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Player Movements

Cell C SharksThe Sharks have made only 1 enforced change to their starting line-up that will face the Chiefs on Saturday, as Marco Wentzel comes into the second-row.

Wentzel replaces the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit in an otherwise unchanged 15, with Daniel du Preez and Waylon Murray named on the replacements bench.

“The Chiefs are a championship outfit with outstanding strength and depth and they will go into this match as favourites. They have a strong pack of forwards and one of the most exciting backlines in the competition and are well coached,” said head coach Gary Gold, whose side are looking to back up last weekend’s victory.

“We look forward to the challenge of measuring ourselves against one of the most dangerous sides. It’s going to be an exciting match-up.”

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Vodacom BullsMarcel van der Merwe and Dean Greyling will earn 1st starts in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition as Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 3 changes to his pack that will face the Western Force at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Van der Merwe and Greyling, who both made late starts to the competition due to injury, will swop places with Trevor Nyakane and Morné Mellett respectively. In anther swop, Grant Hattingh will earn his 1st start of the season whilst Victor Matfield will move to the bench.

The bench also has 2 new faces this week, with Arno Botha returning and Jaco Visagie replacing the injured Callie Visagie as hooker replacement. Should he take to the field, Visagie will make his Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Super Rugby debut.

Botha, who was injured in the season’s opener against the DHL Stormers, is fit again and replaces Hanro Liebenberg.

Ludeke left his backs unchanged.

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Dayan van der Westhuizen

Dayan van der Westhuizen

Tian Schoeman

Tian Schoeman

Dean Greyling

Dean Greyling

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed the extensions of contracts with Springbok prop Dean Greyling, Vodacom Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman and Junior Springbok prop Dayan van der Westhuizen.

All 3 have signed contracts that will keep them Loftus-based till 2017, Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager of the BBC confirmed.

The trio are all products of the Blue Bulls youth structures and hails from local Pretoria schools.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper has revealed he will be available for the team’s next match against the Lions in Round 7 of Super Rugby.

The playmaker has been out with a fracture collarbone that forced him to miss the Reds’ first five games of the season.

Cooper hasn’t been alone on the sidelines for the Reds as a number of key players have been unavailable, with the 26-year-old joined by James O’Connor, Greg Holmes, Samu Kerevi and Beau Robinson among others. All are expected to be available for next weekend.

“For me, I’ve been preparing for this day for a long time,” Cooper said.

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BlitzbokkeThe Springbok Sevens rugby squad announced on Thursday for the next 2 rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and Tokyo shows 2 changes from the squad that played in New Zealand and the USA.

Justin Geduld and Stephan Dippenaar return to the 12-man squad in place of Rayno Benjamin and Warrick Gelant, who have returned to the Toyota Cheetahs and Vodacom Blue Bulls respectively to resume their provincial duties.

Geduld, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist with the Blitzboks last year, shrugged off the hamstring injury he picked up in Wellington, which ruled him out of the Las Vegas Sevens.

Dippenaar returns to the Springbok Sevens squad for the 1st time since the opening round last October, when he sustained a hamstring injury at the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia.

The rest of the squad is unchanged from the outfit that finished 3rd in Wellington and Las Vegas. Kyle Brown leads a Blitzboks squad that is very experienced, and has in Frankie Horne a stalwart forward who will play in his 64th consecutive World Series tournament.

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Ricky Januarie

Ricky Januarie

South African scrumhalf Enrico “Ricky” Januarie will play for Top 14 side La Rochelle next season, after signing a 2-year contract.

The 33-year-old, capped 47 times and a member of the 2007 World Cup-winning squad, will join from rivals Lyon.

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EnglandLeicester lock Geoff Parling was recalled by England coach Stuart Lancaster for Saturday’s decisive Six Nations showdown with France at Twickenham.

Parling comes into the second row in place of Dave Attwood, who drops out of the squad, in the only change to the starting 15 that overcame Scotland 25 / 13 last weekend.

Harlequins No 8 Nick Easter returns to the bench.

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Heinrich Brüssow

Heinrich Brüssow

Toyota Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has named his team to tackle the Crusaders in their Super Rugby clash in Christchurch on Saturday (kick-off 08:35 SA Time).

Heinrich Brussow will start at flank after impressing off the bench against the Sharks last weekend,.

Brussow is 1 of 4 newcomers to the starting team named on Wendesday.

The others are scrumhalf Tian Meyer, flyhalf Joe Pietersen and wing Clayton Blommetjies.

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SpringboksThe understanding reached between SARU and the participating franchises in Vodacom Super Rugby are as follows:

At a pre-season meeting between SARU’s CEO, the Springbok Coach and Rugby Department staff, with union CEOs and coaching representatives the desirability of managing the playing time of an identified group of Springbok players was agreed.

Two principles were identified as being ideal:

  1. That players should not play more than 5 consecutive weeks.
  2. That certain Springbok players should have a number of weeks of rest during the tournament (2 to 4 weeks depending on each player’s personal needs and position and the franchise’s playing resources).

Note: BYE weeks are not considered as a rest week (although they do trigger a restart of the count of consecutive weeks) while injury weeks are ‘invisible’ (i.e. a player injured for 2 weeks during the 1st 7 weeks of the tournament would be regarded as having played 5 consecutive weeks at the end of week 7).

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Vodacom CupVenues as far afield as Secunda, Lichtenburg and Caledon will play host this weekend as the Vodacom Cup picks up speed with action in the South Section getting underway.

The first match in the South Section is on Friday evening is in George, where the SWD Eagles host the Toyota Free State XV.

Three more matches in this section follow on Saturday, one of which will see the defending champions in action when GWK Griquas travel to Port Elizabeth to take on the EP Kings. The other 2 South Section matches are scheduled for Durban (Cell C Sharks XV vs Border Bulldogs) and Caledon (Boland Cavaliers vs DHL Western Province).

The biggest match in the North Section is on Friday afternoon when 2 of the 3 unbeaten sides, the Xerox Golden Lions and the Vodacom Blue Bulls, square off in Johannesburg.

On Saturday, the action in the North Section moves to the platteland, more specifically Lichtenburg (Leopards XV vs Hino Valke) and Secunda (Steval Pumas vs Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls).

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes will be without hooker Dane Coles for Friday’s Super Rugby clash against the Highlanders but 2 other All Blacks return to the starting 15.

Coles was originally named in the starting for 15 for the game in Dunedin but was withdrawn as a precaution, following Wednesday’s training session with a hyper-extended elbow.

He has been replaced in the run-on side by Motu Matu’u, with Brayden Mitchell coming onto the bench.

There are 3 other changes to the team that beat the Blues last week.

Jeremy Thrush comes back into the starting line-up and will pair with Blade Thomson in what will be his 1st start at lock for 2015, while Cory Jane replaces Matt Proctor on the right wing.

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Western ForceWestern Force utility back Marcel Brache is no stranger to Loftus Versfeld. That is why he feels the men from Perth requires a ‘change of attitude’.

The Force arrived in South Africa this week, ahead of Saturday’s Super Rugby Round 6 encounter, with a few injury concerns.

Their opponents, the Vodacom Bulls, are coming off a BYE – which was preceded by morale-boosting victories over the Cell C Sharks (43 / 35) and Toyota Cheetahs (39 / 20).

The Force, in stark contrast, have lost to the Reds, Hurricanes, Brumbies and Rebels – despite an opening round win over the defending champion Waratahs.

And there is concern over the fitness of prop Pek Cowan, who is in a race against time to recover from a shoulder knock. Sydney prop Guy Millar has been called into the squad as cover.

Other injury concerns include Luke Morahan (hamstring), Angus Cottrell (ankle), and Dane Haylett-Petty (foot). They are more likely to be fit than Cowan.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

If there was ever a good time for Stormers coach Allister Coetzee to rest captain Duane Vermeulen it is now.

The SA Player of the Year was always going to have to miss the 1st game of the Stormers tour against the Highlanders, having played 5 straight games at the start of the season, but having 4 wins under the belt and plenty of loose forward depth at his disposal does make it easier for Coetzee to give him the time off.

The plan was always to give Vermeulen an extended break with the BYE this week followed by a week off in Dunedin, as part of SARU’s request that top Springboks be given regular games off to manage their workload this season ahead of the World Cup.

Coetzee admitted that it may be tougher to rest Vermeulen when there is more pressure on later in the season, but for now he is happy to stick to the plan.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

After emerging from surgery on Tuesday, Pieter-Steph du Toit has suggested that his knee injury may not be season-ending.

It was previously feared that the 22-year-old Sharks flanker would miss the remainder of the Super Rugby season and South Africa’s Rugby World Cup campaign, however the initial prognosis is positive.

“A miracle just happened,” tweeted Du Toit.

“Just got home after surgery, everything went well. Doc said I will be able to play in three months if rehab goes well.”

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DHL StormersThe DHL Stormers have announced a 27-man touring squad for their upcoming trip to Australasia, which will see them take on the Highlanders, the Hurricanes, the Waratahs and the Western Force on their 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby away trip.

Captain Duane Vermeulen will lead a squad with no selection surprises and a playing group which includes hooker Bongi Mbonambi, prop Oli Kebble, lock Eben Etzebeth, flank Mike Rhodes and wing Johnny Kotze – all of whom did not play against the Chiefs at the weekend.

The only player unavailable because of injury is hard-working flanker Rynhardt Elstadt (broken leg – suffered against the Blues in Round 2), with DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee rightfully rewarding those players who have served the team so well thus far in 2015.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales have made 2 changes in their front row to face Italy in their final Six Nations encounter of the season, in Rome on Saturday.

Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis come into the starting 15, replacing the injured duo of Gethin Jenkins (hamstring) and Samson Lee (Achilles).

The team which will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico is otherwise unchanged team.

Evans will make his first start as he wins his 2nd cap in Rome and will line-up alongside Ospreys duo Scott Baldwin and Jarvis.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton in the back row.

The backline remains unchanged with Rhys Webb (No 9) and Dan Biggar (No 10) at halfback, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre and a back 3 of George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams’ delayed concussion symptoms are giving Chiefs coach Dave Rennie headaches of his own.

Rennie said he will wait until Friday, to give his star centre a shot at playing against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

The All Black superstar suffered a head-clash with Stormers prop Vincent Koch last weekend in Cape Town, forcing him to leave the field for a concussion test.

Williams returned to the playing field to complete most of the game, but has been suffering from headaches and showing symptoms of concussion.

For the Chiefs coach, Rennie, there is now a nervous wait to see if Williams can complete the mandatory protocols – in order to be declared fit to face the Sharks in this Super Rugby Round 6 crunch clash.

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Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

Jean Kleyn

Jean Kleyn

Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth will not head abroad after this year’s Rugby World Cup, the Western Province Rugby Union has assured.

Reports in French media stated late last year that Etzebeth could join Toulon after the conclusion of this year’s World Cup.

However, Etzebeth is contracted to WP until 2016, which would see him stay in Cape Town until then.

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Tevita Kuridrani

Tevita Kuridrani

Wallabies and Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani has signed a 2-year contract extension with Australian Rugby that will take him through until the end of the 2017 season.

Kuridrani joins Wallabies Nick Phipps, Sean McMahon, Rob Horne, Sam Carter and Scott Fardy who have committed to the Australian Rugby Union in recent months.

The 23-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the Wallabies rising stars since his maiden Test campaign in 2013, where he has since worn the gold jersey 20 times scoring 4 tries.

Kuridrani is highly respected amongst his peers, having polled strongly with 202 votes in the John Eales medal in his last international season.

However, the Fijian-born flyer still feels the need to improve as a player.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his team to take on the Melbourne Rebels in his side’s penultimate Vodacom Super Rugby tour match on Friday.

Ackermann has opted to rotate several players for the match.

In the forwards, Schalk van der Merwe, Armand van der Merwe and Ruan Dreyer will make up the front row. Robert Kruger will start at lock, while Derick Minnie has also been promoted to the starting line-up at flank.

Meanwhile, in the backline, Faf de Klerk will start at scrumhalf with Marnitz Boshoff linking up with him at flyhalf. Courtnall Skosan fills the left wing berth, shifting Sampie Mastriet to right wing.

Elton Jantjies will start at inside centre and Jaco van der Walt will start at fullback for the match.

Kick-off is at 10:40 SA Time on Friday.

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Callie Visagie

Callie Visagie

Akona Ndungane

Akona Ndungane

Vodacom Bulls hooker Callie Visagie and wing Akona Ndungane has been ruled of out action for this weekend’s VodacomSuper Rugby match against the Western Force at Loftus Versfeld, it was confirmed on Monday.

Ndungane has in fact been ruled out for a month after he broke his hand, while Visagie will miss the clash against the Perth side due to a chest injury.

Jacques-Louis Potgieter, who missed the last match against the Toyota Cheetahs due to a hamstring strain, will train on Tuesday and should be fit to be considered for the weekend.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen will not play in the team’s next Super Rugby match, against the Highlanders in Dunedin on 28 March.

Vermeulen played his 5th consecutive match for the Stormers when they hosted the Chiefs at Newlands this past weekend.

According an agreement between the SA Rugby Union and the Super Rugby franchises, key Springboks will not be allowed to play more than 5 games on the trot in this year’s competition, in order to keep them fresh for the Rugby World Cup later in the year.

This means centre Juan de Jongh will take over the captaincy for the game against the Highlanders, with Schalk Burger likely to be included in the starting team.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Cell C Sharks lock Pieter-Steph du Toit has been ruled out for the rest of the season with a knee injury sustained in his side’s win over the Toyota Cheetahs on Saturday.

Du Toit’s injury is a huge blow to the Sharks and the Springboks as it means he is almost certainly ruled out of the World Cup in England later this year.

Du Toit left the field during the first half after he twisted his knee during a tackle. The 22-year-old tore his anterior cruciate ligament on the same knee where a similary injury kept him on the sidelines for most of the 2014 season.

He hopped on a plane to Cape Town to see a surgeon while there were mixed emotions among his team-mates, who headed to Durban after their 29-10 victory over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

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James Broadhurst

James Broadhurst

The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from James Broadhurst of the Hurricanes for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Broadhurst has been suspended from all forms of the game for 1 week up to and including 20 March 2015.

The incident occurred in the 61st minute of the match between the Hurricanes and Blues played at FMG Stadium in Palmerston North on 13 March 2015.

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Liam Gill

Liam Gill

The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Liam Gill of the Reds for contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Gill has been suspended from all forms of the game for 2 weeks up to and including 28 March 2015.

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Joe Wheeler

Joe Wheeler

Patrick Osborne

Patrick Osborne

Highlanders wing Patrick Osborne and lock Joe Wheeler have signed new contracts with the Dunedin-based franchise until the end of the 2016 season.

Osborne was happy to sign a new deal and said he was enjoying his stint with the Highlanders since joining them in 2014.

“I guess I had a few options to consider before deciding my future, in the end the lifestyle my family has down here and the rugby I have been playing, pretty much made up my mind that the Highlanders was the best option for me,” he said.

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ScotlandScotland’s coaching staff and players remain upbeat, despite having a growing injury list heading into their final Six Nations match of the season.

Scotland, without a win and stuck at the bottom of the standings, host title-chasing Ireland in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Matt Scott (thigh), Jim Hamilton (back spasm), Tommy Seymour (elbow), Blair Cowan (calf) and Alasdair Dickinson (leg) all suffered injuries in the 13 / 25 loss to England Twickenham this past weekend – setbacks that put them on the doubtful list for the final match of the season.

Mark Bennett insisted Scottish team morale is not at rock-bottom, despite a fourth consecutive Six Nations defeat in the Calcutta Cup clash at the weekend.

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