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Kurt Coleman

Kurt Coleman

Demetri Catrakilis

Demetri Catrakilis

The return of Duane Vermeulen as No 8 and captain will provide a significant boost for a DHL Stormers team that too quickly drifted away from their planned structured approach against the Highlanders, but a change may be necessary at flyhalf if they are to challenge the Hurricanes on Good Friday.

The Stormers went down 39 / 21 to the Highlanders in what can be described as an abjectly disappointing start to their tour. But for the first 20 minutes at the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin they looked well on track to maintain their long winning sequence against the south island franchise that dates back to 2007, with the Stormers, playing off a strong 1st-phase platform, sticking to a tight structured game that minimised turn-over opportunities for their dangerous opponents.

However, once they had gone into a 7 / 0 lead through a converted Juan de Jongh try, it all went pear shaped for the Stormers, with Dillyn Leyds dropping a ball at the restart following the try and from there the Highlanders engineered a try that was the turning point in the game. When the Stormers became loose it played into the Highlanders’ hands.

Perhaps the return of Duane Vermeulen will change that, for the regular captain, who was rested for the opening tour match as per the agreement with Saru about the management of Springboks, is strict about sticking to structures and he is also a player who adds to the team’s ability to physically suffocate opponents.

But the Stormers may need more than that, for it was apparent, even in those opening minutes, that they lacked something from structured attack and were just way too predictable. Even when they did score their opening try off a long multi-phased build-up they nearly butchered it. It was a fortunate bounce off an opposing player’s hands that was responsible for De Jongh being able to break through and score after the move appeared to have broken down.

Much of the Stormers’ problem appeared to revolve around their backs lining up too deep on attack, something that may be sourced in Demetri Catrakilis being less inclined to take the ball at the line than Kurt Coleman is. The latter came on in the 2nd half and the Stormers looked a lot more potent on attack when he was there.

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Jean Cook

Jean Cook

The Toyota Cheetahs received another injury setback as they look for some redemption on their Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia, with flanker Jean Cook heading home as another casualty of the tough 2 weeks in New Zealand.

The Cheetahs face the Brumbies on Saturday in their 3rd tour game – traditionally the toughest week on tour – and will need to choose a new loose trio again if they are to make any headway and return home with some points.

Cook has a groin injury and has already left for home. He will see a specialist back in Bloemfontein to ascertain the extent of the injury.

But he is the 2nd loose forward in as many weeks to suffer the same injury, after Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje returned home and is out for up to 12 weeks with a similar injury. Mohoje underwent an operation last week to put him back on the road to recovery.

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

Hanro Liebenberg

Hanro Liebenberg

Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has some uncomfortable decisions to make as his team head into the next phase of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The use of the squad system has done them well so far with the injuries they have had, but there are still some pressing concerns about the form of certain players, which need to be addressed with a number of young upstarts knocking hard on the door.

At both loose forward and in the midfield, Ludeke will have to make decisions going forward as to who will be the better combination and what will serve his team’s interests better as they edge towards the top of the South African conference.

Saturday’s 31 / 19 win over the Crusaders was a remarkable one not only for the commitment of the players on the field, but for the injuries they suffered before kickoff – losing Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha before the game started and Jan Serfontein in the midfield as well.

With a long tour still ahead of them later in the season, the next few weeks will be crucial to secure as many points as possible on South African soil, starting with Saturday’s Jukskei derby against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg.

While the normal Monday assessment still needs to happen, it seems Labuschagne could be back in contention for his starting spot this weekend, and on the form of Saturday, it would be hard to deny Hanro Liebenberg another go at the opposition given the big performance he gave coming into the side at such late notice.

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Cell C SharksCrusaders3 Consecutive wins and Top spot on the Vodacom Super Rugby South African Conference table should have left Cell C Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold beaming from ear to ear on Saturday night, but he wasn’t.

While he has been justifiably well satisfied with the character shown by his team in scoring an away win under huge pressure against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, in edging out the Chiefs when at a disadvantage in numbers because of red cards, and in coming from behind against the Western Force, Gold argues that his team is making life more difficult for itself than it needs to be.

The Sharks won 15 / 9 against the Western Force at Growthpoint Kings Park this past weekend, but it was a close run thing and his team had to make use of several get out of jail cards in order to prevail in a game they should have been expected to win comfortably.

“We are making a habit of winning close games and some might see that as a positive in that it means we are creating a winning habit after being in a bit of a hole a few weeks ago, but the bottom line for me is that it should not have been so close and I am not happy about that,” said Gold.

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HurricanesThe Hurricanes could not have asked for a better start to the Super Rugby season, managing 6 wins from as many outings. They are in pole position on the combined standings and are expecting to improve even more as their rested players return.

“The boys are enjoying themselves because winning is way better than losing,” Hurricanes assistant coach John Plumtree told the NZME.

“But every week there’s something to fix and every week’s not perfect and we are looking to improve the whole time.”

Their defence has been the cornerstone of their success, with only 82 points being scored against them so far, 2nd to the Brumbies who have conceded a mere 80.

Their next challenge comes in the form of the Stormers who were beaten 39 / 21 by the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday. However Plumtree acknowledges the physical threat posed by the Cape outfit, boosted by their very own return of some key players.

“They’ll be hurting after what happened last week,” Plumtree said. “So we’ll be expecting them to respond pretty positively in terms of intensity.”

The Stormers may welcome back a couple of players, namely Duane Vermeulen, and Plumtree said they would bring the physicality associated with any South African team.

“We’ll have to really step up in the pack.”

The Hurricanes rested a number of All Blacks – Beauden Barrett, Ben Franks and Julian Savea – for last week’s game with the Melbourne Rebels but they will likely return this week. Hooker Dane Coles (elbow) also missed the win over the Rebels but is fit again.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has noted that Crusaders flank Richie McCaw is getting caught out more by referees.

McCaw was penalised a few times in his side’s 31 / 19 Super Rugby defeat to the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday night.

Mallett analysed the game in the SuperSport studio afterwards.

He said: “Richie McCaw was penalised 3 or 4 times. He’s just getting caught by referees now for doing the things that he’s been doing so effectively over the last 5 to 10 years.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls delivered their top performance of the season as the Emirates Lions recorded their best Vodacom Super Rugby tour yet during an exciting weekend of Southern Hemisphere rugby.

The match in Pretoria was the undoubted highlight of the weekend from a quality point of view, with the Vodacom Bulls extending their winning run at home over the Crusaders after winning 31 / 19.

For sheer audacity, the Emirates Lions deserve a lot of plaudits for beating the Reds by 18 / 17 in Brisbane on Friday morning and thus ending their tour on 3 wins from 4 – their best Australasian return yet.

The Cell C Sharks meanwhile moved to the Top of the South African Conference and into the Top 3 on the log with a hard-fought 15 / 9 win over the Force in Durban on Saturday afternoon, scoring all their points in the 2nd half.

The Toyota Cheetahs and DHL Stormers found the going tough in New Zealand though as both went down – the side from Central South Africa by 37 / 27 to the Chiefs in Hamilton and the Capetonians by 39 / 21 to the Highlanders in Dunedin.

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Emirates LionsReds flyhalf Quade Cooper’s last-second drop goal was charged down as his comeback ended in an 18 / 17 defeat at home to the Emirates Lions in Brisbane.

Having already knocked off the Blues and the Melbourne Rebels, the Emirates Lions picked up a 3rd win on their travels this season, with a gritty display.

The game marked Cooper’s return from a fractured collarbone and he showed no ill-effects as his passing game regularly put players into gaps.

That was about the only highlight for the home side for the 1st hour as they struggled to cope with the Lions’ dynamic back row and pace out wide.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls picked up their 4th victory of the Super Rugby season as they beat the Crusaders 31 / 19 in an entertaining game at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria.

Fans and viewers were treated to a wonderful game to round off the weekend as the Bulls got the better of their Kiwi opponents, thus moving above them up to 7th in the overall standings and 2nd in the South African Conference, only 1 point behind the Cell C Sharks but with a game in hand compared to them.

In a week where the Bulls lost their best workhorse in Lappies Labuschagne, and lost 2 Springboks in Jan Serfontein (hip) and Arno Botha (hamstring) before kick-off, it wouldn’t be untoward to expect them to be under an immense amount of pressure.

But the 2 players who came in at the 11th hour – midfielder Burger Odendaal and flank Hanro Liebenberg – stepped up to make an indelible impression that they not only belong at this level, but have a number of big games in their future with the way they played.

It was a thrilling 1st half in Pretoria as the Bulls showed their intent to keep the ball in hand, which paid off after 3 minutes when wing Francois Hougaard finished off in the corner. Handré Pollard could not add the extras but it was a hugely positive, fast-paced opening.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks secured a scrappy 15 / 9 victory over the Western Force on Saturday in a game that won’t be remembered for quality.

It wasn’t pretty in Durban, far from it, but the home side won’t worry about that as they got the job done against a Force side who should have scored 3 tries, 2 of which were chalked off by the match officials.

The Sharks asserted their physical authority early on as a dominant scrum against the head led to a 1st shot for flyhalf Francois Steyn, who was off-target on the 5-minute mark. However, it looked like the set-piece was definitely going to be a trump card for the Sharks.

Surprisingly though, the Force would win a scrum penalty at the next scrum but this time Sias Ebersohn was the player missing his attempt at goal.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee was disappointed with his team’s showing against the Highlanders, but he still believes they have what it takes to play winning rugby on their 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby tour.

The DHL Stormers went down 21 / 39 to the Highlanders in Dunedin earlier today and were unable to give flanker Schalk Burger the win they all craved in his 100th game for the Cape-based franchise.

“I am very disappointed,” Coetzee told www.iamastormer.com on Saturday evening (NZ time), “this wasn’t what we wanted for Schalk in his 100th match and it certainly wasn’t what we wanted in our 1st tour match.

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Sir John Kirwan

Sir John Kirwan

Blues coach John Kirwan knows his team must beat the Chiefs if they are to have any hope of contending for a play-off spot this season.

The Auckland side have made a horror start to the season, losing all 6 of their matches, and Kirwan knows that they must beat the Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday to keep their feint play-off hope alive.

“We knew going in we had to win 1 of these 2 games away to stay in the hunt. We were hoping that was going to come tonight, so that doubles the pressure on next week,” the Blues coach said after the loss to the defending champion Waratahs on Saturday.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 7 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 27 March and 5 games on Saturday 28 March.

The Brumbies a BYE weekend.

There are no South African derbies on the weekend again, with 3 SA sides currently on tour and both the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks envolved in games on South African soil against Anzac counterparts.

Only 1 undefeated team remains prior to the start of the weekend, the Hurricanes, and they will be up against the struggling Melbourne Rebels, at home, in the 1st game of the weekend (08:35 SA Time on Friday 27 March).

The Struggling Reds, who boast a return of a number of Wallabies take on the Emirates Lions at 11:00 SA Time on Friday.

On Saturday morning, early (05:30 SA Time) the Chiefs host the Toyota Cheetahs, whereafter the Highlanders host the DHL Stormers in their first game on tour, at 08:35 SA Time.

Next up, at 10:40 SA Time, the Waratahs host the battling Blues in Sydney.

The Cell C Sharks, resting a number of Springboks host the Western Force in Durban at 17:05 SA Time.

The Vodacom Bulls take on a resurgent Crusaders side at 19:10 SA Time in Pretoria in the last game of the Round.

The Hurricanes should coast to victory in the first Friday game but the second Friday game between the Reds and Emirates Lions is difficult to call.

The Chiefs should dispense with the Toyota Cheetahs early on Saturday, but the game between the Highlanders and the DHL Stormers is once again a difficult one to call. The Waratahs should put the Blues to the sword in Sydney.

One cannot help but feel that the Crusaders should beat the Vodacom Bulls…. even in Pretoria, whereas the Cell C Sharks should beat the Western Force in Durban.

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

Centre Juan de Jongh will captain the DHL Stormers in their 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby tour-opener against the Highlanders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

De Jongh takes over the leadership reins from No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who is being rested as per the franchise agreement with SA Rugby, whilst Schalk Burger comes in for his first start of 2015 and will take over the vice-captaincy.

Aside from backing up De Jongh in the leadership department, Burger will also be making his 100th appearance in a DHL Stormers jersey – having made his debut against the Waratahs in Cape Town on 13 March 2004.

The 31-year-old Springbok star joins Andries Bekker (2013) and Jean de Villiers and Peter Grant (both 2014) in reaching this impressive landmark for the men from the Cape and DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee paid tribute to the team’s “ultimate warrior”.

“I don’t think people realise exactly what Schalk went through in 2012 and 2013, first with his knee injury and then his illness,” Coetzee said.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks team to take on the Western Force on Saturday at Growthpoint Kings Park sees a number of changes to the side that defeated the Chiefs at the same venue last weekend.

Due to the suspension of Bismarck du Plessis, Jean Deysel who returns to the side in the absence of Marcell Coetzee who is being rested, will captain the team for this match. The good news is that Mouritz Botha and Beast Mtawarira, both of whom took heavy blows from the Chiefs, have been passed fit to play.  Kyle Cooper taking over at hooker is the only other change amongst the forwards.

Backline changes have been made in the midfield, the resting of Springboks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie have necessitated a new halfback pairing for the first time this season, Conrad Hoffmann taking over at scrumhalf and Frans Steyn shifting from centre to flyhalf.  Andre Esterhuizen earns his second start, he will partner JP Pietersen from inside centre.

These 2 teams have met on 8 occasions, but it is the Sharks who hold the upper hand, having won 7 of them, including a 6 match winning streak stretching back to 2007.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke restored props Morné Mellett and Trevor Nyakane to the starting line-up for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Both props played off the bench in last weekend’s win against the Force and swop places with Dean Greyling and Marcel van der Merwe in 2 of the 4 changes to the pack. In the other changes to the pack and team, Victor Matfield returns to the No 5 lock position, swopping places with Grant Hattingh, who returns to his regular role as impact player.

Lappies Labuschagne also did not recover from a chest injury sustained against the Force and will sit out. He will be replaced by Arno Botha, who moves up from the bench. Hanro Liebenberg takes over from Botha on the bench.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

The hearing date for SANZAR’s appeal against the decision to rescind Frans Steyn’s Red Card has been postponed until next week.

The Sharks centre was sent off after performing a tip-tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden in their Super Rugby clash in Durban last Saturday.

Steyn was cited following the game, but was then found not guilty at a subsequent hearing, with the Red Card expunged from his record.

However, SANZAR felt justice was not served and appealed the decision on Wednesday.

The initial date for the appeal was set for Friday, but has now been extended until next Tuesday.

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Western ForceWestern Force head coach Michael Foley has made no changes to his starting line-up that will take on the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

The only alteration comes on the bench where fullback Dane Haylett-Petty is set to make his return from a foot injury should he come on to the field.

Otherwise it’s the same squad that was beaten, 25 / 24, by the Bulls last week.

Haylett-Petty suffered a foot injury in the Western Force’s Week One 25 / 13 win over the Waratahs, but has recovered to reclaim his place in the match-day 23.

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CrusadersCrusaders coach Todd Blackadder wasted no time in bringing back All Black captain Richie McCaw for his team’s Super Rugby Round 7 encounter with the Vodacom Bulls.

The 7-time champion Crusaders start their South African tour against the 3-time champion Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

McCaw, who was rested last week as the Crusaders demolished the Cheetahs 57 / 14, replaces Matt Todd at openside flank – with the latter dropping down to the replacement bench.

In all Blackadder made 5 changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Loftus Versfeld.

Blackadder has made 2 rotations in the front row, with prop Joe Moody and hooker Ben Funnell coming in for All Black Wyatt Crockett and Codie Taylor respectively. Crockett and Taylor both drop to the bench.

Dan Carter, who last week started at inside centre, returns to his more customary role in the No 10 jersey.

Tom Taylor moves out one position to No 12 and Colin Slade will play off the bench.

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ChiefsThe Chiefs have made several changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with the Cheetahs in Hamilton.

Amongst the backs, All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams returns to the run-on side after missing last weekend’s narrow loss to the Sharks due to concussion, and Charlie Ngatai is bracketed with Seta Tamanivalu at outside centre.

Tom Marshall comes on to the left wing.

Andrew Horrell moves to the reserves and is joined by prop Siate Tokolahi and Marty McKenzie.

In the pack, there’s a brand new front row.

Pauliasi Manu returns from injury and is joined by Quentin MacDonald and Ben Tameifuna.

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Melbourne RebelsMelbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made several changes to his starting 15 for Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Rebels centre Mitch Inman becomes the 5th player to play 50 matches for the franchise, while co-captain Scott Higginbotham makes his 100th Super Rugby appearance.

Tighthead prop Laurie Weeks will also overtake former player Hugh Pyle as the most-capped player in the franchise’s history, moving to 59 Rebels caps.

McGahan was pleased to see the players reach these milestones, and stressed the importance of acknowledging them.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

SANZAR has lodged an appeal against the outcome of a judicial hearing held on Monday 23 March that found Francois Steyn of the Sharks not guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j).

A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Terry Willis, with Nigel Hampton QC and Robert Stelzner SC as members, will hear the appeal via videoconference on Friday 27 March 2015 at 08:00 SA Time (17:00 AEDT, 19:00 NZ Time).

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has hinted that veteran Schalk Burger could be in line for a return to the openside flank role that he filled for so long for the Springboks, but it would require a big shift in emphasis for the 2004 winner of the IRB World Rugby Player of the Year Award.

Coetzee finds himself faced with a difficult balancing act as he considers his loose-forward options of Saturday’s opening Vodacom Super Rugby tour match against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Duane Vermeulen, who brings so much of the necessary drive and physicality to the back row, is being rested as per the agreement with Saru geared towards effective management of Springboks.

That means that Nizaam Carr will move from openside flank to No 8, something that Coetzee confirmed in an interview with the Cape media from the team hotel in Dunedin. Carr played for the Boks in that position last year and was 1 of the form players in the Currie Cup for the title winning Western Province team, but having him at the back of the scrum does bring a different dynamic to the back row.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

A number of changes have been made to the Toyota Cheetahs team to play the Chiefs in a Super Rugby match in Hamilton on Saturday.

There are no less than 6 changes to the starting line-up, including a rest for Springbok duo Coenie Oosthuizen and Willie Le Roux.

Springbok flank Teboho Mohoje is already on his way back home, suffering an injury to his groin in last week’s tough encounter against the Crusaders. Mohoje is expected to be sidelined for 8 / 12 weeks, and Tienie Burger will be flying to Hamilton as cover for the Cheetahs, with Johannes ‘Boom’ Prinsloo slotting into the starting line-up.

As per agreement with SA Rugby, Willie le Roux and Coenie Oosthuizen are being rested. Nicholas ‘Maks’ van Dyk moves into the front row to replace the Springbok tighthead, with Clayton Blommetjies shifting to fullback to allow the return of Cornal Hendricks on the right wing.

Centre Francois Venter sits this one out, and Michael van der Spuy comes off the bench to play in the midfield.

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TJ Perenara

TJ Perenara

All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara will play his 50th match for the Hurricanes when they face the Rebels in Wellington on Friday.

Perenara made his debut for the ‘Canes against the Stormers in 2012, and has since racked up 105 points for the franchise by way of 21 tries.

The 23-year-old will pair with James Marshall this weekend in what will be the 1st start for the halfback combination, with coach Chris Boyd opting to rest Beauden Barrett.

Also taking a break this week is prop Ben Franks, along with wing Julian Savea, which has allowed Boyd to shuffle his back 3.

Matt Proctor comes in for Savea, while Jason Woodward has been given another start at fullback. Manawatu flyhalf Otere Black will also get his 1st chance for the Hurricanes, should he come off the bench.

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RedsReds coach Richard Graham wasted no time in rushing back a number of Wallaby stars, when he named his side to take on the Emirates Lions in Brisbane on Friday.

There are 6 players returning from injury for the clash.

Quade Cooper, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi and Lachie Turner will make their return from injury in the starting backline – while props Greg Holmes and Ben Daley have been named on the reserves bench.

Graham commended the players for their efforts since returning from the BYE and said he was pleased to have a selection headache for this week’s match.

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

Prominent ex-Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has joined the chorus calling for scrutiny of the Crusaders scrumming action after their win over the Toyota Cheetahs last weekend.

The Crusaders scrum has dominated in their contests against both the Emirates Lions and Cheetahs in their 2 Vodacom Super Rugby games over the past fortnight, and in both cases it seems as if the scrum – and All Black prop Wyatt Crockett in particular – have gotten away with murder.

Crockett’s supposed dominance in the scrum has seen both Julian Redelinghuys and Coenie Oosthuizen, both Springbok props, being sin-binned during the game and a plethora of penalties given against their teams by referees who believe the tighthead can’t handle the pressure when the loosehead packs down.

But on a number of occasions – and ironically picked up by both former All Blacks Jeff Wilson and Justin Marshall – the scrum has never packed down straight.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Regular captain and No 8 Duane Vermeulen is the only member of the DHL Stormers touring squad that will not be available for selection for Saturday’s opening game of the 4 day trip against the Highlanders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has reported to the Cape rugby media via telephone conference hook-up that the squad has settled down well on the South Island in New Zealand – they are actually in the resort town of Queenstown currently – and that every player in the 27 man squad is fully fit and ready to play.

That means that Louis Schreuder, who was concussed against the Chiefs in the last match, has passed his cognitive tests, while big lock Eben Etzebeth and the inform blindside flank Michael Rhodes have both recovered from the injuries that have kept them out of the last few Stormers games.

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Recent Comments

  • gunther 30 Mar 2015, 15:47 SAST - @ Stormersboy: Don't be so Nama is a believer :lol:
  • Stormersboy 30 Mar 2015, 15:10 SAST - I think that Groom is better than Schreuder, and Coleman is better than Demetri. I'd also like to see Kotze,...
  • Stormersboy 30 Mar 2015, 14:35 SAST - robzim wrote: “Size does not matter”- Damian de Allende. That's probably what his girlfriend tells him to make him feel...
  • grootblousmile 30 Mar 2015, 14:07 SAST - Stormers problem in the last 2 outings starts at their scrumhalves... neither Groom nor Schreuder are top class! Their play...
  • grootblousmile 30 Mar 2015, 13:21 SAST - Before the season even started, I advocated that the Bulls centre pairing should be Burger Odendaal at No 12 (Inside...
  • nortie 30 Mar 2015, 12:59 SAST - If it wasn't for the Blues being completely pathetic, the Crusaders would be at the bottom of the NZ conference....

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