The Cell C Sharks have been boosted by the return of Springboks Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen from Japan, as well as flank Willem Alberts from a hamstring injury.
Both Japanese-based backs were spotted training with the Sharks on Monday after their respective teams were eliminated from the league in Japan.
Meanwhile, barn-storming loose forward Alberts has been training with the squad for sometime now and is finally in contention for selection as the Sharks prepare to travel to Cape Town to take on the undefeated Stormers.
Prop Martin Castrogiovanni, ruled out of Italy’s win over Scotland at the weekend because of a dog bite, has been dropped for the Six Nations matches against France and Wales.
Castrogiovanni, who needed 14 stitches after being bitten on the nose by a friend’s dog, was not in the 30-man squad named by coach Jacques Brunel on Tuesday and did not figure among the players who were listed as excluded through injury.
Versatile back Andrea Masi, who missed the Scotland game, and lock Quintin Geldenhuys, still to make his first appearance in the championship because of a knee injury, were recalled.
Explosive attacking back Rene Ranger is to return to the Blues next season and will be available to play for North Harbour in the ITM Cup this year.
The 28-year-old has gained an early release from his contract with French club Montpellier after 2 seasons.
Ranger scored 25 tries in his 65 Super Rugby caps for the Blues, enjoying 6 caps for the All Blacks. He has become a fan favourite with Jake White’s Montpellier side, scoring 6 tries in his first 15 games and helping the team enjoy a strong season in the European Club Championships this year.
He said his return to New Zealand is primarily for family reasons.
“Family comes first and that is the big motivator to return. I want to be able to help my mom more,” Ranger said.
Robbie Fruean’s Super Rugby campaign is almost certainly over folliwing surgery on Monday to have a steel plate inserted in his fractured arm after injuring it in his side’s loss to the Chiefs last weekend.
The timeframe for recovery from this type of injury is usually around 4 – 5 months, which would mean an early July return in a best-case scenario.
Crusaders Head Coach Todd Blackadder said the entire team was feeling for Robbie and sending him their best wishes for a speedy recovery.
Montpellier coach Jake White has his sights set on luring young Blue Bulls loose forward Wiaan Liebenberg to France.
The 22-year-old former Baby Bok captain is currently not in the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans – which makes a move to France very likely.
Loose forwards like Lappies Labuschagne, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann and his brother Hanro are ahead of Liebenberg in the pecking order at the Bulls.
Canterbury and Crusaders back, Tom Taylor, has announced he will move to France to play for the Bayonne Club at the end of this year.
Taylor says it’s been a tough decision to leave, but it is a great opportunity for him and he is looking forward to the next chapter of his career.
“I have absolutely loved my time here at Canterbury and the Crusaders, especially being a Christchurch boy.
France have been hit by an injury crisis with scrumhalf Morgan Parra and backs Wesley Fofana and Remi Lamerat ruled out Monday for the rest of the Six Nations campaign.
Parra will miss the rest of the Six Nations after being ruled out for at least 10 weeks with a knee injury.
Parra, who plays for Clermont in the Top 14, suffered a tear to the posterior ligament in his right knee during France’s 13 / 20 defeat to Wales at the Stade de France on Saturday.
The 26-year-old’s knee will be immobilised for 4 weeks and according to a Clermont statement: “his return to competition won’t be possible before 10 weeks”.
The Golden Lions Rugby Union announced that they signed more players at the Union as well as the re-signing of 2 Vodacom Super Rugby players.
The GLRU has secured the services of lock Andries Ferreira who has signed a 2-year contract. Ferreira recently returned from a stint in Italy at Pro12 side Zebre but also has previous Vodacom Super Rugby and ABSA Currie Cup experience with the Cheetahs.
Ferreira will join the GLRU with immediate effect and will look to bolster the lock stock at the Union and provide added physicality in the tight 5.
The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC has accepted a guilty plea from Owen Franks of the Crusaders for contravening Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking, after he was cited following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.
Franks has been suspended from all forms of the game for 2 weeks up to and including 8 March 2015.
The incident occurred in the 10th minute of the match between the Highlanders and Crusaders played at Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on 21 February 2015.
SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Robert Stelzner SC assessed the case.
Gloucester have added experience and quality to their scrumhalf ranks next season with the capture of Crusaders’ Willi Heinz.
The 28-year-old will join the current Scotland captain Greig Laidlaw and the hugely promising Callum Braley as scrumhalf options for the Cherry and Whites from 2015 – 2016.
Heinz has captained Canterbury in the NPC, represented the Crusaders more than 50 times in Super Rugby, and gained huge popularity with the Canterbury supporters.
Wales have recalled wing George North in place of Alex Cuthbert for the Six Nations match against France.
North missed the 26 / 23 win over Scotland on 15 February after suffering concussion in the opening defeat by England.
Lock Luke Charteris, prop Samson Lee and hooker Scott Baldwin were also named in the team for the game in Paris on Saturday as coach Warren Gatland made 4 changes.
Charteris replaced Jake Ball who started in the win over Scotland at Murrayfield.
England fullback Mike Brown is unlikely to return to action in time for the crucial Six Nations clash against Ireland following a setback in his recovery from concussion.
The 29-year-old felt a recurrence of his symptoms on Friday after being knocked unconscious in the 47 / 17 victory over Italy and having completed a weekend of rest has restarted the return to play protocols.
The earliest the Harlequins star will be able to resume contact training is Friday, the day head coach Stuart Lancaster announces his starting line-up for Sunday’s showdown between the Championship’s only remaining unbeaten teams in Dublin.
It leaves Brown – who had an outstanding tournament last year scoring 4 tries – with a race against time to prove his fitness knowing any further flare-up in symptoms will force him to start the protocols again and rule him out of contention.
Crusaders prop Owen Franks and his Highlanders counterpart Kane Hames were both cited for foul play after their teams’ clash in Dunedin on Saturday.
Both players are alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a) Punching or striking.
Owens’ incident occurred in the 10th minute of the match while Hames’ incident took place in the 74th minute.
Upon further review of the match footage, the citing commissioner deemed in his opinion the incidents had met the Red Card threshold for foul play.
All Black skipper Richie McCaw on Thursday dropped the strongest hint yet he will retire after this year’s World Cup in England and bring his glittering career to an end.
The 34-year-old captain of New Zealand, the reigning World Cup champions, admitted he was considering hanging up his boots, but was not yet ready to make a definitive announcement, preferring to focus on the ongoing Super Rugby season with the Crusaders.
“Honestly, I haven’t made any final decision, but probably the likelihood is I’m not going to be playing next year,” McCaw said at a Crusaders training session, in comments published on New Zealand Rugby’s official website.
The Cell C Sharks welcome back Bismarck du Plessis to the team to host the Lions at Growthpoint Kings Park in one of a handful of changes to last week’s side.
Director of Rugby, Gary Gold, explaining the rationale in making new selections, explains: “Due to injuries, we have had to necessitate a few changes to the team.
“Apart from those injury-enforced changes, we have tried to keep the team as consistent as possible, so that players have another opportunity to get the wrongs of the past weekend right.”
They will have to make do without the likes of wing S’bura Sithole, Mouritz Botha and Beast Mtawarira, but that opens the door of opportunity to Odwa Ndungane, debutant lock Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda and Dale Chadwick.
2 Very exciting young talents in Thomas du Toit and Andre Esterhuizen come onto the bench for this week’s match.
Highlanders coach, Jamie Joseph, has named South African journeyman Ross Geldenhuys at tighthead for the big South Island clash against the Crusaders on Saturday.
Geldenhuys is 1 of 7 debutants for the Highlanders who had a BYE in Round 1 of Super Rugby.
As with last season the team will be co-captained by Nasi Manu and Ben Smith.
Joseph has selected from a near fully fit squad with just Shane Christie (hamstring), Richard Buckman (knee) and Pingi Tala’apitaga (knee) unavailable due to injury.
South African Loosehead prop Francois van Wyk will make his first appearance in the starting fifteen when the Western Force takes on the Queensland Reds at Brisbane’s Suncorp Stadium on Saturday.
Van Wyk, who scored the Force’s final try in last weekend’s 25 / 13 win over the Waratahs, has played 3 matches off the bench for the Western Australian club, and will pack down alongside Wallabies Nathan Charles and Tetera Faulkner.
The 24-year-old front rower replaces Pek Cowan, who will be monitored regarding his pending return after scans cleared him of any serious injury having been carried from the field on Sunday.
The other change to the starting 15 sees Zack Holmes promoted to fullback in the absence of Dane Haylett-Petty, who has been ruled out with a foot injury.
Reds head coach Richard Graham has named his side to take on the Western Force at Suncorp Stadium this Saturday, with 4 personnel changes to the side which lost to the Brumbies in the opening Round.
2 Of the changes are to the starting side, with former All Blacks flanker Adam Thomson and Wallabies utility James O’Connor named to make their Reds debut.
Thomson will start at blindside flanker, with Curtis Browning shifting to the bench. O’Connor has been named starting flyhalf, with Karmichael Hunt returning to fullback.
On the bench, former Australian Schoolboys and Under 20 representative Tom Murday replaces Ed O’Donoghue at lock. Murday was part of the Reds Wider Training Squad in 2013 before heading to New Zealand to join ITM Cup side Northland. He was a member of the Blues Extended Player Squad last year before returning home to train with the Reds. Should he take the field this weekend it will be his Super Rugby debut.
The other change to the replacements sees utility Sam Johnson come in for Duncan Paia’aua, who has been ruled out following a head knock in last week’s match. Johnson, a bruising centre for Brisbane club GPS, made his Super Rugby debut for the Reds last season and is a member of the club’s Elite Development Squad.
Ita Vaea will complete a remarkable and dramatic comeback from a serious heart condition to start for the Brumbies for the first time since 2012.
Jarrad Butler moves to openside flank this Friday when the Brumbies travel to New Zealand’s north island to face the Chiefs.
A syndesmosis injury to David Pocock forced the change, with Vaea featuring at No 8 and in the starting side for the first time in 2 years.
The last time Vaea started for the Brumbies was under Jake White in 2012 and the Tongan powerhouse hasn’t featured at the back of the scrum since 2011.
Vaea has battled a serious heart condition for more than 2 years, with last week’s 30-minute effort against the Reds his 1st Super Rugby time since coming from the bench to beat the Waratahs in Sydney back in Round 15 of 2012.
Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak is set to join the Stormers at the end of the season after 2 years with Toulouse.
The former Lions and Bulls scrumhalf joined the 4-time European champions in 2013, and featured regularly in his 1st season in the Top 14.
He has fallen down the pecking order this season however, with Sébastien Bezy and Jean-Marc Doussain both ahead of him, making just 2 starts so far.
Following his 2014 breakout season for the Highlanders and All Blacks, Malakai Fekitoa has re-signed with New Zealand Rugby for 2 years, extending his contract until at least the end of 2017.
Fekitoa’s commitment is a major coup for both New Zealand Rugby and the Highlanders and he joins a growing list of current All Blacks who have recommitted beyond this year.
He was 1 of only 4 players to play in all 17 Highlanders’ games last year, staking his claim on the No 13 jersey early with his eye-catching performance in the opening round of the 2014 Super Rugby Competition against his old team, the Blues.
He was also 1 of 2 players to play every possible minute for their team last season (1360 across 17 appearances), the other being Michael Hooper who played 1440, including the Final.
All Black Ma’a Nonu is back at centre for the Hurricanes as they prepare to face the Bulls in a Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.
Nonu missed the Hurricanes’ 22 / 8 win over the Lions in Johannesburg last
weekend to attend the birth of his child, but has slotted into the starting fifteen this week.
It will be Nonu’s 145th Super Rugby appearance, and 1st for the Hurricanes since 2011.
The match will also be a significant occasion for Manawatu flank Callum Gibbins, who is set to get his 1st start for the Hurricanes.
The Chiefs have injected some All Black experience for the Round 2 match against the Brumbies on Friday.
All Blacks Liam Messam and Aaron Cruden come into the starting team, as does former international Hosea Gear.
Current New Zealand and World Rugby Player of the Year, Brodie Retallick, will make his 1st appearance of the season from the bench.
In total, Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has made 6 changes to the starting side originally named to face the Blues last week.
Cheetahs lock Lood de Jager will be sidelined for at least 3 months after undergoing an operation to repair injured elbow ligaments.
De Jager left the field in the 1st half of the Cheetahs’ 35 / 29 Super Rugby win against the Sharks at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban last Saturday.
It was feared that he had broken his elbow, but X-rays revealed only ligament damage.
But the Springbok was still forced to go under the knife on Tuesday.
Crusaders pivot Dan Carter is set to miss the Christchurch-based team’s clash against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Saturday.
Carter hurt his leg in his side’s 20 / 10 loss to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend and although Crusaders assistant coach Aaron Mauger believes the injury isn’t serious, he said it’s unlikely that the All Blacks flyhalf would be considered to play this weekend.
That means that Colin Slade is expected to start in the No 10 jeresey.
Castres scrumhalf Rory Kockott has been ruled out of Saturday’s crucial Top 14 game with Oyonnax, after suffering a quadriceps injury in France’s Six Nations defeat against Ireland.
The injury update came via the club’s scrum coach and recently appointed consultant Maurico Reggiardo.
The 28-year-old South Africa-born player – who became eligible to play for the French last year – may not be fit enough either to be named in the Six Nations squad for the game with Wales on Saturday week.
The Sharks suffered a major injury scare on Saturday when Tendai Mtawarira left the field in pain, with the early diagnosis indicating a severe injury.
However, after undergoing scans on Monday, a calf tear was downgraded to a calf strain and although he will not be considered for selection for a few weeks, this does not constitute a long term injury.
“Losing an international is a big loss to any team, obviously we aren’t happy about losing Tendai, but there’s nothing we can do, we have to move on,” said assistant coach Sean Everitt.
Details on Dan Carter’s leg injury are still fuzzy heading towards the Crusaders match against the Highlanders on Saturday.
The official line signalled some improvement when he was assessed by the medical staff and then involved in the squad’s light workout on Monday at their Christchurch headquarters.
During the Crusaders’ opening Super Rugby loss to the Rebels, Carter took a knock to his lower right leg which he then aggravated when he made a hasty clearing kick from his in-goal area.
The limping flyhalf stayed on for a further 15 minutes hoping the discomfort from his “dead leg” would ease. He had to be subbed and when he fronted for interviews later, Carter was optimistic there was no significant issue.
The Stormers have no major injury concerns in their camp this week, as they get set to host the Blues at Newlands on Saturday (17:05 SA Time).
The men from the Cape opened their 2015 Super Rugby campaign with a memorable 29 / 17 win over the Bulls in Pretoria and they could be boosted this week by the return of forwards Frans Malherbe and Siya Kolisi and wing Kobus van Wyk.
The trio missed the trip to Pretoria, but more will be known about their participation in Round 2 when the team is announced on Thursday, just before lunch-time.
The Toyota Cheetahs were dealt a big blow when it was learnt that Springbok lock Lood de Jager will be out of action for between 6 and 8 weeks with an elbow injury.
De Jager was forced off the field in the Cheetahs win over the Cell C Sharks early on in Durban on Saturday and while the good news is that there isn’t a bone fracture, the injury will mean he will miss close to 2 months of Vodacom Super Rugby action.
The injury has been tempered by the fact the Cheetahs have a bye this week, with all players being given most of the week off until they reassemble on Thursday to start preparing for next weekend’s game against the Blues in Bloemfontein.
We are just 1 week into the Super Rugby season and there is already a lengthy list of Springboks sidelined by injury.
With captain Jean de Villiers a non-starter thanks to a knee injury which has put a question mark over his availability for the World Cup, he has been joined by Eben Etzebeth, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Lodewyk de Jager amd Julian Redelinghuys.
Etzebeth hurt his chest in a warm-up game against the Cheetahs at Newlands, and is only expected back in the 3rd round – the 3rd consecutive year he has missed the start of the competition.
David Pocock will not be available for selection this Friday after receiving a grade-one syndesmosis to his ankle during Friday’s win over the Reds in Canberra.
Pocock did not train with the main squad on Monday. He said it was now a matter of getting his ankle right for a quick return to the field.
“Obviously it’s a disappointing outcome and not what I wanted, having spent a long time out. But it’s treatable and I know I’m in good hands here with the Brumbies medical team,” Pocock said.
Irish No 8 Jamie Heaslip has 3 fractured vertebrae and will miss at least 4 weeks including the potential Grand Slam decider between Six Nations champions Ireland and England in a fortnight it was announced by the IRFU on Monday.
The 31-year-old British and Irish Lions star suffered the injury after being kneed in the back by France lock Pascal Pape in Ireland’s 18 / 11 victory over the French on Saturday.
“Scans have revealed fractures of the transverse process of 3 vertebrae in Jamie’s back,” read a statement from the Irish Rugby Football Union.
Stormers flank Rynhardt Elstadt has denied a report stating that he could join a top Japanese club.
This comes after a local Cape newspaper earlier this week reported that the Stormers hard-man is likely to join the exodus to Japan.
However, when asked about the possible move, Elstadt denied the report. His contract with Western Province expires at the end of October.
Ireland flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will play his first game in 12 weeks, after coach Joe Schmidt took a gamble to start him in the defending champion’s Six Nations clash with France at Lansdowne Road on Saturday.
The 29-year-old – who has not played since the victory over Australia on 22 November after suffering a third concussion in a calendar year – replaces Ian Keatley, who played in the opening 26 / 3 victory over Italy last Saturday.
Fellow veterans, No 8 Jamie Heaslip and flank Sean O’Brien, also return to the starting fifteen – the former after recovering from shoulder and knee injuries and the latter will play his first Test since the heroic loss to world champions New Zealand in November 2013.