SA Rugby

Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks team named to play the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday shows nominal changes to the side that was picked last weekend, with 2 Springbok additions.

The only changes to the starting 15 are in a front row that this week features the Springbok prop duo of Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira, who return after an enforced rest last week as part of the agreement with the Springboks to provide regular breaks to the players.

Marco Wentzel retains the captaincy of a side that will look to build from the positives they took out of their clash with the Lions last weekend. The backline remains unchanged.

With the prospect of facing the Highlanders and Hurricanes in New Zealand and the Waratahs and Reds in Australia before returning to Durban for 2 final home games, Saturday’s derby against the Bulls comes at a vital time.

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Super RugbyIn sport, teams will have strengths and weaknesses and this often dictates where their scoring threat comes from and Super Rugby is no different. This week we take a more in depth look at where tries originate from, and which teams are more likely to score from certain scenarios.


The Set Piece:

Scrums and lineouts are often the best facets of the game to put training pitch moves into action. The Brumbies boast the best lineout success rate in Super Rugby this season (91%) and it is no surprise that they have scored the most tries this season when possession has begun with a throw-in.

However, what is surprising is just how many of their tries come from the lineout. Of the 22 tries the Brumbies have scored this season, 18 have started with the Canberra-based side winning their own lineout – a staggering 82% of their total. No other side has reached double figures for the same aspect of the game, however the Cheetahs are the next-best team when it comes to making the most off ball secured from their lineout.

The Bloemfontein side has scored 9 tries after beginning possession with a lineout, making up 53% of their overall tries, whilst the Rebels (46%) and the Lions (45%) aren’t far behind when their tallies are broken down into percentages.

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Reniel Hugo

Reniel Hugo

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs and Toyota Cheetahs have secured the services of FNB UP-Tuks lock, Reniel Hugo.

The 24-year-old lock has signed a deal which will keep him in Bloemfontein until the end of the 2016 season.

Hugo represented Tuks for the past 2 years after joining from Maties.

He was earlier this week also named as captain of the Varsity Cup Dream Team to play against the Junior Springboks in Stellenbosch, next week Tuesday.

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

The return of the 2 experienced Springbok props, Beast Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis, are the only things that the Vodacom Bulls should take for granted about the Cell C Sharks team they will clash with in their Super Rugby derby in Durban at the weekend.

The Sharks did not train on Monday, as was the case the previous week, and at Tuesday’s training session those who watched it struggled to make out what director of rugby Gary Gold is planning for Saturday – except that the 2 Bok props will definitely be back.

No 8 Ryan Kankowski missed last week’s clash with the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg after pulling out following the captain’s practice. He is fit to face the Bulls but apparently he and Renaldo Bothma, who played at No 8 against the Lions and did well there, rotated during the training session. It is also not clear if JP Pietersen, the other fit Bok to miss the Lions clash, will be back in the starting team.

What does appear clear is that hooker Kyle Cooper and fullback SP Marais, 2 stalwart foot soldiers at the Sharks over the past few seasons, have fallen out of favour. Even though Bismarck du Plessis is out suspended and will be for another week, Cooper did not feature in the match day 23 last week – and it looks like he will miss out again for the Bulls.

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Schalk Burger receives the Laureaus World Comeback of the Year Award 2015

Schalk Burger receives the Laureaus World Comeback of the Year Award 2015

DHL Stormers and Springbok flank Schalk Burger has won the Laureus World Comeback of the Year Award at the ceremony in Shanghai on Wednesday.

Burger had a cyst next to his spinal cord and went into hospital for treatment, but developed life-threatening meningitis and was taken to intensive care. Miraculously, he battled for his life and returned to the sport he loves to win his place back in the Springbok rugby team.

Reflecting upon the most serious stage in his time in intensive care, Burger said: “I remember the day where my wife phoned and everyone said, listen, this is probably it, it’s time to say goodbye. I wasn’t ready to say goodbye.

“It was super scary if you think back now.

“But when you’re going through the middle of this and there’s no time to think really, there’s no time to think about consequences; it was pretty much just me versus something.”

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Vodacom CupThe 6 teams occupying positions 2 to 7 on the South Section log clash in 3 encounters this weekend, which will have a major impact on the eventual standings in the Vodacom Cup.

First up on Friday evening, the SWD Eagles (4th) host the Cell C Sharks XV (6th) at scenic Outeniqua Park in George, where both teams will be looking for their 2nd win of the season.

On Saturday, 2nd-placed GWK Griquas – 1 of only 3 unbeaten teams left in the competition – travel to Velddrif to take on the Boland Cavaliers (7th), before the Toyota Free State XV (3rd) host the 5th-placed EP Kings in Bloemfontein.

The other South Section clash is in Cape Town between the table-topping DHL Western Province, also unbeaten in 2015, and the Border Bulldogs, who are still looking for their 1st log points after 3 Rounds.

With the top side in the North Section, the Xerox Golden Lions, having a BYE this weekend, the big match is on Friday afternoon between the Leopards XV and the Steval Pumas in Potchefstroom.

The Vodacom Blue Bulls will have an opportunity to move to the Top of the Northern Section log when they host the Down Touch Griffons in Pretoria on Friday afternoon, while the FNB Welwitschias and Assupol Limpopo Blue Bulls take each other on in a bottom-of-the-table clash in Windhoek.

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Rugby-TalkIt’s PUB NIGHT again…

The heading suggests we talk about the South African Super Rugby sides… err I mean about the successful ones on the weekend, after a weekend where 4 South African sides recorded wins in Super Rugby and I think that qualifies as a good weekend of rugby!

Fortunately the DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs also won in Australia, the Lions beat the Sharks and the Bulls monstered the Rubble Reds. Good on Ya all!

This next weekend, Super Rugby will continue, 1 game on Friday and 6 games on Saturday.

I guess this makes for a few good discussions!

It is time to straddle a bar stool and order a drink or 2.

Let’s focus on the PUB tonight…. the idea with PUB NIGHT is to lighten up our dull Tuesday evenings with music, comedy and fun.

Rugby takes a backseat tonight as the clan and fellow rugby nutters gather and wheel in their old friends…

Read the rules below carefully, or you WILL get burnt!

Just for clarity sake, when someone does not adhere to the Rules of the PUB, EVERYBODY jumps on them and pummels them, right… understood?


Here’s how it works:

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the names of the Match Officials for Round 10 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

There will be 7 games on the weekend and the Emirates Lions is the only side to sit out on a BYE weekend.

There will be only 1 game on Friday 17 April but a full 6 games on Saturday 18 April.

The weekend action is kicked off by Nick Briant is the Friday game between the Crusaders and Chiefs in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time.

On Saturday at 06:30 SA Time Glen Jackson will be in charge of the game in Wellington between the unbeaten Hurricanes and the Waratahs, followed at 09:35 SA Time by Chris Pollock who will officiate the game between the Highlanders and Blues in Dunedin.

From there we move over to Australia where Andrew Gardiner is in charge of the whistle between the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels in Canberra at 11:40 SA Time, followed by the game between the Western Force and DHL stormers in perth at 13:45 SA Time, where Mike Fraser will preside.

2 Games are played in South Africa on Saturday, the 1st of which will be the derby between the Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls at 17:05 SA Time in Durban, where Jaco Peyper will be in charge. In the last match of the Round, at 19:10 SA Time, the Toyota Cheetahs host the Reds and the match will be handled by Jaco van Heerden in Bloemfontein.

Hopefully dicipline amongst players and match officials improves this weekend and we do not have to witness a dearth of Cards, citings and suspensions!

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Springbok fullback Willie le Roux will sit out the Toyota Cheetahs clash with the Reds this weekend due to the rest agreement with SA Rugby.

Le Roux will be replaced by Coenie van Wyk in the starting line-up as the only change to the team that beat the Western Force last Saturday in Perth.

This will mark the 9th Super Rugby encounter between the Cheetahs and the Reds, since their 1st match in March 2006.

The Reds are leading the way with 5 wins to 3.

It will also be the 5th time the teams meet at the Free State Stadium in Bloemfontein, since the 1st encounter.

The Cheetahs has won 3 previous matches in Bloemfontein to the Reds 1.

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André Watson

André Watson

Some members of the South African Rugby Referees Association (SARRA) are at loggerheads with SARU’s manager of referees, André Watson, and this has now come to a head at a meeting  with an independent arbitrator.

The result is that there was a hearing on Thursday and Friday of last week involving the arbitrator and members of the SARRA, including Watson and other members of the SARRA’s staff and panel referees. At the heart of the matter is the unhappiness of some SARRA members with Watson’s management over the 11 years that he has been in office.

There is as yet no official outcome to the meetings but the meetings are likely to be resumed at some stage this week and perhaps run over into next week.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Incumbent Springboks Adriaan Strauss, Jan Serfontein and Handré Pollard is fit again and will be considered for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Cell C Sharks in Durban.

According to Vodacom Bulls team doctor Org Strauss, all 3 are ready to travel to the East Coast, along with Lappies Labuschagne, who recovered from the shoulder injury which kept him out of action for the matches against the Crusaders, Emirates Lions and Reds.

Adriaan Strauss was rested against the Reds according to the SARU agreement, while Jan Serfontein last played against the Western Force and Pollard against the Crusaders.

A number of players, Jacques-Louis Potgieter (hamstring), Marcel van der Merwe (ankle), Burger Odendaal (contusion), Bjorn Basson (ankle) and Morné Mellett (back spasm) did not train on Monday, but will be back on Tuesday, Strauss confirmed. Akona Ndungane has also recovered from a broken hand.

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Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

Emirates Lions coach Johan Ackermann is pleased with the physical condition of his players after 9 Rounds of Super Rugby action.

The Lions have won 5 of 9 matches this season and sit 7th on the overall standings.

The men from Johannesburg have a welcome BYE this week, with their next match at home against the Toyota Cheetahs on 25 April.

After 9 consecutive games, they only have a few injuries, which leaves Ackermann a happy camper.

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Varsity CupFNB UFS-Shimlas beat FNB NWU-Pukke 63 / 33 in an epic final in Bloemfontein on Monday to claim their 1st Varsity Cup title.

The hosts outscored their old rivals by 9 tries to 4 in a breathless match to end the season unbeaten and hand NWU-Pukke their 2nd consecutive final defeat.

The visitors made a determined start to the match, and drove UFS-Shimlas deep into their own territory where they were able to force a penalty which was slotted by Rhyno Smith.

However, they were reduced to 14 men shortly afterwards when flank Marno Redelinghuys was shown a Yellow Card for a dangerous tackle, and the home side took advantage immediately with lock Johan van der Hoogt barging over for the opening try which put them 8 / 2 up once converted by flyhalf Niel Marais.

They did not have that lead for long though, as Marais’ clearance from the restart was charged down by NWU-Pukke scrumhalf Malherbe Swart, who scored under the poles to put his side back in front.

The Potchefstroom students were not done there and added a 2nd try straight away, with inside centre Johan Deysel running a great line, off a lineout in their own half to race away and score to stretch their lead out to 18 / 8, despite being a man down.

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SANZAR under the magnifying glassSANZAR has tactfully sidestepped the latest attack on their integrity, telling South African Rugby Union President Oregan Hoskins to “follow the proper channels” if he has grievances.

Hoskins, in a report published in a weekend newspaper, launched a scathing attack on SANZAR, the organisation that controls Southern Hemisphere competitions – Super Rugby and the Rugby championship.

The SARU boss took aim at what he regards as “the inconsistency of recent rulings at disciplinary tribunals” and also targeted SANZAR Chief Executive Greg Peters.

However, the SANZAR boss remained mum on the matter.

Instead a spokesperson said Hoskins is welcome to contact them to raise his concerns.

“Hoskins is aware of the correct channels to air his concerns,” a SANZAR spokesperson said.

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Pierre Spies

Pierre Spies

The Vodacom Bulls may be on top of the South African Super Rugby conference, but they know there’s a tough road ahead until the end of regular season play.

The Bulls thrashed the Reds 43 / 22 at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, but out of their 8 remaining league matches, only 2 will be at home.

They tackle the Cell C Sharks and DHL Stormers away over the next 2 weeks, before facing the Emirates Lions at home.

After that, 4 games in Australasia await against the Blues (15 May), Chiefs (22 May), Brumbies (29 May) and Melbourne Rebels (6 June).

Their last league game is at home against the Toyota Cheetahs on 13 June.

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Pat Howard

Pat Howard

Western Province back Pat Howard has reportedly signed a deal with English Premiership club Northampton Saints.

While the news is yet to be officially announced, it is reported that Howard will leave the Cape union later this year.

The 23-year-old Howard, who can play wing and centre, is contracted with WP until 31 October.

This means he will in all likelihood be asked to stay until the end of this year’s Currie Cup.

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Michael Rhodes

Michael Rhodes

Utility forward Michael Rhodes will return home from the DHL Stormers’ Vodacom Super Rugby tour of Australasia after suffering a hamstring tear in his team’s 32 / 18 bonus point win over the Waratahs at the weekend.

The tough-tackling forward was forced to leave the field in the 33rd minute on Saturday and he now faces a 6 to 8 week lay-off – Rhodes’s 2nd injury blow of the season after picking up a knee injury against the Lions in late February.

Rhodes will be replaced in the DHL Stormers tour party by DHL Western Province Vodacom Cup star Sikhumbuzo Notshe, who left for Perth late on Sunday evening.

DHL Stormers boss Allister Coetzee told the www.iamastormer.com website: “Michael has a Grade 2 or 3 hamstring tear and will be out of action for at least 6 weeks.

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Oregan Hoskins

Oregan Hoskins

South African Rugby Union President Oregan Hoskins has spoken out strongly against the inconsistency of recent rulings at disciplinary tribunals.

Hoskins is incensed by what he believes to be the unfair handling of cases involving South African players – compared with their New Zealand and Australian counterparts.

He referred to the recent harsh bans handed to Sharks players Bismarck du Plessis (4 weeks), Frans Steyn (5 weeks) and Jean Deysel (7 weeks) – while similar offences by Kiwi and Aussie players received more lenient treatment.

“I didn’t intend to go to the media on this,” Hoskins said.

“But frankly, I’ve just had enough.

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Andre WatsonSouth African referees boss Andre Watson is in hot water after several officials voiced complaints against him.

According to reports, a list of grievances was signed by 24 officials. This led to Watson attending a disciplinary hearing.

Some of the grievances are believed to be: verbal abuse, victimisation, Watson’s abrasive management style and financial impropriety.

The newspaper says it was Watson’s fallout with senior referee Rasta Rasivhenge that galvanised the disenchanted. Watson allegedly told Rasivhenge last year: “I’ll f**k you up, I’ll destroy you.”

Rasivhenge has since left South Africa to pursue a refereeing career in Australia.

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Super RugbyThe Vodacom Bulls held onto their leadership of a ferociously contested South African Conference on a weekend of success at the expense of Australian teams.

The Vodacom Bulls maintained their 2-point advantage over the DHL Stormers on the Log – as both recorded bonus point victories over the Reds (43 / 22) and Waratahs (32 / 18) respectively – while the Toyota Cheetahs showed enormous character to finish their tour on a high in Perth, with a win over the Western Force (24 / 15).

In the South African derby at Emirates Airlines Park, the Emirates Lions underlined the seriousness of their challenge for the Conference title with 2-point victory (23 / 21) over a significantly improved Cell C Sharks, who missed a long-range last-kick penalty, which could have snatched the victory.

The upshot of the weekend was that the Top 4 SA teams are separated by just 4 Log Points – in contrast to their fellow conferences where the Hurricanes top the standings as New Zealand’s Top 4 are spread by 11 points, while an even more clear-cut Australian race sees the Brumbies head a Log in which 17 points cover the Top 4 Australian contenders.

3 Of SA’s winners had to overcome halftime deficits to record victories, with the most notable being those of the DHL Stormers and Toyota Cheetahs who achieved it on Australian soil.

However, the margins were small – both trailed by 2 points – while the Emirates Lions turned round 3 points adrift of the Cell C Sharks, as all 3 teams showed fitness and character to ‘win’ the 2nd half.

In the other match, the Vodacom Bulls’ recent home success over the Reds continued, as they stomped to a 6-try victory, with Francois Hougaard scoring 2 tries from the wing to take his tally to 4 for the season and therefore joining Marcell Coetzee as the leading South African try scorers.

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Varsity CupBoth the FNB UFS-Shimlas and FNB-NWU-Pukke will be gunning for their 1st title when they meet in the FNB Varsity Cup presented by Steinhoff International final in Bloemfontein on Monday.

For hosts UFS-Shimlas it will be their 1st-ever final, while NWU-Pukke will be looking for redemption after having the title snatched from them by FNB UCT in dramatic circumstances at home last year.

The 2 teams have taken contrasting routes to the final, with the unbeaten UFS-Shimlas seeing off the defending champion Ikeys in their home semifinal and NWU-Pukke sneaking into the play-offs before knocking out the table-topping FNB UP-Tuks in their Pretoria semifinal.

There was not much to choose between the sides when they met in the Final Round of action before the play-offs, with UFS-Shimlas dominating the 1st half and NWU-Pukke fighting back to clinch the 2 bonus points which secured them 4th spot on the standings.

On top of all that there is the old rivalry between the teams which is well understood by both coaches who experienced the intensity of the Shimlas-Pukke Intervarsity in their playing days.

Franco Smith and Robert du Preez both played for the Springboks, but before that they did duty for the universities they currently coach and are expecting another huge battle on Monday.

Smith has turned the UFS-Shimlas’ fortunes around dramatically in his 1st season in charge, and he is expecting an electric atmosphere at Shimla Park with far more than just bragging rights at stake.

“The excitement around it has been enormous, a lot of old Shimlas have got involved again so there is a lot of hype in Bloemfontein around the home final.

“I have been involved previously in my career in a lot of these intervarsities and there is a big sense of that in Bloemfontein, it has definitely added a bit of spice to what is already a big game,” he said.

Du Preez is expecting a strong contingent of NWU-Pukke supporters to make the trip down to Bloemfontein with his side and create an occasion to rival anything from the past.

“I believe there are a lot of supporters going down which is always nice. Even from my days when I played the Pukke-Shimlas intervarsities were great affairs, and this one won’t be any different,” he said.

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Vodacom CupIt was business as usual at the top of the North and South Section logs with 4 of the top 5 in the divisions recording victories, to remain on course for home play-off’s.

The ‘best’ result of the day was secured by North Section leaders, the Xerox Golden Lions, who recorded a hard-fought 24 / 16 victory over the Steval Pumas, the only team among the top 5 not to win, having started Round 5 in 2nd place.

The Lions’ 5th successive win allowed the Vodacom Blue Bulls to leapfrog the Steval Pumas into 2nd position on the North Section Log, courtesy of a 44 / 0 victory in Windhoek.

In the South, DHL Western Province and GWK Griquas both maintained their 100% records with their 3rd successive victories, the former edging the EP Kings by 6 points in Port Elizabeth while GWK Griquas had an easier time of it, beating the Border Bulldogs by 12 in Hartswater.

The Toyota Free State Cheetahs XV stayed in contention in the South Section with a 35 / 18 win over the Cell C Sharks XV in Kokstad, while in the North the Hino Valke recorded their 1st victory at the 4th attempt, with a 38 / 17 victory over the Down Touch Griffons.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

An elated DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee heaped the praise on his coaching team and all the players in the aftermath of their excellent 32 / 18 Vodacom Super Rugby win over the defending champion Waratahs earlier today.

The DHL Stormers overturned a 13 / 15 half-time deficit to record their 1st tour win of 2015 against the reigning champs – also scoring 4 tries in the process in Sydney.

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Super RugbyIt is Round 9 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There is only 1 game on Friday 10 April but we have 5 games on Saturday 11 April.

The Melbourne Rebels, Chiefs & Hurricanes have BYE weekends.

There is 1 South African derby on the weekend, between the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks, with 2 SA sides currently on tour and the Vodacom Bulls also playing inside South Africa on the weekend.

Only 1 undefeated team still remains prior to the start of the weekend, the Hurricanes, and they celebrate their 2nd BYE weekend this weekend.

On Friday, the lone game is the one between the Blues and Brumbies in Auckland, at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT).

On Saturday morning the Ccrusaders host the Highlanders in Christchurch at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT), whereafter the Waratahs will host the DHL Stormers in Sydney at 11:40 SA Time (19:40 AEST, 09:40 GMT).

Slightly later and a couple of hours in time zones to the West – in Perth at 13:45 SA Time, the Western Force host the Toyota Cheetahs.

Next up, at 17:05 SA Time (15:05 GMT), the Emirayes Lions host the Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg, before the last game of the Round where the Vodacom Bulls host the Reds in Pretoria at 19:10 SA Time (17:10 GMT, Sunday 03:10 AEST).

The Brumbies should beat the Blues, even in the Blues backyard of Auckland on Friday.

On Saturday one would suspect that the high-flying Crusaders will beat the Highlanders in Christchurch (after they so thoroughly dismantled the Sharks last weekend in Durban).

Waratahs or DHL Stormers? Well, I suppose the advantage should go to the home team… the Waratahs.

In Perth another difficult game to pick a winner for… will it be the bottom-dwelling Western Force or the also-bottom-dwelling Toyota Cheetahs to appear victorious? Your guess is as good as mine.

The Emirates Lions vs Sharks game is probably shaping up to be the game of the weekend and once again the question is asked who will be victorious… the flying Lions or the back-paddling “Gold-fish” (Cell C Sharks)… surely the Sharks have always or almost always had the Lions’ measure… and why should 2015 be so different?

In Pretoria all logic would suggest that the Bulls should beat the Rubble Reds.. and convincingly so, but the Bulls are still resting key players and often flatter to deceive in recent years!

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

Cell C Sharks boss Gary Gold said if he had the choice he would not be resting veteran Springboks Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira against a formidable Lions scrum this weekend.

Gold has made a number of changes to the team that will travel up to Johannesburg to take on South Africa’s form team this weekend.

Some of these changes are enforced due to injury, some because of suspension and others the result of a selection rethink.

However, Gold seems least pleased about the fact that he needs to rest his key front row Springboks in accordance with SARU’s player management initiative.

“If I had an opportunity to play Jannie and Beast this weekend, I would,” Gold said ahead of the trip up to Ellis Park.

“These are decisions that were made at a higher level, and as bizarre as they are, they were made, and as much as I can stick to them, I am going to try and stick to them.”

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Super RugbyWith only 2 points separating 4 of the South African franchises on the Vodacom Super Rugby log after 8 weeks of play, Round 9 of the competition will again be crucial for local teams, with the derby in Johannesburg between the Emirates Lions and Cell C Sharks set to attract huge interest from spectators.

The remaining 3 South African sides play Australian opponents on Saturday, with the DHL Stormers taking on the Waratahs in Sydney, the Toyota Cheetahs playing the Western Force in Perth and the Vodacom Bulls closing out a big weekend of rugby in their Pretoria clash against the Reds.

The DHL Stormers will be looking for a 1st tour win against the defending champion Waratahs, knowing that the home side has won 12 of their last 13 matches in Sydney, with a victory margin of 18 points per match.

The Toyota Cheetahs will still be chasing a 1st overseas win in 2015, when they close out their tour against the Western Force at the NIB Stadium in Perth. The Cheetahs have won at this venue in the past, but will have to defend like never before.

They average the most missed tackles in the competition, while the home side maintains the best tackling success rate (90%).

The Emirates Lions host the Cell C Sharks at Emirates Airline Park in the only South African derby of the weekend, which is expected to be a fiercely contested clash. The home team is well aware that a win could push them into 1st place in the South African conference, albeit that the Vodacom Bulls could again overhaul them later in the evening.

The Cell C Sharks will be desperate to put their recent misfortunes behind them and win away from home.

The Vodacom Bulls take on the Reds, who despite not having the greatest of seasons, have a good record against the Loftus Versfeld team, winning 10 of their 16 encounters. Continue reading

Vodacom CupThe intensity of the Vodacom Cup is expected to rise significantly this weekend as the pool stages reach the halfway stage and the reality sets in for the teams that only 4 Rounds remain for them to secure their places in the final stages.

The main match-up in the North Section will be in Nelspruit on Saturday where log-leaders the Xerox Golden Lions go up against the Steval Pumas in a table-topping clash, while in the South Section GWK Griquas will look to close in on DHL Western Province on the log table.

The unbeaten DHL Western Province will travel to Port Elizabeth to take on the EP Kings on Saturday, which could prove to be a tight encounter, but GWK Griquas, who have also won both of their matches, will be hoping to make the most of their clash against the Border Bulldogs, who have yet to secure a log point this season, in Kimberley.

In the other South Section clashes, the Boland Cavaliers host the SWD Eagles in Wellington on Friday and the Cell C Sharks XV go up against the Toyota Free State XV in Kokstad on Saturday in what could be a hard-fought battle.

In the North Section, the Down Touch Griffons host the Hino Valke in Welkom, and the FNB Welwitschias meet the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Windhoek on Friday, where the hosts will look to register their 1st victory.

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Marco Wentzel

Marco Wentzel

Cell C Sharks Director of Rugby Gary Gold has made a number of changes to his team to take on the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg this Saturday, welcoming back 2 players from injury to bolster his side.

Etienne Oosthuizen and Willem Alberts have both returned from injury lay-offs and the pair will start their return to rugby making an impact off the bench.

Odwa Ndungane has been named at fullback, replacing SP Marias who gets a rest after starting all 8 matches to date. This sees the return of S’bura Sithole on the wing, with Fred Zeilinga replacing the injured Pat Lambie at flyhalf in the final change to the backline.

Upfront, there is an overhaul with Lourens Adriaanse, Franco Marais and Dale Chadwick packing down in the front row, after Jannie du Plessis and Beast Mtawarira were rested, while Renaldo Bothma replaces Jean Deysel at blindside flank in the final change.

Marco Wentzel has been named Captain.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 2 changes to his starting team that will take on the Reds in a Vodacom Super Rugby clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss is given a rest in compliance the Springbok rest agreement with the 5e franchises and Callie Visagie will start in the No 2 jersey. This will be Visagie’s 1st start of the season. His place on the bench will be taken by Jaco Visagie, who on 2 previous occasions this season did bench duty.

The other change from the side that came up short in Johannesburg against the Emirates Lions is at flank, where a fit-again Arno Botha will replace Hanro Liebenberg. Botha recovered from a hamstring strain, with Liebenberg replacing Roelof Smit on the bench.

Another new face on the bench is that of Flip van der Merwe, who replaces Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg. Van der Merwe missed the 1st half of the season due to a pectoral muscle tear, but is keen to add to his 72 caps in the competition.

“It is great to have Flip back,” Ludeke said.

“He does not only provide a physical presence and some real grunt up front, he is also an important leader in the squad and with Victor Matfield out for a couple of weeks, Flip’s return could not come at a better time. “

The coach also opted to give Handré Pollard and Jan Serfontein another week off, with the latter also rested due to theSARU arrangement.

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BlitzbokkeThe Springbok Sevens have returned to South Africa following their participation in the latest rounds of the HSBC Sevens World Series in Hong Kong and Tokyo.

The squad underwent their usual medical assessment at their training camp on Wednesday, and apart from Philip Snyman and Stephan Dippenaar who both returned home with injuries last week from the Far East, no further injuries were reported.

Snyman sustained a knee ligament injury on the 2nd day in Hong Kong and he was replaced by Carel du Preez, who made his Springbok Sevens debut in Tokyo. The estimated recovery period for Snyman is 4 to 6 weeks.

His team-mate Stephan Dippenaar, meanwhile, picked up a mild hamstring injury on the last day of the Hong Kong event and was replaced by Ruhan Nel. He is expected to be back in action in 2 to 4 weeks.

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