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SA Rugby

Super RugbyThis week sees the Super Rugby teams take to the field in a number of pre-season games as the franchises look to get ready for the 2015 season.

In the South African conference there is understandably no cross-conference games, however The Bulls and the Sharks have decided to board the plane for England and France respectively as they take on Saracens and Toulon.

The Bulls will prepare for that match with a hit out against the Cheetahs in their traditional Polokwane warm-up game before flying to France.

The Cheetahs then travel to Cape Town to face off against the Stormers, while a supposed ‘B-team’ stays at home to tackle the Griffons.

The Lions’ pre-season looks to be a muted affair with two games against the Leopards and Varsity Cup team, the Pukke happening on the same day.

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WhistleSuper Rugby starts in a month’s time with a match in Christchurch with Nick Briant to referee it.

SANZAR has released the names of the referees for the first three Rounds.

Briant referees the first match in New Zealand, Angus Garner the first in Australia and Rohan Hoffman the first in South Africa.

Jason Jaftha was injured for 2014 and his fitness needs to be assured for this year.

Marius van der Westhuizen will be refereeing his first Super Rugby match overseas after reaching Super Rugby last year.

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DHL StormersThe DHL Stormers have finished their training camp in Hermanus and have also appointed their leadership for the season.

We also bring news on Nizaam Carr, who did not take part in the training camp but in stead was hospitalised due to a viral infection.

By now, the rumours of Duane Vermeulen’s departure overseas have also been laid to rest, we discuss it below.

Seabelo Senatla, the speedster, will only join the Stormers in a couple of months due to his dual committments with the South African Sevens side, more hereunder.

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Rory Kockott

Rory Kockott

Scott Spedding

Scott Spedding

Bernard le Roux

Bernard le Roux

South African-born trio Rory Kockott, Scott Spedding and Bernard le Roux all maintained their places in France’s initial 31-man squad ahead of the Six Nations.

Kockott and Spedding made their debuts during the November Tests with differing levels of success.

While Spedding has been embraced by the French public following a string of good performances, Kockott has endured a tough start to his international career, with many questioning his inclusion at the expense of French-born scrumhalves.

Meanwhile, coach Philippe Saint-Andre also called up Fijian wing Noa Nakaitaci. The 24-year-old has played his senior club rugby in France since moving to Clermont from the Nadroga academy in his homeland in 2010.

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Steval PumasThe Nelspruit-based Steval Pumas have retained the bulk of their coaching squad, without appointing a new head coach.

The top spot in the coaching became vacant earlier this month when head coach Jimmy Stonehouse resigned from his position to join Japanese club Toshiba Brave Lupus.

On Thursday the board of directors of the Mpumalanga Rugby (Pty) Ltd revealed they have decided to leave the coaching team intact for the duration of the 2015 Vodacom Cup.

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Omar Mouneimne

Omar Mouneimne

The Kings defence coach for their inaugural Super Rugby campaign in 2013, Omar Mouneimne, has returned to Port Elizabeth from Edinburgh in preparation for their 2016 season and beyond.

Mouneimne played a crucial role in making the Southern Kings one of the toughest teams defensively in the 2013 competition and has once again taken up the role of defence coach.

He has already begun training with the 2015 Vodacom Cup squad alongside Vodacom Cup head coach, Mzwandile Stick.

“It is wonderful to be back and to be part of the preparations for the Kings’ return to Super Rugby,” he said.

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BJ Botha

BJ Botha

Veteran World Cup-winning prop BJ Botha is happier than ever at Munster and hopes to sign on for another year with the Irish side.

The 35-year-old former Sharks stalwart moved to Ireland in 2008, originally joining Ulster, and made the move to their rivals Munster in 2011.

He said that while he is coming to the end of his career, he still has more to give and has his sights set on earning 100 caps for Munster.

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Rynard Landman

Rynard Landman

Newport Gwent Dragons’ South African second-row Rynard Landman says he would “play his heart out” if selected by Wales once he becomes eligible in 2017.

Landman joined Dragons from Super Rugby side Cheetahs on a three-year contract in 2014.

The 28-year-old can play for Wales once he has lived there for three years.

“I’m here to stay and, if it comes along my path in three years, I would accept it with open arms and play my heart out,” said Landman.

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BullsWe take a look at some of the news filtering through from the Bulls in their preparations for this year’s Super Rugby Season.

Lanky flanker Jaques du Plessis might get the nod at No 4 lock in the injury absense of Flip van der Merwe during the first stages of Super Rugby. Competing against him for the No 4 spot are youngsters Nico Janse van Rensburg and Irné Herbst.

Meanwhile former Blue Bulls and Springbok captain, Wynand Claassen, who is also the chairman of the Bulls’ ex-players union, wants the Bulls to employ a much more enterprising style in 2015.

Trevor Nyakane, who has joined the Bulls for the 2015 season from the Cheetahs, says he has been inundated with calls from his fellow-Bulls mates to come up with a new dance routine, when the Bulls score tries in 2015. He was known for his jubilant dance moves at the Cheetahs in 2014, but the question is whether he can dance the blue tune this year.

The only real players of consequence, bar of course the longer term injury to Flip van der Merwe, who are not fully into the swing of things yet and who will miss the excursion to Polokwane, are Adriaan Strauss and Handré Pollard, but their injuries appear to be on the light side, and it is highly unlikely that they will not be fit and ready to play in the season’s opener for the Bulls.

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Thomas du Toit

Thomas du Toit

Sharks loosehead prop Thomas du Toit hopes he can continue the impressive form he displayed during an amazing 2014 debut season.

In his first year after school, the Paarl Boys’ old boy has already made a huge impression at the Sharks.

At just 19, he made his Super Rugby debut for the Durban franchise, coming off the bench in his first game against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, before starting the team’s final three fixtures, including the wildcard play-off against the Highlanders and semi-final against the Crusaders. He also made eight appearances in the Currie Cup, helping the Sharks reach the domestic semi-finals.

Du Toit got a taste of international rugby too as he starred for the Junior Springboks at the Junior World Championship in New Zealand, while he was a surprise pick for the Barbarians squad.

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CheetahsThe Toyota Cheetahs’ preparations for Super Rugby this week reports on fitness niggles to Willie le Roux and Oupa Mahoje and also reports that Rayno Benjamin will miss the start of Super Rugby due to Sevens committments with the Blitzbokke for the first 2 weeks in February.

In addition the battle for the flyhalf spot between Joe Pietersen, Willie du Plessis and Francois Brummer, seems to be dominating the attention of the media, with speculation that Joe Pietersen seems to be the favourite, after the warm-up games to get Round 1’s starting spot.

Maks van Dyk, who has been on short term loan with Leinster in Ireland, to get valuable game time reports that he is enjoying his short Northern sojourn.

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Soweto Rugby ClubThe newly-formed Soweto Rugby Union does not see itself as a ‘rebel’ entity and there is no immediate plan for the Soweto club to break away from the Golden Lions.

First conceptualised during the Soweto Sports Indaba of 2013 and then registered as a proprietary limited company in September last year, the SRU see themselves as a “township or a rural union that will give opportunities to the disadvantaged”.

However, there is no direct link between the club (SRC) and the union (SRU), other than both being based in the sprawling township on the South-Western borders of the City of Johannesburg.

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Jamba Ulengo

Jamba Ulengo

Wing Jamba Ulengo hopes to make a big impact for the Bulls this season.

A move to Pretoria in July last year emphasised the 25-year-old’s rise in the South African rugby ranks.

After emerging as a notable rugby talent at Jim Fouche in Bloemfontein, he represented Free State at Under 16, Under 18, Under 19 and Under 21 levels and impressed in Shimlas colours during the Varsity Cup.

His impressive attacking qualities saw him receive a Springbok Sevens call-up in 2012. He played for the Blitzbokke in 11 tournaments before deciding to sign with the Bulls, which he describes as an exciting new chapter in his career.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

Stormers and Western Province coach Allister Coetzee is in high demand to coach in the Japanese league, according to reports.

Coetzee, who still has one year left on his contract with WP, is believed to be a strong candidate to replace Gary Gold as coach of the Kobe Kobelco Steelers in Japan. Gold is set to leave the Steelers to take up the role of Sharks Director of Rugby.

Meanwhile, WP’s Vodacom Cup and Under 21 coach, John Dobson, is also believed to be on the wish list of the EP Kings, while there is also interest in Dobson’s backline coach, Dawie Snyman.

Gert Smal, WP’s Director of Rugby, said they would like to keep all current coaches at the union for the next three years and are busy with negotiations.

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DHL StormersA 39-man DHL Stormers squad will depart for Hermanus on Tuesday afternoon for a four-day training camp ahead of the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Scarra Ntubeni, Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Nizaam Carr and Damian de Allende – all of whom toured with the Springboks at the end of last year – will all travel to Hermanus, along with capped Springboks, Siya Kolisi, Juan de Jongh and Jaco Taute.

Props Wilco Louw and Frans van Wyk, both of whom are still eligible for the DHL Western Province Under-21 team, are amongst the new faces in the squad, joining flyhalf Robert du Preez, centres Johnny Kotze and Huw Jones and fullback EW Viljoen as the other newbies in the selection mix.

Du Preez, Kotze, Jones and Viljoen are all graduates of the DHL WP Under-21 set-up from 2014, along with hooker Michael Willemse, lock Jurie van Vuuren and loose forward Sikhumbuzo Notshe, all of whom had a brief taste of Super Rugby action in 2014.

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Cell C SharksThis is the third in the series of Cell C Sharks Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Sharks have lost the services of Anton Bresler (Edinburgh) and Peet Marais (Brive), between seasons, and have gained the services of Mouritz Botha (from Saracens) as well as the backup services of Giant Mtyanda. Stephan Lewies is still on a longer term injury list and should return somewhere in the middle of the tournament.

The early question raised is how Pieter-Steph du Toit will fare, coming back from injury.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOCKS in the Cell C Sharks 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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Cell C SharksAs Super Rugby preparations are underway by all franchises early in January, a quick peek at some of the things popping out at the Cell C Sharks.

We take a quick look at Brendan Venter’s role while Gary Gold is still in Japan. Renaldo Bothma tells of his tremendous growth at the Sharks in pre-season and Giant Mtyanda is drafted in to train with the Sharks as extra lock cover.

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CheetahsSuper Rugby preparations is also underway in Bloemfontein, in anticipation of the 2015 season.

News is that Joe Pietersen who previously played at fullback for the Stormers and then went to France to try things there, is back at the Cheetahs… to exclusively play flyhalf. Pietersen is a product of Grey College in Bloemfontein.

Heinrich Brüssow, who is currently still in Japan with the NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes, before joining the Cheetahs for Super Rugby (as soon as his Japanese Club’s season ends) says that the standards of rugby in Japan has improved markedly.

The Cheetahs start their Super Rugby campaign with an away game against the Sharks in Durban on 14 February.

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Willem alberts

Willem alberts

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Pieter-Steph du Toit

Springboks Pieter-Steph du Toit and Willem Alberts are back training with the Sharks after long injury layoffs.

Lock Du Toit missed much of last season with a serious knee injury, while loose forward Alberts was laid low after a back operation last July.

The duo are back in training as the Sharks start their preparations for this year’s Super Rugby competition. Both have been training well and showed no discomfort from the injuries.

There was however less good news for lock Stephan Lewies, who will reportedly remain sidelined with injury for an extended period.

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Jimmy Stonehouse

Jimmy Stonehouse

After seven years at the helm of the Pumas, Jimmy Stonehouse will be leaving Nelspruit to ply his trade in Japan with the Toshiba Brave Lupus.

Stonehouse had been instrumental in the team being promoted to the Currie Cup Premier Division in 2010 and again in 2014 while their promotion, and unbeaten run in the 2013 First Division competition, earned Stonehouse the SA Rugby Union’s Coach of the Year award.

He had been approached on three previous occasions by Japanese clubs, which he turned down, the latest being in February 2014 but he feels that it is the right time to move on and take on a new challenge.

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Super RugbyWith Super Rugby fast approaching it is important to have a look at what each of the teams are doing in their preparations and who they have at their disposal.

As the teams prepare for this brusing competition there is the oppourtunity to test out combanations as well as see how the new boys go.

The Sharks will travel to French champions Toloun to test out their game plan against the Galacticos of rugby while the Bulls will take on the Cheetahs in a traditional pre-season match in Polokwane.

The Australasian sides will also warm up against each other with the Highlanders setting up a comprehensive pre-season schedule due to the first round bye.

The ‘transfer market’ has made the upcoming Super Rugby season an exciting prospect with some big names in James O’Connor and Nick Cummins returning to Australia.

Menawhile, the Bulls have bolstered their squad with some excellent former Cheetahs players.

Finally, and unsurprizingly, Ma’a Nonu has made another move – this time back to the Hurricanes.

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This is the third article in the range of Bulls Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

We move deeper into the enjin room to the Locks. The Bulls have lost Paul Willemse and David Bullbring at lock for the 2015 season but of course Victor Matfield is sure to play Super Rugby this time around, whereas before the 2014 season that was not the case. Apart from Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe and Grant Hattingh, the Bulls will be able to call on the promising young Nico Janse van Rensburg as well as Marvin Orie in 2015.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOCKS in the Vodacom Bulls 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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BullsSpringboks Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Handré Pollard, Marcel van der Merwe and Adriaan Strauss will all return to Vodacom Bulls training from next week onwards, it was confirmed in Pretoria on Tuesday.

The Vodacom Bulls squad assembled in Pretoria on Monday to prepare for the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby season, but a couple of senior players will only join the fray later this month.

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Bryan Habana

Bryan Habana

World Cup-winning Springbok Bryan Habana is enjoying his stay in Toulon so much, he might extend it.

The 31-year-old, Player of the Year after equalling the record set for most tries in a World Cup, said discussions are underway to extend his contract the French and European champions when it expires in 2016.

His arrival in the south of France was marked by a groin injury that sidelined him for most of his first season.

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Morné Steyn

Morné Steyn

South African flyhalf Morné Steyn endured a miserable first start of the season for Stade Francais on Friday when he was red-carded in the Top 14 leaders’ 9-12 defeat at Lyon.

Steyn, the 30-year-old top-scorer at the 2011 World Cup, had confidently kicked Stade into a 6-0 lead – courtesy of a 40-metre penalty and a quick-thinking drop-goal.

But after Mosese Ratuvou had cut the deficit with the game’s opening try, Steyn saw red in the 31st minute for kicking the Fijian wing as the two tussled on the ground.

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Emirates LionsThis is the second article in the series of Lions Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Lions have real depth in the hookers, with Robbie Coetzee, Akker van der Merwe, Malcolm Marx, Willie Wepener and even Mark Pretorius available to them in 2015.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Lions 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

The Emirates Lions front row will be a force in 2015.

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Stormers

This is the second article in the series of Stormers Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

A bit of good and a lot of bad news for Stormers supporters, as Bongi Mbonambi joins the Stormers from the Bulls but with recent news that Tiaan Liebenberg has retired due to continued injuries and of course also with the fact that Deon Fourie has left for overseas.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the DHL Stormers 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

One cannot help but feel that the Stormers are light in the hookers and in the front row in general for 2015.

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Cheetahs

This is the second article in the series of Cheetahs Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Cheetahs have lost the services of a number of players between seasons and the hooker position is one severely affected by the loss of Adriaan Strauss (Bulls) and Hercu Liebenberg (released).

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Toyota Cheetahs 2014 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

Things are looking rather bleak in the hooker department and in the whole front row for the Cheetahs.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Springbok Willie le Roux will be able to write his own salary cheque after next year’s World Cup.

According to media reports French giants Toulouse head an impressive list of clubs interested in the 25-year-old’s services.

English Premiership outfit Saracens and ‘several’ Japanese teams have put Le Roux on their wish list.

Le Roux is contracted to the Cheetahs until November next year and will be in the transfer market for the 2015 / 2016 season.

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Johan Goosen

Johan Goosen

Racing Metro’s South African flyhalf Johan Goosen is set to be out of action for up to three weeks, after injuring his knee while coming down the stairs of the team bus, his club said Sunday.

The 22-year-old, was set to be in the starting line-up to face Toulouse on Sunday, but missed the 9-15 defeat, after his mishap on arrival in the south of the country.

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Cell C SharksThis is the second article in the series of Cell C Sharks Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

The Sharks have had no change in hooker personnel since the 2014 Super Rugby season, but are very adequately covered in Bismarck du Plessis and Kyle Cooper, with further backup from Monde Hadebe.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Cell C Sharks 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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This is the second article in the series of Bulls Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015. In 2015 the Bulls will be better off in the hooker department, having contracted Adriaan Strauss, the Springbok hooker from the Toyota Cheetahs, although they have also lost the services of Bongi Mbonambi to the DHL Stormers.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for HOOKERS in the Vodacom Bulls 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

In 2015 the Bulls subsequently sit with a current Springbok hooker, an erstwhile Springbok hooker and a hooker who was invited to the Springbok training squad in 2014 by Heyneke Meyer, to fire their Super Rugby campaign… and with these hookers next to 2 current Springbpk props as well as a choice of 2 erstwhile Springbok props.

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Emirates LionsIn the first discussions of the Super Rugby squad contenders for 2015 (in December), we discuss 2 positions in seperate Articles (Props & Hookers) and also seperate the Articles of the 5 SA Super Rugby participating franchises.

That means 10 Super Rugby Articles to start off with, to be done as time allows me to do, considering one has to have some holidays and some off time too, before the new year becomes a burden on the batteries again.

The basic idea is to discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for PROPS in the Lions 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

The Emirates Lions are much in the same position as the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks, with excellent props serving their cause for 2015, with recent Springbok tourists at tighthead, Julian Redelinghuys and Ruan Dreyer both standout tighthead props and Schalk van der Merwe easily seeing off all comers in 2014, no matter who they were and what their pedigrees were.

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StormersIn the first lot of discussions of Super Rugby squad contenders for 2015, we discuss 2 positions in seperate Articles (Props & Hookers) and also seperate the Articles of the 5 SA Super Rugby participating franchises.

That means 10 Super Rugby Articles to start with, followed by the rest of the Articles, as and how time allows, from now on.

The basic idea is to discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for PROPS in the DHL Stormers 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

Similar to the situation at the Toyota Cheetahs, the Stormers have had some departures, with Brok Harris and pat Cillies having left the Franchise.

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CheetahsIn December’s discussions of the Super Rugby squad contenders for 2015, we discuss 2 positions in seperate Articles (Props & Hookers) and also seperate the Articles of the 5 SA Super Rugby participating franchises.

Work committments interfered a bit with my plans to start these articles at the hefty pace of 10 Super Rugby Articles every week, as today is the final day of the 1st week and this only represents the 3rd Article in the range, 7 behind schedule… but with a plan to radically catch up after the Christmas festivities and whilst leisurely following the 5-Day Cricket Test between South Africa and the West Indies which starts on Boxing Day (26 December).

The basic idea is to discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for PROPS in the Toyota Cheetahs 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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