Blue Bulls & Springbok lock Flip van der Merwe has been released from his contract at the Vodacom Blue Bulls with immediate effect.
While the Blue Bulls initially decided that Van der Merwe was necessary for their ABSA Currie Cup campaign, his call-up to the Springboks a few weeks ago negated this and they had to find a way to do without him.
The Blue Bulls initially were worried about a lack of experience in the team but their good start to the Currie Cup season, where they are still unbeaten after 4 Rounds has led them to back their youngsters.
When Van der Merwe didn’t make the cut for the Springbok squad to the Rugby World Cup, it was decided to release him from his contract so that he could further his career in France.
Van der Merwe signed with French Top 14 club Clermont Auvergne during this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby season, at the same time as another Bulls lock, Jacques du Plessis, signed with Montpellier.
Juan Manuel Leguizamon is set to return to his homeland to represent Argentina’s new Super Rugby franchise after a decade in Europe.
The veteran, who has represented London Irish, Stade Francais and Lyon, signed his contract on Tuesday in the presence of UAR President, Carlos Araujo and Secretary of the Union, Fernando Rizzi.
“This is another important day for Argentine rugby,” Araujo said.
“Juan Manuel has been a strength of the Pumas and 1 of the pillars of a process that has been underway for years and that will peak in 2016 with the inclusion of Argentina in the Super Rugby competition.
Most coaches wouldn’t see it as a problem, but Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais has a welcome headache this week when he makes his selection for Friday night’s ABSA Currie Cup game against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld.
As 1 of the unluckiest players not to be selected for the Springboks, midfielder Jan Serfontein has returned to Loftus this week to continue in the Currie Cup, and his return coincides with his SA Under 20 midfield partner William Small-Smith also being declared fit from injury.
But it isn’t as if the Blue Bulls are seriously short of midfielders as they continue their unbeaten start to the Currie Cup season either. The current duo of Burger Odendaal and Dries Swanepoel have been exceptional in their play of late and Swanepoel scored twice in the big win over Griquas on the weekend.
So Marais now sits with the headache of how to make 4 go into 3 – with 1 unlucky player likely to lose out on 1 of the 2 starting berths and a place on the bench this weekend when they host the Toyota Free State Cheetahs.
The All Blacks played down injury concerns over Colin Slade on Tuesday after the flyhalf went down with a knee problem at training.
Slade received medical attention after slipping over in Wellington, an incident which revived memories of New Zealand’s injury woes at the last tournament in 2011.
“He slipped over during training and landed awkwardly on his knee and gave it a bit of a tweak,” assistant coach Ian Foster said.
“He was walking around the shed afterwards. He’s fine.”
Slade was 1 of 3 flyhalves sidelined with injury during the 2011 World Cup, almost derailing New Zealand’s bid to win the tournament on home soil.
DHL Western Province flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe will miss this Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against ORC Griquas with an AC Joint injury.
The impressive Notshe is not expected to be out for longer than a week, but coach John Dobson does have some loose forward options to replace him.
“Jurie van Vuuren is back to full fitness and someone like Chris Cloete deserves an opportunity, after coming off the bench so far,” coach John Dobson said.
“Chris starting would mean Rynhardt Elstadt moving back to No 7, but we’re comfortable either way in our players.”
In other news, Springbok squad member Steven Kitshoff (loosehead prop) and Barbarians representative Nic Groom (scrumhalf) are both available for selection this week.
With the Springbok Rugby World Cup Squad having been announced on Friday at 18:00 SA Time, this weekend has slowly seen the emergence of the reaction to it.
The general reaction, mine included, is that some players should not be there and some should… but I think it’s fair to say that almost everybody agrees on 85% PLUS of the selected players… call them the “Non-Contestables”, if you will.
It is those final 7 or 8 players which the bickering has featured about as well as the undoubted support for or against the national coach, Heyneke Meyer.
From Government circles, the Minister of Sport & Recreation, Fikile Mbalula, has praised the team and announced that the South African Rugby Union (SARU) is on track with their transformation goals.
To counter this, some obscure little piddly widdly Political Party, the Agency for New Agenda Party…. yeah right, who the hell are they, you are also asking, like me.. have brought a High Court Application in the North Gauteng High Court, seeking an urgent order to compel SARU and the Sports Department officials to surrender their passports so they cannot travel.
Heyneke Meyer has had to fend off those who have questioned some of his selections too, mainly the selection of Rudy Paige at scrumhalf, the only uncapped Springbok in the squad and he has had to give reasons for the specific selection.
In recent weeks, the previous Springbok coach, Peter de Villiers, has also come out with some scathing critisism against Heyneke Meyer, and De Villiers has gone so far as to join forces with Labour Movement, Cosatu, to get his agenda and points accross as well as to form the backbone of a pressure group for the inclusion of more players of colour. Heyneke Meyer has retorted with a very simple yet eloquent reply, by praising Peter de Villiers.
Lastly, with fears regarding the fitness of a number of previously injured and rehabilitating players included in the squad, most notably Fourie du Preez, Jean de Villiers, Duane Vermeulen, Jannie du Plessis and Coenie Oosthuizen, coach Meyer now assures us that all 31 players will be ready to play when the tournament starts on 18 September.
So here goes, let’s look at all these aspects in more depth:
Nehe Milner-Skudder and Waisake Naholo were rewarded for their fine form after they were included in New Zealand’s Rugby World Cup squad.
The inclusion of the 2 pacemean means that there is no place for veterans Israel Dagg and Cory Jane in the squad. Charles Piutau, who has featured regularly for the All Blacks in the last 2 seasons, also misses out on selection.
The squad, captained by Richie McCaw, features 17 forwards and 14 backs. It will be a particularly exciting time for 17 of the All Blacks squad, who will be going to their 1st Rugby World Cup tournament.
All Blacks Head Coach Steve Hansen said said the squad was a reflection of the depth the country has at the moment.
The Brumbies are celebrating the re-signing of 1 of world rugby’s most respected players, after David Pocock committed to a new 1-year deal with the club.
Pocock was a standout for the Brumbies in 2015 and was rewarded with 3 of the club’s highest on-field honours, the Brett Robinson Player’s Player, the fan-voted Stallion of the Year and the Best Forward awards.
Capping off a remarkable season, he was also named the Australian Super Rugby Player of the Year at the annual John Eales Medal ceremony in Sydney.
His achievements this season were made even more remarkable by the fact he had played just 5 games in 2013 and 2014 due to 2 serious knee injuries.
The Waratahs and Australian Rugby Union (ARU) have announced the re-signing of Kurtley Beale on a contract that will see him in Australia for at least a further 2 years, until the end of 2017.
Waratahs Head Coach Daryl Gibson said Beale’s commitment to the side for 2 more seasons would continue his significant contribution to the legacy of the club.
“Kurtley has played some of his best football for the Waratahs, and I am confident we will see his game continue to progress in the seasons to come,” Gibson said.
Wing Kobus van Wyk is back in the DHL Western Province line-up for Friday evening’s ABSA Currie Cup clash against the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein.
DHL WP, the defending ABSA Currie Cup champions, will be looking to bounce back from last weekend’s defeat to the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Pretoria and Van Wyk’s inclusion is 1 of 3 changes to the starting line-up this time around.
The hard-running Van Wyk comes in for Dillyn Leyds on the right-wing, scrumhalf Godlen Masimla replaces Nic Groom, who is on Barbarians duty in London, and Alistair Vermaak starts at loosehead prop in place of the injured Oli Kebble.
Kebble’s hamstring has not recovered sufficiently from the weekend, whilst exciting talent Masimla will make his 1st ABSA Currie Cup start for DHL Western Province in the absence of both Groom and Jano Vermaak, who injured his finger against the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
Fit-again halfback Louis Schreuder is the new scrumhalf replacement and he will be joined on the bench by ABSA Currie Cup debutant JP Smith – the new prop replacement – and lock Jan de Klerk, who comes in for the injured Chris van Zyl (knee).
Springbok stars Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all committed their long-term rugby futures to DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers.
Prop Malherbe, lock Etzebeth, flanker Kolisi and centre De Allende are in contention to represent South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, having all been part of the Springbok squad this season after stellar Vodacom Super Rugby campaigns for the DHL Stormers.
Between them, the quartet have featured in 61 Tests, Etzebeth leading the way with 37 Test appearances since his debut against England in 2012, with Malherbe (6 Tests) and Kolisi (11 Tests) making their debuts in 2013 and De Allende (7 Tests) playing his 1st international in 2014.
“Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all been developed here at Western Province, coming through our youth structures and going on to play Test rugby for South Africa as standout DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province players,” said WP Director of Rugby Gert Smal.
Vodacom Blue Bulls No 8, Hanro Liebenberg, will miss at least the next 6 weeks of the ABSA Currie Cup due to surgery, but Arno Botha has been cleared to play in the competition this weekend.
Liebenberg left the field late in the 1st half after a heavy tackle that saw him limp off, and there were no signs of the rupture in the scan that the Blue Bulls medical personnel did after the game on Saturday night.
But on Sunday Liebenberg didn’t feel well and headed back to the medical personnel, who rushed him to hospital where he was admitted in a serious condition and diagnosed with a ruptured small intestine and bruised colon from the tackle.
There was widespread fear on Monday that the injury could be career-ending as Liebenberg underwent emergency surgery in Pretoria, but the operation was a success, with a 2nd operation scheduled for Wednesday.
The SA Under 20 captain is set to miss most of the rest of the Currie Cup season because of the injury, and will face a slow road to recovery after the rupture released gas into his body that deteriorated his condition fast.
New Zealand Rugby, the Highlanders and Manawatu Rugby have announced that Aaron Smith has re-committed through until at least the end of the 2019 season.
26-Year-old Smith, who has played 41 Tests for the All Blacks, 78 games (including 60 consecutive matches) for the Highlanders and more than 40 matches for the Manawatu Turbos, has become an integral part of the All Blacks and Highlanders success over the last few years. He was a standout player for the Highlanders this season, helping the team to their inaugural Super Rugby title and carried his form into the All Blacks season.
The Test scrumhalf said, “I’m really excited and thankful for the commitment shown from New Zealand Rugby, including the Highlanders and Manawatu Turbos.
Italy veteran Marco Bortolami was sidelined, while Valerio Bernabo was a surprise inclusion in Italy’s 31-man squad for the World Cup.
Lock Bortolami, has amassed 112 caps for the Azzurri and captained them 40 times.
He was 1 of several players cut from an initial 40-man training squad by coach Jacques Brunel.
“It was very difficult to communicate the decision, especially when you’ve put in as much work as the lads have over the past 9 weeks,” said Brunel.
“So to tell several players they were not coming to the World Cup was particularly difficult.”
New Zealand Under 20 Junior World Cup winning captain, Atunaisa Moli, has signed with the Chiefs for the next 2 years.
The versatile Waikato prop who can play both sides of the scrum has impressed head coach Dave Rennie since being a part of the Chiefs’ development program in 2014.
Moli toured Hong Kong with the side earlier this season in addition to spending time training with the Chiefs’ core Super Rugby squad.
Sale flyhalf Danny Cipriani will be left out of England’s 31-man squad for the Rugby World Cup.
The 27-year-old impressed off the bench in the defeat by France last weekend, but has not done enough to be included in Stuart Lancaster’s final party.
Owen Farrell and George Ford are set to be named as the 2 flyhalves, with Mike Brown and Alex Goode as the fullbacks, leaving no place for Cipriani.
The squad will be confirmed on Thursday at 14:45 SA Time (13:45 BST, 12:45 GMT).
The tournament, held in England and Wales, gets under way on 18 September.
Wallabies assistant coach Stephen Larkham says that scrumhalf Nic White could still play a role at the Rugby World Cup.
White and his Brumbies teammate Christian Lealiifano were the surprise ommissions from coach Michael Cheika’s World Cup squad, but with just 2 specialist scrumhalves in the group Larkham said that White will be called on if either Will Genia or Nick Phipps get injured.
The tenacious scrumhalf played a vital role in the Wallabies’ recent victory over the All Blacks in Sydney which saw them claim The Rugby Championship title, and Brumbies coach Larkham admitted that White was understandably disappointed that he did not make the cut for the global showpiece in England next month.
A team of 28, captained by flanker Roddy Grant, has been announced for Edinburgh Rugby’s opening pre-season friendly against Romania at the Greenyards tonight (Friday 21 August, kick-off 18:30 UK Time, 19:30 SA Time).
Bolstering the backs for this season, Edinburgh Rugby announce the signing of winger Otulea Katoa on a 1-year deal.
The Tongan international, who arrived in the capital earlier this week with his wife and 1-year-old son Eli, will bulk up the backs with a number of players involved with Scotland throughout the year.
The 24-year-old, who has been capped 7 times by Tonga, most recently represented his country in July’s Pacific Nations Cup and has been signed from New Zealand provincial side, Southland.
Luke Watson and Stefan Willemse have been withdrawn from the line-up due to leg injuries, for Friday night’s clash against the Steval Pumas at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth.
Unfortunately the pair have not responded to treatment as quickly as the team management had hoped. They have been replaced so as to not risk losing them for the remainder of the Currie Cup campaign.
Cameron Lindsay replaces Stefan Willemse on the bench, while Thembelani Bholi has been moved to the starting line-up in place of Luke Watson, with Paul Schoeman taking his place on the bench.
Steven Sykes will captain the team.
Rugby World Cup winning All Black flyhalf Stephen Donald is returning to New Zealand having signed a contract with Waikato for the NPC season.
Donald had been linked with a move to Toulon in France but is expected to be available for Waikato when they take on Bay of Plenty on 30 August in Tauranga.
It will be the 31-year-old’s 1st outing in New Zealand since he came off the bench to kick what turned out to be winning penalty in the All Blacks’ 8 / 7 win over France at the 2011 Rugby World Cup final at Eden Park.
Donald was famously called into the squad while fishing, after the All Blacks were hit by an injury crisis at flyhalf during the tournament.
Springbok loose forward Ryan Kankowski has been hit hard in the pocket, after he was ordered to pay R 322 500.00 to his former agent.
Kankowski was ordered to pay the amount to his previous management team, In Touch Sports, in an arbitration hearing that concluded on Wednesday.
The 29-year-old, capped 20 times for the Springboks, was also ordered to pay back interest on the amount from May 2010 until final settlement, plus legal fees.
The case was 1st heard in the High Court in Durban, but was later referred to arbitration by agreement between the parties.
The Steval Pumas have made 3 changes to the side that will face the EP Kings in their ABSA Currie Cup clash in Port Elizabeth on Friday.
Prop Corné Fourie will start his 1st match of the season for the Pumas, scrumming down at loosehead prop, with Khwezi Mona shifting to tighthead prop in place of De-Jay Terblanche.
Jason-Colin Fraser earns a starting berth at No 8 in place of Lambert Groenewald, while lock Rudi Matthee will feature in the run-on side for Giant Mtyanda, who shifts to the bench.
The Pumas will be looking to bounce back from their 44 / 27 defeat to the Xerox Golden Lions in Johannesburg last weekend.
In the corresponding fixture in 2013 the Pumas suffered a narrow defeat to the Eastern Cape side.
Wing Sergeal Petersen is set to make his Toyota Free State Cheetahs Currie Cup debut for the showdown against ORC Griquas on Friday.
Petersen, who has now signed a full-time deal in Bloemfontein, has not featured yet for the Free State outfit in this years’ Currie Cup but will occupy the right wing position on Friday.
The 21-year-old has already made 5 Super Rugby appearnces for the Toyota Cheetahs and holds 3 Vodacom Cup caps for Free State, while he was on loan from the EP Kings.
Petersen’s inclusion sees Clayton Blommetjies move to fullback in place of the injured Adriaan Coertzen. Coertzen has been ruled out with an ankle injury.
The only other forced change to the starting line-up is Gerhard Olivier coming in at openside flank for the injured Boom Prinsloo (broken jaw).
Glasgow Warriors have signed winger Junior Bulumakau from the British Army on a 1 year contract.
The 24-year-old, who has been training with the Warriors for the last couple of months, played in the 28 / 10 defeat to Clermont in the pre-season fixture in France last Friday and scored a spectacular try from the halfway line.
Junior was born in Fiji and moved to Scotland at the age of 10 with his parents. He has served as an infantryman with The Royal Scots Borderers, 1st Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland since February 2010, deploying on overseas training exercises to Kenya and Cyprus.
He has played for Heriot’s in the BT Premiership, while in May he scored a try for the British Army and was named man of the match in their 36 / 18 win over the Royal Navy in front of 80 000 supporters at Twickenham.
He becomes the 2nd winger to join the club ahead of the new campaign, along with Taqele Naiyaravoro from the Waratahs, while Scotland 7s wingers Mark Robertson and Nyle Godsmark are training with the squad.
There were no great surprises as Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade named his 31-man Rugby World Cup squad on Sunday.
Star players Juan Imhoff, Juan Martin Hernandez, Juan Fernandez Lobbe and Marcelo Bosch all took their places in the final squad.
Hourcade ditched 7 players from the squad that participated in The Rugby Championship, ending their campaign last week with a 1st ever victory over South Africa.
Racing Metro lock Manuel Carizza and Saracens prop Juan Figallo were amongst those to miss out.
The Xerox Golden Lions medical group have released a report ahead of the team’s match against the Cell C Sharks in Durban this Saturday.
There is just 1 new injury to report, following last weekend’s win over the Steval Pumas.
Centre Harold Vorster has been ruled out for the remainder of the season after tearing his anterior cruciate ligament in his left knee during the match.
Head coach Johan Ackermann sees the injury as a big blow but believes Vorster will be able to make an impact upon his return to play during the 2016 season.
Vodacom Blue Bulls flanker Deon Stegmann will miss the next 4 weeks of the ABSA Currie Cup after he fractured his cheekbone against ORC Griquas on Friday. The flanker left the field in the 52nd minute of the match.
William Small-Smith, who left the field after a blow to the head, will have a fitness test on Thursday to determine if he will be available for the clash against DHL Western Province on Saturday.
Francois Hougaard, who injured a thumb ligament, will also be given time till Thursday to prove his fitness, team doctor Org Strauss confirmed.
Lock Jacques du Plessis, who has a back spasm, will be back on the training field on Tuesday.
Glen Fisiiahi is set to make a return to rugby and will be joining the Chiefs for the next 2 years, from Rugby League team, the Warriors.
The 24 year-old former Wesley College Sports Dux and Counties Manukau Under 18 rugby player, who had offers to stay in rugby league said, “I wanted a change and to switch back to union with the Chiefs.”
“I have really enjoyed the league environment but I have rekindled my interest in rugby and want to try a different environment. I’m looking forward to a new chapter in my sporting career and a fresh challenge.
Fringe hooker Scarra Ntubeni has been released by the Springbok coaching staff.
Ntubeni, who did not travel with the team to Argentina on Wednesday this week, will be returning to DHL Western Province.
He was 1 of the members of the broader Springbok squad that stayed behind in Durban, while the matchday squad headed to Buenos Aires for the final match ahead of the Rugby World Cup.
The Cell C Sharks will welcome the return of centre Paul Jordaan to their matchday-22 for Saturday’s clash with the Eastern Province Kings.
Jordaan, who is on the bench for the Currie Cup Round 2 encounter, has been plagued by injuries since his arrival at the Sharks but has shown glimpses of brilliance when he has strung some games together.
Jean Deysel is also back in the starting line-up after being sidelined with injury – replacing Jean-Luc Du Preez who copped a blow against the Pumas last week.
Elsewhere in the forwards, Juan Schoeman, having impressed off the bench last week, is handed a starting berth for the injured Lourens Adriaanse.
Brother of Jean-Luc, Daniel du Preez, replaces Khaya Majola at flank who is also out injured.
In the backline, Sibusiso Sithole is suffering from injury and is replaced on the wing by the experienced Odwa Ndungane who is himself back from a training ground knock.
Andre Esterhuizen shifts from right wing to left wing while the midfield partnership of Wandile Mjekevu and Heimar Williams remains the same.
Vodacom Blue Bulls halfback Francois Hougaard is fighting back the only way he knows how – with his game.
The tattooed utility back, whose inspired run at wing during the Vodacom Super Rugby season was the reason he lost his place in the Springbok side, bounced back with a vengeance in Bloemfontein last weekend to grab the man of the match award after an inspired performance at halfback.
It is true Hougaard could have left for Japan earlier like former skipper Pierre Spies, but he decided to stay, with one hope of winning the domestic trophy and another of making amends for his perceived wrongs during the Super Rugby season.
The debate has raged ever since he burst onto the scene, and showed he can be equally dangerous at wing or behind the scrum, but a period of instability, where his basic instincts let him down more often than not, served him badly during the last year and has all but ripped his World Cup dream away from him.
Hougaard is a fighter, that is true, and despite his detractors, knows all too well what he needs to do to catch the national selectors’ eyes again. Simply keep knocking on the door.
Former All Black winger Zac Guildford is likely to cancel his plans to play Super Rugby for the Waratahs next year.
Guildford, 26, signed a 1-year contract with the Waratahs outfit last week but last night said there was a chance he would exercise an out clause.
“I’ve had a rethink and I’ve decided it might be better to stay closer to home and family and friends.”
The Cell C Sharks are sweating over the availability of 3 players who were injured in their Currie Cup loss to the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit last Friday.
Props Lourens Adriaanse and Thomas du Toit and loose forward Jean-Luc du Preez sustained blows during the Sharks’ 33 / 24 defeat and could be sidelined for some time.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls coach, Nollis Marais, received good news on his playing squad preparing to face ORC Griquas in Pretoria on Friday. The team returned from Bloemfontein with no serious injury issues, with only a handful of players nursing slight niggles.
All of Dries Swanepoel (quad), Burger Odendaal (shoulder), Deon Stegmann (hip flexor) and Francois Hougaard (foot) will be back on the training field on Tuesday and will be considered for selection for the match against the Northern Cape team.
A number of players are also approaching their comeback date from injury. Justin Forwood trained on Monday and Neethling Fouche (ankle) will be back next week.
The EP Kings have suffered 2 new injuries after their hapless display against the Xerox Golden Lions in their Currie Cup opener on the weekend.
A burst of 4 converted tries in the 1st 16 minutes of the match set the Lions up for a decisive 51 / 14 win over the EP Kings at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in the opening weekend of the tournament.
2 Of the Kings’ cavalry have come away with fresh injuries after the defeat, the team doctor confirmed on Tuesday.
Prop Lizo Gqoboka has a pectoral muscle strain and his time on the sideline is still to be confirmed, while flank Paul Schoeman is setback with a knee injury which is under investigation this week.