Super Rugby

David Pocock

David Pocock

David Pocock’s principled stand against homophobia on the field will cost him any chance of captaining Australia again, says former Wallaby Greg Martin.

Pocock’s on-field complaints to the referee led to Waratahs forward Jacques Potgieter being fined AU$ 20 000.00 for using homophobic slurs during his side’s win over the Brumbies on Sunday.

Respected rugby commentator Martin says Pocock did the right thing in speaking out but his action will split opinion in the game.

“He’ll pay for it. It will mean that he will never captain the Wallabies again,” Martin told Brisbane’s Triple M radio on Tuesday.

“What he’s done, he hasn’t fractured the game down a Waratahs-Brumbies line… It won’t be fractured down like that, but it will be fractured upon clear-thinking, modern-thinking footballers who will support David Pocock and the more old school, hard heads who will say that was a disgrace he shouldn’t have done that.

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Tevita Kuridrani

Tevita Kuridrani

The Brumbies have been left with a gap in the midfield following news that destructive outside centre Tevita Kuridrani will be sidelined for 2 months with a shoulder injury.

It is just the second major blow to the Brumbies’ injury list this season.

Scans suggested Kuridrani damaged his AC joint in the 13 / 28 loss to the Waratahs at the weekend.

The skilful Wallaby centre will luckily avoid surgery and that could mark an earlier return to the field if his rehabilitation goes well.

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Dom Shipperley

Dom Shipperley

The Melbourne Rebels will be without winger Dom Shipperley until at least Round 11 in Super Rugby after he fractured his hand playing against the Emirates Lions.

Rebeles winger Shipperley suffered the injury in the Rebels 20 / 16 loss to the Lions at AAMI Park on Friday and will be sidelined for an estimated 4 – 6 weeks.

Shipperley, who was making his 50th Super Rugby appearance, has started all 5 games for the Rebels this season since moving to Melbourne, however he will now be ruled out until at least Round 11 after undergoing surgery.

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Francois Steyn

Francois Steyn

Frans Steyn has been found not guilty by a SANZAR judicial hearing on Monday.

This follows after the Springbok midfielder was Red-Carded for an alleged spear tackle in the Sharks’ 12 / 11 Super Rugby win over the Chiefs at the weekend.

Frans Steyn has been found not guilty of disobeying Law 10.4 (j) Lifting Tackling, during a SANZAR Judicial hearing, after he was carded with a Red in a Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at the weekend.

The tip tackle, which was double teamed with Cobus Reinach, took place after 28 minutes had passed between the Sharks and the Chiefs at Kings Park, Durban, on 21 March.

It was a controversial moment, after TMO Marius Jonker recommended a Yellow Card to referee Angus Gardner after reviewing the incident. The on-field officials also had the benefit of watching the dangerous tackle on the big screen. Nevertheless, it was a Red Card.

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Nasi Manu

Nasi Manu

Highlanders co-captain Nasi Manu has signed for Scottish club Edinburgh and will leave at the end of the current Super Rugby season.

Manu has played 53 games for the Highlanders and has been co-captain with Ben Smith for the last 2 seasons.

“Believe me it was a very hard decision to leave the Highlanders, my team mates, my friends and family. This place, this team, it gets under your skin, becomes part of you and I will always treasure my time here” said Manu.

“Obviously I want to go out on a good note and I am keen to finish off my time here really successfully and that’s my focus at the moment.

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Bismarck du Plessis

Bismarck du Plessis

The Cell C Sharks issued a Media Release today, regarding Bismarck du Plessis 4 week suspension for kicking an opponent in the face on Saturday, in the ill-tempered game between the Cell C Sharks and the Chiefs, in Durban.

It reads as follows:

Bismarck du Plessis today appeared in a SANZAR judicial hearing, following him being issued with a red card for foul play in the 18th minute of yesterday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Chiefs at Growthpoint KINGS PARK.

Upon pleading guilty to the charge, SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden, handed du Plessis a four-week suspension.

In acceptance of the punishment handed to him by SANZAR, Bismarck du Plessis said: “I want to unreservedly apologise for my behaviour both as captain and a senior player. My actions were unacceptable and I fully accept the punishment handed down to me by SANZAR.

“I will use these four-weeks off the field to reflect on my actions as both a leader and role-model in the game. I am painfully aware that people have lost faith in my character and the values I claim to stand for. I intend to rectify that through actions going forward and not merely words.”

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Frans Ludeke

Frans Ludeke

The Vodacom Bulls fully support the South African Rugby Union’s plan to rest key Springboks, but there won’t be a mass withdrawal of players at any stage.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said the next 5 weeks will see the Bulls rotate the players in a calculated move that is in line with the SARU plan.

In a meeting between SARU, the national body’s CEO, Jurie Roux, Bok coach Heyneke Meyer, the various franchise CEOs and coaching representatives it was agreed that franchise coaches – as far as possible – would rest key Springboks at various stages in the season.

Two principles were identified as being ideal:

  1. That players should not play more than 5 consecutive weeks.
  2. That certain Springbok players should have a number of weeks of rest during the tournament (2 to 4 weeks depending on each player’s personal needs and position and the franchise’s playing resources). Bye weeks are not considered as a rest week (although they do trigger a restart of the count of consecutive weeks), while injury weeks are ‘invisible’ (i.e. a player injured for 2 weeks during the 1st 7 weeks of the tournament would be regarded as having played 5 consecutive weeks at the end of week 7).

However, the Sharks have already bucked the system – with coach Gary Gold having said his outfit is in a different position to other SA outfits.

The Bulls have opted to take a different stance.

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Ardie Savea

Ardie Savea

Hurricanes flank Ardie Savea will be sidelined for up to 6 weeks after dislocating his finger in Friday’s 20 / 13 win over the Highlanders.

Hurricanes assistant coach Clark Laidlaw said 21-year-old Savea had an operation on Saturday, and would be out for between 3 to 6 weeks.

“He dislocated his finger and it popped out the side, so he had to get it pushed back in and tidied up,” Laidlaw said on Monday.

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Super RugbyThe Emirates Lions won their 2nd tour match as the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks had to dig deep to win at home in an interesting 6th Round of Vodacom Super Rugby.

The men from Johannesburg weathered an early storm and clinched their 3rd successive win over the Melbourne Rebels, by 20 / 16, courtesy of a late try by Lionel Mapoe on Friday in Melbourne. With this victory, the Emirates Lions emulated their feats in 2007 and 2011, when they also won 2 tour matches.

On Saturday, the Toyota Cheetahs started well and were in front at the break against the Crusaders in Christchurch, but the home team took proper advantage of 2 second-half Yellow Cards against the visitors from Bloemfontein to win comfortably by 57 / 14.

2 Matches were played in South Africa on Saturday afternoon, both in less-than-perfect conditions.

First up, the Vodacom Bulls had to rely on a late penalty goal by Handré Pollard to pip the Force by 25 / 24 in Pretoria before the Cell C Sharks, playing for more than 50 minutes with 13 men against 14, following 3 Red Cards, had to dig deep to beat the Chiefs by 12 / 11 in Durban.

The DHL Stormers had a BYE.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

Sharks coach Gary Gold has not condoned Bismark du Plessis’s Red Card offence but he has come to the support of his physical captain’s firey nature.

The Sharks captain was shown a Red Card in his team’s 1 point victory against the Chiefs in Durban on Saturday for kicking Michael Leitch’s head.

This came only a few minutes after the opposition hooker, Hika Elliot, was sent for an early shower for an illegal clean-out on Tendai Mtawarira in the 1st half.

Du Plessis is already well known as an incredibly abrasive and physical character on the field, but more and more it seems that teams are figuring out he has a short fuse.

Gold made it clear that what Du Plessis did to earn his Red Card was silly and he did not justify the foul play.

“I am not going to justify foul play, it is silly to do that,” Gold said after the match.

“I feel it was a silly thing for Bismarck to do, he lashed out from trying to free his foot – but you cannot make contact with someone’s head.

“For what it is worth, he has apologized to the group, and in his words he said he is ashamed by his behaviour.”

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The SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden has accepted a guilty plea from Bismarck du Plessis of the Sharks for contravening Law 10.4 (c) A player must not kick an opponent, after he was sent off following a Super Rugby match at the weekend.

Du Plessis has been suspended from all forms of the game for 4 weeks up to and including 18 April 2015.

The incident occurred in the 18th minute of the match between the Sharks and Chiefs played at Kings Park in Durban.

SANZAR Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casselden assessed the case.

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BullsThe Vodacom Bulls left it late, beating the Force 25 / 24 with a late penalty.

Springbok flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked 20 points as his Vodacom Bulls side sneaked home against the Western Force in their Vodacom Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Marcel van der Merwe scored a try but his team were outscored 3 to 1 in the try-scoring stakes, as the Force’s spoiling game worked exceptionally well on their opponents. The Bulls failed to capitalise on the Force being down to 13 men at one stage.

The Bulls, who had just returned from a BYE week, were poor and out-of-sorts, and for large periods of time it looked as if it was the Force who were the home side with the way they played.

But thanks to Pollard they managed to sneak home through a penalty in the last minute, shortly after Sias Ebersohn kicked a 59-metre bomb that gave the Force the lead.

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David Pocock

David Pocock

Allegations of homophobic slurs marred a resounding return to form for defending champions the Waratahs, who delivered a 28 / 13 win over arch rivals the Brumbies in Sydney on Sunday.

It is understood a NSW forward will be investigated for allegedly using the word “faggot” when addressing two different Brumbies players in the second half of the blockbuster derby at Allianz Stadium. The Brumbies made a formal complaint after the match.

Brumbies flanker David Pocock took the allegation to referee Craig Joubert in the 67th minute as his side trailed by 10 points, and made his concerns known again in the 72nd minute. Joubert said he did not hear the remarks – allegedly made at scrum time – but asked NSW captain Michael Hooper to have a word to his forwards.

“I’m getting some pretty aggressive comments coming from your guys – that there are homophobic slurs,” Joubert said. Hooper replied: “We’re not into that”.

But that did little to satisfy Pocock, who is a vocal supporter for same sex marriage rights.

“You heard that sir … you can’t say that, there could be gay players out there.” Pocock continued: “That’s fine, but after that their captain said: ‘That’s rugby’. That’s not right.”

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Super RugbyIt is Round 6 of Super Rugby 2015 this weekend.

There are 2 games on Friday 20 March, 3 games on Saturday 21 March and 1 game on Sunday 22 March.

The Blues, Reds & DHL stormers have a BYE weekend.

There are no South African derbies on the weekend, with 2 SA sides currently on tour, the DHL Stormers on a bye 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 hard-hitting Highlanders, away from home, in the 1st game of the weekend (08:35 SA Time on Friday 20 March).

The Vodacom Bulls take on a struggling Western Force side on Saturday afternoon at Loftus Versfeld and the Cell C Sharks are up against it against a rampant Chiefs side, who just this past weekend took care of the DHL Stormers at Newlands.

This weekend, to predict winners are maybe even more difficult than normal, where at least 4 of the 6 games could go either way. It also does not help to select the home team as your bankers, seeing as away wins have been more predominant than home wins so far in 2015!

Round 6 will have us rivited to the TV screens and marching to the stadia again!

The Friday games are: Highlanders vs Hurricanes in Dunedin as well as the Melbourne Rebels vs Emirates Lions in Melbourne.

On Saturday the action starts at 08:35 SA Time, with the Crusaders hosting the Toyota Cheetahs in Christchurch. Thereafter there will be time to play with the children and go shopping with the wifey before the Vodacom Bulls host the Western Force at Loftus at 17:05 SA Time, before the Cell C Sharks battle the Chiefs at 19:10 SA Time in Durban.

Once again 6 Nations Rugby, well 2 of the 3 games in that competition’s finale is on at the same time as the 2 Super Rugby games on South African soil… so the PVR will be busy again in my household!

On Sunday morning early, 07:05 SA Time, the derby between the Waratahs vs Brumbies takes place in Sydney.

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Super RugbyThis week, we look at the last 4 years of Super Rugby to examine which sides have been the best when not in occupancy of the ball and whether strong defence has been key to overall success.



Despite being 1 of the 5 sides that completed over 1800 tackles in the season, eventual champions, the Reds, still maintained a strong tackling success rate of 89%.

The Queenslanders were middle-of-the-pack in many aspects with the ball during their title-winning season, but proved a tough nut to crack in other areas. They were among the top defensive sides when it came to winning ‘jackals’ (overall turnovers won from tackles) and were well-disciplined, going all the way to the Final with 6 other teams accumulating more defensive penalties than them in fewer matches.

Other conference winners, the Crusaders and the Stormers ranked equal-1st for total turnovers won, as well as figuring close to the summit with their tackling success rates. Good defence was definitely a match winner in 2011.

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Gary Gold

Gary Gold

After 5 games in a row for the Cell C Sharks’ Springboks, questions are being asked about the SARU player rest initiative and when the Durban-based team will buy in.

Gary Gold however has said the Sharks are in a different position to other teams in South Africa and as such have an alternative to it .

The Sharks have a core group of Springboks that play an integral part to both the union and the national team.

Players such as Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Cobus Reinach, Marcell Coetzee and Pat Lambie to name a few.

However, with Super Rugby now reaching Round 6, and a large percentage of those Springboks being named to play their 6 game in a row against the Chiefs this Saturday, questions are being asked of the Sharks management.

Coach Gold explained his selection, and subsequent breaking of the SARU initiative, by stating the Sharks are facing a challenging schedule with regards to BYE-weeks.

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Cell C SharksThe Sharks have made only 1 enforced change to their starting line-up that will face the Chiefs on Saturday, as Marco Wentzel comes into the second-row.

Wentzel replaces the injured Pieter-Steph du Toit in an otherwise unchanged 15, with Daniel du Preez and Waylon Murray named on the replacements bench.

“The Chiefs are a championship outfit with outstanding strength and depth and they will go into this match as favourites. They have a strong pack of forwards and one of the most exciting backlines in the competition and are well coached,” said head coach Gary Gold, whose side are looking to back up last weekend’s victory.

“We look forward to the challenge of measuring ourselves against one of the most dangerous sides. It’s going to be an exciting match-up.”

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Vodacom BullsMarcel van der Merwe and Dean Greyling will earn 1st starts in the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby competition as Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 3 changes to his pack that will face the Western Force at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Van der Merwe and Greyling, who both made late starts to the competition due to injury, will swop places with Trevor Nyakane and Morné Mellett respectively. In anther swop, Grant Hattingh will earn his 1st start of the season whilst Victor Matfield will move to the bench.

The bench also has 2 new faces this week, with Arno Botha returning and Jaco Visagie replacing the injured Callie Visagie as hooker replacement. Should he take to the field, Visagie will make his Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Super Rugby debut.

Botha, who was injured in the season’s opener against the DHL Stormers, is fit again and replaces Hanro Liebenberg.

Ludeke left his backs unchanged.

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Melbourne RebelsMelbourne Rebels’ head coach Tony McGahan made just 1 enforced change to his side to face the Emirates Lions on Friday at AAMI Park in Round 6 of the Super Rugby season.

Rebels recruits Mike Harris and Dom Shipperley will each make their 50th Super Rugby appearances this week.

Australian Under 20 fullback Jonah Placid, who made 1 Super Rugby appearance before moving to Melbourne, prior to the National Rugby Championship, will make his Rebels debut alongside his half-centurion former Reds teammates.

Jack Debreczeni, who earlier this week appeared on track to play, has been withdrawn with a minor knee complaint, with Harris moving to flyhalf and Placid starting at fullback.

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CrusadersTodd Blackadder has named his side to take on the Cheetahs this Saturday, making 4 changes to the starting line-up that beat the Lions last weekend.

In the forwards, hookers Codie Taylor and Ben Funnell will rotate so that Taylor starts at No 2.

Matt Todd, named captain for the season, returns to the team to play at No 7 this week – replacing All Black captain Richie McCaw.

However, Kieran Read retains the captaincy for this match.

In the backline, Israel Dagg returns from injury to take the fullback spot, while Kieron Fonotia moves onto the wing following Johnny McNicholl’s knee (posterior cruciate ligament) injury last week.

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HighlandersThe Highlanders have named Dan Pryor on the openside flank for their Super Rugby derby showdown with the Hurricanes in Dunedin on Friday.

Pryor returns from injury to take the place of Shane Christie, who was forced to withdraw from the starting 15 during last Saturday’s warm-up at the venue.

His replacement in that victory over the Waratahs, John Hardie, misses out due to injury so Gareth Evans is the Highlanders’ back-row option on the bench.

Prop Daniel Leniert-Brown will potentially make his Super Rugby debut from the bench while the starting backline is unchanged from last weekend’s triumph.

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