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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.

Cell C Sharks beat the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein

2

The Sharks had to change their game plan in the second half and work hard to get the win over the Cheetahs in Bloemfotein on Saturday. The Cheetahs pushed them all the way but at the end they got the win 38-30.

Sharks started the game full of running and played in the Cheetahs half but did not keep the Cheetahs from running the ball themselves out of their own twenty two early on.

The Sharks immediately got back in the Cheetah half after they took the lead 3-0 and scored a try through Mvovo to get the lead from the Cheetahs 7-3 after 7 min.

With a successful penalty from Bosch the Sharks extended the lead to 10-3 after 16 min.

With the Sharks on attack the Cheetahs received a yellow card for Oupa high tackle and gave the Sharks the oprtunity to score another try.

This took the scores to 15-3 after 27 min.

The Cheethas answered back the only way they know how and scored a brilliant try thorugh their captain Francois Venter.

Jaco Peyper then made one of those stupid decisions saying Oostuizen have hit a player high after the TMO told him it was at best a penalty. He send Oostuizen off with a yellow for that tackle.

The Cheetahs got the penalty over and reduced the lead from Sharks to 15-13 after 36 min. The Cheetahs was not finished and score a great try after the hooter to take the lead at halftime 20-15.

The second half was more Cheetahs than Sharks as they kept ball in hand and Sharks decided to kick more. The Cheetahs forced a penalty and strecth the lead to 23-15 after 45 min.

The Sharks scored their next try after a ball was ripped and they stopped playing with the Sharks picking the ball up and send Van Wyk over to take the lead back to 23-21 after 48 min.

The Sharks took the lead from a penalty by Bosch in the 56 minute 25-23.

The Sharks wwas next to score again with a great drive from a lineout after Blommetjies made a huge mistake close to his hands.

The Sharks extended their lead to 32-23 after 67 min.

The Cheetahs hit back with 1 minto go as they scored a try with Rhule going over after running the perfect line.

This made it a 8 point game Sharks leading 38-30.

This is also how the game ended with the Sharks that took the win

The scorers:

For Cheetahs:
Tries: Venter, Jonker, Rhule
Cons: Zeilinga 2
Pens: Zeilinga 3
Yellow Card: Mohoje

For Sharks:
Tries: Mvovo, Van Wyk 2, D du Preez
Cons: Bosch 3
Pens: Bosch 4
Yellow Card: Oosthuizen

Emirates Lions get bonus point win over Southern Kings

2

It was not the greatest performance from the Lions but they did beat the Kings 42-19 with a bonus point. Just too many handling errors from the teams and the Lions struggled to get going

The Kings did again start as last week against the Sharks as they were first over the line for the first try of the match taking the lead of 7-0 after 1 minute.

The Kings then tried to run from behind their own line and Tambwe intercept to scored the easiest try of his life to make the scores 7-all after 3 min.

The Lions got their second try after a brilliant drive which send Marc over and the lead off 14-7 after 12 min.

The Lions kept putting huge pressure on the Kings and kept playing in their half and a quick penalty take gave Jantjies his try and the Lions thrid of the match.

The Lions kept emence pressure on the Kings and they stayed in their half speeding up the game.

With the Lions on attack deep in Kings half they turned the ball over and scored on the other side to get the scoreboard kicking over.

The Lions kept scoring tries and got their forth try to take the score to 28-12 with only 25 minutes gone.

The Kings struggled to keep the Lions out and through some great play from the forwards the Lions got over for their fith try after 34 min taking the score to 35-12.

This was also the score at the break.

The Kings answer back in the beginning of the second half with a great try from Jaer in the corner which reduced the Lions lead to 35-19 after 44 min.

The game went a bit south with no team really keeping the ball in hands fro long periods and making allot of handling errors which kept the game with not much going on.

It took the Lions 36 min in the second half to socre their next try. That gave them a lead of 42-19 after 78 min.

That was the end score as well as the Lions took a bonu point win but pretty it was definitly not.

Scorers:

Kings – Tries: Andisa Ntsila, Yaw Penxe, Malcolm Jaer. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (2).
Lions – Tries: Madosh Tambwe (2), Malcolm Marx, Elton Jantjies, Jaco Kriel, Harold Vorster. Conversions: Jantjies (5), Andries Coetzee

Sunwolves gives DHL Stormers an almighty scare

6

The Stormers was given an almighty scare on Saturday when the Sunwolves outplayed them in the first 50 min of the match leading them for most of the match. They eventually got over the line through some great play from their forwards to win 44-31.

It was a confident start for the Stormers as they got into the Sunwolves half and got the first penalty over to get a 3-0 lead.

The Stormers then made a comedy of errors giving the Sunwolves a change to get over for the first try and in the process Elstadt was given a yellow card for a dangerous tackle.

That gave the Sunwolves a 7-3 lead and the Stormers with 14-men for ten minutes.

The Sunwolves got into Stormers half again and got another penalty over to make the socre 10-3.

The Stormers then put some brilliant play together with Leyds cutting through the Sunwolves and some great hands lead to EW Viljoen to score their first try.

The Sunwolves took advantage of another handling error from Stormers, keeping the ball in hand and score in the corner.

That gave them the lead again with 17-10.

The Stormers defense was aweful through out that first twenty minutes and the Sunwolves again found it too easy to get through and their thrid try.

This gave the Sunwolves a 24-10 lead with the Stormers to play catchup rugby

The Stormers started to keep the ball with the forwards and went through plenty phases to socre at the end and reduced the score to 24-17.

The Stormers also slotted over a penalty before the break to give the Sunwolves a 24-20 lead.

The Sunwolves started the same way as they played throughout the first and the Stormers defense kept being pretty poor as they scored another try to get the scoreboard to 31-20.

The Stormers took it again with their forwards to score another try working hard for it to make the score 31-27 after 54 min.

The Stormers got Senatla running down the line and with good supporting play and a strong run from DU Preez got over for another try.

That gave then the lead of 34-31 after 62 min

The Stormers on attack lost Kebble for a yellow card after a silly tackle and gave the Sunwolves the chance to ge back in the match.

The Stormers kept the pressure on the Sunwolves which kept them in the Sunwolves half of the field.

The Stormers kept the ball again with forwards and they scored another try to take the lead 39-31 after 78 minutes.

They got a final try after the hooter to take the scoreboard to 44-31 at the end but they had to work hard for that win.

Serious questions should be asked about their defensive structures and defesne coach as they were exployeded by the Sunwolves in that first half.

The scorers:

For Sunwolves:
Tries: Carpenter 2, Emi, Moli
Cons: Ogura 4
Pen: Ogura
Yellow Card: Shigeno

For Stormers:
Tries: Viljoen, Elstadt, Louw, Duvenage, Mbonambi, Basson
Cons: Du Preez 4
Pens: Du Preez 2
Yellow Cards: Elstadt, Kebble

Highlanders take win against Brumbies

0

The Highlanders stuck it out at the end to take a win over the Brumbies on Saturday when they beat them 18-13.

The Aussie leaders against the Highlanders who has struggled to get wins this year so far against New Zealand teams was the second match on Saturday

Brumbies took an early lead of 3-0 and both teams struggled to get more points in the first 20 minutes of the game.

The Brumbies put allot of pressure on the Highlanders in the set pieces which gave them great field position.

The Brumbies again with a brilliant set piece in the lineout caught the Highlanders napping and scored on the blindside for their first try.

That took their lead to 10-0 after 27 min.

The Highlanders did come back in the last 7 minutes of the half camping out in the Brumbies twenty-two and they got the reward when they scored their first try just before halftime to make the score 10-5 at the break.

The second half started with a few handling errors but the Brumbies got in the Highlanders half and got another penalty over to take the lead to 13-5 after 50 min.

The Highlanders hit back with a penalty of their own taking the lead to only 13-8 after 52 min.

The two team hold each other well for most part of the match and mistakes also did not help their attacking in the game.

The Highlanders reduced the score to 13-11 with another penalty with 15 minutes to go.

The Highlanders finally broke the Brumbies defense and scored their second try to take the lead 18-13 after 74 min.

This left us with an exciting finished to a disappointing match from these two teams in the last 5 minutes.

The Brumbies had two changes with attacking scrums at the Highlanders line but murdered both chances giving the Highlanders the chance to get away from their line.

The Brumbies got another chance after the hooter but could not get the drive going from the lineout and the Highlanders took the win with 18-13 at the end.

The scorers:

For Brumbies:
Try: Alcock
Con: Hawera
Pens: Hawera 2

For Highlanders:
Tries: Tomkinson, Seiuli
Con: Banks
Pens: Banks 2

Brilliant Blues second half to good for Vodacom Bulls

5

The Blues put a brilliant second half performance together on Saturday beating the Bulls 38-14 after the two teams went into the break at 7-all.

The Blues quickly put their marker down with a try in the third minute after they used quick hands down the line to get pass some ordinary Bulls defense.

This gave them a 7-0 lead and put the Bulls on the backfoot early on.

The Bulls tried to play with ball in hand but played behind the advantage line and with no real urgency in their back play which made it easy to defend.

With perfect conditions on the pitch both teams handling was a bit shocking and too many mistakes on attack which made the game very scrappy.

Pollard put the Bulls in the perfect position with a penalty kick and with a great drive from the Lineout the Bulls worked their way over to get their first try and level the scoreboard at 7-all.

The Blues got back in the Bulls half straight after the try and gave up a penalty kick for points to go for the line which they were unable to convert into a try.

The rest of the half both teams had their opportunities but every time they seemed to build on something, handling errors or penalties stop the good work being done.

They went into halftime with the score at 7-all and still all to play for in the second forty minutes.

The second half started again like a heavyweight boxing match with the two teams trying to find that punch.

The Blues got into the right area of the field again and with some poor defense from the Bulls they found the gap and scored the second try to take the lead to 14-7 after 46 min.

With the Bulls given away silly penalties they gave the Blues again the opportunities in their twenty-two and they worked hard but got their third try to take the lead to 19-7 after 57 minutes.

The Blues did receive a yellow card to give that slight believe that they can comeback in the match after a neck-roll on Kriel.

Just as you thought the Bulls had the upper hand they let a 14-man Blues side rip through some poor defense and score their forth try.

The Bulls seemed to fall apart in their defense at this stage as the Blues just kept ball in hand and scored their fifth try to stretch the lead to 31-7 after 70 min.

The problems continued for the Bulls with a brilliant try from the Blues as they almost run the full length of the field to score another try and made it the worst second half performance from the Bulls this season.

The Blues too the lead after that try to 38-7 after 75min.

The Bulls did manage to score a late try through Paige but that had little defence to a great Blues performance in that second half.

The Blues won the game at the end with 38-14.

The scorers:

For Blues:
Tries: Pulu, Duffie 2, West, Moulds, Nanai
Cons: Francis 2, West 2
Yellow Card: Tupou

For Bulls:
Tries: Gqoboko, Paige
Cons: Pollard, Schoeman

Junior Bok squad set for Bloemfontein camp

0

Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux on Friday named a squad of 47 players invited to attend the team’s second training camp in Bloemfontein from Sunday, 26 March to Sunday, 9 April, with an eye on announcing his squad of 28 for the World Rugby U20 Championship next month.

A total of 33 players will assemble in the City of Roses on Sunday for the two-week camp, which will feature warm-up matches against the Down Touch Griffons, Tafel Lager Griquas and Toyota Free State Cheetahs on 31 March, 5 April and 8 April respectively.

The nine players participating in the final stages of FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International will join the squad as their progress in the tournament permits, while the participation of the five players in contention for Vodacom Super Rugby selection will be determined by their Super Rugby responsibilities.

“This is a big group of players, but the tour to Bloemfontein will offer us an ideal opportunity to test our depth and to make sure we do not leave any stone unturned in trying to select the best possible squad for the World Rugby U20 Championship,” said Roux.

“These players, however, are not the only ones we will be looking at, as there are a few nursing injuries while others are training with the Blitzboks’ team.

“That said, we will reduce the size of the squad as our tour to Bloemfontein progresses, with the idea of trying to identify the best possible squad to travel to Georgia in May.”

Roux said while the first training camp in Stellenbosch mainly focused on improving the players’ individual skills, this camp will zone in on skills and match preparation.

“We certainly achieved what we set out to in the first camp, where the focus was mainly on individual skills,” said Roux. “This camp will differ vastly in that we will play three warm-up games. This will offer us the chance to see the players display these skills in a match situation and how they react under pressure, while also allowing us to test possible player combinations.

“The scoreboard certainly won’t be important to us. This camp is all about the processes and testing our structures and systems as we go along.”

The SA Under-20s will face France, Georgia and Argentina in the pool stages of the World Rugby Under-20 Championship in Tbilisi, Georgia, on 31 May, 4 June and 8 June respectively.

Players invited to Junior Bok Bloemfontein camp (alphabetical order):

Player Province Position
Irvin Ali Vodacom Blue Bulls Wing
Juarno Augustus DHL Western Province Looseforward
Jaco Bezuidenhout Vodacom Blue Bulls Looseforward
Kwenzo Blose* Toyota Free State Cheetahs Prop
Curwin Bosch** Cell C Sharks Flyhalf/Fullback
PJ Botha Xerox Golden Lions Hooker
David Brits DHL Western Province Centre
Jean-Luc Cilliers Xerox Golden Lions Flyhalf
Hacjivah Dayimani Xerox Golden Lions Looseforward
Francois de Villiers Cell C Sharks Scrumhalves
Ruben de Villiers* DHL Western Province Lock
Johan Grobbelaar Vodacom Blue Bulls Hooker
Wikus Groenewald* DHL Western Province Prop
Daniel Jooste DHL Western Province Hooker
Leo Kruger Xerox Golden Lions Prop
Rewan Kruger Toyota Free State Cheetahs Scrumhalf
Manie Libbok* Vodacom Blue Bulls Flyhalf/Fullback
Gianni Lombard* Xerox Golden Lions Fullback
Len Massyn* Xerox Golden Lions Looseforward
Simphiwe Matanzima Vodacom Blue Bulls Prop
Lee-Marvin Mazibuko* DHL Western Province Prop
Khuta Mchunu Cell C Sharks Prop
Salmaan Moerat DHL Western Province Lock
Ilunga Mukendi Cell C Sharks Winger
Mashao Mukhari Vodacom Blue Bulls Prop
Mfundo Ndhlovu Cell C Sharks Winger
Reinhard Nothnagel* Xerox Golden Lions Lock
Embrose Papier* Vodacom Blue Bulls Scrumhalf
Yaw Penxe EP Kings Winger
Manuel Rass* Xerox Golden Lions Centre
Carlű Sadie DHL Western Province Prop
Wandisile Simelane* Xerox Golden Lions Centre/Wing
Cornel Smit DHL Western Province Centre
Hendre Stassen Vodacom Blue Bulls Lock
Gerhard Steenkamp Vodacom Blue Bulls Prop
Madosha Tambwe** Xerox Golden Lions Winger
Muller Uys DHL Western Province Flanker
Wayne van der Bank Xerox Golden Lions Centre
Marnus van der Merwe Toyota Free State Cheetahs Hooker
Ruben van Heerden Vodacom Blue Bulls Lock
Benhard Janse van Rensburg** Cell C Sharks Flyhalf
Boan Venter* Toyota Free State Cheetahs Prop
Cobus Wiese** DHL Western Province Lock
Damian Willemse** DHL Western Province Flyhalf
Jondre Williams DHL Western Province Scrumhalf
Courtney Winnaar Cell C Sharks Flyhalf/Fullback
Nama Xaba* DHL Western Province Flanker

 

*Denotes FNB Varsity Cup players

**Denotes Vodacom Super Rugby Players

Waratahs spoil Rebels party with second half comeback

0

The Waratahs took a page out of the Crusaders book when they came from behind to win against the Rebels on Friday 32-25.

It was literal a game of two half with the Rebels leading 25-6 at the break scoring 3 tries to only the two penalties from the Waratahs and a second half that saw the Waratahs scoring all the points to win the game.

This leaves the Rebels without a win for the season and still in search for that first win to get going. The Waratahs needed this win to stay in touch in the Aussie conference and they did it in style that second half.

Hodge was on song both with ball in hand and off the kicking tee and opened the scoring with a penalty on four minutes which made it 3-0.

First, with the game breaking up, Hodge stepped before crossing from 35 metres out and with his extras the gap was stretched to seven.

The Rebels scored a great try when Amanaki Mafi’s offload found Jack Debreczeni, who then passed to English, the centre strolled over to make it 20-6 with the extras. It was clear which side was on top and which was low on confidence.

The half was to get worse for the Waratahs too when Hodge barged over from close range.

Twenty five to six down the Waratahs needed to respond and surely did what their coach asked them to do in that second half. It took the Tahs nine minutes after the resumption for flanker Hanigan to finish well down the left wing, bumping off the last man. With the successful conversion from wide out, the gap was down to 12 points.

Gibson must have been thrilled to see his players’ continued fight and when they snubbed a kickable three points in favour of the scrum in a bold call, the sight of Robinson diving over on the right wing meant it was now 25-18 on the hour. Foley was off-target with his conversion.

It was therefore a grandstand finish as the ‘Tahs needed a converted try to level matters in Melbourne, which would help keep the pressure on their other Australian rivals.

And they got just that and a whole lot more as first Wells went over before Horwitz sealed a remarkable win, stunning the Rebels and the Waratahs will hope kickstarting their campaign.

The scorers:

For Rebels:
Tries: Hodge 2, English
Cons: Hodge 2
Pens: Hodge 2
Yellow Card: Fainga’a

For Waratahs:
Tries: Hanigan, Robinson, Wells, Horwitz
Cons: Foley 3
Pens: Foley 2

Zimbabwe Rugby leaves their Sevens team stranded

1

Zimbabwe Rugby Sevens team arrived back in Harare last in the afternoon after they were left stranded in Victoria Fall by the Zimbabwe Rugby Union reports Takudzwa Chitsiga for The Herald

Speaking to the Herald on condition of anonymity for fear of victimization, a team representative explained the horror ordeal they had to endure after winning the tournament.

The team spend two days on the road and had to spend the night at Renkini Bus Terminus in Bulawayo to finally proceed to Harare at 6am on Tuesday.

” We are here not to point fingers at anyone, but what the ZRA did to us is inhuman to say the least. We spend a week in Victory Falls for the tournament and we won it as well, but until now I don’t think anyone knows how the team traveled from the tournament.”

” They do not respect us a s players and after the tournament they dumped us at Elephant Hills Hotel where we were later ejected. We are very disappointing…imagine spending time camped for such a tournament only for the union leaders to leave us stranded?”

” We risked our lives by traveling to Bulawayo at 9pm after our ejection from Elephant Hill Hotel and only arrived in Bulawayo at 3am, We ended up sleeping at the Renkini Bus Terminus and we thank this driver who took us here and we had to allow him to sleep in unfavorable conditions because of the administrators who do not value us as players”

The Cheetahs, who were part of the tournament that had foreign nations such as Botswana, Zambia and Namibia, do not even know how their allowances are going to be distributed.

” The Administartors had the audacity to fly back to the capital leaving us there, we were also shocked that after the Kwese deal, Siera Leone and Kenya were supposed to be part of the tournament, but they did not turned up and we don’t think that money will accounted for”, they said.

When contacted yesterday, ZRU president Mirirai Sibanda said he was not involved in the issues related to the teams travel arrangements.

” I don’t involved myself in those issues, I am just the president of the union…you may asktheir coach, team manager or director of rugby what happened” he said.

The Cheetahs team manager Donald Mangenje also distanced himself from the confusion while the team coach Gilbert Nyamutsamba was not availible to gives his side of the story.

 

 

Preview Vodacom Super Rugby Week 5

4

 

We are moving into week 5 of this years Vodacom Super Rugby competition with the come-back kids, the Crusaders kicking off the weekend matches against the Force on Friday morning.

There has been some movers after four weeks of competitions with the Chiefs looking to be the early contenders this year. It is still very early in the competitions and allot of water still needing to run into the ocean but with the Chiefs the other teams that are looking alright is the Lions, Crusaders, Hurricanes, Stormers Jaguares and if one has to pick one from Aus it will be the Brumbies.

Here is the Overall logs as it stands after week three…..

Here is this weekend matches coming up…..

FRIDAY

Crusaders v Force (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue: AMI Stadium Time: 08:35


Rebels v Waratahs (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue: AAMI Stadium Time: 10:45


SATURDAY (Live match coverage and scores)

Blues v Bulls

Venue:  North Harbour – 08:35


Brumbies v Highlanders (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue: Canberra – 10:45


Sunwolves v Stormers (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue: Singapore – 12:55


Kings v Lions (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue: Port Elizabeth – 15:05


Cheetahs v Sharks (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue – Bloemfontein – 17:15


Jaguares v Reds (Live match coverage and scores)

Venue: Beunos Aires – 23:40


Match Previews

FRIDAY, MARCH 24

Match 1 – Crusaders v Force

The Crusaders have been that team that you need to be able to play for the full 80 minutes or else as they have showed they will come back at you and win games.

They have been excellent in the way they have  pulled games out of the fire this year and the Force will have to put a 80 minutes game in on Friday if they want to stand a change to beat this championship team.

The Saders head coach Scott Robertson has made eight changes to his starting XV as they look to keep their winning record this year.

All Blacks lock Scott Barrett will start on the blindside flank position which is a bit strange and  Luke Romano starts in the second row while Jordan Taufua, who wore the number six jersey against the Blues last weekend, takes over from Whetu Douglas at number eight.

The Force coach has rung the changes on his starting line-up with Ben Daley coming back into the starting loosehead position, with Pek Cowan moving to the bench, Wallaby hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau earns his first start and Isireli Naisarani is set to make his run-on Super Rugby debut at blindside flanker.

This would be an interesting match-up as they Force has always been a team that could beat the Saders home and away. The Saders are on a high and they have been getting used to winning close matches but the Force have shown massive improvements every week and need to just get the discipline right on Saturday.

They have a bunch of players that looks like they are enjoying playing rugby again and that is always a good omen to have when playing this sport. If that will be enough only time will tell because the Saders good or not have never been an easy win at home.

Prediction: Saders should be good enough for yet another 15 point  win but I have been wrong so many times so maybe we must go for a 21-all draw this week

Teams:

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Digby Ioane, 13 Tim Bateman, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Mitchell Hunt, 9 Mitchell Drummond, 8 Jordan Taufua, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Scott Barrett, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Luke Romano, 3 Owen Franks, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 Wyatt Crockett
Replacements: 16 Ben Funnell, 17 Tim Perry, 18 Mike Alaalatoa, 19 Mitchell Dunshea, 20 Pete Samu, 21 Bryn Hall, 22 Marty McKenzie, 23 Manasa Mataele

Western Force: 15 Luke Morahan, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Curtis Rona, 12 Marcel Brache, 11 Chance Peni, 10 Jono Lance (c), 9 Ryan Louwrens, 8 Richard Hardwick, 7 Kane Koteka, 6 Isi Naisarani, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Tatafu Polota-Nau, 1 Ben Daley
Replacements: 16 Heath Tessmann, 17 Pek Cowan, 18 Tetera Faulkner, 19 Richie Arnold, 20 Matt Hodgson, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Ian Prior, 23 Robbie Coleman

Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Match 2 – Rebels v Waratahs

The Waratahs have had the worst three weeks after wining their first round match before losing to the Lions and Sharks in the Republic just to come back and loose against the Brumbies last week at home in Sydney.

They have been hit with a few injuries over the last couple of weeks as well and did not help their cause but they will welcome back Aussie flyhalf Bernard Foley after being sidelined since week one of the competition..

in other changes after earning his first Waratahs cap in round three, Jake Gordon’s good form will see him start at scrum-half, with Jed Holloway and Ned Hanigan also set to start after returning from injury in round four.

The Rebels head coach however has kept his same team that gave the Chiefs a good run for their money last week. This is the first time in 27 games since 2015 that this has happened and the coach rewarded the players for a good game last week.

Four changes have been made to the nine-player bench with the inclusion of Wallaby Lopeti Timani and Wales international Dominic Day, along with the return of centre Mitch Inman and prop Tom Moloney.

The Rebels will fancy their their changes against the Tahs after their poor start to the season and will want to cash in while they are down. One would think that Foley will make a huge difference to this Waratahs team and with Folua back at his best position we can see some tries being scored this year from the Waratahs.

Prediction: Waratahs must be goo dfor the win this week, going with Waratahs by 10 points

Teams:

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Jack Debreczeni, 14 Marika Koroibete, 13 Tom English, 12 Reece Hodge, 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Jackson Garden-Bachop, 9 Nic Stirzaker (c), 8 Amanaki Mafi, 7 Colby Fainga’a, 6 Jordy Reid, 5 Steve Cummins, 4 Culum Retallick, 3 Laurie Weeks, 2 James Hanson, 1 Fereti Sa’aga
Replacements(one to be omitted): 16 Pat Leafa, 17 Tom Moloney, 18 Tyrel Lomax, 19 Dominic Day, 20 Lopeti Timani, 21 Jake Schatz, 22 Ben Meehan, 23 Mitch Inman, 24 Ben Volavola

Waratahs: 15 Israel Folau, 14 Reece Robinson, 13 Rob Horne, 12 David Horwitz, 11 Andrew Kellaway, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Jake Gordon, 8 Jed Holloway, 7 Michael Hooper, 6 Ned Hanigan, 5 Will Skelton, 4 Dean Mumm, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Tolu Latu, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Damien Fitzpatrick, 17 Paddy Ryan, 18 David Lolohea, 19 David McDuling, 20 Michael Wells, 21 Nick Phipps, 22 Cam Clark, 23 Taqele Naiyaravoro

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

 

Match 3 – Blues v Vodacom Bulls

The Vodacom Bulls will play their first game on tour this weekend against the Blues as they also take on the first of their New Zealand matches this season.

With a brilliant start last week for the returning Bulls and Springbok centre Jan Serfortein, after a long injury lay-off, the Bulls will look at his experience to guide the backline against a Blues side that are full of attacking players.

Serfontein will also get his 50th cap for the Bulls in Albany and he is no stranger to the Blues team as he scored two tries for the Bulls in their last appearance against New Zealanders.

Kriel’s inclusion is the only change to the starting back-line from the Sunwolves clash but, amongst the forwards, coach Nollis Marais included regular captain Adriaan Strauss, who will not only take the number two jersey from Edgar Marutllule, but also the captaincy from Pollard.

Strauss captaincy has been missed and he will add allot to the team. Marais also swapped around Lizo Gqoboko and Pierre Schoeman as per rotation policy and included Nick de Jager on flank in place of suspended Renaldo Bothma.

All Black Charlie Faumuina is named in the front row for the Blues in his expected return from injury, although it will be dependent on how he recovers from Thursday’s final training session. He has been bracketed with North Harbour’s Sione Mafileo.

The rest of the starting team is unchanged from last week’s match against the Crusaders.

Head coach Tana Umaga said while the team let a winning lead slip late in the game, there were plenty of positives last week.

This will be a very important match-up for both teams with the Bulls wanting to start their tour well with a win and the Blues wanting to get a win under the belt. This can be a make or break game for the Bulls and it is a much needed win after the poor performance against the Sunwolves last week at home.

One just find it hard to believe that one week will have fixed all the problems the Bulls have in their game at the moment.

Prediction: Although I would love for the Bulls to win my head gives this one to Blues with 10 points

Teams:

Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Jan Serfontein, 11 Jamba Ulengo, 10 Handre Pollard, 9 Piet van Zyl, 8 Hanro Liebenberg, 7 Nick de Jager, 6 Ruan Steenkamp, 5 Lood de Jager, 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss (c), 1 Lizo Gqoboko
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Pierre Schoeman, 18 RG Snyman, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Rudy Paige, 21 Tian Schoeman, 22 Burger Odendaal, 23 John-Roy Jenkinson

Blues: 15 Michael Collins, 14 Matt Duffie, 13 Rieko Ioane, 12 George Moala, 11 Melani Nanai, 10 Piers Francis, 9 Augustine Pulu, 8 Jerome Kaino, 7 Blake Gibson, 6 Jimmy Tupou, 5 Patrick Tuipulotu, 4 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 3 Charlie Faumuina/Sione Mafileo, 2 James Parsons (c), 1 Pauliasi Manu
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Ofa Tu’ungafasi/Sam Prattley, 18 Sione Mafileo or Ofa Tu’ungafasi, 19 Akira Ioane, 20 Murphy Taramai, 21 Sam Nock, 22 Ihaia West, 23 TJ Faiane

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Match 4 – Brumbis v Highlanders

It should be a very exciting match this weekend when the Brumbies host the Highlanders in Canberra on Saturday.

Both teams have had mixed results this far the season with the Brumbies maybe just that little bit in-front of the Highlanders at this stage of the competition. The Brumbies scored a very important win last weekend against the Waratahs away from home and that should set this match up as a very entertaining match-up.

Highlanders coach Tony Brown had made three changes to his starting XV this weekend and welcomes back Patrick Osborne from injury.

He has also given young Otago back Sio Tomkinson his first start in a Highlanders jersey and brings the hard working Alex Ainley returns to the engine room.

On the bench Greg Pleasants-Tate joins Siosuia Halanukonuka returning from injury.

Jordan Smiler will make his 50th appearance for the Brumbies on Saturday and they have got prop Nic Mayhew, flanker Chris Alcock and winger James Dargaville in, whilst hooker Robbie Abel, in for the injured Josh Mann-Rea, and second row Blake Enever make their first starts of the season.

Enever comes in for Rory Arnold who drops to the bench alongside Ben Alexander and Lolo Fakaosilea from the side that defeated the Waratahs 28-12 at Allianz Stadium in Sydney.

Larkham opts for a 6-2 split amongst the replacements with Tom Staniforth coming in for Ben Hyne and Andrew Smith dropping out of the matchday 23.

The Brumbies are leading the Aussie conference and would want to continue on the form and get a bit of daylight between them and the rest.

The Highlanders have to start getting the wins under the belt and cannot leave it too late as they have not had a good start tp the season so far. With the New Zealand conference as difficult as it is getting behind too far now can leave you out for a place in the play-offs later

Prediction: Got that feeling the Highlanders will shape this weekend and going against what my head say giving it to Highlanders by 8 points

Teams: 

Brumbies: 15 Aidan Toua, 14 Henry Speight, 13 Tevita Kuridrani, 12 Kyle Godwin, 11 James Dargaville, 10 Wharenui Hawera, 9 Joe Powell, 8 Jordan Smiler, 7 Chris Alcock, 6 Scott Fardy, 5 Sam Carter, 4 Blake Enever, 3 Allan Alaalatoa, 2 Robbie Abel, 1 Nic Mayhew
Replacements: 16 Saia Faingaa, 17 Scott Sio, 18 Ben Alexander, 19 Rory Arnold, 20 Tom Staniforth, 21 Lolo Fakaosilea, 22 De Wet Roos, 23 Jordan Jackson-Hope

Highlanders: 15 Ben Smith (c), 14 Patelesio Tomkinson, 13 Malakai Fekitoa, 12 Richard Buckman, 11 Patrick Osborne, 10 Fletcher Smith, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Luke Whitelock, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Elliot Dixon, 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Alex Ainley, 3 Siate Tokolahi, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Daniel Lienert-Brown
Replacements: 16 Greg Pleasants-Tate, 17 Aki Seiuli, 18 Siosuia Halanukonuka, 19 Joe Wheeler, 20 Gareth Evans, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Marty Banks, 23 Matt Faddes

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Game 5 – Sunwolves v DHL Stormers

The DHL Stormers will get back on the field against the Sunwolves in Singapore this weekend after a bye last week and they will be very wary not to make the same mistakes as last year when they faced the Japanese team.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck had made several changes to his starting XV with some of his big names not making the trip this weekend as well. He decided to leave Springbok locks, Etzebeth and Du Toit to rest an extra week as they take on the Sunwolves for their first game outside South Africa.

Junior Springbok Cobus Wiese will make his Super Rugby debut if he comes off the replacements bench.

The 19-year-old utility forward will become the fourth player to make his Super Rugby debut for the Cape Town-based franchise this season if he takes the field after Jaco Coetzee, Justin Phillips and Damian Willemse all got their opportunity in the Round Three victory against the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

Fleck has opted to start Dillyn Leyds at full-back in a new back three which will see World Sevens Player of the Year Seabelo Senatla make his first start of the season on the left wing. Senatla is one of those players that supporters have been waiting for and will get his change this weekend.

The Sunwolves on returning from South Africa this week have only made three changes in he pack to face the Stormers.

He has made a position switches in the backs which sees Jamie-Jerry Taulagi move to full-back, with Shota Emi going to the wing, and Timothy Lafaele shifitng from inside centre to outside centre to make way for the return of Derek Carpenter.

Kenki Fukuoka and Keisuke Uchida are the only two backs who start in the exact same position as last weekend against the Bulls.

Jumpei Ogura meanwhile gets a start at fly-half in place of Hayden Cripps, who drops to the replacements.

Upfront, Shokei Kin is named at openside flanker ahead of Shumei Matsuhashi, while Llaki Moli comes into the second row to partner Sam Wykes instead of Uwe Helu.

The final chance sees Heiichiro Ito promoted from the bench to start at tighthead prop. Takuma Asahara takes his spot amongst the replacements.

The Sunwolves still without a win this year will want to improve on the good form they showed against the Cheetahs and the Bulls on their tour to the Republic. They have surprised many on their game and the way that they have improved from that first two bad games in round one and two.

For the Stormers is will be doing what they have been doing for three matches and that is winning. They will have to hit the ground running and take this win as they still have to take on the New Zealanders on tour soon.

With some great youngsters in the team we would hope that they Stormers will keep their attacking mindset and make this another win on Saturday. Bonus point play a huge role in this competition and they would want to try and get that as they will be worth gold away from home.

Prediction: The Stormers should be good enough although the Sunwolves have showed last year they can compete against the South African teams. Still think this must be a bonus point win for the Stormers

Teams:

Sunwolves: 15 Jamie-Jerry Taulagi, 14 Shota Emi, 13 Timothy Lafaele, 12 Derek Carpenter, 11 Kenki Fukuoka, 10 Jumpei Ogura, 9 Keisuke Uchida, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Shokei Kin, 6 Ed Quirk (c), 5 Sam Wykes, 4 Liaki Moli, 3 Heiichiro Ito, 2 Yusuke Niwai, 1 Koki Yamamoto
Replacements: 16 Atsushi Sakate, 17 Masataka Mikami, 18 Takuma Asahara, 19 Uwe Helu, 20 Shumei Matsuhashi, 21 Kaito Shigeno, 22 Hayden Cripps, 23 Ryohei Yamanaka

Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Bjorn Basson, 13 EW Viljoen, 12 Dan Kriel, 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Robert du Preez, 9 Dewaldt Duvenage, 8 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 7 Siya Kolisi (c), 6 Rynhardt Elstadt, 5 JD Shickerling, 4 Chris van Zyl, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg
Replacements: 16 Ramone Samuels, 17 Caylib Oosthuizen, 18 Oli Kebble, 19 Jan de Klerk, 20 Cobus Wiese, 21 Godlen Masimla, 22 Kurt Coleman, 23 Dan du Plessis

 

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Match 6 – Southern Kings v Emirates Lions

The Southern Kings where brave last week but the way the Lions are playing again shows that this can be a bloodbath for the Kings this weekend when they host last years finalist in PE.

The Lions have been going alright this far in the season with only the one lost when they took on the quality Jaguares team without their front-line players. They have the easier road this year, if you can call it that way, but one cannot just think you have to pitch up and the wins will just be coming.

The Kings are a total different side from last year and are much more competitive than before and in PE they will try and upset the Lions rhythm early on to unsettle them. They did it perfectly against the Sharks last week and almost came away with the win so the Lions will have to take the Kings seriously this weekend.

They have great players in their team and will be captain by Cronje who has been very good for the Kings at ten, controlling their play and giving them that extra spark they missed somewhat last year.

The Lions will be led by Whiteley in his 50th time as captain in Super Rugby as he returns to his former ground having represented the kings five times in 2009.  He is the most experienced Lions captain during the last ten years with Baywatch Grobbelaar on 28 and Josh Strauss 17.

The Lions have made one change to their starting line-up with Lionel Mapoe suffering a spiral/hairline fracture and is seeing a hand specialist before the weekend so Harold Vorster will start at outside centre.

With Ferreira injured for this match Lionel Cronje will captain the side this weekend as he partner with Schreuder.

The Kings have made three changes to their side as Schalk van der Merwe comes in at loosehead prop, Malcolm Jaer will play at full-back while Kurt Haupt gets a start at hooker.

This should not be a difficult one for the Lions to win in PE but as they Sharks shown last week if you underestimate the Kings, you may find yourself at the wrong end of the scoreboard.

Prediction: Lions have put a strong side up for this game and should find it easy to get their bonus point win, Lions by 25 points

Teams:

Kings: 15 Malcolm Jaer, 14 Makazole Mapimpi, 13 Berton Klaasen, 12 Waylon Murray, 11 Alshaun Bock, 10 Lionel Cronje (c), 9 Louis Schreuder, 8 Ruaan Lerm, 7 Andisa Ntsila, 6 Chris Cloete, 5 Wilhelm van der Sluys, 4 Irne Herbst, 3 Ross Geldenhuys, 2 Kurt Haupt, 1 Schalk van der Merwe
Replacements: 16 Michael Willemse, 17 Chris Heiberg, 18 Justin Forwood, 19 Tyler Paul, 20 Stefan Willemse, 21 Johan Steyn, 22 Pieter-Steyn de Wet, 23 Luzuko Vulindlu

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Madosh Tambwe, 13 Harold Vorster, 12 Rohan Janse van Rensburg, 11 Courtnall Skosan, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Faf de Klerk, 8 Warren Whiteley (c), 7 Ruan Ackermann, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert, 4 Andries Ferreira, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Malcolm Marx, 1 Jacques van Rooyen
Replacments: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Sti Sitole, 18 Hencus van Wyk, 19 Lourens Erasmus, 20 Kwagga Smith, 21 Dillon Smit, 22 Jacques Nel, 23 Sylvian Mahuza

 

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Match 7 – Toyota Cheetahs v Cell C Sharks

It should have been a huge wake-up call for the Sharks last week when the Kings pushed them for 80 minutes to get a win out off a game which they would rather wanted to forget.

In all aspects the Sharks played their worst game for a few years last week as they struggled past the Kings and hopefully for their fans and coach it was the one bad one for the season. The team have six changes to the side that narrowly won against the Kings with French legend Clement Poitrenaud coming back into the starting line-up at full-back with Curwin Bosch taking on the ten role, Benhard Janse van Rensburg falling out of the squad completely.

The other change in the backline sees Lwazi Mvovo coming back into the side in place of Odwa Ndungane, with the Springbok taking over the vice captaincy role. In the forward pack, Etienne Oosthuizen comes back into the second-row pairing with Ruan Botha.

While in the front-row the Sharks will have the Springbok trio of props Coenie Oosthuizen and Tendai Mtawarira and Chiliboy Ralepelle at hooker.

One of my friends reminded me that this weekend we will see Lukhanyo Am going against Cheetahs captain Francois Venter which should be an interesting match-up in the midfield on Saturday. Venter returns to captain the Cheetahs after a long injury stint and will want to be hitting the ground running for this one.

The Cheetahs has had a mixed season so far which includes the second lost for them this season last week against the Jaguares. The Cheetahs have made a few changes to the team with Tshego Nche who will slot in at prop once again with Johan Coetzee taking up the three jersey and Torsten van Jaarsveld at hooker.

Justin Basson will join up with Francois Uys in the second–row pairing. Paul Schoeman joins the back row once again in the six jersey with Henco Venter play at number eight.

In the backline Raymond Rhule and Sergeal Petersen come back into the winger roles and Venter will partner Nico Lee in the centres. The half-back pairing of Shaun Venter and Fred Zeilinga moves from the bench to the starting line-up.

Tom Botha, Tian Meyer, Niel Marais and Ryno Benjamin/Clinton Swart move the bench.

This could be an explosive match and at Bloemfontein when these two sides meet it usually is. The Cheetahs will test the Sharks big pack as they will surely spread the ball fats and wide quickly and the Sharks will want to be perfect in the set pieces which is their strong point which they give their back-line a bit more time and space to work from.

Prediction: The Sharks will have to be perfect to win this game and although they can do it if they click, I believe the Cheetahs will take this one by 8 points

Teams:

Cheetahs: 15 Clayton Blommetjies 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Francois Venter (c), 12 Nico Lee, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Fred Zeilinga, 9 Shaun Venter, 8 Henco Venter, 7 Teboho Mohoje, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Justin Basson, 3 Johan Coetzee, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Tshego Nche
Replacements: 16 Elandré Huggett, 17 Charles Marais, 18 Tom Botha, 19 Carl Wegner, 20 Niell Jordaan, 21 Tian Meyer, 22 Niel Marais, 23 Ryno Benjamin/Clinton Swart

Sharks: 15 Clement Poitrenaud, 14 Kobus van Wyk, 13 Lukhanyo Am, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Lwazi Mvovo, 10 Curwin Bosch, 9 Cobus Reinach, 8 Tera Mtembu (c), 7 Jean-Luc du Preez, 6 Jacques Vermeulen, 5 Ruan Botha, 4 Etienne Oosthuizen, 3 Coenie Oosthuizen, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Tendai Mtawarira
Replacements: 16 Stephan Coetzee, 17 Thomas du Toit, 18 Lourens Adriaanse, 19 Stephan Lewies, 20 Daniel du Preez, 21 Michael Claassens, 22 Jeremy Ward, 23 Garth April

 

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Match 8 – Jaguares v Reds

The Jaguares head into Saturday’s contest at home to the Reds in Buenos Aires looking for a fourth win of the year.

That return would mark an excellent start to the year for the Argentine franchise who appear to finding their feet, having pushed the Stormers close before returning home and comfortably dispatching the Lions and the Cheetahs.

Partly those last two wins were down to the visitors bringing weakened sides to the Argentine capital, a mistake the Reds appear to have also made ahead of Saturday’s game.

Quade Cooper serves the first match of his suspension while Rob Simmons and George Smith are rested, which all means one things; advantage Jaguares.

Pre-tournament hype around the Reds always felt a little misjudged and only the Sunwolves and Rebels have a worse tackle percentage than the Reds on 79.5. Missing one in every five tackles is a recipe for disaster.

Once again the Reds’ hopes in attack rest all or nothing on Samu Kerevi being at his stellar best to get them over the advantage line but the Wallaby cannot do it all on his own.

Exceptional work from the pack is also necessary to keep the Jaguares’ rolling maul at bay, which falls on Stephen Moore to set the tone as he leads the side for the first time since regular captain James Slipper was ruled out for the season with a ruptured Achilles.

Prediction: Given the Reds’ diminshed personnel and new-found confidence for the Jaguares, this one is only going one way. Jaguares to win by 12.

The teams:

Jaguares: 15 Joaquín Tuculet, 14 Ramiro Moyano, 13 Matías Orlando, 12 Jerónimo de la Fuente, 11 Bautista Ezcurra, 10 Juan Martín Hernández, 9 Gonzalo Bertranou, 8 Leonardo Senatore, 7 Tomás Lezana, 6 Pablo Matera, 5 Matías Alemanno, 4 Marcos Kremer, 3 Felipe Arregui, 2 Agustín Creevy (c), 1 Lucas Noguera Paz
Replacements: 16 Roberto Tejerizo, 17 Santiago García Botta, 18 Ramiro Herrera, 19 Guido Petti, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Nicolás Sánchez, 23 Emiliano Boffelli

Reds: 15 Karmichael Hunt, 14 Izaia Perese, 13 Samu Kerevi, 12 Duncan Paia’aua, 11 Eto Nabuli, 10 Jake McIntyre, 9 James Tuttle, 8 Scott Higginbotham, 7 Adam Korczyk, 6 Leroy Houston, 5 Kane Douglas, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Sam Talakai, 2 Stephen Moore (c), 1 Markus Vanzati
Replacements: 16 Andrew Ready, 17 Kirwan Sanday, 18 Taniela Tupou, 19 Lukhan Tui, 20 Hendrik Tui, 21 Nick Frisby, 22 Lachie Maranta, 23 Chris Kuridrani

****For Live coverage of the match and more info go to the Match Page

Opinion: Oom Rugby – Escaping the Hurricanes

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We are looking this week at the defence of the Hurricanes as Oom Rugby explain why should be worried about the way the Hurricanes run their aggressive defence, Oom Rugby writes for All out Rugby 

 

Hi guys, today I wanted to look at something that is frightening many teams in Super Rugby, and that is the Hurricanes’ incredibly aggressive defence.

They move up so quickly and so aggressively all the time that I think we can safely say we have never seen a rugby team defend like this before. Normally teams will use a mix of defence styles depending on the situation, but the Hurricanes fly up like kamikazes on almost every ball! Let us take a look below.

The ball came from a ruck and in red we see the offside line where the Canes defenders had to start from. The Highlanders manage two passes but already the Canes is up in their lines. Incredible aggression. The Hurricanes was face with a 5 on 4 and even though teams will maybe drift here, they completely shoot up. And look how narrow the Canes defenders is – they totally focused on killing this play early.

But it made me think what is the opportunities here for opposition coaches? We know that little kicks and grubbers work well against the rush, but the Highlanders also show some other weaknesses to exploit. In rugby everything come at a cost somewhere else, and the Canes is like a boxer taking big wild swings…

Here is a moment where the Canes again shoot up in a blur but we can see that if you have quick hands and you can get around the edge of that rush then they are in trouble. Maybe by standing a bit deeper we can manage this. And we can also look at giving the Canes shooters a target for their rush so that we can control where they go and create our channel on the outside. We can give them a “honey pot” to go to.

If you rush as often and as aggressive as the Hurricanes do then you will sacrifice line integrity at some point, and in the Hurricanes case it was sometimes the aggressive shooters in midfield who lose connection with the rest of the inside or catch-up defence. And if we have a fast 10 or we maybe bring in our blindside wing as a option then we can attack that hole as the flyhalf Fletcher Smith do above.

Above we see perfect example of why in rugby you must also have players who can dominate in contact. You can not just have sexy athletes. We always hear about “go forward” ball but what is it?

What we see above is a strong carry into contact that push the offside line back. So what happen now is that the Hurricanes defenders is taking some steps backwards before they can run forward. It is like asking Usain Bolt to take two quick steps back before he sprint. If we can establish a big carry and recycle quickly then we rob the defence of momentum and take out the “sting” of their ability to be aggressive.

Finally we see Highlanders avoiding wider plays completely and just punching up short in the same direction, phase after phase.

This is called “same-way” plays and our goal is to keep carrying in one direction so that the defence continually scramble to get men to the other side of the next ruck. Hurricanes wants to rush up, but now we pull them inside into a tight trench war. Highlanders played short 6 times in the same direction and scored. They should have played “same-way” much more often in this match.

So that is just some things I notice. Hurricanes wants to catch you deep behind the advantage line and kill your play early or spoil your ball.

All Out Rugby Stats tell us the Highlanders had 45 handling errors in the match! If you a team who like to give the ball air and you like to offload and play moves then the Canes can make you pay. It is a hell of a scary defence to face and things happen quickly on the rugby field.

But if you know your enemy and you have some plans in place then you will be surprise how you can turn the tables. Let us see if anyone can do it this year!

Cheers guys.

England test with All Blacks off the table

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England’s dreams of playing the All Blacks this year have been dashed, with the RFU now set to rubber-stamp the world champions’ game against the Barbarians on November 4.

Eddie Jones’ team, fresh from winning the Six Nations, were hoping to test themselves against the world’s No 1 side and there were suggestions that RFU chief executive Ian Ritchie could veto the Barbarians-New Zealand fixture at Twickenham on that date.

However, Sportsmail has been told that Steve Tew, the chief executive of the NZRU, has insisted to Ritchie that the All Blacks wish to fulfil the match that had been provisionally agreed late last year.

The intention is to mark the union’s 125th anniversary with a celebratory – and lucrative – match against the famous invitational club, before the serious business of their European tour sees them play Tests against France, Scotland and Wales.

Sportsmail exclusively revealed that Ritchie was striving to engineer a match between Jones’s team and the world champions on that date outside the official autumn window.

The top two sides in the global rankings are not due to meet until November next year but the RFU wanted to bring them together sooner and Jones, as head coach, gave his support for the plans last weekend.

Such was Ritchie’s apparent determination to push through this additional Test, there were fears that the RFU board would veto the Barbarians-New Zealand fixture – not just at Twickenham but anywhere in London.

That in turn would have diminished the anticipated revenue if the game was moved outside the capital – which is home to a large antipodean community.

Tew has been so set on the matter – no doubt reflecting the wishes of All Blacks head coach Steve Hansen – that it appears the RFU have been forced to back down and abandon attempts to force through an England v New Zealand showdown this year.

As the national governing body, they have to approve all matches within their jurisdiction, but exercising their right to veto the Barbarians game would have left them open to accusations of being heavy-handed and churlish.

There are concerns within the RFU that allowing the world’s premier team and box-office favourites to play at Twickenham prior to England’s campaign against Australia, Argentina and Samoa may adversely affect ticket sales or corporate hospitality profits.

Yet Ritchie and his fellow executives have seemingly pulled back from the brink by letting the game go ahead.

Since Sportsmail reported that the RFU were trying to arrange for Jones’s side to face the All Blacks, there have been widespread suggestions that their motives were purely financial.

However, that was a dubious claim, as the additional Test would have entailed an unprecedented fee to the NZRU and also demands from the Premiership clubs for a 50-50 split of all profits in return for releasing their players outside the official window.

England have not played New Zealand since November 2014, so by the time they next meet, there will have been a four-year hiatus. The countries will now contest just one match in this four-year World Cup cycle, having locked horns six times in the 2011-2015 cycle.

Jones insisted last weekend and again on Monday that he was very keen for his record-breaking team to take on the game’s pre-eminent force.

But there had been criticism of the plans owing to the thorny issue of player welfare – and now that it appears the fixture won’t take place, the Australian can proceed with his stated intention of resting some of England’s Lions contingent, which should be substantial, during the autumn series.

Daily Mail

Jordie Barrett for All Black nr 15 spot

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Hurricanes assistant coach Richard Watt believes that full-back Jordie Barrett could earn a New Zealand call-up, if he gets a bit of luck.

Barrett has been in excellent form in the opening weeks of the season with his versatility certainly one positive he has working for him.

And Watt is confident in the young player’s ability to step up if a call came to don the black jersey, adding that he’s “right in the frame”.

“Sometimes you’ve got to be lucky, if there’s injuries in that position, if Nehe [Milner-Skudder] is down and Izzy [Israel Dagg] is still out and something happened to Bender [Ben Smith] again then he’s right in the frame, for sure,” he told the Dominion Post in an interview.

“The good thing about Jordie is his versatility and he can probably play anywhere in that backline apart from nine which is pretty valuable to have. They took him on the tour last year and they’re pretty happy with him. The good thing about it now is he gets some time to play and show his wares with Nehe out. He’d definitely be in the frame.”

Watt also thinks centre Ngani Laumape is banging on the All Black door and will have been heard after consistently excellent showings.

“I’m sure Jordie will go close and Ngani, last year he was injured quite a lot and it was his first year back in rugby and he was finding his way,” he added.

“Now he’s really settled in and is understanding his position and doing a lot of work with [assistant coach] Jason Holland and he’s playing hard. He’s a handful, eh?

“From a New Zealand point of view we’re lucky he didn’t put Bender on the sideline for another six weeks. When he gets those little legs pumping, good luck. It’s a bit like Ma’a [Nonu], a power runner in that channel.”

Jones setback for Stormers

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DHL Stormers centre Huw Jones has torn his hamstring playing for Scotland in the Six Nations and will undergo surgery in London.

This means that Jones will not be able to train for four to five months as he joins fellow DHL Stormers midfielders Juan de Jongh and Damian de Allende on the sidelines.

De Jongh’s Grade Three medial collateral ligament tear is progressing well and he is expected to be back in action in six weeks, whilst De Allende has another six to eight weeks before he will be able to return from his Syndesmosis ankle injury.

Cheslin Kolbe (ankle sprain) and Jano Vermaak (calf strain) will both return to training next week and should be in contention to play against the Toyota Cheetahs at DHL Newlands on April 1.

Flyhalf Jean-Luc du Plessis is progressing well following a pelvic bone stress injury and should be available for selection in three to five weeks time.

Flank Steph de Wit is mobilising slowly after fracturing his ankle, with the bone healing well after surgery.

On the long-term injury list hooker Scarra Ntubeni is running at full pace in a controlled environment as he continues to make progress following his Achilles tendon rupture sustained last year, whilst wing Leolin Zas is mobilising well after surgery on his broken Tibia and Fibula.

“Hero’s…urr Europe in a Nutshell”

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The Six Nations may be over but the European season is getting into the business end of the season with all the different leagues and Championships moving into the final group stages and play-offs.

 

Here is all the news in a nutshell from Europe

Leicester Tigers have announced that Matt O’Connor is to return to the club as head coach, with Aaron Mauger departing.

O’Connor won three Premiership titles in his previous spell with the Tigers up to 2013 and has subsequently worked with Leinster, Queensland Reds and Tonga.

He will begin his new role at Leicester in early April, subject to visa.

 

Premiership club Bath have signed hooker Joe Graham on injury cover until the end of the season.

The 29-year-old joins the club from Rotherham Titans after spells with Yorkshire Carnegie and Newcastle Falcons.

Graham will link up with the squad this week, and follows recent signings Chris Brooker and Nathan Charles as the Bath look to cement their place in the top four of the Premiership.

The club have been hit hard by injuries to Ross Batty and Tom Dunn in recent weeks.

Bristol have captured the signing of Australian international Luke Morahan ahead of the 2017/18 season.

The utility back – who can play wing, full back and centre – has three caps for the Wallabies, as well as starring for Australia Sevens.

Morahan is an established Super Rugby performer, representing Queensland Reds and Western Force.

“Luke is an impressive player with excellent technical abilities. He’s got a lot of raw pace and versatility and can play across the backline,” head coach Mark Tainton said.

Eddie Jones says his England squad is moving in the right direction and wants to be the first side to win three straight Six Nations titles.

England defended their Championship with victories over France, Wales, Italy and Scotland, however missed out on the chance to defend the Grand Slam with defeat to Ireland at the Aviva Stadium in Dublin over the weekend.

Jones will now use the summer tour to Argentina to improve the depth of the squad, but admits he is satisfied with their progress this year.

Alex Tait says Newcastle Falcons are refreshed and ready to attack the last phase of the Premiership season as they head to Harlequins on Saturday.

The 29-year-old full-back is just two games away from his 200th competitive appearance for his home club, and heads down to the capital with a full tank following a brief mid-season break.

“Sometimes during the season when you’ve got that week-to-week pattern it’s good to have a short time away to recharge the batteries,” Tait told the Newcastle website.

Leinster have received positive news on Josh van der Flier, Isa Nacewa and Seán Cronin ahead of their PRO12 match against Cardiff Blues.

The trio could return on Saturday while Leinster scrum coach John Fogarty added that all 16 Ireland players are being assessed case by case.

Van der Flier (AC), Nacewa (knee) and Cronin (hamstring) all took part in training last week and were expected to step up their recovery again on Monday ahead of further assessment later in the week.

Northampton Saints have announced the signing of Piers Francis into the club’s squad ahead of the 2017/18 season.

Francis caught the eye of the Auckland Academy while playing club rugby and was quickly gaining experience in the National Provincial Championship for Auckland and Waikato.

After a short stint in Edinburgh, Francis was back in New Zealand and impressing for Tana Umaga at Counties Manukau, so much so that he was drafted into the Blues’ squad for 2016.

Francis’s playmaking abilities in his 11 appearances earned him the Rookie of the Year honours for the Super Rugby outfit, and later in the year he was at fly-half guiding Counties Manukau to a first win over Auckland at Eden Park in 39 years, en route to the Mitre 10 Cup semi-finals.

Montpellier head coach Jake White is set to further his career in Japan according to South African media reports.

According to a Netwerk24 article, three sources have confirmed that representatives of Top League outfit Toyota Verblitz visited White in Montpellier this week to finalise his appointment.

It is also reported that England head coach Eddie Jones, who was Japan’s coach during the 2015 Rugby World Cup, recommended White for the position at Verblitz.

Jones was a technical advisor for the Springboks when they won the 2007 World Cup in France under White’s guidance.

Ospreys have announced that former Ulster, Northampton and Ireland hooker, Allen Clarke, will arrive as their forwards coach next season.

Clarke will report for duty at Llandarcy Academy of Sport for pre-season, replacing Chris Gibbes in the role. Gibbes confirmed in January he will leave the Ospreys at the end of the season to head home to New Zealand and become head coach at Mitre 10 Cup side Wellington Lions.

Clarke will join the Ospreys from PRO12 rivals Ulster, where he has enjoyed success as both player and coach over the last 20 years, either side of a five-year spell as Irish Rugby’s High Performance Manager. He also had eight years as a player in England at Northampton Saints.

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Stormers leave Du Toit and Etzebeth at home

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DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck has named a 25-man squad for the trip to Singapore where they will face the Sunwolves this weekend.

Fleck’s charges have won all three of their matches thus far this season, having beaten the Vodacom Bulls and Jaguares at DHL Newlands before travelling to Port Elizabeth where they overcame the Southern Kings.

Having come off a bye in Round Four, the DHL Stormers will be aiming to make it four wins from four games when they face the Sunwolves at the National Stadium in Singapore on Saturday, March 25.

Captain Siya Kolisi is back to lead a squad which has a good blend of youth and experience, after he was rested for the Southern Kings clash.

Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe and Pieter-Steph du Toit were not considered for selection due to the Springbok management plan, whilst the likes of Huw Jones, Jean-Luc du Plessis, Jano Vermaak, Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Steph de Wit, Leolin Zas and Scarra Ntubeni are all currently sidelined with injuries.

Fleck said that it will be vital for his team to capitalise on the momentum they have built early in the campaign in what will be a testing outing against the Sunwolves.

“We have made an encouraging start to the campaign, but we cannot afford to drop intensity coming off our bye week.

“We know how tough the Sunwolves can be on home turf, so it will be crucial that we maintain our focus for 80 minutes if we are to get the desired result,” he said.

DHL Stormers touring squad: Bjorn Basson, Kurt Coleman, Jan de Klerk, Dan du Plessis, Robert du Preez, Dewaldt Duvenage, Rynhardt Elstadt, JC Janse van Rensburg, Oli Kebble, Siya Kolisi (Kolisi), Dan Kriel, Dillyn Leyds, Wilco Louw, Godlen Masimla, Bongi Mbonambi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Caylib Oosthuizen, Ramone Samuels, JD Shickerling, Seabelo Senatla, Frans van Wyk, Chris van Zyl, EW Viljoen, Cobus Wiese, Damian Willemse.

Kings captain going for scan

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Southern Kings captain, Schalk Ferreira, is the side’s only injury casualty from the weekend’s match against the Cell C Sharks in Durban.

In a hard-fought encounter at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday, where the Southern Kings suffered a narrow 17-19 defeat to the Cell C Sharks, the Eastern Cape side also lost the influential captain through a biceps injury.

Southern Kings doctor, Konrad von Hagen, confirmed that Ferreira would undergo scans late on Monday to assess the full extent of the injury.

The team was pleased not to have sustained any other injuries.

Centre Luzuko Vulindlu, who sustained a concussion against the DHL Stormers at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Round 3 of the Vodacom Super Rugby, has made good progress and is undergoing the return to play protocol.

Dr Von Hagen is also pleased with the progress being made by the players who are on the long-term injury list.

Flanker CJ Velleman (knee) is on track to making a return to action in April.

Lock Cameron Lindsay (knee) and scrumhalf Rudi van Rooyen (ankle) are also making good progress with their recovery.

Government backing 2023 RWC bid

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South Africa’s 2023 World Cup bid has been given the government’s full backing.

According to the Sunday Times, the 2023 World Cup technical committee that was in South Africa over the past week to begin its assessment of the bid was assured by tourism minister Derek Hanekom that the government is behind it.

World Rugby is asking SA Rugby for guarantees of £240-million (about R3.7-billion) to host the event, which Ireland and France are also bidding for.

Sports minister Fikile Mbalula’s ban on SA Rugby bidding for mega rugby events, based on the findings of a 2016 report from the Eminent Persons Group (EPG) on transformation, is still in place. But EPG chairman Willie Basson told the Sunday Times that an updated report had been given to Mbalula.

‘The sports minister now fully supports the World Cup 2023 bid. There isn’t a question mark over that,’ Hanekom said.

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