New Zealand Under 20 star Damian Mckenzie will have to battle it out with his brother Marty for a spot at flyhalf for the Chiefs next year.
The 19-year-old flyhalf has a big future in the game, after showing hints of his sparkling ability with the New Zealand Under 20’s and Waikato’s NPC side this year.
Chiefs coach Dave Rennie has had his eye on McKenzie for years now, and is looking forward to seeing what he can bring to the team.
He will start third or fourth in the pecking order for the flyhalf position at the Chiefs, behind All Black Aaron Cruden, brother Marty McKenzie, and in a tie with Andrew Horrell.
England hooker Dylan Hartley has rejected a mega offer from Top 14 club Montpellier to sign a new deal with Northampton.
The 28-year-old has revealed that he was given a ‘very generous offer’ by the club to move to France.
However, Hartley has opted to remain with Premiership champions Saints and outlined his reasons today.
Hartley stated that the move would have had no impact on his England career ahead of next year’s World Cup, while turning down the possibility of ‘300 days of sunshine’ was not easy.
“It’s no secret I was offered a deal to join one of the leading French sides, Montpellier, which would have been worth significantly more. But money isn’t everything,” Hartley wrote in his column in a newspaper.
“I don’t want to come across all ‘holier than thou’ over this, but I do believe the world loyalty has gone out of fashion a bit – and for me that really means something.”
Former Wales and Llanelli flyhalf Phil Bennett has questioned Scarlets’ move for Welsh-qualified flanker Jack Payne from Queensland Reds in Australia.
Payne, 20, has arrived in Wales, but any move cannot be made official until passport issues have been resolved.
Scarlets president Bennett would prefer to see local players at Scarlets, but admitted importing Welsh-qualified players from abroad could help Wales.
“There’s a lot of mixed feeling from Llanelli,” he said. “We’re kind of old fashioned here. People still go back to the great Llanelli days . . . they all want to be Welsh, Welsh-speaking if they had their way,” joked 66-year-old Bennett.
“But let’s be honest, look at the Australians, the All Blacks and how they’ve milked the situation of getting players from Fiji, Samoa and different places. You’ve got to get and live with the very best in the world.”
French club Racing Metro are reportedly winning the race to sign All Blacks star Dan Carter in a deal that is tipped to make him the highest paid player in the game with a £1 million contract.
European media is awash with speculation around Carter as the veteran No 10’s future beyond next year’s World Cup continues to grab headlines.
All the various sources were tipping glamour Paris outfit Racing Metro to lure Carter back to the French competition after his painful previous experience of an injury-plagued sabbatical in 2009 with Perpignan.
The Times suggested Carter ‘is close to becoming rugby’s first £1 million man’ with Racing Metro owner Jacky Lorenzetti prepared to ‘break the bank’ for a move that would finally end Carter’s All Blacks career.
Wallabies and Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper has committed to Australian Rugby for another year in a deal that will take him through until the end of 2015.
The 26-year-old flyhalf returned to national duty in the recent Spring Tour after overcoming an injury that curtailed his Super Rugby season and will be keen to add to his 53 Test caps next year.
“I really enjoyed the Spring Tour, even though some of the results weren’t what we wanted,” he said.
“We’re working hard to improve and I’m confident we’ve got a great group of players going into 2015.
“I love being at the Reds and playing rugby for Australia, and am looking forward to the opportunities next year.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will be pleased to see two of his stalwarts returning to the rugby field in the European Cup this weekend.
Bath’s Francois Louw is set to make his comeback after a ten-week stint on the sideline following surgery on his neck for nerve damage.
The flank last played for the Springboks in their Rugby Championship Test against the All Blacks in Wellington on 13 September.
Bath assistant coach Toby Booth has indicated that Louw may be thrown straight into the action and could start for the English team when they face Montpellier at home on Friday.
Coming off a highly successful 2014 rugby season in all areas, the Lions have announced the final signings of players for the 2015 season
The GLRU has worked hard in maintaining growth potential in junior players and increasing depth where needed.
The Lions have managed to attact six SA Schools players for the Under 19 squad in Nazo Nkala, Barend Smit, Sarel Smith, Kenny van Niekerk and Marco van Vuuren.
In the Under 21 squad there are seven players who took part in the recent Under 20 World Cup in New Zealand. Cyle Brink, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Thabo Mabuza, Malcolm Marx, Ramone Samuels, Victor Sekeketi and Currie Cup player Jaco van der Walt.
In the senior squad the Lions boast seven players who are either capped by the Springboks or were involved this year, as well as BlitzBokke in Albertus “Kwagga” Smith and their captain Warren Whiteley who is both a Springbok and a Sevens Bok.
Leinster skills coach Richie Murphy has confirmed reports that Jimmy Gopperth is talking to other clubs and will leave the province at the end of the current season.
Ireland’s first-choice flyhalf Jonathan Sexton will return to Leinster next season after a stint with Racing Metro and utility back Ian Madigan – Sexton’s understudy with the national team – is contracted until 2016.
It is understood that Wasps are favourites to sign New Zealander Gopperth, who would move at the end of the current season, but that he is talking to a number of clubs across Europe.
“Jimmy was given a heads-up early on about Johnny [Sexton] coming back and he feels he still wants to be a first-team player,” Murphy said.
Western Province have brushed off reports linking lock Eben Etzebeth with a move to French giants Toulon.
French newspaper Var Matin reported over the weekend that the Springbok lock could join Toulon after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The 23-year-old Capetonian is seen as an ideal replacement for compatriot Bakkies Botha, who recently retired from international rugby and will leave Toulon at the end of the current European season.
Christian Loamanu, who tested positive for cannabis five years ago, has had his indefinite ban for playing rugby in Japan lifted.
In 2009 Loamanu was sanctioned for an indefinite period by the Japanese Rugby Football Union after he tested positive for cannabis following a domestic Top League game.
Earlier in 2014 the Iinternational Rugby Players Association (IRPA) engaged the JRFU to conduct a review of the sanction and allow IRPA to present a case for Loamanu’s sanction to be lifted.
Thirty Craven Week players, five of whom played for the 2014 SA Schools team, and nine regular Under 19 First XV (or higher) captains from 2014 will form part of an exciting 2015 Western Province Rugby Institute intake.
With the WPRI already having produced the likes of DHL Stormers and / or Springbok stars Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi, Nizaam Carr, Cheslin Kolbe and Juan de Jongh in recent seasons, there is plenty of excitement surrounding the announcement of the Class of 2015.
Five members of the 2014 SA Schools team – including captain and No 8 Jaco Coetzee – have chosen to join the WPRI in Stellenbosch, along with the 2013 Craven Week Player of the Year, Grant Hermanus, who featured for the cup-winning DHL Western Province Under 19 team in 2014, and another Paarl Gym star, lock Jaco Willemse (a WP representative in the 2014 SA Schools squad).
The 2015 WPRI squad is made of 75% local talent, with the likes of Coetzee (Glenwood), Michael Kumbirai (St Albans College), Eduard Zandberg (Outeniqua) and Eduan Keyter (Affies) – all members of the 2014 SA Schools team – joining from outside the boarders of the Western Cape.
Ruan Pienaar and Dan Tuohy are poised to return for Ulster in Saturday’s European Champions Cup tie against Scarlets at Kingspan Stadium.
Pienaar has not played for Ulster this season having suffered a knee injury playing for South Africa in September.
Tuohy broke his arm during a Pro12 match against Cardiff 10 weeks ago.
“Dan and Ruan both trained the last two days and if there is no reaction, they might potentially be involved at the weekend,” said Ulster coach Neil Doak.
While delighted at the prospect of the pair being involved in the back-to-back fixtures against Scarlets, which Ulster must win to keep alive slim hopes of qualification from Pool 3, Doak is not expecting too much from his returning internationals.
“It’s good to have them back on the paddock but let’s see how they react and come through. We just have to see how Ruan’s knee reacts.”
“It is a different kettle of fish when you are training on your own, but when you get in a team environment and it is twisting and turning, it is live stuff now.
“Hopefully both of them can get in the mix this weekend. To have those experienced players coming back in, it is good to have.”
The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Wednesday confirmed the retirement from rugby by Vodacom Bulls prop Frik Kirsten. The former Junior Springbok player suffered a neck injury in March whilst playing his 34th match for the Vodacom Bulls and underwent surgery after that. Although the surgery proved successful, medical advice was for the 26-year old player not to play rugby again.
Kirsten, who studied B.Comm (Accounting) at the University of Pretoria while playing professional rugby, graduated with an honours degree and will now pursue a career in accounting, hoping to become a chartered accountant.
Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager at the Blue Bulls Company, said it was sad to lose a player of Kirsten’s ability, but applauded the fact that the player prepared for a career after rugby while still playing.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers will require surgery on his injured left knee and will be in a race against time to be fit for the Rugby World Cup in England in 2015.
De Villiers left the field in the 58th minute of the Springboks’ final Test of the season, last Saturday against Wales in Cardiff, after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap.
Scans shortly after the match revealed significant ligament damage to the knee. De Villiers returned to South Africa on Monday and was assessed by an orthopaedic surgeon in Cape Town, who advised that the Springbok captain requires surgical reconstruction of the knee.
South Africa suffered a big blow when Springbok captain Jean de Villiers was injured during their 12-6 defeat to Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff on Saturday.
De Villiers was forced to leave the field in the 58th minute after twisting his left knee and dislocating his knee cap. The dislocation was reduced on the field and he was sent for scans shortly after the match.
“The scans revealed significant ligament damage to the inside of his knee and the supporting muscles,” said Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts.
“Jean will return to South Africa and see an orthopaedic specialist in Cape Town early in the week. He has had previous surgery on this knee and the further management of the injury is dependent upon the specialist’s recommendations.”
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer said losing De Villiers was a massive setback as the team were just beginning to build momentum in a tough encounter against Wales. The home team’s points came via four Leigh Halfpenny penalty goals, while Pat Lambie responded with two penalty goals for the visitors.
“It was a massively disappointing way to end the tour and our season, as we always strive to make our country proud,” said Meyer.
Rugby league star Sam Burgess made his highly-anticipated union debut for Bath in a comprehensive 25-6 victory over Harlequins in the English Premiership on Friday.
Burgess had not played rugby since fracturing his cheekbone and eye socket during his final appearance for South Sydney in their 30-6 NRL Grand Final victory over Canterbury Bulldogs in October.
But he was named on the bench for Bath, for whom he was signed a three-year deal worth an estimated 270,000 with a tilt at England’s World Cup squad in mind.
And the player capped 28 times as a forward for England in rugby league came on in the 63rd minute as a centre alongside fellow league convert Kyle Eastmond.
Xerox Golden Lions scrumhalf Ross Cronje has been called up to the Springbok tour squad in Cardiff as replacement for Rudy Paige.
Paige injured his medial knee ligaments in training earlier this week and will be out for approximately four weeks.
A request was made for Toulouse scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to rejoin the squad but it was rejected as he is playing for his club this weekend.
Centre Jaque Fourie has joined fellow World Cup winner Bakkies Botha in deciding to quit the international stage.
Fourie, on the Union Sports Group player management agency’s official website, confirmed that he will no longer be available for Springbok selection.
“After much consideration, with regards to my current career status, I have decided to not make myself available for any international matches,” Fourie said in a statement on the agency website.
“I have chosen to remain focused on continuing with my current club, Kobelco Steelers.
Former Fiji wing Rupeni Caucaunibuca has ended his unhappy second stint with French second division side Agen by mutual consent.
Caucaunibuca, more commonly referred to simply as Caucau, had played only 87 minutes for the Pro D2 side this season, having returned for a second spell following a highly successful first stint from 2004-09.
Back then, when Agen were in the French Top 14, Caucau twice finished as top try-scorer in the league.
He moved on to giants Toulouse in 2010 and then in 2012 returned to Northland in New Zealand, where he had also played Super Rugby for the Blues.
Agen said the explosive 34-year-old had asked to have his contract terminated.
Ireland flank Chris Henry has had an operation to repair a defect on his heart wall after a temporary blockage was discovered in a small blood vessel in his brain.
The defect was found to be related to the blockage, which was discovered before Ireland’s victory over South Africa on 8 November.
Henry was withdrawn from the starting lineup on the morning of the South Africa match with a suspected viral illness that was initially diagnosed as a severe migraine.
Cardiff Blues’ new signing Gareth Anscombe is keen to impress Wales coach Warren Gatland and force his way into the Welsh Six Nations squad.
The Welsh qualified junior All Black made his debut for the Blues last weekend and was the shining light in their 28-13 defeat to Edinburgh at Murrayfield.
The utlity back is determined to muscle his way into the Wales fold for the Six Nations by steering his new side to victories against European Cup Pool One qualification rivals London Irish in their back-to-back clashes next month.
“I’m a pretty driven guy and now that I’m over here it’s the goal to play for Wales. So, I guess the next step may be the Six Nations.
Wales will be able to call on their French-based stars for Saturday’s Test against the Springboks at Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.
The match falls outside of World Rugby’s Test window, which means clubs are not obliged to release their overseas-based players for internationals.
For this reason, the Springboks will not be able to call on the likes of Bryan Habana (Toulon, France) JP Pietersen (Panasonic Wild Knights, Japan), Schalk Burger (Suntory Sungoliath, Japan), Johan Goosen (Racing Metro, France), Jano Vermaak (Toulouse, France), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse, France) and Morne Steyn (Stade Francais, France).
However, it appears Wales will be able to call on some key overseas players.
Tevita Kuridrani has been ruled out of Saturday’s match against England at Twickenham with an ankle injury.
The in-form Wallabies centre picked up the injury early in the second half of their 26-23 defeat to Ireland. Tests on Monday revealed a low grade tear, meaning Kuridrani won’t be available for the match against England, although he should be clear by the time Super Rugby rolls around.
Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis has not recovered from a hamstring injury and will miss their final tour game against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday.
Du Plessis sustained the injury against England at Twickenham on 15 November and missed this past weekend’s game against Italy in Padua (Padova).
He was expected to be back for the Wales Test, but needs more time on the sidelines.
Warren Whiteley picked up a calf injury during training recently and also has not recovered sufficiently to play in the final Test against Wales on Saturday.
Stuart Lancaster has recalled 34 players to Pennyhill Park to prepare for Saturday’s final International against Australia at Twickenham Stadium.
Exeter Chiefs’ in form No 8 Thomas Waldrom, who has scored seven tries in eight Premiership games this season, replaces Billy Vunipola.
The Saracens man suffered concussion in Saracens’ defeat to Northampton Saints at the weekend will undergo the Graduated Return To Play protocol at his club.
Seabelo Senatla has been released from the Springbok touring squad at the request of the Springbok Sevens and will return to South Africa on Sunday.
Senatla will join the Blitzbokke as they prepare for the next two tournaments in the HSBC Sevens World Series, in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
“We’ve got a very good relationship with Neil (Powell) and the Sevens, so we’re happy to help,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“At this stage we won’t be calling up a replacement as we have enough cover at the back.
The Bulls were dealt a cruel blow just days into their pre-season, with confirmation that Springbok Flip van der Merwe is set to miss the start of the 2015 season.
Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, confirmed that Van der Merwe will undergo surgery next Tuesday after damaging his pectoral muscle.
“It was a freak accident,” Ludeke said, when asked about the burly lock that was ruled out for the latter half of 2014 after suffering a serious knee injury during the second Springbok Test against Wales in June.
European clubs targeting Springboks to join their cash-flush clubs after next year’s Rugby World Cup will this time have more of a fight on their hands than before, after the South African Rugby Union’s (SARU) Springbok contracts are likely to be enforced with more vigour.
In recent days we’ve seen growing reports of Boks that may be heading overseas after the Rugby World Cup. This week it was Duane Vermeulen’s link with a French club and Bath – the latter willing to offer around R7.8-million a year for the IRB Player of the year nominee’s services.
Previously both Flip van der Merwe and Eben Etzebeth have been linked with moves overseas to French clubs while sources in France tell of Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux and even Jan Serfontein being privately courted with offers to go overseas.
However, here is the catch. Those with Springbok contracts cannot enter into any negotiations with any club before 1 July 2015, leaving them a matter of 2 months to sort out their post-World Cup careers before the showpiece event takes place.
The Springbok starting team to face Italy in Padova on Saturday shows four changes from the side which beat England at Twickenham last week, with three new faces amongst the pack and one in the backline.
There are also five changes on the bench, with Nizaam Carr and Julian Redelinghuys included in a Test match-23 for the first time.
Trevor Nyakane will start his first Test for South Africa at loosehead prop, while Coenie Oosthuizen moves up from the bench to replace the injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead. Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje returns to the starting line-up while Johan Goosen has been selected at fullback.
Joining Carr and Redelinghuys on the bench, are Gurthrö Steenkamp, Lood de Jager and Willie le Roux. Tendai Mtawarira has been given a break after carrying a heavy workload recently.
“I’m excited to see what these guys can do on Saturday in what will be a stern Test against a fired-up Italy,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“We planned to make a few shifts for this Test as I’d like to see if these players can make the step up. The guys coming in deserve their opportunities and seeing that we won’t have our overseas-based players available next week against Wales, it made sense to bring a few of them in this week.”
Errr… wrong picture… I did not say Bath Plug, I said Bath Rugby! OK, here’s the right one!
Gmpfff, still looks somewhat the same!
Anyway… Bath head coach Mike Ford has said the club are not in the market for Springbok loose forward Duane Vermeulen.
Earlier in the week there was speculation that Bath were on the hunt for Vermeulen to be one of their marquee players alongside Wallaby Will Genia.
“It was news to us when it was mentioned to us earlier today,” Ford said on Tuesday.
Francois Louw says he had been carrying “for years” an underlying neck problem that forced him to have surgery in September.
A pinched nerve caused by a slipped disk resulted in the 34-cap Springbok having an operation on 22 September.
The injury has forced the flank to miss the year-end internationals and Louw is still unable to put a firm date on his return for club side Bath, although he says a December “would be fantastic”.
Waratahs captain Dave Dennis revealed that he went to America to speed up the rehabilitation program, following a knee injury.
Dennis was among the first batch of Waratahs that began pre-season training this week, as they look to defend their Super Rugby crown.
He was among the first group of returning players, which include senior team members Pat McCutcheon, Paddy Ryan and Jeremy Tilse.
They are joined by seven new faces, including former New Zealand Warriors Rugby League player Sam Lousi.
Fiji prop Campese Ma’afu was suspended for a week for being sent off for two yellow-card offenses in the 17-13 loss to Wales at Cardiff last weekend.
Ma’afu appeared before an independent Six Nations disciplinary hearing on Tuesday.
English club Bath are reportedly setting their sights on signing Springbok and Stormers No 8 Duane Vermeulen after next year’s Rugby World Cup.
The 28-year-old has been instrumental for the Springboks this season and was recently also shortlisted as an IRB World Rugby Player of the year nominee.
According to the Express.co.uk website, Bath are lining up Vermeulen as a second marquee player alongside Wallaby scrumhalf Will Genia.
Luther Burrell and Billy Twelvetrees are both in contention to face Samoa at Twickenham on Saturday, after Burrell was named in the group preparing for the third of England’s year-end Tests.
The Northampton Saints centre, who scored three tries in the 2014 Six Nations, is among 28 players recalled by Stuart Lancaster to Pennyhill Park on Monday – after recovering from a hand injury.
Bath wing Semesa Rokoduguni, missing from the 28-31 defeat to South Africa with a thigh injury, has not recovered sufficiently to retake his place in the squad and will remain at the club.
Domestic colleague Kyle Eastmond suffered concussion towards the end of the match last Saturday and will undergo the graduated return to play protocol in hope of playing against the South Sea Islanders.