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Sias Ebersohn

Sias Ebersohn

The Western Force has released flyhalf Sias Ebersohn from his contract, allowing him to return to his native South Africa.

The 26-year-old, who joined the Force from the Bloemfontein-based Toyota Cheetahs ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season, has played 43 matches – scoring 212 points – across his 3 seasons for the Western Australian club.

Ebersohn has made a strong contribution to the club over the past 3 seasons, including playing a key role during the club’s most successful season in 2014.

However, leading into the 2016 season, the club identified the need to inject additional experience into its young backline, which coincided with an opportunity for Ebersohn to return to South Africa.

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Maks van Dyk

Maks van Dyk

Tighthead prop Maks van Dyk has completed his move to the EP Kings, where he hopes to make an impact in the Currie Cup and Super Rugby.

Van Dyk has been based at Griquas since last year, which saw him play Super Rugby for the Cheetahs in 2014 and 2015.

It’s been a notable rise for the former Junior Springbok front-rower, who was part of the South African squad that lifted the Under 20 World Championship trophy at Newlands in 2012.

From Durban (where he was based at the Sharks between 2011 and 2013) to Kimberley to Bloemfontein, the 23-year-old has a new home in Port Elizabeth, where he has signed a 2-year contract with the Kings.

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Super RugbyNow that the league phase of the Super Rugby tournament is finished, I have posted a SA team of the tournament article. The team is based on the form players during the tournament, with overseas based players obviously not considered.

The South African teams had a very disappointing tournament by any standards, with injuries, poor form and bad reffing decisions making life hard for the critical rugby public, but in an attempt to find a silver lining here is this author’s team of the tournament (other contenders mentioned where appropriate):

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Johann Sadie

Johann Sadie

Newly-promoted French Top 14 team, Agen, have signed South African centre Johann Sadie as they continue to build ahead of next season.

The 26-year-old arrives from Super Rugby side the Toyota Cheetahs and has signed a 2-year deal, the club confirmed.

Sadie started his career with Western Province before spells with the DHL Stormers, Vodacom Bulls and then the Toyota Cheetahs. In 2014, he started playing for the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes in Japan but was allowed to return to Bloemfontein during the Super Rugby season.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux will start at fullback for the Toyota Cheetahs in his last ever game for the Free-State franchise as they take on the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

25-year-old Springbok fullback, Le Roux, will depart Bloemfontein after 3 years and 56 Super Rugby games with the franchise. At the conclusion of his Springbok obligations after the World Cup he will head to Japan for 3 months, after which he will join the Cell C Sharks.

Le Roux gets the nod ahead of Coenie van Wyk who drops down to the bench. The 2nd backline change sees Clayton Blommetjies start at right wing with Sergeal Petersen shifting to the left wing, replacing Cornal Hendricks.

In the forwards, Henco Venter will start at flank for Tienie Burger who drops out of the matchday squad.

The Cheetahs will welcome the return of Teboho Mohoje to the bench after he was sidelined for 3 months with a groin injury. Renier Botha also comes onto the bench in place of Shaun Venter.

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Philip van der Walt

Philip van der Walt

The Cell C Sharks are continuing to raid the ranks of the Toyota Cheetahs, with loose forward Philip van der Walt the latest capture.

It was confirmed that the 25-year-old, who had just returned from a stint with Biarritz in France, will join up with the Sharks before the start of the Currie Cup season in August.

Christoffel Philippus van der Walt, who played 80-odd games for the Cheetahs (Super Rugby) and Free State (Currie Cup), moved to Biarritz in 2014 – where he made 22 appearances.

Biarritz, with a rich history in French and European competitions, were crowned French champions 5 times – 1935, 1939, 2002, 2005 and 2006. They also beat Top 14 rivals Toulon 21 / 18 in the 2012 European Challenge Cup (secondary competition) in 2012.

However, Biarritz went into a major slump during the 2013 / 2014 Top 14 season and ended up being relegated to the Pro D2 (Second Division) for the 2014 / 2015 season.

The signing of Van der Walt is another coup for the Sharks, who are in the process of ‘rebuilding’ the team under the guidance of Director of Rugby Gary Gold – with several season players set to depart after this year’s World Cup.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie Le Roux has been included in the Cheetahs matchday 23 to face the Waratahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Le Roux was a standout omission from new coach Franco Smith’s team announced earlier in the week but has now been included by taking the place of outgoing utility back Joe Pietersen on the bench.

This is the 2nd late change from the initial team after Varsity Cup star Gerhard Olivier was brought in for a potential debut off the bench as he replaces Willie Britz.

Smith decided to add a further 3 Varsity Cup players – 2 of which in the starting 15 – to the matchday team as he looks to rebuild the struggling franchise following a lacklustre 2015 campaign.

No 8 Niell Jordaan and flyhalf Neil Marais will make their Super Rugby debuts in the Cheetahs final home game of the campaign with prop Elandré Hugget starting the match on the bench.

In the forwards, Burrie Uys moves off the bench in a swap with Danie Mienie, while Tinie Burger and Johannes Prinsloo switch positions at the side of the scrum. Jordaan replaces Henco Venter at No 8 as the latter takes his place among the replacements.

Marais will be partnered with Sarel Pretorius as the halfback pairing while Springbok flyer Cornal Hendricks replaces the injured Raymond Rhule at left wing while Ryno Benjamin moves off the bench to take his place at inside centre, replacing Michael van der Spuy while Coenie van Wyk replaces Clayton Blommetjies, who misses the match altogether, at fullback.

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Niel Marais

Niel Marais

New Yoyota Cheetahs head coach, Franco Smith, has named his team to tackle the Waratahs in a Super Rugby clash in Bloemfontein on Saturday (15:00 SA Time).

It will be Smith’s 1st game in charge following the departure of Naka Drotske.

Smith has made several changes to the team that lost 42 / 12 to the DHL Stormers at Newlands last weekend.

In the backline, Niel Marais replaces Joe Pietersen at flyhalf. Marais was a star player for Shimlas in this year’s Varsity Cup, which they won under the coaching tutelage of Smith.

Sarel Pretorius is also back at scrumhalf, while Cornal Hendricks will start on the left wing, replacing Raymond Rhule who has a knee injury.

Rayno Benjamin also moves up from the bench, replacing Michael van der Spuy to start at inside centre this week, while Coenie van Wyk replaces Clayton Blommetjies at fullback.

Up front, BG Uys starts at loosehead prop, with Danie Mienie moving to the bench, while Tienie Burger and Boom Prinsloo swap places in the loose trio.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Cornal Hendricks

Cornal Hendricks

With the player transfer window in South Africa looming large from 1 July, there is a lot of movement already in player signings.

Willie le Roux has opted not to renew with the Cheetahs and will in stead go to Japan for the remainder of the year after Super Rugby and International committments, whereafter he will return to South Africa but join the Cell C Sharks for the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Cornal Hendricks has also asked for permission to start negotiating with other interested parties, although the transfer window for negotiations will only be open from 1 July.

But the Cheetahs are not the only Franchise hit hard, at the Bulls, Francois Hougaard has signed in Japan for the Canon Eagles, the same Club which Willie le Roux has signed for and has not re-committed to the Bulls for Super Rugby in 2016.

Also at the Bulls, William Small-Smith has requested permission to also start early negotiations with 3rd parties, earlier than the 1 July Transfer Window’s opening.

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Naka Drotske

Naka Drotske

Although his time as Cheetahs coach ended on an underwhelming note at Newlands, Naka Drotske says he has ‘no regrets’.

There was not 1 Springbok in the Cheetahs side that went down 12 / 42 to the South African conference leaders on Saturday, bringing Drotske’s 9-year spell as coach to an end with Franco Smith set to take over.

While he was disappointed to end with a comprehensive defeat, Drotske said that they had simply been outplayed by a Stormers side he believes have what it takes to go all the way this year.

“Obviously today was a bit of a disappointment, but in saying that the Stormers played like a team that can win the competition and we had a lot of youngsters,” he said.

Looking back on his time in charge of the Cheetahs, Drotske said that he is more than satisfied with what he has achieved in a career he never expected.

“I have got no regrets, I started in 2007 as a coach, I took on the challenge. I never expected to be a coach after being a player and then a manager.

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Lood de Jager

Lood de Jager

The Toyota Cheetahs could be boosted by the return of several key players for their Super Rugby clash against the DHL Stormers on Saturday.

Lock Lood de Jager (elbow), scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius (shoulder), flyhalf Joe Pietersen (shoulder) and flank Tienie Burger (concussion) could all return to action in the clash at Newlands (17:05 SA Time).

No 8 Willie Britz, who injured his elbow in last weekend’s 40 / 17 defeat to the Lions, could also be ready to face the Stormers.

However, confirmation about the players’ availability will only be known later in the week.

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Os du Randt congratulated with the Verblitz deal

Os du Randt congratulated with the Verblitz deal

2-Time World Cup-winning Springbok Os du Randt will join Japanese club Verblitz in a new deal with the Cheetahs.

It was announced on Saturday that the 2 teams – the Toyota Cheetahs from Bloemfontein and the Verblitz side from Aichi in Japan – will exchange personnel.

The deal, established through the Toyota motor vehicle company that sponsors both teams, will see Du Randt become the forwards and scrum coach of Verblitz – as a 1st step of the partnership.

Following the exodus of South African players to Japan in recent years, this has been identified as an opportunity for both teams to foster talent.

It will see selected players and coaches being utilised – with players given the opportunity to play in Japan for the Verblitz club during their regular season (South Africa’s Currie Cup season) and return to play Super Rugby for the Toyota Cheetahs.

1 Of the main benefits of the programme include the joint contracting of players from outside the Cheetahs squad.

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Heinrich Brüssow

Heinrich Brüssow

Springbok flank Heinrich Brüssow has explained his decision to not extend his contract with the Cheetahs.

Brussow, 28, last week indicated that he won’t be extending his contract with the Cheetahs after this year’s Super Rugby competition.

He will only be available for his Japanese club, the Docomo Red Hurricanes, in 2016 and 2017, and not return to play Super Rugby as he has done in recent years.

“I feel I’m at a stage of my career where I have to look after my own body,” Brüssow said. “That’s why I have signed a 2-year contract in Japan. My new challenge is to take that club to a higher level and I’m going to focus all of my attention on that.”

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Os du Randt

Os du Randt

Naka Drotske

Naka Drotske

The Toyota Cheetahs will bid an early farewell to long-standing coaches Naka Drotské and Os du Randt.

It was confirmed last week that Franco Smith would take over as head coach of the struggling Cheetahs franchise next season.

However, he will take over from Drotské in a couple of weeks.

Drotské and Du Randt were to have seen out the remainder of the season, but on Tuesday it was revealed they will depart early.

Du Randt, a 2-times World Cup winner as a player, accepted a “very exciting” opportunity to coach abroad.

He will also act as an ambassador for the Cheetahs.

In a statement on Tuesday the Cheetahs confirmed that Du Randt will depart the franchise during the 1st week of June.

The details of his new position will be revealed at a media briefing at the Free State Stadium, in Bloemfontein, on Saturday.

The Cheetahs host the Lions in what will be Du Randt’s final home game before his departure.

As a result of Du Rand’s early departure, Drotské has also requested an early release.

Both Du Rand and Drotské will be in charge for the last time when the Toyota Cheetahs face the DHL Stormers in Cape Town on 30 May.

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Sarel Pretorius

Sarel Pretorius

Joe Pietersen

Joe Pietersen

The Toyota Cheetahs will be without 2 key players when they take on the Highlanders in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Star scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius and utility back Joe Pietersen have both been ruled out through injury.

The teams shows several changes from that beat the South African conference leaders, the DHL Stormers, a fortnight ago.

Tian Meyer will be starting at scrumhalf in the place of Pretorius, who hasn’t recovered from his shoulder injury. Shaun Venter comes onto the bench as scrumhalf cover.

Francois Brummer moves up from the bench, replacing Pietersen – who is also sidelined with a shoulder injury. Coenie van Wyk comes onto the bench to fill the void left by Brummer’s promotion.

The only other change to the starting fifteen will see Danie Mienie replacing Caylib Oosthuizen at loosehead prop. Oosthuizen drops out of the matchday 23.

Springbok wing Raymond Rhule also returns from injury and gets a spot on the bench.

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Willie Britz

Willie Britz

Toyota Cheetahs loose forward Willie Britz has confirmed that he will join the Shining Arcs in Japan after this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The good news for Cheetahs fans though is that Britz will only be unavailable during the Currie Cup, before returning to play Super Rugby next season.

He is contracted to the Cheetahs until the end of the 2016 season.

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Naka Drotske

Naka Drotske

The Toyota Cheetahs todat announced that Naka Drotske has will step down as Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby coach at the end of this Super Rugby Season in order to persue business interests.

In addition, scrum coach Os du Randt has indicated that he will also be leaving the Cheetahs to go overseas and to persue coaching career opportunities abroad after completing his stint in Super Rugby this year. The whereabouts of his overseas tenure has not been made known yet.

But that’s not all, folks, Hawies Fourie, the Toyota Cheetahs backline coach wil also return to GWK Griquas to take up the Head Coaching position at the end of Super Rugby.

Franco Smith, who was named the Toyota Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup coach for 2015 earlier this week, will take up the position as Super Rugby head coach at the Toyota Cheetahs in the place of Naka Drotske.

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Franco Smith

Franco Smith

Varsity Cup-winning coach Franco Smith has been appointed the head coach of the Toyota Free State Cheetahs for this year’s ABSA Currie Cup campaign.

While it was expected that Smith may also be given the reigns of the Toyota Cheetahs Super Rugby franchise, this wasn’t announced with current coach Naka Drotske still continuing in his contract until the end of October 2016.

In addition Rory Duncan, who coached the side alongside Smith in the Currie Cup last year, will from now on be the Director of Coaching and will handle all rugby matters for the franchise from now on.

“We want to make it clear that Naka Drotske, his coaching team and the current structures continue unabated in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition. Any media reports concerning Drotske’s position is pure speculation and is not accurate. Drotske has a contract with the Toyota Free State Cheetahs that expires on 30 October 2016,” a statement from the union said.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls are back at the Top of the South African Conference, taking over from the DHL Stormers who came up short in Bloemfontein on an exhilarating Saturday of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The weekend started on a disappointing note for the Cell C Sharks in Dunedin though. After a solid start for the visitors, the Highlanders turned on the heat and eventually beat the Durbanites by 48 / 15 in their opening tour match Down Under.

Saturday saw 2 cracking local derbies, both won by the home teams.

1st Up, the Toyota Cheetahs caused a minor upset when they won their 3rd successive home game against the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein, by 25 / 17.

The home team outscored the visitors by 3 tries to 2 and thoroughly deserved their 4th win of the season. It was also only the 3rd time in 14 matches that the DHL Stormers could not score any Log Points against the Toyota Cheetahs.

The final match of the weekend was a proper humdinger in Pretoria, where the Vodacom Bulls beat their neighbours, the Emirates Lions, by 35 / 33. A total of 7 tries were scored as both sides went hammer and tongs against each other for the full 80 minutes.

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Johann Sadie

Johann Sadie

Toyota Cheetahs head coach, Naka Drotske, has named his team to tackle the DHL Stormers in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Drotske has made several changes to his backline from the team that went down 34 / 29 to the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.

Scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius is the only player who retains his spot, while Joe Pietersen moves back to flyhalf after wearing the No 15 jersey last weekend.

Clayton Blommetjies moves from the bench into the No 15 jersey, while there is also a new midfield partnership as Michael van der Spuy comes in at inside centre, with Francois Venter shifting to his outside.

Regular centre Johann Sadie is sidelined with a knee injury.

Sergeal Petersen will make his debut for the franchise on the left wing, with Rayno Benjamin moving to right wing, as Cornal Hendricks is rested in line with an agreement to rest top Springbok players.

Up front, Caylib Oosthuizen replaces Danie Minnie at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen is bracketed with Maks van Dyk at tighthead.

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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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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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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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WP Nel

WP Nel

At the end of a trying season of provincial rugby under the sweltering South African sun, Willem Petrus Nel trudged exhausted from the field.

He turned to his coach and mentor, Pierre Ribbens, a distinguished ex-prop for the Bulls in what is now the Super 15 competition, the cream of the Southern Hemisphere game.

“I think I’m done with rugby – I don’t want to play anymore,” he said.

In late 2008, the 22-year-old tight-head had completed his agricultural studies, his certificate signed and stamped. From university some 250 miles to the south, the pull of home, the sheep farm he had been raised tending and the rolling mountains of the Northern Cape was strong.

“Give me a week,” replied Ribbens.

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Reniel Hugo

Reniel Hugo

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Toyota Cheetahs have secured the services of FNB UP-Tuks lock, Reniel Hugo.

The 24-year-old lock has signed a deal which will keep him in Bloemfontein until the end of the 2016 season.

Hugo represented Tuks for the past 2 years after joining from Maties.

He was earlier this week also named as captain of the Varsity Cup Dream Team to play against the Junior Springboks in Stellenbosch, next week Tuesday.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux will sit out the Toyota Cheetahs clash with the Reds this weekend due to the rest agreement with SA Rugby.

Le Roux will be replaced by Coenie van Wyk in the starting line-up as the only change to the team that beat the Western Force last Saturday in Perth.

This will mark the 9th Super Rugby encounter between the Cheetahs and the Reds, since their 1st match in March 2006.

The Reds are leading the way with 5 wins to 3.

It will also be the 5th time the teams meet at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, since the 1st encounter.

The Cheetahs has won 3 previous matches in Bloemfontein to the Reds 1.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls held onto their leadership of a ferociously contested South African Conference on a weekend of success at the expense of Australian teams.

The Vodacom Bulls maintained their 2-point advantage over the DHL Stormers on the Log – as both recorded bonus point victories over the Reds (43 / 22) and Waratahs (32 / 18) respectively – while the Toyota Cheetahs showed enormous character to finish their tour on a high in Perth, with a win over the Western Force (24 / 15).

In the South African derby at Emirates Airlines Park, the Emirates Lions underlined the seriousness of their challenge for the Conference title with 2-point victory (23 / 21) over a significantly improved Cell C Sharks, who missed a long-range last-kick penalty, which could have snatched the victory.

The upshot of the weekend was that the Top 4 SA teams are separated by just 4 Log Points – in contrast to their fellow conferences where the Hurricanes top the standings as New Zealand’s Top 4 are spread by 11 points, while an even more clear-cut Australian race sees the Brumbies head a Log in which 17 points cover the Top 4 Australian contenders.

3 Of SA’s winners had to overcome halftime deficits to record victories, with the most notable being those of the DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs who achieved it on Australian soil.

However, the margins were small – both trailed by 2 points – while the Emirates Lions turned round 3 points adrift of the Cell C Sharks, as all 3 teams showed fitness and character to ‘win’ the 2nd half.

In the other match, the Vodacom Bulls’ recent home success over the Reds continued, as they stomped to a 6-try victory, with Francois Hougaard scoring 2 tries from the wing to take his tally to 4 for the season and therefore joining Marcell Coetzee as the leading South African try scorers.

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