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Super Rugby

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Super RugbyIn preparation for Super Rugby in 2015, all 5 New Zealand Super Rugby franchises have named their squads for the tournament.

In the meantime, South African franchises will ponder about their squads and in December we at Rugby-Talk.com will speculate what the South African franchises will look like, as final squads will only be known in January 2015.

The same happens every year, New Zealand and Australia get their ducks in a row before the December break, whereas the South Africans seem to focus on December holidays, going to the beach, having Christmas and generally geting fat and lazy.

When can we ever expect the South African Rugby Union (SARU) and the South African Super Rugby franchises to ever catch up to the more professional attitudes displayed primarily by New Zealand… but also closely followed by their Antipodion counterparts, Australia?

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Tim Swiel

Tim Swiel

Cell C Sharks back, Tim Swiel will play for Harlequins Rugby Club in the UK on loan for four months. He joined the team on Saturday and will return to Durban at the end of February 2015.

“This is a fantastic opportunity for Tim and I am certain that this experience at a top club will provide him with great memories and will bode well for him in the future”, said The Sharks CEO, John Smit.

Tim Swiel added: “I am looking forward to playing for Harlequins Rugby Club for a few months during the Cell C Sharks off-season.

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Sampie Mastriet

Sampie Mastriet

Lohan Jacobs

Lohan Jacobs

Marvin Orie

Marvin Orie

Rohan Janse van Rensburg

Rohan Janse van Rensburg

The Xerox Golden Lions have snapped up a quartet of Vodacom Blue Bulls players – including two SA under-20 stars and a Springbok Sevens player for the upcoming season as more discontent sets in in Pretoria.

Already the Bulls lost one of their rising stars, hooker Bongi Mbonambi, to Western Province earlier this year, while snapping up Boks Trevor Nyakane and Adriaan Strauss for the upcoming season as well as Toyota Cheetahs flanker Lappies Labuschagne.

But now the cross-Jukskei trek has seen the Bulls lose not only Springbok Sevens flyer Sampie Mastriet to the Lions, but also top young players Marvin Orie, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Lohan Jacobs.

The quartet have signed for the Lions after failing to find any meaningful game time at the Bulls as the bottleneck at the top continues.

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Tiaan LiebenbergWestern Province hooker Tiaan Liebenberg has been forced to retire after being plagued by back injuries for some time now.

The 32-year-old will be returning to Bloemfontein to join up with his family and to get involved with the business.

The hooker was a mere spectator during Western Province’s 19-16 Currie Cup victory over the Lions on Saturday and although the veteran has reached some lofty heights in rugby, he was still sad not to be a part of it.

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Brendan Venter

Brendan Venter

Gary Gold

Gary Gold

The Cell C Sharks have made two key appointments – Gary Gold as Director of Rugby and Brendan Venter as Technical Director.

Cell C Sharks Chief Executive Officer, John Smit, confirmed the appointment of former the Springbok assistant coach, Gold, as the Sharks’ new Director of Rugby.

However, the appointment of Venter – who guided the Sharks to the Currie Cup title in 2013 – is the more interesting addition to their backroom staff.

The 47-year-old Gold, who is currently coach of Japanese Top League club Kobelco Steelers, has signed a three-year contract – from 2015 to 2017.

“Gary is an experienced coach who brings a wealth of knowledge and an impressive level of commitment to his new role,” the Sharks CEO, Smit said.

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Greg Peters

Greg Peters

Japan has beaten out Singapore as the preferred host for the 18th team in the expanded Super Rugby competition, governing body Sanzar said on Friday.

The southern hemisphere provincial competition will increase from 15 to 18 teams in 2016, with one team from South Africa and another from Argentina already awarded places.

Japan and Singapore were vying against each other for the last available spot with Japan getting the vote after a meeting of the South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby (Sanzar) executive board.

“Compelling proposals were put forth by Japan and Singapore in what was a very competitive tender process and we thank both parties for their passion in sharing our vision to expand the competition to new fans, territories and commercial markets,” Sanzar chief executive Greg Peters said in a statement.

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Singapore National Stadium

Singapore Sports Hub – National Stadium

Singapore has effectively conceded it has lost out to Japan to become the 18th Super Rugby side.

Although the South African, New Zealand and Australian Rugby (Sanzar) has not officially announced which Asian country would host the new team in an expanded competition, it has already been widely reported that Japan has won the bid ahead of Singapore.

Singapore’s bidders released a statement on Thursday, seemingly acknowledging that Japan had been selected as the winner.

“Clearly Japan is a mature, established rugby market, while Singapore is new to the global rugby scene,” said Eric Series, the financial backer of the proposed Singapore bid.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks are expected to name their new Super Rugby coach and successor to Jake White within the next two weeks.

White left the Sharks in mysterious circumstances last month with reports indicating there was growing discord between himself and management, as well as with the players.

Brad Mac­Leod-Henderson took charge of the Cell C Sharks during the Currie Cup, but it’s unlikely that he’ll be the head coach during Super Rugby.

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Grant Hattingh

Grant Hattingh

Callie Visagie

Callie Visagie

The Vodacom Bulls are likely to lose the services of hooker Callie Visagie for the first few weeks of the 2015 season as he underwent shoulder surgery Tuesday in Pretoria.

With the 2014 season having come to an end, Visagie and lock Grant Hattingh are the two medical headaches for the Bulls. The surgery, in both cases is to rectify injuries that have plagued them the entire season.

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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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Siate Tokolahi

Siate Tokolahi

Hamilton based Super Rugby franchise the Chiefs have strengthened their squad for the 2015 season with the signings of two new forwards.

Prop Siate Tokolahi from Canterbury has signed with the Chiefs for the next two seasons and Hawke’s Bay lock Michael Allardice has signed for the 2015 season.

Tongan born, 22-year-old Tokolahi is an immensely strong player and can play both sides of the scrum.

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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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David Hill

David Hill

Former All Black David Hill will join the coaching team at the Blues for the forthcoming Super Rugby season.

Hill will take up the role as backs skills coach for the Blues, to complete their coaching group for the 2015 season under head coach Sir John Kirwan and assistant coaches Grant Doorey and Glenn Moore.

He has enjoyed a long career including representation for the All Blacks, Maori All Blacks, Junior All Blacks, more than 50 games for the Chiefs and the 2010 Super Rugby season for the Force.

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Newlands Rugby Stadium

All Blacks no go area – the picturesque Newlands Rugby Stadium.

Liam Napier explains the mystery of why South African rugby bosses are keeping the All Blacks away from the nation’s second-biggest city.

It’s one of the world’s most popular destinations. In 2008, 25,000 readers of South Africa’s Daily and Sunday Telegraph readers voted it the world’s best city.

But while the All Blacks travel to South Africa at least once every year, 2008 was the last time Cape Town hosted the All Blacks.

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Johan Ackermann

Johan Ackermann

The Golden Lions Rugby Union have secured the services of their successful coach, Johan Ackermann, for at least another two years.

The GLRU revealed that Ackermann signed an extension of the contract as head coach until 31 October 2016.

Ackermann will be coach of the super Rugby and Currie Cup teams.

He was officially appointed as coach by the GLRU in 2013, in the wake of the union’s acrimonious public spat with former All Black mentor John Mitchell.

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Jake White

Jake White

The sudden departure of Jake White as Sharks director of rugby has led to informed sources confirming there was growing discord between White and his back-room staff as well as with the players.

While White may not technically have been “fired” by the board of the Sharks, it is believed he was no longer heading a harmonious environment.

It is understood that Gary Gold, the former Springbok assistant coach under Peter de Villiers, could be the front runner to replace White as the Super Rugby coach, while former All Blacks coach John Mitchell could also be in the running.

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Welcome To Hell

A former high-ranking Australian rugby union official once remarked: ‘that the best thing about South Africa was QF 64′. In other words, the flight home!

The comment, which was made within the earshot of several players, drew a laugh at the time; but it also probably served to sum up why the Wallabies haven’t been as successful in the Republic during the professional era as they should have been.

Simply, the country intimidates.

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Quade Cooper

Quade Cooper

Injured Queensland Reds and Wallabies fly half Quade Cooper sat down with Chris Garry last week to discuss a dramatic year for his code and club.

Cooper reveals how he helped lure the brightest talent in world rugby, Taniela “Tongan Thor” Tupou, from the clutches of the All Blacks to the Reds, why Queensland should have hit the player market hard following their Super Rugby triumph in 2011, when he will return from injury … and predicts Karmichael Hunt will make the Wallabies’ World Cup squad.

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Super Rugby TropheeSuper RugbyCrusaders vs Rebels to get the season underway in Christchurch on 13 February.

Defending champion Waratahs to start at home against the Force in Round 1.

Anzac Centenary weekend sees all 10 Australian and New Zealand teams in action across Round 11 (two derbies and three Trans-Tasman clashes).

Waratahs host the Crusaders at ANZ Stadium in a Round 15 re-match of the record-breaking 2014 Super Rugby Final.

All five South African teams are in action on home soil during Rounds 1-3.

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Sparse Crowd

Empty spaces – Yet another sparse crowd has the ARU concerned.

On a humid morning in February, Australian Rugby Union boss Bill Pulver took the microphone and made the extraordinary declaration that 2014 was the year of the Waratahs.

Not a ball had been kicked, no one knew which Kurtley Beale would turn up in round one and, though they boasted the best and most expensive playing roster in the country, this was the Waratahs, after all.

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Super Rugby TropheeAll of the Bulls, Stormers and Sharks, traditionally South Africa’s strongest franchises in Super Rugby, have reason to feel fairly upbeat about their 2015 ordinary-season schedules.

SANZAR revealed the roster for next season – the last before the competition expands yet again – this week, and at least on paper there seems a better chance of the SA challenge being better than this year’s (only the Sharks made the playoffs, and were losing semi-finalists) as the draw is largely kind to the domestic trio of superpowers.

Jake White’s Sharks were widely considered to have had a dream draw in 2014, given the opportunity it presented for them to build a tidy head of steam on South African soil – including a generous allocation of Kings Park games – before their overseas leg.

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Mickey Arthur

Mickey Arthur

Former Australian cricket coach Mickey Arthur wants at least 30 per cent of players inducted into the Western Force’s new junior academy to go on to play Super Rugby.

And talented athletes from rival sports will also be targeted as the Perth-based franchise attempts to build the best development program in the world.

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Jimmy Cowan

SOUTHERN MAN: He may be from Southland, but Jimmy Cowan will ply his trade from Auckland next year in Super Rugby.

The Blues have confirmed the signing of former All Blacks halfback Jimmy Cowan for next season.

Cowan played 51 tests for the All Blacks and 108 games for the Highlanders before a two-year stint with English club Gloucester.

The 32-year-old, who was playing for Tasman in the NPC, would fill the void left by Piri Weepu’s departure and compete with incumbent Bryn Hall.

“Jimmy brings competitiveness, plenty of experience and great game awareness which is something we were really looking for,” Blues coach Sir John Kirwan said.

“We’ve got some good young guys coming through in Bryn Hall, Ihaia West and Simon Hickey coupled with Dan Bowden coming back but we still felt we were lacking a bit of experience through that combination.

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Eddie Jones

Optimistic: Eddie Jones

Japan is set to be selected as the final Super Rugby franchise ahead of Singapore according to reports in Australia.

The competition will expand to 18 teams from 2016, with an extra team to be added in South Africa and a new franchise also to be introduced in Argentina.

The final place is believed to be between the two Japanese countries, with Singapore mooted as a potential home for a Pacific Islands team, while Japan would be looking to base their team around their national side.

And according to Daily Telegraph in Australia, SANZAR bosses are edging towards Japan, with a decision potentially to be announced by the end of the month.

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Taniela Tupou

Taniela Tupou’s decision to snub the All Blacks has attracted derision in New Zealand.

The Reds is set to sign barnstorming teenage sensation Taniela ‘Tongan Thor’ Tupou.

The Reds are understood to be close to finalising a deal for the New Zealand-based 18-year-old who has been chased by four countries and two rival Australian franchises.

If the signing comes off, it will be a massive boost for Australian rugby and cap an impressive fortnight for the Reds, who announced two weeks ago that they have recruited James O’Connor and Karmichael Hunt for next year.

Tupou revealed earlier this week that he would reject offers from the NZRU to defect to Australia, where his older brother lives and plans to guide his career.

The NZRU held last-minute meetings with Tupou in a bid to change his mind but he has not wavered.

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James O'Connor

James O’Connor: The worst of the three Amigos.

Drew Mitchell doesn’t mind admitting he didn’t jump for joy when told James O’Connor would be joining him in the south of France.

When O’Connor signed on for Toulon in February, the former Wallaby wing thought only of the brash youngster he’d known in Australian rugby, and the poor form and controversy behind his exit.

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Agustin Creevy

Agustin Creevy

Argentina captain Agustin Creevy revealed on Friday a plan for fielding a full-strength international side when they join the southern hemisphere’s prestigious Super Rugby competition in 2016.

The move would rob European clubs of several leading players but would strengthen Argentina at Test level.

Super rugby organisers have already confirmed an Argentinian side will join the competition when it is expanded to 18 teams as the International Rugby Board pushes to expand the sport in South America.

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James O'Connor

Runaway success: James O’Connor scores a try for Toulon on the weekend.

The short-term future of James O’Connor and his return to Australia is assured, but doubts remain about his long-term plans after the World Cup in Britain next year.

Queensland are expecting O’Connor, who has 44 Test caps with the Wallabies, to remain in Brisbane after announcing last Friday that the back had signed a two-year deal with them – starting next season.

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Jarrad Butler

Brumbies player of the year Jarrad Butler.

The ACT Brumbies have declared Jarrad Butler a “star of the future” after the unheralded back-rower claimed a double delight at the club’s awards dinner on Saturday.

Butler emerged as the stand out player in a team boasting 13 Wallabies, winning his first Brett Robinson award as the players’ player for the Super Rugby season.

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Glenn Moore

NO PROBLEMS ADJUSTING: Newly appointed Blues assistant Glenn Moore in his days as Highlanders’ head coach.

Former Highlanders coach Glenn Moore will take charge of the Blues forward pack for the next two years.

Moore will join the Blues fulltime at the conclusion of the Heartland Championship – he is the current Mid Canterbury head coach – and replace All Blacks skills coach Mick Byrne, who stepped down at this end of last season.

Auckland-born Moore partners head coach Kirwan and assistant Grant Doorey in the coaching team with a back skills coach, who will fill Sir Graham Henry’s void, to be appointed in the coming weeks.

Moore reckons none of his Super Rugby charges will phone to say they can’t make training because the cow shed roof has blown off in a big storm.

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James Slipper

James Slipper

Wallabies vice-captain James Slipper has underlined his standing as the most influential prop in Australian rugby by dominating the awards at the Queensland Reds’ gala ball.

Slipper became the first front-rower to win the coveted Pilecki Medal for a second time on Friday night while also taking out the People’s Choice award and the Spirit of the Reds award.

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James O' Connor

James O’ Connor

James O’Connor’s willingness to shelve any special contract demands is the first sign that a new maturity at the Queensland Reds will replace his old spoiled kid persona.

There were reservations initially at Queensland Rugby Union board level that a player with O’Connor’s rap sheet of poor discipline was a bad fit for the Reds.

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Mark Ella - Randwick 1984

Learning from the greats… Mark Ella playing for Randwick in 1984.

When most people refer to the influence of Wallabies legend Mark Ella on rugby union, they recall his on-field wizardry and brilliance with the ball in hand.

Waratahs coach Michael Cheika did on Thursday at a Randwick Rugby Club fund-raising lunch that feted Australian rugby’s four “Invincibles”.

Ella, who played 25 Tests from 1980-1984 before retiring at the of age 25, is one; along with Col Windon, Ken Catchpole and David Campese – all of whom played for the Galloping Greens.

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Karmichael Hunt

Biarritz’s centre Karmichael Hunt runs to score during the European H-Cup rugby union final match Biarritz vs. Toulouse.

The Queensland Reds will on Friday night unveil James O’Connor and Karmichael Hunt as their blue-chip recruits for 2015.

Rugby’s worst-kept secrets will be revealed together at the Reds’ Gala Ball at the Brisbane Convention Centre, but diehard fans will be hoping for more.

Although O’Connor and Hunt, neither of whom will be in attendance, represent the franchise’s biggest recruitment announcement since Super Rugby kicked off in 1996, Queensland can’t fix the problems that plagued them this season with two outside backs.

Karmichael Hunt and Israel Folau made national headlines when they defected from the NRL to AFL in 2009 and 2010 respectively.

Folau finished a difficult, though lucrative, stint in the AFL in 2012 and is now one of rugby union’s top draw cards. Hunt, meanwhile, is poised to join him in the 15-man code with reports linking him to the Queensland Reds in 2015.

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