It is Round 15 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.
There are 2 games on Friday 22 May and 5 games on Saturday 23 May.
The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.
There are 2 South African teams in action on Friday, one in each game of the day – the Chiefs against the Vodacom Bulls in Rotorua at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) and thereafter the Reds vs Cell C Sharks in Brisbane at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT). The battling Sharks play their last game on tour, whereas it will be the Bulls 2nd tour match.
On Saturday morning the Blues host the Hurricanes in Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Crusaders in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).
In Perth, Western Australia at 13:45 SA Time (19:45 AWST, 21:45 AEST, 23:45 NZ Time, 11:45 GMT) the Western Force host the Highlanders.
There is only 1 South African derby on the weekend, that between the Toyota Cheetahs vs Emirates Lions in Bloemfontein at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time). Thereafter the DHL Stormers host the Melbourne Rebels in Cape Town at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ time, 03:10 AEST).
The Chiefs vs Bulls match should go the way of the home team but the game between the 2 bottom-dwelling sides, the Reds and Cell C Sharks, it is difficult to predict a winner… my money, strangely enough is on a Sharks win.
The game between the Blues vs Hurricanes should only ever go one way, and that is heavily in favour of the Hurricanes, even although it is away from home for them.
The Waratahs vs Crusaders game should be a cracker, with both teams rather desperate to get or hold a position in the Top 6, but it could go either way… so I would lean towards the home team for this one.
The Highlanders should properly dispatch the Western Force in perth.
The Lions are strong favourites to beat the Cheetahs, specially in light of the fact that it was announced that both Naka Drotske and Os du rand will leave the franchise at the end of May as well as considering the Cheetahs dismal form in 2015.
The DHL Stormers should outlast and out-defend a gutsy Melbourne Rebels side in Cape Town in the last match of the weekend.
Reds (7) 14 / 21 (16) Sharks (Final Score)
The Reds and Cell C Sharks did battle in Super Rugby at
Suncorp Stadium, Brisbane at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
Chiefs (15) 34 / 20 (15) Bulls (Final Score)
The Chiefs and Vodacom Bulls did battle in Super Rugby at
Rotorua International Stadium, Rotorua at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
Can the Vodacom Bulls hang on to their Top spot in the South African Vodacom Super Rugby Conference or will the DHL Stormers regain the lead?
That question will be answered this weekend when all 5 South African teams take to the field with the competition inching closer to the last stretch before the playoffs start.
The Vodacom Bulls can cement their position at the Top with a victory over the Chiefs in Rotorua on Friday morning, but it won’t be easy as the team from Waikato sits on a 10-match winning streak at home against opposition from South Africa.
The Cell C Sharks’ final tour match, against the Reds in Brisbane, is the 2nd match on Friday morning where the KwaZulu-Natalians will aim to break a 6-match losing streak – something that’s only happened once in their history.
On Saturday afternoon, the Toyota Cheetahs host the Emirates Lions in the only local derby of the Round. The team from Johannesburg can still make the playoffs, but then they have to win in Bloemfontein this weekend.
The final match in Round 15 is in Cape Town at DHL Newlands, where the DHL Stormers have a good opportunity to regain the lead in the South African Conference against the Melbourne Rebels. It won’t be easy as the Rebels have done well this season, but they’ve never won in South Africa and the Capetonians will want to keep it that way.
Vodacom Blue Bulls No 8 Hanro Liebenberg will lead the Junior Springboks at the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Italy next month, SARU confirmed on Wednesday.
Liebenberg will skipper the 28-man squad during the 3-week tournament from 2 to 20 June. He led the Junior Springboks to a thrilling win over the Varsity Cup Dream Team last month and also captained them when they clinched a 2 – 0 series win over the Argentina Under 20 side in Rosario last Saturday.
The squad, which was chosen by the national selectors, consists of 16 forwards and 12 backs, and includes 6 players who featured in last year’s tournament in New Zealand. Last year England edged the young South Africans by a single point in a memorable final at Eden Park in Auckland.
Jean-Luc du Preez (flank), Thomas du Toit (prop, both Cell C Sharks), Joseph Dweba (hooker, Toyota Free State Cheetahs), Abongile Nonkontwana (lock, Vodacom Blue Bulls), Jacques Vermeulen (No 8, DHL Western Province) and Warrick Gelant (fullback, Vodacom Blue Bulls) are the players who will represent the Junior Springboks for a 2nd successive year.
The Junior Springbok squad shows 4 changes from the touring group that returned from Argentina on Monday evening.
Lock RG Snyman (Vodacom Blue Bulls) got the nod to travel to Italy after he sat out the Los Pumitas series because of an ankle injury. WP centre EW Viljoen and Blue Bulls flyhalf Tinus de Beer, who also did not tour Argentina, were both selected for the Italian job.
The Du Preez twins, Dan and Jean-Luc, who were selected for the 2014 tournament, are also members of the 28-man squad. Dan, however, withdrew days before the team left for New Zealand last year because of a shoulder injury.
Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his team to face the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Saturday evening.
Ackermann has opted to rotate several players for this local derby.
In the forwards, Ackermann has chosen to start Jacques van Rooyen and Ruan Dreyer in the front row. Andries Ferreira will partner with Martin Muller in the lock pairing, while Warwick Tecklenburg returns to the starting side at flank.
In the backline, Courtnall Skosan returns to start at left wing which results in Ruan Combrinck shifting back to right wing. Howard Mnisi comes into the starting side and links up with Lionel Mapoe in the midfield, as Mapoe shifts back to outside centre.
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has announced his team for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Melbourne Rebels at DHL Newlands (kick-off 19:10 SA Time), with SA Sevens star Seabelo Senatla named to start.
Senatla will start in the No 14 jersey – with Johnny Kotze missing out – in 1 of just 3 changes from the starting 15 that beat the Brumbies at DHL Newlands a fortnight ago.
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee told the www.iamastormer.com website: “It’s great to welcome Seabelo back from SA Sevens duty, as he did for us last season (before also going on to play in the ABSA Currie Cup).
“He’s keen and excited to get stuck back in, as he said when he arrived back in the country, and Seabelo knows what we expect from him and why we have selected him – after all, he is quality player and he trained well today.
Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers is being linked with the head coaching position of the Boland Cavaliers.
De Villiers has been Director of Rugby at the University of the Western Cape for the last few seasons, but his contract expired at the end of this year’s Varsity Shield competition.
He recently indicated that he was in the market for a new job.
According to Thursday’s Die Son newspaper, De Villiers is set to be named as the new Boland coach, replacing Abe Davids who left his post earlier in the week.
The Toyota Cheetahs will bid an early farewell to long-standing coaches Naka Drotské and Os du Randt.
It was confirmed last week that Franco Smith would take over as head coach of the struggling Cheetahs franchise next season.
However, he will take over from Drotské in a couple of weeks.
Drotské and Du Randt were to have seen out the remainder of the season, but on Tuesday it was revealed they will depart early.
Du Randt, a 2-times World Cup winner as a player, accepted a “very exciting” opportunity to coach abroad.
He will also act as an ambassador for the Cheetahs.
In a statement on Tuesday the Cheetahs confirmed that Du Randt will depart the franchise during the 1st week of June.
The details of his new position will be revealed at a media briefing at the Free State Stadium, in Bloemfontein, on Saturday.
The Cheetahs host the Lions in what will be Du Randt’s final home game before his departure.
As a result of Du Rand’s early departure, Drotské has also requested an early release.
Both Du Rand and Drotské will be in charge for the last time when the Toyota Cheetahs face the DHL Stormers in Cape Town on 30 May.
The Cell C Sharks will end their 4 match tour of New Zealand and Australia on Friday when they take on the Reds at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane with singular purpose in mind.
Both sides have not enjoyed the kinds of seasons their players, coaches and supporters expected at the start of the season, but for some bad luck and a host of injuries in key positions, perhaps their respective campaigns might have been different.
“You look at the players in their team – Slipper, Horwell, Genia, Turner, O’Connor – these are really good rugby players, highly experienced internationals and this is a team going through a similar season to us,” explains Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold.
Sevens superstar Seabelo Senatla is ready to pull on a Stormers jersey and says that, physically, there is nothing stopping him from turning out against the Melbourne Rebels at Newlands on Saturday.
The Blitzbokke arrived at Cape Town International airport on Tuesday after a disappointing end to their World Series season in London, but the attention was firmly on Senatla and his Super Rugby availability.
“Ja, physically I can play, there is nothing actually stopping me,” this year’s leading try scorer on the World Series circuit said.
On Monday the Stormers were investigating whether or not they would be shown any leniency from SANZAR with regards to the rule that uninjured players have to have been fielded at least 4 times by their franchise if they are to be allowed to play in the tournament playoffs. If that rule does indeed stand, then Senatla will have to play some part in Saturday’s match and the other 3 remaining fixtures to be able to feature in the playoffs, should the Stormers qualify.
But it is not that simple, and as keen as Senatla is to play, questions over his fitness will be answered by the Stormers medical experts.
Senatla is due to undergo a medical on Wednesday, and he is recovering from a hematoma on his thigh muscle.
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.
The Cell C Sharks appear resigned to the fact that loose forward Willem Alberts will be leaving them after the 2015 Rugby World Cup to play in France, judging by comments coach Gary Gold made when quizzed about their latest signing, Waratahs loose forward Jacques Potgieter.
Potgieter, a similarly abrasive forward to Alberts, will join the Sharks in early 2016 ahead of next year’s expanded Super Rugby tournament.
“We think 1 or 2 of our players are going to move after the World Cup and Jacques is a big character, a strong ball carrier and hard-hitting defender. We hope he has the same impact for us as he has had for the Waratahs. His aspiration is to play more for the Springboks and he’s not going to achieve that if he’s not based in South Africa,” Gold said.
Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold admitted the pressure is mounting for his team, currently on a record 6-match losing streak.
The Durban-based franchise, who take on the Reds in Brisbane on Saturday, have only once before lost 6 straight matches – in 2000.
Director of Rugby, Gold, is adamant his charges can avoid the ignominy of a 7th straight defeat.
He said it is “critically important” that they finish off their Australasian tour with a win.
“We had a shocking 1st week against the Highlanders, then 2 good performances against the Hurricanes and Waratahs, where we weren’t on the right side of the scoreboard,” Gold said from the team’s base in Brisbane.
The Reds, who are 4 places (14th) and 5 points (16 to 21) below the Sharks, bounced back from their own horror run with a 46 / 29 win over the Melbourne Rebels last week.
Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke for the 1st time this season named Callie Visagie as starting hooker for his team to face the Chiefs in Rotorua on Friday. Visagie moves from the bench and replaces Adriaan Strauss for this Vodacom Super Rugby clash, with Jaco Visagie replacing his namesake on the bench. Jaco Visagie earned his 1st cap against the Reds earlier in the campaign.
Strauss, who has started in all the team’s matches this year, is rested according to the SARU agreement.
Ludeke also made 2 changes in his loose trio, with Jacques du Plessis and Deon Stegmann starting after playing off the bench against the Blues, and Arno Botha and Lappies Labuschagne this time tasked to provide spark as impact players.
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has confirmed that he will be selecting both Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger for Saturday’s important Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Melbourne Rebels at Newlands.
Both players are due for varying amounts of rest as per the rest agreement struck between the South African Rugby Union and franchise chief executives at the start of the year, and it was assumed that this might be a game where Coetzee would do it. Vermeulen has already rested 3 games and is due to sit out 1 more, while Burger has 2 stipulated rest games and he hasn’t been rested yet.
“Obviously it means that Schalk will have to sit out 2 of the 3 games that will come after this, and Duane will have to sit out 1, but we have decided that against the Rebels we want the strongest possible team,” said Coetzee.
“There is sometimes a bit of rust and hang-over after a bye, and we need to counter that, and to do that I have decided that we should have all hands on deck for this game so that we can avoid any potential pitfalls. There were quite a few problem areas that we identified before the break and which we have spoken about and are working on, and we need to build on the win against the Brumbies by beating the Rebels.”
The Stormers now have the edge in the race for South African conference honours as the Vodacom Bulls’ loss to the Blues in their 1st tour game leaves them only 1 Log point ahead of the Cape side after the same number of matches, but with the Stormers looking forward to a run of 3 successive home games.
The Cell C Sharks appear to be winning the battle to retain the services of Cape bred Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has told Durban media that he is committed to the union that he says gave him his big break in rugby.
It has been an open secret for a while now that the Springbok lock, currently out injured, was in negotiations with the DHL Stormers. Until quite recently the Western Province union appeared to be winning the battle, with informed sources confirming that Du Toit, who is from Swartland farming stock, was nearly certain to make the move down the coast next season.
However, it is understood that the Sharks then fought quite hard with counter-offers and promises that a concerted effort will be made to get the structures in Durban rugby right, and in an interview with the Natal Mercury on Monday the lock said that while he couldn’t say what would happen in the longer term, he was committed to the Sharks for now.
Du Toit has been out injured for most of the past 2 seasons and appears to feel beholden to the patience and resources that the Sharks have committed to his medical rehabilitation.
Former Springbok coach Nick Mallett has highlighted the difference between local coaches compared to their New Zealand counterparts.
Mallett was speaking in the SuperSport studio on Saturday night following a dismal weekend for South African teams in Super Rugby.
All 4 teams competing lost, with the Vodacom Bulls going down to the Blues in Auckland (23 / 18), the Cell C Sharks losing to the Waratahs in Sydney (33 / 18), the Emirates Lions undone by the Brumbies in Johannesburg (30 / 20) and the Toyota Cheetahs thumped by the Highlanders in Bloemfontein (45 / 24).
Mallett said: “At halftime we heard Naka (Drotske, Cheetahs coach) say it’s back to basics. So for the 1st 10 minutes of the 2nd half we saw driving mauls and up-and-unders. And it was strange that they were kicking up-and-unders on Patrick Osborne because he’s a very big guy.
“The coaching that you get in New Zealand is very different from what you get here. At practice they will put players into situations that they’ll face in game. They will play attack against defence. The attack is faced with varying types of defence – a press defence, a shift defence, a slow defence, a staggered defence, a tight defence or a wide defence. And they get the attack to choose the right option in relation to the defence they’re confronted with.
The Stormers have returned from their week off with no major injury concerns ahead of their Super Rugby clash against the Melbourne Rebels at DHL Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 19:10 SA Time).
Johnny Kotze sat out Monday’s afternoon session with a minor niggle, whie fellow wing Kobus van Wyk remains on track for the Lions match on 6 June.
Speaking ahead of the Rebels match, Coetzee told the Stormers’ official website:
“The Rebels have beaten the Crusaders and the Brumbies away this year, so it shows their capacity as a team. We’ve had a good bye, with 3 big games coming up at Newlands, but it’s all about this weekend and getting the victory.
After a pivotal Round of fixtures played at high intensity, SANZAR has had the opportunity review each match and announce its Match Official appointments for the forthcoming weekend.
SANZAR Game Manager Lyndon Bray said, “While we acknowledge that the match officials cannot get it right all of the time, there are some basic standards that have simply not been upheld over this past weekend, resulting in some disappointing decisions and selection consequences.
“A thorough and robust system is in place whereby the development and performance of each match official is reviewed by SANZAR and its member unions on a daily basis and like any athlete participating in elite competition, our referees are accountable to performance levels for the competition.
“Appointments are made weekly based on performance reviews from the previous round but also includes an evaluation of the current form of each official over the term of the competition.
“We have completed our reviews from the weekend and have followed strong internal processes as we prepare our team to reach their physical, mental and technical peaks as we head into the critical last four rounds of the regular season and Super Rugby Finals Series.
“Public confidence in match officials is essential to the ongoing success of our product and we will continue striving to enhance the quality and accountability of refereeing across all SANZAR competitions.”
This next weekend’s Round 15 sees 7 matches, with 2 on Friday 22 May and 5 on Saturday 23 May.
The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.
Vodacom Bulls halfback Rudy Paige and wing Francois Hougaard have been cleared to train with the team as they prepare for their Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Rotorua on Saturday.
Paige had a knee ligament sprain and Hougaard a left quad contusion after their match against the Blues in Auckland, but will be available for the final tour match on New Zealand soil.
It was a tough Round of Vodacom Super Rugby for the 4 South African franchises in action this weekend as none of them managed to win their matches against Australasian opposition.
It was the 1st time in more than 8 years that 4 South African teams lost to sides from the other side of the Indian Ocean on 1 weekend.
In Round 9 in 2007, on 30 and 31 March, the Toyota Cheetahs, Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls all came up short in tour matches Down Under, against the Highlanders, Western Force and Hurricanes respectively, while the Emirates Lions were beaten at home by the Brumbies.
Round 6 in 2008 and Round 8 in 2014 saw 3 South African defeats offset by a solitary draw against opposition from Australasia.
Just more than a month ago, in Round 9, 4 Australian sides lost on 1 weekend – 3 of them against South African opponents – when the Western Force went down to the Toyota Cheetahs in Perth, the Waratahs lost to the DHL Stormers in Sydney, the Reds were beaten by the Vodacom Bulls in Pretoria and the Brumbies came up short against the Blues in Auckland.
A similar scenario with New Zealand teams happened 15 years ago, in Round 12 in 2000, when all 5 of their sides lost to teams from South Africa and Australia.
On Friday morning, the Vodacom Bulls had to be happy with a losing bonus point in their 1st tour match as they went down by 23 / 18 to the Blues in Auckland.
Saturday kicked off with the Cell C Sharks losing in Sydney to the defending champion Waratahs (33 / 18), while the Emirates Lions lost in Johannesburg to the Brumbies (30 / 20) and the Highlanders were too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein (45 / 24).
The DHL Stormers had a bye this weekend, as they did way back in 2007 when their 4 South African counterparts also lost.
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.
Leading try-scorer on the 2014 / 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series, Seabelo Senatla and regular Tournament Dream Team member Werner Kok have both been nominated for the 2015 World Rugby Sevens Player of the Year Award, in association with HSBC.
This announcement, made by World Rugby on Sunday evening, caps off a memorable season for the Springbok Sevens duo, who alongside fellow team member Kwagga Smith, was also named in the Series Dream Team after the completion of the final tournament in London.
Kok and Senatla were nominated with Fijian ace Semi Kunatani, with the trio voted for by the management teams of the 15 core sides who compete at all 9 Rounds of the World Series. Kok ended the season as the leading tackler of all players and also scored 23 tries.
Senatla finished the season as the leading try scorer with 47 tries and has scored 2 of this year’s fans’ favourites, as well as scoring in both of South Africa’s Cup final victories in Dubai and Port Elizabeth.
The Junior Springboks clinched their 2 match international rugby series 2 – 0 against Argentina Under 20 after beating Los Pumitas 39 / 28 in Rosario on Saturday, with prop Jan van der Merwe helping himself to a hat-trick of tries in the 1st half.
The 2 teams used the series as final warm-up exercise for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship in Italy next month.
On Saturday at the beautiful Club Gimnasia Stadium in Rosario, the Junior Boks raced into a commanding 25 / 6 halftime lead thanks to a trio of tries by front ranker Jan van der Merwe. Argentina struggled to match the visitors’ powerful forward surges and could only reply with 2 penalties.
The South Africans scored 2 more tries in the 2nd half through Leolin Zas (wing) and Joseph Dweba (replacement hooker). However, they had to show great determination on defence against Los Pumitas, who stormed back with 3 tries in the 2nd stanza.
Captain and No 8, Hanro Liebenberg, led with example with ball in hand and also did sterling work on defence. The Junior Boks dominated the scrums, were supreme in the lineouts and mauled powerfully which resulted in 3 tries.
The Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, are set to sign a deal with French club Montpellier, a report in French media indicates.
Reports surfaced earlier this year that the Springbok brothers would join Montpellier on a 2-year deal after the conclusion of the 2015 Rugby World Cup, but Montpellier denied it at the time.
However, according to RMC Sport, the double signing of the Sharks duo is expected to be announced in the coming days.
The Du Plessis brothers are believed to have respected their earlier commitment despite having some contact with Toulon.
Montpellier are coached by former Springbok coach Jake White, who was quoted as saying after their weekend defeat at Stade Francais: “Big names will be announced in the coming days. To win the Top 14, you need the best players in the world.”
The last leg of the 2014 / 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series took place in London England this Saturday and Sunday 16 and 17 May 2015 from 09:00 BST (10:00 SA Time) both days.
All the action was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 6 on Saturday and on SuperSport 1 (Sunday) on TV in South Africa.
After 8 Rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series, Fiji, South Africa and New Zealand battled it out for the 16th World Series title in London.
Following their victory at the Glasgow Sevens last weekend, Fiji headed into the 9th and Final Round of the Series in 1st spot – with Ben Ryan’s side aiming to win their 1st Series title since 2006.
Not since 2010 has a side other than New Zealand won it, but with Fiji on 147 points and South Africa on 142 prior to this tournament, the 4-time defending champions had their work cut out to win a 13th World Series title as they sat 3rd on 139 Log Points, prior to this tournament.
New Zealand fell out of the race for the ultimate World Series title when England beat them in the quarter-final and the same fate befell South Africa’s Blitzbokke as they persihed against Fiji by 7 / 19 in the quarter-finals in London, the same fate which befell them in Glasgow.
Having led the Series since Round 2 the BlitzBokke failed to make the Cup semi-finals for the 1st time all season in Glasgow and now again in London.
The 4 South Section teams in the Vodacom Cup quarter-finals will be out for revenge after none of them progressed past the last 8 in 2014.
Teams from the north have dominated proceedings in the Vodacom Cup, which kicked off in 1998.
Only 3 times out of 17 campaigns have non-Northern teams won the competition – that was in 2000 (Toyota Free State XV), 2011 (Pampas XV) and 2012 (DHL Western Province). GWK Griquas, runners-up in the South Section this year, played in the North Section previously.
The Vodacom Cup remained in the north for the other 14 years. The Xerox Golden Lions (1999, 2002, 2003, 2004 and 2013) and GWK Griquas (1998, 2005, 2007, 2009 and 2014) have won it 5 times each, the Vodacom Blue Bulls 3 times (2001, 2008, 2010) and the Hino Valke once (2006).
The defending champions will be the 1st team in action in the quarter-finals this year when the Steval Pumas travel to GWK Park in Kimberley on Friday evening to play GWK Griquas (kick-off at 19:00 SA Time).
Peter Engledow’s team from the Northern Cape lost only 1 of their pool matches this year, which gives them an impressive winning record of 15 out of their last 17 Vodacom Cup matches.
The Steval Pumas, coached by former Blitzbok speedster MJ Mentz, have been a strong contender in recent years – they were runners up in 2013, lost in the semi-final last year and won 5 of their 7 pool matches this year.
The Vodacom Blue Bulls host the Toyota Free State XV in the 2nd quarter-final at Loftus Versfeld on Friday evening (kick-off at 19:10 SA Time – live on Supersport 1). It’s a replay of last year’s quarter-final, won by the men from Pretoria by a single point.
The Nollis Marais-coached Vodacom Blue Bulls scored 40 tries in their 7 pool matches this season, which is the most by any team. Their opponents from Bloemfontein, coached by Rory Duncan, were the top try-scoring side in the South Section with 28.
Saturday’s 2 quarter-finals take place in Johannesburg and Cape Town.
The SWD Eagles will have a massive mountain to climb when they travel to Emirates Airline Park to take on the top side from the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions (kick-off at 14:10, live on Supersport 1).
The men from George, coached by former Springbok fullback Bevin Fortuin, have notched up a few impressive wins this season, but facing a mean-looking Xerox Golden Lions side at altitude is another proposition.
Russell Winter, coach of the Johannesburg-based side, would have faced Fortuin many times in his provincial career and will know it would be a massive mistake to underestimate the Eagles, but the Xerox Golden Lions would still be favourites to qualify for their 3rd successive semi-final.
The last quarter-final is at City Park in Athlone, where John Dobson’s South Section champions, DHL Western Province, will host the Leopards XV.
The men from Potchefstroom, coached by Chaka Willemse, needed a bonus-point victory in their final pool match to make it into the top 8, which they duly did in Windhoek last weekend, but a visit to the Cape is a different proposition.
Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron has shuffled his match-23 for the 2nd international rugby friendly against Argentina Under 20 (Los Pumitas) this coming Saturday in Rosario. The match will kick-off at 14:00 ARG Time (19:00 SA Time).
The young South Africans won the 1st meeting between the 2 sides 25 / 22 on Tuesday in Santa Fe. Both teams are using the 2-match series as their final warm-up for the World Rugby Under 20 Championship which will be hosted by Italy in June.
Theron elected to retain only a number of players from the starting 15 which managed to edge Los Pumitas, while he opted also for 2 positional changes.
Tighthead prop Thomas du Toit, Jason Jenkins (lock), Leolin Zas (left wing), Daniel du Plessis (inside centre) and JT Jackson (outside centre) will all start in their 2nd tour match. N0 8 Dan du Preez and right wing Grant Hermanus will however run out in different positions.
Du Preez moves to flank while Hermanus will wear the No 15 jersey. Fullback Warrick Gelant and prop Frans van Wyk were not considered for selection because of shoulder injuries.
Hanro Liebenberg of the Vodacom Blue Bulls returns to the starting line-up at the back of the scrum and will also take over the captaincy from Rikus Bothma (DHL Western Province) who led the side in Santa Fe. Liebenberg sat out the 1st tour match as precaution for his troubled hand.
Springbok scrumhalf Jano Vermaak has signed a 2-and-a-half-year deal with Western Province Rugby and will be available for selection from 1 July, once he has completed his current club commitments in France.
The 30-year-old will make the move back to South Africa from French giants, Toulouse; joining Nic Groom, Louis Schreuder and Godlen Masimla as the senior scrumhalf options for the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province.
The quicksilver Vermaak has won 3 Test caps for the Springboks, making his debut against Italy on 8 June 2013, before also featuring against the Wallabies and the All Blacks later that season.
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.”
It is Round 14 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.
There are 2 games on Friday 15 May and 4 games on Saturday 16 May.
The DHL Stormers, Crusaders and Western Force have BYE weekends.
There are 2 lip-licking South African games against overseas teams on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions vs Brumbies in Johannesburg as well as between the Toyota Cheetahs vs Highlanders in Bloemfontein. The battling Cell C Sharks will play their 3rd match on tour against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday morning.
On Friday, the Blues hoost the Vodacom Bulls in Auckland at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) before the Reds host the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane, at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).
On Saturday morning the Hurricanes host the Chiefs in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs host the Cell C Sharks in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 21:40 NZ Time, 09:40 GMT).
Over to South Africa and next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, 03:05 NZ Time), the Emirates Lions host the Brumbies in Johannesburg, before the Toyota Cheetahs host the Highlanders in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ time, 03:10 AEST).
The Blues vs Bulls match is a difficult one to call but considering the Blues form this season the Bulls should be favourites to take it on Friday, and the Reds vs Melbourne Rebels is also difficult to call but considering the Reds are hitting rock-bottom and digging, the Rebels should take this one away from home.
The game between the Hurricanes and Chiefs should be a cracker and one tends to lean towards the Hurricanes to take it at home. The Waratahs should take the game against the Cell C Sharks in Sydney.
Regarding the 2 games in South Africa, the Emirates Lions would have to play hell-for-leather to beat a very strong Brumbies side but they are supremely fit and motivated and this is a game to look forward to, it could go either way. In Bloemfontein the Highlanders should be too strong for the Toyota Cheetahs.
The Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks will be going all-out to change their recent fortunes in Australasia in this weekend’s Vodacom Super Rugby action.
Back home, the Emirates Lions and Toyota Cheetahs will be facing opposition from Down Under in Johannesburg and Bloemfontein respectively.
The Vodacom Bulls kick off their tour of New Zealand and Australia against the Blues in Auckland on Friday morning. The men from Pretoria have lost their last 7 matches Down Under, their last victory incidentally coming against the 3-time champions, the Blues, at Eden Park.
The Cell C Sharks will be looking to snap a 5-match losing streak when they take on the defending champion Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday, a daunting prospect when one considers the Durbanites have not won in New South Wales in 15 years.
On Saturday afternoon, the Emirates Lions host the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies, at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg. The last 2 encounters between these sides – in 2011 and 2012 – were won by the visiting team.
The final match of the weekend is Saturday evening at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein between the Toyota Cheetahs and the dangerous Highlanders. The men from Central South Africa will be looking for their 1st home win ever over the Otago-based side.
The DHL Stormers have a BYE this weekend.
Back in the Emirates Lions starting line-up for Saturday’s Super Rugby clash against the Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park, Elton Jantjies is enjoying one of his better seasons on South African soil.
The Johannesburg side are very much in playoff contention and Jantjies has become coach Johan Ackermann’s 1st choice pivot along the way.
A few rugby minds have now started wondering whether or not Jantjies has done enough to work his way into Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s World Cup plans. The smart money remains on the flyhalf slot going to either Handré Pollard or Patrick Lambie and while Jantjies has not ruled out any possibilities he chooses instead to let his performances do the talking.
“I can talk a big game but if my performances on the field don’t match up, there is no point in me saying that I want to go to the World Cup and be the 1st-choice flyhalf,” Jantjies said.
Emirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his team to face the Aquis Brumbies at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday afternoon.
Ackermann has made 2 changes to the forwards for the encounter, as Martin Muller will start at lock and Robert Kruger moves into the starting lineup at flank.
The backline sees 3 personnel changes with Faf de Klerk starting at scrumhalf, Elton Jantjies returning to the starting flyhalf berth and Lionel Mapoe, having fully recovered from injury, starting at right wing. As a result, Ruan Combrinck will shift to left wing for the match.