The Cell C Sharks can count on 3 Springboks who return to the side to take on the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday evening in what is shaping up to be a massive South African Conference derby.
JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn have returned from Japan and no time has been wasted introducing them to the starting line-up, while Willem Alberts has been given the all-clear to play after spending time rehabbing an injury.
JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn have also proven themselves at training and they form a new centre partnership.
Ryan Kankowski will join the elite group of Vodacom Super Rugby centurions when he plays in his 100th game for the Cell C Sharks, in a loose-forward bolstered by the return of Albert, especially in light of the kind of talent that lurks at the back of the Stormers scrum in the shape of SA Rugby Player of the Year in 2014, Duane Vermeulen.
Inspirational Blues and All Blacks hooker Keven Mealamu will establish a new Super Rugby record in Saturday’s clash with the Lions in Albany.
Mealamu has been named in the Auckland-based team’s starting line-up which will be his 163rd appearance in Super Rugby. This will make him the all-time leader in Super Rugby, a mark he currently shares with retired former Reds, Force and Wallabies lock Nathan Sharpe.
It is the first game of the season for Mealamu who made his debut in 2000.
“Congratulations on becoming the most experienced player in Super Rugby history,” said SANZAR Chief Executive, Greg Peters.
Karmichael Hunt today pleaded guilty at Southport Magistrates Court to four counts of possession of a prohibited drug. He was fined $ 2 500.00 and no conviction was recorded.
As a result, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Queensland Rugby Union (QRU) today suspended Karmichael Hunt for six weeks and fined him $ 30 000.00.
Karmichael has accepted these penalties despite being contracted to another code during the time in question.
As such, the ARU, QRU and the Rugby Union Players’ Association (RUPA) have determined that in accordance with the ARU’s Illicit Drugs Policy, he will also undergo a drug treatment and rehabilitation program and will be placed on a monitored and targeted drug testing program.
Connacht and the Irish Rugby Football Union revealed that 25-year-old back Danie Poolman has signed a new deal that will keep him at the Sportsground until at least 2017.
Poolman joined Connacht in 2012 from South African franchise the Stormers and since then the former Paul Roos schoolboy from Pretoria has established himself as a key component in Connacht’s backline.
Poolman’s attacking prowess has come to the fore again this season with seven tries making him the province’s top try scorer so far this season.
France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Thursday called up prop Nicolas Mas, scrumhalf Rory Kockott and centre Maxime Mermoz for his 30-strong squad to prepare for the Six Nations match against Italy.
The French were left reeling last weekend when they lost 13 / 20 to Wales at the Stade de France – ending any hopes they had of winning this year’s tournament.
Saint-Andre subsequently launched a bitter attack on his players saying that some of them were “prima-donnas” who failed to live up to their responsibilities on the field.
Eben Etzebeth and Schalk Burger have both been named in the DHL Stormers’ 23-man squad for Saturday’s all-South African Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Sharks at DHL Newlands (kick-off 19:10 SA Time, 17:10 GMT).
Etzebeth picked up a chest injury during pre-season action in late January and will make his first competitive appearance for the DHL Stormers since July 2013, whilst Burger, named on the bench, is back in the selection mix after returning from his club rugby commitments in Japan.
The Cell C Sharks have been boosted by the return of Springboks Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen from Japan, as well as flank Willem Alberts from a hamstring injury.
Both Japanese-based backs were spotted training with the Sharks on Monday after their respective teams were eliminated from the league in Japan.
Meanwhile, barn-storming loose forward Alberts has been training with the squad for sometime now and is finally in contention for selection as the Sharks prepare to travel to Cape Town to take on the undefeated Stormers.
Prop Martin Castrogiovanni, ruled out of Italy’s win over Scotland at the weekend because of a dog bite, has been dropped for the Six Nations matches against France and Wales.
Castrogiovanni, who needed 14 stitches after being bitten on the nose by a friend’s dog, was not in the 30-man squad named by coach Jacques Brunel on Tuesday and did not figure among the players who were listed as excluded through injury.
Versatile back Andrea Masi, who missed the Scotland game, and lock Quintin Geldenhuys, still to make his first appearance in the championship because of a knee injury, were recalled.
Vodacom Bulls loose forward Arno Botha will return to training next week after recovering well from a pectoral muscle tear, but flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter could be on the side-lines for another week.
According to Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss, Botha will train next Monday and Potgieter, who picked up a hamstring injury last week, will be assessed then. Potgieter was a late withdrawal from the Bulls team that won against the Cell C Sharks on the weekend and could be out of action for 2 weeks.
No one picked up any injuries in that win, although Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann and Lappies Labuschagne only trained on Tuesday, due to light niggles.
Explosive attacking back Rene Ranger is to return to the Blues next season and will be available to play for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year.
The 28-year-old has gained an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after 2 seasons.
Ranger scored 25 tries in his 65 Super Rugby caps for the Blues, enjoying 6 caps for the All Blacks. He has become a fan favourite with Jake White’s Montpellier side, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and helping the team enjoy a strong season in the European Club Championships this year.
He said his return to New Zealand is primarily for family reasons.
“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my mom more,” Ranger said.
Robbie Fruean’s Super Rugby campaign is almost certainly over folliwing surgery on Monday to have a steel plate inserted in his fractured arm after injuring it in his side’s loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
The timeframe for recovery from this type of injury is usually around 4 – 5 months, which would mean an early July return in a best-case scenario.
Crusaders Head Coach Todd Blackadder said the entire team was feeling for Robbie and sending him their best wishes for a speedy recovery.
The injury list for the DHL Stormers is growing following the addition of 3 more players after the hard won victory over the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday.
Locks Jurie Van Vuuren, Ruan Botha and Flank Michael Rhodes all picked up injuries and will be assessed in the coming days.
Montpellier coach Jake White has his sights set on luring young Blue Bulls loose forward Wiaan Liebenberg to France.
The 22-year-old former Baby Bok captain is currently not in the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans – which makes a move to France very likely.
Loose forwards like Lappies Labuschagne, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and his brother Hanro are ahead of Liebenberg in the pecking order at the Bulls.
Canterbury and Crusaders back, Tom Taylor, has announced he will move to France to play for the Bayonne Club at the end of this year.
Taylor says it’s been a tough decision to leave, but it is a great opportunity for him and he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career.
“I have absolutely loved my time here at Canterbury and the Crusaders, especially being a Christchurch boy.
France have been hit by an injury crisis with scrumhalf Morgan Parra and backs Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat ruled out Monday for the rest of the Six Nations campaign.
Parra will miss the rest of the Six Nations after being ruled out for at least 10 weeks with a knee injury.
Parra, who plays for Clermont in the Top 14, suffered a tear to the posterior ligament in his right knee during France’s 13 / 20 defeat to Wales at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The 26-year-old’s knee will be immobilised for 4 weeks and according to a Clermont statement: “his return to competition won’t be possible before 10 weeks”.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union announced that they signed more players at the Union as well as the re-signing of 2 Vodacom Super Rugby players.
The GLRU has secured the services of lock Andries Ferreira who has signed a 2-year contract. Ferreira recently returned from a stint in Italy at Pro12 side Zebre but also has previous Vodacom Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup experience with the Cheetahs.
Ferreira will join the GLRU with immediate effect and will look to bolster the lock stock at the Union and provide added physicality in the tight 5.
Good news appears to suddenly be coming in clusters for the Cell C Sharks, who have followed on from their opening Vodacom Super Rugby win against the Emirates Lions with what for director of rugby Gary Gold will be a pleasing wave of important players returning to the mix.
On Sunday morning, the day after his team scored what he called a “relieving” win over the Lions, Gold received the news that the 2 Japanese clubs that backline kingpins JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn play for were both knocked out of their competition this past weekend. That means they will be back sooner rather than later, and will probably be available for the crucial game against the Stormers in Cape Town the week after next.
“I suppose it’s not nice for those players to lose but it is good news for us,” grinned Gold.
Then on Monday a man that Gold would really like to see in action as soon as possible as he is such an important cog in the forward machine, Willem Alberts, took part in full training for the first time. He could also be ready for the Stormers game.
Also at the 2-hour middle of the day training session on a Kings Park outerfield was Ryan Kankowski. The former Springbok No 8 is now into his 2nd week back from Japan and will be available for Saturday’s clash with the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus.
Vodacom Bulls prop Marcel van der Merwe has been cleared to return to the playing field and trained with the squad, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.
The prop has recovered from a hamstring injury and ligament strain.
News on the injury of midfielder William Small-Smith has been less fortunate though, with the player being ruled out for at least 2 months with a foot injury.
Stormers flank Rynhardt Elstadt has officially been ruled out of action for at least 4 months – one of several players that will miss the trip to Johannesburg for an encounter with the on Saturday.
The loose forward suffered a leg fracture and further damage to his ankle in the win over the Blues at the weekend.
Elstadt left the field in the 37th minute, after falling awkwardly.
His injury – officially described as a maisonneuve fracture – will see him sidelined for at least 4 months.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Owen Franks of the Crusaders for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Franks has been suspended from all forms of the game for 2 weeks up to and including 8 March 2015.
The incident occurred in the 10th minute of the match between the Highlanders and Crusaders played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on 21 February 2015.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC assessed the case.
Gloucester have added experience and quality to their scrumhalf ranks next season with the capture of Crusaders’ Willi Heinz.
The 28-year-old will join the current Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and the hugely promising Callum Braley as scrumhalf options for the Cherry and Whites from 2015 – 2016.
Heinz has captained Canterbury in the NPC, represented the Crusaders more than 50 times in Super Rugby, and gained huge popularity with the Canterbury supporters.
Ireland have called in loose forward Roger Wilson and lock Billy Holland to their training squad ahead of the game against England at the Aviva Stadium.
The Ulster and Munster players complete Joe Schmidt’s 36-man group that will prepare for Sunday’s critical Six Nations Championship showdown in Dublin.
Only prop James Cronin, flank Robbie Diack, scrumhalf Kieran Marmion and prop Nathan White are unavailable due to injury as Ireland prepare for Sunday.
Wales have recalled wing George North in place of Alex Cuthbert for the Six Nations match against France.
North missed the 26 / 23 win over Scotland on 15 February after suffering concussion in the opening defeat by England.
Lock Luke Charteris, prop Samson Lee and hooker Scott Baldwin were also named in the team for the game in Paris on Saturday as coach Warren Gatland made 4 changes.
Charteris replaced Jake Ball who started in the win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
A court in southern France called for further inquiries to be held into allegations of assault against Toulon’s former England flank Steffon Armitage.
Armitage faces a 5 to 6 month suspended prison sentence and €5,000 ($5,649) fine over the incident which occurred in a Toulon restaurant on 13 December.
“There are still a number of grey areas in this case that perhaps further investigation will throw light on,” Armitage’s lawyer Clement Lambert said.
England fullback Mike Brown is unlikely to return to action in time for the crucial Six Nations clash against Ireland following a setback in his recovery from concussion.
The 29-year-old felt a recurrence of his symptoms on Friday after being knocked unconscious in the 47 / 17 victory over Italy and having completed a weekend of rest has restarted the return to play protocols.
The earliest the Harlequins star will be able to resume contact training is Friday, the day head coach Stuart Lancaster announces his starting line-up for Sunday’s showdown between the Championship’s only remaining unbeaten teams in Dublin.
It leaves Brown – who had an outstanding tournament last year scoring 4 tries – with a race against time to prove his fitness knowing any further flare-up in symptoms will force him to start the protocols again and rule him out of contention.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Kane Hames of the Highlanders for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Hames has been suspended from all forms of the game for 5 weeks up to and including 28 March 2015.
The incident occurred in the 74th minute of the match between the Highlanders and Crusaders played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on 21 February 2015.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Hayden Triggs of the Blues for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was sent off during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Triggs has been suspended from all forms of the game for 1 week up to and including 28 February 2015.
The incident occurred in the 24th minute of the match between the Stormers and Blues played at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on 21 February 2015.
Reds utility backline player Karmichael Hunt will not be selected for Friday’s Super Rugby match against the Highlanders as he awaits a court appearance to answer charges of supplying cocaine.
The 28-year-old, a potential Wallaby bolter for the World Cup, was stood down by the Reds last week after it emerged he was 1 of 4 people given notice by Queensland’s Crime and Corruption Commission to appear in court on 5 March.
Hunt missed the Reds’ win over Western Force over the weekend and will continue to stay on the sidelines pending his hearing, the Reds said in a statement.
“Following extensive consultation with Karmichael over the weekend, we have determined that it continues to be best for Karmichael’s welfare that he is not available for selection this Friday,” he said.
Head coach Vern Cotter today (Monday) added 5 capped internationalists to Scotland’s RBS 6 Nations squad, 5 days out from the Round 3 Test against Italy this Saturday at BT Murrayfield (28 February, kick-off 14:30 GMT, 16:30 SA Time).
Scrum-half Chris Cusiter and prop Moray Low have been called up from English Premiership clubs Sale Sharks and Exeter Chiefs, along with Glasgow Warriors duo Adam Ashe (No 8) and Alex Allan (prop), and Edinburgh No 8 David Denton.
Cusiter (knee) and Ashe (neck) were absent from Cotter’s initial squad selection due to injury, but have recovered to earn the recall, while Denton has recovered from the calf tear sustained in the national team’s pre-Championship camp in Glasgow last month.
Veteran Blues lock Hayden Triggs will front up to a SANZAR disciplinary hearing, after he received a Red Card for punching during his team’s Super Rugby loss to the Stormers.
Triggs stands accused of having contravened Law 10.4 (a): Punching or striking.
It follows an incident that occurred in the 24th minute of the match between the DHL Stormers and Blues at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.
The case is to be considered in the first instance by SANZAR duty judicial officer Robert Stelzner.
Crusaders prop Owen Franks and his Highlanders counterpart Kane Hames were both cited for foul play after their teams’ clash in Dunedin on Saturday.
Both players are alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking.
Owens’ incident occurred in the 10th minute of the match while Hames’ incident took place in the 74th minute.
Upon further review of the match footage, the citing commissioner deemed in his opinion the incidents had met the Red Card threshold for foul play.
The Reds have not determined a course of action for Karmichael Hunt’s cocaine allegations, but they have decided to withdraw him from Saturday’s match against the Force.
The Queensland Rugby Union released a statement on their website regarding the reports of Hunt being arrested for supplying cocaine along with 2 NRL players.
The QRU clarified what they called ‘misinformation’ regarding Hunt’s arrest, as well as the timing of the incident in relation to the players contract with the Union.
All Black skipper Richie McCaw on Thursday dropped the strongest hint yet he will retire after this year’s World Cup in England and bring his glittering career to an end.
The 34-year-old captain of New Zealand, the reigning World Cup champions, admitted he was considering hanging up his boots, but was not yet ready to make a definitive announcement, preferring to focus on the ongoing Super Rugby season with the Crusaders.
“Honestly, I haven’t made any final decision, but probably the likelihood is I’m not going to be playing next year,” McCaw said at a Crusaders training session, in comments published on New Zealand Rugby’s official website.
The Cell C Sharks welcome back Bismarck du Plessis to the team to host the Lions at Growthpoint Kings Park in one of a handful of changes to last week’s side.
Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, explaining the rationale in making new selections, explains: “Due to injuries, we have had to necessitate a few changes to the team.
“Apart from those injury-enforced changes, we have tried to keep the team as consistent as possible, so that players have another opportunity to get the wrongs of the past weekend right.”
They will have to make do without the likes of wing S’bura Sithole, Mouritz Botha and Beast Mtawarira, but that opens the door of opportunity to Odwa Ndungane, debutant lock Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda and Dale Chadwick.
2 Very exciting young talents in Thomas du Toit and Andre Esterhuizen come onto the bench for this week’s match.
Highlanders coach, Jamie Joseph, has named South African journeyman Ross Geldenhuys at tighthead for the big South Island clash against the Crusaders on Saturday.
Geldenhuys is 1 of 7 debutants for the Highlanders who had a BYE in Round 1 of Super Rugby.
As with last season the team will be co-captained by Nasi Manu and Ben Smith.
Joseph has selected from a near fully fit squad with just Shane Christie (hamstring), Richard Buckman (knee) and Pingi Tala’apitaga (knee) unavailable due to injury.