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Springboks

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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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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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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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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

Experienced and versatile loose forward Schalk Burger has been called up to the Springbok squad for the final two Tests in the Rugby Championship for the injured Francois Louw.

Burger, capped 71 times for the Springboks, will play for his Japanese club, Suntory, on Friday and join the squad in Cape Town as soon as possible thereafter.

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Spiro Zavos

Spiro Zavos

When Steve Hansen says the laws of rugby need to be revised, modified and made easier to play, to referee, and to understand, the rugby world should take notice.

The All Blacks under Hansen’s adroit coaching are in an era even more golden than previous great eras.

They are not only playing winning rugby, they are playing rugby the way it is supposed to be played – with courage, physical strength, high skills and the intent to score tries while stopping opponents from doing so.

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Lwazi Mvovo

Lwazi Mvovo

Following an agreement between the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the provincial unions, wing Lwazi Mvovo has been released to play in the Currie Cup for the Cell C Sharks this weekend.

Mvovo will train with the Sharks this week and join the Springbok squad in Cape Town on Sunday evening.

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Will Genia

Recall: playmaker Will Genia has been named in the touring squad for the Wallabies’ trips to South Africa and Argentina.

Will Genia and Benn Robinson have been called up to the injury-hit Wallabies for their two-week tour of South Africa and Argentina.

With no less than 13 players ruled out through injury, McKenzie has turned to two assured Test performers to boost the Wallabies for two tough Tests on the road.

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Francois Louw

Francois Louw injury: massive loss for the Springboks

Springbok flank Francois Louw has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby Championship with a pinched nerve in his neck.

He picked up the injury during last Saturday’s Test against New Zealand in Wellington and the extent of the injury was confirmed after Louw went for scans and saw a specialist in Durban on Tuesday.

According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts, Louw will be out of action for approximately eight weeks and may be fit for South Africa’s November tour to Europe.

A decision on a replacement for Louw in the 30-man Springbok squad will be made in the coming day or two.

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Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal

Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has demanded that Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha quit the Springboks’ current Rugby Championship campaign and report for club duty.

Toulon recently lost 28-24 to Stade Francais, and currently sit at third on the Top 14 log.

Boudjellal is clearly not pleased with his side’s form at present, and has publicly lamented the club’s lengthy list of injuries as well as the absence of international stars like Habana, Botha, and Pumas flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

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Malakai Fekitoa

HARD RUNNING: Malakai Fekitoa brings a quick-stepping style to the All Blacks midfield.

Malakai Fekitoa seems set to start for the All Blacks at second five-eighth in Argentina next week with Ryan Crotty still working his way back to fitness after a facial fracture.

Crotty was expected to recover for the test against the Pumas in La Plata next week, but would instead make his return in the NPC with Canterbury and join the All Blacks for the Rugby Championship finale against the Springboks at Ellis Park on October 4.

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Andrew Mehrtens

Andrew Mehrtens

The All Blacks may march on undefeated but the weekend demonstrated palpably that South Africa are going to be big-time World Cup threats.

Maybe bigger even than the hosts who are also going to take some beating at Fortress Twickenham.

Sure, the Springboks weren’t able to get up and end their five-year losing streak on New Zealand soil, but boy did they get close. And a year out from the Cup it’s significant that they’re knocking on the door.

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Richie McCaw & Jean de Villiers

Respect on and off the field. Richie McCaw making a special presentation to Jean de Villiers.

It came as an innocuous question from an All Black supporter on Twitter, but it summed up the feeling after Saturday’s epic Springboks-All Blacks test in Wellington.

“After that, don’t you wish Ellis Park could be next week?” he asked. The answer is a big resounding yes.

It wasn’t because we lost and wanted revenge. It wasn’t because the Boks will be kicking themselves for coming so close against the World Champions.

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

What a difference a week makes…

 

The Rugby Championship:

We saw 2 very good test matches, particularly the All Blacks vs Springboks game, played in the Cake Tin.

It was played at tempo for the duration of the match and was superbly refereed by Jerome Garces. Chalk and cheese between what we saw last week.

He seemed to be able to make his decisions with ease, without pressure, and for the most part they were well timed, and accurate. He added huge value to a compelling test match which was deservedly won by the All Blacks.

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Ma'a Nonu

TOUGH BREAK: All Blacks inside centre Ma’a Nonu won’t be sighted on a rugby field again until next year after breaking his arm against the Springboks on Saturday night.

Ma’a Nonu didn’t win the respect and admiration of his South African opposite Jean de Villiers with a big tackle or a crunching run.

The All Blacks second five-eighth saved his classiest moment for the quiet of the changing room where doctors surveyed his broken forearm at halftime during Saturday’s Rugby Championship match at Westpac Stadium.

Nonu’s test, and season, were over, a steel plate inserted in his arm yesterday morning, but as the ambulance doors swung open to take the 32-year-old across town to Wellington Hospital, Nonu thought not of his misfortune and considerable pain.

Instead, he pulled off his No 12 jersey and instructed his handlers to take it to the opposition changing room where it could be collected by de Villiers after he completed his 100th test for the Springboks.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was left visibly frustrated and annoyed his side had failed to end the All Blacks’ five-year winning streak in New Zealand.

Deep down, however, he knew the mistakes that had been made could be rectified and the youngsters in his team would only be better for their tight 14-10 defeat to the world champions in Wellington on Saturday.

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JP Pietersen

JP Pietersen

RWC winning back JP Pietersen will replace injured scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar for home Rugby Championship Tests against Australia and New Zealand, it was announced on Sunday.

Pietersen, who can operate on the right wing or at outside centre, has been playing in Japan and was unavailable for the first four southern hemisphere championship matches.

“JP has always been part of our plans and did very well in June playing at outside centre,” Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said in a statement.

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Keven Mealamu & Richie McCaw

Senior All Blacks, including Richie McCaw (R), were heard complaining to the referee during the match.

The All Blacks say South Africa have returned to their time-wasting antics, at the same ground where they first accused them of feigning injuries eight years ago.

Senior New Zealand players voiced their concern at the number of Springboks who sought medical treatment during the All Blacks 14-10 win in Wellington on Saturday.

Captain Richie McCaw and No 8 Kieran Read regularly remonstrated with French referee Jerome Garces, believing the tourists were deliberately slowing the speed of the Test to nullify New Zealand’s high-speed approach.

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Cornal Hendricks

Silver lining: Cornal Hendricks scored an excellent try.

The Springboks put a positive spin on their narrow defeat to the All Blacks in a bruising encounter on Saturday, saying they learnt valuable lessons a year out from the World Cup.

The 14-10 defeat in Wellington all but ended the Springboks bid to prevent the All Blacks claiming the Rugby Championship trophy for a third successive year.

It also came at a price, with scrum-half Ruan Pienaar out for up to eight weeks with knee ligament damage and a question mark over flanker Francois Louw, who suffered an arm injury.

But in the plus column, coach Heyneke Meyer saw a valuable return from his gamble to play 20-year-old Handre Pollard and 21-year-old Jan Serfontein against the top side in the world.

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Ma'a Nonu

Out until next year: Ma’a Nonu

All Blacks center Ma’a Nonu will not play rugby again in 2014 after undergoing surgery on a broken arm sustained against South Africa on Saturday.

Nonu suffered the injury in the first half of the 14-10 win over the Springboks in Wellington and was replaced at halftime but only after having played for nine minutes after suffering the injury when tackling opposite number Jean de Villiers.

The injury means Nonu will miss New Zealand’s remaining Rugby Championship matches against Argentina in La Plata in a fortnight and South Africa in Johannesburg on October 5. He has also been ruled out of New Zealand’s November tour to the United States and Britain.

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Richie McCaw

Richie McCaw scores against the Springboks.

Thinus Delport acknowledged that New Zealand’s superior experience and mental strength was the difference as they earned a late victory.

He said: “It’s that winning mentality – not panicking, staying calm, making the right decisions.

That’s what it boils down to. One simple error at this level and the game changes.

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All Blacks vs SpringboksBrutal as this confrontation was, it was the subtle and cerebral touch of the All Blacks’ collective boots which separated them from South Africa.

This was test rugby in its most pure form. A brutal contest of physicality from the moment Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen levelled All Black captain Richie McCaw in the opening minutes.

It was a shame there had to be winner, but such is sport.

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Ruan Pienaar

Ruan Pienaar

Springbok scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar will miss the rest of the Rugby Championship after suffering a knee ligament injury in the 14-10 defeat to the All Blacks in Wellington.

Pienaar was carried from the field in the 36th minute after a swinging leg from team-mate Duane Vermeulen connected with his leg.

Team doctor Craig Roberts confirmed the 80-Test veteran is likely to face several months on the sidelines.

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South AfricaSo amper, maar alle aanduidings is dat die Springbokrugbyspan weer op die regte pad is ná sy naelskraapse nederlaag gister teen die All Blacks.

Dit is die eenparige mening van ’n klompie kenners by wie Rapport gaan kers opsteek het ná die Slag van Wellington.

 

Krynauw Otto:

“As ons die All Blacks só kan vat in Wellington, kan ons hulle op neutrale velde in die Wêreldbeker-toernooi klop,” meen die voormalige Bok-slot Krynauw Otto. “Dit was weer simpel foute wat ons, nes in Australië, die wedstryd gekos het. Tien foute minder en ons het gewen.”

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

This was an absolutely wonderful Test match.

It was what all rugby players and supporters want to see or be involved in.

The referee was outstanding in the game, absolutely clear, no controversial incidents and no yellow cards.

The Springboks played by far their best match this year. A lot of it had to do with the positive mindset that came into the team from the selection of Pollard.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer knew he had rolled the dice in selecting rookie flyhalf Handre Pollard to play against the All Blacks, but was pleased the 20-year-old had proved he was worth the gamble.

Pollard hardly put a foot wrong in his fourth test, and first against the world champions, driving the Springboks around Wellington Regional Stadium, producing a superb inside pass to set up their only try and providing a solid kicking game.

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All Blacks vs SpringboksAll Blacks coach Steve Hansen lauded his team’s character but not their execution after beating the Springboks 14-10 to take a firm grip on a third successive Rugby Championship title.

New Zealand dominated possession and territory but couldn’t make it count on the scoreboard, eventually clinging on to beat their historic rivals for a fifth successive Test.

Outstanding South African defence nearly earned them a win but an assault on the home side’s line over the last seven minutes was unsuccessful.

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New ZealandSouth AfricaAll Blacks (6) 14 / 10 (7) Springboks (Final Score)

The New Zealand All Blacks and South African Springboks did battle in Round 4 of The Rugby Championship at

Westpac Stadium, Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT).

This was the live match discussion Article.

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

*******************

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All Blacks vs SpringboksI must admit I was (and still am) furious about the Springbok loss in the last minute of the match last week against the Wallabies from Australia. Specially with the constant box kick tactics.

I hate losing but can accept it if the team plays proper rugby. I get furious when the team plays below potential because they are too scared or too careful. I thought that the Springboks played below what they are capable of, last week.

I am not a fan of kicking your possession away.

I played for the university Under 20 team in the 1980′s mosly as flyhalf and inside centre, in a time when Naas Botha was the ‘role model’ of flyhalf play in South Africa. I worked hard at my kicking game because Naas sort of set the template for flyhalf play in those days, but rarely kicked in matches because I just disliked the idea of kicking hard earned possion away. Nevertheless, I scored or created tries on occasion by utilzing the high kick and charge.

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SuperBruRound 3 of the Rugby Championship ended in heartbreak for the Springboks when they went down to Australia by 1 point in the final few minutes of what was not an entertaining match at all.

The referee, the yellow card to Bryan Habana, the failed touchfinder by Morné Steyn and various other reasons have already been dissected and discussed, so we won’t dwell on those.

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