of hard work hammering away at the Vodacom Bulls’ tryline before it was sent wide to the finisher.

The DHL Stormers had their tails up and continued to pile the pressure on the Vodacom Bulls defence. It was not long before they had a fourth try with replacement George Whitehead putting in a pinpoint cross-kick for flank Johan du Toit, who scored in the corner.

However, the Vodacom Bulls were back on level terms with a try from scrumhalf Embrose Papier, which left the teams deadlocked at 26-26 on the final whistle.

The scorers:

For DHL Stormers:
Tries: Viljoen, Wiese, Barry, Du Toit
Cons: Willemse 2, Whitehead

For Vodacom Bulls:
Tries: Smit, Warner, Strauss, Papier
Cons: Boshoff 2, Libbok

Sharks beat Racing 92 in pre-season match

0

In an entertaining Natixis Cup challenge match in Hong Kong on Saturday, the Cell C Sharks saw off Racing 92 with a fairly emphatic 31-14 victory in our final pre-season hit-out before the start of Vodacom Super Rugby.

With Racing midway through their season and the Cell C Sharks still preparing for the start of ours, there would always be the fear that we would look rusty against one of the best internationally represented club sides in the world. However, given the meaning that each side – and indeed the players – attached to this game, the result was never really the ultimate aim.

Instead, for Racing it was playing an exhibition match and avoiding injuries ahead of the remainder of their competitive commitments over the next few months, while the Cell C Sharks were looking to get their game going ahead of Vodacom Super Rugby.

To say the Cell C Sharks looked hungrier was probably testament to the fight for positions that is driving competition in the team. The players are excited to be back on the park and they want to play, they want a starting jersey.

The Cell C Sharks looked fresh and focused and took a commanding 12-nil lead at half-time having dictated the pace and direction of the game. Keeping the French team scoreless in the first half would have been one aim accomplished and scoring two of our own another box ticked.

Makazola Mapimpi scored the first try with centre Marius Louw adding the second with his try converted by Robert du Preez.

Three minutes into the second half, Louw went in for his second, a truly beautiful piece of attacking rugby. We had forced a scrum by pressuring Racing just outside their 22, the ball was sent wide and Louw and his centre partner Lukhanyo Am combined perfectly out wide for the score, converted by du Preez.

Racing finally managed to score when they hammered away at our tryline from close quarters as the game approached the final half hour and after initially not awarding it, the referee did and the conversion took the game to 19-7.

A slew of changes had been made but the next play, moments later could have resulting in a try with action shifting from our 22 to the edge of Racing’s tryline.  Another good attacking movement was held up, but it showed that the pace we were playing was catching out the French cosmopolitan side.

Young Robert du Preez, the star of the 2017 Currie Cup final, now back at The Sharks played an impressive role, mixing things up and keeping the opposition under huge pressure. He has an educated, accurate boot and will add huge value this season.

The pressure continued, Racing conceded two penalties close to their line, received a warning and then another setback on the scoreboard as the hugely impressive Cameron Wright dived over for the fourth try, with Curwin Bosch, on for du Preez, pushing the conversion narrowly wide.

At 24-7 with 20 minutes to go, the result looked to be well and truly sewn up, although, to their credit, Racing pushed hard for a second score. Although they had numerous penalty opportunities, they were up against some resolute defence and failed to add to their lone try.

With the game losing some shape later in the game, Racing looked to capitalise on turnover ball. They had to work hard and take advantage of numerous penalties before finally scoring with two minutes remaining with their strong scrum setting the platform for the score.

The Cell C Sharks had the final say as Racing took the game past fulltime, looking to score but turning over ball and Curwin Bosch finishing off a movement that started in his side’s 22. He converted his try from out wide to close out a worthwhile excursion to Hong Kong.

While it’s important to reiterate the earlier statement that the outcome of the match holds little significance in the grand scheme of the season ahead, the result reflects the mindset and gauge of where the team want to be, which bodes well for the competition.

***Watch the full game on on the Sharks Facebook Page  ***

Emirates Lions sign new sponsor

1

World Sports Betting, SA’s Leading Online Sportsbook have announced the signing of Lions Rugby Company as their official sports betting partner for the next 3 years.

This sponsorship will be for all international and local tournaments and comes shortly after their 2017 acquisition of the Headline Sponsor of the now World Sports Betting Cape Cobras.

Speaking about the newest sponsorship, Ryno du Plessis, National Marketing Manager of World Sports Betting pointed out the brand’s complete passion to support local teams and South African sport as a whole.

“World Sports Betting, a renowned and house-hold brand throughout South Africa, offers national and global betting in all sporting events,” said Du Plessis.

When looking for a partner on the Rugby stage, we looked no further than the Lions. Their commendable performance in recent years have made them a perfect match for our brand”.

Du Plessis also expressed his and his team’s dedication to inject more excitement into the Lions supporters in-stadium and promises some amazing promotions and activations over the next three years.

Warren Tannous, finding CEO of World Sports Betting and more so a passionate supporter of Lions Rugby called the sponsorship a “highlight” to the company’s year and future.

“Growing up in a family who supported the franchise for as long as I can recall, made the decision to partner with the Lions was done without hesitation. In fact it is something I have been looking to do for several years. Today, rugby is a big part of our business and product offering. We offer hundreds of Live In-Play and Pre-match markets on all local and International rugby and for me, seeing our brand associated with a world-wide franchise such as the Lions is an absolute honour,” he commented.

Edgar Rathbone, Managing Director of EPS (Pty) Ltd, welcomed World Sports Betting on board as the latest sponsor to the Lions Rugby Company, to be sported on the back of the Vodacom Super Rugby shorts.

“We are proud to be associated with World Sports Betting, a brand that has gone from strength to strength in the past few years. We know it will be a long and prosperous relationship”

World Sports Betting is also a major sponsor of South African Cricket, Boxing, Mixed Martial Arts and Horse Racing and supporters over 18 are invited to find out more about them by visiting www.wsb.co.za or by following them on Social Media

Vodacom Red Rewards are back this Vodacom Super Rugby season

0

Another thrilling season of Vodacom Super Rugby is about to kick off, and 2018 promises to be filled with big hits and even bigger rewards exclusive to Vodacom Red customers.

From the first up-and-under to the final conversion, Vodacom Red is going all out to make this the most rewarding rugby season ever.

Throughout the season, Vodacom Red customers will score with weekly rewards and stand the chance to win one of several unbelievable rugby and lifestyle experiences that they will share with their favourite rugby heroes.

Every weekend there will be exclusive match or suite tickets up for grabs, but also opportunities to be a part of the on-field action like never before.

Vodacom Red customers could be part of the Man-of-the-Match handover ceremony or even make their child’s dream come true as they earn the right to be the official mascot for a match, leading their favourite players onto the field.

The real reward this Vodacom Super Rugby season is the chance for Vodacom Red customers to win one of the ultimate Red Rewards that they can share with their favourite players. Every one of these rewards are exclusive money-can’t-buy experiences that will make for the greatest rugby memories.

There is a VIP tour to the Vodacom Super Rugby Final on offer, whether it’s in South Africa, New Zealand or Australia.

There are opportunities to bond with their rugby-loving sons at a Father and Son Sleepout on the field at Loftus Versfeld with the Vodacom Bulls players, or to bring the whole family and meet the Vodacom Bulls players and families and a host of celebrities at the Vodacom Bulls Family Day.

It’s going to be a season of experiences that will see lucky Vodacom Red customers mix with the fast and famous in supercars, get hooked with a top rugby player in a 5-star tiger fishing experience, play golf with a professional at South Africa’s iconic golf courses, or test their rugby knowledge in a quiz with South African rugby’s great captains.

And the 2018 season of Vodacom Super Rugby will support those who need it most.

This season, Vodacom will reward every try scored by a South African team with a donation of R3 000 towards the Smile Foundation as they work together to help put the smile back on children’s faces through corrective facial reconstructive surgery.

It’s time to expect more with Vodacom Red. And it’s time to get more from the most rewarding season in Vodacom Super Rugby history.

For more information on the Vodacom Red Rewards, visit www.vodacom.co.za/redrewards

Snyman, Smit to start for Vodacom Bulls

2

Springboks RG Snyman and Roelof Smit will both start for the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday in Wellington when they face the DHL Stormers in a Vodacom Super Rugby friendly.

Snyman has returned from his club duties in Japan recently and Smit, who proved his fitness off the bench last weekend against the Cell C Sharks in Polokwane after an injury lay-off, will both be keen to make an early statement to Vodacom Bulls coach, John Mitchell.

The duo represented the Springboks against the British Barbarians in 2016 in a match played in London and both could play significant roles in the Vodacom Bulls pack as Mitchell moulds his squad for the forthcoming Super Rugby tournament.

The coach made a number of rotational changes to the side that played the Cell C Sharks in Polokwane last weekend, with the halfback pairing of Andre Warner and Marnitz Boshoff starting and Embrose Papier and Manie Libbok reverting to the bench.

Only Divan Rossouw (fullback), the midfield pairing of Burger Odendaal and Johnny Kotze, Hanro Liebenberg (loose forward) and lock Ruben van Heerden has been retained from the starting team, with a host of players who came off the bench in Polokwane now getting a run-on opportunity in the Wellington clash.

“A number of players who did not start last weekend get a change to do so this week and will get some valuable game time under the belt,” Mitchell explained.

“We are still building towards the start of the competition and our performance will be work in progress towards that. We know we are playing against a very capable side, but that is the whole purpose of matches like these. There is nothing on offer, but so much to learn for both sides.”

Kick-off in Wellington is at 16h00.

The squad is: Divan Rossouw, Andell Loubser, Johnny Kotze, Burger Odendaal (c), Duncan Matthews, Marnitz Boshoff, Andre Warner, Jano Venter, Hanro Liebenberg (v/c), Roelof Smit, RG Snyman, Ruben van Heerden, Conraad van Vuuren, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Replacements: Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka, Frans van Wyk, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Thembelani Bholi, Embrose Papier, Manie Libbok, JT Jackson, Dries Swanepoel, Jade Stighling, Franco Naude.

Stormers ready for pre-season match against Bulls

0

Both the DHL Stormers and a DHL Western Province Invitational team will be in action in a pre-season double-header at Boland Park in Wellington on Saturday.

The DHL Stormers squad will take on the Vodacom Bulls at 16h00 in their final warm-up match before their Vodacom Super Rugby campaign kicks off, against the Jaguares at DHL Newlands on February 17.

DHL Western Province Invitational will face Boland Elite, in a curtain-raiser at 13h50, with the action getting underway with an early local club match at Boland Stadium.

The likes of Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Wilco Louw, Jan de Klerk, Dewaldt Duvenage, Justin Phillips, Damian Willemse, EW Viljoen, and Dillyn Leyds have been included in the 28-man DHL Stormers squad, after missing the previous pre-season clash with SWD Eagles in George.

The DHL Western Province Invitational match against Boland Elite will allow the DHL Stormers management to get a good look at the depth available to them, with two players – Salmaan Moerat and Josh Stander – set for gametime in both matches in Wellington on Saturday.

Players that were not available for selection due to injury include Ali Vermaak (hamstring), Scarra Ntubeni (hamstring), Frans Malherbe (neck), Eben Etzebeth (shoulder), Pieter-Steph du Toit (back), Siya Kolisi (hamstring), Juarno Augustus (neck), Jano Vermaak (knee), Jean-Luc du Plessis (hip), Dan du Plessis (shoulder) and SP Marais (toe).

Seabelo Senatla and Sikhumbuzo Notshe are away on Springbok Sevens duty and Nizaam Carr is being rested having recently returned from a loan spell with London Wasps.

DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck said that the players are looking forward to testing themselves against the Vodacom Bulls before the campaign gets underway.

“The players have worked very hard in the pre-season, so this match will give us a good chance to get some competitive game-time under our belts.

“We want to ensure that our players are up to speed, so that we can be at our best at the start of what will be another demanding season,” he said.

Tickets are available from Webtickets at R100 for adults and R75 for scholars and will also be available at the gate at R120 for adults and R80 for scholars.

DHL Stormers squad:

Forwards: Jaco Coetzee, Jan de Klerk, Stephan de Wit, Johan du Toit, JC Janse van Rensberg, Steven Kitshoff, Wilco Louw, Bongi Mbonambi, Salmaan Moerat, Carlu Sadie, Ramone Samuels, JD Schickerling, Chris van Zyl, Kobus van Dyk, Cobus Wiese.

Backs: Craig Barry, Damian de Allende, Dewaldt Duvenage, Dan Kriel, Eduan Keyter, Dillyn Leyds, Justin Phillips, Sergeal Petersen, Raymond Rhule, Josh Stander, EW Viljoen, George Whitehead, Damian Willemse.

The plan was for Coetzee to report to Rassie

9

Came across this piece from Gavin Rich who writes for Vodacom rugby and I think he hit the nail right on the head.

Most who have watched the Springboks struggle with results and playing identity during the Allister Coetzee tenure would have groaned when the contents of his letter to his soon to be ex-employers were leaked, but he was right about one thing – the original plan was always for him to work under Rassie Erasmus.

There was nothing sinister about that. Erasmus, in his previous designations as head of the SARU rugby department and performance director, was supposed to be Heyneke Meyer’s boss too. But after working together in the initial stages of Meyer’s first year in charge, an enmity between the pair developed that led to Meyer doing his own thing.

The plan post-2015 was for SARU to employ a Bok coach who would work with Erasmus. Coetzee had done that when Erasmus was effectively the director of rugby at Western Province, and when Coetzee was happy to accept their respective designations, it was a partnership that worked well.

The 2010 and 2011 seasons were probably the Stormers’ finest in Super Rugby. But by the second half of 2011 there were fault lines appearing in both the Erasmus/Coetzee partnership – with Coetzee starting to resent Erasmus’ authority over him – and in Erasmus’ relationship with a WP administration that has struggled to understand the realities of modern professional rugby.

Erasmus resigned his position in the 2011/2012 off-season, but his long-time colleague and coaching partner, Jacques Nienaber, remained on as defence coach and ensured that the Erasmus influence lingered for another 12 months. The 2012 Stormers were pilloried for being too defensive orientated, but the pillars built during the Erasmus era saw them to a top of the log finish.

After that, as the Erasmus influence was forgotten and even wilfully expunged, so the Stormers lost their competitiveness in Super Rugby. While Coetzee is right when he says in the letter that he was the most successful local coach in Super Rugby in his last year, 2015, we need to be cognisant both of the mediocre field that there was to choose from and what happened before that.

The Stormers were so poor in 2013 and again in 2014 that there were widespread calls for Coetzee to be sacked. He was only saved by WP president Thelo Wakefield’s decision to employ Gert Smal as a director of rugby who effectively became Coetzee’s boss, just as Erasmus had been before that. It was not a coincidence that the Stormers’ limited resurgence after that came after Smal took up his position.

A similar role for Coetzee, working under a director of rugby in Erasmus, would have been what Wakefield had in mind when he publicly backed Coetzee to replace Meyer after the last World Cup. As he had effectively demoted Coetzee, it would have been disingenuous of him to back Coetzee if that was not the case.

Rugby is not an empirical science, so Coetzee is entitled to his view that he is more competent than Erasmus, but most of those who work in the game and know the good coaches from the bad ones would scoff at the suggestion.

Even Erasmus’ sworn enemies respect his astute rugby brain and his ability to innovate rather than be reactive. Some who knew him thought he was crazy to throw in his lot with Irish province Munster when in 2016 he tired of the SA Rugby procrastination, but he made a huge impression on the Irish and not the least on the highly-respected Joe Schmidt.

Coetzee’s track record was never good enough before his appointment to inspire confidence in his ability to go it alone in being a successful Bok coach. If he was prepared to accept his own limitations, Coetzee does have enough strengths to have been able to work well with Erasmus, as he did in the initial stages of his Stormers career.

That he didn’t is why it is far more than just the rugby administrators who’d like to see the back of him.

Varsity Cup Wrap – Shimlas shock Tuks in Pretoria

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FNB UFS-Shimlas proved that experience means nothing in the FNB Varsity Cup as they beat FNB UP-Tuks 19-17 at a cold and wet Tuks Rugby Stadium on Monday evening.

Rugby fans throughout South Africa may have been excited for the start of the 2018 FNB Varsity Cup but it would appear as if the weather did not receive the memo as thunderstorms drowned out the noise made by the lively crowd in Pretoria.

As expected, both teams tightened up their approach as they looked to open their account. FNB UP-Tuks wing Dewald Naude thought his try from a collected cross kick was good but it was denied by the referee as he was deemed to be in front the ball.

FNB UP-Tuks flyhalf Tinus de Beer made no mistake in the 18th minute as his pinpoint kick landed straight into the hands of wing Xolisa Guma who merely dotted the ball down for the opening try of the season.

FNB UFS-Shimlas struck back soon after the first strategy break as wing Gideon Agenbag stormed down the touchline to score a seven point try. Flyhalf Lubabalo Dobela was on hand to convert the try.

The score remained the same until the break despite FNB UP-Tuks running full tilt at the men from Bloemfontein but their efforts went a begging as FNB UFS-Shimlas dug in their stubborn heels on defence.

FNB UFS-Shimlas used the first half to establish themselves as 11 players in their match day squad made their FNB Varsity Cup debuts against the defending champions but it was in the second half where they truly shone.

The visitors extended their lead within five minutes of the restart as flank Benjamin Janse van Vuuren crashed over in the corner for a converted try as the teams continued to struggle in the wet conditions.

It may have been Dobela’s FNB Varsity Cup debut but he controlled the match at flyhalf like a seasoned veteran while landing a penalty goal in the 51st minute.

The defending champions took too long to adapt their game plan to match the tenacity of FNB UFS-Shimlas despite a try to inside centre Toko Seerane after the visitors’ lost replacement prop Joseph Botha to a yellow card.

Captain and loose forward, Denzel Hill, scored a consolation try for the home team but it was not enough as De Beer knocked over his first kick of the match.

FNB UP-Tuks will rue lost opportunities and failing to land conversions as the University of Pretoria lost to the University of the Free State 19-17.

FNB Player that Rocks: Lubabalo Dobela (FNB UFS-Shimlas)

Scorers
FNB UP-Tuks: 17
Tries
: Xolisa Guma, Toko Seerane, Denzel Hill
Cons: Tinus de Beer

FNB UFS-Shimlas: 19
Tries
: Francois Agenbag (seven point), Benjamin Janse van Vuuren
Cons: Lubabalo Dobela (2)
Pen: Dobela
Yellow card: Joseph Botha

FNB NWU managed to pull off a deserved victory in their season opener at the Fanie du Toit Sportsgrounds. After dominating both halves, they beat FNB CUT 70 -7.

FNB NWU won the toss and hit the ground running, with Walt Steenkamp opening the scoring within the first two minutes of the game. Schalk Hugo converted successfully, putting FNB NWU ahead 7-0.

After spending the first ten minutes in FNB CUT’s half, Dean Gordon took advantage of an overlap and managed to score in the corner for FNB NWU. Schalk Hugo once again converted successfully, with the FNB NWU now 14-0 ahead.

Estehan Visagie scored for the FNB NWU, with Schalk Hugo converting the try and putting FNB NWU 21-0 after 25 minutes of play.

FNB CUT had an opportunity to get some points on the board after being awarded a penalty, but Heinrich Bitzi was unable to convert, leaving the score at 21-0. FNB NWU managed to get even further ahead after Schalk Hugo converted a penalty and put his team ahead 24-0 with 6 minutes still to play in the first half.

On the cusp of half time, Tiaan Erasmus managed to drive over the line and score for FNB CUT, with Heinrich Bitzi managing the conversion. This meant that FNB CUT were going into the second half with only a 17-point deficit.

To get the second half started, Dean Gordon scored the first seven-point try of the match after a brilliant crosskick from Schalk Hugo, who also managed to convert the try. Tapiwa Mafura’s great show of pace put the FNB NWU even further ahead after he scored in the corner. Schalk Hugo missed his first conversion of the game, but FNB NWU were still 40-7 ahead.

Gideon van der Merwe put FNB NWU even further ahead after 51 minutes of play, once again scoring in the corner. Schalk Hugo was unable to convert but FNB NWU still maintained a hefty lead.

After 54 minutes FNB NWU decided to use their powerplay, choosing to send off Duncan van Vuuren and Ruben Heymans. Unfortunately, they were unable to capitalise from the three minutes of only thirteen men on the field for FNB CUT, with the score remaining 45-7 after 57 minutes of play.

After 61 minutes FNB CUT used their powerplay, sending Evardi Boshoff and Akhona Nela off for three minutes. This proved to be futile as Estehan Visagie scored his second try of the match for FNB NWU. Schalk Hugo managed the conversion, putting FNB NWU ahead 54-7.

Hendrik Marais scored a runaway try from inside his own half, giving FNB NWU their third seven-point try of the game. Schalk Hugo converted successfully with the score at 63-7 with 10 minutes still to play.

Just before the final whistle Evardi Boshoff got his first try and FNB NWU’s ninth, with Schalk Hugo nailing his last conversion and FNB NWU winning the game 70-7.

For all his efforts and his two tries scored, Estehan Visagie from FNB NWU was named the FNB Player That Rocks.

Scores
FNB NWU: 70

Tries: Walt Steenkamp (1), Dean Gordon (2), Estehan Visagie (2), Tapiwa Mafura (1), Gideon van der Merwe (1), Hendrik Marais (1), Evardi Boshoff (1)
Cons: Schalk Hugo (7)
Pens: Schalk Hugo (1)

FNB CUT: 7
Try: Tiaan Erasmus (1)
Con: Heinrich Bitzi (1)

FNB Wits scored two late tries to claim a vital 30-26 away win against FNB UCT in Cape Town in the first round of the FNB Varsity Cup on Monday evening.

FNB UCT brandished some early physicality which seemed to bewilder the visitors with FNB Ikeys looking ripe to score before a strong defensive effort from FNB Wits. The Visitors turned the ball over and sent it wide to their speedster Kasande Kapepula who ran from his own half to score in the corner and claim a seven-point try. FNB Wits flyhalf Christian Humphries converted, making the score 9-0 to the men from Jozi.

FNB Wits kept the home side under sustained pressure and looked as though they were going to score again but the Cape Town boys were able to steal the ball after some nuggety work from the loose forwards, swing the ball wide to FNB UCT number 10 Gresham Hock who cleared for touch.

FNB UCT used their forwards to drive up the field and won a penalty at the breakdown. They used the opportunity to kick for touch. After an expertly taken line-out and strong drive, number eight Nyasha Tarusenga scored next to the touchline.

FNB Wits went into the first strategy break 9-7 points up with home side on their heels.

FNB Wits looked to consolidate their lead just before the halftime whistle after a strong drive from their forwards on the FNB UCT line but was thwarted by another a resolute effort from FNB UCT defence.

FNB UCT turned the tides on their opposition and after winning another penalty, it was déjà vu as they pushed towards the line, but as the home side crossed the line, they were held up by FNB Wits. After another scrum FNB Wits were penalised at the scrum on the five-line and FNB UCT were awarded a penalty try, going into the break 14-9 up.

FNB Wits claimed back the lead after a strong forward drive that saw Captain Fantastic Constant Beckerling crash over for a five-point try with Humphries converting, making the score 16-14 to the visitors.

FNB UCT called the Power Play and were unable to score. But used the momentum to dot down just after with the full-back Martin crossing over which left the score before the second strategy break at 23-16.

FNB UCT put the final nail in FNB Wits’ coffin after the home side were awarded a penalty just outside the FNB Wits 22 metre with Martin continuing his good form with the radar and got his side the three-pointer.

FNB Wits weren’t dead yet though and set up a forward drive five metres from the FNB UCT line. After some ferocious running from the Jo’burgers replacement prop Chris Hume barged over with Humphries adding the extras.

FNB Wits were clearly revitalised by their score. FNB UCT kicked down the throat of the wily winger Kapepula, who showed some fancy footwork once again before giving it inside to AJ van Blerk who dove over making the score 30-26.

The home side put in a strong performance in their first fixture but were unable to thwart a spirited and cohesive FNB Wits side with Kapepula picking up Man of the Match.

FNB Player That Rocks: Kasande Kapepula (FNB Wits)

Scores
FNB UCT: 26

Tries: Nyasha Tarusenga, penalty try, Brian Martin
Cons: Brian Martin 2
Pens: Brian Martin

FNB Wits: 30
Tries
: Kasande Kapepula, Constant Beckerling, Chris Hume, AJ van Blerk
Cons: Christian Humphries 2

Saffas Aboard – Pienaar rescue Montpellier

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SARugbymag.co.za looks back at the past weekend’s French Top 14 and Anglo-Welsh Cup matches involving South African players.

FRENCH TOP 14

– Montpellier retained their place at the top of the standings with a thrilling 30-29 victory over Clermont. Ruan Pienaar slotted a match-winning conversion in the last minute to turn the result in Montpellier’s favour. The scrumhalf, who scored a total of 15 points, played alongside centres Frans Steyn and Jan Serfontein, front rowers Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis and lock Paul Willemse. Fullback Scott Spedding and lock Flip van der Merwe started for Clermont.

– Outside centre Paul Jordaan and his La Rochelle teammates registered a 33-24 triumph over Brive. Locks Peet Marais and Johan Snyman were on duty for Brive. The result keeps La Rochelle second on the log.

– Castres, with prop Dan Kotze, hooker Jody Jenneker, scrumhalf Rory Kockott and centre Robert Ebersohn in their ranks, slumped to an 18-13 defeat against Racing 92. Loose forward Antonie Claassen played a 10-minute cameo for Racing off the bench. Racing are third on the table and Castres fourth.

– Lock Juandré Kruger scored one of six tries as 14-man Toulon whipped Bordeaux 36-12, despite conceding a red card in the first half. Springboks JP PietersenDuane Vermeulen and Marcel van der Merwe also started for fifth-placed Toulon. Lock Jandré Marais was in Bordeaux’s run-on XV, while flyhalf Tian Schoeman kicked a conversion after coming on as a second-half substitute.

– Toulouse emerged as 37-15 winners over Oyonnax in an ill-disciplined contest that produced two red cards, one either way. Fullback Bjorn Basson scored a try in Oyonnax’s losing cause and his compatriot James Hall was used as an impact player off the bench. Flank Rynhardt Elstadt was included in Toulouse’s starting lineup and his former Stormers teammate Cheslin Kolbe was benched.

– Centre Johann Sadie grabbed two tries but his performance was in vain as Agen suffered a demoralising 71-17 loss at the hands of Lyon, who scored 10 tries. Scrumhalf Ricky Januarieplayed with Sadie for Agen. Locks Hendrik Roodt and Etienne Oosthuizen and loosehead prop Albertus Buckle were on duty for Lyon, who are now seventh on the log.

– Prop Lourens Adriaanse formed part of the Pau side that thrashed Stade Français 40-5 in Paris. Bok trio Willem AlbertsHeinke van der Merwe and Morné Steyn turned out for Stade, who are languishing in 11th position in the standings. Pau moved up to eighth spot.

ANGLO-WELSH CUP

– Cobus Reinach won the battle of the South African scrumhalves as he was named Man of the Match in the Northampton Saints’ 24-20 win against the Sale Sharks. Faf de Klerk kicked a penalty for Sale. Northampton, who started with Francois van Wyk at prop, kept themselves in contention for a semi-final place with the win.

– The Worcester Warriors kept their playoff hopes alive with a 31-21 bonus-point win against the Exeter Chiefs. Francois Hougaard started for Worcester, who included hooker Kurt Haupt and lock Anton Bresler on the bench. Exeter named lock Wilhelm van Der Sluys on the bench.

– Saracens eased to a comfortable 40-21 win against the Dragons. Flyhalf Zane Kirchner kicked three conversions for the Dragons, who included fullback Carl Meyer, wing Pat Howard and lock Ligtoring Landman in their starting XV. Centre Jarryd Sage was among the replacements for the Dragons.

– London Irish swept a largely second-string Wasps XV aside with a 66-7 win, leaving Wasps’ hopes of reaching the knockout stage hanging by a thread. London Irish included lock Franco van der Merwe and flank Arno Botha in their starting XV, while Piet van Zyl made his debut and scored a try off the bench. Flank Sebastien de Chaves and prop Petrus du Plessis were also among the replacements for London Irish.

– The Leicester Tigers, with tighthead prop Pat Cilliers in their starting XV, kept their hopes of defending their title alive with a 24-12 win against the Cardiff Blues.

– Hooker Michael van Vuuren started for Bath as they remained top of Pool 1 with a 21-8 win over the Newcastle Falcons.

Compiled by Mariette Adams and Dylan Jack

Jake get three Cheetahs to join him in Japan

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Three Cheetahs players have reportedly agreed to join Jake White at Toyota Verblitz at the conclusion of the current Pro14 season.

According to Netwerk24.com and OFM, locks Carl Wegner and Reniel Hugo and utility back Clinton Swart are set to miss Free State’s Rugby Challenge and Currie Cup campaigns later this year because they will depart to Japan immediately after the Pro14 ends.

While Hugo and Swart are expected to return to the Cheetahs after one season in Japan, Wegner’s departure will reportedly be permanent.

Meanwhile, Cheetahs flank Uzair Cassiem has been linked up a move to Toulon, but nothing has been confirmed yet.

Full article

All systems go for Varsity Cup 11

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Varsity Cup enters its second decade of rugby that rocks and the 2018 season promises some exciting changes.  

“Innovation has been driving the success of the FNB Varsity Cup and this year we’re doing it again,” says Duitser Bosman, CEO of the FNB Varsity Cup.

“A new PowerPlay rule, new theme, new social initiative and much more will be added to the amazing match-day atmosphere that thousands of fans have come to expect from the FNB Varsity Cup. FNB will have an increased presence in the 2018 tournament, including rebranding Koshuis Rugby to be known as FNB Res Rugby. Together with 3rd tier sponsor Steers, we are confident that this premium intervarsity tournament will continue to be a major success,” he said.

Faye Mfikwe, FNB Chief Marketing Officer said, “We are excited to once again see the spirit of innovation taking centre stage in the 11th edition of the tournament. Our sustained investment in FNB Varsity Cup, FNB Classic Clashes and most recently the Springboks, is testament to our ongoing quest to empower South Africa’s youth from grassroots to greatness. To this end, we are immensely proud of the 32 Springboks that have come through the FNB Varsity Cup programme since its inception in 2008.”

Since its inception FNB Varsity Cup has been a rugby nursery for the stars of tomorrow, playing a part in moulding Springboks such Eben Etzebeth, Malcolm Marx and most recently Warrick Gelant.

This sentiment is echoed by Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby, who says, “FNB Varsity Cup matches continue to attract massive in-stadium and television crowds, and through this, many professional rugby careers have been launched. Many of the players go on to represent at the various provincial rugby unions, displaying their competitive, uncompromising, attacking and running rugby skills.”

The FNB Varsity Cup 11 also boasts a brand new theme: #MakeTheTeam. The ‘Make The Team’ campaign is aimed at including all fans into the FNB Varsity Cup team, showcasing the inclusivity of student rugby not only on the field, but also in the stands, on campus and in the community.

Every fan, every organiser, every player forms part of their home team. The new theme calls on everyone to embrace their home university team and be part of the action. The FNB Varsity Cup anthem further emphasises the call to stand together and be part of the team.

The FNB Varsity Cup has rooted itself in South Africa’s future and has made changing South African lives its number one priority. From 2018, the tournament is partnering with the South African National Blood Service (SANBS) and the Western Province Blood Transfusion Service (WPBTS) to bring blood donation into the fore at universities. This is in support of the incredible work that is championed by the two organisations.

The first match of the season will see defending champions, FNB UP-Tuks play host to FNB Shimlas at 16h45 at Tuks Stadium while FNB Maties will travel to UJ Stadium where they will open their campaign against FNB UJ at 19h00. Both these matches will be broadcast live on SuperSport.

thanks to www.varsitycup.co.za

 

Allister’s explosive letter leaked

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Allister Coetzee says he was offered a ‘ceremonial’ role as Springbok coach in 2018, which would have meant the ‘indignity’ of reporting to Rassie Erasmus, writes SARugbyMag

This is revealed in a letter sent from Coetzee to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux via his legal representatives. SA Rugby has confirmed the authenticity of the letter to TimesLIVE, which is in possession of it.

In the letter, Coetzee takes no responsibility for the Springboks’ poor performances over the past two years, which saw them win just 11 of 25 Tests, blaming everything but himself.

According to the letter, Coetzee met with SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux on 18 January and was told his contract as Springbok coach would be terminated.

Coetzee says he was told if he wanted to remain employed by SA Rugby, he would be the ‘ceremonial’ Bok coach with Erasmus, the director of rugby, in charge of the team.

‘At this meeting‚ you [Roux] represented the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and I was represented by Mr Piet Heymans of Sport Employees Unite‚ although I was also personally present in the meeting‚’ wrote Coetzee in his letter.

‘In the context of the engagements between you and I prior to the aforesaid meeting‚ it was made plain to me that the meeting would deal with the anticipated performance review and its procedures as contemplated by my employment contract.

‘Instead‚ the meeting was used as a platform to inform me of SARU’s decision that it intends to‚ inter alia‚ terminate my contract of employment with immediate effect.

‘You informed me that the decision was taken by Mark Alexander (President of SARU)‚ Francois Davids (Deputy President) and James Stoffberg (Vice President) and mandated you as the CEO of SARU to inform me of the decision.

‘You further informed me that a further aspect of the decision is that my services will be terminated regardless of the outcome of the anticipated performance review‚ as contemplated by my employment contract.

‘And‚ should I wish to remain in SARU’s employment‚ I will be reduced to a ceremonial coach‚ and further that Johan Erasmus (‘Rassie’) has already been employed to replace me and is already performing the duties of the Springbok Coach. Should I be reduced to the position of a ceremonial coach I would have to face the indignity of reporting to Rassie.

‘I also find it deeply reprehensible that‚ notwithstanding the fact that I have at all relevant times displayed the utmost good faith towards SARU‚ SARU has not‚ as a minimum‚ returned the favour.

‘In any event‚ SARU is contractually obliged to exercise utmost good faith towards me. The fact that a decision has been made that I will be reduced to a ceremonial coach should I resist any attempt by SARU to terminate my services does not only constitute an unfair labour practice but again infringes my right to dignity and equality.’

Coetzee claims he was set up to fail as Bok coach.

‘I was the most successful Super Rugby Coach at the time of my appointment and was requested to return to Springbok rugby from Japan because my country needed me.

‘My treatment since my return suggested that elements in SARU embarked on a deliberate attempt to undermine me from the word go and to create the public impression of incompetence on my part whilst wilfully obstructing my efforts to be successful.

‘I will not allow elements in SARU to wilfully destroy me and render me unemployable as was done to Peter De Villiers.

‘I am not interested in money and that I will fight to protect my hard-earned reputation which is in the process of being deliberately soiled publicly by elements within SARU.’

Coetzee trying to fight back

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There is apparently a complete ‘breach of trust’ between Allister Coetzee and members of the SA Rugby executive following a sequence of fiery emails, reports SARugbyMag

According to Die Burger rugby writer Stephen Nell, Coetzee presented a stern response this past week as he continues to defend his position as Bok coach after a two-year spell that has yielded just 11 wins from 25 Tests.

Coezee is said to have questioned SA Rugby’s lack of commitment to transformation and raised issues around the difficult circumstances that he has been forced to face in the top job.

Among several issues he pointed out, Coetzee suggests that the management team he had to work with in 2016 was forced upon him, while insisting that there was nothing confirmed in writing as to what was expected of him with regards to the team’s performance.

Coetzee was apparently told by SA Rugby that he had to win the three-match home series against France in 2017, and then 50% of the remaining Tests of the year. He ended up winning just four of the remaining 10 Tests. However, this was not put in writing by SA Rugby.

Coetzee also claims that the Boks’ record 38-3 loss to Ireland in Dublin last November was the direct result of the players having to fly economy class from Qatar to Dublin, which is an 18-hour journey. The players were upset by this and went into the match with a negative mindset, according to Coetzee.

The Bok coach claims he wanted to select overseas-based players who had not played 30 or more Tests, but was not able to because of SA Rugby’s eligibility rule. Yet his contract says he has the final say on the team selection.

Coetzee was also upset that SA Rugby allowed assistant coach Johann van Graan to join Munster with two matches remaining on the Boks’ end-of-year tour.

SA Rugby has yet to make any formal announcement on the Bok coaching setup despite an ongoing review, but Rassie Erasmus has already begun work as the new director of rugby. It is expected that he will effectively become the hands-on Bok coach once Coetzee’s situation is resolved.

Full story

Weekend Preview – Internationals

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We have an action pack weekend again with International test and some French Top14 as well to end it of on Sunday afternoon.

There are a few test which one should not miss and here is a look at what to expect this weekend.

First up it will be a historical test match when Wales and Georgia will meet for the first time in a test match.

For most people the Georgia players will not be someone they know but there has been a massive improvement from them over recent years. Last week they beat Canada with ease and they have been pushing hard to get excepted into the Six Nations championship.

Georgia coach Haig have kept faith in the team that beaten Canada last week as they take on Wales.

Wales on the other hand have made 14 changes from the side that lost to Australia last week.

This will be one of those test matches that you would want to support Georgia but will feel sorry if Wales lose against them in their first test match…ask Springboks and Japan.

Prediction: Wales will win this one by 20 points

Teams:

Wales: 15 Liam Williams, 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Scott Williams, 12 Owen Watkin, 11 Hallam Amos, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Rhys Webb, 8 Seb Davies, 7 Sam Cross, 6 Dan Lydiate (c), 5 Cory Hill, 4 Adam Beard, 3 Leon Brown, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Nicky Smith
Replacements: 16 Elliot Dee, 17 Wyn Jones, 18 Tomas Francis, 19 Josh Navidi, 20 Taulupe Faletau, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Dan Biggar, 23 Owen Williams

Georgia: 15 Soso Matiashvili, 14 Giorgi Koshadze, 13 Davit Katcharava, 12 Merab Sharikadze (c), 11 Mirian Modebadze, 10 Lasha Khmaladze, 9 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 8 Beka Bitsadze, 7 Vito Kolelishvili, 6 Lasha Lomidze, 5 Giorgi Nemsadze, 4 Kote Mikautadze, 3 Levan Chilachava, 2 Jaba Bregvadze, 1 Mikheil Nariashvili
Replacements: 16 Shalva Mamukashvili, 17 Kakha Asieshvili, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Giorgi Chkhaidze, 20 Giorgi Tkhilaishvili, 21 Giorgi Begadze, 22 Revaz Jintchvelashvili, 23 Merab Kvirikashvili

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Principality Stadium, Cardiff
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Shuhei Kubo (Japan), Sean Gallagher (Ireland)
TMO: Leo Colgan (Ireland)

 

Sometimes it just do not get any better than England v Australia with another showdown between Jones v Cheika.

Both sides come from wins last week with England not really impressive against Argentina and Australia having to work really hard to get the win over Wales. Australia have been on great form of late with wins over the All Blacks, Barbarians, Japan and Wales leading into this test.

The one thing Cheika have been able to do this year was to keep the spotlight mostly of his team and they have been improving week after week. The best part for Cheika is the fact that he has given a few youngsters the opportunity and they have taken it on.

Test matches over the last couple of year between England and Australia have been close and we expect the same comes Saturday.

Jones have shown for the first time some anger for his troops last week and he responded with some personal changes this week. Farrell is back for England at ten and will make a huge difference to the flow of this England team.

Jones have also shown Kruis the door after his poor performance Watson will take the number 15 jumper from the injured Brown.

 

I have selected the strongest 23 to play Australia and we will have to be effective in everything we do this weekend to win,” said Jones. “This is going to be a great challenge, as we know Australia have been in great form towards the end of their season.

“The players have had an extremely positive week. They have trained well and worked hard and we are all excited about going out on Saturday and playing well against a very good Australian side.

Michael Cheika has backed Samu Kerevi against England, keeping the Reds centre at 12, with Karmichael Hunt on the bench for the second week in a row.

Kerevi has made the most of his starting opportunities in the last fortnight, showing his progress in defence. Though he wasn’t as dominant against Wales as he was against Japan, Kerevi did enough to hold out Hunt in that starting line-up.

Predictions: I have a feeling we can get a surprise here, Aussies by 7 points

Teams:

England: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Jonny May, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Owen Farrell, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 Courtney Lawes, 4 Joe Launchbury, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Joe Marler, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Maro Itoje, 20 Sam Simmonds, 21 Danny Care, 22 Henry Slade, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Lopeti Timani, 22 Nick Phipps, 23 Karmichael Hunt, 24 Henry Speight

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Twickenham
Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), George Clancy (Ireland)
Television match official: Simon McDowell (Ireland)

Scotland had a great start against Samoa last week and although letting too many tries through at the end they did play a brand of rugby that was not just exciting but effective. It will be a totally different monster this week when they face the All Blacks.

Wales have been building steadily the past year with good wins over Ireland and Wales in the Six Nations and a great win over the Aussies in June.

Scotland will have to make another huge step up this weekend when the welcome New Zealand and with players like Laidlaw and Ross Ford injured the task is just so much harder against a side like the All Blacks.

The closets the Scots have come to winning against the All Blacks was two draws out of the 30 times they have played and as always we will expect the Scots to come out guns blazing.

“We have to go and play with intent, be aggressive and try to impose ourselves on them as well,” Barclay said.

“I think if we sit back and are in awe or are inspired by a team then something’s probably quite drastically wrong with our mindset.”

In June, Scotland stunned Australia by claiming a 24-19 victory in Sydney and Barclay hopes for a similar upset against the All Blacks.

We played well over there,” he said, in reference to the Australia result.

“We had a pretty good tour and that game sticks out.

“We played with good intent that day, with a lot of accuracy. That was the main thing and those will be the key things this weekend.”

However, many feel this might be the most opportune time to play the All Blacks, who appear to be at their most vulnerable point in recent history after a series of underwhelming performances.

Prediction: New Zealand will win this one by 25 points

The teams: 

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Zander Fagerson, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Simon Berghan, 19 Grant Gilchrist, 20 Luke Hamilton, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Byron McGuigan

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Samuel Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Nathan Harris, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Liam Squire, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Murrayfield
Referee: Matthew Carley (England)
Assistant referees: Romain Poite (France), Ian Davies (Wales)
Television match official: Graham Hughes (England)

Ireland have had the perfect start to the Internationals with a record win over the Springboks last week. They were yet again clinical in what they did and outsmart, outplayed and outwit the Springboks.

Ireland will see Chris Farrell make his debut at test level when they take on Fiji this Saturday. Conway will move to the number 15-jumper and Kearney returns to the side to make up the back three with Sweetman.

Fiji have included Nadolo in their side as he is one of four changes from last week team that lost to Italy.

Scrum-half Henry Senioli, centre Levani Botia and flanker Dominiko Waqaniboruto are the other new men coming into the team.

Prediction: Ireland should be easy winners of this one with +20 points

Teams:

Ireland: 15 Andrew Conway, 14 Darren Sweetnam, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Stuart McCloskey, 11 Dave Kearney, 10 Joey Carbery, 9 Kieran Marmion, 8 Jack Conan, 7 Jordi Murphy, 6 Rhys Ruddock (c), 5 Devin Toner, 4 Ultan Dillane, 3 Andrew Porter, 2 Rob Herring, 1 Jack McGrath
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Cian Healy, 18 Tadhg Furlong, 19 Kieran Treadwell, 20 CJ Stander, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Robbie Henshaw

Fiji: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Timoci Nagusa, 13 Jale Vatabua, 12 Levani Botia, 11 Nemani Nadolo, 10 Ben Volavola, 9 Henry Senioli, 8 Nemani Nagusa, 7 Akapusi Qera, 6 Dominiko Waqaniboruto, 5 Leone Nakarawa, 4 Apisalome Ratuniyarawa, 3 Manasa Saulo, 2 Talemaitoga Tuapati, 1 Campese Ma’afu
Replacements: 16 Sunia Koto, 17 Peni Ravai, 18 Kalivati Tawake, 19 Sikeli Nabou, 20 Peceli Yato/Semi Kunatani, 21 Niko Matawalu, 22 Asaeli Tikoirotuma, 23 Vereniki Goneva

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Aviva Stadium
Referee: Paul Williams (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Alex Ruiz (France)
Television match official: David Grashoff (England)

It has not been the best weeks for SA Rugby, firstly losing to a record margin against Ireland last week and secondly losing the rights to host the 2023 World Cup against France on Wednesday.

It is safe to say their will be some feeling out there this weekend when South Africa take on France in Paris. One word can describe the Springboks performance last week, pathetic. The excuses off course can afterwards from the way they traveled to the UK to adopting to conditions.

Frankly South African supporters are fed-up with Springbok coach Coetzee and all the excuses but more so that he change his mind more than trains change tracks at Jo’burg station.

This week see a number of changes contradicting again his early statements about why and who he selects.

Springbok Vermeulen is back at the number 8-jumper with Louw finally moving back to his specialist position on the side of the scrum. There is no locks playing on the side of the scrum this week with Kolisi teaming up with Flo.

Coetzee kept De Jager in the team with Mostert again on the bench.

Upfront we will have Beast, Marx and Wilco Louw packing in the front row.

Coetzee picked a new inside centre in Francois Venter after De Allende yet again failed last week. His failure did not prompt Coetzee to bring in Am as the talented centre is again not even in the match 23.

Although talking about combinations all year Coetzee picked Pollard at ten but left Paige yet again to warm the bench. The back three who was left founding last week kept their places and there was no place for the talented Galant in the team or on the bench.

The French decided to keep their team the same after a great performance against the All Blacks and will be highly motivated to get one over the Springboks after the whitewash they suffered in June.

Their will surely be an extra spring in their step as well after they beat South Africa in the race to host the 2023 World Cup.

Coetzee showed a bit of balls this week but not enough and have still players in the side who are just not good enough at this level.

Prediction: I can see some more disappointment for Bok supporters, France by 10 points

Teams: 

France: 15 Nans Ducuing, 14 Yoann Huget, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Mathieu Bastareaud, 11 Teddy Thomas, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Judicael Cancoriet, 5 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 4 Paul Gabrillagues, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Sebastien Taofifenua, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Paul Jedreasiak, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Damian Penaud

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Francois Venter, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Ross Cronjé, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Siya Kolisi, 6 Francois Louw, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Beast Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Trevor Nyakane, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Dan du Preez, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Elton Jantjies, 23 Damian de Allende

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Stade de France
Referee: Nigel Owens (Wales)
Assistant referees: Wayne Barnes (England), Tom Foley (England)
Television match official: Rowan Kitt (England)

 

Samoa makes four changes for Romania

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Samoa coach Tafua has made four changes to his team to take on Romania in Bucharest on Saturday.

Samoa had a very good start to their tour although they lost to Scotland but losing 44-38 is no shame for the Island team.

Polataivao will replace Cowley at the number 9 jumper and Treviranus will return to replace Lam at the number 8 jumper who will move to the openside in place of Ioane.

Lemalu will come in at lock and will replace Tyrell and the last change will see Matu’u taking over the hooker roll from Leiataua.

Team: 

Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi, 10 Tim Nanai-Williams, 9 Dwayne Polataivao, 8 Ofisa Treviranus, 7 Jack Lam, 6 Piula Faasalele, 5 Chris Vui (c), 4 Faatiga Lemalu, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Motu Matu’u, 1 Jordan Lay
Replacements: 16 Manu Leiataua, 17 James Lay, 18 Hisa Sasagi, 19 Brandon Nansen, 20 Maurie Faasavalu, 21 Melani Matavao, 22 Jj Taulagi, 23 Alapati Leiua

Date: Saturday, November 18
Venue: Stadionul Arcul de Triumph, Bucharest, Bucharest
Referee: David Wilkinson (Ireland)
Assistant referees: Mike Adamson (Scotland), Shota Tevzadze (Georgia)
TMO: Neil Paterson (Scotland)

Preview – France v All Blacks

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The last test match of the weekend is another big one when the World Champions take on the passion that is the french in Paris. For some reason the French always pick up their game against the All Blacks and we expect exactly the same.

The French are always a dangerous side and even more so at home and the rumors are that a few new young and exciting players will make their appearance this weekend.  The Top14 has been playing at a very high standard and what has been nice to see this season so far was that the french players are starting to play better.

New Zealand have been beaten twice this year and had a close call against the Springboks in Cape Town but their is so much quality in that squad that one cannot see them losing this one.

They will welcome back their star players this week after they beaten the Barbarians with a mostly second string side last week.

This test is the perfect way to end the weekend’s matches and one to look forward to.

Fly-half Anthony Belleau will make his debut alongside scrum-half Antoine Dupont.

Mathieu Bastareaud returns to the starting XV after a two-year absence as France coach Guy Noves picked four uncapped players on Thursday to face the All Blacks

Belleau, 21, will make his debut alongside Dupont, 20 and with just three caps, in one of the youngest ever half-back partnerships for les Bleus.

Back row Judicael Cancoriet, 21, and second row Paul Gabrillagues, 24, will also make their debuts, alongside Bastareaud’s centre partner Geoffrey Doumayrou, 28.

The 29-year-old Bastareaud’s last France appearance was in October 2015 in the humiliating 62-13 World Cup quarter-final thrashing at the hands of New Zealand.

Matches between France and New Zealand are usually thrilling affairs and this should also be an entertaining spectacle. In 57 Tests between these countries, the All Blacks have 44 wins, a draw and 12 losses.

The world champions have also won the last 10 fixtures between these sides and the last time they met, in Paris last year, New Zealand had to work hard for their 24-19 victory.

All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen has made wholesale changes to his starting line-up.

Hansen has recalled most of his first-choice players and made nine alterations to his run-on side which claimed a 31-22 come-from-behind win over the Barbarians at Twickenham last weekend.

They’ve been complemented by a group of senior All Blacks returning to the starting XV, including captain Kieran Read, hooker Dane Coles, lock Sam Whitelock, scrum-half Aaron Smith and midfielders Sonny Bill Williams and Ryan Crotty.

Meanwhile, Vaea Fifita has been named at blindside flanker, Rieko Ioane is back on the left wing, after recovering from the mumps, and Damian McKenzie is at full-back.

Prediction: All Blacks by 15 points

Teams: 

France: 15 Nans Ducuing, 14 Teddy Thomas, 13 Geoffrey Doumayrou, 12 Mathieu Bastareaud, 11 Yoann Huget, 10 Anthony Belleau, 9 Antoine Dupont, 8 Louis Picamoles, 7 Kevin Gourdon, 6 Judicael Cancoriet, 5 Paul Gabrillagues, 4 Sebastien Vahaamahina, 3 Rabah Slimani, 2 Guilhem Guirado (c), 1 Jefferson Poirot
Replacements: 16 Clement Maynadier, 17 Raphael Chaume, 18 Daniel Kotze, 19 Paul Jedrasiak, 20 Anthony Jelonch, 21 Baptiste Serin, 22 Francois Trinh-Duc, 23 Damian Penaud

New Zealand: 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano, 3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown

Preview – Wales v Australia

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At the same time of the Ireland v Springbok test the Aussies will take on Wales also starting 19:00 local time. When these two nations play their is always something for everyone and we can expect another classic come Saturday.

The Aussies have been running with their tails up after beating the All Blacks, Barbarians and Japan the last couple of weeks and are starting to look like the dangerous side we were used to in years gone by.

Their forwards have been way better and improving each time they get onto the park and they have some dangerous backs that have shown that they can break the defence of any team. The Aussies have always been a clever team and they have players with lovely skills in this squad.

Wales will have to turn up for this one or it can be a blood bath at home.

Captain Alun Wyn Jones will lead Wales in their opening November Series encounter with Australia on Saturday.

Jones is one of seven returning British & Irish Lions to line-up in the starting XV for the clash against the Wallabies, alongside Ken Owens, Taulupe Faletau, Dan Biggar, Jonathan Davies, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

Three players will make their home debut at Principality Stadium, Owen Williams and Steff Evans in the backline and flanker Josh Navidi.

Captain Jones will pack down alongside Jake Ball in the second-row, behind a front-row of Rob Evans, Owens and Tomas Francis.

Three uncapped players have been named on the bench: Dragons prop Leon Brown and Ospreys duo Sam Cross and Owen Watkin.

Kristian Dacey and Nicky Smith make up the front-row replacements alongside Brown with Cory Hill completing the forward contingent. Aled Davies and Hallam Amos join Watkin as the backline replacements.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has made two alterations to his starting line-up for Saturday.

Bernard Foley and Will Genia come back into the starting side and will start at fly-half and scrum-half respectively.

Initially it seemed Karmichael Hunt would also come in at full-back, pushing Kurtley Beale into 12.

However, Samu Kerevi’s form against Japan forced Cheika’s hand, keeping him in the starting XV for the 23-year-old’s first game in Europe.

The return of experienced duo Foley and Genia will be a handy boost for a Wallabies team light on Northern Hemisphere experience.

Foley will take the goal-kicking duties back along with the flyhalf jersey, as Reece Hodge shifts back to the wing, pushing Henry Speight onto the bench.

Prediction: Aussies by 10

Teams:

Wales: 15 Leigh Halfpenny, 14 Liam Williams, 13 Jonathan Davies, 12 Owen Williams, 11 Steff Evans, 10 Dan Biggar, 9 Gareth Davies, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Aaron Shingler, 5 Alun Wyn Jones (c), 4 Jake Ball, 3 Tomas Francis, 2 Ken Owens, 1 Rob Evans
Replacements: 16 Kristian Dacey, 17 Nicky Smith, 18 Leon Brown, 19 Cory Hill, 20 Sam Cross, 21 Aled Davies, 22 Owen Watkin, 23 Hallam Amos

Australia: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Samu Kerevi, 11 Reece Hodge, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Will Genia, 8 Sean McMahon, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Adam Coleman, 4 Rob Simmons, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Scott Sio
Replacements: 16 Stephen Moore, 17 Tom Robertson, 18 Allan Alaalatoa, 19 Matt Philip, 20 Ben McCalman, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Karmichael Hunt, 23 Henry Speight

Preview – Ireland v South Africa

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The Springboks take on Ireland and this is one of the test matches of the weekend as Coetzee and his players tries to show that the Newlands test was not just a once off.

Although the Springboks have shown a slight improvement this year from last season it is not yet where we need to see the Springboks.

The Irish have been one of the sides in Europe that plays a clever brand of rugby and have upset most top teams in the world. They outsmart most and with that have one of the better packs in world rugby as well.

They will surely target the Boks upfront and if the Springboks can not dominate the collision on Saturday they will find it hard to get past this good Irish side.

The Springboks are also without some good players like their captain Whiteley who has been injured since Super Rugby. The Springboks will also start this test with a new unproved center combination as Serfontein made himself unavailable for selection.

Coetzee went with the tried and not always succeeded combinations and left the door shut to give some other players a run against a top test side. With Serfontein not available Coetzee went with De Allende and Kriel in the midfield and kept his back three the same.

Their are some worry on the back three being able to control the kicking game and something we will see Ireland test them on.

With Jantjies and Cronje at ten and nine Coetzee also missed the opportunity to give Paige and Pollard a proper run. Managing your players are as crucial as picking the right one’s and Coetzee could have done both if he went for the Bulls combination.

Upfront Du Toit will again play out of position with De Jager being picked before the inform Mostert at lock with Etzebeth. Coenie and Beats are back in the front row with Marx at hooker.

Ireland have named their squad that will take on South Africa in Dublin on Saturday, with Bundee Aki in the starting line-up at centre.

Ireland hooker Rory Best returns to captain the side having missed the Summer Tour as a member of the British & Irish Lions squad. Best is joined in the front row by Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong.

Iain Henderson and Devin Toner pack down in the second row. Peter O’Mahony and O’Brien are on the flanks with CJ Stander at number eight.

The uncapped Darren Sweetnam is named in the replacements, while James Ryan, who his first cap on the Summer Tour is also included.

Prediction: Ireland by 7

Teams:

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Andrew Conway, 13 Robbie Henshaw, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Devin Toner, 4 Iain Henderson, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 Rob Herring, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 James Ryan, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Kieran Marmion, 22 Joey Carbery, 23 Darren Sweetnam

South Africa: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Dillyn Leyds, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Francois Louw, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Eben Etzebeth (c), 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Bongi Mbonambi, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 Franco Mostert, 20 Uzair Cassiem, 21 Rudy Paige, 22 Handré Pollard, 23 Francois Venter

Preview – England v Argentina

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Next up we moved to England were Eddie Jones and his England squad will kick of their anthem fixtures against Argentina.

Argentina have been on a downward curve for the last few years and this year was yet again not something they want to remember losing against a England second string side in June at home and not really making any improvement in the Rugby Championship.

Although playing a very attractive brand of rugby and coming close most of the times against the top test nations in the world Argentina has always fallen short at the end and most of it because of discipline.

If they can keep their cool, clam down on the penalty count and cards they may start having the big wins over these top teams.

A worrying factor from the Pumas has been their scrums. For many years the Puma scrum has been feared all over the world and as time went on their ability to overpower teams in this aspect of the game has gone backwards.

At test level you need to have the foundation and the set pieces has become one of the most important aspects of the modern game.

England at Twickenham will always be a difficult prospect and more so when they have been on such a good run of form. They have been one of the best teams in the world for the past two seasons since Eddie Jones took over as coach and are looking the closest than any other test nation when trying to compare to the All Blacks.

The quality of players in the English league has been great and it has filtered through to the test side making Jones job so much easier with the quality that he can pick from.

Jones have always said that he has a plan to win the 2019 world cup and it seems that he is on track with that plan.

England head coach Eddie Jones has named a strong starting line-up to face Argentina.

Seven players – Mike Brown (Harlequins), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs) and Sam Underhill (Bath) – who started in England’s last Test against Argentina in June retain their place this weekend.

Elliot Daly (Wasps) has recovered from a knee injury and will start on the left wing after Jonny May (Leicester Tigers) did not recover in time from his hamstring injury.

Back-row Sam Simmonds is in line for his debut as a finisher, replacing Tom Curry who injured himself in training on Thursday.

Argentina have named Juan Martin Hernandez at 10 for their November series opener against England.

Hernandez is joined in the half-backs by another experienced campaigner in Martin Landajo, while Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias and Matias Moroni are at centre and Emiliano Boffelli, Ramiro Moyano and Joaquin Tuculet are the back-three.

Up front Agustin Creevy will pack down in between Santiago Garcia Botta and Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, Matias Alemanno and Tomas Lavanini are the locks while Pablo Matera and Marcos Kremer will flank Tomas Lezana at number eight.

Prediction: Saturday should be a easy win for the English although we can expect the Pumas to start with a bang. At the end England will have to much class and power and we expect a win by at least 15 points or more.

Teams:

England: 15 Mike Brown, 14 Anthony Watson, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Henry Slade, 11 Elliot Daly, 10 George Ford, 9 Ben Youngs, 8 Nathan Hughes, 7 Sam Underhill, 6 Chris Robshaw, 5 George Kruis, 4 Courtney Lawes, 3 Dan Cole, 2 Dylan Hartley (c), 1 Mako Vunipola
Replacements: 16 Jamie George, 17 Ellis Genge, 18 Harry Williams, 19 Joe Launchbury, 20 Tom Curry, 21 Danny Care, 22 Alex Lozowski, 23 Semesa Rokoduguni

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 11 Emiliano Boffelli, 10 Juan Martin Hernandez, 9 Martin Landajo, 8 Tomas Lezana, 7 Marcos Kremer, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Tomas Lavanini, 4 Matias Alemanno, 3 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Santiago Garcia Botta
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Enrique Pieretto, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Leonardo Senatore, 21 Gonzalo Bertranou, 22 Nicolas Sanchez, 23 Sebastian Cancellere

Preview – Scotland v Samoa

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The weekend kick off with Scotland hosting Samoa and will be broadcast on SuperSport 1 at 16:20 on Saturday. This test will quickly bring us in the mood for what is to follow and the Scots can expect a heavy onslaught from the islanders.

Although the Samoa squad are mostly unknown for most supporters they always have that brute force with which they play with some great off the ball runners that can crack any teams defence.

TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Maurie Faasavalu and Ofisa Treviranus are included in the forwards while Kahn Fotuali’i, Kieron Fonotia, Alapati Leiua, Tim Nanai-Williams and David Lemi are among the backs for the end-of-year games.

Huw Jones fresh from a Currie Cup final which he helped Western Province win cannot wait to be part of the Scottish setup as he missed the June Internationals due to a injury he picked up while playing in the Six Nations.

He has ended his contract at province and have signed with Glasgow but representing in country will be his first job

“(I’m) very excited. I not only missed the summer tour, I also missed the whole of Super Rugby as well,” Jones told the Dundee Courier.

“So I’ve missed a lot of rugby, and my focus on going into the Currie Cup was to get back to the form I had that time last year. “I think I’m there or thereabouts and happy to be called up to the Scotland squad again.”

“I remember thinking during the Six Nations when we found out what the summer tour was going to be; ‘oh yeah I can’t wait to go to those countries’, not to mention playing the games.

“It was very disappointing to miss out on those, so I’m glad I’m back in the mix now.Jones also said he is feels as if his game is back to where it was before the lengthy layoff. “I think it took me a little bit longer than I’d hoped to reach form during the Currie Cup, we had a bit of an up and down season,” Jones said.

Chiefs Nanai-Williams will start this weekend at 10 for Samoa as they take on Scotland

Williams take over from Pisi which see Tuala taking up the fullback spot. Williams played fifteen against Fiji in their last test.

Perez will also come in for Leinua on the wing with Cowley that takes over the number nine jumper from Fotuali’i

In the pack they have Brighouse and Tyrell who will make their test debuts as they replace Alo-Emile and Lemalu.

Chris Vui will lead the team from the second row with Lam moving from the side of the scrum to number eight.

TJ Ioane comes in on the side of the scrum wearing the number seven jumper with Leiataua replacing Elia at hooker.

Head Coach Gregor Townsend has named four uncapped players in the 23-man Scotland squad to face Samoa this Saturday at Murrayfield.

It is the first of three November Tests played on consecutive Saturdays this month, with the following Tests against New Zealand (November 18) and Australia (November 25).

Scotland Head Coach Townsend, said: “We’re looking forward to playing three very good teams this autumn and Samoa will be a big challenge for us first up.

Edinburgh prop Darryl Marfo will start the match, while Glasgow Warriors front-row forwards George Turner and Jamie Bhatti, and Newcastle Falcons outside back, Chris Harris, could debut if called upon from the bench.

Marfo is joined by fellow Edinburgh forwards Stuart McInally and Willem Nel in the front-row, with the back-five from the summer Test win over Australia earning reselection: Jonny Gray reforming the locking partnership with Ben Toolis, while number eight Ryan Wilson is partnered with flankers Hamish Watson and captain John Barclay.

The return to fitness and recent signing of Huw Jones means that an all-Glasgow Warriors back-line will start the match. Teammates and housemates Ali Price (scrum-half) and Finn Russell (fly-half) start together for Scotland for the fifth time this year, Alex Dunbar joins Jones in midfield, with Lee Jones, Tommy Seymour and Stuart Hogg as the back-three.

Prediction: This match will not be easy for Scotland but we do expect them to get a win by at least 7 points.

Teams:

Scotland: 15 Stuart Hogg, 14 Tommy Seymour, 13 Huw Jones, 12 Alex Dunbar, 11 Lee Jones, 10 Finn Russell, 9 Ali Price, 8 Ryan Wilson, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 John Barclay (c), 5 Jonny Gray, 4 Ben Toolis, 3 Willem Nel, 2 Stuart McInally, 1 Darryl Marfo
Replacements: 16 George Turner, 17 Jamie Bhatti, 18 Zander Fagerson, 19 Tim Swinson, 20 Cornell Du Preez, 21 Henry Pyrgos, 22 Pete Horne, 23 Chris Harris

Samoa: 15 Ah See Tuala, 14 Paul Perez, 13 Kieron Fonotia, 12 Reynold Lee-Lo, 11 David Lemi, 10 Tim Nanai Williams, 9 Pele Cowley, 8 Jack Lam, 7 TJ Ioane, 6 Piula Fa’Asalele, 5 Chris Vui (c), 4 Josh Tyrell, 3 Donald Brighouse, 2 Manu Leiataua, 1 Jordan Lay
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 James Lay, 18 Hisa Sasagi, 19 Fa’Atiga Lemalu, 20 Ofisa Treviranus, 21 Mealani Matavao, 22 Aj Alatimu, 23 Alapati Leiua

Toetie missing opportunity again

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Toetie have missed the mark again with his selection of the Springbok team for the test against Ireland on Saturday.

He again shown us his inability to look at the future of South African rugby and again he decide to pick players out of form and out of position.

Can this team beat Ireland on Saturday?

Ye playing with some passion like the Newlands test we might pull it through but it will do nothing for our planning towards the 2019 World Cup in Japan.

Toetie missed the chance to get exciting game breakers like Gelant and Am in the match day squad. So the two of the exciting players in SA at the moment is left caring the bags for the week.

With not many more test to come before 2019 Coetzee have failed to show us that he believe in players on form and rather go with players tried, tested and some that have failed at this level.

After this tour the Springboks have next years 3 incoming test  test, Rugby Championship, November test and 2019 shorter Rugby Championships.

If Coetzee wants to tell me that Kriel and De Allende is our answer for midfield then we can give up now.

Kriel have also failed this year in the midfield but yet he still finds himself partnering with a out-of-form De Allende who nobody knows why he is even still in the sqaud.

Only in Coetzee mind one can pick De Jager before Mostert and play Du Toit again out of position on the side of the scrum.

Also sure we have the smallest and lightest back three after Japan in world rugby who are pretty useless under the high ball so we can expect the smart Irish team to take huge advantage of that.

Do not understand why Cronje and Jantjies are playing in this test. The two Lions stars have been playing almost every Super Rugby match and all but a few test this year. Why not give the guys  well earned rest and let the second choices get that much needed game time.

We know what we have in them so again it would have been a great opportunity to give Paige a proper run with Pollard who by the way knows each other from the Bulls as well.

We have a massive bench but for me most of them should have started on Saturday.

Toetie is clearly worried more about winning that looking at the bigger picture and building a squad for Japan 2019

 

The Springbok team to against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday:
15. Andries Coetzee, Emirates Lions – 9 caps, 0 points
14. Dillyn Leyds, DHL Stormers – 5 caps, 0 points
13. Jesse Kriel, Vodacom Bulls – 24 caps, 30 points (6 tries)
12. Damian de Allende, DHL Stormers 27 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
11. Courtnall Skosan, Emirates Lions – 9 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
10. Elton Jantjies, Emirates Lions/NTT Shining Arcs (Japan) – 20 caps, 198 points (2 tries, 37 conversions, 38 penalties)
9. Ross Cronje, Emirates Lions – 6 caps, 10 points (1 tries)
8. Francois Louw, Bath, England – 54 caps, 40 points (8 tries)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, DHL Stormers – 29 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
6. Siya Kolisi, DHL Stormers – 25 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
5. Lood de Jager, Vodacom Bulls – 32 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain), DHL Stormers – 63 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Coenie Oosthuizen, Cell C Sharks – 29 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
2. Malcolm Marx, Emirates Lions – 10 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
1. Tendai Mtawarira, Cell C Sharks – 95 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Replacements:
16. Bongi Mbonambi, DHL Stormers – 11 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff, DHL Stormers – 19 caps, 0 points
18. Wilco Louw, DHL Stormers – 1 cap, 0 points
19. Franco Mostert, Emirates Lions/Ricoh Black Rams (Jap) – 15 caps, 0 points
20. Uzair Cassiem, Toyota Cheetahs – 6 caps, 5 points (1 try)
21. Rudy Paige, Vodacom Bulls – 11 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Handré Pollard, Vodacom Bulls – 22 caps, 190 points (2 tries, 30 conversions, 37 penalties, 3 drop goals)
23. Francois Venter, Toyota Free State Cheetahs – 3 caps, 0 points

Fifita starts for All Blacks against France

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Exciting Vaea Fifita will start for the All Blacks on Saturday on the blindside when they take on the French in Paris.

Fifita will replace Squire who was not considered due to illness with Kaino also out from a ligament injury he picked up against the Baabaas.

Beauden Barrett gets back in his number 10 jumper and Romano replace Scott Barrett in the second row for the test.

Read is back to captain the side from last weeks water-boy roll against the Baabaas.

There are 11 players who beat the Baabaas last week in the match day squad for Saturday.

‘This weekend is another opportunity for us to continue growing our standards, our game and our skillsets. If we can do that and put in a complete 80-minute game we’ll go a long way to putting in a performance we can all be proud of,’ said Hansen.

‘Having said that, France are an exciting team and playing France in Paris is one of the biggest challenges in rugby. While most of our players know what to expect, six of the match 23 haven’t played the French before [Kane Hames, Nepo Laulala, Ofa Tu’ungafasi, Lima Sopoaga, Fifita and McKenzie] so it’ll be a new experience for them and an exciting challenge for the entire squad.’

Team:

All Blacks – 15 Damian McKenzie, 14 Waisake Naholo, 13 Ryan Crotty, 12 Sonny Bill Williams, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Beauden Barrett, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Kieran Read (c), 7 Sam Cane, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Sam Whitelock, 4 Luke Romano,  3 Nepo Laulala, 2 Dane Coles, 1 Kane Hames.
Replacements: 16 Codie Taylor, 17 Wyatt Crockett, 18 Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Scott Barrett, 20 Matt Todd, 21 TJ Perenara, 22 Lima Sopoaga, 23 Anton Lienert-Brown.

Boks in limbo

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The Springboks continue to be hamstrung by the bizarre decisions taken by the coaching staff and the SA Rugby administrators, writes JON CARDINELLI in Dublin for SARugbyMag.co.za

‘Hang on a minute,’ the Irish journalist pleaded. His expression belied feelings of confusion and disbelief. The information that I’d relayed clearly wasn’t computing.

‘So you’re telling me that Rassie Erasmus is still in Ireland. He’s been working here [with Munster] for more than a year and has a good knowledge of the local game.

‘He was recently named the South African director of rugby. The Boks are in Dublin this week, but Allister Coetzee won’t meet with him at all?’

We both attended the press conference in St Helens on Monday. Coetzee confirmed that he and Erasmus would not meet until early 2018.

How about making time for a phone call or a coffee to discuss strategy during a Test week? Apparently it’s impossible.

How about reaching out for any sort of help ahead of a Test that could render this tour a relative success? Coetzee gave those present at the media gathering the impression that the thought had never crossed his mind.

My new Irish friend kept trying to add up his South African rugby sum. I started to wonder how the international media and indeed the fans from other countries must view us a rugby community.

ALSO READ: Van Graan not done with Boks

‘[Assistant coach] Johann van Graan will replace Rassie at Munster, but he will leave in the middle of the Boks’ four-game tour? How does that work?’

Good question. The Boks will be without a lineout specialist ahead of the games against Italy and Wales, games in which the set pieces will be crucial.

‘[Defence coach] Brendan Venter is still contracted to Italy? What’s going to happen when the Boks go to Padua in two weeks?’

‘Brendan won’t coach against the Boks,’ I tell him.

He gives me a look. I raise my hands in surrender. ‘That’s the official line.’

‘What about this game in Dublin?’ he says, shaking his head. ‘This is South Africa. Who are they really missing in terms of injured players?’

‘They’re missing a full back row if you consider that Jaco Kriel, Jean-Luc du Preez and Warren Whiteley have all been ruled out for extended periods.

‘Duane Vermeulen has played a couple of games for Toulon since returning from injury, though. He declared himself fit and available for selection this past Sunday. The Boks aren’t interested.’

‘Why?’

I shrug. Why indeed.

ALSO READ: Duane hopes for Bok recall

‘Who else is unavailable?’

‘Jan Serfontein will be missed,’ I offer. ‘He was one of the stars in the series against France; one of the Boks’ most influential players on defence. Apparently the Boks have granted him leave to settle at his club in France while the team tours Europe.’

‘Hang on, hang on,’ he says. The Irish newspapers have been up in arms over Simon Zebo’s defection to France. Forget the game against the Boks. This – along with the 2023 World Cup bid race – is the big issue in Irish rugby at present.

More than one media outlet has aligned the South African team’s results of the past two years with the number of players – over 300 – playing abroad. Will Ireland suffer the Boks’ fate? Clearly some feel that Zebo could be the first of many to seek fame and fortune in the French Top 14.

‘Elton Jantjies has started all nine games for the Boks this year,’ he says, trying to change the subject. ‘Why would Coetzee say that Handré Pollard now has the inside lane at flyhalf?’

‘Jantjies, Franco Mostert and Francois Louw won’t be available for the final tour match against Wales,’ I tell him. ‘Jantjies has also been with his Japanese club recently while Pollard has been in camp with the Boks.’

His eyes widen as if I’ve told him an incredible joke. He taps away on his laptop for two or three minutes and then turns to me again.

‘So, do you think the Boks have any chance this Saturday?’

COMMENT: Brains to trump brawn

Autumn Internationals kick-off with a bang this weekend

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We are back in the international window and for the next four weeks we will see the southern hemisphere taking on the test nations up north in what will be some exciting test matches.

We kick of this weekend with some mouthwatering test matches.

 The weekend kick off with Scotland hosting Samoa and will be broadcast on SuperSport 1 at 16:20 on Saturday. This test will quickly bring us in the mood for what is to follow and the Scots can expect a heavy onslaught from the islanders.

Although the Samoa squad are mostly unknown for most supporters they always have that brute force with which they play with some great off the ball runners that can crack any teams defence.

TJ Ioane, Jack Lam, Maurie Faasavalu and Ofisa Treviranus are included in the forwards while Kahn Fotuali’i, Kieron Fonotia, Alapati Leiua, Tim Nanai-Williams and David Lemi are among the backs for the end-of-year games.

Huw Jones fresh from a Currie Cup final which he helped Western Province win cannot wait to be part of the Scottish setup as he missed the June Internationals due to a injury he picked up while playing in the Six Nations.

He has ended his contract at province and have signed with Glasgow but representing in country will be his first job

“(I’m) very excited. I not only missed the summer tour, I also missed the whole of Super Rugby as well,” Jones told the Dundee Courier.

“So I’ve missed a lot of rugby, and my focus on going into the Currie Cup was to get back to the form I had that time last year. “I think I’m there or thereabouts and happy to be called up to the Scotland squad again.”

“I remember thinking during the Six Nations when we found out what the summer tour was going to be; ‘oh yeah I can’t wait to go to those countries’, not to mention playing the games.

“It was very disappointing to miss out on those, so I’m glad I’m back in the mix now.Jones also said he is feels as if his game is back to where it was before the lengthy layoff. “I think it took me a little bit longer than I’d hoped to reach form during the Currie Cup, we had a bit of an up and down season,” Jones said.

 

This match will not be easy for Scotland but we do expect them to get a win by at least 7 points.

Next up we moved to England were Eddie Jones and his England squad will kick of their anthem fixtures against Argentina.

Argentina have been on a downward curve for the last few years and this year was yet again not something they want to remember losing against a England second string side in June at home and not really making any improvement in the Rugby Championship.

Although playing a very attractive brand of rugby and coming close most of the times against the top test nations in the world Argentina has always fallen short at the end and most of it because of discipline.

If they can keep their cool, clam down on the penalty count and cards they may start having the big wins over these top teams.

A worrying factor from the Pumas has been their scrums. For many years the Puma scrum has been feared all over the world and as time went on their ability to overpower teams in this aspect of the game has gone backwards.

At test level you need to have the foundation and the set pieces has become one of the most important aspects of the modern game.

England at Twickenham will always be a difficult prospect and more so when they have been on such a good run of form. They have been one of the best teams in the world for the past two seasons since Eddie Jones took over as coach and are looking the closest than any other test nation when trying to compare to the All Blacks.

The quality of players in the English league has been great and it has filtered through to the test side making Jones job so much easier with the quality that he can pick from.

Jones have always said that he has a plan to win the 2019 world cup and it seems that he is on track with that plan.

Saturday should be a easy win for the English although we can expect the Pumas to start with a bang. At the end England will have to much class and power and we expect a win by at least 15 points or more.

Next up will see the Springboks take on Ireland and this is one of the test matches of the weekend as Coetzee and his players will want to show that the Newlands test was not a once off.

Although the Springboks have shown a slight improvement this year from last season it is not yet where we need to see the Springboks.

The Irish have been one of the sides in Europe that plays a clever brand of rugby and have upset most top teams in the world. They outsmart most and with that have one of the better packs in world rugby as well.

They will surely target the Boks upfront and if the Springboks can not dominate the collision on Saturday they will find it hard to get past this good Irish side.

The Springboks are also without some good players like their captain Whiteley who has been injured since Super Rugby. The Springboks will also start this test with a new unproved center combination as Serfontein made himself unavailable for selection.

Most supporters want Coetzee to give the young stars some exposure but if you look at Coetzee selection trend he will most properly go with players who he has picked before.

Allot will depend on the selection in my eyes and we will see when Coetzee picked his side if we will still be optimistic in beating Ireland at home.

At the same time of the Ireland v Springbok test the Aussies will take on Wales also starting 19:00 local time. When these two nations play their is always something for everyone and we can expect another classic come Saturday.

The Aussies have been running with their tails up after beating the All Blacks, Barbarians and Japan the last couple of weeks and are starting to look like the dangerous side we were used to in years gone by.

Their forwards have been way better and improving each time they get onto the park and they have some dangerous backs that have shown that they can break the defence of any team. The Aussies have always been a clever team and they have players with lovely skills in this squad.

Wales will have to turn up for this one or it can be a blood bath at home.

Wales number eight Faletau believes Wales have the back-row to cope with the injuries Wales have suffered before the international window even started.

Wales are already without British & Irish Lions captain Sam Warburton, Cardiff Blues flanker Ellis Jenkins, Dragons star Ollie Griffiths and Ross Moriarty for the visit of the Wallabies on Saturday and are now set to be without Justin Tipuric. Josh Navidi, Sam Cross, Aaron Shingler and Dan Lydiate are all in contention to start.

Despite the loss of so many back-row stars do Wales have the strength in depth to defeat the Wallabies?

“Yeah definitely,” claimed Faletau.

“We are here because we can play rugby – we are not picked for no apparent reason. We back ourselves to win against anybody. They have a few new backrowers. Hooper is a great leader for them, but we will be fine.”

It will be difficult but possible and with a positive and noisy crowd behind them Wales can start the series of with a win.

Wallaby Adam Coleman expects to see flow-on effects from the British and Irish Lions series on Saturday

The Lions’ drawn series with the All Blacks in July was based around rush defence and a strong set-piece, and Coleman said the Welsh would certainly have taken some lessons, and plenty of confidence, from that, under the tutelage of Lions and Wales coach Warren Gatland.

“They’ve spent more time playing together (because of the Lions series),” he told the Australian Rugby Union’s official wenbsite.

“I’m not sure of the number of Welsh players in the Lions but the more time you play with your teammates, the better the combinations are going to be week in week out.

“Definitely I feel like it will have a knock-on effect and I’m sure Wales will be red-hot this weekend.”

The last test match of the weekend is another big one when the World Champions take on the passion that is the french in Paris. For some reason the French always pick up their game against the All Blacks and we expect exactly the same.

The French is always a dangerous side and even more so at home and the rumors are that a few new young and exciting players will make their appearance this weekend.  The Top14 has been playing at a very high standard and what has been nice to see this season so far was that the french players are starting to play better.

New Zealand have been beaten twice this year and had a close call against the Springboks in Cape Town but their is so much quality in that squad that one cannot see them losing this one.

The will welcome back their star players this week after they beaten the Barbarians with a mostly second string side last week.

This test is the perfect way to end the weekend’s matches and one to look forward to.

Most teams will be announced on Thursday as we look forward to the weekend.

Here is all the other test matches taking place all over the world:

Saturday 11 November

Georgia v Canada Dinamo Arena, Tbilisi at 16:00

Italy v Fiji Stadio Angelo Massimino, Catania at 16:00

 

Shoulder scan for O’Donnell

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Tommy O’Donnell is set for a shoulder scan after he injured it on Monday was the bad news Ireland forward coach Simon Easterby told the media.

This is not great news for the Irish who is building up for the massive clash with the Springboks in front of a sell out crowd this Saturday.

Speaking at a media session after training, Easterby said: “Tommy O’Donnell picked up a bit of a shoulder bump in training yesterday so he’s due to have a scan today.

“Jack Conan sat out training, he just had a heavy workload and Dan Leavy had a bit of tightness in his hamstring, obviously he played at the weekend. Again it’s just managing his workload.

“It’s just about being sensible and earmarking players who may have potential weaknesses. If you know about things, at least you can prepare for that and not take any unnecessary risks.”

Jones take England squad down to 26

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Eddie Jones have picked his 26-man squad from which he will select his team to take on Argentina on Saturday.

He released Denny Solomona back to his club in the process as well as Tom Dunn, Nick Isiekwe, Charlie Ewels and Piers Francis.

His two apprentice players Zach Mercer and Marcus Smith have also return to their clubs.

England squad

Backs: Mike Brown (Harlequins), Elliot Daly (Wasps), Jonny May (Leicester Tigers), Semesa Rokoduguni (Bath Rugby), Anthony Watson (Bath Rugby), Danny Care (Harlequins), Owen Farrell (Saracens), George Ford (Leicester Tigers), Jonathan Joseph (Bath Rugby), Alex Lozowski (Saracens), Henry Slade (Exeter Chiefs), Ben Youngs (Leicester Tigers)

Forwards: Tom Curry (Sale Sharks), Nathan Hughes (Wasps), Maro Itoje (Saracens), George Kruis (Saracens), Joe Launchbury (Wasps), Courtney Lawes (Northampton Saints), Chris Robshaw (Harlequins), Sam Underhill (Bath Rugby) Dan Cole (Leicester Tigers), Ellis Genge (Leicester Tigers), Jamie George (Saracens), Dylan Hartley (Northampton Saints), Mako Vunipola (Saracens), Harry Williams (Exeter Chiefs)

Venter to stay with Boks for EOY tour

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It all looks like Brendon Venter will still be consulting for the Boks on their end of year tour with the exception of the Italian test.

The Springboks will play Ireland, Italy, France and Wales at the end of the year with Venter not being involved in either the Springbok or Italy in the lead-up to the two nations clash in November.

It all seems that Venter’s involvement with the Boks for the year end tour is more to do when Jacques Nienaber and Rassie Erasmus will return to SARU than him staying on longer.

Nienaber is one if not the best in the business when it comes to defence and he will surely take over that role from Venter once their contract ends with Munster.

Nienaber have worked with Coetzee before at WP Rugby and the Stormers as did Erasmus.

It is still unclear what the exact role of Nienaber will be in SARU upon his return as well as if SARU will still use the service of Venter.

Venter is a consultant for FIR till the World Cup in Japan and it is only logic that Nienaber will take over after November.

Stranger things have happened within SARU so time will tell what will happen to Venter after November.

Brendan Venter will remain with the Springboks as a defensive consultant until after their end-of-year tour of Europe.

 

Get fundamentals right first

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So having aligned my chakras, woosaad my woosaahs and had enough camomile tea to calm down to only a mild meltdown I feel I can rejoin the fray, writes Clayton Saville 

My initial anger was probably more to do with the coaches comments rather than the flagrant disregard for basics and common sense in the game. Also, that first Oz try was hella forward, we was robbed yo!

So I must admit that Oom has a good point( he always does, doesn’t he)on we must give Alister and his team a chance to develop as he believes they are moving in the right direction. What we can all agree on is  that with all the indaba’s last year and the new personal on board  that Springbok rugby is moving towards a new plan and rightly or wrongly it is better than what was dished up last year.

You can read Oom Rugby’s take on it here…

Boks close to rugby paradise!

What he is saying about that plan that Allister and his team have at the moment is all well and good but we need to remember that attack is something that will have a natural evolution but can only start with the basics of defence, breakdown and set pieces.

You do not try and create width on attack, width is created naturally when the basics are applied in the game of rugby.

A huge problem comes when using the player as a target when passing, they should be passing to the target for the receiving player. If you do not follow this basic you lose momentum every time and that was clear to see against the Aussies.

Our only saving grace was that the Aussies were bad in defence. If you force width, it is the easiest thing to read for the defending team and that the reason we get turned over so easily out wide .

On Saturday we had a total of 134 carriers which only resulted in 2(1%) line-breaks but what was more disturbing for me was the fact that we only crossed the advantage line 38%. It is very important to understand that we could not get over the advantage line 62% of the time.

Attack should create confusion in defensive structures which we fail to do with our attack. With the Springboks attack we can see both carriers and receivers shoulders are facing to the sidelines and it should be square because that is when you face defenders.

Looking and facing the sidelines you show exactly where you are looking to move the ball and defenders simply shift which makes it the easiest thing to do on defence.

The scrummie has two options with every move, a pod which carries, or the pod passing behind to the flyhalf who then goes wide – wide – fucking easiest thing in the world to defend – there is no inside threat to straighten – so on defence, number up on pod if they carry and don’t commit any players for the turn over – then fold because SA is a same-side team so 95% of the time they will go wide – wide to the same side – isolate the guy at the end, flood the breakdown, if you dont turn the ball over you will definitely slow it down.

Both Allister Coetzee and Brendan Venter have constantly mentioned that they are process driven and not strictly results oriented, the problem is the process is fundamentally flawed, and much as they will effectively be running more , more often than not they are going to end up running behind their posts for another huddle while waiting on a conversion to fly over the bar.

Moore retire from test rugby

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Wallabies skipper Stephen Moore will retire from international rugby at the end of the year and is handing over the captaincy to Michael Hooper effective immediately, reports NZHerald

Moore told his teammates late on Wednesday of his decision to step aside despite only last month declaring his intention to play on until the 2019 World Cup.

The 34-year-old hooker will play one more season of Super Rugby with the Queensland Reds next year before hanging up his boots for good.

“I’ve had a long career and my time in the game is something I’ll look back on very fondly,” Moore said.

“That being said, there’s still a lot of rugby ahead of me over the next 12 months and I hope to be able to contribute to the success of the Wallabies and the Reds with the time I have left.”

The writing was on for the wall for 120-Test veteran during the June window when he was dropped to the bench for the clashes against Fiji and Scotland.

Coach Michael Cheika said at the time Moore was still the team’s captain, with Hooper only taking on the responsibility on match day, and insisted he had a role to play at the World Cup.

However, Moore appears to have changed his mind at some point since.

The impact of a gruelling pre-Rugby Championship training camp in Newcastle, formulated because of complaints Australian Super Rugby players weren’t being prepared well enough for Test rugby, may have played a role.

“Stephen still has a big role to play within the team. This isn’t a farewell right now – he’s fully committed to getting the gold jersey back to the top this year,” Cheika said.

Exactly who will succeed Moore at hooker in the long-term is unclear.

Tatafu Polota-Nau replaced him at No.2 when he was benched in June but the Western Force veteran is 32, while the only other hooker in the squad is under-20s star Jordan Uelese.

NSW’s Tolu Latu is injured while Andrew Ready, Moore’s highly rated Reds teammate, has stalled in his development this year.

STEPHEN MOORE – CAREER AT A GLANCE
* Super Rugby debut in 2003 vs Bulls
* Wallabies debut in 2005 vs Samoa
* Became Wallabies captain in 2014 vs France
* Played at World Cups in 2007, 2011, 2015
* Tests: 120 (96 starts)
* Tries: 8
* 10th most capped international player in history
* Super Rugby appearances: 177
* Super Rugby tries: 23

Huge expectations for Junior Springboks in Georgia

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The Junior Springboks will soon be off to the Junior World Championship in Georgia and with them lies the hope that this year the team will be able to come back with the title.

The team has a new coach in Chean Roux  and he has also picked Ernst van Rhyn from Western Province to lead the team at the Championship. Van Rhyn was the vice captain last year and have a great ability to lead players.

The team is boosted by several players from last years squad that ended forth in the tournament with players like Van Rhyn, Curwin Bosch, Kwenzo Blose, Carlu Sadie, Zain Davids, Stedman Gans, Manie Libbok and Embrose Papier.

Roux also picked Salmaan Moerat, who captained the team, Gianni Lombard, Rewan Kruger, Wandisile Simelane, Damian Willemse and Daniel Jooste who was in the SA U19 side last year.

The squad have also players that boost Super Rugby and Sevens experience which all add to allot of believe in this team of youngsters to come out champions at the end.

The Junior Springboks depart for the World Rugby U20 Championship in Tbilisi on 25 May where they will face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages of the competition. Unlike other tournaments, the U20 Championships have been high quality and not much to choose between the different nations.

England, Ireland and New Zealand have been the standouts over the past few years but the biggest thread seems to be from the New Zealanders again this year.

We are pleased with the quality of the players in our squad and we believe the team has the potential to go all the way in the competition,” Roux told Sport24

We had to make a number of tough calls to narrow down the group to 28 players, but we are confident that we have selected a squad worthy of competing against the best teams in the world in Georgia.  A number of the players have experienced international age-group rugby either in the World Rugby Under-20 Championship or the Under-19 International Series, while others have been exposed to International Sevens and Vodacom Super Rugby, which will be invaluable in Georgia.”

Commenting on the selection of the captain, Roux spoke highly of Van Rhyn.

“Ernst is a hard worker on the field and has proved his worth as a leader in the last few seasons at the SA Schools team and the SA Under-20s last year,” the coach said. “A captain has to lead by example and ensure that there is cohesion in the team at all times, and these qualities will be vital in guiding us through the competition.”

Looking at the tournament in Georgia, Roux expected his team to be tested thoroughly, but he was pleased with their preparation up to now.

We face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages, so we have to be in top form from the outset to stay in a strong position to stake a claim for the trophy,” said Roux.

That said we have been working very hard at training in the last two months to prepare both physically and mentally for what we can expect in Tbilisi and we hope that this will pay off. The important thing now will be to maintain the high intensity of our training sessions and to keep sharp before we depart for Georgia.”

Blitzbokke have the key to success for SA Rugby

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The Springboks Sevens team have already won the World Rugby Sevens Champions for 2016-2017 with still one tournament to go in the regular season, writes Jacques Nortier

This speak volumes of what Niel Powel and the management team have accomplished with this group of players the last couple of years.

This success has not just come overnight and it is something Powel and SARU have built on for a couple of seasons now.

They have come second in the Sevens Championships for several years now and won the Bronze Medal at the Olympics last year

The Blitzbokke were Champions in Dubai, Wellington, Australia and Las Vegas and they have come in second in Vancouver, Hong Kong. They did slip away in Singapore with a sixth place but were has just been crowned champions again in France over the weekend.

Consistency is what wins you the Championship on the sevens circuit and that is exactly what the Blitzbokke of Powel have done this year.

To understand the success of the Blitzbokke you need to acknowledge what have been done by Powel and SARU to make this team the best in the world.

The first secret to success was the fact that SARU took full control of the Cape Town Sevens tournament and the Blitzbokke.

The Cape Town Sevens was voted the best tournament by World Rugby for 2015/16 and this season it went even bigger and better.

The second thing that SARU did was to contract all the players and management of the Blitzbokke.

In contrast to that Super Rugby and Currie Cup were players and coaches are controlled and appointed by the franchises and unions.

You do not need to be a rocket scientist to get the picture here.

New Zealand rugby have always been in control of their Super Rugby franchises and the player’s contracts. This have made controlling the top players in their country much easier and giving them full control of not just the players but the way New Zealand teams play.

It is then also not hard to see why they have been the dominant force in Super Rugby the same as the Blitzbokke have become on the sevens circuit.

SARU with the Blitzbokke have shown that the model being used with the Blitzbokke and in New Zealand is the only way one can expect constant success.

If SARU can implement the same model in our Super Rugby we will make SA Rugby much stronger and having our top players playing in our franchises.

Maybe then we can have teams competing with the New Zealand teams in Super Rugby and win Championships like the Blitzbokke is doing.

 

Time that Deon Davids gets recognition

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The Southern Kings have been a revelation this year under head coach Deon Davids with his team sitting on the same log points (19) as the leading Aussie team, the Brumbies, writes Jacques Nortier

Davids was appointed as head coach last year by SARU after the Kings made a return to Super Rugby.

His appointment was something Rassie Erasmus fought long and hard for and it was clear that Davids was someone Erasmus thought highly of and rates as a Super Rugby coach.

Not many at SA Rugby had the same belief in Davids as Erasmus did and after two seasons he has hopefully proven that he was the right man for the job.

Davids, a former loose forward spent most of his playing days in the Boland Super League where he also had his first taste of coaching for Worcester Villagers guiding them to the Boland Super League B title in 1998.

He also guided Boland College to a title in 2002 before he was appointed assistant coach for the Boland Cavaliers.

With Davids coaching the forwards, Boland won the First Division in 2003 and 2004 and the Vodacom Shield in 2004. In 2006 Davids became the head coach of the Vodacom Cup side and remained the assistant coach for the Currie Cup side.

He assisted Chester Williams in coaching the Emerging Springboks side to victory in the 2008 IRB Nations Cup in Romania and assisted Eric Saul’s with the SA U20 team that finished third in the 2008 IRB Junior World Championship.

Davids left Boland to coach UWC as they finished third in their first ever Varsity Shield competition. Davids then became the head coach for the Lions U21 and the Vodacom Cup sides in 2012.

At the end of 2012 he returned to the Western Cape to coach the SWD Eagles as head coach for their academy and U21 sides and assisted the first team until 2015 when he was appointed the head coach before SARU announced that he will take charge of the Southern Kings side.

What is nice to see is that Davids is one of those coaches that have done the hard yards in his coaching career. The massive turnaround he and his team have had with the Kings in less than two years speaks volumes of him as a coach at this level.

It seems that quality coaches are hard to come by in South Africa these days but when you see coaches like Davids you start to wonder why was it only Erasmus that saw his potential.

It was said that the Southern Kings were the best conditioned side from all the South African franchise pre-season and now it is clear to see why.

Transformation is one of the most important aspect of our game today and its survival in a professional environment depends on our success in this process. With that said it does not comfort me that Davids is the only coach of color in Super Rugby at the moment and will most probably be without a Super Rugby team by the end of the season.

It looks likely that he will return to SWD and coach at First Division level after this years Super Rugby.

It is worrying when a top franchise like the Bulls struggle in Super Rugby and when they start talking of a new coach we hear names like Heyneke Meyer and John Mitchell in the newspapers.

One can just imagine what a coach like Davids can achieve with the quality of players a franchise like the Bulls have and the money to back it.

Photo by: Getty Images

 

SARU explain Super Rugby format decision

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SARU had to be honest with themselves when SANZAAR discussed the new format for 2018 and one of the major considerations was to admit that the challenges of sustaining six strong South African teams was unsustainable for SA Rugby.

South African team has not won the Super Rugby title for seven years and the spreading of talent across six franchises at a time when the lure of the Euro and Yen has never been stronger has changed our environment and we have to recognise and respond to that.

Argentina is a a full member of SANZAAR and their participation in both Super Rugby and Rugby Championship is not up for discussion. Their Jaguares team has also been competitive this and last year and will only get better.

The question is why keeping the Sunwolves in a competition which they are not even close to be competitive enough. Winning a once off match here and there is surely not a reason to keep them?

But SARU explained the potential for growth in Asia of rugby and SANZAAR competitions is significant. It remains a focus for the organisation and establishing a Japanese Super Rugby franchise is key to that strategy.

Loosing two Australian teams was not on the cards as Australia is in a highly competitive sports market and needs to retain as broad a footprint as possible; reducing to three Australian teams would damage not just Australian rugby but all of SANZAAR in their view.

 

At this stage there is no relegation or promotion option in Super Rugby although there will be changes in years to come.

The new format for next year will see teams will play 12 of the other 14 in log play which means you will not play all teams in the regular season.

This new format will be in place until 2020 so we will have three years at least of this new format.

The new format also mean that the SA rugby community has more concentrated financial resources to contract the better players at fewer franchises. SANZAAR did not consider a two division format becuase Vodacom Super Rugby is already the most logistically expensive team sport in the world and to create two divisions would add to that expense while the potential appeal of what could be regarded as a second-rate lower tier of the competition is far from proved.

At the end we all were calling for less teams and more competitive rugby, in some sense we reach that with the new format but at the end money is ruling decisions and something fans need to expect to sustain the game not just in our country but also in the world.

SARU answers to new Super Rugby fromat

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SANZAAR announced on Sunday that Vodacom Super Rugby had been restructured for 2018 and would kick-off with a three conference, 15-team format featuring four teams from South Africa, five from New Zealand, four from Australia, one from Japan and one from Argentina.

The streamlining of the competition comes at the end of a nine-month consultation and strategic review process that looked at the short and long-term prospects for SANZAAR’s competitions.

The decision to reduce Vodacom Super Rugby competitors by three teams was unanimously agreed by the four SANZAAR partners. Franchises, broadcasters and fans were all engaged in the process.

“Fans, media and broadcasters have spoken and we have listened to them,” said Jurie Roux, CEO of SA Rugby. “The 18-team Vodacom Super Rugby competition has not worked and we had to face up to that hard fact. The integrity of the format and the lack of competitiveness in too many matches were major issues that needed addressing.

“From a South African rugby high performance perspective we’ve had to acknowledge that the dilution of talent and resources across six franchises – at a time when rand weakness has led to more departures to Europe and Japan – has seriously affected our ability to compete across the board.

“As a rugby nation we need several strong franchises all of whom are in with a serious chance of challenging for the title and we could no longer say that. A reduction in the number of South African franchises was the unavoidable conclusion, especially when put in the context of SANZAAR’s long-term strategy of adding to our tournaments’ appeal and commercial success which, in time, will mean greater returns for SA Rugby.”

SA Rugby will now begin internal consultations to identify its four entrants to the 2018 competition.

The newly-established Franchise Rugby Committee (made up of representatives of all six teams) will meet on Tuesday to finalise the criteria for selection. Their recommendation will go to the Executive Council. Once that recommendation is agreed it will need to be approved by the General Council of SA Rugby.

SANZAAR Chairman, Brent Impey said: “The decision to revert to a 15-team format reflects a consensus view of the mandated SANZAAR Executive Committee that met in London recently. It was not the determination of any one Union or stakeholder and follows a thorough assessment and review of the tournament over the last nine months.

“SANZAAR is delighted that its major broadcast partners have after due consideration agreed to the restructured format within the existing broadcast agreements. Our broadcaster partners are an important stakeholder and their vision for Super Rugby moving forward is the same as ours.

“This decision has not been an easy one and we recognise the difficulty associated with reducing the number of teams in Australia and South Africa. Naturally we understand that there will be some very disappointed franchises but the tournament’s long-term future and the economic reality of the business at present is something that had to be addressed.

“The decision to retain the Sunwolves is linked directly to SANZAAR’s strategic plan for the future. The potential for growth of the sport in Asia off the back of the establishment of the Sunwolves and the impending RWC in 2019 is significant. It remains an obvious focus for the organisation and a Japanese Super Rugby franchise is key to that strategy.”

Roux admitted a reduction in teams was a bitter pill for South Africa to swallow but his organisation had faced up to the fact that retaining six teams would have put South African rugby at an even greater risk.

“We have six strategic imperatives for 2017 – two of the most critical of which are Springbok performance and financial sustainability,” he said.

“Retaining a number of under-performing teams in Vodacom Super Rugby makes no sense from a high performance or financial point of view. We no longer have the resources to support them to the required level.”

Roux said the large number of South Africans now playing overseas had hastened the decision: “There are about five or six Vodacom Super Rugby squads’ worth of South Africans playing overseas.

“In 2015, 257 South Africans appeared for leading teams overseas; last year it was 313 – including 65 Springboks. There were eight Van der Merwes, seven Du Preez’s and six Du Plessis’s alone! That has got to have had an impact on our competitiveness.”

The new format will see the Sunwolves move into the Australian Conference while the South African conference will continue to feature the Jaguares.

The winners of each conference plus another five teams with the greatest number of log points will qualify for the play-offs.

SA franchises will play teams from both the Australian and New Zealand conference every year although the duration of the available ‘window’ – between the end of the compulsory rest period and the start of the international season – means that there are not enough weeks to play all teams.

Tournament Format

  • 120 match regular season plus seven finals
  • 15 teams
  • Three conferences
  • 18 rounds [16 matches per team, two bye weeks]
  • Each team will play eight matches within its conference (four home and four away)
  • Each team will play eight cross-conference matches – against four of the five teams from the other two conferences (four at home and four away)
  • Each team will have played 12 of the other teams within the season (85% which is up from 70% in 2016).
  • Eight team Finals Series: Three Conference winners and five wild card places – the next best performing teams after the Conference winners regardless of Conference.

SA Rugby said that it hoped it would be able to confirm its 2018 Vodacom Super Rugby participants by the end of June.

SANZAAR axes 2 SA Super Rugby teams

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SANZAAR has announced that the Super Rugby tournament has been restructured and will kick off in 2018 with a three conference, 15-team format: five teams from New Zealand, four from Australia, four from South Africa, one from Japan; and one from Argentina.

This restructuring by SANZAAR represents a crucial step in its strategic planning process that has included a comprehensive assessment of the economic and sporting environment under which its tournaments (Super Rugby and The Rugby Championship) are currently operating.

This assessment highlighted a need to adjust and strengthen Super Rugby in the short-term to ensure a robust and sustainable tournament meets the requirements of all stakeholders in terms of high performance pathways, game development, commercial revenue and fan engagement.

The change sees an overall reduction of three teams from the current 18-team format, two from South Africa and one from Australia. The Sunwolves will move into the Australian Conference. The teams from Australia and South Africa that will compete in Super Rugby will be confirmed in due course by the respective National Unions.

New Zealand Conference

Blues, Chiefs, Crusaders, Highlanders, Hurricanes

Australian Conference

Four Australian teams (TBC), Sunwolves

South Africa Conference

Four South Africa teams (TBC), Jaguares

SANZAAR Chairman, Brent Impey stated, “The decision to revert to a 15-team format reflects a consensus view of the mandated SANZAAR Executive Committee that met in London recently. It was not the determination of any one Union or stakeholder and follows a thorough assessment and review of the tournament over the last nine months.”

“SANZAAR is delighted that its major broadcast partners have after due consideration agreed to the restructured format within the existing broadcast agreements. Our broadcast partners are an important stakeholder and their vision for Super Rugby moving forward is the same as ours.”

“This decision has not been an easy one and we recognise the difficulty associated with reducing the number of teams in Australia and South Africa. Naturally we understand that there will be some very disappointed franchises but the tournament’s long-term future and the economic reality of the business at present is something that had to be addressed.”

“The decision to retain the Sunwolves is linked directly to SANZAAR’s strategic plan for the future. The potential for growth of the sport in Asia off the back of the establishment of the Sunwolves and the impending RWC in 2019  is significant. It remains an obvious focus for the organisation and a Japanese Super Rugby franchise is key to that strategy.”

SANZAAR CEO Andy Marinos stated, “This has been a long and complex piece of work and we make no apology for that. Super Rugby is unique in world rugby in that it is played in six countries across 15 time zones and has numerous stakeholders.”

“SANZAAR cannot continue to ignore the extensive feedback that it has received from fans, stakeholders and commercial partners around the integrity of the competition format and performances of the teams. We want to see an engaging, vibrant and competitive competition that delivers a strong high performance pathway in all markets that will have a positive flow into the international game.”

“It became clear during our strategic assessment that there are two facets to the future of our tournaments. The first is a requirement to react to existing market forces within the sporting business environment and to implement short-term change to Super Rugby. This is what we have done.”

“The second is the longer term vision, through a strategic plan, to build the brand that in the future can maximize further development of the game, commercial revenues and the ongoing sustainability of the tournaments. This work is presently ongoing and details will be released in the coming months.”

Tournament details:

– 120 match regular season plus seven match finals series

– 15 teams

– Three conferences (Australia, New Zealand, South Africa)

– 18 rounds (16 matches per team, two bye weeks)

– Each team will play eight matches within its conference (four home and four away)

– Each team will play eight cross-conference matches – against four of the five teams from each of the other two conferences (four at home and four away)

– Each team will play 12 of the other teams within the season (85% of opposition teams which is up from 70% in 2016).

– Eight team Finals Series: Three Conference winners and; five wild card places – the next best performing teams based on competition points after the Conference winners regardless of Conference.

– Conference winners and fourth-placed team on competition points will host quarter-finals.

Force win try-fest match against Kings

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The Force came out winners in a try-fest on Sunday morning when they beat the Kings 46-41, in a close contested match.

Two teams that are on the chopping block for next years Super Rugby revamp so everything to play for although they are not contenders at all early on in this years competition.

Sometimes one gets pretty good matches when these type of teams take eachother on and both teams showed they will run the ball all day.

The Force took early control with a penalty and a brilliant try scored from their own half putting it through the hands to score on the other side.

That gave them them an early 10-0 lead.

The Kings did not stand back and only defend and had enough field possesion to attack from and from a great drive they got over for their first try and points on the board.

This gave the Force a lead of 10-7 after 28 min.

The Force got a secnd try to take the score to 15-7 just before halftime.

The Kings scored two quick tries just after halftime to take the lead 19-15. This was great reward for the Kings who stayed in the game in that first half and took their opertunities.

The Force did not wait long to get their first try of the match and took the lead back with 22-19 but that was short lived as the Kings answered right back with another try and the lead 24-22.

The Force were next to strike again through a penalty and the lead of 25-24 after 59 min.

The Force then scored two quick tries again giving Jaer his third of the match but the Force hit back immediately to make the score 38-32 for the Kings.

The Force then step up a bit and through pressure in the scrum five meters from the Kings line force a penalty try to take the lead 39-38.

The Force found themselves then again with attacking lineout inside Kings twenty two and drive over for another and extend the lead to 46-38.

The Kings were able to get another penalty over but the Force was too strong to get any other points in the last few minutes of the match.

This gave the Force a well earned win at home 46-41.

Scorers:

Force – Tries: Jono Lance, Alex Newsome (2), Dane Haylett-Petty, Penalty try, Ben McCalman. Conversions: Lance (2), Ian Prior. Penalties: Lance (2).
Kings – Tries: Justin Forwood, Yaw Penxe, Malcolm Jaer (3), Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (3). Penalty: Pieter-Steyn de Wet.

Stormers win epic match against Chiefs

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Newlands was electric on Saturday when the Stormers showed so much guts in beating the Chiefs 34-26.

It was a brilliant game from start to finish with both teams giving it all and trying everything to get over the other line.

The Stormers had one of their best matches that we saw for a very long time and deserved the win.

The Stormers started well in the match playing in the right areas of the field and forced a great attack lineout in the Chiefs twenty two.

From the lineout they kept it close and Notshe at the end with a great run down the line to score the first try of the macth and a lead of 7-0.

The Chiefs started playing a bit more with the ball and Wiese got a yellow card for playing a man without the ball.

The Chiefs got a penalty which ws there first points on the board when Cruden slotted it over to reduce the Stormers lead to 8-3.

The Chiefs then turned it on from within their own twenty two with great hands and scored their first try to take the lead 10-7.

The Stormers put one phase after another and at the end Kolisi was the man over for their second try as the Chiefs defence could not hold them out giving them a 14-10.

The Stormers was kicking allot of ball to the Chiefs deep and paid the price for poor defensive structures when the Chiefs scored their second try to take the lead 18-14

With halftime looming the Stormers had a last change with an attacking scrum which they took and du Preez with a string run went over the line to take the lead at halftime 24-18.

The second half started where the two teams left the first half and the Stormers scored one of the tries of the season so far when Leyds made a incredible pass to SP Marais to score for the Stromers.

The Chiefs did hit back with a try of their own to make the score 34-26 after 61 minutes.

The intensity was absolutly incredible with both teams playing some great rugby.

The Chiefs were putting allot of pressure on the Stormers line with 10 minutes to go.

The Stormers shown character throughout that final 10 minutes keeping the Chiefs out with what one just can call absolutly brilliant defence.

The Stormers stays unbeaten this year and handed the Chiefs their first loss of the season.

The scorers:

For Stormers:
Tries: 
Notshe, Kolisi, Marais, Du Preez
Cons: Du Preez 4
Pens: Marais 2

For Chiefs:
Tries:
 Pulu 2, Lowe
Cons: Cruden
Pens: Cruden 2, McKenzie

Sharks struggle past Jaguares

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It was not pretty but the Cell C Sharks did get a win over the Jaguares on Saturday when the beat them 18-13

At first the Sharks and Jaguares were just feeling each other out with no team making really making progress.

With the Jaguares on attack Cobus Reinach ripped the ball on attack from the Jaguares and ran 70 meters for the Sharks first try.

The Jaguares first points came from a scrum penalty to make the scores 5-3 for the Sharks. It took not long for the Jaguares to slot another penalty over to take the lead 6-5.

Not much got really going with both teams making too many mistakes but the Sharks did get a penalty for a shoulder challenge and took the lead back 8-6 after 29 min.

Some poor quality from both sides made the game hard to watch and not much to have cheered about, just too many mistakes.

The Sharks went into the break with a lead 0f 8-6.

The Second half started well for the Sharks as they kept pressure on Jaguares in their twenty-two with Esterhuizen going over for their second try.

That gave them a 13-6 lead early on.

The Sharks did a bit more on attack than the Jaguares and they also played more in their half as well but did not use the ball they got well at all.

The Jaguares received a yellow card for an early tackle when the Sharks was close to the line but were unable to take advantage of the penalty.

The Jaguares found line break with the result them going over the line. Although no evidence shown on replays the referee decided he was happy to be awarded.

That made it a 15-13 lead for Sharks with 63 min gone in the match.

The game went from bad to worst with 82 handling errors at the 76 minute of the match.

Scorers:

Sharks – Tries: Cobus Reinach, André Esterhuizen. Conversion: Curwin Bosch. Penalties: Bosch (2).
Jaguares – Try: Agustín Creevy. Conversion: Felipe Ezcurra. Penalties: Nicolás Sánchez (2).

Brilliant second half give Highlanders win over Blues

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The Highlanders came back in a brilliant display in the second half to beat the Blues 26-20 on Saturday. It was all led by the All Black Ben Smith who stood out in all aspects of the game and especially in defence.

The Blues had the better start of the two teams with great attacking play and trying to get over the Highlanders solid defense.

The Blues have been great with the battle in the air leaving the Highlanders in their own half and defending for all they worth.

The Highlanders made a turnover in their own twenty two and got themsleves in the Blues half forcing a penalty to take the lead 3-0 after 8 min.

The Blues kept the pressure on with their attacking play and found space and with great hands and some steps got over for a brilliant try to start their end of the scoreboard ticking over as they take the lead 7-3.

The Blues was dominating almost all aspect of the game and dominating the scrums as well.

The Highlanders struggled to get into the game as the Blues kept the pressure on and forcing the Highlanders into mistakes.

With two more penalties in the Highlanders twenty two the Blues extended the lead to 13-3 after 25 min.

With the Blues making a mistake the Highlander took full advantage in their own half and although their was a suspicious forward pass the referee let it go and with great hands and continuity the Highlanders got their first try on the board.

The Blues worked from the lineout and and scored another try after some hard work from their forward taking their lead to 20-10.

It was all Highlanders in the forst ten minutes of the second half putting the pressure on the Blues through solid attack and the wall had to break as they socred their second try of the match to make the scores 20-all after 48 min.

The Highlanders had all the ball making the game a bit faster and getting the better of the Blues in the second half.

The Blues kept on struggling to keep ball in hand with the Highlanders defence in their faces. A penalty gave the Highlanders the lead of 23-20.

The Highlanders extended the lead with another penalty and they kept the Blues out to take the win 26-20.

Scorers:

Highlanders – Tries: Ben Smith, Malakai Fekitoa. Conversions: Marty Banks (2). Penalties: Banks (4).
Blues – Tries: Charlie Faumuina, Gerard Cowley-Tuioti. Conversions: Piers Francis (2). Penalties: Francis (2).

Woeful Bulls goes down against Sunwolves

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The Bulls manage to get to a new low when the Sunwolves beat them on Saturday in Tokyo with a 21-20 win.

The Sunwolves started the match as we have seen them the whole year with ball in hand and puuting pressure on their opponents early one.

The Bulls was caught napping from a kick and Sunwolves quickly moved the ball to the wing and scored the first try of the match to lead the Bulls 5-0.

A penalty gave the Sunwolves another three points before Burger Odendal ran straight through the Sunwolves defence to score the Bulls first try. This gave the Sunwolves a lead of 8-7 after 15 min.

The Sunwolves implemented a good kicking game with the wet field to put the Bulls under pressure and forcing penalty and turnovers.

The two teams struggled to put long enough phases together losing the ball in contact or at crucial times giving away turnovers.

The Sunwolves kept the Bulls out in the last few minutes of the first half and had the lead going into halftime 11-10.

The Bulls started the second half much better but indecision on attack just led to more mistakes and a change for Sunwolves to exit their tewenty two.

The Bulls were the first to put points on the board in the second half with a penalty taking the lead for the first time in the mtch 13-11.

Both teams tried to play a kicking game which did not work and it took the Bulls till the 65 minute to get over the line after a turnover.

This gave them a lead of 20-11.

The Bulls got a controversial yellow card when Serfontein was send off giving the Sunwolves the opertunity to get over for their first try in the second half.

That reduced the score to 20-18 with 10 minutes to go.

The Sunwolves got a penalty over with 7 minutes to go and kept that lead to give the Bulls another loss on tour and their first win of the season.

Scorers:

Sunwolves – Tries: Rahboni Warren Vosayaco, Takaaki Nakazuru. Conversion: Yu Tamura. Penalties: Hayden Cripps (2).
Bulls – Tries: Burger Odendaal, Travis Ismaiel. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties: Schoeman (2), Francois Brummer.

Update: “Hero’s…urr Europe in a Nutshell”

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European rugby is heating up with the Championship Cup and Challenge Cup trophies being the focus now and we had some great matches over the weekend.

 

Clermont knock out Toulon

Clermont will face Leinster in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they saw off Toulon 29-9 in a gritty quarter-final win on Sunday.

Two tries were scored and they went to Noa Nakaitaci and Damien Penaud, with Morgan Parra and Camille Lopez’s boots also helping to set up a last-four clash with the Irish province in Lyon over the weekend of April 22-23.

Europe’s top-tier has generally produced an excellent spectacle at the last eight stage. The teams have opted for verve and ambition over conservatism, but these sides proceeded to serve up a dire contest.

Even accounting for the sodden conditions, in an opening period which ended locked at 6-6, try-scoring openings were in short supply. They had to be content with two penalties apiece for Parra and Leigh Halfpenny before the Clermont scrum-half edged the hosts ahead after the interval.

Halfpenny once again equalised from the tee before Auvergne finally broke through when Nakaitaci crossed the whitewash. After that try Toulon seemed to lose heart and Damian Penaud’s final minute effort confirmed their passage into the last four, where they will face Leinster.

It is an encounter which will not live long in the memory. With the inclement weather forcing errors, these Top 14 outfits looked to the power game early on and never altered those tactics.

Clermont were the first to display their physicality, forcing an infringement after four minutes from which Parra took them ahead.

They had a further opportunity to increase that buffer but, after the scrum-half skewed his effort wide, the visitors managed to gain some much needed territory.

Like Toulon, Auvergne also struggled to maintain their discipline without the ball and Halfpenny was more than happy to line up shots at goal. He missed his first attempt at the uprights but was on target soon after as the three-time champions levelled matters.

As the half wore on, continuity remained an issue with both teams lacking any sort of attacking structure. That was demonstrated by Laurent Delboulbès’ rather comical intervention after the prop got in the way of team-mate Éric Escande’s pass.

He knocked on and then compounded the mistake by conceding a penalty in attempting to win the ball back – an effort Parra easily converted.

That advantage was soon cancelled out, however, when Halfpenny kicked his second three-pointer as the teams went into the break level.

The second half produced much the same fare. Both outfits relied on their packs and the kicking game of their half-backs to find field position, but neither could really assert any control.

Parra and Halfpenny continued the pattern of the match by trading penalties in the third quarter before Clermont finally broke the deadlock.

For one of the few times in the match, they managed to keep possession, forcing Toulon to commit bodies to the ruck. That opened the space on the outside and Nakaitaci benefited, touching down for the decisive score.

Toulon were rudderless and, after Lopez’s drop-goal and Parra’s penalty ended the game as a contest, Penaud went over late on to seal Clermont semi-final berth.

The scorers:

For Clermont:
Tries: Nakaitaci, Penaud
Cons: Parra 2
Pens: Parra 4
Drop Goal: Lopez

For Toulon:
Pens: Halfpenny 3

Saracens set up Munster showdown

Saracens put on a masterclass of knockout rugby against Glasgow on Sunday as they won 38-8 to book a Champions Cup semi-final spot.

The victory sets up a mouth-watering clash with Munster at the Aviva Stadium as tries from Chris Ashton (2), Marcelo Bosch and Brad Barritt scored their tries. Owen Farrell was man-of-the-match after an 18-point haul.

Mark McCall’s men were outstanding before the break, opening up an 11-point buffer through Ashton’s first try and three Farrell penalties.

Finn Russell did get the Scottish outfit on the scoreboard in the first-half and Lee Jones’ effort reduced the arrears seven minutes into the second period, but Sarries were ultimately too strong.

Bosch ended the game as a contest with a score 20 minutes from time before Barritt and Ashton rubber-stamped the win with a three-pointer, despite a late Ryan Wilson consolation.

Glasgow have come a long way under the stewardship of Gregor Townsend but they struggled to handle the sheer ferocity of the defending champions.

After making the quarter-finals for the first time, this proved to be a step too far, despite their battling qualities keeping the scoreline close in the early exchanges.

Sarries created opportunities at will in the opening 10 minutes and could have scored two tries when Ashton and Sean Maitland crossed the whitewash out wide.

However, following some excellent cover defence by the visitors, both were adjudged to be in touch and the Englishmen had to be content with a single Farrell penalty.

The Warriors’ rearguard excellence was then rewarded with a Russell three-pointer, but the pressure was unrelenting and successive efforts off the tee by the hosts’ stand-off took Saracens 9-3 in front.

Townsend’s men were failing to stop the Premiership outfit on the gainline and they were finally breached after another flowing move.

Forwards and backs combined before Barritt’s superb offload found Ashton and the Toulon-bound wing did the rest, weaving inside one attempted tackle and touching down.

Farrell’s missed conversion meant that the damage was not quite as severe as it could have been at the interval, but their head coach required a response in the second period.

It was one he duly received. Russell almost scampered away after a rare Sarries’ error but they were not to be denied for long as the fly-half’s cross-field kick was collected by Jones, who handed off Ashton and went over.

Glasgow knew that there would be a response from the home side and once again they failed to cope. To their credit, the Warriors were gallant in defence but they had to break at some point and Bosch took advantage when the hole opened for him.

Farrell then made it a three-score game from the tee and it was the lead Saracens needed to open up. They displayed some wonderful hands in the last few minutes and deservedly touched down twice more via Barritt and Ashton to complete a fine performance.

Townsend’s side did have the final word through Wilson but it was very much Sarries’ day.

The scorers:

For Saracens:
Tries: Ashton 2, Bosch, Barritt
Cons: Farrell 3
Pens: Farrell 4

For Glasgow:
Tries: Jones, Wilson
Pen: Russell

 

14-man Stade knock out top seeds Ospreys

Despite two yellow cards for wing Josaia Raisuqe, Stade Français advanced to the Challenge Cup semi-finals after defeating the Ospreys 25-21.

The Welsh region finished the pool stages with a perfect 30 out of 30 points to qualify as top seeds, but they were stunned in the second half at the Principality Stadium after two quick tries for Stade Français from Raphaël Lakafia and Julien Arias.

This despite having Raisuqe receive two yellow cards, one in each half, the first for a stamp on Ospreys wing Keelan Giles that deserved a straight red.

Raisuqe’s actions aside Stade showed great heart on the road to a rare away victory, one week on from defeating Toulon at home, with key figures in the pack including France prop Rabah Slimani, Wallaby lock Hugh Pyle and workhorse Antoine Burban all impressing.

Expected to dominate proceedings given Stade’s poor form and away record, the Ospreys opened the scoring through a Dan Biggar penalty in the 12th minute.

Biggar thought he had scored a try soon after only for Keelan Giles’ pass to be ruled as forward by the TMO, before Raisuqe’s first yellow card. Instead it the was the visitors who scored next, through a Jules Plisson penalty.

Zurabi Zhvania was an unlikely first try scorer, powering his way over out wide for Stade, who led at the break 8-6 after Bigger knocked over a second penalty – with a third effort coming back off the post right before the interval.

Plisson was on-point with his second penalty, stretching the lead to five points, but a Josh Matavesi try pulled the Ospreys back into the contest.

Raisuqe’s second yellow card allowed Biggar to restore the Ospreys lead with a third penalty, making it 14-11, but Stade then turned the game thanks to Lakafia collecting Plisson’s well-weighted cross-field kick to score.

And all of a sudden Stade were then in the box seat after Pyle broke clear, chased down by Biggar before offloading to Julien Arias for the Top 14 outfit’s third score.

Ospreys were then left chasing the game, despite having dominated large portions of the match, and even with Tyler Ardron’s late effort the visitors clung on for a surprising victory.

The scorers:

For Ospreys:
Tries: Matavesi, Ardron
Con: Biggar
Pens: Biggar 3

For Stade Français:
Tries: Zhvania, Lakafia, Arias
Cons: Plisson 2
Pens: Plisson 2
Red Card: Raisuqe

Young guns star for Leinster

 

A superb first half showing laid the platform as Leinster moved into the semi-finals of the European Champions Cup following an excellent 32-17 triumph over Wasps in the last eight.

Leo Cullen’s men dominated the opening period and appeared to have the game won by half-time after Isa Nacewa, Jack Conan and Robbie Henshaw all crossed the whitewash.

Jimmy Gopperth’s penalty was the English outfit’s only score before the break and they also struggled at the start of the second half.

Johnny Sexton kicked another three-pointer to extend their buffer and at that point the match was effectively over. Christian Wade and Gopperth went over to give Wasps hope but Fergus McFadden’s touchdown completed the victory.

Knockout rugby is meant to be a tight contest but the opening half-hour, between two attack-orientated teams, proved to be a free-flowing affair.

It was mainly the hosts that showed their hand, though, and their big runners were causing problems for the small Wasps backline.

Conan and Sean O’Brien were magnificent and the Irish province deserved the 8-0 advantage given to them by Sexton’s penalty and Nacewa’s try. Joey Carbery was another to enjoy the wide open spaces and the full-back’s superb cut-out pass set up the winger’s score.

The visitors were struggling to find their fluency and when they did – after a Kurtley Beale break sent Willie le Roux clear – the South African international inexplicably dropped the ball across the whitewash.

That was a costly error, despite Gopperth reducing the arrears from the tee soon after, as Leinster scored their second try. Once again Carbery was the instigator, finding space on the right hand side for McFadden to break clear before good support play by Conan saw the number eight scamper over.

Henshaw then touched down following a stolen lineout and a 22-3 buffer at the interval was what Cullen’s side deserved for their dominance.

The Irish province maintained their momentum in the early stages of the second period and a Sexton penalty made the task even harder for the Premiership outfit.

To their credit, Wasps improved and a piece of individual brilliance by Wade got them back into the contest before another solo effort, this time from Gopperth, made it an eight-point game with 20 minutes remaining.

Questions were now being asked of the three-time European champions but they answered them magnificently and McFadden’s late try sealed their semi-final place.

The scorers:

For Leinster:
Tries: Nacewa, Conan, Henshaw, McFadden
Cons: Sexton 3
Pens: Sexton 2

For Wasps:
Tries: Wade, Gopperth
Cons: Gopperth 2
Pens: Gopperth

A conversation this week with respected French television pundit Thomas Lombard ended on a note about money, and to be more specific, how now having millions of Euros is no longer enough to succeed in the Top 14.

Not when you are up against clubs backed by billions of Euros.

Toulon’s spending spree on top internationals at the start of the decade propelled them to a trio of European titles and one domestic trophy in three years. Yet even having made the Top 14 final last season, losing out to Racing 92, their outlook has changed.

Mourad Boudjellal’s fortune of €40 million is no longer enough to compete with Racing, owned by Jacky Lorenzetti whose total worth is about €1 billion, and Montpellier, who are owned by Mohad Altrad, worth €2 billion. Europe’s most successful big spenders are now being comprehensively outspent.

The model that has given Toulon so much success has died, something which both Boudjellal and Diego Dominguez, the coach sacked earlier in the season, have acknowledged in a stuttering season.

Without question the retirements of Carl Hayman and Ali Williams weakened a commanding pack, but too much time has passed to keep falling back on that excuse.

Toulon and Boudjellal’s mindset with the appointment of Fabien Galthié is to restart and rebuild.

Munster seal semi-final spot

Munster booked their place in the Champions Cup semi-finals after they beat Toulouse 41-16 in a deserved victory at Thomond Park.

The Irish province began the encounter on the front foot and went 13-3 ahead through John Ryan’s converted try and a pair Tyler Bleyendaal penalties.

Jean-Marc Doussain, who had earlier kicked a three-pointer, added two more as the French side kept themselves in contention at the interval.

CJ Stander’s score and successive Bleyendaal efforts off the tee maintained the hosts’ control on the encounter, but Toulouse refused to go away and Paul Perez’s touchdown reduced the deficit.

Munster, however, had done enough and, after their fly-half kicked a fifth penalty, Darren Sweetnam and Andrew Conway finished off an excellent day for Irish rugby.

Toulouse, once the giants of French rugby, are struggling in the lower reaches of the Top 14 and are now out of Europe. They reside in 10th position in the table and, despite making it to the quarter-final stage, were not at all convincing in the Champions Cup.

That lack of form was duly exposed by an high-tempo home side early on, who took advantage of Francois Cros’ rash attempt at a charge down to build a 10-0 lead.

The number eight was yellow carded after just one minute for elbowing replacement scrum-half Duncan Williams, an act of recklessness which allowed Munster to kick deep into the opposition’s 22.

Williams, starting in place of the injured Conor Murray, dusted himself off and set about inching the hosts towards the line. The forwards battered away before the dam eventually burst when Ryan crossed the whitewash next to the left upright.

Bleyendaal kicked the conversion and then added a penalty, but the visitors gradually grew into the contest and reduced the arrears via Doussain’s effort off the tee.

Munster’s fly-half restored the 10-point buffer before the French outfit’s gargantuan forwards exerted their influence and forced Rassie Erasmus’ men to infringe.

Successive penalties by Toulouse’s stand-off in the final eight minutes of the half duly enabled them to go into the break with a genuine chance of upsetting the odds.

However, another blitz by the Irishmen kept the visitors on the back foot. Bleyendaal was on target from the tee before Stander, a man that typifies the province’s spirit this season, touched down from close range.

Following another penalty from the home side’s fly-half, Munster’s pathway to the last four appeared set, but Perez’s controversial try – where Yoann Maestri’s forward-looking pass to the wing was deemed flat – set up a nervous final quarter.

Munster responded well to that setback, though, and Bleyendaal took them 11 points in front. With Toulouse now overplaying, Sweetnam and Conway took advantage of some loose play by the visitors to complete a fine win.

The scorers:

For Munster:
Tries: Ryan, Stander, Sweetnam, Conway
Cons: Bleyendaal 3
Pens: Bleyendaal 5

For Toulouse:
Try: Perez
Con: Doussain
Pens: Doussain 3
Yellow Card: Cros

Challenge Cup Wrap

Bath and Gloucester reached the Challenge Cup semi-finals following respective victories over Brive and Cardiff Blues on Saturday.

Bath 34-20 Brive
Recreation Ground

In a thrilling first 40, it was Bath who had the lead by half-time after tries from Taulupe Faletau, Tom Homer and Semesa Rokoduguni put Bath 20-6 up at the break.

Faletau’s second threatened to open the floodgates but two tries from Fabien Sanconnie made it a much tighter scoreline than it looked like it could be at half-time.

A breathtaking late Rokoduguni try ensured the hosts secured the 34-20 win and booked their spot in the final four of the Challenge Cup.

With a semi-final spot on the line, Rhys Priestland kicked Bath to an early lead inside the opening 10 minutes with a penalty, making the most of the hosts strong start at The Rec. Gaetan Germain levelled soon after though, with Brive getting themselves back into the game after a strong rebuild from the restart.

Germain gave the visitors their first and only lead of the afternoon with a second penalty, his kick cannoning off the right side of the posts to make it a 6-3 advantage. That didn’t last for long though.

Priestland had the Brive back line running in circles before offloading to Kahn Fotuali’i, whose quick hands fed Faletau and allowed the number eight to go sailing over the line for the opening try. Priestland’s extras took Bath to double figures and more was to come in the remaining 15 minutes of the half.

An attacking line-out on 22 for the hosts saw Bath combine superbly as they bore down on the line, with Rokoduguni instrumental in the build up. Possession was given to Jonathan Joseph and his flick helped to get Homer over the line, a nice birthday present for the now 27-year-old. The conversion was wide but try number three followed barely a minute after the restart.

Zach Mercer’s quick break again saw the ball move into the arms of Joseph, and he was again provider to set Rokoduguni up for his 50th try in Bath colours, making it a 20-6 lead at the break.

Try four came just three minutes into the second half and Faletau was at the double to increase the advantage. He found the space to break in between the middle of the defence who seemed to part open for him, and Priestland added the two.

But things weren’t rosy for the hosts after that, with the expected victory put very much in doubt due to a resurgent Brive side.

A pick and go from Sanconnie caught Bath napping, and he crossed the line to get the French side back into it. And a second Brive try really made the home crowd pay attention. They used the maul perfectly to cause panic in the Bath defence and Sarconnie got his second in 10 minutes as the conversion took Brive back to within seven points as the score stood at 27-20.

The game threatened to go either way from then on with neither side dominant at one end or the other, but the longer the half wore on, the more it looked like Bath would be able to see the victory out.

And when in doubt, there’s always that man Rokoduguni to call upon. He had the sleekness to evade seven challenges on the way through, handing defenders away and grounding to remove any doubts and finish the scoring, booking Bath’s semi-final spot in the process.

For Bath:
Tries: Faletau 2, Homer, Rokoduguni 2
Con: Priestland
Pens: Priestland 3

For Brive:
Tries: Sanconnie 2
Cons: Germain 2
Pens: Germain 2

Bath: 15 Anthony Watson, 14 Semesa Rokoduguni, 13 Jonathan Joseph, 12 Matt Banahan, 11 Tom Homer, 10 Rhys Priestland, 9 Kahn Fotuali’i, 8 Taulupe Faletau, 7 Tom Ellis, 6 Zach Mercer, 5 Luke Charteris, 4 Charlie Ewels, 3 Kane Palma Newport, 2 Nathan Charles, 1 Nathan Catt
Replacements: 16 Joe Graham, 17 Beno Obano, 18 Shaun Knight, 19 Levi Douglas, 20 Paul Grant, 21 Chris Cook, 22 Adam Hastings, 23 Ben Tapuai

Brive: 15 Gaetan Germain, 14 Taku Ngwenya, 13 Arnaud Mignardi, 12 Seremaia Burotu, 11 Benito Masilevu, 10 Matthieu Ugalde, 9 Teddy Iribaren, 8 Fabien Sanconnie 7 Poutasi Luafutu, 6 Said Hireche, 5 Arnaud Mela, 4 Johan Snyman, 3 Kevin Buys, 2 Francois Da Ros, 1 Vivien Devisme
Replacements: 16 Thomas Acquier, 17 Karlen Asieshvili, 18 Soso Bekoshvili, 19 Julien Le Devedec, 20 Dominiko Waqaniborutu, 21 Vasil Lobzhanidze, 22 Thomas Laranjeira, 23 Sevanaia Galala

Referee: Marius Mitrea (Italy)
Assistant Referees: Matteo Liperini (Italy), Simone Boaretto (Italy)
TMO: Stefano Pennè (Italy)


Gloucester 46-26 Cardiff Blues
Kingsholm

In the third of four semi-finals, the Kingsholm faithful were treated to an exhilarating first 40 as the sides went into the break with Cardiff Blues 23-20 up.

Alex Cuthbert opened the scoring for the visitors before Ross Moriarty levelled. Tom Marshall and another from Cuthbert sent the sides level, with a Gareth Anscombe drop goal putting Cardiff slightly in front.

Jonny May gave Gloucester a one point lead after the break and tries from Marshall and Mark Atkinson wrote the hosts into the final four. Henry Purdy went over at the end to finish it at 46-26.

The visitors started well on top and after running close three minutes in, they didn’t have much longer to wait for the opening try. Coming just five minutes into the evening, Tau Filise carried the ball through the centre before it eventually found Cuthbert, who batted Billy Burns away to go over for the opener. It didn’t last long though as Moriarty levelled from the next attack. Richard Hibbard spilled possession seconds before but a one handed pick up and go saw him slam down.

Cardiff Blues’ lead was restored from a penalty via Steven Shingler, but Burns kicked level again from in front of the posts to make it 10 apiece. Neither side were able to take a firm grip of the tie though, with three pointers following for each within a couple of minutes of each other. And by the time half-time came around, two tries ensured they were still inseparable.

Shingler was caught napping at the back and failed to hold off Billy Twelvetrees’ run through the middle, which provided the opportunity to feed it through to Marshall who ran over to put Gloucester in charge. But a yellow card changed things again, as Gloucester lost Josh Hohneck for failing to roll away five minutes before half-time. And the man advantage saw Anscombe use the dummy run of Shingler to feed Cuthbert who grabbed his second. A drop goal on the brink of half-time gave the visitors a slender lead as Anscombe kicked through from 40 metres.

A perfectly set second 40 didn’t start with the same tempo and free flowing points scoring as the first, but it was a perfect situation for Cardiff Blues as they stretched their lead to six points. Shingler kicked through after Blues had the better of the second half, and the loss of Hohneck gave Cardiff a perfect platform with half an hour to go.

Gloucester burst back into the game though and went ahead courtesy of May. He had plenty of space to move into after Twelvetrees’ intelligent kick found him on the other side, and a step inside bamboozled Matthew Morgan. Twelvetrees two made it 27-26 to the hosts and that lead increased.

Cardiff Blues’ well set lead was dismantled with a fourth Gloucester try with less than 20 to play. A gap at the back of the line-out gave Willi Heinz an age to decide what to do with it, and it was eventually presented to Marshall who span inside a challenge to extend the advantage, with Twelvetrees making it an eight point lead.

And the dream quickly turned into a nightmare as try five arrived for the rejuvenated hosts. With the ball taken up to the five yard line, replacement Atkinson threw a big dummy Rey Lee-Lo’s way to just wander over and kill off the contest with 10 to play. And right at the death, a sixth try put the icing on the cake for the Cherry and Whites. A floated ball from Henry Trinder fell into the arms of Purdy and he finished the evening off in style as Gloucester sealed a spot in the final four with a 46-26 win.

The scorers:

For Gloucester:
Tries: Moriarty, Marshall 2, May, Atkinson, Purdy
Cons: Burns, Twelvetrees 4
Pens: Burns, Twelvetrees
Yellow Card: Hohneck

For Cardiff Blues:
Tries: Cuthbert 2
Cons: Shingler 2
Pens: Shingler 3
Drop-Goal: Anscombe

Gloucester: 15 Tom Marshall, 14 Charlie Sharples, 13 Henry Trinder, 12 Billy Twelvetrees, 11 Jonny May, 10 Billy Burns, 9 Willi Heinz, 8 Ben Morgan 7 Jacob Rowan, 6 Ross Moriarty, 5 Jeremy Thrush, 4 Tom Savage, 3 Josh Hohneck, 2 Richard Hibbard, 1 Paddy McAllister
Replacements: 16 Motu Matu’u, 17 Yann Thomas, 18 John Afoa, 19 Mariano Galarza, 20 Lewis Ludlow, 21 Callum Braley, 22 Mark Atkinson, 23 Henry Purdy

Cardiff Blues: 15 Matthew Morgan , 14 Alex Cuthbert, 13 Rey Lee-Lo, 12 Steven Shingler, 11 Blaine Scully, 10 Gareth Anscombe, 9 Lloyd Williams, 8 Nick Williams 7 Josh Navidi, 6 Sam Warburton, 5 Jarrad Hoeata, 4 George Earle, 3 Tau Filise, 2 Kristian Dacey, 1 Gethin Jenkins,
Replacements: 16 Matthew Rees, 17 Corey Domachowski, 18 Kieron Assiratti, 19 Macauley Cook, 20 Sion Bennett, 21 Tomos Williams, 22 Willis Halaholo, 23 Aled Summerhill

Referee: Pascal Gauzère (France)
Assistant Referees: Alexandre Ruiz (France), Pierre Brousset (France)
TMO: Philippe Bonhoure (France)


A Jérémie Maurouard brace helped La Rochelle claim a 32-22 victory over Edinburgh at Murrayfield on Friday.

La Rochelle made it into the Challenge Cup semi-finals after their impressive away win over the Scottish side.

Edinburgh were poor in the first half conceding four tries in the first 35 minutes with Jérémie Maurouard scoring two, Arthur Retiere and Steeve Barry also crossing to set up their victory before the half-time whistle went. While Brock James penalties kept the score board ticking in his side’s favour.

Tries from the home side came through Scotland Internationals Ross Ford and Hamish Watson but it was not enough to overturn La Rochelle’s powerful early start.

Maurouard’s tries were both in the first 12 minutes with the French side revealing the power in their forward pack. James’s conversions made the score 14 points and quite imposing 13 minutes into the fixture.

Edinburgh got their first points of the game when inside centre Phil Burleigh dotted down making the score 14-5 before Jason Tovey kicked over the conversion.

The away side hit back quickly though as Scrum-half Retiere then crossed the line for his side’s third try of the game with James missing the extras.

Ford scored just before the end of the half after a strong maul to barge over and Watson scored seven minutes later after Viliame Mata off loaded to the flank which would be the last try of the match.

James and Weir traded penalties for the rest of the game but the damage was done in the first half for La Rochelle claiming the win.

The scorers:

For Edinburgh:
Tries:
Burleigh, Ford, Watson
Cons: Tovey, Hidalgo-Clyne
Pen: Weir

La Rochelle:
Tries:
Maurouard 2, Retiere, Barry
Cons: James 3
Pens: James 2

Edinburgh: 15 Blair Kinghorn, 14 Damien Hoyland, 13 Chris Dean, 12 Phil Burleigh, 11 Tom Brown, 10 Jason Tovey, 9 Sam Hidalgo-Clyne, 8 Cornell du Preez, 7 Hamish Watson, 6 Viliame Mata, 5 Grant Gilchrist, 4 Anton Bresler, 3 Simon Berghan, 2 Ross Ford (c), 1 Murray McCallum
Replacements: 16 Stuart McInally, 17 Kyle Whyte, 18 Kevin Bryce, 19 Fraser McKenzie, 20 Viliami Fihaki, 21 Nathan Fowles, 22 Duncan Weir, 23 Glenn Bryce

La Rochelle: 15 Kini Murimurivalu, 14 Steeve Barry, 13 Paul Jordaan, 12 Pierre Aguillon, 11 Eliott Roudil, 10 Zack Holmes, 9 Arthur Retière, 8 Kévin Gourdon, 7 Levani Botia, 6 Romain Sazy, 5 Mathieu Tanguy, 4 Jason Eaton (c), 3 Mohamed Boughanmi, 2 Jérémie Maurouard, 1 Mike Corbel
Replacements: 16 Hikairo Forbes, 17 Dany Priso, 18 Lekso Kaulashvili, 19 Jone Qovu, 20 Victor Vito, 21 Alexi Bales, 22 Brock James, 23 Benjamin Noble

Thanks to Planet Rugby

Lions beat Sharks in a thriller

1

We saw on Saturday another classic game of rugby which just show that South African is on the up. The Lions edge the Sharks at the end in a thriller to in the match 34-29.

We expected a fast and frantic game and we got that in the first half with the Sharks dominating most of that half with there hard big pack.

They dominating the contact and using their power to overpower the Lions at the breakdown. They scored a brillint try with Oostuizen going over with a strong run.

The Lions struggled to get going and find the space in the Sharks defense which was brilliant in that first half. Their almost seemed a bit surprise with the power of the Sharks game.

The Lions sgot two penalties over in the first half but it was all Sharks with 39 minutes gone. Bosch did not missed with the boot much and he also slotted a drop goal over.

Just before the break the Sharks got a yellow card for a second dangerous tackle and the Lions opted to go for the lineout.

They got the drive going and Marx got over as the hooter sounded for halftime giving the Sharks only a 16-13 lead at the break.

The second half lived up to even more than what we got in the first as the Lions came back at the Sharks making the game faster and scoring some great tries  in the process. No more important than the 78 min try Kriel scored to give them the lead.

The teams were logged at even stevens for most part of the match and trading penalties for the last ten minutes till the brrilliant break from Kwagga Smith that send Kriel down the line to score the winning try.

The Sharks did never gave up in the match and with the boot from the tlented Bosch kept in the match and the Lions honest throughout the match.

Both teams where brilliant in defense and they did not let up throughout the 80 minutes and both teams wanted to run the ball and score tries.

At the end the Lions hold on and got the win and keeping the winning record at home.

The scorers:

For Lions:
Tries: Marx, Skosan, Kriel
Cons: Jantjies 2
Pens: Jantjies 4
Drop-Goal: Coetzee

For Sharks:
Tries: C Oosthuizen, Van Wyk
Cons: Bosch 2
Pens: Bosch 4
Drop-Goal: Bosch
Yellow Card: E Oosthuizen

DHL Stormers smash Toyota Cheetahs

6

The Stormers, outscored, outplayed and outsmart the Cheetahs on Saturday scoring 8 tries to 1 in beating them 53-10.

Game started as expected with both teams trying ech other out on defense with some strong runs from the forwards linking with the backs.

The Stormers got the first penalty for points which Du Preez got over to give them the early lead of 3-0 after 5 min.

The Stormers got the first try over with some great hands and Leyds over in the corner to take the lead to 8-0.

The Stormers truned it on again with SP Marias who took a nice line and through the Cheetahs defense. This gave the Stormers a 15-3 lead.

While the Stormers attack looked good first up the Cheeths attack looked aimless and with no plan which they found easy to defend against.

Picking Lee on the wing seemed to have been a big mistake from Smith as both Leyds tries came from poor defense from Lee.

The Stormers went into the lead at the break with 22-3 dominating the game.

The Stormers did not led up a they score their forth try straight after halftime with SP Marais again the man that created the space. This gave them a 29-3 lead.

The Cheetahs got their frist try from a five meter lineout which they drive over to reduce the lead to 29-10.

Du Preez then add some magic with  little kick over the defense nd garther it himself which he scored the Stormers 5th try of the match.

The Stormers then turned to their forwards to work their wy over and score their 6th try of the match.

The Stormers then displayed their qaulity in the offload and quick hands to score yet another try which gave them a 48-10 lead.

The Stormers still had one more in store as they finished the match with eight tries to beat the Cheetahs 53-10.

The scorers:

For Stormers:
Tries: Leyds 2, Nothse 3, Du Plessis, Du Preez, Kolisi
Cons: Du Preez 4, Coleman
Pen: Du Preez

For Cheetahs:
Try: Schoeman
Con: Zeilinga
Pen: Zeilinga

Hurricanes gets bonus point win over Reds

0

The Reds and Hurricanes seemed to be a mismatch at first with the Hurricanes dominating play and kept ball in hand.

It took not long for them to score the first try and they took the early lead of 7-0 in the match. It was not that the Reds did not play with the ball but rather the Hurricanes that defended well and put pressure with defense.

They got there second try from an intercept and kick through which Barrett jumped on to take the lead to 14-0.

At this stage it looked that they will pull away fast but then the referee decided a late tackle was worth overruling their third try and given the Canes a yellow card.

This gave the Reds the opertunity to get back into the match which they did and the scored two quick tries to pull the score back to 14-12.

That was also the score the two teams took into the break.

The second half was a bizzare one with two tries being disallowed and the Reds keeping the Hurricanes till the last 7 minutes of the match.

Must say that Gardner had one of his worst matches as a referee missing plenty on the field and his assistance did not help with sub-standard officiating.

The Hurrianes did get two tries over the Reds in that last few minutes to get the bonus point win over the Reds.

The scorers:

For Reds:
Tries:
Kuridrani, Higginbotham
Con: McIntyre
Pen: McIntyre

For Hurricanes:
Tries:
Savea, Perenara, Aso, J Barrett, B Barrett
Cons: J Barrett 3
Pen: J Barrett
Yellow card: Laumape

Chiefs win Bulls

1

The Chiefs just had too much for the Bulls as they beat them 28-12 on Saturday in New Zealand.

The Bulls had a great start with Burger Odendal that broke twice to get the Bulls into the Chiefs twenty two and force a penalty to get a 3-0 lead first up.

The Bulls kept the pressure on Chiefs and ball in hand to force another penalty and Pollard happy to take the points and stretch the Bulls lead to 6-0 after 10 min.

The Bulls intend was to run the ball andthey looked good playing with the ball as well. The Chiefs got their first points on the board through a penalty from a scrum.

The Bulls showed much more intend to run the ball and speed it up which was putting much better pressure on the Chiefs and playing more in the right areas of the field.

Pollard slotted over another penalty and took his team lead to 9-3 after 29 min. The Bulls defensive effort in the first half have been the best it was all season.

The Bulls went into the break with the lead of 9-3.

The second half sarted well for the Bulls as the kept having good moments on attack and the Chiefs getting frastrated more as the game goes on.

The Chiefs then worked some magic with Stevenson that left Ulenga cold and the first try of he night.

That gave the Chiefs the lead of 10-9 after 51 min.The teams traded peanlties to take the score to 13-12 fter 62 min.

It was the Chiefs turn to put the pressure on the Bulls and playing in their half of the field forcing a penalty to extend the lead to 16-12.

The Chiefs then got their mojo back as they scored  brilliant try under the sticks to take the score to 23-12 after 72 min.

The Bulls were running out of gas and the Chiefs stepped it up a notch and scored another to take the lead to 28-12 after 78 min.

The Bulls did try till the end but at the end did not had enough to beat the Chiefs as the went down 28-12.

Scorers: 

Chiefs 24 (3)

Tries: Shaun Stevenson, Damian McKenzie, Atu Moli

Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2)

Penalties: Cruden (3)

Bulls 9 (12)

Penalties: Handre Pollard (4)

Blues get past Force

0

The Blues battled away to take the win over the Force on Saturday with a 24-15 win but did not get the bonus point.

The Blues played in the right parts of the field for the early moments of the match but the Force showed early on that they also wanted to play with ball in hand.

Ball security in the tackle was a problem for both teams in the early stages of the match.

The Force kept the pressure on the Blues in their own half and scored the first points through a penalty to take the lead 3-0 after 12 min.

The Blues did not manage any hands on the ball with the Force keeping the not just the ball but played in the Blues half. The Blues defense were able to hold the attack from the Force.

It was the Force that scored the first try with pressure that had to break the Blues defense and stretch their lead to 8-0 after 20 min.

The Bues did had their changes but there handling skills and forcing passes gave the Force turn-overs just when the Blues looks like scoring.

The Blues did hang on to the ball a bit better and played more in the Force twenty two which gave them opertunity to score but the Force defense stand up to it. The Force also got a yellow card which add to the pressure.

With the one man off the field the Force was under pressure as the Blues hammered away at them in heir half. A great lineout went into a great drive and their first try of the the match to reduce the Force lead to only 8-7.

It took the Blues not long to stretch the leggs and scored their secon try as they kept the ball in hand at the backs. They took the lead in the match just before half time 12-8 after 39 min.

The teams went into the break with the Blues leadig 12-8.

The two teams did not hold back at the start of the second half as they went from the one side of the field to the other playing well with ball in hand.

The middle part of the second half was not the greatest rugby these two teams have played with plenty of mistakes and handling errors.

It was the Blues that finally broke out and scored their third try and first points in the second half after 65 min.

The Blues scored again through a intercept and stretch their lead to 24-8 wit 7 min to go.

The Force came back at the end with a break out try with two minutes to go and reduce the Blues lead to 24-15 with 2 min to go.

Scorers:

Blues – Tries: Akira Ioane, Matt Duffie, Rieko Ioane, Michael Collins. Conversions: Piers Francis (2).
Force – Tries: Richie Arnold, Dane Haylett-Petty. Conversion: Ian Prior. Penalty: Jono Lance.