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Internationals

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The Rugby ChampionshipNow that the excitement of the crazy last 10 minutes at Newlands has subsided, maybe it’s time for a reality check for the Springboks and their supporters – regardless of what happens at Ellis Park this coming week, the All Blacks remain top of the southern hemisphere pile and there is still a lot of work to be done before their position will be properly challenged.

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Scott Fardy  Michael Hooper

Scott Fardy conforts Michael Hooper following the loss

Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver recently called for a rotation of Rugby Championship games because he believed playing the All Blacks twice at the start of the tournament had killed off local interest.

After the Wallabies deflated in the final ten minutes in Cape Town, Pulver’s latest brainwave could be pleading to SANZAR that Australia does not play any important Rugby Championship matches away from home, and that the Springboks are barred from using their reserves bench.

These are kooky times, and as the frazzled ARU brain’s trust has made it quite clear, the Wallabies need every bit of help they can get.

Still it is all too late to stop the Mandela Plate, like the Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship silverware from remaining for another year thousands of kilometres away from the ARU’s bare trophy cabinet.

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Israel Dagg

FULL GALLOP: All Blacks fullback Israel Dagg finds clear air during their 34-13 win over Argentina to clinch the Rugby Championship for 2014.

Launching pads don’t get much better. With the pressure now off, the All Blacks board a flight to Johannesburg today with strut, swagger and no inhibitions.

Yesterday’s four-try 34-13 win over the Pumas clinched a third successive Rugby Championship title but, more importantly, saw the All Blacks regain their attacking groove.

After two weeks battling New Zealand rain they threw off the shackles in La Plata and now have the freedom to craft a gameplan without worrying about any tournament permutations.

To further enhance their 22-test unbeaten run they will be intent on harnessing that flamboyance for a blockbuster clash of styles rematch with the Springboks.

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Rugby World Cup 2015Russia will take the narrowest of leads with them to Montevideo in two weeks’ time after they beat Uruguay 22-21 in Saturday’s first leg of the final Rugby World Cup 2015 qualifier in Krasnoyarsk. However, while no team likes to lose a game of rugby, Uruguay’s Pablo Lemoine will probably be the more satisfied of the two coaches as his side is still very much in contention at what is effectively half-time. Of course, the fact that the second half will most likely be played on a warm day in front 12,000 home fans will give him cause for optimism after his team held their own in the near-freezing conditions and vociferous Siberian crowd of the first 80 minutes.

But for Russia’s indiscipline and the cultured right boot of fly-half Felipe Berchesi, who slotted seven penalties, the gap would have been more. Two yellow cards, a high penalty count and the spurning of several try-scoring opportunities did nothing for the mood of Russia coach Raphael Saint-Andre but he will know that his team was the more creative on the day and, if they can somehow learn to compete at set pieces and improve their defence at mauls, they too can make the long journey to South America with some confidence.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

The formidable presence of No 8 Duane Vermeulen could be missing from the Springbok arsenal when they play their final Rugby Championship match of the year against the All Blacks at Ellis Park next Saturday.

Vermeulen left the field late in the second half with a rib injury, and with Schalk Burger having already come onto the field for Teboho Mohoje, that meant that a lock, Victor Matfield, had to take up position on the side of the scrum.

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SpringboksSPRINGBOKS

Meyer Praises fit, gutsy Boks

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer on Saturday applauded the fitness and never-say-die attitude of his team in defeating Australia 28-10 in the Rugby Championship at DHL Newlands.

The Springboks scored three tries in the last ten minutes to seal a bonus point victory.

“We played great rugby at times in the first half, but their defence was great. We became a bit frustrated because of that, but in the second half the fitness levels and impact from the bench was massive for us; I told our conditioning coach Basil Carzis as much afterwards,” Meyer said.

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Richie McCaw

FIRE STILL THERE: During the All Blacks’ last four tests, the captain Richie McCaw proved his leadership qualities stand above all others.

Johannesburg’s Witwatersrand University. Two years ago Richie McCaw stood here in the middle of a huddle and gave his team both barrels.

They were hot, jet lagged, exhausted. Training was flat. With a few expletives thrown in, McCaw told them he didn’t care. He motioned to his head; now was the time to be mentally tough.

In this moment McCaw encapsulated his importance. His men, for the record, responded the following day with one of their best performances on South African soil, thumping the Springboks 32-16.

That McCaw is still producing those same speeches when necessary, still passing on the same mental edge, still walking them through the finer details the day before a test, is reassuring.

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Jean de Villiers

Pa Jean de Villiers gister op Nuweland saam met sy spruite Layli (links) en Lana regs).

Van die land se rugbykenners was gister nét so verstom deur die Springbokke se fantastiese eindpoging teen die Wallabies op Nuweland, as die meeste rugbykykers.

 

De Wet Barry:

“Daar was ’n lang tyd dat ons glad nie die bal gehad het nie, waarin ek regtig baie bekommerd was,” het De Wet Barry, ’n voormalige Springbok-senter, gesê.

“Dit was wonderlik dat ons verdediging gehou het en toe ons eers weer die bal kry, het die wedstryd geswaai.”

Volgens Barry was die Bok-agsteman Duan Vermeulen uitstekend tot hy beseer is.

“Hy het uitgetroon op die verdediging en by die afbreekpunte.”

Volgens Barry het Heyneke Meyer boonop dié keer sy plaasvervangers reg aangewend.

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ArgentinaNew ZealandLos Pumas (6) 13 / 34 (20) All Blacks (Final Score)

The Argentinian Pumas and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in The Rugby Championship at

Estadio Único Ciudad de La Plata, Buenos Aires at 00:10 Sunday SA Time (19:10 Saturday ARG Time, 22:10 GMT, 10:10 Sunday NZ Time).

This was the live match discussion Article.

The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.

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South AfricaAustraliaSpringboks (5) 28 / 10 (10) Wallabies (Final Score)

The South African Springboks and Australian Wallabies did battle in The Rugby Championship at

Newlands Stadium, Cape Town at 17:00 SA Time (15:00 GMT, 01:00 Sunday AEST).

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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Matthew Burke

Matthew Burke

If there was a World Cup without the All Blacks, we would have a great chance of lifting the William Webb Ellis trophy. Unfortunately that isn’t going to happen.

I say this because perhaps we may have been a little harsh in our criticism of the Wallabies in relation to our neighbours across the ditch.

The Wallabies are in a predicament, along with South Africa and Argentina. The three of us contest a competition against a side who right now are clearly the best rugby-playing nation.

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AustraliaThe Wallabies have their ammunition for a drought-busting Newlands ambush thanks to derogatory newspaper comments that have made the Springboks wince.

Coach Ewen McKenzie is certain to plaster the back-page of the Cape Times over the Australian dressing room wall on Saturday night after their chief rugby writer claimed the Wallabies didn’t deserve to be on the same field as South Africa.

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South AfricaThe Springbok starting line-up to face Australia shows three changes, with Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje and Francois Hougaard included for Saturday’s fifth round Test in the Castle Lager Rugby Championship at DHL Newlands in Cape Town.

Francois Louw’s injury means a positional switch for Marcell Coetzee in the starting team. There is a further four changes on the bench, with Cobus Reinach in line to make his Springbok debut alongside the experienced trio of Bakkies Botha, Schalk Burger and JP Pietersen.

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Regrets: Former England manager Martin Johnson.

England legend Martin Johnson has finally broken his silence on the team’s World Cup embarrassments off the field in New Zealand, saying he lamented the way “rugby got dragged through the mud”.

Under Johnson’s command as coach, England’s 2011 campaign lurched from one disaster to another including: drunken players involved in a dwarf-throwing competition in a Queenstown bar, Mike Tindall being photographed with an ex-girlfriend, inappropriate comments being made to a female hotel worker, and Manu Tuilagi jumping off a ferry into Auckland’s harbour.

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SuperBruLet me start off this week’s SuperBru thread by saying “Thanks for nothing, Sharks!”

Typical of the Cell C Sharks, play like plonkers for most of the Currie Cup, but then turn it on just in time to mess up everyone’s GSP.

After losses to the Steval Pumas and then at home to the GWK Griquas, not many gave them a chance at Loftus. Well done to the Sharks though, but it must be added that the Blue Bulls looked like plonkers on Saturday.

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Colin Meads

The great Colin Meads

Richie McCaw will add another line to his long list of achievements on Saturday by matching Colin Meads as the most capped All Black ever.

The New Zealand captain will equal Meads’ record of 133 All Black appearances in La Plata against Argentina, in what will be his 132nd Test.

McCaw’s only non-Test appearance for the All Blacks came in 2009 when he captained the side against the Barbarians.

By contrast Meads, whose New Zealand career lasted 14 years from 1957-71, earned just 55 caps for his country, but featured a further 78 times for New Zealand.

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Welcome To Hell

A former high-ranking Australian rugby union official once remarked: ‘that the best thing about South Africa was QF 64′. In other words, the flight home!

The comment, which was made within the earshot of several players, drew a laugh at the time; but it also probably served to sum up why the Wallabies haven’t been as successful in the Republic during the professional era as they should have been.

Simply, the country intimidates.

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AustraliaStorming Brumbies winger Joe Tomane makes his long-awaited return to Test rugby in three changes to the Wallabies’ starting line-up for their clash with South Africa.

Tomane was named on the wing alongside 97-Test veteran Adam Ashley-Cooper, who has recovered from a neck injury, while Queensland hooker Saia Fainga’a was given the nod ahead of Reds teammate James Hanson.

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Teboho Mohoje

Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje looks on during Springbok training

The player at the centre of a race storm surrounding the Springboks says he has no choice but to ignore the controversy created by his selection.

Rookie breakaway Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje was named ahead of 71-Test veteran Schalk Burger to start against the Wallabies this weekend and was thrust headlong into a fierce debate over the politics surrounding rugby in South Africa.

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New ZealandFive starting changes evoke visions of a drastic overhaul and yet there is strength in key areas for the All Blacks this week.

Beauden Barrett’s combination with Malakai Fekitoa attracts most interest in Sunday’s test against the Pumas in La Plata for its rookie status.

There will be nerves about Fekitoa being thrown in the unfamiliar second five-eighth role to fill Ma’a Nonu’s absence, but Barrett and centre Conrad Smith should do enough to guide him through his third test start.

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Teboho Mahoje

Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mahoje

A racial row has erupted in South Africa on the eve of the Wallabies’ showdown with the Springboks.

A selection battle between rising Cheetahs star Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje and World Cup winner Schalk Burger has pitted sections of the South African media against Springboks coach Heyneke Meyer.

The battle was eventually won by Mohoje, with Burger selected on the bench for the Test.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Even as he spoke at Wednesday’s press conference here, a stiff north-wester – so often the city’s rain-preceding wind – howled and dark clouds engulfed Table Mountain, not from the end that characterises the trademark lilywhite summer “tablecloth”.

Yet a notably recurring theme from Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer was his wish for a precipitation-free Castle Rugby Championship Test match against the Wallabies at Newlands on Saturday.

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Kenya Sevens

Money troubles – the Kenya Sevens team

Kenya has dropped ten players from their squad for the IRB world series opening tournament in Australia in a dispute with the national board over pay and contracts.

The players, including wingers Collins Injera and Horace Otieno and back-rower Biko Adema, were reportedly unhappy that the board had agreed to draw up performance-driven contracts without consulting them.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

Having suffered back-to-back away defeats – albeit by narrow margins – the Springboks’ chances of winning the Rugby Championship are now balanced on a knife’s edge.

While home ground advantage should offer the Springboks some solace, from personal experience, pressure is magnified on home soil.

The expectation is that the Springboks should beat the Wallabies comfortably at Newlands on Saturday, and I feel that’s a horrible position for a team to find itself in.

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Tony Johnson

Tony Johnson

The All Blacks had a mantra through the last World Cup, one that has continued to serve them well.

“Expect the unexpected and deal with it” was a change of philosophy after years of striving to leave no stone unturned in the quest for a perfect preparation.

Somewhere along the way they realized that planning to have the best players in the best shape, and the team functioning tickety-boo on the day was unrealistic. It became more about embracing pressure and expectation, and being able to adjust when things inevitably go wrong.

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Dylan Hartley

Dylan Hartley

When the World Cup kicks off in a little under a year’s time, England will have played all but one of the other nine sides in the top ten of the current IRB World Rankings. Psychologically, it is a huge 12 months for next year’s hosts.

In the past few seasons, they have made huge strides in the right direction – but they are not the finished product yet.

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John McFarland

Springbok defense coach John McFarland.

In the years of the old Tri-Nations competition competed for by South Africa, New Zealand and Australia it was universally agreed that the Springboks were at a disadvantage because of the travel schedule.

That may not have changed now that the premier southern hemisphere competition has morphed into the Castle Lager Rugby Championship.

At least that is the view of Bok defence coach John McFarland, who believes that the South Africans have it tough in being the only side in the new competition, which now also includes Argentina, who have to play three consecutive matches away.

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Corne Krige

Corne Krige

Naturally there has been plenty to discuss since New Zealand defeated the Springboks in Wellington and Australia grabbed their second win of the Championship over Los Pumas.

One man though has stolen the headlines since Aaron Cruden’s ill-advised late night drinking session caused him to miss the flight to Buenos Aires.

His two-match suspension is completely the right call in the eye of Krige, who described his actions as “bordering on criminal.”

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Beauden Barrett

Beauden Barrett

After being effectively handed the All Blacks’ No 10 jersey for the next two tests against Argentina and South Africa by Aaron Cruden’s surprising time-keeping lapse, Beauden Barrett’s biggest priority in the short term is his goalkicking.

That part of his game was lacking in his first and only test start at first-five – against the Pumas in Napier recently – when he kicked only one from five shots at goal, a poor return which could have been costly.

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New ZealandMajor adjustments are not a familiar theme with the All Blacks but that’s exactly what the backline confronts in Argentina this week.

Under Steve Hansen, a consistent selection policy has prevailed. Players must earn their respective chances, or wait for injury to open the door.

This week Aaron Cruden’s ill-advised bender and a lack of depth at second five-eighth will force two serious changes to the inside backs.

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Ma'a Nonu and Conrad Smith

Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith

Conrad Smith has spoken highly of his midfield partnership with Ma’a Nonu after the pair equalled the world record for caps as a midfield combination in New Zealand’s 14-10 win over South Africa earlier this month.

Sadly, the broken arm suffered by Nonu during the first half in Wellington means they will have a long wait before getting the opportunity to improve on the 55-Test landmark shared with Irish centres, Brian O’Driscoll and Gordon D’Arcy.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield wins a lineout ahead of an Australian rival in Perth two weeks ago.

South Africa’s aggressive new breakdown tactics will leave them exposed to penalties and short on tacklers out wide, the Wallabies believe, while Australia’s forwards coach Andrew Blades has taken aim at Victor Matfield for trying to manipulate referees.

The Wallabies woke up in Cape Town to headlines of their scrum “tricks” and articles suggesting they manipulated referees into giving them penalties rather than earning them.

And still ringing fresh in their ears is Matfield’s comments after his side lost 24-23 in Perth three weeks ago, in which he questioned the legality of the Wallabies’ tactics in stopping the Boks’ rolling maul.

Blades brushed off the barbs as Australia prepares to face South Africa this weekend at Newlands, where they have not won since 1992.

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John McFarland

Springbok defense coach John McFarland

The Springboks want to keep the Wallabies guessing over who will fill the blindside flanker’s role for them in Saturday’s Castle Lager Rugby Championship clash at Newlands for as long as possible.

The Bok team is to be announced at lunch time on Wednesday, and more clarity will probably be offered on what the starting line-up will look like in Saturday’s match when the Boks train in a session that is open to the media and public at Cape Town Stadium on Tuesday.

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JanSerfontein

Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein is hoping to see more attacking ball this weekend than he has in his first two Tests at outside centre for the Springboks.

Having played all of his rugby at No.12, Serfontein was picked outside captain Jean de Villiers in the two Rugby Championship away defeats to Australia and New Zealand which saw him make more of an impact on defence than attack.

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