Australian Rugby

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David McDuling

David McDuling

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, ahead of the ABSA Currie Cup season.

The Sharks press release reads as follows:

We are pleased to announce the signing of Reds lock, David McDuling, who will join the Cell C Sharks until the end of 2016.

Known for his never-give-up attitude and athleticism around the park, McDuling made his Super Rugby debut in 2014 against the Crusaders and has since amassed a total of 12 Super Rugby caps for the Reds. He also won the inaugural season of the National Rugby Championship with Brisbane City and had the most carries and run metres of any 2nd rower in the competition.

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Super RugbyIt is the Final of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

The long awaited game to determine the champions of 2015 is finally upon us!

Of course, the South African and Australian Franchises are already done and dusted and only 2 New Zealand sides remain in the race, the all season Log leading Hurricanes and the New Zealand Cinderella side, the Highlanders.

The Final takes place in Wellington, New Zealand at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), at Westpac Stadium.

The Hurricanes are firm favourites for the game, having had by far the best overall performance of all 15 Super Rugby franchises in Super Rugby 2015, and running away with the Combined Log. They certainly played entertaining rugby and a lot of it has to be attributed to their forwards finally stepping up to the plate to match their tremendous backline.

Their defensive structures were much improved and their dangerous backline fired.. if one did not know any better one would swear that every last player was on some serious performance enhancing drugs.

I’ve always said that the Hurricanes were always underperforming in relation to the team they have on paper, but in 2015 all the elements finally came together to make them a fabulous side.

Whatever happens in the final, they deserve plaudits for the season of 2015!

The Highlanders on the other side, turned a lot of seemingly no-name forwards into a monster pack and their backline players turned into a dangerous unit with All Blacks written all over every member.

The Highlanders have lost twice to the Hurricanes already in 2015 but last weekend in the semi-final against the Waratahs they showed that they have progressed upwards a number of rungs in the 2015 season and specifically in the last few weekends.

The Highlanders, having almost always been considered New zealand’s step-child Super Rugby side, have had a real Cinderella season and deserve to be in the final and one is almost unwillingly tempted to urge them on for all the honours in the Final.

As a totally neutral observer, all I can say is that I enjoyed the rugby these two teams dished up for us all in 2015… and may the best team win!

Let the Final roll on… no guts, no glory!

Enjoy it with me, folks.

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Super Rugby finalists' NAME PLATES, which one will be engraved?

Super Rugby finalists’ NAME PLATES, which one will be engraved?


After 124 games spread across 18 Rounds and a fortnight of finals, we stand at the cusp of crowning a 1st-time Super Rugby champion.

We run the rule over both teams – examine their strengths, potntial weaknesses and try to decipher where the game will be won.

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HurricanesChris Boyd has announced his side to battle the Highlanders for the Super Rugby title but is still sweating on Ardie Savea who is yet to prove his fitness.

Meanwhile, Saturday night’s finale will quietly take on an extra meaning for a few of the men in black and yellow.

For long-serving Hurricanes Conrad Smith, Ma’a Nonu and Jeremy Thrush, and fellow teammates Chris Smylie, Rey Lee-Lo and Ben Franks, it will be the last time they run onto Westpac Stadium as Hurricanes.

With 468 caps between them, the 6 players will leave a sizeable hole at the Hurricanes when they depart at the end of the season, but not before they do their best to help lift a Super Rugby trophy for their club.

Boyd has named a similar line-up to help those 6 guys do the job, with the only change coming at reserve hooker where Motu Matu’u returns from a knee injury.

Savea’s knee will continue to be monitored throughout the remainder of the week, with Callum Gibbins bracketed as cover should Savea not be deemed fit.

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HighlandersThe Highlanders will line up with an unchanged side for the Super Rugby Final against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Head coach Jamie Joseph has chosen to stick with the same 15 that knocked off the defending champion Waratahs in Sydney a week ago.

On Saturday Elliot Dixon will make his 50th Super Rugby appearance for the Highlanders, while co-captains Ben Smith and Nasi Manu will once more lead the side.

The only change to the squad comes on the bench, where Marty Banks replaces Trent Renata, while Joseph has stuck with 6 forwards on the bench.

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AustraliaJames O’Connor and Karmichael Hunt were among the big losers when Australian coach Michael Cheika named an extended 40-man squad.

The Wallaby squad will be reduced closer to the Rugby Championship opener against South Africa on 18 July.

Apart from the absence of O’Connor and Hunt, Nick Cummins, along with veteran props Benn Robinson and Ben Alexander also paid the price for poor form.

The big winners were the Toulon-based duo of Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell.

Mitchell and Giteau have been included in the squad under the new foreign policy rule, while Waratahs and Exeter lock Dean Mumm returns to the Wallabies for the first time since 2012.

Four uncapped players made the squad – Samu Kerevi, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Rory Arnold and Toby Smith.

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Peter GrantEx-Springbok flyhalf Peter Grant is set to join the Western Force ahead of next year’s Super Rugby season.

Grant, who was released with a season to run on his contract at French club La Rochelle, looks a likely replacement for South African compatriot Sias Ebersohn, who has already been released.

According to The West Australian, Grant’s potential return to Super Rugby was opened due Wilhelm Steenkamp’s imminent signing for French club Brive for next season.

Steenkamp had limited game time last season and failed to impress the Force’s coaching staff at his time with the team.

The Force are allowed 3 overseas Test players and Grant would join former All Black scrumhalf Alby Mathewson and Tongan forward Steve Mafi.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau

Waratahs Rugby and the Australian Rugby Union have confirmed the re-signing of fullback Israel Folau on a 3-year flexible contract which will keep him in Australian rugby until at least 2018.

The 26 year-old joined the Waratahs for the 2013 season, making an immediate impact to the side with his impressive speed and agility.

In just his 2nd year in the code, he was named 2014 Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year after an outstanding season in which he scored 12 tries in 14 matches and was an integral member of the title-winning team.

A key member of the team’s leadership group, Folau was named as vice-captain for the 1st time in 2015, and held the role for 5 matches.

2016 Waratahs head coach Daryl Gibson said he was pleased that Folau had committed to stay in Australian rugby.

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand) and comprising Lex Mpati (South Africa) and Terry Willis (Australia) unanimously dismissed an appeal brought by the Brumbies against the decision that found Henry Speight had contravened Law 10.4 (j) – Lifting Tackle.

The Committee dismissed the appeal on the basis that the appellant was unable to show that the Judicial Officer’s central factual findings, that the tackle involved both a lifting and driving, were in error.

The Committee also unanimously dismissed the appeal brought against the 5-week (4-match) suspension imposed on Speight, finding that the Judicial Officer had not erred in principle and that the sanction imposed was not manifestly excessive.

As such, the player remains suspended from all forms of the game for 5 weeks up to and including Saturday 25 July 2015.

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Sias Ebersohn

Sias Ebersohn

The Western Force has released flyhalf Sias Ebersohn from his contract, allowing him to return to his native South Africa.

The 26-year-old, who joined the Force from the Bloemfontein-based Toyota Cheetahs ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season, has played 43 matches – scoring 212 points – across his 3 seasons for the Western Australian club.

Ebersohn has made a strong contribution to the club over the past 3 seasons, including playing a key role during the club’s most successful season in 2014.

However, leading into the 2016 season, the club identified the need to inject additional experience into its young backline, which coincided with an opportunity for Ebersohn to return to South Africa.

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Chris Malone

Chris Malone

Former Bath, Harlequins and London Irish flyhalf Chris Malone will join the Waratahs next season as attack and kicking coach.

The Waratahs confirmed the appointment of Malone as assistant coach to Daryl Gibson on a 3-year contract, to commence with the 2016 season.

Malone, who will be a specialist attack and kicking coach, was recruited from the Sydney University club where he has been coach of the 1st grade Shute Shield side since 2013.

Gibson, who will move from assistant to head coach when Michael Cheika leaves at the end of the season, said the appointment of Malone would bring a fresh perspective to the coaching team.

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Super RugbyIt is the Semi-Final Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in Australia.

1St Place on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes hosts the lowest Qualifier, the Brumbies. In the other match 2nd on the Log, the Waratahs hosts the other qualifier from last weekend, the Highlanders.

The 2 Franchises who finished in the No 1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have had wonderful rest weekends, as they sat out during the Top 6 Qualification Round last weekend.

The action is kicked off by the Hurricanes vs Brumbies who do battle in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) on Saturday 27 June.

A little later, over in Sydney, Australia, the Waratahs plays the Highlanders at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

After this Round only 2 Teams remain to contest the Final next weekend.

The Hurricanes vs Brumbies game should be an absolute cracker after the Brumbies’ massive win over the DHL Stormers last weekend, but one would have to give a nod to the most consistent team of this year’s series, the Hurricanes, who have stood out head and shoulders above all comers in 2015.

Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Hurricanes are punching at the weight they should always punch at in 2015, and I give the win to them, but not by a large margin.

As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the Waratahs will overcome the staunch Highlanders in Sydney… even though their regular league season was not as brilliant as last season, OR do we say that the Highlander’s faerie tale will continue in 2015?

It is a difficult call to make and I’m leaning towards the Waratahs making it at home in Sydney!

Meanwhile 11Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.

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WaratahsWaratahs head coach Michael Cheika has named the team to face the Highlanders in the 2015 Super Rugby Semi-Final to be played at Allianz Stadium, Sydney on Saturday 27 June. Kick-Off is at 19:55 AEST (21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

Matt Carraro has been named to play in the centres after Kurtley Beale failed to complete training on Thursday.

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BrumbiesStephen Larkham has named his side to take on the Hurricanes in this weekend’s Super Rugby Semi-Final in Wellington.

There is only 1 change from the team that defeated the DHL Stormers 39 / 19 in Cape Town last Saturday.

With Henry Speight ruled out through suspension earlier this week, Larkham has named Lausii Taliauli to start on the wing.

Taliauli is a former Australian Sevens player and appeared in the NRL’s National Youth Competition with the Gold Coast Titans. He debuted with the Brumbies this season, and has scored 1 Super Rugby try from 6 appearances.

“Lausii is a good young player. With Henry ruled out we think he’s the right man for the job,” Larkham said.

There are no other changes named from the side that ran in 6 tries against the DHL Stormers.

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

The Brumbies will appeal Wallabies wing Henry Speight’s 5-week suspension after the Aussie side felt the player was treated harshly compared to other lifting tackles this season.

Speight was found guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting Tackle, on Wednesday and will be out of action up until 25 July, which translates into 4 matches.

His tackle on DHL Stormers’ centre Juan de Jongh in the 74th minute of the qualifier last Saturday, resulted in the Springbok landing on his head.

Speight will be out for the remainder of the Super Rugby season and will also miss the Wallabies 1st 2 Tests of The Rugby Championship against South Africa and Argentina.

The Brumbies will appeal the suspension on 2 grounds – the severity of the punishment and the incident’s classification as a lifting tackle.

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Steve Mafi

Steve Mafi

Western Force lock / flank Steve Mafi took another step towards representing Tonga in this year’s World Cup after being selected in the Tongan Pacific Nations Cup squad.

The squad will have a strong Western Force presence with former Force hooker Elvis Taoine and former team staff Scott Anderson (Performance Analyst) and Rob Naish (Physiotherapist) also a part of the squad.

The tournament will be hosted in 3 countries – Fiji, United States of America and Canada with the opening match on 18 July with Tonga facing Fiji.

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Scott Sio

Scott Sio

Brumbies prop Scott Sio, if selected, will run out for his 50th Super Rugby match in Saturday’s sudden death Super Rugby semifinal against the Hurricanes.

At just 23, Sio has proved to be one of the competition’s best loosehead props since debuting for the Brumbies in 2012.

While proud of reaching the milestone, Sio says his focus right now is helping his team in Wellington on Saturday.

“It’s a great occasion but I think the strength of our team is that we never really focus on individual accolades,” said Sio.

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Stephen Hoiles

Stephen Hoiles

Waratahs flank Stephen Hoiles has warned that the Highlanders pack could cause problems for the defending champions heading into the semifinal clash in Sydney on Saturday.

The Highlanders pack completely outmuscled the Chiefs in the Super Rugby preliminary play-off match last week – defeating the Chiefs 24 / 13.

“Watching their play-off match the other day, they were very impressive and they have been impressive all year,” Hoiles said in an interview on the Waratahs website.

“Probably because of how strong that New Zealand conference has been,” he added.

“They have snuck under the radar for most of the season, but the last few weeks it has been really obvious just how exciting they are.

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

A SANZAR Judicial Hearing has found Henry Speight of the Brumbies guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he received a red card during a Super Rugby match at the weekend. Speight has been suspended for five weeks up to and including Saturday 25 July 2015, which translates into four matches.

The incident occurred in the 74th minute of the match between the Stormers and Brumbies at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on 20 June 2015.

The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was heard by Robert Stelzner SC via video conference at 4:00pm AEST, 6:00pm NZST, 8:00am SAST on 23 June 2015. Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a Judicial Technical Adviser. The outcome was delayed as Stelzner requested information of the player’s forthcoming playing schedule in order to determine the sanction.

In his finding, Stelzner ruled the following:

“As the Judicial Officer, I considered all the evidence before me including the video footage of the incident, referee and TMO reports for issuing the red card and the submissions made for the player by his legal representative, Peter McGrath.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Waratahs’ centre Kurtley Beale is in a race against time to be ready for the Waratahs’ semifinal match with the Highlanders in Sydney on Saturday.

Neither Beale nor wing Rob Horne trained with the side on Tuesday, and while Horne is expected to recover from a calf niggle in time, Waratahs assistant coach Daryl Gibson conceded time is against them regarding Beale’s injured quadriceps.

Gibson said Beale would be given until Thursday to be ready, but the Waratahs were preparing for versatile utility Matt Carraro to reprise the role he took at short notice against the Reds a fortnight ago.

“Beale’s been doing his exercises and getting up to a running pace that enables him to at least have a chance on Thursday to see if he can make it,” Gibson said.

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Stephen Larkham

Stephen Larkham

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has taken to the fine art of playing mind games ahead of his team’s massive semifinal match with the high-flying Hurricanes in Wellington.

Speaking to the media after returning home from demolishing the Stormers 39 / 19 in Cape Town, Larkham was more than happy with the way they have gone about getting into the semi-finals and believes the break the Hurricanes have had, could hinder their combinations.

“They’ve had the week off and will be nice and fresh, but maybe their combinations will be lacking. They’ve had a number of injuries over the last couple of rounds and a lot of those players are potentially coming back this week. We’ll see if that affects their combinations.

“For us, it’s about continuing the momentum that we’ve had.

“It’s an advantage that we haven’t played them this year because of the success they have had this year but we have been watching their games through the year and watching how other teams have gone against them,” he said.

As much as the Hurricanes’ backline poses a massive threat, Larkham was quick to point out that their forwards are no push overs either.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Queensland Rugby Union has advised Quade Cooper that they are withdrawing their contract offer and will not attempt to retain him for the 2016 season and beyond.

It is understood that when Cooper travelled overseas in April he signed a pre-commitment to join French side Toulon at the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup. However, he had previously – and then continued to – demonstrate a genuineness on wanting to remain with the Reds and the Wallabies.

Since that time, his management has been in negotiation with QRU and Australian Rugby Union (ARU). However, due to events over the last few weeks, QRU CEO Jim Carmichael said the organisation was no longer willing to participate in what has been an ongoing process with Cooper’s management.

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EnglandAustraliaThe Wallabies will play England in a blockbuster 3-Test series in Australia in June 2016, the Australian Rugby Union announced on Friday.

It will be 1st time in the century-old rivalry between Australia and England that the 2 nations will meet in a 3-Test series. The teams last met on 3 occasions in the same year in 2010, although just 2 matches were played on Aussie soil as part of England’s inbound tour.

Michael Cheika’s men will play their old rivals for the Cook Cup in Brisbane, Melbourne and Sydney.

Australian Rugby Union CEO, Bill Pulver said: “With a rivalry that dates back to 1909, it is remarkable that Australia and England have never before played a 3-match series and the history of this occasion is sure to add to the anticipation for the tour.

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Super RugbyIt is the Top 6 Qualifying Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in South Africa.

3rd Placed on the Combined Log, the DHL Stormers (albeit 3rd only by reason of the Conference Syystem), hosts 6th on the Log, the Brumbies. In the other match 4th on the Log, the Highlanders, hosts 5th on the Log, the Chiefs.

The 2 Franchises who finished in the No1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have lovely rest weekends, as they only meet the winners of this Round’s matches next weekend in the Semi-Finals.

The action is kicked off by the Highlanders vs Chiefs who do battle in Dunedin at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT)

Much later in the day, in Cape Town, South Africa, the DHL Stormers host the Brumbies at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time).

After this Round of Top 6 Qualifying matches, only 4 teams will remain and there will be 2 Semi-Final matches next weekend, followed by a Final match for the ultimate winner a week later.

The Highlanders vs Chiefs game should be an absolute cracker, with both teams getting some injured players back into the fold. It is extremely difficult to pick a winner for this game and the different pundits differ on the winner of the match, with probable the bigger percentage backing the Chiefs for an away win. I differ from that though, and I think if there is ONE YEAR where the Highlanders could make it to the Semi-Finals, it is this year, at home, at Forsyth Barr stadium.

Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Highlanders might have a slightly more abrasive forwards pack and possibly also a better scrumhalf and flyhalf, both of whom have come on in leaps and bounds in 2015, namely Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga.

I predict the Highlanders to squeek a win, in a very entertaining match.

As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the DHL Stormers will overcome the Brumbies in Cape Town… even though their regular league game was only a 21 / 20 win for the Stormers and with Christian Lealiifano missing an absolute peach of a conversion attempt, from right in front, OR do we say that the Brumbies will win the game in the absense of Duane Vermeulen and likely also Schalk Burger, both with some injury concerns?

The South African scribes and pundits all patriotically pick the Stormers for a win, but I am hesitant to do so and think this game’s result is a perfect 50 / 50 guess, so may the best team take it!

Meanwhile 9 Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.

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BrumbiesThe Brumbies have named an unchanged line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby Qualifier against the DHL Stormers at DHL Newlands.

David Pocock has been named at flanker despite leaving the field with concussion concerns in the 37 / 24 loss to the Crusaders at GIO Stadium.

“He’s on track to play,” head coach Stephen Larkham said.

“But every day he’s got to tick a box, so he could fall back a day and miss the game.”

The match against the Stormers would be Pocock’s 1st ever Super Rugby Finals appearance. In 2013 in his 1st season with the Brumbies, Pocock missed the side’s run to the final following a season-ending knee injury.

Also under an injury cloud for the Brumbies is Matt Toomua who has been named as a replacement. Last week the 24-year-old played 28 minutes from the bench in just his 2nd game in 8 matches following 2 separate ankle injuries.

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Zack Holmes

Zack Holmes

Western Force flyhalf Zack Holmes has signed a 2-year deal with La Rochelle, the Top 14 club announced on Tuesday.

The 25-year-old Perth-born Holmes, an Australian Sevens international who previously played with Force’s Super Rugby rivals Brumbies, will replace South African playmaker Peter Grant who was released with a season to run on his contract for family reasons.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

The Brumbies are following protocol regarding the concussion of flank David Pocock in the hopes that he will be available for their must-win game against the DHL Stormers on Saturday.

Pocock was taken out of the Crusaders game just before halftime on Saturday, after he copped a knock to the head from a Richie McCaw cleanout at the breakdown.

The Brumbies No 7 stayed down for several seconds, but played on for about 5 minutes before coming off.

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Richard Graham

Richard Graham

Reds head coach Richard Graham admits his future is out of his hands after watching his team end their season with a big loss in Sydney.

The Queensland outfit were hammered 31 / 5 by the Waratahs, letting in 4 2nd-half tries as they went down for a 4th time in a row against their rivals.

It caps a disastrous season for the Reds, who have won just 4 games all season and finished 12th in the table, with speculation over Graham’s future mounting.

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Super RugbyIt was a weekend of high drama in the final Open Round of Super Rugby, with a number of upsets and quite a few emotional good-byes as the regular season came to an end.

On Saturday afternoon, the Toyota Cheetahs gave their new coach, Franco Smith, something to smile about at the end of a tough season when they won for the 1st time ever in Pretoria as they beat the Vodacom Bulls by 42 / 29.

Shortly after the match, the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd and the Blue Bulls Company Board of Directors confirmed that Frans Ludeke had stepped down from his position as Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup head coach with immediate effect.

The DHL Stormers were crowned champions of the South African Conference despite going down by 34 / 10 to the Cell C Sharks in Durban, as the KwaZulu-Natalians bid farewell to a number of Springbok stalwarts.

The Capetonians will host the Brumbies at DHL Newlands in the 2nd Qualifier next Saturday afternoon, at 17:05 SA Time. The 1st Qualifier is an all-New Zealand affair between the Highlanders and the Chiefs in Dunedin (09:35 SA Time), also on Saturday.

Tickets for the DHL Stormers’ match against the Brumbies match go on sale from Monday 15 June at 12:00 SA Time. Prices range from R 80.00 to R 350.00 and DHL Newlands season tickets are valid for this match. For more information or to book tickets, visit www.wprugby.computicket.com.

DHL Newlands Box Office ticket sales open on Tuesday 16 June. Tickets can also be bought at Computicket outlets and Shoprite / Checkers stores nationwide.

The Hurricanes and Waratahs finished in the Top 2 Combined Log positions and will enjoy a BYE next weekend before hosting semi-finals the week thereafter.

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Michael Cheika - Wallabies coach

Michael Cheika – Wallabies coach

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika said that overseas-based players will not be part of his Rugby Championship training squad.

Cheika has named a group of 22 players not involved in next week’s Super Rugby finals, but will give foreign-based hopefuls some extra time off.

The Wallabies coach said he spoke to Europe-based stars Matt Giteau, George Smith and Drew Mitchell and they all indicated they were available for The Rugby Championship, starting on 18 July against South Africa in Brisbane.

“They’ll be considered for selection for the 1st game,” Cheika told reporters.

“They’ve just finished seasons over there – they don’t need to come back now.

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