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An epic Guinness PRO14 derby between the Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings is set to play out in Bloemfontein on Saturday, when both sides will target a victory at all costs.

While the Toyota Cheetahs are determined to register their sixth victory of the season to remain in third place in Conference A and gain some breathing space between themselves and the Glasgow Warriors on the log, the Isuzu Southern Kings are highly motivated to avenge their last minute 31-30 defeat last week against their countrymen.

Should the Free Staters register a victory, they will maintain their dominance against the men from Port Elizabeth in the tournament, which has seen them win all six encounters between the sides to date.

Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie was adamant that his charges had to deliver a much better display at home to emerge victorious: “There were a lot of things going through my head in the last 10 minutes last week. I had three different speeches for the changeroom and the press, but I was just grateful we pulled it through.

“We played really well in the closing minutes and put up a fight to pull the game back, and I’m proud of that. But in saying that, we all know we need to improve and that will start with a win at home.

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Two hundred and fifty-five matches – and 49 tournaments – ago, when Justin Geduld ran onto the field in the colours of the Springboks Sevens team for the very first time, he cried tears of joy. By the end of it, those turned into tears of despair though, as the then 19-year-old broke his hand in his very first match.

On Saturday, at the HSBC Sydney Sevens at Bankwest Stadium in Parramatta, he will run out for his 50th tournament with an extreme feeling of gratitude as only the seventh Blitzbok to play reach a half-century of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series tournaments.

For Geduld, now 26 years old, that day in 2012 at the Westpac Stadium in Wellington, New Zealand, feels like a lifetime ago.

“I never thought of playing 50 tournaments for my country when I started out, especially after breaking my hand in my very first match! At that time, we used 35 tournaments as a benchmark, now 50 seems to be the new standard,” Geduld reflected.

“So, to be running out for my 50th is a very special feeling and I am very grateful. It is tough out there and not many players make it to 50.”

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The 25th edition of Vodacom Super Rugby kicks off this weekend, starting with an exciting South African derby between the Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls in Durban on Friday evening. The DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions start their respective campaigns on Saturday and Sunday.

Flyhalf duel adds spice to Vodacom Super Rugby opener in Durban

Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am will lead an exciting Cell C Sharks team in their opening Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday evening, with a number of players set to make their competition debut for both teams. Kick-off is at 19h10.

The Vodacom Bulls welcome back former Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn, who last played for the Pretoria outfit in 2013 and is the only three-time Vodacom Super Rugby champion that remains within the South African circuit. His duel with Bosch is bound to play a key role in the outcome of the match.

Kolisi leads DHL Stormers from No 8 against Hurricanes

Springbok Rugby World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi will lead the DHL Stormers in the No 8 jersey when they host the Hurricanes in their first Vodacom Super Rugby match of 2020 on Saturday. Kick-off at DHL Newlands is 15h05 and the match will be televised live on SuperSport.

Wales and British & Irish Lions international Jamie Roberts will make his DHL Stormers debut alongside 10 Springboks named in the matchday squad for the opening round clash with the Kiwis. Roberts will start at inside centre.

Emirates Lions face difficult task first up in Buenos Aires

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Wales and British and Irish Lions international Jamie Roberts will make his DHL Stormers debut alongside 10 Springboks named in the matchday squad for the opening round Vodacom Super Rugby encounter with the Hurricanes at DHL Newlands on Saturday.

Roberts will start at inside centre, with fellow midfielder Rikus Pretorius, who is 12 years his junior, also set to make his DHL Stormers debut from the replacements bench.

There are seven World Cup winners in the starting XV, with captain Siya Kolisi set to wear the No.8 jersey when he leads the team out for kick-off at 15h05 on Saturday to start the last Vodacom Super Rugby season at DHL Newlands.

The Hurricanes last visited DHL Newlands in 2014, when a late try secured a dramatic one-point win for the DHL Stormers.

The last time the two teams played the opening game of the season was at DHL Newlands in 2012, when Kolisi made a try-scoring debut off the replacements bench.

DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson said that following a busy pre-season, his team are determined to make a convincing start to their campaign in front of the DHL Newlands Faithful.

“We are very excited about the team that we are putting out this weekend and the potential for us to make a good start to the last season at DHL Newlands.

“We want to play the kind of rugby that will make our supporters smile and that starts on Saturday against the Hurricanes,” he said.

Tickets for the first four games of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby season at DHL Newlands against the Hurricanes, Vodacom Bulls, Jaguares and Blues are on sale from wprugby.computicket.com or any Computicket outlet.

DHL Stormers: 15 Dillyn Leyds, 14 Sergeal Petersen, 13 Ruhan Nel, 12 Jamie Roberts (DHL Stormers debut), 11 Seabelo Senatla, 10 Damian Willemse, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Siya Kolisi (captain), 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Jaco Coetzee, 5 Chris van Zyl, 4 Salmaan Moerat, 3 Frans Malherbe, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Ali Vermaak, 18 Wilco Louw, 19 David Meihuizen, 20 Ernst van Rhyn, 21 Johan du Toit, 22 Godlen Masimla, 23 Rikus Pretorius (DHL Stormers debut).

DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson has confirmed the 45-man squad for the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign.

The DHL Stormers will kick-off the new season on February 1 against the Hurricanes at DHL Newlands, having concluded their pre-season preparations with a 21-19 win against the Cell C Sharks at FNB Stadium on Vodacom SuperHero Sunday.

The New Zealand outfit, which features a large contingent of All Blacks, last visited DHL Newlands in 2014, when a late try secured a dramatic one-point win for the DHL Stormers.

The last time the two teams played the opening game of the season was at DHL Newlands in 2012, when Siya Kolisi made a try-scoring debut off the replacements bench.

Kolisi, who now has 115 DHL Stormers caps to his name, will begin his fourth season as DHL Stormers captain.

The squad has been training together since early October in preparation for what will be the historic final season at DHL Newlands.

The 45-man group includes 10 Springboks, of which seven are World Cup Champions, as well as a British and Irish Lion in new signing Jamie Roberts.

Dobson said that with pre-season having now wrapped up, the focus shifts to ensuring that his team is ready to hit the ground running in their opening game against the Hurricanes next week.

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The Springbok Sevens management and players took full responsibility for their 10th place finish at the HSBC New Zealand Sevens on Sunday, admitting that it was a very disappointing performance and way below their regular and proud standards.

The Blitzboks lost 36-14 to Kenya in their final Pool B match and then went down 12-5 to Fiji in the 9th place playoff at FMG Stadium Waikato.

Kenya’s victory over the Blitzboks came after 14 consecutive wins for the South Africans, and two tries in the last two minutes by Fiji meant the Hamilton tournament ended in misery for Neil Powell and his squad.

These results, coupled with New Zealand winning their home tournament, saw the Blitzboks drop to joint-second spot on the overall HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series standings after three tournaments of 10 played. The Kiwis, who beat France by 27-5 in the final, top the log with 63 points, followed by South Africa and France (48 points each).

For Powell, it was a frustrating weekend in which the Blitzboks lost three matches in a row, a statistic that will hurt the squad, who came into the tournament on the back of 11 wins from their last 12 matches.

“We were just poor against Kenya, with our basics not on par,” said Powell about the performance that saw the Blitzboks go down 19-0 in the opening half.

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There were contrasting emotions in the Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings camps following the dramatic Guinness PRO14 derby between the sides at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday in which a brave comeback allowed the Free Staters to edge through 31-30.

While Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbie Kempson was angry at his team’s last-minute defeat, Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie praised his side’s fighting spirit and veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar’s influence as they bounced back from 30-12 down to earn the win.

Pienaar, who took the field a replacement, slotted over two conversions in the last 10 minutes – the second of which was to win the match.

The victory ensured that the Free Staters remained at the top-end of their conference, keeping them in the race for a possible playoff spot later in the season.

“We expected it to be a tight game, but I hoped it wouldn’t be that close,” said Fourie. “It is always a dogfight here. The Kings played really well.

“We made a lot of mistakes that earned them points, especially in the first half. There were three soft tries and that made the game difficult for us.” Continue reading

Pic: E! News

Pic: E! News

This from independent.co.uk:

Kobe Bryant has died in a helicopter crash in California, aged 41. The NBA legend was travelling in his private helicopter when it came down yesterday morning in Calabasas, 40 miles north-west of Los Angeles.

Bryant’s 13-year-old daughter Gianna was also among the nine people who all died in the incident.

Vanessa Bryant, Kobe’s wife, was not on board. They have three further children together – Natalia, Bianca and six-month-old Capri.

A call for a downed helicopter went out at 10.01am, the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said, and officials later confirmed Bryant’s death.
Video from Access:

 

Pic: Stormers Twitter

Pic: Stormers Twitter

A 28-man DHL Stormers squad will get a thorough work-out against four different teams on Varsity Day at Florida Park in Ravensmead on Saturday.

In the first pre-season fixture of the 2020 Vodacom Super Rugby campaign, the extended squad will face University teams UCT, Maties, CPUT and a DHL WP XV as part of a festival of rugby hosted by Tygerberg RFC.

Gates at Florida Park will open at 09h30 on Saturday morning and the DHL Stormers squad will play their first period against CPUT at 13h30, followed directly by 20 minutes against DHL WP XV at 14h00.

The players will then take a break as the Varsity teams battle it out amongst each other, with the final two 20-minute periods against UCT and five-time Varsity Cup champions Maties ending the day.

Entrance on the day at Florida Park will be R20, with parking also R20. The non-playing DHL Stormers will have a signing session at 14h30.

In the 28-man squad for the four 20-minute periods are several players with Vodacom Super Rugby experience such as Jean-Luc du Plessis, Godlen Masimla, Chad Solomon, Ernst van Rhyn, Ali Vermaak, Chris van Zyl and Leolin Zas, as well as former Springbok Hilton Lobberts who has returned to the Western Cape to play club rugby.

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Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell knows the route to the top of the podium at the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens – he has after all lifted the trophy more than once as a player, and watched his team do the same as a coach.

The Dubai tournament – the first of ten in the 2019/20 HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series – starts at The Sevens Stadium on Thursday, with the Blitzboks playing Kenya in their only match of the day.

Ann according to Powell, the Blitzboks arrived in Dubai confident after good preparation in Stellenbosch for the last two months.

“We also played in a warm-up tournament, so a lot of things we wanted to do have happened – but the real test remains here in Dubai when the tournament and series start,” said Powell.

South Africa have won the Dubai title six times before and for Powell a good start has always indicated what the season has in store for the Blitzboks.

“The pre-season normally manifests itself here and in Cape Town next weekend, but I think we have laid a good foundation for the opening two weeks,” he explained.

“There are a couple of challenges though. We needed to get through the 10-hour flight and its effects, and then a slight mindset change as the tournament is now starting a day earlier and will be played over three days and not the usual two.”

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