SA Rugby

Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla

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.

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WhistleAfter 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.

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Rudy Paige

Rudy Paige

Francois Hougaard

Francois Hougaard

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.

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Super RugbyIt 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.

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Vodacom Cup3 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.

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Werner Kok

Werner Kok

Seabelo Senatla

Seabelo Senatla

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.

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SpringboksThe 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.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

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.”

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe 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.

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Vodacom CupThe 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.

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SpringboksJunior 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.

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Jano Vermaak

Jano Vermaak

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.

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Vincent Koch

Vincent Koch

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.”

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Super RugbyIt 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.

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Super RugbyThe 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.

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Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

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.

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Faf de Klerk

Faf de Klerk

Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

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.

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Cell C SharksCell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold has retained the same team to play the Waratahs on Saturday morning, having made no changes to the side that took on the Hurricanes last weekend.

It was a rousing display of commitment and passion and everyone involved will be hoping they repeat that, sort out the areas of their own they have identified, and contain a very big and physical Waratahs team.

“There is a lot of pride at stake,” said Gold of this match. “We’ve been bitterly disappointed this year, for various reasons, and it’s important for us to show that we’re still in this fight to the end.”

Assessing the Waratahs strengths and threats, he immediately points to their physicality.

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André Watson

André Watson

Under-fire South African referees boss Andre Watson is set to hear his fate at a disciplinary hearing chaired by an independent arbitrator.

According to reports, the process is likely to be concluded on Wednesday.

Meetings were already held with Watson last month after complaints were laid against the former referee by members of the South African Rugby Referees Association (SARRA).

At the heart of the matter was the unhappiness of some SARRA members with Watson’s management over the 11 years that he has been in office.

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Tank Lanning

Tank Lanning

When flying to Joburg or Cape Town, do you buy a ticket or build a plane?

Simple answer if you fly once a month. Slightly more complex if you fly every day. And vastly more complex if you actually own an airline.

When needing to win a Super Rugby title, do you buy in Vincent Koch or develop Steven Kitshoff? The former developed by someone else and coming in at a cost. The latter developed by you, and now buggering off to make money off those skills in France?

WP come in for a lot of stick re losing players. Think Francois Hougaard, Handré Pollard, Willie le Roux, Thomas du Toit, Tim Swiel and Johann Sadie. Yet in their Academy and Institute, they have one of the best player development systems in the world!

One only has space for 23 players each week. Loyalty seems to be something you get only from a dog in today’s professional era. So is it really worth spending all that money on player development and retention? Why not just buy what you need at the time?

I’ll tell you why. Buying in players gives you the Sharks. Developing players gives you the Lions.

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Oregan Hoskins

Oregan Hoskins

Oregan Hoskins, President of the South African Rugby Union, has applauded the life bans handed down to 3 players of the Fort Beaufort Barbarians Club for physically assaulting a referee.

The trio – Edmund Gunn, Clayton Bantom and Hyron Burgess – were found guilty of assaulting referee Llewellyn Loots at a pre-season tournament in the Eastern Cape town of Bedford on 28 February.

They were sentenced by an Eastern Province Rugby Union disciplinary committee.

The Fort Beaufort Barbarians Club was also suspended from all rugby activities for the rest of the year by the committee.

They were found guilty of bringing the Eastern Province Rugby Union into disrepute by failing to ensure the safety of the match official and by not assisting the union in identifying other players believed to have been a party to the assault.

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the names of the Match Officials for for Round 14 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

3 Teams have BYE weekends, namely the Crusaders, Western Force and DHL Stormers.

There are 6 matches on the weekend, 2 on Friday 15 May and 4 on Saturday 16 May.

The action is kicked off in Auckland where the Blues host the Vodacom Bulls at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), officiated by Mike Fraser. Also on Friday at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT) the Reds host the Melbourne Rebels in Brisbane where the game will be controlled by Andrew Lees.

On Saturday first up it will be the Hurricanes vs Chiefs in Wellington, blown by Glen Jackson and the game starts at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT). The match is followed by the clash between the Waratahs and Cell C Sharks in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT), refereed by Rohan Hoffmann.

Later on Saturday in South Africa the Emirates Lions host the Brumbies in Johannesburg at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST) and the game will be handled by Jaco Peyper. The last game of the Round is in Bloemfontein at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 05:10 NZ Time) where the Toyota Cheetahs host the Highlanders and the game will be blown by Stuart Berry.

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SpringboksThe Junior Springboks were made to fight hard to overcome a courageous Argentina Under 20 rugby team by 25 / 22 in the 1st of 2 matches between the sides late on Tuesday in Santa Fe, Argentina.

Los Pumitas led 15 / 10 at halftime after they dominated possession and territory while playing with a strong wind in their favour in the 1st half. They scored 2 tries and a penalty to take a deserved lead, while the Junior Springboks answered with a converted try and a penalty to stay within distance despite their many unforced errors.

The young South Africans used their dominance in the scrums and set pieces to much better effect in the 2nd half, adding a penalty and an excellent try to edge out the hosts in front of a passionate crowd.

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Sarel Pretorius

Sarel Pretorius

Joe Pietersen

Joe Pietersen

The Toyota Cheetahs will be without 2 key players when they take on the Highlanders in Bloemfontein on Saturday.

Star scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius and utility back Joe Pietersen have both been ruled out through injury.

The teams shows several changes from that beat the South African conference leaders, the DHL Stormers, a fortnight ago.

Tian Meyer will be starting at scrumhalf in the place of Pretorius, who hasn’t recovered from his shoulder injury. Shaun Venter comes onto the bench as scrumhalf cover.

Francois Brummer moves up from the bench, replacing Pietersen – who is also sidelined with a shoulder injury. Coenie van Wyk comes onto the bench to fill the void left by Brummer’s promotion.

The only other change to the starting fifteen will see Danie Mienie replacing Caylib Oosthuizen at loosehead prop. Oosthuizen drops out of the matchday 23.

Springbok wing Raymond Rhule also returns from injury and gets a spot on the bench.

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Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

Regular Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies is back at the helm and at No 8 for the Vodacom Bulls team to face the Blues in Auckland on Friday.

Spies played as a replacement in the team’s last Vodacom Super Rugby clash, against the Emirates Lions at Loftus Versfeld, and will replace Arno Botha at the back of the scrum. Botha will move to the side of the scrum, with Jacques du Plessis moving to the bench.

In the only change in the backline, Rudy Paige comes back at scrumhalf in place of injured Piet van Zyl.

There are 4 changes on the bench. Dean Greyling comes in for Morné Mellett and a fit-again Werner Kruger will replace Andrew Beerwinkel. It will be Kruger’s 1st appearance since the opening Round of the tournament when he injured his ankle against the DHL Stormers in February. Amongst the backs, Jacques-Louis Potgieter is fit again following a hamstring strain and replaces Tian Schoeman and Travis Ismaiel comes in for Jurgen Visser.

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Seabelo SenatlaThere appears to be an outside chance that Springbok Sevens flyer Seabelo Senatla may feature for the DHL Stormers in the closing stages of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The Blitzbokke finish off their 2014 / 2015 campaign in London later this week and Stormers coach Allister Coetzee says that he will investigate the option of having the speedy winger available for the last games of the round robin phase.

Senatla will have to play a couple of games to be eligible for the Finals Series that starts late in June, with the Stormers in a 3-way fight at the moment with the Vodacom Bulls and Emirates Lions to get that far.

The product of Welkom was a revelation on the wing for Western Province in last year’s ABSA Currie Cup and with the Stormers struggling to score tries this season – they have just one 4-try bonus point from their 12 matches so far – it would make sense for Coetzee to look at Senatla.

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Willie Britz

Willie Britz

Toyota Cheetahs loose forward Willie Britz has confirmed that he will join the Shining Arcs in Japan after this year’s Super Rugby competition.

The good news for Cheetahs fans though is that Britz will only be unavailable during the Currie Cup, before returning to play Super Rugby next season.

He is contracted to the Cheetahs until the end of the 2016 season.

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Emirates LionsThe Golden Lions Rugby Union has secure the services of 4 key players beyond the current season.

The GLRU announced contract extension with star back Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrinck and Howard Mnisi, as well as forward Luvuyiso ‘MB’ Lusaseni.

The union also secured the services of a number of up and coming players – Malcolm Marx (hooker), Sevens Springbok Albertus ‘Kwagga’ Smith (flank), Jaco van der Walt (flyhalf), Lourens Erasmus (lock) and Bobby de Wee (lock / flank).

The GLRU, in a statement, said they are aiming to retain and develop top junior players by creating opportunities and an environment that promises growth both on and off the field.

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Pieter Rossouw

Pieter Rossouw

The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Monday confirmed reports that Vodacom Bulls assistant coach Pieter Rossouw’s contract terminates at the end of the current season.

Rossouw, who has served as assistant coach since 2008, will be pursuing business interests elsewhere.

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said that Rossouw was of great value to the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls over many years, with a big number of players graduation to international stars under his tutelage.

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Super RugbySupporters in Johannesburg and Cape Town were made to worry 1st before smiling as the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers put away their Australasian opponents in an exciting round of Vodacom Super Rugby action.

The Cell C Sharks, in their 2nd match of their tour Down Under, also showed a lot of character and played with vigour, but in the end it wasn’t enough against a fired-up Hurricanes side in Wellington.

The table-toppers from New Zealand beat the Durbanites by 32 / 24 on Saturday morning but with less than 10 minutes to go, the result was still in the balance.

On Saturday afternoon, both the Emirates Lions and DHL Stormers had to fight their way back into contention after listless 1st-half performances.

The Gautengers trialled by 20 / 3 at the break, but played sublime rugby in the 2nd half and in the end beat the Highlanders by 28 / 23 in a very exciting match.

The excitement levels were not as high in Cape Town, where the DHL Stormers overturned a 16 / 9 halftime deficit into a 25 / 24 victory over the Australian Conference leaders, the Brumbies.

The 1st penalty goal of the match by Demetri Catrakilis, who kicked 20 points for the DHL Stormers, saw him move to 28 consecutive successful kicks at goal this season.

However, Catrakilis missed the next one, which would’ve seen him improve the record to 29. As it stands, the DHL Stormers flyhalf now shares the record with former Capetonian pivot Peter Grant (this is since 2002).

The Vodacom Bulls and Toyota Cheetahs had byes this weekend.

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Japan signs for Super Rugby

Japan may be the newest kid on the block in Vodacom Super Rugby when the tournament gets a revamp at the end of this season, but they could also be South African rugby’s best friend in the fight to keep players at home.

South African Super Rugby franchises are actively seeking partnerships with Japanese clubs at the moment to “twin” and allow players to head abroad in the Absa Currie Cup season to play in Japan, then return home for Super Rugby.

This masterstroke is seen as one of the bigger ways of countering the threat from European clubs poaching players from South Africa and could also mean closing the gap between the salaries offered in Europe and those earned at home.

The 1st franchise to implement such an agreement have been the Toyota Cheetahs, who have twinning agreements now with 2 clubs in Japan, both through their sponsors Toyota to try and keep their players in South Africa for Super Rugby.

The Cheetahs already have 2 players – flanker Heinrich Brüssow and midfielder Johann Sadie – who play for Japanese club Docomo Red Hurricanes and will continue to motivate for their players to pursue a dual season in both Japanese rugby and South Africa.

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesIt is a tight race to see who takes the Series in Twickenham with Fiji leading the way, and the pools for the London leg have been confirmed.

After their Cup win at the 8th Round of the Series in Glasgow, Fiji are top seeds and head Pool A, while runners-up New Zealand, 3rd-placed England and the 4th semifinalist USA head the remaining pools.

The 2014 / 2015 season carries added significance because the top-ranked sides in the series qualify directly for the Olympic Games in Rio in 2016. Following their performances in Glasgow, South Africa, Fiji and New Zealand have all confirmed their place in Rio, with just the 4th and final spot still be decided.

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HSBC Sevens World SeriesThe Glasgow Sevens, the 2nd last leg of the HSBC Sevens World Series takes place this weekend in Glasgow, Scotland at Scotstoun.

The Tournament is held over 2 days, with Saturday 9 May the 1st Day and the tournament concluding on Sunday 10 May.

The 3 leading sides in the World Series are South Africa (129 Log Points), Fiji (125 Log Points) and New Zealand (120 Log Points). England follows some distance behind in 3rd spot on 100 Log Points, with Australia 9 points behind them on 91 Log Points and the rest of the field far up the rear.

The Top 4 Teams in the standings at the end of the 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series, which concludes next weekend in London, England, automatically qualify for spots at the 2016 Olympics in Rio de Janeiro, so for England and Australia there is all to play for in this tournament and next weekend.

For the Top 3 sides in the series, who have already made sure of Olympic qualification (bar the almost impossible preventing it in these 2 last tournaments) this weekend and the next is all about winning the HSBC World Series. South Africa are only 4 Points ahead of the Fijians, who have raised the bar and upped the ante substantially in the last few tournaments. New Zealand, who are last year’s champions are also within reach and will be desperate to beat Fiji and South Africa convincingly, in order to retain the crown.

The weekend’s action kicked off at 11:30 SA Time (10:30 BST, 09:30 GMT) and all the action was broadcast live on SuperSport 6, on TV in South Africa.

South Africa played Samoa at 12:58 SA Time (11:58 BST, 10:58 GMT), then they played Kenya at 16:04 SA Time (15:04 BST, 14:04 GMT) and their 3rd and last game of Day 1 was against New Zealand at 19:37 SA Time (18:37 BST, 17:37 GMT).

On Day 1 the traditionally big Sevens Nations of South Africa, New Zealand and Fiji all advanced to the quarters, joined by England, Canada, Scotland, Australia and the United States in the quarters.

Day 2’s action started at 12:30 SA Time (11:30 BST, 10:30 GMT) on Sunday and the action was broadcast on SuperSport 1 on TV in South Africa. The tournament concluded with the Cup Final which took place at 20:50 SA Time (19:50 BST, 18:50 GMT).

South Africa’s Blitzbokke lost their quarter-final game against Fiji by 0 / 15 and Fiji and New Zealand went on to contest the Cup Final.

Fiji managed to beat New Zealand in the Cup Final by 24 / 17, to take the Glasgow title.

Fiji has now moved to the Top of the 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series points table, 5 points above South Africa, who have moved down into 2nd spot. New Zealand have also crept closer to South Africa on the Log and only 8 points now seperate the Top 3 teams, going into the Final Round of the 2015 HSBC Sevens World Series next weekend in London, England.

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