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The Rugby Championship

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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper

An appeal has been lodged against the outcome of a judicial hearing held on Wednesday 29 July and Thursday 30 July, which found Michael Hooper of Australia’s Wallabies guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (a) and issued a sanction of a 1 week suspension.

Under the SANZAR Judicial Rules, all formal judicial hearings are reviewed by an independent Appeals Review Officer. The review officer, the Honourable Graeme Mew (Canada), has examined the Hooper case and in his determination, referred it to a SANZAR Appeals Committee to review the sanction handed down by Judicial Officer Nigel Hampton QC.

A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Jannie Lubbe SC, with Terry Willis and Mike Heron QC as members, will hear the appeal via videoconference on Sunday 2 August 2015 at 17:00 AEST (19:00 NZ Time, 09:00 SA Time, 07:00 GMT, 04:00 ARG Time).

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

Wycliff Palu

Wycliff Palu

Matt Giteau

Matt Giteau

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has made 4 changes to his squad for next weekend’s clash with the All Blacks in Sydney.

Matt Giteau, Wycliff Palu, Henry Speight and the uncapped Toby Smith have come in to the 31-man squad announced on Friday.

Giteau returns after a 1-match layoff with injury, Palu returns to the squad after being rested for the past month and Speight is available for selection again after serving a 5-match suspension.

Their return is timely as the Wallabies prepare for what is effectively a 2015 Rugby Championship ‘Final’, as the men in gold sit locked at the Top of the standings with the New Zealand All Blacks on 9 points, ahead of the final match of the truncated series.

Melbourne Rebels prop Smith is the other new face in the squad, earning his place after a consistent Super Rugby campaign. The 26-year-old enters the squad as the only uncapped player.

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Naas Botha

Naas Botha

Springbok legend and popular rugby pundit Naas Botha believes South Africa made an important evolutionary change in their game plan in their defeat to the All Blacks in Johannesburg last weekend.

Botha believes Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer needs to persist with the enterprising style adopted – something he believes is long overdue.

“What we saw on Saturday was totally different compared to what we’ve seen over the last couple of years but it should have happened 2 years ago,” Botha said in Midrand on Wednesday.

“I don’t think it is too late, I believe we should build on this now because what we saw over the weekend was quite impressive.

“Yes, we didn’t win and to be honest it is all about winning and they did surprise us with that last lineout.”

Botha was speaking at the launch of Creative Rugby which he co-wrote with Dr Kobus Neethling, a world leader in the field of creativity and whole-brain thinking.

The premise of the book is to promote whole-brain thinking, with modern players now on the same level in terms of fitness and skills.

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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper

Wallabies flank Michael Hooper will have to wait at least 1 more day to find out if he will be available for his team’s Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks.

Hooper appeared before a SANZAR judicial hearing on Wednesday, where he was charged with having punched Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez in his team’s 34 / 9 win over the Pumas at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas at the weekend.

Hooper was cited to appear before Nigel Hampton – via video conference – on Wednesday.

The Wallaby is alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a): Punching or striking.

The hearing has been adjourned until Thursday 30 July.

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Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

Mourad Boudjellal & Quade Cooper

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.”

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Francois Louw

Francois Louw

The Springboks will be without tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and flanker Francois Louw when they face Argentina’s Los Pumas in Durban next Saturday, but the Springboks could have Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez and Willem Alberts back while at this stage their medical team is optimistic of delivering a fully fit squad to the selectors for the Rugby World Cup, it was announced on Tuesday.

De Villiers, Du Preez and Alberts are 3 of 7 players whose fitness will be assessed on Monday as they complete the final phase of rehabilitation while players such as Duane Vermeulen and Coenie Oosthuizen are progressing well with their rehabilitation.

Although Du Plessis (knee) and Louw (rotator cuff), along with Victor Matfield and JP Pietersen (both hamstring injuries) will miss the Tests against the Pumas, none of these injuries will put their Rugby World Cup participation at risk. Saturday’s other injury victims, Vincent Koch and Warren Whiteley (rib cartilages) should be fit and available for selection next weekend.

Jan Serfontein (hip and knee), Marcell Coetzee (knee), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee) and Steven Kitshoff (knee) will also be assessed on Monday with a view to being available to selection against the Pumas.

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The Rugby Championship This weekend saw Round 2 of The Rugby Championship.

In johannesburg, South Africa it was heart-break for the Springboks again, 2nd week in a row, this time losing in the dying minutes against a better conditiond and fitter All Blacks side, by 20 / 27, with All Blacks capatin Richie McCaw doing the damage to snatch the lead from the South Africans with only 6 minutes to go in the match.

In Mendoza, Argentinia, the Wallabies led 8 / 6 at halftime before tuning in all the screws and beating Los Pumas comfortably by 34 / 9, also earning their bonus point for tries in the process.

As a result of the Round 2 results, the All Blacks and Wallabies are joint leaders of The Rugby Championship Log, with 2 wins apiece, whereas the Springboks and Los Pumas are still winless in the Competition, with the Springboks on a paltry 2 Log points and Los Pumas still not out of the starting gates, on 0 Log Points.

In 2015 there is of course only 3 Rounds in total, in the abbreviated version of the prime Southern Hemisphere international competition due to this year being a Rugby World Cup year. In this shortened version of the competition, where in stead of the normal double Round of matches by every side against the other sides, there is only a single Round of matches by every side against each of the other nations.

Round 3 is only in a fortnight, where the focus will be on the Bledisloe clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks for this year’s overall title.

The Springboks dominated most of the 1st half but at the break the scores were still tied on 10 / 10 and later on 17 / 17 before South Africa took a slender 20 / 17 lead and held that lead untill 6 minutes from time, whereafter the All Blacks showed their class and superior fitness and better bench selections to add 10 further points and running out 7-point winners.

All is not lost for the Springboks and one feels that they showed some quality rugby 2 weeks in a row, but they will surely now realize that their overall conditioning, fitness as well as the impact their bench is supposed to have in the vital Rugby World Cup during September and October still need a massive amount of work if they are to stand a proper chance of winning the world showpiece in 2015.

The All Blacks once again appear to be massive favourites to not only win theis year’s Rugby Championship but to also go on to clinch the Rugby World Cup title in October.

Argentina seem to be dogged by the same “Illness” that the Springboks are suffering from, as they also seem incapable of ending games strong enough and also tend to kick tactically poorly, which invariably results in scores against them in the latter stages of games when defences are no longer as tight as in the beginning of matches.

The Wallabies are building up nicely towards the Rugby World Cup, having first narrowly dispatched the Springboks week before last and now comforably beating Los Pumas on the weekend. They managed to score 2 quick-fire tries towards the end of the clash in Argentina, first by Tevita Kuridrani and then barely 3 minutes later one by Adam Ashley-Cooper (to earn them the bonus point for tries) to hammer the nails in properly against the Pumas.

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SpringboksExamination of The Rugby Championship table with just 1 Round to go hardly suggests the Springboks may be inching spiritedly toward a prosperous new era.

South Africa lie 3rd, winless, and already out of the running: when they tackle Argentina in Durban in just under a fortnight it will simply be a battle to avoid the wooden spoon as the Wallabies and All Blacks slug it out for title glory a few hours earlier in Sydney.

Fortunately it had been widely accepted by the most astute of rugby observers before the 2015 tournament even began that its bragging rights are of secondary importance this year, given the scheduling just a few weeks shy of the 8th World Cup in the United Kingdom.

Local enthusiasts prepared to prioritise the bigger picture will also be fully aware that the Springboks could so easily be lying at the top of The Rugby Championship pile right now, as they bossed the Wallabies for 50 minutes in Brisbane and then the All Blacks for considerably closer to 70 minutes in Johannesburg on Saturday.

If rugby is a game of inches, then Tevita Kuridrani’s debated, last-gasp try made the critical difference 2 weeks back and Lood de Jager not being able to stretch his lunging arm just a couple of centimetres further against the All Blacks for a 55th-minute Springbok touchdown possibly denied them in the latest instance.

In the final analysis, lack of composure and 1 or 2 errors in tactical decision-making at vital times by a rookie-laden team thwarted them more than anything else on Saturday – it was not as though the Springboks looked light years behind for pure competence and skill in either instance, and that is a firm plus to bank in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup.

Perhaps also, a cranked-up emphasis on conditioning and durability will work wonders over the next couple of months as Heyneke Meyer’s charges get progressively used to the new ball-in-hand culture they are embracing with some gusto and swelling promise.

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Jérôme Garcès

Jérôme Garcès

South Africa’s Springboks fell foul of a law that was introduced for player safety, when they lost 20 / 27 to the New Zealand All Blacks in their Rugby Championship encounter at the weekend.

For the 2nd week in a row the Springboks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, after All Blacks captain Richie McCaw scored a clever try 6 minutes from time to secure the victory over their arch-rivals at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

The defeat came 1 week after the Springboks conceded an even later try, in the 80th minute, to fall 20 / 24 against Australia’s Wallabies in Brisbane.

However, it was the question of why there were uncontested scrums in the final quarter – when the Springboks still had 3 ‘qualified’ front row forwards on the field – that puzzled most observers.

It came at a crucial point in the game and had a material effect on the outcome.

The dominant Springbok scrum, which had already earned a couple of penalties and free kicks in the 1st hour, was reduced to uncontested restarts – after Vincent Koch, who had replaced the injured Jannie du Plessis at halftime, was forced from the field in the 61st minute.

Even though Trevor Nyakane, who can play on both sides of the scrum, took to the field, French referee Jérôme Garcès ruled that there should be uncontested scrums.

Not only did it eliminate one of the Springboks’ strengths, but it came at a crucial time.

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Brodie Retallick

Brodie Retallick

Ma'a Nonu

Ma’a Nonu

New Zealand’s come-from-behind win over South Africa at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday has come at a price.

All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, in his 140th appearance for his country, produced the match-winning try with a pre-planned lineout move 6 minutes from time – as they came back from trailing by 7 points twice.

The All Black flank won a lineout close to the Springboks’ line and brushed off the challenge of scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar to score a try that will go a long way towards New Zealand claiming The Rugby Championship title.

However, injuries to key players will have cast a cloud over the team’s celebrations.

Coach Steve Hansen confirmed that centre Ma’a Nonu has damaged his rotator cuff in his shoulder.

“He will have scans done when he gets home (next week) to determine the extent of the injury,” Hansen told a post-match media briefing.

The other big concern is lock Brodie Retallick, who took to the field despite injuring his ankle during warm up.

Hansen said the lock “showed his character” to play through the match with the injury.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika believes New Zealand are way ahead of their closest rivals as they prepare for The Rugby Championship decider.

The Wallabies and All Blacks are locked on 9 points apiece in the Log Table after picking up 2 wins from their respective 2 games so far in the tournament.

And it seems the mind games have already begun ahead of the 8 August clash in Sydney, with Cheika praising how New Zealand are playing at the moment.

“This year it’s a little bit closer, but it’s very obvious that New Zealand are the best team in the world, and I mean by a long way at this stage,” the coach told Australian media after their impressive bonus-point win over Los Pumas.

“To beat South Africa like they did, I think they did it pretty easy in the end.

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Bad Boy Quade Cooper

Bad Boy Quade Cooper

Wallaby playmaker Quade Cooper has come under criticism for a tweet laden with foul language targeted at an unknown critic after the clash with Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday.

“Invite me to youre (sic) next team discussion then ask me how much I give a f— about your team selection,” Cooper wrote on his Twitter account. “Zero f—s given…..”

Cooper posted the tweet at 4.49am Mendoza time, the city where the Wallabies had just finished their game.

The 27-year-old came off the bench early in the 1st-half to replace the injured Matt Toomua in an unfamiliar position of inside centre – a role he hasn’t played since his early days at the Reds – and he found himself isolated behind the advantage line a number of times and was yellow carded for a challenge that was high and late.

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Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper

Michael Hooper of Australia’s Wallabies has been cited for alleged foul play during a Rugby Championship match at the weekend.

Hooper is alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, when he made contact with Los Pumas flyhalf, Nicolas Sanchez in an incident that occurred in the 59th minute of the match between the Pumas and Wallabies at Estadio Malvinas Argentinas in Mendoza on 25 July.

The case is to be considered in the first instance by SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Chris Morris.

All SANZAR disciplinary matters are in the first instance referred to a Duty Judicial Officer hearing to provide the option of expediting the judicial process.

For a matter to be dispensed with at this hearing, the person appearing must plead guilty and accept the penalty offered by the DJO.

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Springboks vs All Blacks

We look at the key statistics from yesterday’s game and discuss some of the more telling moments of the match. Statistics are courtesy of Vodacom, opinion is this writer’s own. Where at all possible, blame will be placed squarely at the feet of non-WP players and / or the match officials, pitch conditions and Jan van Riebeeck.

They say you get lies, damn lies and statistics and when you look at the comparisons, it would appear to be a very close game, and indeed it was, with the All Blacks making decisive scoring breaks in injury time in the 1st half as well as the last 10 minutes of the game to sneak the victory. They clearly have higher fitness levels than the Springboks, both physically and mentally and managed to out last as well as out think the Springboks, the try scored by Richie McCaw being a prime example of excellent tactical superiority.

The statistic that is most interesting is the breakdown of meters run. When you analyze which positions made the most meters the following is apparent:

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ArgentinaAustraliaLos Pumas (6) 9 / 34 (8) Wallabies (Final Score)

The Argentinian Pumas and Australian Wallabies did battle in Round 2 of The Rugby

Championship at Estadio Malvinas, Mendoza at Sunday 00:40 SA Time (19:40 Arg Time, 22:40

GMT, Sunday 08:40 AEST, Sunday 10:40 NZ Time). This was the live match discussion Article.

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

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South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks (10) 20 / 27 (10) All Blacks (Final Score)

The South African Springboks and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in Round 2 of The Rugby

Championship at Emirates Airline Park, Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 12:05 Arg Time,

Sunday 03:05 NZ Time, Sunday 01:05 AEST). This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

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The Rugby ChampionshipIt is Round 2 of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015 (Only 1 Round of matches against each side in 2015 as opposed to a double Round of matches against all sides – home and away in non Rugby World Cup years).

There are 2 games on Saturday 25 July.

The Action of the Round is kicked off in South Africa, where the Springboks take on the old foe, the All Blacks in Johannesburg and concludes with the late night match between the Argentinian Pumas against the Australian Wallabies in Mendoza.

On Saturday at Emirates Airline Park (Ellis Park) in Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 12:05 Arg Time, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time, Sunday 01:05 AEST) referee Jérôme Garcès is in charge in the Springboks vs All Blacks game.

On Saturday at Estadio Malvinas in Mendoza, at Sunday 00:40 SA Time (19:40 Arg Time, 22:40 GMT, Sunday 08:40 AEST, Sunday 10:40 NZ Time) referee Jaco Peyper of South Africa is in charge of the Pumas vs Wallabies game.

The game between the Springboks and the All Blacks should be a humdinger of note and the result could go either way. Last time these 2 sides met, also at the same venue, the Springboks won by a measly 2 points. Both sides have made some bold selections, with 2 debutants on the All Blacks side and on the Springbok side we see the return of Heinrich Brüssow, who makes his 1st Springbok appearance since November 2011. One cannot help but feel that the All Blacks have ironed out most if not almost all the chinks in their armour, whereas the Springboks still seem to be a work in progress.

The Pumas and the Wallabies have each made 7 changes to their starting line-ups and the question begs whether Los Pumas could repeat their win over the Wallabies of last year in Mendoza. The Wallabies came back very strongly against the Springboks last week, so I quite fancy them for a win against the Pumas… in Argentina.

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The Castle Rugby ChampionshipIn a shortened version of The Rugby Championship, the 2 losers of Round 1 are practically in last chance saloon while victories for Round 1’s winners would set up a winner-takes-all Bledisloe Cup clash in Round 3.

It makes for a must-see weekend of action.

 

South AfricaNew ZealandSpringboks vs All Blacks:

It’s been 6 years since South Africa managed back-to-back wins over New Zealand and Saturday’s clash between the world’s top 2 teams represents an important chance to lay down a marker.

Last year’s last-minute victory for the Springboks in Johannesburg – only their 2nd win over the All Blacks since 2009 – ended a 3-year losing streak against their great rivals.

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Daniel Hourcade

Daniel Hourcade

The Argentinian Pumas head coach, Daniel Hourcade, has made several changes to his starting line-up that will face Australia’s Wallabies at Estadio Malvinas in Mendoza on Saturday.

There is a new-look back-3 as Santiago Cordero moves to fullback in place of Joaquin Tuculet while Gonzalo Camacho and Juan Imhoff start as wings.

Matías Moroni and Juan Pablo Socino are the centres, coming in for Marcelo Bosch and Jeronimo De la Fuente, while the other change to the backline sees the experienced Martín Landajo replace Tomás Cubelli at scrumhalf.

In the pack there is a start for Javier Ortega Desio on the flank and Tomás Lavanini in the 2nd-row, which are the Pumas’ only changes up front.

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Steve Hansen

Steve Hansen

All Black coach Steve Hansen has been girding his team for a rolling maul onslaught from South Africa in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby clash between the old rivals at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Although the Kiwis scored a good driving maul try of their own against Los Pumas in Christchurch last week, the Pumas momentarily got themselves back into the game with 2 of their own in the 2nd half. The look on All Black skipper Richie McCaw’s face told a story after the South Americans easily got over for their 2nd try. In short, he wasn’t happy.

But while that opened up a perception of possible All Black vulnerability to the driving maul, and let’s face it the New Zealanders are so good that opposing teams do need to make the most of even the slightest chink, Hansen made it clear to a press conference in the build-up to the game that he thought it was the laws that were vulnerable, not his team.

“We’re not too bad at the rolling maul ourselves these days,” he quipped. “There were 3 tries scored through driving mauls last week, but is that the game we want?”

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Heinrich Brüssow

Heinrich Brüssow

The Springbok team to face New Zealand’s All Blacks for the 90th time shows 9 changes to the match-23 which did duty against Australia’s Wallabies, for the 2nd match in the condensed Castle Lager Rugby Championship, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Heinrich Brüssow will make his 1st start for the Springboks since the 2011 Rugby World Cup, while Vincent Koch has been included on the bench for what could be his Test debut for South Africa.

JP Pietersen, who was initially picked on the right wing, has since starined his hamstring in training and is replaced on right wing by Cornal Hendricks, with Lionel Mapoe replacing Cornal Hendricks’ place on the bench.

Of the 9 changes, 3 are to the pack, 1 to the backline and 5 are on the bench. The backline is unchanged. Schalk Burger will captain the team from No 8.

Francois Louw will start in the No 7 jersey for the injured Marcell Coetzee in a positional change, with Heinrich Brüssow assuming the openside role (No 6). The only other changes to the starting line-up is at lock, where Lood de Jager takes over from Victor Matfield and on right wing where Cornal Hendricks will do duty.

On the bench, Vincent Koch will be joined by Lionel Mapoe, Trevor Nyakane, Flip van der Merwe and Warren Whiteley, who could make his 1st Test appearance in South Africa, in front of his home crowd in Johannesburg.

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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

The New Zealand All Blacks team to face the Springboks in The Rugby Championship on Saturday at Emirates Airline Park contains 2 Test debutants amongst other changes.

Lock James Broadhurst and flyhalf Lima Sopoaga will line up to make their Test debuts for the All Blacks. Sopoaga comes in for Daniel Carter at flyhalf and Broadhurst takes over from Luke Romano.

In other changes in the starting 15, Dane Coles comes in at hooker, with Liam Messam at blindside flank. In the backs, Aaron Smith returns to the starting scrumhalf position, while the world-record midfield combo of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith is back.

As well, with a desire to continue to give Israel Dagg more game time, Ben Smith is named on the right wing.

On the bench, Ben Franks comes in as reserve prop alongside Wyatt Crockett, Codie Taylor retains the reserve hooker jersey, Sam Whitelock is reserve lock, with Victor Vito covering the loose forwards. TJ Perenara is reserve scrumhalf, with Beauden Barrett and Malakai Fekitoa the other backs on the pine.

Broadhurst and Sopoaga will be surrounded by a hugely experienced All Blacks side, with the starting forward pack boasting a total of exactly 500 Test caps, with a further 320 caps in the starting backline and 217 on the bench.

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AustraliaMichael Cheika has rung the changes in his Wallabies side with 7 in total for the clash with Argentina’s Los Pumas in Mendoza on Saturday.

In 1 of 3 changes in the forwards, Reds veteran Greg Holmes will start for the green and gold for the 1st time since 2007 against Canada, while Western Force stalwart Ben McCalman returns for his 1st appearance of the 2015 international season at No 8.

The final change in the pack sees David Pocock come into the starting line-up at openside flanker with Michael Hooper named on the replacements bench.

In the backs, Waratahs scrumhalf Nick Phipps and Brumbies centre Matt Toomua replace the injured Will Genia and Matt Giteau, while Joe Tomane comes in for the injured Rob Horne on the wing.

Waratahs pivot Bernard Foley replaces Quade Cooper in the starting lineup, with Cheika keen to give plenty of players a chance in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup.

“We are fortunate with the level of depth in the squad to be able to cover for the injuries we sustained last Saturday night against the Springboks,” said Cheika.

“They all deserve their start against Los Pumas and they now have an opportunity to build on the performance last week and stake their claims.

“We have 2 fine playmakers in Quade and Bernard. Both players can make an enormous impact on our team.”

There are also some new faces on the bench, with both Nic White and Kurtley Beale included after missing out last week.

Dean Mumm’s decision to return home has paid dividends, as he is set to rejoin the international arena. The 31-year-old is the last of the new faces included on the bench after his return to Australia from Exeter Chiefs.

“We know Argentina will provide a physical challenge in this match, and our reserves will have a significant role to play,” added Cheika.

“Last week they (the bench) got us home against the Springboks, and I will be looking forward to an even a greater impact from our players entering game this weekend.”

Argentina won the last clash between the 2 sides, a 21 / 17 win in the final game of the 2014 Rugby Championship, also in Mendoza.

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Kieran Read

Kieran Read

Being taunted by 61 000 fans at Ellis Park (Emirates Airline Park) doesn’t cause Kieran Read much anxiety.

No 8 Read expects the Springboks supporters at Johannesburg to rip into the All Blacks on Saturday (Sunday morning NZ Time), but he gives the impression that they could turn the volume up 10-fold and he still wouldn’t be too fussed.

Read is so in-the-zone during matches that the clatter coming out of the mouths of inhospitable fans doesn’t register as being unfriendly, or otherwise.

“I know the crowd will certainly be baying for our blood,” Read said.

“Once you get on the field, it pretty much becomes WHITE NOISE to be honest, and in some ways they could be screaming for you.

“It’s hard to know exactly what is being said.”

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WhistleSANZAR has released the names of the Match Officials for Round 2 of The Rugby Championship.

Jerome Garces starts the action this weekend in Johannesburg when South Africa’s Springboks host the All Blacks from New Zealand.

In the 2nd match of this Round, Argentina’s Los Pumas host the Wallabies from Australia in Mendoza and the referee is Jaco Peyper.

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Schalk Burger vs World XV

Schalk Burger vs World XV

Experienced loose forward Schalk Burger will become the 55th Springbok captain on Saturday when he leads South Africa out against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

The 32-year-old Burger has been named interim captain, in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers and Victor Matfield. He assumes the captaincy from Matfield, who was ruled out of action in the short term after suffering a hamstring strain against Australia’s Wallabies on Saturday.

“Schalk has been a magnificent servant of Springbok rugby and he fully deserves this responsibility,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Tuesday.

“The resilience he’s shown in coming back from serious injury and illness is the kind of qualities I look for in players as well as teams I coach.

“In my eyes, the captaincy is very important and something I never take lightly or want to cheapen. Schalk’s character and the fact that he has been a role model for so many through the years made this an easy decision.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will announce an interim captain for South Africa on Tuesday.

Even though there’s been no formal confirmation, the fact that a media briefing has been scheduled to name an ‘interim’ captain confirms that current stand-in captain Victor Matfield will not play against New Zealand at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.

Matfield, who suffered a hamstring injury in the 1st half of last week’s 20 / 24 loss to Australia’s Wallabies in Brisbane, was standing in for the injured captain Jean de Villiers.

And Meyer has made it very clear that De Villiers won’t be considered this week.

So who are the candidates in the current Springbok squad?

The front-runners, surely, are Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Ruan Pienaar, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss – with Bryan Habana, Patrick Lambie and Warren Whiteley at long-odds.

If you really want to stir the pot, why not throw Flip van der Merwe’s name in there – seeing as he is now ‘available’ again.

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Malakai Fekitoa

Malakai Fekitoa

Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

New Zealand All Blacks coach Steve Hansen will have some big selection decisions to make this week, as his team prepares to take on South Africa’s Springboks at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Having rested the bulk of the All Blacks who featured in the all-New Zealand Super Rugby Final (between the Hurricanes and Highlanders) in the 1st 2 Tests of the year, he has to decide how many of them will now be unleashed on the Springboks.

Ben Smith, Aaron Smith, Conrad Smith, Malakai Fekitoa, Julian Savea, Beauden Barrett, Dane Coles, Ben Franks, Victor Vito and James Broadhurst are all keen to get a run against Springboks in their Rugby Championship outing on Saturday.

Probably the most interesting selection would be what combination he chooses to oppose South Africa’s exciting new midfield pairing of Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende.

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Mario Ledesma

Mario Ledesma

Australia have turned to Argentina’s scrum maestro Mario Ledesma to change the perception that they are pushovers at scrum time in the countdown to September’s Rugby World Cup.

Ledesma, who played 84 Tests for Argentina as a hooker, has begun working with the Wallabies on set pieces after performing the same function for the Waratahs through the Super Rugby season.

The Wallabies much maligned scrum came in for more scrutiny after some shaky moments in their season-opening Rugby Championship Test against South Africa’s Springboks in Brisbane last weekend.

Australia’s scrum has regularly been targeted by opponents over the last decade to great effect, and they will be under enormous pressure at the World Cup against pool rivals and scrummaging powerhouses England and Wales.

Michael Cheika’s men can expect another thorough examination in Mendoza this weekend against Argentina, a nation renowned for their scrummaging prowess.

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Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith

The All Blacks will be in the firing line when they take on the Springboks in Johannesburg on Saturday.

South Africa suffered a narrow loss to Australia’s Wallabies in their Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane at the weekend and New Zealand expect a backlash from their arch rivals at Emirates Airline Park.

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has left Dan Carter and Sonny Bill Williams out of his 31-man squad to travel to Johannesburg, saying it is important that he tests the mettle of other players in a high-profile Test in front of a sold-out crowd.

“We have to be brave to find out some answers to some questions and what better place to find out some questions about people – it is a heck of a pressure situation, isn’t it, against one of the best teams in the world,” he told Fairfax Media.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Springboks have called Flip van der Merwe into their squad but are sweating over the fitness of Victor Matfield and Marcell Coetzee for Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.

Both players were forced to leave the field last Saturday against Australia – Matfield with a hamstring strain and Coetzee with a knock to his knee. According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts a call on the players’ availability in Johannesburg will only be made later in the week.

“Both are doubtful to play this weekend, but luckily neither of them are in doubt to miss the Rugby World Cup,” said Roberts on Monday.

“Jannie du Plessis and Schalk Burger also picked up knocks in Brisbane on Saturday and we will reassess them at our 1st training session of the week, on Tuesday. Apart from a lot of bumps and bruises, the rest of the squad should be fit for selection.”

The other injured players in the Springbok squad, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn are not yet ready to be considered this weekend, Roberts added.

Pieter-Steph du Toit joined the squad in Johannesburg later on Monday and his progress will also be reassessed. With only 3 fit locks left in the squad, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to call up the experienced Van der Merwe.

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Matt Giteau

Matt Giteau

Wallabies utility back Matt Giteau will miss his team’s clash with Argentina in Mendoza on Saturday due to a sternum injury.

Precautionary scans on his nose and chest yesterday cleared Giteau of any serious damage, after he sustained his injuries in the 24 / 20 victory over South Africa in Brisbane at the weekend, but the Wallaby management have opted to rest the 32-year old for the next stage of the tournament.

Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika said although Giteau’s absence was a setback to the team, it would be better for him to rest after a tough Test against the Springboks.

“I know how desperate Matthew was to play and continue to contribute to this group over the next week, his leadership and presence off the field will be missed,” Cheika told the Australian Rugby Union’s official website.

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Will Genia

Will Genia

Rob Horne

Rob Horne

The Wallabies have announced a 31-man touring squad for the next Round of The Rugby Championship in Argentina on Saturday 25 July.

Will Genia and Rob Horne have both been ruled out of the squad due to injury, following Australia’s 4 point victory over the Springboks in Brisbane on the weekend.

Genia suffered bone bruising and minor cartilage damage to his knee, while Horne will return to Sydney with a calf strain.

Head coach Michael Cheika said, “It’s disappointing for Will and Rob to miss this upcoming Test. They have both made an outstanding contribution to the group this past 2 weeks, and will continue to remain part of the wider squad from afar.”

“Will is due to have some minor surgery this week and we are confident he will be available for selection for the Bledisloe Cup series.

“We have taken a conservative approach with Rob and the additional week off will serve him well going into the next stage of our campaign.

Nick Cummins and Nic White will join the squad as their replacements, with 2 further additions in hooker James Hanson and prop Tetera Faulkner.

They will return as official members of the 31-man squad, after being used as additional training squad players in the lead-up to the Springboks Test.

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Wallabies jubelant for the last gasp try by Tevita Kuridrani

Wallabies jubelant for the last gasp try by Tevita Kuridrani

 

The Australian Wallabies overturned a 13-point deficit to beat the South African Springboks 24 / 20 in an enthralling Rugby Championship contest in Brisbane on Saturday.

The TMO awarded Tevita Kuridrani a try after the final hooter, which capped a brave comeback by the hosts, who had trailed 20 / 7 early in the 2nd half.

The sides scored a try apiece late in the 1st half via Adam Ashley-Cooper and Eben Etzebeth but 2 early penalties from the boot of Handré Pollard meant the Springboks led 13 / 7 at the interval, which was a fair reflection of the opening 40 minutes.

The South African scrum was on top and their loose trio were doing well at the breakdown, although Israel Folau proved a threat every time he touched the ball for the hosts.

Test debutant Jesse Kriel announced his arrival on the international scene with a fabulous try early in the 2nd half but the visitors were made to do a huge amount of defending as Australia swung the territory and possession stats around.

A change in front-row personnel on both sides ended the Springboks’ set-piece dominance and the tandem threat of Michael Hooper and David Pocock helped the Wallabies hang onto the ball in the last half hour.

Hooper muscled his way over in the dying minutes to set up a grandstand finish, before Kuridrani managed to get the tip of the ball down on the chalk to snatch victory in dramatic style.

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