The Bulls overcame a slow start to finish strongly and post a 30-13 triumph over the Cheetahs in a Super Rugby pre-season friendly at Polokwane.
Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl bagged a second half double as the men from Pretoria ran away with the match which was separated by just 3 points midway through the second half.
Duncan Matthews also found the line thanks to a well-timed intercept while Jesse Kriel dictated the game from fullback, looking very much at home in the No 15 jersey.
New recruit, Trevor Nyakane, was a late withdrawal due to a strained neck muscle, but in more positive injury news, Arno Botha completed the match without incident in what was his first appearance since damaging his ACL a year ago.
The Toyota Cheetahs have been dealt their first massive injury blow of the season when news filtered through that former SA Under 20 winger Sergeal Pietersen broke his jaw during Saturday’s pre-season friendly against the Vodacom Bulls in Polokwane.
Pietersen, who transferred to Bloemfontein from the EP Kings at the end of last season, went off the field early after a clash with a defender and was replaced by Clayton Blommetjies.
Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske confirmed that it would be a lengthy spell on the sidelines for Pietersen, who is a dynamite finisher.
“It looks like we’ve lost him for between 6 and 8 weeks,” Drotske said.
Most pundits would feel that expansive, all-out attacking play is what results in most tries. Or perhaps counter-attacking from turnovers.
However, in-depth analysis seems to suggest something very different.
Springbok Braam van Straaten says kicking for territory could become an even greater part of the game in this World Cup year.
Van Straaten, who played flyhalf and centre for the Springboks in 21 Tests from 1999 to 2001, said teams have done an enormous amount of analyses on where the most tries are being scored from.
Gary Gold and Andries Bekker’s Kobe Kobelco Steelers have crashed out of the Japanese Top League with a 43-12 semi-final defeat to Yamaha Júbilo on Saturday.
According to reports, Bekker made little impact in the game and failed to take control of the lineouts, while Jaque Fourie did not play because of injury.
Kobe coach – and new Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold – cut a dejected figure in the stands as his team, who had topped the log, were taken apart by a side they had beaten by a similar margin during the group stage.
Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says England made a mistake by not appointing him and New Zealander Wayne Smith as coaches 3 years ago.
Mallett, 58, was in line for the England head coaching job but lost out to Stuart Lancaster.
In an interview with The Times, Mallett said he would have appointed Smith as his assistant coach had he got the England job.
Smith was the All Blacks’ assistant coach when they won the 2011 Rugby World Cup and also helped the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013.
World Cup winning coach Jake White has revealed that he has been asked by Montpellier president Mohed Altrad to remain on as coach of the French Top 14 side.
White, former Director of Rugby at the Sharks, was brought in to replace Fabien Galthie who was suspended on 29 December after a string of defeats.
“The president wants me to stay,” White said in an interview in l’Equipe and Midi Libre newspapers.
Derick Hougaard will have a foot in both camps next Saturday, as Saracens face South African giants the Vodacom Blue Bulls at Allianz Park.
The fly-half, who played for both Saracens and Sanlam Challenge opponents the Vodacom Blue Bulls, has warned Saracens that their latest South African opponents will pose their greatest threat to their 100% record against South African opposition.
South Africa lock Ben Venter revealed on Wednesday he is set to join Top 14 rugby union side Bordeaux-Begles.
Venter will fill in for Adam Jaulhac who is absent for 3 months after undergoing surgery on a herniated disc.
“I’m proud and happy to announce that I’m going to join Bordeaux-Begles,” the 27-year-old Venter wrote on his Twitter account.
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Self-confessed sports nut Roger Federer goes to watch games whenever his schedule allows and is in no doubt who he’ll be cheering at this year’s Rugby World Cup – South Africa.
The tennis great’s mother Lynette is South African – she met his Swiss father Robert while he was working in Gauteng – and this is where his allegiances lie.
“I’ll be supporting South Africa, of course,” he said when asked who he will be cheering for.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says it’s important for his team to eradicate some “bad habits” as they prepare for this year’s Super Rugby competition.
The Bulls will play two warm-up matches – against the Cheetahs (Polokwane – 24 January) and Saracens (London – 31 January) – before starting their campaign against the DHL Stormers at Loftus Versfeld on 14 February.
“The expectations are big,” Ludeke said. “We made some changes in pre-season an it’s important that we get rid of some bad habits.”
Stormers flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is the latest player linked to a move abroad, with French club Montpellier reportedly his destination. (Also see Update below)
Montpellier, currently coached by World Cup-winning former Springbok mentor Jake White, has been linked to a host of South African players – including the Du Plessis brothers Jannie and Bismarck.
Montpellier also secured the services of Wallaby scrumhalf Nic White, who will join them next season and be reunited with his former club coach White.
According to the French media the 24-year-old Brumbies No 9, White, has – along with Catrakilis – signed a 2-year contract with the option of extending it by a further year.
The first playing squad of the Stormers has been named already for the first Stormers warm-up match against SWD and it certainly looks like Scarra Ntubeni will have first pick at hooker, but Bongi bonambi, the imported hooker from the Bulls will not go away, he’ll battle for the starting spot all season and Scarra Ntubeni will have to be at his best… and stay injury free, to keep the pecking order in his favour.
Allister Coetzee is faced with a delicate balancing act, considering who he has available and who are carrying niggles and injuries.
The obsession of some South African teams with size over skills could come back to haunt them when the Super Rugby season gets underway next month.
Springbok Braam van Straaten says space and not power is the key to winning the SANZAR showpiece.
Abraham Johannes Jacobus van Straaten, who played flyhalf and centre for the Springboks in 21 Tests from 1999 to 2001, said the intent of more teams is to keep the ball in hand and shift into space.
Neil Powell, the Springbok Sevens coach, admitted on Tuesday he will have to make some tough choices when announcing his touring party of 12 players for the next two World Sevens Series tournaments in New Zealand and the United States.
The Wellington Sevens takes place on 6 and 7 February in the New Zealand capital and will be followed by the Las Vegas Sevens a week later, where the South Africans are the defending champions.
Despite the absence of Cheslin Kolbe as a result of Super Rugby commitments with the Stormers, Powell still has a very strong group of players to choose from.
A 28-man DHL Stormers squad will head to George this weekend, as the Men from the Cape start their 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby preparations against the SWD Eagles at Outeniqua Park on Saturday (Kick-Off 16:30 SA Time).
Stormers squad for George:
New captain Duane Vermeulen will lead a starting XV with four Test players – three Springboks and an Argentine international – whilst props Steven Kitshoff (back from a long-term injury) and Vincent Koch (a new signing) are the other noteworthy inclusions.
Dillyn Leyds, after making his return from Australia during last year’s Absa Currie Cup competition, will start on the left-wing – part of an exciting back three with EW Viljoen on the right-wing and speedster Cheslin Kolbe lining up at fullback.
The Vodacom Bulls have named their team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane on Saturday.
Saracens & the Blue Bulls have also published a Vodacom Blue Bulls squad for the encounter the following week in London.
Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane:
New Vodacom Bulls recruits Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane will face their former Toyota Cheetahs teammates in Polokwane on Saturday when the two Vodacom Super Rugby sides clash in a friendly match in the Peter Mokaba Stadium.
Flanker Labuschagne and Nyakane, who was selected at loosehead prop, moved north at the start of the season and will be part of the first hit-out of the season for the Pretoria side.
Francois Uys will lead a strong Toyota Cheetahs side into battle when they travel to Polokwane to take on the Vodacom Bulls in their pre-season friendly on Saturday.
Uys has been appointed captain for the game, with coach Naka Drotske opting to choose a captain later before the start of the season.
Still, the Cheetahs team includes a host of new recruits, as well as two Springboks in Coenie Oosthuizen and Lood de Jager up front as they gear up for a tough Vodacom Super Rugby season.
Lions centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg is enjoying life at his new team after making the move to Johannesburg from the Bulls.
Janse van Rensburg is considered to be one of the top talents coming through the South African rugby ranks. He was recognised as one of the top young centres after showing great pedigree as a schoolboy at Waterkloof, while he also enjoyed a successful run as a junior at the Bulls between 2010 and 2014.
He impressed for the Junior Springboks during last year’s Junior World Championship before injury prematurely ended his tournament.
The 20-year-old now enters a new and exciting chapter in his career has he completed a move from the Bulls to the Lions after the Currie Cup. He hopes to achieve more senior accolades at his new team.
Injured Springbok captain Jean de Villiers is holding on tight to his dream of recovering in time for the World Cup tournament.
The Bok medical team and their counterparts from Western Province said on Monday they will work together in the coming months to ensure De Villiers is afforded every opportunity to make a successful comeback to the playing field in time for the global showpiece in September and October.
The Bok captain will continue with his rehabilitation following the serious knee injury he suffered against Wales last November.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts is in charge of the rehabilitation process.
Sharks flyhalf Tim Swiel says he has settled in nicely at English club Harlequins, who he joined on loan last year.
Swiel, 21, will stay with the London club until the end of February before returning to Durban.
In an interview, Swiel said he’s learnt a lot in the few months at Harlequins.
Prop Morne Mellett has been cleared of a rib contusion and will be considered for the Vodacom Bulls team to play a season-opening friendly against the Toyota Cheetahs in Polokwane on Saturday.
The match starts at 17:00.
Mellett’s return will be good news to coach Frans Ludeke, as the Bulls have a number of front rankers out of action.
Montpellier president Mohed Altrad on Monday “categorically denied” reports of a deal to sign South African forwards Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis.
The brothers, various domestic media suggested, were due to join the Top 14 side after the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup in November on a two-year deal.
But Altrad said: “I categorically deny these reports.”
Jano Vermaak, one of South Africa’s most experienced scrumhalves, is believed to be on the Stormers’ shopping list for their 2015 Super Rugby campaign.
Vermaak currently plies his trade for French Top 14 club Toulouse. He is a former SA Under 21 representative who has also played for the SA Sevens side as well as the Emerging Springboks.
The 30-year old was a member of the Springbok squad for most of the 2012 season, with Ruan Pienaar and Francois Hougaard as the two first choice scrumhalves in the squad.
The native of Graaff-Reinet made his Test debut for the Springboks on 8 June 2013 against Italy at Kings Park in Durban. He suffered a hamstring injury in the 62nd minute of that Test and had to be replaced. Since then he has played three Tests for the Boks.
Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis as well as Duane Vermeulen will further their careers in France after this year’s Rugby World Cup, respected French rugby newspaper Midi Olympique has revealed.
According to the newspaper, the official announcement regarding Vermeulen will only be made in July.
This week sees the Super Rugby teams take to the field in a number of pre-season games as the franchises look to get ready for the 2015 season.
In the South African conference there is understandably no cross-conference games, however The Bulls and the Sharks have decided to board the plane for England and France respectively as they take on Saracens and Toulon.
The Bulls will prepare for that match with a hit out against the Cheetahs in their traditional Polokwane warm-up game before flying to France.
The Cheetahs then travel to Cape Town to face off against the Stormers, while a supposed ‘B-team’ stays at home to tackle the Griffons.
The Lions’ pre-season looks to be a muted affair with two games against the Leopards and Varsity Cup team, the Pukke happening on the same day.
Super Rugby starts in a month’s time with a match in Christchurch with Nick Briant to referee it.
SANZAR has released the names of the referees for the first three Rounds.
Briant referees the first match in New Zealand, Angus Garner the first in Australia and Rohan Hoffman the first in South Africa.
Jason Jaftha was injured for 2014 and his fitness needs to be assured for this year.
Marius van der Westhuizen will be refereeing his first Super Rugby match overseas after reaching Super Rugby last year.
The DHL Stormers have finished their training camp in Hermanus and have also appointed their leadership for the season.
We also bring news on Nizaam Carr, who did not take part in the training camp but in stead was hospitalised due to a viral infection.
By now, the rumours of Duane Vermeulen’s departure overseas have also been laid to rest, we discuss it below.
Seabelo Senatla, the speedster, will only join the Stormers in a couple of months due to his dual committments with the South African Sevens side, more hereunder.
The Nelspruit-based Steval Pumas have retained the bulk of their coaching squad, without appointing a new head coach.
The top spot in the coaching became vacant earlier this month when head coach Jimmy Stonehouse resigned from his position to join Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus.
On Thursday the board of directors of the Mpumalanga Rugby (Pty) Ltd revealed they have decided to leave the coaching team intact for the duration of the 2015 Vodacom Cup.
The Kings defence coach for their inaugural Super Rugby campaign in 2013, Omar Mouneimne, has returned to Port Elizabeth from Edinburgh in preparation for their 2016 season and beyond.
Mouneimne played a crucial role in making the Southern Kings one of the toughest teams defensively in the 2013 competition and has once again taken up the role of defence coach.
He has already begun training with the 2015 Vodacom Cup squad alongside Vodacom Cup head coach, Mzwandile Stick.
“It is wonderful to be back and to be part of the preparations for the Kings’ return to Super Rugby,” he said.
Veteran World Cup-winning prop BJ Botha is happier than ever at Munster and hopes to sign on for another year with the Irish side.
The 35-year-old former Sharks stalwart moved to Ireland in 2008, originally joining Ulster, and made the move to their rivals Munster in 2011.
He said that while he is coming to the end of his career, he still has more to give and has his sights set on earning 100 caps for Munster.
Newport Gwent Dragons’ South African second-row Rynard Landman says he would “play his heart out” if selected by Wales once he becomes eligible in 2017.
Landman joined Dragons from Super Rugby side Cheetahs on a three-year contract in 2014.
The 28-year-old can play for Wales once he has lived there for three years.
“I’m here to stay and, if it comes along my path in three years, I would accept it with open arms and play my heart out,” said Landman.
We take a look at some of the news filtering through from the Bulls in their preparations for this year’s Super Rugby Season.
Lanky flanker Jaques du Plessis might get the nod at No 4 lock in the injury absense of Flip van der Merwe during the first stages of Super Rugby. Competing against him for the No 4 spot are youngsters Nico Janse van Rensburg and Irné Herbst.
Meanwhile former Blue Bulls and Springbok captain, Wynand Claassen, who is also the chairman of the Bulls’ ex-players union, wants the Bulls to employ a much more enterprising style in 2015.
Trevor Nyakane, who has joined the Bulls for the 2015 season from the Cheetahs, says he has been inundated with calls from his fellow-Bulls mates to come up with a new dance routine, when the Bulls score tries in 2015. He was known for his jubilant dance moves at the Cheetahs in 2014, but the question is whether he can dance the blue tune this year.
The only real players of consequence, bar of course the longer term injury to Flip van der Merwe, who are not fully into the swing of things yet and who will miss the excursion to Polokwane, are Adriaan Strauss and Handré Pollard, but their injuries appear to be on the light side, and it is highly unlikely that they will not be fit and ready to play in the season’s opener for the Bulls.
Sharks loosehead prop Thomas du Toit hopes he can continue the impressive form he displayed during an amazing 2014 debut season.
In his first year after school, the Paarl Boys’ old boy has already made a huge impression at the Sharks.
At just 19, he made his Super Rugby debut for the Durban franchise, coming off the bench in his first game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, before starting the team’s final three fixtures, including the wildcard play-off against the Highlanders and semi-final against the Crusaders. He also made eight appearances in the Currie Cup, helping the Sharks reach the domestic semi-finals.
Du Toit got a taste of international rugby too as he starred for the Junior Springboks at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand, while he was a surprise pick for the Barbarians squad.
The Toyota Cheetahs’ preparations for Super Rugby this week reports on fitness niggles to Willie le Roux and Oupa Mahoje and also reports that Rayno Benjamin will miss the start of Super Rugby due to Sevens committments with the Blitzbokke for the first 2 weeks in February.
In addition the battle for the flyhalf spot between Joe Pietersen, Willie du Plessis and Francois Brummer, seems to be dominating the attention of the media, with speculation that Joe Pietersen seems to be the favourite, after the warm-up games to get Round 1’s starting spot.
Maks van Dyk, who has been on short term loan with Leinster in Ireland, to get valuable game time reports that he is enjoying his short Northern sojourn.