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Springboks

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SpringboksThe Junior Springbok rugby squad arrived in Italy on Thursday afternoon for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship and immediately settled in at their tournament base in Parma.

Conditioning coach, Dr Warren Adams, took the squad of 28 players for an active recovery session which consisted of a good stretch followed by a swim in the pool.

The squad left South Africa yesterday and arrived here via a domestic flight from Cape Town to Johannesburg and then the overnight haul from the City of Gold to Frankfurt in Germany.

That was followed by a 90 minute airplane journey to Milan, from where the South Africans travelled by bus to their tournament destination.

Hanro Liebenberg and his squad are in a good condition after attending an intensive training camp of almost 2 months at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport.

South Africa play their opening fixture next Tuesday evening in Calvisano against the hosts, Italy in what is expected to be a fiercely contested clash.

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Eben Etzebeth

Eben Etzebeth

Big-spending French giants Toulon are finding the going tough in luring Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth to France after this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Reports late last year indicated that Etzebeth could join Toulon as a replacement for compatriot Bakkies Botha, who is set to leave the reigning European champions.

The problem though for Toulon is that Etzebeth is still contracted to Western Province until the end of the 2016 season – and the union is reluctant to let him go.

Toulon boss Mourad Boudjellal has confirmed their interest in Etzebeth, but admitted that they are finding the going tough to attain Etzebeth’s services, with Western Province believed to be upset over the matter.

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Fourie du Preez

Fourie du Preez

Springbok scrumhalf Fourie du Preez will be available and will be considered for the Springbok squad in 2 months’ time.

There have been whispers about whether Du Preez will play for the Springboks, and what his obligations are to his Japanese club. However the team manager of the Springboks Ian Schwartz cleared up any uncertainty over the situation.

Du Preez played no role in the Springbok’s 1st training camp, and is currently not playing any rugby, although, he has been in the country since March.

Schwartz explained that this is due to an agreement with his Japanese club Suntory, that keeps him away from national practices. Only however, until the international season begins in July when he will be free to be selected for the Springboks 1st match against the World XV on 11 July.

Du Preez is in regular contact with Springbok fitness coach Basil Carzis and, according to Schwartz, is “working very hard” to get into top shape.

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Hanro Liebenberg

Hanro Liebenberg

Vodacom Blue Bulls No 8 Hanro Liebenberg will lead the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Italy next month, SARU confirmed on Wednesday.

Liebenberg will skipper the 28-man squad during the 3-week tournament from 2 to 20 June. He led the Junior Springboks to a thrilling win over the Varsity Cup Dream Team last month and also captained them when they clinched a 2 – 0 series win over the Argentina Under 20 side in Rosario last Saturday.

The squad, which was chosen by the national selectors, consists of 16 forwards and 12 backs, and includes 6 players who featured in last year’s tournament in New Zealand. Last year England edged the young South Africans by a single point in a memorable final at Eden Park in Auckland.

Jean-Luc du Preez (flank), Thomas du Toit (prop, both Cell C Sharks), Joseph Dweba (hooker, Toyota Free State Cheetahs), Abongile Nonkontwana (lock, Vodacom Blue Bulls), Jacques Vermeulen (No 8, DHL Western Province) and Warrick Gelant (fullback, Vodacom Blue Bulls) are the players who will represent the Junior Springboks for a 2nd successive year.

The Junior Springbok squad shows 4 changes from the touring group that returned from Argentina on Monday evening.

Lock RG Snyman (Vodacom Blue Bulls) got the nod to travel to Italy after he sat out the Los Pumitas series because of an ankle injury. WP centre EW Viljoen and Blue Bulls flyhalf Tinus de Beer, who also did not tour Argentina, were both selected for the Italian job.

The Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, who were selected for the 2014 tournament, are also members of the 28-man squad. Dan, however, withdrew days before the team left for New Zealand last year because of a shoulder injury.

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Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

The Cell C Sharks appear to be winning the battle to retain the services of Cape bred Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has told Durban media that he is committed to the union that he says gave him his big break in rugby.

It has been an open secret for a while now that the Springbok lock, currently out injured, was in negotiations with the DHL Stormers. Until quite recently the Western Province union appeared to be winning the battle, with informed sources confirming that Du Toit, who is from Swartland farming stock, was nearly certain to make the move down the coast next season.

However, it is understood that the Sharks then fought quite hard with counter-offers and promises that a concerted effort will be made to get the structures in Durban rugby right, and in an interview with the Natal Mercury on Monday the lock said that while he couldn’t say what would happen in the longer term, he was committed to the Sharks for now.

Du Toit has been out injured for most of the past 2 seasons and appears to feel beholden to the patience and resources that the Sharks have committed to his medical rehabilitation.

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Werner Kok

Werner Kok

Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla

Leading try-scorer on the 2014 / 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series, Seabelo Senatla and regular Tournament Dream Team member Werner Kok have both been nominated for the 2015 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Award, in association with HSBC.

This announcement, made by World Rugby on Sunday evening, caps off a memorable season for the Springbok Sevens duo, who alongside fellow team member Kwagga Smith, was also named in the Series Dream Team after the completion of the final tournament in London.

Kok and Senatla were nominated with Fijian ace Semi Kunatani, with the trio voted for by the management teams of the 15 core sides who compete at all 9 Rounds of the World Series. Kok ended the season as the leading tackler of all players and also scored 23 tries.

Senatla finished the season as the leading try scorer with 47 tries and has scored 2 of this year’s fans’ favourites, as well as scoring in both of South Africa’s Cup final victories in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.

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SpringboksThe Junior Springboks clinched their 2 match international rugby series 2 – 0 against Argentina Under 20 after beating Los Pumitas 39 / 28 in Rosario on Saturday, with prop Jan van der Merwe helping himself to a hat-trick of tries in the 1st half.

The 2 teams used the series as final warm-up exercise for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Italy next month.

On Saturday at the beautiful Club Gimnasia Stadium in Rosario, the Junior Boks raced into a commanding 25 / 6 halftime lead thanks to a trio of tries by front ranker Jan van der Merwe. Argentina struggled to match the visitors’ powerful forward surges and could only reply with 2 penalties.

The South Africans scored 2 more tries in the 2nd half through Leolin Zas (wing) and Joseph Dweba (replacement hooker). However, they had to show great determination on defence against Los Pumitas, who stormed back with 3 tries in the 2nd stanza.

Captain and No 8, Hanro Liebenberg, led with example with ball in hand and also did sterling work on defence. The Junior Boks dominated the scrums, were supreme in the lineouts and mauled powerfully which resulted in 3 tries.

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe last leg of the 2014 / 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series took place in London England this Saturday and Sunday 16 and 17 May 2015 from 09:00 BST (10:00 SA Time) both days.

All the action was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on Saturday and on SuperSport 1 (Sunday) on TV in South Africa.

After 8 Rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand battled it out for the 16th World Series title in London.

Following their victory at the Glasgow Sevens last weekend, Fiji headed into the 9th and Final Round of the Series in 1st spot – with Ben Ryan’s side aiming to win their 1st Series title since 2006.

Not since 2010 has a side other than New Zealand won it, but with Fiji on 147 points and South Africa on 142 prior to this tournament, the 4-time defending champions had their work cut out to win a 13th World Series title as they sat 3rd on 139 Log Points, prior to this tournament.

New Zealand fell out of the race for the ultimate World Series title when England beat them in the quarter-final and the same fate befell South Africa’s Blitzbokke as they persihed against Fiji by 7 / 19 in the quarter-finals in London, the same fate which befell them in Glasgow.

Having led the Series since Round 2 the BlitzBokke failed to make the Cup semi-finals for the 1st time all season in Glasgow and now again in London.

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SpringboksJunior Springbok coach Dawie Theron has shuffled his match-23 for the 2nd international rugby friendly against Argentina Under 20 (Los Pumitas) this coming Saturday in Rosario. The match will kick-off at 14:00 ARG Time (19:00 SA Time).

The young South Africans won the 1st meeting between the 2 sides 25 / 22 on Tuesday in Santa Fe. Both teams are using the 2-match series as their final warm-up for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship which will be hosted by Italy in June.

Theron elected to retain only a number of players from the starting 15 which managed to edge Los Pumitas, while he opted also for 2 positional changes.

Tighthead prop Thomas du Toit, Jason Jenkins (lock), Leolin Zas (left wing), Daniel du Plessis (inside centre) and JT Jackson (outside centre) will all start in their 2nd tour match. N0 8 Dan du Preez and right wing Grant Hermanus will however run out in different positions.

Du Preez moves to flank while Hermanus will wear the No 15 jersey. Fullback Warrick Gelant and prop Frans van Wyk were not considered for selection because of shoulder injuries.

Hanro Liebenberg of the Vodacom Blue Bulls returns to the starting line-up at the back of the scrum and will also take over the captaincy from Rikus Bothma (DHL Western Province) who led the side in Santa Fe. Liebenberg sat out the 1st tour match as precaution for his troubled hand.

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Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

Back in the Emirates Lions starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park, Elton Jantjies is enjoying one of his better seasons on South African soil.

The Johannesburg side are very much in playoff contention and Jantjies has become coach Johan Ackermann’s 1st choice pivot along the way.

A few rugby minds have now started wondering whether or not Jantjies has done enough to work his way into Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s World Cup plans. The smart money remains on the flyhalf slot going to either Handré Pollard or Patrick Lambie and while Jantjies has not ruled out any possibilities he chooses instead to let his performances do the talking.

“I can talk a big game but if my performances on the field don’t match up, there is no point in me saying that I want to go to the World Cup and be the 1st-choice flyhalf,” Jantjies said.

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SpringboksThe Junior Springboks were made to fight hard to overcome a courageous Argentina Under 20 rugby team by 25 / 22 in the 1st of 2 matches between the sides late on Tuesday in Santa Fe, Argentina.

Los Pumitas led 15 / 10 at halftime after they dominated possession and territory while playing with a strong wind in their favour in the 1st half. They scored 2 tries and a penalty to take a deserved lead, while the Junior Springboks answered with a converted try and a penalty to stay within distance despite their many unforced errors.

The young South Africans used their dominance in the scrums and set pieces to much better effect in the 2nd half, adding a penalty and an excellent try to edge out the hosts in front of a passionate crowd.

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesIt is a tight race to see who takes the Series in Twickenham with Fiji leading the way, and the pools for the London leg have been confirmed.

After their Cup win at the 8th Round of the Series in Glasgow, Fiji are top seeds and head Pool A, while runners-up New Zealand, 3rd-placed England and the 4th semifinalist USA head the remaining pools.

The 2014 / 2015 season carries added significance because the top-ranked sides in the series qualify directly for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. Following their performances in Glasgow, South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand have all confirmed their place in Rio, with just the 4th and final spot still be decided.

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe Glasgow Sevens, the 2nd last leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series takes place this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland at Scotstoun.

The Tournament is held over 2 days, with Saturday 9 May the 1st Day and the tournament concluding on Sunday 10 May.

The 3 leading sides in the World Series are South Africa (129 Log Points), Fiji (125 Log Points) and New Zealand (120 Log Points). England follows some distance behind in 3rd spot on 100 Log Points, with Australia 9 points behind them on 91 Log Points and the rest of the field far up the rear.

The Top 4 Teams in the standings at the end of the 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series, which concludes next weekend in London, England, automatically qualify for spots at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, so for England and Australia there is all to play for in this tournament and next weekend.

For the Top 3 sides in the series, who have already made sure of Olympic qualification (bar the almost impossible preventing it in these 2 last tournaments) this weekend and the next is all about winning the HSBC World Series. South Africa are only 4 Points ahead of the Fijians, who have raised the bar and upped the ante substantially in the last few tournaments. New Zealand, who are last year’s champions are also within reach and will be desperate to beat Fiji and South Africa convincingly, in order to retain the crown.

The weekend’s action kicked off at 11:30 SA Time (10:30 BST, 09:30 GMT) and all the action was broadcast live on SuperSport 6, on TV in South Africa.

South Africa played Samoa at 12:58 SA Time (11:58 BST, 10:58 GMT), then they played Kenya at 16:04 SA Time (15:04 BST, 14:04 GMT) and their 3rd and last game of Day 1 was against New Zealand at 19:37 SA Time (18:37 BST, 17:37 GMT).

On Day 1 the traditionally big Sevens Nations of South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji all advanced to the quarters, joined by England, Canada, Scotland, Australia and the United States in the quarters.

Day 2’s action started at 12:30 SA Time (11:30 BST, 10:30 GMT) on Sunday and the action was broadcast on SuperSport 1 on TV in South Africa. The tournament concluded with the Cup Final which took place at 20:50 SA Time (19:50 BST, 18:50 GMT).

South Africa’s Blitzbokke lost their quarter-final game against Fiji by 0 / 15 and Fiji and New Zealand went on to contest the Cup Final.

Fiji managed to beat New Zealand in the Cup Final by 24 / 17, to take the Glasgow title.

Fiji has now moved to the Top of the 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series points table, 5 points above South Africa, who have moved down into 2nd spot. New Zealand have also crept closer to South Africa on the Log and only 8 points now seperate the Top 3 teams, going into the Final Round of the 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series next weekend in London, England.

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BlitzbokkeA good performance at the Glasgow Sevens will not only ensure that the Springbok Sevens stay in the hunt for the coveted HSBC Sevens World Series title, it would also clinch their spot as 1 of the 4 automatic qualifiers for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

With the Top 3 teams in the Series separated by just 12 points, they will have everything to play for with an eye on the 16th Series title.

South Africa is currently in the Top Spot on the Log with 129 points and is the only side to have advanced to every Cup semi-final so far this season, while Fiji (125) and New Zealand (120) are hot on their heels.

The South Africans this week returned to Glasgow, where last year they experienced 1 of their greatest achievements by clinching the gold medal at the 2014 Commonwealth Games, and Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell said his team would draw inspiration from the triumph at the Ibrox Stadium.

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Jean de Villiers, Springbok captain, with knee dislocation injury against Wales

Jean de Villiers, Springbok captain, with knee dislocation injury against Wales

 

Springbok captain Jean de Villiers has revealed he has targeted the beginning of July to be back on the field.

If he achieves his aim, it will be an exceptional recovery from a total knee reconstruction after the painful injury he suffered in the match against Wales at the end of last season.

Since then De Villiers has been working tirelessly at rehabilitating the knee in order to meet the deadline, with things going a lot better than initially expected.

The Bok captain is already running again and hopes next month to resume team training before getting onto the field in early July.

Speaking at the Supersport Networking lunch at the Johannesburg Country Club, De Villiers was an optimistic man, and said if all goes to plan he will be fit and on the field again long before the final Rugby World Cup squad was picked.

“The recovery has gone very well. These days whenever I meet someone it’s always the 1st question,” De Villiers said.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

It has emerged that a contractual dispute with the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is the reason behind Vodacom Bulls lock Flip van der Merwe making himself unavailable for Springbok selection.

Bok coach Heyneke Meyer earlier this week said Van der Merwe was “unavailable for international rugby at the moment”.

The reasons behind Van der Merwe’s unavailability were described as “personal”.

However, Van der Merwe and SARU are at loggerheads because the player feels he was done an injustice when Springbok contacts were awarded.

Unlike lock partners Eben Etzebeth, Victor Matfield and Pieter-Steph du Toit, Van der Merwe apparently did not receive a similar national contract.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is clear – the best 31 players need to go to this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Meyer began his 1st Springbok training camp with a bit of a stutter as no less than 19 of the 44 players invited to the camp couldn’t train with the Bok management. Add to that the Sharks who are overseas on tour, and there wasn’t too much training that could get done.

But despite that, the Bok coach used the time to reveal his World Cup plans to players, tell individuals what he expected of them and will use the remainder of the time to share calls, plays and get down to technical nuances for the players to take home as “homework” before they meet again in the 2nd camp in a few weeks’ time.

The final squad is only set to be selected at the end of August, when the chosen 31 will be revealed to the country for the showpiece tournament in England. But 1 thing is clear, while competition will be tough between players, only the best 31 in Meyer’s mind will be selected, meaning a number of top players may well miss out.

However Meyer has admitted that he hasn’t made up his mind yet, giving players the chance in the remainder of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition as well as the camps, to make an indelible impression on him.

And with that in mind, he may have an idea of the starting line-up, but Meyer believes beyond the starting 15, the other 16 places are still up for grabs.

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RG Snyman

RG Snyman

Blue Bulls lock RG Snyman was withdrawn from the Junior Springbok touring squad to Argentina due to an ankle ligament injury.

The big lock hurt his ankle during a training session in Stellenbosch and will be out of action for 2 to 4 weeks.

Loose forward Rikus Bothma, the former SA Schools captain and skipper of last year’s Western Province Under 19 team, has been named as his replacement.

Snyman will continue with his rehabilitation until Friday and will return to the camp when the squad reassembles after the tour. He will undergo a fitness test on his return.

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SpringboksThis week, there is a lot of news, from various fronts, on the Springboks.

The Rugby Championship game times have been announced, as has the host city for the additional Springbok game against the Pumas in Buenos Aires.

News from this week’s Springbok Training camp is dominated by the amount of injured players at the camp as well as the news today that Flip van der Merwe has made himself unavailable to the Springboks in 2015 and also for the Rugby World Cup. The reports on the injury and rehabilitation of Springbok captain also comes under discussion, with the prognosis and likelyhood of him making the world premier Rugby World Cup competition very positive.

SARU also announced today that Rhino was appointed as equipment supplier of the Springboks.

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BlitzbokkeSpringbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has made 2 changes to his squad for the final 2 Rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments in the United Kingdom next month.

The penultimate World Series tournament takes place on 9 and 10 May in Glasgow and the season concludes a week later with the 9th and last tournament of the season in London.

Stephan Dippenaar and Philip Snyman have both recovered from their knee injuries sustained in Hong Kong and return to the squad in place of the Carel du Preez (who made his debut in Tokyo) and the injured Justin Geduld (hamstring).

South Africa is currently leading the World Series standings after 7 Rounds, having won 2 Cup finals (Dubai and Port Elizabeth) and qualifying for the semi-finals of each of the previous 7 tournaments.

The team now returns to Glasgow, the venue of their Commonwealth Games triumph of last year. This time they face a daunting task to qualify for the quarterfinals.

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Bakkies Botha

Bakkies Botha

He will soon return home to South Africa to focus on his family and his livestock farm, but life after rugby can wait a few more weeks. Bakkies Botha wants to go out in a blaze of glory with Toulon.

With a Rugby World Cup triumph in 2007, 3 Super Rugby championships with the Bulls and 2 European titles with Toulon, not to mention Tri-Nations, Currie Cup and Top 14 honours – few can match the Springbok 2nd row enforcer’s illustrious achievements.

But in the twilight of his career and savouring the prospect ahead of the “calmness of the bush”, Botha, perhaps befitting a deeply religious man, prefers to focus on the team, rather than his individual contribution.

Toulon, the Mediterranean port city he has called home since 2011, hope to be crowned kings of Europe for a 3rd successive year when they take on French rivals Clermont in the European Rugby Champions Cup final at Twickenham on Saturday.

“I’m really happy that I came to Europe to test myself in this league and I want to end my career hopefully making it into 2 finals (Champions Cup and Top 14),” said the 36-year-old lock.

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SpringboksSARU has confirmed the 28-man Junior Springbok squad for a 2-match series against Argentina Under 20 in Rosario next month.

The squad will be led by Vodacom Bulls No 8 Hanro Liebenberg, who also captained the Junior Springboks last week in their match against the Varsity Cup Dream Team in Stellenbosch.

The Junior Springboks fly out to Argentina on 8 May and return 10 days later. They will play against their Argentine counterparts, on 12 and 16 May in Rosario.

A total of 17 forwards and 11 backs were selected for the trip. The short tour forms an important part of the Junior Springboks’ preparations for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in June in Italy.

According to Dawie Theron, the Junior Springbok coach, the tour against the Los Pumitas will give his squad important playing time against strong opposition.

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Lionel MapoeLions coach Johan Ackermann says centre Lionel Mapoe would be a valuable asset to the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup later this year.

The midfielder has been on song for the Lions in Super Rugby this year and his form has been recognised by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who included him in both Bok training squads named over the weekend.

“If you’re looking for an outside centre with X-factor, then Lionel is definitely your man,” said Ackermann.

“In terms of enterprise, you don’t need to look any further than him and Juan de Jongh (Stormers centre) as your candidates for the No 13 jersey. Lionel’s performances in this (2015) Super Rugby competition have been outstanding and it’s notable how hard he’s worked on his conditioning.

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Cheslin Kolbe

Cheslin Kolbe

Springbok coach, Heyneke Meyer, has announced 2 sets of 44 players to participate in training camps in May and June in Johannesburg and Cape Town respectively.

The squads include a total of 19 uncapped players, including rising stars Jesse Kriel, Vincent Koch, Cheslin Kolbe and Bongi Mbonami.

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BlitzbokkeThe BlitzBokke have been hard at work preparing for the upcoming Glasgow leg of the HSBS Sevens World Series as they face their toughest challenge yet in pursuit of being crowned World Sevens Series champions.

Neil Powell’s men hold a slender 4 point lead over Fiji on the overall log standings ahead of the Glasgow showpiece and he knows that the focus needs to remain on the task at hand and not the permutations regarding the overall Series.

It will not be an easy task though as they will have to get through a tough pool that sees them being drawn alongside 3rd-placed New Zealand, Samoa and Kenya.

“It is definitely going to be a tough pool – and tournament – but if you want to be the best in the world, you need to beat everybody. The key to our success will be to remain focused on our processes and to make sure we do the right things on the field. If we can do that, the result will take care of itself.

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SpringboksThe national selectors have confirmed the Junior Springbok match-23 to face a strong Varsity Cup Dream Team in Stellenbosch on Tuesday evening. The match will kick-off at 18:30 SA Time at the Danie Craven Stadium and will be televised live on SuperSport 1.

4 Players who represented the Junior Springboks at the 2014 Junior World Championship in New Zealand – Warrick Gelant (fullback), Dan du Preez (flank), Abongile Nonkontwana (lock) and Joseph Dweba (hooker) – will again line up for the Junior Boks.

The historic clash, which marks the 1st of its kind between the sides, is an important part of the Junior Springboks’ preparation for the newly named World Rugby Under 20 Championship which will be hosted in Italy in June.

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Schalk Burger receives the Laureaus World Comeback of the Year Award 2015

Schalk Burger receives the Laureaus World Comeback of the Year Award 2015

DHL Stormers and Springbok flank Schalk Burger has won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award at the ceremony in Shanghai on Wednesday.

Burger had a cyst next to his spinal cord and went into hospital for treatment, but developed life-threatening meningitis and was taken to intensive care. Miraculously, he battled for his life and returned to the sport he loves to win his place back in the Springbok rugby team.

Reflecting upon the most serious stage in his time in intensive care, Burger said: “I remember the day where my wife phoned and everyone said, listen, this is probably it, it’s time to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

“It was super scary if you think back now.

“But when you’re going through the middle of this and there’s no time to think really, there’s no time to think about consequences; it was pretty much just me versus something.”

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold said if he had the choice he would not be resting veteran Springboks Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira against a formidable Lions scrum this weekend.

Gold has made a number of changes to the team that will travel up to Johannesburg to take on South Africa’s form team this weekend.

Some of these changes are enforced due to injury, some because of suspension and others the result of a selection rethink.

However, Gold seems least pleased about the fact that he needs to rest his key front row Springboks in accordance with SARU’s player management initiative.

“If I had an opportunity to play Jannie and Beast this weekend, I would,” Gold said ahead of the trip up to Ellis Park.

“These are decisions that were made at a higher level, and as bizarre as they are, they were made, and as much as I can stick to them, I am going to try and stick to them.”

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BlitzbokkeThe Springbok Sevens have returned to South Africa following their participation in the latest rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The squad underwent their usual medical assessment at their training camp on Wednesday, and apart from Philip Snyman and Stephan Dippenaar who both returned home with injuries last week from the Far East, no further injuries were reported.

Snyman sustained a knee ligament injury on the 2nd day in Hong Kong and he was replaced by Carel du Preez, who made his Springbok Sevens debut in Tokyo. The estimated recovery period for Snyman is 4 to 6 weeks.

His team-mate Stephan Dippenaar, meanwhile, picked up a mild hamstring injury on the last day of the Hong Kong event and was replaced by Ruhan Nel. He is expected to be back in action in 2 to 4 weeks.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

He has been keeping a low public profile during the 1st half of Super Rugby’s ordinary season … and it is probably just as well.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer must be scratching his head worriedly already over how to construct his national side for the 1st assignment of the 2015 Test season, against Australia in Brisbane on 18 July as part of a condensed Rugby Championship.

Presently several Boks are either injured, suspended or undergoing rest periods (the sudden pulling of Duane Vermeulen from the Stormers’ overseas tour after only 1 match has tongues wagging despite official statements that it was “always planned”), whilst other staple characters have suffered form dips in line with the general struggles of their sides in the local conference and overall.

It is difficult to envisage any SA team actually winning Super Rugby at this point – not the ideal state of affairs in a World Cup year, even if it is not always proved to be relevant — just as it is hazardous to predict which franchise will eventually top the ho-hum domestic pile.

It is true that a few additional players like overseas-based Bryan Habana, Fourie du Preez and Francois Louw and a rehabilitating Pieter-Steph du Toit should brighten the Bok equation, fitness permitting, nearer the Test roster itself, and 1 or 2 outsiders like Stormers tighthead strongman Vincent Koch and some surprise-package Lions personnel have stuck up their hands.

Yet a look at the last Springbok line-up for a Test – the unpalatable 12 / 6 loss to Wales in Cardiff on 29 November9 last year – gives you an idea of Meyer’s quandary; things look considerably more unsettled than he would like.

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe Tokyo leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series took place this weekend in Tokyo, Japan.

It was Round 7 of 9 Rounds in the season.

After finishing 3rd at the previous 3 HSBC Sevens World Series tournaments, South Africa was determined to add another Cup title to their collection so far this season at the Japanese tournament this weekend. It was not to be, as they lost in the Final against England by 14 / 21.

Fiji finished in 3rd place and the surprise of the tournament, Canada finished 4th.

The Springbok Sevens (129 points) are currently enjoying a slightly increased but slender lead of 4 points over Fiji at the top of World Series standings after 6 Rounds. After winning the Cup in Dubai and Port Elizabeth, they have could not progress beyond the semi-final stages in Wellington, Las Vegas and Hong Kong but progressed to the Final in Tokyo.

New Zealand have fallen back to 9 Log Points behind South Africa on the HSBC Sevens World Series standings.

The 19 points the team collected this weekend in Tokyo allowed them to stay in 1st place above Fiji and New Zealand. With 2 tournaments to go in the season the slender South African lead simply means they still have to go fullout in the remaining tournaments, to be the winners overall for the season.

The Top 4 teams at the end of the HSBC Sevens World Series season in May will qualify automatically for the 2016 Olympic Games in Rio.

The HSBC Sevens World Series standings table is detailed below.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Influential DHL Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen will return to Cape Town for a further 2-week rest period.

The hard-working No 8 has been in outstanding form for the DHL Stormers in 2015, but he will head home from Sydney on Sunday as part of the agreed SA Rugby rest period, which affects the top Springboks in this, a Rugby World Cup season.

“It’s a big one for us… it was a big decision to make,” explained DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee.

“However, it is something we discussed and have been planning since the start of the season,” he added, “the intention was always for Duane to spend the 1st 2 weeks on tour and then to head home and be ready for the final part of our season.

“We will of course miss him against the Waratahs and the Force but when we get home his rest period will be over and we will have him back in tow for a crucial part of the season.”

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Dawie Theron

Dawie Theron

The SARU national selectors have named a squad of 37 players for the Junior Springbok training camp in preparation for the 2015 World Rugby Under 20 Championship to be played during June in Italy. The group will assemble in Stellenbosch on Easter Monday.

The revised training squad was confirmed after a 4-day trials camp last week in Stellenbosch.

The group includes several players who are currently busy with Vodacom Super Rugby, Vodacom Cup and Varsity Cup commitments.

These players, such as Thomas du Toit, Dan du Preez (both Cell C Sharks) and Hanro Liebenberg (Vodacom Blue Bulls) will join the training camp at a later stage.

Dawie Theron, the Junior Springbok coach, described last week’s trials camp as a very good exercise.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

3-Times capped Springbok Jano Vermaak is returning home to South Africa with a World Cup dream.

The 30-year-old, who has been a shining star for the revitalised French giants Toulouse in the Top 14, spoke from the city in the southwest of France.

He was quite open about his goals, although there remains some uncertainty about which team he will use as – hopefully – as a springboard to a World Cup spot.

“I am coming back to South Africa with the goal of giving myself a chance of possibly getting into the World Cup squad,” the 30-year-old scrumhalf said.

“At this stage I do not yet know which team I will be playing for in South Africa,” Vermaak said, adding: “I have a few options, but we’ll make that call in the next month or so.”

He said he simply can’t wait to be back in SA and will arrive after the completion of the French Top 14 season in May, or June if Toulouse make the play-offs.

That will give him 3 or 4 weeks of Super Rugby to have a crack at a World Cup spot.

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