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Internationals

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThere will be additional prestige on offer when 16 of the world’s leading nations gather in Hong Kong to contest Round 6 of the HSBC Sevens World Series.

This weekend will be the 40th Hong Kong Sevens, as New Zealand look to overhaul arch rivals and World Series leaders South Africa at the top of the standings.

Scott Hastings, one of the many legends in attendance in Hong Kong this weekend, spoke to the significance of winning at the iconic stadium.

“Hong Kong is a fantastic tournament, the Mecca of Sevens, and so many world renowned players came to prominence playing for their teams here in Hong Kong,” Hastings said.

For teams like South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji there as the additional significance of World Series points.

The Blitzbokke lead the World Series with 93 points, including 2 tournaments wins, from the 1st 5 Rounds. New Zealand (1 win, 88 points) and Fiji (2 wins, 86 points) are hot on their heels.

Of course there is also the race for a Top-4 finish – and automatic qualification for the 2016 Olympics – where teams like Australia (71), England (68), Argentina (54) and the United States (51) are in the running.

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Olympics Rio 2016Rugby Sevens will make its Olympic Games debut on 6 August 2016 after the Rio 2016 Organising Committee released the daily competition schedule on Wednesday to mark 500 days to go.

The Rugby Sevens competitions at the Deodoro Sports Complex will be played over 6 days between 6 – 11 August 2016 with 2 sessions per day. The session times will be announced in due course.

The world’s top women will be the 1st rugby players to compete for an Olympic Games medal for 92 years, with 12 teams competing over 3 days with the 12-team men’s competition following over the next 3 days.

The 4 top teams on the World Rugby Sevens Series log at the end of the current season will qualify automatically for Rio. With just 4 more Rounds remaining, South Africa (93 points) have a slender lead at the top of the series standings over rivals New Zealand (88). They are closely followed by Fiji (86) and Australia (71).

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Cobus Reinach

Cobus Reinach

Marcell Coetzee

Marcell Coetzee

Patrick Lambie

Patrick Lambie

The Springbok trio of Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Patrick Lambie are all expected to be rested for the Cell C Sharks’ showdown with the Western Force, in line with the agreement with SA Rugby over player management.

The 3 have earned the break after influential performances during the competition, and the good news that Frans Steyn was cleared to play means he may well take over the flyhalf position from Lambie, although the coaches may not want to break up his midfield partnership with JP Pietersen.

If the pair remain at No 12 and No 13 respectively, either Fred Zeilinga or Lionel Cronje will step into the number No 10 jersey, after solid performances for the Sharks XV in their Vodacom Cup clash on Saturday.

“It’s a huge boost that we will have Frans available, it provides massive stability to the team, especially due to the changes we will have with the resting of the Springboks,” said assistant coach Paul Anthony.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

David Pocock’s principled stand against homophobia on the field will cost him any chance of captaining Australia again, says former Wallaby Greg Martin.

Pocock’s on-field complaints to the referee led to Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter being fined AU$ 20 000.00 for using homophobic slurs during his side’s win over the Brumbies on Sunday.

Respected rugby commentator Martin says Pocock did the right thing in speaking out but his action will split opinion in the game.

“He’ll pay for it. It will mean that he will never captain the Wallabies again,” Martin told Brisbane’s Triple M radio on Tuesday.

“What he’s done, he hasn’t fractured the game down a Waratahs-Brumbies line… It won’t be fractured down like that, but it will be fractured upon clear-thinking, modern-thinking footballers who will support David Pocock and the more old school, hard heads who will say that was a disgrace he shouldn’t have done that.

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Cricket BallNew Zealand and South Africa battled each other in 1 of the 2 Semi-Final games of the Cricket World Cup, at Eden Park, Auckland, New Zealand.

The match started at 03:00 SA Time (14:00 NZ Time).

As expected, South Africa, New Zealand, Australia and India made the Semi-Finals.

The Other Semi-Final, between Australia vs India take place on Thursday 26 March at 05:30 SA Time (14:30 Sydney Time) at the Sydney Cricket Ground.

South Africa won the toss and elected to bat first.

The South African Innnings was interrupted by rain and the game was reduced to a 43 Over per side game.

South Africa reached a total of 281 / 5 in their allotted 43 Overs, with Faf du Plessis (82), AB de Villiers (65 not out) and David Miller (49 off just 18 balls) doing the damage.

New Zealand started like a house on fire, with Brendan McCullum racing to 59 off only 26 balls… till he eventually perished. Kane Williamson perished on 6 runs, off 11 balls. Martin Guptill eventually perished on 34, from 38 balls and then Taylor departed for 30 off 39 balls. At this stage, New Zealand was still just above the required run-rate.

2 More wickets followed but it was not enough for South Africa.

New Zealand won with 1 ball spare, a 6 off the last ball by Grant Elliott, an Ex-South African himself!

 

 

South Africa: 281 / 5 (43 / 43 Overs)

New Zealand: 299 / 6 (42.5 / 43 Overs, 298 required due to D/L)

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Ireland ruthlessly wore down Scotland in a commanding 40 / 10 victory at Murrayfield on Saturday to win the Six Nations title on points difference from England.

England needed to beat France by 26 points at Twickenham in the final game of the tournament but only managed a 55 / 35 victory to leave Ireland as champions.

“It’s going to be the death of me, it was pretty tough viewing but all of this makes it worth while. The people that have stayed here represent a fantastic support base that we have,” Ireland coach Joe Schmidt told Irish television.

“We were only just glued together towards the end there because the English really put the pressure on, I’d certainly sympathise with them a little bit. I though their performance today was superb.

“Thankfully France rebounded each time England did get a bit of a differential and that allowed us to hang in and hang on to the silverwear,” Schmidt added.

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SIX NationsIt should be a 3-way fight between England, Ireland and Wales for the Six Nations title on Saturday, although France still have an outside chance.

The Top 3 are locked on 6 Points with 3 wins apiece, while England’s points difference of +37 puts them 1st, ahead of Ireland’s +33 and Wales’ +12.

France are 4th with 4 Points and a points difference of +22.

Philippe Saint-Andre’s side could still steal the title if Wales and Ireland lose and Les Bleus then beat England by a margin of 8 points or more, but it looks a remote possibility.

If teams are level on points, and match-points difference, then England are likely to win the Championship on tries scored, having crossed 11 times to Ireland’s 4 and Wales’ 5. In the highly unlikely event this was also level come Saturday night, the trophy would be shared.

Wales are in action 1st away to Italy in Rome (14:30 SA Time, 12:30 GMT), before Ireland take on Scotland at Murrayfield (16:30 SA Time, 14:30 GMT), ahead of England’s home match against France at Twickenham (19:00 SA Time, 17:00 GMT).

With the Six Nations wide open, we assess the 4 teams’ chances.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

After 5 games in a row for the Cell C Sharks’ Springboks, questions are being asked about the SARU player rest initiative and when the Durban-based team will buy in.

Gary Gold however has said the Sharks are in a different position to other teams in South Africa and as such have an alternative to it .

The Sharks have a core group of Springboks that play an integral part to both the union and the national team.

Players such as Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Pat Lambie to name a few.

However, with Super Rugby now reaching Round 6, and a large percentage of those Springboks being named to play their 6 game in a row against the Chiefs this Saturday, questions are being asked of the Sharks management.

Coach Gold explained his selection, and subsequent breaking of the SARU initiative, by stating the Sharks are facing a challenging schedule with regards to BYE-weeks.

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BlitzbokkeThe Springbok Sevens rugby squad announced on Thursday for the next 2 rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and Tokyo shows 2 changes from the squad that played in New Zealand and the USA.

Justin Geduld and Stephan Dippenaar return to the 12-man squad in place of Rayno Benjamin and Warrick Gelant, who have returned to the Toyota Cheetahs and Vodacom Blue Bulls respectively to resume their provincial duties.

Geduld, a Commonwealth Games gold medalist with the Blitzboks last year, shrugged off the hamstring injury he picked up in Wellington, which ruled him out of the Las Vegas Sevens.

Dippenaar returns to the Springbok Sevens squad for the 1st time since the opening round last October, when he sustained a hamstring injury at the Gold Coast Sevens in Australia.

The rest of the squad is unchanged from the outfit that finished 3rd in Wellington and Las Vegas. Kyle Brown leads a Blitzboks squad that is very experienced, and has in Frankie Horne a stalwart forward who will play in his 64th consecutive World Series tournament.

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ScotlandScotland head coach Vern Cotter has made 2 changes to the team that lost to England for this weekend’s Six Nations match against Ireland.

Scotland are last in the Six Nations standings and need to beat Ireland to stand a chance of avoiding the wooden spoon after they fell to Italy earlier in the tournament.

Both of Cotter’s changes are promotions from the bench with back-row Adam Ashe starting on the blind-side flank in place of Robert Harley, and Ryan Grant switching roles with Alasdair Dickinson – who starts on the bench – for his 1st start of the championship.

The settled selection sees the national team’s backline return to start another match, with captain Greig Laidlaw partnering stand-off Finn Russell in front of Glasgow Warriors trio Mark Bennett, Stuart Hogg and Tommy Seymour, and Edinburgh duo Matt Scott and Dougie Fife, the latter making his home debut.

In the pack, tighthead Euan Murray makes history, alongside Ross Ford and Grant, overtaking Allan Jacobsen’s record as the most capped Scotland prop with a 66th appearance.

Jonny Gray and Jim Hamilton will again start in the boiler house, with David Denton and Blair Cowan returning to the back-row, the latter 1 of 6 Scotland players to hold a starting spot in every match of the Championship, as well as Bennett, Ford, Gray, Hogg and Laidlaw.

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FranceYoung Stade Francais flyhalf Jules Plisson has been called up for France’s final Six Nations clash with England on Saturday as coach Philippe Saint-Andre named a 16th different halfback pairing.

Plisson, 23, comes in for injured first-choice No 10 Camille Lopez, who misses the game at Twickenham due to a knee problem.

With Sebastien Tillous-Borde remaining at scrumhalf, it will be the 16th different halfback pairing Saint-Andre has picked in just over 3 years and now 37 matches at the France helm.

Clermont’s Lopez, who has been Saint-Andre’s first-choice playmaker for France’s last 7 internationals dating back to the November Tests, was on Wednesday ruled out for 4 to 6 weeks.

Saint-Andre defended his rotation, saying he had no choice in changing his halfback partnership.

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EnglandLeicester lock Geoff Parling was recalled by England coach Stuart Lancaster for Saturday’s decisive Six Nations showdown with France at Twickenham.

Parling comes into the second row in place of Dave Attwood, who drops out of the squad, in the only change to the starting 15 that overcame Scotland 25 / 13 last weekend.

Harlequins No 8 Nick Easter returns to the bench.

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WalesWales players Alun Wyn Jones, Dan Biggar, Scott Williams and the uncapped Gareth Anscombe have all signed central contracts, the Welsh Rugby Union (WRU) have announced on Wednesday.

Ospreys team-mates Jones and Biggar, Scarlets centre Williams and Cardiff Blues flyhalf Anscombe follow Rhys Webb in signing a National Dual Contract, taking the total number of Welsh players on central contracts to 12.

“Alun Wyn, Dan, Scott and Gareth represent a cross-section of experience, but each one of them is a player of proven talent,” said Wales head coach Warren Gatland in a statement on the WRU website.

“Within the group of 12 we have signed a mixture of emerging talent and players who have secured reputations for excellence through their appearances for their regions, Wales and the British and Irish Lions.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett says Duane Vermeulen should be the Springbok captain at this year’s Rugby World Cup if Jean de Villiers fails to recover in time.

De Villiers, the current Springbok leader, is in a race against time to be fit for the 18 September to 31 October event.

De Villiers suffered an horrific knee injury in South Africa’s final Test of last year – against Wales in Cardiff – and it remains uncertain if he’ll recover sufficiently for the tournament in England and Wales.

“Duane should lead the Springboks at the World Cup if Jean de Villiers is not ready,” Mallett said.

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SpringboksThe understanding reached between SARU and the participating franchises in Vodacom Super Rugby are as follows:

At a pre-season meeting between SARU’s CEO, the Springbok Coach and Rugby Department staff, with union CEOs and coaching representatives the desirability of managing the playing time of an identified group of Springbok players was agreed.

Two principles were identified as being ideal:

  1. That players should not play more than 5 consecutive weeks.
  2. That certain Springbok players should have a number of weeks of rest during the tournament (2 to 4 weeks depending on each player’s personal needs and position and the franchise’s playing resources).

Note: BYE weeks are not considered as a rest week (although they do trigger a restart of the count of consecutive weeks) while injury weeks are ‘invisible’ (i.e. a player injured for 2 weeks during the 1st 7 weeks of the tournament would be regarded as having played 5 consecutive weeks at the end of week 7).

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

If there was ever a good time for Stormers coach Allister Coetzee to rest captain Duane Vermeulen it is now.

The SA Player of the Year was always going to have to miss the 1st game of the Stormers tour against the Highlanders, having played 5 straight games at the start of the season, but having 4 wins under the belt and plenty of loose forward depth at his disposal does make it easier for Coetzee to give him the time off.

The plan was always to give Vermeulen an extended break with the BYE this week followed by a week off in Dunedin, as part of SARU’s request that top Springboks be given regular games off to manage their workload this season ahead of the World Cup.

Coetzee admitted that it may be tougher to rest Vermeulen when there is more pressure on later in the season, but for now he is happy to stick to the plan.

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Cricket BallSouth Africa and Sri Lanka battled each other in a Quarter-Final game of the Cricket World Cup, at Sydney Cricket Ground, Sydney, Australia.

The match started at 05:30 SA Time (14:30 Sydney Time).

As expected, the traditionally BIG Cricket Nations, bar England, made the Quarter-Finals.

It was South Africa vs Sri Lanka in the 1st Quarter-Final, and will be Bangladesh vs India in the 2nd Quarter-Final, Australia vs Pakistan in the 3rd Quarter-Final and New Zealand vs West Indies in the 4th Quarter-Final.

Sri Lanka won the toss and chose to bat first.

South Africa Bowled and fielded with dicipline, aggression and passion, to dismiss Sri Lanka for a paltry 133, after only 37.2 Overs.

South Africa started their batting innings on a solid footing, only losing the first and only wicket, that of Hashim Amla, with the score already on 40 runs.

The Dinner Break was taken at the fall of the Amla wicket… so it was all to play for, for South Africa after Dinner!

South Africa cruised to victory in 18 Overs, with Quinton de Kock not out on 78 off 57 balls and Faf du Plessis not out on 21 off 31 balls.

South Africa becomes the 1st side to advance to the Semi-Finals.

 

Sri Lanka: 133 All Out (37.2 Overs)

South Africa: 134 / 1 (18 Overs)

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales have made 2 changes in their front row to face Italy in their final Six Nations encounter of the season, in Rome on Saturday.

Rob Evans and Aaron Jarvis come into the starting 15, replacing the injured duo of Gethin Jenkins (hamstring) and Samson Lee (Achilles).

The team which will take to the field at the Stadio Olimpico is otherwise unchanged team.

Evans will make his first start as he wins his 2nd cap in Rome and will line-up alongside Ospreys duo Scott Baldwin and Jarvis.

Luke Charteris and Alun Wyn Jones continue in the second row with Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton in the back row.

The backline remains unchanged with Rhys Webb (No 9) and Dan Biggar (No 10) at halfback, Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies in the centre and a back 3 of George North, Liam Williams and Leigh Halfpenny.

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Tevita Kuridrani

Tevita Kuridrani

Wallabies and Brumbies centre Tevita Kuridrani has signed a 2-year contract extension with Australian Rugby that will take him through until the end of the 2017 season.

Kuridrani joins Wallabies Nick Phipps, Sean McMahon, Rob Horne, Sam Carter and Scott Fardy who have committed to the Australian Rugby Union in recent months.

The 23-year-old has quickly established himself as one of the Wallabies rising stars since his maiden Test campaign in 2013, where he has since worn the gold jersey 20 times scoring 4 tries.

Kuridrani is highly respected amongst his peers, having polled strongly with 202 votes in the John Eales medal in his last international season.

However, the Fijian-born flyer still feels the need to improve as a player.

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Philippe Saint-Andre

Philippe Saint-Andre

France coach Philippe Saint-Andre on Monday gave a strong indication that Saturday’s game against England at Twickenham would be his last match in charge of a Six Nations game.

Asked if that would be the case he replied: “the chances are high that it will be, yes.”

“But I prefer to stay in the present and on this hugely important week ahead of us,” he added.

Saint-Andre, who won 69 caps for France as a wing, took over as France coach after the World Cup of 2011 and his present contract takes him through until the end of this year’s World Cup in England.

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WalesWales ended Ireland’s hopes of a Six Nations Grand Slam and in the process climb above Australia to 5th in the World Rugby Rankings.

Wales have climbed 1 place to 5th in the latest World Rugby Rankings after their 23 / 16 victory over Ireland, setting up a thrilling climax to the RBS 6 Nations with 3 sides tied on 6 Log points.

The Welsh victory, in a match which saw Sam Warburton surpass Ryan Jones’s record for the most tests as captain, leaves them, Ireland and England battling for the title this coming Saturday.

Wales’ climb comes at the expense of Australia, who have now fallen to their lowest ever position since the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003.

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ScotlandScotland’s coaching staff and players remain upbeat, despite having a growing injury list heading into their final Six Nations match of the season.

Scotland, without a win and stuck at the bottom of the standings, host title-chasing Ireland in Edinburgh on Saturday.

Matt Scott (thigh), Jim Hamilton (back spasm), Tommy Seymour (elbow), Blair Cowan (calf) and Alasdair Dickinson (leg) all suffered injuries in the 13 / 25 loss to England Twickenham this past weekend – setbacks that put them on the doubtful list for the final match of the season.

Mark Bennett insisted Scottish team morale is not at rock-bottom, despite a fourth consecutive Six Nations defeat in the Calcutta Cup clash at the weekend.

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Gurthrö Steenkamp

Gurthrö Steenkamp

Springbok prop Gurthrö Steenkamp has announced his retirement from international rugby, stating his wish to focus his career at Toulouse.

Steenkamp, many would feel, was still heavily in contention to make the Springbok World Cup squad after featuring through 2014. His retirement may well cause Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer some headaches.

The 33-year-old loosehead prop began his career at the Cheetahs in 2002 and then the Cats in 2004 before moving to the Bulls where he played the bulk of his rugby from 2005 – 2011.

Steenkamp was also selected for the Springboks from 2004 and made 53 appearances, scoring 6 tries.

The burley prop has been a part of the Toulouse setup since 2011 and has made 76 appearances for the French Giants.

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ScotlandScotland head coach Vern Cotter has named a team with five changes for their penultimate Six Nations Championship match against England at Twickenham on Saturday.

Cotter has brought back David Denton, Dougie Fife, Matt Scott, Jim Hamilton and Finn Russell to a Scotland team that are still looking for their first victory this year.

The five players come in to the starting team to replace Johnnie Beattie, knee injury victims Sean Lamont and Alex Dunbar, and Tim Swinson and Peter Horne.

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WalesWales will field an unchanged starting lineup for the Six Nations showdown with Ireland in Cardiff on Saturday.

Coach Warren Gatland was pleased with his side’s 20 / 13 win over France in Paris which kept alive their hopes of winning the tournament and had no problem giving the same 15 men a vote of confidence.

Flanker Sam Warburton, who went off after taking a blow to his knee during the French clash, has regained his fitness and will be able to break Ryan Jones’ record when he captains Wales for the 34th time at the Millennium Stadium.

The only 2 changes to the Paris lineup are due to injuries and come on the bench.

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  • Jeraldjay 29 Mar 2015, 14:09 SAST - Well done Aussies. Its a whole new ball game when you played on postage stamps all tournament then having to...
  • Angostura 29 Mar 2015, 12:41 SAST - One should not forget that Aus was the only team to have beaten NZ. But also NZ was the only...
  • Angostura 29 Mar 2015, 12:36 SAST - Man of the Match - James Faulkner Man of the Tournament - Mitchell Starc!
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  • Angostura 29 Mar 2015, 12:05 SAST - A walk in the park for Australia, the undisputed world champions of the ODI game ... Take a bow Great...
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