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Super RugbyJust how the revised Super Rugby format will go down with the South African rugby public is unclear, but we won’t have to wait long to find out.

The new-look tournament gets underway in less than a month, with the Blues and the Highlanders kicking things off in Auckland on Friday 26 February 2016.

From a South African perspective, the road ahead looks a tough one and if local bookmakers are to be believed there is no standout side from within these borders that looks set to challenge for the title.

Outside of the tournament changes, the majority of the South African franchises have also undergone major alterations with only 2wo sides – the Cell C Sharks and Emirates Lions – heading into 2016 with the same coaches that did the business in 2015.

The Southern Kings, obviously, were not a part of the 2015 competition but they also have a new man at the helm.

Here, we look at the 6 men tasked with bringing success to their respective franchises:

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DHL StormersDHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck has named a 30-man squad for their pre-season friendly against the South Western Districts Eagles in George on Saturday.

Following their successful pre-season match against the Eagles at Outeniqua Park in 2015, Fleck said that the team are keen to return to George where they always enjoy good support.

“We are really looking forward to the game, there was a huge crowd there last year and the people were fantastic. We have always enjoyed playing in George, especially as there are a lot of Stormers fans there.

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StormersThe DHL Stormers had a very productive defensive session against the Steinhoff UCT Ikey Tigers in Stellenbosch on Tuesday.

In sweltering heat on the Markötter field at Paul Roos, the teams played 2 chukkas of 20 minutes each at a high intensity.

In a specialised session designed to test the evolution of their defensive system in the off-season, the DHL Stormers were made to work hard by an Ikeys side renowned for their attacking prowess

A total of 30 DHL Stormers players took to the field as Head Coach Robbie Fleck made wholesale changes at the changeover.

This proved a valuable outing, giving the coaches further opportunity to look at which areas of their defensive game need further attention.

Fleck was very happy with the outcome of what was a demanding session.

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

Saracens are delighted to announce the signing of South African international flanker Schalk Burger for the 2016 / 2017 season.

The world class Springbok loose forward will link-up with the reigning Aviva Premiership champions for the 2016 / 2017 season after signing a 2-year deal with the Allianz Park club.

Renowned as 1 of world rugby’s finest loose forwards, Burger has captained South Africa during his stellar 12-year international career and is a former IRB World Player of the year. He has won 86 caps for the Springboks and holds the record for the most tries (14) for a loose forward for his country.

Burger will link up with Saracens after a spell with Japanese club Suntory Sungoliath and Super Rugby’s Stormers.

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Robbie Fleck

Robbie Fleck

Robbie Fleck has been appointed interim head coach of the DHL Stormers for the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

Fleck, who has been an assistant coach for the franchise since 2010, has been acting as the DHL Stormers’ coaching co-ordinator since the departure of coach Eddie Jones to England.

Fleck had a highly successful 2015 season as head coach to the DHL WP Under 21 team, losing only 1 game on the way to securing the ABSA Provincial Under 21 trophy this year.

Commenting on the appointment, WPRFU President Thelo Wakefield said: “WP Director of Rugby, Gert Smal, has done a thorough investigation into all available and interested coaches for the position. Robbie Fleck is a Western Province man through-and-through.

“He understands the environment having had extensive experience as an assistant coach at Super Rugby level and as a former WP, Stormers and Springbok player. In addition, he showed his mettle as a head coach this year, dominating the ABSA Under 21 competition. He deserves his opportunity and we are proud to be able to grow one of our own.”

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John Mitchell

John Mitchell

John Mitchell appears the firm favourite to become the DHL Stormers head coach, after meeting with Western Province rugby bosses on Tuesday.

According to reports, Mitchell was in the Mother City to discuss details of what is believed to be a 4-year deal with the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) and the Stormers.

The former All Blacks, Western Force and Golden Lions coach earlier this year turned down a job offer from the DHL Stormers.

In June, Mitchell said: “An approach was made to me and there were negotiations, but unfortunately Gert Smal is only contracted as Western Province Director of Rugby for another 2 years, so there were no guarantees for me beyond that period.

“Had I been offered a 4-year deal, it would have been different. But I have travelled around the world a lot to pursue my career as a coach and didn’t want to uproot my family again for the promise of just 2 years. I didn’t want to commute either, as I believe you have to be fully immersed in a culture to be effective as a coach.”

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John Mitchell

John Mitchell

It looks like the DHL Stormers should soon be in position to unveil their new coach to replace England bound Eddie Jones, with John Mitchell reportedly having met with Western Province officials in Cape Town late on Tuesday.

The former All Black coach is the only person who fits the requirements laid out last week by WP director of rugby Gert Smal last week – namely that the new coach preferably have an overseas slant to his coaching, have coached international rugby, have coached Super Rugby for at least seven seasons and have experience and knowledge of the South African rugby culture.

When asked about the meeting on Wednesday morning, all Mitchell could say was that he’d had fruitful discussions and that WP had been very professional in the way they had formulated their approach. However Mitchell was not at liberty to divulge further details and he has not signed on the dotted line, so negotiations appear to be ongoing.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones will most likely not be coming back to Cape Town to assist the DHL Stormers in their pre-season preparation work, but he will be in Los Angelos this week.

Newly appointed England coach Jones will be addressing a World Rugby workshop on the success of the Japan team at the Rugby World Cup, who won 3 games despite failing to make the play-offs under his guidance.

Jones was unveiled as the new DHL Stormers coach earlier this month, before being made an offer he could not refuse by the English RFU which saw him leave Cape Town after just 2 weeks.

Stormers director of rugby, Gert Smal, claimed that Jones would return to Cape Town in December to assist with the planning for next season, explaining that the experienced coach felt bad for the way things had transpired with the Stormers.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

It’s official, DHL Stormers head coach for an ever so brief spell, Eddie Jones (which included no games and lasted only from 1 November to 18 November 2015, after being introduced to the SA Media on 12 November) is now the new England head coach!

The RFU have revealed that they have appointed Eddie Jones on a 4-year contract, starting in December 2015 and he will take charge of his 1st international game with England when they meet Scotland in the RBS 6 Nations at Murrayfield on 6 February 2016.

The amount the RFU had to pay to Western Province for Eddie Jones’ release is still the subject of wild speculation and varies between rumours of £ 100 000.00 (R 2.1 Million) to £ 350 000.00 ( R 7.5 Million) and even up to £ 700 000.00 (R 15 Million).

Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) have issued the following media release:

 

Media Release:

WPRFU President Mr Thelo Wakefield and WP Director of Rugby Gert Smal will host a top table press conference at DHL NEWLANDS on Friday 20 November at 11:00 SA Time.

Western Province Rugby has agreed terms with the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) which will see Eddie Jones depart to take on an international coaching post with England.

There has been plenty of speculation about Jones’s future ever since his arrival in Cape Town earlier this month and he officially received an offer on Wednesday of this week which proved impossible to turn down.

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John Mitchell

John Mitchell

With Eddie Jones now in London and appointed as the new England coach, the DHL Stormers director of rugby Gert Smal needs to do what he failed to do earlier in the year by making John Mitchell a serious offer.

The former All Black coach was targeted by the Stormers earlier in the year, and the approach to him preceded that made to former Sharks coach and fellow Kiwi John Plumtree. However, Mitchell was only offered a 2 year deal and Mitchell said at the time that the figures didn’t turn his head either.

Mitchell, who has become a successful chief executive in the business world over the past 2 years, said he would have needed a longer contract, more like 4 years, in order to be interested. The negotiations broke down after he communicated that view to Smal.

Jones though was offered a 3 year contract with the option of a year extension, which effectively meant 4 years, so it is difficult to see any reason now why Smal can’t do the same for Mitchell, particularly as the pay-out from the RFU to Western Province should be a substantial one.

With Jones out of the picture, Mitchell says he would definitely be interested in working as Stormers head coach under Smal were the union to make him a realistic offer.

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Ruan Botha

Ruan Botha

The Cell C Sharks are set to announce their pre-season Super Rugby squad on Thursday – and the name Ruan Botha will appear on that list.

The 23-year-old Stormers lock is set for a move to Durban, while Springbok Pieter-Steph du Toit has moved from the Sharks to Newlands.

A Sharks spokesperson on Wednesday said that the deal between the union and Botha could not yet be officially confirmed due to a contract that still had to be signed.

However, the indication was that all of the paperwork would be wrapped up by Thursday.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

UK bookmakers have stopped taking bets on newly appointed DHL Stormers coach Eddie Jones replacing fired Stuart Lancaster as supremo of the England rugby team. They are so convinced Jones will leave Newlands for Twickenham that betting on him doing so has been suspended.

But the Australian who guided Japan to rugby’s great giant killing act over the Springboks won’t come cheap. In the Times of London this morning, SA billionaire Johann Rupert says extracting Jones from his contract with the DHL Stormers will cost the English Rugby Football Union (RFU) R 15 Million (£ 700 000.00).

Richemont chairman Rupert, co-owner of the DHL Stormers through the 25% owned by 1 of his businesses, told the newspaper: “We have no influence” and confirmed the Cape-based franchise would not engage in a bidding war over the recently hired head coach.

In September, Eddie Jones signed a R 5 Million a year deal with the DHL Stormers which runs until the end of 2018. That made him the highest paid coach in South African rugby, ahead of Heyneke Meyer who guided the Springboks to 3rd in the recent Rugby World Cup.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

New DHL Stormers coach Eddie Jones says he wants them to play a brand of rugby that attracts people to come watch them.

After arriving in Cape Town last week, Jones held his 1st press-conference as DHL Stormers coach at Newlands on Thursday.

Speaking about the challenge ahead, Jones said: “It’s a fantastic city. Western Province is one of the most prestigious unions in the world – there is so much history here.

“When the opportunity came up to coach the Stormers – such a well-supported team, the best in the competition – it was simply too good to ignore. Of course, the ultimate aim is to produce a good team that attracts people to the stadium and, ultimately, challenges to win trophies.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

New DHL Stormers coach Eddie Jones is set to arrive in Cape Town later this week, a team spokesperson confirmed on Monday.

Jones recently signed a deal with the Cape franchise after not renewing his contract as Japan coach.

He coached Japan in impressive fashion at the Rugby World Cup, masterminding a 34 / 32 upset win over the Springboks – a result which will go down as the biggest upset in the tournament’s history.

Japan also beat Samoa (26 / 5) and the USA (28 / 18) at the Rugby World Cup, but finished 3rd in Pool B, behind South Africa and Scotland. It was the 1st time a team had won 3 pool games and did not progress to the quarterfinals.

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

The Western Province Rugby Football Union indicated that they would like to wish former DHL Western Province and DHL Stormers captain Jean de Villiers well as he embarks on the next phase of his stellar rugby career at top English club, Leicester Tigers.

De Villiers 1st wore the Blue & White hoops of Western Province as an aspiring Under 13 Craven Week player, that after his father, Andre, represented Western Province with distinction in the 1970s.

Jean de Villiers played his final match for the DHL Stormers on 3 May 2014 (against the Highlanders at DHL Newlands), racking up a total of 105 caps since his debut against the Sharks in February 2005.

He also played 50 matches for DHL Western Province, his final appearance coming in the 2013 ABSA Currie Cup Final – having made his debut in the Vodacom Cup in February 2001.

De Villiers would certainly have played more games for WP Rugby had it not been for a catalogue of serious injuries – especially the knee injury he suffered on his Springbok debut in November 2002 – but he will go down as one of this union’s greatest players in the modern era after also amassing 109 Springbok caps (including 37 as captain).

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Jean de Villiers

Jean de Villiers

Former Springbok captain Jean de Villiers will continue his playing career in the English Premiership after signing with the Leicester Tigers.

De Villiers was part of South Africa’s Rugby World Cup winning squad in 2007 and captain of the 2015 campaign but announced his international retirement after suffering a fractured jaw in the 2nd Round of the tournament. With 109 Test caps he is among the most experienced players in the world game.

Tigers director of rugby Richard Cockerill said: “Jean brings invaluable experience to the squad. He is among the leading centres in the modern game and has played at the very highest level for a significant period of time.

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Jake White and Eddie Jones

Jake White and Eddie Jones

In the aftermath of England’s dramatic fall from grace after becoming the 1st host nation which will not advance beyond the Pool stages of the Rugby World Cup, the speculation has been rife about the possible resignation or axing of England head coach, Stuart Lancaster.

Earlier in the week it was reported that Eddie Jones, high flying Japanese coach, has said he would listen to the English if he was approached for the job.

Now South Africa’s supreme mercenary coach and big friend of Eddie Jones, Jake White (who currently coaches Montpellier in France), has also thrown his name into the hat for the England job!

Like buzzards over a carcass, these coaches… I tell you!

Both mercenaries are currently employed or in Eddie Jones’ case about to enter into employment at the Stormers for the 2016 season, but both indicating that they are available!

Now that irks me to hell and gone and I’m sure it does not go down well in the rest of South Africa, specially in the Western Cape, where much is expected from Eddie Jones by the DHL Stormers and their supporters.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

Decorated international rugby coach, Eddie Jones, will take over the role as head coach of the DHL Stormers at the start of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

The former Wallabies head coach and 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok technical advisor will assume the DHL Stormers coaching reins from Allister Coetzee, who moved to Japan after the DHL Stormers’ SA Conference-winning 2015 Super Rugby campaign.

“Our Director of Rugby, Mr Gert Smal, always promised that he would deliver the best and in Eddie Jones I am more than satisfied that we have appointed the best coach to take over the reins of the DHL Stormers,” said WPRFU President, Mr Thelo Wakefield.

“Eddie is no stranger to South African Rugby and we look forward to making him feel welcome and ensuring that he brings more silverware to DHL Newlands.”

Having guided the Brumbies to Super Rugby success back in 2001, Jones coached the Wallabies between 2001 and 2005 – delivering Tri-Nations and Bledisloe Cup success, as well as taking them to the 2003 Rugby World Cup Final on home soil.

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Gert Smal

Gert Smal

Springbok stars Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all committed their long-term rugby futures to DHL Western Province and the DHL Stormers.

Prop Malherbe, lock Etzebeth, flanker Kolisi and centre De Allende are in contention to represent South Africa at the 2015 Rugby World Cup in England, having all been part of the Springbok squad this season after stellar Vodacom Super Rugby campaigns for the DHL Stormers.

Between them, the quartet have featured in 61 Tests, Etzebeth leading the way with 37 Test appearances since his debut against England in 2012, with Malherbe (6 Tests) and Kolisi (11 Tests) making their debuts in 2013 and De Allende (7 Tests) playing his 1st international in 2014.

“Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Damian de Allende have all been developed here at Western Province, coming through our youth structures and going on to play Test rugby for South Africa as standout DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province players,” said WP Director of Rugby Gert Smal.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

With Japan’s national coach, Eddie Jones, linked to the DHL Stormers job for 2016, Japan’s new Super Rugby franchise appears to be beset by problems.

Super Rugby will be expanded to 18 teams from next year, with teams from Japan and Argentina as well as South Africa’s Southern Kings set to join the competition.

Japan coach Jones was initially chosen to coach the Japanese Super Rugby team as well, but he has confirmed he is in talks with the Stormers, with the Cape franchise reportedly eager to sign the former Wallabies coach.

Jones denied that he had signed a deal with the DHL Stormers but admitted that he has had discussions with the franchise.

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Eddie Jones

Eddie Jones

Japan coach Eddie Jones has dismissed speculation that he has penned a deal with the DHL Stormers but said he was in talks with the Cape side.

Jones, like any professional in the sporting world, is weighing up his options before his contract comes to an end in Japan.

The Australian has a contract with the ‘Brave Blossoms’ until the end of 2015 but he was thought keen to remain in Japan, which will host the 2019 World Cup, to coach the national side as well as the new Super Rugby expansion team.

However, reports from Cape Town on Monday said that the 55-year-old had already put pen-to-paper on a 2-year deal worth R 5 000 000.00 ($ 385 563.00) per year with the Stormers.

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Cornal Hendricks

Cornal Hendricks

Springbok winger Cornal Hendricks has signed a contract with Western Province Rugby and will be available for the DHL Stormers from the start of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

The speedster, who originally made his name at international Sevens level, will return to his roots as a DHL Stormers player – having played his early provincial rugby for Boland, before becoming a full-time Sevens player in 2012 and then joining the Free State Cheetahs in 2014.

Hendricks, 27, made his Test debut in June of last year, whilst the 2013 Springbok Sevens Player of the Year was also a key member of the Commonwealth Games Gold medal-winning SA Sevens team in July 2014.

In all, he has played 11 Tests (as well as an additional match against the World XV) for the Springboks, scoring five tries – including a try on debut against Wales and a memorable solo score against the All Blacks in their hard-fought Rugby Championship tussle in Wellington in September 2014.

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JC Janse van Rensburg

JC Janse van Rensburg

French-based loosehead prop JC Janse van Rensburg will join the DHL Stormers ahead of the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season.

The powerful former Lions captain is currently in his third season with French club, Bayonne, but he will bolster the DHL Stormers’ propping resources as of November 1 with Steven Kitshoff having decided to further his career in France.

Janse van Rensburg, 29, toured Europe with the Springboks in 2012 (without getting any game time), as well as making over 50 appearances for the Lions at Super Rugby level and winning well over 50 provincial caps for the Golden Lions

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Robbie Deans

Robbie Deans

Former Wallabies coach Robbie Deans was linked with the Stormers coaching job in 2007, and it happened again when the search for Allister Coetzee’s replacement commenced this year.

But Deans, who is in charge of Saturday’s World XV side that will take on the Springboks at Newlands, confirmed on Thursday that there had not been an official offer from the Cape Town-based franchise or any other South African franchises.

“Not South African ones, no,” said Deans.

“I had a brief conversation with Gert (Smal, Stormers Director of Rugby). I actually do a bit of work with some of the guys from down here like (current Western Province defence coach) Paul Treu. I take an interest in the game.

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Matthew Proudfoot

Matthew Proudfoot

DHL Stormers forwards coach Matt Proudfoot has opted not to renew his contract with Western Province Rugby, but he might not be lost to the union on a permanent basis.

Proudfoot will be linking up with outgoing DHL Stormers head coach Allister Coetzee at Kobe Steel Kobelco Steelers in Japan, but Director of Rugby Gert Smal remains hopeful of retaining his services on a consultancy basis, which would see him contribute to the ‘Tight Five Factory’; an innovative project which is aimed at identifying and developing tight 5 players from youth level and up within WP Rugby.

Proudfoot, 42, has served as forwards coach of both the DHL Stormers and DHL Western Province for the past 7 seasons, which has seen the Cape team’s pack become 1 of the most feared units at Super Rugby and Currie Cup level.

In that time, the likes of unheralded juniors Steven Kitshoff, Scarra Ntubeni, Frans Malherbe, Vincent Koch, Eben Etzebeth, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr have progressed into the Springbok ranks (either as Test players or squad members), with the DHL Stormers’ scrummaging power a huge boon in their recently-completed 2015 Super Rugby campaign.

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