The Rugby Championship
The fixtures for next year’s Americas Rugby Championship have been announced in the last while. The tournament will be contested by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, United States and Uruguay.
The tournament which will be played around the same time as arguably the best supported international tournament outside the World Cup, the Six Nations, on a similar basis with each team playing 5 games.
The 1st Round of the Americas Rugby Championship will take place on the 1st weekend in February while the 5th and final Round of action is scheduled for the 1st weekend in March.
There will be some interesting questions that will need to be answered by Argentina in particular and it remains to be seen, considering the stature of the majority of their opponents, how seriously they will take the competition.
The last 2 Rounds of the Championship take place at the same time as the 1st 2 Rounds of the revamped Super Rugby tournament. One assumes that Argentina will be going all out to make a good impression during their debut Super Rugby season and they stand a good chance, at the very least, of making the knockout stages.
New Zealand Rugby chief Steve Tew said it was premature to speculate about Japan joining The Rugby Championship.
The sport is currently on a high in the Asian nation after the Brave Blossoms’ exploits at the Rugby World Cup, which included a stunning 34 / 32 win over South Africa, but there are already concerns about its preparations for the expanded Super Rugby competition next year.
With Japan set to host the next edition of the Rugby World Cup in 2019, World Rugby is keen to consolidate its popularity in a large and potentially lucrative market.
The governing body’s chairman Bernard Lapasset said on a trip to Tokyo this week that Japan should join The Rugby Championship, which currently comprises New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
But New Zealand Rugby chief executive Steve Tew said a more immediate concern for Japanese rugby was fielding a competitive side in the Super Rugby competition in 2016.
World Rugby chairman Bernard Lapasset says that Japan should be added to the Southern Hemisphere’s Rugby Championship competition alongside New Zealand, Australia, South Africa and Argentina.
Argentina joined the Tri-Nations sides in 2012 and the tournament became known as The Rugby Championship. Since then they have beaten both South Africa and Australia and lost all of their matches against New Zealand.
Rugby in Japan is enjoying a surge in popularity after their national team the Brave Blosssoms beat South Africa’s Springboks in the Rugby World Cup and this has helped build excitement for the Rugby World Cup in 2019, which will be staged in Japan.
Daniel Hourcade may stay on as coach of Argentina for 2 more years but confirmed on Friday he will not be in charge at the next Rugby World Cup in Japan in 2019.
Hourcade’s Pumas finished 4th at the tournament when they lost 24 / 13 to South Africa’s Springboks at Olympic Park on Friday.
The Argentine Rugby Union (UAR) have indicated they want him to continue but Hourcade said he had yet to sit down to formalise his next step.
“If we come to an agreement it would be for 2 years,” Hourcade told reporters.
“A lot can happen in 2 years including logical physical wear… Cycles come to an end.”
Hourcade, who told Argentine daily Clarin this week he would not take the team to Japan, has carried out a transformation of Argentina’s game in his 2 years as coach.
Argentina joined The Rugby Championship in 2012 and their only defeats at the Rugby World Cup in England came at the hands of their 3 southern hemisphere rivals.
A hat-trick from Juan Imhoff helped the Argentinian Pumas record their 1st ever win over the Springboks in a 37 / 25 Rugby Championship victory in Durban on Saturday.
It’s taken 20 attempts but the Pumas finally got a positive result against the Springboks after 2 close calls last year. Using their domination at scrum time as a platform, Argentina created the biggest upset in the history of The Rugby Championship on the day that they commemorated 50 years since their 1st tour of South Africa.
The result means the Springboks have now lost 4 consecutive Tests to different countries for the 1st time since 1965.
While the Pumas produced their best game of the year, tackling their hearts out, their disjointed hosts were a pale shadow of the side that troubled the All Blacks 2 weeks prior as they made countless unforced errors and offered very little on attack.
Los Pumas led 27 / 13 at halftime thanks to 3 excellent tries, including 2 for Juan Imhoff, who also helped set up the opening try for Marcelo Bosch.
The Springboks hit back via a try from lock Lood de Jager, but the visitors were well worth their lead against an error-prone Springbok outfit.
Imhoff bagged his hat-trick in controversial circumstances soon after the break and although the Springboks hit back via tries from Willie le Roux and Bryan Habana, they fell well short of saving the result.
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, Marcell Coetzee and Willie le Roux have all been ruled out of the return match against Los Pumas in Buenos Aires next weekend, because of injuries.
Jean de Villiers fractured his jaw in The Rugby Championship defeat against the Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, which will rule him out for 4 to 6 weeks. The Springbok captain will be able to continue with the bulk of the training sessions during this time.
Marcell Coetzee suffered a medial collateral ligament injury to his left knee, which will rule him out for approximately 6 weeks. The injury is unrelated to the knee injury he suffered a few weeks ago in Brisbane.
Willie le Roux sprained his ankle early in the match against Los Pumas and will not be considered for the trip to Buenos Aires. He will undergo scans early in the week to determine the exact nature of the injury.
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts said that players possibly returning from injury, such as Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez and JP Pietersen, will be assessed on Monday before a decision on their availability for next weekend will be taken.
Argentinian Pumas skipper Agustin Creevy said the presence of former Pumas in Durban helped inspire a stunning and historic 37 / 25 Rugby Championship triumph over the Springboks on Saturday.
“The presence of these rugby heroes of our nation was a major factor in the success,” the 30-year-old hooker said.
Survivors of the 1965 Pumas – the 1st Argentine rugby team to play in South Africa – celebrated the 50th anniversary of the pioneering trip by watching the Test at the Growthpoint Kings Park stadium.
And when the final whistle blew and the Pumas triumphed for the 1st time against the Springboks after 19 failed attempts and also won away in The Rugby Championship for the 1st time, they moved toward the ‘golden oldies’ and clapped.
The gesture was returned as the group of smartly attired ex-national team players, wearing dark suits, blue ties and white shirts, stood to acknowledge a great day for Argentine rugby.
The Wallabies have made a statement ahead of the Rugby World Cup with a 27 / 19 victory over the All Blacks to win the 2015 Rugby Championship.
The All Blacks have won every Rugby Championship since the expansion to 4 teams in 2012, but were outscored by 3 tries to 2 by their hosts in a thrilling contest at ANZ Stadium in Sydney.
The result also means New Zealand must win next week’s clash at Eden Park if they are to retain the Bledisloe Cup, which they have held since 2003.
This is Australia’s 1st title since claiming the Tri-Nations in 2011.
Springboks (13) 25 / 37 (27) Los Pumas (Final Score)
The South African Springboks and Argentinian Pumas did battle in Round 3 of The Rugby Championship at
Growthpoint Kings Park, Durban at 17:05 SA Time (12:05 ARG Time, 15:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & M-Net on TV in SA.
Hashim Amla, captain of the South African Test cricket team, inspired the Springboks on the eve of their final Test on home soil for 2015, in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup, when he handed out the jerseys for the match against Los Pumas on Saturday.
Amla, who boasts batting averages of more than 50 in both Test and ODI cricket and is ranked in the top-4 in the world in both forms of cricket, wished the Springboks well for their next 2 Tests before the team departs for England next month.
“My blood is green and so is everyone else’s in the Protea team,” said Amla.
“We know exactly how hard and tough the world of international sport is – we know how it goes when you do well and when you lose. My Protea team-mates are extremely envious of me for being able to spend time with you.
“But I’d like to let you know that we’re behind you 100% and we’d like to wish you well for the rest of the season. You guys play for the best rugby team in the world and you inspire the Protea fire.”
Springbok captain Jean de Villiers thanked Amla for his time and the kind words and presented him with a signed Springbok jersey.
Wallabies (3) 27 / 19 (6) All Blacks (Final Score)
The Australian Wallabies and New Zealand All Blacks did battle in Round 3 of The Rugby Championship at
ANZ Stadium, Sydney at 12:05 SA Time (20:05 AEST, 22:05 NZ Time, 07:05 Arg Time, 10:05 GMT).
This was the live match discussion Article.
The match was broadcast LIVE on SuperSport 1 & CSN on TV in SA.
It is the 3rd and final Round of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015 (Only 1 Round of matches against each side in 2015 as opposed to a double Round of matches against all sides – home and away in non Rugby World Cup years).
The last 2 games are both on Saturday 8 August.
The Action of the Round is kicked off in Sydney, Australia where the Wallabies and All Blacks dual it out for tournament honours and The Rugby Championship of 2015 concludes with the match between the Springboks against Los Pumas in Durban.
On Saturday at the ANZ Stadium in Sydney at 12:05 SA Time (20:05 AEST, 22:05 NZ Time, 10:05 GMT) referee Wayne Barnes of England is in charge in the Wallabies vs All Blacks game.
On Saturday at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban at 17:05 SA Time (12:05 ARG Time, 10:05 GMT, Sunday 01:05 AEST, Sunday 03:05 NZ Time) referee Romain Poite of France is in charge of the Springboks vs Los Pumas game.
The game between the Wallabies and All Blacks has all to play for and should be a thriller of note. It is hard to imagine the Wallabies pipping the All Blacks though. All Blacks coach Steve Hansen has opted for a rather large number of changes to the All Blacks side, but the run-on side is a vastly experienced unit… with the return of Julian Savea, Sonny Bill Williams, Dan Carter, Aaron Smith all in the backline alone. The Wallabies see some old hands like Drew Mitchell, Matt Giteau & James Horwill return to the run-on side and also sees the pair of openside flankers of David Pocock and Michael Hooper in the looseforwards to try and dominate the ground ball situations against the All Blacks.
Both the Springboks and Los Pumas have made a number of changes to their run-on sides.
For the Springboks we see a return of Captain Jean de Villiers at No 13, with Jesse Kriel moving 1 wide to the right wing berth. Vincent Koch comes in for injured Jannie du Plessis at tighthead prop and Marcell Coetzee takes over at blindside flank from the injured Francois Louw. On the bench we see the return of Pieter-Steph du Toit from injury, as well as the return of Marcel van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi and Lwazi Mvovo.
The game between the Springboks should logically only go 1 way and that is with a comfortable win against Los Pumas.
There has been so much hype surrounding Jean de Villiers’ return to the Springbok line-up that it almost slipped past everyone that this Saturday’s clash against the Pumas has the potential to be his final Test on South African soil.
And after Friday’s captain’s press conference in Umhlanga, it was confirmed that it would be.
De Villiers initially steered clear of confirming that he would be retiring at the end of the year, but by the end of his explanation he had said what any knowledgeable rugby fan already knew.
“Every game you play might be your last and that’s exactly what I realised with this injury,” De Villiers said.
“You’ve got to play as if it’s your last and you’ve got to make the most of it.
“But the reality is that it will be my last Test match in South Africa. I can’t see myself playing international rugby next year.”
Flyhalf Morné Steyn has been ruled out of the Springboks’ trip to Argentina next week, as his wife is due to give birth.
The Springboks will play the Pumas in a non-championship Test at the Estadio Jose Amalfitani in Buenos Aires on Saturday 15 August at 21:40 SA time.
The Test will also be the Springboks’ final run-out ahead of the Rugby World Cup starting on 18 September.
The fact that Steyn won’t be available means that he will not have played any Test rugby in 2015, giving coach Heyneke Meyer something of a headache.
Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has admitted that a combination of injuries and the 2 narrow defeats in the opening part of The Rugby Championship have changed his plans slightly, but he is still committed to making conditioning the priority after this week’s clash with Los Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park.
Meyer said after announcing his team for the match that several 1st choice players will stay behind in Durban when the playing squad travels to Buenos Aires next week for what has the status of a return ‘friendly’ international against the Pumas. However, because he is coaching the South African national team and knows how important winning is to the nation, he’s not going to make changes to quite the extent that he intended to when he did his planning for the Rugby World Cup build-up.
“I’ve always said that I haven’t been happy with the fitness and conditioning and the last 2 matches when we lost in the last few minutes proved that we still have a lot of work to do in that regard,” said Meyer.
“My plan has always been to implement a very intense 3 week conditioning programme after The Rugby Championship is completed and that will mean that some of the top players will be staying behind in Durban next week rather than going to Argentina. If we are going to win the World Cup it is imperative that we get our conditioning right and the players can look forward to a really tough camp.
“The players who do travel to Argentina will slot into that fitness camp after they return. We are going to make an all-out effort to get the conditioning right. It is something that has improved gradually over the past few years, but we need the 3 week conditioning top up that is planned in order to get it totally right.”
Those thinking Springbok lock Victor Matfield will retire for the 2nd time may well be disappointed – it seems the legendary Springbok lock is set for another swansong at English club Bath.
The 38-year old Rugby World Cup winning lock should actually retire from playing after the Rugby World Cup and is contracted to take up a coaching position with the Vodacom Bulls next season, but it seems this may not be the case as he seeks a final payday before turning to coaching.
There have been rumours that since the axing of Frans Ludeke as Bulls coach – the Super Rugby franchise has not found a replacement – that Matfield may not be keen to go into coaching just yet, especially as Ludeke’s proposal to move to Director of coaching with Matfield and Fourie du Preez taking over the coaching reigns, was rejected with the Bulls bad run of results earlier this year.
According to sources close to the Bulls, Matfield was also told that the Bulls would not stand in his way if he decided he didn’t want to take up the coaching contract after the Rugby World Cup.
With this in mind, the news that Bath may want to sign him on a short term deal – a season in England to cap off a long and illustrious career – may well suit the Springbok captain very well, especially with the Pound very strong against the Rand at the moment.
Jean de Villiers will captain a Springbok side also featuring the return of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi in the match-23 for the 1st time since 2013, when the Springboks host Los Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.
De Villiers will continue his remarkable recovery from the terrible knee injury he suffered last November in Cardiff and will start his 1st Test of the season. He will lead the team against the Pumas from outside centre, with Schalk Burger taking over the vice-captaincy.
As a result of De Villiers’ inclusion for the final Test in The Rugby Championship, Jesse Kriel will move to right wing.
“Jean’s comeback is truly remarkable and very inspirational and I can’t wait to see what he can offer playing next to exciting youngsters such as Handré Pollard, Damian and Jesse,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.
“Jean now has 160 minutes of rugby behind him since his comeback a month ago and I’m very satisfied that he will be able to make his mark as player and captain.
“Jesse is a very versatile player – he has played at wing before and spent almost the entire Vodacom Super Rugby season at fullback. His aerial skills and work-rate, as well as tactical kicking will be valuable and hopefully he will be given even more space to attack in.”
The forwards on the bench are again rotated due to injuries and players recovering from injuries, which sees the return of Siya Kolisi and and Pieter-Steph du Toit, both of whom made their last Test appearance as replacements in the 19 / 10 victory over France in Paris on 23 November, 2013.
Back row forwards Michael Hooper and David Pocock have both been named in the Wallabies starting line-up for The Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.
It will be the 1st time the pair will have started a Test together, with Wallabies coach Michael Cheika assembling a mobile pack – indicating an intention to play a high-paced game.
Hooper has won the right to the No 7 jersey, with Pocock in at No 8.
“Australian rugby is very fortunate to have some quality flanks competing for the No 7 jumper,” Cheika said when announcing the line-up on Thursday.
“Both players have been in outstanding form for franchise and country this season and have shown their class in sharing the spot in the 1st 2 matches.
“They now have an opportunity to start a Test together which they are very excited about.”
Cheika has shaken up his forward pack for the final Round – a clash between the only 2 unbeaten sides in the competition, that also includes South Africa and Argentina.
James Horwill, Dean Mumm and Scott Sio have been promoted to the starting 15 – with Mumm’s rise since returning from Europe forcing Will Skelton to the bench for the 1st time this season.
In the backs, Bernard Foley and Nick Phipps remain the preferred halfback pairing, while Matt Giteau returns from injury to replace Matt Toomua – Giteau in his 1st start against the All Blacks since 2011. The 93-Test veteran forms a centre partnership with Tevita Kuridrani.
Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Israel Folau form a potent back 3.
Hurricanes flyer Nehe Milner-Skudder will make his Test debut for the All Blacks in The Rugby Championship decider against the Wallabies.
The All Blacks and Wallabies go head-to-head in Sydney on Saturday, dead-locked at the Top of the table on 9 points each.
The 24-year-old Milner-Skudder will feature on the right wing in 1 of several changes to the All Blacks side which beat the Springboks in Johannesburg in Round 2.
Julian Savea is back on the left wing and will play his 1st Test of 2015, with Ben Smith moving back to fullback.
Sonny Bill Williams is at No 12, while Dan Carter is back at flyhalf for his 105th Test match.
In the run-on forward pack, Jerome Kaino comes in at blindside flank, while Luke Romano comes in at lock.
There are just 2 changes to the bench, with Nepo Laulala providing tighthead prop cover and Sam Cane coming in to cover the loose forwards.
SANZAR has named the match officials for the 3rd and last Round of the abbreviated Rugby Championship of 2015.
England’s Wayne Barnes will officiate in the championship decider in Sydney and he will be assisted by Nigel Owens and Frederico Anselmi as Assistant referees. Shaun Veldsman will do TMO duty.
Frenchman Romain Poite will referee the Springboks vs Los Pumas game in Durban and will be assited by JP Doyle and Marius Mitrea, with Ben Skeen doing the TMO duties.
Poite is well remembered among Springbok fans for the controvertial sending off of Bismarck du Plessis in a Test against the All Blacks 2 years ago.
Poite harshly and erroneously Yellow-Carded Du Plessis for a tackle on All Black flyhalf Dan Carter before later dishing out another Yellow (which automatically meant a Red Card) to the hooker as the Springboks went on to lose 29 / 15 at Eden Park in Auckland.
There is renewed concern over the fitness of Fourie du Preez after the Springbok scrumhalf sat out Tuesday afternoon’s training session at People’s Park in Durban.
Whether or not Du Preez joined the session at a later stage (media were asked to leave after about 20 minutes of the session) is not known, but word from the Springbok camp was the he was in some pain after Monday’s session and that he would continue to be monitored.
Du Preez had been identified as 1 of the players in line to play a part in Saturday’s Rugby Championship clash against the Pumas at Growthpoint Kings Park as he looks to prove his fitness for this year’s Rugby World Cup.
Team doctor Craig Roberts had said on Monday he was happy with Du Preez’s performance at training earlier that day, but that how he recovered from the training would be crucial in his availability for the weekend.
Xerox Golden Lions lock Franco Mostert and Steval Pumas scrumhalf Faf de Klerk have been released from the Springbok camp and will be available for their provinces in the ABSA Currie Cup.
Both Mostert and De Klerk joined their provinces late on Tuesday.
In addition, Coenie Oosthuizen, who has not been an official member of the squad, will continue with his rehabilitation away from the camp.
Francois Steyn, who is also recovering from a long-term injury, was released from the squad with immediate effect following the death of his brother on Monday morning.
“Frans informed me straight after our morning session on Monday and as soon as he heard the sad and tragic news that his brother had passed away,” said Ian Schwartz, Springbok Team Manager.
“We will not take any decisions on his immediate involvement with the squad – his personal situation is now the most important and we will support him and his family wherever we can in this very difficult time. Our thoughts and prayers are with Frans and his entire family in this time of mourning.”
Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts was beaming, and for good reason, when he addressed his weekly injury report media conference in Umhlanga Rocks on Monday.
Although a clutch of players are still out injured and there are a few that are unlikely to play before the start of the Rugby World Cup, the experienced duo of skipper Jean de Villiers and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez were joined by the equally influential Willem Alberts in getting safely through what Roberts described as “a great training session” on Monday morning.
“As you know, Jean is a player who took a back seat a bit so that he could get some game time, and the news is good on that front as he looked good in training and should be available for selection for this week’s game,” said Roberts.
“It was also a good work-out for Fourie du Preez. We will obviously monitor how he responds to the training, as we will with Jean, before making a final decision, but he is potentially ready to play against the Pumas this week.
“Willem is also looking good. We’ve been building him up for a while now, and if gets through the training week then he will be ready to play.”
The Springboks face Los Pumas from Argentinia in their final match in this year’s truncated Rugby Championship in Durban on Saturday before travelling to Argentina to play a Rugby World Cup warm-up Test in Buenos Aires. Roberts appears confident that if the aforementioned players can start in Durban.
And the group of available players coming back from injury should be further swollen by young lock Pieter-Steph du Toit.
Wallaby lock Rob Simmons will miss this Saturday’s Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks and next week’s Bledisloe Cup Test in Auckland – after being ruled out with a scaphoid injury.
Simmons will undergo surgery in Brisbane on Tuesday and is expected to make a full recovery before the Wallabies take on the United States in Chicago next month.
Wallaby coach Michael Cheika said he was “disappointed” to lose the veteran of 52 Tests, but said it would provide great competition for other locks to press their claims for selection.
All Blacks flank Same Cane is not phased by the Wallabies possibly adopting a double-fetcher approach when the 2 sides meet on Saturday.
Australia and New Zealand will clash in the 1st of 2 Bledisloe Cup ties, the 1st match being The Rugby Championship decider.
With the all-clear given to Wallaby flank Michael Hooper, Australia could well play Hooper and David Pocock in the same team, which will certainly give the All Blacks something to think about at the breakdown.
The use by more sides of 2 openside flanks is nothing new, New Zealand has had several exponents of it in their past.
But it was now being tried by South Africa and the calls were increasing for Australia to go the same way especially with quality players like Pocock and Hooper.
Argentina arrived in South Africa on Sunday without powerful tighthead prop Ramiro Herrera.
The 26-year-old front row forward has ruptured medial ligaments in his knee and has undergone surgery.
Team doctor Guillermo Botto said Herrera will require between about 4 to 6 weeks to recover, playing him in doubt for the Rugby World Cup – which gets underway on 18 September.
He has been replaced in the 26-man squad – for The Rugby Championship Test against South Africa’s Springboks in Durban on Saturday – by veteran prop Juan Pablo Orlandi, who last played for Los Pumas against England in November 2013.
The 32-year-old Orlandi played in 15 Tests for his country before being axed. He has now been thrown a World Cup lifeline.
Pumas coach Daniel Hourcade said they will continue to “evaluate” players ahead of next month’s World Cup – when they face the Springboks in Durban this week and Buenos Aires a week later.
Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Patrick Osborne are the main additions to the New Zealand squad for their Rugby Championship decider in Sydney on Saturday.
The All Blacks and Wallabies have each won 2 games in the compacted 3-Round tournament, with Australia sitting at the Top of the standings – with a slender 1-point advantage in the points differential column.
The biggest concern ahead of the All Blacks’ trip to Australia is midfielder Ma’a Nonu’s availability, who remains in doubt for the encounter which doubles as a Bledisloe Cup Test, with a shoulder complaint.
While Nonu has been cleared of a serious shoulder injury, coach Steve Hansen is unsure whether he’ll be available to play the Wallabies.
An appeal has been lodged against the outcome of a judicial hearing held on Wednesday 29 July and Thursday 30 July, which found Michael Hooper of Australia’s Wallabies guilty of contravening Law 10.4 (a) and issued a sanction of a 1 week suspension.
Under the SANZAR Judicial Rules, all formal judicial hearings are reviewed by an independent Appeals Review Officer. The review officer, the Honourable Graeme Mew (Canada), has examined the Hooper case and in his determination, referred it to a SANZAR Appeals Committee to review the sanction handed down by Judicial Officer Nigel Hampton QC.
A SANZAR Appeals Committee, chaired by Jannie Lubbe SC, with Terry Willis and Mike Heron QC as members, will hear the appeal via videoconference on Sunday 2 August 2015 at 17:00 AEST (19:00 NZ Time, 09:00 SA Time, 07:00 GMT, 04:00 ARG Time).
Wallabies head coach Michael Cheika has made 4 changes to his squad for next weekend’s clash with the All Blacks in Sydney.
Matt Giteau, Wycliff Palu, Henry Speight and the uncapped Toby Smith have come in to the 31-man squad announced on Friday.
Giteau returns after a 1-match layoff with injury, Palu returns to the squad after being rested for the past month and Speight is available for selection again after serving a 5-match suspension.
Their return is timely as the Wallabies prepare for what is effectively a 2015 Rugby Championship ‘Final’, as the men in gold sit locked at the Top of the standings with the New Zealand All Blacks on 9 points, ahead of the final match of the truncated series.
Melbourne Rebels prop Smith is the other new face in the squad, earning his place after a consistent Super Rugby campaign. The 26-year-old enters the squad as the only uncapped player.
Springbok legend and popular rugby pundit Naas Botha believes South Africa made an important evolutionary change in their game plan in their defeat to the All Blacks in Johannesburg last weekend.
Botha believes Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer needs to persist with the enterprising style adopted – something he believes is long overdue.
“What we saw on Saturday was totally different compared to what we’ve seen over the last couple of years but it should have happened 2 years ago,” Botha said in Midrand on Wednesday.
“I don’t think it is too late, I believe we should build on this now because what we saw over the weekend was quite impressive.
“Yes, we didn’t win and to be honest it is all about winning and they did surprise us with that last lineout.”
Botha was speaking at the launch of Creative Rugby which he co-wrote with Dr Kobus Neethling, a world leader in the field of creativity and whole-brain thinking.
The premise of the book is to promote whole-brain thinking, with modern players now on the same level in terms of fitness and skills.
Wallabies flank Michael Hooper will have to wait at least 1 more day to find out if he will be available for his team’s Rugby Championship decider against the All Blacks.
Hooper appeared before a SANZAR judicial hearing on Wednesday, where he was charged with having punched Argentina flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez in his team’s 34 / 9 win over the Pumas at the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas at the weekend.
Hooper was cited to appear before Nigel Hampton – via video conference – on Wednesday.
The Wallaby is alleged to have contravened Law 10.4 (a): Punching or striking.
The hearing has been adjourned until Thursday 30 July.
The Springboks will be without tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and flanker Francois Louw when they face Argentina’s Los Pumas in Durban next Saturday, but the Springboks could have Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez and Willem Alberts back while at this stage their medical team is optimistic of delivering a fully fit squad to the selectors for the Rugby World Cup, it was announced on Tuesday.
De Villiers, Du Preez and Alberts are 3 of 7 players whose fitness will be assessed on Monday as they complete the final phase of rehabilitation while players such as Duane Vermeulen and Coenie Oosthuizen are progressing well with their rehabilitation.
Although Du Plessis (knee) and Louw (rotator cuff), along with Victor Matfield and JP Pietersen (both hamstring injuries) will miss the Tests against the Pumas, none of these injuries will put their Rugby World Cup participation at risk. Saturday’s other injury victims, Vincent Koch and Warren Whiteley (rib cartilages) should be fit and available for selection next weekend.
Jan Serfontein (hip and knee), Marcell Coetzee (knee), Pieter-Steph du Toit (knee) and Steven Kitshoff (knee) will also be assessed on Monday with a view to being available to selection against the Pumas.
This weekend saw Round 2 of The Rugby Championship.
In johannesburg, South Africa it was heart-break for the Springboks again, 2nd week in a row, this time losing in the dying minutes against a better conditiond and fitter All Blacks side, by 20 / 27, with All Blacks capatin Richie McCaw doing the damage to snatch the lead from the South Africans with only 6 minutes to go in the match.
In Mendoza, Argentinia, the Wallabies led 8 / 6 at halftime before tuning in all the screws and beating Los Pumas comfortably by 34 / 9, also earning their bonus point for tries in the process.
As a result of the Round 2 results, the All Blacks and Wallabies are joint leaders of The Rugby Championship Log, with 2 wins apiece, whereas the Springboks and Los Pumas are still winless in the Competition, with the Springboks on a paltry 2 Log points and Los Pumas still not out of the starting gates, on 0 Log Points.
In 2015 there is of course only 3 Rounds in total, in the abbreviated version of the prime Southern Hemisphere international competition due to this year being a Rugby World Cup year. In this shortened version of the competition, where in stead of the normal double Round of matches by every side against the other sides, there is only a single Round of matches by every side against each of the other nations.
Round 3 is only in a fortnight, where the focus will be on the Bledisloe clash between the Wallabies and All Blacks for this year’s overall title.
The Springboks dominated most of the 1st half but at the break the scores were still tied on 10 / 10 and later on 17 / 17 before South Africa took a slender 20 / 17 lead and held that lead untill 6 minutes from time, whereafter the All Blacks showed their class and superior fitness and better bench selections to add 10 further points and running out 7-point winners.
All is not lost for the Springboks and one feels that they showed some quality rugby 2 weeks in a row, but they will surely now realize that their overall conditioning, fitness as well as the impact their bench is supposed to have in the vital Rugby World Cup during September and October still need a massive amount of work if they are to stand a proper chance of winning the world showpiece in 2015.
The All Blacks once again appear to be massive favourites to not only win theis year’s Rugby Championship but to also go on to clinch the Rugby World Cup title in October.
Argentina seem to be dogged by the same “Illness” that the Springboks are suffering from, as they also seem incapable of ending games strong enough and also tend to kick tactically poorly, which invariably results in scores against them in the latter stages of games when defences are no longer as tight as in the beginning of matches.
The Wallabies are building up nicely towards the Rugby World Cup, having first narrowly dispatched the Springboks week before last and now comforably beating Los Pumas on the weekend. They managed to score 2 quick-fire tries towards the end of the clash in Argentina, first by Tevita Kuridrani and then barely 3 minutes later one by Adam Ashley-Cooper (to earn them the bonus point for tries) to hammer the nails in properly against the Pumas.
South Africa’s Springboks fell foul of a law that was introduced for player safety, when they lost 20 / 27 to the New Zealand All Blacks in their Rugby Championship encounter at the weekend.
For the 2nd week in a row the Springboks snatched defeat from the jaws of victory, after All Blacks captain Richie McCaw scored a clever try 6 minutes from time to secure the victory over their arch-rivals at Emirates Airline Park on Saturday.
The defeat came 1 week after the Springboks conceded an even later try, in the 80th minute, to fall 20 / 24 against Australia’s Wallabies in Brisbane.
However, it was the question of why there were uncontested scrums in the final quarter – when the Springboks still had 3 ‘qualified’ front row forwards on the field – that puzzled most observers.
It came at a crucial point in the game and had a material effect on the outcome.
The dominant Springbok scrum, which had already earned a couple of penalties and free kicks in the 1st hour, was reduced to uncontested restarts – after Vincent Koch, who had replaced the injured Jannie du Plessis at halftime, was forced from the field in the 61st minute.
Even though Trevor Nyakane, who can play on both sides of the scrum, took to the field, French referee Jérôme Garcès ruled that there should be uncontested scrums.
Not only did it eliminate one of the Springboks’ strengths, but it came at a crucial time.