Vodacom Bulls utility back Ulrich Beyers will know in the next few days if he will join the exodus to France after joining Bordeaux on a trial basis.
Beyers, who represented the Blue Bulls in last season’s ABSA Currie Cup semifinal at fullback, didn’t feature in last Saturday’s pre-season opener for the Bulls against the Toyota Cheetahs and isn’t part of the squad that heads Wednesday to London to face Saracens this weekend.
It has emerged that Beyers has been offered a trial with Bordeaux, with the option of a long-term contract if it goes well and could feature in his first start this coming weekend for the club.
Flanker Deon Stegmann will lead the Vodacom Blue Bulls on Saturday when they take on Saracens in a friendly match outside London. The Blue Bulls named their final travelling squad on Wednesday, just before departure to England.
Regular captain Pierre Spies will only play off the bench in his return to first class rugby after more than 12 months on the sidelines; hence the decision to employ Stegmann’s proven leadership skills. The former Springbok flanker captained the Vodacom Blue Bulls with great success in the ABSA Currie Cup competition in the past.
Another former captain, Victor Matfield, will travel to London as part of the coaching team and not as a player and will not be in action over the weekend.
Emirates Lions Head Coach Johan Ackermann, and Lions (Vodacom Cup) Coach Russel Winter have named their respective extended squads for this weekend’s warm up matches against a NWU-Pukke XV and a Leopards XV respectively.
It appears that a “mix and match” approach has been taken as both squads include a mixture of both experienced Super Rugby, Currie Cup and junior players.
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has announced a powerful line-up for Friday night’s friendly clash against the Cheetahs at DHL Newlands (Kick-Off 19:00 SA Time).
As expected, Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will start in his first match of 2015, his first appearance in a DHL Stormers jersey since 2013, whilst talented youngster Huw Jones gets a run at inside centre – his first start for the DHL Stormers – after Damian de Allende was ruled out with a slight quadriceps tear.
“It’s a slight tear, so we could’ve pushed Damian if, say, we were playing in a final,” said Coetzee on the www.iamastormer.com website. “It’s not serious, but we didn’t want to risk him at this stage of our pre-season preparations.”
Demetri Catrakilis, after missing last weekend’s trip to George with a stomach ailment, will start at flyhalf, whilst ABSA Currie Cup-winning lock Jean Kleyn has been named amongst the replacements after recovering from a knee (meniscus) injury which delayed his start to his team’s pre-season programme.
The struggles the DHL Stormers have endured through the past 2 Vodacom Super Rugby seasons may well be ascribed to the limited appearances made in the jersey during that time by the powerful Springbok second row forward Eben Etzebeth.
It is normally considered a stretch to suggest that one man makes a team, and it would be if you said such a thing about Etzebeth with the Stormers and Western Province for it is true that Duane Vermeulen is at least as valuable and influential. However that missing Etzebeth is akin to going without a clutch of players rather than just one is undeniable.
The statistics will bear out that claim too – in 2013 the Stormers were struggling when Etzebeth returned from injury. They lost the first match they played with him back, one in which they were robbed by the TMO against the Rebels in Melbourne, but after that they won 6 in a row. Last year he was out for the entire season with an injury sustained in the last test match of the previous year, and the Stormers struggled.
The growing trend of other countries poaching South African rugby players at a young age was a worrying one, SA Rugby Union (SARU) chief executive Jurie Roux said in Pretoria on Monday.
Speaking at the launch of the 2015 Varsity Cup, Roux said while SARU could not stop the migration of players to overseas clubs, they had to keep young talent in the country.
“What is worrying is the targeting of our younger players – they are grabbing them at Under 20 and players that we foresee playing for us,” Roux said at the Copperleaf Golf Estate.
“We’ve now changed the rule so thae second qualifying is playing for the South African Under 20 side, so if you’ve played for the Junior Springboks since 2013 you cannot play for another country.”
Leicester Tigers flank Tom Croft and Northampton Saints lock Christian Day have been called up to the England training squad.
The reinforcements come as coach Stuart Lancaster assesses the impact of an injury-laden round of European action – ahead of the first round of Six nations action, when England face Wales in Cardiff on 6 February.
Two-time British and Irish Lion Croft and former age-grade star Day joined the squad on Monday – while Geoff Parling’s knee and Tom Wood’s ankle are fully assessed by the England medical team.
All Black flank Jerome Kaino is in the process of weighing up his post World Cup future and is looking to make a decision by the start of Super Rugby.
The Blues captain has confirmed that he has received a number of high profile offers from overseas, including a lucrative one from French club Toulouse.
Dan Carter has dismissed concerns about a calf strain and told the Crusaders coaches he wants to play the Super Rugby pre-season match against the Hurricanes in Eketahuna on Saturday.
Following the frustrations of last year, when he suffered a small fracture in his lower leg in the Super Rugby Final against the Waratahs and failed to reclaim his All Blacks flyhalf spot on the November tour of Chicago and Britain, Carter is eager to quickly get things going in World Cup year.
English Premiership Rugby club London Irish have announced that they have signed Waratahs 2014 Super Rugby No 9, Brendan McKibbin, on a two-year deal.
McKibbin was part of the Waratahs squad that were crowned Super Rugby Champions last season and has 63 Super Rugby caps to his name.
Formerly of the Queensland Reds, Scotland born McKibbin made his debut for the New South Wales outfit in 2011 and went on to become their first choice scrum half amassing 234 points for the side in 59 appearances.
The Rebels have named a 28 man travelling squad for this Saturday’s pre-season trial against the Reds in Cairns with a possible 7 debutants.
The Rebels take on the Reds at Barlow Park in Cairns in what will be the first opportunity for both Australian teams to see what they are working with.
The Reds will be looking to test out the likes of new recruit and Wallaby James O’Connor as well as the their 2 League converts in Karmichael Hunt and Duncan Paia’aua.
Injured Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper has backed rookie Duncan Paia’aua to fill in as his replacement over the few first few months of the new season.
Cooper is set to miss the first 3 months of Super Rugby after fracturing his collarbone in a “freak accident” during a training match against the Reds’ Under 20 side.
And although former Wallabies flyhalf James O’Connor is in the Brisbane-based franchise’s squad, 20-year-old Paia’aua is the favourite to take over from Cooper.
The Vodacom Bulls will be without Springbok hooker Bandise Maku for the Vodacom Super Rugby season after he tore his pectoral muscle in Saturday’s opening friendly match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane.
Maku will have surgery on 3 February and will be ruled out of action for between four and six months, Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.
The Polokwane clash last year saw a season-ending injury to flanker Arno Botha, but the Springbok this time came through the match with only a tight hamstring. He will be able to train on Tuesday, but will not travel to London where the Bulls take on Saracens this weekend.
Akona Ndungane is another who will miss the London trip due to a calf strain. He will be out of action for two weeks. Dean Greyling suffered an ankle sprain and will be out for two weeks at least, Strauss said.
The DHL Stormers are slowly working towards full muster as the Vodacom Super Rugby season approaches, with another clutch of Springboks set to return to the team for Friday night’s warm-up fixture against the Toyota Cheetahs at Newlands.
The Stormers dispensed with the SWD Eagles 34 / 3 in their opening game in George at the weekend, but the Cheetahs, as fellow Super Rugby participants, are considered the toughest opponent of the pre-season phase. They are thus the ones the Cape side will consider to be the dress rehearsal for the real thing, which comes in the form of the opening clash with the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on 14 February.
The Stormers will play the Boland Cavaliers in another warm-up game before the Super Rugby season starts. However, with the game taking place just one week before the trip to Loftus, the normal policy is to include fringe players for that fixture, plus maybe a top player or two who would only then be fully ready to play after coming back from injury.
Three-time Super Rugby champions the Bulls won’t find that their pre-season campaign gets any easier when they tackle English Premiership side Saracens at their Allianz Park, north London stronghold on Saturday.
The game (Kick-Off 17:15 SA Time, 15:15 BST & GMT) is due to be screened live on SuperSport 1 and CSN, after the Loftus-based side played out a 30 / 13 win minus the glare of television cameras against Super Rugby rivals the Cheetahs in Polokwane last Saturday.
There are few better ways to get European-stationed expatriate rugby players’ juices flowing than by pitting them against South African-based compatriots, and it seems Sarries – currently 3rd in the Premiership behind Northampton and Bath – will be in a position to field several against the presumably still rusty Bulls.
New Sharks boss Gary Gold and Springbok Frans Steyn will both be back in Durban soon.
This follows after the semi-finals of the Japanese Top League – which will see the Wild Knights play Júbilo in the Final, after they defeated the Brave Lupus and Kobe Steelers respectively.
It means the Sharks Director of Rugby, Gold, and the Bok utility back, Steyn, among others, are heading home for Super Rugby.
In the first semi-final the Wild Knights ran in 4 first-half tries and added 1 more in the second stanza as they avenged 2 earlier defeats this season to the Toshiba Brave Lupus, winning 50 / 15.
Steyn’s Brave Lupus team suffering a heavy defeat means that the Sharks versatile back can return to his Durban franchise earlier than expected.
Steyn will be following his newly appointed coach Gary Gold home after the Kobe Steelers lost 12 / 41 in another hammering to Júbilo who reached their first ever Top League Final.
Katsuyuki Kiyomiya’s side ran in 2 tries in the first half and 4 in the second to upset the Steelers, who had finished the regular season on top of the Group A standings.
Capped Springboks Marnitz Boshoff and Julian Redelinghuys as well current captain Warren Whiteley, have all extended their contracts until 2016 with the Lions.
Additionally, Jaco Kriel and Ruan Dreyer – both who joined the Springbok squad for their 2014 year-end tour of the Northern Hemisphere – have also opted to renew their contracts.
This positive news comes just 3 weeks before the commencement of the 2015 season, providing the team with an added boost and additional consistency.
The Toyota Cheetahs have been dealt their first massive injury blow of the season when news filtered through that former SA Under 20 winger Sergeal Pietersen broke his jaw during Saturday’s pre-season friendly against the Vodacom Bulls in Polokwane.
Pietersen, who transferred to Bloemfontein from the EP Kings at the end of last season, went off the field early after a clash with a defender and was replaced by Clayton Blommetjies.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske confirmed that it would be a lengthy spell on the sidelines for Pietersen, who is a dynamite finisher.
“It looks like we’ve lost him for between 6 and 8 weeks,” Drotske said.
Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder will have to put his faith in some young and inexperienced scrumhalves for the start of the Super Rugby season with Andy Ellis involved in Japan and Willi Heinz out with a broken leg.
A season-ending leg injury to Willi Heinz has propelled former Hurricane Billy Guyton into the Super Rugby spotlight for the Canterbury team.
There was a collective groan around Timaru’s Alpine Energy Stadium as Heinz broke his left fibula attempting a tackle in the second quarter of the Crusaders pre-season hitout against the Highlanders on Saturday.
England flyhalf Owen Farrell will undergo tests after hobbling off with a knee injury during Saracens’ 6 / 18 European Champions Cup defeat at Clermont on Sunday.
Farrell was forced off in the 19th minute, after twisting his left knee in a collision with Clermont flank Julien Bardy.
Saracens Director of Rugby Mark McCall said the 23-year-old would now undergo further tests to see if he can compete in the Six Nations which gets underway on 6 February.
Wales and British and Irish Lions prop, Adam Jones, has retired from international rugby, he said.
The 33-year-old Cardiff Blues player featured 95 times for Wales and won 3 Grand Slams but was left out of their Six Nations squad having missed out on the 2014 autumn series.
“It’s obviously not the way I would want to finish, it’s not how I planned it in my head, and I hope no-one thinks I am simply quitting,” said Jones.
His last appearance for Wales was in the 38-16 defeat by South Africa in the first test of their June 2014 tour when he was substituted after half-an-hour.
The Crusaders appear set to be without Willi Heinz for the Super Rugby season after the scrumhalf fractured his leg in a trial against the Highlanders on Saturday.
Last year’s beaten finallists fell 29-26 in Timaru, however the scoreboard will be of little concern to Todd Blackadder’s troops, whose depth will to be tested ahead of their season-opening clash against the Rebels on 14 February.
Western Force coach Michael Foley has revealed that Wallabies wing Nick “Honey Badger” Cummins will miss the first couple of Super Rugby matches as he needs surgery.
According to the Rugby Week website, Cummins left Western Australia to play in Japan last year for personal reasons, but he has been made available to play for the Force this season.
“Nick is having a little bit of minor surgery on his ankle at the moment,” said Foley.
Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper will be sidelined for 10 to 12 weeks after suffering a fractured collar bone during a training session at Ballymore Stadium on Thursday.
The 26-year-old playmaker, who was out for 16 weeks in 2014 due to an AC joint injury, will have surgery on Tuesday to repair the fracture, which occurred around the previous operation site.
Cooper’s AC joint injury occurred against the Rebels in May last year when he fell awkwardly on his left shoulder in a tackle.
The Melbourne Rebels have selected a group of 5 players for their leadership group in 2015 but have delayed announcing their captain by a week.
Foundation Rebel Laurie Weeks and loose forwards Scott Fuglistaller and Scott Higginbotham retain their places from the 2014 leadership group, while Pat Leafa and Nic Stirzaker are added into the 5-man group for the first time.
Rebels’ Head Coach Tony McGahan believes the group will lead the Club with pride during the upcoming season.
Leinster loose forward Jack Conan and Connacht prop Nathan White were the only uncapped players picked in Ireland’s 46-man training squad for the Six Nations on Thursday.
Conan has impressed for his region in the absence of the injured Sean O’Brien and the rested Jamie Heaslip.
The New Zealand-born White was set to become Ireland’s fourth-oldest debutant at 33 in the November tests, but ruptured an arm tendon in camp. He’s expected to make his comeback to action on Saturday for his province in the European Challenge Cup.
Scotland international Sean Maitland will join London Irish next season.
Maitland, who signed for the Warriors in October 2012, has made 38 appearances for the club and has scored 11 tries during his spell in Glasgow.
The 26-year-old winger has 15 caps and 2 tries for Scotland.
Glasgow Warriors head coach Gregor Townsend said: “Sean has played a big role at the club over the last 3 years and we wish him all the best when he leaves at the end of the season.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played between now and then and I’m sure he’ll want to leave the club on a high in the summer.”
New Crusaders captain Matt Todd will lead a very inexperienced team south to Timaru to take on the Highlanders in the first pre-season outing on Saturday.
The team to play in this port city in the southern Canterbury region of New Zealand is made up of current squad members, wider training group members and some players who have been involved in the pre-season as part of the Crusaders apprenticeship system.
The game will be played in 4 quarters with rolling substitutions.
None of the Crusaders’ frontline All Blacks – Dan Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Richie McCaw, Luke Romano, Colin Slade or Kieran Read – will feature in the match.
Hurricanes prop John Schwalger, nephew of Mahonri Schwalger, has sustained further blood clots on his lungs and has been ruled out for a majority of the Super Rugby campaign.
The All Black first suffered the ailment, originally believed to be a chest infection, last year and played only 6 games for the Hurricanes.
He also skipped Wellington’s dismal NPC campaign.
The Force has named a 31-man squad to tackle the Brumbies at McGillivray Oval this Friday night in the club’s opening pre-season fixture of its 10th anniversary season.
Friday’s match will provide the first opportunity for the club’s passionate ‘Sea of Blue’ to see the Force in action in 2015, with Tetera Faulkner and Kyle Godwin in line to make their first appearances since returning from the Wallabies’ Spring Tour, while Nathan Charles will make his comeback from a pectoral injury suffered in Australia’s loss to the All Blacks during their Rugby Championship match in August.
The club will unveil 4 of its new recruits, with back-rower Ross Haylett-Petty, lock / back-rower Steve Mafi, and winger Mitchell Scott in line to represent the Force for the first time. Associates centre Ammon Matuauto has also earned his first opportunity in a Force jersey, after being promoted to the side’s wider training group following an impressive National Rugby Championship season for the Perth Spirit.
All Black prop Charlie Faumuina has bucked the trend and re-committed to the Blues and New Zealand Rugby to the end of 2017.
One of the most mobile props in the game, 28-year-old Faumuina has established himself as a dominant and versatile tighthead, with the ability to play both sides of the scrum.
He has re-signed to play in New Zealand in 2016 and in 2017.
New Zealand Rugby Chief Executive Steve Tew welcomed Faumuina’s recommitment as a great result for the All Blacks and Blues.
South Africa lock Ben Venter revealed on Wednesday he is set to join Top 14 rugby union side Bordeaux-Begles.
Venter will fill in for Adam Jaulhac who is absent for 3 months after undergoing surgery on a herniated disc.
“I’m proud and happy to announce that I’m going to join Bordeaux-Begles,” the 27-year-old Venter wrote on his Twitter account.
Stormers flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is the latest player linked to a move abroad, with French club Montpellier reportedly his destination. (Also see Update below)
Montpellier, currently coached by World Cup-winning former Springbok mentor Jake White, has been linked to a host of South African players – including the Du Plessis brothers Jannie and Bismarck.
Montpellier also secured the services of Wallaby scrumhalf Nic White, who will join them next season and be reunited with his former club coach White.
According to the French media the 24-year-old Brumbies No 9, White, has – along with Catrakilis – signed a 2-year contract with the option of extending it by a further year.
The first playing squad of the Stormers has been named already for the first Stormers warm-up match against SWD and it certainly looks like Scarra Ntubeni will have first pick at hooker, but Bongi bonambi, the imported hooker from the Bulls will not go away, he’ll battle for the starting spot all season and Scarra Ntubeni will have to be at his best… and stay injury free, to keep the pecking order in his favour.
Allister Coetzee is faced with a delicate balancing act, considering who he has available and who are carrying niggles and injuries.
The Brumbies will field 8 Wallabies, including David Pocock, this Friday – when they head to Perth to face the Force in the first Super Rugby hit-out of 2015.
In the backs the likes of Matt Toomua, Nic White, Christian Leali’ifano, Joe Tomane and Henry Speight will all feature, while 2014 top-try scorer Robbie Coleman will also travel west for the game.
The Players’ Player of the Year, Jarrad Butler, fronts a strong pack of Brumbies forwards – including Pocock, who has been named for the first time since February last year when he suffered a ruptured ACL.