SA Rugby

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the names of the Match Officials for Round 13 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

There are only 6 matches on the weekend and 3 Teams have their BYE wekkend, namely the Vodacom Bulls, Toyota Cheetahs and Chiefs.

It therefore also means that only 3 South African franchises are in action on the weekend.

We have 2 matches on Friday 8 May and 4 matches on Saturday 9 May.

The Weekend’s action is kicked off on Friday by Mike Fraser who will be in charge of the Crusaders vs Reds game in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT). The Melbourne Rebels host the Blues in Melbourne on Friday at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT), where Angus Gardner will wield the whistle.

On Saturday at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT) the Hurricanes host the battling Cell C Sharks in Wellington, officiated by Chris Pollock, whereafter the Western Force tackle the Waratahs in Perth at 11:40 SA Time (17:40 AWST, 19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT), blown by Rohan Hoffmann.

The 2 matches in South Africa then follow, with the Emirates Lions hosting the Highlanders in Johannesburg at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT, 01:00 NZ Time), officiated by Craig Joubert, followed by Stuart Berry in the match between the DHL Stormers vs Brumbies in cape Town at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 23:00 AEST).

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is clear – the best 31 players need to go to this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Meyer began his 1st Springbok training camp with a bit of a stutter as no less than 19 of the 44 players invited to the camp couldn’t train with the Bok management. Add to that the Sharks who are overseas on tour, and there wasn’t too much training that could get done.

But despite that, the Bok coach used the time to reveal his World Cup plans to players, tell individuals what he expected of them and will use the remainder of the time to share calls, plays and get down to technical nuances for the players to take home as “homework” before they meet again in the 2nd camp in a few weeks’ time.

The final squad is only set to be selected at the end of August, when the chosen 31 will be revealed to the country for the showpiece tournament in England. But 1 thing is clear, while competition will be tough between players, only the best 31 in Meyer’s mind will be selected, meaning a number of top players may well miss out.

However Meyer has admitted that he hasn’t made up his mind yet, giving players the chance in the remainder of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition as well as the camps, to make an indelible impression on him.

And with that in mind, he may have an idea of the starting line-up, but Meyer believes beyond the starting 15, the other 16 places are still up for grabs.

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BullsHopefully recharging their batteries productively in a BYE Round ahead of it, the Vodacom Bulls are steeling themselves for their most definitive overseas tour of the Super Rugby conference era.

If they are going to be contending strongly for the playoffs this year, it always looked like being the phase that would make or break their challenge, given how unusually late in ordinary season it has been scheduled for them in 2015.

When the Bulls return from the 4-game itinerary abroad, there is only 1 further match before the finals series – at home to the Toyota Cheetahs.

Generally speaking, the ideal situation for South African sides is to tour roughly in the middle of the campaign: if you go too early, your season can be blown out of the water damagingly early.

And if you go notably late, it is a seriously tough time to try to get onto a consistently winning roll when you need that trend most – but that is the very challenge facing Frans Ludeke’s charges this time as the Blues, Chiefs, Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels lie in wait for them in that order.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

With the Cell C Sharks sitting in 11th position on the Combined Log, after suffering 7 losses, the only thing left to play for is pride, as the play-offs seem an almost impossible dream.

The Sharks were humiliated by the Highlanders in their 1st game of their Australasian tour, with even the most faithful of supporters conceding that the season is effectively over.

It seems that Sharks boss Gary Gold is in agreement, stating that they are now only playing for pride and to try and win back some disgruntled fans.

“The issue for us is that this is a matter of pride, of massive pride,” Gold said.

“We’ve let a lot of people down, we’ve let a lot of supporters down – the expectations were high for this team.

“I’m not about to provide any excuses for what happened in our performance, it was sub-standard and whatever the reasons are, we’ll investigate that.

“I take responsibility for it, I’ve said that before, but the bottom line is that we have to fix it.

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Stephen Larkham

Stephen Larkham

Steven Larkham has done his homework on the Stormers as he looks to turn the Brumbies’ season around with the clash at Newlands on Saturday, pointing out the lineout as an area of weakness.

The Brumbies and the Stormers are both coming off hard-fought derby losses which will put added pressure in the camps as they look to rectify that by preparing for their encounter in the Cape.

“It’s about focusing on your job and focusing on your game, we’ve done a fair bit of research on the Stormers and they are a dangerous outfit,” Larkham said at a press conference at their hotel in Cape Town on Tuesday.

There were 2 key areas of concern in the Stormers loss to the Cheetahs: Their lineout was poorly organised and executed, and miss-fired kicks at goal ended up costing them the game.

Since Manuel Carizza’s injury, the Stormers’ lineouts have fallen to pieces.

Ruan Botha called the shots in the set-piece on Saturday and it did not go down well, however when Eben Etzebeth was controlling the calls he did not do a much better job.

It can also partly be blamed on Bongi Mbonambi, who is no John Smit when it comes to hitting your jumpers. Scarra Ntubeni is once again, not much better in that regard.

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RG Snyman

RG Snyman

Blue Bulls lock RG Snyman was withdrawn from the Junior Springbok touring squad to Argentina due to an ankle ligament injury.

The big lock hurt his ankle during a training session in Stellenbosch and will be out of action for 2 to 4 weeks.

Loose forward Rikus Bothma, the former SA Schools captain and skipper of last year’s Western Province Under 19 team, has been named as his replacement.

Snyman will continue with his rehabilitation until Friday and will return to the camp when the squad reassembles after the tour. He will undergo a fitness test on his return.

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SpringboksThis week, there is a lot of news, from various fronts, on the Springboks.

The Rugby Championship game times have been announced, as has the host city for the additional Springbok game against the Pumas in Buenos Aires.

News from this week’s Springbok Training camp is dominated by the amount of injured players at the camp as well as the news today that Flip van der Merwe has made himself unavailable to the Springboks in 2015 and also for the Rugby World Cup. The reports on the injury and rehabilitation of Springbok captain also comes under discussion, with the prognosis and likelyhood of him making the world premier Rugby World Cup competition very positive.

SARU also announced today that Rhino was appointed as equipment supplier of the Springboks.

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Schalk van der MerweThe Emirates Lions could well have lost 1 of their brightest stars as former Springbok coach Jake White snapped up prop Schalk van der Merwe to join him at Montpellier.

Van der Merwe – who is affectionately known as “hond” to his peers and is known for his strong scrumming abilities, has according to French sources signed a 2 year deal with the club and will join them after the end of the season.

It has emerged that Montpellier actually announced the deal 2 months ago, but ironically named Marcel van der Merwe as the player they signed, something the Springbok namesake vehemently denied at the time.

It seemed that somehow the French club announced the wrong prop, but considering both played for the Toyota Cheetahs, it is understandable.

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Piet van Zyl

Piet van Zyl

Vodacom Bulls scrumhalf Piet van Zyl has been ruled out of rugby for the remainder of the season after he sustained a knee injury in last weekend’s win over the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld.

Van Zyl ruptured his ACL in his left knee, Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

Dean Greyling, who was injured in a vehicle accident last week, picked up a hematoma on his right leg and will be back on the training field on 18 May.

Midfielder Burger Odendaal is also not training this week due to an ankle injury picked up in the match, but will be ready to play on 11 May.

Next Monday is also the date being pencilled in for Rudy Paige to return to the field, following his knee rehab.

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Cobus Reinach

Cobus Reinach

The Cell C Sharks’ task of rescuing their Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia from disaster became more difficult on Monday when it was confirmed that Jaco Reinach had flown home after sustaining an arm fracture against the Highlanders last Friday.

Reinach was replaced at halftime in that game in what was explained to the television commentators as a tactical substitution. However, it has been subsequently learned that Reinach broke his arm and is on his way back to South Africa.

The Sharks took 3 scrumhalves on tour, so Director Of Rugby, Gary Gold, is likely to continue with Conrad Hoffmann, who finished the Highlanders game as Reinach’s replacement, with Stefan Ungerer coming into the match day squad to provide cover off the bench.

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Ruan Botha

Ruan Botha

The DHL Stormers’ injury woes continue as lock Ruan Botha is the next casualty on the list of sidelined players.

Botha has been ruled out of this weekend’s Super Rugby meeting with the Brumbies at Newlands, whilst centre and vice-captain Juan de Jongh is an injury doubt.

Botha suffered an ankle ligament injury against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last Saturday, as the Stormers went down 17 / 25.

Botha is in a moon boot and could be ruled out from 3 to 6 weeks. The team doctor is still to make a call on the length of his lay-off, but he has been ruled out for this week.

De Jongh is suffering from a hip pointer injury which saw him leave the field in the 23rd minute, and it is usually a 10-day injury.

Utility back Jaco Taute is available but the initial plan is for him to play 40 minutes for Western Province in the Vodacom Cup.

“Giving him (Taute) 40 minutes in the Vodacom Cup is the initial plan, but with our injuries at present we could slot him into the team against a quality Brumbies outfit,” said Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.

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Vodacom Stats AppWith only 5 Rounds left before the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs the top performing players in the competition are starting to cement their places in the top stats on the Vodacom Rugby App.

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard is opening a considerable gap at the top of the Points category scoring 143 points for the Vodacom Bulls over 12 Rounds of rugby.

His closest rival is New Zealand pivot Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes with 110 points with the Brumbies’ Christian Lealiifano and Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies sharing 3rd place with 103.

Stormers flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is the 3rd South African at the top with the 101 points he scored so far this season.

Bulls winger Francois Hougaard and Cell C Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee represent the country in the Tries category with scoring 5 apiece.

The top try-scorer after 12 Rounds of Vodacom Super Rugby is Highlanders flyer Waisake Naholo with 8, while the Hurricanes’ TJ Perenara and Julian Savea scored 7 and 6 respectively.

Equally influential are the men that made the tries happen, with Toyota Cheetahs fullback Willie le Roux sharing the top spot in terms of Try Assists with the Waratahs’ Israel Folau and Nic White of the Brumbies with 6 apiece.

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Xander Janse van Rensburg

Xander Janse van Rensburg

Reports of a mass exodus from the Vodacom Bulls at the end of the season have been rubbished by the franchise.

According to weekend reports a host of Bulls – which include Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann, Akona Ndungane and JJ Engelbrecht – will head to Japan after the conclusion of the Super Rugby season.

It was billed as the “biggest exodus” since 2013 – when the Bulls lost 20-odd frontline players, including the likes of Juandré Kruger, Wynand Olivier, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Zane Kirchner, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dewald Potgieter and Jacques­ Potgieter.

However, Xander Janse van Rensburg, the High Performance Manager at the Blue Bulls Company, said that the facts of the reports are far removed from the truth.

“JJ and Grant have Japan clauses in their contracts,” Janse van Rensburg said, adding that the duo will head to Japan after the Super Rugby season, missing the Currie Cup competition, and will then return for Super Rugby 2016.

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Franco Smith

Franco Smith

Varsity Cup-winning coach Franco Smith has been appointed the head coach of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs for this year’s ABSA Currie Cup campaign.

While it was expected that Smith may also be given the reigns of the Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby franchise, this wasn’t announced with current coach Naka Drotske still continuing in his contract until the end of October 2016.

In addition Rory Duncan, who coached the side alongside Smith in the Currie Cup last year, will from now on be the Director of Coaching and will handle all rugby matters for the franchise from now on.

“We want to make it clear that Naka Drotske, his coaching team and the current structures continue unabated in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition. Any media reports concerning Drotske’s position is pure speculation and is not accurate. Drotske has a contract with the Toyota Free State Cheetahs that expires on 30 October 2016,” a statement from the union said.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls will take the attacking mindset they showed against the Emirates Lions with them overseas and play positive rugby on their tour.

The Pretoria side scored 4 tries in a thrilling 35 / 33 victory over their Gauteng rivals at Loftus Versfeld, which saw them move to the Top of the South African conference ahead of their tour which will see them take on the Blues, Chiefs, Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels before finishing their season with a clash against the Toyota Cheetahs at Loftus.

Coach Frans Ludeke took great encouragement from the way his side ran the ball in the 1st half and the determination they showed to close the game out against a resurgent Lions side.

The victory was vital to their hopes of making the play-offs this year, and Ludeke said that they will look to build on the performance on tour.

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DHL StormersBased on their last 3 performances, it may seem foolhardy to some to suggest the DHL Stormers retain the inside lane for the SA Conference honours in Super Rugby this year.

Certainly if you were a non-partisan observer watching their unconvincing, tense and sparkle-lacking victories over the Western Force and Vodacom Bulls, and then Saturday’s extension of a ballooning Bloemfontein bogey as an under-strength Cheetahs outfit put a nasty spanner in their works, placing money on their domestic superiority come the end of ordinary season might seem a risky business indeed.

Yet the Capetonians, now bumped back into 2nd spot in the South African Conference, as the Bulls earned a full house of Log Points from a high-quality home derby triumph over the Lions in Saturday night’s main feature, probably remain the best-placed team in terms of remaining itinerary demands to end up on top.

They have an immediate chance next weekend anyway to recapture the lead in a yo-yo tussle as they entertain Australian pace-setters the Brumbies at Newlands, whereas the Bulls slowly muster their energy for their overseas tour via a BYE.

The Loftus-based side currently have a 4-Point lead over their great southern rivals after 11 matches each and 5 to go ahead of the finals series phase.

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Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann knows his side face a steep climb if they are to challenge for a play-off spot this season.

The Johannesburg side are currently in 8th position on the standings, and with 4 of their 5 remaining opponents above them on the log they will need to knock some top sides over in order to secure a place in the knock-out phase of the competition for the 1st time since the Cats did so in 2001.

Although his side have surprised many with their fighting spirit this season, Ackermann knows that they still face an uphill battle with home games against the Highlanders, Brumbies and Waratahs and away games against the Stormers and Cheetahs.

“Except for the Cheetahs the rest of our games are against teams in the Top 7, and that shows you the amount of rugby that lies ahead and the quality of the teams that we are going to play against,” he said.

The Lions coach expects the Highlanders to be riding high after their comfortable victory over the Sharks, and added that preparations will be made tougher by the fact that 5 of his players will be at a Springbok training camp until Thursday.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls are back at the Top of the South African Conference, taking over from the DHL Stormers who came up short in Bloemfontein on an exhilarating Saturday of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The weekend started on a disappointing note for the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin though. After a solid start for the visitors, the Highlanders turned on the heat and eventually beat the Durbanites by 48 / 15 in their opening tour match Down Under.

Saturday saw 2 cracking local derbies, both won by the home teams.

1st Up, the Toyota Cheetahs caused a minor upset when they won their 3rd successive home game against the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, by 25 / 17.

The home team outscored the visitors by 3 tries to 2 and thoroughly deserved their 4th win of the season. It was also only the 3rd time in 14 matches that the DHL Stormers could not score any Log Points against the Toyota Cheetahs.

The final match of the weekend was a proper humdinger in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls beat their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, by 35 / 33. A total of 7 tries were scored as both sides went hammer and tongs against each other for the full 80 minutes.

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Vodacom Cup7 Of the 8 Vodacom Cup quarter-finalists have cemented their positions in the playoffs, with 3 teams in the North Section still in the hunt for the final position amongst the pace-setters.

Victories to the SWD Eagles and GWK Griquas, coupled with a defeat to the Cell C Sharks XV, means the Top 4 teams in the South Section have been determined.

The unbeaten DHL Western Province will host 1 of the quarter-finals in Cape Town after they beat the Toyota Free State XV by 30 / 29 in Bloemfontein on Saturday afternoon.

GWK Griquas, 27 / 24 victors over the KwaZulu-Natalians in Pietermaritzburg, cemented their 2nd spot on the Log, while the Eagles’ 36 / 17 win over the Border Bulldogs in Albertinia on Saturday afternoon means they will contest their 2nd successive Vodacom Cup quarter-final.

In the final South Section match, the EP Kings returned to winning ways in Citrusdal when they beat the Boland Cavaliers by 44 / 10.

Meanwhile, the Vodacom Blue Bulls and Xerox Golden Lions – with 8 Vodacom Cup titles between them – have sewn up the Top 2 in the North Section and will host their quarter-final encounters.

The Steval Pumas, who had a bye this week, will finish 3rd while 5 Log Points separate the Leopards XV, Hino Valke and Down Touch Griffons, 1 of whom will clinch 4th in the North Section.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls recorded the biggest win of the season when they beat the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 83 / 13 in Pretoria on Saturday afternoon.

The Leopards XV put themselves in a good position to reach the quarter-finals with a big 59 / 12 win over the Down Touch Griffons in Hartbeesfontein on Saturday afternoon, while the Hino Valke’s 45 / 7 win over the FNB Welwitschias in Windhoek on Friday evening means they still have a slim chance of reaching the playoffs.

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CJ Stander - Munster Player Of The Year 2015

CJ Stander – Munster Player Of The Year 2015

CJ Stander became the 1st overseas player to be named the Munster Player of the Year.

He earned the accolade at the annual Munster awards, after a hugely impressive season.

The South African became the 1st overseas player to receive the accolade after scoring 8 tries in 22 appearances and picking up no less than 5 Man Of The Match awards.

Stander was nominated alongside Billy Holland and previous winner Tommy O’Donnell.

The award shortlist was decided by members of the senior squad with Munster supporters deciding the overall winner through a public vote.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 12 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 1 May and 5 games on Saturday 2 May.

The Reds have a BYE weekend.

There are 2 lip-licking South African derbies on the weekend, between the Toyota Cheetahs vs DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein as well as between the Emirates Lions vs Vodacom Bulls. The Cell C Sharks is on touir and will be in action against the Highlanders in the 1st match of the weekend.

On Friday, the Highlanders host the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT) before the Brumbies host the Waratahs, in Canberra, at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:55 GMT).

On Saturday morning early the Blues host the Western Force in Auckland at 07:30 SA Time (17:30 NZ Time, 13:30 AWST, 05:30 GMT) before the Hurricanes host the Crusaders in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Melbourne Rebels host the Chiefs in Melbourne at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

Over to South Africa and next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT), the Toyota Cheetahs host the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, before the Vodacom Bulls host hte Emirates Lions in Pretoria at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT).

The game between the Highlanders and Cell C Sharks is a difficult one to call, equally so the derby between the Brumbies and Waratahs, on Friday.

On Saturday one would be hard-pressed to pick between the Blues and Western Force, as both of them are bottom-dwellers in the overall competition.

Over to another mouthwatering derby where the high-flying Hurricanes should have the measure of the Crusaders, who have been very inconsistent in 2015.

In Australia the Chiefs should easily have the measure of the Melbourne Rebels.

The DHL Stormers, even though they are playing away from home in Bloemfontein, should start as overwhelming favourites over the Toyota Cheetahs. The Trans-Jukskei derby in Pretoria between the Vodacom Bulls and Emirates Lionsis going to be a cracker, where the team with the biggest cahoonas will win… who it will be will remain to be seen!

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Super RugbyAs the Cell C Sharks kick off their Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia, the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls will be involved in 2 derbies which could go a long way in determining the eventual champion of the SA Conference.

The Durbanites will try to improve their winning record in New Zealand when they take to the field in Dunedin on Friday morning – against their 2nd favourite Kiwi opponent away from home.

It’s only against the Blues, where they’ve won 6 out of 8 in New Zealand, that the Cell C Sharks boast a better away winning record than against the team from Otago (4 from 8).

The Cell C Sharks have won 3 from 8 against the Hurricanes away, 3 from 9 against the Chiefs and 1 from 12 against the Crusaders.

2 Exciting local derbies are on the cards for Saturday afternoon and early evening.

1st Up is the Battle of Bloem between the Toyota Cheetahs and the DHL Stormers, where the Capetonians will be looking to improve their lead at the Top of the SA Conference without tripping up at what has become quite a tricky venue for most sides.

Then it’s the 2nd Jukskei Derby of 2015, this time in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls’ aim will be to stay as close to the Top 6 on the Combined Log while at the same time not lose their 1st-ever home game against their neighbours from just south, the Emirates Lions.

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DHL StormersFit-again back Dillyn Leyds has been named in the DHL Stormers’ line-up for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (kick-off 17:05 SA Time).

Leyds slots back into the No 11 jersey after missing his team’s hard-fought 15 / 13 win over the Vodacom Bulls last Saturday because of a shoulder injury, with Pat Howard dropping out of the matchday 23 this week.

The return of Leyds is 1 of just 3 changes to the line-up that started against the Bulls, with prop Steven Kitshoff and lock Eben Etzebeth both being rested – the latter as part of the SA Franchise teams’ agreements with SA Rugby.

Oli Kebble will start in Kitshoff’s place (in his 1st start at this level, after 16 caps from the bench), whilst Jean Kleyn will make his 12th appearance in a DHL Stormers jersey when he lines up alongside Ruan Botha.

Prop Ali Vermaak and lock Manuel Carizza return to the matchday 23 this week (on the bench), whilst starting tighthead prop Frans Malherbe and replacement scrumhalf Louis Schreuder are both set to win their 50th caps for the DHL Stormers.

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BullsThe Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed that 3 players, Dean Greyling, Basil Short and Hencus van Wyk, were withdrawn from this weekend’s matches for the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls after suffering minor injuries in a car crash on Wednesday.

Greyling (knee) and Van Wyk (scrape wounds) were due to play for the Vodacom Bulls against the Emirates Lions and Short (neck) for the Vodacom Blue Bulls against the Limpopo Blue Bulls on Saturday.

They will be replaced by Morné Mellett, Dayan van der Westhuizen and Nqoba Mxoli respectively.

According to Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager of the Blue Bulls Company, the trio were returning home from a quick hunting trip just outside Pretoria when their vehicle overturned.

“We are grateful that they did not sustain any serious injuries. Dean injured his knee, Hencus suffered some burns and Basil injured his neck, which resulted in him spending the night in hospital for observation. We wish them a speedy recovery.”

Greyling and Van Wyk is still due to travel with the Bulls on their overseas leg of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, departing Sunday.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team for Saturday’s clash with the Vodacom Bulls, taking place at Loftus Versfeld.

In the only forward changes, Robbie Coetzee and Julian Redelinghuys will return to the front row for this encounter.

Meanwhile, in the backline there have been 2 positional changes with Andries Coetzee shifting to left wing and Harold Vorster moving across to outside centre. As a result, Marnitz Boshoff will start at fullback and Howard Mnisi will slot into the inside centre berth.

Alwyn Hollenbach has been drafted in to the match day side after Lionel Mapoe failed a late fitness test. Mapoe sustained a minor knock to the knee and has not yet recovered fully.

Kick-Off is at 19:10 SA Time on Saturday.

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BlitzbokkeSpringbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has made 2 changes to his squad for the final 2 Rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments in the United Kingdom next month.

The penultimate World Series tournament takes place on 9 and 10 May in Glasgow and the season concludes a week later with the 9th and last tournament of the season in London.

Stephan Dippenaar and Philip Snyman have both recovered from their knee injuries sustained in Hong Kong and return to the squad in place of the Carel du Preez (who made his debut in Tokyo) and the injured Justin Geduld (hamstring).

South Africa is currently leading the World Series standings after 7 Rounds, having won 2 Cup finals (Dubai and Port Elizabeth) and qualifying for the semi-finals of each of the previous 7 tournaments.

The team now returns to Glasgow, the venue of their Commonwealth Games triumph of last year. This time they face a daunting task to qualify for the quarterfinals.

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Bakkies Botha

Bakkies Botha

He will soon return home to South Africa to focus on his family and his livestock farm, but life after rugby can wait a few more weeks. Bakkies Botha wants to go out in a blaze of glory with Toulon.

With a Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, 3 Super Rugby championships with the Bulls and 2 European titles with Toulon, not to mention Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and Top 14 honours – few can match the Springbok 2nd row enforcer’s illustrious achievements.

But in the twilight of his career and savouring the prospect ahead of the “calmness of the bush”, Botha, perhaps befitting a deeply religious man, prefers to focus on the team, rather than his individual contribution.

Toulon, the Mediterranean port city he has called home since 2011, hope to be crowned kings of Europe for a 3rd successive year when they take on French rivals Clermont in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.

“I’m really happy that I came to Europe to test myself in this league and I want to end my career hopefully making it into 2 finals (Champions Cup and Top 14),” said the 36-year-old lock.

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SpringboksSARU has confirmed the 28-man Junior Springbok squad for a 2-match series against Argentina Under 20 in Rosario next month.

The squad will be led by Vodacom Bulls No 8 Hanro Liebenberg, who also captained the Junior Springboks last week in their match against the Varsity Cup Dream Team in Stellenbosch.

The Junior Springboks fly out to Argentina on 8 May and return 10 days later. They will play against their Argentine counterparts, on 12 and 16 May in Rosario.

A total of 17 forwards and 11 backs were selected for the trip. The short tour forms an important part of the Junior Springboks’ preparations for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in June in Italy.

According to Dawie Theron, the Junior Springbok coach, the tour against the Los Pumitas will give his squad important playing time against strong opposition.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls, fresh off a narrow loss to the DHL Stormers this past weekend, next face the ever-improving Emirates Lions, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday in the last Super Rugby match of the weekend.

It appears as though regular captain Pierre Spies is under the weather and will therefor sit out of the clash, with Victor Matfield back from Springbok rest and injury recovery set to take over the captaince helm for the vital match.

Meanwhile head coach Frans Ludeke is still moaning and groaning about the difficult laws and interpreations of those laws by the Super Rugby Referees.

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Johann Sadie

Johann Sadie

Toyota Cheetahs head coach, Naka Drotske, has named his team to tackle the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Drotske has made several changes to his backline from the team that went down 34 / 29 to the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

Scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius is the only player who retains his spot, while Joe Pietersen moves back to flyhalf after wearing the No 15 jersey last weekend.

Clayton Blommetjies moves from the bench into the No 15 jersey, while there is also a new midfield partnership as Michael van der Spuy comes in at inside centre, with Francois Venter shifting to his outside.

Regular centre Johann Sadie is sidelined with a knee injury.

Sergeal Petersen will make his debut for the franchise on the left wing, with Rayno Benjamin moving to right wing, as Cornal Hendricks is rested in line with an agreement to rest top Springbok players.

Up front, Caylib Oosthuizen replaces Danie Minnie at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen is bracketed with Maks van Dyk at tighthead.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks tackle the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday morning (09:35 SA Time) in the 1st of 4 overseas assignments in their Vodacom Super Rugby tour to New Zealand and Australia.

They enjoyed their 1st BYE last weekend after 10 Rounds of consecutive games and a refreshed squad is ready for the challenge that lies ahead.

Director of Rugby Gary Gold warns that the 6th-placed Highlanders, current qualifiers (and hopeful of remaining that way) and a dangerous attacking side, are worthy of strong respect.

“They have real game-breakers and it’s going to be a huge challenge for us on Friday,” he admits.

“I don’t think it gets much tougher than what we have coming on Friday.”

He has welcomed back hooker Bismarck du Plessis, lock Stephan Lewies and JP Pietersen into the starting line-up, all 3 Springboks bolstering the side.

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DHL StormersThe DHL Stormers are up against the Toyota Cheetahs on the weekend, after narrowly beating the Vodacom Bulls this past weekend. They will be feeling the pinch of a bad run of lineout steals against them by the Bulls, but they have laid down a serious marker in beating the Bulls and again going Top of the South African Confernce, from where they have an excellent chance of winning the Conference.

They want to show serious intent on attack against the Cheetahs and score some tries, a thing which has been worryingly few and far between.

A number of their key players have stepped up nicely in 2015, none more so probably than Damian de Allende, who is being touted as the logical Springbok inside centre option at the Rugby World Cup, should Jean de Villiers not recover properly in time for the big showpiece. Duane Vermeulen is another key Stormers player and captain, and it appears that he is somewhat frustrated by the enforced Springbok rest schedule, agreed to between SARU, Springbok Management and the South African Super Rugby franchises.

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