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AustraliaThe Australian Rugby Union relaxed eligibility rules to allow senior players at overseas franchises and clubs to represent the Wallabies.

The move, which is effective immediately, follows in the wake of recent revelations that Australia faces a mass exodus of stars after this year’s World Cup.

A host of players – such as Adam Ashley-Cooper, former skipper James Horwill, Will Genia and Sekope Kepu – are among those lured abroad by lucrative contracts in Europe and due to leave Australia after the World Cup in England in September and October.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Toulon have quashed rumours that they have signed Irish captain Paul O’Connell, but it is believed that the Reds & Wallaby flyhalf Quade Cooper has made the move.

It was reported that the French giants were chasing another Galácticos signing for the second row, with current legends Bakkies Botha and Ali WIlliams set to retire at the end of the season.

O’Connell’s contract with the IRFU expires in June of 2016, but it was speculated that Toulon were eager for him to be released from his contract to join them after the World Cup.

Since then, a strong statement has been released insisting ‘any alleged contacts between the player and the french club are pure speculation’.
Meanwhile, French paper L’Equipe has said that Toulon have captured the signature of the mercurial Cooper on a 2-year deal.

Cooper, if reports are to be believed, would join a burgeoning Australian contingent at Toulon with Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell already there.

Toulon have already brought in All Black Ma’a Nonu ahead of next season with Samu Manoa, Salesi Ma’afu and Napolioni Nalaga also joining the reigning European champions.

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Mike Fitzgerald

Mike Fitzgerald

Leicester Tigers have agreed a move for lock forward Mike Fitzgerald, who will join them from Super Rugby outfit the Chiefs in New Zealand.

Auckland-born second row Fitzgerald, 28, has won 2 Super Rugby titles with the Chiefs as well as playing ITM Cup rugby with the Manawatu Turbos.

At six-foot-five and 18 stone, he is noted for his hard work as well as a strong set-piece.

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Joe Pietersen

Joe Pietersen

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has named his team to tackle the Lions in a Super Rugby clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Joe Pietersen has been moved from flyhalf to fullback, with Willie du Plessis given the No 10 jersey.

With both Willie le Roux and Coenie van Wyk out with ankle injuries, Drotske decided to move the versatile Pietersen to fullback.

The latest news is that Coenie Ooshuizen has also pulled out with a back injury and he has been replaced at tighthead prop by Maks van Dyk.

In other changes to the team that lost 18 / 17 at home to the Reds last weekend, Danie Minnie starts at loosehead prop, replacing BG Uys who is suffering from a back injury. Caylib Oosthuizen comes in on the bench as prop cover.

Tienie Burger replaces Heinrich Brüssow at flank after the latter broke his arm against the Reds. Carel Greeff will provide loose forward cover from the bench.

With Du Plessis promoted to the starting team, Clayton Blommetjies also comes in on the bench.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

The DHL Stormers are keeping their build-up to Saturday’s massive Vodacom Super Rugby derby against the Vodacom Bulls under wraps, with no open training sessions or press conferences scheduled until the team announcement on Thursday, but there shouldn’t be any secret to what the biggest selection dilemma will be this week.

To put it simply, coach Allister Coetzee needs to find a way to fit 4 inform Springbok loose-forwards into a winning loose trio. Up until the match against the Western Force, not all the loose-forwards were firing, as Nizaam Carr wasn’t repeating the excellent form that earned him a national call-up last year.

However, against the Western Force the No 8 hit his straps and regained his old confidence, delivering a busy and energetic performance that should have taken him close to the man of the match award. The Stormers were unlucky not to score a try off one particularly impressive run from Carr.

The problem for Coetzee, if you could call it that, is that skipper Duane Vermeulen has now completed his rest period that started when he travelled home at the halfway point of the 4 match overseas tour, meaning that he effectively missed 3 games in all as he was also rested for the 1st. Vermeulen should return to the back of the scrum for the Newlands clash, which will mean that Carr will have to be accommodated elsewhere.

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Franco Smith

Franco Smith

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs have offered Shimlas coach Franco Smith the job as head coach of their Currie Cup side.

Ryno Opperman, chairperson of the Free State Cheetahs Company’s board, confirmed the news.

The 42-year-old Smith was earlier contracted as backline coach of the Free State Cheetahs’ Currie Cup team, but after leading Shimlas to their maiden Varsity Cup title, the Cheetahs want to promote him to head coach.

“A written offer is being drawn up for Franco to serve as Currie Cup head coach from the 2015 competition,” said Opperman.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

The Cheetahs have been dealt another blow with the news that Willie le Roux could face an extended period on the sidelines.

The Springbok fullback is suffering from an ankle injury, and it is reported that he could be out for up to 5 weeks.

Le Roux didn’t feature against the Reds last weekend as he was being rested, so it’s unclear when he suffered the injury.

His absence would be a major blow for the Bloemfontein outfit, which has already lost Heinrich Brüssow for the season to a broken arm.

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Jason Woodward

Jason Woodward

After suffering their 1st defeat of the campaign, the Hurricanes have taken a 2nd blow as Jason Woodward’s season was prematurely ended by a broken ankle.

The outside back suffered the injury playing club rugby for Upper Hutt against Oriental Rongotai in Wellington over the weekend.

While the former Rebel has just 3 Super Rugby appearances to his name this year, his loss will be a blow to the depth of the Hurricanes’ formidable backline that has set the competition alight in the 1st half of the season.

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Jerome Kaino

Jerome Kaino

Blues coach John Kirwan is set to give his most prolific player, captain Jerome Kaino, a break when they head to Christchurch this week.

The Blues, with just 1 win from 9 starts, are 2nd from last on the Combined Log.

However, they have build some great momentum in recent weeks – their maiden season win (16 / 14) over the Brumbies was followed by a close loss (24 / 30) against Highlanders in Dunedin at the weekend.

It was the Blues’ 5th losing bonus point – for finishing within 7 points or less of the opposition – and indication that they are much better than their lowly position on the table suggest.

However, Kirwan won’t be tempted to push the All Black loose forward, Kaino, in another game – despite the desperate need or another win.

He knows they are faced with a massive hurdle in the form of an equally desperate Crusaders team in Christchurch on Saturday.

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Aaro Mauger

Aaro Mauger

The Crusaders, a few weeks after dishing out a performance that caused the Cell C Sharks to apologise to their fans, have now had to do the same.

It was Pat Lambie, and then Gary Gold, who publicly apologised to the Kings Park faithful for the Sharks after a drubbing received at the hands of the New Zealanders.

This time around, Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger has said that it hurt to see people walk out of their game against the Chiefs last weekend.

Fans streamed out of AMI Stadium before the final whistle in their 9 / 26 defeat at the hands of the Chiefs.

Mauger said that, coupled with some angry posts on social media, really affected the team.

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Peter Betham

Peter Betham

Australia and Waratahs wing Peter Betham has agreed a move to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the Super Rugby Season.

The 26-year-old is currently playing Super Rugby with defending champions the Waratahs and on Saturday he scored 2 tries in Wellington as they became the 1st team to defeat the Hurricanes this season.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Betham was brought up in Sydney and had spells with the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels as well as with the Waratahs.

He made his Wallabies debut in a Bledisloe Cup fixture against the All Blacks in 2013.

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Michael Hawker

Michael Hawker

The Australian Rugby Union (ARU) has announced a AUS $ 6.3-million loss for 2014.

Releasing its annual report for last year on Monday the ARU said it had achieved an underlying business surplus of AUS $ 700 000.00 but an overall deficit.

This, “in a year that focused on driving a sustainable future for the game, through direct grants to member unions and the delivery of national programs.”

The ARU said it would now seek feedback from rugby fans and stakeholders to “drive its next 5 year strategy and future investment at all levels of the game”.

ARU chairman Michael Hawker said the process to collate feedback is already underway, with CEOs of member unions and Super Rugby clubs taking part in a strategy workshop.

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Kees Lensing

Kees Lensing

Former Vodacom Bulls prop and Namibian captain, Kees Lensing, has signed a 2 year contract to become a scrum coach to a leading Japanese club.

Lensing, who has been helping out at the Tuks Academy since retiring as a rugby player, will head abroad to become the scrum coach for Japanese club Canon Eagles in Tokyo.

Canon play in the Japanese top league and have enlisted Lensing as the 1st step to trying to win their league. The club is also likely to target a number of Springboks to join them after the Rugby World Cup.

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WhistleSANZAR has names the Match Officials for Round 11 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

The weekend sees 7 matches, with 2 on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 1 on Sunday.

The Cell C Sharks have a BYE weekend.

On Friday referee Angus Gardner starts off the action at 09:35 SA Time in the game between the Chiefs and Western Force in Hamilton. Also on Friday, in a 15 minutes delayed start due to Anzac Centenary Commemorative celebrations, the Brumbies host the Highlanders in Canberra at 11:55 SA Time, where Matt O’Brian will be in charge of matters.

On Saturday the Crusaders host the Blues at 09:35 SA Time in Christchurch and Chris Pollock will have the whistle. Thereafter, also 15 minutes delayed due to Anzac Day celebrations it is the turn of Rohan Hoffmann in the game between the Waratahs and Melbourne Rebels, at 11:55 SA Time, in Sydney.

Later in the day and in South Africa the Emirates Lions host the Toyota Cheetahs at 17:05 SA Time in Johannesburg, where Jaco van Heerden will preside. In a massive derby in Cape Town at 19:10 SA Time, Jaco Peyper will be in charge in the game between the DHL Stormers and Vodacom Bulls.

On Sunday at 08:05 SA Time, Nick Briant takes charge of the final game of the Round, between the Reds and Hurricanes in Brisbane.

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Super RugbyThe DHL Stormers finished their Australasian tour with a 2nd win while the Vodacom Bulls consolidated their position at the Top of the South African Conference as Vodacom Super Rugby 2015 entered the 2nd half of the season.

However, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks both lost at home as the teams from Pretoria and Cape Town opened up a bit of a gap in the local conference and the Vodacom Bulls moved up to 2nd on the overall log.

The DHL Stormers were made to work hard for a scrappy win in Perth on Saturday afternoon as they defeated the struggling Western Force by 13 / 6, the only 5-pointer of the encounter a Penalty Try to the visitors after yet another superb scrum. The win concluded their best Australasian tour in 3 years.

Back home, the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks delivered a typically hard local derby in Durban with the 3-time champions from Pretoria ultimately winning by 17 / 10, with each team scoring a solitary try.

The Toyota Cheetahs unfortunately could not build on their good win in Perth last weekend when they were beaten by 18 / 17 by the Reds in Bloemfontein.

Down Under, the defending champions – the Waratahs and the Chiefs recorded impressive victories in Wellington and Christchurch respectively.

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SpringboksThe national selectors have confirmed the Junior Springbok match-23 to face a strong Varsity Cup Dream Team in Stellenbosch on Tuesday evening. The match will kick-off at 18:30 SA Time at the Danie Craven Stadium and will be televised live on SuperSport 1.

4 Players who represented the Junior Springboks at the 2014 Junior World Championship in New Zealand – Warrick Gelant (fullback), Dan du Preez (flank), Abongile Nonkontwana (lock) and Joseph Dweba (hooker) – will again line up for the Junior Boks.

The historic clash, which marks the 1st of its kind between the sides, is an important part of the Junior Springboks’ preparation for the newly named World Rugby Under 20 Championship which will be hosted in Italy in June.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Vodacom Bulls halfbacks Rudy Paige and Jacques-Louis Potgieter will not be considered for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the DHL Stormers in Cape Town due to injury.

Paige has a grade 1 medial ligament tear and will be out of action for at least 2 weeks, whilst Potgieter have a grade 1 hamstring tear and will be ready to return to action on 4 May, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed on Monday.

Burger Odendaal (hamstring), Bjorn Basson (knee), Flip van der Merwe (knee) and Arno van Wyk (bronchitis) sat out in training on Monday, with Odendaal only returning Thursday.

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Emirates LionsThe Golden Lions Rugby Union medical staff have released a medical report, ahead of the Emirates Lions’ match against the Toyota Cheetahs and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Vodacom Cup clash with the Leopards on Saturday.

Unfortunately Malcolm Marx (ankle), Steph de Wit (shoulder), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (ankle) and Martin Muller (calf) are all unavailable for selection this week but are still involved in intensive recovery programmes and are making progress.

On a positive note, Mark Richards (concussion), Courtnall Skosan (ankle), Sampie Mastriet (ankle) and Stokkies Hanekom (knee) have all been cleared and are available for selection for either the Emirates Lions or Xerox Golden Lions teams.

Kobus van Wyk

Kobus van Wyk

Right wing Kobus van Wyk is the only Stormers injury worry after Saturday’s Super Rugby win over the Force, having twisted his knee.

“Kobus went over his knee, it was an awkward sort of twist on his knee… but we will know more over the next 24 hours and will be able to say for sure when we get home,” said coach Allister Coetzee.

Accoridng to the Stormers’ website, the Stormers left Perth for South Africa on Sunday evening (local time). They arrived in Cape Town, via Johannesburg, on Monday morning (local time).

The players did not train on Monday, before starting preparations for next weekend’s home Bulls match (kick-off 19:10 SA Time) on Tuesday.

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DHL StormersBullsThe Bulls may hold a 2-point lead over the Stormers at the Top of the South African conference, but probably still need victory more than their hosts do in Saturday’s spicy Super Rugby derby at Newlands (19:10 SA Time).

Put it this way: if the Stormers repeat their 1st-round triumph at Loftus (29 / 17 then) they will become extremely firm favourites to win the conference.

As things stand, the Capetonians have 7 ordinary-season matches remaining, with 5 of them at home and only 2 away, whereas for the Bulls it is exactly the other way around – 2 at home and 5 away, including the formidable 4-game tour abroad.

So even if the Stormers lose to the old enemy on Saturday, they would still probably fancy their chances of leapfrogging the Loftus-based outfit at a later stage of the run-in.

Bear in mind that last season the Bulls failed to win a single fixture overseas, so they may require at least 2 this time if they are to thwart the Stormers’ own quest to end the local standings atop the pile.

At least 2 of the Australasian challenges facing the Bulls pretty soon will come from teams similarly pressing hard to make the playoff cut, in the form of the Chiefs and Brumbies (the other games will be against the Blues and Melbourne Rebels).

So it doesn’t take Einstein to work out that the Stormers’ remaining schedule – their own overseas trip now completed with a tidy enough haul of 10 points from a possible 20 – is by some way the more favourable.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Coach Gary Gold, Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby, has said his suspended players owe the team a lot when they return from their respective bans on the Sharks’ overseas tour.

Captain Bismarck du Plessis has officially served out his 4-week ban as of 18 April. His final suspension weekend was against the Bulls last Saturday.

Du Plessis will be available for the 1st game against the Highlanders in a fortnight, after the Sharks BYE this week.

Centre Frans Steyn’s ban comes to an end on 3 May, which would mean that the Springbok would be unavailable for the 1st tour match.

Coach Gold, looking ahead to their tour after a loss to the Bulls on the weekend, was hopeful that the return of his 2 super stars would allow them a chance to right the wrongs they have caused the team.

“I certainly hope that it will be a shot at redemption for those guys coming back,” Gold said of both Du Plessis and Steyn.

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European Rugby Champions Cup2 Time defending champions Toulon will bid for an unprecedented hat-trick of European titles against Clermont after beating Leinster 25 / 20 following extra-time in Sunday’s Champions Cup semi-final.

Toulon’s Welsh fullback Leigh Halfpenny kicked 6 penalties and converted a Bryan Habana interception try for a personal haul of 20 points in an ultimately thrilling match that went to extra-time after finishing 12 / 12 after regulation time.

Leinster had Ian Madigan to thank for 5 penalties, while Sean O’Brien scored a late try that made for a nerve-racking climax.

Turnovers, ruck penalties and handling errors saw out a tight if uninspiring, pressure-laden 1st-half during which Toulon failed to convert their territorial domination into points.

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Vodacom CupThere were tries aplenty as the Vodacom Cup moved up a gear with the quarter-finals moving into sight for the 16 teams vying for the title.

In the South Section, the SWD Eagles probably delivered the biggest upset as they outplayed the Cell C Sharks XV in George on Friday evening, winning comfortably by 36 / 13 after a superb 2nd half performance where they scored 29 unanswered points.

GWK Griquas showed they will not let go of their title without a proper fight as they completely outclassed the Boland Cavaliers by 62 / 19 in Velddrif on Saturday afternoon, while the Toyota Free State XV beat the EP Kings by 50 / 45 in an extraordinary match in Bloemfontein where the scorers with still tied at 42 / 42 with only 5 minutes remaining on the clock.

DHL Western Province were predictably too strong for the Border Bulldogs as they cemented their position at the top of the South Section log with a 34 / 6 win on Saturday afternoon.

In the North Section, last weekend’s log leaders, the Xerox Golden Lions, enjoyed a BYE and was overtaken at the top of the standings by the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who beat the Down Touch Griffons by 40 / 21 in Pretoria on Friday afternoon.

The Steval Pumas’ 31 / 23 victory over the Leopards XV in Potchefstroom on Friday means the race to the top of the North Section log is now effectively between 3 teams.

The FNB Welwitschias recorded their 1st win of the season when they beat the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 24 / 17 in Windhoek on Saturday afternoon.

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Heinrich Brüssow

Heinrich Brüssow

The Toyota Cheetahs suffered a massive blow when flank Heinrich Brüssow suffered an arm injury in their defeat to the Reds in Bloemfontein at the weekend.

The openside flank left the field in the 14th minute of the match at the Free State Stadium, and coach Naka Drotske has since confirmed that the Springbok has broken his arm.

More clarity about the severity of the injury will be known on Monday, but Brüssow will in all likelihood sit out the rest of the competition.

Fullback Coenie van Wyk also suffered an ankle injury and according to reports, is likely to be ruled out for about 6 weeks.

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Aaron Cruden, injured on the weekend and out for the season

Aaron Cruden, injured on the weekend and out for the season

The Chiefs and All Blacks were delivered devastating news in the context of their 2015 campaigns on Monday when it was confirmed Aaron Cruden had ruptured his left anterior cruciate ligament.

The star playmaker will visit a surgeon on Wednesday to arrange a knee re-construction which is expected to keep him sidelined for 6 months.

In a brief statement issued on Monday afternoon, the Chiefs confirmed that Cruden would undergo traditional surgery “given Aaron’s young age and long-term career prospects.”

Cruden’s Super Rugby season is definitely over and his Rugby World Cup has been thrown into doubt as even a best-case recovery within that 6 month window would only see him fit in the final fortnight of the tournament.

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James Broadhurst

James Broadhurst

James Broadhurst has decided he likes what’s going on at the Hurricanes and is keen to stay put.

The 27-year-old Taranaki lock has re-signed with the club for another 2 seasons and said there was no team he’d rather be with until the end of 2017.

“I love this team, I love being a Hurricane, and in a way I see the next couple of years as a real opportunity to step up.

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Matt Hodgson

Matt Hodgson

Captain Matt Hodgson is set to make his return to Super Rugby after being named in the Force’s 25-man travelling squad for its 2-match New Zealand tour.

Hodgson sustained a hamstring injury in the Force’s final pre-season fixture against the Asia Pacific Dragons, and has been unavailable through the 1st half of the competition.

The 33-year-old will resume the captaincy of the squad, coinciding with the news that interim captain Sam Wykes will be unable to travel with the team after succumbing to a foot injury suffered in Saturday night’s match against the Stormers.

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Nicolás Sánchez

Nicolás Sánchez

Pumas flyhalf Nicolás Sánchez is the latest player to sign with the Argentina Rugby Union ahead of their entry into Super Rugby next year.

The 26-year-old former Bordeaux Begles and Toulon playmaker has signed a 3-year contract starting on 1 January and making him available until at least the end of 2018.

The deal was sealed at Sánchez’s current club, Tucuman Lawn Tennis Club, which is celebrating it’s centenary year.

Sánchez joins fellow Pumas Joaquín Tuculet and Agustín Creevy in committing to their national union despite having enjoyed successful and lucrative stints in Europe.

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Nicholas Tooth

Nicholas Tooth

An Australian rugby player has died from a head injury sustained in a tackle during a club match in New South Wales at the weekend, local media reported on Monday.

Nicholas Tooth was visiting his home town in the New England region of the state for the weekend and accepted an offer to turn out for the Quirindi Lions on Saturday.

The 25-year-old struck his head on the shoulder of an opponent in a tackle and after treatment on the pitch was airlifted to hospital in Newcastle, where he died on Sunday.

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  • Stormersboy 26 Apr 2015, 19:23 SAST - I suppose such a wide selection says more about the players not included than those who are, a couple of...
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