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What Boks can expect from England

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Du Plessis, Steyn withdrawn from Springbok squad

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Hooker Bismarck du Plessis and centre Frans Steyn have been withdrawn from the Springbok group because of injury.

Both players sustained the injuries while playing club rugby in France last weekend.

Both went for further investigations and specialist opinions and it was decided to rather withdraw them from the Springbok squad for the Castle Lager Incoming Series against England.

Bok coach ready to make big calls

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Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus explains his selection policy, looking towards the World Cup in Japan next year, reports Rugby365

Flyhalf Robert du Preez was in the crosshairs of the critics, after the Boks 20-22 loss – in a disappointing performance – against Wales last Saturday.

Du Preez had a forgettable debut in the game in the American capital.

A penalty from the Bok flyhalf looked to have given the South Africans victory, but the replacement No.10 then had two consecutive attempted clearance kicks charged down by Tomos Williams and Ryan Elias pounced to win the game.

Erasmus, the new head coach as well as the South African Rugby Union’s Director of Rugby, said it was a “team’ mistake.

However, he admitted that Du Preez will learn from the experience – given that his short stay on the field was forgettable.

It was not just the charged-down kicks.

He conceded a turnover and had three runs for zero metres gained – to add to that double blunder at the end.

Article continues below video.
The Bok coach said the loss in Washington will not deter him from trying out young players in the next 18 months.

“One thing we have to understand, we have to make some big calls now, [looking forward] to the World Cup,” Erasmus said – as his team stepped up preparations for the first of three tests against England.

“We have to put guys on trial and see what they have.

“We will make a few mistakes while doing that.

“We can go the old route and just select the same guys, then try to coach them better and hope for different results.

“Or we can throw guys in at the deep end and hope they swim.

“We had 13 new caps [this past] Saturday – some of them swam and some of them struggled a little bit.

“The next game they will be a little bit better.”

He admitted Du Preez was one of the guys who struggled a little.

“The screen, that gives more space for the No.10, wasn’t in place,” the coach said of the match-changing charge down.

“It wasn’t 100 percent his fault, it was more a team mistake.

“He [Du Preez] does feel guilty.

“The only thing he can do is bounce back and rectify it the next time he gets an opportunity.

“He understands that.”

Thanks to @rugby365com

Bismarck, Frans to miss first Test

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Rassie Erasmus has confirmed that Montpellier duo Bismarck du Plessis and Frans Steyn will not be considered for selection in Saturday’s series-opening Test against England, writes CRAIG LEWIS in Johannesburg.

Of the five overseas-based players included in Erasmus’ squad for the upcoming three-Test series against England, Steyn and Du Plessis have yet to arrive in South Africa after featuring in the Top 14 final last Saturday.

When fronting up to the media at the Boks’ Montecasino base on Monday – just hours after the travelling squad returned from the one-off Test in Washington – Erasmus confirmed that Steyn and Du Plessis would need some time to settle into the camp before coming into selection contention.

‘When they get here, I obviously want a chance to see them first. We’ve followed and monitored them closely overseas, and seen how motivated they are. They’ve played a game [on Saturday], but now they need to do their exit medicals before they can be released in terms of regulation nine.

‘I’m expecting Bismarck to arrive tomorrow, and I think Frans only on Wednesday. So I won’t consider them this week just because they haven’t trained with us much, and it wouldn’t be fair on the guys that have been with us here [in camp] this whole time. I also want to see what they look like when they get here.’

It means that Damian de Allende is likely to be the preferred option to start at inside centre in this Saturday’s clash at Ellis Park, while Bongi Mbonambi is set to wear the No 2 jersey despite having yet to play this year due to a burst appendix.

‘Of course, the ideal thing is to be able to select guys who have had four or five proper games under the belt [after an injury], but sometimes you don’t have that luxury,’ Erasmus commented when asked about the options at hooker.

‘Bongi is a guy with Test experience and the good thing is that he is not coming back from a period of rehab after a knee or shoulder injury or something, but it was an appendix. So we’ve been working with Bongi quite a bit in camp already on his fitness and conditioning, so we know where he stands.

‘Then obviously between Akker [van der Merwe] and Chiliboy [Ralepelle], we have to make a call there. From next week, though, a guy like Bismarck will be in contention, but I don’t want to just throw a guy from overseas straight into the mix this week.’

Erasmus will name the team to face England on Thursday, although he admitted that it would take until the second Test to know with certainty which are the best combinations available.

Springboks lose to Wales but what was learnt

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Results are not the most important but don’t let that lead to you to thinking getting heavily beaten every week is ok.

Development is most important but that requires reps of match actions, appropriate challenges & fun. It’s like matching a young boxer, it needs to be a fair fight! It’s a quote I saw recently on the internet.

Springbok fans, like Manchester United fans deserve their recent slump in form or quality.

Having stayed up to watch the Springboks yesterday in what was a very interesting game of footy – were they lost to Wales for a third successive game.

While many found it to be dry and boring (You want entertainment? Go to the cinema or circus) – a few lessons can be extracted from that game. Some form of perspective.

How many of you can say they have been riding a bicycle for years and can then seamlessly get into a Tour de France and be very good at it? (Probably a bad example hey?) My point is, it was a Test debut for 13 players yesterday and despite an experienced spine – we can see what approach Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks wanted to use yesterday. The Test match was lost but there was depth created.

Defensively the Springboks applied a lot of pressure through the rush defense and in most instances,  it looked very good. The Welsh played a set play with a chip in behind and it was well covered by Ivan van Zyl, a try was scored last year by the Welsh.

There were a lot of knock ons’ due to the amount of pressure from the defensive line and the pressure to close from the outside – in.

A bunch of players who had never played together managed to put in a lot of good and some bad on their Test debuts. A stark improvement in the high ball assault was seen yesterday in comparison to the End of year tour in 2017.

The kicking game was quite something! Elton and Ivan’s kicking wasn’t perfect but it was great in most cases with Makazole Mapimpi’s chasing another reason to be excited about.

It was also the first time both Springbok wingers scored in same test since the win over Argentina in August last year – eight games ago. Perfecting and executing this kicking game will be paramount to the Springbok rise again. These will be lessons the players will learn in playing at this level and why the Washington test was good for them.

The Set-piece was quite impressive with Chilliboy Ralepelle providing necessary aggression at the breakdown and set-piece security.

Replacement Marvin Orie’s lineout defense was exceptional –  scooped two of the Welsh’s throws and this leaves us a bit clearer on the overall approach. Managing to pin the opposition in their half and apply pressure on their set piece.

The second half saw a rejuvenated Bok scrum with a monstrous shove from the pack on several times. Akker van der Merwe, Steven Kitsoff and Thomas du Toit playing a vital role in this.

Lapses in concentration and depth resulted in basic errors often but that was a splendid opportunity for 13 new caps to play Test rugby and learn several lessons for the next time South Africa calls on them.

In the arena, taking points will also be a lesson they will take going forward. Scoreboard pressure is a vital aspect of Test rugby.

It was disjointed at times, it was sloppy and to be fair some unwatchable moments with  poor camera work on display but so much to take from this game ahead of the England series that will be far more brutal.

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No Excuses – Rassie Erasmus

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Rassie Erasmus offered no excuses for the Springboks’ disappointing 22-20 loss against Wales in Washington DC on Saturday writes SARugbyMag

Wales scored their third and decisive try in the 75th minute through reserve hooker Ryan Elias after a clearance kick by replacement Bok flyhalf Robert du Preez was charged down.

Earlier in the match, the Boks fought their way back from a 14-3 half-time deficit to lead 20-17 thanks to second-half tries by both debutant wings, Makazole Mapimpi and Travis Ismaiel, and penalty goals by Elton Jantjies and Du Preez.

‘We knew there would be risks involved by only coming over later in the week, but we’re not making any excuses – the Welsh showed more determination in the end to clinch the game,’ said Erasmus.

‘All their tries were scored as a result of kicking – a charged down kick and box kicks we failed to control – and also we committed some defensive errors. We had our chances to score, and overall I think it was the pressure, which they were able to put on us at the end, that won it for them.

‘The one positive for me is that there were quite a few new players who got caps today and now know what it’s like to play against a quality team like the Welsh, but it’s still a Test that we lost, and that hurt.

‘It’s never nice when you play your first Test and you lose, and we didn’t want that result, but we wanted to get all of the uncapped players on the field and start building towards the future. However, we still lost and that almost nullified the fact that we capped a lot of new players.’

Looking forward to the three-match series against England, which starts next Saturday in Johannesburg, Erasmus said: ‘We will have to step up against England. We know the pressure will be on us to win, just as they would also be under pressure to be successful following their recent results.’

Pieter-Steph du Toit, who captained the Springboks in the US capital, said that despite the negative outcome, the squad will ultimately benefit from the match against Wales.

‘We managed to work our way through a lot of detailed preparation so that it can also benefit us for the series against England.

‘Going into the change room at 14-3 down, we realised that the first half was not good enough and that we needed to step up after the break.’

Wales down second string Springboks

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It was a frustrating first test to watch with the Springboks making plenty of mistakes that gave Wales the win 22-20.

The game never got started as both teams made mistake upon mistake not able to put phases together. The scrums were awful to start with as it was almost all we saw in the first thirty minutes.

Both teams decided to use the box kick which did not result in much than just more scrums.

It was a mistake from Kriel who gave Wales their first try as they stole the ball and went through some quick passes to get the first try of the match.

The second try came quickly after that with Wales putting some phases together and the Springboks slipping some tackles.

The Springboks did get into the Wales half at the end of the half but could not get through the Wales defence.

Wales had a well deserved 14-3 lead at the break.

The Springboks had a good start to the half keeping Wales pinned in their twenty-two with some huge defence.

The great defence gave the Springboks their first try and close the gab to 14-10 but that was quickly extended again with a penalty to 17-10.

Wales got a man in the bin when the ball was deliberately knock out in the in-goal area. This gave the Springboks a great opportunity 5 meter out.

The Springboks got the ball out wide to Mapimpi to score his first try for the Boks and level the scores at 17-all.

The Springboks had some great opportunities which they were unable to take advantage from. With all the possession one expected more from the Boks on attack.

It was a great scrum from the Springboks that gave them the lead with Du Preez kick over his first penalty for the Springboks.

Du Preez then charged down two kicks from Du Preez to score another try and take the lead again.

With a few minutes to go the Springboks again had opportunities but could not hold on to the ball.

They had a last change and work their way back to halfway bit another knocks on end their changes to snatch the game at the end.

It was definitely not the best we ever seen from either team but Wales did enough or must I rather say Springboks made enough mistakes to give Wales the win at the end 22-20.

Springboks game management were not good enough as they dominated scrums and lineouts but could not get the points on the board.

Mistakes cost them at the end and something that they will have to correct before England.

Scorers:

Springboks – Tries: Travis Ismaiel, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies, Rob du Preez.
Wales – Tries: Hallam Amos, Tomos Williams. Conversions: Gareth Anscombe (2). Penalty: Anscombe.

Springbok side to face Wales

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Pieter-Steph du Toit will captain a young Springbok XV featuring seven uncapped players in the starting line-up against Wales on Saturday.

Du Toit (lock) will lead South Africa for the first time when they take on the Welsh in this one-off international, which falls outside the Test window.

The seven players in the starting team who will be making their debut in the United States are Travis Ismaiel and Makazole Mapimpi (wings), Andre Esterhuizen (centre), Ivan van Zyl (scrum-half), Kwagga Smith (flank), Jason Jenkins (lock) and Ox Nche (prop).

A further six players with no Test experience are included on the bench, namely Akker van der Merwe (hooker), Thomas du Toit (prop), Marvin Orie (lock), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward), Embrose Papier (scrum-half) and Robert du Preez (fly-half).

If Du Preez comes on as a substitute, it will be the first time in SA history that there will be a set of a Springbok father with three Springbok sons – Robert (snr), Jean-Luc, Dan and Robert (jnr). The Du Preez’s will also become the fourth set of three Springbok brothers.

Erasmus has opted for an experienced core of players – Jesse Kriel (centre), Elton Jantjies (fly-half), Oupa Mohoje (flank), Du Toit (lock) and Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker) – to provide the necessary calmness and guidance. He said he is looking forward to see the Springboks take one one of Europe’s most powerful sides.

“As coaches, we are tremendously excited about the prospect of seeing some of our best young players getting the opportunity to play at this level,” said Erasmus.

Wales had the upper hand over the Springboks in their last two encounters, both played in Cardiff, and according to Erasmus, the Welsh will be especially motivated to continue with that trend.

“Wales have a very solid and effective kicking strategy and their cohesive forward and set-piece play are some of their main strong points. However, I do believe that we have picked a match-day squad that will be able to compete very strongly,” added Erasmus.

South Africa: 15 Curwin Bosch, 14 Travis Ismaiel, 13 Jesse Kriel, 12 Andre Esterhuizen, 11 Makazole Mapimpi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ivan van Zyl, 8 Dan du Preez, 7 Oupa Mohoje, 6 Kwagga Smith, 5 Pieter-Steph du Toit (c), 4 Jason Jenkins, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Chiliboy Ralepelle, 1 Ox Nche
Replacements: 16 Akker van der Merwe, 17 Steven Kitshoff, 18 Thomas du Toit, 19 Marvin Orie, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Robert du Preez, 23 Warrick Gelant

Kolisi named captain for June test series

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Siya Kolisi will lead the Springboks against England in the forthcoming Castle Lager Incoming Series while Pieter Steph-du Toit has been entrusted with the captaincy for Saturday’s historic Test in Washington against Wales.

Rassie Erasmus, the SA Rugby Director of Rugby, confirmed the two appointments on Monday morning at a media conference at the team hotel in Johannesburg.

Erasmus, who took over the coaching reins of the Springboks after his appointment in April, also confirmed the Springboks’ 26 man travelling squad for the Welsh encounter in Washington.

The squad members not involved in the Welsh match will stay behind in Johannesburg to continue with their preparations for the coming international season.

Erasmus congratulated Kolisi and Du Toit on their respective appointments. Both men will captain the Springboks for the first time.

“It’s a huge honour to captain the Springboks and Siya and Pieter-Steph are two honest, hardworking men who enjoy the respect of their fellow players,” said Erasmus.

“I believe both of them will do a good job as captains. My philosophy is that each player must take responsibility for his position and must therefore work extremely hard with that one goal in mind – to make the Springboks successful again,” added Erasmus.

Born in Zwide township near Port Elizabeth, loose forward Kolisi is also the DHL Stormers captain and has played in 28 Tests since making his debut at age 22 against Scotland in Nelspruit on 15 June 2013. He has four Test tries to his name.

Du Toit made his debut as a 21-year-old on 9 November 2013 against Wales in Cardiff. He is equally at home as lock and as loose forward and has played in 32 Test for the Springboks, 21 as lock, 10 times as flank and once as No 8.

All except two of the 43 players reported for Springbok duty on Sunday in Johannesburg, where the squad immediately got their preparations underway for this weekend’s Test against Wales. The experienced duo of Frans Steyn (centre) and Bismarck du Plessis (hooker) will join the Springbok squad next Monday following the completion of their French club rugby commitments.

Erasmus will announce his starting line-up for the Welsh match on Wednesday, just a few hours before the 26-man squad fly out to Washington.

The Springbok squad to face Wales in Washington (in order of name, position, franchise, Test caps, points):

Forwards (16):
Nizaam Carr (loose forward, DHL Stormers, 5, 0)
Dan du Preez (loose forward, Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock, DHL Stormers, 32, 20 – 4t)
Thomas du Toit (prop, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Jason Jenkins (lock, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Steven Kitshoff (prop, DHL Stormers, 23, 5 – 1t)
Wilco Louw (prop, DHL Stormers, 5, 0)
Frans Malherbe (prop, DHL Stormers, 17, 0)
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker, DHL Stormers, 14, 5 – 1t)
Oupa Mohojé (loose forward, Toyota Cheetahs 18, 0)
Ox Nche (prop, Toyota Cheetahs, uncapped)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward, DHL Stormers, uncapped)
Marvin Orie (lock, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker, Cell C Sharks 23, 5 – 1t)
Kwagga Smith (loose forward, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
Akker van der Merwe (hooker, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)

Backs (10):
Curwin Bosch (utility back Cell C Sharks, 1, 0)
André Esterhuizen (centre, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Warrick Gelant (fullback, Vodacom Bulls, 2, 5 – 1t)
Travis Ismaiel (wing, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Elton Jantjies (flyhalf, Emirates Lions, 23, 203 – 2t, 38c, 39p)
Jesse Kriel (centre, Vodacom Bulls, 29, 40 – 8t)
Makazole Mapimpi (wing, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Embrose Papier (scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Cameron Wright (scrumhalf, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)

Who will lead this team?

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Let’s face it, was it not for this Wales test in the USA we would have seen Rassie’s hand on the Springboks squad.

We also have some great players out of selection due to injuries which makes this first few test a much harder test for Rassie and his team.

Both captains from recent times, Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth are still not fit and will not play any part in the June internationals against Wales and England.

The squad will take a much more definite shape after the Wales test but the question now on everyone’s lips are who will be Rassie’s captain?

Let’s be honest if a the Springbok coach picked Kolisi last year no one would have said a word, but he is not even half the player this year.

Surely your captain must be an automatic first choice and if that is the case you find it hard to even have Kolisi in the starting fifteen.

So if not Kolisi then who else? Will it be a stand-in captain with Whiteley unavailable?

Well let’s look at a few options:

Vermeulen – Thor is back in the mix and it also seems that he will be playing his rugby in South Africa again after his stint at Toulon came to an end.

That will take away the fact that you have a captain that do not play in our competitions.

Vermeulen has been a successful leader that has been respected in the teams that he has led in the past.

Players respect the man and that is one thing you have to have at this level.

Unfortunately we need to also ask if Vermeulen will be our number one choice at the number eight jumper?

Franco Mostert – Mostert had to step in when Whiteley got injured again and to be honest he has not done a bad job at the Lions.

Mostert is a kind of player that gives it his all for not just 80 minutes. He is still a captain in training for me but one that can do the job.

Handre Pollard – A player that has been away from the game for some time but has been getting slowly back to his best this season.

Pollard has successfully lead teams he played in from junior levels and is a player that actually does not get phase by the responsibility.

With him and Jantjies fighting for the number 10 jumper one will have to see who is Rassie’s first choice.

From the players in this squad one have to say he must be the best option to take over the leadership but at Springbok level he is still a baby.

So who do we pick?

For me it is Vermeulen, he has enough experience at this level and as a leader. He is by far the best number eight for me with Whiteley not in the frame and players follow him.

With so many new caps in the squad we need a captain that not just lead from the front but also have the respect of all the players and coaches.

If I was Rassie right now, Vermeulen will be my captain.

Erasmus sprang a few surprises with first Springbok sqaud

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Rassie Erasmus, the SA Rugby Director of Rugby, has included 17 uncapped players in his first Springbok squad of 43 for the four Tests next month, against Wales in the USA and Castle Lager Incoming Series at home against England.

The Bok squad consists of a mixture of exciting new players who have performed well in Vodacom Super Rugby and the Guinness PRO14, combined with a number of experienced stalwarts. The squad consists of 24 forwards and 19 backs and the 26 players with Test experience have a combined total of 627 caps.

The uncapped players are Ox Nche (prop), Thomas du Toit (prop), Akker van der Merwe (hooker), RG Snyman (lock), Marvin Orie (lock), Jason Jenkins (lock), Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward), Kwagga Smith (loose forward), Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf), Embrose Papier (scrumhalf), Cameron Wright (scrumhalf), Robert du Preez (flyhalf), Andre Esterhuizen (centre), Sibusiso Nkosi (wing), Aphiwe Dyantyi (wing), Makazole Mapimpi (wing) and Travis Ismaiel (wing).

Erasmus has also included five players from abroad, who will bring necessary experience in key positions. They are Bismarck du Plessis (hooker), Duane Vermeulen (No 8), Faf de Klerk (scrumhalf), Frans Steyn (centre) and Willie le Roux (fullback).

SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby said he is excited to get the squad together on the training field for the first time on Monday in Johannesburg to kick off preparations for the Welsh Test.

“The coaching staff has done a lot of preparation and the players’ contribution in this process, during and after our three camps, has been tremendously positive,” said Erasmus.

“We know Wales and England will be very thorough in their analysis and overall preparation and we have to be ready for them. The players know what we expect of them, and that they will have to work very hard in a short space of time to be ready for the Tests against Wales and England.”

Erasmus added that several players really impressed him and the national selectors with consistently good performances during the past few months.

“It’s good to see how our exciting young players have grabbed their opportunities for their franchises in the last couple of months,” said Erasmus.

“But we also know how important experience is at Test level, so we thought long and hard about which players to pull in form abroad, and in the end we only settled on five who we thought consistently performed well for their clubs in the tough English and French competitions.

“I am confident that we have a strong group of players from which we will be able to select a very competitive team for each of the four Test matches in June.”

SA Rugby granted Erasmus special permission to include overseas-based players with fewer than the required 30 Test caps where it was believed there was insufficient depth in SA. Erasmus will make an announcement on the captaincy on Monday.

The Springboks begin their international season on Saturday, 2 June against Wales in Washington DC, which will be the first time that Erasmus takes charge of the team.

Following the match in Washington, the Boks then return to South Africa to face a powerful England side in three much-anticipated Tests in the Castle Larger Incoming Series. Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg host the series opener on 9 June, the second Test is scheduled for 16 June at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, and the final encounter will be played on 23 June at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.

The Springbok squad for the June internationals (in order of name, position, franchise, Test caps, points):

Forwards (24):
Nizaam Carr (loose forward, DHL Stormers, 5, 0)
Bismarck du Plessis (hooker, Montpellier, France, 79, 55 – 11t)
Dan du Preez (loose forward, Cell C Sharks, 3, 0)
Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward, Cell C Sharks, 10, 10 – 2t)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock, DHL Stormers, 32, 20 – 4t)
Thomas du Toit (prop, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Jason Jenkins (lock, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Steven Kitshoff (prop, DHL Stormers, 23, 5 – 1t)
Siya Kolisi (loose forward, DHL Stormers, 28, 20 – 4t)
Wilco Louw (prop, DHL Stormers, 5, 0)
Frans Malherbe (prop, DHL Stormers, 17, 0)
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker, DHL Stormers, 14, 5 – 1t)
Oupa Mohojé (loose forward, Toyota Cheetahs 18, 0)
Franco Mostert (lock, Emirates Lions, 18, 5 – 1t)
Tendai Mtawarira (prop, Cell C Sharks, 98, 10 – 2t)
Ox Nche (prop, Toyota Cheetahs, uncapped)
Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward, DHL Stormers, uncapped)
Trevor Nyakane (prop, Vodacom Bulls, 37, 5 – 1t)
Marvin Orie (lock, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker, Cell C Sharks 23, 5 – 1t)
Kwagga Smith (loose forward, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
RG Snyman (lock, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Akker van der Merwe (hooker, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Duane Vermeulen (loose forward, Toulon, France, 39, 10 – 2t)

Backs (19):
Lukhanyo Am (centre, Cell C Sharks, 1, 0)
Curwin Bosch (utility back Cell C Sharks, 1, 0)
Damian de Allende (centre, DHL Stormers, 28, 15 – 3t)
Faf de Klerk (scrumhalf, Sale Sharks, England, 11, 0)
Robert du Preez (flyhalf, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Aphiwe Dyantyi (wing, Emirates Lions, uncapped)
André Esterhuizen (centre, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Warrick Gelant (fullback, Vodacom Bulls, 2, 5 – 1t)
Travis Ismaiel (wing, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Elton Jantjies (flyhalf, Emirates Lions, 23, 203 – 2t, 38c, 39p)
Jesse Kriel (centre, Vodacom Bulls, 29, 40 – 8t)
Willie le Roux (fullback, Wasps, England, 41, 50 – 10t)
Makazole Mapimpi (wing, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Sibusiso Nkosi (wing, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)
Embrose Papier (scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Handré Pollard (flyhalf, Vodacom Bulls, 26, 218 – 3t, 37c, 40p, 3d)
Frans Steyn (utility back, Montpellier, France, 56, 132 – 10t, 5c, 21p, 3d)
Ivan van Zyl (scrumhalf, Vodacom Bulls, uncapped)
Cameron Wright (scrumhalf, Cell C Sharks, uncapped)

Question marks still for Erasmus on Bok squad

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We are not far from the first test for the Springboks in 2018 when we take on Wales in the USA.

Rassie Erasmus will select his first group of players that will form part of his Springbok side for this year but it is easier said than done.

As we mentioned the last couple of weeks we have some problems in certain positions.

One of them are the number nine jumper and it was identified as a problem area from the start of the season.

There are some overseas option for Erasmus in veteran Pienaar, former Lions number nine Faf De Klerk and if you really want to push it even Cobus Reinach.

Locally we have Ross Cronje, Louis Schreuder, Ivan van Zyl, Embrose Papier, André Warner, Nic Groom and Cameron Wright.

The problem has been with the local nine’s that nobody have been consistent this season with all of them having good games here and there.

Ross Cronje has been injured for most of the season and have not played much for the Lions and he did not really took his change last year with the Boks.

The same can be said about Faf de Klerk but Faf had the added value of playing up north this season for Sale Sharks and it was one of the best seasons we have seen him played.

It is an open question if guys like Scheuder, Van Zyl, Papier, Watson, Groom and Wright has done enough to be looked at for this upcoming series against the English.

We need to start looking at the future so it is maybe not all madness to include one of the local youngsters in the series now.

This will be one of the most interesting picks in Erasmus squad I am looking forward to.

What has come out this week from social media was that Erasmus must pick players on form.

That is easier said than done as at this level you do not only look at form players you also need to look at combinations and the direction you want to take the team.

It is the most difficult aspect of any coach to make sure he pick the players on form, with combinations that will work and also looking further than just the English that are coming.

I believe we can all agree that we have enough of the big men to pick most properly two Springbok packs and that the issues for Erasmus starts and end at the back.

We have three flyhalves in for the running with Du Preez, Jantjies and Pollard.

There has been some life in the midfield this year as well with guys like De Allende, Janse van Rensburg, Am, Kriel, Harold Vorster, Burger Odendaal and André Esterhuizen.

Would also like to see that Frans Steyn back in the mix who can add value at 10 and 15 as well.

On the back three we have also some players that stood out although non of them played consistent throughout the season.

Willie le Roux has been absolutely brilliant for Wasp this season and surely should get a call from Erasmus.

The other sensitive question for Erasmus will be who he will pick as his captain.

Whiteley by Erasmus own admission has been his front runner but another injury has seen Whiteley out for some time now.

Vermeulen is back in the frame after he has finish his contract with Toulon but it is still uncertain if Vermeulen will settle back in South Africa after his french stint.

Etzebeth is still on rehab as he is busy returning to the game which leave the captaincy spot a bit of an uncertainty.

There has also been a call for Kolisi but let’s face it a captain should be a leader and be the best in his position which Kolisi has not been this year for the Stormers.

There will be some difficult decisions to be made and I am sure we will have plenty of discussions after Erasmus pick his squad, the only hope is that he pick right. 

Rassie Erasmus (Gallo)

With Super Rugby taking a break who is on Rassie mind?

6

This weekend is the last week for South African sides in Super Rugby before the International break in June.

It does not look good for our sides at the moment with only two possible teams that can make it into the play-offs.

The Lions and the Sharks will have to however put everything into it to make sure that they do make the cut with the Lions likely to be the South African conference winners.

The Jaguares have finally started to play to their potential after three years in Super Rugby and are a real threat at the moment.

Here is the current overall log standings:

PosTeamPWLDPts
114122054
213103045
31486040
41394240
51385037
61374135
71376034
81385034
91357128
101459025
111358024
121248020
131248019
1412310017
1512210010

This weekend have some great match-ups which we can look forward to starting with the Sharks that have to travel to Argentina and face the Jaguares on Friday.

This is going to be an interesting match as both teams are not just fighting for a wild card spot but also chasing the Lions for that all important conference winner spot.

Saturday the Bulls will host the Brumbies back at Loftus and it is an all South African derby when the Lions travel to Newlands to take on the struggling Stormers.

Here is the full schedule for Round 15 of Super Rugby

FRIDAY 25 MAY 2018

09:35 CRUSADERS Crusaders   v   Hurricanes HURRICANES
11:45 REBELS Rebels   v   Sunwolves SUNWOLVES
21:40 JAGUARES Jaguares   v   Sharks SHARKS

SATURDAY 26 MAY 2018

09:35 CHIEFS Chiefs   v   Waratahs WARATAHS
11:45 REDS Reds   v   Highlanders HIGHLANDERS
15:05 BULLS Bulls   v   Brumbies BRUMBIES
17:15 STORMERS Stormers   v   Lions LIONS

After this weekend all focus will shift to Rassie Erasmus who will be picking his first Springbok squad, first for a date with Wales in the USA and then the all important English tour next month.

There are still some major concerns over certain positions which are having the public on the edge and in huge debates the last couple of weeks.

We have already seen that Rassie will not be able to pick overseas players for the test against Wales which will be interesting to see which young guns he will give a change for this test.

Boks without overseas players for Wales Test

The biggest discussion points have been for 9, 10, 12, 13 and 15 on social media with the number nine jumper the one that we do not seemed to be agreeing on.

For the Wales test Erasmus can go a bit wild and give a real opportunity to a youngster like Ivan van Zyl?

The midfield have also been heavily discussed among fans and the media. There were even talks to put Pollard at 12 and Jantjies at 10 at one stage.

We will have to wait and see what Rassie Erasmus does with the squad that will go to the USA and the one he will pick for the English.

Boks without overseas players for Wales Test

8

2018-05-19 08:30
Willie le Roux (Getty Images)
This comes after three England-based Welsh players – Luke Charteris, Tomas Francis and Josh Adams – were withdrawn from the squad for that match because the Test falls outside World Rugby international Test window.Even though the English season ends on May 26, clubs can still be fined if they allow their players play for their countries outside of an international window.

It means that Rassie Erasmus will be without the likes of Faf de Klerk and Willie le Roux for the Wales Test, with both of those players having been tipped to make a return to the national set-up.

A squad of 26 locally-based Super Rugby players will represent the Boks against Wales, while the overseas-based players will come into the squad for the three-Test series against England, starting on June 9.

Source-Sport 24

Huge blow for Boks as Marx ruled out for six weeks

5

The chances that Marx will be part of the June England tour are very slim after Lions confirmed yesterday that he will be out for six week due to a high grade hamstring injury.

Marx has been on form for the Lions this whole season and it is a huge blow not just for the Lions but also the Springboks who face England in a three test series in June.

The first test against England is the 2de June.

Oom Rugby – Which 10 is perfect for Boks?

0

We have been talking about who Rassie Erasmus must pick as his starting 10 for the England tour since the beginning of the year and we have split views on this issues.

Oom Rugby gives us his thought this week

Hi guys. I have a theory about flyhalfs and it go like this: to play the position in a Test match require so many different abilities and skills that, beside maybe some rare players, there is actually no such thing as a “Perfect 10”. To some degree every 10 is a compromise.

Especially in South Africa at the moment there is not one candidate who tick all the many boxes we require. If you honest with yourself even the South African 10 you love so much is not the complete package.

We been talking a lot about the merits of the local flyhalfs (and we will talk about them today too) but for the article this week I thought we will take a specific look at Pat Lambie’s game in the Champions Cup semi-final this weekend.

Distribution
A core role of the 10 is to get his backs away effectively. Poor execution by a flyhalf can be like a poison to his backline. Pat is good at this on a technical level as we see in the picture above where he pass the ball between the two players in the pod to hit the senter Vakatawa on a fade-away line. Normally that pass will go out the backdoor, but the pass to Vakatawa need to happen at that moment so Lambie “thread the needle”.

If we looking at pure pass ability then I think Elton Jantjies is top of the list, with guys like Lambie, Damian Willemse and Robert Du Preez behind him.

Playing Flat
A flyhalf need to vary his depth to suit the situation, but the difficult thing is to play really flat. With modern defence dictating like it is, a flyhalf must be able to play late sometimes so that he can create uncertainty and space. We want to keep the inside defence honest and prevent them shifting out, and it is difficult for defenders to make decisions if a flyhalf delay his passes.

Historically and in this game we have seen that Pat is OK at this ability. In the example above he pass just a half a meter too early and that allow the senter Arnold to shift out to cover the next man.

Fair to say not many better than Elton at this ability to pull the strings right on the advantage line. After him perhaps Willemse and Du Preez are also quite good.

Lateral Awareness
In a flyhalf and a scrumhalf we want excellent awareness to the left and right because they must dictate play to where the opportunities is, to where the space is, and to where the numerical advantage is. We do not want our 9 or 10 sending play to the wrong side!

Unfortunately if I have a criticism of Pat in the past – and it raise its head in this game – is that he don’t always see the best place to pass the ball. In the example above we can see the big opportunity to Pat’s right, but instead he is looking inward and feed his hooker Chat on a inside line. Again I think Elton is good here, as well as Du Preez and Pollard.

Depth Awareness
Seeing the spacial depth on a rugby field is the skill needed for good tactical kicking. Just like some players doesn’t always see the things around them, some players does not see opportunities in depth that is further away from them.

Pat is very good at this and he is very quickly aware of poor positioning of the back three and the spaces behind the defence. In the example above he react very quickly from turnover ball, realise that the left wing Wooton try to scramble back, and take advantage with a great kick behind him. Funny enough we don’t have good kicking 10s in this country and Pat is maybe among the best in terms of awareness and decision making.

Kicking Distance
The flyhalf’s boot can get you out of trouble, but it can also get you into trouble if it is not powerful enough. A 10 with a big boot can keep his team in the opponent half the whole day and that is slow poison. It is also absolute slow poison to your own team if a guy can not give you territorial advantage after all your hard work.

I would not say Pat necessarily have a cannon for a boot, as we see in a example above. It is actually a penalty kick so he have all the time in the world but he don’t really drive the Irish back that far. He did not even reach the 10m line. We can safely say that guys like Willemse and Du Preez has bigger distance on their kicks. As a quick note, Pat is also sometimes a victim of charge downs and teams will notice that.

Defence
The “hinge” between the flyhalf and his forwards is the favourite place for a team to get momentum. This where we will see big runners charging at the space to set up deadly quick ball on the next phase. I will not describe Pat as a strong tackler who can slow the attack (as Pollard and Du Preez can), but he will make his tackles and rely on his good technique.

One area however where Pat shine is on his defence awareness and positioning. In the example above Munster has a nice numbers overlap down the left, but Pat react very early and come up fast and in the right place to shut down the option.

Control
What we talking about here is the ability of the 10 to organise his troops and take control, and this is maybe the greatest strength of Pat. To watch him is like watching a conductor. The whole game we see him shouting and pointing and placing his chess pieces on attack and defence,

The above picture is just two examples of many, but in the first box we see Pat actually push his lock Nakarawa to fold across to get numbers up, and in the second box he point out the threat of Holland coming up for a possible inside ball from Keatley. Some players is like a glue for the team.

There many other things we can discuss like for instance attack, where Pat is perhaps in the same class as Elton in terms of having good feet and speed, but obviously nowhere near Willemse who is in a class of his own. Pollard and Du Preez use more muscle to break the line.

BMT is another big requirement where Pat come out on top I think. He have always shown the ability to rise on the big stage, followed maybe by Handre in this regard.

At the end of the day for me there is no clear perfect candidate for Bok 10. So the questions then is how do you want to play, what is non-negotiable, what strengths do you want, and what weaknesses can you ignore?

Each of us will have our own answers to this questions if we were the coach. Soon we will see what Rassie think, and whether Pat will feature in his plans at all.

DISCLAIMER: English is Oom’s third language, after Rugby and Afrikaans.

Pick a Springbok side

11

So Round 11 of Super Rugby is done and time for us to look again who moved up and who moved in to our Springbok 23 that will face England if we were the selectors.

It has been a disappointing few weeks for SA teams and only the Bulls and Lions that still showing some pride for us although the Stormers did beat the Rebels this weekend.

So through your votes last time two weeks ago here is what we had as a squad, but this week we need to pick our Springbok 23 for the first test against England.

Full Back: Willie Le Roux, Warrick Gelant, Wings: Ruan Combrinck, Aphiwe Dyantyi, JP Pietersen, Travis Ishmael, Midfield: Jan Serfontein, Lukanhyo Am, Frans Steyn, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Flyhalf: Handre Pollard, Jantjies, Scrumhalf: Ruan Pienaar, Faf De Klerk, Eight-man: Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen, Locks: Lood de Jager, Pieter Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Ruan Botha, Loose Forwards: Jean-Luc Du Preez, Kolisi, Phillip van der Walt, Kwagga Smith, Props: Steven Kitshoff, Vincen Koch, Beast, Wilco Louw, Hookers: Marx, Bismark du Plesssis

A few things to remember…. Rassie said he will only pick an overseas player if we do not have a player in that position playing in SA.

Also let’s go with players that are fit so all that is ruled out through injury or suspension is not to be consider.

We go out as if this Springbok team will play next Saturday.

Here is my team to argue with me about and to start off…

15. Warrick Gelant

14. Sbu Nkosi

13. Lukhanyo Am

12. Frans Steyn

11. Madosh Tambwe

10. Handre Pollard

9. Ivan van Zyl

8. Duane Vermeulen

7. Jean-Luc Du Preez

6. Siya Kolisi

5.Lood de Jager

4. RG Snyman

3. Wilco Louw

2. Malcolm Marx

1. Steven Kitshoff

Replacements: Elton Jantjies, Thomas du Toit, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Ruan Combrinck, Ruan Dreyer, Harold Vorster,Trevor Nyakane

What is your team?

Rassie speaks out

19

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus spoke to the media on Wednesday at Cape Town International and given us an insight in his thinking going forward

He said that he was happy with the Springbok camps in preparation for the June Internationals.

Looking back at the three camps, Erasmus said they have proved to be an extremely productive and useful exercise.

“I am very satisfied with the amount of technical and tactical preparation we did. We wanted the opportunity to spend some time with the players and explain our technical and playing philosophy as we prepare for the international season,” explained Erasmus.

 

“The away game against Wales in Washington and the first Test against England just a week later in Johannesburg mean we will have some interesting challenges to overcome, but we have planned for this and there will be no excuses,” Erasmus added.

On the Springbok captain it seems Rassie wants Warren Whiteley who believes he is his strongest contender.

The problem for Erasmus is if he cannot pick a fit Whiteley he will have to look elsewhere.

“We need to see where Warren is going … he’ll be a strong contender,” Erasmus said at Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday.

“But you can’t go into a Test match with a player who has only played 40 minutes or 50 minutes.”

Etzebeth who took over as captain last year from Whiteley sits in the same boat as Whiteley to proof his fitness in more than just 20 or 30 minutes Super Rugby game time.

“The injuries do effect the decision with Warren Whiteley and Eben Etzebeth not playing,” added Erasmus, who also suggested that some of his natural leaders like Duane Vermeulen and Francois Louw were difficult choices because they were based abroad.

Erasmus can also look at Kolisi, but he is currently on poor form with the Stormers.

Erasmus do believe that there is enough leaders in the team to pick a captain no matter what.

“I think the group will only be announced the week prior to the Wales Test match, so we’ll give it some time,” he said.

“We’re weighing up a few options. Luckily there are about four or five guys we can look at.

The biggest problem for any Springbok coach is transformation and Erasmus made it clear that he intend to get his KPI at the end of the season of 45%.

“I’m not going to talk around it all the time,” Erasmus said from Cape Town International Airport on Wednesday.

“I think the time has come where we must talk about it and talk factually about it.

“The target is 45% this year. It’s not 45% in every single game, it’s when the season is finished.

“If we don’t reach that at the end of the season then I didn’t pass one of my KPI’s. It’s as easy as that.”

Erasmus must be hoping that franchises will step up and meet their targets as well of 45% for the season which will help him with the Springbok

The Springboks will play a one-off test against Wales in the States before hosting England for a three test series in South Africa.

Your Springbok team of the week

5

Said it before the World Cup 2015 that the only person who is not allowed to pick his own Springbok team is the Springbok coach as everyone has his own opinion  laugh

Looking through the suggestions from the week on who we will pick in our Springbok side for the first test against England it is clear that we can agree that there are certain positions that we do not have answers yet.

Upfront it seems that most look at the same tight five if all are fit but problems start with the loose trio and at the back.

We struggle to see eye to eye on a number 9 and the midfield has been a problem for years now.

Out wide we more or less are settle if Rhule is not in the mix  laugh

So here is what you guys have decided our Springbok side should be….

Full Back: Willie Le Roux, Warrick Gelant

Wings: Ruan Combrinck, Aphiwe Dyantyi, JP Pietersen, Travis Ishmael

Midfield: Jan Serfontein, Lukanhyo Am, Frans Steyn, Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Flyhalf: Handre Pollard, Jantjies

Scrumhalf: Ruan Pienaar, Faf De Klerk

Eight-man: Warren Whiteley, Duane Vermeulen

Locks: Lood de Jager, Pieter Steph du Toit, Franco Mostert, Ruan Botha

Loose Forwards: Jean-Luc Du Preez, Kolisi, Phillip van der Walt, Kwagga Smith

Props: Steven Kitshoff, Vincen Koch, Beast, Wilco Louw

Hookers: Marx, Bismark du Plesssis

This is what you guys have decided on for now as the group for that first test.

I see that not much attention went into the flanks which is something we may can look at more next week.

The first problem I see in this group is that we only have 7 players of color in the whole group which is not enough according to what we should have by end of year.

Something to ponder on….

 

Akker, Wright and Du Preez invited to Bok camp

0

Fifteen Cell C Sharks players, including the uncapped Sbu Nkosi, Andre Esterhuizen, Robert du Preez, Cameron Wright, Thomas du Toit and Akker van der Merwe, have been invited to the third and final Springbok alignment camp, in Durban from 22 to 25 April.

The Springbok management are using the three alignment camps to accelerate preparations for the forthcoming international rugby season.

A total of 22 players from the DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions were present at the second camp which took place two weeks ago at the Riverside Resort in Vanderbijlpark situated in the south of Johannesburg, while 12 Vodacom Bulls players attended the first camp at the same venue.

According to Rassie Erasmus, SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby, the Springbok management is looking forward to linking up with the Durban-based players at final alignment camp.

“We managed to work through a lot of technical detail during our first two camps and the various sessions with the Cell C Sharks players will be equally intensive,” explained Erasmus.

“We saw during the other two camps that the players appreciate the technical discussions and the clarification of our approach for the forthcoming international season, starting with Wales in Washington and the home series against England. Similar to the Vanderbijlpark camps, we will also have a couple of the Cell C Sharks coaches in attendance over the four days in Umhlanga.”

No on-field activities are planned for the camps and the focus of the various sessions is exclusively on alignment, which will ensure a smooth transition from Vodacom Super Rugby to the Springboks when the squad gets together for the June internationals.

The Springboks start their international commitments with a clash against Wales in Washington DC on Saturday, 2 June. They then return immediately after to South Africa to face England in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, which will comprise three Tests on consecutive weekends.

Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg will host the series opener on 9 June, while the second Test takes place on 16 June at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, and the final match in the series will be contested a week later at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.

The following Cell C Sharks will attend the third Springbok alignment camp:

Forwards:Tendai Mtawarira (prop), Coenie Oosthuizen (prop), Thomas du Toit (prop), Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker), Akker van der Merwe (hooker), Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward), Dan du Preez (loose forward).

Backs: Louis Schreuder (scrumhalf), Cameron Wright (scrumhalf), Robert du Preez (flyhalf), André Esterhuizen (centre), Lukhanyo Am (centre), Lwazi Mvovo (wing), Sbu Nkosi (wing), Curwin Bosch (fullback).

Swys to assist Boks in June test series

6

Emirates Lions head coach Swys de Bruin will join the Springbok coaching staff on a consultancy basis for the June Tests, SA Rugby confirmed on Friday.The addition of De Bruin is part of the process to involve coaches from all local franchises with the preparation of the Springboks, an initiative by Rassie Erasmus, the SA Rugby Director of Rugby.

De Bruin will link up with the Springboks in the build-up to their first Test of the year, against Wales in Washington DC on 2 June, as well as for the much-anticipated Castle Lager Incoming Series against England, which kicks off on 9 June in Johannesburg.

“I’ve always said that we must improve our communication and cooperation with the local franchise coaches,” said Erasmus.

“They spend much more time with the players, so better cooperation with them can only be a benefit and should be an obvious thing.

“Swys and some of his colleagues from the Emirates Lions joined us at the second alignment camp, as did members of the DHL Stormers coaching team, while a couple of Vodacom Bulls coaches were there for the first camp.

“It was really great to have them with us for those sessions and they played an active part in the various technical sessions.”

Apart from tapping into the knowledge of expert consultants from time to time, Erasmus indicated that he will ask the local franchise coaches to assist the Boks in specific areas.

“I am delighted that Swys, with the blessing of the Emirates Lions, has agreed to accompany us to Washington and also help out during the England series,” added Erasmus.

The final Springbok alignment camp takes in Durban from 22 to 25 April, with players from the Cell C Sharks as they have a bye that week.

Proudfoot back for Springboks

1

SA Rugby confirmed on Thursday that Matt Proudfoot will resume his role as Springbok assistant coach and will be responsible for scrums and lineouts in the current team setup.

Proudfoot, who was part of the Springbok coaching team the past two years as scrum coach, will take over from Pieter de Villiers.

De Villiers was included in a revamped Springbok coaching team earlier this year under Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, but the former French international has informed SA Rugby that he can unfortunately no longer continue in that role because of pressing family commitments.

“After my discussions with Pieter, we jointly came to the conclusion that he would unfortunately not be able to give all his attention to the Springboks, which is fully understandable given his current family commitments,” explained Erasmus.

Proudfoot joined the Springbok management team at the national squad’s second four-day alignment camp, which finished in Vanderbijlpark on Wednesday.

“Matt has a good understanding and relationship with the group of players who represented the Springboks the past two seasons and slotted in easily,” said Erasmus.

In terms of his future role at SA Rugby, De Villiers will from now on focus on the various Elite Player Development programmes, assist with the preparations of the Junior Springboks and also the SA Schools team.

Alignment sessions to accelerate Bok preparations

0

Springbok coach Rassie Erasmus will step up preparations for the forthcoming international season when the first of three alignment camps will be hosted from 1 to 4 April in Vanderbijlpark, south of Johannesburg.

The second camp is scheduled to run from 8 to 11 April, also in Vanderbijlpark, while Durban will host the third assessment camp from 22 to 25 April.

Eleven Vodacom Bulls players will meet up with Erasmus, his assistant coaches and the rest of the Springbok management for the first of three sessions, where the focus will be on aspects such as on-field alignment, strength and conditioning, medicals and rugby fundamentals. No on-field activities are scheduled at this stage.

Erasmus explained that the camps were planned with both the Springbok preparations and the local teams’ Vodacom Super Rugby commitments in mind.

“As much as we don’t want to disrupt the weekly preparations of our Vodacom Super Rugby teams it is equally important that we continue with preparations of the Springboks in the background,” said Erasmus.

“The Vodacom Bulls have a bye on the weekend of 7 April, the DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions are not involved the following weekend (14 April) while the Cell C Sharks are not action on 28 April, allowing us the opportunity to assemble in three groups.

“We will be starting as a new group and it is therefore also very important that the Springbok coaches meet, engage and strategise with as many players as possible we have in mind for the forthcoming Tests against Wales and England.”

According to Erasmus, his coaching staff are working closely with the local Vodacom Super Rugby franchises in the build-up to the international season.

“As part of our constant engagement with the Vodacom Super Rugby teams, our assistant coaches have been visiting them to help build a strong relationship and also to get a better understanding of how they prepare their teams.

“The Guinness Pro14 season is nearing its end and we plan to spend similar time in future with the Southern Kings and the Toyota Cheetahs.”

The Springboks start their international commitments with a historical clash against Wales in Washington DC on Saturday, 2 June. They will then return to South Africa to play England in the Castle Lager Incoming Series, which consists of three Tests on consecutive weekends.

Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg will host the series opener on 9 June, the second Test takes place on 16 June at the Toyota Stadium in Bloemfontein, and the final match in the series will be contested a week later at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.

The following Vodacom Bulls players will attend the first national alignment camp:

Forwards: Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Trevor Nyakane (prop), RG Snyman (lock), Jason Jenkins (lock), Lood de Jager (lock), Roelof Smit (loose forward).

Backs: Embrose Papier (scrumhalf), Handré Pollard (flyhalf), Jesse Kriel (centre), Travis Ismaiel (wing), Warrick Gelant (fullback).

Rassie lures back Koch for Bulls and Boks

10

Springbok prop Vincent Koch maybe on his way back and will be joining the Bulls after returning from England in June.

We have heard the rumors that Rassie Erasmus is on a mission to get certain overseas players back in SA so that they can form part of his plans to build the Springboks up again and to be competitive in 2019 World Cup.

Sources have confirm with All out Rugby that the 27-year old prop has agreed to cut his stint at Saracens short and move back home.

This is not just good news for the Springboks but also for the Bulls who has been struggling with quality props the past few years.

Erasmus is also set to speak to Vermeulen, JP Pietersen, Jan Serfontein, Frans Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis, Juan de Jogh, Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk.

Erasmus was at Twickenham on Saturday, scouting England’s performance against Wales in preparation for a three-Test tour to South Africa by the Roses in June.

It is understood that Erasmus is eager to recall key overseas-based players who have not accrued the minimum of 30 Test caps required to be eligible for Springbok selection.

Erasmus hard at work for Springboks

1

It is all hands on deck for Rassie Erasmus as he is busy preparing for the English that will be touring South Africa in June.

The English team will be playing three test against the Springboks as we expect Rassie Erasmus and a team of coaches to take charge of the Springboks after Coetzee has left.

It is speculated that Erasmus will be in charge of the Springboks till Japan 2019 World Cup.

We already saw Erasmus in the stands at Twickenham when England hosted Wales in their Six Nations match.

Erasmus are set to meet with a few overseas based players while he is in England and rumours had it will include players like Vincent Koch (Saracens), Willie le Roux and Juan de Jongh (both Wasps), Faf de Klerk (Sale), Frans Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis, Jan Serfontein (all Montpellier), Duane Vermeulen and JP Pietersen (both Toulon) and Pat Lambie (Racing 92).

It is also believed that Erasmus will visit Japan to investigate the stadiums, towns and accommodation for the World Cup

The test against England later this year is scheduled for Ellis Park in Johannesburg on June 9, followed by Tests at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein (June 16) and Newlands in Cape Town (June 23).

Allister insists Rassie is less competent

12

More revelations about Springbok coach Allister Coetzee’s explosive letter to SA Rugby have come to light, reports Sport24

News broke at the weekend that the embattled national coach had hit out at his employers in a letter addressed to SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux.

Coetzee reportedly sent a 19-page document via his legal representatives to Roux in a bid to show that almost all of the problems during his two-year tenure are due to external factors.

Coetzee won only 11 of his 25 Tests (44%) in charge of the two-time world champions since his appointment in 2016.

It is now clear that SA Rugby wants to get rid of Coetzee, but the coach feels he was not treated fairly.

Netwerk24 on Monday afternoon shed more light on the letter in which Coetzee in particular hits out at the appointment of Rassie Erasmus as SA Rugby’s director of rugby.

Erasmus now looks set to take charge of the Springboks.

According to the Afrikaans website, Coetzee claims Erasmus’s appointment is a “less competent candidate” being preferred to him and that it would not be conducive to transformation.

Coetzee wrote: “There is a general view among SARU ranks that the intention was always to replace Heyneke Meyer with Rassie, but SARU wanted to avoid any controversy regarding race.

“A strategy was developed to use me as a coloured person to conceal the end goal – by offering me the job as Bok coach – but to not equip me with the necessary resources to adequately perform my tasks. It would lead to me vacating my position earlier in order for Rassie to eventually be appointed.

“This strategy is not in line with SARU’s strategic transformation plan. It’s distasteful to say the least, to use me as a black South African as a pawn in such an untenable manner.”

Coetzee’s added that Erasmus’s appointment “in general” does not promote transformation.

He also said it was “shocking” that he was being used as a “ceremonial” coach that must report to Erasmus, who Coetzee “with respect” described as “less competent”.

Under the guidance of Coetzee, the Springboks endured a torrid two years, with several unwanted records being set which include:

– First ever defeat to Ireland in South Africa – in 2016

– Biggest defeat to Ireland – 38-3 in 2017

– First ever away defeat to Argentina

– First ever defeat to Italy

– Worst ever year in Springbok history – 4 wins from 12 Tests in 2016

– Most points ever conceded against New Zealand (57) in both 2016 and 2017

– Biggest margin of defeat in Springbok history – against New Zealand in 2017 (57-0)

Allister’s explosive letter leaked

5

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Coetzee trying to fight back

3

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Full story

Toulon confirm Vermeulen leaving the club

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reports suggest Vermeulen and Steyn to return to SA

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

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

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

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

Vermeulen left Cape Town in 2015 to head to France.

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

 

How Rassie plans to realign SA rugby

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Munster’s Jones turns down Rassie

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

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

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

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

thanks to

Here’s how to pick a captain – Woodward

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

thanks to 

No Christmas present from SARU

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The way the cookie crumbles at SA Rugby is not the way fans and the media would want to but that is the way it goes.

If you are one of the people that expected an early Christmas present from SARU in axing Coetzee you will have to settle for a late Christmas present as they will only announce the decision of SA Rugby future in the new year.

With polls being run by most media the last couple of weeks we know that the supporters out their had enough of Coetzee, the question now is if SA Rugby and Rassie Erasmus had enough of Coetzee and his team?

Apart from being the silly season with so many speculations normally going on in December when South African media has nothing better to report on than rumors we can be assured that Coetzee would be fired, re-hired and fired again before the clock strike twelve on the 31 December.

SA Rugby statement reads:” “To assist media in their reporting and in light of considerable speculation, please be advised that SA Rugby will not be in a position to respond to questions regarding that speculation on the coaching of the national team until the New Year,” the statement read.

“A number of meetings and reviews are in progress on all national teams after which plans for all teams in 2018 will be confirmed.”

It is believed that Coetzee have met with Springbok Director of Rugby, Rassie Erasmus and we can expect two scenarios to play out next year.

With Erasmus new role, he will have full control on selections and game plans and Coetzee could stay on as mere a coach that does what he is told which many believe is not the way Coetzee operates.

Although they have worked together at WP Rugby before on has to think that Coetzee would not want to work as mere number in the Springbok setup.

The other scenario will be Coetzee takes his bags and leave and although this would please most of teh South African public it may not be the best solution right now.

This will leave Erasmus either as the Director of Rugby and head coach or he will have to bring in a new coach who will do as he say.

 

Defence guru Jacques Nienaber will be part of the coaching team, while former France prop Pieter de Villiers has been mentioned as a scrum coach.

Coetzee has won only 11 out of 25 Tests in charge of the Boks which gives him a meagre 44% win-record, well below his 65% mandate.

So if you wanted a present from SARU this Christmas, I would rather suggest you go and buy on to put under the tree

 

Vermeulen may be coming back to SA

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We could be seeing Duane Vermeulen back in South Africa sooner than we thought which could also sort out the problem we have with captaincy in the Springbok team.

Vermeulen currently play for Toulon and it seems that he could be playing his last season in France this year. A new salary cap in the Top 14 could see the French club losing Vermeulen service.

Rassie Erasmus wants Vermeulen back in SA and he could get a dual contract with SA Rugby and the Stormers if Erasmus gets his way.

As it seems that Erasmus will have a hands on roll with the Springboks going forward, one can understand that he would want a strong leader in his team and Vermeulen fits that perfectly.

 

 

 

Meanwhile, according to French rugby publication, Midi Olympique, Toulon have identified 81 Test capped All Black Jerome Kaino as their front-runner to replace Vermeulen.

Toulon are believed to be close to finalising a deal with the star New Zealander.

Coetzee take Boks from No3 to No6 in 21 months

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As it is not enough that we had to endure another dismal season from Coetzee Springboks we have to see that the Springboks have now slipped to No 6 on the World Rugby rankings as well.

Coetzee have managed to take the Springboks from No3 in the world when he took over to Nr 6 within 21 months. This came after another lost this past Saturday against a second string Wales team in Cardiff.

They can be lucky not to have drop below Wales who is at No7 at this stage but surely after the Six Nations we could see the Springboks sitting at number 7 or 8 depending what France also do.

Wales have also received an improved rating from 80.98 to 81.76, but remain seventh.

World Rugby rankings (Top 20):

1. New Zealand 93.99
2. England 90.87
3. Ireland 86.39
4. Australia 85.49
5. Scotland 84.11
6. South Africa 83.80
7. Wales 82.08
8. Argentina 78.22
9. France 78.09
10. Fiji 77.93
11. Japan 75.66
12. Georgia 73.46
13. Tonga 71.87
14. Italy 71.25
15. Romania 69.58
16. Samoa 69.03
17. USA 66.87
18.  Uruguay 65.63
19. Russia  64.45
20. Spain 61.68

Nabetragting – Springboks are an embarrassment

3

Really hard to see the same problem week after week with the Springboks as we had to endure another poor performance on Saturday when they played a second string Wales side.

The first forty was one of the worst we saw from the Boks this year and they would have always struggled to come back from that.

As per norm our backline was beyond useless, we could not handle the high ball and our defence was absolutly shocking.

A few jokes did the rounds as well on social media.

Our defensive plan let through two tries in the first half as the Welsh explored the fact that we had another outside back playing out of position because the coach kept on picking an out of form Coetzee at fullback and then selected the young and excited Bulls fullback Gelant on the wing.

The third try against us was also the result of Coetzee kicking away turnover ball which was charged down.

As good as Coetzee has been all year with the Lions as poor he has been for the Boks. Write it off against the poor coaching and gameplan from Coetzee and his team or lost of form but Gelant should have been given a change to get into the side from the French game atleast.

Pollard also did not start well but atleast got back into his game as the game progress. Cronje is still not doing anything for me at nine and a huge difference in the team came when Louis Schreuder came on. Again do not understand the mindset of Coetzee not giving Schreuder the chance to start with Paige on the bench if you want.

Cronje has played all the Lions matches this year and almost every test for the Boks.

The midfield still have problems not just on defence but also on attack with not enough straight running. At one stage the forwards run the ball and made more meters in one move than the backs in the whole first half.

Upfront we again stood strong and another great test from Marx, Kolisi and the props. If only we had fifteen Springboks with the heart and abilities like Marx.

Apart from Coetzee poor gameplan, defensive structures and selections he had to go one step further and totally screw up the subs as well. Only he knows why he replaced Pollard for Jantjies, his front row and given Am 4 minutes.

He yet again showed that apart from not being able to understand the game at test level and find a proper gameplan he can also not read the game to see what is need to win a test.

You do not sub a player just because you planned that before the game, you sub a player to make the team better in the second half and all he did was to take the sting and the lead out of the test with his subs.

The worst is that he will go on TV after the game with a smug on his face and tell the world that the Boks improved this year and that they have again taken plenty of positive out of another lost.

I have never seen Naas Botha as upset in the Super Sport studio as on Saturday night and for once I agree with everything he had to say about how poor Coetzee selections and gameplan were.

All we can hope for now is that SARU have the balls to show him the door and get proper coaches in to try and fixed what Coetzee and his team have screwed up the past two years.

Atleast we do not have to see another Springboks lost again this year, so just maybe we can have a good Christmas after next week review from SARU on Coetzee.

Du Toit and Mbonambi starts for Boks

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Bongi Mbonambi will make his first start for the Springboks against Italy in Padova, while Pieter-Steph du Toit returns to the starting team for Saturday’s third Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.Furthermore, the uncapped Warrick Gelant has been included on the bench and will make his Springbok debut should he go onto the field of play during the match.

The Springbok management decided not to risk Malcolm Marx for this weekend’s match, following the shoulder injury he sustained last week against France. This means Mbonambi, who has 12 Test caps to his name, will earn his first start on Saturday. Chiliboy Ralepelle will join Gelant on the bench.

Du Toit is fit again and picked at flank, where he replaces Siya Kolisi, who is not available for this match because of the birth of his second child. The versatile Du Toit suffered concussion two weeks ago against Ireland and as a result, he missed the Springbok victory over France in Paris.

The rest of the team that edged the French in the Stade de France in the previous outing is retained.

“We decided not to risk Malcolm, which means Bongi will get a well-deserved first start in the No 2 jersey,” said Springbok coach Allister Coetzee.

“Bongi has worked hard and I have no doubt he will grab this opportunity with both hands, as will Chiliboy, should he get a run.

“Warrick is in good form and his work-rate during training has been impressive. I know he will add value and I am very excited about the possibility of seeing him in action.”

Coetzee said the Italians will pose a difficult challenge at home: “We respect the Italian side, they are well coached and I know they will be up for the challenge. However, we focus on ourselves and a disciplined and clinical performance is what is needed this weekend.

“It would be important for our pack to again create a good platform of which to play from and therefore our set piece will be key in the expected wet conditions,” said Coetzee.

Eben Etzebeth will again lead the Springboks after the big lock has shrugged off a lower leg injury, which he suffered in Paris.

The Springbok team to play against Italy in Padova:

15. Andries Coetzee, Emirates Lions – 11 caps, 0 points
14. Dillyn Leyds, DHL Stormers – 7 caps, 5 points (1 try)
13. Jesse Kriel, Vodacom Bulls – 27 caps, 35 points (7 tries)
12. Francois Venter, Toyota Cheetahs – 5 caps, 0 points
11. Courtnall Skosan, Emirates Lions – 11 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
10. Handré Pollard, Vodacom Bulls – 24 caps, 198 points (2 tries, 31 con, 39 penalties, 3 drops goals)
9. Ross Cronje, Emirates Lions – 8 caps, 10 points (1 tries)
8. Duane Vermeulen, Toulon (France) – 38 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
7. Pieter-Steph du Toit, DHL Stormers – 30 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
6. Francois Louw, Bath (England) – 56 caps, 40 points (8 tries)
5. Lood de Jager, Vodacom Bulls – 34 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
4. Eben Etzebeth (captain), DHL Stormers – 65 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
3. Wilco Louw, DHL Stormers – 3 caps, 0 points
2. Bongi Mbonambi, DHL Stormers – 12 caps, 0 points
1. Tendai Mtawarira, Cell C Sharks – 97 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Replacements:
16. Chiliboy Ralepelle, Cell C Sharks – 22 caps, 0 points
17. Steven Kitshoff, DHL Stormers – 21 caps, 0 points
18. Trevor Nyakane, Vodacom Bulls – 35 caps, 5 points (1 try)
19. Franco Mostert, Emirates Lions/Ricoh Black Rams (Japan) – 17 caps, 0 points
20. Dan du Preez, Cell C Sharks – 1 cap, 0 points
21. Rudy Paige, Vodacom Bulls – 12 caps, 5 points (1 try)
22. Elton Jantjies, Emirates Lions/NTT Shining Arcs (Japan) – 21 caps, 201 points (2 tries, 37 conversions, 39 penalties)
23. Warrick Gelant, Vodacom Bulls – 0 caps, 0 points

Byrne debut for Ireland

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Adam Byrne will win his first cap for Ireland on the right wing on Saturday after Joe Schmidt named his side that will take on Argentina.

Joining Byrne in the back-three will be Rob Kearney at full-back and Jacob Stockdale on the other wing.

Chris Farrell, who made his debut last week, is paired in the centre with Bundee Aki, who got his first start against South Africa in the opneing game of the Guinness Series.

Jonathan Sexton and Conor Murray resume their partnership in the half-backs.

Rory Best returns to captain the team and is joined in the front-row by Cian Healy and Tadhg Furlong while James Ryan starts in the second-row with Iain Henderson.

Peter O’Mahony, Sean O’Brien and CJ Stander return to the back-row.

The replacements are James Tracy, Dave Kilcoyne, John Ryan, Devin Toner, Rhys Ruddock, Luke McGrath, Ian Keatley and Andrew Conway.

Ireland: 15 Rob Kearney, 14 Adam Byrne, 13 Chris Farrell, 12 Bundee Aki, 11 Jacob Stockdale, 10 Johnny Sexton, 9 Conor Murray, 8 CJ Stander, 7 Sean O’Brien, 6 Peter O’Mahony, 5 Iain Henderson, 4 James Ryan, 3 Tadhg Furlong, 2 Rory Best (c), 1 Cian Healy
Replacements: 16 James Tracy, 17 Dave Kilcoyne, 18 John Ryan, 19 Devin Toner, 20 Rhys Ruddock, 21 Luke McGrath, 22 Ian Keatley, 23 Andrew Conway

Date: Saturday, November 25
Venue: Aviva Stadium, Dublin
Referee: Mathieu Raynal (France)
Assistant referees: Marius Mitrea (Italy), Mike Adamson (Scotland)
TMO: David Grashoff (England)

Why Rassie is the man to take Boks forward

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Rassie Erasmus will have enough time to make the Springboks contenders at the 2019 World Cup, writes Mark Keohane

I am not saying he can build a Bok team that will beat the All Blacks in pool play but he certainly can identify a group of players good enough to make the playoffs, and once there it becomes a new tournament within a tournament.

The draw also is the best one possible for the Springboks because they get a first up crack at the world champions and then avoid playing them until a possible final, should both teams make it that far.

The 2019 World Cup grouping is a positive for South African rugby, and so is Erasmus’s return.

He must be entrusted with the responsibility of beating Eddie Jones’s England in 2018.

The Springboks play England in three Tests in South Africa and one at Twickenham. They also play the All Blacks twice and the Wallabies twice. Those eight Tests will tell you more about the Springboks 2019 prospects than the past 22 Tests under Allister Coetzee.

Coetzee’s two seasons have shown he isn’t the man to take the Springboks to the World Cup. Erasmus started this week as SA Rugby’s newly created director of rugby for national teams, including the Springboks.

Erasmus occupied a similar role at Munster and ended up being head coach and director of rugby. He proved very successful in both roles and there is no reason he can’t marry the two roles at SA Rugby.

I don’t see the point of having Erasmus back and not giving him total command of the Springboks. It would ensure that the rugby philosophy of the Springboks filters down to the other national teams, which are a part of Erasmus’s portfolio.

Erasmus, before he left for Munster, was the head of high performance in South African Rugby, with a portfolio that didn’t include the Springboks.

Erasmus worked closely with the junior national teams and Blitzboks coach Neil Powell.

He was influential in the appointment of Powell, who has enjoyed unprecedented success in the role.

Erasmus and Jacques Nienaber, who specialises in defence, have a long association dating back more than a decade. The two have operated as a team and Nienaber was part of the Munster deal. He was also part of the deal for Erasmus to return to South Africa.

Erasmus historically has always preferred working with a smaller coaching management team, in which those identified fulfil multiple roles.

Coetzee’s management teams have been excessive in numbers and the current Bok coach has introduced three different defence coaches in two seasons, two backline coaches and two forwards coaches.

Erasmus, when at the Cheetahs, Stormers and Munster, always employed a more streamlined approach to his coaching staff. He is of the belief that too many cooks spoil the broth.

Erasmus, in agreeing to return to South Africa, also embraced the transformation realities associated with Springbok selection. Like it or not, there is a commitment from SA Rugby to the South African government that the team that plays in Japan will be the most representative in the history of the Springboks at World Cups.

What constitutes merit is subjective and very skewed because it very much depends who is offering the view and opinion.

Historically black players have been tagged in this country as being quota players and development players, simply by definition of skin colour. It’s crass and distasteful because no white player, regardless of limitation or sub-standard performance, has ever been categorised with an insult of simply being there to make up numbers.

For too many – and for too long now – only white players have been viewed as merit selections. It’s another of those absurdities presented as fact because of the abnormality of South Africa’s apartheid sporting past, which is still entrenched in the thinking of so many.

I don’t believe that transformation ever weakens a team. What makes any team vulnerable and poorer on the day is when poor selections are presented as a commitment to transformation.

Any Springbok team can transform and win if the person picking that team actually gets it right when it comes to player identification.

The Blitzboks in the last three years are an example of winning, transforming and playing a uniquely South African brand of rugby.

Erasmus’s Springboks can achieve a similar integration and get results.

I’ve had enough discussions with Erasmus over the last two seasons to have belief in his approach, his philosophy and in the players he feels can combine to make the Springboks strong.

I never had a similar belief in Coetzee, and didn’t need the benefit of hindsight to be a non-believer. I wrote on his appointment that it was my view he wasn’t good enough and that he would not get results.

I don’t think Coetzee is a good selector and the players he has consistently picked as the best team have produced a 40 percent winning return.

Transformation can’t be blamed because in some of Coetzee’s biggest defeats there have been 12 white players in the on-field XV taking those beatings.

Erasmus inherited a similar results shambles at Munster, one of the traditional powerhouses of Irish and European rugby. The culture was foreign to him but almost immediately he created a winning environment that was sustained throughout his tenure.

He’ll do the same in a South African culture that isn’t foreign to him, but only if he is coaching the team.

Mark Keohane is a Cape-Town based award-winning rugby specialist and former Springbok Communications Manager. Follow him on Twitter 

Disclaimer: Sport24 encourages freedom of speech and the expression of diverse views. The views of columnists published on Sport24 are therefore their own and do not necessarily represent the views of Sport24.

Vermeulen adds valuable experience – Smith

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Springbok assistant coach Franco Smith has lauded the immediate impact of Duane Vermeulen, who has joined the squad in Paris as a replacement for the injured Coenie Oosthuizen.

The experienced No 8 joined the Springboks on Monday from French club side Toulon, and he had his first training session with the squad on Tuesday at the training grounds of Stade Francais.

Smith told the media on Tuesday that Vermeulen made an immediate impact on the squad.

“I think Duane’s experience is of enormous value to us,” said Smith.

“We believe the right process was followed with him, to allow him to get some game time for his club following an extended period out due to injury.

“Duane has a wealth of knowledge of the French game and it is good to have his calmness and considerable experience in our environment. We lacked a bit of experience and it’s great to welcome him at this stage of the tour.

“He was in our plans from the start but injury came at a wrong time for him,” said Smith.

Although the Springboks won the home series by 3-0 against France in June, Smith echoed the words of head coach Allister Coetzee, who said the French will be a very different side playing in Paris on Saturday.

“They played New Zealand last weekend and they are a much changed and more determined side,” explained Smith.

“Playing at night will definitely influence the match conditions, and I expect them to come really hard at us in front of their supporters. Our training has gone well so far this week and we know we have to front up to a great challenge against the French on Saturday.”

Coetzee will announce the Springbok match 23 on Thursday.

Toetie calls Thor up to Springbok squad

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Experienced No 8 Duane Vermeulen has been called up to the Springbok squad as replacement for Coenie Oosthuizen who sustained a serious knee injury on Saturday in Dublin.

Oosthuizen underwent a scan before flying home from Dublin, and the results showed that he has sustained medial collateral and anterior cruciate ligament damage which will require surgery and an extended period of time of out of the game.

Vermeulen, who plays for French club Toulon, is set to join the Springbok squad on Monday at their base in Paris.

Meanwhile, it was confirmed that loose forward Pieter-Steph du Toit will miss Saturday’s Test against the French because of concussion he suffered against Ireland. He left the field in the closing minutes of play after receiving a blow to his head.

The Springboks started their preparations with a gym and field training session on Monday. The team to play against France at the Stade France will be confirmed on Thursday.

Nabetragting – Springboks reach new low

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Had to really wait a good 24 hours before I had the will power to look at the Irish test again and try and find some answers on what happen again.

It is always easy to start blaming the players and yes they do have to answer for performances on the field and more so when you running out for your country.

To dish up a performance like on Saturday against Ireland is just not something we need to except from any Springbok team.

To look at Saturdays test and think we can find the answers for our poor performance is short sighted the Springboks problems are much deeper that one of two test.

The alarm bells was going off even before the tour started when Coetzee picked his squad of players.

His planning for the 2019 seems non existed in this current setup and even if we try very hard not to be to much emotional he does not have the ability to even come close to outsmart teams at this level.

We always measure our-self against the All Blacks and the test at Newlands which showed some guts from the Boks gave many of us false hope.

Measurement of a team should be the consistent improvement and ability to compete against the very best their teams their are, and we are not even close to do that.

Last year we heard that we need to blame the short time Coetzee had to prepare and this year we are being told that we must keep believing in the process of this team and be positives when we lose 57-0 against the All Blacks.

It should not have come as a surprise on the Springboks fall from grace when you look at Coetzee track record with Province and the Stormers.

I feel sorry for players like Jantjies and Cronje who has shown against the best of New Zealand and Australia the past three years that they are game breakers and now are being made the reason for our poor form.

I do not buy this. With a coach like Ackermann these two players have played a quick direct game putting their backline in space and created tries but on Saturday it was clear that they were again instructed to play a game they are not suited to and kick everything that came their way.

You can not make a dog fly no why would you want to take two of the attacking best halfbacks in South Africa and tell them to kick all day.

It was the same Coetzee, then at the Stormers that took a talented young Jantjies who perform outstanding for the Lions and killed his game with one season at the Stormers.

When you see stats of 61% territory, 54% possession, making 134 meters with ball in hand from 12 carriers with more good passes that the Irish then you know that you had the wrong plan against them.

We made all the play but at the end they scored 4 tries to our big fat zero.

In the midfield Coetzee thought that he could bring in a player in De Allende, who has not perform well in Super Rugby nor in the previous two years for the Springboks, and take on a world class team like Ireland.

How you sit with an exciting player like Am in your squad and do not even use him from the bench is just plain the logic the Springbok coach have shown since he started.

I am not even gong to touch on the fact that he sits with Pollard who could have added so much more than the poor De Allende and gave them a left and right foot combination next to Jantjies.

Coetzee also ignore the likes of Frans Steyn who plays in Europe.

Our backline was poor and our defence was even worst with no structure on attack.

Nick Mallet said it best after the game when you look at our midfield

“The midfield attack – the two centres [Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel] – showed absolutely no ability to straighten, catch or pass, which are the basics of international rugby.

‘You can play touch rugby against a player and within five minutes you can tell whether that player understands space, timing and depth, both when he has the ball in two hands and when he is a support runner.

I don’t think Damian de Allende or Jesse Kriel understand space or running straight or running lines. I think they are big, strong and powerful centres, who do not have a feel for the game of rugby.

‘Unfortunately, De Allende looked woefully out of form. He has been picked – and one wonders why – on reputation. He certainly hasn’t played enough games to warrant selection”

The only way Coetzee can rescue this tour is to get the right players involved. Time has come to call players like Vermeulen, Steyn and get players like Am and Gelant quicker in the system.

Upfront we need to pick players in their positions and have the best players starting the match. Sentiment must find a backseat and players not good enough needs to be shown the door.

The real sad part of Coetzee after this test was that he does not even know what is wrong. He could not even explained after the test what went wrong.

The Springboks are at a crossroad and SARU and Springbok management needs to make some hard decisions if they still want to safe the soon to be extinct Springbok rugby team.

As it stand now we will be lucky to come away from this tour with one win.

 

Coetzee: Record Irish defeat ‘difficult to explain

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Under fire Springbok coach Allister Coetzeehas said the record defeat to Ireland at Lansdowne Road on Saturday was “difficult to explain”, writes Sport24

Coetzee, still looking for his first victory in charge on an end-of-year tour, oversaw yet another record defeat as the Boks bumbled their way to a 38-3 loss, the massive 35-point differential easily eclipsing the previous biggest defeat of 17 points – in both 2006 and 2014.

“It was disappointing and as a group we take full responsibility. Ireland were clinical,” Coetzee added.

Back in 2016 Coetzee set the first of several unwanted “records” when he took charge of the Springboks’ first ever home defeat to the Irish at Newlands.

The calls for Coetzee’s dismissal will no doubt grow as the team looks to regather and prepare to face France in Paris next Saturday.

Another huge lost for Springboks

 

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

Coetzee must back Pollard

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Handré Pollard must be given an extended run at No 10 on the Springboks’ four-Test tour of Europe, writes JON CARDINELLI in Dublin for SARugbyMag

On Monday, Allister Coetzee told the media gathered at the team hotel in St Helens that Pollard was likely to start against Ireland.

‘Elton has been away recently [with his club in Japan] and so I have to decide whether to go with Elton or Pollard at No 10,’ the Bok coach said. ‘I have to weigh up how prepared Elton is going to be for that game versus how Pollard has been in camp with the team for the past three weeks.

Jantjies has started all nine of the Boks’ Tests in 2019. The Lions flyhalf impressed during the early stages of the season in games against France and Argentina. In the subsequent fixtures against Australia and New Zealand, however, Jantjies’ game management and option-taking left a lot to be desired.

Pollard was the Boks’ first-choice flyhalf at the 2015 World Cup. A series of injuries precluded him from selection in 2016 and in the early stages of the 2017 season. He made his comeback to Test rugby in the Rugby Championship, but was limited to a bench role.

This Saturday, Pollard could win his first start for the Boks in more than two years. What’s more, he may receive the opportunity to redeem himself after a poor showing against Ireland the last time the Boks were in Dublin.

In that 2014 fixture, Pollard and halfback partner Francois Hougaard had a night to forget. That said, Pollard and Hougaard weren’t helped by the fact that their forwards lost the collisions and breakdowns.

Will history repeat itself this Saturday? Even at this stage, Coetzee is still pondering his loose-forward options.

The Boks have travelled to Europe without Warren Whiteley, Jaco Kriel and Jean-Luc du Preez (all injured) while Duane Vermeulen has not been considered due to a lack of game time in the wake of his own long-term ailment.

Coetzee may be tempted to stick with the back row that fronted the All Blacks a month ago. Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Francois Louw certainly took the fight to the New Zealanders on that occasion.

On the other hand, Uzair Cassiem is back from injury. Going by how the Boks were running at training in Dublin on Monday, Oupa Mohoje may well be considered for a start at blindside flank.

Whatever the case may be, the Boks will go into Saturday’s clash as underdogs. While they may have the front and second rows to challenge Ireland at the set pieces, they lack the experience and the continuity in the loose trio to be considered as favourites at the breakdowns and collisions.

Ireland also have halfbacks that are capable of translating forward dominance into territory and attacking chances, as Coetzee pointed out.

‘The aerial game might not be as important in Super Rugby, but I know that in the northern hemisphere the aerial bombardment plays a big part,’ the Bok coach said. ‘Conor Murray and Johnny Sexton are great kickers of the ball. They see those kicks as an attacking opportunity as well.

‘Physicality is a given against a northern-hemisphere side. We’ve got to be smart with our detail this week. Ireland are quite innovative. They run good lines and defensively we will have to work at stopping their momentum.’

Three years ago, Pollard was dropped from the starting side in the wake of his poor showing against Ireland. Pat Lambie started the remaining Tests against England, Italy and Wales.

Does Pollard need to win the match single-handedly this weekend to guarantee a start in the following three Tests? Coetzee gave the impression that the Boks are looking to build some continuity on this tour. Jantjies, of course, will head back to his Japanese club ahead of the clash against Wales in Cardiff, a Test that falls outside of the World Rugby-sanctioned Test window.

Coetzee believes that the Boks’ kicking game has been on point this season. This Saturday, he will be looking to his flyhalf to translate forward dominance into territory and, when the situation presents itself, points.

‘You have to win the small battles in big Tests like these,’ he said. ‘There’s the battle at the scrum, the lineout, the battle for territory, the breakdown, and the kicking game. If you win three out of five you have a good chance of winning the game.

‘On top of all that, you have to build scoreboard pressure. You need a No 10 who can keep that scoreboard pressure going. You have to keep building through those three-pointers, especially in the northern hemisphere.’

Those scoring chances will, however, hinge on a competitive showing by the Boks up front. And if Coetzee is serious about building continuity on this tour he has to hand Pollard an extended run in that position of responsibility.

Eben fit to lead Boks

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Springbok coach Allister Coetzee was in a happy mood when he confirmed the news that Etzebeth, Cassiem and Oosthuizen was fit to play against the Irish this weekend.

‘Eben did limited training with the team when they arrived in Dublin on Saturday,’ said the Bok coach.

‘He will be taking full part in training this afternoon. I have no concerns about him whatsoever and he will be fit to lead the team against Ireland.

‘Uzair Cassiem came through contact training without any problems,’ added Coetzee.

‘Coenie Oosthuizen is 100% ready. From a wellness point of view, we are in very good shape.’

Coetzee also explained the Springboks’ approach towards the coming month-long tour: “Our mindset is that it’s not the end of year tour – this tour is about making sure we improve as a group and keep on growing as a team, while also staying on course with our 2019 plan.

“This is an important tour for us and our standard of play has to be at the level of our last match against New Zealand in Cape Town,” said Coetzee.

The Bok coach also spoke very highly of the Irish side: “They are really a top-class side with an experienced coaching team and quality players. There is no doubt we have to be at our best on Saturday.

“Our ability to adapt to the conditions, and how we want to play, will be tested. I know that up here (northern hemisphere) there will be many contests, and the arial bombardment will be one it.

“In that respect Ireland have a great weapon in their halfback pair as both are prolific kickers, and as a combination, they are world-class. It will be important to win the many small battles and our focus will be to improve execution in all departments,” said the Springbok coach.

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Thor – I’m ready

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Duane Vermeulen is disappointed he didn’t get a call-up for national duty as the Springboks prepare for a four-Test tour of Europe that begins against Ireland in Dublin this week.

“I want to get back into the mix as soon as possible. I’m ready and willing,” Vermeulen told sarugbymag.co.za after Toulon stumbled to a 26-24 reverse against Agen on Saturday, a match that doubled as his second appearance since a four-month injury layoff.

“Don’t get me wrong, I’m not at my absolute best after two games. But can I contribute to the Boks? I’m confident that I can add value in a side that is pretty thin in the back row at the moment.”

The Bok quest to redeem themselves from an abysmal 2016 tour of Europe – one that included a historic loss against Italy – was dealt a blow last week when Jean-Luc du Preez was ruled out with an ankle injury suffered during the Currie Cup final.

His place in the touring party was filled by lock Ruan Botha, leaving the Boks with an underwhelming posse of loose forwards that includes Siya Kolisi, Francois Louw, Uz Cassiem, Dan du Preez and Oupa Mohoje. Louw accounts for 54 of that group’s 102 Test caps which would grow to 139 if Vermeulen was called up.

“Some guys talk about finishing their career with 100 or more caps,” said the 31-year-old. “At this stage, I’m still looking to surpass 50. The next World Cup is in the back of my mind. I really want to be there in 2019.

“Right now I’m just waiting for an opportunity. I really want to play and be part of the Boks again. I will play tighthead prop if they need me to, but my goal is to push for that No 8 position and to compete against guys like Billy Vunipola and Kieran Read on the Test stage.

“I’m going back to South Africa for a few days now, but I will be ready – if there is another injury and the Boks need someone, perhaps I can step in.”

Thanks to

Springboks ready for European challenges – Coetzee

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Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has highlighted several challenges facing his team over the next month in Europe, but believes his settled squad will be able to overcome the threats posed by Ireland, France, Italy and Wales.

The 34-man Bok squad leave South Africa in two groups to Europe on Friday and Saturday, with the first Test coming against Ireland in Dublin next Saturday.

It is a tour Coetzee will desperately want to do well in after the travails of a year ago, when the Boks failed to win in four outings.

“The end-of-year tour is always different, with its own challenges… one of those being trying to successfully follow up our performance at Newlands,” said Coetzee.

Last time out the Boks lost by a single point to the All Blacks in Cape Town, in a far better performance than their 57-0 hiding suffered at the hands of the same team in Albany a few weeks earlier.

“Of course, we’re also up against northern-hemisphere referees and their interpretation of the breakdowns especially is somewhat different,” said the Bok coach. “We’ve adapted well to their officiating though.

“Ireland first up will be a big test; scrumhalf Connor Murray is a world-class player whose box kicking is pin-point accurate, and that’s a big part of their game. They also compete well in the air, so it’s going to be an aerial game over there.”

Coetzee added that the weather conditions would also challenge his players, something the Boks would have to quickly adapt to, but the coach said the team’s planning and preparation was far better than it was a year ago when they got walloped by among others Italy.

But consistency in selection would also benefit the Boks abroad, said the coach.

“I’m really happy with the continuity in the group. Bar Lukhanyo Am, who was part of the planning for June already but missed out because of a cheekbone injury, everyone else has been part of our training camps,” said Coetzee.

“They all understand the team culture, the philosophy, and know the environment, so in that regard the continuity is a big plus for us. It’s the first time we’ve been able to have so much continuity, and it’s excellent for us when compared to last year when several new players came into the squad.”

Added to this, several Bok players were involved in a four-day condition and planning camp in Cape Town last week; their first bit of rugby action since the All Blacks Test last month. “I think the players are rejuvenated after last week’s camp. They’re fresh going on tour and trained with a lot of enthusiasm… and that’s a good sign.”

The Boks should have greater clarity on Thursday about the ankle injury suffered by team captain Eben Etzebeth at that camp. The second-row forward had been required to wear a moon boot to help stabilise the ankle and is expected to return to training on Thursday.

Besides Etzebeth, the Boks have four other locks in their squad, namely Lood de Jager, Franco Mostert, Pieter-Steph du Toit and now also Ruan Botha, who came into the squad on Tuesday as a replacement for injured flank Jean-Luc du Preez.

Thanks to

Gelant, Am named in Springboks sqaud

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Exciting young backs Warrick Gelant and Lukhanyo Am, as well as Dan du Preez and Louis Schreuder are the four uncapped players in the Springbok squad of 34 players announced on Sunday for the 2017 Castle Lager Outgoing Tour.

Furthermore, experienced prop Coenie Oosthuizen has been recalled to the squad having successfully completed his rehabilitation from an arm injury, which meant he missed the Springboks’ recent home Tests against Australia and New Zealand.

Also included in the squad are loose forward Uzair Cassiem, who has recovered from the rib injury he sustained against the Wallabies in Bloemfontein, and the experienced Tendai Mtawarira, who missed the encounter against the All Blacks in Cape Town because of family reasons.

There are also recalls to the squad for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs duo of Francois Venter (centre) and Oupa Mohoje (loose forward).

Gelant, who played for the Junior Springboks and Springbok Sevens teams, will accompany the Boks on tour for the first time following impressive performances this year.

Am is back in the Springbok fold after his initial squad selection in June, which was thwarted by injury, while Du Preez and Schreuder were both part of the Springboks’ recent Castle Lager Rugby Championship squad.

With the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan in mind, the forthcoming tour will give Springbok coach Allister Coetzee the ideal opportunity to broaden his player base and expose more young talent to the Bok environment and the rigorous pressures of Test match rugby.

“This squad reflects consistency and continuity, while we also rewarded players who have constantly shown good form this season,” explained Coetzee.

“Warrick and Lukhanyo are two examples of players who have excelled in the season so far. It’s great to have them in the squad and I look forward to working with them, but at the same time I feel sorry for Sbu Nkosi in particular – he had an impressive debut senior season and it is unfortunate that he will miss the tour because of his elbow injury.

Flanker Jean-Luc du Preez, who sustained an ankle injury sustained in the Currie Cup final on Saturday, will undergo an MRI scan and Monday and his inclusion in the squad is subject to the results of the scan and the orthopaedic opinion. The decision to call for a possible replacement, if needed, will depend on the outcome of the scan and orthopaedic opinion.

“With the World Cup now less than two years away, this demanding tour gives us another very good opportunity to keep on building depth and experience.

“Eight new players were capped so far this season and a total of 19 new international players made their Springbok debuts since the 2015 Rugby World Cup, and we’ve also had a number of new Springbok captains since then. Our process to rebuild the Bok team and steadily working towards the 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan is continuing at a good and satisfying pace.

Coetzee said he would also like to see continuous improvement and progress, building on the foundations laid so far this year.

“So far this season, this group has shown a genuine willingness to evolve and they continuously strive to be better players within our environment,” said Coetzee.

“Ireland, France, Italy and Wales will each be a huge contest, however, we are looking forward to the challenge in different conditions.”

Eben Etzebeth will continue to lead the side in the injury-absence of Warren Whiteley, but the squad will be without Jan Serfontein, who asked not to be considered for the tour as he wants to settle in at French club Montpellier, who he has joined recently.

Coetzee also announced that Siya Kolisi will return to Cape Town after the Test against France in Paris on 18 November as his wife, Rachel, is due to give birth the following week. He will not be available for the Test against Italy on 25 November in Padova, but will re-join the group for the final tour match in Cardiff against Wales.

Players who are contracted to overseas clubs – Franco Mostert, Francois Louw and Elton Jantjies – will not be considered for selection for the 2 December encounter against Wales, as this Test falls outside the international window.

Other players not considered for selection for the four-week tour because of injury or other reasons include amongst other: Warren Whiteley (No 8), Jaco Kriel (flank), Frans Malherbe (prop), Sbu Nkosi (wing), Ruan Combrinck (wing) and Jan Serfontein (centre).

The Springboks’ tour fixtures are:

11 November vs Ireland in Dublin
18 November vs France in Paris
25 November vs Italy in Padova
2 December vs Wales in Cardiff

The Springbok tour squad for the 2017 Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to Europe:

Forwards (in alphabetical order)

Uzair Cassiem (flank,Toyota Free State Cheetahs), 6 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Lood de Jager (lock, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 32 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
Ruan Dreyer (prop, Xerox Golden Lions), 4 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Dan du Preez (No 8, Cell C Sharks), 0 caps, 0 points
**Jean-Luc du Preez (loose forward, Cell C Sharks), 10 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Pieter-Steph du Toit (lock/flank,DHL Western Province), 29 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
Eben Etzebeth (lock, DHL Western Province), 63 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Steven Kitshoff (prop DHL Western Province), 19 caps, 0 points
Siya Kolisi (flank, DHL Western Province), 25 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
Francois Louw (loose forward, Bath, England), 54 caps, 40 points (8 tries)
Wilco Louw (prop, DHL Western Province), 1 cap, 0 points
Malcolm Marx (hooker, Xerox Golden Lions), 11 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Bongi Mbonambi (hooker, DHL Western Province), 11 caps, 0 points
Oupa Mohojé (flank, Toyota Free State Cheetahs), 17 caps, 0 points
Franco Mostert (lock, Emirates Lions/Ricoh Black Rams, Japan), 15 caps, 0 points
Tendai Mtawarira (prop, Cell C Sharks), 95 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Trevor Nyakane (prop,Vodacom Blue Bulls), 34 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Coenie Oosthuizen (prop, Cell C Sharks), 29 caps, 20 points (4 tries)
Chiliboy Ralepelle (hooker,Cell C Sharks), 22 caps, 5 points (1 try)

Backs

Lukhanyo Am (centre, Cell C Sharks), 0 caps, o points
Curwin Bosch (flyhalf, Cell C Sharks), 1 cap, 0 points
Andries Coetzee (fullback, Xerox Golden Lions), 9 caps, 0 points
Ross Cronjé (scrumhalf, Xerox Golden Lions), 6 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Damian de Allende (centre, DHL Western Province), 27 caps, 15 points (3 tries)
Warrick Gelant (fullback, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 0 caps, 0 points
Elton Jantjies (flyhalf, Emirates Lions/NTT Shining Arcs, Japan), 20 caps, 198 points (2 tries, 37 conversions, 38 penalties)
Jesse Kriel (centre, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 25 caps, 30 points (6 tries)
Dillyn Leyds (wing, DHL Western Province), 5 caps, 0 points
Rudy Paige (scrumhalf, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 11 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Handré Pollard (flyhalf, Vodacom Blue Bulls), 22 caps, 190 points (2 tries, 30 conversions, 37 penalties, 3 drop goals)
Raymond Rhule (wing,Toyota Free State Cheetahs), 7 caps, 5 points (1 try)
Louis Schreuder (scrumhalf, Cell C Sharks), 0 caps, 0 points
Courtnall Skosan (wing, Xerox Golden Lions), 9 caps, 10 points (2 tries)
Francois Venter (centre, Toyota Free State Cheetahs), 3 caps, 0 points