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New Zealand Rugby

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WhistleSANZAR has named the Match Officials for Round 16 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

This weekend sees 7 matches, with 3 matches on Friday 29 May and 4 matches on Saturday 30 May.

The Blues have a BYE Weekend.

The weekend’s action is kicked off by Ben O’Keeffe at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) in the humdinger between the Crusaders and Hurricanes in Nelson. Also on Friday the Brumbies vs Vodacom Bulls match which takes place at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT) in Canberra, is officiated by Marius van der Westhuizen. On Friday evening in Durban the Cell C Sharks host the Melbourne Rebels at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Saturday 03:10 AEST, Saturday 05:10 NZ Time) and the match will be handled by Jaco van Heerden.

On Saturday the Highlanders host the Chiefs in Invercargill at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) and the match is officiated by Nick Briant.

In Western Australia the Western Force is up against the Reds in Perth at 11:40 SA Time (17:40 AWST, 19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT) and the whistle will belong to Matt O’Brien.

Over to South Africa and 1st up on Saturday at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time) it will be the DHL Stormers vs Toyota Cheetahs in Cape Town, where Craig Joubert will preside over proceedings.

The last game of the Round will take place in Johannesburg where the Emirates Lions host the Waratahs at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 03:10 AEST, Sunday 05:10 NZ Time). Jaco Peyper will be the referee.

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Sam Whitelock

Sam Whitelock

Kieran Read

Kieran Read

The Crusaders’ fast-fading hope of reaching the Super Rugby play-offs were dealt another cruel blow.

It was revealed that 5 of the team’s All Blacks have been ruled out of the encounter with the tournament’s runaway leaders, the Hurricanes, in Nelson on Friday.

Top of that list is lock Sam Whitelock, who has the recipient of a brutal double spear tackle by 2 Waratahs players – lock Will Skelton and hooker Silatolu Latu.

The duo were handed 2 and 4-week bans on Monday, following their combined actions.

Whitelock has been ruled out of the trip to Nelson due to concussion.

Captain Kieran Read has already been ruled out of the match with the same affliction.

The Crusaders will also be without fullback Israel Dagg (calf), flyhalf Colin Slade (quadricep) and prop Joe Moody (foot).

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Mike Fitzgerald

Mike Fitzgerald

The Chiefs will have at least 1 of their specialist locks back from injury to take on the Highlanders in Invercargill on Saturday but that might be all.

Lock Mike FitzGerald is good to go after missing the last match against the Bulls and most of the previous 1 against the Hurricanes with a particularly bad haematoma on his thigh, but there are still doubts over both star All Blacks 2nd rowers Brodie Retallick and concussed Englishman Matt Symons.

Retallick has now missed 3 matches with the shoulder injury he picked up in the Chiefs’ win over the Force in Hamilton, having missed 5 weeks of the competition earlier in the season when he hurt his other shoulder.

He took part in training yesterday morning, but head coach Dave Rennie said there was still a question mark over him this week as he works on regaining strength in his shoulder.

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Super RugbyThere was a lot of movement in the South African Conference through Round 15 of Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend, with the DHL Stormers going top and the Emirates Lions surpassing the Vodacom Bulls into 2nd spot.

The Vodacom Bulls started well against the Chiefs in Rotorua on Friday morning and led 15 / 3 after 20 minutes, but were left behind when the Kiwis stepped up a gear. The home team eventually won by 34 / 20 and the team from Pretoria dropped from 3rd to 8th on the Combined Log.

After disappointing defeats in Wellington and Sydney in the last fortnight, the Cell C Sharks finally got a win on the road. Stefan Ungerer scored twice in their 21 / 14 win over the Reds in Brisbane, also on Friday.

Emirates Lions captain Warren Whiteley celebrated his 50th Vodacom Super Rugby cap in style as his team scored an impressive 40 / 17 win over the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday, the only local derby of the weekend.

It was the Emirates Lions’ 8th victory of the season, which means 2015 is now their best Vodacom Super Rugby season ever. The Bloem victory also moved Jozi’s Pride to the top of the SA Conference standings, but it only lasted for roughly 2 hours.

The DHL Stormers then took back top spot in the SA Conference courtesy of a 31 / 15 victory over the Melbourne Rebels in Cape Town, which was the Melburians’ 9th successive defeat in the Republic.

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Johan Bardoul

Johan Bardoul

Chiefs’ lock Johan Bardoul is set to watch the remainder of the Super Rugby season from the sideline, as he has been ruled out with a knee injury.

Bardoul has suffered the same injury as his flatmate and fellow lock Michael Allardice, and ruptured the medial ligament in his right knee.

The Chiefs have had a collapse of injuries in the 2nd row, with All Black and World Rugby Player of the Year Brodie Retallick, and Allardice both suffering set-backs.

This saw the Chiefs pull Ross Filipo out of retirement for their game against the Bulls last Friday to cover in the lock department.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 15 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 22 May and 5 games on Saturday 23 May.

The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.

There are 2 South African teams in action on Friday, one in each game of the day – the Chiefs against the Vodacom Bulls in Rotorua at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) and thereafter the Reds vs Cell C Sharks in Brisbane at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT). The battling Sharks play their last game on tour, whereas it will be the Bulls 2nd tour match.

On Saturday morning the Blues host the Hurricanes in Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Crusaders in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

In Perth, Western Australia at 13:45 SA Time (19:45 AWST, 21:45 AEST, 23:45 NZ Time, 11:45 GMT) the Western Force host the Highlanders.

There is only 1 South African derby on the weekend, that between the Toyota Cheetahs vs Emirates Lions in Bloemfontein at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time). Thereafter the DHL Stormers host the Melbourne Rebels in Cape Town at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ time, 03:10 AEST).

The Chiefs vs Bulls match should go the way of the home team but the game between the 2 bottom-dwelling sides, the Reds and Cell C Sharks, it is difficult to predict a winner… my money, strangely enough is on a Sharks win.

The game between the Blues vs Hurricanes should only ever go one way, and that is heavily in favour of the Hurricanes, even although it is away from home for them.

The Waratahs vs Crusaders game should be a cracker, with both teams rather desperate to get or hold a position in the Top 6, but it could go either way… so I would lean towards the home team for this one.

The Highlanders should properly dispatch the Western Force in perth.

The Lions are strong favourites to beat the Cheetahs, specially in light of the fact that it was announced that both Naka Drotske and Os du rand will leave the franchise at the end of May as well as considering the Cheetahs dismal form in 2015.

The DHL Stormers should outlast and out-defend a gutsy Melbourne Rebels side in Cape Town in the last match of the weekend.

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Super RugbyCan the Vodacom Bulls hang on to their Top spot in the South African Vodacom Super Rugby Conference or will the DHL Stormers regain the lead?

That question will be answered this weekend when all 5 South African teams take to the field with the competition inching closer to the last stretch before the playoffs start.

The Vodacom Bulls can cement their position at the Top with a victory over the Chiefs in Rotorua on Friday morning, but it won’t be easy as the team from Waikato sits on a 10-match winning streak at home against opposition from South Africa.

The Cell C Sharks’ final tour match, against the Reds in Brisbane, is the 2nd match on Friday morning where the KwaZulu-Natalians will aim to break a 6-match losing streak – something that’s only happened once in their history.

On Saturday afternoon, the Toyota Cheetahs host the Emirates Lions in the only local derby of the Round. The team from Johannesburg can still make the playoffs, but then they have to win in Bloemfontein this weekend.

The final match in Round 15 is in Cape Town at DHL Newlands, where the DHL Stormers have a good opportunity to regain the lead in the South African Conference against the Melbourne Rebels. It won’t be easy as the Rebels have done well this season, but they’ve never won in South Africa and the Capetonians will want to keep it that way.

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CrusadersSaracens RugbyNew Zealand’s Crusaders announced on Wednesday they will play English Premiership club Saracens in New Orleans on 1 August, in a fixture designed to capitalise on growing US interest in rugby.

The Crusaders, 7-time Super Rugby champions, said they will field their development side for the 1-off fixture at the 70 000 capacity SuperDome.

Crusaders chief executive Hamish Riach said the match, to be called The Hemispheres Cup, was a rare north-south club clash.

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Charles Piutau

Charles Piutau

Charles Piutau has been told by the New Zealand Rugby Union that he cannot play for the Blues next year.

The 23-year-old, has accepted a deal with Pro12 club Ulster midway through the 2016 year, and he wanted to play for the Blues before he left.

If Piutau was allowed to continue playing in Auckland next year he would be available for more than 10 of the Blues Super Rugby games in the 2016 season before his obligations at Ulster began.

However NZRU has denied the opportunity for the 23-year-old to continue playing for the Blues next year, applying its regulation that Super Rugby players must available for All Blacks Test duty.

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ChiefsThe Chiefs have made some changes to their pack, as they head to Rotorua to take on the Bulls in a Super Rugby Round 15 match on Friday.

The changes up front are all to the tight forwards.

In the front row Mitchell Graham starts at loosehead prop.

In the 2nd row Michael Fitzgerald has been bracketed with former Chief and All Black Ross Filipo, who was called into the side earlier this week as cover.

The confirmed starting lock will be joined in the 2nd row by the newly re-signed Johan Bardoul.

The only other change to the run on side sees Augustine Pulu assume the starting role at scrumhalf.

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Patrick Tuipulotu

Patrick Tuipulotu

Steven Luatua

Steven Luatua

It is an unlucky 13 for the Blues, with 13 players on the injury list, including 4 players who are unlikely to play again in the final 4 weeks of the Super Rugby regular season.

Joining captain Jerome Kaino and Luke Braid on the long term injured list are All Blacks Steven Luatua and Patrick Tuipulotu.

Luatua, the stand-in captain for Kaino, dislocated his shoulder in the win over the Bulls on Friday and with the associated nerve damage, will not return for the Blues final 3 games. Tuipulotu has a long-term hip injury that has worsened and he, too, is unlikely to make it back in the next 4 weeks.

Both players require further tests prior to any decisions about their prognosis and management.

Joining them on the unavailable list this week is Tony Woodcock with a shoulder injury sustained in a collapsed scrum in the match against the Bulls and Charlie Faumuina who is on All Blacks leave.

Others not considered for this week’s match include Pita Ahki (hamstring), Dan Bowden (groin) and Bryn Hall (foot).

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Brad Weber

Brad Weber

Johan Bardoul

Johan Bardoul

Michael Allardice

Michael Allardice

The Chiefs have announced the re-signing of scrumhalf Brad Weber, loose forward Johan Bardoul and lock Michael Allardice all committing for at least the next 2 Super Rugby seasons.

Head coach Dave Rennie said, “They’re all good men with an excellent work ethic who have made big shifts in their game. We’re rapt these men have committed long term.”

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Nick Mallett

Nick Mallett

Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has highlighted the difference between local coaches compared to their New Zealand counterparts.

Mallett was speaking in the SuperSport studio on Saturday night following a dismal weekend for South African teams in Super Rugby.

All 4 teams competing lost, with the Vodacom Bulls going down to the Blues in Auckland (23 / 18), the Cell C Sharks losing to the Waratahs in Sydney (33 / 18), the Emirates Lions undone by the Brumbies in Johannesburg (30 / 20) and the Toyota Cheetahs thumped by the Highlanders in Bloemfontein (45 / 24).

Mallett said: “At halftime we heard Naka (Drotske, Cheetahs coach) say it’s back to basics. So for the 1st 10 minutes of the 2nd half we saw driving mauls and up-and-unders. And it was strange that they were kicking up-and-unders on Patrick Osborne because he’s a very big guy.

“The coaching that you get in New Zealand is very different from what you get here. At practice they will put players into situations that they’ll face in game. They will play attack against defence. The attack is faced with varying types of defence – a press defence, a shift defence, a slow defence, a staggered defence, a tight defence or a wide defence. And they get the attack to choose the right option in relation to the defence they’re confronted with.

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WhistleAfter a pivotal Round of fixtures played at high intensity, SANZAR has had the opportunity review each match and announce its Match Official appointments for the forthcoming weekend.

SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray said, “While we acknowledge that the match officials cannot get it right all of the time, there are some basic standards that have simply not been upheld over this past weekend, resulting in some disappointing decisions and selection consequences.

“A thorough and robust system is in place whereby the development and performance of each match official is reviewed by SANZAR and its member unions on a daily basis and like any athlete participating in elite competition, our referees are accountable to performance levels for the competition.

“Appointments are made weekly based on performance reviews from the previous round but also includes an evaluation of the current form of each official over the term of the competition.

“We have completed our reviews from the weekend and have followed strong internal processes as we prepare our team to reach their physical, mental and technical peaks as we head into the critical last four rounds of the regular season and Super Rugby Finals Series.

“Public confidence in match officials is essential to the ongoing success of our product and we will continue striving to enhance the quality and accountability of refereeing across all SANZAR competitions.”

This next weekend’s Round 15 sees 7 matches, with 2 on Friday 22 May and 5 on Saturday 23 May.

The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.

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Super RugbyIt was a tough Round of Vodacom Super Rugby for the 4 South African franchises in action this weekend as none of them managed to win their matches against Australasian opposition.

It was the 1st time in more than 8 years that 4 South African teams lost to sides from the other side of the Indian Ocean on 1 weekend.

In Round 9 in 2007, on 30 and 31 March, the Toyota Cheetahs, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls all came up short in tour matches Down Under, against the Highlanders, Western Force and Hurricanes respectively, while the Emirates Lions were beaten at home by the Brumbies.

Round 6 in 2008 and Round 8 in 2014 saw 3 South African defeats offset by a solitary draw against opposition from Australasia.

Just more than a month ago, in Round 9, 4 Australian sides lost on 1 weekend – 3 of them against South African opponents – when the Western Force went down to the Toyota Cheetahs in Perth, the Waratahs lost to the DHL Stormers in Sydney, the Reds were beaten by the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria and the Brumbies came up short against the Blues in Auckland.

A similar scenario with New Zealand teams happened 15 years ago, in Round 12 in 2000, when all 5 of their sides lost to teams from South Africa and Australia.

On Friday morning, the Vodacom Bulls had to be happy with a losing bonus point in their 1st tour match as they went down by 23 / 18 to the Blues in Auckland.

Saturday kicked off with the Cell C Sharks losing in Sydney to the defending champion Waratahs (33 / 18), while the Emirates Lions lost in Johannesburg to the Brumbies (30 / 20) and the Highlanders were too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (45 / 24).

The DHL Stormers had a bye this weekend, as they did way back in 2007 when their 4 South African counterparts also lost.

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Reggie Goodes

Reggie Goodes

The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Reggie Goodes of the Hurricanes for contravening 10.4 (h) Dangerous Charging, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Goodes has been suspended from all forms of the game for 1 week up to and including Saturday 23 May 2015.

The incident occurred in the 36th minute of the Super Rugby match between the Hurricanes and Chiefs at Westpac Stadium in Wellington on 16 May 2015.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC assessed the case.

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Sir John Kirwan

Sir John Kirwan

New Zealand Rugby has been forced to mediate a dispute between the Auckland Rugby Union and private owners for control of the Blues.

The Super Rugby franchise has been divided for the last fortnight due to a disagreement over whether to retain Blues coach John Kirwan or look for a replacement next season.

New Zealand Rugby released a statement from chief executive Steve Tew on Sunday explaining that he has been forced to try and resolve the issue.

“New Zealand Rugby confirms that it has been involved in discussions with the Blues shareholders,” the statement read.

“As a consequence it is apparent there are some relationship issues amongst shareholders and we have offered to mediate. We hope all parties will accept this offer so we can together resolve this issue. Because we are in the middle of discussions, we are unable to comment further at this time,” he added.

There has been tension for some time between the 2 stakeholders over which of them has control of the franchise, and Tew was apparently asked to step in by the private investors.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 14 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 15 May and 4 games on Saturday 16 May.

The DHL Stormers, Crusaders and Western Force have BYE weekends.

There are 2 lip-licking South African games against overseas teams on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions vs Brumbies in Johannesburg as well as between the Toyota Cheetahs vs Highlanders in Bloemfontein. The battling Cell C Sharks will play their 3rd match on tour against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday morning.

On Friday, the Blues hoost the Vodacom Bulls in Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) before the Reds host the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane, at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Hurricanes host the Chiefs in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Cell C Sharks in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

Over to South Africa and next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, 03:05 NZ Time), the Emirates Lions host the Brumbies in Johannesburg, before the Toyota Cheetahs host the Highlanders in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ time, 03:10 AEST).

The Blues vs Bulls match is a difficult one to call but considering the Blues form this season the Bulls should be favourites to take it on Friday, and the Reds vs Melbourne Rebels is also difficult to call but considering the Reds are hitting rock-bottom and digging, the Rebels should take this one away from home.

The game between the Hurricanes and Chiefs should be a cracker and one tends to lean towards the Hurricanes to take it at home. The Waratahs should take the game against the Cell C Sharks in Sydney.

Regarding the 2 games in South Africa, the Emirates Lions would have to play hell-for-leather to beat a very strong Brumbies side but they are supremely fit and motivated and this is a game to look forward to, it could go either way. In Bloemfontein the Highlanders should be too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks will be going all-out to change their recent fortunes in Australasia in this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action.

Back home, the Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs will be facing opposition from Down Under in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein respectively.

The Vodacom Bulls kick off their tour of New Zealand and Australia against the Blues in Auckland on Friday morning. The men from Pretoria have lost their last 7 matches Down Under, their last victory incidentally coming against the 3-time champions, the Blues, at Eden Park.

The Cell C Sharks will be looking to snap a 5-match losing streak when they take on the defending champion Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, a daunting prospect when one considers the Durbanites have not won in New South Wales in 15 years.

On Saturday afternoon, the Emirates Lions host the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The last 2 encounters between these sides – in 2011 and 2012 – were won by the visiting team.

The final match of the weekend is Saturday evening at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein between the Toyota Cheetahs and the dangerous Highlanders. The men from Central South Africa will be looking for their 1st home win ever over the Otago-based side.

The DHL Stormers have a BYE this weekend.

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HighlandersThe Highlanders are preparing for a forward onslaught against the Toyota Cheetahs as they name a 6 – 2 split on the bench for the clash in Bloemfontein.

The Highlanders ran out of steam against the Lions last weekend, resulting in a late surge from Johan Ackerman’s team to steal the win. This has resulted in Highlanders head coach Jamie Joseph naming 6 forwards on his bench, ensuring he has plenty of firepower to see through the full 80 minutes.

There are 2 players making their Super Rugby debut in the team named to face the Cheetahs. The debutants are Tasman lock Alex Ainley who comes into the side for Tom Franklin, and Hawkes Bay wing Ryan Tongia who replaces the injured Waisake Naholo.

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Hurricanes vs ChiefsThe Hurricanes and Chiefs have both named their matchday sides for the exciting top of the Log derby between the 2 sides on Saturday.

On the Hurricanes side, the centre combination of Ma’a Nonu and Conrad Smith will run out for their joint 50 game together as centre pairing and in addition prop Jeffrey Toomaga-Allen will run out for his 50th cap for the Hurricanes. On the Chiefs side, Sonny Bill Williams will have aspirations to counter and defeat the strong Canes midfield, in a bid to stake his All Blacks starting place for the World Cup and Hosea Gear is back on the right wing for the important clash. The Chiefs will also start with young Damian McKenzie at flyhalf.

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Waisake Naholo

Waisake Naholo

Despite signing a contract to join Clermont next season, New Zealand Rugby is reportedly hopeful of retaining Super Rugby’s top try-scorer, Waisake Naholo.

Quotes attributed to the club’s Sporting Director, Jean-Marc Lhermet, suggest the move is not a foregone conclusion given the form of the Highlanders’ winger, who has a competition-leading 8 tries in his 11 appearances.

“As it stands we have a contract of 2 years with an option that has been signed by the player,” Lhermet told La Montagne – a newspaper based in Clermont.

“It’s true that his agent reassured us initially when there were noises about the NZRU wanting to keep him. Now, his performances in Super Rugby are remarkable and we are under an increasing amount of pressure from the NZRU. And when the All Black machine gets going, it becomes complicated.

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Tabai Matson

Tabai Matson

Crusaders Assistant Coach Tabai Matson has confirmed that he is committed to his current role at the Crusaders, despite reports linking him with the Blues.

Matson said he wanted nothing more than to help the Crusaders towards the Super Rugby Finals Series this season and he was sorry about any unnecessary distraction that the speculation around his future has caused.

“I love this team and I certainly was not out looking for a new coaching role because I am very happy here. It is true that I was approached by the Blues about whether I would consider a move to their coaching team in the future should the opportunity arise.

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the names of the Match Officials for for Round 14 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

3 Teams have BYE weekends, namely the Crusaders, Western Force and DHL Stormers.

There are 6 matches on the weekend, 2 on Friday 15 May and 4 on Saturday 16 May.

The action is kicked off in Auckland where the Blues host the Vodacom Bulls at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), officiated by Mike Fraser. Also on Friday at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT) the Reds host the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane where the game will be controlled by Andrew Lees.

On Saturday first up it will be the Hurricanes vs Chiefs in Wellington, blown by Glen Jackson and the game starts at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT). The match is followed by the clash between the Waratahs and Cell C Sharks in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT), refereed by Rohan Hoffmann.

Later on Saturday in South Africa the Emirates Lions host the Brumbies in Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST) and the game will be handled by Jaco Peyper. The last game of the Round is in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ Time) where the Toyota Cheetahs host the Highlanders and the game will be blown by Stuart Berry.

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Charlie Faumuina

Charlie Faumuina

Charlie Faumuina returns to form an all-All Black front for the Blues, and provide some experience, against a powerful Bulls selection on Friday.

There’s a very youthful look about the Blues team for this Round 14 Super Rugby encounter in Auckland.

The Blues have been hit by injuries, with 8 senior players ruled out – including Jerome Kaino, Luke Braid, Bryn Hall, Charles Piutau, Hayden Triggs, Hamish Northcott, Patrick Tuipulotu and Dan Bowden.

While veteran All Black hooker Keven Mealamu adds some additional experience and firepower on the bench, there are a number of young guns looking to make their Super Rugby debuts – lock Will Lloyd, scrumhalf Jamie Booth and midfield back Matt Vaega.

In-form loose forward Akira Ioane will start again, after this week being named in the New Zealand Under 20 team for the Junior World Cup – along with Blues teammates Blake Gibson, Tevita Li and apprentice Isa Tu’ungafasi.

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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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Dan Carter

Dan Carter

All Black legend Dan Carter insists he’s not assured of a spot in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad.

Carter, 33, is regaining his form in this year’s Super Rugby competition, despite his Crusaders team not being the most consistent.

However, in their most recent match the Crusaders smashed the Reds 58 / 17 in Christchurch and Carter showed signs that he is returning to his past form.

“It feels like my form has been getting better as the season has gone on and really enjoying getting a bit of game time,” Carter said.

“I’ve almost played twice as many games as I played last year so that’s encouraging as long as my form is heading in the right direction then I’m happy with that.”

Carter said there are no guarantees that he’ll make the World Cup touring party.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 13 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 8 May and 4 games on Saturday 9 May.

The Vodacom Bulls, Toyota Cheetahs and Chiefs have BYE weekends.

There are 2 lip-licking South African games against overseas teams on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions vs Highlanders in Johannesburg as well as between the DHL Stormers vs Brumbies in Cape Town. The battling Cell C Sharks is on tour and will be in action in their 2nd tour match against the table-topping Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday morning.

On Friday, the Crusaders host the Reds in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) before the Melbourne Rebels host the Blues, in Melbourne, at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Hurricanes host the Cell C Sharks in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Western Force host the Waratahs in Perth at 11:40 SA Time (17:40 AWST, 19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT).

Over to South Africa and next up, at 15:00 SA Time (13:00 GMT, Sunday 01:00 NZ Time), the Emirates Lions host the Highlanders in Johannesburg, before the DHL Stormers host the Brumbies in Cape Town at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST).

The Crusaders should dispatch the Reds on Friday, but the Melbourne Rebels vs Blues is a difficult game to pick.

The game between the Hurricanes and Cell C Sharks is one where the Hurricanes are firm favourites, although the Hurricanes are resting some players whereas the Sharks have tried to pick their strongest possible combination. The Waratahs should take the game away from home against the Western Force.

The 2 games in South Africa could easily be seen as the games of the weekend and the Emirates Lions would have to play hell-for-leather to beat a very strong Highlanders team. In Cape Town, the DHL Stormers vs Brumbies game could also go either way, with both teams having aspirations to finish top of their respective Conferences… accordingly it is a difficult one to pick and one supposes that the home team therefor has the advantage.

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Super RugbyThe Cell C Sharks, Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers will all be looking to return to winning ways in Round 13 Vodacom Super Rugby this weekend.

The KwaZulu-Natalians probably face the toughest task when they take on the table-topping Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday morning – a team they should know well. The Kiwis’ head coach Chris Boyd and assistant coach John Plumtree were involved with the Cell C Sharks previously, although it was in reversed roles.

2 Matches are scheduled in South Africa on Saturday afternoon.

All-out attack will probably be the order of the day when the Emirates Lions host the 5th-placed Highlanders in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, with both sides not shy to throw the ball around.

The DHL Stormers host the Australian Conference leading Brumbies in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon – both these teams lost last week and will want to clinch a victory to keep them in the playoff race. A bonus-point victory will see the Capetonians move back to the top of the SA Conference.

The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs have BYES this week. The team from Pretoria leave on their Australasian tour over the weekend.

Vodacom Bulls tour squad is: Jesse Kriel, Bjorn Basson, JJ Engelbrecht, Travis Ismaiel, Jan Serfontein, Burger Odendaal, Handré Pollard, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Francois Hougaard, Andre Warner, Arno Botha, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne, Victor Matfield, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe, Trevor Nyakane, Dean Greyling, Morné Mellett, Adriaan Strauss, Callie Visagie, Jaco Visagie.

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Steven Luatua

Steven Luatua

24-Year old All Black Steven Luatua has been named to lead the Blues for the rest of the Super Rugby season after captain Jerome Kaino was ruled out with injury.

Luatua, who could play his 50th game for the Blues before the end of the season, was selected with an eye to the future and with the full endorsement of Kaino and Super Rugby’s most enduring player, 170-Super Rugby game veteran, Keven Mealamu.

The rangy and super-skilful loose forward sought the advice of his illustrious All Black teammates before agreeing to take on the role.

“I was a bit in shock and left for words. I am really humbled and at the same time gutted about the injury to Jerome,” Luatua said.

“Growing up as a kid in the region, this is something you aspire to. We still have Kevie but he believes this is the best direction to head in so I will give it my best shot.”Coach Sir John Kirwan said while the side will certainly miss Kaino both as a player and a leader, it was an excellent opportunity for the future to promote Luatua.

“We recognise Steven as a future leader in the club. The experience will help Steven grow as a leader and player and it will be a great support for Jerome in the coming years,” Kirwan said.

Despite the injury list, the new captain wants the Blues to finish the season strongly, with 4 games at their home base of Eden Park to follow Friday’s match against the Melbourne Rebels.

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Recent Comments

  • MacroPolo 27 May 2015, 17:48 SAST - Stormersboy wrote: I just get the feeling that the Bulls selectors have decided to “tank” this one and hope to...
  • Stormersboy 27 May 2015, 17:29 SAST - Victoriabok wrote: Stormersboy wrote: I just get the feeling that the Bulls selectors have decided to “tank” this one and...
  • Victoriabok 27 May 2015, 17:24 SAST - BrumbiesBoy wrote: A fairly similar scenario exists for the Ellis Park game as well and I really believe that “neutral”...
  • Stormersboy 27 May 2015, 17:22 SAST - Victoriabok wrote: A good article by Keo I love Bakkies must have memorised it word for word by now? http://www.sarugbymag.co.za/blog/details/bakkies-is-a-rugby-legend...
  • Victoriabok 27 May 2015, 17:17 SAST - A good article by Keo I love Bakkies must have memorised it word for word by now? :razz: http://www.sarugbymag.co.za/blog/details/bakkies-is-a-rugby-legend
  • Victoriabok 27 May 2015, 17:08 SAST - Stormersboy wrote: I just get the feeling that the Bulls selectors have decided to “tank” this one and hope to...

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