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Player Movements

SpringboksStrange as it may seem considering the hype beforehand over “emotional Springbok swansongs” in the bronze playoff match at Rugby World Cup 2015, only 1 member of the squad at the tournament, captain Jean de Villiers, has officially confirmed his Test retirement.

Several younger Springboks spoke beforehand of their desire to beat Argentina – a task duly achieved – as a fitting send-off for senior players bidding farewell to the green-and-gold cause.

Almost 2 weeks on from the end of the Rugby World Cup, however, it is still only the luckless Jean de Villiers, injured again in just the 2nd Rugby World Cup match against Samoa, who has definitely bowed out after 109 appearances since 2002.

Perhaps influenced by the state of flux surrounding embattled coach Heyneke Meyer, the likes of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana intriguingly haven’t yet pulled the plug publicly on their illustrious Springbok careers.

The majority of “older” Springboks who took part in their hot-and-cold Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign are now exclusively foreign-based and there have been some pleas back home for only locally-stationed players to be chosen for South Africa henceforth – a tricky matter considering the ever-shrinking strength of the Rand against other currencies, which hardly helps keeps the best players rooted here.

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn has extended his contract with French Top 14 club Stade Francais by a further 2 years.

The 31-year-old joined the Paris-based club from the Vodacom Bulls in 2013 and now looks set to finish his career in France.

Steyn was part of the Springbok squad at the recent Rugby World Cup, but received limited game time, with Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie ahead of him in the flyhalf pecking order.

Steyn, who made his Springbok debut in 2009, has 60 Test caps to his name.

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MikeBlair

Mike Blair

With Mike Blair taking the McCrea Financial Services Warrior of the Month Award for October, we take a look at the former Scotland skipper’s impact since joining up at Scotstoun.

There were more than a few raised eyebrows when Mike Blair, a man with 157 games under his belt for the Warriors great rivals Edinburgh, was announced as Glasgow’s latest signing.

Various mutterings about “a coaching role” and “SRU pension plan” did the rounds but Mike’s performances on the pitch have won over the notoriously hard to please Glasgow faithful as he’s demonstrated the advantages of having a steadying influence in what is a key decision-making position. His quick thinking and desire to play the game at pace have also been a good fit for the Warriors’ philosophy of moving the point of attack and manipulating defences into mismatches.

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EP Kings in seemingly happier days

EP Kings in seemingly happier days

The Kings financial saga just seems to get bigger and bigger, the boil getting larger and larger… the bubble waiting to burst.

This week alone we have already featured more articles about the latest financial crisis, now we hear that the EP Kings have most probably been funded by money originating from the pockets of Rate-payers in the Nelson Mandela Bay Metropolitan Municipality.

In addition, the SARPA deadline demand for the EP Kings players and staff salaries to be paid by midnight on 10 November has come and gone and the salaries have not been paid, effectively making each and every EP Kings player a free agent to source alternative placement to continue their rugby careers.

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Andy Nicol

Pundit Andy Nicol during his playing days

Former captain Andy Nicol believes it is “inevitable” that some of Scotland’s Rugby World Cup squad will join Dave Denton in moving from the country.

Denton has joined Bath from Edinburgh after the English Premiership club paid a transfer fee for the 25-year-old.

“That’s what happens at a World Cup,” said Nicol, the former scrumhalf who captained Bath. “You perform well and the big cheque books may open for you. That’s what happens to the Georgians and the Japanese.”

Nicol says Scotland’s run to the Rugby World Cup quarterfinals will have alerted clubs to Scottish players.

“You could get somebody here much cheaper than somebody who is established,” he said.

“It’s inevitable that we lose a few players and Dave Denton is the first.”

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Shalva Mamukashvili

Georgian Hooker Shalva Mamukashvili joins Glasgow Warriors

Glasgow Warriors have signed Georgian international Shalva Mamukashvili on a deal until the end of the season.

The 25-year-old has 35 caps for his country and featured in all 4 of Georgia’s Rugby World Cup pool games in England.

He played 11 matches for Sale Sharks last season, including 3 European Rugby Champions Cup games.

The experienced hooker goes straight into the Warriors 41-man European squad, replacing Kevin Bryce. Glasgow visit Racing 92 on Saturday and then host Northampton Saints the following weekend, in front of a capacity crowd at Scotstoun.

Mamukashvili joins as cover at hooker, with both Kevin Bryce and Fergus Scott set for lengthy spells on the sidelines, while Fraser Brown is currently recovering from foot surgery.

Bryce and Scott have both undergone shoulder operations, following scans at BMI Ross Hall Hospital, and are expected to remain on the sidelines for several months.

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David Denton

David Denton

Bath have signed Scotland loose forward David Denton from Edinburgh.

The arrival of Denton helps the Premiership club cover the departure of Sam Burgess, who left to return to rugby league last week.

Denton, 25, has 32 Scotland caps and appeared in 4 Rugby World Cup games earlier this year.

“We’ve been looking to bolster our back row for some time now so we’re very excited that David is joining us,” said Bath head coach Mike Ford.

Born in Zimbabwe, Denton played for Eastern Province in South Africa before moving to Scotland.

“He had an excellent World Cup, especially in the quarterfinal when he managed to outshine one of the best Australian back rows I’ve seen for a long time,” added Ford. “He’s going to fit in very well with the team and the way we play here.”

Denton made 78 appearances for Edinburgh following his arrival in 2010, and can switch between blindside flanker and No 8.

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EP KingsEastern Province Rugby has the spotlight on them after Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula told the media he will be paying EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson a special visit in the near future.

The reason for the urgent visit stems from a total of R 35 Million Rand the Union received from the National Lotteries Board for the establishment and development of the SARU Kings Academy.

“I will be on my way to the Eastern Cape very soon so that I can personally see where the Academy is and where the black players are that were supposed to be recruited. I expect a report from him (Watson). The Kings are meant to be the homeland of black players and that was the reasoning behind them getting a Super Rugby spot. The last time I was there, all I saw was white players and never saw any of the black players who were supposed to be there,” Mbalula told a media briefing.

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

Former England coach Sir Clive Woodward says English rugby union is a “laughing stock” after Sam Burgess returned to Rugby League.

Burgess was part of the England squad which went out of their home Rugby World Cup in the group stages.

He will now leave Bath and rejoin South Sydney Rabbitohs in Australia.

Woodward, who led England to 2003 Rugby World Cup success, said he did not blame Burgess “for this mess” but the English game was at one of its “all-time lows”.

Burgess, from Dewsbury in West Yorkshire, played 21 games for Bath after joining them just over a year ago, scoring 4 tries.

Having made his England debut in August, he was selected for the Rugby World Cup ahead of Northampton centre Luther Burrell, who had looked to have established himself in the team after playing in all 5 of their Six Nations matches earlier in the year.

Burgess, who had been playing at blindside flanker for his club, was picked at centre for the hosts against Wales in the Rugby World Cup and his selection sparked much debate.

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

England Rugby Union international Sam Burgess has left Premiership club Bath with immediate effect in order to return to Rugby League side South Sydney Rabbitohs, the BBC reported Thursday.

The 26-year-old Burgess had 2 years left on a 3-year deal with west country side Bath.

Burgess was a member of the England squad that recently became the 1st Rugby World Cup host nation to exit the tournament in the group stages, with coach Stuart Lancaster criticised for what many saw as the overly rapid promotion of the Bath man into the Test side.

It was only last year, after helping South Sydney win the Australian National Rugby League Grand Final, that Burgess changed codes with the express ambition of playing for England at the Rugby World Cup.

The end of his brief spell in union is likely to prove embarrassing for both Bath and Lancaster, whose position as England coach is currently being scrutinised as part of a Rugby Football Union review into England’s woeful Rugby World Cup campaign.

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James Slipper

James Slipper

The Reds will need a new captain for the start of the 2016 Super Rugby season as Wallabies Rugby World Cup prop James Slipper will have surgery in the off season.

Slipper has returned to Australia from England and will see surgeon Phil Duke to sort out a shoulder issue that has been troubling him for several seasons.

The new Super Rugby season begins in 14 weeks and the Reds start the new season with a match against the Waratahs in Sydney on 27 February.

Minor shoulder surgery will rule him out of the opening Rounds of the season while a full shoulder reconstruction could keep him out until April or May.

In his absence the Reds captaincy could go to vice-captain and Wallabies lock Rob Simmons or flanker Liam Gill.

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Kane Douglas down injured in the Final against the All Blacks

Kane Douglas down injured in the Final against the All Blacks

Wallabies lock Kane Douglas faces surgery on his injured left knee this week after MRI scans confirmed he sustained a ruptured ACL during Australia’s World Cup Final against New Zealand.

The 26-year-old injured his knee when he fell awkwardly just 15 minutes into the decider and took no further part in the match.

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BlitzbokkeRugby World Cup Springboks Bryan Habana, Damian de Allende and Lwazi Mvovo are among a host of 15-a-side stars who will be in contention for places in South Africa’s Olympic Sevens squad, the South African Rugby Union announced on Wednesday.

They will be joined by Springbok team mates Juan de Jongh, Warren Whiteley, Cornal Hendricks and Oupa Mohoje at a 3-week training camp from Sunday in Stellenbosch as part of the South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) new Sevens strategy in Olympic year, announced Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU.

Habana has returned to his French club side Toulon and will join the training camp towards the end of the month. SARU also confirmed that Springboks Francois Hougaard and Ryan Kankowski had already signed contracts to play for the Springbok Sevens team this season.

In addition, provincial 15-a-side stars Cheslin Kolbe, Rayno Benjamin, Warrick Gelant and Jaco Kriel have also been invited to join the camp alongside SARU’s powerful, existing Sevens squad.

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Ayumu Goromaru

Ayumu Goromaru

Japan’s Rugby World Cup hero Ayumu Goromaru will join the Reds after signing with the club for the 2016 Super Rugby season.

The 29-year-old fullback became a household name in Japan and turned the rugby world on its head last month when he led his nation’s shock 34 / 32 win over South Africa – with the match being described as the biggest upset in Rugby World Cup history.

Goromaru scored 24 points in that match and twice received Man-Of-The-Match honours at the tournament. He has since been labeled a ‘national hero’ in Japan after spearheading his nation’s Rugby World Cup campaign in which they secured a record 3 wins.

The 2016 season will be Goromaru’s 1st in Super Rugby. He has spent his entire professional career playing in Japan’s Top League, while also forging an impressive Test Rugby résumé, with 56 Test caps and 708 points – making him Japan’s all-time leading points scorer.

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Jonny Gray

Jonny Gray

Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Rugby have been handed a further boost today after announcing one of Scotland’s established young players has signed a new long-term contract.

Jonny Gray has committed to Glasgow Warriors for a further 3 years, meaning he’ll be staying at Scotstoun until at least May 2018.

Last week the club announced that Finn Russell had signed a new 3 year contract, which along with Jonny’s extension and other new signings, reflects the increased investment from Scottish Rugby.

Gray came through the BT Sport Scottish Rugby Academy system and was heavily involved last season when the club won the Guinness PRO12 for the 1st time.

The lock played in 4 of Scotland’s 5 Rugby World Cup matches in England last month.

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De Kock Steenkamp

De Kock Steenkamp

The Ospreys confirmed that lock De Kock Steenkamp has been released from his contract and will return home to South Africa after undergoing surgery for an ongoing hip problem.

It brings to an end an injury ravaged 14-month spell with the team that has seen the lock restricted to just 2 competitive appearances at the start of this season.

The 28-year-old signed from the Cape Town based DHL Stormers in September 2014 to add his considerable experience and physical presence to a young squad, having earned a reputation as one of the leading line-out operators in Super Rugby.

However, an achilles injury sustained within days of his arrival at Llandarcy Academy of Sport meant that he missed last season in its entirety, returning to full training for this pre-season.

Having come through the summer months, Steenkamp then stepped up his involvement with an appearance in the pre-season win over Saracens before making his competitive debut, starting in the PRO12 opener away to Ulster. A 2nd appearance followed off the bench against Munster the following week but he then found himself sidelined once again, after reporting hip instability to the region’s medical team.

After further investigation, the player underwent surgery at the weekend and, having assessed all options both parties have agreed to the early release.

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CheetahsThe Toyota Cheetahs have started their preparations for the 2016 Super Rugby tournament by naming a 51-man pre-season squad.

The squad features a number of players who featured in the ABSA Currie Cup this year, in coach Franco Smith’s debut season in charge.

Springbok Lood de Jager is included in the squad after returning from South Africa’s Rugby World Cup campaign in England.

They will be facing the team from Argentina in their 1st Super Rugby encounter for 2016 on 26 February.

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Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Australian flyhalf Quade Cooper reported for duty at European champions Toulon on Tuesday, having negotiated a special contract clause so he can play in the Olympics next year.

The 27-year-old flyhalf apologised to Toulon fans for the extended negotiations that even last week appeared compromised because of doubts about his international future.

“It has been a drawn-out process and I apologise for that,” Cooper told a press conference alongside Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal.

Australia’s selection rules only allow foreign-based players to be chosen if they have 60 caps. Cooper has 58 but made only 1 Rugby World Cup appearance because of the hot form of Bernard Foley.

Cooper said the 1st version of his Toulon contract did not mention being freed for national games, but it was renegotiated. Boudjellal said, and “if he is called he will be immediately freed.”

Cooper said the talks with Boudjellal had focused on allowing him to go to the Olympics in Rio next August when Sevens rugby will be played for the 1st time.

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Nehe Milner-Skudder

Nehe Milner-Skudder

New Zealand and Australia’s World Cup finalists join forces in a superstar Barbarians’ squad when they take on Gloucester and Argentina this month. Add a sprinkling of South Africans to it and you have the Barbarians squad.

Wing Nehe Milner-Skudder, the All Blacks’ opening try scorer in the 34 / 17 win against the Wallabies, is just 1 of 7 All Blacks in the squad.

Milner-Skudder will be joined by Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Charlie Faumuina, as well as fellow wing Waisake Naholo, when the world famous invitation club returns to action at Kingsholm on 17 November before taking on Rugby World Cup semifinalists Argentina in the Killik Cup match at Twickenham Stadium on 21 November.

Tevita Kuridrani – the scorer of Australia’s 2nd final try – has been added to the squad and joins Wallabies captain Stephen Moore and flank Scott Fardy in a 24-man group.

The squad also contains one of the world’s greatest lock partnerships in South Africa’s Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha who are backed up by rising star Lood de Jager.

Barbarians head coach Michael Cheika will have formidable firepower at his disposal with the likes of Fiji’s World Cup star Nemani Nadolo lining up with South Africa’s Pat Lambie and Australia’s Joe Tomane.

There is world class front row potential with Moore and Faumuina alongside South Africa’s Tendai Mtawarira, while flank Fardy was 1 of Australia’s most consistent Rugby World Cup performers.

There are 2 uncapped players in the squad: Cheetahs’ centre Francois Venter and Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea.

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Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

They may not all be “coining it” immediately to the extent that certain foreign-based colleagues are, but Springbok Rugby World Cup 2015 players contracted only to domestic franchises are about to reap the benefits of an unusually lengthy off-season.

In a development that ought to see them importantly start a heavy 2016 roster pretty firmly refreshed, both physically and mentally, those players are largely off competitive duty for the next 4 months.

Outside of a Rugby World Cup year, the month of November would normally see them packing bags – no doubt just a little reluctantly – for the obligatory end-of-year European tour in conditions likely to be wetter and colder than those agreeably experienced during the recent, more autumnal Rugby World Cup in those climes.

Instead the beach beckons back home now as relevant Springboks with extended international futures like Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Trevor Nyakane, Rudy Paige, Pat Lambie and Jesse Kriel wipe rugby from their minds for several weeks, until Super Rugby 2016 pre-season activities with their respective sides.

Even then, blue-chip Springbok players are often shielded to a significant extent from warm-up matches staged in inevitably murderous summer heat and are largely asked to instead hit the ground running when the competition-proper gets underway.

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Steve Hansen & Richie McCaw with the coveted Webb Ellis Cup

Steve Hansen & Richie McCaw with the coveted Webb Ellis Cup

Fans will be able to welcome back the All Blacks at homecoming celebrations in Auckland, Christchurch and Wellington this week.

The All Blacks will travel home with the help of sponsor Air New Zealand which has sent an all black Boeing 777-300 to London to pick up the Rugby World Champions.

The team touches down on Wednesday morning at 07:00 NZ Time, arriving at Auckland International Airport before departing for an overnight stay in the city.

Aucklanders will then get a chance to celebrate their Rugby World Cup triumph at a very special event featuring the team at Victoria Park in central Auckland at midday.

The next day Christchurch will welcome the All Blacks with a street parade and official reception at Hagley Park. On Friday, Wellington will celebrate the All Blacks success with details and timing to be confirmed.

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Steval Pumas signings

The Steval Pumas have signed a total of 13 new players in a bid to become a stronger and more competitive team in the 2016 season.

MJ Mentz has also been reappointed the head coach of team on a 2 year term and will be assisted by Marius van Rensburg (operations Manager), Luzahn Louw (physiotherapist), Robin Arkell (strength and conditioning), Tobias van Niekerk (conditioning) and Ernst Kruger (assistant performance analyst).

 

The Pumas’ new contracted players:

Stephan Greeff (ORC Griquas), Nardus van der Walt (ORC Griquas), Francois Brummer (ORC Griquas), Hugo Kloppers (ORC Griquas), Tyler Fischer (Cell C Sharks), Marné Coetzee (Cell C Sharks), Chris Cloete (DHL Western Province), Emil Temperman (UP-TUKS), Lambert Groenewald (Xerox  Golden Lions), Ruben Johannes (SA Sevens), Dylan Petersen (UJ) and Deon Helberg (Xerox Golden Lions). Marlo van Niekerk is on loan from the EP Kings.

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All Blacks celebrate winningOne of the things that this recently completed Rugby World Cup should have done is put an end to some of the justifications that are perennially forwarded for percentage tactics and neglect of the skill sets and strategies that the 2 finalists boasted and employed in their passage to the Twickenham Stadium decider.

For a start, what happened to that wet weather everyone was talking about and which was supposed to a justification for grinding tactics? It rained in the semifinal between South Africa and New Zealand, where the Kiwis proved once again that they are just as good at the things that the Springboks are supposed to do well as they are.

The tournament was of course not played in the English winter. In fact, you could argue that this year it wasn’t played even in autumn, particularly early on, when cities and towns like Brighton, Birmingham and Newcastle had more of a feel of late summer than a feel of early autumn.

That, coupled with the fact that so many of the Pool games were played on fast paced surfaces built for soccer, tipped the scales towards the quick paced Southern Hemisphere style game. When Wales coach Warren Gatland was asked why the Southern Hemisphere nations shut their northern rivals out of the semifinal Round, he mentioned something about conditions south of the equator facilitating the development of more of a running rugby skill set.

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Richie McCaw & Steve Hansen to be knighted?

Richie McCaw & Steve Hansen to be knighted?

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw and coach Steve Hansen will be offered knighthoods following New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup triumph.

But the timing will depend on when they retire, Prime Minister John Key said on Monday.

McCaw, 34, has already turned down the honour once, after New Zealand’s 2011 tournament win, saying he did not feel it was right to accept while he was still playing.

Key was asked if the inspirational skipper would be approached again about putting a “Sir” before his name in the wake of the 34 / 17 Cup final win over Australia and said: “That’s right.”

However, he said the offer would remain on hold until McCaw decides his future.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw became the 1st man to lift the Rugby World Cup twice on Saturday and whether or not he opts to call it a day as an All Black, his place as the greatest leader of a rugby team the game has seen is assured.

Like the New Zealand juggernaut he has led with such distinction, McCaw has kept evolving and at the age of 34 his hunger for success and focus has been as intense as ever.

That the game’s outstanding loose forward has stood up to the demands of Test rugby for so long is a reflection of his durability, enthusiasm, consistency and the way he relishes pressure.

And he is not quite ready to bow out just yet.

“I still don’t want it to end. I’m still part of this team, I’m going to enjoy today, how can you have enough of this?,” he said after New Zealand beat Australia 34 / 17 to become Rugby World Cup winners for a record 3rd time.

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Springboks celebrate 3rd Place at Rugby World Cup 2015

Springboks celebrate 3rd Place at Rugby World Cup 2015

South Africa said goodbye to a large swathe of great players in victorious fashion when they defeated Argentina 24 / 13 in the bronze medal final on Friday.

Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana (above) will all be over 35 come Japan 2019, while 38-year-old Victor Matfield, who captained them in the bronze medal match at the Olympic stadium, has already announced his retirement for the 2nd time.

All 4 were members of a glorious few years for the Springboks in which they bestrode the world. It began when Jake White’s team won the 2007 World Cup and, under his replacement Peter de Villiers, they won the 2009 Tri-Nations then beat the British & Irish Lions 2 / 1 in a Test series in the same year.

Du Preez, Habana and Matfield were also part of the Blue Bulls team that was coached by Heyneke Meyer and became the 1st South African franchise to win the Super Rugby title, in 2007.

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Marcos Ayerza

Marcos Ayerza

Argentina loosehead prop Marcos Ayerza, who was set to start for Los Pumas in the bronze final against the Springboks on Friday, has been ruled out of the game due to a hamstring injury sustained in training on Thursday, according to team doctor Guillermo Botto.

Team management have called up Santiago García Botta, a Belgrano Athletic prop with 5 Test caps under his belt, to take his place in the squad.

García Botta, 23, flew in from Buenos Aires on Thursday and will be on the replacements bench at the Olympic Stadium as Daniel Hourcade’s men take on South Africa for the right to finish 3rd at Rugby World Cup 2015.

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Chiliboy Ralepelle

Chiliboy Ralepelle

The Cell C Sharks have announced the signing of former Springbok hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, who will join the franchise from the start of the new Super Rugby season.

The announcement was made on Friday on the Cell C Sharks website.

Commenting on his signing, Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold said: “I am pleased to have acquired the services of a hooker with the pedigree of Chiliboy Ralepelle. He is a brilliant player with a strong work ethic and will be an asset to our squad.

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Sam Burgess

Sam Burgess

England centre Sam Burgess will stay at Bath and continue in rugby union, according to his coach Mike Ford.

The 26-year-old has been given time off to consider his future and his representatives have been in talks with his former club South Sydney Rabbitohs about a return to rugby league.

Burgess was controversially picked for England’s dismal Rugby World Cup campaign.

“This is the time that he becomes a better rugby union player,” Ford said.

Ford said Burgess had come back to training after the Rugby World Cup but “didn’t feel quite right” and gave the player some time off.

But he expects Burgess to return to the Recreation Ground on 2 November.

Burgess switched codes last year and signed a 3-year contract with Bath, with the aim of playing in a home Rugby World Cup.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

The Western Province Rugby Football Union indicated that they would like to wish former DHL Western Province and DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers well as he embarks on the next phase of his stellar rugby career at top English club, Leicester Tigers.

De Villiers 1st wore the Blue & White hoops of Western Province as an aspiring Under 13 Craven Week player, that after his father, Andre, represented Western Province with distinction in the 1970s.

Jean de Villiers played his final match for the DHL Stormers on 3 May 2014 (against the Highlanders at DHL Newlands), racking up a total of 105 caps since his debut against the Sharks in February 2005.

He also played 50 matches for DHL Western Province, his final appearance coming in the 2013 ABSA Currie Cup Final – having made his debut in the Vodacom Cup in February 2001.

De Villiers would certainly have played more games for WP Rugby had it not been for a catalogue of serious injuries – especially the knee injury he suffered on his Springbok debut in November 2002 – but he will go down as one of this union’s greatest players in the modern era after also amassing 109 Springbok caps (including 37 as captain).

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AustraliaFirst-choice prop Scott Sio returns to the Australian Wallabies side for the Rugby World Cup final against the New Zealand All Blacks on Saturday.

It is the only change to the side announced by coach Michael Cheika.

Sio has recovered from an elbow injury and James Slipper, who played in the semifinal win over Argentina, returns to the bench.

Australia, who have had a tough route to Twickenham – having to play England, Wales, Scotland and Argentina – will be in a record-breaking 4th Rugby World Cup Final.

However, it will be the 1st between the Wallabies and the All Blacks.

Matt Giteau, who left the semifinal with a groin injury but has been cleared for Saturday, is the only player who took part in their last Final – when they lost to England in Sydney in 2003.

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Finn Russell

Finn Russell in action for Scotland

Glasgow Warriors and Scottish Rugby have secured the talents of one of Scotland’s most exciting young players for the next 3 years.

Finn Russell has signed a new long-term contract with the Warriors, meaning the Scotland international will be staying at Scotstoun until at least May 2018.

The news follows the announcement earlier today that Scottish Power has agreed a 3-year, 6-figure sponsorship deal with the club, which will see their logo displayed on the back of the home and alternate playing shirts.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named his strongest possible team as a mark of the greatest respect to an outstanding Argentina team as both teams chase the end-of-season reward of a bronze medal at the Olympic Stadium in London on Friday evening.

Victor Matfield replaces Lood de Jager as 1 of only 2 changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s semifinal against New Zealand. He takes over the over the captaincy from the injured Fourie du Preez, whose place in the No 9 jersey is taken by Ruan Pienaar, with Rudy Paige coming onto the bench.

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Nicolás Sánchez

Nicolás Sánchez

Nicolas Sanchez, the highest points scorer at the Rugby World Cup, will captain Argentina for the 1st time in Friday’s 3rd-place play-off against South Africa.

Sanchez, who has 89 points, mainly from the boot, will take over the armband from the injured Agustin Creevy.

Coach Daniel Hourcade has made 9 changes to the team that started the 15 / 29 semifinal loss against Australia last Sunday.

Many were forced by injury as key players Creevy, outstanding wing Juan Imhoff and veteran centre Juan Martin Hernández all had to be replaced on Sunday.

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