Considering the amount of Toyota Cheetahs that are leaving for greener pastures, Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby clash against the Cell C Sharks may be the last time that their fans may see them in their orange and white strip before joining new teams.
And since it is their last home Super Rugby game of the season, coach Naka Drotske has included all his stars for the clash to try and score a win against in the local derby.
No less than eight Springboks are back in action for the team after spending the last month with the Springboks and Trevor Nyakane, captain Adriaan Strauss, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, lock Lood de Jager, utility forward Teboho Mohoke, flyhalf Johan Goosen, wing Cornal Hendricks and fullback Willie le Roux all return to the side for the clash.
Handre Pollard is not your typical Bulls flyhalf and when he is in control, the Bulls become a different creature all together.
Pollard has enjoyed a meteoric rise to stardom culminating in a starting No 10 spot for the Springboks against Scotland on the weekend.
Now, as he returns to Pretoria to get ready for his first senior match in his home province at Newlands, against the Stormers, Pollard is already causing a lot of head-scratching in the Cape.
The Bulls have always been a powerful yet predictable side, especially when it comes to the flyhalf’s role.
Former Springbok and Bulls loose forward Burger Geldenhuys fears the Pretoria side may struggle at the breakdowns against the Stormers at Newlands this weekend.
With Jacques du Plessis out with a broken jaw, and Deon Stegmann still sidelined with a groin injury, the Bulls will tackle the Stormers with a slightly make-shift loose trio.
Grant Hattingh, Jacques Engelbrecht and Jono Ross are likely to have their hands full on the ground. None of them are renowned for being great ball fetchers.
Do the business in Bloemfontein on Saturday night … then warm up the Sunday morning coffee smartly and become temporary Highlanders enthusiasts for 80 minutes.
Those ought to be key items on the Sharks’ to-do list this weekend as Super Rugby 2014 enters its penultimate round of ordinary-season play.
Director of rugby Jake White will be aware of the potential hazard of putting the cart before the horse, and drum into his charges that victory against the Cheetahs in a domestic derby is very much the main target.
But if they manage that, their attention will undoubtedly turn pretty smartly to a Sunday morning cracker (in SA time-zone terms, at 08:05) between the log-leading Waratahs and New Zealand-based playoffs challengers the Highlanders in Sydney.
With only two matches left in the round-robin stage of the 2014 Super Rugby competition, the Lions will be looking to finish with a flourish to complete one of their best seasons.
Coach Johan Ackermann said on Tuesday his team would be looking to bow out of this year’s edition with seven victories but they would first have to move past their first challenge against the Rebels in Johannesburg on Friday.
“After the break, these two games are almost a campaign on its own and in rugby you only get remembered for the last game you played,” Ackermann said at the team announcement on Tuesday.
“And if we don’t do well in the last two games, the Super Rugby season will be remembered as not being too good. The opposite side of the coin is that if we win the games, we can look back on a good season with a few mistakes.”
Who Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer earmarks as his flyhalf at the outset of the Championship next month could also have a major bearing on which scrumhalf he chooses to plug the unfortunate Fourie du Preez gap.
Incumbent No 9 and still world-class customer Du Preez, 32, was confirmed on Tuesday as having an ankle injury serious enough for him to ruled out of the entire southern hemisphere tournament.
Given his vast, 70-cap experience and precious ability to read and control a game better than most other South African scrumhalves right now, the loss of Du Preez certainly dents the Boks’ chances of ousting New Zealand from their status as defending champions, even if there have been enough positives in other departments of late to suggest they’ll be seriously competitive nevertheless.
The veteran was just beginning to benefit from a decent run of international matches – important given that he plies his franchise trade in the much more modest arena of Japanese club rugby now – in the June window, looking increasingly more like the character who helped drive the World Cup 2007 success.
Sharks lock Anton Bresler has signed a three-year deal with Scottish side, Edinburgh.
Edinburgh, who are coached by South African Alan Solomons, announced the news via their official website on Wednesday.
Bresler, who has played 39 Super Rugby games for the Sharks, will join his new team after the completion of this year’s Super Rugby competition.
Schalk Burger returns to the DHL Stormers line up as captain for this weekend’s match against the Bulls in Cape Town.
Burger who was in fine form for the Springboks in the June test series returns after missing the Stormers last game through injury. Springbok Sevens star Seabelo Senatla comes into the match day 22 for what looks to be his Super Rugby debut for the Cape based franchise. Senatla gets the nod due to Kobus Van Wyk not being available through injury.
Injuries have necessitated some positional shifts with Sailosi Tagicakibau lining up in the 13 jersey and Juan De Jongh will play at 12 in the absence of injured Bok newcomer Damian De Allende.
The South African Conference resumes this weekend in Round 18, after watching the Australian and New Zealand franchises in action which ensured that there is likely to be only one team from the Republic in the finals.
The Sharks, long guaranteed the South African Conference, will finish in the top three while two more victories will ensure that Jake White’s team finish in the top two position and lock up a home Semi Final.
The Bulls still have an outside chance of reaching the Finals Series, but their hopes were dealt a blow with a 32-21 loss to the Lions before the June break.
The Stormers have become one of the premier spoilers in Super Rugby so far, while the Lions and Cheetahs have likely already begun planning for the Currie Cup and 2015 season.
Fourie du Preez will miss the Castle Lager Rugby Championship following an ankle injury sustained by the Springbok scrumhalf in last Saturday’s 55-6 Test victory over Scotland in Port Elizabeth.
Du Preez left the field in the first half of the Test. He was sent for x-rays immediately afterwards and went for an MRI scan in Pretoria on Monday, which confirmed earlier suspicions of an anterior syndesmotic injury. He will be sidelined for at least three months.
“It’s a massive blow to lose yet another world-class player and a key player due to an injury,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. “Fourie is also a dynamic leader and one of the vice-captains in our team and his injury is a huge setback.”
Jean de Villiers’s good nature in terms of positional flexibility may be exploited once again in a few weeks’ time.
The first-choice Springbok captain, who missed the entire June window period due to a knee injury, is an estimated four weeks away from a return to full fitness, which gives him a reasonable chance of being ready – albeit rather undercooked in match sharpness – for the Castle Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Loftus on 16 August.
His status was confirmed as the Stormers on Monday issued an update on various sidelined players, some of whom will be available for consideration for Saturday’s Super Rugby derby against the Bulls at Newlands.
Both De Villiers and franchise colleague Damian de Allende, another midfielder who had cracked the Bok squad nod a few weeks ago only to be quickly struck down by wretchedly inconvenient injury himself, remain a few weeks out from renewed activity.
DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee adopted a different approach to his former Springbok management colleague Jake White during the break from Vodacom Super Rugby for the June internationals.
While White had his Cell C Sharks players play club rugby in the last weeks of the break so they don’t hit the remaining phase of the season cold, Coetzee’s players haven’t played in any matches since the win over the Sharks in Durban on the last day of May. The only players to see action in June were the Springboks.
However, the Stormers shouldn’t expect to take any cobwebs into Saturday’s big derby match against the Vodacom Bulls at Newlands as in the two weeks back in training after the taking the first two weeks off, the Stormers have been steadily upping the intensity in training.
The Vodacom Bulls are set to hand Super Rugby debuts to two young players this weekend when they head to Cape Town for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the DHL Stormers at Newlands.
Both SA Under 20 lock Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg and Tuks flank Roelof Smit are likely to be among the reserves as the Bulls look to patch up the cracks left by injuries after a long and arduos Super Rugby season.
And there will be no rest for the weary. As predicted the Bulls will use all their Springboks for the game which they need to win with a bonus point to continue their mathematical hope of making the playoffs.
The Cheetahs will not able to call on the services of Heinrich Brüssow for their Super Rugby clash against the Sharks in Bloemfontein on Saturday.
Coach Naka Drotské said that the loose forward is still struggling with a groin injury and won’t be risked for the game.
Philip van der Walt (hand) and Jean Cook (shoulder) are ready for action again, while Oupa Mohoje has also returned from the Springboks.
The Cell C Sharks will return to Vodacom Super Rugby action this coming weekend one position lower on the log than they were when they went into the June break, but there is plenty of reason for them to be optimistic about their chances of going all the way to the title.
While the Sharks were out on their feet when the June international window arrived, as evidenced by their lame performance in the narrow home loss to the DHL Stormers, the break may have come at just the right time for them. During the off period they have welcomed Patrick Lambie and Anton Bresler back to training, while Jean Deysel is now over his suspension that was incurred for the stomping incident that saw him being sent off against the Crusaders in Christchurch.
Willem Alberts, one of the players who was looking tired before the break, had the week off from international duty last weekend because of the concussion that forced him off the field in the second test against Wales. He should be relatively refreshed when he does return, be it this week against the Toyota Cheetahs in Bloemfontein or next week against the Stormers in Cape Town.
The Vodacom Bulls could have snapped up the signing of the year locally as Springbok hooker and Toyota Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss looks set to be heading back to Pretoria.
Strauss is yet to sign the contract, and the Bulls could only open negotiations with him today – 1 July – but sources close to the Cheetahs camp have confirmed that Strauss has already said no to a contract extension with his province and now seems set on returning to Pretoria.
The Grey College graduate, who played his junior rugby in Pretoria and made his Vodacom Super Rugby debut there as well, before returning to the Cheetahs is being chased as well by the Stormers, who also have made a big money offer to sign him.
But it seems the Bulls have won the race, with indications that the deal could be finalised this week already and that Strauss will be a possible captain for the Bulls in next year’s Super Rugby series.
Springbok and Cheetahs prop Trevor Nyakane may be on his way to the Cape to play for Western Province and the Stormers.
The Bulls were also keen to sign Nyakane, but it now seems the Capetonians may have won the battle for his signature.
SANZAR has released the names of the Match Officials for Round 18 of Super Rugby 2014.
Nick Briant starts the action at Waikato Stadium when the Chiefs host the Hurricanes on Friday at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 07:35 GMT) .
This weekend sees 7 matches, with 2 on Friday, 4 on Saturday and 1 game on Sunday.
The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.
After this Round, a full 113 matches would already have been played in Super Rugby 2014.
Springbok lock forward Franco van der Merwe has recovered fully from the ankle injury that forced him to miss much of the Lions’ Super Rugby campaign, and has been drafted straight in to the starting side by head coach Johan Ackermann for Friday nights clash against the Rebels at Ellis Park.
The big Springbok’s inclusion will add some most welcome steel to the Lions second row for the clash against the team currently 1 place below the home side on the combined log.
In is a game the Johannesburg based outfit will be desperate to win before faceing the Cheetahs in their final round robin game which may well decide the Wooden Spoonists of the SA conference, Ackermann will be hoping for a dispaly at least as intense as that which saw the Lions to victory over Gauteng neighbours the Bulls just ove a month ago.
The Springbok Sevens team’s hopes of winning a medal at the Commonwealth Sevens could well have been given a blow if indications that Springbok fifteens stars Bryan Habana and Schalk Brits may have to be forced to withdraw by their respective leagues.
While both Brits’ Saracens club and Habana’s Toulon club have given them the go-ahead to be selected for the Games, it seems now that the Premiership and Top14 may well order both to withdraw as the Games falls within the prescribed off period for European rugby.
As both leagues stipulate a strict four week rest period for players during the off season, it is unlikely they will change their minds and Blitzbok coach Neil Powell may well be forced to look elsewhere to bolster his team.
Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth will not feature in this year’s Super Rugby tournament after suffering another injury.
The Springbok lock has been sidelined with an ankle injury since late last year, but was looking forward to returning to action during the latter rounds of Super Rugby.
However, an official injury report released by the Stormers on Monday revealed another injury to Etzebeth.
He has a broken toe, which will keep him out of action for another 2-3 weeks.
Jake White has hinted at a bold strategy to rest his returning Springboks with the Sharks having sewn up the South African conference and guaranteed some play-off rugby already.
The Sharks have an unassailable hold on the South African Conference and cannot finish the tournament any lower than third.
However, the plan is to finish in the top two and earn a direct route to a home semifinal without having to play a qualifying knock-out match.
White has indicated that if they are to really be competitive when it matters, it may require some tactical selection policies.
The Northern Hemisphere has had a distinct advantage going into the annual Junior World Championship, but that may soon evaporate.
South African Under 20 coach, Dawie Theron, said discussions are underway to organise a four-nations Rugby Championship style tournament for juniors.
The reason is that when the Six Nations teams – England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland, France and Italy – get into the play-offs of the IRB JWC they have the experience of a tough competition to fall back on.
The joke is going around that Heyneke Meyer describes everything the Bokke does as “AWESOME“!
Well, the South African public have reason to be AWED by the AWESOME display of the Springboks and their AWESOME coach!
Not only are the Springboks playing a very well-rounded and balanced game, 2 and a half years into Heyneke Meyer’s tenure, but it appears that the Springoks can now call on 40 odd players to do National duty for them at any given time.
Not only do the Springboks have locks of absolute world class to burn, the looseforwards are equally impressive, the midfield options have been greatly bolstered… and the flyhalf stocks are suddenly no concern anymore, with well-rounded performances by Handré Pollard and Marnitz Boshoff.
The biggest problems still for the Springboks, seem to be adequate depth at both loosehead and tighthead prop.
With almost 30 frontline Springboks out with injury and / or not available due to the International Window having closed before the start of the Test on the weekend, the mix-and-match Springboks certainly excelled on the weekend.
The 5 Springbok debutants, Handré Pollard, Marnitz Boshoff, Marcel van der Merwe, Stephan Lewies and Teboho ‘Oupa’ Mohoje also distinguished themselves on the field of play.
At the end of the June Internationals, the Springboks and Heyneke Meyer finally have reason to smile!
Griquas took another giant leap towards regaining their place in the top echelon of the domestic game in South Africa.
The Kimberley-based outfit raced clear at the top of the standings in the Currie Cup qualifying competition, after beating the Griffons 43-24 in the Northwest Stadium in Welkom at the weekend.
Griquas ran in seven tries to accumulate the full five points and now find themselves six points above the second-placed Leopards, who had a bye this weekend.
In other Round Four matches at the weekend the Falcons beat the Border Bulldogs 54-40, while the SWD Eagles edged the Boland Cavaliers 21-17.