Australian coach Ewen McKenzie says the Wallabies have ”one hand” on the Mandela Challenge Plate as they gear up for a Cape Town clash against the Springboks – but admits the passionate home crowds could snatch the silverware away.
Australia edged out the Springboks 24-23 in their first clash of 2014 earlier this month in Perth.
“There’s no question – South Africa is hard to play in South Africa,” McKenzie said on Friday.
Warathahs coach Michael Cheika has defended Will Skelton’s work ethic after the giant lock was left out of the Wallabies tour party to build fitness in the NRC.
Skelton’s conditioning came under the spotlight on Wednesday when Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie said a decision had been made to get more games under his belt after playing only 106 minutes of rugby since the Super Rugby final.
This week’s from Fox Sports Rugby HQ feature the Top 5 schoolboy prodigies, including our own Johan Goosen.
Sir Graham Henry believes Steve Hansen’s All Blacks have the ingredients to carry out a historic defence of the Rugby World Cup at next year’s tournament in England.
Henry delivered New Zealand their second World Cup at home in 2011 following their victory as hosts of the inaugural tournament in 1987.
No team has won back-to-back titles and no All Blacks side has triumphed away from home.
But, a year out from next year’s tournament, Henry is backing the current side to buck history.
“For sure, but it won’t be easy,” warned Henry who oversaw the quarterfinal disaster in 2007 before redeeming himself.
The International Rugby Board have released a document detailing the necessary requirements for players to switch nationalities.
Players looking to represent another country will have to play in a minimum of four Sevens World Series legs for their conversion to be approved, along with adhering to other terms.
All players who apply this way will also have to take part in the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016.
The document also states that players will not be able to revert to their former Union should their application to play for a second Union fall through.
The results of today’s referendum in Scotland could have an impact on the British & Irish Lions.
If Scotland votes ‘Yes’, it may have to re-brand to reflect the altered political landscape and constitutional agreement. From their 1891 roots as the ‘British Isles’, today’s poll may see them eventually become simply ‘The Lions’.
With this in mind, Scrum Sevens looks back at seven great Scottish players who gave body, blood and sweat for the British & Irish Lions’ cause.
Jono Ross will lead the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the absence of suspended skipper Deon Stegmann when they play the Cell C Sharks in Pretoria on Saturday. Ross was the regular skipper in 2013 and will lead a team that include four new faces in Wiaan Liebenberg, Callie Visagie, Sampie Mastriet and Rudy Paige from the starting line-up that beat EP Kings last weekend.
Liebenberg comes in for Stegmann, a fit-again Visagie replaces Bongi Mbonambi and Mastriet comes in for Akona Ndungane on the wing. Paige moves up from the bench swopping places with Piet van Zyl.
Mbonambi edges out Bandise Maku.
Loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe and utility back Justin Geduld will make their first Absa Currie Cup starts for DHL Western Province in Saturday’s home fixture against Griquas (kick-off 15h00).
Notshe will wear the No.6 jersey at DHL Newlands in the absence of injured loose forward colleague Siya Kolisi, whilst SA Sevens star Geduld will start on the left-wing as part of the five changes to the DHL WP team this week.
All of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks, traditionally South Africa’s strongest franchises in Super Rugby, have reason to feel fairly upbeat about their 2015 ordinary-season schedules.
SANZAR revealed the roster for next season – the last before the competition expands yet again – this week, and at least on paper there seems a better chance of the SA challenge being better than this year’s (only the Sharks made the playoffs, and were losing semi-finalists) as the draw is largely kind to the domestic trio of superpowers.
Jake White’s Sharks were widely considered to have had a dream draw in 2014, given the opportunity it presented for them to build a tidy head of steam on South African soil – including a generous allocation of Kings Park games – before their overseas leg.
Today marks exactly 1 year before Rugby World Cup 2015 kicks off.
The loss of Odwa Ndungane last week is off-set by returning Springbok Lwazi Mvovo who has been released from the Springbok squad for the Cell C Sharks’ Currie Cup clash against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday (17:05 kick-off).
According to Sharks website editor, Michael Marnewick, he is one of a handful of changes in the backline, where a re-jigged back three and midfield change see plenty of pace introduced.
Paul Jordaan returns after a week’s rest and will partner last week’s debutant Andre Esterhuizen (and a try-scorer on debut) in a potentially very dangerous centre partnership that marries brute strength with pace and acceleration to burn.
Free State Cheetahs scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius is set to play his 100th Currie Cup match when his side tackle the EP Kings in Port Elizabeth on Saturday.
According to Volksblad, the 30-year-old played 18 Currie Cup games for the Falcons between 2006 and 2007. He then represented Griquas in 53 Cup games until 2011 before joining Free State, for who he has played 28 games.
The attacking minded scrumhalf also boasts 37 tries in his 99 career Currie Cup games.
The only other scrumhalf in South Africa to play more than 100 Currie Cup games is Tewis de Bruyn, who played 118 Cup games, representing the Leopards, SWD, Boland, Free State and Griffons.
World Cup-winning coach Graham Henry has committed the ultimate sin in rugby-mad New Zealand, suggesting it would not hurt the All Blacks if they lose a game before they defend the Webb Ellis trophy next year in England.
The All Blacks have lost just once since Steve Hansen succeeded Henry after the successful World Cup campaign in 2011, winning 32 of their 35 Tests. They have also drawn twice with Australia.
The Australian Rugby Union is attempting to lure the British and Irish Lions back Down Under for a money-spinning kick-off to their 2017 tour of New Zealand.
ARU chief executive Bill Pulver has revealed bold plans for a one-off Lions blockbuster which would go some of the way to recouping lost revenue from next year’s World Cup season.
The Lions provided a massive cash injection to the code last year when they played nine games around the country to packed houses, including a drought-breaking 2-1 Test series victory over the Wallabies.
Will Skelton is already triple-XL. The challenge is ensuring his supersub role doesn’t lead to another “X” or two, according to Wallabies coach Ewen McKenzie.
Concerns about dwindling fitness as a bench specialist, and the linked issue of not being a lineout jumper, were on Wednesday identified as the reasons behind Skelton being left out of the Wallabies’ squad to tour South Africa and Argentina next week.
The Wallabies quest for an unprecedented third Rugby World Cup crown is now just 12 months away with Thursday marking the one year countdown to the game’s showpiece event.
The eighth edition of the tournament will bring the game’s elite together in England and it will again be the All Blacks who start as red-hot favourites.
While the result wasn’t exactly what the Cell C Sharks would have liked, or what they worked so hard to achieve, the Currie Cup draw with Free State was certainly an improved performance, according to Sharks’ website editor Michael Marnewick.
“Our play improved quite a lot from the previous week, we certainly created more opportunities to score which means we are playing better rugby,” explains assistant coach Sean Everitt.
The Wallabies are set to face one of their own at Twickenham after Nick Cummins agreed to wear the black and white of the Barbarians against Australia in November.
Little more than two months after he left Australia for Japan’s Top League, Cummins has agreed to play for the invitational side in the November 1 fixture that kicks off the Wallabies five-week spring tour of Europe, his manager said.
Sir Graham Henry would pick Dan Carter for the next World Cup though admits the veteran first-five now needs to earn his starting position ahead of two young “world class” alternatives in Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett.
Today is a year-to-the-day before the Rugby World Cup tournament began at Twickenham with a match between England and Fiji.
The defending champion All Blacks will launch their campaign two days later with a match against Argentina at Wembley Stadium.
There’s no sign of a change in design, but the Rugby Football Union has issued an apology over the controversial new jersey England will debut against the All Blacks in London in November.
The jersey, manufactured by Canterbury, has drawn criticism for its use of rubber grips across the chest area in the shape of the hallowed Victoria Cross. They were intended to help deaden the impact of the ball and help with grip.
Former Australian cricket coach Mickey Arthur wants at least 30 per cent of players inducted into the Western Force’s new junior academy to go on to play Super Rugby.
And talented athletes from rival sports will also be targeted as the Perth-based franchise attempts to build the best development program in the world.
Blue Bulls captain and flank Deon Stegmann was suspended for 1 week on Wednesday for striking a player with his elbow in their Currie Cup Premier Division clash against the EP Kings last Friday.
His Blue Bulls team mate, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, meanwhile, was cleared of further sanction after receiving a Yellow Card in the match for charging into a ruck without using his arms.
Stegmann and Mbonambi both appeared before a SARU judicial committee in Pretoria on Tuesday after being sent to the sin-bin in their clash in Port Elizabeth.
Experienced and versatile loose forward Schalk Burger has been called up to the Springbok squad for the final two Tests in the Rugby Championship for the injured Francois Louw.
Burger, capped 71 times for the Springboks, will play for his Japanese club, Suntory, on Friday and join the squad in Cape Town as soon as possible thereafter.
When Steve Hansen says the laws of rugby need to be revised, modified and made easier to play, to referee, and to understand, the rugby world should take notice.
The All Blacks under Hansen’s adroit coaching are in an era even more golden than previous great eras.
They are not only playing winning rugby, they are playing rugby the way it is supposed to be played – with courage, physical strength, high skills and the intent to score tries while stopping opponents from doing so.
Former All Blacks star Carlos Spencer says time is against him pursuing a long professional boxing career, but admits he couldn’t resist the challenge of taking on Monty Betham in the money ranks.
After a handful of corporate fights, the 38-year-old Spencer will make his pro debut as the main undercard bout on December’s Fight For Life card in Hamilton.
Gone were the days of three two-minute rounds where Spencer’s victories included beating rugby league stars Awen Guttenbeil and Jarrod McCracken.
It was four three-minute rounds against Betham, the former Warriors hard man who came from a boxing family and had six pro fights to his name for five wins (three by knockout) with his only loss being a points decision to Shane Cameron in his last fight, three years ago.
Following an agreement between the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the provincial unions, wing Lwazi Mvovo has been released to play in the Currie Cup for the Cell C Sharks this weekend.
Mvovo will train with the Sharks this week and join the Springbok squad in Cape Town on Sunday evening.
Cardiff Blues and Ospreys are interested in signing Leigh Halfpenny if his Toulon contract is terminated.
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Halfpenny’s ongoing injuries could lead to his departure without playing a game since arriving for 2014-15.
Blues director and Wales legend Gareth Edwards said: “We’d welcome him with open arms.”
Ospreys coach Steve Tandy said: “We’d always be interested in the quality of Halfpenny, but it’s paper talk.”
The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.
Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.
Former player Dewey Swartbooi will temporarily act as head coach of the Boland Cavaliers for the remainder of the season.
This follows the suspension of Abe Davids as coach, pending the outcome of a disciplinary investigation into his alleged coaching qualification.
Davids, who is the brother of Boland president Francois, was appointed as Cavaliers head coach in September last year.
At the time of his appointment, Davids was given the opportunity to provide proof of the qualification, but the evidence has not been presented and inquiries to the IRB and SARU have confirmed that he did not have the IRB Level 3 coaching qualification at that stage.
USA Rugby CEO Nigel Melville, who famously captained England on his international debut against Australia in 1984, had a successful top flight coaching career with both Wasps and Gloucester, winning England’s domestic league and cup competitions. But when he left Kingsholm in 2005 he knew that he needed a new career challenge and a change of scenery.
“I couldn’t see myself coaching in the same type of role for another 10 years,” said Melville. “I’m interested in the development of sport and how organisations improve. The opportunity at USA Rugby came up – the new board was different to the average rugby board. I was sucked in by their ambition.”
Will Genia and Benn Robinson have been called up to the injury-hit Wallabies for their two-week tour of South Africa and Argentina.
With no less than 13 players ruled out through injury, McKenzie has turned to two assured Test performers to boost the Wallabies for two tough Tests on the road.
The Blues have confirmed the signing of former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan for next season.
Cowan played 51 tests for the All Blacks and 108 games for the Highlanders before a two-year stint with English club Gloucester.
The 32-year-old, who was playing for Tasman in the NPC, would fill the void left by Piri Weepu’s departure and compete with incumbent Bryn Hall.
“Jimmy brings competitiveness, plenty of experience and great game awareness which is something we were really looking for,” Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said.
“We’ve got some good young guys coming through in Bryn Hall, Ihaia West and Simon Hickey coupled with Dan Bowden coming back but we still felt we were lacking a bit of experience through that combination.
Sharks’ captain Tera Mtembu admits that the defending Currie Cup champions have slumped into a “desperate” position in their bid to defend the title.
The Durban-based side drew 30-30 with the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein last Saturday and must now win all of their four remaining games if they want to have any chance of reaching the semi-finals.
“I think the word we can use is desperate,” said Mtembu said on Tuesday.
“We’ve slipped into a position now that we have to win every game.
Springbok flank Francois Louw has been ruled out of the remainder of the Rugby Championship with a pinched nerve in his neck.
He picked up the injury during last Saturday’s Test against New Zealand in Wellington and the extent of the injury was confirmed after Louw went for scans and saw a specialist in Durban on Tuesday.
According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts, Louw will be out of action for approximately eight weeks and may be fit for South Africa’s November tour to Europe.
A decision on a replacement for Louw in the 30-man Springbok squad will be made in the coming day or two.
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal has demanded that Bryan Habana and Bakkies Botha quit the Springboks’ current Rugby Championship campaign and report for club duty.
Toulon recently lost 28-24 to Stade Francais, and currently sit at third on the Top 14 log.
Boudjellal is clearly not pleased with his side’s form at present, and has publicly lamented the club’s lengthy list of injuries as well as the absence of international stars like Habana, Botha, and Pumas flanker Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.