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SA Rugby

Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Even as he spoke at Wednesday’s press conference here, a stiff north-wester – so often the city’s rain-preceding wind – howled and dark clouds engulfed Table Mountain, not from the end that characterises the trademark lilywhite summer “tablecloth”.

Yet a notably recurring theme from Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was his wish for a precipitation-free Castle Rugby Championship Test match against the Wallabies at Newlands on Saturday.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

Having suffered back-to-back away defeats – albeit by narrow margins – the Springboks’ chances of winning the Rugby Championship are now balanced on a knife’s edge.

While home ground advantage should offer the Springboks some solace, from personal experience, pressure is magnified on home soil.

The expectation is that the Springboks should beat the Wallabies comfortably at Newlands on Saturday, and I feel that’s a horrible position for a team to find itself in.

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Tony Johnson

Tony Johnson

The All Blacks had a mantra through the last World Cup, one that has continued to serve them well.

“Expect the unexpected and deal with it” was a change of philosophy after years of striving to leave no stone unturned in the quest for a perfect preparation.

Somewhere along the way they realized that planning to have the best players in the best shape, and the team functioning tickety-boo on the day was unrealistic. It became more about embracing pressure and expectation, and being able to adjust when things inevitably go wrong.

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John McFarland

Springbok defense coach John McFarland.

In the years of the old Tri-Nations competition competed for by South Africa, New Zealand and Australia it was universally agreed that the Springboks were at a disadvantage because of the travel schedule.

That may not have changed now that the premier southern hemisphere competition has morphed into the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

At least that is the view of Bok defence coach John McFarland, who believes that the South Africans have it tough in being the only side in the new competition, which now also includes Argentina, who have to play three consecutive matches away.

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Seabelo Senatla

The good news for DHL Western Province fans is that explosive winger Seabelo Senatla, who has been missed by the Cape side during his injury enforced absence, will be back for the play-off rounds of the Absa Currie Cup.

Senatla has linked up with the Springboks during their build-up to Saturday’s test match against Australia at Newlands for the purpose of picking up experience that could come in useful later in his career.

He has been unable to train, but according to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts he is being monitored by the Bok Sevens medical team. He is in the final stages of rehabilitation from his ankle injury and will soon be back on the field.

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Corne Krige

Corne Krige

Naturally there has been plenty to discuss since New Zealand defeated the Springboks in Wellington and Australia grabbed their second win of the Championship over Los Pumas.

One man though has stolen the headlines since Aaron Cruden’s ill-advised late night drinking session caused him to miss the flight to Buenos Aires.

His two-match suspension is completely the right call in the eye of Krige, who described his actions as “bordering on criminal.”

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield wins a lineout ahead of an Australian rival in Perth two weeks ago.

South Africa’s aggressive new breakdown tactics will leave them exposed to penalties and short on tacklers out wide, the Wallabies believe, while Australia’s forwards coach Andrew Blades has taken aim at Victor Matfield for trying to manipulate referees.

The Wallabies woke up in Cape Town to headlines of their scrum “tricks” and articles suggesting they manipulated referees into giving them penalties rather than earning them.

And still ringing fresh in their ears is Matfield’s comments after his side lost 24-23 in Perth three weeks ago, in which he questioned the legality of the Wallabies’ tactics in stopping the Boks’ rolling maul.

Blades brushed off the barbs as Australia prepares to face South Africa this weekend at Newlands, where they have not won since 1992.

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DHL WPDHL WP, the 2012 Absa Currie Cup winners and 2013 finalists, will take on the Steval 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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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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JanSerfontein

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

Xerox Golden Lions:

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 SA Time.

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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Frans Ludeke

On the right track, Frans Ludeke

Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke says they will keep backing their processes in order to get their game plan right.

The Bulls suffered another disappointing loss at the weekend when the Sharks beat them 26-15 at Loftus Versfeld.

Ludeke said they have no excuses for the loss and have to learn to handle the pressure situations better.

“It was especially our decision making which cost us. There were times when we needed to play tactically, but then carried the ball and lost it at the breakdowns instead,” Ludeke said.

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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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Currie CupEastern Province Kings:

The 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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