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John McFarand

John McFarand

Conditions in the Northern Hemisphere may differ significantly from those at home but Springbok assistant coach John McFarland believed they favoured the South African players.

“Ellis Park is obviously much quicker and there’s a fatigue factor that always kicks in, whereas in the Northern Hemisphere, it’s a little bit slower and you need bigger guys in terms of the hitting,” McFarland said in Johannesburg on Friday.

“South African players are very successful in the Premiership under those conditions and if you look at how many are playing well in the European clubs, and are valued highly, it’s certainly because those conditions suit us.”

The Springbok squad departs for Dublin on Saturday ahead of their four-Test outgoing tour starting with a clash against Six Nations champions Ireland.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

John Smit has defined the role that Brendan Venter will play at the Sharks with the former Saracens Director of Rugby coming in once a week as a technical advisor.

Smit’s big appointments since his former World Cup-winning coach Jake White walked out has been to bring in two men who coached the CEO during his playing career – Gary Gold, who was assistant coach to Peter de Villiers and Venter, who coached him at Saracens.

Gold has been installed as the hands-on head coach of the Sharks and will be assisted by the three Currie Cup coaches in Brad Macleod-Henderson, Paul Anthony and Sean Everitt.

Venter will be adding technical support and advice with Smit hoping to tap into his ‘intellectual property’ of how the game works.

“Brendan will provide intellectual property in terms of where the game is going, discussing trends and helping with detail,” Smit told the Sharks website..

“He will come in once a week depending on the emphasis of the skill-set for that week.

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Doppies la Grange

Gideon “Doppies” la Grange has brought the curtain down on his career after a short return stint in the Currie Cup for the Griquas.

The 32-year-old returned to South Africa via Kimberley after playing in Italy for Benetton Treviso in 2013 where he only made nine appearances.

La Grange states the reason for his retirement is that his body was sending him signals.

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Wilco Louw

Wilco Louw

DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers will be losing an entire, highly rated, front row but they already have an exciting replacement trio lined up.

The three front row forwards that have brought down the curtain on their careers in the Western Cape are Pat Cilliers and Brok Harris, who are heading abroad, and Tiaan Liebenberg who has retired from the game.

However, whilst three warhorses depart Cape Town, the Stormers had already announced the signing of powerful Bulls hooker Bongi Mbonambi earlier this year, with highly-rated SA Under-20 tighthead prop Wilco Louw also making the move down to the Cape from Pretoria ahead of next year.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has warned his team they will need to be at their best if they are to keep their unbeaten record under his management in the Northern Hemisphere intact.

Meyer singled out the team’s first fixture against Ireland as a crucial one to kick off the team’s four week tour, and one which is the most tricky of all their fixtures.

While England has been singled out before as the fixture the Boks are likely to hold in the highest esteem, especially with next year’s Rugby World Cup being played there, the Boks know they cannot focus on the Twickenham showdown before getting past the tricky Irish, who have been a team that has plagued them at this time of year under previous coaches.

The Boks didn’t play Ireland when they went north last year, but the Irish will still be smarting from coming amazingly close to beating the All Blacks in Dublin last year, as the New Zealanders snatched the game away from them in the dying seconds to end their season unbeaten.

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IrelandAs the Springboks gather in Johannesburg before making their way to the Northern Hemisphere, Ireland head coach Joe Schmidt is well aware of the challenge he faces against the 2007 World Champions.

“South Africa do loom large,” he said.

“I don’t know if there’s been a better player in the world this year than Duane Vermeulen. I think he’s been unbelievable and we know so many of their other players.

“I was down at the Junior World Cup and watched flyhalf Handre Pollard, as a young fella playing in that final against England and he is an impressive young player, an impressive physical ball-carrier, he’s a big kid.

“So, there’s the new and old there and they have got a great mix and they’ll be very tough.”

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Tim Swiel

Tim Swiel

Cell C Sharks back, Tim Swiel will play for Harlequins Rugby Club in the UK on loan for four months. He joined the team on Saturday and will return to Durban at the end of February 2015.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Tim and I am certain that this experience at a top club will provide him with great memories and will bode well for him in the future”, said The Sharks CEO, John Smit.

Tim Swiel added: “I am looking forward to playing for Harlequins Rugby Club for a few months during the Cell C Sharks off-season.

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Julian Redelinghuys

Julian Redelinghuys

Robbie Coetzee

Robbie Coetzee

Jaco Kriel

Jaco Kriel

Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla

Five newcomers and two returnees have been added to the bulk of the Springboks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship squad as the national selectors opted for continuity and rewarding form in naming a 36-man squad for next month’s tour to the Northern Hemisphere.

Twenty-nine of the 36 players named for the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour were part of the Rugby Championship squad. They will be joined by the uncapped quintet of Robbie Coetzee, Julian Redelinghuys, Nizaam Carr, Jaco Kriel and Seabelo Senatla, while Coenie Oosthuizen and Johan Goosen have been recalled to the squad for the tour of four Tests.

“It’s wonderful to have this kind of continuity in selection, while the five uncapped players in the squad have all been rewarded for superb form throughout the season,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“Many of the selected players were at our training camp in Stellenbosch last week where we put in a lot of very hard work. We’ll have to hit the ground running when we assemble in Johannesburg on Wednesday before we depart on what will be a challenging tour.

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SpringboksSouth Africa has set themselves the ultimate benchmark, beating none other than the All Blacks during their last outing, and the pieces very much seem to be falling into place for Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks.

It has been heady stuff for the second ranked Test nation, playing impressive attack, while their relentless carpet bombing of the ruck contest has been driven by the Meyer tendency to pick giants in the back row – and this has been a key area of their ability to match New Zealand.

This is a template that the team will only look to develop, while their squad balance is remarkably similar to their great rivals, with Meyer introducing new talent to complement some of the most experienced players in his country’s history.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr has realised his dream of becoming a Springbok after the No 8 was included in the year-end squad that will travel to the Northern Hemisphere.

His selection is warranted after being the stand-out player in the Stormers’ Super Rugby campaign as well as being pivotal to the success of Western Province winning the Currie Cup.

An emotional Carr said he rushed to the television at 11.30 on Monday morning for the announcement of the squad and, when he saw he had cracked the nod in Heyneke Meyer’s year-end squad, he nearly jumped a hole in floor.

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Sir Ian McGeechan

Sir Ian McGeechan

The Springboks’ recent evolution from a kicking strategy to a more ball-in-hand approach has been noted in the Northern Hemisphere.

Heyneke Meyer’s Springboks are set to play four Tests there next month, starting with a clash against Ireland in Dublin on 8 November. After that, they will face England (London 15 November), Italy (Padova 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff 29 November) in consecutive weeks.

The Boks have shown more attacking intent in recent times after been criticised for playing a one-dimensional, kicking game.

The change in strategy has caught the eye for former British and Irish Lions coach Ian McGeechan.

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Sampie Mastriet

Sampie Mastriet

Lohan Jacobs

Lohan Jacobs

Marvin Orie

Marvin Orie

Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Rohan Janse van Rensburg

The Xerox Golden Lions have snapped up a quartet of Vodacom Blue Bulls players – including two SA under-20 stars and a Springbok Sevens player for the upcoming season as more discontent sets in in Pretoria.

Already the Bulls lost one of their rising stars, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, to Western Province earlier this year, while snapping up Boks Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss for the upcoming season as well as Toyota Cheetahs flanker Lappies Labuschagne.

But now the cross-Jukskei trek has seen the Bulls lose not only Springbok Sevens flyer Sampie Mastriet to the Lions, but also top young players Marvin Orie, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Lohan Jacobs.

The quartet have signed for the Lions after failing to find any meaningful game time at the Bulls as the bottleneck at the top continues.

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Tiaan LiebenbergWestern Province hooker Tiaan Liebenberg has been forced to retire after being plagued by back injuries for some time now.

The 32-year-old will be returning to Bloemfontein to join up with his family and to get involved with the business.

The hooker was a mere spectator during Western Province’s 19-16 Currie Cup victory over the Lions on Saturday and although the veteran has reached some lofty heights in rugby, he was still sad not to be a part of it.

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The Springboks concluded a week of intense training at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport on Friday as their preparations for the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to Ireland, England, Italy and Wales stepped up a gear.

A total of 31 players took part in the training camp after prop Marcel van der Merwe withdrew due to injury.

Amongst the squad were four uncapped players in Lizo Gqoboka (prop), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Boela Abrahams (scrumhalf) and Rudy Paige (scrumhalf), who were invited to get a taste of what Springbok rugby is all about after impressive performances for their provinces in the Absa Currie Cup.

“We had a good week and the players really worked very hard on the field and in the gym,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“The emphasis was on conditioning and we also paid a lot of attention to detail on and off the field. It was great to have time to work on these things before we embark on what will be a very tough tour.

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ScrumAfter the Xerox Golden Lions demolition of the Cell C Sharks scrum in the Currie Cup Semi-Final last weekend and the average performance of DHL Western Province in the scrums against the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the other Semi-Final, this week’s hottest debates has raged about what will happen in the scrums in the Final and how the referee, Craig Joubert, will officiate this aspect of the game.

Balie Swart, adviser to SARU and to the Referees on scrumming in South Africa, came under heavy bombardment from DHL Western Province and in particular Gert Smal and Allister Coetzee. They are unhappy that SARU’s man is not impartial, when he declared that the Golden Lions scrum is ahead of all other South African scrumming units.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

Gary Gold

Gary Gold

The Cell C Sharks have made two key appointments – Gary Gold as Director of Rugby and Brendan Venter as Technical Director.

Cell C Sharks Chief Executive Officer, John Smit, confirmed the appointment of former the Springbok assistant coach, Gold, as the Sharks’ new Director of Rugby.

However, the appointment of Venter – who guided the Sharks to the Currie Cup title in 2013 – is the more interesting addition to their backroom staff.

The 47-year-old Gold, who is currently coach of Japanese Top League club Kobelco Steelers, has signed a three-year contract – from 2015 to 2017.

“Gary is an experienced coach who brings a wealth of knowledge and an impressive level of commitment to his new role,” the Sharks CEO, Smit said.

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Greg Peters

Greg Peters

Japan has beaten out Singapore as the preferred host for the 18th team in the expanded Super Rugby competition, governing body Sanzar said on Friday.

The southern hemisphere provincial competition will increase from 15 to 18 teams in 2016, with one team from South Africa and another from Argentina already awarded places.

Japan and Singapore were vying against each other for the last available spot with Japan getting the vote after a meeting of the South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby (Sanzar) executive board.

“Compelling proposals were put forth by Japan and Singapore in what was a very competitive tender process and we thank both parties for their passion in sharing our vision to expand the competition to new fans, territories and commercial markets,” Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters said in a statement.

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Singapore National Stadium

Singapore Sports Hub – National Stadium

Singapore has effectively conceded it has lost out to Japan to become the 18th Super Rugby side.

Although the South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby (Sanzar) has not officially announced which Asian country would host the new team in an expanded competition, it has already been widely reported that Japan has won the bid ahead of Singapore.

Singapore’s bidders released a statement on Thursday, seemingly acknowledging that Japan had been selected as the winner.

“Clearly Japan is a mature, established rugby market, while Singapore is new to the global rugby scene,” said Eric Series, the financial backer of the proposed Singapore bid.

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DHL WPDHL Western Province coach Allister Coetzee has kept the changes to a minimum for Saturday’s 2014 ABSA Currie Cup Final clash against the Xerox Golden Lions at DHL Newlands (kick-off 17:00 SA Time).

In the only change to the starting XV that beat the Blue Bulls by 31-23 last weekend, fit-again centre Jaco Taute returns in the No 12 jersey to resume his partnership with skipper Juan de Jongh, who will be playing in his 50th match in the Blue & White hoops of DHL Western Province.

Michael van der Spuy reverts to the bench for Saturday’s final, where he is joined by lock Gerbrandt Grobler, who comes into the matchday squad at the expense of prop Oli Kebble, who came off the bench last weekend.

No 8 Nizaam Carr, who left the field in the first half of last week’s semifinal, has been passed fit for the final, with coach Coetzee praising the consistency in selection during the business-end of the 2014 ABSA Currie Cup.

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Xerox Golden LionsXerox Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann left his starting line-up unchanged and added Jacques van Rooyen on the substitutes bench for Saturday’s ABSA Currie Cup final against Western Province at Newlands in Cape Town.

The last time Western Province and the Lions met in a Currie Cup final was way back in 1986, when the hosts beat the then Transvaal 22-9 at Newlands.

Kick-off for Saturday’s clash is scheduled for 17:00 SA Time (15:00 GMT).

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Vodacom Blue BullsThe Blue Bulls Company have released the team sheets for the Under 19 and Under 21 teams for the ABSA Currie Cup Finals at Newlands, Cape Town against the age group sides of DHL Western Province.

Some of the Blue Bulls senior Currie Cup players have been added to the Vodacom Blue Bulls Under 21 team, with Jesse Kriel starting at Centre, Jacques du Plessis at Blindside flank and with Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg on the bench.

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ABSA Currie CupABSA Currie Cup Final ticket sales was moving along swiftly ahead of Saturday’s 2014 final at Newlands, with just 1300 seating and 2000 standing room tickets available by close of business on Monday after public sales went live – online, at the box office and at selected PostNet outlets.

Season tickets are not valid for the Final Saturday, but season ticket holders had until 12:00 SA Time on Wednesday 22 October to purchase their seats for the Final which are being held by Western Province Rugby. Scholars’ season tickets are, however, valid for the Final.

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Nizaam Carr

Nizaam Carr

DHL Western Province’s injury concerns have improved ahead of their Currie Cup Final against the Xerox Golden Lions at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

Eighthman Nizaam Carr, who cried off with a hip injury midway through the first half of the Semi-Final clash against the Vodacom Blue Bulls last Saturday was walking comfortably on Monday afternoon.

Centre / fullback Jaco Taute was running without discomfort after he was forced to miss the Semi-Final because of a rib injury and was tested in a contact session on Tuesday.

Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said it was pleasing to read the team’s latest medical report because the wider training squad had been given a clean bill of health.

“Nemo (Carr) is feeling much better and is walking with ease,” Coetzee said.

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WhistleCraig Joubert is one of 26 referees to referee a Currie Cup Final since the first one in 1939.

South Africa’s provincial teams first played in a competition in 1889. The Currie Cup was added in 1892 but played mostly as centralised tournaments. There was not a Final till 1939 and then Finals were sporadic till 1968 since when there has been a Final each year.

Refereeing the Currie Cup Final is cherished by referees as it is cherished by players who play in it. After all there is only one a year.

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WhistleCraig Joubert will take charge of the ABSA Currie Cup final between DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions at Newlands on Saturday, with Jaco Peyper and Pro Legoete named as the Assistant Referees.

Legoete has also been tasked with handling the ABSA Under 21 A Division final between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls, while Rodney Boneparte will officiate the ABSA Under 19 A Division final also between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls.

The referee appointments for the provincial play-off matches this weekend were made by the South African Rugby Union on Monday.

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South AfricaSpringbok captain Jean de Villiers spoke about Monday afternoon’s start to the national training camp in Stellenbosch as the beginning of the build-up to next year’s World Cup, and if that was so, where it all began should end up being like chalk and cheese to where it will surely end.

Twickenham next November is what the Boks are aiming for, and it will doubtless be chilly and probably a little gloomy, as it so often is in London at that time of year.

On Monday though a burning sun beat down as the Cape spring continues to play more like a summer, with sweltering conditions adding to the discomfort levels even after 5pm as the players ended their session with a grueling crawling drill directed by conditioning coach Basil Carzis.

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Schalk Brits

Schalk Brits

Marcel van der Merwe

Marcel van der Merwe

The Springboks were dealt a double blow on Monday, when first Saracens hooker Schalk Brits and then Blue Bulls tighthead prop Marcel van der Merwe was ruled out of the End Of Year Tour (November Internationals) with a knee injury.

Van der Merwe was supposed to join up with the Bok training camp this week but hurt himself in the dying minutes of the Vodacom Blue Bulls loss in the ABSA Currie Cup semifinal against DHL Western Province on Saturday, and will miss the next four to six weeks of rugby with a medial knee ligament injury.

“He fell awkwardly in the last few minutes of the game,” Blue Bulls doctor Org Strauss said, “He has a grade 2 medial ligament tear, luckily not the same knee that has given him problems in the past, I expect him to be out for anywhere between four and six weeks.”

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks are expected to name their new Super Rugby coach and successor to Jake White within the next two weeks.

White left the Sharks in mysterious circumstances last month with reports indicating there was growing discord between himself and management, as well as with the players.

Brad Mac­Leod-Henderson took charge of the Cell C Sharks during the Currie Cup, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be the head coach during Super Rugby.

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Grant Hattingh

Grant Hattingh

Callie Visagie

Callie Visagie

The Vodacom Bulls are likely to lose the services of hooker Callie Visagie for the first few weeks of the 2015 season as he underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday in Pretoria.

With the 2014 season having come to an end, Visagie and lock Grant Hattingh are the two medical headaches for the Bulls. The surgery, in both cases is to rectify injuries that have plagued them the entire season.

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