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Super RugbyIt is Round 7 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 27 March and 5 games on Saturday 28 March.

The Brumbies a BYE weekend.

There are no South African derbies on the weekend again, with 3 SA sides currently on tour and both the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks envolved in games on South African soil against Anzac counterparts.

Only 1 undefeated team remains prior to the start of the weekend, the Hurricanes, and they will be up against the struggling Melbourne Rebels, at home, in the 1st game of the weekend (08:35 SA Time on Friday 27 March).

The Struggling Reds, who boast a return of a number of Wallabies take on the Emirates Lions at 11:00 SA Time on Friday.

On Saturday morning, early (05:30 SA Time) the Chiefs host the Toyota Cheetahs, whereafter the Highlanders host the DHL Stormers in their first game on tour, at 08:35 SA Time.

Next up, at 10:40 SA Time, the Waratahs host the battling Blues in Sydney.

The Cell C Sharks, resting a number of Springboks host the Western Force in Durban at 17:05 SA Time.

The Vodacom Bulls take on a resurgent Crusaders side at 19:10 SA Time in Pretoria in the last game of the Round.

The Hurricanes should coast to victory in the first Friday game but the second Friday game between the Reds and Emirates Lions is difficult to call.

The Chiefs should dispense with the Toyota Cheetahs early on Saturday, but the game between the Highlanders and the DHL Stormers is once again a difficult one to call. The Waratahs should put the Blues to the sword in Sydney.

One cannot help but feel that the Crusaders should beat the Vodacom Bulls…. even in Pretoria, whereas the Cell C Sharks should beat the Western Force in Durban.

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

Centre Juan de Jongh will captain the DHL Stormers in their 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby tour-opener against the Highlanders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium on Saturday.

De Jongh takes over the leadership reins from No 8 Duane Vermeulen, who is being rested as per the franchise agreement with SA Rugby, whilst Schalk Burger comes in for his first start of 2015 and will take over the vice-captaincy.

Aside from backing up De Jongh in the leadership department, Burger will also be making his 100th appearance in a DHL Stormers jersey – having made his debut against the Waratahs in Cape Town on 13 March 2004.

The 31-year-old Springbok star joins Andries Bekker (2013) and Jean de Villiers and Peter Grant (both 2014) in reaching this impressive landmark for the men from the Cape and DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee paid tribute to the team’s “ultimate warrior”.

“I don’t think people realise exactly what Schalk went through in 2012 and 2013, first with his knee injury and then his illness,” Coetzee said.

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Cell C SharksThe Cell C Sharks team to take on the Western Force on Saturday at Growthpoint Kings Park sees a number of changes to the side that defeated the Chiefs at the same venue last weekend.

Due to the suspension of Bismarck du Plessis, Jean Deysel who returns to the side in the absence of Marcell Coetzee who is being rested, will captain the team for this match. The good news is that Mouritz Botha and Beast Mtawarira, both of whom took heavy blows from the Chiefs, have been passed fit to play.  Kyle Cooper taking over at hooker is the only other change amongst the forwards.

Backline changes have been made in the midfield, the resting of Springboks Cobus Reinach and Pat Lambie have necessitated a new halfback pairing for the first time this season, Conrad Hoffmann taking over at scrumhalf and Frans Steyn shifting from centre to flyhalf.  Andre Esterhuizen earns his second start, he will partner JP Pietersen from inside centre.

These 2 teams have met on 8 occasions, but it is the Sharks who hold the upper hand, having won 7 of them, including a 6 match winning streak stretching back to 2007.

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Arno Botha

Arno Botha

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke restored props Morné Mellett and Trevor Nyakane to the starting line-up for their Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Crusaders at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Both props played off the bench in last weekend’s win against the Force and swop places with Dean Greyling and Marcel van der Merwe in 2 of the 4 changes to the pack. In the other changes to the pack and team, Victor Matfield returns to the No 5 lock position, swopping places with Grant Hattingh, who returns to his regular role as impact player.

Lappies Labuschagne also did not recover from a chest injury sustained against the Force and will sit out. He will be replaced by Arno Botha, who moves up from the bench. Hanro Liebenberg takes over from Botha on the bench.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

The hearing date for SANZAR’s appeal against the decision to rescind Frans Steyn’s Red Card has been postponed until next week.

The Sharks centre was sent off after performing a tip-tackle on Chiefs flyhalf Aaron Cruden in their Super Rugby clash in Durban last Saturday.

Steyn was cited following the game, but was then found not guilty at a subsequent hearing, with the Red Card expunged from his record.

However, SANZAR felt justice was not served and appealed the decision on Wednesday.

The initial date for the appeal was set for Friday, but has now been extended until next Tuesday.

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Western ForceWestern Force head coach Michael Foley has made no changes to his starting line-up that will take on the Cell C Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

The only alteration comes on the bench where fullback Dane Haylett-Petty is set to make his return from a foot injury should he come on to the field.

Otherwise it’s the same squad that was beaten, 25 / 24, by the Bulls last week.

Haylett-Petty suffered a foot injury in the Western Force’s Week One 25 / 13 win over the Waratahs, but has recovered to reclaim his place in the match-day 23.

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CrusadersCrusaders coach Todd Blackadder wasted no time in bringing back All Black captain Richie McCaw for his team’s Super Rugby Round 7 encounter with the Vodacom Bulls.

The 7-time champion Crusaders start their South African tour against the 3-time champion Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday.

McCaw, who was rested last week as the Crusaders demolished the Cheetahs 57 / 14, replaces Matt Todd at openside flank – with the latter dropping down to the replacement bench.

In all Blackadder made 5 changes to his starting line-up for the trip to Loftus Versfeld.

Blackadder has made 2 rotations in the front row, with prop Joe Moody and hooker Ben Funnell coming in for All Black Wyatt Crockett and Codie Taylor respectively. Crockett and Taylor both drop to the bench.

Dan Carter, who last week started at inside centre, returns to his more customary role in the No 10 jersey.

Tom Taylor moves out one position to No 12 and Colin Slade will play off the bench.

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ChiefsThe Chiefs have made several changes to their starting line-up for Saturday’s clash with the Cheetahs in Hamilton.

Amongst the backs, All Blacks midfielder Sonny Bill Williams returns to the run-on side after missing last weekend’s narrow loss to the Sharks due to concussion, and Charlie Ngatai is bracketed with Seta Tamanivalu at outside centre.

Tom Marshall comes on to the left wing.

Andrew Horrell moves to the reserves and is joined by prop Siate Tokolahi and Marty McKenzie.

In the pack, there’s a brand new front row.

Pauliasi Manu returns from injury and is joined by Quentin MacDonald and Ben Tameifuna.

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Melbourne RebelsMelbourne Rebels head coach Tony McGahan has made several changes to his starting 15 for Friday’s clash with the Hurricanes in Wellington.

Rebels centre Mitch Inman becomes the 5th player to play 50 matches for the franchise, while co-captain Scott Higginbotham makes his 100th Super Rugby appearance.

Tighthead prop Laurie Weeks will also overtake former player Hugh Pyle as the most-capped player in the franchise’s history, moving to 59 Rebels caps.

McGahan was pleased to see the players reach these milestones, and stressed the importance of acknowledging them.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

SANZAR has lodged an appeal against the outcome of a judicial hearing held on Monday 23 March that found Francois Steyn of the Sharks not guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j).

A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Terry Willis, with Nigel Hampton QC and Robert Stelzner SC as members, will hear the appeal via videoconference on Friday 27 March 2015 at 08:00 SA Time (17:00 AEDT, 19:00 NZ Time).

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Schalk Burger

Schalk Burger

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has hinted that veteran Schalk Burger could be in line for a return to the openside flank role that he filled for so long for the Springboks, but it would require a big shift in emphasis for the 2004 winner of the IRB World Rugby Player of the Year Award.

Coetzee finds himself faced with a difficult balancing act as he considers his loose-forward options of Saturday’s opening Vodacom Super Rugby tour match against the Highlanders in Dunedin. Duane Vermeulen, who brings so much of the necessary drive and physicality to the back row, is being rested as per the agreement with Saru geared towards effective management of Springboks.

That means that Nizaam Carr will move from openside flank to No 8, something that Coetzee confirmed in an interview with the Cape media from the team hotel in Dunedin. Carr played for the Boks in that position last year and was 1 of the form players in the Currie Cup for the title winning Western Province team, but having him at the back of the scrum does bring a different dynamic to the back row.

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Willie le Roux

Willie le Roux

Coenie Oosthuizen

Coenie Oosthuizen

A number of changes have been made to the Toyota Cheetahs team to play the Chiefs in a Super Rugby match in Hamilton on Saturday.

There are no less than 6 changes to the starting line-up, including a rest for Springbok duo Coenie Oosthuizen and Willie Le Roux.

Springbok flank Teboho Mohoje is already on his way back home, suffering an injury to his groin in last week’s tough encounter against the Crusaders. Mohoje is expected to be sidelined for 8 / 12 weeks, and Tienie Burger will be flying to Hamilton as cover for the Cheetahs, with Johannes ‘Boom’ Prinsloo slotting into the starting line-up.

As per agreement with SA Rugby, Willie le Roux and Coenie Oosthuizen are being rested. Nicholas ‘Maks’ van Dyk moves into the front row to replace the Springbok tighthead, with Clayton Blommetjies shifting to fullback to allow the return of Cornal Hendricks on the right wing.

Centre Francois Venter sits this one out, and Michael van der Spuy comes off the bench to play in the midfield.

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TJ Perenara

TJ Perenara

All Blacks scrumhalf TJ Perenara will play his 50th match for the Hurricanes when they face the Rebels in Wellington on Friday.

Perenara made his debut for the ‘Canes against the Stormers in 2012, and has since racked up 105 points for the franchise by way of 21 tries.

The 23-year-old will pair with James Marshall this weekend in what will be the 1st start for the halfback combination, with coach Chris Boyd opting to rest Beauden Barrett.

Also taking a break this week is prop Ben Franks, along with wing Julian Savea, which has allowed Boyd to shuffle his back 3.

Matt Proctor comes in for Savea, while Jason Woodward has been given another start at fullback. Manawatu flyhalf Otere Black will also get his 1st chance for the Hurricanes, should he come off the bench.

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RedsReds coach Richard Graham wasted no time in rushing back a number of Wallaby stars, when he named his side to take on the Emirates Lions in Brisbane on Friday.

There are 6 players returning from injury for the clash.

Quade Cooper, James O’Connor, Samu Kerevi and Lachie Turner will make their return from injury in the starting backline – while props Greg Holmes and Ben Daley have been named on the reserves bench.

Graham commended the players for their efforts since returning from the BYE and said he was pleased to have a selection headache for this week’s match.

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Jonathan Kaplan

Jonathan Kaplan

Prominent ex-Test referee Jonathan Kaplan has joined the chorus calling for scrutiny of the Crusaders scrumming action after their win over the Toyota Cheetahs last weekend.

The Crusaders scrum has dominated in their contests against both the Emirates Lions and Cheetahs in their 2 Vodacom Super Rugby games over the past fortnight, and in both cases it seems as if the scrum – and All Black prop Wyatt Crockett in particular – have gotten away with murder.

Crockett’s supposed dominance in the scrum has seen both Julian Redelinghuys and Coenie Oosthuizen, both Springbok props, being sin-binned during the game and a plethora of penalties given against their teams by referees who believe the tighthead can’t handle the pressure when the loosehead packs down.

But on a number of occasions – and ironically picked up by both former All Blacks Jeff Wilson and Justin Marshall – the scrum has never packed down straight.

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Duane Vermeulen

Duane Vermeulen

Regular captain and No 8 Duane Vermeulen is the only member of the DHL Stormers touring squad that will not be available for selection for Saturday’s opening game of the 4 day trip against the Highlanders at Dunedin’s Forsyth Barr Stadium.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has reported to the Cape rugby media via telephone conference hook-up that the squad has settled down well on the South Island in New Zealand – they are actually in the resort town of Queenstown currently – and that every player in the 27 man squad is fully fit and ready to play.

That means that Louis Schreuder, who was concussed against the Chiefs in the last match, has passed his cognitive tests, while big lock Eben Etzebeth and the inform blindside flank Michael Rhodes have both recovered from the injuries that have kept them out of the last few Stormers games.

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Teboho Mohoje

Teboho Mohoje

The Toyota Cheetahs were given a massive setback Wednesday when their worst fears about the injury to Teboho “Oupa” Mohoje filtered through.

Mohoje tore his groin muscle in the big loss in Christchurch against the Crusaders on Saturday and will need surgery as soon as possible.

The big Springbok flanker has already left the side en route back to Bloemfontein to see a specialist and prepare for the surgery, but the initial diagnosis is that he will be out for at least 8 to 12 weeks.

The Cheetahs have called up Shimlas flanker Tienie Burger to join the side but it is clear Mohoje’s injury has hit them hard.

The Bok is unlikely to play again in this year’s Vodacom Super Rugby competition, although depending on his rehabilitation there is a slight chance he could return to the field for the last 2 games of their campaign… all of which creates another headache for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

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WhistleSANZAR has announced the appointments of the Match Officials for Round 7 of the 2015 Super Rugby season.

The Brumbies have a BYE weekend.

There are 7 Super Rugby games this weekend, 2 on Friday and 5 games on Saturday.

The weekend’s action is kicked off by Stuart Berry in the game between the Hurricans vs Melbourne Rebels at 08:35 SA Time. Thereafter also on Friday the Reds host the Emirates Lions at 11:00 SA Time, where Glen Jackson will be the man with the whistle.

On Saturday the action starts early, at 05:30 SA Time, when the Chiefs host the Toyota Cheetahs in Hamilton, controlled by Craig Joubert in the middle. Thereafter it is the Highlanders vs DHL Stormers in Dunedin at 08:35, where Rohan Hoffman will be in charge. Next up, at 10:40 SA Time in Sydney, the Waratahs host the Blues where Jaco Peyper will preside.

On Saturday afternoon and evening in South Africa, the Cell C Sharks host the Western Force in Durban at 17:05 SA Time, with Nick Briant in charge. The Last game of the weekend sees the Vodacom Bulls take on the Crusaders in Pretoria at 19:10 SA Time, where Angus Gardner will be the man in the middle.

Considering the shenannigans last weekend in the game between the Cell C Sharks and the Chiefs, where 3 Red cards were dished out and a further player cited after the game, here’s hoping that the Match Officials are impartial and sees themselves as facilitators of the game and not controllers and here’s hoping that player-dicipline is markedly better than in Round 6!

All we can and should ask for is even-handed application of the Laws and rules.

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Burger Odendaal

Burger Odendaal

Vodacom Bulls midfielder Burger Odendaal will return to training today after a successful rehabilitation phase on a meniscal knee injury which saw him miss the opening part of the Vodacom Super Rugby season.

Odendaal will find a number of team mates missing on Monday though, as Jan Serfontein (stiff hip flexor), Marcel van der Merwe (contusion)and Dean Greyling (neck) will only return to the training field on Tuesday and Roelof Smit (ankle) and Lappies Labuschagne (nasal fracture) only on Thursday.

Amongst the longer term injuries, Jacques-Louis Potgieter (1 week, hamstring), Flip van der Merwe (pectoral, 2 weeks) and Akona Ndungane (hand, 3 weeks) are a week closer to returning to the fold.

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Emirates LionsEmirates Lions head coach Johan Ackermann has announced his side to face the Reds in Brisbane on Friday.

In the forwards, Ackermann has made just 1 change for the game, as Robbie Coetzee starts at hooker.

Meanwhile, in the backline, Ross Cronje returns to the starting 15 at scrumhalf. He pairs up with Elton Jantjies who shifts back to flyhalf. Sampie Mastriet shifts to left wing, making way for Ruan Combrinck who starts at right wing.

Harold Vorster returns to the starting line-up at inside centre, while Andries Coetzee starts at fullback.

Kick-Off is at 11:00 SA Time on Friday.

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