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Super RugbyIt was a weekend of drama and excitement in South Africa as the DHL Stormers moved to the Top of the local Super Rugby Conference and the Emirates Lions kept alive their dream of reaching the Top 6.

The Emirates Lions beat the Toyota Cheetahs by 34 / 29 in an 8-try humdinger on Saturday afternoon to record their 6th victory of the season, making 2015 their 2nd best yet but with 6 Rounds to go.

Last year, the Emirates Lions finished with 7 wins, 2 better than their 5 from 2007, but they are on track to better their best in the coming weeks.

The Toyota Cheetahs also deserve a lot of credit for never giving up as they returned to Bloemfontein with 2 bonus points.

The 2nd local match on Saturday delivered heaps of drama and the result was in the balance right until the end, but the DHL Stormers hung on for their 2nd victory over the Vodacom Bulls this season as they won by 15 / 13.

The visitors from Pretoria scored the only try of the match when Bjorn Basson went over early in the 2nd half, but the match-clinching moment came at the death when Duane Vermeulen charged down an attempted drop-goal by Handré Pollard to lead his side to their 7th win of the season.

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Dave Dennis

Dave Dennis

Head coach Michael Cheika has made a number of changes to the Waratahs team to take on the Melbourne Rebels at ANZ Stadium on Anzac Day.

Captain Dave Dennis moves to the No 8 role, while Wycliff Palu will start on the bench.

Mitchell Chapman moves into his role at lock and Tatafu Polota-Nau returns to the starting line-up.

Peter Betham keeps his place on the right wing ahead of Taqele Naiyaravoro, after this week announcing his move to England to join Leicester Tigers.

Adam Ashley-Cooper makes his 2nd start since returning from injury at outside centre.

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Dave Dennis

Dave Dennis

Waratahs captain Dave Dennis has signed a new contract with the ARU keeping him in Australia for at least 2 more years.

The 31-year-old who can play in both the 2nd row and the back row, has signed up through to 2017 as he looks to help the Waratahs retain their Super Rugby title.

Injury kept him out of the knockout stages of last year’s win, but Dennis has been in good form so far this season.

The fact he is staying will be a welcome boost for Daryl Gibson, who will replace Michael Cheika as Waratahs boss at the end of the season.

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Peter Betham

Peter Betham

Australia and Waratahs wing Peter Betham has agreed a move to join Leicester Tigers at the end of the Super Rugby Season.

The 26-year-old is currently playing Super Rugby with defending champions the Waratahs and on Saturday he scored 2 tries in Wellington as they became the 1st team to defeat the Hurricanes this season.

Born in Wellington, New Zealand, Betham was brought up in Sydney and had spells with the Brumbies and Melbourne Rebels as well as with the Waratahs.

He made his Wallabies debut in a Bledisloe Cup fixture against the All Blacks in 2013.

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Super RugbyThe DHL Stormers finished their Australasian tour with a 2nd win while the Vodacom Bulls consolidated their position at the Top of the South African Conference as Vodacom Super Rugby 2015 entered the 2nd half of the season.

However, the Toyota Cheetahs and Cell C Sharks both lost at home as the teams from Pretoria and Cape Town opened up a bit of a gap in the local conference and the Vodacom Bulls moved up to 2nd on the overall log.

The DHL Stormers were made to work hard for a scrappy win in Perth on Saturday afternoon as they defeated the struggling Western Force by 13 / 6, the only 5-pointer of the encounter a Penalty Try to the visitors after yet another superb scrum. The win concluded their best Australasian tour in 3 years.

Back home, the Vodacom Bulls and Cell C Sharks delivered a typically hard local derby in Durban with the 3-time champions from Pretoria ultimately winning by 17 / 10, with each team scoring a solitary try.

The Toyota Cheetahs unfortunately could not build on their good win in Perth last weekend when they were beaten by 18 / 17 by the Reds in Bloemfontein.

Down Under, the defending champions – the Waratahs and the Chiefs recorded impressive victories in Wellington and Christchurch respectively.

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Kurtley Beale

Kurtley Beale

Wallabies and Waratahs centre Kurtley Beale admits contract talks have been playing on his mind.

Beale’s current deal expires at the end of this season and he said on Monday he aimed to reach a decision on his playing future before the end of the Super Rugby tournament.

“It’s always going to be there isn’t it,” Beale said.

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Bernard Foley

Bernard Foley

Waratahs Super Rugby-winning flyhalf Bernard Foley has signed a 3-year contract extension with the Australian Rugby Union.

The new agreement locks away the 25-year-old incumbent Wallaby flyhalf until at least the end of 2018 and ensures he will be eligible for Wallabies and Waratahs selection in each year of the deal. As part of the flexible contract, Foley will also be entitled to spend 2 seasons playing rugby in the Japanese domestic competition.

Foley said he was thrilled to have finalised a long-term agreement with Australian Rugby.

“I have an incredibly strong desire to continue representing Australia and the Waratahs, and this deal allows me to do that for at least another 3 years,” Foley said.

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Taqele Naiyaravoro

Taqele Naiyaravoro

The Waratahs are likely to be without in-form winger Taqele Naiyaravoro for their Super Rugby crunch match against the Hurricanes in New Zealand, due to a visa issue.

Fijian Naiyaravoro was also omitted from the team for the match against the Otago Highlanders in Dunedin last month and is unable to leave Australia for the time being.

“Taqele’s visa application is an ongoing process and as such he is not able to travel overseas at this point in time,” a spokeswoman for the Waratahs said on Tuesday.

The Waratahs declined to comment on whether the explosive 23-year-old, who leads the team with 3 tries, would be available for subsequent games in South Africa later in the year which could prove season-defining.

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Paddy Ryan

Paddy Ryan

Waratahs & Wallabies prop Paddy Ryan has recommitted to the Waratahs for the 2016 season, his 6th with the franchise.

Waratahs CEO Greg Harris said it was a great result that a player of Paddy’s talent and accomplishments had chosen to re-sign for another year.

“It’s a testament to the culture of the team, and the ability of the coaching staff to develop players, that guys like Paddy choose to continue their careers here,” Harris said.

“Paddy made his Super Rugby debut for New South Wales, and he has been an important part of the team’s recent successes, accordingly it is great to see him recommit to us.

“The Waratahs have invested in Paddy’s development as a player as he has come through the NSW development pathway, and the rewards have been mutually beneficial.

“We look forward to this continuing into 2016.”

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Michael Cheika - Wallabies coach

Michael Cheika – Wallabies coach

The Australian conference’s struggles in Super Rugby has alarm bells ringing Down Under, where media pundits have condemned the nation’s lack of playing depth in a Rugby World Cup year.

4 Of Australia’s teams, including the reigning champion Waratahs, are mired in the bottom 6 of the 15-team southern hemisphere competition halfway through the season.

The 5th, Canberra-based Brumbies, are 2nd but battling to hold ground against New Zealand and South African rivals amid a mounting injury toll.

The conference’s solid performance last season, when the Waratahs broke through for their maiden title and the Brumbies reached the semi-finals, was hailed as a sign of the increasing depth of Australian rugby.

Those achievements have been quickly forgotten, with the Melbourne Rebels, Reds and Western Force conjuring a total of 5 wins between them from the opening 9 Rounds.

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Michael Cheika - Wallabies coach

Michael Cheika – Wallabies coach

Waratahs and Wallabies coach Michael Cheika says that it is obvious he is not liked or respected in New Zealand, as the saga of his halftime chat with referee Jaco Peyper rumbles on.

Cheika was given a warning by SANZAR earlier in the week for entering the referee’s room at halftime during his team’s match against the Blues 2 weeks ago.

The Waratahs coach was already on a warning after he verbally abused a camera man last year and many have said that SANZAR should have come down on him harder.

In particular Chiefs coach Dave Rennie said that he was dismayed at the leniency SANZAR showed when they decided that Cheika had broken a law of the game – but not breached the code of conduct.

Had SANZAR ruled that Cheika had broken a code of conduct he could have been suspended from rugby and been unable to coach the Wallabies at the Rugby World Cup.

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Allister Coetzee

Allister Coetzee

An elated DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee heaped the praise on his coaching team and all the players in the aftermath of their excellent 32 / 18 Vodacom Super Rugby win over the defending champion Waratahs earlier today.

The DHL Stormers overturned a 13 / 15 half-time deficit to record their 1st tour win of 2015 against the reigning champs – also scoring 4 tries in the process in Sydney.

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Michael Cheika & Jaco Peyper in hot water

Michael Cheika & Jaco Peyper in hot water

SANZAR confirmed that it received a formal complaint in regard to the alleged conduct of Waratahs head coach, Michael Cheika, following the Waratahs vs Blues match played at Allianz Stadium on Saturday 28 March.

After undertaking a thorough investigation, including receiving statements from all parties involved, it was determined that Mr Cheika had approached the match referee, Jaco Peyper, in front of the other match officials to seek clarification on a scrum interpretation during the halftime break of the Waratahs vs Blues match.

In a short and polite exchange that took place in the referee’s change room, Mr Peyper responded to Mr Cheika’s request for clarification. No other issues were discussed. Both Mr Cheika and Mr Peyper have subsequently acknowledged this exchange should not have taken place and apologised.

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Juan de Jongh

Juan de Jongh

Centre Juan de Jongh has recovered from an ankle injury and will lead the DHL Stormers in their 3rd Vodacom Super Rugby tour match of 2015 – against the Waratahs in Sydney on Saturday.

De Jongh was an 11th hour withdrawal from the team last weekend, but he is fit to take his place in the No 13 shirt this week and assume the leadership responsibilities in the absence of Duane Vermeulen, who is back in South Africa as part of the rest agreement with SA Rugby.

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WaratahsWaratahs Head Coach Michael Cheika has named an unchanged starting side for the match against the DHL Stormers, with Adam Ashley-Cooper and Tatafu Polota-Nau named to return from injury via the bench.

Ashley-Cooper has been sidelined for almost 2 months with a rare knee injury but has finally been deemed fit and will return to the substitutes bench.

Polota-Nau will be returning to the field after suffering a head knock at training weeks ago.

As we have become used to in 2015, coach Michael Cheika has named 2 Extra Players on the bench, for the bench to be finalized and reduced closer to game time.

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Daryl Gibson

Daryl Gibson

The Waratahs have announced the appointment of Daryl Gibson to the role of head coach on a 3-year contract to commence ahead of the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Gibson has been Assistant Coach of the Waratahs, under current coach Michael Cheika, since his appointment at the end of 2012, and has previously coached at the Glasgow Warriors and the Crusaders.

Waratahs Rugby CEO Greg Harris said the integrity of the selection process was of the highest priority and that Daryl’s appointment would ensure that the transition at the end of the season would be a smooth one.

“Daryl has been an integral part of the creation of a culture which the club is now identified by, and his appointment will ensure that the players can build on the positive foundation which has been established by Michael Cheika.”

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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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Jacques Potgieter

Jacques Potgieter

The Australian Rugby Union fined Waratahs player Jacques Potgieter $ 20 000.00 (with $ 10 000.00 suspended), following an incident during Sunday afternoon’s match against the Brumbies.

Potgieter admitted making comments contrary to the Australian Rugby Union’s Inclusion Policy.

He will also be required to undergo additional educational and awareness training.

The sanction was determined following an investigation by the ARU’s Integrity Unit, after the matter was referred to the ARU by SANZAR late Monday afternoon.

The incident follows the endorsement of an ARU Inclusion Policy in August 2014, which is designed to stamp out all forms of discrimination and homophobia in Rugby.

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Dean Mumm

Dean Mumm

The Waratahs have confirmed the signing of lock Dean Mumm, who will return to the club after 3 years with English Premiership side the Exeter Chiefs.

Mumm, who earned 95 New South Wales caps (including 83 at Super Rugby level), during his time with the Waratahs from 2004 – 2012, has signed a 1-year contract and will return to play in the 2016 Super Rugby season.

Waratahs Rugby CEO Greg Harris said he was extremely pleased to secure the signature of Mumm.

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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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David Pocock

David Pocock

Wallabies flank David Pocock will return via the Brumbies bench this Sunday when the team travels to Sydney to take on the Waratahs.

Pocock hasn’t featured for the Brumbies since Round 1, but the former Wallabies and Brumbies captain has successfully rehabbed a syndesmosis injury and is the only change in a 23 man-squad named to tackle the reigning champs.

For the 3rd-straight week the Brumbies have named an unchanged starting side.

Head coach Stephen Larkham’s backline has remained consistent since Round 1 and Captain Stephen Moore is back in the driver’s seat for his 3rd straight game as skipper.

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WaratahsThe Waratahs team to take on the Brumbies at Allianz Stadium this Sunday has been named, with 3 changes from last week’s team.

Taqele Naiyaravoro and Tolu Latu have been brought into the starting side, while Hugh Roach has been named on the bench for the first time in 2015.

Tatafu Polota-Nau misses out through injury, hence Latu’s starting spot, while Naiyaravoro comes in for Peter Betham.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Wallaby and Waratahs coach Michael Cheika is backing the Waratahs to upset the Brumbies, but he acknowledged that on current form the men from Canberra are Australia’s best team.

Cheika, who is carefully juggling his Waratahs and Wallaby coaching jobs in the lead-up to the World Cup, said the Waratahs are close to reproducing the championship-winning form that saw them claim their first Super Rugby title in 2014.

Speaking ahead of the much-anticipated all-Australian derby – Waratahs versus Brumbies in Sydney on Sunday – Cheika said he is confident the Tahs will turn around a season that could spin out of control if they lose this week again.

With just 2 wins from 4 starts, the Waratahs are hovering in mid-table – already 10 points behind the table-topping Brumbies, albeit just a point outside a Top 6 spot.

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Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika

Michael Cheika has insisted that he will be able to juggle his jobs as Wallabies and Waratahs coach throughout the 2015 Super Rugby season.

The Waratahs went unbeaten at home last year on their way to winning their first Super Rugby title which led to Cheika being appointed as Wallabies coach after Ewen McKenzie stepped down.

Cheika will step down as Waratahs coach at the end of the 2015 Super Rugby season but as they lost their first match since he took on the dual role questions would inevitably follow about whether he would be able to concentrate fully on both roles.

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WaratahsThe Waratahs have named an unchanged starting line-up for their match against the Melbourne Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

Pat McCutcheon and Peter Betham are added to a list of reserves that will travel south, with coach Michael Cheika naming his bench closer to the game.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley will celebrate his 50th Super Rugby cap this week, while teammates Adam Ashley-Cooper and Stephen Hoiles will notch their 50th Waratahs Super Rugby caps in the same match.

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WaratahsMichael Cheika has named his team for Round 1 as the Waratahs get their Super Rugby defence underway against the Force on Sunday.

Taqele Naiyaravoro has been named in the starting line-up for the first time in his career, while Dave Dennis and Matt Carraro will make their returns from injury.

Meanwhile, new addition to the squad, Rugby League convert Sam Lousi, has been named on the bench.

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