Israel Folau becomes the 1st Australian player to win consecutive John Eales Medals.
The Wallabies and Waratahs fullback Israel Folau has claimed the 2015 John Eales Medal, winning the award for a 2nd consecutive year.
In just his 3rd year in Rugby Union’s top flight, Folau’s meteoric rise has continued as he becomes just the 3rd player in the 14-year history of the John Eales Medal to collect the major award for a 2nd time, joining George Smith (2002, 2008) and Nathan Sharpe (2007, 2012).
At a packed gala dinner at Royal Randwick Racecourse in Sydney, the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) celebrated and acknowledged the players, coaches, fans, match officials and administrators for their dedication, committment and outstanding performance.
Folau picked up 138 votes in total to edge out resurgent flanker David Pocock (113), Wallabies Vice-Captains Michael Hooper (108), Adam Ashley-Cooper (98), and Ben McCalman (95) to become the 1st ever back-to-back winner.
Springbok stars Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all committed their long-term rugby futures to DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers.
Prop Malherbe, lock Etzebeth, flanker Kolisi and centre De Allende are in contention to represent South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, having all been part of the Springbok squad this season after stellar Vodacom Super Rugby campaigns for the DHL Stormers.
Between them, the quartet have featured in 61 Tests, Etzebeth leading the way with 37 Test appearances since his debut against England in 2012, with Malherbe (6 Tests) and Kolisi (11 Tests) making their debuts in 2013 and De Allende (7 Tests) playing his 1st international in 2014.
“Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all been developed here at Western Province, coming through our youth structures and going on to play Test rugby for South Africa as standout DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province players,” said WP Director of Rugby Gert Smal.
Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers was a guest speaker at an event where a group of supporters burned a Springbok jersey out of protest last week.
A new organisation, Supporters Against Racist Rugby Associations (Sarra), was officially launched in Mossel Bay last Friday, where the group burned a Springbok rugby jersey.
The group wants to see more players of colour in the Springbok team and feels not enough is being done to speed up the transformation process in South African rugby.
De Villiers, 58, attended the event as guest speaker.
New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Manawatu Rugby have announced that Aaron Smith has re-committed through until at least the end of the 2019 season.
26-Year-old Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including 60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders success over the last few years. He was a standout player for the Highlanders this season, helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried his form into the All Blacks season.
The Test scrumhalf said, “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos.
New Zealand Under 20 Junior World Cup winning captain, Atunaisa Moli, has signed with the Chiefs for the next 2 years.
The versatile Waikato prop who can play both sides of the scrum has impressed head coach Dave Rennie since being a part of the Chiefs’ development program in 2014.
Moli toured Hong Kong with the side earlier this season in addition to spending time training with the Chiefs’ core Super Rugby squad.
Waratahs boss Greg Harris will leave the Sydney Super Rugby franchise just 10 months after he joined the rugby club.
According to reports in Sydney CEO Harris chose not to re-apply for an extension for his contract which ends on 31 December.
The Waratahs franchise won their first Super Rugby title in 2014 but have lost several of their stars and the coach who masterminded the title has moved up to take on the Wallabies job.
The reports suggest that the restructure of the governance of both the Waratahs and NSW Rugby, who operate as separate entities, has upset several parties and and created conflicts.
With Japan’s national coach, Eddie Jones, linked to the DHL Stormers job for 2016, Japan’s new Super Rugby franchise appears to be beset by problems.
Super Rugby will be expanded to 18 teams from next year, with teams from Japan and Argentina as well as South Africa’s Southern Kings set to join the competition.
Japan coach Jones was initially chosen to coach the Japanese Super Rugby team as well, but he has confirmed he is in talks with the Stormers, with the Cape franchise reportedly eager to sign the former Wallabies coach.
Jones denied that he had signed a deal with the DHL Stormers but admitted that he has had discussions with the franchise.
Japan coach Eddie Jones has dismissed speculation that he has penned a deal with the DHL Stormers but said he was in talks with the Cape side.
Jones, like any professional in the sporting world, is weighing up his options before his contract comes to an end in Japan.
The Australian has a contract with the ‘Brave Blossoms’ until the end of 2015 but he was thought keen to remain in Japan, which will host the 2019 World Cup, to coach the national side as well as the new Super Rugby expansion team.
However, reports from Cape Town on Monday said that the 55-year-old had already put pen-to-paper on a 2-year deal worth R 5 000 000.00 ($ 385 563.00) per year with the Stormers.
As the Kings franchise looks forward to a significant period in its history, EP Rugby chief executive Charl Crous has announced a 3-year clothing sponsorship deal with BLK South Africa, beginning in 2016.
The sponsorship will coincide with the Southern Kings’ return to Super Rugby in 2016 and both parties are excited about the journey which lies ahead for rugby in the Eastern Cape region.
The Reds have announced the extension of Richard Graham as head coach for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Graham will work under a new high performance structure that will see him report into an Executive General Manager.
This newly created structure, outlined as the main recommendation from the recent Reds High Performance Review, sees the appointment of former World Cup-winning Wallabies centre Daniel Herbert, a 124-capped Queensland Red, to this Executive General Manager’s role.
All Blacks Performance Analyst Alistair Rogers will become the new assistant coach for the Blues.
Rogers, who has been with the All Blacks for the last 7 years, was named to join new head coach Tana Umaga for the next 2 years at the Blues.
He has had a special focus on opposition analysis and defence with the All Blacks and will take the responsibility for defence at the Blues, joining incumbent forwards coach Glenn Moore.
The former professional player is keen to return to a full-time coaching role, after guiding the Ballina Rugby Club in Ireland for 12 months, a stint as defence coach at Honda in Japan and a spell as Hurricanes assistant defence coach last year.
Glen Fisiiahi is set to make a return to rugby and will be joining the Chiefs for the next 2 years, from Rugby League team, the Warriors.
The 24 year-old former Wesley College Sports Dux and Counties Manukau Under 18 rugby player, who had offers to stay in rugby league said, “I wanted a change and to switch back to union with the Chiefs.”
“I have really enjoyed the league environment but I have rekindled my interest in rugby and want to try a different environment. I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my sporting career and a fresh challenge.
European champions Toulon of France and Super Rugby winners the Highlanders of New Zealand are hoping to face-off in Hong Kong on 6 February.
The 1-off fixture brings together triple European champions Toulon with the Highlanders, who landed their 1st Super Rugby title this month.
“Toulon and the Highlanders have sent off a request for agreement from their respective federations,” Philippe Spanghero, a spokesman for the organisers, told AFP.
“When that’s obtained we’ll put together a proposal to World Rugby to get all the required authorisation,” he added.
Former All Black winger Zac Guildford is likely to cancel his plans to play Super Rugby for the Waratahs next year.
Guildford, 26, signed a 1-year contract with the Waratahs outfit last week but last night said there was a chance he would exercise an out clause.
“I’ve had a rethink and I’ve decided it might be better to stay closer to home and family and friends.”
Those thinking Springbok lock Victor Matfield will retire for the 2nd time may well be disappointed – it seems the legendary Springbok lock is set for another swansong at English club Bath.
The 38-year old Rugby World Cup winning lock should actually retire from playing after the Rugby World Cup and is contracted to take up a coaching position with the Vodacom Bulls next season, but it seems this may not be the case as he seeks a final payday before turning to coaching.
There have been rumours that since the axing of Frans Ludeke as Bulls coach – the Super Rugby franchise has not found a replacement – that Matfield may not be keen to go into coaching just yet, especially as Ludeke’s proposal to move to Director of coaching with Matfield and Fourie du Preez taking over the coaching reigns, was rejected with the Bulls bad run of results earlier this year.
According to sources close to the Bulls, Matfield was also told that the Bulls would not stand in his way if he decided he didn’t want to take up the coaching contract after the Rugby World Cup.
With this in mind, the news that Bath may want to sign him on a short term deal – a season in England to cap off a long and illustrious career – may well suit the Springbok captain very well, especially with the Pound very strong against the Rand at the moment.
Karmichael Hunt is set for a fiery courtroom showdown with the alleged drug lord at the centre of football’s cocaine crisis.
Lawyers for John Touma, the alleged dealer, will make an application to grill the code-hopping star under cross-examination when the case returns to court on the Gold Coast next month.
Hunt was one of the first big-name sports stars caught by a crime and corruption commission investigation in to a multimillion-dollar cocaine trafficking network.
So far almost a dozen current and former elite footballers have been dragged into the mess on charges ranging from supply and possession to drug trafficking.
Originally charged with 4 counts of supplying cocaine in February, Hunt sensationally took a plea deal for the lesser charge of drug possession and has provided investigators with an explosive witness statement implicating National Rugby League stars and his former teammates at the Gold Coast Suns, in the scandal.
The Queensland Rugby Union has secured the signature of Test lock Kane Douglas for the next 3 years, adding further depth to the Reds’ forward stocks.
The 26-year-old is an imposing figure standing at 2.02m tall and weighing 119kg, but also brings with him significant experience, having already played 75 Super Rugby games and 14 Test matches since making the step up to professional rugby in 2010.
Douglas made his Super Rugby debut for the Waratahs in 2010 and played his 1st Test for the Wallabies in 2012. In 2014 he made the decision to experience Rugby overseas and moved to Leinster to play in the European Pro 12 competition.
Douglas has returned to Australian shores and said he was looking forward to this next chapter of his life on and off the field.
6 Weeks after Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke resigned after failing to take his side to the Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs, the Pretoria franchise are struggling to find a suitable replacement coach for next year’s tournament.
While Nollis Marais has been elevated from the Vodacom Cup to ABSA Currie Cup and is currently preparing the side in Japan ahead of their last friendly match against the Canon Eagles, there is a growing desperation and worry that the Bulls might not find a top quality coach before the preparation for next year’s expanded Super Rugby tournament begins.
It was expected that Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan would be the favourite, and sources close to the Bulls management say that he was offered the job, but turned the Bulls down, choosing to focus on the Springboks.
While Van Graan hasn’t commented on the move, he is currently concentrating on preparing the Springboks for their Rugby World Cup campaign.
The Springbok assistant coach is highly rated, and has also been linked to the DHL Stormers coaching position, but apparently didn’t feel it was the right time to return to the province where he learnt most of his rugby.
New Western Force flyhalf Peter Grant says he’s excited to move to Perth where his parents and 2 uncles also live.
The Force on Wednesday officially confirmed the signing of the former Stormers and Springbok flyhalf on a 2-year deal.
Grant, 30, represented the Stormers for 9 seasons and the 5-Test Springbok most recently played a season with French Top 14 club, La Rochelle, having also played 4 seasons with Japanese Top League club, the Kobelco Steelers.
The move to Perth was made easier by Grant’s family connections there.
After a dismal Super Rugby season the Cell C Sharks have gone through a major revamp allowing a new crop of players to step up.
With the exodus of a number of the Sharks’ Springbok players to overseas contracts, and many of their big-name players plying their trade at The Rugby Championship and Rugby World Cup for the Springboks, a next generation of Sharks players both young and new need to man-up to the big stage.
Sibusiso ‘S’bura’ Sithole is 1 of those players that will be a key element to their success and he acknowledges that although not a senior player, he does bring a wealth of experience and knows that he has a big role to play.
All Blacks scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow will stay with the Chiefs for the next 2 seasons and has every intention of being 1st choice No 9.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said the 24 year-old has displayed an amazing work ethic recovering from his horrific injury during an All Blacks match late in 2014.
“Tawera is incredibly professional. His dedication to rehab and developing other parts of his game throughout his time out has been impressive. He is in fantastic condition.”
“He is now 1 of our senior players who contributes greatly in our environment. I know he is hungry to get back to top level footy.”
The tenacious scrumhalf has no intention of playing 2nd fiddle to either Brad Weber or Augustine Pulu.
The latest instalment in the Quade Cooper transfer saga has been an exchange of words between the Toulon boss and the Australian coach.
Toulon owner Mourad Boudjellal launched a relatively tasteless tirade against the Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and its prized asset Quade Cooper, whom he threatened would end up as “the 2nd most indebted State after Greece”.
The eccentric Frenchman said that the 150 000 Euros that has been mooted as Cooper’s buyout of his contract was in fact for the promise of a contract – Boudjellal claims that Cooper has actually put pen to paper, which would make that void and has allegedly threatened legal action if Cooper does not show up for his medical soon.
Boudjellal told Midi Olympique: “The moron of the Australian federation who does not understand the case needs to know that the promise of employment is no longer the question.”
The Queensland Rugby Union has signed no less than 6 more players to the Reds squad ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.
In an effort to continue the restructuring and reviewing of the Reds program – these signings come after a number changes that have already been implemented in the past 2 months, including the appointment of Brad Thorn as Reds elite development squad forwards coach, Damian Marsh as head of athletic performance, the re-signing of Nick Stiles as senior assistant coach and the appointment of Cameron Lillicrap as head physiotherapist.
The announcement is headlined by the signing of 2 promising 21-year-old flyhalves in Jake McIntyre and Sam Greene.
The Reds have also added to the depth in their forward pack by adding prop Pettowa Paraka, hooker Alex Mafi and locks Lukhan Tui and Izack Rodda – all aged 21 or under.
Troubled former All Black Zac Guildford said the Waratahs had offered him a contract for next season, handing yet another lifeline to the bad boy of New Zealand.
Still only 26, Guildford’s career has been blighted by alcohol issues and he walked out of a contract with French Top 14 side Clermont in May – citing “personal reasons”.
Since then, the wing – who scored 6 tries in 10 Tests for the All Blacks – has been playing for his home provincial team Hawke’s Bay.
Guildford said Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson had approached him about joining the Sydney-based Super Rugby side, who lost wings Peter Betham and Taqele Naiyaravoro at the end of the 2015 season.
Guildford and Gibson, himself an All Black, worked together when Gibson was assistant coach at the Crusaders.
The EP Kings have expressed their disappointment after former coach Carlos Spencer voiced his dissatisfaction at unpaid wages.
Spencer earlier this week parted ways with the Kings and – through his attorney David Jones – the former All Black has attributed his departure from the Kings to their continued troubles in meeting wage obligations.
The Kings on Thursday insisted that Spencer and his lawyers’ claims were “simply not true”.
“The initial problems we had with Carlos’ salary was due to his insistence of having his funds paid into an offshore account,” EP Rugby President, Cheeky Watson, said via a media statement.
Watson said this resulted in delays that arose out of the administrative compliance and paperwork issues.
Wallabies wing Henry Speight will join Australia’s Sevens programme as part of a new 3-year deal announced by the Australian Rugby Union on Thursday.
Speight’s new contract with the ARU will see him remain with the Brumbies through to the end of 2018 and join the Australian Sevens programme in 2016.
The landmark deal means Speight will be available for the inaugural Sydney Sevens at Allianz Stadium in February next year.
As part of the agreement between the ARU and the Brumbies, Speight will combine his duties with the national Sevens program and his Super Rugby team throughout 2016.
As well as the Sydney Sevens on the weekend on 6 – 7 February, Speight will be available for selection for the Hong Kong and London legs of the 2015 / 2016 World Rugby Sevens Series and – pending qualification – the Rio 2016 Olympics.
At the conclusion of the Rio Olympics in August 2016, Speight will be available for the Wallabies for the remainder of The Rugby Championship before returning full-time with the Brumbies for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons.
Could Auckland rugby icon Carlos Spencer be on the verge of making a dramatic return to the Blues as a skills coach under Tana Umaga?
It might seem a longshot but the door could be open according to Blues boss Michael Redman.
Spencer, among the most gifted footballers in New Zealand rugby history, wants to return to New Zealand from South Africa having quit Super Rugby’s Kings franchise which he says owes him substantial wages.
Redman told the Herald the Blues will decide within days whether to appoint a new skills coach, or make the job contestable. If it is the latter, Spencer – who approached the franchise this year – would “absolutely be an option and we would hope and expect he would apply.”
The 39-year-old Spencer is on the lookout for a new job after parting ways with South Africa’s Eastern Province Kings, the apparently financially troubled franchise which returns to the expanded Super Rugby competition next season.
His shock departure from the Kings, revealed yesterday, has cast a further spotlight on issues facing the expanded Super Rugby competition.
The Melbourne Rebels have signed Irish international prop Jamie Hagan for 2 Super Rugby seasons.
Hagan, 28, a tighthead prop who has made more than 100 appearances for Leinster, Connacht and London Irish, made his full international debut for Ireland against the United States of America in 2013.
Hagan becomes only the 2nd fully capped Irish international to sign for an Australian Super Rugby team, after front-rower Peter Clohessy spent the 1997 season with the Reds.
Hagan said he was looking forward to testing himself in the Southern Hemisphere’s renowned provincial competition.
The Eastern Province Kings and New Zealand born coach, Carlos Spencer, have ended their association with immediate effect.
Spencer, who earned 35 caps for the All Blacks from 1995 to 2004, finished his playing career with the Lions in 2011 and then coached at the Lions and the Sharks, before linking up with the EP Kings in December 2013. He was appointed as the attack and specialist skills coach, and then took charge of the provincial team on their return to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2014.
In 2015 he resumed his duties as the attack and specialist skills coach following the appointment of Brent Janse van Rensburg as the EP Kings head coach.
EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson paid tribute to Spencer for his contribution to the provincial team during his time with the union.
The Melbourne Rebels have strengthened their squad for the 2016 season with the signing of lock Culum Retallick from the Blues on a 2 year deal.
Retallick has made nearly 50 Super Rugby appearances since debuting for the Chiefs in 2010, also representing the Blues and Highlanders, where he played alongside future Rebels teammates Tamati Ellison and Adam Thomson.
He has also made close to a century of appearances for Bay of Plenty in the ITM Cup since debuting as a 23 year old in 2008, and joins on a foreign developing player contract.
Retallick said he was excited about challenging himself professionally, and joining a team he has watched develop in recent years.
The Hurricanes have added another scrumhalf to their roster for 2016, signing promising talent Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi.
The Rotorua-born 20-year-old has been playing his rugby in Taranaki for the past 2 seasons, and has had a successful year in 2015 as part of both the New Zealand Under 20 World Championship-winning side, followed by selection in the New Zealand Barbarians team.
He was also a major player in his Taranaki club rugby side’s winning season, with his form for New Plymouth Old Boys’ helping to secure him an ITM Cup contract with Taranaki for 2015.
Tahuriorangi described the move to the Hurricanes as a massive opportunity, not only for himself, but his family.
The Melbourne Rebels have announced the signing of former Reds and All Blacks back rower, Adam Thomson, for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Thomson will bring a wealth of experience to Melbourne, having made 83 Super Rugby appearances for the Highlanders and Reds as well as winning the 2011 Rugby World Cup with the All Blacks among 31 appearances for his country (29 Tests).
Capable of playing anywhere in the loose forwards, Thomson played alongside compatriot Tamati Ellison for both the Highlanders and All Blacks, while he worked with Rebels’ Assistant Coach Zane Hilton during their time together at Canon Eagles in Japan’s Top League. Thomson is a try-scoring back rower, having crossed 21 times at Super Rugby level.
Waikato Chiefs assistant coach Andrew Strawbridge has woken up and is communicating with his family but remains in a serious condition in hospital, the Super Rugby team said on Thursday.
Strawbridge, who is also a technical advisor to the Samoa national rugby team, was admitted to an Apia hospital last week with an infection in his right eye after taking ill on a flight from New Zealand before his condition “deteriorated rapidly”.
He arrived back in New Zealand in an air ambulance last Friday and was taken to Waikato Hospital in Hamilton, where he had been listed as being in a critical but stable condition since his arrival.
“Andrew Strawbridge is awake and in a serious, stable condition in the Waikato Hospital Intensive Care Unit,” the Chiefs said in a statement.
Springbok winger Cornal Hendricks has signed a contract with Western Province Rugby and will be available for the DHL Stormers from the start of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The speedster, who originally made his name at international Sevens level, will return to his roots as a DHL Stormers player – having played his early provincial rugby for Boland, before becoming a full-time Sevens player in 2012 and then joining the Free State Cheetahs in 2014.
Hendricks, 27, made his Test debut in June of last year, whilst the 2013 Springbok Sevens Player of the Year was also a key member of the Commonwealth Games Gold medal-winning SA Sevens team in July 2014.
In all, he has played 11 Tests (as well as an additional match against the World XV) for the Springboks, scoring five tries – including a try on debut against Wales and a memorable solo score against the All Blacks in their hard-fought Rugby Championship tussle in Wellington in September 2014.
French-based loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg will join the DHL Stormers ahead of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.
The powerful former Lions captain is currently in his third season with French club, Bayonne, but he will bolster the DHL Stormers’ propping resources as of November 1 with Steven Kitshoff having decided to further his career in France.
Janse van Rensburg, 29, toured Europe with the Springboks in 2012 (without getting any game time), as well as making over 50 appearances for the Lions at Super Rugby level and winning well over 50 provincial caps for the Golden Lions