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SA Rugby

Jacques-Louis Potgieter

Jacques-Louis Potgieter

Vodacom Blue Bulls pivot Jacques-Louis Potgieter is confident his team has the right game plan to win playoffs as they prepare for their Absa Currie Cup semifinal against DHL Western Province at Newlands on Saturday.

Potgieter believes the momentum the Bulls have built up, coupled with their game plan will be enough to get his side over the semifinal hurdle against their old rivals.

The Bulls will head down to Cape Town as massive underdogs this weekend, having lost both their league games against Province this year and having very little to counter the Cape side’s expansive game when the teams have met.

But the turnaround came precisely after the Bulls lost their game against Province at Loftus Versfeld and despite a stutter against the Sharks, the Bulls have been steadily building after a poor start to the season to find themselves sneaking into the semifinals and now believe they can go the whole way.

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Robbie Fleck

Robbie Fleck

Western Province backline coach Robbie Fleck says they are well aware of the threat Handré Pollard could pose in their Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands on Saturday.

Pollard, who starred at flyhalf for the Springboks in the recent Rugby Championship, is allowed to play in the Currie Cup because he is not a contracted Bok.

“Handre is playing with a lot of confidence and brings his team-mates into play. We’ll have to be aware of that,” Fleck said. “He is an exceptional player having a stellar season.”

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GriffonsValkeThere will be a lot more than prize money and bragging rights at stake for the Down Touch Griffons and Valke in the Absa Currie Cup First Division final in Welkom on Friday as the teams meet in the final for the first time in the competition’s history.

The Down Touch Griffons have won the title only once since the competition’s inception in 2000, and that was against the Leopards in 2008, while the Valke, Vodacom Cup champions in 2006, will make history if they were to emerge victorious as it would mark their maiden First Division title.

The winner will walk away with R1,054m, while the runner up will receive a cheque of R527000 for their efforts this season. The First Division final will be preceded by the Absa Under-19 B Division final between the Valke and Boland and the Absa Under-21 B Division final between the EP Kings and SWD respectively.

In the main game, the teams will be careful to underestimate one another as they will enter the final with a win a piece in their round-robin matches this season. In their first meeting in July, the Down Touch Griffons registered a 29-20 victory against the Valke in Welkom, while the Valke won the second match 36-27 in Kempton Park last month.

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CheetahsCheetahs coach Naka Drotske has named a larger training group ahead of next year’s Super Rugby competition.

According to reports, there are nine new recruits and two Under 21 players in the squad.

Wing Sergeal Petersen, utility back Joe Pietersen, No 8 Willie Britz, centre JW Jonker, prop BG Uys, flank Devin Oosthuizen, utility back Coenie van Wyk, prop Danie Mienie and flyhalf Clinton Swart are the newcomers in the 55-man squad.

Youngsters Nico Lee (centre) and Tienie Burger (flank) were also added as newcomers.

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Siya Kolisi

Fuelled by the enjoyment factor having returned to his game, Springbok flank Siya Kolisi has listed regaining his Stormers starting berth as first target for 2015.

This was among the 23-year-old’s revelations.

The current year has been an awkward one for Kolisi, marked first by a loss of form in the Super Rugby season and then a new injury midway through the Currie Cup just as he was regaining his zest and best form.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Springbok No 8 Duane Vermeulen and the Commonwealth Games gold medal winning Springbok Sevens team have been nominated for South African Sports Awards, the Department of Sport and Recreation South African (SRSA) announced on Wednesday.

Vermeulen has been nominated in the category of Sports Star of the Year. He will be up against Ernst van Dyk (wheelchair marathon athlete), Chad le Clos (swimming), Portia Modise (soccer), Khotso Mokoena (track & field) and AB de Villiers (cricket).

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Thelo WakefieldThe Western Province Rugby Union wants to persuade the South African Rugby Union to hand Newlands the Springboks / All Blacks Rugby Championship Test next year.

This comes after SANZAR on Monday issued a release revealing that the Springboks will tackle the All Blacks at a South African venue to be decided on Saturday, 25 July.

It will be part of a curtailed, single-round Rugby Championship for the first time since its inception in 2012, a situation brought about by the priority given to next year’s World Cup in England and Wales from September.

The Boks play both the defending champion All Blacks and Argentina (Saturday, 8 August) at home, with their only overseas obligation being against Australia in Brisbane (Saturday, 18 July).

WP president Thelo Wakefield said that they will send a letter to SARU president Oregan Hoskins to consider handing the All Blacks Test to Newlands.

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Elton Jantjies

Elton Jantjies

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies is enjoying life on and off the field at Japanese club NTT Shining Arcs.

The Lions flyhalf headed to the Far East after Super Rugby and has settled in nicely at his new team.

At the Shining Arcs, he features alongside former All Blacks lock Isaac Ross and former Lions team-mate and USA captain Todd Clever, while he has developed a great relationship with the local players.

Jantjies has also emerged as a pivotal player for the club. He has featured in all their games this season, helping them to four wins from six as they aim to qualify for the league playoffs and All-Japan Championship knockouts.

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Currie CupDHL Western Province will host the Vodacom Blue Bulls in Cape Town and the Xerox Golden Lions will face the Cell C Sharks in Johannesburg in the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division semifinals next weekend.

Log-leaders DHL Western Province were assured of their home semifinal and the top spot on the log before entering the final round of pool matches this weekend, while the Xerox Golden Lions sealed their home semifinal by thumping the Toyota Free State Cheetahs. The victory for the Johannesburg team was enough to cancel out any efforts by the Cell C Sharks for the second spot on the log.

In the weekend’s matches, the EP Kings registered their first victory of the season as they pipped the Steval Pumas 26-25 in Port Elizabeth, while the Xerox Golden Lions thumped the Toyota Free State Cheetahs 47-7 at Ellis Park, the Cell C Sharks defeated DHL Western Province 28-20 in Cape Town and the Vodacom Blue Bulls beat GWK Griquas 46-12 in Pretoria.

The Xerox Golden Lions will meet the Cell C Sharks in the first semifinal on Saturday, October 18, at 14:30 SA Time and DHL Western Province will go up against the Vodacom Blue Bulls at 17:00 SA Time.

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WP coach Allister Coetzee says that his team wont be changing their attacking gameplan for the Currie Cup semi-final against the Blue Bulls.

Western Province beat the Blue Bulls in both league games this season, and that is why coach Allister Coetzee says that his team won’t be changing their attacking gameplan for a more conservative one in Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands.

In fact, since Coetzee took over the WP Currie Cup team in 2008, they have lost only once to the Blue Bulls at Newlands, although it was a big one – the 2009 semi-final, when Morné Steyn slotted a late penalty for a 21-19 win.

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WhistleThe two REFEREES for the Currie Cup Premier Division Semi-Finals of 2014 have been revealed.

Jaco van Heerden will take charge of the first Semi-Final between the Xerox Golden Lions and Cell C Sharks at Ellis Park (kick-off at 14:30 SA Time).

Van Heerden will be assisted by Ben Crouse and Sieg van Staden, while Johan Greeff will be the TMO.

Pro Legoete will handle duties in the second Semi-Final at Newlands between DHL Western Province and the Vodacom Blue Bulls (kick-off at 17:00 SA Time).

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New Zealand

New Zealand will head into next year’s Rugby Championship as title-holders

Australia will play New Zealand twice in a week as part of their preparation for the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The draw for the condensed 2015 Rugby Championship sees champions New Zealand host Argentina in Christchurch but travelling to South Africa and Australia.

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South AfricaIt is unlikely that the Springboks will rest a few key forwards for their year-end tour to Europe.

According to reports on Sunday, there will be no respite for stalwarts like Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira, Adriaan Strauss, Bismarck du Plessis and Duane Vermeulen as Boks aim to pick their best possible team for the tour.

The Boks play four Tests back-to-back against Ireland (Dublin, 8 November), England (London, 15 November), Italy (Padova, 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff, 29 November).

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

Flyhalf Morne Steyn will not tour with the Springboks on their upcoming trip to Europe, a report on Sunday suggested.

According to the report, only two flyhalves – Handré Pollard and Pat Lambie – will be picked for the tour which includes Tests against Ireland (Dublin, 8 November), England (London, 15 November), Italy (Padova, 22 November) and Wales (Cardiff, 29 November).

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

The Bulls suffered a serious injury blow in the first half of their 46-12 victory over the Griquas with inside centre Burger Odendaal – possibly the find of the season for the Bulls – leaving the field clutching his arm.

Ludeke said Odendaal possibly suffered a fracture which would rule him out for the playoffs and leave a dent in the midfield.

The Blue Bulls may have made a stuttering start to their season, but they finished the Currie Cup round-robin stage with a flourish against the Griquas in their at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

Their performance may suggest the Light Blues were peaking at the right time, though they still had two more hurdles to overcome to claim the coveted title for the first time in four years starting with their semifinal clash against Western Province in Cape Town next Saturday.

“We feel things are starting to come together, and we would like to make sure that we put everything together next week with a good performance there,” Ludke said.

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Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

It’s a sort of homecoming, with apologies to U2, as Handre Pollard returns to his Western Cape roots for an Absa Currie Cup semi-final on Saturday.

The former Paarl Gym flyhalf, born in Somerset West but shrewdly snapped up as a teenager by the Blue Bulls in 2012 despite Western Province insisting they did everything they could to hold onto the wunderkind, seems a betting certainty to start for his adopted province in a classic “South v North” derby at Newlands (17:00).

Pollard, who has supposedly been nursing a niggle or two from his often heroic exertions in the Castle Rugby Championship, only underlined in a few late minutes off the bench against Griquas at Loftus on Saturday just what a tremendous prospect he is at the still pretty tender age of 20.

Not only did he register a try of his own against the predictably outmuscled visitors with a sizzling inside step and then power surge over the line, but the exciting new Springbok also produced two cunning chips in attacking play – one of which directly led to a touchdown by veteran wing Akona Ndungane.

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Tendai 'Beast' Mtawarira

Tendai ‘Beast’ Mtawarira

South Africa finished second overall courtesy of their Ellis Park derring-do against New Zealand, and for but five points, the collective margin of defeat against the Wallabies in Perth and All Blacks in Wellington, it could have been a massive celebration for the team.

Admittedly the eventual champions boasted a 49-point difference advantage over the Springboks, but if the South African’s 4-2 ledger had been 5-1 (bonus points wouldn’t have come into the equation), the trophy would be theirs.

The victory is Meyer’s 24th in 33 Tests (a 73% winning mark), closes the gap in the IRB rankings (versus one and two) to just over two points, while the Republic boasts nearly a five point advantage over newly promoted England in third.

South Africa’s four wins and two losses equalled their return from last season, and their overall ten victories in The Rugby Championship’s history over 18 Tests gives them a three win lead over Australia (from 2012-2014) and second over the last three years (All Blacks 16-1-1).

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WhistleThe International Rugby Board has announced the match official appointments for upcoming November internationals.

Appointments were made by the IRB Match Official Selection Committee at its recent meeting in Dublin and follow a detailed review of recent performances during the June international window, The Rugby Championship and other matches.

South Africa’s Craig Joubert will kick off a busy month of Tests as teams and officials begin the countdown to Rugby World Cup 2015, when he takes charge of the New Zealand v USA fixture at Soldier Field in Chicago on November 1.

Steve Walsh will be the man in the middle for England’s match with the Springboks and Nigel Owens will officiate at Stade de France when Les Bleus take on Australia, as well as refereeing New Zealand’s visit to Twickenham. Wayne Barnes has been appointed to Wales v New Zealand in Cardiff, while Ireland v Australia in Dublin will be refereed by Glen Jackson. Jérôme Garces will be in charge when the Wallabies take on England and will be in Padova on November 22 to referee Italy v South Africa.

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GriffonsThere will be no promotion-relegation matches in 2014, but the the winners of this year’s Currie Cup First Division will bag R1,054m for their efforts.

The First Division final will be contested between the Griffons and Falcons in Welkom next Friday evening.

The runners up will receive R527 000.

The South African Rugby Union (SARU) has confirmed that there will be no promotion-relegation matches this year, but should Griquas or the Pumas finish in seventh spot on the Currie Cup Premier Division log, then there will again be a qualifying competition in 2015 between the six First Division teams as well as the seventh-place team in the Premier Division.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks play their final pool match of the 2014 Absa Currie Cup ahead of the play-offs when they take on Western Province at Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday, aiming for a big performance.

Enjoying some great form at the moment, they will want to maintain that continuity as the competition heads into next week’s semi-finals, a place in the knock-outs already guaranteed.

They will be bolstered by the return of Cobus Reinach who featured in the Springboks’ Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign. The lightening quick scrum-half is one of a number of changes this week.

The unfortunately season-ending injury to Paul Jordaan necessitates a midfield reshuffle, with S’bura Sithole shifting from wing to outside centre to form a powerful partnership with Andre Esterhuizen.

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GWK GriquasA host of injuries has forced Griquas coach Hawies Fourie to select players out of position ahead of their final round-robin Currie Cup fixture against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

“Injuries have plagued us this year,” Fourie said.

“It is a problem with which any union struggles, but we’ve gotten the short end of the stick this year. It makes preparations very difficult and it disrupts any momentum we might have had.”

Locks Hilton Lobberts and Boela Serfontein, prop Steph Roberts, flank Carel Greeff and captain Wayne Stevens have all been ruled out with injuries.

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Steval PumasEP KingsAfter 9 straight defeats, the EP Kings are desperate to end their return to the Currie Cup premier rugby division on a high when they host the Pumas in their final clash at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on Friday.

It has been a sobering experience for the Kings players, who have been competitive at times but have not managed to produce the sort of consistency throughout the 80 minutes needed to match, much less beat, the big guns.

Now they face another team who have had lean pickings lately, but they know the Pumas, still with an outside chance of making the semis, will produce a massive onslaught to try to stay in the running.

Kings forwards coach Shaun Sowerby said it was essential for the Kings to put together a complete performance for the entire match to have any chance of winning.

“At times we have been good this season but we need a consistent effort throughout the match to pull off a victory,” Sowerby said.

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Jaco Taute

Jaco Taute

Western Province have reacted quickly to a drunken episode in Bloemfontein at the weekend, following their 34-29 victory over the Cheetahs.

Centre Jaco Taute is believed to have over-indulged in the fruits of the vine and went on a rampage that included harassing hotel guests as well as breaking a computer in the hotel’s lobby.

On Thursday, WP Media Manager Howard Kahn, said that the incident had been investigated and the necessary steps were taken.

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Nizaam Carr

Star DHL Western Province loose-forward Nizaam Carr won’t be playing in his team’s final Absa Currie Cup league match, but there is good reason for him to want to pull out something special for the play-off matches that will follow.

While the contracted Springboks won’t be playing in the deciding stages of the domestic competition, that does not mean that Bok coach Heyneke Meyer and national selectors Peter Jooste and Ian McIntosh won’t be studying the games closely.

The days may be gone where you select Boks out of the Currie Cup, but it can be used to confirm form shown in Super Rugby earlier in the year, and it just so happens that there will be a window of opportunity for new players on the upcoming November tour.

A squad of 36 will be selected in the week of the Currie Cup final for the four match tour, which starts on 8 November with a match against Ireland in Dublin and concludes three weeks later with a test against Wales at the Millennium Stadium in Cardiff. For that last match, the Boks will be losing as many as eight or nine overseas-based players from the selection equation because it falls outside of the IRB’s stipulated international window.

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Super RugbyThe race to become the 18th Super Rugby franchise in 2016 took an intriguing twist on Wednesday.

According to media reports Japan and Singapore, the contestants in the two-horse race, are going to put their names in the same hat and share the games.

If the reports, quoting various sources, are to be believed, Japan have stolen the march on rival Singapore – but only because they offered to host matches in Singapore.

This, they believe, will negate concerns from South Africa about additional travel times.

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Vodacom Blue BullsVodacom Blue Bulls coach Frans Ludeke recalled two Springboks and a Junior Springbok to his starting backline to play GWK Griquas in Pretoria on Saturday, whilst also including Bok pivot Handré Pollard on the bench.

In a re-jigged backline Junior Bok William Small-Smith (for Bok contracted JJ Engelbrecht), Bjorn Basson (for Sampie Mastriet) and Piet van Zyl (rotating with Rudy Paige) will start, while Marcel van der Merwe will wear the number three jersey in place of Werner Kruger in one of three changes from the pack that beat Steval Pumas last weekend.

Bongi Mbonambi is back again in the two jumper with Callie Visagie benched and Morne Mellett will start at loosehead in place of Dean Greyling.

Pollard will be brought into the game when needed, Ludeke said.

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DHL WPExperienced prop Brok Harris will captain DHL Western Province in their final league match of the 2014 Absa Currie Cup season – against the Sharks at DHL Newlands on Saturday (kick-off 17:05 SA Time).

DHL Western Province have already qualified for a home semifinal, by virtue of their top of the log finish with a game in hand, and head coach Allister Coetzee has handed starts to captain Harris, fit-again Springbok hooker Tiaan Liebenberg and flyhalf Kurt Coleman, who will make his 50th appearance for Province.

Harris, who will be leaving Western Province at the end of the season – after eight years in the Cape, has played 117 matches for DHL Western Province and 93 for the DHL Stormers.

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Xerox Golden LionsXerox Golden Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has named his team to take on the Toyota Free State Cheetahs at Ellis Park this Saturday.

In the forwards, Derick Minnie will start at flank and Warren Whiteley has returned from Springbok duty to start at eighthman. He will also captain the side.

As a result of these changes, Warwick Tecklenburg and Willie Britz will shift to the bench to provide cover.

Meanwhile, in the backline, Howard Mnisi will get a start at inside centre. Harold Vorster will provide centre cover off the wood.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

While the Springboks must be commended for ending their Rugby Championship campaign with consecutive home victories, it’s important to remain performance rather than results-driven.

I believe it’s fair to say that most of us view rugby games through a retrospective scope, which effectively means that the final result fundamentally informs our thought patterns and opinions.

Although the Springboks whipped the All Blacks in the first half, the reality is that had referee Wayne Barnes not gone upstairs to the TMO, having being probed by the matchday producer, captain Jean de Villiers and the partisan home crowd, the Springboks could easily have lost the Ellis Park test.

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