Argentina coach Daniel Hourcade gave the 1st indication of what his Rugby World Cup line-up will look like, when he named his squad for The Rugby Championship.
He wasted no time in drafting in his overseas-based players who were not part of the just-completed 2-match series against the French Barbarians.
Horacio Agulla (Bath), Marcos Ayerza (Leicester Tigers), Marcelo Bosch (Saracens) and Gonzalo Camacho (Leicester Tigers) joined the squad.
The numbers will be reduced from the current 36 to 28 when they head to Sydney on Saturday 11 July, where they will prepare for their opening Rugby Championship encounter – with the New Zealand All Blacks in Christchurch on 17 July.
Hourcade said it has been a long process to select the squad.
One of the stars of the Pumas’ win in this year’s Vodacom Cup series has been admitted to a Pretoria hospital with Guillain-Barre Syndrome.
Eduan van der Walt, who captained the Nelspruit side in their surge towards the Vodacom Cup title, is in the Unitas hospital after being struck down with GBS.
And it isn’t the 1st time.
Van der Walt managed to complete 14 months of rehabilitation from GBS to return to the rugby field earlier this year, being chosen by new Pumas coach MJ Mentz to captain the side in the Vodacom Cup captain for his leadership skills and drive to get back to the top.
Van der Walt played in his 100th game in the semifinal win over the Xerox Golden Lions and lifted the trophy a week later in Cape Town, but one week after all this happened, things went horribly wrong for the lock.
Van der Walt sought medical help after feeling muscle loss in his facial muscles, and was rushed to Unitas hospital where he was taken up in the intensive care unit.
“After several tests, the consulting doctor, Dr Naidoo confirmed that he had a relapse into GBS and his situation worsened while in hospital before it was stabilised by Sunday,” Pumas’ team doctor Kobus Hugo said.
A new Vodacom Cup champion was crowned in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon when the Steval Pumas lifted the coveted trophy for the 1st time ever. The Lowvelders, coached by former Springbok Sevens player MJ Mentz, became the 8th team to win this competition since its inception in 1998.
The Steval Pumas completed a remarkable run in their 3 playoff matches – they beat the Vodacom Cup champions of 2012, 2013 and 2014 on 3 consecutive weekends away from home.
On Saturday, they upset the odds yet again by beating DHL Western Province, the only unbeaten team left in the competition, in the final. The scoreline of 24 / 7 suggests it was a walk in the park for the Steval Pumas, but they had to dig deep and showed the value of playing knock-out rugby with experienced players.
And as they did in the semi-final last weekend, big lock Rudi Mathee scored a try for the visitors and livewire flanker Marnus Schoeman added a brace of 5-pointers.
Although he could only add 4 points to his overall tally, Steval Pumas flyhalf JC Roos finished the season as the top points scorer with 115 – the only player in 2015 to surpass 100 competition points – while SWD Eagles speedster Alshaun Bock scored the most tries, with 8.
Schoeman, courtesy of his 4 tries in the last 2 matches, ended 2nd on the list of try scorers with 7, while DHL WP’s Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Kefentse Mahlo of the Vodacom Blue Bulls, Martin Sithole of the Down Touch Griffons and the Hino Valke duo of Riaan Arends and Anrich Richter all scored 6 tries.
The Steval Pumas and DHL Western Province have travelled as far afield as Windhoek, Secunda, Kimberley and Caledon, and will converge on Cape Town this weekend for the Vodacom Cup Final.
The match – the 1st time ever the Vodacom Cup Final will be hosted in Cape Town – will form part of Newlands celebrating its 125th year of existence this weekend. And to add a little spice, it’s a replay of last year’s quarter-final, won 13 / 8 by the Steval Pumas in Nelspruit.
One member of that Steval Pumas side, who will be watching from the sidelines in the colours of the DHL Stormers, is Vincent Koch. 10 Of his team-mates from last year’s quarter-final will return to Cape Town this weekend – Jacques Momberg, Frankie Herne, DJ Terblanche, Marius Coetzer, Uzair Cassiem, JC Roos, Wilmaure Louw, Jerome Pretorius, JW Bell and Reynier van Rooyen.
For the home team, only 6 members of their match-22 this weekend were part of the side that tasted defeat in the Mbombela Stadium last year. They are Jan de Klerk, Rayn Smid, Michael Willemse, Sti Sithole, Deacon Chowles and Robert du Preez.
DHL WP coach John Dobson has selected Wilhelm van der Sluys as the “sole survivor” of their 2012 title winning side. Louw and Simon Westraadt, now plying their trade in the Lowveld, were in the colours of GWK Griquas that night 3 years ago.
Louw was also member of the Steval Pumas side which lost in the final against the Xerox Golden Lions in 2013, and will return for the final along with 10 other members of that team – Momberg, Terblanche, Coetzer, Cassiem, Pretorius, Bell, Herne, Eduan van der Walt, Stefan Watermeyer and Blitzbok Rosko Specman.
The last time these 2 sides met in Cape Town, was in semi-final in 2012, with DHL WP winning comfortably by 33 / 20 en route to their maiden Vodacom Cup title.
At home, DHL Western Province hold a commanding 4 / 1 lead over the Steval Pumas, with the visitors from Mpumalanga recording their 1st and only win at DHL Newlands in 2002 (58 / 18). The Capetonians though emerged victorious at home in 2012 (33 / 20), 2011 (27 / 14), 2008 (59 / 19) and 2003 (33 / 28).
Overall, they’ve played against each other 9 times in the Vodacom Cup, with DHL WP winning 6 times and the Steval Pumas on 3 occasions.
“It’s a great occasion for Western Province rugby and we’d like to go out there on Saturday and make our supporters proud of this team,” said Dobson, who will be head coach of the Cape Town-based union in the ABSA Currie Cup.
“We’ve put in a lot of hard work this season and it’s wonderful that we can play a final in front of our supporters at DHL Newlands, but we know it will be a tough encounter against a well-coached and experienced Pumas side. You only have to look at the way in which they won their playoffs in the last fortnight to see that they are peaking at the right time of the season.”
Steval Pumas coach MJ Mentz said: “We’ve already eliminated the champions from 2014 and 2013, and now we have an opportunity to do the same against the champions from 2012.
“It sounds easier than it is though and playing at Newlands provides us with yet another massive challenge. The structures at Western Province are very well established, they are a well-coached side and always bring through some superb young players.
“But we’re focused on our own game and what we want to achieve. We saw against the Golden Lions last weekend what our experienced players can do and we’ll be counting on them again to pull this one through.
“We’re going to Cape Town with a belief that we can win, otherwise we may just as well stay at home. We’ve shown what we can do in the last two weeks by winning tough matches away from home and Newlands will be even tougher.”
The Steval Pumas qualified for their 2nd Vodacom Cup final in 3 years and will have to travel to Cape Town to face DHL Western Province next weekend.
It will be the 1st time ever that the Vodacom Cup Final is hosted in Cape Town, in what is only the 2nd time that DHL Western Province have advanced to the season decider.
On Saturday afternoon at DHL Newlands in Cape Town, DHL Western Province beat the Vodacom Blue Bulls by 10 / 6 in a scrappy encounter, putting themselves in the inside lane to win the Vodacom Cup for only the 2nd time.
They will face a Steval Pumas side that caused their 2nd upset in as many weeks though, when they dealt the Xerox Golden Lions their 1st defeat of the season at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Friday evening, deservedly winning by 43 / 20.
This victory means that the Lowvelders had knocked out the Vodacom Cup champions of 2013, the Xerox Golden Lions, and 2014, GWK Griquas, in the last fortnight. Next Saturday in Cape Town they will be looking to add the 2012 winners to this impressive list.
The Steval Pumas and Vodacom Blue Bulls will be facing the 2 unbeaten sides in the Vodacom Cup this year, the Xerox Golden Lions and DHL Western Province, when the 4 remaining teams face off in the semi-finals this weekend.
Of these 4, it’s only the Steval Pumas, runners up in 2013, that haven’t won the Vodacom Cup. The Lowvelders caused an upset last weekend when they eliminated the defending champions, GWK Griquas, in their quarter-final in Kimberley.
The Xerox Golden Lions last won the last of their 5 Vodacom Cup titles in 2013, the 3-time champion Vodacom Blue Bulls’ last success was in 2010 and DHL Western Province lifted the trophy for the 1st and only time in 2012.
There will be extra incentive for DHL Western Province when they host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the 2nd semi-final on Saturday afternoon as they will host the final the next weekend should they progress.
However, should the Capetonians lose their 1st match of the season, the highest-placed team from the North Section will host the final.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls hold the upper hand in knock-out contests between these traditional rivals – they won both (in 2010 by 17 / 6 in Pretoria and in 2009 by 36 / 16, also at home).
In fact, the last time DHL Western Province hosted the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup in Cape Town, was way back in 2001, with the visitors winning easily by 41 / 10.
In total, they’ve met 9 times with the Vodacom Blue Bulls winning 6 and DHL Western Province 3. The Capetonians won the last encounter between these sides, by 16 / 8 in Pretoria in 2011.
3 Of the 4 Vodacom Cup semi-finalists are from the North Section after the Xerox Golden Lions, Vodacom Blue Bulls and Steval Pumas all won their quarter-final encounters this weekend.
The unbeaten DHL Western Province will be the South Section’s sole representative in the Top 4 next weekend after the Steval Pumas upset the defending champions, GWK Griquas, at GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday evening.
The visitors from the Lowveld won 28 / 14 and outscored the 5-time champions by 3 tries to 2 in a match that came alight in the 2nd half.
DHL Western Province, champions in 2012, beat the Leopards XV by 47 / 22 at City Park in Cape Town on Saturday afternoon.
The Xerox Golden Lions were made to work extremely hard in their quarter-final against the SWD Eagles at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg on Saturday afternoon, with the visitors from George scoring 3 tries to the 2013 champions’ 2, but in the end it wasn’t enough.
The 4th quarter-final was a rather 1-sided affair at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening, where the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat the Toyota Free State XV by 44 / 21, with William Small-Smith dotting down 3 times for the 3-time champions from Pretoria.
Star DHL Stormers prop Vincent Koch will not be available for Western Province in this year’s Currie Cup.
According to reports, Koch’s contract with the Pumas lasts until the end of 2016 and his home union has no intention of letting him go.
“He will play (Currie Cup rugby) for me in 2015 and 2016,” said Pumas president Hein Mentz.
“Our viewpoint is that we give players opportunities to improve. Therefore, we made Vincent available to the Stormers and Renaldo Bothma and Giant Mtyanda to the Sharks.
“Vincent was loaned to the Stormers because the Lions, our franchise partner, didn’t regard him as good enough.”
There were tries aplenty as the Vodacom Cup moved up a gear with the quarter-finals moving into sight for the 16 teams vying for the title.
In the South Section, the SWD Eagles probably delivered the biggest upset as they outplayed the Cell C Sharks XV in George on Friday evening, winning comfortably by 36 / 13 after a superb 2nd half performance where they scored 29 unanswered points.
GWK Griquas showed they will not let go of their title without a proper fight as they completely outclassed the Boland Cavaliers by 62 / 19 in Velddrif on Saturday afternoon, while the Toyota Free State XV beat the EP Kings by 50 / 45 in an extraordinary match in Bloemfontein where the scorers with still tied at 42 / 42 with only 5 minutes remaining on the clock.
DHL Western Province were predictably too strong for the Border Bulldogs as they cemented their position at the top of the South Section log with a 34 / 6 win on Saturday afternoon.
In the North Section, last weekend’s log leaders, the Xerox Golden Lions, enjoyed a BYE and was overtaken at the top of the standings by the Vodacom Blue Bulls, who beat the Down Touch Griffons by 40 / 21 in Pretoria on Friday afternoon.
The Steval Pumas’ 31 / 23 victory over the Leopards XV in Potchefstroom on Friday means the race to the top of the North Section log is now effectively between 3 teams.
The FNB Welwitschias recorded their 1st win of the season when they beat the Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls by 24 / 17 in Windhoek on Saturday afternoon.
Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez has left European champions Toulon to get ready for his wedding in May and to prepare for the World Cup.
Sanchez joined the French and European champions in October as an injury replacement for Frederic Michalak.
But after the latter returned to action on Saturday in the 34 / 24 defeat at home to Toulouse, Sanchez was no longer available for Top 14 action.
He could have continued to turn out for Toulon in the European Cup – the champions hosts Wasps in the quarterfinals next weekend – but he said he preferred to return home.
MJ Mentz has been handed the reigns for the Pumas in their upcoming Vodacom Cup campaign and the coach is looking to keep a similar system going.
The Pumas enjoyed a successful year in 2014 as they toppled some of the bigger teams in the Currie Cup through their gritty determination.
“The secret to our success this year will certainly lie in our communication skills and a shared goal,” Mentz said.
The new coach also said the last two years coaching under the mentorship of coach Jimmy Stonehouse was a great stepping-stone in his coaching career.
The way Stonehouse maintained discipline in the squad was a huge encouragement and now Mentz would like to add his way to the existing system.
The Nelspruit-based Steval Pumas have retained the bulk of their coaching squad, without appointing a new head coach.
The top spot in the coaching became vacant earlier this month when head coach Jimmy Stonehouse resigned from his position to join Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus.
On Thursday the board of directors of the Mpumalanga Rugby (Pty) Ltd revealed they have decided to leave the coaching team intact for the duration of the 2015 Vodacom Cup.
As Super Rugby preparations are underway by all franchises early in January, a quick peek at some of the things popping out at the Cell C Sharks.
We take a quick look at Brendan Venter’s role while Gary Gold is still in Japan. Renaldo Bothma tells of his tremendous growth at the Sharks in pre-season and Giant Mtyanda is drafted in to train with the Sharks as extra lock cover.
After seven years at the helm of the Pumas, Jimmy Stonehouse will be leaving Nelspruit to ply his trade in Japan with the Toshiba Brave Lupus.
Stonehouse had been instrumental in the team being promoted to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2010 and again in 2014 while their promotion, and unbeaten run in the 2013 First Division competition, earned Stonehouse the SA Rugby Union’s Coach of the Year award.
He had been approached on three previous occasions by Japanese clubs, which he turned down, the latest being in February 2014 but he feels that it is the right time to move on and take on a new challenge.
The Barbarians will round off their 125th anniversary year by tackling Argentina at Twickenham in November 2015, organisers announced on Tuesday.
After a chastening 2013, the invitational side proved themselves credible opponents for the world’s elite teams this year, going down 49-39 to a youthful England team in June and narrowly losing 40-36 to Australia last month.
They are scheduled to play Ireland in Limerick on 8 May and will play England three days later before finishing the year against Argentina.
The one time in Europe that Argentina strayed slightly away from their traditional strengths, they lost, engaging in an entertaining running contest with Scotland, but otherwise closed the year with a 3-1 record over their last four.
It means that Los Pumas finish the season with form behind only New Zealand and Ireland, defeating the Wallabies in Mendoza, before grinding down Italy and France on consecutive weekends to return to South America on a high.
Coach Daniel Hourcade has been superb and his feats have been lost somewhat when talking about the likes of Steve Hansen or Joe Schmidt.
Yet the former Pampas mentor has turned many local players into hardened Test regulars, further ridding Argentina of a heavy reliance on European based stars.
Once again the four Rugby Championship teams have been and gone but this time they did not have it all their own way on their annual visit to the British Isles as it ended five wins apiece from the 10 Tests.
Ireland beat both South Africa and Australia, Wales downed the former and England the latter, and Scotland defeated Argentina.
Admittedly, the Pumas are not part of rugby union’s traditional southern hemisphere big three, and the incomparable All Blacks sailed through their Tests unbeaten, but even discounting the Scottish win over Argentina the matches against the three giants from the south only ended 5-4 to the visitors.
Former England and Lions great Jeremy Guscott has been out and about during November and here he selects a XV for both the home nations and the Rugby Championship sides.
Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse is pondering his future after a receiving an offer to coach in Japan.
According to reports, Stonehouse has until next Friday to decide if he will accept an offer to coach the Toshiba Brave Lupus.
Should he decide to leave, he would be lost for South African rugby until the middle part of 2017.
Only one more Internatonal Test to be played today, that between Georgia vs Japan at 17:00 SA Time and Georgian Time, the rest of the results are in already!
Some surprising results all around, with the Italian Azzurri holding the Springboks to a limited win, Ireland narrowly beating the Wallabies, Wales containing the All Blacks untill the 69th minute before letting in 3 quick tries and France falling to a spirited Argentinian Pumas side.
The rest of the results, well they are pure wall decorations, for want of a better expletive.
The Weekend’s International Results are as follows:
Four International Tests overlapped or at least partly overlapped one another between 18:30 to almost midnight on Saturday 22 November 2014, SA Time.
Seeing as all 4 matches were broadcast LIVE on TV in South Africa… although on 2 different SuperSport channels, we hosted all FOUR in one GLOBAL ARTICLE!
Ireland (20) 26 / 23 (20) Wallabies (Final Score)
Ireland and the Australian Wallabies did battle in the End Of Year Tours at
Aviva Stadium, Dublin, Ireland at 18:30 SA Time (16:30 BST & GMT, 03:30 Sunday AEST).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.
Wales (3) 16 / 34 (3) All Blacks (Final Score)
Wales and the New Zealand All Blacks did battle in the End Of Year Tours at
Millennium Stadium, Cardiff, Wales at 19:30 SA Time (17:30 BST & GMT, 06:30 Sunday NZ Time).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on TV in SA.
England (13) 28 / 9 (6) Samoa (Final Score)
England and Samoa did battle in the End Of Year Tours at
Twickenham, London, England at 21:00 SA Time (19:00 BST & GMT, 09:00 Sunday Samoa Time).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.
France (3) 13 / 18 (15) Los Pumas (Final Score)
France and the Argentinian Pumas did battle in the End Of Year Tours at
Stade de France, Paris, France at 22:00 SA Time (21:00 French Time, 20:00 GMT, 17:00 Arg Time).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on TV in SA.
Rising star Teddy Thomas has been sanctioned by French coach Philippe Saint-Andre for missing a training session, and has subsequently been dropped for Saturday’s Test against Argentina in Paris.
Thomas made a stunning debut against Fiji, becoming only the second Frenchman to score a hat trick of tries on his first appearance for Les Bleus adn followed that up by scoring his fourth International try in two matches against Australia a week later.
The 21-year-old earned a third straight call-up on Wednesday for the Test against the Pumas but the young Racing-Metro player forgot to attend training on Wednesday evening, along with the squad at the French national training centre at Marcoussis, outside Paris.
And Saint-Andre and his deputies, Yannick Bru and Patrice Lagisquet, decided to drop Thomas and called up Toulouse wing Maxime Medard, who has 40 caps for France, in his place.
Argentinean head coach Daniel Hourcade has made four changes to his starting 15 for their final November Test against France in Paris on Saturday.
Nicolás Sánchez replaces Juan Martín Hernández at flyhalf which sees the latter move to inside centre.
Hernández will be partnered with Marcelo Bosch in the midfield after Bosch returned to the squad from doing club duties while Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino moves to the bench and is replaced by Juan Imhoff.
The only change in the forwards sees captain Agustin Creevy returning to the hooker position at the expense of Matias Cortese, who is relegated to the bench.
Steval Pumas outgoing No 8 Renaldo Bothma cleaned up at the rugby union’s annual awards on Wednesday night, taking home the big prizes on offer.
Bothma, who has signed for the Cell C Sharks in the coming season was a popular choice after a storming Absa Currie Cup campaign for the Nelspruit based union.
Bothma was crowned as the Vodacom Cup and Currie Cup player of the year and the referee’s player of the year.
“What an honour to be rewarded with all the prizes. I can only thank my heavenly father for the talent he gave me, thank my support base in the likes of my parents, fellow players and the whole of Nelspruit community for this year. And yes, thank you to coach Jimmy Stonehouse for believing in me and giving me the opportunities I had. This lead to the great opportunity to play Super Rugby and World Cup in 2015,” Bothma said when receiving his awards.
Argentina lost their way following last month’s historic 21-17 victory over Australia in the Rugby Championship, wing Juan Imhoff admitted on Monday.
Since that first success in the Four Nations competition at the 18th attempt, Argentina have lost against Scotland (41-31) and narrowly beaten Italy (20-18) but they failed to produce the kind of performance that undid the Wallabies.
“We still don’t have sufficient maturity to climb the international ladder,” said the Racing-Metro wing.
“After Australia we lost our heads a bit. We thought we could beat Scotland because we’d beaten Australia.
Azzurri (12) 18 / 20 (10) Los Pumas (Final Score)
The Italian Azzurri and Argentinian Pumas did battle in the End Of Year Tours at
Stadio Luigi Ferraris, Genova, Italy at 18:15 SA Time (17:15 Italy Time, 16:15 GMT, 13:15 Arg Time).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport on TV in SA.
Toulon prop Martin Castrogiovanni replaces Dario Chistolini in the only change for Italy as they look to follow up a 24-13 win over Samoa with a win against Argentina this weekend.
But Italy’s second game of their three-test November series, due to be played in Genoa on Saturday, is now hanging in the balance due to heavy flooding in the northern Italian city.
With storms and heavy rain predicted for Saturday, officials said Thursday they have moved the game earlier, to Friday 17:15 Italian Time (18:15 SA Time, 16:15 GMT).
Italy coach Jacques Brunel was forced to leave Castrogiovanni on the sidelines due to suspension last week as Zebre prop Chistolini claimed only his third cap for the Azzurri.
Argentina will be without their captain Agustín Creevy for the clash with Italy after the hooker sustained a thigh injury.
After leaving the field after just 20 minutes in the Pumas 31-41 loss to Scotland on the weekend, it now looks set that the hooker will not recover in time.
Creevy, who took over the Argentinean captaincy this year, underwent medical tests where it was revealed that he had suffered a grade one tear of his thigh.
The Sharks have announced that they are pleased to sign talented loose-forward, Renaldo Bothma, who will join the Cell C Sharks on a two-year Super Rugby contract.
Bothma will return to the Steval Pumas after he has completed his Super Rugby commitments for the Cell C Sharks.
Ahead of this match, head coach Vern Cotter asked his players to play with a smile on their collective face and the entire BT Murrayfield crowd was sporting one at the conclusion of the Kiwi coach’s home debut. His side saw off Argentina in a five-try romp and the manner in which they did so will create real belief in the Scotland camp and among their tartan-clad fans.
Scotland were cohesive, tough, inventive and played with pace throughout. The forwards produced quick ball and the Glasgow back line demonstrated that they could reproduce their club form at the next level. At times, the home side were inspirational. They rarely dropped below the efficient. All they lacked on occasion was the clinical finishing required or this match could have been over by half time.
Instead, it was six minutes into the second half before Scotland scored their fourth try, which finally killed off any hopes of an Argentine revival. The crowd was understandably wowed; what a pity the stadium wasn’t full.
The two Gray boys were a huge presence, grabbing a try each and, while it is insidious to separate them, Jonny was utterly outstanding, carrying the fight to the Pumas relentlessly and winning one important turnover.
Centre Juan Martin Hernandez, who as flyhalf steered Argentina to third place at 2007 World Cup, is set to win his 50th Pumas cap against Scotland at Murrayfield on Saturday.
Hernandez will again be at inside centre in a team with five changes from the side that gave Argentina their maiden southern hemisphere Rugby Championship victory, 21-17 over Australia in Mendoza a month ago.
Coach Daniel Hourcade has made two changes in the backs and three in the forwards having been deprived of several players through injury or illness.
Marcelo Bosch returns to partner Hernandez in midfield after being rested against the Wallabies and Manuel Montero comes in for Lucas Gonzalez Amorosino on the left wing.
Second-row brothers Richie and Jonny Gray will play their first international game of rugby together this Saturday, following their selection to start for Scotland against Argentina at BT Murrayfield Stadium (8 November, kick-off 17:30 BST & GMT, 19:30 SA Time).
Selection represents a second start for the younger Gray, 20, who will make his sixth appearance for his country alongside his 39-times capped, 25-year-old, British & Irish Lions sibling.
Gray is not the only promising young player to earn the right to start the nation’s opening viagogo Autumn Test, with 21-year-old Glasgow Warriors Mark Bennett and Adam Ashe set to make their first and second appearances at outside-centre and number 8 respectively.
An exciting package of pace and guile, Bennett – a product of St Joseph’s Academy in Kilmarnock, Cumnock RFC and Ayr RFC – has been in fine form for the Warriors and Scotland 7s this year, and will be Scotland’s 1062nd capped internationalist when he crosses the paint for his debut at BT Murrayfeld.
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Daniel Hourcade has worked wonders for Los Pumas so far, but the obvious progress seen throughout The Rugby Championship will need to continue if Argentina is to lay a marker in Europe.
After all, the Rugby World Cup will be played on the same soil next year, with the South Americans alongside the All Blacks in the same group.
The last time Los Pumas played the quadrennial tournament in the old continent, they defeated hosts France twice to finish third overall, an achievement that many believe was the genesis for their eventual inclusion into the South’s premier international competition.
Argentina head coach Daniel Hourcade has added 5 new players to the squad that will be touring the Northern Hemisphere in November.
Matías Moroni, Santiago Cordero, Juan Cruz Guillemain, Santiago Iglesias Valdez and Guido Petti have been brought in after not playing any part in the Rugby Championship while Mariano Galarza and Bruno Postiglioni have not been included due to injury.
With lock Mariano Galarza injured, Hourcade has brought 2 second row forwards into a 30-man squad, Juan Cruz Guillemain of Stade Francais and Guido Petti of local side SIC.
DHL Western Province will host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town and the Xerox Golden Lions will face the Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division semifinals next weekend.
Log-leaders DHL Western Province were assured of their home semifinal and the top spot on the log before entering the final round of pool matches this weekend, while the Xerox Golden Lions sealed their home semifinal by thumping the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. The victory for the Johannesburg team was enough to cancel out any efforts by the Cell C Sharks for the second spot on the log.
In the weekend’s matches, the EP Kings registered their first victory of the season as they pipped the Steval Pumas 26-25 in Port Elizabeth, while the Xerox Golden Lions thumped the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 47-7 at Ellis Park, the Cell C Sharks defeated DHL Western Province 28-20 in Cape Town and the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat GWK Griquas 46-12 in Pretoria.
The Xerox Golden Lions will meet the Cell C Sharks in the first semifinal on Saturday, October 18, at 14:30 SA Time and DHL Western Province will go up against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at 17:00 SA Time.