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Australian Rugby

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Super RugbyIt is Round 15 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 22 May and 5 games on Saturday 23 May.

The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.

There are 2 South African teams in action on Friday, one in each game of the day – the Chiefs against the Vodacom Bulls in Rotorua at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) and thereafter the Reds vs Cell C Sharks in Brisbane at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT). The battling Sharks play their last game on tour, whereas it will be the Bulls 2nd tour match.

On Saturday morning the Blues host the Hurricanes in Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Crusaders in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

In Perth, Western Australia at 13:45 SA Time (19:45 AWST, 21:45 AEST, 23:45 NZ Time, 11:45 GMT) the Western Force host the Highlanders.

There is only 1 South African derby on the weekend, that between the Toyota Cheetahs vs Emirates Lions in Bloemfontein at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time). Thereafter the DHL Stormers host the Melbourne Rebels in Cape Town at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ time, 03:10 AEST).

The Chiefs vs Bulls match should go the way of the home team but the game between the 2 bottom-dwelling sides, the Reds and Cell C Sharks, it is difficult to predict a winner… my money, strangely enough is on a Sharks win.

The game between the Blues vs Hurricanes should only ever go one way, and that is heavily in favour of the Hurricanes, even although it is away from home for them.

The Waratahs vs Crusaders game should be a cracker, with both teams rather desperate to get or hold a position in the Top 6, but it could go either way… so I would lean towards the home team for this one.

The Highlanders should properly dispatch the Western Force in perth.

The Lions are strong favourites to beat the Cheetahs, specially in light of the fact that it was announced that both Naka Drotske and Os du rand will leave the franchise at the end of May as well as considering the Cheetahs dismal form in 2015.

The DHL Stormers should outlast and out-defend a gutsy Melbourne Rebels side in Cape Town in the last match of the weekend.

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Super RugbyCan the Vodacom Bulls hang on to their Top spot in the South African Vodacom Super Rugby Conference or will the DHL Stormers regain the lead?

That question will be answered this weekend when all 5 South African teams take to the field with the competition inching closer to the last stretch before the playoffs start.

The Vodacom Bulls can cement their position at the Top with a victory over the Chiefs in Rotorua on Friday morning, but it won’t be easy as the team from Waikato sits on a 10-match winning streak at home against opposition from South Africa.

The Cell C Sharks’ final tour match, against the Reds in Brisbane, is the 2nd match on Friday morning where the KwaZulu-Natalians will aim to break a 6-match losing streak – something that’s only happened once in their history.

On Saturday afternoon, the Toyota Cheetahs host the Emirates Lions in the only local derby of the Round. The team from Johannesburg can still make the playoffs, but then they have to win in Bloemfontein this weekend.

The final match in Round 15 is in Cape Town at DHL Newlands, where the DHL Stormers have a good opportunity to regain the lead in the South African Conference against the Melbourne Rebels. It won’t be easy as the Rebels have done well this season, but they’ve never won in South Africa and the Capetonians will want to keep it that way.

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James Hanson

James Hanson

Reds hooker James Hanson will leave the club at the conclusion of the 2015 Super Rugby season, after signing with the Melbourne Rebels.

Hanson made his Reds debut in 2010 and has played 80 games for the Brisbane based side. He has also played 9 Tests for the Wallabies since making his debut for Australia in 2012.

A product of Brisbane’s St. Joseph’s College Gregory Terrace and Premier Grade club University of Queensland, Hanson progressed through the Queensland pathway after 1st representing the state at Schoolboys level in 2005. He joined the Reds in 2008 as a member of their academy squad and made his Super Rugby debut 2 years later.

Reds head coach Richard Graham said: “James and Saia Fainga’a have jostled for the starting role over the last couple of seasons. ”

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John Connolly

John Connolly

The Reds have played down the role of John Connolly in their miracle recovery and win over the Melbourne Rebels last week

In fact they put their much-needed victory over the Melbourne-based franchise down to the humbling they received in Christchurch just over a fortnight ago.

The Reds have been struggling to get out of the basement in Super Rugby, and after their 17 / 58 crushing at the hands of the 7-time champions, the Crusaders, the Queensland Rugby Union sent an SOS to former coach and Wallaby legend John Connolly.

Since Connolly’s arrival, last week, the Reds miraculously bounced back from their dreadful performances with a style of play that showed a lack of direction.

However, forwards coach Nick Stiles, almost suspiciously, played down Connolly’s influence in the Reds’ revival.

He put it down to the players not wanting a repeat episode of the Christchurch humiliation.

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Tatafu Polota-Nau

Tatafu Polota-Nau

Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau, who said earlier this month he might retire if he was badly concussed again, will be rested from Super Rugby for another 3 weeks to ensure he has fully recovered from a head knock.

The hard-running No 2 suffered the latest in a long string of concussions in the Waratahs’ win over the Brumbies in Canberra on 1 May and has not played since.

Michael Cheika, both Waratahs and Australia coach this year, said the 29-year-old would not play against the Crusaders this weekend or on the 2-match tour of South Africa that follows the 2014 Super Rugby final re-match.

“There is no point in taking him to South Africa and having doubts over him,” Cheika told reporters on Tuesday.

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Sefanaia Naivalu

Sefanaia Naivalu

Electrifying wing Sefanaia Naivalu is the only injury concern for the Melbourne Rebels as they prepare to face the DHL Stormers on Saturday.

Naivalu, who scored a double last week during the Rebels loss to the Reds in Brisbane, is facing a test before being declared fit to play against the Stormers in Cape Town at Newlands.

The speedster suffered a head knock against the Reds on Friday in Brisbane, and will follow concussion protocols this week.

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WhistleAfter a pivotal Round of fixtures played at high intensity, SANZAR has had the opportunity review each match and announce its Match Official appointments for the forthcoming weekend.

SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray said, “While we acknowledge that the match officials cannot get it right all of the time, there are some basic standards that have simply not been upheld over this past weekend, resulting in some disappointing decisions and selection consequences.

“A thorough and robust system is in place whereby the development and performance of each match official is reviewed by SANZAR and its member unions on a daily basis and like any athlete participating in elite competition, our referees are accountable to performance levels for the competition.

“Appointments are made weekly based on performance reviews from the previous round but also includes an evaluation of the current form of each official over the term of the competition.

“We have completed our reviews from the weekend and have followed strong internal processes as we prepare our team to reach their physical, mental and technical peaks as we head into the critical last four rounds of the regular season and Super Rugby Finals Series.

“Public confidence in match officials is essential to the ongoing success of our product and we will continue striving to enhance the quality and accountability of refereeing across all SANZAR competitions.”

This next weekend’s Round 15 sees 7 matches, with 2 on Friday 22 May and 5 on Saturday 23 May.

The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.

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Super RugbyIt was a tough Round of Vodacom Super Rugby for the 4 South African franchises in action this weekend as none of them managed to win their matches against Australasian opposition.

It was the 1st time in more than 8 years that 4 South African teams lost to sides from the other side of the Indian Ocean on 1 weekend.

In Round 9 in 2007, on 30 and 31 March, the Toyota Cheetahs, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls all came up short in tour matches Down Under, against the Highlanders, Western Force and Hurricanes respectively, while the Emirates Lions were beaten at home by the Brumbies.

Round 6 in 2008 and Round 8 in 2014 saw 3 South African defeats offset by a solitary draw against opposition from Australasia.

Just more than a month ago, in Round 9, 4 Australian sides lost on 1 weekend – 3 of them against South African opponents – when the Western Force went down to the Toyota Cheetahs in Perth, the Waratahs lost to the DHL Stormers in Sydney, the Reds were beaten by the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria and the Brumbies came up short against the Blues in Auckland.

A similar scenario with New Zealand teams happened 15 years ago, in Round 12 in 2000, when all 5 of their sides lost to teams from South Africa and Australia.

On Friday morning, the Vodacom Bulls had to be happy with a losing bonus point in their 1st tour match as they went down by 23 / 18 to the Blues in Auckland.

Saturday kicked off with the Cell C Sharks losing in Sydney to the defending champion Waratahs (33 / 18), while the Emirates Lions lost in Johannesburg to the Brumbies (30 / 20) and the Highlanders were too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (45 / 24).

The DHL Stormers had a bye this weekend, as they did way back in 2007 when their 4 South African counterparts also lost.

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Jono Lance

Jono Lance

Out of favour Waratahs’ utility back Jono Lance will join the Western Force for 2016, after signing with the franchise for 2 seasons.

Lance, who can play flyhalf, centre and fullback, hasn’t been featuring at the ‘Tahs playing behind Wallabies such as Bernard Foley, Kurtley Beale, Israel Folouu and Adam Ashley-Cooper, and is ready to play a starting role in Super Rugby.

He was a starting member of the Queensland Reds’ 2011 Super Rugby championship-winning team, before joining the Waratahs ahead of the 2014 season.

The 24-year-old son of former Canberra Raiders rugby league captain, Dean Lance, has represented the Australian Under 20 (2010) and Sevens squads (2010 / 2011).

Lance says he’s excited to have the opportunity to represent the Force from next season.

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Melbourne RebelsImperium GroupThe Australian Rugby Union (ARU) and Victoria Rugby Union confirmed they have entered into an exclusive Heads of Agreement with Imperium Group, a Melbourne-based investment company, to acquire all shares in the Melbourne Rebels Rugby Union Limited, the company that controls the Melbourne Rebels.

“We’ve been discussing the sale of the Melbourne Rebels to ICG in recent months and we’re pleased to have reached agreement on the key terms of the deal,” ARU CEO Bill Pulver said.

“We are now progressing legal documentation and detailed due diligence is underway to finalise the transaction.

“We expect a formal transfer of the company will be completed by 30 June 2015.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 14 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 15 May and 4 games on Saturday 16 May.

The DHL Stormers, Crusaders and Western Force have BYE weekends.

There are 2 lip-licking South African games against overseas teams on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions vs Brumbies in Johannesburg as well as between the Toyota Cheetahs vs Highlanders in Bloemfontein. The battling Cell C Sharks will play their 3rd match on tour against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday morning.

On Friday, the Blues hoost the Vodacom Bulls in Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) before the Reds host the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane, at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Hurricanes host the Chiefs in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Cell C Sharks in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

Over to South Africa and next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, 03:05 NZ Time), the Emirates Lions host the Brumbies in Johannesburg, before the Toyota Cheetahs host the Highlanders in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ time, 03:10 AEST).

The Blues vs Bulls match is a difficult one to call but considering the Blues form this season the Bulls should be favourites to take it on Friday, and the Reds vs Melbourne Rebels is also difficult to call but considering the Reds are hitting rock-bottom and digging, the Rebels should take this one away from home.

The game between the Hurricanes and Chiefs should be a cracker and one tends to lean towards the Hurricanes to take it at home. The Waratahs should take the game against the Cell C Sharks in Sydney.

Regarding the 2 games in South Africa, the Emirates Lions would have to play hell-for-leather to beat a very strong Brumbies side but they are supremely fit and motivated and this is a game to look forward to, it could go either way. In Bloemfontein the Highlanders should be too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks will be going all-out to change their recent fortunes in Australasia in this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action.

Back home, the Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs will be facing opposition from Down Under in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein respectively.

The Vodacom Bulls kick off their tour of New Zealand and Australia against the Blues in Auckland on Friday morning. The men from Pretoria have lost their last 7 matches Down Under, their last victory incidentally coming against the 3-time champions, the Blues, at Eden Park.

The Cell C Sharks will be looking to snap a 5-match losing streak when they take on the defending champion Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, a daunting prospect when one considers the Durbanites have not won in New South Wales in 15 years.

On Saturday afternoon, the Emirates Lions host the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The last 2 encounters between these sides – in 2011 and 2012 – were won by the visiting team.

The final match of the weekend is Saturday evening at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein between the Toyota Cheetahs and the dangerous Highlanders. The men from Central South Africa will be looking for their 1st home win ever over the Otago-based side.

The DHL Stormers have a BYE this weekend.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Waratahs’ Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro’s is finally cleared to travel outside Australia.

It was confirmed on Thursday that the Australian Department of Immigration finally approved a temporary work (long stay activity) visa (subclass 401).

It ended a diabolical state of affairs that effectively forced the defending champions to use separate home and away wings in pursuit of their title defence this year.

The Waratahs confirmed in a statement that Naiyaravoro will be available to travel with the team to South Africa later this month – where they will play the Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs – pending approval of an entry visa by South African government.

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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

Springbok Jacques Potgieter won’t be facing his new team, the Cell C Sharks, when they face the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

Potgieter, who has been nicknamed ‘Jackpot’ by his Waratahs teammates, has been ruled out of the Super Rugby Round 14 encounter with an ankle injury.

The Waratahs head into the match up coming off a disappointing loss to bottom of the conference Western Force on the road.

The Sharks are coming off a game that ended in similar fashion.

The Sharks played terrific rugby in their game against the Hurricanes last week but ultimately lost.

As usual, the talk around the paddock at training was all about the forwards.

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Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon

3 Internationals return to the Melbourne Rebels’ matchday 23 this week, as head coach Tony McGahan named his side to face the Reds at Ballymore on Friday in Round 14 of Super Rugby.

Wallaby loose forward Sean McMahon and All Black centre Tamati Ellison are injected straight into the starting lineup after each missing last week’s 42 / 22 win against the Blues with minor injuries, while Wallaby tighthead prop Laurie Weeks is named on the bench after recovering from a knee injury sustained in Round 7 against the Hurricanes in Wellington.

McGahan said it was pleasing to welcome back the trio.

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BrumbiesAllan Alaalatoa makes his 1st career start while Matt Toomua returns to the fray at No 12 when the Brumbies take on the Emirates Lions this Saturday in Johannesburg.

Needing a win to stay in finals contention, the match proves as vital in the context of both side’s seasons as the play-offs edge closer each week.

Alaalatoa has featured heavily off the bench this season and played the bulk of last week’s game at loosehead prop, but Saturday’s start provides the young prop with an opportunity to stable the scrum which was heavily penalised against the Stormers.

The pair’s inclusion pushes JP Smith and Robbie Coleman from the starting side to the replacements bench.

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Chris Kuridrani

Chris Kuridrani

Queensland Super Rugby side the Reds have signed powerful winger Chris Kuridrani and emerging scrumhalf James Tuttle for the 2016 season and beyond.

Kuridrani has signed for a further 2 seasons, while Tuttle has committed for 3 years.

Kuridrani, the younger brother of Crusaders winger Nemani Nadolo and son of former Reds winger Isei Siganiyavi, was one of the star backs for Brisbane City in the inaugural season of the National Rugby Championship.

He has started for the Reds in 6 of his 8 appearances this season, after making his Super Rugby debut in 2014 in the Reds’ final game of the season against the Waratahs.

He also starred for Brisbane City in the 2014 NRC, scoring 6 tries and starting in all of the side’s matches during its championship-winning season. Kuridrani said he was looking forward to continuing to develop over the next 2 years.

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the names of the Match Officials for for Round 14 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

3 Teams have BYE weekends, namely the Crusaders, Western Force and DHL Stormers.

There are 6 matches on the weekend, 2 on Friday 15 May and 4 on Saturday 16 May.

The action is kicked off in Auckland where the Blues host the Vodacom Bulls at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), officiated by Mike Fraser. Also on Friday at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT) the Reds host the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane where the game will be controlled by Andrew Lees.

On Saturday first up it will be the Hurricanes vs Chiefs in Wellington, blown by Glen Jackson and the game starts at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT). The match is followed by the clash between the Waratahs and Cell C Sharks in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT), refereed by Rohan Hoffmann.

Later on Saturday in South Africa the Emirates Lions host the Brumbies in Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST) and the game will be handled by Jaco Peyper. The last game of the Round is in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ Time) where the Toyota Cheetahs host the Highlanders and the game will be blown by Stuart Berry.

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Jake McIntyre

Jake McIntyre

Jake McIntyre becomes the latest inductee to the Reds’ flyhalf club, when he makes his Super Rugby debut against the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane on Friday.

A member of the Reds elite development squad and the starting flyhalf for the majority of Brisbane City’s title run in the inaugural National Rugby Championship, McIntyre’s inclusion is 1 of 2 changes and a number of positional shakeups – following last week’s Super Rugby loss to the Crusaders.

McIntyre, who has been unavailable for the majority of the 2015 season due to off-season knee surgery, will follow other Reds flyhalf selections like Quade Cooper (still injured), Karmichael Hunt (back from injury) and Nick Frisby (struggling with concussion).

Hunt returns to the starting line-up, after overcoming an adductor strain, to feature in the centres for the 1st time this season.

He will start at outside centre, with Samu Kerevi shifting to inside centre.

Coach Richard Graham has also shuffled the outside backs, with James O’Connor shifting to fullback and Lachie Turner moving to the wing.

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Matt Toomua

Matt Toomua

Brumbies flyhalf Matt Toomua joined the Canberra-based outfit ahead of their Super Rugby clash against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this Saturday.

According to the Sydney Morning Herald, Toomua arrived in Johannesburg on Tuesday.

Toomua has missed the past 4 weeks with an ankle injury but is set to be injected straight into the starting side to play the Lions.

Despite an agonising 25 / 24 loss to the DHL Stormers at Newlands last weekend, the Brumbies (33 points) still hold a 1-point lead in the Australian conference ahead of the Waratahs (32 points) and the Melbourne Rebels (29 points).

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Super RugbySupporters in Johannesburg and Cape Town were made to worry 1st before smiling as the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers put away their Australasian opponents in an exciting round of Vodacom Super Rugby action.

The Cell C Sharks, in their 2nd match of their tour Down Under, also showed a lot of character and played with vigour, but in the end it wasn’t enough against a fired-up Hurricanes side in Wellington.

The table-toppers from New Zealand beat the Durbanites by 32 / 24 on Saturday morning but with less than 10 minutes to go, the result was still in the balance.

On Saturday afternoon, both the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers had to fight their way back into contention after listless 1st-half performances.

The Gautengers trialled by 20 / 3 at the break, but played sublime rugby in the 2nd half and in the end beat the Highlanders by 28 / 23 in a very exciting match.

The excitement levels were not as high in Cape Town, where the DHL Stormers overturned a 16 / 9 halftime deficit into a 25 / 24 victory over the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies.

The 1st penalty goal of the match by Demetri Catrakilis, who kicked 20 points for the DHL Stormers, saw him move to 28 consecutive successful kicks at goal this season.

However, Catrakilis missed the next one, which would’ve seen him improve the record to 29. As it stands, the DHL Stormers flyhalf now shares the record with former Capetonian pivot Peter Grant (this is since 2002).

The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs had byes this weekend.

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John Connolly

John Connolly

Former Reds and Wallabies coach John Connolly will joined the Reds’ coaching staff as a consultant this Monday, in advance of their home game against the Melbourne Rebels.

Connolly will be contracted to the Reds for the remainder of the 2015 Super Rugby season and for the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Connolly has almost 20 years of experience coaching at the elite level and was head coach of the Reds during a golden era from 1989 to 2000, during which time they won Super Six (1992) and Super 10 (1994, 1995) titles.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Scottish Rugby Union is set to spend a 6-figure fee to sign powerhouse Fijian-born wing Taqele Naiyaravoro, with the aim of making him eligible to play for Scotland after a 3-year residency period.

Naiyaravoro, who has been compared to All Blacks legend Jonah Lomu, declined to comment on reports he had signed with Edinburgh, but Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said the Fijian-born powerhouse had a contractual obligation to the Scottish team.

This clause in the contract states that if the Australians call him up for international duty, he will remain in the Southern Hemisphere.

According to reports in Australia, New South Wales Waratahs wing Naiyaravoro has been allocated to Edinburgh as part of a 3-year deal worth AUS $ 1 million to the 23-year-old.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 13 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 8 May and 4 games on Saturday 9 May.

The Vodacom Bulls, Toyota Cheetahs and Chiefs have BYE weekends.

There are 2 lip-licking South African games against overseas teams on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions vs Highlanders in Johannesburg as well as between the DHL Stormers vs Brumbies in Cape Town. The battling Cell C Sharks is on tour and will be in action in their 2nd tour match against the table-topping Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday morning.

On Friday, the Crusaders host the Reds in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) before the Melbourne Rebels host the Blues, in Melbourne, at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Hurricanes host the Cell C Sharks in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Western Force host the Waratahs in Perth at 11:40 SA Time (17:40 AWST, 19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT).

Over to South Africa and next up, at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT, Sunday 01:00 NZ Time), the Emirates Lions host the Highlanders in Johannesburg, before the DHL Stormers host the Brumbies in Cape Town at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST).

The Crusaders should dispatch the Reds on Friday, but the Melbourne Rebels vs Blues is a difficult game to pick.

The game between the Hurricanes and Cell C Sharks is one where the Hurricanes are firm favourites, although the Hurricanes are resting some players whereas the Sharks have tried to pick their strongest possible combination. The Waratahs should take the game away from home against the Western Force.

The 2 games in South Africa could easily be seen as the games of the weekend and the Emirates Lions would have to play hell-for-leather to beat a very strong Highlanders team. In Cape Town, the DHL Stormers vs Brumbies game could also go either way, with both teams having aspirations to finish top of their respective Conferences… accordingly it is a difficult one to pick and one supposes that the home team therefor has the advantage.

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Super RugbyThe Cell C Sharks, Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers will all be looking to return to winning ways in Round 13 Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend.

The KwaZulu-Natalians probably face the toughest task when they take on the table-topping Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday morning – a team they should know well. The Kiwis’ head coach Chris Boyd and assistant coach John Plumtree were involved with the Cell C Sharks previously, although it was in reversed roles.

2 Matches are scheduled in South Africa on Saturday afternoon.

All-out attack will probably be the order of the day when the Emirates Lions host the 5th-placed Highlanders in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, with both sides not shy to throw the ball around.

The DHL Stormers host the Australian Conference leading Brumbies in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon – both these teams lost last week and will want to clinch a victory to keep them in the playoff race. A bonus-point victory will see the Capetonians move back to the top of the SA Conference.

The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs have BYES this week. The team from Pretoria leave on their Australasian tour over the weekend.

Vodacom Bulls tour squad is: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Travis Ismaiel, Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal, Handré Pollard, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Francois Hougaard, Andre Warner, Arno Botha, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne, Victor Matfield, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe, Trevor Nyakane, Dean Greyling, Morné Mellett, Adriaan Strauss, Callie Visagie, Jaco Visagie.

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the names of the Match Officials for Round 13 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

There are only 6 matches on the weekend and 3 Teams have their BYE wekkend, namely the Vodacom Bulls, Toyota Cheetahs and Chiefs.

It therefore also means that only 3 South African franchises are in action on the weekend.

We have 2 matches on Friday 8 May and 4 matches on Saturday 9 May.

The Weekend’s action is kicked off on Friday by Mike Fraser who will be in charge of the Crusaders vs Reds game in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT). The Melbourne Rebels host the Blues in Melbourne on Friday at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT), where Angus Gardner will wield the whistle.

On Saturday at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT) the Hurricanes host the battling Cell C Sharks in Wellington, officiated by Chris Pollock, whereafter the Western Force tackle the Waratahs in Perth at 11:40 SA Time (17:40 AWST, 19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT), blown by Rohan Hoffmann.

The 2 matches in South Africa then follow, with the Emirates Lions hosting the Highlanders in Johannesburg at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT, 01:00 NZ Time), officiated by Craig Joubert, followed by Stuart Berry in the match between the DHL Stormers vs Brumbies in cape Town at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 23:00 AEST).

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Stephen Larkham

Stephen Larkham

Steven Larkham has done his homework on the Stormers as he looks to turn the Brumbies’ season around with the clash at Newlands on Saturday, pointing out the lineout as an area of weakness.

The Brumbies and the Stormers are both coming off hard-fought derby losses which will put added pressure in the camps as they look to rectify that by preparing for their encounter in the Cape.

“It’s about focusing on your job and focusing on your game, we’ve done a fair bit of research on the Stormers and they are a dangerous outfit,” Larkham said at a press conference at their hotel in Cape Town on Tuesday.

There were 2 key areas of concern in the Stormers loss to the Cheetahs: Their lineout was poorly organised and executed, and miss-fired kicks at goal ended up costing them the game.

Since Manuel Carizza’s injury, the Stormers’ lineouts have fallen to pieces.

Ruan Botha called the shots in the set-piece on Saturday and it did not go down well, however when Eben Etzebeth was controlling the calls he did not do a much better job.

It can also partly be blamed on Bongi Mbonambi, who is no John Smit when it comes to hitting your jumpers. Scarra Ntubeni is once again, not much better in that regard.

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Sean McMahon

Sean McMahon

Melbourne Rebels and Wallaby loose forward Sean McMahon has been cleared of any serious damage to his hip, after limping off against the Chiefs in considerable pain last Saturday.

McMahon, who was replaced in the opening half of the Rebels’ 16 / 15 victory over the Chiefs at AAMI Park, will still need to pass a number of different tests to prove his availability ahead of the visit of the Blues this Friday.

Rebels’ head of athletic performance Bryce Cavanagh said McMahon’s injury was a painful blow to his hip, making movement difficult and uncomfortable for the 2nd year player.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Di Patston

Di Patston

A compensation claim against the Australian Rugby Union by a woman at the centre of the Kurtley Beale texting affair has been settled out of court, it was announced on Tuesday.

Former Wallabies business manager Di Patston was on the receiving end of an offensive text message sent by Beale during a team tour last year, an affair that proved hugely damaging to Australian rugby.

It sparked a heated argument on a flight from South Africa to Argentina, which ultimately led to a number of issues within the Wallabies quickly unravelling.

Coach Ewen McKenzie abruptly quit after speculation over internal dissent and his relationship with Patston, while she also resigned, citing stress. She later said the controversy had driven her to contemplate suicide.

The saga also put the spotlight on the ARU’s management of the scandal.

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Vodacom Stats AppWith only 5 Rounds left before the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby playoffs the top performing players in the competition are starting to cement their places in the top stats on the Vodacom Rugby App.

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard is opening a considerable gap at the top of the Points category scoring 143 points for the Vodacom Bulls over 12 Rounds of rugby.

His closest rival is New Zealand pivot Beauden Barrett of the Hurricanes with 110 points with the Brumbies’ Christian Lealiifano and Lions flyhalf Elton Jantjies sharing 3rd place with 103.

Stormers flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is the 3rd South African at the top with the 101 points he scored so far this season.

Bulls winger Francois Hougaard and Cell C Sharks flanker Marcell Coetzee represent the country in the Tries category with scoring 5 apiece.

The top try-scorer after 12 Rounds of Vodacom Super Rugby is Highlanders flyer Waisake Naholo with 8, while the Hurricanes’ TJ Perenara and Julian Savea scored 7 and 6 respectively.

Equally influential are the men that made the tries happen, with Toyota Cheetahs fullback Willie le Roux sharing the top spot in terms of Try Assists with the Waratahs’ Israel Folau and Nic White of the Brumbies with 6 apiece.

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Nic White

Nic White

Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White has arrived in Cape Town ahead of Saturday’s clash against the DHL Stormers at Newlands.

The Brumbies flew into South Africa on Monday ready for a big week in the Cape, the Stormers preparing to right the wrongs of last week after falling to the Toyota Cheetahs.

White returns for the Stormers match this weekend after 3 weeks out, his ankle injury now firmly beaten.

He said the Stormers presented the Brumbies with a significant challenge.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

The Reds believe the Australian Rugby Union’s revised contracting system could convince star playmaker Quade Cooper to remain in Brisbane.

Cooper’s future remains a hot topic of conversation, following the announcement by Toulon than the 53-Test veteran had signed a 2-year contract with the French club.

Cooper, the Reds and the ARU vehemently denied his departure is a done deal – accusing the Top 14 club of jumping the gun.

It is now reported that Cooper has been offered a 4-year flexible contract by the ARU, which will allow him to play in Japan during the off-season and return for Super Rugby to remain eligible for the Wallabies.

Reds coach Richard Graham, addressing a media scrum in Brisbane on Monday, said they remain optimistic that Cooper will not take up the Toulon offer.

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Tatafu Polota-Nau

Tatafu Polota-Nau

Waratahs and Wallabies hooker Tatafu Polota-Nau could take a long leave of absence from rugby or even the quit the game entirely if he suffers another heavy head knock.

Polota-Nau, who has been working with Australian neurologists on the effects of concussion, was forced from the ground with a head injury early in the Waratahs’ Super Rugby win over the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.

The 29-year-old was also forced to miss a couple of games in the southern hemisphere’s provincial championship earlier in the season after suffering another blow to the head at training.

4 Months out from the World Cup, Polota-Nau, who has amassed 50 caps for Australia despite battling a litany of injuries throughout his career, said he was taking a cautious approach to his playing future.

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