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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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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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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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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has made 5 changes to his starting 15 for Friday’s clash with the Crusaders in Christchurch.

Brad Weber starts at scrumhalf and Sonny Bill Williams and Charlie Ngatai return from injury to take their place in the midfield.

Tim Nanai-Williams comes onto the right wing with Tom Marshall moving to fullback while Michael Fitzgerald, Augustine Pulu and Andrew Horrell all join the reserves.

The Chiefs won the corresponding fixture between these sides, 40 / 16 in Hamilton in Round 3. Despite that result, Rennie expects a tough battle against the 7-time champions.

“The Crusaders are a quality side,” he said.

“Our previous encounters with them have been of test match intensity and this is a must win game for both sides to remain in touch with the Hurricanes.”

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Todd Blackadder

Todd Blackadder

Crusaders boss Todd Blackadder has made 5 changes to his starting 15 for their clash with the Chiefs in Christchurch on Friday.

Wyatt Crockett and Nepo Laulala will be this week’s starting props, with Joe Moody and Owen Franks acting as front-row cover off the bench..

Luke Romano returns at lock as Jimmy Tupou moves to the bench while Richie McCaw and Matt Todd have again rotated so that McCaw starts.

The only change in the backs is at inside centre, where Dan Carter takes Ryan Crotty’s spot. Crotty is recovering from a head knock received in last weekend’s loss to the Highlanders.

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Ben Afeaki

Ben Afeaki

Ben Afeaki has decided to retire from all rugby due to medical reasons.

Afeaki suffered concussion in February 2014 during a Super Rugby match against the Crusaders. He was cleared to resume training as part of a graduated return to play plan.

He suffered a further knock during training the next month and has not played since.

The 27-year-old prop played 36 matches for the Chiefs, was an All Black in 2013 and played 8 matches for the Maori All Blacks.

Afeaki said retirement was the best decision for his long term health and he continued to make good progress in his recovery.

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Bryce Heem

Bryce Heem

Worcester Warriors have announced the signing of New Zealand wing Bryce Heem, who will join the Club in July from Super Rugby side, the Chiefs.

The 26-year-old has impressed during this season’s Super Rugby campaign and scored a try on his debut during his side’s victory over the Blues in the 1st game of the season.

Heem had previously been a stand-out performer for Tasman Makos during their impressive 2013 and 2014 NPC campaigns and helped the side to the final of the competition last October.

The wing, who stands at 1.93m, was an influential member of the New Zealand Sevens team between 2011 and 2014, touring the world on the Sevens World Series circuit and picking up a silver medal at the Commonwealth Games last year.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

SANZAR, the controlling body for Southern Hemisphere rugby, moved swiftly to defuse the storm that erupted in the wake of Springbok Francois Steyn’s 5-week ban.

A SANZAR appeals committee – chaired by Terry Willis (Australia), who was assisted by Nigel Hampton (New Zealand) and Robert Stelzner (South Africa) – slapped the ban on the Sharks utility back after a hearing earlier this week.

Steyn, who was Red-Carded for his lifting tackle on Aaron Cruden in the Sharks’ 12 / 11 win over the Chiefs on 21 March, was cleared by South African judicial officer Jannie Lubbe at the original hearing on 23 Match. He also expunged Steyn’s Red Card.

However, SANZAR felt strongly about the message sent out by the result of the original hearing and appealed.

That hearing, which took place on Tuesday this week, found Steyn guilty and suspended him up to, and including 3 May.

In reaction to the fall-out to their appeal and subsequent ban of Steyn, SANZAR said they felt Lubbe made a ‘clear error of fact and law’.

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ChiefsThe Chiefs have made several changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with the Cheetahs in Hamilton.

Amongst the backs, All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams returns to the run-on side after missing last weekend’s narrow loss to the Sharks due to concussion, and Charlie Ngatai is bracketed with Seta Tamanivalu at outside centre.

Tom Marshall comes on to the left wing.

Andrew Horrell moves to the reserves and is joined by prop Siate Tokolahi and Marty McKenzie.

In the pack, there’s a brand new front row.

Pauliasi Manu returns from injury and is joined by Quentin MacDonald and Ben Tameifuna.

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Liam Messam

Liam Messam

Chiefs captain Liam Messam’s citing has been upheld after the charge was amended to an act contrary to good sportsmanship.

However, there has been no sanction placed on the All Black flank.

Messam was cited, along with teammate Hika Elliot, Sharks captain Bismarck du Plessis and centre Frans Steyn, after a spiteful game in Durban last weekend.

The Chiefs captain was cited after the match for tackling and gripping Sharks flank Renaldo Bothma around the neck in a ruck – the incident went unnoticed by the match officials on the day.

A SANZAR judicial hearing has found Messam guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (m) Acts contrary to good sportsmanship.

No sanction has been imposed on the player.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

The Cell C Sharks issued a Media Release today, regarding Bismarck du Plessis 4 week suspension for kicking an opponent in the face on Saturday, in the ill-tempered game between the Cell C Sharks and the Chiefs, in Durban.

It reads as follows:

Bismarck du Plessis today appeared in a SANZAR judicial hearing, following him being issued with a red card for foul play in the 18th minute of yesterday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at Growthpoint KINGS PARK.

Upon pleading guilty to the charge, SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden, handed du Plessis a four-week suspension.

In acceptance of the punishment handed to him by SANZAR, Bismarck du Plessis said: “I want to unreservedly apologise for my behaviour both as captain and a senior player. My actions were unacceptable and I fully accept the punishment handed down to me by SANZAR.

“I will use these four-weeks off the field to reflect on my actions as both a leader and role-model in the game. I am painfully aware that people have lost faith in my character and the values I claim to stand for. I intend to rectify that through actions going forward and not merely words.”

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Sharks coach Gary Gold has not condoned Bismark du Plessis’s Red Card offence but he has come to the support of his physical captain’s firey nature.

The Sharks captain was shown a Red Card in his team’s 1 point victory against the Chiefs in Durban on Saturday for kicking Michael Leitch’s head.

This came only a few minutes after the opposition hooker, Hika Elliot, was sent for an early shower for an illegal clean-out on Tendai Mtawarira in the 1st half.

Du Plessis is already well known as an incredibly abrasive and physical character on the field, but more and more it seems that teams are figuring out he has a short fuse.

Gold made it clear that what Du Plessis did to earn his Red Card was silly and he did not justify the foul play.

“I am not going to justify foul play, it is silly to do that,” Gold said after the match.

“I feel it was a silly thing for Bismarck to do, he lashed out from trying to free his foot – but you cannot make contact with someone’s head.

“For what it is worth, he has apologized to the group, and in his words he said he is ashamed by his behaviour.”

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The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden has accepted a guilty plea from Bismarck du Plessis of the Sharks for contravening Law 10.4 (c) A player must not kick an opponent, after he was sent off following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Du Plessis has been suspended from all forms of the game for 4 weeks up to and including 18 April 2015.

The incident occurred in the 18th minute of the match between the Sharks and Chiefs played at Kings Park in Durban.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden assessed the case.

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Cell C SharksChiefsSharks (9) 12 / 11 (11) Chiefs (Final Score)

The Cell C Sharks and Chiefs did battle in Super Rugby at

Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 06:10 NZ Time).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.

*******************

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Cell C SharksThe Sharks have made only 1 enforced change to their starting line-up that will face the Chiefs on Saturday, as Marco Wentzel comes into the second-row.

Wentzel replaces the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit in an otherwise unchanged 15, with Daniel du Preez and Waylon Murray named on the replacements bench.

“The Chiefs are a championship outfit with outstanding strength and depth and they will go into this match as favourites. They have a strong pack of forwards and one of the most exciting backlines in the competition and are well coached,” said head coach Gary Gold, whose side are looking to back up last weekend’s victory.

“We look forward to the challenge of measuring ourselves against one of the most dangerous sides. It’s going to be an exciting match-up.”

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Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams

Sonny Bill Williams’ delayed concussion symptoms are giving Chiefs coach Dave Rennie headaches of his own.

Rennie said he will wait until Friday, to give his star centre a shot at playing against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

The All Black superstar suffered a head-clash with Stormers prop Vincent Koch last weekend in Cape Town, forcing him to leave the field for a concussion test.

Williams returned to the playing field to complete most of the game, but has been suffering from headaches and showing symptoms of concussion.

For the Chiefs coach, Rennie, there is now a nervous wait to see if Williams can complete the mandatory protocols – in order to be declared fit to face the Sharks in this Super Rugby Round 6 crunch clash.

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says the DHL Stormers made wrong substitutions in their loss to the Chiefs at Newlands last Saturday.

The Stormers annihilated the Chiefs at scrum time, with Steven Kitshoff and Vincent Koch wrecking havoc.

The home side led 13 / 3 at one stage, but let things slip, eventually going down 28 / 19.

Alistair Vermaak and Frans Malherbe replaced Kitshoff and Koch in the 61st minute of the match, while Neil Rautenbach also replaced Scarra Ntubeni at hooker in the 63rd minute. These substitutions gave the Chiefs breathing room up front and enabled them to take control of proceedings.

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DHL StormersChiefsThe Chiefs inflicted the DHL Stormers’ first defeat of the Super Rugby season, winning 28 / 19 in Cape Town on Saturday.

In a pulsating encounter, the former champions outscored their hosts 3 tries to 1, with flyhalf Aaron Cruden chipping in with 18 points, scoring a try and setting up another along the way.

The result moves the Chiefs level with the Hurricanes at the top of the New Zealand conference, 2 points behind the tournament-leading Brumbies in the overall standings. The Stormers are 2 points further adrift.

In front of a crowd of over 42 000, the Stormers led 16 / 13 at the interval.

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Sam Cane

Sam Cane

The Chiefs may have felt they deserved to win against the Highlanders after dominating play, but that is behind them as they now focus on their tour to South Africa.

The Chiefs next match is away in Cape Town against the undefeated DHL Stormers on 14 March, they then travel up the coast to Durban to take on the Cell C Sharks in what is sure to be a tough tour.

The South Africa opposition does not end there as their 1st fixture back home is to the traveling Cheetahs.

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Hosea Gear

Hosea Gear

Aaron Cruden

Aaron Cruden

Liam Messam

Liam Messam

The Chiefs have injected some All Black experience for the Round 2 match against the Brumbies on Friday.

All Blacks Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden come into the starting team, as does former international Hosea Gear.

Current New Zealand and World Rugby Player of the Year, Brodie Retallick, will make his 1st appearance of the season from the bench.

In total, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made 6 changes to the starting side originally named to face the Blues last week.

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ChiefsThe Chiefs have announced their team to play the Blues on Saturday night in their first Super Rugby match for 2015.

The match that will be played at QBE Stadium has caused the Chiefs coaches selection challenges.

“There has been some difficult decisions with a lot of competition for places. We’re rapt with the side we have picked but realise it will be a big challenge at North Harbour,” said head coach Dave Rennie.

In the front row Hika Elliot makes his return to Super Rugby and is joined by props Pauliasi Manu and Ben Tameifuna.

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Dave Rennie

Dave Rennie

Chiefs head coach Dave Rennie has extended his contract with the dual Super Rugby champions for another 2 years.

Rennie led the Chiefs to back-to-back Super Rugby titles in 2012 and 2013 as well as the Finals Series in 2014, where they fell to the Brumbies.

In addition to 7 new Chiefs making the All Blacks and another 2 earning re-calls, Rennie has introduced 39 new players to a Chiefs jersey.

Before joining the Chiefs he was Head Coach of the Manawatu NPC side. As the New Zealand Under 20 Coach, his side won 3 consecutive World Championship titles from 2008-2010. He also coached Wellington from 1999 – 2002 winning the NPC in 2000. In his playing days he played 59 games as a midfield back for the Wellington Lions from 1986.

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Tim Nanai-Williams

Tim Nanai-Williams

Versatile Chiefs back Tim Nanai-Williams, while pushing for qualification to play for Samoa, could be forced to choose club over country.

The 25-year-old is pursuing a loophole through the international Sevens circuit that will allow him to play for Samoa at the World Cup later this year because his parents were born in the islands.

If his Chiefs team make a deep run in the Super Rugby play-offs however, he will miss the historic test match between the All Blacks and Samoa in Apia this July.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made it clear that Nanai-Williams will be putting his franchise first in the event of a clash as they will still be in the Super Rugby window.

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Tom Coventry

Tom Coventry

New Zealander Tom Coventry has been appointed as the new head coach of London Irish for the 2015 / 2016 season, the English Premiership strugglers announced on Wednesday.

The 48-year-old, who is currently assistant coach of New Zealand team the Chiefs, will succeed former director of rugby Brian Smith, who has been released early from his contract on compassionate grounds.

“The owners have a clear vision of where they want to take the club,” Coventry told the London Irish website.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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Damian McKenzie

Damian McKenzie

New Zealand Under 20 star Damian Mckenzie will have to battle it out with his brother Marty for a spot at flyhalf for the Chiefs next year.

The 19-year-old flyhalf has a big future in the game, after showing hints of his sparkling ability with the New Zealand Under 20’s and Waikato’s NPC side this year.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has had his eye on McKenzie for years now, and is looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the team.

He will start third or fourth in the pecking order for the flyhalf position at the Chiefs, behind All Black Aaron Cruden, brother Marty McKenzie, and in a tie with Andrew Horrell.

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