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Corné Fourie

Corné Fourie

Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk

The Golden Lions Rugby Union have announced the signing for the 2016 season of 2 of their Emirates Lions franchise partners, the Steval Pumas’ players, Faf de Klerk and Corné Fourie.

The Media Release reads as follows:

Lions Rugby (Pty) Ltd is pleased to announce the contracting of Pumas duo Faf de Klerk and Corné Fourie for the 2016 season.

Both De Klerk and Fourie, who have played Vodacom Super Rugby for the Emirates Lions through loan agreements over the past 2 seasons, will return to Johannesburg under permanent contracts in November 2015.

The pair has signed 1-year contracts with Lions Rugby and will thus be involved in both the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup campaigns.

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Armand "Akker" van der Merwe

Armand “Akker” van der Merwe

The Emirates Lions have lost another key player ahead of their Currie Cup campaign.

Hooker Armand “Akker”van der Merwe or “The Angry Warthog” as he is sometimes referred to, has signed a deal with Racing Metro, which will see him play in France for the remainder of the 2015 season.

Lions Rugby (Pty) Ltd revealed that they agreed to release 4 players to clubs abroad for the duration of the Currie Cup tournament.

As was previously reported Elton Jantjies (Shining Arcs), Lionel Mapoe (Spears) and Warwick Tecklenburg (Kamaishi) have all signed agreements in Japan until February 2016.

Along with Van der Merwe, all the players will return ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby tournament and will represent the Lions in next year’s competition. The players have all committed to Lions Rugby until the end of 2016.

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Super RugbyNow that the league phase of the Super Rugby tournament is finished, I have posted a SA team of the tournament article. The team is based on the form players during the tournament, with overseas based players obviously not considered.

The South African teams had a very disappointing tournament by any standards, with injuries, poor form and bad reffing decisions making life hard for the critical rugby public, but in an attempt to find a silver lining here is this author’s team of the tournament (other contenders mentioned where appropriate):

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Swys de Bruin

Swys de Bruin

The Golden Lions Rugby Union moved quickly to dismiss media speculation that backline coach Swys de Bruin was leaving the franchise.

De Bruin has been linked to the position of head coach at the Southern Kings, who will return to Super Rugby when the competition expands to 18 teams next year.

The GLRU said in a statement that De Bruin has a contract in place and will be continuing in his role with the team for the “foreseeable future”.

De Bruin is the current backline coach with the Lions, who had just completed their best Super Rugby season – 9 wins, 6 losses and 1 draw – since Transvaal won the Super 10 competition in 1993 and played in the 1995 Super 10 Final.

GLRU Chief Executive Officer Rudolf Straeuli confirmed that De Bruin will maintain his current role at the union.

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Alwyn Hollenbach

Alwyn Hollenbach

Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his side to face the DHL Stormers at Newlands Stadium on Saturday.

Ackermann has opted for consistency for the clash, making just 2 forced changes to the Emirates Lions match day 23.

In the midfield, Alwyn Hollenbach will start at inside centre after Lionel Mapoe was unable to pass a late fitness test following a knock to his knee during last weekend’s win over the Waratahs. As a result, Harold Vorster will shift to outside centre for the match.

On the bench, Howard Mnisi will come in for Stokkies Hanekom, who also sustained a minor knee injury in last weekend’s game.

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Robbie Coetzee

Robbie Coetzee

Emirates Lions’ hooker Robbie Coetzee has been suspended for 3 matches after he was found guilty for performing a dangerous spear tackle on Cheetahs replacement wing Rayno Benjamin.

The ruling means the burly forward will play no further part in this year’s campaign if his side fails to make this year’s playoffs as they only have 2 games remaining.

Coetzee has been found guilty under Law 10.4 (j): Lifting a player from the ground and dropping or driving that player into the ground whilst that player’s feet are still off the ground such that the player’s head and / or upper body come into contact with the ground is dangerous play.

Elapsed time in match when incident occurred: 49th minute.

“I considered all the evidence before me including the video footage, Citing Commissioner’s report, medical information for the Cheetahs’ player, Rayno Benjamin, who was involved in the incident and the submissions made for the player by his legal representative, Frikkie Erasmus and Lions Defence Coach, JP Ferreira,” Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner said.

“After taking further facts into consideration, such as the player’s unsuccessful attempt to hold on to his opponent in the tackle, I found the incident to have a lower end entry point. A 4 week suspension is indicated for such offending.

“The need for a deterrent in the circumstances of this incident is in my view served by imposing a further week’s suspension.”

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Robbie Coetzee

Robbie Coetzee

Robbie Coetzee of the Lions has been cited for alleged foul play during a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Coetzee is alleged to have contravened 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, in an incident which occurred in the 49th minute of the Super Rugby match between the Cheetahs and Lions at Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein on 23 May 2015.

The referee for the match, Jaco van Heerden, issued a yellow card for the incident. Upon further review of the match footage, the Citing Commissioner deemed in his opinion the incident had met the red card threshold for foul play.

The citing is to be considered in the first instance by SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Nigel Hampton QC.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.

Ackermann has opted to rotate several players for this local derby.

In the forwards, Ackermann has chosen to start Jacques van Rooyen and Ruan Dreyer in the front row. Andries Ferreira will partner with Martin Muller in the lock pairing, while Warwick Tecklenburg returns to the starting side at flank.

In the backline, Courtnall Skosan returns to start at left wing which results in Ruan Combrinck shifting back to right wing. Howard Mnisi comes into the starting side and links up with Lionel Mapoe in the midfield, as Mapoe shifts back to outside centre.

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Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

Back in the Emirates Lions starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park, Elton Jantjies is enjoying one of his better seasons on South African soil.

The Johannesburg side are very much in playoff contention and Jantjies has become coach Johan Ackermann’s 1st choice pivot along the way.

A few rugby minds have now started wondering whether or not Jantjies has done enough to work his way into Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s World Cup plans. The smart money remains on the flyhalf slot going to either Handré Pollard or Patrick Lambie and while Jantjies has not ruled out any possibilities he chooses instead to let his performances do the talking.

“I can talk a big game but if my performances on the field don’t match up, there is no point in me saying that I want to go to the World Cup and be the 1st-choice flyhalf,” Jantjies said.

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Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk

Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team to face the Aquis Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon.

Ackermann has made 2 changes to the forwards for the encounter, as Martin Muller will start at lock and Robert Kruger moves into the starting lineup at flank.

The backline sees 3 personnel changes with Faf de Klerk starting at scrumhalf, Elton Jantjies returning to the starting flyhalf berth and Lionel Mapoe, having fully recovered from injury, starting at right wing. As a result, Ruan Combrinck will shift to left wing for the match.

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Emirates LionsThe Golden Lions Rugby Union has secure the services of 4 key players beyond the current season.

The GLRU announced contract extension with star back Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck and Howard Mnisi, as well as forward Luvuyiso ‘MB’ Lusaseni.

The union also secured the services of a number of up and coming players – Malcolm Marx (hooker), Sevens Springbok Albertus ‘Kwagga’ Smith (flank), Jaco van der Walt (flyhalf), Lourens Erasmus (lock) and Bobby de Wee (lock / flank).

The GLRU, in a statement, said they are aiming to retain and develop top junior players by creating opportunities and an environment that promises growth both on and off the field.

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Super RugbySupporters in Johannesburg and Cape Town were made to worry 1st before smiling as the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers put away their Australasian opponents in an exciting round of Vodacom Super Rugby action.

The Cell C Sharks, in their 2nd match of their tour Down Under, also showed a lot of character and played with vigour, but in the end it wasn’t enough against a fired-up Hurricanes side in Wellington.

The table-toppers from New Zealand beat the Durbanites by 32 / 24 on Saturday morning but with less than 10 minutes to go, the result was still in the balance.

On Saturday afternoon, both the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers had to fight their way back into contention after listless 1st-half performances.

The Gautengers trialled by 20 / 3 at the break, but played sublime rugby in the 2nd half and in the end beat the Highlanders by 28 / 23 in a very exciting match.

The excitement levels were not as high in Cape Town, where the DHL Stormers overturned a 16 / 9 halftime deficit into a 25 / 24 victory over the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies.

The 1st penalty goal of the match by Demetri Catrakilis, who kicked 20 points for the DHL Stormers, saw him move to 28 consecutive successful kicks at goal this season.

However, Catrakilis missed the next one, which would’ve seen him improve the record to 29. As it stands, the DHL Stormers flyhalf now shares the record with former Capetonian pivot Peter Grant (this is since 2002).

The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs had byes this weekend.

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Marnitz Boshoff

Marnitz Boshoff

Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his side to take on the Highlanders at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Ackermann has made 2 changes to the forwards and both changes are to the starting front row. Schalk van der Merwe will start at loosehead and Robbie Coetzee, having made a full recovery this week, has been included at hooker.

In the backline, Ross Cronje will start at scrumhalf and will link up with Marnitz Boshoff who shifts to flyhalf for this game. Courtnall Skosan returns at left wing and Andries Coetzee shifts back to fullback. Alwyn Hollenbach has also earned a starting position at inside centre.

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Dick Muir

Dick Muir

Former Lions head coach and Springbok assistant coach Dick Muir is suing the Golden Lions Rugby Union over alleged breach of contract.

According to reports, Muir is claiming R 4.6 Million from the union, after his 3-year contract was allegedly ended after only 1 year in 2010.

In court documents submitted to the labour court in Johannesburg, the GLRU denies the claim and said Muir was paid R 900 000.00 too much during his time with the union.

Muir, who helped the Springboks prepare for the 2011 Rugby World Cup, was at times absent for as long as a month.

The GLRU claims “wrongful payments” for all those months Muir was absent.

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Schalk van der MerweThe Emirates Lions could well have lost 1 of their brightest stars as former Springbok coach Jake White snapped up prop Schalk van der Merwe to join him at Montpellier.

Van der Merwe – who is affectionately known as “hond” to his peers and is known for his strong scrumming abilities, has according to French sources signed a 2 year deal with the club and will join them after the end of the season.

It has emerged that Montpellier actually announced the deal 2 months ago, but ironically named Marcel van der Merwe as the player they signed, something the Springbok namesake vehemently denied at the time.

It seemed that somehow the French club announced the wrong prop, but considering both played for the Toyota Cheetahs, it is understandable.

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DHL StormersBased on their last 3 performances, it may seem foolhardy to some to suggest the DHL Stormers retain the inside lane for the SA Conference honours in Super Rugby this year.

Certainly if you were a non-partisan observer watching their unconvincing, tense and sparkle-lacking victories over the Western Force and Vodacom Bulls, and then Saturday’s extension of a ballooning Bloemfontein bogey as an under-strength Cheetahs outfit put a nasty spanner in their works, placing money on their domestic superiority come the end of ordinary season might seem a risky business indeed.

Yet the Capetonians, now bumped back into 2nd spot in the South African Conference, as the Bulls earned a full house of Log Points from a high-quality home derby triumph over the Lions in Saturday night’s main feature, probably remain the best-placed team in terms of remaining itinerary demands to end up on top.

They have an immediate chance next weekend anyway to recapture the lead in a yo-yo tussle as they entertain Australian pace-setters the Brumbies at Newlands, whereas the Bulls slowly muster their energy for their overseas tour via a BYE.

The Loftus-based side currently have a 4-Point lead over their great southern rivals after 11 matches each and 5 to go ahead of the finals series phase.

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Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann knows his side face a steep climb if they are to challenge for a play-off spot this season.

The Johannesburg side are currently in 8th position on the standings, and with 4 of their 5 remaining opponents above them on the log they will need to knock some top sides over in order to secure a place in the knock-out phase of the competition for the 1st time since the Cats did so in 2001.

Although his side have surprised many with their fighting spirit this season, Ackermann knows that they still face an uphill battle with home games against the Highlanders, Brumbies and Waratahs and away games against the Stormers and Cheetahs.

“Except for the Cheetahs the rest of our games are against teams in the Top 7, and that shows you the amount of rugby that lies ahead and the quality of the teams that we are going to play against,” he said.

The Lions coach expects the Highlanders to be riding high after their comfortable victory over the Sharks, and added that preparations will be made tougher by the fact that 5 of his players will be at a Springbok training camp until Thursday.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team for Saturday’s clash with the Vodacom Bulls, taking place at Loftus Versfeld.

In the only forward changes, Robbie Coetzee and Julian Redelinghuys will return to the front row for this encounter.

Meanwhile, in the backline there have been 2 positional changes with Andries Coetzee shifting to left wing and Harold Vorster moving across to outside centre. As a result, Marnitz Boshoff will start at fullback and Howard Mnisi will slot into the inside centre berth.

Alwyn Hollenbach has been drafted in to the match day side after Lionel Mapoe failed a late fitness test. Mapoe sustained a minor knock to the knee and has not yet recovered fully.

Kick-Off is at 19:10 SA Time on Saturday.

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Lionel Mapoe

Lionel Mapoe

The high-flying Emirates Lions are running the risk of being without one of their star players, Springbok training squad member Lionel Mapoe.

Mapoe is struggling with a knee injury and is in a race against time to be fit for his team’s trans-Jukskei Super Rugby derby with the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann said that for the most part his team suffered only “bumps and bruises” in their 34 / 29 win over the Cheetahs last week.

However, the centre, Mapoe, remains a concern.

Ackermann said they will give him till Thursday’s team announcement before making a call on his availability.

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Lionel MapoeLions coach Johan Ackermann says centre Lionel Mapoe would be a valuable asset to the Springboks at the Rugby World Cup later this year.

The midfielder has been on song for the Lions in Super Rugby this year and his form has been recognised by Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who included him in both Bok training squads named over the weekend.

“If you’re looking for an outside centre with X-factor, then Lionel is definitely your man,” said Ackermann.

“In terms of enterprise, you don’t need to look any further than him and Juan de Jongh (Stormers centre) as your candidates for the No 13 jersey. Lionel’s performances in this (2015) Super Rugby competition have been outstanding and it’s notable how hard he’s worked on his conditioning.

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Super RugbyIt was a weekend of drama and excitement in South Africa as the DHL Stormers moved to the Top of the local Super Rugby Conference and the Emirates Lions kept alive their dream of reaching the Top 6.

The Emirates Lions beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 34 / 29 in an 8-try humdinger on Saturday afternoon to record their 6th victory of the season, making 2015 their 2nd best yet but with 6 Rounds to go.

Last year, the Emirates Lions finished with 7 wins, 2 better than their 5 from 2007, but they are on track to better their best in the coming weeks.

The Toyota Cheetahs also deserve a lot of credit for never giving up as they returned to Bloemfontein with 2 bonus points.

The 2nd local match on Saturday delivered heaps of drama and the result was in the balance right until the end, but the DHL Stormers hung on for their 2nd victory over the Vodacom Bulls this season as they won by 15 / 13.

The visitors from Pretoria scored the only try of the match when Bjorn Basson went over early in the 2nd half, but the match-clinching moment came at the death when Duane Vermeulen charged down an attempted drop-goal by Handré Pollard to lead his side to their 7th win of the season.

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Derick MinnieEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team for Saturday’s clash against the Toyota Cheetahs at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

Ackermann has made just 3 changes to the starting side which beat the Cell C Sharks a fortnight ago.

In the forwards, Armand “Akker” van der Merwe will start at hooker while Ruan Dreyer has been drafted in at tighthead prop.

The backline sees just 1 change, with Courtnall Skosan starting at left wing, having recovered from injury.

On the bench, MB Lusaseni also moves into the match day 23, having recovered from his long-term injury. This is his 1st inclusion in the 2015 competition.

Unfortunately Derick Minnie drops out of the match day 23 as a result of an injury he sustained during Tuesday’s training session. Minnie has undergone surgery on his knee and will unfortunately be out of action for the remainder of the season.

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Joe Pietersen

Joe Pietersen

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske has named his team to tackle the Lions in a Super Rugby clash in Johannesburg on Saturday.

Joe Pietersen has been moved from flyhalf to fullback, with Willie du Plessis given the No 10 jersey.

With both Willie le Roux and Coenie van Wyk out with ankle injuries, Drotske decided to move the versatile Pietersen to fullback.

The latest news is that Coenie Ooshuizen has also pulled out with a back injury and he has been replaced at tighthead prop by Maks van Dyk.

In other changes to the team that lost 18 / 17 at home to the Reds last weekend, Danie Minnie starts at loosehead prop, replacing BG Uys who is suffering from a back injury. Caylib Oosthuizen comes in on the bench as prop cover.

Tienie Burger replaces Heinrich Brüssow at flank after the latter broke his arm against the Reds. Carel Greeff will provide loose forward cover from the bench.

With Du Plessis promoted to the starting team, Clayton Blommetjies also comes in on the bench.

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Emirates LionsThe Golden Lions Rugby Union medical staff have released a medical report, ahead of the Emirates Lions’ match against the Toyota Cheetahs and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Vodacom Cup clash with the Leopards on Saturday.

Unfortunately Malcolm Marx (ankle), Steph de Wit (shoulder), Rohan Janse van Rensburg (ankle) and Martin Muller (calf) are all unavailable for selection this week but are still involved in intensive recovery programmes and are making progress.

On a positive note, Mark Richards (concussion), Courtnall Skosan (ankle), Sampie Mastriet (ankle) and Stokkies Hanekom (knee) have all been cleared and are available for selection for either the Emirates Lions or Xerox Golden Lions teams.

Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann is pleased with the physical condition of his players after 9 Rounds of Super Rugby action.

The Lions have won 5 of 9 matches this season and sit 7th on the overall standings.

The men from Johannesburg have a welcome BYE this week, with their next match at home against the Toyota Cheetahs on 25 April.

After 9 consecutive games, they only have a few injuries, which leaves Ackermann a happy camper.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls held onto their leadership of a ferociously contested South African Conference on a weekend of success at the expense of Australian teams.

The Vodacom Bulls maintained their 2-point advantage over the DHL Stormers on the Log – as both recorded bonus point victories over the Reds (43 / 22) and Waratahs (32 / 18) respectively – while the Toyota Cheetahs showed enormous character to finish their tour on a high in Perth, with a win over the Western Force (24 / 15).

In the South African derby at Emirates Airlines Park, the Emirates Lions underlined the seriousness of their challenge for the Conference title with 2-point victory (23 / 21) over a significantly improved Cell C Sharks, who missed a long-range last-kick penalty, which could have snatched the victory.

The upshot of the weekend was that the Top 4 SA teams are separated by just 4 Log Points – in contrast to their fellow conferences where the Hurricanes top the standings as New Zealand’s Top 4 are spread by 11 points, while an even more clear-cut Australian race sees the Brumbies head a Log in which 17 points cover the Top 4 Australian contenders.

3 Of SA’s winners had to overcome halftime deficits to record victories, with the most notable being those of the DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs who achieved it on Australian soil.

However, the margins were small – both trailed by 2 points – while the Emirates Lions turned round 3 points adrift of the Cell C Sharks, as all 3 teams showed fitness and character to ‘win’ the 2nd half.

In the other match, the Vodacom Bulls’ recent home success over the Reds continued, as they stomped to a 6-try victory, with Francois Hougaard scoring 2 tries from the wing to take his tally to 4 for the season and therefore joining Marcell Coetzee as the leading South African try scorers.

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Super RugbyWith only 2 points separating 4 of the South African franchises on the Vodacom Super Rugby log after 8 weeks of play, Round 9 of the competition will again be crucial for local teams, with the derby in Johannesburg between the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks set to attract huge interest from spectators.

The remaining 3 South African sides play Australian opponents on Saturday, with the DHL Stormers taking on the Waratahs in Sydney, the Toyota Cheetahs playing the Western Force in Perth and the Vodacom Bulls closing out a big weekend of rugby in their Pretoria clash against the Reds.

The DHL Stormers will be looking for a 1st tour win against the defending champion Waratahs, knowing that the home side has won 12 of their last 13 matches in Sydney, with a victory margin of 18 points per match.

The Toyota Cheetahs will still be chasing a 1st overseas win in 2015, when they close out their tour against the Western Force at the NIB Stadium in Perth. The Cheetahs have won at this venue in the past, but will have to defend like never before.

They average the most missed tackles in the competition, while the home side maintains the best tackling success rate (90%).

The Emirates Lions host the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in the only South African derby of the weekend, which is expected to be a fiercely contested clash. The home team is well aware that a win could push them into 1st place in the South African conference, albeit that the Vodacom Bulls could again overhaul them later in the evening.

The Cell C Sharks will be desperate to put their recent misfortunes behind them and win away from home.

The Vodacom Bulls take on the Reds, who despite not having the greatest of seasons, have a good record against the Loftus Versfeld team, winning 10 of their 16 encounters. Continue reading

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