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The Rugby Championship

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SpringboksWhile South Africa finished the year second in the world, and the only side in 2014 to defeated the All Blacks, their two losses at the end of the year against Ireland and Wales exposed deficiencies that will be studiously worked on by the coaching team.

One thing is for certain, there is likely to be some changes to the portfolio after Heyneke Meyer admitted that elements like the team’s kicking weren’t working, while the usually reliable power game of the Springboks wasn’t able to rule proceedings in Dublin and Cardiff.

They did however, during that 27-25 win at Ellis Park over New Zealand, show that they have the breakdown belligerence and attacking sense to match any side.

Even if four losses in their last eight of the year came seemed to come from a lack of crystal concise mindset than anything else, at times kicking, running or passing seemed to come without the smart bomb like precision we usually expect from a Boks team.

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New ZealandThe World Champions for the most part could pat themselves on the back and claim job well done, winning 12 from 14 and retaining all major titles that were on offer.

Not only did they win The Investec Rugby Championship and defend the Bledisloe Cup, but recently the All Blacks celebrated five years at the top of the world rankings.

Yet despite some mighty mental powers and impressive depth, tactically the team isn’t able to thrash sides as many of the predecessors have in the past.

A win is a win yes, but has the proverbial gab closed but gone unnoticed due to the continuation of results?

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AustraliaWhile some might be quick to suggest Australia needs to put 2014 aside and focus on the upcoming season, no Test nation has as many potential improvements and as a consequence the prospective growth potential for the Wallabies excites.

Michael Cheika took over midyear but any who thought his success with the Waratahs would quickly translate to the national setup were sadly mistaken as the significant gap between Super Rugby and the Test arena was proved again.

There is plenty to like even if the old issue of the scrum reared its head, especially out wide, where man for man there is nothing to suggest that the Wallabies backline couldn’t become the world’s glamour division in time for the Webb Ellis trophy.

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ArgentinaThe one time in Europe that Argentina strayed slightly away from their traditional strengths, they lost, engaging in an entertaining running contest with Scotland, but otherwise closed the year with a 3-1 record over their last four.

It means that Los Pumas finish the season with form behind only New Zealand and Ireland, defeating the Wallabies in Mendoza, before grinding down Italy and France on consecutive weekends to return to South America on a high.

Coach Daniel Hourcade has been superb and his feats have been lost somewhat when talking about the likes of Steve Hansen or Joe Schmidt.

Yet the former Pampas mentor has turned many local players into hardened Test regulars, further ridding Argentina of a heavy reliance on European based stars.

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SpringboksThe South African Rugby Union (SARU) on Friday confirmed the home venues for the 2015 Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

The Springboks will play New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park (formerly Ellis Park), Johannesburg, on Saturday 25 July and Argentina at Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban, on Saturday 8 August.

The schedule was amended as a result of the condensing of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship competition to three rounds because of the Rugby World Cup, which begins in mid-September.

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This week Fox HQ brings you the best of 2014, from bloopers to tries and much more.

 

 

Thelo WakefieldThe Western Province Rugby Union wants to persuade the South African Rugby Union to hand Newlands the Springboks / All Blacks Rugby Championship Test next year.

This comes after SANZAR on Monday issued a release revealing that the Springboks will tackle the All Blacks at a South African venue to be decided on Saturday, 25 July.

It will be part of a curtailed, single-round Rugby Championship for the first time since its inception in 2012, a situation brought about by the priority given to next year’s World Cup in England and Wales from September.

The Boks play both the defending champion All Blacks and Argentina (Saturday, 8 August) at home, with their only overseas obligation being against Australia in Brisbane (Saturday, 18 July).

WP president Thelo Wakefield said that they will send a letter to SARU president Oregan Hoskins to consider handing the All Blacks Test to Newlands.

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New Zealand

New Zealand will head into next year’s Rugby Championship as title-holders

Australia will play New Zealand twice in a week as part of their preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The draw for the condensed 2015 Rugby Championship sees champions New Zealand host Argentina in Christchurch but travelling to South Africa and Australia.

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

South Africa finished second overall courtesy of their Ellis Park derring-do against New Zealand, and for but five points, the collective margin of defeat against the Wallabies in Perth and All Blacks in Wellington, it could have been a massive celebration for the team.

Admittedly the eventual champions boasted a 49-point difference advantage over the Springboks, but if the South African’s 4-2 ledger had been 5-1 (bonus points wouldn’t have come into the equation), the trophy would be theirs.

The victory is Meyer’s 24th in 33 Tests (a 73% winning mark), closes the gap in the IRB rankings (versus one and two) to just over two points, while the Republic boasts nearly a five point advantage over newly promoted England in third.

South Africa’s four wins and two losses equalled their return from last season, and their overall ten victories in The Rugby Championship’s history over 18 Tests gives them a three win lead over Australia (from 2012-2014) and second over the last three years (All Blacks 16-1-1).

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All Blacks

All Blacks Haka

The All Blacks second defeat in 44 Test matches was met with mixed reaction throughout the rugby world, not enough to prevent New Zealand from claiming The Rugby Championship, but it did stop a tournament whitewash for the third straight season.

Generally Kiwis did not panic, the consistency of Steve Hansen’s results deservedly have built up some emotional credit.

Some quarters of the media almost ridiculously hailed it as the beginning of the end for the World Champions, most were restrained wary to feed the wounded beast.

The All Blacks finished first overall, winning their 13th title since 1996, winning four Tests, drawing one and losing their final match – which was their first tournament defeat in 18 fixtures.

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Tawera Kerr-Barlow

Tawera Kerr-Barlow

New Zealand head coach Steve Hansen has confirmed that Tawera Kerr-Barlow faces a six to nine month recovery period.

Kerr-Barlow suffered a nasty injury in the second half after coming against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

The Chiefs scrum-half may possibly need two surgeries to correct the injuries to his leg.

“He’s done his ACL,” Hansen said.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale in MORE Trouble

Troubled Wallaby Kurtley Beale faces new allegations of having breached the players’ code of conduct.

It is almost certain the latest revelations will result in Beale not being offered a new contract by the Australian Rugby Union.

It was revealed by ARU the  that a new disciplinary allegation involving the utility back, Beale, will be referred to a tribunal.

Beale was dropped for the last Rugby Championship Test against Argentina last Saturday, after an ugly in-flight public spat with members of the team management.

ARU Chief Executive Bill Pulver said Thursday that while investigating the incident, during the flight from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo, officials were made aware of another matter involving Beale and text messages he sent in June.

The ARU said Beale will not be considered for Australian selection until the tribunal concludes.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

While the Springboks must be commended for ending their Rugby Championship campaign with consecutive home victories, it’s important to remain performance rather than results-driven.

I believe it’s fair to say that most of us view rugby games through a retrospective scope, which effectively means that the final result fundamentally informs our thought patterns and opinions.

Although the Springboks whipped the All Blacks in the first half, the reality is that had referee Wayne Barnes not gone upstairs to the TMO, having being probed by the matchday producer, captain Jean de Villiers and the partisan home crowd, the Springboks could easily have lost the Ellis Park test.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has taken time off his busy schedule to answer some of your rugby related questions.

Meyer’s Springbok team just finished their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign with a famous win over New Zealand at Ellis Park.

The Q&A session once again proved very popular with our readers with hundreds of questions streaming in. We picked out the widest possible range of questions to put to the Springbok coach.

Here is what he had to say:

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

This weekend saw the finale of The Rugby Championship and we saw two very contrasting games. The All Blacks won the trophy… again. Deservedly.

The Pumas won their first ever fixture in this tournament, a historical moment and one they will never forget… I certainly won’t, but the highlight had to be the bromance in the coaches box after the game where their Latin exuberance, warmth and hot blooded nature got the better of some of them… Put it this way, there was lots of lovin!!

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Greg Growden

Greg Growden

What an absolute shambles. A rudderless and distracted Wallabies outfit got what they deserved by suffering the embarrassment of being Argentina’s first victim in The Rugby Championship.

Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie’s position is now under serious question after the team suffered one of its most inexplicable losses of recent times at the end of a road tour from hell that publicly exposed the division within the Australian team camp.

Full marks to Argentina for taking advantage of a sidetracked opposition, who made it so much easier for them by being ill-disciplined, disorganised, dispirited and clearly lacking on-field leaders.

In the end, the most entertaining moment of the Australian performance was singer Marcelo Zelada’s mangled version of Advance Australia Fair before kickoff, which included snatches of English, Spanish, gibberish and even a bit of humming.

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AustraliaBernard Foley has refused to blame laser beams for the Wallabies shambolic capitulation to the Pumas on Saturday but conceded it would be helpful if match officials granted kickers a second shot at goal when the potentially harmful practice takes place.

Foley battled green laser beams on his face for the entire match and missed two crucial kicks when Australia trailed Argentina 18-17 towards the end of the Test.

One kick was from 49 metres out – beyond the range of even Foley, the Waratahs’ new ice man after his title-winning kick two months ago – but the second, in the 70th minute, was inside the 22-metre zone and just to the left of the posts.

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South Africa20 Springboks contracted by the SA Rugby Union (SARU) will take part in a training camp in Stellenbosch from October 20 to 24, the union announced on Sunday.

The camp forms part of the team’s preparations ahead of the Outgoing Tour next month.

“The Springboks are our first priority and the provinces have been very supportive, which we’re very thankful for,” SARU chief executive officer Jurie Roux said.

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Newlands Rugby Stadium

All Blacks no go area – the picturesque Newlands Rugby Stadium.

Liam Napier explains the mystery of why South African rugby bosses are keeping the All Blacks away from the nation’s second-biggest city.

It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations. In 2008, 25,000 readers of South Africa’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph readers voted it the world’s best city.

But while the All Blacks travel to South Africa at least once every year, 2008 was the last time Cape Town hosted the All Blacks.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer described the 27-25 win over New Zealand in the final match of the Springboks Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign as one of the best matches in which he had been involved.

The support of the sell-out Ellis Park crowd also lifted the team’s effort, he said.

“I have been involved in rugby for almost 30 years and this support was unbelievable. We saw the crowd support on the way into the stadium and the national anthem was awesome. It was an unbelievable Test match,” Meyer said.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

What former Springbok coach NICK MALLETT had to say on SuperSport about the Springbok victory over the All Blacks at Ellis Park.

 

On what the win means moving forward

“What a Test match. It can’t get better than that, can it? South Africa played some of the best rugby I’ve seen them play in that first half, but the All Blacks showed their championship quality the way they came back at them in the second half.

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ArgentinaAustraliaLos Pumas (8) 21 / 17 (14) Wallabies (Final Score)

The Argentinian Pumas and Australian Wallabies did battle in The Rugby Championship at

Estadio Malvinas Argentinas, Mendoza at 00:40 Sunday SA Time (22.40 GMT, 19:40 ARG Time, 09:40 Sunday AEST).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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

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Julian Savea and Jonah Lomu

Julian Savea and Jonah Lomu

In most cases, comparing a young player with a legend of the game is to burden him with unfair expectation.

To say Julian Savea is the new Jonah Lomu is definitely unfair. Unfair because it is selling Savea short. The 24-year-old wing may already have surpassed Lomu, according to All Black coach Steve Hansen.

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SuperBruExciting times ahead with only one more weekend of Rugby Championship matches to go.

Dead rubber or not, it’s the Springboks versus the All Blacks, so it will still be a cracker of a match, with Heyneke looking for that elusive first win over the men in black as coach of the Boks.

The Currie Cup is nearing the end of the regular rounds, and it’s only DHL WP and the Golden Lions that can feel certain that they will make the Top 4.

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Johan van Graan

Johan van Graan

Heyneke Meyer lauds him as the one of the unsung heroes in the Springboks’ transition to an attacking game plan, with many of the stellar try-scoring feats being attributed to his role, but ask the average rugby fan what they know about Johan van Graan and many will struggle to come up with a single fact.

From his early days as a ball-boy at Loftus Versfeld, kicking the leather pigskin back to the likes of Naas Botha and Johan Heunis, Van Graan has always had an obsession with the game.

But now it is his hard-work, the hours that go unseen as he meticulously analyses the opposition, helps craft the Springbok attacking structures and spends almost every moment in trying to make the Bok side a massive success that make him such a vital cog in the current Springbok machine.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis will start at hooker against the All Blacks

Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen will be given as much time as possible to recover from injury while Bismarck du Plessis will start Saturday’s final round Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

This match will be Springbok captain Jean de Villiers’ 50th appearance in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, the most by any South African.

Vermeulen is recovering from a rib cartilage injury and if he doesn’t recover in time to face New Zealand, Schalk Burger will start in the No 8 jersey with Warren Whiteley coming onto the bench.

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John Mitchell

John Mitchell believes the All Blacks will have too many attacking weapons for the Springboks

John Mitchell holds concerns for the Springboks’ World Cup prospects and doesn’t believe they have the attacking threats to upset the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday.

After four years in South Africa, following his departure as All Blacks coach after the semifinal exit at the 2003 World Cup, Mitchell is well placed to assess the country’s changing landscape.

His main worry is the lack of youth being promoted by the Boks.

With about 250 South Africans now playing rugby overseas – the equivalent of six professional teams – Mitchell says the next generation are suffering through a lack of faith from Boks coach Heyneke Meyer, who has instead turned to aging veterans Bakkies Botha, Victor Matfield and Schalk Burger.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

A request that Kurtley Beale change his T-shirt escalated into a heated inflight argument that has shrouded the playmaker in controversy, put a staff member’s future in doubt, and now threatens to engulf the Wallabies a day out from a Test match.

Wallabies team business manager Di Patston flew back to Sydney on Tuesday, two days after she and Beale were involved in a heated stoush across the aisle in the business class cabin of South Africa Airways flight 222 from Johannesburg to Sao Paulo on Sunday morning.

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New ZealandTwo injury-enforced changes in the tight-five, rewards for strong form, and a new-look bench are the features of the All Blacks team to take on the Springboks at Ellis Park on Sunday morning (NZT).

Lock Brodie Retallick (concussion) and prop Wyatt Crockett (facial cuts) have been officially ruled out with Jeremy Thrush, in his second start against the Boks, and Joe Moody, in his maiden test start, respectively promoted.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale has added to his troubled record of disciplinary problems with the Wallabies.

Kurtley Beale has been axed from the Wallabies line up less than a day after it emerged he was involved in a heated in-flight argument with a staff member.

Beale will miss his first test this year after being overlooked for utility Rob Horne and halfback Nic White, who were the only two backs named on the reserves bench for Australia’s clash with Argentina on Saturday.

Horne was one of the few Wallabies bench players who made an impact in the side’s bitter 28-10 loss to the Springboks in Cape Town on Saturday, while Beale struggled to wrest back the game’s momentum as it swung South Africa’s way mid-way through the second half.

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