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Victor Matfield

Barbarians team members celebrate in the changeroom after the Gloucester game

Barbarians team members celebrate in the changeroom after the Gloucester game

Victor Matfield says his all-Southern Hemisphere Barbarians side is braced for Saturday’s clash with Argentina after his team swept aside English Premiership side Gloucester 62 / 14.

The BaaBaas’ backline was well directed by Springbok flyhalf Pat Lambie, who collected a 13-point haul in the 10-try win.

“Getting this game under our belts will definitely help us going into Saturday,” said Matfield, whose side played attacking rugby despite strong winds – reaching up to 88km/h.

“Conditions weren’t too easy but the boys played well and the Gloucester boys gave it their best shot too.”

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SpringboksStrange as it may seem considering the hype beforehand over “emotional Springbok swansongs” in the bronze playoff match at Rugby World Cup 2015, only 1 member of the squad at the tournament, captain Jean de Villiers, has officially confirmed his Test retirement.

Several younger Springboks spoke beforehand of their desire to beat Argentina – a task duly achieved – as a fitting send-off for senior players bidding farewell to the green-and-gold cause.

Almost 2 weeks on from the end of the Rugby World Cup, however, it is still only the luckless Jean de Villiers, injured again in just the 2nd Rugby World Cup match against Samoa, who has definitely bowed out after 109 appearances since 2002.

Perhaps influenced by the state of flux surrounding embattled coach Heyneke Meyer, the likes of Victor Matfield, Fourie du Preez, Schalk Burger and Bryan Habana intriguingly haven’t yet pulled the plug publicly on their illustrious Springbok careers.

The majority of “older” Springboks who took part in their hot-and-cold Rugby World Cup 2015 campaign are now exclusively foreign-based and there have been some pleas back home for only locally-stationed players to be chosen for South Africa henceforth – a tricky matter considering the ever-shrinking strength of the Rand against other currencies, which hardly helps keeps the best players rooted here.

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Springboks celebrate 3rd Place at Rugby World Cup 2015

Springboks celebrate 3rd Place at Rugby World Cup 2015

South Africa said goodbye to a large swathe of great players in victorious fashion when they defeated Argentina 24 / 13 in the bronze medal final on Friday.

Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez and Bryan Habana (above) will all be over 35 come Japan 2019, while 38-year-old Victor Matfield, who captained them in the bronze medal match at the Olympic stadium, has already announced his retirement for the 2nd time.

All 4 were members of a glorious few years for the Springboks in which they bestrode the world. It began when Jake White’s team won the 2007 World Cup and, under his replacement Peter de Villiers, they won the 2009 Tri-Nations then beat the British & Irish Lions 2 / 1 in a Test series in the same year.

Du Preez, Habana and Matfield were also part of the Blue Bulls team that was coached by Heyneke Meyer and became the 1st South African franchise to win the Super Rugby title, in 2007.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named his strongest possible team as a mark of the greatest respect to an outstanding Argentina team as both teams chase the end-of-season reward of a bronze medal at the Olympic Stadium in London on Friday evening.

Victor Matfield replaces Lood de Jager as 1 of only 2 changes to the starting line-up from Saturday’s semifinal against New Zealand. He takes over the over the captaincy from the injured Fourie du Preez, whose place in the No 9 jersey is taken by Ruan Pienaar, with Rudy Paige coming onto the bench.

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Lood de Jager

South African Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer named an unchanged starting 15 to face New Zealand’s All Blacks in the 1st Rugby World Cup 2015 semifinal, on Saturday at Twickenham Stadium in London, England.

The only change to the matchday squad is at replacement lock – where Victor Matfield has overcome his hamstring injury and takes over from Pieter-Steph du Toit, bringing even more experience to the bench.

There is a provisa though, Lood de Jager still has to pass a fitness test on Friday, to be able to play, and if he does not pass that fitness test, Victor Matfield will slot into the starting berth at No 5, with Pieter-Steph du Toit then coming onto the Replacements bench.

It’s the 1st time since last November that Meyer has been able to name an unchanged team for back-to-back Tests and only the 6th time since his appointment in 2012.

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Nehe Milner-Skudder

Nehe Milner-Skudder

New Zealand will join forces with World Cup semifinal opponents South Africa for the Barbarians next month.

Nehe Milner-Skudder – whose brilliant try opened the scoring in the weekend’s 62 / 13 win over France – tops the list of All Blacks invited to feature in games against Argentina and Gloucester.

The rookie wing now has 7 tries in his 1st 6 Tests for New Zealand and will be joined by scrumhalf Tewera Kerr-Barlow, wing Waisake Naholo and prop Charlie Faumuina from the current Rugby World Cup squad, and reinforced by centre Ryan Crotty, flyhalf Lima Sopoaga and uncapped flanker Ardie Savea.

The Barbarians, who beat Samoa at the former Olympic Stadium in August, take on Gloucester on 17 November at Kingsholm before facing the Argentinian Pumas at Twickenham Stadium on 21 November.

The famous invitation club was founded 125 years ago and the Killik Cup match against Rugby World Cup semifinalists Argentina is the centrepiece of the celebrations.

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Heyneke Meyer

Heyneke Meyer

His body language on match day is so often a dead giveaway, and Heyneke Meyer is the 1st to admit that he “stresses”.

So don’t expect the Springbok coach to be getting the best sleeps of his life in the build-up to Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinal against Wales at Twickenham (17:00 SA Time).

After all, he is facing arguably the most pivotal, “crossroads” game of his coaching career, when you think about it.

Not even the achievement of making the Bulls the 1st South African franchise to win Super Rugby in its properly pro-era incarnation in 2007 can be considered to rank as high in gravitas as this maiden knockout fixture at a Rugby World Cup for the very recently-turned 48-year-old from the Lowveld.

Unlike predecessor Peter de Villiers in 2009, Meyer has not had the opportunity to steer the Springboks through what might be considered next in line for heavyweight status after Rugby World Cup, a visit to our shores by the British & Irish Lions (next tour only due in 2021).

His tenure since 2012 has not yet brought the fruit of a Rugby Championship success, although he does warrant great credit for overseeing successive sweeps of European end-of-year tours in both 2012 and 2013, at a time of season when South African players are seriously vulnerable to fatigue.

Considering the unexpected degree of turbulence in the Springbok results column during the current season (including that Rugby World Cup-opening Japan shocker), reaching the semifinals of this tournament, all things considered, can probably be deemed as just about a “par” achievement for Meyer in his 1st exposure to a Rugby World Cup.

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The Springboks are likely to be at full strength when coach Heyneke Meyer picks his team to face Wales in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup quarterfinal at Twickenham.

The Springboks reunited after going their separate ways for 4 days with their wives and girlfriends, exploring all parts of London – with 1 or 2 even heading across to France for their recess, and it was apparent that the Springboks would be able to select from all 31 in the squad when they make their team announcement on Wednesday.

While there were no new injuries, it seems Bok veterans JP Pietersen and Victor Matfield could also be fit for selection after overcoming their injuries that kept them out of the USA game.

Another player who missed that match, Jannie du Plessis, is also set to be fit for selection when the team is decided upon.

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Barbarians RugbyThe Barbarians received a significant boost ahead of their match against Argentina at Twickenham on 21 November.

5 Australian Wallabies players have been added to the squad, which already includes a host of Springbok legends.

4 Of the Wallabies played a key role in last Saturday’s victory over England, which knocked the hosts out of the Rugby World Cup.

Wallaby captain Stephen Moore tops the list of Wallabies that will team up with their Springbok rivals.

Prop Greg Holmes, losse forward Scott Fardy and fellow loose forward Michael Hooper complete the list.

The team will be coached by Australian mentor Michael Cheika.

The list of South Africans already included is headed by lock legends Victor Matfield and Bakkies Botha.

The international invitational side will also feature other Springboks like Jean de Villiers, Tendai Mtawarira and Patrick Lambie.

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SpringboksIt is said that time is a great healer, but in Heyneke Meyer’s case it will also be a great revealer.

The Springbok coach has decided to delay his team announcement by 7 hours on Wednesday as he needs more time to resolve the all-important matter of who will wear the captain’s armband in Saturday’s Rugby World Cup clash against Pool B pace-setters Scotland at St James’ Park, Newcastle.

Instead of an 11:00 SA Time (10:00 UK Time) announcement, Meyer will now name his matchday-23 at 19:00 SA Time (18:00 UK Time) on Wednesday evening.

At the heart of the delay is a plethora of injuries which have a direct bearing on the captaincy appointment. Victor Matfield is the obvious choice to replace the injured Jean de Villiers as the captain at world rugby’s showpiece, but the 38-year-old lock has a hamstring strain which he suffered in the 2nd half against Samoa last weekend.

As a result of the lengthy injury list, the Springboks forfeited Monday’s training session as several players were nursing an assortment of niggles. Matfield will have to prove his fitness at Tuesday’s and Wednesday’s training before the Springboks’ medical staff make a call on his availability.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Damian de Allende

Damian de Allende

Jesse Kriel

Jesse Kriel     

Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield  

Fourie du Preez

Fourie du Preez

With the Rugby World Cup match against Samoa being called “brutal” by Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts, Jean de Villiers is heading home and out of the Rugby World Cup with a fractured jaw, while a long list of injuries will be assessed on Monday by the team doctor as the team start to prepare for their showdown with Scotland.

Prop Jannie du Plessis (knee), midfielders Damian de Allende (knee) and Jesse Kriel (laceration to the eye), lock Victor Matfield and scrumhalf Fourie du Preez all are on the injury list.

Depending on how they heal overnight, they should all hopefully be declared fit for the Scottish game.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Springbok lock Victor Matfield will join the Northampton Saints on a 1-year deal at the end of this year’s Rugby World Cup.

Matfield, who at the age of 38 captained the Springboks earlier this year against Australia and Argentina, will join up with the British club for a swansong to end his career after the Springboks conclude their Rugby World Cup commitments.

He has been released from his coaching contract by mutual agreement by the Blue Bulls Company, after requesting a release earlier this week.

South Africa’s most capped Springbok and Rugby World Cup squad member, Matfield, is widely seen as possibly the greatest lock ever to play the game, and has been capped 123 times for the Springboks as he heads into his 4th Rugby World Cup.

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Zane Kirchner

Zane Kirchner

Victor Matfield will captain the Springboks against Los Pumas on Saturday, with Zane Kirchner, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Willem Alberts, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss and Trevor Nyakane all getting their 1st starts of the season.

Jan Serfontein and Schalk Brits have also been included in the match-23 for the 1st time this season.

A total of 28 players will travel to South America on Wednesday to play the Pumas at the Vélez Sarsfield on Saturday evening (SA Time). The match-23 shows numerous changes from the side that lost to Argentina last weekend, many of them injury-enforced.

Kirchner takes over at fullback from the injured Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel moves from wing to centre for Jean de Villiers, with Lwazi Mvovo getting his 3rd run of the season, in the No 14-jersey. Willem Alberts replaces the injured Marcell Coetzee in what will be his 1st Test in more than a year.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

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.

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Jannie du Plessis

Jannie du Plessis

Francois Louw

Francois Louw

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.

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Flip van der Merwe

Flip van der Merwe

The Springboks have called Flip van der Merwe into their squad but are sweating over the fitness of Victor Matfield and Marcell Coetzee for Saturday’s clash with New Zealand.

Both players were forced to leave the field last Saturday against Australia – Matfield with a hamstring strain and Coetzee with a knock to his knee. According to Springbok team doctor Craig Roberts a call on the players’ availability in Johannesburg will only be made later in the week.

“Both are doubtful to play this weekend, but luckily neither of them are in doubt to miss the Rugby World Cup,” said Roberts on Monday.

“Jannie du Plessis and Schalk Burger also picked up knocks in Brisbane on Saturday and we will reassess them at our 1st training session of the week, on Tuesday. Apart from a lot of bumps and bruises, the rest of the squad should be fit for selection.”

The other injured players in the Springbok squad, Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts and Frans Steyn are not yet ready to be considered this weekend, Roberts added.

Pieter-Steph du Toit joined the squad in Johannesburg later on Monday and his progress will also be reassessed. With only 3 fit locks left in the squad, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has decided to call up the experienced Van der Merwe.

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Barbarians5 of South Africa’s major stars will join the Barbarians line-up for 2 high-profile games this November.

Flyhalf Pat Lambie, lock Victor Matfield, prop Tendai Mtawarira and centre Jean de Villiers from the current Springbok squad will be joined by veteran forward Bakkies Botha against Gloucester on 17 November and Argentina on 21 November.

The Barbarians, who celebrate their 125th anniversary this year, will name their coach later this month and add further major names to their squad for the games at Kingsholm and Twickenham in due course.

In total, the South Africa quintet will bring 416 caps of international experience to the group. Botha, Matfield and De Villiers were all World Cup winners in France in 2007.

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Jean de Villiers, Springbok captain, with knee dislocation injury against Wales in November 2014.

Jean de Villiers, Springbok captain, with knee dislocation injury against Wales in November 2014.

 

Jean de Villiers will make an inspirational comeback to top-level rugby from the bench for the Springboks, almost 8 months after suffering a horrific knee injury, when they take on the World XV at DHL Newlands in Cape Town on Saturday.

Victor Matfield will captain the Springboks, with Warren Whiteley making his 1st start in the Green and Gold at No 8, while 2 uncapped players, Jesse Kriel and Vincent Koch, have been included in the match-23.

If De Villiers makes an appearance it will be his 1st rugby since suffering a dislocated knee and ligament damage in the final match of 2014, against Wales in Cardiff.

De Villiers has gone through more than 7 months of rigorous rehabilitation and is now completing a remarkable recovery.

“Jean is a massive asset to South African rugby and it’s wonderful to know his return to play is progressing so well that we can give him some game time from the bench on Saturday,” said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

“The mere fact that he is back in shape and ready to play is testament to his incredible work-ethic and his professional approach to the game. Jean has really put in hours and hours of extra work to get here and he is a great example for any player on how to put yourself in the best possible position to recover.

“We will still manage how he is used against the World XV and afterwards we’d like him to return to Western Province, where he will be available for their ABSA Currie Cup warm-ups.”

Meyer said the decision to hand the captaincy to Victor Matfield for the time being was not a difficult one. Ruan Pienaar has been given the Vice-captaincy.

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Barend van Graan

CEO Barend van Graan

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.

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Johann van Graan

Johann van Graan

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.

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Vodacom Blue BullsThe Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Friday expressed their sincere gratitude and thanks to a number of stalwarts who will part ways with the Vodacom Bulls at the completion of the 2015 Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.

Barend van Graan, CEO of the BBC, confirmed the departures of Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Victor Matfield, Akona Ndungane and Francois Hougaard to French and Japanese clubs and retirement.

Spies (via Japan) and Du Plessis will join French club Montpellier, Van der Merwe moves to Clermont-Avergne and Potgieter to Lyon. Matfield will retire after the Rugby World Cup and Ndungane hangs up his boots this weekend as his contract was only extended for this year’s Super Rugby competition.

Hougaard leaves for Japan later this year and depending on a number of factors, will make a call on whether to return to Loftus Versfeld, at a later stage.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Springbok lock Victor Matfield may have 1 eye on the Rugby World Cup, but he has made it clear he wants to coach the Vodacom Bulls at some stage.

With coach Frans Ludeke’s job coming under the spotlight at a Board of Directors’ meeting on Friday, Matfield’s role in the Bulls setup will also be under the microscope after another disappointing season where the Bulls missed out on the playoffs of the Vodacom Super Rugby tournament.

There was a proposal put to the Board before the Bulls went on tour that Ludeke become Director of Rugby and that Matfield and 1 other take over the coaching role for 2016, but results on the tour have put a lot of pressure, with calls for change coming from fans and ex-Bulls legends like Naas Botha.

Matfield already runs the attack for the Bulls, and has a dual player-coaching role for the team at the moment, and has been signed to take over as coach after the Rugby World Cup later this year.

But Friday’s meeting could change all that, especially with the unhappiness that on the tour the Bulls dropped from 2nd overall and topping the South African conference to 9th and 3rd in the SA conference. Their losing streak overseas stretches to 11 games now and it is the 2nd consecutive season they missed out on the playoffs. On top of this the last time they won any trophy was in 2010.

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Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne

Lappies Labuschagne will be out of action for at least a month and will undergo surgery on his larynx on Thursday to repair damage to his vocal chords.

Labuschagne has been struggling since the Vodacom Bulls’ defeat against the Chiefs on tour, 3 weeks ago, but chose to continue playing to try and help the Bulls make the Super Rugby playoffs.

After that hope disappeared after their loss to the Melbourne Rebels last weekend, the Bulls flanker decided to follow medical advice and go under the knife.

According to team doctor Org Strauss, he will be out for at least a month as he recovers but should be ready to play in the ABSA Currie Cup series at the end of July.

The Bulls were further hit by bad news with the withdrawal of flanker Deon Stegmann with bruised ribs, ruling himself out of contention for the game this weekend against the Toyota Cheetahs and joining a number of stalwarts on the sidelines.

The Bulls will name their side on Thursday, but chances are it will be a relatively young and inexperienced team to face the Cheetahs, with coach Frans Ludeke resting several players.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Handré Pollard

Handré Pollard

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 7 changes to his starting team to face the Melbourne Rebels in a Super Rugby clash in Melbourne on Saturday. There are 3 changes in the backline that faced the Brumbies last weekend and 4 in the pack.

Jesse Kriel, Travis Ismaiel and Jacques-Louis Potgieter all move into starting positions off the bench, replacing Jurgen Visser, Bjorn Basson and Handré Pollard respectively. Visser and Basson will play off the bench, but Pollard will be rested for this clash.

Instead, Tian Schoeman, who joined the touring party on Tuesday, will be the back-up flyhalf on the bench.

In the pack, injured Deon Stegmann is replaced by Lappies Labuschagne, with Grant Hattingh moving to the bench to make way for Victor Matfield. The veteran lock will play in his 148th match at this level. In a straight swop, Jacques du Plessis starts at No 7 and Arno Botha moves to the bench.

Adriaan Strauss was only not considered due to the resting agreement with SARU, resulting in Callie Visagie running onto the field for his 50th match for the Vodacom Bulls in the No 2 jersey. Jaco Visagie will be on the bench.

According to Ludeke this is do or die for the team.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named Jurgen Visser at fullback in his team to play the Brumbies at GIO Stadium in Canberra on Friday. Visser will replace Jesse Kriel who has been named on the bench for this match, the 1st of 2 on Australian soil for the Vodacom Bulls in the Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Visser joined the squad on Monday in place of injured Jan Serfontein and with Kriel recovering from a knee contusion, Ludeke opted for the 30 times capped fullback to start. This will be a 1st start at fullback for Visser since the opening week in February against the DHL Stormers.

Serfontein has been replaced by Burger Odendaal in the midfield.

In the pack, there is a return for Adriaan Strauss, who was rested last weekend, with Callie Visagie moving to the bench, as well as a 1st start on tour for Grant Hattingh, who replaces Victor Matfield at lock. Matfield is rested according to the SARU agreement.

Dean Greyling rotates with Trevor Nyakane at loosehead prop and Arno Botha swops places with Jacques du Plessis at the side of the scrum in the other change to the pack.

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BullsThe Blue Bulls Company (Pty) Ltd on Thursday confirmed that 3 players, Dean Greyling, Basil Short and Hencus van Wyk, were withdrawn from this weekend’s matches for the Vodacom Bulls and Vodacom Blue Bulls after suffering minor injuries in a car crash on Wednesday.

Greyling (knee) and Van Wyk (scrape wounds) were due to play for the Vodacom Bulls against the Emirates Lions and Short (neck) for the Vodacom Blue Bulls against the Limpopo Blue Bulls on Saturday.

They will be replaced by Morné Mellett, Dayan van der Westhuizen and Nqoba Mxoli respectively.

According to Xander Janse van Rensburg, High Performance Manager of the Blue Bulls Company, the trio were returning home from a quick hunting trip just outside Pretoria when their vehicle overturned.

“We are grateful that they did not sustain any serious injuries. Dean injured his knee, Hencus suffered some burns and Basil injured his neck, which resulted in him spending the night in hospital for observation. We wish them a speedy recovery.”

Greyling and Van Wyk is still due to travel with the Bulls on their overseas leg of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition, departing Sunday.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls, fresh off a narrow loss to the DHL Stormers this past weekend, next face the ever-improving Emirates Lions, at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday in the last Super Rugby match of the weekend.

It appears as though regular captain Pierre Spies is under the weather and will therefor sit out of the clash, with Victor Matfield back from Springbok rest and injury recovery set to take over the captaince helm for the vital match.

Meanwhile head coach Frans Ludeke is still moaning and groaning about the difficult laws and interpreations of those laws by the Super Rugby Referees.

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Deon Stegmann

Deon Stegmann

Dean Greyling

Dean Greyling

The Vodacom Bulls, need a complete rethink of their game approach and selection criteria, after a loss on the weekend against the DHL Stormers once again exposed why the Bulls will keep struggling.

The answer is simple… scrum penalties are destrying Bulls chances left, right and centre – and 1 prop in particular, Dean Greyling, cost the Bulls the difference between a win and a loss on the weekend.

No less than 9 easy penalty points can directly be ascribed to Dean Greyling’s inability to scrum correctly and legally. It is not a new thing either, he has picked up a plethera of scrum penalties in the last number of seasons and his general scrumming technique at loosehead prop has always been severely flawed. He is simply put, a scrumming liability, and is exploited at scrum time week after week by every Tom, Dick and Harry who plays against him!

Dean picked up 4 crucial scrum penalties on the weekend, but Marcel van der Merwe also picked up an additional 3 scrum penalties. That means 7 scrum penallties, which were either put into points against the Bulls or which robbed them of valuable possession and territory.

In anybody’s book, bar maybe in the crumpled “Book of Fools & Favourites” of Bulls coach Frans Ludeke, it is seen as a HUGE problem!

Things looked radically better in the 2nd half, when Morné Mellett was at loosehead prop and Trevor Nyakane at tighthead prop.

In addition to the clear prop and scrumming conundrum at the Bulls, one needs to start questioning the validity of continuing with Deon Stegmann at openside flank, as he is also a huge penalty offender! When Lappies Labuschagne replaced Stegmann at openside flank and Arno Botha replaced Jacques du Plessis at blindside flank, the Bulls suddenly entered their most productive and least penalized period of the match and the ground ball and breakdown situation control swung nicely in favour of the Bulls, so much so that the Bulls effectively ‘WON’ the 2nd half battle on the scoreboard, by 10 points to 3 and coming within a whisker of stealing the honours at the end of the game.

If these basic and fundamental aspects are not fixed, and immediately so, one can already start writing “Also-Runs 2015” on the shirt of every Bulls player and on every Bulls supporter’s jersey, alongside that tag which is already emblazened there for 2011, 2012, 2013 and 2014!

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls medical staff on Tuesday confirmed that lock Victor Matfield will undergo surgery on his injured knee (right) and will be out of action for 3 to 4 weeks.

According to Vodacom Bulls doctor Org Strauss, Matfield is going into surgery tomorrow (Wednesday) for an arthroscopy on the knee to fix up damaged cartilage.

Matfield could have played the season without undergoing the procedure, but the decision was made as a precautionary measure building towards the World Cup.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

The Vodacom Bulls will get a number of Springboks back this week, but there is growing concern over the knee injury of veteran lock Victor Matfield.

Matfield will only know on Tuesday when he will play again.

He was originally listed as being ‘rested’ for the encounter with the Lions last week, but it has since emerged that the knee injury was the real problem.

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BullsVodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke made 2 changes to his starting pack for Saturday’s Vodacom Super Rugby match against the Emirates Lions in Johannesburg and also had to replace pivot Handré Pollard, who did not recover in time from a knee contusion.

Jacques-Louis Potgieter will start at No 10 and is the only change to the backline that ran on against the Crusaders last week. Potgieter is returning to action following a hamstring strain that kept him out for 3 weeks.

Grant Hattingh (for Victor Matfield) and Dean Greyling (for Morné Mellett) will start in the pack.

Both played off the bench last weekend.

Hattingh’s spot on the bench will be taken by Roelof Smit and Greyling swops places with Mellett, who will play of the bench. Matfield is rested (as is Jan Serfontein).

Callie Visagie makes his return to the squad following a back injury.

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Jan Serfontein

Jan Serfontein

Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Vodacom Bulls Springboks Victor Matfield and Jan Serfontein will both be rested against the Emirates Lions this week, in accordance with the franchises’ agreement with SARU.

Matfield has started every match for the Bulls this season, bar 1 game where he came off the bench against the Western Force a fortnight ago. Matfield is however nursing a knee injury and might be out for longer than 1 week, maybe even up to a month. Team doctor, Org Strauss confirmed that Victor Matfield is stuggling with the knee, but also said no decision has been made about Matfield’s fitness.

“He has a stiff knee, nothing too serious but we will make a decision later on in the week,” Dr Strauss replied to queries about Matfield’s fitness.

Meanwhile, Serfontein, who was named to play against the Crusaders last week even though he did not train due to a stiff hip flexor, will also earn a ‘rest’.

The Springbok centre failed to pass a late fitness test before the match and was replaced by Burger Odendaal at the 11th hour.

Odendaal was initially set to start his 1st game only for the Vodacom Blue Bulls in the Vodacom Cup after a lengthy injury lay-off for a knee ligament injury, but was thrust straight into Super Rugby in stead.

Odendaal had an impressive return to competitive rugby and it should be expected that he will again take up the No 12 spot, with Serfontein rested.

Meanwhile, another 11th-hour replacement that stepped up to make an indelible impression, Hanro Liebenberg, could again find himself in the starting 15.

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Victor Matfield

Victor Matfield

Eager fans will finally get to see whether the Bulls will make good on their promise of adopting an expansive game plan when they face the Stormers in their opening Super Rugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Stand-in captain Victor Matfield reiterated the point, saying they would be looking to win matches by crossing the whitewash rather than choking the life out of the opposition.

“We want to go out and score tries – if you don’t score tries you won’t win this competition. If you look at the stats each year, it is almost always the team that scores the most tries that wins it,” Matfield said in Pretoria on Wednesday.

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Adriaan Strauss

Adriaan Strauss

Vodacom Bulls coach Frans Ludeke named Adriaan Strauss at hooker when he announced his team to play the DHL Stormers in the opening round of the Vodacom Super Rugby competition at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Strauss, who made his Super Rugby debut for the Vodacom Bulls in 2006 (8 matches), is back in the Pretoria side after a long stint with the Toyota Cheetahs (for whom he played 97 times) and was put straight into the starting team by Ludeke.

The coach also included Vodacom Bulls debutants Lappies Labuschagne and Trevor Nyakane, but neither are strangers to the competition. Labuschagne played for Toyota Cheetahs in 27 matches (debut 2012) and Nyakane represented the same franchise 42 times (debut 2012).

The rest of the team consists of tried and tested players, with the most experienced captain in the history of Vodacom Super Rugby, Victor Matfield, leading the team onto the field for the 83rd time.
Regular captain Pierre Spies, who made his last appearance in Super Rugby in Round 1 last year against the Sharks in Durban, will play off the bench as he is eased back into action following his long lay-off.

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This is the third article in the range of Bulls Squad Contenders for Super Rugby 2015.

We move deeper into the enjin room to the Locks. The Bulls have lost Paul Willemse and David Bullbring at lock for the 2015 season but of course Victor Matfield is sure to play Super Rugby this time around, whereas before the 2014 season that was not the case. Apart from Victor Matfield, Flip van der Merwe and Grant Hattingh, the Bulls will be able to call on the promising young Nico Janse van Rensburg as well as Marvin Orie in 2015.

We discuss the players IN the Super Rugby Group, and not all the options beyond that.

In this Article we look at the contenders for LOCKS in the Vodacom Bulls 2015 Super Rugby group, and whether they could force their way into Bok contention.

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