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Player Movements

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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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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks on Thursday unveiled their provisional Super Rugby training squad ahead of the 2016 season.

As expected, lock Ruan Botha joins from the Stormers on a 2-year deal to soften the blow of Pieter-Steph du Toit moving the other way.

“Ruan is a young player with a bright future ahead of him. He was part of the SA Under 20 squad that won the IRB Junior Championship in 2012 and we look forward to his progress in the black and white jersey,” Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold told the franchise’s website.

“This squad will be re-looked at in the New Year, when our other squad members return.”

There are another 9 players currently undergoing rehab for various injuries, while 6 have been released including flyhalf Lionel Cronje, lock Marco Wentzel and centre Waylon Murray.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw holds the Webb Ellis Cup aloft

Richie McCaw has confirmed he is hanging up his boots and retiring from professional rugby.

The 34-year-old All Blacks captain and most capped All Black of all time has drawn the curtain on his stunning international career which started in Dublin 14 years ago, almost to the day, and ended in London last month when he hoisted the Webb Ellis Cup aloft for the 2nd time.

McCaw announced his decision at a media conference at the New Zealand Rugby offices in Wellington on Thursday.

“I’m hanging up my boots having accomplished everything I could have ever dreamed about in the game. Knowing that I was able to end my career by helping the All Blacks win the Rugby World Cup Final is a hugely satisfying feeling,” he said.

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Ruan Botha

Ruan Botha

The Cell C Sharks are set to announce their pre-season Super Rugby squad on Thursday – and the name Ruan Botha will appear on that list.

The 23-year-old Stormers lock is set for a move to Durban, while Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit has moved from the Sharks to Newlands.

A Sharks spokesperson on Wednesday said that the deal between the union and Botha could not yet be officially confirmed due to a contract that still had to be signed.

However, the indication was that all of the paperwork would be wrapped up by Thursday.

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Southern KingsAustralian James Hilterbrand, a hooker currently playing for Edinburgh in European competitions, headlines a list of 9 new signings by the Southern Kings.

This was announced on Monday, a day that another 2 players – wing Luther Obi and utility back Sylvian Mahuza – have given notice of their intent to leave the Kings, the Port Elizabeth-based franchised announced the list of new recruits.

Apart from Hilterbrand, who played 2 games for the Western Force in 2013 and 14 games for Edinburgh since joining them for the 2013 / 2014 season, they have signed a number of high-profile players.

These include duo Jurgen Visser and Louis Fouché (Vodacom Bulls), Caylib Oosthuizen (Toyota Cheetahs), SP Marais (Cell C Sharks), Stefan Watermeyer and JC Roos (Steval Pumas), Mark Richards (Emirates Lions) and Carel Greeff (ORC Griquas).

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

Amongst the Super Rugby news this week is the announcement that Tanerau Latimer will return to Super Rugby and join up with the Blues.

Lima Sopoaga has also extended his stay at the Highlanders.

Meanwhile the Brumbies will lose Matt Toomua to Leicester Tigers when the European season of 2016 / 2017 starts after Super Rugby of 2016, but therefore he will still be available for the Brumbies in 2016. The Brumbies have also signed hooker Robbie Abel with the Brumbies’ Extended Playing Squad for 2016.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Double Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw is expected to confirm his decision to retire from rugby this week, New Zealand media reported on Sunday.

McCaw, who turns 35 on 31 December, led the All Blacks to their 3rd Rugby World Cup triumph 2 weeks ago when his side beat trans-Tasman rivals Australia 34 / 17 in the final at a packed Twickenham stadium in London.

The All Blacks were the 1st team to retain the trophy, after the openside flanker led the team to victory in 2011 while playing with a broken foot.

McCaw had done little to dampen expectations that he would retire after this year’s Rugby World Cup, though never explicitly said he would, preferring to state he would not make up his mind until the global showpiece ended.

He was not named last month in the Canterbury Super Rugby squad for 2016 though New Zealand Rugby (NZR) and the Crusaders said there was space for him if he chose to play on.

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Lizo Gqoboka

Lizo Gqoboka

The Vodacom Bulls have capitalised on the growing uncertainty surrounding the EP Kings as they signed impressive prop Lizo Gqoboka for the next few years to bolster their Super Rugby squad.

Gqoboka gave notice at the Kings after repeated non-payment of salaries at the franchise, and the Bulls swooped in to offer him a new home for the foreseeable future.

And there may well be more news in the next 48 hours as the Bulls are still after the signatures of 3 other EP Kings players – loose forwards Tim Agaba and Thembelani Bholi and winger Luther Obi. Some big decisions will be made as to their futures soon.

Gqoboka has been rated as 1 of the strongest props by the Springbok management team, who tried in vain to get him to play Super Rugby this year, after he was ignored by the franchises for the 2015 season.

But with SARU’s transformation action plan likely to be implemented much more stringently in the future, the Bulls have been pro-active in searching for good black talent to bolster their Super Rugby ranks for the coming year.

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EP KingsThe Eastern Province Rugby Union is working tirelessly behind the scenes to address the issue of non-payment of players.

The union on Thursday confirmed that neither of the Kings’ staff nor players have yet been paid their October salaries.

“The Eastern Province Rugby Union has noted that there have been a number of issues raised in the media over the past few days, and acknowledge and apologise for our lack of proper communication on these issues,” the union said via a press statement released late on Thursday.

The non-payment of players is due to cash flow problems, the union admitted.

“These cash flow problems can be attributed to significant delays in the release of funds from a sponsorship deal that was originally announced by EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson.

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Tomás Cubelli

Tomás Cubelli

The Brumbies have announced Argentine scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli will be joining the Canberra-based Super Rugby team on a 2-year deal.

Cubelli is a member of the Argentine national team and has been a standout player for Los Pumas this year including a number of strong performances in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Cubelli has 45 Test caps, the most recent being the 3rd-place playoff at the Rugby World Cup against South Africa, in which he started at scrumhalf for Los Pumas.

Brumbies CEO Michael Jones said Cubelli was presented a number of options after a very successful international season, including the new Argentinian Super Rugby side which will boast 21 of their Rugby World Cup semifinal squad, and was very happy to have secured the international star.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew says Rugby World Cup-winning captain Richie McCaw will make an announcement on his playing future “shortly”.

McCaw, who led New Zealand to victory at the 2011 and 2015 Rugby World Cups, indicated he would likely retire after this year’s tournament in England but is yet to make a definitive announcement.

His comments immediately after the All Blacks’ Cup final win over Australia suggested the 148-Test veteran might be considering continuing his international career.

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ScotlandWhen he took to the field as Scotland cap number 1 073, Josh Strauss became the 50th player to make his debut for the national side since the last Rugby World Cup in 2011. This is by far the highest number of new players for Scotland in any Rugby World Cup cycle – more, in fact, than the previous 2 combined (48 new caps). It requires going back to the 1950s to find a greater number of 1st caps in a 4 year period.

Despite having the smallest player base of any of the Six Nations, Scotland has had more debutants than any of their rivals:

  • England – 41
  • France – 40
  • Ireland – 37
  • Italy – 31
  • Wales – 37

In fact only 1 side who competed at this year’s Rugby World Cup awarded more new caps in the last 4 years. By a quirk of the global calendar Argentina didn’t have access to many of their 1st (or even 2nd) choice players when the South American Championship takes place and 54 of their 67 new caps (including 24 in the space of 5 days in 2013, the last year they appeared in it!) debuted in the annual iterations of this tournament.

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Edinburgh RugbyAs Edinburgh take to the home turf tomorrow (Friday 13 November) to meet FC Grenoble in the opening Round of this season’s European Challenge Cup (kick-off 19:30 UK Time, 21:30 SA Time), they will be led out by the player endearingly referred to by his team-mates as the ‘squadfather’, prop Alasdair Dickinson, who reaches his 100th cap for the club.

Meanwhile in the pack, at openside, John Hardie will be making his debut in the black and red jersey, after signing for the club last month following his Scotland debut at No 7 in the Rugby World Cup.

Loosehead Dickinson joins hooker Ross Ford and tighthead WP Nel in an unchanged front row, with Anton Bresler and Alex Toolis maintaining their partnership from last week at lock.

Mike Coman captains the team again at blindside with Hardie making his debut at openside and Cornell Du Preez retaining the No 8 jersey.

Meanwhile there is 1 change in the backs with Dougie Fife moving up from the bench to start at fullback. Damien Hoyland and Tom Brown stay on the right and left wings respectively while last week’s try scorer Will Helu and Matt Scott remain at outside and inside centre. The halfback pairing of Greig Tonks at flyhalf and scrumhalf Sam Hidalgo-Clyne is also retained.

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Tim WhiteheadCentre Tim Whitehead has become the 1st player to walk out on the EP Kings after the union’s failure to compensate players.

The 10-day deadline for paying the players’ October salaries expired at midnight on Tuesday without any action from the Kings’ management.

This means that from a legal perspective, the players can cancel existing contracts with the Eastern Province Rugby Union and take up matters elsewhere.

Whitehead on Thursday confirmed that he has decided to leave the Kings.

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Richie Arnold

Richie Arnold

Perth based Super Rugby franchise the Western Force have signed Queensland Country lock Richie Arnold adding size to their forward pack for 2016.

Arnold’s identical twin, lock Rory Arnold is at the Brumbies.

Richie stands at a towering 2,08m and weighs 127Kg – 7Kg heavier than his brother.

The 25-year-old would rank as the equal 2nd tallest player in Super Rugby history, alongside his brother and former Stormers lock, Andries Bekker, and only behind Lions lock JP du Preez (2,09m) – will join the Force as part of the club’s Wider Training Squad, as he looks to push for his Super Rugby debut in 2016.

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The Pool is now OPEN for new Applications.


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