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Super Rugby

WP RugbyWhen the Springboks finished off their 2013 campaign with a victory over France in Paris, coach Heyneke Meyer spoke about the need for South African rugby to undergo revolutionary change in order to close the gap that the All Blacks enjoyed when it came to conditioning and mental strength.

At the start of the 2014 Castle Lager Rugby Championship, he continued the theme of revolution, this time talking about the need to bring greater intensity and tempo to the Bok game, to be able to out-think opponents now that the days of bludgeoning opposition with physicality are in the past.

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Israel Folau

Israel Folau breaks his ankle playing for the Broncos in 2009.

Israel Folau believes God broke his ankle in 2009 to teach him a lesson about boozy weekends and random one-night stands with women.

Folau believes God took him out of the NRL to endure two years of toil in the AFL to humble him.

Then, only after Folau had reconnected with God, did He open the door to rugby, in which he now stands as the man to end 12 years of Australian agony by leading the Wallabies to victory over the All Blacks in tonight’s Bledisloe Cup opener.

And if you think Folau is crazy, he doesn’t care.

“I want to advertise who Jesus Christ is, which is the thing that means most to me,” the Wallaby fullback says, patting his heart hard.

“I know it’s got nothing to do with footy, but that’s what drives me every single day.”

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Derick Minnie

“Cheers vir eers!” Derick Minnie op pad vorentoe Saterdag teen die Bloubulle op Ellispark.

Niemand wil dit hard sê nie, maar almal weet dit: Suid-Afrikaanse rugby is in die #2%$.

Vir diegene wat onlangs uit ’n diep slaap uit ontwaak het, hier is die feite: Net een Suid-Afrikaanse span kon dit tot in ’n Super Rugby semi-finaal maak. En daar het hulle ook in die pomp geduik. Die ander klomp – die Bulle, Stormers, Leeus en Cheetahs het redelik swak gedoen.

Hoe kan ’n land soos Suid-Afrika, wat meer spelers as Nieu-Seeland en Australië saam het, so sleg uit die bus uit bliksem?

Om daardie vraag te beantwoord, moet ons teruggaan tot ons terugkeer tot internasionale rugby in 1992.

Dan sal ons sien dat ons intussen nooit pasaangeërs was nie. Nie met taktiek nie en nie met afrigting nie.

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Panic StationThe Vodacom Blue Bulls are already in crisis mode – and it’s only the first round of the Absa Currie Cup season.

Coach Frans Ludeke called in the players to Loftus Versfeld on Sunday night for an emergency meeting – following their humiliating 41-13 opening loss to the Xerox Golden Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday – where players were read the riot act.

Following a disappointing Vodacom Super Rugby season, and this start to a much-vaunted Currie Cup campaign, the players were told to either shape up or ship out as Ludeke vented his anger after the loss.

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Hosea Gear

Hosea Gear

Former All Blacks wing Hosea Gear is quitting northern hemisphere rugby and heading to the Chiefs in a bid to play in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Gear, 30, has signed a one-year contract with the Chiefs to play in next year’s Super Rugby competition as he makes a bid to return to the international stage and challenges again for a World Cup wing spot.

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Rory Arnold

Brumbies recruit Rory Arnold, the tallest player in Super Rugby.

If you thought NSW Watarahs and Australian Wallabies battering ram Will Skelton was big, meet ACT Brumbies recruit Rory Arnold, the tallest player in Super Rugby.

The 208cm, 130kg lock created huge headlines last year after being involved in an alleged biting incident in South Africa, but Arnold is determined to make a big impact at the Brumbies for the right reasons.

While man mountain Skelton weighs in at 140kg, at 203cm he can’t match Arnold, who is equal in height with former South African player Andries Bekker. They are the tallest players in Super Rugby’s 19-year history.

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Wycliff Palu

Wycliff Palu has revealed some of the different methods Michael Cheika has used to motivate the Waratahs.

Mastercoach Michael Cheika’s multitude of secret motivational techniques to turn the Waratahs from paupers to premiers can now be revealed.

While the story of the golf clubs given to players before the grand final win over the Crusaders last weekend has been well told, it was only one element of Cheika’s unique strategy to build a squad of players used to failure into a champion team.

Long-serving Waratahs backrower Wycliff Palu is one of the best examples of how Cheika’s ideas transformed players. The burly No.8 was forced to walk from Central Station to the Waratahs’ office at Moore Park every day as part of a daily ritual to ensure he didn’t become complacent after a decade at the club.

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Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

After much speculation in the media the Highlanders are happy to announce today that Aaron Smith has re-signed with the Highlanders for two more years through to the end of the Super Rugby season in 2016.

Smith said “I love living and playing rugby in Dunedin, it’s my home and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

“I love the team and can’t wait to get back out on the field in front of our home fans in 2015”.

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Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo

Nemani Nadolo will remain at the Crusaders for two more years, after reports in New Zealand said the giant Fijian winger “never had any intention of going anywhere else”.

“We have loved having Nemani in the Crusaders this season, as have our fans, so it gives me great pleasure to confirm that he will be returning to the team next year and in 2016,” Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said.

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Pictures of Crusaders rugby players on a hunting trip in South Africa are being used by an environmental organisation in its fight against what it calls canned, or joy ride, hunting.

George Whitelock, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sam Whitelock, Tom Taylor and Ben Funnell

George Whitelock, Tyler Bleyendaal, Sam Whitelock, Tom Taylor and Ben Funnell with guides on a hunt in South Africa.

It is reported that the players shown in the four pictures posted by the Landmark Foundation on its Facebook page were Tom Taylor, George and Sam Whitelock, Ben Funnell and Tyler Bleyendaal. In each picture, one or more of the players was posing beside a dead animal. The animals were a zebra, a blesbok, a gemsbok and an eland.

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Todd Blackadder

ONE MORE YEAR: Todd Blackadder talks to the media during this season’s Super Rugby campaign.

Crusaders boss Hamish Riach has endorsed Todd Blackadder and his coaching team for at least another season.

Although Crusaders head coach Blackadder and his assistants Dave Hewett, Tabai Matson and Aaron Mauger have signed with the franchise until the end of the 2016 Super Rugby season, the honouring of such agreements can be subject to confidential conditions related to a team’s performance or whether they make the playoffs.

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Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino showing off some leg, but for a very good cause.

Yes that is Jerome Kaino sporting a Northern Mystics dress!

The Blues and All Blacks flanker got stuck into his workout routine in this dashing baby blue netball outfit at Unitec yesterday, all in the name of charity.

Kaino is one of four ambassadors of the Child Cancer foundation who were challenged to carry out crazy acts in order to raise money for the One Day for Child Cancer Ambassador Challenge.

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Solomoni Rasolea

Solomoni Rasolea

Utility back Solomoni Rasolea has become the latest player to commit to the Western Force by signing a two-year contract extension.

The 23-year-old’s re-signing continues the Force’s retention run that has already seen Nathan Charles, Dane Haylett-Petty, Rory Walton and Chris Alcock re-commit to the Western Australian club in the past 10 days.

Rasolea has been a regular face in the Force’s match 23 over the past two seasons since joining the Force from the Australian Sevens side.

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Melbourne RebelsWestern Force captain Matt Hodgson has been awarded the 2014 Nathan Sharpe Medal at the HBF Stadium in Perth yesterday.

This is the third time Hodgson has claimed the premier award, having previously received the club’s Player of the Year Award (now Nathan Sharpe Medal) in 2009 and 2010.

In the night’s other awards, crowd favourite Nick ‘The Honey Badger’ Cummins was voted the Members’ MVP; lock Adam Coleman took out the Rising Star; and Ben McCalman and Sam Wykes were joint winners of the newly named Geoffrey Stooke Award (formerly the Force Man Award).

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Nemani Nadolo

RACIALLY ABUSED: Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo has tweeted about being racially abused.

The actions of a “stupid” lone drunkard who racially abused Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo was an anomaly that should not tarnish his great season, says coach Todd Blackadder.

“After all I’ve done to contribute to this lovely city of Christchurch to be called a UN FIT CHUBBY [N****] is disappointing [sic],” the Fijian-born Nadolo tweeted at 2.48am today.

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Waratahs

Waratahs celebrating their maiden Super Rugby victory.

The Waratahs won a drama-laden Super Rugby grand final 33-32 in Sydney with Bernard Foley breaking the Crusaders hearts by kicking a 45m penalty in the final seconds.

This frantic contest had multiple dramas, starting with the Crusaders trailing 14-0 in as many minutes, losing their talismanic general Dan Carter with an ankle injury in the first half and then having to mount a spirited comeback in front of a record 62,000-strong crowd.

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Tiger Woods

Tiger Woods’ swing, the unlikely source of Cheika’s motivation.

Michael Chieka didn’t quite take a sledgehammer to the Waratahs’ chronic problems; he took golf clubs instead.

As his players gathered in the change-room before the biggest Super Rugby game of their careers, and for most the biggest in their lives, Cheika slowly began to pull out 23 golf clubs, each personalised with female names.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

He’s loath to talk about dynasties and sustained dominance, but NSW Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is already plotting a path to back-to-back Super Rugby titles.

With a season remaining on his three-year contract, Cheika laughed off speculation he could be heading off to coach the Argentine national team after guiding the Waratahs to their Holy Grail.

“What, for a holiday? No, I’m here. We’re well into our planning for next season,” Cheika said after the Waratahs’ last-gasp 33-32 win over the Crusaders in Saturday night’s final.

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Richie McCaw

PRETTY ANNOYED: Crusaders flanker Richie McCaw was hurting after he gave away the match-winning penalty to the Waratahs.

Two of the Crusaders’ favourite sons were ironically also their own worst enemies during an epic Super Rugby final last night, as Richie McCaw and Andrew Mehrtens both made significant contributions to the Waratahs’ historic triumph.

The All Blacks captain was a focal point of the Waratahs’ match-winning penalty in the final minute at ANZ Stadium while Mehrtens – who famously confirmed the Crusaders third title in Canberra in 2000 with a coolly taken three-pointer – played a more peripheral role in the Waratahs dramatic 33-32 victory.

Ultimately it was Wallabies flyhalf Bernard Foley who took centre stage by directing his seventh successful penalty attempt just clear of the crossbar with less than 30 seconds to play in a contest that completed the Waratahs resurrection as the dominant force in Australian rugby.

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Richie McCaw & Sam Whitelock

Richie McCaw cuts a forlorn figure after the match.

Todd Blackadder’s pre-match prediction that the Super Rugby final would be determined by a few crucial moments came back to haunt him as a “50-50″ call condemned the one-time competition kings to another bridesmaid experience.

Bernard Foley’s last minute penalty secured the Waratahs their maiden title on Saturday in Sydney and extended the Crusaders wait for their eighth to at least an eighth year.

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Bernard Foley

The moment: Bernard Foley puts boot to ball in the hope of winning the title.

When the Waratahs were awarded a penalty inside the last minute of Saturday’s night Super Rugby final against the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium, Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley didn’t flinch.

He immediately stepped up to take the kick – even though from 43-metre the attempt might be slightly out of his range.

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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper playing for the Brumbies, before White deemed him surplus to requirements.

When the scholars trawl through history and attempt to unearth the origins of a Waratahs premiership, they may settle on two names.

Michael Cheika and Israel Folau? No? Okay, what about Kurtley Beale, or Nathan Grey?

All those will feature, certainly.

But in the timeline but they’d have to go back further and head 287km south to Canberra.

There they’d find the names Jake White and Ita Vaea, and a moment-in-time conversation between the new Brumbies coach and a kid with six starts called Michael Hooper.

The year was 2011 and Hooper had been at the Brumbies for two seasons; serving as back-up to the legendary George Smith in his debut year.

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Super RugbyIt is the Finals of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! The Waratahs host the Crusaders.

This weekend decides the honors for the 2014 Super Rugby season.

What a game we have to look forward to!

The Waratahs have been good and consistent all season whereas the resurgent Crusaders, who absolutely pummelled the Cell C Sharks last weekend have hit a rich vein of form.

A winner is difficult to predict, there are game breakers on either side, no matter how you look at it. In the final analysis the 2 best Super Rugby sides of 2014 are in the Final and both deserve to contest for ultimate glory in 2014.

13 Other Challengers already now lay by the wayside, done and dusted, only 1 more game to come…. this one!

Who do you think will take the crown and Why?

Let the game continue…. let the battle commence!

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Jacques Potgieter

Ripping in: Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter crashes into a teammate at training during the week.

The day the Waratahs wrapped up the minor premiership was the day Jacques Potgieter decided to tell his old club he was not interested.

The Bulls were having a chronic case of the Joni Mitchells – “You don’t know what you’ve got til it’s gone”. They had let Potgieter go after two seasons and watched him go from strength to damaging strength with a team that appreciated his skill set.

Now they wanted him back. Immediately. For three years.

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Jake White

Jake White

While it’s perhaps unfair to label Jake White a ‘Tactical Neanderthal’, a well-known Kiwi scribe had a point when he commented on the lack of spark from South African rugby teams in the 15-man code.

New Zealand Herald national newspaper sports columnist, Chris Rattue, earlier this week criticised his compatriots for being less than gracious losers after they lost the Sevens final at the Commonwealth Games to South Africa.

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Brok Harris

Juan ‘Brok’ Harris

Stormers and Western Province prop Brok Harris’s departure to Newport Gwent Dragons has been confirmed.

The Welsh club confirmed on their official website that the 29-year-old has penned a 3-year deal.

The experienced front row forward has made over 90 appearances for the Stormers since making his debut in 2007 and boasts more than 100 appearances for Western Province.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Phil Waugh says he will be one of the great Waratahs and Daryl Gibson believes he is the “free spirit” rugby badly needs.

Jacques Potgieter just thinks he has never played with anyone better.

“I think Kurtley is the best rugby player I’ve ever played with and the best I ever will play with,” Potgieter says. “The best of the best. When he gets the ball it is like in slow motion, he has got so much time with the ball. And the thing he has taught me is that he always backs himself.”

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WaratahsFrom horror Tahs to Super stars – it’s been a rocky, 19-year ride for Waratahs rugby fans.

It certainly hasn’t always been pretty – think Matt Dunning’s brain explosion field goal, the 96-19 debacle in Christchurch and getting belted by the Brumbies in the semi-finals.

Yes, the Waratahs have had plenty of lows to match their rugby highs.

Perennial underachievers in the world’s toughest provincial competition, the Waratahs had always boasted one of the most talented playing rosters but were unable to turn that into on-field success.

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Todd Blackadder

FROM YOUNG BEGINNINGS: Todd Blackadder led the Crusaders to their first Super Rugby title win – a final victory over the Blues at Eden Park in the then Super 12.

Crusaders coach Todd Blackadder has a chance to go where no man has gone before him in the Super Rugby annals.

The 42-year-old former All Blacks skipper could become the first person to captain and coach title-winning teams.

Blackadder guided the Crusaders to the first three of their record seven championship victories, the first coming in 1998 when they beat the Blues, 20-13 at Eden Park, breaking the Auckland-based franchise’s hold on the title.

Blackadder endeared himself to the entire top of the South Island region by making a post-game speech acknowledging the team represented Nelson Bays, Marlborough, Buller, West Coast, South Canterbury, Mid Canterbury and Canterbury.

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Michael Cheika

GAME CHANGER: Michael Cheika brought Irish side Leinster out of the shadow of their great rivals Munster. He now stands on the brink of equaling that achievement in Super Rugby.

Unusually it was Michael Cheika who found himself on the receiving end, even if the abuse wasn’t personal when he was appointed head coach of the NSW Waratahs after another forlorn Super Rugby campaign.

The abrasive former club rugby No 8 was appointed after Australian rugby’s under-achieving franchise finished a disappointing 11th in 2012 – an outcome that prompted disillusioned fans to detail their frustrations for head office.

Cheika, a Heineken Cup-winning coach with Leinster in 2009, could afford to smile when, on the eve of the Waratahs’ historic home final with the Crusaders, he recalled handling the correspondence.

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Nathan Grey

Waratahs defense coach Nathan Grey

He is renowned for arguably changing the course of the 2001 British and Irish Lions tour in the Wallabies’ favour by concussing key English flanker Richard Hill, but now Nathan Grey is devising more cerebral tactics to knock the Crusaders of out whack.

Grey’s elbow to the temple of the Lions blindside in the 32nd minute of the second test in Melbourne was credited with shifting momentum against Graham Henry’s team who were unable to recover from the loss of the inspirational Hill for the remainder of the three-test series.

The 39-year-old doesn’t like to dwell on his airborne assault at Docklands (now Etihad) Stadium – it took until the Lions’ next tour to Australia last year for the hard-hitting midfield back to revisit a controversial incident that paled only in comparison to Duncan McRae’s unprovoked attack on Ronan O’Gara in the tour match against New South Wales.

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BathBath Rugby are looking to sign Will Genia from Queensland Reds, having already snared Sam Burgess from National Rugby League club South Sydney Rabbitohs.

It was reported in June that Bath had been linked with Genia, but now the reporting is that the club has made “an audacious bid” to sign the Wallabies scrum-half and is “now in talks… to lure him to England after next year’s World Cup”.

Bath owner Bruce Craig said in June that he had “already signed some players for post-World Cup going into what we consider our 150th year, which is the 2015-16 season”, but he did not name names.

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Harry Viljoen

Former Springbok coach Harry Viljoen

There are palpable similarities between Waratahs coach Michael Cheika and ex- Bok coach Harry Viljoen.

Viljoen coached the Springboks for love and not money, he was already a multi-millionaire before taking over the reigns from Nick Mallet.

Viljoen quit the post in 2002, two years before his contract would have expired, quoting public criticism as the main catalyst.

Michael Cheika built a successful clothing company, has dabbled in restaurants, speaks four languages, and once dazzled Collette Dinnigan in French to secure a job – utterly unqualified – with the Australian fashion designer.

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