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Lima Sopoaga

Lima Sopoaga

Amongst the Super Rugby news this week is the announcement that Tanerau Latimer will return to Super Rugby and join up with the Blues.

Lima Sopoaga has also extended his stay at the Highlanders.

Meanwhile the Brumbies will lose Matt Toomua to Leicester Tigers when the European season of 2016 / 2017 starts after Super Rugby of 2016, but therefore he will still be available for the Brumbies in 2016. The Brumbies have also signed hooker Robbie Abel with the Brumbies’ Extended Playing Squad for 2016.

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Tomás Cubelli

Tomás Cubelli

The Brumbies have announced Argentine scrumhalf Tomás Cubelli will be joining the Canberra-based Super Rugby team on a 2-year deal.

Cubelli is a member of the Argentine national team and has been a standout player for Los Pumas this year including a number of strong performances in the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

Cubelli has 45 Test caps, the most recent being the 3rd-place playoff at the Rugby World Cup against South Africa, in which he started at scrumhalf for Los Pumas.

Brumbies CEO Michael Jones said Cubelli was presented a number of options after a very successful international season, including the new Argentinian Super Rugby side which will boast 21 of their Rugby World Cup semifinal squad, and was very happy to have secured the international star.

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Nick Jooste

Nick Jooste

The Brumbies have agreed to 2-year deals with 1 of Australia’s best young talents in flyhalf Nick Jooste and experienced campaigner Andrew Smith, who will return to the nation’s capital in 2016.

At the tender age of 18, Australian Schoolboy and Perth Spirit player, Jooste has already amassed quite the rugby CV, even though he is still a high school student. The Western Australian native has represented his state at Under 16, Under 18 and Under 20 levels and also represented the Western Force A side against Singapore.

He was recently selected in the Australian Schools Barbarians side that took on Samoa and New Zealand.

The young flyhalf has been a member of the Hale School’s last 3 Brother Redmond Cup winning seasons, as well as captaining the side in their most recent title. Over his 3 years in the Hale 1st 15 Jooste has tallied in excess of 450 points, scoring more than 25 tries.

In 2015 Jooste has joined the Perth Spirit in the National Rugby Championship and has turned heads with his kicking game, and vision around the field.

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Michael Wells

Michael Wells

The Brumbies have announced the signing of exciting young flanker Michael Wells to the club’s Extended Playing Squad (EPS).

A dynamic loose forward by trade, Wells was selected to the Australian Sevens Program for the 2014 / 2015 Sevens World Series. He has also represented Australian Schoolboys and Australia at the Under 20 level and played for Northern Suburbs in Sydney’s Shute Shield for the past 2 years.

The 22-year was 1st noticed by Super Rugby clubs while playing for the North Harbour Rays in the 2014 National Rugby Championship.

The St. Ignatius Riverview product can play in a number of backrow positions and will link with the Brumbies’ EPS for the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Brumbies Director of Rugby Dan McKellar says Wells will be a valuable addition to next season’s squad.

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Lausii Taliauli

Lausii Taliauli

Raun Smith

Raun Smith

2 Players with a big future in Super Rugby have re-signed with the Brumbies.

Former Australian Sevens representative Lausii Taliauli has signed a new 1-year deal with the club while tighthead prop Ruan Smith has signed a new 2-year deal.

Taliauli has been earmarked as 1 of Australia’s top wing prospects following his debut for the Brumbies in Round 1 of the 2015 Super Rugby Season. He made 7 appearances for the side this year and crossed for 1 try.

Brumbies Head Coach Stephen Larkham showed faith in the former Gold Coast Titans NRL winger, by selecting Taliauli to start on the wing in the Brumbies Super Rugby Semi-Final loss to the Hurricanes in Wellington.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

The Brumbies are celebrating the re-signing of 1 of world rugby’s most respected players, after David Pocock committed to a new 1-year deal with the club.

Pocock was a standout for the Brumbies in 2015 and was rewarded with 3 of the club’s highest on-field honours, the Brett Robinson Player’s Player, the fan-voted Stallion of the Year and the Best Forward awards.

Capping off a remarkable season, he was also named the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year at the annual John Eales Medal ceremony in Sydney.

His achievements this season were made even more remarkable by the fact he had played just 5 games in 2013 and 2014 due to 2 serious knee injuries.

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

Wallabies wing Henry Speight will join Australia’s Sevens programme as part of a new 3-year deal announced by the Australian Rugby Union on Thursday.

Speight’s new contract with the ARU will see him remain with the Brumbies through to the end of 2018 and join the Australian Sevens programme in 2016.

The landmark deal means Speight will be available for the inaugural Sydney Sevens at Allianz Stadium in February next year.

As part of the agreement between the ARU and the Brumbies, Speight will combine his duties with the national Sevens program and his Super Rugby team throughout 2016.

As well as the Sydney Sevens on the weekend on 6 – 7 February, Speight will be available for selection for the Hong Kong and London legs of the 2015 / 2016 World Rugby Sevens Series and – pending qualification – the Rio 2016 Olympics.

At the conclusion of the Rio Olympics in August 2016, Speight will be available for the Wallabies for the remainder of The Rugby Championship before returning full-time with the Brumbies for the 2017 and 2018 Super Rugby seasons.

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Jean-Pierre "JP" Smith

Jean-Pierre “JP” Smith

Brumbies prop Jean-Pierre ‘JP’ Smith will return to Cape Town from Australia and will form part of Western Province’s Currie Cup squad.

Smith is capable of playing at both loosehead and tighthead prop and he will bolster the Western Province prop resources during their ABSA Currie Cup title defence in the absence of Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe, who are with the Springbok squad at present, and Vincent Koch, who is on loan to the DHL Stormers for Super Rugby only.

25-Year-old Smith is a former Paarl Gym scholar, who has represented Western Province at Under 19 and Under 21 level, as well as playing 5 senior matches for the Vodacom Cup team in 2010.

Western Province Director of Rugby Gert Smal commented: “JP’s ability to play on either side of the scrum is a big boost for us, as Currie Cup matchday squads are made up of just 22 (with just 1 prop on the bench).

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Nigel Hampton QC (New Zealand) and comprising Lex Mpati (South Africa) and Terry Willis (Australia) unanimously dismissed an appeal brought by the Brumbies against the decision that found Henry Speight had contravened Law 10.4 (j) – Lifting Tackle.

The Committee dismissed the appeal on the basis that the appellant was unable to show that the Judicial Officer’s central factual findings, that the tackle involved both a lifting and driving, were in error.

The Committee also unanimously dismissed the appeal brought against the 5-week (4-match) suspension imposed on Speight, finding that the Judicial Officer had not erred in principle and that the sanction imposed was not manifestly excessive.

As such, the player remains suspended from all forms of the game for 5 weeks up to and including Saturday 25 July 2015.

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Super RugbyIt is the Semi-Final Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in Australia.

1St Place on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes hosts the lowest Qualifier, the Brumbies. In the other match 2nd on the Log, the Waratahs hosts the other qualifier from last weekend, the Highlanders.

The 2 Franchises who finished in the No 1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have had wonderful rest weekends, as they sat out during the Top 6 Qualification Round last weekend.

The action is kicked off by the Hurricanes vs Brumbies who do battle in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) on Saturday 27 June.

A little later, over in Sydney, Australia, the Waratahs plays the Highlanders at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).

After this Round only 2 Teams remain to contest the Final next weekend.

The Hurricanes vs Brumbies game should be an absolute cracker after the Brumbies’ massive win over the DHL Stormers last weekend, but one would have to give a nod to the most consistent team of this year’s series, the Hurricanes, who have stood out head and shoulders above all comers in 2015.

Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Hurricanes are punching at the weight they should always punch at in 2015, and I give the win to them, but not by a large margin.

As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the Waratahs will overcome the staunch Highlanders in Sydney… even though their regular league season was not as brilliant as last season, OR do we say that the Highlander’s faerie tale will continue in 2015?

It is a difficult call to make and I’m leaning towards the Waratahs making it at home in Sydney!

Meanwhile 11Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.

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BrumbiesStephen Larkham has named his side to take on the Hurricanes in this weekend’s Super Rugby Semi-Final in Wellington.

There is only 1 change from the team that defeated the DHL Stormers 39 / 19 in Cape Town last Saturday.

With Henry Speight ruled out through suspension earlier this week, Larkham has named Lausii Taliauli to start on the wing.

Taliauli is a former Australian Sevens player and appeared in the NRL’s National Youth Competition with the Gold Coast Titans. He debuted with the Brumbies this season, and has scored 1 Super Rugby try from 6 appearances.

“Lausii is a good young player. With Henry ruled out we think he’s the right man for the job,” Larkham said.

There are no other changes named from the side that ran in 6 tries against the DHL Stormers.

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

The Brumbies will appeal Wallabies wing Henry Speight’s 5-week suspension after the Aussie side felt the player was treated harshly compared to other lifting tackles this season.

Speight was found guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting Tackle, on Wednesday and will be out of action up until 25 July, which translates into 4 matches.

His tackle on DHL Stormers’ centre Juan de Jongh in the 74th minute of the qualifier last Saturday, resulted in the Springbok landing on his head.

Speight will be out for the remainder of the Super Rugby season and will also miss the Wallabies 1st 2 Tests of The Rugby Championship against South Africa and Argentina.

The Brumbies will appeal the suspension on 2 grounds – the severity of the punishment and the incident’s classification as a lifting tackle.

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Scott Sio

Scott Sio

Brumbies prop Scott Sio, if selected, will run out for his 50th Super Rugby match in Saturday’s sudden death Super Rugby semifinal against the Hurricanes.

At just 23, Sio has proved to be one of the competition’s best loosehead props since debuting for the Brumbies in 2012.

While proud of reaching the milestone, Sio says his focus right now is helping his team in Wellington on Saturday.

“It’s a great occasion but I think the strength of our team is that we never really focus on individual accolades,” said Sio.

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Henry Speight

Henry Speight

A SANZAR Judicial Hearing has found Henry Speight of the Brumbies guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he received a red card during a Super Rugby match at the weekend. Speight has been suspended for five weeks up to and including Saturday 25 July 2015, which translates into four matches.

The incident occurred in the 74th minute of the match between the Stormers and Brumbies at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on 20 June 2015.

The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was heard by Robert Stelzner SC via video conference at 4:00pm AEST, 6:00pm NZST, 8:00am SAST on 23 June 2015. Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a Judicial Technical Adviser. The outcome was delayed as Stelzner requested information of the player’s forthcoming playing schedule in order to determine the sanction.

In his finding, Stelzner ruled the following:

“As the Judicial Officer, I considered all the evidence before me including the video footage of the incident, referee and TMO reports for issuing the red card and the submissions made for the player by his legal representative, Peter McGrath.

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Stephen Larkham

Stephen Larkham

Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has taken to the fine art of playing mind games ahead of his team’s massive semifinal match with the high-flying Hurricanes in Wellington.

Speaking to the media after returning home from demolishing the Stormers 39 / 19 in Cape Town, Larkham was more than happy with the way they have gone about getting into the semi-finals and believes the break the Hurricanes have had, could hinder their combinations.

“They’ve had the week off and will be nice and fresh, but maybe their combinations will be lacking. They’ve had a number of injuries over the last couple of rounds and a lot of those players are potentially coming back this week. We’ll see if that affects their combinations.

“For us, it’s about continuing the momentum that we’ve had.

“It’s an advantage that we haven’t played them this year because of the success they have had this year but we have been watching their games through the year and watching how other teams have gone against them,” he said.

As much as the Hurricanes’ backline poses a massive threat, Larkham was quick to point out that their forwards are no push overs either.

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Super RugbyIt is the Top 6 Qualifying Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in South Africa.

3rd Placed on the Combined Log, the DHL Stormers (albeit 3rd only by reason of the Conference Syystem), hosts 6th on the Log, the Brumbies. In the other match 4th on the Log, the Highlanders, hosts 5th on the Log, the Chiefs.

The 2 Franchises who finished in the No1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have lovely rest weekends, as they only meet the winners of this Round’s matches next weekend in the Semi-Finals.

The action is kicked off by the Highlanders vs Chiefs who do battle in Dunedin at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT)

Much later in the day, in Cape Town, South Africa, the DHL Stormers host the Brumbies at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time).

After this Round of Top 6 Qualifying matches, only 4 teams will remain and there will be 2 Semi-Final matches next weekend, followed by a Final match for the ultimate winner a week later.

The Highlanders vs Chiefs game should be an absolute cracker, with both teams getting some injured players back into the fold. It is extremely difficult to pick a winner for this game and the different pundits differ on the winner of the match, with probable the bigger percentage backing the Chiefs for an away win. I differ from that though, and I think if there is ONE YEAR where the Highlanders could make it to the Semi-Finals, it is this year, at home, at Forsyth Barr stadium.

Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Highlanders might have a slightly more abrasive forwards pack and possibly also a better scrumhalf and flyhalf, both of whom have come on in leaps and bounds in 2015, namely Aaron Smith and Lima Sopoaga.

I predict the Highlanders to squeek a win, in a very entertaining match.

As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the DHL Stormers will overcome the Brumbies in Cape Town… even though their regular league game was only a 21 / 20 win for the Stormers and with Christian Lealiifano missing an absolute peach of a conversion attempt, from right in front, OR do we say that the Brumbies will win the game in the absense of Duane Vermeulen and likely also Schalk Burger, both with some injury concerns?

The South African scribes and pundits all patriotically pick the Stormers for a win, but I am hesitant to do so and think this game’s result is a perfect 50 / 50 guess, so may the best team take it!

Meanwhile 9 Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.

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BrumbiesThe Brumbies have named an unchanged line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby Qualifier against the DHL Stormers at DHL Newlands.

David Pocock has been named at flanker despite leaving the field with concussion concerns in the 37 / 24 loss to the Crusaders at GIO Stadium.

“He’s on track to play,” head coach Stephen Larkham said.

“But every day he’s got to tick a box, so he could fall back a day and miss the game.”

The match against the Stormers would be Pocock’s 1st ever Super Rugby Finals appearance. In 2013 in his 1st season with the Brumbies, Pocock missed the side’s run to the final following a season-ending knee injury.

Also under an injury cloud for the Brumbies is Matt Toomua who has been named as a replacement. Last week the 24-year-old played 28 minutes from the bench in just his 2nd game in 8 matches following 2 separate ankle injuries.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

The Brumbies are following protocol regarding the concussion of flank David Pocock in the hopes that he will be available for their must-win game against the DHL Stormers on Saturday.

Pocock was taken out of the Crusaders game just before halftime on Saturday, after he copped a knock to the head from a Richie McCaw cleanout at the breakdown.

The Brumbies No 7 stayed down for several seconds, but played on for about 5 minutes before coming off.

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Sam Carter

Sam Carter

The Brumbies’ Sam Carter’s Super Rugby season is over and his Rugby World Cup dream is in doubt after suffering a grade 3 medial injury in Friday night’s clash against the Vodacom Bulls.

“It’s a significant tear in the medial ligament and he’s got a fracture where the bones banged together on impact, so up to 3 months with that one,” Brumbies’ head coach Stephen Larkham said.

“We knew it was bad, the fact he couldn’t play on was pretty telling and then you look at the replay and you can see it was a significant injury.

“We were hoping for good and the good news we were hoping for was 6 weeks anyway.

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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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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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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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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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Super RugbyIt was a weekend of drama and excitement in South Africa as the DHL Stormers moved to the Top of the local Super Rugby Conference and the Emirates Lions kept alive their dream of reaching the Top 6.

The Emirates Lions beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 34 / 29 in an 8-try humdinger on Saturday afternoon to record their 6th victory of the season, making 2015 their 2nd best yet but with 6 Rounds to go.

Last year, the Emirates Lions finished with 7 wins, 2 better than their 5 from 2007, but they are on track to better their best in the coming weeks.

The Toyota Cheetahs also deserve a lot of credit for never giving up as they returned to Bloemfontein with 2 bonus points.

The 2nd local match on Saturday delivered heaps of drama and the result was in the balance right until the end, but the DHL Stormers hung on for their 2nd victory over the Vodacom Bulls this season as they won by 15 / 13.

The visitors from Pretoria scored the only try of the match when Bjorn Basson went over early in the 2nd half, but the match-clinching moment came at the death when Duane Vermeulen charged down an attempted drop-goal by Handré Pollard to lead his side to their 7th win of the season.

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Sam Carter

Sam Carter

Brumbies lock Sam Carter will miss this weekend’s clash with the Highlanders following the death of a close family friend who tragically passed away last weekend playing for the Quirindi Lions.

The Wallaby lock’s family are still based in Quirindi and he will be allowed to return home for the funeral and for as long as he needs.

“At a time like this, rugby takes a back seat. From our point of view family is extremely important,” said Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham told the Canberra Times.

“Player welfare is extremely important and it’s right for Sam and his family to be up there with the current situation.”

Blake Enever will replace Carter in the second row in Canberra.

2 South African brothers start for the Brumbies on the weekend, JP & Ruan Smith.

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HighlandersThe Highlanders have made wholesale changes to their team to face the Brumbies in Canberra this weekend.

Malakai Fekitoa, Aaron Smith and Ben Smith are all rested as part of the agreement with New Zealand Rugby to rest All Blacks ahead of the World Cup, while there are also a number of changes in the pack.

Trent Renata comes in at fullback, with Richard Buckman joining Shaun Treeby in the centres and Fumiaki Tanaka taking over scrumhalf duties.

Up front, meanwhile, Pingi Tala’apitaga and Tom Franklin bolster the tight 5, while Joe Latta and Josh Renton are set to make their Super Rugby debuts off the bench.

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