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SA Rugby

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BlitzbokkeExciting Vodacom Blue Bulls fullback Warrick Gelant will make his debut for South Africa at the Dubai HSBC World Sevens Series in December after being named in coach Neil Powell’s 12-man squad on Thursday for Round 2 of the International Sevens extravaganza.

The tournament will be hosted at the Sevens Rugby Stadium on 5 & 6 December.

Cheslin Kolbe and Rayno Benjamin, two former regular Springbok Sevens stalwarts, meanwhile will make their return to the Blitzboks squad after starring for their provincial unions this past season. There is also a welcome return for regular skipper Kyle Brown, who has overcome his shoulder troubles.

Powell, who coached the Springbok Sevens to second place in the Series last season and to a Commonwealth gold medal in June, said it was a tough job to select only 12 players for Dubai and Port Elizabeth.

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland has denied he was under extra pressure as his team sought an elusive win over a Southern Hemisphere side when they clash with South Africa on Saturday.

Gatland’s record against the SANZAR sides of Australia, New Zealand and the Springboks since taking charge in 2007 does not make for pleasant reading: played 27, won one, lost 26.

That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland on Thursday played down reports in the media that he was under extra pressure, 10 months away from the World Cup in England.

After opening their November campaign with a 28-33 defeat by Australia, an experimental Wales side scraped past Fiji 17-13 before rebounding against New Zealand, leading after 69 minutes before leaking three late tries to go down 16-34.

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BullsFor long the bastion of a structured approach to rugby, the Blue Bulls are flirting with an attacking mindset.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies suggested as much at the launch of their latest jersey for the Super Rugby season on Thursday.

“You want to create an attacking mindset within the players, and in a lot of ways the guys have felt restricted and also bound themselves to the plan that was on the table,” Spies said in Pretoria.

“That is never how it should have been, the plan is to create an environment where we can go out and play rugby.

“The big thing is to cultivate and attacking mindset and an enjoyment of the game.”

The Bulls have been the pace-setting South African team in the previous decade where they won an unprecedented three Super Rugby titles.

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Ross Cronjé

Ross Cronjé

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.

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Vodacom Bulls 2015 Home Kit

Vodacom Bulls 2015 Home Kit

PUMA has launched the new Vodacom Bulls Super Rugby 2015 kit, which is rich in heritage, pays homage to the team’s loyal fans and features a striking Bull’s head.

The Bull’s head wraps around the player’s body to create a 360-degree effect and when the team gathers on the field, the design’s collective impression is of a herd of Bulls, standing strong and unified by years of history.

“The new PUMA kit for the Vodacom Bulls marks a departure from the last few seasons kit,” said PUMA South Africa Marketing Director Brett Bellinger. “PUMA together with the Vodacom Bulls decided it was time to return to something a little more traditional and pay tribute to the strong Bulls brand and branding that has made them the most decorated Vodacom Super Rugby Team in South Africa. We also take this opportunity to wish the team well as they prepare for the upcoming season.”

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WalesWales have made three changes to their side to face South Africa on Saturday, with Gethin Jenkins, Scott Baldwin and Liam Williams all coming into the starting fifteen.

Jenkins and Baldwin will link up with Samson Lee to form the same frontrow that started the clash against Fiji a fortnight ago.

The rest of the pack remains unchanged from last weekend’s game against the world champions New Zealand, with Jake Ball partnering Alun Wyn Jones in the second row and Dan Lydiate and Taulupe Faletau lining up alongside captain Sam Warburton.

Ospreys halfbacks Rhys Webb and Dan Biggar continue their partnership as do the record breaking centre duo of Jamie Roberts and Jonathan Davies.

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Jaque Fourie

Jaque Fourie

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.

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Jimmy Stonehouse

Jimmy Stonehouse

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.

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Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willie le Roux, Cornal Hendricks and Lwazi Mvovo are back in the Springbok starting line-up for Saturday’s Test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff.

The changes in the back three were required because Johan Goosen, Bryan Habana and JP Pietersen, who started in last weekend’s victory over Italy in Padova, are not available this week. The two changes to the front row are rotational.

Adriaan Strauss, who started at hooker in the victories over England and Italy, moves to the bench, where he will be joined by Trevor Nyakane and Damian de Allende in the only other changes to the match-23.

“This tour has been a good test of our depth and we’re looking forward to see what the team can do on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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Shaun Edwards

Shaun Edwards

Welsh defensive coach Shaun Edwards has bad memories of what Willie le Roux did to them in June and is wary of the Springboks’ threats.

South Africa managed two victories over the Welsh back in June, with a tight one-point win in Nelspruit proving to be a heartbreaking one for Wales.

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux was instrumental as an attacking threat in both those games and was seen to terrorize the Welsh defence.

For Edwards, a watchful eye will be kept on Le Roux, but he is not fooling himself into believing that the wylie fullback will be the only threat.

“They have got intelligent players, they’ve got a constructive kicking game as well,” the coach said.

They’ve got an outstanding fullback in Willie le Roux, who was the main torturer for us throughout the June Tests.

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard in action for Munster against Newport Gwent Dragons

South African centre Pat Howard admits he is ready for whatever comes his way as he bids to build on his first appearance for Munster.

Howard began a three-month contract with the Irish province at the start of the month and got his first taste of the Guinness PRO12 at the weekend.

The 22-year-old featured off the bench as Munster made light work of seeing off Newport Gwent Dragons 38-12 in their return to Guinness PRO12 action.

Howard arrived at Munster to bolster the options in midfield due to injuries to Keith Earls and Cian Bohane with an Irish derby with Ulster next up.

Munster will then break for European action and Howard insists he is acclimatising well and relishing the challenges that lie ahead both domestically and on the continent.

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WalesWales 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.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

Twelve months ago the Springbok talent cupboard looked bare – with a dearth of back-up in several key positions.

Now, less than 10 months out from the start of the World Cup, South African coach Heyneke Meyer believes he has ‘plugged all the gaps’.

Speaking after his team’s hard-earned 22-6 win over Italy in Padua at the weekend, Meyer said he is “very happy” with the state of the Boks’ player resources.

Tighthead prop and fullback were among the two positions where depth was a major concern, but the added bonus of Nizaam Carr’s outstanding debut means Meyer’s already well-stocked loose forward resources have an additional arrow in the quiver.

“I said Nizaam was running great lines in training (last week),” Meyer told a media scrum.

“The test was to take that into a Test match where there isn’t a lot of space and he came through with flying colours.”

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Warren Whiteley

Warren Whiteley

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.

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CricketA selection of Springboks will take on the Proteas in a T20 match at the Wanderers stadium in Johannesburg on 5 December for the Nelson Mandela Legacy Cup.

National captain Jean de Villiers and vice-captain Victor Matfield have both been included in the star-studded Springbok T20 cricket team.

Matfield scored 23 runs from 23 balls and hit four fours against the Proteas in Cape Town earlier this year.

The two Springbok centurions will be joined by Willem Alberts, who took two wickets in as many balls at Newlands, as well as Willie le Roux, who scored 16 from eight balls including a big six.

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John Philip "Bakkies" Botha

John Philip “Bakkies” Botha

John Philip “Bakkies” Botha, born 22 September 1979 in Newcastle, KwaZulu-Natal has had a glittering international career that drew to a close on 22 November 2014.

He will continue to play for his French Club Toulon and has even hinted at retiring in South Africa with the Currie Cup.

In his professional career Botha has won everything there is to win.

With the Blue Bulls he won the Vodacom Cup in 2001 and then went on to add three Currie Cup titles to his name in 2002, 2004 and 2009.

With the Bulls in Super Rugby, Botha was part of the first South African team to lift the trophy in 2007 (in the professional era – with Transvaal winning the Super 10 in 1993), and then again in 2009 and 2010.

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AustraliaAustralia have slipped another place to fifth in the latest World Rugby Rankings with France, Japan, Tonga, Canada and Namibia also falling after defeats.

Australia’s 26-23 loss to Ireland on Saturday has seen the Wallabies slip another place to fifth – equalling their lowest ever position since the World Rugby Rankings were introduced in October 2003.

The Wallabies headed into the match in Dublin sitting just one hundredth of a rating point above England, but will now travel to Twickenham to face Stuart Lancaster’s men this weekend behind two northern hemisphere nations with Ireland strengthening their hold on third place with the win.

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Special EditionThe starting side who did duty for the Springboks on Saturday as well as one replacement, have all left the Springboks to return to their respective Clubs in France and Japan.

  • Johan Goosen returns to Racing Metro in France
  • Bryan Habana returns to Toulon
  • JP Pietersen returns to the Panasonic Wild Knights
  • On the Springbok bench, Gurthrö Steenkamp returns to Toulouse in France

Of course Bakkies Botha has now retired from International Rugby and accordingly also leaves for Toulon, whilst Morné Steyn (who was not used on Tour) returns to Stade Français.

Schalk Burger joins his Japanes Club, Suntory Sungoliath.

This leads us to the burning question as to the composition and changes in the Springbok run-on team and 23-man squad for Saturday’s encounter with Wales, who held a lead over the All Blacks till the 69th minute, this past Saturday, before conceding a blitz of 3 tries, which blew the score against them out of proportion.

Mind you, one more Springbok tourist is also leaving the squad, thus unavailable for selection, namely Seabelo Senatla, who was released to the Springbok Sevens squad (or Blitzbokke as they are affectionately referred to) for the 2 remaining HSBC Sevens World Series Tournaments in 2014… the tournament in Dubai and the one in South Africa the week thereafter.

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Varsity CupThe FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International for 2015 is set to continue its grand tradition of trying out experimental laws, further cementing the tournament’s status as a testing ground for the laws of rugby.

This season sees the exciting reintroduction of the WHITE CARD – which was used in the inaugural 2008 Varsity Cup Final. The WHITE CARD is a card that can be used by either coach or captain to review a decision by the referee.

This exciting experiment is endorsed by the South African Rugby Union (SARU). Andre Watson, SARU General Manager Referees, had the following to say on the WHITE CARD.

“This is a step in the right direction to assist referees to get that important decision correct, and to put some responsibility on the captain and coaches to help with the process.”

The WHITE CARD challenge system is to only be used during the Varsity Cup. The team challenge, or WHITE CARD, can be called by the team coach or captain.

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Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla

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.

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SpringboksSpringbok coach Heyneke Meyer and national captain Jean de Villiers both lauded the performance by South Africa in their 22-6 (8-6 at half-time)victory over Italy in Padua (Padova) on Saturday afternoon.

The Springboks scored three tries to nil, with Coenie Oosthuizen, Cobus Reinach and Bryan Habana crossing the Italians’ try-line. Pat Lambie added a penalty goal to lift him to 100 Test points and Handré Pollard slotted two conversions.

It was the first time since June 2008 that the Springboks had managed to keep Italy from scoring a try and the first time ever the Azzurri failed to cross the South African try-line in a Test in front of their home fans.

“I’m very happy with the result and fact that we didn’t concede any tries and no points in the second half,” said Meyer. “I’ll always prefer a try-count of 3-0 instead of 5-3.”

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Bakkies Botha

Bakkies Botha

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer & Jean de Villiers

Heyneke Meyer paid tribute to Bakkies Botha, who announced his retirement from international rugby shortly after the Test.

“Bakkies will go down in history as one of the greatest Springboks of all time,” said Meyer of the 85-times capped lock forward. “He is a giant on the field and off it and never gave an inch, which personifies what Springbok rugby is all about.

“I’ve coached him for a very long time and while I’m immensely very proud of the player he’s become, I’m even more proud of the man Bakkies has become. I’ll forever be very proud of having been his coach.”

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Bakkies Botha

John Philip “Bakkies” Botha – The Springbok ENFORCER calls time on his International career.

Springbok lock and Rugby World Cup winner Bakkies Botha has announced his retirement from international rugby.

Botha, who made his Test debut on 9 November 2002 against France in Marseille, while his 85th and final appearance for South Africa was last Saturday, when he came on as a replacement in the 31-28 victory over England at Twickenham.

During a stellar career, the 35-year-old lock won the Rugby World Cup with the Springboks in 2007 and was victorious at almost every other level of the game.

He has winners’ medals from the Castle Lager Rugby Championship (Tri-Nations), British & Irish Lions Series, Vodacom Super Rugby, Absa Currie Cup and Vodacom Cup, as well as the Heineken Cup and French Top 14.

Botha is the seventh most-capped Springbok of all time, is a three-time SA Rugby Player of the Year nominee (2003, 2004 and 2005) and holds the world record for the most Tests as a lock combination in the starting line-up with Victor Matfield (63).

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Warren Gatland

Warren Gatland

Wales coach Warren Gatland’s record against the Southern Hemisphere giants of Australia, New Zealand and South Africa now stands at played 27, won one and lost 26 after a 16-34 defeat at the hands of the All Blacks.

That solitary win was against the Wallabies, 21-18, back in 2008, but Gatland insisted that his team did not lack self-belief against the SANZAR nations, praising New Zealand’s kicking game in a brutally entertaining match in Cardiff.

“It’s not a matter of belief. It’s sometimes just getting across the line and doing it, and the first time you do that, it’s easier the next time,” said Gatland.

“That’s a big thing for us, we get over that line and that’s what will create that belief and that composure to finish a game off.”

Gatland, himself a Kiwi who took charge of Wales after the 2007 World Cup, added of the “nearly-men” tag.

“It’s disappointing. You’ve got to keep working hard to try to rectify that in terms of critical moments when we’ve come under a bit of pressure.

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Gilbert Rugby BallOnly 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:

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South AfricaItalyThe Springboks played Italy in a Test for the first time in 1995 when they were reigning as World Champions. They won the match 40-21, and since then have played Italy 10 times.

The Springboks have won all 11 but then unusually for Northern Hemisphere teams, Italy have played more Tests against South Africa in South Africa rather than at home – seven in South Africa vs four at home. But those 11 matches were not the first rugby contacts between the two countries.

Rugby in Italy started to get organised in the late 1920’s. Before that it was a haphazard affair when wandering Brits and contact with France that had led to matches here and there. In the 1920’s it enjoyed the support of Benito Mussolini, dictator of Italy, a man who saw himself as the emperor of a new Roman Empire. As in imperial times, people enjoyed the blood sport of the amphitheatre, so in this new empire Il Duce would have rugby. Not that he had played the game as at 1,69 he would have been small even as a scrumhalf.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

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.

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Exodus

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.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Trevor Nyakane

Trevor Nyakane

Teboho Mahoje

Teboho Mahoje

Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

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.”

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ItalyItaly coach Jacques Brunel has selected Fijian-born flank Samuela Vunisa in the only change to the team to face the Springboks on Saturday.

Vunisa, who has yet to play for Italy after being called into the squad for the November Tests, will replace Simone Favaro in the loose trio after the Treviso player suffered a sore neck in training.

In the only other notable switch, Leonardo Sarto has been pulled back to the right wing with Luke McLean going the other way to the left wing.

Italy beat Samoa 24-13 in their opening Test and despite last week’s 20-18 defeat to the Pumas, coach Jacques Brunel said he had seen enough to confirm the nucleus of his team for the Springboks, which he described as “the form team of the November series”.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Marnitz Boshoff

Rudy Paige and Marnitz Boshoff have been called up to the Springbok squad for the last week of the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in Cardiff next week.

Paige, from the Vodacom Blue Bulls and the Xerox Golden Lions’ Boshoff will join in the squad on Sunday to provide specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf as the Springboks’ overseas-based players are not available for the last match of the season due to the fact that it falls outside the Test window.

“This means that Jano Vermaak, Morne Steyn and Johan Goosen are not available to face Wales, which is why we had to get in specialist cover at scrumhalf and flyhalf,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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