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rorylamont

Rory Lamont: On-field treatment following Fibula fracture against France in 2012

The relationship between Rory Lamont and rugby has always been uneasy. When it was good, it was really good: 29 Scotland caps, two World Cups, and stints in Europe’s top leagues with Toulon, Sale and Glasgow.

When it was bad, it was really bad: whispering campaigns about his attitude, 16 operations, “double figure” concussions. By the time the game ran out of uses for him, the feeling was entirely mutual.

Three years ago this week, Lamont announced his retirement. The last of his many injuries, a lower leg fracture from the previous year, hadn’t properly healed and the end came as a relief.

“I was thinking, ‘finally it’s over’. I felt like an animal being put out of its misery. I’d had a miserable year, people questioning my integrity, and I couldn’t wait to crack on with my life and all the amazing things I was going to do.”

Never did he picture becoming a recluse, battling severe depression and suicidal thoughts. Nowhere in the retirement brochure did it say he’d lose 25kg in four months and be unable to stomach solids for a further five. The bit about being so low he hoped he’d be run over by a bus? Not what he’d signed up for either.

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Tyrone Holmes

Tyrone Holmes in action for Glasgow Warriors

Glasgow Warriors have announced a group of players who will leave the club in the summer.

Prop Jerry Yanuyanutawa, looseforward Tyrone Holmes and hooker Kevin Bryce are among the departures.

Fijian international Yanuyanutawa joined the club from London Irish in 2013 and has gone on to make 46 appearances for the Scotstoun-based side.

South Africa-born Holmes joined the Warriors in 2013 and has made 34 appearances for the club over the last 3 seasons and was capped by Scotland against South Africa in 2014.

27-year-old Bryce has made 12 appearances for the Warriors since joining the club in 2013 and has gone on to represent Scotland on 2 occasions.

Loose forwards Will Bordill and Jason Hill, hookers Shalva Mamukashvili and Fergus Scott, flyhalf Gregor Hunter and prop Javan Sebastian will also be leaving the club.

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In the last few days the news has broken of the imminent departure of 2 big players from Glasgow Warriors. Glasgow Warriors centurion James Eddie has announced he has retired from rugby with immediate effect and Fijian lock Leone Nakarawa will be released from his Glasgow Warriors contract at the end of the season to move to a club in France.

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Southern KingsSouthern Kings head coach Deon Davids included the returning Edgar Marutlulle and Sti Sithole in his 25-man touring squad for their trip to Argentina this weekend to face the Jaguares.

The presence of the front row duo is a welcome boost to team after both missed out on the match against the Emirates Lions last week due to injury.

Stefan Willemse, who has played at both lock and flank, is also part of the touring squad, along with No 8 Aidon Davis.

Davids also announced that backline players Elgar Watts and Jaco van Tonder would be part of the touring squad.

“At fullback we have Jaco van Tonder, we know he can play at No 15 and hasn’t had a chance to start there yet this year, and Leighton Eksteen, who can come in as a backup,” said Davids.

“We felt that, at this point of time, we want to give Jaco a chance and see how he is doing.”

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Jake White

Montepellier’s Jake White

Newport Gwent Dragons produced a stunning upset when they crossed the River Severn to beat Aviva Premiership Gloucester at Kingsholm in the European Challenge Cup.

But that 23 / 21 quarterfinal triumph would pale if they were to beat star-studded Montpellier at the Altrad Stadium in the south of France on Saturday evening.

So what are their chances of reaching the final of Europe’s 2nd-tier tournament? Rugby Correspondent Andy Howell assesses the head-to-head contests and marks each opposing player in the respective starting line-ups out of 10 with the Montpellier players mentioned first.

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Mike Blair

Mike Blair

Glasgow Warriors scrumhalf Mike Blair has retired from playing with immediate effect and will take up a new coaching role at the club next season.

The 35-year-old will remain with Scottish Rugby as an assistant coach at the Warriors.

Blair joined Glasgow this season and has made 12 appearances for the club and was voted Player of the Month in October.

The 85-capped former Scotland international has had an illustrious career, representing Edinburgh Rugby, Brive, Newcastle Falcons and the Warriors.

Blair enjoyed 10 years with Edinburgh Rugby, playing his first professional game in 2001. Highlights included being runners up in the Magners League in 2009 and reaching the semifinals of the European Cup in 2012.

Scotland’s most capped scrumhalf captained his country on 14 occasions before retiring from international rugby at the start of 2013, aged 31.

He was named Scotland’s Player of the Year in 2008 and was nominated for the IRB World Player of the Year that same season. He toured South Africa with the British and Irish Lions in 2009.

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quinnroux

Quinn Roux

Connacht’s South African lock Quinn Roux and trio of other South African players have been included in an Ireland squad which will meet for a training camp on Sunday.

The uncapped Roux is joined by loose forward CJ Stander, and hookers Richardt Strauss and Rob Herring who have all played for Ireland before. The quartet will be hoping to make it into Ireland’s final squad for their tour of South Africa in June.

However, Ireland flanker Chris Henry’s hopes of being selected for the summer tour of South Africa appear to have suffered a blow after he was left out of the squad for Sunday’s training camp.

Henry, who did not play in the Six Nations, is not among the 44 players who will meet up in county Meath.

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Mils Muliaina

Mils Muliaina will be playing in the new Pro League in the USA

Next Sunday afternoon at 16:00 Pacific Standard Time a little piece of rugby history will be made. The 1st match of a brand new USA pro-league will kick off when Sacramento face San Francisco on Bonney Field. The venture has the blessing of both World Rugby and USA Rugby, although it is entirely independent of either governing body. There are only 5 teams competing in the league – Denver, Ohio and San Diego in addition to the 2 above – but for US rugby this may just be the acorn from which a rugby oak emerges.

The money man is Doug Schoninger, who worked in the financing of stadiums but boasts no background in rugby. The man in charge of the rugby is a Scot, Steve Lewis, who has been steeped in the game since growing up in Glasgow and whose resume is a good deal more exotic than most.

After turning out for West of Scotland alongside the likes of Matt Duncan, Gerry McGuinness and a young Gordon Bulloch, Lewis emigrated to the US in the early 1990s. He has coached a wide variety of teams around the world from the West Point Ladies, the Beit Jala Lions (in Palestine), Nigeria’s national team, Vail Rugby, Old Blue and the New York City Sevens side that won the plate final at Twickenham in 2013. Lewis was named the USA Coach of the Year in 2014.

As rugby director of the new league it is his task to populate those 5 teams with the best players money can buy: well, the best players that UD$ 35 000.00 can buy. And if that doesn’t sound like a king’s ransom it was enough to tempt fullback Mils Muliaina and his 100 All Black caps to play a 12-match season that stretches just 3 and a half months (17 April – 31 July). The league kicks off when the American Football season is over and before the baseball has become interesting.

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Fourie du Preez

Fourie du Preez

Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez called time on his illustrious rugby career today (Thursday).

The 34-year-old Du Preez represented South Africa in 76 Tests between 2004 and 2015, captaining the Springboks in 4 Tests at the World Cup in England last year. He also won 164 caps for the Bulls and Blue Bulls from 2001 to 2011, and played 55 times for Suntory Sungoliath in Japan.

Du Preez played his last match in the green and gold in last year’s World Cup semifinal against New Zealand, where he picked up an injury which ruled him out of the 3rd-place play-off. He has subsequently finished his career with Suntory.

“Fourie du Preez will go down in the annals of South African rugby as one of the most decorated players ever,” said SA Rugby President Oregan Hoskins.

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Toyota CheetahsThe Toyota Cheetahs will play a friendly game against Japanese club Toyota Verblitz later this year.

The game, to be played on Friday 23 July in Japan, will serve as preparation for the Japan Top League and Currie Cup competitions.

The match will further strengthen the friendship ties between the 2 teams – who share the same sponsor.

At the end of the 2014 season and after losing a number of players because of limited funding, Free State Cheetahs (Pty) Ltd established a programme whereby players could play in Japan during the Currie Cup season and return to play for the Toyota Cheetahs’ Super Rugby franchise at the conclusion of the Japanese league.

By having Toyota as a sponsor it enabled Free State Rugby to engage freely with Verblitz, a Toyota owned club in Japan.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions Head Coach Johan Ackermann has made a number of changes to the side who lost to the Highlanders in Dunedin during Round 3 of Super Rugby 2016, for the clash against the Toyota Cheetahs at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

In an enforced change due to the suspension of blindside flank Warwick Tecklenburg, the young prospect Ruan Ackermann gets his 1st run-on opportunity in the loose forwards.

Also returning to the starting lineup is Lionel Mapoe who missed the last game to be at the birth of his 1st child, as well as Andries Coetzee at fullback, together with Dylan Smith and Malcolm Marx in the front row.

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Glasgow WarriorsThis feels like a semifinal age in the tempestuous domain of European rugby.

The financial behemoths prowling the leagues of England and France are on a seemingly inexorable rise, hoovering up the galacticos of the southern hemisphere.

Theirs is a monetary clout Scottish rugby cannot hope to match.

From Edinburgh, Dave Denton has gone to Bath, Greig Tonks to London Irish. Captain Mike Coman will follow, so too Matt Scott to Gloucester at the season’s end. There may be others.

Along the M8, speculation continues to heighten on the future of Fijian sensation Leone Nakarawa – reportedly heading for Racing 92 with a year left on his contract – and Taqele Naiyaravoro, the monstrous winger, returning to the Waratahs of Australia.

 

A shrewd acquisition

Amidst this leakage of talent, though, the Warriors have, rather shrewdly, recruited an ex-Crusaders hooker, a 4-time Super Rugby champion, 15-Test All Black and Rugby World Cup winner.

Corey Flynn joins Gregor Townsend’s squad on a 2-year deal this summer following a sojourn at Toulouse, one of the most storied and wealthy of the French heavyweights.

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Elliot Daly could make his England senior debut against Ireland

Elliot Daly could make his England senior debut against Ireland

Wasps centre Elliot Daly is set for his England debut after being named in Eddie Jones’ 23-man squad for Saturday’s match against Ireland.

Daly replaces lock Courtney Lawes in the only change from the squad that beat Italy.

“Elliot Daly has impressed in training and is now ready to be part of the matchday 23,” Jones said.

England won their opening 2 matches and top the table, while Ireland lost to France and drew with Wales.

Daly, 23, has played 4 times for England Saxons and also represented England at Under 18 and Under 20 level.

Ireland could also bring a debutant into midfield, with Ulster’s Stuart McCloskey in contention for a 1st cap if fitness-doubt Jared Payne is ruled out.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Powerful Taqele Naiyaravoro leaves Newport Gwent Dragons players sprawling

There has been a mix of good and bad news for Glasgow Warriors on the player retention front this week. The bad news is that Taqele Naiyarovoro will be evoking an exit clause and leaving at the end of this season, 1 third of the way through his original contract. The good news is that promising young scrumhalf Ali Price as well as loosehead prop Alex Allan and tighthead prop Sila Puafisi have extended their contracts in varying amounts.

The loss of Naiyarovoro is no surprise as the speculation of this happening has been rife all season, in fact from even before he arrived in Glasgow. The detail on the actual timing of his departure is a little sketchy as it has been reported that he will leave at the end of Glasgow’s season but at the same time that he will join the Waratahs for Super Rugby 2016, but this starts before the end of Glasgow’s season. Apparently he is on quite a lucrative package and his departure will at least free up some funds for other players to either be retained or recruited by the club.

Naiyarovoro arguably played his best match for Glasgow Warriors thus far at home against Scarlets in the European Rugby Champions Cup. He was at his powerful best and steamrollered his way to a hat trick of tries in this match. Hopefully, he can make a big contribution to the Warriors cause  for the rest of the season before he departs.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks received a timely boost with confirmation that seasoned Springbok loose forward Keegan Daniel is returning to Durban.

Daniel, who has spent 2 seasons with Kubota in Japan, will be playing for the Sharks in the 2016 Super Rugby season.

With 199 caps for the Sharks, 59 of those as captain, he also led the team to Currie Cup glory in 2013.

Daniel, 30, played the last of his 5 Tests for the Springboks against Argentina at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza, in August 2012.

Always a fierce competitor, he will bring strong leadership and experience to the team environment – which will greatly benefit the youngsters in the Sharks squad.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

Die Afrikaanse Naweekpers het verskeie rugbyartikels geplaas en ons bespreek so klompie daarvan onder EEN Artikel.

(To our Non-Afrikaans readership, our apologies that you won’t be able to understand this article, however a very large contingent of our readers are Afrikaans, so we unashamedly accommodate them in this article. The News basically relates to Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke possibly heading to Japan for coaching positions, Francois Hougaard being made available for Super Rugby duties at the Bulls during March to May and suggestions of Referee favouratism and blunders against the Blitzbokke in the Final at the Wellington Sevens Tournament this weekend).

Die nuutste aanduidings is dat beide Heyneke Meyer en die voormalige Vodacom Bulls afrigter, Frans Ludeke, nou in lyn is vir afrigtersposte in Japan.

Verder blyk dit ‘n feitlik uitgemaakte saak dat Francois Hougaard gedurende Maart tot Mei nie deel van die Blitzbokke groep sal uitmaak nie maar ‘n bedeling met die Vodacom Bulls gesluit het wat hom vir ongeveer 8 Super Rugby wedstryde gedurende Maart tot Mei beskikbaar sal stel.

Die laaste aspek wat bespreek word is aantuigings dat die Skeidsregter in die Finaal van die Wellington Sewestoernooi in Nieu-Seeland, seker blatante en ooglopende foute begaan het, om sodoende die Blitzbokke te laat verloor ten gunste van Nieu Seeland, wie op tuisbodem die kroon gevat het in die naweek se toernooi.

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JJ Engelbrecht

JJ Engelbrecht

As speculated here on rugby-talk a few weeks ago the former Bulls player JJ Engelbrecht is set to make his debut for Ospreys on Sunday 31 January against Glasgow Warriors. Engelbrecht has been named as player No 23 in the Ospreys match day squad for the hosts in their PRO12 match.

It remains to be seen where the Ospreys will be utilizing his talents for the rest of the season and clarity on this may only be gained once he is listed in any of their starting line ups.  The pacey winger who has spent the bulk of the last few seasons playing at outside centre will at least be sleeping more peacefully for the next few nights than he would have been had he been listed as centre in the starting line up. This ensures that he will be required for less time or may completely avoid having to help the midfield defend against the mammoth Fijian Australian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro who is due to don the No 13 jumper for the reigning champions.

Naiyaravoro has been brought in from the wing with various regular centres unavailable for the match. Alex Dunbar and Richie Vernon have been ruled out due to injury, while Peter Horne and Mark Bennett are with the Scotland squad ahead of the 6 Nations and just last weekend Bennett was ruled out of playing for the Warriors in their European Champions Cup encounter against Racing 92 due to injury.  Loose forward Hugh Blake has helped out at centre earlier this season as well, but he is away with the Scotland 7s team in Wellington New Zealand.

The Ospreys picked another big Fijian, Josh Matavesi, as inside centre possibly with a view to try and keep Naiyaravoro in check. At 1.88m tall and weighing 112kg Matavesi will take some stopping as well and the fans can look forward to some big collisions.

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Cheeky Watson

Cheeky Watson

Embattled Eastern Province Rugby Union President Cheeky Watson has had the first set of legal documents served on him.

The players organisation, MyPlayers, confirmed that an Application for Liquidation was brought – through their trade union SARPA – against the EP Rugby (Pty) Ltd.

This move comes after lengthy consultations with the various stakeholders concerned as well as the exploration of all legal options available.

It follows in the wake of confirmation that EP Rugby last week reached an agreement with 18 players (who did not receive Super Rugby contracts) over outstanding salaries.

EP Rugby needs to come up with 5 Million Rand by Sunday 31 January, or they will also face a Liquidation Application from the lawyer of the aforementioned players – Craig Jessop, a labour lawyer working for the firm Brown Braude and Vlok.

This move forced MyPlayers and SARPA’s hand.

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Philip du Preez

Philip du Preez

Former South African Schools lock Philip du Preez is 1 of 3 new signings by the Southern Kings.

The Southern Kings, who will return to Super Rugby next month after a 3-year absence, confirmed the singing of the young up and coming lock, Philip du Preez (22), versatile backline player Jurgen Visser (26) and seasoned hooker Martin Bezuidenhout (26).

Kings Chief Operating Officer Charl Crous also confirmed that Sharks player Jaco van Tonder (24) has joined the team on trial this week.

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Southern KingsThe Southern Kings have confirmed a number of new signings following a week of intensive training with the SA Rugby Mobi Unit.

Chief Operating Officer, Charl Crous, confirmed that Pumas flanker, Chris Cloete, (24) and Sharks Lock John-Charles (JC) Astle (25) had been secured on loan for the season.

Following initial trials, Crous also confirmed the Southern Kings have also retained the talent of SWD utility back Leighton Eksteen (21) who has played at Scrumhalf, Flyhalf and Fullback, as well as SWD’s Luzuko Vulindlu (28) who has played at Centre and Wing. Both have been secured on loan from SWD for the season.

Sharks Centre Lukhanyo Am (22) has also secured a position in the squad on loan.

Crous said Sharks hooker, Monde Hadebe (25) would be returning to the Sharks for rehab following a slight back sprain that will see him out of action for between 4 to 5 weeks.

Crous also confirmed hooker Martin Ferreira (26) and lock, Tazz Fuzani (25) had been secured on contract for the Southern Kings season for 2016.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks’ 5 missing international players — away in Japan completing their club duties — are expected back in Durban before the end of the month.

New vice-captain Marcell Coetzee, JP Pietersen, Namibian backrower Renaldo Bothma and new signings Willie le Roux and Jacques Potgieter will join the Sharks squad a week before they leave on their pre-season tour of France early in February.

A member of the Sharks management yesterday said that the squad to travel to France would be announced next week and a decision on whether the Japan-based players would be included for the 2 friendlies has still to be made.

The Sharks will play 2-time European champs Toulon on Friday 5 February, before taking on Toulouse 6 days later.

New Cell C Sharks captain Pat Lambie said that it was likely that all the tour members would be given an airing during the 2 games but added that taking on the 2 Top 14 French clubs would be a major challenge.

Head coach Gary Gold said he wanted tough opposition for his young charges ahead of a fresh season.

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JJ Engelbrecht

JJ Engelbrecht

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed the release of JJ Engelbrecht to the Ospreys in Wales.

Engelbrecht, who played 65 times in the Vodacom Bulls jersey since joining the team in 2012, was due to link up with his Pretoria team mates upon returning from Japan, where he is playing for Toyota Industries Shuttles.

The Ospreys offer resulted in a release request by Engelbrecht, which has been granted by the BBC with immediate effect.

According to the BBC High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, the decision to release Engelbrecht was based on the depth they have in the midfield, where the likes of Jesse Kriel, Dan Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Jan Serfontein and Dries Swanepoel will be contesting starting spots.

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

Saracens are delighted to announce the signing of South African international flanker Schalk Burger for the 2016 / 2017 season.

The world class Springbok loose forward will link-up with the reigning Aviva Premiership champions for the 2016 / 2017 season after signing a 2-year deal with the Allianz Park club.

Renowned as 1 of world rugby’s finest loose forwards, Burger has captained South Africa during his stellar 12-year international career and is a former IRB World Player of the year. He has won 86 caps for the Springboks and holds the record for the most tries (14) for a loose forward for his country.

Burger will link up with Saracens after a spell with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath and Super Rugby’s Stormers.

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Morné Mellett

Morné Mellett

Vodacom Bulls prop Morné Mellett has retired from rugby with immediate effect due to medical advice.

The prop suffered vertebral artery dissection in July and was ruled out of rugby for the remainder of the year. Recent medical advice suggested that the 26-year old player calls it a day.

“It is sad to end my career like this, but I have no regrets,” Mellett said on Thursday. “I had a good career with an unbelievable group of guys and was part of the best union in the world since I left school. We have achieved so much together and although I would have wanted to go on and play test rugby in the future, my health and family remains most important.  I would like to take this opportunity to specifically thank my wife, Claudine, for her unconditional love and support throughout my career and especially now, as well as my brother Leon.” he said.

Mellett represented the Valke at Craven Week in 2006 and 2007 and started playing for the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under 19’s in 2007 already.

He represented the Vodacom Bulls in 37 matches in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition and 10 times in the ABSA Currie Cup. He also played for UP-Tuks in the Varsity Cup and represented the Junior Springboks at the 2009 Junior World Championship.

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EP KingsOn the day that the South African Rugby Players Association (SARPA) started sending letters to players informing them that they will NOT be offered contracts by the South African Rugby Union (SARU)-controlled Kings, the 1st player confirmed that he will be taking legal action against the Eastern Province Rugby Union.

Michael van Vuuren issued a statement in which he confirmed he will go the legal route.

SARPA have started sending letters to the players who will not be offered contracts by SARU – believed to be the bulk of the current Kings squad.

SARU has instead opted make use of Sevens and Under 20 players to fill the bulk of the Super Rugby squad, after taking control over from the near bankrupt EPRU last month.

Only a very small number of the current Kings will receive contract offers from SARU.

However, the players on Monday opted for a show of solidarity when they presented a petition to Eastern Province Rugby Union (EPRU) President Cheeky Watson.

The SARPA letters is just the latest shocker in the escalating crisis in the Eastern Cape franchise.

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SpringboksLocal rugby supporters finally have a reason to smile.

The plan by the SA Rugby Union (SARU) to stem the enormous exodus of top players heading overseas, by way of joint contracts with its unions is gaining some momentum.

Rugby World Cup tough guys Damian de Allende, Lood de Jager, Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe are among the list of about 20 players with whom SARU has already signed contracts.

The full list of names has not been made available, but it was confirmed that Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi, Handré Pollard, Pat Lambie and Jan Serfontein had also been contracted and could look forward to competitive salaries in line with those of Springboks playing overseas.

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Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

New Zealand’s Super Rugby franchise the Crusaders have confirmed that Fijian Rugby World Cup winger Nemani Nadolo will not be extending his contract with the Christchurch team next season.

Nadolo has agreed to play his rugby in France for French club Montpellier after the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Fijian winger Nadolo was raised in Brisbane Australia and has had playing stints in the UK, France, Australia and Japan but his career only really took off when he joined the Crusaders.

Nadolo is now 1 of the hottest wingers in World Rugby but it was not long ago that he was with the Waratahs and was unable to make the match day team.

The winger left Sydney and played for Bourgoin between 2010 and 2011 before joining Japan’s NEC Green Rocket where he was brought to the attention of Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder.

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Cheeky Watson

Cheeky Watson

Eastern Province rugby clubs plan to call a special general meeting to pass a motion of no-confidence in EPRU president Cheeky Watson.

According to reports, Watson was set to be served a motion of no confidence at the union’s annual general meeting last Friday, but the meeting was controversially postponed.

One club’s president said that in order to pass the motion of no confidence in Watson, 36 of the union’s clubs (20%) need to sign up.

He said that target would be easy to achieve and they would push to have the meeting as soon as possible.

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Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

Juan de Jongh

Juan de Jongh

Springboks Francois Hougaard and Juan de Jongh were on Wednesday named in a strong Springbok Sevens (Blitzbokke) 12-man squad for the 1st 2 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments of the new season, in Dubai and Cape Town.

The season kicks off on 4 & 5 December with the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, which is followed a week later by the inaugural HSBC Cape Town Sevens, on 12 & 13 December, at the Cape Town Stadium.

Hougaard has played in 35 Tests for the Springboks and recently joined the Sevens squad on a 1-year contract. He is set to make his World Series debut in Dubai, while DHL Western Province centre and skipper, Juan de Jongh (14 Tests), return to the Springbok Sevens fold for the 1st time since making his 1st and only appearance for the side in Wellington in 2008.

Werner Kok, the newly-crowned World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year, Cheslin Kolbe (DHL Western Province) and last season’s top-try scorer on the World Series circuit, Seabelo Senatla, will combine with regular stalwarts Cecil Afrika, Justin Geduld and Rayno Benjamin (Toyota Free State Cheetahs) to form a potent Blitzbokke backline attack.

The tough-tackling Benjamin is set to make his 30th World Series appearance while skipper Kyle Brown is on course to play in his landmark 50th tournament in his hometown of Cape Town.

The durable Brown, Philip Snyman, Kwagga Smith and Chris Dry will provide the necessary steel upfront and complete a strong selection who will defend their crown in Dubai. The Springbok Sevens are also the current tournament champions in South Africa.

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Andy Marinos

Andy Marinos

New SANZAR CEO Andy Marinos has backed South Africa’s Southern Kings and Japan’s Sunwolves to cause upsets in Super Rugby 2016.

The Southern Kings have at least played a season of Super Rugby before, while the Sunwolves are making their debut as the competition expands to accommodate a side each from Japan and Argentina as well as an extra South African side.

The EP Kings’ serious financial troubles over the past few months have raised questions over their fanchise participation in the competition, but the Sunwolves have not yet named a head coach for the season while they also do not have a full player roster.

But Marinos was a voice of calm on Wednesday morning, backing the Japanese franchise to get their ducks in a row before the tournament begins at the end of February.

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Emirates LionsAll the Lions’ Currie Cup heroes except for Kwagga Smith, who is contracted for National Sevens duty, have been retained for Super Rugby while 9 other stalwarts have strengthened the squad.

Flanker Derick Minnie returns after a long injury lay-off and winger Ruan Combrink and centre Harold Vorster have also been added to the Super Rugby group after missing some Currie Cup action due to injury.

Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies, centre Lionel Mapoe and hooker Akker van der Merwe, as well as Warrick Tecklenburg will return from overseas duty.

The new squad members are former Steval Pumas scrumhalf Faf de Klerk, Leopards No 9 Dillon Smit, Leopards lock Robert Kruger and Pumas prop Corné Fourie, who are all full-blooded Lions now.

Scrumhalf Faf de Klerk has signed a contract with the Golden Lions Rugby Union (GLRU) which will see him based permanently in Johannesburg. De Klerk, 24, was a shining light for the Emirates Lions during this year’s Super Rugby competition but because he was still contracted to the Steval Pumas, he had to return to Nelspruit for the Currie Cup season. However, the GLRU on Wednesday confirmed that the scrumhalf has signed a deal which means he will also be available for Currie Cup duty.

Steval Pumas fullback JW Bell is the only new face who hasn’t donned the Lions jersey yet.

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Nicole Sapstead

Nicole Sapstead – UK Anti-doping’s Chief Executive

Steroid abuse is “off-the-scale” in Welsh grassroots and semi-professional rugby, it has been claimed.

UK Anti-Doping figures reveal players from Wales make up 33% of all sportsmen and women serving drugs bans.

An ex-player, who took drugs, said he is surprised more have not been banned.

But WRU chief Martyn Phillips is not “overly concerned” because the number tested is proportionately higher than in other rugby unions and sports.

The player, who would not be named, said: “It’s totally off-the-scale. I think people are probably blind to it and if the truth came out I think there would be probably a lot more players who are banned from playing.”

The numbers caught are a small percentage of the thousands that play rugby, however 17 Welsh rugby union and league players, from grassroots to semi-pro, are currently banned, with the majority found to have traces of anabolic steroids in their systems.

10 Of those banned are from rugby union and form the majority of the 16 players banned from the sport across the UK.

UK Anti-Doping said the other 7 are among 14 players banned from rugby league.

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RedsThe Reds have confirmed a 37-man senior squad for the 2016 Super Rugby season, with 8 fresh faces in total joining the ranks at Ballymore.

In addition to the high-profile signings of Kane Douglas, Ayumu Goromaru, Cadeyrn Neville and NRL winger Eto Nabuli – the Reds also spent the off-season promoting from within the ranks of Queensland Rugby’s pathways with flyhalf Sam Greene and outside backs Junior Laloifi and Izaia Perese earning contracts following their performances in Queensland Premier Rugby and the National Rugby Championship (NRC). They are joined by Australian Under 20 lock Lukhan Tui, who grew up in Sydney.

In all, 20 players were retained from the 2015 Super Rugby squad, 11 of which were off contract and re-signed with the Reds, including Liam Gill, Greg Holmes, James Slipper and Rob Simmons.

In addition to that, the Reds have further progressed the careers of 8 members of its Elite Development Squad, promoting them to the Reds Senior Squad for the 2016 season.

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Vodacom BullsThe Vodacom Bulls are hard at work in preparation for the Vodacom Super Rugby season next year, with some new faces amongst the regular squad members.

New Vodacom Bulls player Lizo Gqoboka has settled in well amongst his team mates and is working hard with the rest of the Vodacom Super Rugby squad assembled in Pretoria. Winger Luther Obi will join the squad on Wednesday as the Bulls step up preparations at Loftus Versfeld for next year’s extended Vodacom Super Rugby competition, where the Vodacom Bulls are working hard to achieve success in 2016.

A number of injured players will join the fray as they complete rehabilitation, while those playing club rugby in Japan will return during the course of January 2016. The 5 returning from Japan are Grant Hattingh, Handré Pollard, JJ Engelbrecht, Bjorn Basson and Jesse Kriel.

The injured players (with date of return in brackets) are Deon Stegmann, Jannes Kirsten, Nick de Jager and Travis Ismaiel (all December), Irne Herbst, Morné Mellett, Jaco Visagie, Roelof Smit, Ruan Steenkamp, Hanro Liebenberg, Piet van Zyl, Dries Swanepoel and Warrick Gelant (January) and Callie Visagie (February).

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