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Francois Hougaard

Nollis Marais

Nollis Marais

Positive news for a change from the Vodacom Blue Bulls, as Nollis Marais, the new Head Coach for the Currie Cup season gets into gear.

He promises change and that the Blue Bulls will play in a system which suits their player strenghts and it looks like one of the 1st key things he has achieved is to convince all the key youngsters left at the Union since the recent exodus (before his appointment), have decided to stay and sign on to help ressurrect the proud Union.

The 2nd immediate positive is that former Bulls and Springbok hooker, Gary Botha has been signed as Technical Forwards Consultant with the Blue Bulls.

The 3rd aspect of positive and upbuilding news is that the vibe in the newly released Currie Cup squad is positive and excited… and eager.

The 4th aspect, something I have wanted to hear for a very, very long time… and that is that Nollis Marais will give special attention to skills training. It has been something severely lacking in both the Blue Bulls in the Currie Cup and the Bulls in Super Rugby and it’s been permitted to rot in the background for far too long during Frans Ludeke’s tenure, and lately shaky reign. It is music to my ears and should be music to the ears of most South Africans, as skills is one critical aspect where we feel South Africa is lacking behind Australia and New Zealand… well specially New Zealand!

Then there is the pleasant news that it appears that Francois Hougaard, who would have left for Japan prior to the advent of the Currie Cup, will now stay at the Blue Bulls, in an attempt to shine in the Currie Cup, and thus maybe elevate his chances of re-entering the Springbok Squad.

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Vodacom Blue BullsThe Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Friday expressed their sincere gratitude and thanks to a number of stalwarts who will part ways with the Vodacom Bulls at the completion of the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.

Barend van Graan, CEO of the BBC, confirmed the departures of Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Victor Matfield, Akona Ndungane and Francois Hougaard to French and Japanese clubs and retirement.

Spies (via Japan) and Du Plessis will join French club Montpellier, Van der Merwe moves to Clermont-Avergne and Potgieter to Lyon. Matfield will retire after the Rugby World Cup and Ndungane hangs up his boots this weekend as his contract was only extended for this year’s Super Rugby competition.

Hougaard leaves for Japan later this year and depending on a number of factors, will make a call on whether to return to Loftus Versfeld, at a later stage.

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Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

Both Francois Hougaard and Willie Le Roux have concluded deals with the same Japanes team, the Canon Eagles.

The club announced on Wednesday the pair had been signed for the coming season at the Japanese club, but both are set to return to play in Vodacom Super Rugby next season.

While Hougaard is still negotiating a return to Loftus – he has 3 offers from Europe, including English clubs Leceister Tigers and Exeter Chiefs – he will be a massive signing for the Japanese club with his versatility to play either at scrumhalf or wing.

The duo will be able to continue their Springbok partnership although the 2 foreigner rule in Japanese rugby may see both playing a lot less than they would in South Africa.

The Eagles have just said goodbye to their 2 foreign players – flanker Adam Thomson and Callum Bruce – and have signed the duo to replace them.

Hougaard told the club in typically public-relations friendly quotes he was happy to be joining their ranks.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

Vodacom Bulls halfback Rudy Paige and wing Francois Hougaard have been cleared to train with the team as they prepare for their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Rotorua on Saturday.

Paige had a knee ligament sprain and Hougaard a left quad contusion after their match against the Blues in Auckland, but will be available for the final tour match on New Zealand soil.

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Xander Janse van Rensburg

Xander Janse van Rensburg

Reports of a mass exodus from the Vodacom Bulls at the end of the season have been rubbished by the franchise.

According to weekend reports a host of Bulls – which include Pierre Spies, Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann, Akona Ndungane and JJ Engelbrecht – will head to Japan after the conclusion of the Super Rugby season.

It was billed as the “biggest exodus” since 2013 – when the Bulls lost 20-odd frontline players, including the likes of Juandré Kruger, Wynand Olivier, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Zane Kirchner, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dewald Potgieter and Jacques­ Potgieter.

However, Xander Janse van Rensburg, the High Performance Manager at the Blue Bulls Company, said that the facts of the reports are far removed from the truth.

“JJ and Grant have Japan clauses in their contracts,” Janse van Rensburg said, adding that the duo will head to Japan after the Super Rugby season, missing the Currie Cup competition, and will then return for Super Rugby 2016.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named Adriaan Strauss at hooker when he announced his team to play the DHL Stormers in the opening round of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Strauss, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls in 2006 (8 matches), is back in the Pretoria side after a long stint with the Toyota Cheetahs (for whom he played 97 times) and was put straight into the starting team by Ludeke.

The coach also included Vodacom Bulls debutants Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane, but neither are strangers to the competition. Labuschagne played for Toyota Cheetahs in 27 matches (debut 2012) and Nyakane represented the same franchise 42 times (debut 2012).

The rest of the team consists of tried and tested players, with the most experienced captain in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby, Victor Matfield, leading the team onto the field for the 83rd time.
Regular captain Pierre Spies, who made his last appearance in Super Rugby in Round 1 last year against the Sharks in Durban, will play off the bench as he is eased back into action following his long lay-off.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

With the first game of the Springboks End Of Year Tour (Castle Lager Outgoing Tour as it is also known as) looming large this weekend against the Northern Hemisphere’s SIX Nations champions, Ireland, at 19:30 SA Time on Saturday, the war of words are now surfacing.

Victor Matfield describes Paul O’Connell as his toughest lock opponent out there and says O’Connell knows how Matfield runs the lineouts.

From the Irish side, Ireland’s scrumhalf, Conor Murray, believes the Springboks are better than in previous years and is weary of the threat Handré Pollard and Francois Hougaard presents on the weekend.

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Teboho Mahoje

Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje in aksie in die toets teen Skotland vroeër vanjaar in Port Elizabeth. Hy het daar van die plaasvervangerbank af net ’n rukkie speelkans gekry.

Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje – en nie die veteraanlosvoorspeler Schalk Burger nie – in die Springbokke se beginspan Saterdag op Nuweland teen die Wallabies.

En Francois Hougaard op skrumskakel, terwyl Cobus Reinach wat van die bank af in sy debuuttoets gaan kans kry.

Dít lyk na die plan van die Springbokafrigter, Heyneke Meyer, om die Suid-Afrikaners se kwynende aanspraak in die Rugbykampioenskap te behou, Mohoje (24), wat 1.93 m lank is en die skaal op 107 kg laat kreun, sal sy eerste kans in die beginspan in die plek van Francois Louw kry.

Louw het in verlede naweek se verloortoets teen die All Blacks senuwees in sy nek vasgeknyp en sal eers weer in November vir die Bok-toer na Europa beskikbaar wees.

Hougaard sal in die plek van Ruan Pienaar opdraf, wat ook in Wellington beseer is.

Mohoje se insluiting is nóg ’n hoofstuk in sy sprokieseisoen. Dié Vrystaatse kantman het vroeër vanjaar in Port Elizabeth ’n rukkie teen Skotland gespeel.

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Bulls

Roelof Smit

Roelof Smit

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke handed flanker Roelof Smit a first time starting berth in announcing his team to play the Melbourne Rebels at Loftus Versfeld on Friday. Smit debuted for the Vodacom Bulls from the bench against the DHL Stormers last weekend and now start in the number six jersey in one of seven changes to the starting line-up.

Jurgen Visser is back at fullback, having recovered from an abductor strain that kept him out of the Newlands clash and replace Ulrich Beyers. Francois Hougaard will play on the wing, replacing the injured Akona Ndungane, with Piet van Zyl starting at scrumhalf. With Grant Hattingh injured, Jacques Engelbrecht will move back to No 8, Jono Ross moves to 7 and Smit slots in at 6.

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Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

Who Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer earmarks as his flyhalf at the outset of the Championship next month could also have a major bearing on which scrumhalf he chooses to plug the unfortunate Fourie du Preez gap.

Incumbent No 9 and still world-class customer Du Preez, 32, was confirmed on Tuesday as having an ankle injury serious enough for him to ruled out of the entire southern hemisphere tournament.

Given his vast, 70-cap experience and precious ability to read and control a game better than most other South African scrumhalves right now, the loss of Du Preez certainly dents the Boks’ chances of ousting New Zealand from their status as defending champions, even if there have been enough positives in other departments of late to suggest they’ll be seriously competitive nevertheless.

The veteran was just beginning to benefit from a decent run of international matches – important given that he plies his franchise trade in the much more modest arena of Japanese club rugby now – in the June window, looking increasingly more like the character who helped drive the World Cup 2007 success.

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Victor MatfieldJurgen VisserAkona NdunganeFrancois HougaardPaul WillemseBullsBongi MbonambiVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made five changes to his starting line-up to face the Force in Perth on Saturday, with suspension, rotation and injury forcing his hand.

Three changes are at the back.

Jurgen Visser has recovered from the foot injury that ruled him out of the Waratahs clash shortly before kick-off and slots in at fullback, where he replaces Ulrich Beyers. Francois Hougaard moves back to the base of the scrum following the knee-injury sustained by Piet van Zyl and a fit-again Akona Ndungane returns to his regular spot on the wing.

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South AfricaThe South African Rugby Union (SARU) confirmed on Friday that a group of 17 players had been contracted for the 2014 Springbok season – completing the process earlier than at any time for a number of seasons.

The signing of seven players to new Springbok contracts was completed in the past week to add to the ten players who agreed long-term contracts in 2013. Jurie Roux, CEO of SARU, confirmed that there was scope to contract additional players if the coach wished.

The seven newly-contracted players are Marcell Coetzee (loose forward), JJ Engelbrecht (centre / wing), Francois Hougaard (scrumhalf), Patrick Lambie (flyhalf / fullback), Willie le Roux (fullback / wing), Coenie Oosthuizen (prop) and Flip van der Merwe (lock).

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This is the 6th article in the series of Bulls Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2014. We do 2 articles per week per South African Super Rugby participating franchise.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for SCRUMHALVES in the Vodacom Bulls 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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Francois LouwLouis SchreuderNews from the Springbok camp in Hazyview is that Francois Louw has been released early this week, to concentrate on his wedding, which takes place on Sunday. He will rejoin the Springbok camp again on Monday.

Meanwhile Francois Hougaard, who was sent to Pretoria to see a specialist following a knee cartlidge injury flare-up, and told to sit out for 2 weeks till re-evaluation, will be replaced by Louis Screuder, the Stormers scrumhalf.

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Five members of the Springboks’ World Cup squad have been nominated for the SA Rugby Player of the Year Award, with the winner due to be announced at a function at Gold Reef City on November 3.

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