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Player Movements

Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Scott Spedding

Scott Spedding

Bernard le Roux

Bernard le Roux

South African-born trio Rory Kockott, Scott Spedding and Bernard le Roux all maintained their places in France’s initial 31-man squad ahead of the Six Nations.

Kockott and Spedding made their debuts during the November Tests with differing levels of success.

While Spedding has been embraced by the French public following a string of good performances, Kockott has endured a tough start to his international career, with many questioning his inclusion at the expense of French-born scrumhalves.

Meanwhile, coach Philippe Saint-Andre also called up Fijian wing Noa Nakaitaci. The 24-year-old has played his senior club rugby in France since moving to Clermont from the Nadroga academy in his homeland in 2010.

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Ali Williams

Ali Williams

All Black legend Ali Williams vowed to spend his time fishing and hunting after announcing his retirement from the game.

The 33-year-old New Zealand international lock joined European and French champions Toulon at the beginning of last season, after a career spent with the Blues and Crusaders.

“I’ve enjoyed every day that I’ve played rugby and I’m still enjoying it to the end but my body’s said enough is enough,” said Williams.

“There’s huge motivation to go out on a winning note but like anything you can’t look to the prizes, you have to look to the processes for the next few months to try to get to the prizes.

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Peter Saili

Peter Saili

New Zealand flanker Peter Saili has signed for French Top 14 side Bordeaux-Begles, club president Laurent Marti confirmed on Friday.

Saili, 27, who recently left Blues after 5 years and 71 Super Rugby matches with the club, has penned a 2-and-a-half year deal with the western French side.

Saili, who will join his new club later this month, is the second Blues player to sign for Bordeaux after compatriot Luke Braid, who arrives next season for 2 years.

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BJ Botha

BJ Botha

Veteran World Cup-winning prop BJ Botha is happier than ever at Munster and hopes to sign on for another year with the Irish side.

The 35-year-old former Sharks stalwart moved to Ireland in 2008, originally joining Ulster, and made the move to their rivals Munster in 2011.

He said that while he is coming to the end of his career, he still has more to give and has his sights set on earning 100 caps for Munster.

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Karmichael Hunt

Karmichael Hunt

‘Football chameleon’ and new Reds recruit Karmichael Hunt has his sights firmly set on making the Wallabies World Cup squad.

Having started his career as a Rugby League player with the Brisbane Broncos, Hunt switched to playing Australian Rules in the Australian Football League for the Gold Coast Suns in 2011.

He signed for the Reds in the off-season and is expected to make his Super Rugby debut at fullback in the Round 1 clash with the Brumbies in Canberra.

He has made no secret of his World Cup ambitions, although he knows that he will have to prove himself at Super Rugby level first.

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Rynard Landman

Rynard Landman

Newport Gwent Dragons’ South African second-row Rynard Landman says he would “play his heart out” if selected by Wales once he becomes eligible in 2017.

Landman joined Dragons from Super Rugby side Cheetahs on a three-year contract in 2014.

The 28-year-old can play for Wales once he has lived there for three years.

“I’m here to stay and, if it comes along my path in three years, I would accept it with open arms and play my heart out,” said Landman.

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BullsWe take a look at some of the news filtering through from the Bulls in their preparations for this year’s Super Rugby Season.

Lanky flanker Jaques du Plessis might get the nod at No 4 lock in the injury absense of Flip van der Merwe during the first stages of Super Rugby. Competing against him for the No 4 spot are youngsters Nico Janse van Rensburg and Irné Herbst.

Meanwhile former Blue Bulls and Springbok captain, Wynand Claassen, who is also the chairman of the Bulls’ ex-players union, wants the Bulls to employ a much more enterprising style in 2015.

Trevor Nyakane, who has joined the Bulls for the 2015 season from the Cheetahs, says he has been inundated with calls from his fellow-Bulls mates to come up with a new dance routine, when the Bulls score tries in 2015. He was known for his jubilant dance moves at the Cheetahs in 2014, but the question is whether he can dance the blue tune this year.

The only real players of consequence, bar of course the longer term injury to Flip van der Merwe, who are not fully into the swing of things yet and who will miss the excursion to Polokwane, are Adriaan Strauss and Handré Pollard, but their injuries appear to be on the light side, and it is highly unlikely that they will not be fit and ready to play in the season’s opener for the Bulls.

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CheetahsThe Toyota Cheetahs’ preparations for Super Rugby this week reports on fitness niggles to Willie le Roux and Oupa Mahoje and also reports that Rayno Benjamin will miss the start of Super Rugby due to Sevens committments with the Blitzbokke for the first 2 weeks in February.

In addition the battle for the flyhalf spot between Joe Pietersen, Willie du Plessis and Francois Brummer, seems to be dominating the attention of the media, with speculation that Joe Pietersen seems to be the favourite, after the warm-up games to get Round 1’s starting spot.

Maks van Dyk, who has been on short term loan with Leinster in Ireland, to get valuable game time reports that he is enjoying his short Northern sojourn.

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Morné Steyn & Mosese Ratuvou

Morné Steyn & Mosese Ratuvou

South African international flyhalf Morné Steyn is free to play for his French club, Stade Francais, in their European Challenge Cup game.

Steyn was handed a 1-match ban on Wednesday, by the National Rugby League – the body controlling the French leagues.

The 30-year-old Steyn, who had asked for his disciplinary hearing to be moved forward from next week to Wednesday, had already missed the Top 14 clash with Castres this past weekend – an encounter that Stade won 49-13 at home.

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Jarrad Hoeata

Jarrad Hoeata

Cardiff Blues lock Jarrad Hoeata will miss the remainder of his club’s European commitments, after he was banned for six weeks for his high tackle on Rob Kearney last weekend.

The All Black lock was sent off for the tackle on Kearney, as he caught the fullback round the neck.

A disciplinary committee – chaired by Achille Reali (Italy), along with Rhian Williams (Wales) and Barry O’Driscoll (Ireland) – viewed footage of the incident and listened to representations made by and on behalf of the player.

They found that the incident was at the mid-range of the World Rugby sanctions for this type of offence, carrying a six-week sanction.

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Jeremy Thrush

Jeremy Thrush

Ben Franks

Ben Franks

Just like in South Africa and Australia, the New Zealand list is rapidly growing, of All Blacks players who are making preparations to depart New Zealand after Rugby World Cup 2015.

Jeremy Thrush is the lastest to already have announced he has signed up North, for Gloucester… but that is not all, with news that Ben Franks is thought to be next to go. It is believed that Ben Franks is ready to sign with English Club, London Irish.

Recent articles we have hosted seems to indicate that the extent of the exodus North is just as rampant in Australia and also in South Africa.

 

The list of players who are going or are suspected to be in the thows of following their departing countrymen are:

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Matt Todd

Matt Todd

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has named Matt Todd as the captain for the opening Rounds of the Super Rugby competition.

Todd has been preferred over more illustrious teammates, in the absence of All Blacks Kieran Read and Whitelock, for the opening 3 fixtures – against the Rebels, Highlanders and Chiefs.

Regular skipper Read is taking a mini-sabbatical and while Richie McCaw and Dan Carter are also captaincy candidates, they looks set to miss the opening week as well.

In the national pecking order Todd sits 3rd behind McCaw and Sam Cane, but this endorsement recognises the esteem in which he is held, particularly by Crusaders’ teammates and management.

“Matt Todd is going to captain the team in Kieran Read’s absence,” Blackadder said.

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Jamba Ulengo

Jamba Ulengo

Wing Jamba Ulengo hopes to make a big impact for the Bulls this season.

A move to Pretoria in July last year emphasised the 25-year-old’s rise in the South African rugby ranks.

After emerging as a notable rugby talent at Jim Fouche in Bloemfontein, he represented Free State at Under 16, Under 18, Under 19 and Under 21 levels and impressed in Shimlas colours during the Varsity Cup.

His impressive attacking qualities saw him receive a Springbok Sevens call-up in 2012. He played for the Blitzbokke in 11 tournaments before deciding to sign with the Bulls, which he describes as an exciting new chapter in his career.

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New ZealandEight All Blacks will miss the Round 1 of Super Rugby as the World Cup in September looms over the tournament.

All 5 New Zealand Super Rugby teams face the difficult balancing act of spelling their All Blacks for 2 games each in order to keep them fresh for the World Cup defence this year.

New Zealand Rugby high performance manager Don Tricker, All Blacks strength and conditioning trainer Nick Gill and physiotherapist Peter Gallagher this week visited Super Rugby bases to map out a player-management plan.

The Blues, Crusaders and Chiefs decided to rest a selection of their All Blacks in the opening Round starting on 13 February.

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Ben Morgan

Ben Morgan

England No 8 Ben Morgan is likely to miss the entire SIX Nations campaign after fracturing his left leg in Gloucester’s 24-23 win over Saracens in the Premiership last Friday.

The 25-year-old Morgan, who was carried off in the second half and given oxygen, had surgery on Saturday with Gloucester confirming the player had fractured his lower left leg.

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George Moala

George Moala

The Blues’ pre-season preparations continue to be disrupted by unwanted distractions.

The New Zealand Media and Entertainment services reported that Blues player George Moala went on trial on Monday for a late-night incident that took place more than a year ago.

This follows last Friday’s reports that the Blues’ Super Rugby pre-season training almost ended in disaster, when close to 30 players had to be fished out of the water by sea rescue.

According to the NZME report Moala is on trial for an attack on two men in a boozy nightclub brawl. He stands accused of having continued the assault on one as he was carried away, bleeding profusely.

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DHL StormersA 39-man DHL Stormers squad will depart for Hermanus on Tuesday afternoon for a four-day training camp ahead of the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Scarra Ntubeni, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr and Damian de Allende – all of whom toured with the Springboks at the end of last year – will all travel to Hermanus, along with capped Springboks, Siya Kolisi, Juan de Jongh and Jaco Taute.

Props Wilco Louw and Frans van Wyk, both of whom are still eligible for the DHL Western Province Under-21 team, are amongst the new faces in the squad, joining flyhalf Robert du Preez, centres Johnny Kotze and Huw Jones and fullback EW Viljoen as the other newbies in the selection mix.

Du Preez, Kotze, Jones and Viljoen are all graduates of the DHL WP Under-21 set-up from 2014, along with hooker Michael Willemse, lock Jurie van Vuuren and loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, all of whom had a brief taste of Super Rugby action in 2014.

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Cell C SharksThis is the third in the series of Cell C Sharks Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Sharks have lost the services of Anton Bresler (Edinburgh) and Peet Marais (Brive), between seasons, and have gained the services of Mouritz Botha (from Saracens) as well as the backup services of Giant Mtyanda. Stephan Lewies is still on a longer term injury list and should return somewhere in the middle of the tournament.

The early question raised is how Pieter-Steph du Toit will fare, coming back from injury.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOCKS in the Cell C Sharks 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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Cell C SharksAs Super Rugby preparations are underway by all franchises early in January, a quick peek at some of the things popping out at the Cell C Sharks.

We take a quick look at Brendan Venter’s role while Gary Gold is still in Japan. Renaldo Bothma tells of his tremendous growth at the Sharks in pre-season and Giant Mtyanda is drafted in to train with the Sharks as extra lock cover.

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CheetahsSuper Rugby preparations is also underway in Bloemfontein, in anticipation of the 2015 season.

News is that Joe Pietersen who previously played at fullback for the Stormers and then went to France to try things there, is back at the Cheetahs… to exclusively play flyhalf. Pietersen is a product of Grey College in Bloemfontein.

Heinrich Brüssow, who is currently still in Japan with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, before joining the Cheetahs for Super Rugby (as soon as his Japanese Club’s season ends) says that the standards of rugby in Japan has improved markedly.

The Cheetahs start their Super Rugby campaign with an away game against the Sharks in Durban on 14 February.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale, one of the most controversial figures in Australia, ended months of speculation about his future by signing a one-year extension to his Wallaby and Waratah contracts.

The 26-year-old Beale, who has played 49 tests, was fined AU$40,000 for sending a offensive text message team business manager Di Patston in June, and escaped having his contract terminated because there wasn’t enough evidence he sent a second, more lewd message.

The text message scandal blew up on a flight from South Africa to Argentina during the Rugby Championship when Beale and Patston argued of the player’s inappropriate dress code.

Beale was suspended, and Patston returned to Australia and quit.

The fallout included coach Ewen McKenzie, who quit in October just days before the Wallabies left for a five-match European tour which Beale later joined.

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Willem alberts

Willem alberts

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Willem Alberts are back training with the Sharks after long injury layoffs.

Lock Du Toit missed much of last season with a serious knee injury, while loose forward Alberts was laid low after a back operation last July.

The duo are back in training as the Sharks start their preparations for this year’s Super Rugby competition. Both have been training well and showed no discomfort from the injuries.

There was however less good news for lock Stephan Lewies, who will reportedly remain sidelined with injury for an extended period.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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This is the third article in the range of Bulls Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

We move deeper into the enjin room to the Locks. The Bulls have lost Paul Willemse and David Bullbring at lock for the 2015 season but of course Victor Matfield is sure to play Super Rugby this time around, whereas before the 2014 season that was not the case. Apart from Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe and Grant Hattingh, the Bulls will be able to call on the promising young Nico Janse van Rensburg as well as Marvin Orie in 2015.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOCKS in the Vodacom Bulls 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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BullsSpringboks Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Handré Pollard, Marcel van der Merwe and Adriaan Strauss will all return to Vodacom Bulls training from next week onwards, it was confirmed in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The Vodacom Bulls squad assembled in Pretoria on Monday to prepare for the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season, but a couple of senior players will only join the fray later this month.

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James O'Connor

James O’Connor

Former Wallabies backline star James O’Connor is returning to Australian rugby after year-long exile in Europe, saying he has matured and is ready to resume his 44-Test career.

O’Connor was released from his Australian Rugby Union contract after a series of off-field incidents and forced to continue his career in Europe when shunned by local Super Rugby teams.

Now 24, O’Connor says he has grown up and is determined to leave behind his bad boy image.

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Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana

World Cup-winning Springbok Bryan Habana is enjoying his stay in Toulon so much, he might extend it.

The 31-year-old, Player of the Year after equalling the record set for most tries in a World Cup, said discussions are underway to extend his contract the French and European champions when it expires in 2016.

His arrival in the south of France was marked by a groin injury that sidelined him for most of his first season.

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Morné Steyn & Mosese Ratuvou

Morné Steyn & Mosese Ratuvou

Veteran Springbok Morné Steyn claims he was ‘eye-gouged’, which is why he kicked out at Fijian wing Mosese Ratuvou.

The 30-year-old flyhalf was red-carded for the kick in the first half of the Stade Français’ 9-12 loss to Lyon in a French Top 14 match last Friday.

Steyn, the top-scorer at the 2011 World Cup and a holder of numerous international records, had confidently kicked Stade into a 6-0 lead – courtesy of a 40-metre penalty and a quick-thinking drop-goal.

But after Ratuvou had cut the deficit with the game’s opening try, Steyn saw red in the 31st minute for kicking the Fijian wing as the two tussled on the ground.

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Rhys Priestland

Rhys Priestland

Aviva Premiership Rugby club Bath have signed Welsh international flyhalf Rhys Priestland from the 2015 / 2016 Premiership season from Welsh side the Scarlets.

Twenty-seven-year-old Priestland is closing in on 150 appearances for the Scarlets for whom he has scored over 1000 points.

Priestland, who has 32 caps for his country, burst onto the international scene in the 2011 Rugby World Cup, where he steered Wales to their first semi-final since 1987.

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Manu Tuilagi

Manu Tuilagi

England centre Manu Tuilagi could miss the Six Nations opener against Wales next month as he continues his recovery from a groin injury, his Leicester Tigers club boss said on Sunday.

The powerful 23-year-old, widely regarded as key to England’s hopes in the annual European tournament and September’s home World Cup, has not played since last October.

“It may well come too soon, we’ll see,” Leiceister’s Richard Cockerill told reporters when asked about the 6 February date in Cardiff.

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Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham

Scott Higginbotham has become the latest to join a growing list of Wallabies that will head for the exit door after the World Cup this year.

The veteran back row forward, Higginbotham, confirmed on Monday that he will leave Australia after the World Cup, where he is in contention to represent Australia.

Higginbotham will take up a contract in Japan.

His departure follows on the news that James Horwill and Adam Ashley-Cooper will continue their careers in Europe beyond the 2015 World Cup.

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

South African flyhalf Morné Steyn endured a miserable first start of the season for Stade Francais on Friday when he was red-carded in the Top 14 leaders’ 9-12 defeat at Lyon.

Steyn, the 30-year-old top-scorer at the 2011 World Cup, had confidently kicked Stade into a 6-0 lead – courtesy of a 40-metre penalty and a quick-thinking drop-goal.

But after Mosese Ratuvou had cut the deficit with the game’s opening try, Steyn saw red in the 31st minute for kicking the Fijian wing as the two tussled on the ground.

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Emirates LionsThis is the second article in the series of Lions Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Lions have real depth in the hookers, with Robbie Coetzee, Akker van der Merwe, Malcolm Marx, Willie Wepener and even Mark Pretorius available to them in 2015.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Lions 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

The Emirates Lions front row will be a force in 2015.

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Stormers

This is the second article in the series of Stormers Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

A bit of good and a lot of bad news for Stormers supporters, as Bongi Mbonambi joins the Stormers from the Bulls but with recent news that Tiaan Liebenberg has retired due to continued injuries and of course also with the fact that Deon Fourie has left for overseas.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the DHL Stormers 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

One cannot help but feel that the Stormers are light in the hookers and in the front row in general for 2015.

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Cheetahs

This is the second article in the series of Cheetahs Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Cheetahs have lost the services of a number of players between seasons and the hooker position is one severely affected by the loss of Adriaan Strauss (Bulls) and Hercu Liebenberg (released).

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Toyota Cheetahs 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

Things are looking rather bleak in the hooker department and in the whole front row for the Cheetahs.

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