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imageDHL WP, the 2012 Absa Currie Cup winners and 2013 finalists, will take on the Pumas at the Mbombela Stadium with vice-captain Pat Cilliers back at tighthead prop and Brok Harris moving down to the bench.

Scrumhalf Nic Groom and utility back Michael van der Spuy will join Harris on the bench this week, with coach Coetzee once again reverting to a more traditional four/three split (forwards/backs) amongst his replacements.

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Springbok defense coach John McFarland

Springbok defense coach John McFarland

The Springboks want to keep the Wallabies guessing over who will fill the blindside flanker’s role for them in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash at Newlands for as long as possible.

The Bok team is to be announced at lunch time on Wednesday, and more clarity will probably be offered on what the starting line-up will look like in Saturday’s match when the Boks train in a session that is open to the media and public at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday.

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Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein is hoping to see more attacking ball this weekend than he has in his first two Tests at outside centre for the Springboks.

Having played all of his rugby at No.12, Serfontein was picked outside captain Jean de Villiers in the two Rugby Championship away defeats to Australia and New Zealand which saw him make more of an impact on defence than attack.

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Marnitz Boshoff

Marnitz Boshoff

Golden Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his 22-man side to take on Griquas in a Currie Cup match in Kimberley on Saturday afternoon.

In the forwards, prop Jacques van Rooyen and flank Warwick Tecklenburg will both start the match after moving up from the bench.

Meanwhile, in the backline, Ross Cronje will start at scrumhalf and Howard Mnisi will come in at inside centre.

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Nigel Owens

Nigel Owens

Wales’ Nigel Owens will be the man with the whistle for the Springboks’ must-win Rugby Championship Test against Australia at Newlands on Saturday.

Kick-off is at 17:05.

In a tournament blighted by sub-standard officiating, Heyneke Meyer’s men will be hoping Owens has a controversy-free match as they look to keep their title hopes alive with a bonus-point victory in Cape Town.

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Happy man: Rory Kockott

Happy man: Rory Kockott

Castres scrum-half and new France squad member Rory Kockott has revealed that playing for Les Bleus has always been his aim.

The South African joined Castres in 2011 and has been a roaring success in the Top 14, guiding his club to two league finals and one title.

Having now qualified on residency, Kockott has been named in France’s squad for the upcoming November Tests.

There has been much speculation over the last year as to whether Kockott would play for his adopted country or be selected by the Springboks, but now his decision is clear.

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imageThe captaincy curse has struck the winless Eastern Province Kings again, with another skipper sidelined.

Steven Sykes will join Luke Watson in the sickbay and will not be on duty the against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, according to the Kings medical team.

Sykes will be missing the upcoming game due to a knee injury that he sustained during the loss to the Free State Cheetahs last Saturday.

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Pieter de Villiers

Bok scrum coach, Pieter de Villiers.

The scrumming travails that dominated the headlines and media copy after the two Castle Rugby Championship matches against Argentina are now behind the Springboks and quickly receding from memory, according to their scrum coach Pieter de Villiers.

The unedifying sight of the much vaunted Bok scrum backpedalling in the Salta match against the Pumas, as well to some extent as the game before that at Loftus, precipitated a wave of panic among South African supporters.

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Francois Louw

Six weeks out: Francois Louw

Springbok flanker Francois Louw underwent surgery on Monday after he injured his neck in the Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand in Wellington.

Team doctor Craig Roberts told reporters in Cape Town on Monday that Louw had suffered a pinched nerve in his neck, and would be sidelined for about six weeks.

“Francois initially took a knock to his head, and the scans showed damage to a nerve in his neck. He has had surgery today on the (affected) disc and that should relieve the pressure (on the nerve),” said Roberts.

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Kurtley Beale

The Wallabies have tasted endless defeat at Cape Town since 1992.

As if beating the Springboks and Pumas on their home turf is not onerous enough, it also involves a road trip from hell.

The Wallabies will this week discover the logistics involved in getting to South Africa, Argentina and then back home can send everyone around the twist.

Countless Wallabies can vouch for the fact it is an itinerary fraught with danger. But it is always memorable – and for many past and present Wallabies it ranks among their career highlights. You certainly never forget it.

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Lizo Gqoboka

Lizo Gqoboka is one of three young, up and coming players that have been selected to attend the Springbok Training Camp ahead of their final two matches in the Rugby Championship.

Gqoboka, along with Nizaam Carr, Seabelo Senatla, will join the camp this week.

“They are three promising young players we’ve identified and we’d like to expose them to the Springbok ethos while also having a look at what they can do in training,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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ABSA Currie CupAs anticipated, DHL Western Province and the Xerox Golden Lions confirmed their positions at the top of the Absa Currie Cup log with bonus point home wins over the weekend, but they may have reason now to be looking nervously over their shoulders.

The Cell C Sharks have looked woeful for most of the season and until the second half against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 10 days again, they just weren’t converting their line breaks or stringing phases together.

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Schalk Burger

Tough competitor: South African enforcer Schalk Burger is an opponent not easily forgotten, says Phil Waugh.

If Schalk Burger plays for the Springboks against the Wallabies on Saturday after being recalled from his club in Japan, Michael Hooper can expect a bruising encounter he will long remember, warns former Australian Test flanker Phil Waugh.

Waugh, who played against the barnstorming South African 23 times during his Test career, said: “Every time I played Schalk there were plenty of fists in the face both ways; but it was always a healthy competitiveness.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

France head coach Philippe Saint-André has named five uncapped players in his squad for November’s Tests, with Rory Kockott included.

Props Uini Atonio and Xavier Chiocci, back-row Charles Ollivon and wing Teddy Thomas are the new players joining Kockott in the Les Bleus mix.

Kockott is one of just two scrum-halves in the group, joining Sébastien Tillous-Borde while Camille Lopez, Remi Tales and François Trinh-Duc are the 10 options available to Saint-André.

Saint-André has dispensed with the services of loosehead Thomas Domingo and back-row forwards Antonie Claassen and Fulgence Ouedraogo while Maxime Machenaud, Dimitri Szarzewski and Morgan Parra also miss out.

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Eben Etzebeth

Rise to the top – Eben Etzebeth.

Eben Etzebeth isn’t your average 22-year-old. South Africa’s young lock is viewed as absolutely pivotal to the team’s future.

That’s not a status which is simply handed out either. In his 27 caps so far, Etzebeth has seamlessly fitted into Test rugby.

We seem to live in an age of young locks beginning to dominate Test rugby; Brodie Retallick and Sam Whitelock, Courtney Lawes and Joe Launchbury, Sam Carter, with Pieter-Steph du Toit to come.

There’s little now at the international level that Etzebeth hasn’t experienced, including a prolonged lay-off through injury.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

This is what Nick Mallett had to say after yesterday’s Currie Cup matches:

I was surprised, because the Sharks have gone through a couple of difficult weeks, where they lost two and drew one. Going into the game it looked like the Blue Bulls had a bit of momentum. It was a really good performance by the Sharks, it’s never easy to win at Loftus.

It was not just a win, but a good win.

The Blue Bulls are going to really battle to make the semis now.

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Teboho Mahoje

Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje in aksie in die toets teen Skotland vroeër vanjaar in Port Elizabeth. Hy het daar van die plaasvervangerbank af net ’n rukkie speelkans gekry.

Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje – en nie die veteraanlosvoorspeler Schalk Burger nie – in die Springbokke se beginspan Saterdag op Nuweland teen die Wallabies.

En Francois Hougaard op skrumskakel, terwyl Cobus Reinach wat van die bank af in sy debuuttoets gaan kans kry.

Dít lyk na die plan van die Springbokafrigter, Heyneke Meyer, om die Suid-Afrikaners se kwynende aanspraak in die Rugbykampioenskap te behou, Mohoje (24), wat 1.93 m lank is en die skaal op 107 kg laat kreun, sal sy eerste kans in die beginspan in die plek van Francois Louw kry.

Louw het in verlede naweek se verloortoets teen die All Blacks senuwees in sy nek vasgeknyp en sal eers weer in November vir die Bok-toer na Europa beskikbaar wees.

Hougaard sal in die plek van Ruan Pienaar opdraf, wat ook in Wellington beseer is.

Mohoje se insluiting is nóg ’n hoofstuk in sy sprokieseisoen. Dié Vrystaatse kantman het vroeër vanjaar in Port Elizabeth ’n rukkie teen Skotland gespeel.

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Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana

Currently away with the Springboks, Bryan Habana hasn’t been distracted by the outlandish statements of Mourad Boudjellal at Toulon.

Habana will be in line for his 102nd cap against the Wallabies in Cape Town next weekend, but the Toulon owner earlier this week demanded that Habana along with Bakkies Botha and Argentina’s Juan Martín Fernández Lobbe return to play for their club.

Perhaps Habana wasn’t distracted because those kind of outbursts from Boudjellal aren’t new. In the same week he also raised the possibility of cancelling Leigh Halfpenny’s contract.

“It’s not up to me to decide on going back. We have the right lines of communication. SA Rugby have been working hard behind the scenes to address the rumours that have been going around this week,” Habana exclusively told Planet Rugby.

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DHL WPGWK GriquasWP (24) 36 / 12 (0) Griquas (Final Score)

DHL Western Province and GWK Griquas did battle in the ABSA Currie Cup Premier Division at

Newlands, Cape Town at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

(Take Note: There will be no LIVE GAME ARTICLE for the EP Kings / Toyota Free State Cheetahs match, as it also takes place at the same time as this game)

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Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

The school term has finished and the report cards have been dispatched.

This makes it as good a time as any to deliver a summary on how the Wallabies have fared since Ewen McKenzie took over the top job 14 months ago.

Record wise, the Wallabies are on an impressive run, winning 11 of their past 12 games, but the goal has to be to win against the top nations, South Africa and the All Blacks.

They have achieved one of those two desired outcomes.

Here is a breakdown of the pros and cons I have observed during the opening stages of the McKenzie era:

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Super Rugby TropheeSuper RugbyCrusaders vs Rebels to get the season underway in Christchurch on 13 February.

Defending champion Waratahs to start at home against the Force in Round 1.

Anzac Centenary weekend sees all 10 Australian and New Zealand teams in action across Round 11 (two derbies and three Trans-Tasman clashes).

Waratahs host the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in a Round 15 re-match of the record-breaking 2014 Super Rugby Final.

All five South African teams are in action on home soil during Rounds 1-3.

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SuperBruOnly 4 points separated the All Blacks from the Bokke in Wellington, but, as expected, New Zealand were the victors.

Australia managed a 7 point win against the Pumas so there were no surprises for Round 4 of the Rugby Championship.

There we many positives to be taken out of the game from a South African perspective, the biggest being the form of Handré Pollard playing in his first real big Test.

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Sparse Crowd

Empty spaces – Yet another sparse crowd has the ARU concerned.

On a humid morning in February, Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver took the microphone and made the extraordinary declaration that 2014 was the year of the Waratahs.

Not a ball had been kicked, no one knew which Kurtley Beale would turn up in round one and, though they boasted the best and most expensive playing roster in the country, this was the Waratahs, after all.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

While local rugby supporters should feel genuine pride after the Springboks went toe-to-toe with the All Blacks away from home, the reality is that, in order to be the best, you have to beat the best.

The chasm between the top two sides in world rugby appears to be narrowing. However, if Heyneke Meyer’s men are to scale the summit, I believe their work ethic off the ball must improve markedly.

While I’m not questioning the players’ character and commitment, I would challenge each of them to analyse the game objectively and ask themselves: Did I chase the kicks hard enough, did I defend with sufficient integrity when the All Blacks played the ball wide and was my discipline sound?

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Frans Steyn

In the wilderness – Frans Steyn.

He hasn’t ruled it out completely, but Springbok centre Frans Steyn says it’s unlikely he’ll play international rugby again.

Steyn, 27, shocked the rugby fraternity in June this year when he made himself unavailable for Springbok selection shortly before a Test against Wales in Durban, after playing against a World XV in Cape Town the previous week.

It emerged that his decision to pull out of the Springbok squad was due to a monetary dispute with the South African Rugby Union (SARU) regarding his image rights, which were handled by a third party.

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Ewen McKenzie

TROPHY HUNTING: Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie is in a confident mood ahead of his side’s clash with the Springboks in Cape Town.

Australian coach Ewen McKenzie says the Wallabies have ”one hand” on the Mandela Challenge Plate as they gear up for a Cape Town clash against the Springboks – but admits the passionate home crowds could snatch the silverware away.

Australia edged out the Springboks 24-23 in their first clash of 2014 earlier this month in Perth.

“There’s no question – South Africa is hard to play in South Africa,” McKenzie said on Friday.

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Jono Ross

Jono Ross: Replaces the suspended Deon Stegmann

Jono Ross will lead the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the absence of suspended skipper Deon Stegmann when they play the Cell C Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday. Ross was the regular skipper in 2013 and will lead a team that include four new faces in Wiaan Liebenberg, Callie Visagie, Sampie Mastriet and Rudy Paige from the starting line-up that beat EP Kings last weekend.

Liebenberg comes in for Stegmann, a fit-again Visagie replaces Bongi Mbonambi and Mastriet comes in for Akona Ndungane on the wing. Paige moves up from the bench swopping places with Piet van Zyl.

Mbonambi edges out Bandise Maku.

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DHL WPLoose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe and utility back Justin Geduld will make their first Absa Currie Cup starts for DHL Western Province in Saturday’s home fixture against Griquas (kick-off 15h00).

Notshe will wear the No.6 jersey at DHL Newlands in the absence of injured loose forward colleague Siya Kolisi, whilst SA Sevens star Geduld will start on the left-wing as part of the five changes to the DHL WP team this week.

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Super Rugby TropheeAll of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks, traditionally South Africa’s strongest franchises in Super Rugby, have reason to feel fairly upbeat about their 2015 ordinary-season schedules.

SANZAR revealed the roster for next season – the last before the competition expands yet again – this week, and at least on paper there seems a better chance of the SA challenge being better than this year’s (only the Sharks made the playoffs, and were losing semi-finalists) as the draw is largely kind to the domestic trio of superpowers.

Jake White’s Sharks were widely considered to have had a dream draw in 2014, given the opportunity it presented for them to build a tidy head of steam on South African soil – including a generous allocation of Kings Park games – before their overseas leg.

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Lwazi Mvovo

Lwazi Mvovo

The loss of Odwa Ndungane last week is off-set by returning Springbok Lwazi Mvovo who has been released from the Springbok squad for the Cell C Sharks’ Currie Cup clash against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday (17:05 kick-off).

According to Sharks website editor, Michael Marnewick, he is one of a handful of changes in the backline, where a re-jigged back three and midfield change see plenty of pace introduced.

Paul Jordaan returns after a week’s rest and will partner last week’s debutant Andre Esterhuizen (and a try-scorer on debut) in a potentially very dangerous centre partnership that marries brute strength with pace and acceleration to burn.

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Sarel Pretorius

Sarel Pretorius

Free State Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius is set to play his 100th Currie Cup match when his side tackle the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.

According to Volksblad, the 30-year-old played 18 Currie Cup games for the Falcons between 2006 and 2007. He then represented Griquas in 53 Cup games until 2011 before joining Free State, for who he has played 28 games.

The attacking minded scrumhalf also boasts 37 tries in his 99 career Currie Cup games.

The only other scrumhalf in South Africa to play more than 100 Currie Cup games is Tewis de Bruyn, who played 118 Cup games, representing the Leopards, SWD, Boland, Free State and Griffons.

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Will Skelton

Concerns over Will Skelton’s fitness ensured he will be left behind from Wallabies tour.

Will Skelton is already triple-XL. The challenge is ensuring his supersub role doesn’t lead to another “X” or two, according to Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.

Concerns about dwindling fitness as a bench specialist, and the linked issue of not being a lineout jumper, were on Wednesday identified as the reasons behind Skelton being left out of the Wallabies’ squad to tour South Africa and Argentina next week.

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Cell C SharksWhile the result wasn’t exactly what the Cell C Sharks would have liked, or what they worked so hard to achieve, the Currie Cup draw with Free State was certainly an improved performance, according to Sharks’ website editor Michael Marnewick.

“Our play improved quite a lot from the previous week, we certainly created more opportunities to score which means we are playing better rugby,” explains assistant coach Sean Everitt.

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