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South AfricaItalyThe Springboks played Italy in a Test for the first time in 1995 when they were reigning as World Champions. They won the match 40-21, and since then have played Italy 10 times.

The Springboks have won all 11 but then unusually for Northern Hemisphere teams, Italy have played more Tests against South Africa in South Africa rather than at home – seven in South Africa vs four at home. But those 11 matches were not the first rugby contacts between the two countries.

Rugby in Italy started to get organised in the late 1920’s. Before that it was a haphazard affair when wandering Brits and contact with France that had led to matches here and there. In the 1920’s it enjoyed the support of Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy, a man who saw himself as the emperor of a new Roman Empire. As in imperial times, people enjoyed the blood sport of the amphitheatre, so in this new empire Il Duce would have rugby. Not that he had played the game as at 1,69 he would have been small even as a scrumhalf.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Bulls were dealt a cruel blow just days into their pre-season, with confirmation that Springbok Flip van der Merwe is set to miss the start of the 2015 season.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, confirmed that Van der Merwe will undergo surgery next Tuesday after damaging his pectoral muscle.

“It was a freak accident,” Ludeke said, when asked about the burly lock that was ruled out for the latter half of 2014 after suffering a serious knee injury during the second Springbok Test against Wales in June.

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Exodus

European clubs targeting Springboks to join their cash-flush clubs after next year’s Rugby World Cup will this time have more of a fight on their hands than before, after the South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) Springbok contracts are likely to be enforced with more vigour.

In recent days we’ve seen growing reports of Boks that may be heading overseas after the Rugby World Cup. This week it was Duane Vermeulen’s link with a French club and Bath – the latter willing to offer around R7.8-million a year for the IRB Player of the year nominee’s services.

Previously both Flip van der Merwe and Eben Etzebeth have been linked with moves overseas to French clubs while sources in France tell of Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux and even Jan Serfontein being privately courted with offers to go overseas.

However, here is the catch. Those with Springbok contracts cannot enter into any negotiations with any club before 1 July 2015, leaving them a matter of 2 months to sort out their post-World Cup careers before the showpiece event takes place.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Trevor Nyakane

Trevor Nyakane

Teboho Mahoje

Teboho Mahoje

Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

The Springbok starting team to face Italy in Padova on Saturday shows four changes from the side which beat England at Twickenham last week, with three new faces amongst the pack and one in the backline.

There are also five changes on the bench, with Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys included in a Test match-23 for the first time.

Trevor Nyakane will start his first Test for South Africa at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen moves up from the bench to replace the injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead. Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje returns to the starting line-up while Johan Goosen has been selected at fullback.

Joining Carr and Redelinghuys on the bench, are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Lood de Jager and Willie le Roux. Tendai Mtawarira has been given a break after carrying a heavy workload recently.

“I’m excited to see what these guys can do on Saturday in what will be a stern Test against a fired-up Italy,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“We planned to make a few shifts for this Test as I’d like to see if these players can make the step up. The guys coming in deserve their opportunities and seeing that we won’t have our overseas-based players available next week against Wales, it made sense to bring a few of them in this week.”

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ItalyItaly coach Jacques Brunel has selected Fijian-born flank Samuela Vunisa in the only change to the team to face the Springboks on Saturday.

Vunisa, who has yet to play for Italy after being called into the squad for the November Tests, will replace Simone Favaro in the loose trio after the Treviso player suffered a sore neck in training.

In the only other notable switch, Leonardo Sarto has been pulled back to the right wing with Luke McLean going the other way to the left wing.

Italy beat Samoa 24-13 in their opening Test and despite last week’s 20-18 defeat to the Pumas, coach Jacques Brunel said he had seen enough to confirm the nucleus of his team for the Springboks, which he described as “the form team of the November series”.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Marnitz Boshoff

Rudy Paige and Marnitz Boshoff have been called up to the Springbok squad for the last week of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in Cardiff next week.

Paige, from the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Boshoff will join in the squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf as the Springboks’ overseas-based players are not available for the last match of the season due to the fact that it falls outside the Test window.

“This means that Jano Vermaak, Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen are not available to face Wales, which is why we had to get in specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Renaldo Bothma

Renaldo Bothma

Steval Pumas outgoing No 8 Renaldo Bothma cleaned up at the rugby union’s annual awards on Wednesday night, taking home the big prizes on offer.

Bothma, who has signed for the Cell C Sharks in the coming season was a popular choice after a storming Absa Currie Cup campaign for the Nelspruit based union.

Bothma was crowned as the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup player of the year and the referee’s player of the year.

“What an honour to be rewarded with all the prizes. I can only thank my heavenly father for the talent he gave me, thank my support base in the likes of my parents, fellow players and the whole of Nelspruit community for this year. And yes, thank you to coach Jimmy Stonehouse for believing in me and giving me the opportunities I had. This lead to the great opportunity to play Super Rugby and World Cup in 2015,” Bothma said when receiving his awards.

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Super Rugby

  • SANZAR Executive Committee formally approves Japan Rugby Football Union and Union Argentina de Rugby’s admission into Super Rugby from 2016
  • The Japanese team will be based at Tokyo’s Prince Chichibu Memorial Rugby Stadium with three home games per season to be played at the Singapore Sports Hub
  • The Argentine and Japanese national teams are currently ranked 9th and 10th in the world respectively
  • There are nearly a quarter of a million rugby players in Japan and Argentina combined
  • Japan will host the 2019 Rugby World Cup and 2020 Olympic Games

Super Rugby’s expansion to 18 teams from 2016 is officially complete with SANZAR formally confirming the participation of the Japan Rugby Football Union (JRFU) and Union Argentina de Rugby (UAR) at an Executive Committee meeting in London today.

The confirmation is the final stage of formalities and paves the way for the Tokyo and Buenos Aires-based franchises to start contracting players and staff ahead of their historic entry to Super Rugby in a little over 12 months from now.

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Bath PlugBath RugbyErrr… wrong picture… I did not say Bath Plug, I said Bath Rugby! OK, here’s the right one!

Gmpfff, still looks somewhat the same!

 

Anyway… Bath head coach Mike Ford has said the club are not in the market for Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen.

Earlier in the week there was speculation that Bath were on the hunt for Vermeulen to be one of their marquee players alongside Wallaby Will Genia.

“It was news to us when it was mentioned to us earlier today,” Ford said on Tuesday.

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Vodacom CupThe Namibian Rugby Union (NRU) has welcomed the inclusion of a Namibian team in next year’s Vodacom Cup competition.

NRU president Bradley Basson, confirmed on Tuesday that the South African Rugby Union has agreed to Namibia’s request to be included in the 16-team competition that will run from early March through to the end of May.

“It is the best thing that could have happened to Namibian rugby in our build-up towards the Rugby World Cup, we have a number of local based players who are not exposed to high level rugby and they will benefit from this,” said Basson from Carcavelos, Portugal where the national team is preparing for a test match against Portugal on Saturday.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw

Francois Louw says he had been carrying “for years” an underlying neck problem that forced him to have surgery in September.

A pinched nerve caused by a slipped disk resulted in the 34-cap Springbok having an operation on 22 September.

The injury has forced the flank to miss the year-end internationals and Louw is still unable to put a firm date on his return for club side Bath, although he says a December “would be fantastic”.

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Richie GraySpringbok breakdown consultant Richie Gray believes games are mostly won and lost in the ‘top two inches’.

Speaking ahead of the Boks’ encounter with Italy at Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday, Gray admitted the Boks’ dramatic turnaround from week one (Ireland) to week two (England) on tour can be put down to an improved mindset.

Despite the Boks’ dominance on the statistics sheet, the Boks’ Scottish assistant felt they were just not ‘in the game’ mentally.

In fact, he clearly subscribes to that adage first uttered by Leonard H Courtney in 1895: “After all, facts are facts, and although we may quote one to another with a chuckle, in the words of the Wise Statesman: ‘Lies, damn lies and statistics.’ Still there are some easy figures the simplest must understand, and the astutest cannot wriggle out of.”

Gray pointed to the “big difference” from week one to week two on tour as an example of how a change in mindset can improve a team’s performance and result.

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Gawie Visagie

Gawie Visagie

The KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union and the Sharks are saddened to hear the news of the passing of former Natal scrumhalf Gawie Visagie, who passed away this morning (Wednesday) after a brave battle with cancer.

Having joined Natal from Griqualand West, Visagie played 42 games for Natal between 1981-1985. Though essentially a scrumhalf, he shone at flyhalf for Natal in the 1984 Currie Cup final played against Western Province. Gawie was a well-liked and respected former player who still had such a passion for the game.

In August this year the team of 1984, which Gawie was a proud member of, celebrated their 30-year reunion with a dinner that was held in Mount Edgecombe. Gawie’s fight against cancer was recognised at this function with many stalwarts present to wish him well.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

English club Bath are reportedly setting their sights on signing Springbok and Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen after next year’s Rugby World Cup.

The 28-year-old has been instrumental for the Springboks this season and was recently also shortlisted as an IRB World Rugby Player of the year nominee.

According to the Express.co.uk website, Bath are lining up Vermeulen as a second marquee player alongside Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia.

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Martin Castrogiovanni

Martin Castrogiovanni

The Italian team was given a clean bill of health ahead of their encounter with South Africa at Stadio Euganeo in Padua on Saturday – the last match of their year-end campaign.

After a credible 24-13 win over Samoa in their opening match, the Azzurri slipped to an 18-20 to Argentina last week.

Jacques Brunel’s charges, determined to get back on the winning track and record their first-ever win over the Springboks in what will be the 12th encounter between the countries, returned to the training field on Monday with all the players that featured against the Pumas available again.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

The Springboks on Monday received welcome news with fullback Willie le Roux cleared of any fractures after undergoing a scan.

Le Roux picked up a cheekbone injury in last Saturday’s 31-28 win over England at Twickenham.

His participation for this Saturday’s Test against Italy in Padova was still in doubt when he went for a scan on Monday.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen is ready to emerge from obscurity and stake a claim to be once again a regular member of the Springbok squad.

Goosen, who has struggled to regain the form that saw him play four Tests in his debut year as a Bok in 2012, is on standby to take over at fullback from Willie le Roux against Italy in Padova on Saturday.

Le Roux, who injured his cheekbone against England at the weekend, remains on the team’s ‘doubtful list – despite scans clearing him from any fractures.

“We’ll manage Willie during training this week, but he should be available to face Italy,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.

Even with the positive news on the instinctive Le Roux, Goosen’s name has been penciled in to wear the No 15 jersey.

Springbok assistant coach Ricardo Loubscher confirmed that Goosen is an option, should Le Roux be ruled out or ‘rested’ from the third Test on South Africa’s four-match year-end tour.

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Redefine PropertiesCurrie Cup runners up, the Golden Lions, have lost one of their sponsors ahead of the 2015 season.

Redefine Properties recently announced it would not be renewing its three-year sponsorship of the team.

Redefine stepped forward to rescue the Golden Lions Rugby Union in 2012 after a previous sponsor said the union was insolvent.

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Paul Perez

Paul Perez

Sharks CEO John Smit has confirmed the arrival of Samoan and former EP Kings wing Paul Perez to the Sharks.

Perez arrived earlier on Monday at the Sharks headquarters in Durban, after his contract with the Kings was terminated.

Perez now joins Michael Horak, who also made the move up the coast, to take up a role as defensive and kicking coach fro the union.

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IRBThe Wallabies 26-29 loss to France in Paris will result in Australia moving to 4th position overall in the IRB rankings.

Meanwhile Ireland, who defeated Georgia 49-7, moves into the top three in the world.

This is despite Joe Schmidt’s men not gaining any rankings points over 15th placed Georgia, and they will jump from fifth to third in the biggest move of the weekend.

Likewise the All Blacks made no difference and remain number one after playing eighth placed Scotland.

The Springboks improved their position by nearly a full ranking point with their 31-28 win over England.

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Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

If the Springboks stick to their current pecking order, utility prop Coenie Oosthuizen faces probably the most acid examination of his scrummaging ability as a tighthead against Italy in Padova on Saturday (16:00 SA Time).

Coach Heyneke Meyer has already said that first-choice No 3 Jannie du Plessis, who hobbled off in the 65th minute of the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham, is unlikely to be ready for the Italian challenge.

The Boks will be heavily tipped to beat them – whether they put out an experimental sort of combination or not — but the one area where the Italians traditionally provide fierce opposition is at scrum-time, and this weekend is expected to be no different.

As former Italy coach Nick Mallett pointed out in the SuperSport studio on Saturday, they have a strong and experienced front row, especially with that burly cult figure Martin Castrogiovanni back in the mix on the tighthead side, where he should earn his 98th cap on Saturday.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

The Springboks have two main injury concerns following their bruising 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Prop Jannie Du Plessis hobbled off in the 64th minute of the game after he went down awkwardly at the breakdown, which team doctor Craig Roberts is currently investigating.

“Jannie hyper-extended his knee in a ruck and was caught quite awkwardly. His foot got stuck in the ground and couldn’t bend his knee which ended up overstretching his hamstring and hyper-extending his knee.

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Tony Jantjies

Tony Jantjies

Eastern Province Rugby has confirmed the signing of Blue Bulls flyhalf Tony Jantjies, ahead of the 2015 season.

“We are extremely excited to have signed Tony, whose family hails from the Graaff Reinet area, falling in line with our goal to bring talented players from this region back to the Eastern Cape,” said EP Rugby president, Cheeky Watson.

Watson said he was positive that Jantjies would be a great addition to the Kings family when he joined the team in January next year.

“I have spoken to Carlos Spencer, who worked closely with Tony’s brother Elton, and he is very keen to begin working with Tony,” he said.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

The Springboks put in a powerful performance full of passion and pride to beat a game England 31-28 in front of a packed Twickenham stadium in London.

In doing so the Boks restored some pride after their Dublin ambush and continued their dominance over England in a run that now stretches 12 matches and back to 2006.

And while the scoreline eventually talked about a close match, the Boks were much more dominant than it suggests, and frustratingly let England into the game at crucial times when they should have put them away.

In the end, a crucial yellow card to lock Victor Matfield – inconsistent from referee Steve Walsh given the rest of his rulings in the game – swept England back into the game when they were staring down the barrel at 20-6 down.

For a brief five-minute period, down to 14 men, the Boks were unable to cope with England`s driving maul and conceded two tries, even though the second one came from a shocking error from the touch judge, who gave the English a line-out when it should have gone to the Boks.

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Paul Perez

Paul Perez

Eastern Province Rugby have confirmed that they have terminated Samoan wing Paul Perez’s contract with immediate effect.

Perez, who was seen as playing an integral role in the EP Kings plans for the 2015 season, disappeared for two days this week, without justification or permission, and remained uncontactable for the duration of his absence.

EP Rugby president, Cheeky Watson, confirmed that the union had been in the process of applying for Perez’s work permit, and had been obligated to contact the Department of Home Affairs due to concerns raised by his absenteeism.

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Patrick Lambie

Patrick Lambie

Cobus Reinach

Cobus Reinach

Rugby World Cup winners JP Pietersen and Schalk Burger will start Saturday’s second Test in the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour against England at Twickenham as the Springbok match-23 is retained from last weekend.

The five changes to the team are straight swaps between the starting line-up and the bench. Along with Pietersen and Burger, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has handed starts to hooker Adriaan Strauss and the halfback pair of Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie.

Cornal Hendricks, Handré Pollard, Francois Hougaard, Teboho Mohoje and Bismarck du Plessis will start on the bench.

“We’ve accepted our performance against Ireland last weekend was not up to scratch and everyone in the touring squad has put up their hands and dug deep this week,” said Meyer. “We’ve really worked hard at fixing the mistakes we made and the challenge is now to put that into action on Saturday.”

Meyer said the changes were not a knee-jerk reaction following the result in Dublin, but rather in line with rotational changes that he had in mind before the start of the tour.

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BullsThree extend contracts as Vodacom Bulls get ready for 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season:

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed that Werner Kruger, Akona Ndungane and Duncan Matthews have extended their contracts and will be available to play for the Vodacom Bulls in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition. Former Springbok winger Ndungane extended his contract till the end of the 2015 Super Rugby competition, while prop Kruger, who made his Springbok debut in 2011, signed on till October 2016.

Outside back Duncan Matthews, who represented the South African Under-20 side in 2014, will stay with the Pretoria franchise till at least October 2016.

BBC’s High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg, confirmed that the majority of the provisional Vodacom Bulls squad for next year have signed up till the end of 2016.
“We had a long term plan with some of these younger players which started in 2012 already and it is great to see that they are now blossoming in our structures. Added to some new signings for next season, I think the 2015 Super Rugby season could be an exciting one for our supporters,” Janse van Rensburg said.

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Anthony Watson

Anthony Watson

Anthony Watson will start his first international for England in Saturday’s clash against South Africa at Twickenham.

Watson replaces Bath Rugby teammate Semesa Rokoduguni on the right wing in the only change to the starting line-up from the match against New Zealand, the 20 year-old handed a chance to build on his cameo appearance from the bench in last weekend’s 24-21 defeat.

A prolific graduate of the England age-group system who was part of the 2013 Junior World Championship-winning side, he can also draw confidence from the June tour to New Zealand.

Watson’s promotion means Harlequins flyer Marland Yarde, who has scored four tries in five international appearances thus far, comes onto the bench.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux and No 8 Duane Vermeulen on Wednesday were named among five candidates for the IRB World Rugby Player of the year.

The other nominees were Irish flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, New Zealand lock Brodie Retallick and wing Julian Savea. The winner will be revealed at his team’s final match of the season.

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Kings ParkThe three men acquitted of murder in connection with the fatal beating of a former Royal Marine will not be allowed to watch rugby matches at Kings Park.

Novashni Chetty, public relations manager for the Sharks, said in a statement on Wednesday that Kyle Shepard, Andries van der Merwe and Dustin van Wyk would not be allowed to attend matches despite the fact that they were allowed to walk free from the Durban Regional Court on Friday last week.

“The Sharks reserve the right of admission to our stadium.

“There is no clear indication that any one of the three men made any attempt to stop the fight. For that reason, they will not be welcome into our family environment at Kings Park,” said Chetty in her statement, issued in response to a query as to whether the three would be allowed to attend.

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  • Angostura 23 Nov 2014, 14:03 SAST - @ grootblousmile: Stick to the topic, being the loss of the 4 top loose forwards for a team You mentioned...
  • nortie 23 Nov 2014, 13:54 SAST - Nice fightback by the Proteas at the end, almost pulled off what would have been quite a win
  • grootblousmile 23 Nov 2014, 13:54 SAST - 396 @ Angostura: Well for most of the International season in 2014, the Bokke missed Willem Alberts, Flo Louw, Siya...
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