Edinburgh head coach Alan Solomons believes that his squad has got through the worst of an injury crisis which threatened to engulf the team just a few short weeks ago.
Edinburgh flew to Milan yesterday then took a 75-mile bus ride to Parma, ahead of facing Guinness Pro12 strugglers Zebre at the Stadio XXV Aprile tomorrow afternoon.
It may have been an arduous trip but Solomons was in good fettle – despite Edinburgh still being without several leading players, including Grant Gilchrist (broken arm), Hamish Watson (knee) and Cornell du Preez, who is set to miss the rest of the season with a leg injury.
Solomons said that the Autumn Tests came at just the right time for other leading players to recover and he is excited about his team’s chances of climbing into the top six of the Pro 12 table, which would qualify them for the Champions Cup next season.
Edinburgh returned to action in fine style last Sunday when they defeated Cardiff Blues at home, and they will fancy their chances against a Zebre side which was hammered 43-3 by Connacht on Friday night.
Exciting Vodacom Blue Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant will make his debut for South Africa at the Dubai HSBC World Sevens Series in December after being named in coach Neil Powell’s 12-man squad on Thursday for Round 2 of the International Sevens extravaganza.
The tournament will be hosted at the Sevens Rugby Stadium on 5 & 6 December.
Cheslin Kolbe and Rayno Benjamin, two former regular Springbok Sevens stalwarts, meanwhile will make their return to the Blitzboks squad after starring for their provincial unions this past season. There is also a welcome return for regular skipper Kyle Brown, who has overcome his shoulder troubles.
Powell, who coached the Springbok Sevens to second place in the Series last season and to a Commonwealth gold medal in June, said it was a tough job to select only 12 players for Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
Xerox Golden Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje has been called up to the Springbok tour squad in Cardiff as replacement for Rudy Paige.
Paige injured his medial knee ligaments in training earlier this week and will be out for approximately four weeks.
A request was made for Toulouse scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to rejoin the squad but it was rejected as he is playing for his club this weekend.
Bath’s cross-code signing Sam Burgess has been named on the bench for Friday’s Premiership game against Harlequins at The Rec. The 25-year-old arrived in the West Country a month ago but only recently resumed training after fracturing a cheekbone in his final rugby league game for South Sydney Rabbitohs. Coach Mike Ford has said Burgess is likely to come on at centre.
Quins, meanwhile, hand a start to Danny Care at scrum-half. Care, who was on the bench for the defeat by Sale last week, has been released from the England squad after again failing to make the cut for the final autumn international against Australia on Saturday.
Bath backs Semesa Rokoduguni and Kyle Eastmond will also start on Friday after falling out of Stuart Lancaster’s plans.
A win over Quins will see The Rec outfit move to the top of the Premiership table, but all the attention is likely to be on Burgess’s imminent union debut.
Billy Twelvetrees has been handed his first start of the 2014 Internationals against Australia at Twickenham on Saturday with Owen Farrell reverting to the bench.
The Gloucester Rugby centre, who started every game in last season’s Six Nations campaign, takes the No 12 jersey and shifts Saracen Owen Farrell to the replacements’ bench as George Ford is retained at flyhalf.
Up front, Northampton Saints pair Tom Wood and Dylan Hartley take over from James Haskell (Wasps) and Rob Webber (Bath Rugby) at blindside flank and hooker respectively.
Despite those changes to the run-on side, the same match-day 23 who beat Samoa 28-9 last weekend will be on duty as England look to secure a 10th victory in 13 Twickenham Tests.
Reviewing his selection, Head Coach Stuart Lancaster praised Twelvetrees for his committed self-development over the current campaign.
Centre Jaque Fourie has joined fellow World Cup winner Bakkies Botha in deciding to quit the international stage.
Fourie, on the Union Sports Group player management agency’s official website, confirmed that he will no longer be available for Springbok selection.
“After much consideration, with regards to my current career status, I have decided to not make myself available for any international matches,” Fourie said in a statement on the agency website.
“I have chosen to remain focused on continuing with my current club, Kobelco Steelers.
Former Fiji wing Rupeni Caucaunibuca has ended his unhappy second stint with French second division side Agen by mutual consent.
Caucaunibuca, more commonly referred to simply as Caucau, had played only 87 minutes for the Pro D2 side this season, having returned for a second spell following a highly successful first stint from 2004-09.
Back then, when Agen were in the French Top 14, Caucau twice finished as top try-scorer in the league.
He moved on to giants Toulouse in 2010 and then in 2012 returned to Northland in New Zealand, where he had also played Super Rugby for the Blues.
Agen said the explosive 34-year-old had asked to have his contract terminated.
Ireland flank Chris Henry has had an operation to repair a defect on his heart wall after a temporary blockage was discovered in a small blood vessel in his brain.
The defect was found to be related to the blockage, which was discovered before Ireland’s victory over South Africa on 8 November.
Henry was withdrawn from the starting lineup on the morning of the South Africa match with a suspected viral illness that was initially diagnosed as a severe migraine.
South African centre Pat Howard admits he is ready for whatever comes his way as he bids to build on his first appearance for Munster.
Howard began a three-month contract with the Irish province at the start of the month and got his first taste of the Guinness PRO12 at the weekend.
The 22-year-old featured off the bench as Munster made light work of seeing off Newport Gwent Dragons 38-12 in their return to Guinness PRO12 action.
Howard arrived at Munster to bolster the options in midfield due to injuries to Keith Earls and Cian Bohane with an Irish derby with Ulster next up.
Munster will then break for European action and Howard insists he is acclimatising well and relishing the challenges that lie ahead both domestically and on the continent.
Wales will be able to call on their French-based stars for Saturday’s Test against the Springboks at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The match falls outside of World Rugby’s Test window, which means clubs are not obliged to release their overseas-based players for internationals.
For this reason, the Springboks will not be able to call on the likes of Bryan Habana (Toulon, France) JP Pietersen (Panasonic Wild Knights, Japan), Schalk Burger (Suntory Sungoliath, Japan), Johan Goosen (Racing Metro, France), Jano Vermaak (Toulouse, France), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse, France) and Morne Steyn (Stade Francais, France).
However, it appears Wales will be able to call on some key overseas players.
Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis has not recovered from a hamstring injury and will miss their final tour game against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Du Plessis sustained the injury against England at Twickenham on 15 November and missed this past weekend’s game against Italy in Padua (Padova).
He was expected to be back for the Wales Test, but needs more time on the sidelines.
Warren Whiteley picked up a calf injury during training recently and also has not recovered sufficiently to play in the final Test against Wales on Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster has recalled 34 players to Pennyhill Park to prepare for Saturday’s final International against Australia at Twickenham Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs’ in form No 8 Thomas Waldrom, who has scored seven tries in eight Premiership games this season, replaces Billy Vunipola.
The Saracens man suffered concussion in Saracens’ defeat to Northampton Saints at the weekend will undergo the Graduated Return To Play protocol at his club.
John Philip “Bakkies” Botha, born 22 September 1979 in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal has had a glittering international career that drew to a close on 22 November 2014.
He will continue to play for his French Club Toulon and has even hinted at retiring in South Africa with the Currie Cup.
In his professional career Botha has won everything there is to win.
With the Blue Bulls he won the Vodacom Cup in 2001 and then went on to add three Currie Cup titles to his name in 2002, 2004 and 2009.
With the Bulls in Super Rugby, Botha was part of the first South African team to lift the trophy in 2007 (in the professional era – with Transvaal winning the Super 10 in 1993), and then again in 2009 and 2010.
Australian men’s Sevens head coach Geraint John has named his 12-man squad that will travel to Asia for the Dubai Sevens in December.
The pacy duo of Greg Jeloudev (ankle) and Allan Fa’alava’au (ineligible) return after sitting out the Gold Coast Sevens World Series opener in October.
Veteran forward Jesse Parahi misses out after breaking a finger in training last Thursday and will undergo surgery on Monday. Afa Pakalani (shoulder) and Shannon Walker (foot) are also unavailable through injury.
The starting side who did duty for the Springboks on Saturday as well as one replacement, have all left the Springboks to return to their respective Clubs in France and Japan.
- Johan Goosen returns to Racing Metro in France
- Bryan Habana returns to Toulon
- JP Pietersen returns to the Panasonic Wild Knights
- On the Springbok bench, Gurthrö Steenkamp returns to Toulouse in France
Of course Bakkies Botha has now retired from International Rugby and accordingly also leaves for Toulon, whilst Morné Steyn (who was not used on Tour) returns to Stade Français.
Schalk Burger joins his Japanes Club, Suntory Sungoliath.
This leads us to the burning question as to the composition and changes in the Springbok run-on team and 23-man squad for Saturday’s encounter with Wales, who held a lead over the All Blacks till the 69th minute, this past Saturday, before conceding a blitz of 3 tries, which blew the score against them out of proportion.
Mind you, one more Springbok tourist is also leaving the squad, thus unavailable for selection, namely Seabelo Senatla, who was released to the Springbok Sevens squad (or Blitzbokke as they are affectionately referred to) for the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014… the tournament in Dubai and the one in South Africa the week thereafter.
Seabelo Senatla has been released from the Springbok touring squad at the request of the Springbok Sevens and will return to South Africa on Sunday.
Senatla will join the Blitzbokke as they prepare for the next two tournaments in the HSBC Sevens World Series, in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
“We’ve got a very good relationship with Neil (Powell) and the Sevens, so we’re happy to help,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“At this stage we won’t be calling up a replacement as we have enough cover at the back.
Heyneke Meyer paid tribute to Bakkies Botha, who announced his retirement from international rugby shortly after the Test.
“Bakkies will go down in history as one of the greatest Springboks of all time,” said Meyer of the 85-times capped lock forward. “He is a giant on the field and off it and never gave an inch, which personifies what Springbok rugby is all about.
“I’ve coached him for a very long time and while I’m immensely very proud of the player he’s become, I’m even more proud of the man Bakkies has become. I’ll forever be very proud of having been his coach.”
Springbok lock and Rugby World Cup winner Bakkies Botha has announced his retirement from international rugby.
Botha, who made his Test debut on 9 November 2002 against France in Marseille, while his 85th and final appearance for South Africa was last Saturday, when he came on as a replacement in the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.
During a stellar career, the 35-year-old lock won the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks in 2007 and was victorious at almost every other level of the game.
He has winners’ medals from the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (Tri-Nations), British & Irish Lions Series, Vodacom Super Rugby, Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, as well as the Heineken Cup and French Top 14.
Botha is the seventh most-capped Springbok of all time, is a three-time SA Rugby Player of the Year nominee (2003, 2004 and 2005) and holds the world record for the most Tests as a lock combination in the starting line-up with Victor Matfield (63).
The Bulls were dealt a cruel blow just days into their pre-season, with confirmation that Springbok Flip van der Merwe is set to miss the start of the 2015 season.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, confirmed that Van der Merwe will undergo surgery next Tuesday after damaging his pectoral muscle.
“It was a freak accident,” Ludeke said, when asked about the burly lock that was ruled out for the latter half of 2014 after suffering a serious knee injury during the second Springbok Test against Wales in June.
European clubs targeting Springboks to join their cash-flush clubs after next year’s Rugby World Cup will this time have more of a fight on their hands than before, after the South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) Springbok contracts are likely to be enforced with more vigour.
In recent days we’ve seen growing reports of Boks that may be heading overseas after the Rugby World Cup. This week it was Duane Vermeulen’s link with a French club and Bath – the latter willing to offer around R7.8-million a year for the IRB Player of the year nominee’s services.
Previously both Flip van der Merwe and Eben Etzebeth have been linked with moves overseas to French clubs while sources in France tell of Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux and even Jan Serfontein being privately courted with offers to go overseas.
However, here is the catch. Those with Springbok contracts cannot enter into any negotiations with any club before 1 July 2015, leaving them a matter of 2 months to sort out their post-World Cup careers before the showpiece event takes place.
The Springbok starting team to face Italy in Padova on Saturday shows four changes from the side which beat England at Twickenham last week, with three new faces amongst the pack and one in the backline.
There are also five changes on the bench, with Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys included in a Test match-23 for the first time.
Trevor Nyakane will start his first Test for South Africa at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen moves up from the bench to replace the injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead. Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje returns to the starting line-up while Johan Goosen has been selected at fullback.
Joining Carr and Redelinghuys on the bench, are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Lood de Jager and Willie le Roux. Tendai Mtawarira has been given a break after carrying a heavy workload recently.
“I’m excited to see what these guys can do on Saturday in what will be a stern Test against a fired-up Italy,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“We planned to make a few shifts for this Test as I’d like to see if these players can make the step up. The guys coming in deserve their opportunities and seeing that we won’t have our overseas-based players available next week against Wales, it made sense to bring a few of them in this week.”
Rudy Paige and Marnitz Boshoff have been called up to the Springbok squad for the last week of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in Cardiff next week.
Paige, from the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Boshoff will join in the squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf as the Springboks’ overseas-based players are not available for the last match of the season due to the fact that it falls outside the Test window.
“This means that Jano Vermaak, Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen are not available to face Wales, which is why we had to get in specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
Steval Pumas outgoing No 8 Renaldo Bothma cleaned up at the rugby union’s annual awards on Wednesday night, taking home the big prizes on offer.
Bothma, who has signed for the Cell C Sharks in the coming season was a popular choice after a storming Absa Currie Cup campaign for the Nelspruit based union.
Bothma was crowned as the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup player of the year and the referee’s player of the year.
“What an honour to be rewarded with all the prizes. I can only thank my heavenly father for the talent he gave me, thank my support base in the likes of my parents, fellow players and the whole of Nelspruit community for this year. And yes, thank you to coach Jimmy Stonehouse for believing in me and giving me the opportunities I had. This lead to the great opportunity to play Super Rugby and World Cup in 2015,” Bothma said when receiving his awards.
Errr… wrong picture… I did not say Bath Plug, I said Bath Rugby! OK, here’s the right one!
Gmpfff, still looks somewhat the same!
Anyway… Bath head coach Mike Ford has said the club are not in the market for Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen.
Earlier in the week there was speculation that Bath were on the hunt for Vermeulen to be one of their marquee players alongside Wallaby Will Genia.
“It was news to us when it was mentioned to us earlier today,” Ford said on Tuesday.
Francois Louw says he had been carrying “for years” an underlying neck problem that forced him to have surgery in September.
A pinched nerve caused by a slipped disk resulted in the 34-cap Springbok having an operation on 22 September.
The injury has forced the flank to miss the year-end internationals and Louw is still unable to put a firm date on his return for club side Bath, although he says a December “would be fantastic”.
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis revealed that he went to America to speed up the rehabilitation program, following a knee injury.
Dennis was among the first batch of Waratahs that began pre-season training this week, as they look to defend their Super Rugby crown.
He was among the first group of returning players, which include senior team members Pat McCutcheon, Paddy Ryan and Jeremy Tilse.
They are joined by seven new faces, including former New Zealand Warriors Rugby League player Sam Lousi.
Fiji prop Campese Ma’afu was suspended for a week for being sent off for two yellow-card offenses in the 17-13 loss to Wales at Cardiff last weekend.
Ma’afu appeared before an independent Six Nations disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.
The Warriors have confirmed that Mark Bennett will be out for in the region of 12 weeks with a hamstring injury.
The centre, who was injured during Scotland’s defeat to New Zealand on Saturday, was assessed at Ross Hall Hospital in Glasgow.
He does not require surgery and will now undergo a period of rehabiitation.
English club Bath are reportedly setting their sights on signing Springbok and Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The 28-year-old has been instrumental for the Springboks this season and was recently also shortlisted as an IRB World Rugby Player of the year nominee.
According to the Express.co.uk website, Bath are lining up Vermeulen as a second marquee player alongside Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia.
Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees are both in contention to face Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday, after Burrell was named in the group preparing for the third of England’s year-end Tests.
The Northampton Saints centre, who scored three tries in the 2014 Six Nations, is among 28 players recalled by Stuart Lancaster to Pennyhill Park on Monday – after recovering from a hand injury.
Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni, missing from the 28-31 defeat to South Africa with a thigh injury, has not recovered sufficiently to retake his place in the squad and will remain at the club.
Domestic colleague Kyle Eastmond suffered concussion towards the end of the match last Saturday and will undergo the graduated return to play protocol in hope of playing against the South Sea Islanders.
Sharks CEO John Smit has confirmed the arrival of Samoan and former EP Kings wing Paul Perez to the Sharks.
Perez arrived earlier on Monday at the Sharks headquarters in Durban, after his contract with the Kings was terminated.
Perez now joins Michael Horak, who also made the move up the coast, to take up a role as defensive and kicking coach fro the union.
Ireland’s Chris Henry missed the recent win over South Africa with a brain injury, rather than a migraine, the Irish Rugby Football Union announced Monday.
Team medical staff initially diagnosed a virus on the morning of the 8 November match, against the Springboks, before suspecting a severe migraine.
However, specialists have since determined that “a temporary blockage of a small blood vessel in his brain” forced 30-year-old Ulster flank Henry to miss Ireland’s surprise 29-15 victory over the Springboks.
“Chris Henry suffered some weakness on the morning of the South Africa game and a viral illness was suspected, he recovered quickly and the initial diagnosis was of severe migraine,” read the IRFU statement.
The Springboks have two main injury concerns following their bruising 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.
Prop Jannie Du Plessis hobbled off in the 64th minute of the game after he went down awkwardly at the breakdown, which team doctor Craig Roberts is currently investigating.
“Jannie hyper-extended his knee in a ruck and was caught quite awkwardly. His foot got stuck in the ground and couldn’t bend his knee which ended up overstretching his hamstring and hyper-extending his knee.
New Zealand will be without forward Victor Vito for the final match of their Northern Hemisphere tour after he returned home through injury.
The loose forwatd suffered a calf problem before half-time against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday, and was forced to watch the second period from the sidelines as the All Blacks ran out 24-16 winners.
Vito had started the match well, crossing in the ninth minute to register his third international try.
Prop forwards Quintin Esterhuyzen and Shaun de Preez have been called up as replacements to join the Namibian team in Carcavelos, Portugal, ahead of Namibia’s final match of their Northern Hemisphere tour.
The pair will join the team later this week as cover after loosehead Jaco Engels injured a hamstring in the match against the French Barbarians.
Engels is undergoing medical treatment and his recovery will be monitored, while the other regular Namibian props Johnnie Redelinghuys and Andrè Schlechter returned home due to personal commitments.