Could Leinster, Munster, Ulster and Connacht one day be taking on the Bulls, Highlanders and Waratahs?
If you believe new New South Wales chief executive Andrew Hore, then the answer is yes.
Hore is leaving his post with Welsh side Ospreys to join the Australian Super Rugby outfit in mid April, and the New Zealander sees a potential future link-up as beneficial to both competitions.
Hore has had a ringside seat in recent seasons as the huge influx of financial muscle into the French Top 14 and England’s Premiership has threatened to leave European rugby’s poor Celtic relations trailing behind.
The southern hemisphere has also felt the commercial weight of French and English riches, with an increasing number of top-class players heading north in their primes for a big payday.
But the prospect of competing against the high-quality teams in Super Rugby would certainly offer television companies a more enticing product, according to Hore.
As speculated here on rugby-talk a few weeks ago the former Bulls player JJ Engelbrecht is set to make his debut for Ospreys on Sunday 31 January against Glasgow Warriors. Engelbrecht has been named as player No 23 in the Ospreys match day squad for the hosts in their PRO12 match.
It remains to be seen where the Ospreys will be utilizing his talents for the rest of the season and clarity on this may only be gained once he is listed in any of their starting line ups. The pacey winger who has spent the bulk of the last few seasons playing at outside centre will at least be sleeping more peacefully for the next few nights than he would have been had he been listed as centre in the starting line up. This ensures that he will be required for less time or may completely avoid having to help the midfield defend against the mammoth Fijian Australian winger Taqele Naiyaravoro who is due to don the No 13 jumper for the reigning champions.
Naiyaravoro has been brought in from the wing with various regular centres unavailable for the match. Alex Dunbar and Richie Vernon have been ruled out due to injury, while Peter Horne and Mark Bennett are with the Scotland squad ahead of the 6 Nations and just last weekend Bennett was ruled out of playing for the Warriors in their European Champions Cup encounter against Racing 92 due to injury. Loose forward Hugh Blake has helped out at centre earlier this season as well, but he is away with the Scotland 7s team in Wellington New Zealand.
The Ospreys picked another big Fijian, Josh Matavesi, as inside centre possibly with a view to try and keep Naiyaravoro in check. At 1.88m tall and weighing 112kg Matavesi will take some stopping as well and the fans can look forward to some big collisions.
As the Guinness PRO12 clubs now turn their attention to Europe, Connacht moved to the Top of the table by recording a 5th consecutive league win for the 1st time since 2002 – beating Benetton Treviso 33 / 19 underneath the Friday night lights at the Sportsground.
Robbie Henshaw made his breakthrough at fullback and in his 1st game for Connacht since returning from the Rugby World Cup he was back in the No 15 shirt, dotting down for 1 of his side’s 3 tries as Matt Healy and Tom McCartney notched the others.
Jayden Hayward crossed twice for Treviso and Edoardo Gori grabbed another try at the death but the Italians still slipped to a 14th consecutive Guinness PRO12 defeat.
The Ospreys confirmed that lock De Kock Steenkamp has been released from his contract and will return home to South Africa after undergoing surgery for an ongoing hip problem.
It brings to an end an injury ravaged 14-month spell with the team that has seen the lock restricted to just 2 competitive appearances at the start of this season.
The 28-year-old signed from the Cape Town based DHL Stormers in September 2014 to add his considerable experience and physical presence to a young squad, having earned a reputation as one of the leading line-out operators in Super Rugby.
However, an achilles injury sustained within days of his arrival at Llandarcy Academy of Sport meant that he missed last season in its entirety, returning to full training for this pre-season.
Having come through the summer months, Steenkamp then stepped up his involvement with an appearance in the pre-season win over Saracens before making his competitive debut, starting in the PRO12 opener away to Ulster. A 2nd appearance followed off the bench against Munster the following week but he then found himself sidelined once again, after reporting hip instability to the region’s medical team.
After further investigation, the player underwent surgery at the weekend and, having assessed all options both parties have agreed to the early release.
Munster will face Glasgow Warriors in the Guinness PRO12 final in Ravenhill after an incredible 21 / 18 win over Ospreys at Thomond Park.
Josh Matavesi crossed at the death for what would have been the winning try for the Ospreys but a knock-on in the build-up meant the try was ruled out and Munster progressed to the final.
Al Kellock returns to the Glasgow Warriors side for today’s massive Guinness PRO12 match with Ulster at a sold-out Scotstoun Stadium (kick-off 15:00 BST, 16:00 SA Time).
The Warriors captain, who replaces the injured Tim Swinson in the 2nd-row, could be making his final appearance at Scotstoun, following the announcement that he is to retire from rugby at the end of the season.
2nd-placed Glasgow can still secure a home play-off, but Ulster are also playing for home advantage next weekend.
With an increased capacity of around 10 000 it will be the club’s biggest home crowd for a regular season game and tickets for this match sold out in record time.
The festive season continues with derby matches in Round 12 of the Guinness PRO12. Some of the matches are the return leg of derbies played around the Boxing Day period. The attention in Scotland will be focussed on BT Murrayfield on Friday night where Edinburgh will host their rivals from the west, Glasgow Warriors, in a PRO12 fixture that doubles up as the second leg of the 1872 Cup.
Glasgow Warriors go into the game with a 10-point advantage following their win over Edinburgh on Boxing Day and will be looking to retain what is said to be the oldest cup in club rugby, yet again. There was only 1 try scored in the first leg of the 1872 Cup last week and with blustery conditions likely for Friday night the game may be a low scoring battle of attrition that could go the way of the team that makes the least errors.
Considering the relative positions of the 2 teams on the PRO12 table and the fact that Glasgow go into the game with that 10- point cushion one should expect at the very least that they maintain their grip on the 1872 Cup.
Round 11 of the Guinness PRO12 kicked off on Friday night and ended with the final fixture on Sunday, with big derby matches being played between the teams from all four countries who have teams in the competition. South African players made a big impact during the Round, earning Player Of The Match accolades in 3 out of the 6 fixtures.
Rynard ‘Ligtoring’ Landman started it off with a Man Of The Match performance for Newport Gwent Dragons against Cardiff Blues at Cardiff Arms Park on Friday afternoon. CJ Stander added a Man Of The Match accolade in a comfortably victorious Munster effort against Leinster, while Rob Herring completed the trio of South African Man Of The Match performances on Friday for Ulster who scraped home against Connacht. Josh Strauss was pipped to the award by skipper Alastair Kellock for Glasgow Warriors against Edinburgh, but Strauss put in a fine performance for the Scotstoun-based outfit outshining his opposite number David Denton and scored the only try of the match, late in the first half.
Head coach Marius Goosen’s Benetton Treviso picked up their first win of the season in the competition in their Italian derby match away to Zebre.
George North has insisted he is not planning to return to regional rugby any time soon but backed the new dual-contract system which has attracted Dan Lydiate to return from France.
The Northampton wing hailed Welsh union and regional bosses for finally agreeing a “feasible option” that will boost chances of top stars remaining in the domestic game.
Lydiate capitalised on the new contracts by return from Racing Metro to the Ospreys and will make his debut against Ulster this Saturday.
North believes more top stars could follow suit but stressed his current situation at Northampton suits him “down to the ground”.
The Saints release North for all his Wales commitments, a situation he admits allows him to gain the best of both worlds.
Leinster’s indifferent start to the season continued as they slipped to a second loss of the campaign away at Connacht, going down 10-9.
The defending champions had led 9-3 at half-time thanks to three Ian Madigan penalties but Kieran Marmion’s solo try ensured Connacht – who had lost their previous 11 all-Ireland clashes – preserved their 100 per cent start to the season.
At the Liberty Stadium, Ospreys ran in nine tries against Edinburgh to consolidate their one point lead at the top of the table.
Alan Solomons Edinburgh left the Liberty Stadium on Sunday with their egos battered and bruised following a second half onslaught by the Ospreys in their third round Guinness PRO12 fixture. The score was 0/0 at some point, but that was before kick off and didn’t last too long once the referee’s whistle had blown to start the game as Ospreys impressive scrumhalf, and man of the match, Rhys Webb scored a try in the first minute.
The home side had already score three tries by half time with Edinburgh dotting down once as they went into the break with the score – Ospreys 24/10 Edinburgh Rugby. Edinburgh’s last points of the match came shortly after half time from the boot of Tom Heathcote as he slotted a penalty which went over after hitting the right hand upright. It was one way traffic from here on as Ospreys piled on the points and won the match by almost 50 points, scoring nine tries in the process. The final score was Ospreys 62/13 Edinburgh Rugby and is the biggest margin of victory so far this season.
Cardiff Blues and Ospreys are interested in signing Leigh Halfpenny if his Toulon contract is terminated.
Toulon president Mourad Boudjellal says Halfpenny’s ongoing injuries could lead to his departure without playing a game since arriving for 2014-15.
Blues director and Wales legend Gareth Edwards said: “We’d welcome him with open arms.”
Ospreys coach Steve Tandy said: “We’d always be interested in the quality of Halfpenny, but it’s paper talk.”
The third round of matches in the Guinness PRO12 take place this weekend with three matches scheduled for Friday night, two for Saturday and one for Sunday.
Welsh outfit the Ospreys, who are unbeaten in the PRO12 this season, will head into round 3 at the top of the table with nine points. The only two other unbeaten teams are Glasgow Warriors and Connacht who are in 2nd and 3rd position respectively. Ulster are the other team in the top 4, courtesy of a draw and a win in their first two fixtures and they are the only team who have two bonus points for scoring four tries or more. Ulster top the try scoring list at this early stage in the competition having scored nine tries in their two matches. However, they have conceded the most tries, a handful, of the teams in the top four.
Connacht continued their winning start to the season with another tight triumph, this time a 14-13 victory over Edinburgh Rugby thanks to Willy Faloon’s last-gasp try.
Tom Heathcote’s boot and a try from Cornell du Preez gave Edinburgh a 13-6 lead at half time; Connacht’s points coming from two Darragh Leader penalties.
Faloon was sent to the sin bin with 16 minutes left on the clock, but returned to touch down the winning try in the dying minutes.
New Ospreys lock De Kock Steenkamp is keen to nail his colours to the mast and break into the Welsh national team.
The deal for the South African-born star was approved by Wales Rugby Union and covers the three years it would take for him to achieve qualification through residency.
And Steenkamp admits he would relish the chance to represent the Red Dragons once he has established himself in the Guinness PRO12.
“I’d be delighted,” he said. “As far as I know, the only foreigners that can come to Wales must be eligible to play for Wales in three years’ time, so that’s why the contract is for three years.”
Reigning champions Leinster were toppled by beaten finalists Glasgow Warriors at Scostoun, with Stuart Hogg slotting over the winning penalty with the last kick of the game.
Warriors stormed to a 19-0 lead with tries from Peter Horne, Josh Strauss and Jonny Gray, but then Leinster staged a late revival.
Jack McGrath and Tom Denton found their way over the whitewash to put the Irish province into the lead for the first time, but ill-discipline in the dying minutes led to Hogg’s successful penalty.
Welsh club Ospreys have confirmed that they have signed Stormers lock De Kock Steenkamp on a three-year contract, despite the player having one more year on his contract in the Cape.
Steenkamp, 27, secured an early release from his Stormers contract and will join the PRO12 club after representing the Stormers on 49 occasions in Super Rugby and playing 59 games for the Western Province in the Currie Cup.
“Joining the Ospreys is a great opportunity for me and a challenge that I can’t wait to get stuck into,” said Steenkamp in a statement on Ospreys’ official website.
With Welsh Rugby getting ready for the competitive part of the 2014/15 season, which starts on Friday, we have a look at the big name moves, including the ins and outs at the four Welsh regions and a look at some of the player and coach movements outside the country.
Adam Jones became the biggest Welsh rugby headline-stealer with his shock signing for Cardiff Blues after being an Osprey since 2003.
But the British and Irish Lions prop’s switch after season-long speculation was not the only move to make fans sit up and take notice.
Round 22 of the Pro12 promises to be a fitting finale to the regular season, with Play-Off spots and European qualification still to be settled.
As with previous seasons all 6 games will kick off simultaneously to add to the excitement and give no advantage to any team.
At the top of the table 3 teams are still in contention for the 2 home Play-Off spots and European qualification still to be settled.
Wing Hanno Dirksen has signed a new three-year Ospreys contract keeping him at the Liberty Stadium until the end of the 2016-17 season.
He has been signed up ahead of the region’s final RaboDirect Pro12 clash of the season with Connacht on Saturday. Dirksen, 23, is the 13th player to re-commit to the region along with the likes of Alun Wyn Jones and Dan Baker.
The May Day weekend should provide the most intense scrutiny of the RaboDirect PRO12 table to date.
The opening fixture between Zebre and Ospreys could go a long way to answering some of the questions – a loss for the hosts would put Treviso in the driving seat for the Italian spot in next season’s European competition, whilst a loss for the visitors Ospreys, without picking up any league points, would take away their mathematical chances of making the Play-Offs .
Ospreys have signed South African second row Rynier Bernardo on a three-year deal.
The Ospreys have turned to the 22-year-old because their British and Irish Lions lock Ian Evans is leaving for French side Toulon in the summer.
Ospreys flanker Justin Tipuric is a doubt for Wales’ summer tour of South Africa, says coach Warren Gatland.
The British and Irish Lions flanker has a shoulder problem and there is a possibility he will miss the tour to have an operation.
With the Six Nations over the club tournament of Wales, Scotland, Ireland and Italy takes centre stage once again as round 17 kicks off this Friday.
Having led Leinster to the Pro12 title last season, Ireland coach Joe Schmidt took the 6 Nations crown at the first time of asking in a tense finish to the Championship last weekend. Following on Ireland’s success it is perhaps appropriate that as the Pro12 returns to centre stage three of the top four teams are Irish Provinces.
Edinburgh Rugby won the tightest of contests against the Ospreys 31-25 with the decisive contributions coming from Carl Bezuidenhout and Grayson Hart in their match in round sixteen of the RaboDirect PRO12 last night at Meggetland, Edinburgh’s temporary new home ground.
After a round of games played in dreadful conditions during which yet another fixture fell foul of the weather, players and spectators alike must be hoping that Round 14 of the Pro12 fares better.
The round kicks off with two games in the Irish capitals on Friday night, one in Belfast and one in Dublin, both featuring Welsh opposition.
After just over a month out of the limelight, the focus returns once more to the Pro12 and the first of four successive rounds that could have a huge impact on the outcome of this season’s tournament.
Ryan Jones has been ruled out of Wales’ Six Nations campaign because of a hamstring injury. The 32-year-old back-row forward led Wales in three of their matches in the 2013 tournament as they retained the Championship title.
The festive fixtures continue as return local derbies were scheduled to take place in Scotland, Wales and Italy during the Pro12’s Round 12.
Wales and Scotland were set to start the New Year with a game on New Year’s Day, as Cardiff Blues hosted Newport Gwent Dragons and after the Hogmanay celebrations in Scotland, Glasgow Warriors welcomed Edinburgh to Scotstoun. However, the game in Glasgow was called off less than an hour before kick off due to the field being waterlogged.
Welsh rugby seems set to reach a new crisis point next week as the four regions are not expected to sign a new participation agreement. The Welsh Rugby Union had set a deadline of 31 December to sign a new agreement, replacing the current five-year deal that expires in June 2014.
The traditional festive season local derbies are set to take centre stage as the Pro12 Round 11 provides an exciting escape from turkey and TV. The games in Scotland and Wales take place on Boxing Day, whilst Ireland foregoes St Stephens’ Day games and sticks to the traditional Friday and Saturday slots.
The focus returns once again to the PRO12 after two weeks of European competition, with Irish Provinces topping three of the six European Cup Pools.
Wales and British and Irish Lions hooker Richard Hibbard is the latest player to leave Wales after signing for Gloucester.
Round Eight of the Pro12 kicks off on Friday night with both Scottish teams in action – early season leaders Glasgow Warriors welcoming Newport Gwent Dragons to Scotstoun, whilst Edinburgh travel to Belfast to face Ulster.
The top-of-the-table clash at Thomond Park between Munster and Ospreys on Saturday headlines Round Seven of the Pro12. Munster currently lead the pack thanks to winning one more game than Ospreys, but Ospreys have garnered more bonus points in the six rounds than their hosts, so the scene is set for an epic battle.