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Castle Rugby Championship Preview




By: Jacques Nortier




In a World Cup year every tournament is important but no more so than tournaments that involve the players that will attempt to bring the Webb Ellis Trophy back to their fans.

The start of the Castle Rugby Championship will start the preparations for the three power houses in the Southern Hemisphere as they attempt to get their mix right to challenge for the World Cup in England.

The Rugby Championship has been dominated by New Zealand for most of its existence. That they will go in the tournament as favourites are the understatement of the decade with the dominance they showed in this year’s Super Rugby.Castle Lager RC - SA v NZ

Australia and South Africa will have some advantage this year with the fact that they do not have to play in New Zealand this year due to the sort schedule of the tournament in a World Cup year.

New Zealand will only play Argentina in the first weekend in New Zealand and will have to travel first to the Republic to play the Springboks at Emirates Airline Park and then travel to Australia to play them at ANZ Stadium.

Australia are in the same boat as the Springboks playing both New Zealand and South Africa in Australia and only have to travel to Argentina to face the Pumas.

The Pumas will have to play New Zealand and South Africa away and only have Australia visiting their shores.

That it will be the toughest for the All Blacks and the Pumas is no joke but as we have seen in years gone by that New Zealand are one team that can win away from home.

Let’s have a look at the teams…..

The Webb Ellis Trophy remains the biggest prize in the game and the build-up to the global showpiece is set to overshadow the southern hemisphere’s annual competition as all four coaches use the competition as preparation for the showdown in England later this year.

Australia were crowned Tri-Nations champions in 2011 as Quade Cooper and Will Genia took their hot form for then Super Rugby champions the Reds to the international scene, but the Wallabies fell short in the semi-finals of the World Cup a few months later.

Likewise, New Zealand took the southern hemisphere title in 2007 before being knocked out in the quarter-finals of the World Cup

LA PLATA, ARGENTINA - SEPTEMBER 29:  Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, the Argentina captain leads out his team during the Rugby Championship match between Argentina and the New Zealand All Blacks at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata on September 29, 2012 in La Plata, Argentina.  (Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)
(Photo by David Rogers/Getty Images)

As usual, Argentina’s squad will be the freshest as their mostly northern hemisphere-based group will have benefited from nearly two months of conditioning work as opposed to their rivals, who are still healing up from a gruelling Super Rugby season.

Los Pumas used their second-string team in a series with the French Barbarians – which ended 1-all – before they kicked off an extended training camp.

They’ve been in Sydney since the end of June in preparation for the opening game against the All Blacks.

For South Africa the rematch of last year’s epic battle with the All Blacks at Ellis Park will be probably the biggest landmark 4943572-3x2-940x627in the World Cup build-up as the top two ranked teams face off. They are seeded to meet in the semi-finals and if the Boks can repeat their victory of 2014 in Johannesburg, they’ll head to England truly believing they can go all the way.

While Fourie du Preez’s injury-enforced absence must be considered a serious setback, the emergence of Damian de Allende as an attacking force bodes well for the Boks’ ambition of having more bows in their quiver than their countrymen in 2007.

As ever, New Zealand start as favourites, despite having to travel to Sydney and Jo’burg. The reigning champs have the most balanced, settled squad and have quality back-ups in every position, with the exception of the hooker berth, where Hika Elliot and Cody Taylor have yet to prove themselves on the international stage.

Steve Hansen must strike a balance between fielding proven performers and developing his squad and the future of the team. He must also make tough choices in terms of risking Richie McCaw and Dan Carter or providing them with the game time they probably need.

BUENOS AIRES, ARGENTINA - SEPTEMBER 27: of the All Blacks is tackled during The Rugby Championship match between Argentina and the New Zealand All Blacks at Estadio Ciudad de La Plata on September 27, 2014 in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  (Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)
(Photo by Cameron Spencer/Getty Images)

The only real concern, for lack of a better word, is the form of Kieran Read, who has been way off his best this year.

The historic test against Samoa would have provided more clarity in who isn’t up to scratch. Andy Ellis probably makes that list.

A handful of All Black veterans are playing for their places in the World Cup squad. The likes of Israel Dagg, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock have had a poor season so far and cannot count on their experience to earn automatic seats on the plane to England.

One thing is for sure….this will be one hell of an exciting Castle Rugby Championship this year!!




Three making debuts for Argentina against All Blacks


Argentina’s team to face New Zealand in Christchurch on Friday features three players making their Rugby Championship debuts.

UAR logo

Coach Daniel Hourcade has named number eight Facundo Isa, lock Guido Petti and wing Santiago Cordero in his starting XV for the competition opener.

21-year-old Isa and 20-year-old Petti both made their Test debuts during last November’s tour of Europe. 21-year-old Cordero has earned nine Tests caps since his debut against England in 2013 but has never faced one of the southern hemisphere giants.

Petti will start in the second row alongside the experienced Stormers lock Manuel Carizza – who has been re-called for his first match for the Pumas since June 2014 – while Nicolas Sanchez will direct traffic from fly-half.

Jeronimo De la Fuente will start at inside centre with versatile back Juan Martin Hernandez among a group of players rested in preparation for this year’s World Cup.

“It’s a team built around our previous thoughts,” Hourcade told reporters.

“In other words, taking into consideration players who need a rest or are still not 100 percent because of their participation in the European season.

“That gives us a chance to give some younger players a run-out before the World Cup. They’ve earned their place on the pitch.”

Argentina have never won away from home after three campaigns and are chasing their first victory over the All Blacks in 20 attempts.

Argentina: 15 Joaquin Tuculet, 14 Horacio Agulla, 13 Marcelo Bosch, 12 Jeronimo De la Fuente, 11 Santiago Cordero, 10 Nicolas Sanchez, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Facundo Isa, 7 Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 6 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 5 Guido Petti, 4 Manuel Carizza, 3 Ramiro Herrera, 2 Agustin Creevy (c), 1 Marcos Ayerza.
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Lucas Noguera, 18 Nahuel Chaparro Tetaz, 19 Benjamin Macome, 20 Javier Ortega Desio, 21 Martin Landajo, 22 Santiago Gonzalez Iglesias, 23 Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino

Date: Friday, 17th July
Venue: AMI Stadium, Christchurch
Kick-off: 19:35 local (07:35 GMT, 17:35 AEST, 04:35 ART, 09:35 SAST)
Referee: Craig Joubert (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Stuart Berry (South Africa)
TMO: George Ayoub (Australia)

Springboks all ready to go…


All 31 players in the Springbok tour squad were given the green light to be considered for selection for their Castle Lager Rugby Championship opener against Australia.


The South Africans will only have two full training sessions and a light captain’s run before facing the Wallabies at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.

Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said all the players in the squad were available for Saturday’s Test following Tuesday’s training session at the Anglican Church Grammar School in Brisbane.

“We always knew this was going to be a shorter week than normal and we planned for it, which is why we worked really hard in the last two weeks in South Africa,” said Roberts.

“In any game you play, there is always the risk of injuries, as it’s about exposure and to be honest, I was a bit concerned about our match against the World XV last Saturday. It came after two very big training weeks and we were bringing back a few players from injury, but we got through it with flying colours.”

Roberts said that although a high number of players struggled with injuries a couple of weeks ago, that number has come down. The team to face Australia will be announced on Wednesday.

“We’re very happy with the progress a lot of the players have shown,” said Roberts.

“Obviously we still have a number of guys who are not yet ready to play, but every player will be managed individually in the coming weeks.

“As we’re moving closer to the World Cup, the window of opportunity to get players back and ready starts diminishing. If we get major injuries now, it could rule players out of the World Cup and I’ll start getting really nervous in the final six weeks before the tournament kicks off.”

Giteau feels call up unjustified


Returning Wallaby Matt Giteau has revealed that he feels his call-up is unjustified because he has not played against his team-mates this year.

AR LOGO STACKED_gold_whte Aus

Giteau joined wing Drew Mitchell is being named in Australia’s training squad for the Rugby Championship, with the overseas law relaxed to allow the move.

But the Toulon star says it has been tough to feel like he’s earned his spot.

“It feels like it is unjustified that we’ve been picked, that’s how I feel,” Giteau told Australia’s Daily Telegraph ahead of their home game against South Africa.

“The rules have just come in. It is very fresh… we have been playing in a different competition, we haven’t been playing against those guys in the Australian derbies, so we haven’t really had a chance to measure yourself up against them. You haven’t outplayed them, in some ways.

“So that’s where you feel the justification may not actually be there.”

He added: “It is like when I first came into the Wallabies, you have to find your feet and find within yourself that you belong.

“That it is a level you can handle, and that you can add to the group. Every training session I am out there trying to prove myself and earn the respect of the players and the coaching staff.

“A World Cup is a huge honour and a huge occasion. It is not something I want to take lightly, or disrespect the jersey by playing if I am not up to it.”

Giteau however feels he has matured and grown as a player since he departed Australia’s shores to join the Top 14 and European heavyweight side.

“Certainly (compared to) when I left, yeah,” he said.

“I have got to play in some big finals and we have won some comps. In those tight situations, those big games, you learn more and you become more relaxed. The more relaxed you are the better you are going to play, the more natural your game will be.”

Wallabies name Rugby Championship squad!


Michael Cheika has named his squad for the Rugby Championship. A few players that are notable have been omitted and these include; Ben Alexander, James O’Connor, Benn Robinson and Karmicheal Hunt. The Wallabies also welcome Sam Carter, Scott Higginbotham and Dave Dennis with the latter two missing the Autumn tour and Dennis returning to the fold since 2013.

The Waratahs boast the majority of the squad and will feature 14 players. There is also the inclusion of Toulon duo Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell.

Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images
Photograph: Anthony Au-Yeung/Getty Images

Extended Qantas Wallabies Squad:

Rory Arnold (Brumbies)*
Adam Ashley-Cooper (Waratahs)
Kurtley Beale (Waratahs)
Quade Cooper (Reds)
Dave Dennis (Waratahs)
James Hanson (Reds)
Scott Fardy (Brumbies)
Tetera Faulkner (Force)
Israel Folau (Waratahs)
Bernard Foley (Waratahs)
Will Genia (Reds)
Matt Giteau (Toulon)
Scott Higginbotham (Rebels)
Greg Holmes (Reds)
Michael Hooper (Waratahs)
Rob Horne (Waratahs)
James Horwill (Reds)
Samu Kerevi (Reds)*
Sekope Kepu (Waratahs)
Tevita Kuridrani (Brumbies)
Christian Lealiifano (Brumbies)
Stephen Moore (Brumbies)
Drew Mitchell (Toulon)
Wyclif Palu (Waratahs)
Ben McCalman (Force)
Sean McMahon (Rebels)
Dean Mumm (Waratahs)
Taqele Naiyaravoro (Waratahs)*
Nick Phipps (Waratahs)
David Pocock (Brumbies)
Tatafu Polota-Nau (Waratahs)
Scott Sio (Brumbies)
Rob Simmons (Reds)
Will Skelton (Waratahs)
James Slipper (Reds)
Toby Smith (Rebels)*
Henry Speight (Brumbies)
Matt Toomua (Brumbies)
Joe Tomane (Brumbies)
Nic White (Brumbies)

* This denotes an uncapped player.

Preview : South Africa vs Argentina


The Springboks kick of their 2014 Castle Rugby Championship campaign with a fixture against the Pumas at Loftus Versveld Pretoria by Clayton Saville

Springboks vs Pumas

Rugby Championship draw confirmed


SANZAR today announced the full draw for The Rugby Championship’s second year, kicking off with a popular clash between the Wallabies and 2012 season’s winners, the All Blacks, at ANZ Stadium in Sydney on Saturday 17 August.

Springbok schedule for 2013


The Springboks will end off a busy international season with a tour to Scotland, Wales and France in Europe in November this year, while the venues for the first two Springbok Tests of 2013 have been reversed to avoid an event clash.

Coenie cleared to play


Springbok prop Coenie Oosthuizen has been cleared to play after an examination by a neurosurgeon in Durban on Tuesday.

Argentina 15, All Blacks 54


It is highly unlikely, but can Argentina cause one of the biggest upsets in rugby history by beating the All Blacks in their debut season of the Rugby Championship?

Springboks 31, Wallabies 8


The Boks are desperate for a win at home and will have their best chance against an Aussie team in disarray through injuries and divisions in the ranks.

Goosen starts, Morne dropped


Johan Goosen will start his first Test for the Springboks when he runs out at flyhalf against Australia in The Castle Rugby Championship at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

Australia 26 v Springboks 19


Both teams are under huge pressure with the losers basically out of the running for a title shot.

Argentina 16 v Springboks 16


The Boks travel to Mendoza to tackle the Argies on their home turf in their debut season of the Rugby Championship.

All Blacks 22 v Australia 0


It’s Bledisloe II and it is not going to be any easier for the Wallabies as they take on the All Blacks at the venue they won the Rugby World Cup in 2011.

Alberts in at 8 for Daniel


The Springbok team preparing for the second Castle Rugby Championship Test against Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday received a huge boost when Bryan Habana was declared fit to start on Wednesday.

Burden called up to Bok squad


The Springbok squad that will be travelling to Argentina was named in Cape Town on Saturday evening, with Craig Burden coming in for the injured Bismarck du Plessis at hooker.

Springboks 27, Pumas 6


The Springboks kick off their campaign against old friends, the Pumas, in Newlands Cape Town.

White Card extended to CRC


The Disciplinary Rules trial in place during the Super Rugby tournament will extend to The Rugby Championship, with the new system being fully reviewed at the end of the Southern Hemisphere season.

Spies out of Rugby Championship


Springbok No 8 Pierre Spies was on Tuesday ruled out of The Castle Rugby Championship because of an injury to his left ring finger.