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Willi Heinz

Willi Heinz

The Crusaders appear set to be without Willi Heinz for the Super Rugby season after the scrumhalf fractured his leg in a trial against the Highlanders on Saturday.

Last year’s beaten finallists fell 29-26 in Timaru, however the scoreboard will be of little concern to Todd Blackadder’s troops, whose depth will to be tested ahead of their season-opening clash against the Rebels on 14 February.

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CrusadersNew Crusaders captain Matt Todd will lead a very inexperienced team south to Timaru to take on the Highlanders in the first pre-season outing on Saturday.

The team to play in this port city in the southern Canterbury region of New Zealand is made up of current squad members, wider training group members and some players who have been involved in the pre-season as part of the Crusaders apprenticeship system.

The game will be played in 4 quarters with rolling substitutions.

None of the Crusaders’ frontline All Blacks – Dan Carter, Wyatt Crockett, Israel Dagg, Owen Franks, Ben Franks, Richie McCaw, Luke Romano, Colin Slade or Kieran Read – will feature in the match.

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ScotlandHugh Blake has become the latest player to join the Kilted Kiwi brigade, joining his fellow countrymen Blair Cowan and Sean Maitland in the Scotland squad. It came as a big surprise to see Blake’s name on the team sheet as the Junior All Black and Highlander, now getting his first call up to a Scotland squad, only joined Edinburgh in December last year.

He played in an ‘A’ team fixture for Edinburgh against Glasgow Warriors on 22 December and had to leave the field injured, suffering from concussion following a knock to his head which knocked him out for a bit. Flanker Blake (1.87m and 102kg) has yet to appear for the senior Edinburgh team and what makes his inclusion even more baffling is that he was introduced as being recruited for a trial period on his arrival in Edinburgh.

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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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Clarke Dermody

Clarke Dermody

Former Southland and All Black prop, Clarke Dermody has been unveiled as the Highlanders’ scrum and assistant forwards’ coach for the 2015 Super Rugby season.

He had a voluntary, part-time role with the Highlanders this year, before serving as an assistant with Southland during the national provincial championships.

Dermody had a remarkable playing career, which included playing for every New Zealand age-group team before playing three Tests in 2006 for the All Blacks and is no stranger to the Highlanders after representing them 44 times.

Highlanders coach Jamie Joseph hopes the fulltime work by Dermody will help shore up a scrum that was put under pressure this season.

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Super RugbyIn preparation for Super Rugby in 2015, all 5 New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have named their squads for the tournament.

In the meantime, South African franchises will ponder about their squads and in December we at Rugby-Talk.com will speculate what the South African franchises will look like, as final squads will only be known in January 2015.

The same happens every year, New Zealand and Australia get their ducks in a row before the December break, whereas the South Africans seem to focus on December holidays, going to the beach, having Christmas and generally geting fat and lazy.

When can we ever expect the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Super Rugby franchises to ever catch up to the more professional attitudes displayed primarily by New Zealand… but also closely followed by their Antipodion counterparts, Australia?

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Aaron Smith

Aaron Smith

After much speculation in the media the Highlanders are happy to announce today that Aaron Smith has re-signed with the Highlanders for two more years through to the end of the Super Rugby season in 2016.

Smith said “I love living and playing rugby in Dunedin, it’s my home and I couldn’t think of a better place to be.”

“I love the team and can’t wait to get back out on the field in front of our home fans in 2015”.

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Cell C Sharks celebations

Celebrations at Kings Park as Bismarck du Plessis scores for the Cell C Sharks

Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks are still in contention for their first Super Rugby trophy after beating the Highlanders 31 to 27 at Kings Park tonight.

The Sharks must thank their forwards, and in particular their front row for this victory. Their scrum absolutely decimated the Highlander’s scrum and lead to 6 points in penalties and an all important try to man of the match, Bismarck Du Plessis.

The tactics of not kicking to touch almost cost the Sharks the match as the Highlander’s counter attack was devastating and almost won the game for them. It is a dangerous ploy from the Sharks to gift the ball back to the opposition, considering that their next opponents are also a New Zealand side, and that’s not even taking into account that they might also still have to face the Waratahs or Brumbies, who in Israel Folau and Jessie Mogg have devastating counter runners at their disposal as well.

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Cell C SharksHighlandersSharks (13) 31 / 27 (17) Highlanders (Final Score)

The Cell C Sharks and Highlanders did battle in the Play-Off Round of Super Rugby at

Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, 03:05 Sunday NZ Time, 01:05 Sunday AEST).

This was the live match discussion Article.

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


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Mt Everest

The Sharks have their own Mt. Everest to climb

If one were to ask people who the first person was to climb Mt. Everest, their answers would invariably be Sir Edmund Hillary.

While technically correct, and the reason I say technically is because Hillary was the first to successfully climb to the summit, there were 8 other expeditions before him. The 1922 British Mount Everest expedition was the first mountaineering expedition with the express aim of making the first ascent of Mount Everest.

Between 1922 and 1953 there were 8 expeditions that tried and failed. The term failed is used lightly I might add, climbers succumbed from illnesses ranging from malaria to altitude sickness, and those were the lucky ones. Death was the common reason for the majority of the failures.

Why am I writing about the ascent of Mt. Everest on a rugby site you might ask, well simply put, Jake White and his Sharks are currently standing at the foot of their own Mt. Everest and tomorrow evening when Steve Walsh blows his whistle to signal the kick off between them and the Highlanders, they will take their first steps on a journey that will hopefully end with them planting the South African flag on the summit in three weeks time.

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imageimageThe Cell C Sharks will play in their 14th Vodacom Super Rugby knock-out match when they host the Highlanders in the second Qualifier for 2014 at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday afternoon.

The newly-crowned South African Conference champions are one of the most successful teams in the history of the competition when it comes to reaching the playoff rounds, although they are yet to take the trophy back to Durban.

The Sharks are without doubt the most successful team in the history of the competition never to have won the title.

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New Zealand Conference
For those who might have watched the episode of Boots & All on Thursday 17 July, you might have heard John Mitchell refer to an article he read surrounding the New Zealand teams and conference.

Rugby-Talk exclusively brings you the article in question, and we must agree with John, it does make for some interesting reading.

Just how level are the current playing fields in Super Rugby, if all sides don’t face the same opposition, and what are the possible consequences thereof on the final standings?

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Super RugbyIt is the Play-Off Round of Super Rugby 2014 this weekend! We have only the 2 Play-Off games in this Round, as all teams below Log position 6 has now been dispatched and the Top 2 teams have a nice rest weekend, with both games on Saturday.

This is the final crunch to sort the men from the boys, to sort the teams going forward into the Semi-Finals.

The Waratahs and Crusaders sit comfortably at the Top of the table and the Brumbies, Chiefs, Cell C Sharks and Highlanders compete in this Round.

It is winners take all in these Play-Off games, the losers joing the other 9 Teams who have already been dispatched to also-ran’s.

Bonus points for tries and losses within 7 now does not matter anymore, all that is needed is a win.

Let the games continue….

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Cell C SharksHighlandersA midfield match-up, the scrumhalves, the battle between the pilferers on the deck and an arm-wrestle at scrum-time come under focus as Sport24 pinpoints a quartet of areas that could tilt the balance between the Sharks and Highlanders.

The teams meet in a Super Rugby finals series first-round knockout match at Kings Park on Saturday (17:05) and these are the individual contests Rob Houwing highlights for special attention…

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Cell C SharksIn the second of the Qualifying Round matches, the Cell C Sharks hosts the Highlanders from Otago. The Sharks won the SA Conference and thereby ensured they booked a home qualifier by ending 3rd on the Combined Log. The Highlanders took the last of the wild card positions by ending their season 6th.

The long-awaited return of Springbok Patrick Lambie highlights the Sharks team for their Super Rugby play-off encounter with the Highlanders in Durban on Saturday.

Scrumhalf Cobus Reinach also makes a welcome return ahead of this preliminary qualifier.

However, it is the return of Lambie’s – albeit on the replacement bench – that will hog the headlines.

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Steve Walsh

Steve Walsh

Sanzar has announced that South Africa’s Craig Joubert and Steve Walsh from Australia will referee the two Vodacom Super Rugby Qualifiers this weekend.

Joubert will be the man in the middle in Canberra, where the Brumbies host the Chiefs, while Walsh will be in action in Durban in the second Qualifier between the Cell C Sharks and the Highlanders.

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Jamie Joseph

Jamie Joseph, coach of the Highlanders

The Highlanders will attempt what no team has had a chance to do before – beat the Sharks in Durban, twice in one season.

They will meet in a preliminary knock-out match at Kings Park on Saturday, after the Sharks finished third on the Super Rugby standings and the men from Dunedin sixth.

The Highlanders beat the Sharks 34-18 in South Africa back in April, during a successful tour of the Republic.

Now they return to the venue where they have recorded only two other victories – 43-7 in 2005 and 23-19 in 2003.

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Special EditionSuper RugbyLike every fine season of Super Rugby, all is not revealed until the final weekend of the regular season, and the 2014 campaign, and 19th tournament overall of the Southern Hemisphere’s premier provincial competition, will be no different.

However congratulations must be offered to the Waratahs, who offered one piece of clarity over the weekend with their 44-16 win over the Highlanders.

With that, the Waratahs has for the first time qualified as the top-ranked team after the regular season, and become the ninth franchise in history to finish as ‘minor premiers’.

For coach Michael Cheika and his troops, this will be a significant fact even though he was quick to remind all who would listen that the Super Rugby Finals Series would be another step up for a team that looks the goods.

However, as Cheika correctly pointed out, there will be teams with more experience at this stage of the season and this is a crucial factor for potential champions.

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Ben Smith

Ben Smith

Highlanders and All Blacks fullback Ben Smith remains in a Sydney hospital while recovering from a leg infection.

A statement released by the team on Tuesdays said they believed the infection was caused by a “supercicial graze” sustained by the player in Sunday’s loss to the Waratahs at Allianz Stadium.

Highlanders doctor Greg Macleod has remained in Sydney with Smith and says he is responding well to treatment.

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WaratahsThe Waratahs secured top position in Super Rugby’s regular-season as they overpowered the Highlanders 44-16 at Allianz Stadium in Sydney on Sunday.

A second-half onslaught did the damage as fine tries for Israel Folau, Sekope Kepu, Nick Phipps, Jacques Potgieter and Taqele Naiyaravoro were added to Rob Horne’s score in the opening 40.

They will now go into next week’s trip to the Reds knowing that top spot is assured and Michael Cheika might subsequently choose to rotate a handful of his stars in order to keep them fresh.

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Jamie Joseph

Jamie Joseph

Highlanders’ head coach Jamie Joseph has named his team to take on the current Super Rugby leaders, the Waratahs in Sydney on Sunday afternoon.

The team is unchanged from the side that defeated the Chiefs 29-25 in an exhilarating match at Forsyth Barr Stadium last Friday.

With only two games to go in the regular season, the Highlanders currently sit fourth overall with the same points as the Crusaders in third (42).

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Cell C SharksDo the business in Bloemfontein on Saturday night … then warm up the Sunday morning coffee smartly and become temporary Highlanders enthusiasts for 80 minutes.

Those ought to be key items on the Sharks’ to-do list this weekend as Super Rugby 2014 enters its penultimate round of ordinary-season play.

Director of rugby Jake White will be aware of the potential hazard of putting the cart before the horse, and drum into his charges that victory against the Cheetahs in a domestic derby is very much the main target.

But if they manage that, their attention will undoubtedly turn pretty smartly to a Sunday morning cracker (in SA time-zone terms, at 08:05) between the log-leading Waratahs and New Zealand-based playoffs challengers the Highlanders in Sydney.

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CrusadersHurricanesHighlandersChiefsBluesThere is just six competition points separating the five New Zealand Conference teams, but with four intense local derbies to come, there is no chance of the Kiwi teams dominating the 2014 Super Rugby Finals Series.

The Crusaders and Highlanders destinies are in their own hands, although in a delicious twist of fate those two meet in the final round so that clash could be for a top six berth.

The Hurricanes, just one point behind, do not have their fate completely in their own hands, one of just two teams with only one fixture remaining.

The Blues and Chiefs need results to go their way if they are to survive.

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Phil Burleigh

Phil Burleigh

Edinburgh’s backline resources for the new season were boosted with the signing of Highlanders utility back Phil Burleigh.

Burleigh signed a two-year deal with the Scottish outfit.

The 27-year-old playmaker came through the ranks with Bay of Plenty, before becoming a regular star in the Southern Hemisphere’s top flight Super Rugby competition.

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HighlandersHighlanders head coach Jamie Joseph has named his team to take on the reigning champions in Dunedin on Friday.

All three All Blacks, along with Patrick Osborne, who joined the All Black’s squad as injury cover, have returned to the starting line-up while both Brayden Mitchell and Tom Franklin have played their way into the team after stellar performances in Invercargill against the NZ Barbarians.

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New Zealand Super Rugby Franchise Jerseys with child names

New Zealand Super Rugby Franchise Jerseys with child names

The jerseys of the five New Zealand Super Rugby teams will look slightly different this weekend.

All of the jerseys being worn by the five New Zealand-based Super Rugby squads have been customised for Round 15 with the name of a different child.

It was done as part of a charity initiative run by the BNZ in aid of Plunket – New Zealand’s largest provider of support services for the development, health and well-being of children under the age of 5.

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Special EditionSuper RugbyThe lowest mark for a Super Rugby Finals Series qualifier over recent years has been 53, meaning that this season one can mathematically assume in 2014 at least 45 points gives a team a chance of playing knockout rugby.

Remember 8 less points are on offer in 2014 with nothing awarded for a bye.

The Melbourne Rebels are now out of calculations, for while a potentially brilliant perfect 25 from 25 points in their closing run covers the rudimentary maths, they would need to rely on a perfect maelstrom of losing chaos at the top of the table.

The Blues, although 1oth and in a precarious position on the Log, have 5 games left, but from hereon in it is crunch time for them. They almost need a flawless run from here and a loss to the Sharks, will certainly put them out of the running on the weekend.

For the Vodacom Bulls, it becomes doubly difficult now, they only have 4 games left, compared to 5 by most of the teams above them in the pecking order. One more loss, and you can write them off. They need a near perfect run in their 4 games, earning at least 17 Log points from 4 games, so that means at least one bonus point try win and the rest all wins.

Evaluation in reverse order:

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Super RugbyCheetahsStormersCell C SharksSaturday’s three Vodacom Super Rugby matches involving the Cell C Sharks, DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs ended in a whitewash for the South African teams as they all recorded good victories.

The Cell C Sharks consolidated their spot at the top of the Vodacom Super Rugby log with a superb 30-25 victory over the in-form Crusaders in Christchurch – the first defeat for the team from Canterbury in New Zealand since 2001 against South African opposition and also the maiden victory for a team from the Republic in the Land of the Long White Cloud this season.

The Durbanites became the first South African team to ever in Christchurch since the franchise system was put in place in 1998.

It was only the second time a SA team managed to beat the Crusaders in Christchurch, when Northern Transvaal won there in 1996, and the third time out of 46 matches that the seven-time Vodacom Super Rugby champions lost at home to a team from the Republic – the Cats beat the Crusaders in Nelson in 2001.

The Crusaders also drew twice at home to teams from South Africa in the early years of Super 12, in 1996 against Western Province and in 1997 against the Sharks.

Later on Saturday afternoon, the DHL Stormers won their third successive home game of 2014 when they easily beat the high-flying Force by 24-8 in Cape Town, outscoring their visitors by three tries to one – ironically the same try count as in the Sharks/Crusaders match.

Saturday ended in ecstasy for the Toyota Cheetahs as they managed to beat the Brumbies for the first time since 2011 when they won this replay of their 2013 qualifier by 27-21, thanks mainly to a very good second half performance.

On Sunday morning, the Lions started very well against the Waratahs in Sydney, but the home team had too much left in the second half and eventually won this match by 41-13.

The Vodacom Bulls, currently second in the South African Conference behind the Cell C Sharks, had a bye this weekend.

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