This week’s Super Rugby news is of course dominated by the only 2 sides left in the 2015 competition, who will meet in the Final on Saturday, namely the Highlanders and Hurricanes.
In this article we focus on various aspects in the final week for the Hurricanes. We look at how they will approach the final, Conrad Smith discusses his 12-year Hurricanes career and we look at the Hurricane sinjury situation ahead of Saturday’s final.
Game Approch – Keep attacking:
Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd says that his team will not change their attacking approach when they host their first Super Rugby Final.
The Wellington side will host the Highlanders on the weekend which means that Super Rugby will have a 1st-time titleholder, and for the 5th time it will be an all-New Zealand affair.
The table-topping Hurricanes sealed their home final with a 29 / 9 victory over the Brumbies, while the Highlanders travelled to Sydney and beat the defending champion Waratahs to secure their spot.
Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu said that his side are happy to be written off ahead of the Super Rugby Final against the Hurricanes.
Despite having just 3 All Blacks in their side the Highlanders upset the defending champion Waratahs in their Sydney semi-final on Saturday, and Manu said they relish being underdogs.
“It just added fuel to the fire, coming over here and everyone writing us off,” Manu said. “No-one really expected anything from us. I guess we have always been the underdogs and I believe we thrive off that.”
The Highlanders will be up against the weight of history as well in Wellington, as since the conference system was implemented in 2011 no team that finished outside the Top-2 places on the competition ladder has won.
The Brumbies, Sharks and Crusaders have all made it all the way to the final, only to stumble at the final hurdle.
The Western Force has released flyhalf Sias Ebersohn from his contract, allowing him to return to his native South Africa.
The 26-year-old, who joined the Force from the Bloemfontein-based Toyota Cheetahs ahead of the 2013 Super Rugby season, has played 43 matches – scoring 212 points – across his 3 seasons for the Western Australian club.
Ebersohn has made a strong contribution to the club over the past 3 seasons, including playing a key role during the club’s most successful season in 2014.
However, leading into the 2016 season, the club identified the need to inject additional experience into its young backline, which coincided with an opportunity for Ebersohn to return to South Africa.
The Southern Kings continued their recruitment drive ahead of their re-entry into Super Rugby next year.
Veteran prop Schalk Ferreira, who played Super Rugby for the Kings in 2013, is the latest recruit for the Port Elizabeth-based franchise.
He will be returning to PE on a 2-year contract and will join them ahead of the Eastern Province Kings’ Currie Cup campaign that gets underway in August.
The 31-year-old Ferreira – who also played for the DHL Stormers before moving to PE – has been playing for Toulouse in France since 2013.
The have recently also confirmed the signing of centre JP du Plessis and prop Basil Short.
This also follows the announcement of a loan agreement with the Blue Bulls for the services of Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht to join the squad for the Currie Cup season, as well as the signing until 2016 of young prop Nicolaas van Dyk.
Du Plessis and Short are already taking part in a training.
Waratahs (14) 17 / 35 (15) Highlanders (Final Score)
The Waratahs and Highlanders did battle in a Semi-Final of Super Rugby 2015 at
Allianz Stadium, Sydney at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
Hurricanes (12) 29 / 9 (3) Brumbies (Final Score)
The Hurricanes and Brumbies did battle in a Semi-Final of Super Rugby 2015 at
Westpac Stadium, Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
The Highlanders have received a boost with the news that flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, who suffered a knee injury at a training camp, is set to take his place in their Super Rugby semi-final against the Waratahs.
“He’s fine. He just twisted his knee, it’s a wee bit of a one off,” coach Jamie Joseph said in Sydney on Friday. “It was a wee bit of a scare for everybody, but he’s fine and he’s going to train today.”
The 24-year-old, who has also been named in an extended All Blacks squad, had initially feared he might have to sit out Saturday’s match against the defending champions.
“I think his body feels fine today and, as Jamie said, it was just a bit of a scare at the time,” added Highlanders co-captain Ben Smith.
The Hurricanes have not stumbled upon a magic formula this season and their success is built on hard work put in over the last few years by a maturing playing group, according to their coach and captain.
The Hurricanes host Australia’s Brumbies in the Super Rugby semi-final at Wellington Regional Stadium on Saturday after finishing top of the standings.
It is the 1st semi-final the Wellington-based side have hosted since 2006, creating an expected sell out, and their 1st appearance in the playoffs since 2009.
“I don’t think there’s a silver bullet and there’s not one answer,” coach Chris Boyd said about their success.
“There are a whole lot of bits and pieces that has got the chemistry right.”
The progression of players such as new All Black Nehe Milner-Skudder from the wider training group and the experience gained through seasons of Super Rugby had also played a part, Boyd said.
Captain Conrad Smith, who will play his last game for the Hurricanes on Saturday if his side lose, felt the team’s success had been down to the work done over the last few years.
The Sharks took delight in announcing the signing of Springbok loosehead prop, Coenie Oosthuizen, on a 4-year deal.
Oosthuizen made his Springbok debut in 2012 and has since amassed 21 caps in the green and gold jersey. He is a versatile prop that is able to play on both sides of the scrum and is a welcome addition to the Cell C Sharks family.
Commenting on his signing, The Sharks Director of Rugby, Gary Gold said: “I am pleased that Coenie has taken up our offer to play his rugby in Durban. He is an exceptional player who boasts surprising pace and is known for his strong runs and work rate around the park.
“His experience will prove invaluable to our team ambitions going forward.”
The Vodacom Bulls are totally mum as to who could possibly succeed Frans Ludeke as their new Super Rugby head coach.
Media speculation has been rife about possible candidates for the new post in Pretoria.
Junior Springbok coach Dawie Theron is being mentioned as a possible successor to Ludeke, who was stood down despite having another year left on his contract.
Despite the Theron rumours, the Bulls insist no decision has been made yet.
“The Blue Bulls Company (BBC) will not comment about rumours about possible coaches mentioned in the media,” CEO Barend van Graan said.
Springbok lock Victor Matfield has also been touted as a possible head coach, as well as current Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan.
The Japanese Yen’s pulling power continues to lure Springboks to Japan for brief off-season stints.
Springbok lock Eben Etzebeth is reported to have signed for the Red Hurricanes and is set to join Springbok teammate Handré Pollard for a stint in Japan.
As is the case with Pollard, Etzebeth’s contract with the Japanese club will only be for 3 months and commence after the World Cup.
That would see him return to play for the DHL Stormers in next year’s Super Rugby competition.
Etzebeth’s contract with Western Province expires at the end of the 2016 season.
The 2nd Springbok that will travel to Asia, is Super Rugby sensation Damien de Allende who has, according to japanrugby.net, signed with the Liners.
De Allende will depart for Japan after the World Cup and return in time for the Super Rugby season in 2016.
Johan Goosen’s kicking coach has confirmed Western Province’s interest in the Springbok pivot and says the player is ‘considering’ all possible options.
Media reports earlier this month indicated that the Capetonians were interested in signing Goosen as a replacement for Demetri Catrakilis, who will join Montpellier in France after this year’s Currie Cup.
Bertus Pretorius, who is Goosen’s kicking coach in Bloemfontein, confirmed the interest in his player.
Goosen though still has 2 seasons left on his contract with Racing Metro in France and WP would have to fork out a lot of money to sign him.
“Any player will always consider possibilities (to move) and it’s not necessarily only WP. But Goose has a 3-year contract with Racing (should WP fail in their quest to lure him) and he’ll honour it, like he did with the Cheetahs,” Pretorius said.
Goosen though appears not to be a happy camper in France, with Racing coach Laurent Labit recently accusing the Springbok pivot of not attending French classes as well as not taking things serious enough at practice.
Former Bath, Harlequins and London Irish flyhalf Chris Malone will join the Waratahs next season as attack and kicking coach.
The Waratahs confirmed the appointment of Malone as assistant coach to Daryl Gibson on a 3-year contract, to commence with the 2016 season.
Malone, who will be a specialist attack and kicking coach, was recruited from the Sydney University club where he has been coach of the 1st grade Shute Shield side since 2013.
Gibson, who will move from assistant to head coach when Michael Cheika leaves at the end of the season, said the appointment of Malone would bring a fresh perspective to the coaching team.
It is the Semi-Final Round of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.
There are only 2 matches in the Round, 1 in New Zealand and 1 in Australia.
1St Place on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes hosts the lowest Qualifier, the Brumbies. In the other match 2nd on the Log, the Waratahs hosts the other qualifier from last weekend, the Highlanders.
The 2 Franchises who finished in the No 1 and No 2 spots on the Combined Log, the Hurricanes and Waratahs respectively, have had wonderful rest weekends, as they sat out during the Top 6 Qualification Round last weekend.
The action is kicked off by the Hurricanes vs Brumbies who do battle in Wellington at 09:35 SA Time (19:35 NZ Time, 17:35 AEST, 07:35 GMT) on Saturday 27 June.
A little later, over in Sydney, Australia, the Waratahs plays the Highlanders at 11:55 SA Time (19:55 AEST, 21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).
After this Round only 2 Teams remain to contest the Final next weekend.
The Hurricanes vs Brumbies game should be an absolute cracker after the Brumbies’ massive win over the DHL Stormers last weekend, but one would have to give a nod to the most consistent team of this year’s series, the Hurricanes, who have stood out head and shoulders above all comers in 2015.
Both teams sport great backlines but I am of the opinion that the Hurricanes are punching at the weight they should always punch at in 2015, and I give the win to them, but not by a large margin.
As far as the other match is concerned, do we give home ground advantage enough weight to speculate that the Waratahs will overcome the staunch Highlanders in Sydney… even though their regular league season was not as brilliant as last season, OR do we say that the Highlander’s faerie tale will continue in 2015?
It is a difficult call to make and I’m leaning towards the Waratahs making it at home in Sydney!
Meanwhile 11Teams are already lounging around, no longer part of the race to the finish line.
Former Springbok and Sharks legend Mark Andrews says the Sharks need a coach who understands their culture.
Gary Gold took charge of the Sharks in Super Rugby, but it was recently announced that Gold would not coach the team in future and instead focus on his Director of Rugby role.
Andrews feels former Sharks centre Dick Muir would be the ideal candidate to take the coaching reins in Durban.
Rugby consultant Brendan Venter believes current Springbok assistant coach Johann van Graan will take charge of the Bulls next year with Victor Matfield and Fourie du Preez appointed as his assistants.
A vacancy opened up a fortnight ago when long-time mentor Frans Ludeke resigned a year before his contract was set to expire.
Van Graan is widely regarded for his technical expertise and has cut his teeth at Loftus Versfeld where he played a vital role for the Bulls during their Super Rugby supremacy between 2007 and 2010 as forwards and attack coach.
His contract with the SA Rugby Union is set to expire at the end of this year which could see him return to the Bulls as head coach.
Saturday’s Semi-Final will see the Highlanders’ field an almost identical starting 15 to the side that beat the Chiefs last Saturday in an encounter of epic proportions.
The only change – openside flanker James Lentjes replaces the injured Dan Pryor. Lentjes was called up for injuries earlier in the season and has showed a lot of promise in his 4 games to date.
The team also welcomes back experienced lock Joe Wheeler from a lengthy injury break to take his place on the bench alongside Trent Renata.
Renata replaces the versatile Marty Banks who took a head knock during the week and while working through the concussion protocols is unavailable for action this week.
The team will again be captained by the experienced duo of Ben Smith and Nasi Manu who will be playing their 104th and 80th game respectively.
The Hurricanes will welcome back star flyhalf Beauden Barrett for their semi-final clash against the Brumbies on Saturday, but will be without the services of Cory Jane.
Jane failed to recover from a hamstring injury he suffered in his team’s 21 / 13 win over the Chiefs, with his place taken by Nehe Milner-Skudder, who moves from fullback to the right wing.
Milner-Skudder’s shift sees James Marshall move from flyhalf to the fullback position, with Barrett recovering from his niggle to take over the pivot position.
The Hurricanes will also be further boosted by the return of Ma’a Nonu who was rested for the Chiefs clash 2 weeks ago. He replaces Rey Lee-Lo, who drops down to the bench.
In the pack, new All Blacks squad member James Broadhurst returns to partner Jeremy Thrush, while explosive flank Ardie Savea also returns replacing Callum Gibbins.
The only other changes to the matchday squad is on the bench, which sees Blade Thomson and Matt Proctor both return from injury and will be on the bench. Scrumhalf Chris Smylie also returns to provide cover for TJ Perenara.
Waratahs head coach Michael Cheika has named the team to face the Highlanders in the 2015 Super Rugby Semi-Final to be played at Allianz Stadium, Sydney on Saturday 27 June. Kick-Off is at 19:55 AEST (21:55 NZ Time, 09:55 GMT).
Matt Carraro has been named to play in the centres after Kurtley Beale failed to complete training on Thursday.
Stephen Larkham has named his side to take on the Hurricanes in this weekend’s Super Rugby Semi-Final in Wellington.
There is only 1 change from the team that defeated the DHL Stormers 39 / 19 in Cape Town last Saturday.
With Henry Speight ruled out through suspension earlier this week, Larkham has named Lausii Taliauli to start on the wing.
Taliauli is a former Australian Sevens player and appeared in the NRL’s National Youth Competition with the Gold Coast Titans. He debuted with the Brumbies this season, and has scored 1 Super Rugby try from 6 appearances.
“Lausii is a good young player. With Henry ruled out we think he’s the right man for the job,” Larkham said.
There are no other changes named from the side that ran in 6 tries against the DHL Stormers.
Michael Leitch will be back in Chiefs colours after signing to remain in Hamilton for the 2016 Super Rugby season.
The Japanese national team captain has been impressive for the Chiefs this season, earning the Rookie of the Year award as voted for by the players.
“Michael has made a huge impression in his debut season,” said Chiefs coach Dave Rennie.
“He is a top man, very professional and has been a real positive influence on our younger players. We appreciate Michael’s desire and commitment to return to the Chiefs and we are rapt that he will be back for us.”
The Brumbies will appeal Wallabies wing Henry Speight’s 5-week suspension after the Aussie side felt the player was treated harshly compared to other lifting tackles this season.
Speight was found guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j): Lifting Tackle, on Wednesday and will be out of action up until 25 July, which translates into 4 matches.
His tackle on DHL Stormers’ centre Juan de Jongh in the 74th minute of the qualifier last Saturday, resulted in the Springbok landing on his head.
Speight will be out for the remainder of the Super Rugby season and will also miss the Wallabies 1st 2 Tests of The Rugby Championship against South Africa and Argentina.
The Brumbies will appeal the suspension on 2 grounds – the severity of the punishment and the incident’s classification as a lifting tackle.
Following Frans Ludeke’s decision to step down as Head Coach of the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls respectively, the Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd confirmed that they have reached a full and final settlement with Ludeke.
Ludeke most recently led the team to a home semi-final of the Super Rugby competition, as well as South African conference winners during 2013, prior to this he also won the Vodacom Super Rugby title twice, the first of those titles in 2009, coupled with being crowned as the Currie Cup Champions.
Barend van Graan, BBC CEO said “Frans and I have known each other a long time and we shared special memories both on and off the field of play, he is a remarkable man and in his 8 year tenure as Head Coach of the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls we have achieved many successes, which I believe our supporters, shareholders and players will cherish forever. Our staff and players have gained a huge amount from him.”
Ludeke said that although he was leaving the Blue Bulls Company sooner than anticipated, he was satisfied that his goals had been achieved and that he is able to end his tenure after sharing the joy the game brings with players, management, supporters and shareholders.
Hurricanes’ coach Chris Boyd is backing his loose forward trio to step up in their crunch Super Rugby semifinal against the Brumbies on Saturday.
Boys feels Victor Vito and Ardie Savea’s Test aspirations will lift their game and believes Savea was very unlucky to miss out on All Black selection.
He is expecting a compelling response from the 21-year-old flank when he goes head-to-head with Wallaby openside David Pocock in Saturday’s showdown in Wellington.
Boyd believes his 21-year-old tearaway will be a solid replacement if All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, Sam Cane or Matt Todd should be struck down by injury.
Brumbies prop Scott Sio, if selected, will run out for his 50th Super Rugby match in Saturday’s sudden death Super Rugby semifinal against the Hurricanes.
At just 23, Sio has proved to be one of the competition’s best loosehead props since debuting for the Brumbies in 2012.
While proud of reaching the milestone, Sio says his focus right now is helping his team in Wellington on Saturday.
“It’s a great occasion but I think the strength of our team is that we never really focus on individual accolades,” said Sio.
Waratahs flank Stephen Hoiles has warned that the Highlanders pack could cause problems for the defending champions heading into the semifinal clash in Sydney on Saturday.
The Highlanders pack completely outmuscled the Chiefs in the Super Rugby preliminary play-off match last week – defeating the Chiefs 24 / 13.
“Watching their play-off match the other day, they were very impressive and they have been impressive all year,” Hoiles said in an interview on the Waratahs website.
“Probably because of how strong that New Zealand conference has been,” he added.
“They have snuck under the radar for most of the season, but the last few weeks it has been really obvious just how exciting they are.
A SANZAR Judicial Hearing has found Henry Speight of the Brumbies guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackle, after he received a red card during a Super Rugby match at the weekend. Speight has been suspended for five weeks up to and including Saturday 25 July 2015, which translates into four matches.
The incident occurred in the 74th minute of the match between the Stormers and Brumbies at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on 20 June 2015.
The SANZAR Judicial Hearing was heard by Robert Stelzner SC via video conference at 4:00pm AEST, 6:00pm NZST, 8:00am SAST on 23 June 2015. Mike Mika was the former professional player who attended as a Judicial Technical Adviser. The outcome was delayed as Stelzner requested information of the player’s forthcoming playing schedule in order to determine the sanction.
In his finding, Stelzner ruled the following:
“As the Judicial Officer, I considered all the evidence before me including the video footage of the incident, referee and TMO reports for issuing the red card and the submissions made for the player by his legal representative, Peter McGrath.
It may come in the form of another franchise gig, but there are a number of critics who feel that Allister Coetzee’s return to South Africa will be as Springbok coach.
Coetzee jets off to Japan on 5 July where he will take charge of the Kobe Kobelco Steelers, but he has not ruled out a move back to South Africa at a later stage, saying that he was “far from done” with his coaching career.
Current Bok coach Heyneke Meyer is out of contract at the end of the year after completing what would have been four full international season, and whether or not he gets another 4 years will be largely determined by how the men in green and gold go at this year’s World Cup.
Coetzee said on Tuesday that the opportunity to coach his country was something that he had always thought about.
“I would love to do it,” Coetzee said.
Loose forward Jacques “Vleis” Engelbrecht says signing with the Bulls was the biggest mistake of his rugby career.
The 30-year-old was a star for the Kings when they played Super Rugby in 2013 before joining the Bulls later that year.
His career nosedived in Pretoria though, where a lack of game time left him frustrated.
Engelbrecht mainly played Vodacom Cup rugby for the Blue Bulls this year and has been loaned to the EP Kings for this year’s Currie Cup.
Engelbrecht’s contract with the Bulls only expires next year, but he is hoping to impress for the Kings in the Currie Cup in order for them to try sign him for next year’s Super Rugby competition.
The Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Tuesday confirmed that flyhalf Handré Pollard has been given permission to join Japanese outfit NTT Docomo Red Hurricanes for a 3 month spell at the end of the year.
Pollard will join the club in November 2015 and will return to Loftus Versfeld at the end of January 2016, in good time for the 2016 Vodacom Super Rugby season that starts in mid-February.
“Handré is contracted to the Bulls till the end of 2017 and we are already in talks, with assistance from SARU, to extend that to 2019,” said Blue Bulls Company High Performance Manager, Xander Janse van Rensburg.
New Zealand Rugby said on Tuesday that cult hero “Stormin” Norman Berryman has died at the age of 42.
Reports said Berryman suffered a heart attack at his home near Perth, Australia, where he settled after his rugby career.
Berryman, a powerful winger, was a fan favourite during a long career in Super Rugby but played just 1 Test for the All Blacks, a 23 / 24 loss to South Africa in 1998.
He was widely considered to be unlucky to miss out on more Test caps but was competing for spots against the likes of Jonah Lomu and Inga Tuigamala.
Berryman also did himself no favours with his outspoken criticism of then All Blacks coach John Hart, who he said “has got a vibe about him that projects negativity”.
He famously walked out of an All Blacks training camp in Auckland and hitch-hiked home to Whangarei after a disagreement with Hart.
Waratahs’ centre Kurtley Beale is in a race against time to be ready for the Waratahs’ semifinal match with the Highlanders in Sydney on Saturday.
Neither Beale nor wing Rob Horne trained with the side on Tuesday, and while Horne is expected to recover from a calf niggle in time, Waratahs assistant coach Daryl Gibson conceded time is against them regarding Beale’s injured quadriceps.
Gibson said Beale would be given until Thursday to be ready, but the Waratahs were preparing for versatile utility Matt Carraro to reprise the role he took at short notice against the Reds a fortnight ago.
“Beale’s been doing his exercises and getting up to a running pace that enables him to at least have a chance on Thursday to see if he can make it,” Gibson said.
Brumbies coach Stephen Larkham has taken to the fine art of playing mind games ahead of his team’s massive semifinal match with the high-flying Hurricanes in Wellington.
Speaking to the media after returning home from demolishing the Stormers 39 / 19 in Cape Town, Larkham was more than happy with the way they have gone about getting into the semi-finals and believes the break the Hurricanes have had, could hinder their combinations.
“They’ve had the week off and will be nice and fresh, but maybe their combinations will be lacking. They’ve had a number of injuries over the last couple of rounds and a lot of those players are potentially coming back this week. We’ll see if that affects their combinations.
“For us, it’s about continuing the momentum that we’ve had.
“It’s an advantage that we haven’t played them this year because of the success they have had this year but we have been watching their games through the year and watching how other teams have gone against them,” he said.
As much as the Hurricanes’ backline poses a massive threat, Larkham was quick to point out that their forwards are no push overs either.
The tide of South Africans heading abroad continues as Marcell Coetzee is one of the latest to ink a deal in Japan, utilising the grace period after the World Cup.
The Springbok will join Honda Heat and feature in the Japanese league from 1 November 2015 to 31 January 2016. The good news for South African fans though is that he will return to Durban after his contract in time the 2016 Super Rugby season.
Honda Heat have also strengthened their side with the signing of Wallaby wing Digby Ioane from the French club Stade Francais.
The Chiefs will be without a host of players next season including captain Liam Messam who will play Sevens in a bid to make the Olympics.
Messam and star centre Sonny Bill Williams will be part of a large group of players that will not be around next season, and coach Dave Rennie admitted that his captain will be a massive loss to the side.
“Not just his playing ability but his leadership – he’s very charismatic, incredibly passionate – he’ll be very difficult to replace.