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The three-year cycle of the Coca-Cola Schools of Excellence rugby development programme will culminate in four rugby festivals in the Central, Gauteng, Eastern Cape and Western Cape regions in the coming months as the project reaches an exciting finale for the current group of players.

The Central festival, which features six schools – Leseding, Kutlwanong, Tsotsoletso, Sehunelo, Concordia, and Homevale High Schools – which will see each team face one another once, will be hosted at the Bronville Community Stadium in Welkom on Friday 15 and Saturday 16 June.

The Gauteng festival will follow on Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 June, at Queens High School in Johannesburg, where 10 schools from the Limpopo Blue Bulls, Blue Bulls, Pumas, Golden Lions, Valke and Leopards rugby unions will participate.

The current cycle of the programme, which was launched in 2012 and is sponsored by Coca-Cola and facilitated by SA Rugby’s Rugby Department, started in 2015. The objective is to provide a functional and measurable rugby assistance and skills development programme.

A total of 40 schools participated in the project in partnership with their respective rugby unions’ development departments and officers.

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The Springboks spread some #LoveRugby in a number of Free State cities and towns on Wednesday as the build-up continues to Saturday’s big Test – the second in the Castle Lager Incoming Series – against England in Bloemfontein.

The Bok squad were divided into several groups, spreading out to areas such as Welkom, Thaba ‘Nchu, Bronville and Bultfontein.

The day started with an MTN signing session at Grey College in Bloemfontein, where several Boks attended a school assembly and then spent some time meeting and greeting the hundreds of young Bok fans.

Across the city at the Mimosa Mall and Loch Logan Waterfront, two more groups of players performed meet and greet duties.

And in Thaba ‘Nchu, Thomas du Toit and Faf de Klerk visited a local primary school where SA Rugby opened a Boks for Books mobile library in 2015.

Meanwhile in Welkom, Rassie Erasmus and his entire coaching staff, accompanied by a group of 10 players, which included Elton Jantjies, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Robert du Preez, Marvin Orie and Oupa Mohoje, presented a clinic where the players assisted with some coaching demonstration drills.

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The Junior Springboks will contest the bronze playoff at the World Rugby U20 Championship on Sunday after heart-breaking 32-31 defeat against England in the semi-final at Stade d’Honneur du Parc des Sports et de l’Amitié in Narbonne dashed their hopes of advancing to the final.

The team staged a spirited fightback from 19-0 down to come within range of winning the match in the dying minutes, but they were denied as England held on with 14 men in the final exchanges.

England took advantage of an early yellow card for Junior Springbok No 8 Muller Uys to score two of their three first-half tries, with Tom Parton touching down in the corner in the 10th minute and Tom Hardwick adding another after receiving the ball at pace and finding his way through the defence.

They added their third try shortly thereafter as Ben White received the ball and made his way to the tryline, and the successful conversion pushed them 19-0 ahead.

The SAU20’s hit back with a try eight minutes before halftime as Sazi Sandi crashed over the chalk following solid pressure on the tryline, and Gianni Lombard’s conversion took their score to seven points.

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Pic: Gallo Images

Pic: Gallo Images

Hooker Schalk Brits has been added to the Springbok squad and has already joined the group in Bloemfontein, it was confirmed on Monday.

Rassie Erasmus, the Director of Rugby at SA Rugby, believes that Brits can play a similar role in the current Springbok setup such as experienced players Duane Vermeulen and Willie le Roux.

“We are busy with building experience, continuity and capacity towards the Rugby World Cup, so we want our young players rubbing shoulders with experienced players such as Duane, Vermeulen and Willie le Roux,” explained Erasmus.

“I want Schalk to perform a similar role, because he has extensive inside knowledge and plenty of experience from playing for Saracens in the English and European conditions. It’s a great way for our younger guys to learn the trade of international rugby from these guys.”

The Springbok team to face England in the second Test in Bloemfontein’s Toyota Stadium will be named on Thursday.

Junior Springbok assistant coach Bafana Nhleko said on Sunday it would take a determined 80 minute effort in the World Rugby U20 Championship semi-final against England in Narbonne on Tuesday to book a place in the final as the competition reaches the business end.

“The first thing we need to get right is an 80-minute performance,” said Nhleko.

“We have played well at times – in patches – but at the same time, we have not been able to string together the kind of performance that we are capable of.

“The round-robin stages are over now, and it is playoff time, so we only have 80 minutes.”

The SAU20s earned their place in the semi-final following bonus-point victories against Georgia and Ireland, before a strong fightback to secure a bonus point in their final pool match against hosts, France, despite going down.

Nhleko expected a challenging test against the English, who finished the pool stages as the top team after bonus-point victories in all of their pool matches. England U20 are also second to New Zealand in terms of tries scored and conceded up to now. But he said the Junior Boks knew what they had to do to advance to the final.

“England are very well organised in terms of their attacking structure, and their set pieces are very good,” said Nhleko.

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PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 10:  Series Champions 2018 men team South Africa pose with the trohpy at the HSBC Paris Sevens, stage of the Rugby Sevens World Series at Stade Jean Bouin on June 10, 2018 in Paris, France.  (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for HSBC)

PARIS, FRANCE – JUNE 10: Series Champions 2018 men team South Africa pose with the trohpy at the HSBC Paris Sevens, stage of the Rugby Sevens World Series at Stade Jean Bouin on June 10, 2018 in Paris, France. (Photo by Aurelien Meunier/Getty Images for HSBC)

The Springbok Sevens team on Sunday did a French double by not only defending their HSBC Paris Sevens title, but in the process the Blitzboks also clinched a second consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title.

The victory in Paris, where the Blitzboks also won last year, saw Neil Powell’s team move past Fiji on the overall standings and retain their champions’ status. Fiji held a seven-point lead before the final tournament, but they faltered on the second day by losing in the quarter-finals to England.

This opened a small window of opportunity to the Blitzboks, which they took in dominant fashion, sealing the double-victory with a magnificent 24-14 victory in the final against England.

Powell was humbled by his team’s achievement, but heaped praise on their effort on the final day of an eight month, ten tournament series.

“We were graced here today,” said Powell.

“You have to feel for Fiji, who won five tournaments, only to come up short by two points in the end, but this is also a massive reward to our Springbok Sevens and SA Rugby Sevens Academy system. There are so many people working so hard for this team and the squad here today rewarded all of them.”

Powell paid tribute to the 28 players used, management and all the support structures back in South Africa: “We do this for more than ourselves. The support from back home is incredible and we find support all over the world, we want to thank all.

“This is a massive credit to our system and we are all very proud to be part of it,” Powell said.

• The Blitzboks qualified for each of the 10 semi-finals during the series. They won in Dubai and Paris, and were runners up in Sydney, Hamilton and London. They won bronze in Cape Town, Vancouver and Hong Kong and placed fourth in Las Vegas and Singapore.

The final standings for 2017/18: Continue reading

The Blitzboks will face Spain the Cup quarterfinals of the HSBC Paris Sevens on Sunday as they look for a perfect ending to their 2017/118 season in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. The Blitzboks topped pool B of the event, but had a very slow start to the day. They were edged 14-12 by Scotland in their opening match and then trailed Russia 19-14 with 30 second left on the clock. A try by Seabelo Senatla, converted by Dewald Human, sealed the win for the defending World Series champions.

With a number of permutations before their last match against Canada – including crashing out of the Cup competition for the first time this year – the Blitzboks finally came good, winning 28-0.

Ryan Oosthuizen, Werner Kok, Senatla and Human scored in the win, which secured them finishing top of the pool.

Springbok Sevens captain, Philip Snyman, apologised to South Africans for their poor showing in the opening matches. “We were really poor and we have to say sorry for those performances. The guys showed a lot of character though in the way they bounced back against Canada. We played so much better and could at least finish the day with a smile on our faces.”

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The character shown by a team full of inexperienced players and some tactical changes on the field were two of the main reasons Rassie Erasmus felt the Springboks managed to overturn a significant deficit to beat England by 42-39 in the opening Test of the Castle Lager Incoming Series at Emirates Airline Park in Johannesburg.

England started with a bang and raced to a 24-3 lead in the opening quarter, thanks to three converted tries and a penalty goal, but SA Rugby’s Director of Rugby said they made a few tactical adjustments, which stared the comeback.

By the break, the Boks were ahead by 27-24 after a brace of tries by Sbu Nkosi, who was on debut for South Africa, as well as Willie le Roux and Faf de Klerk, both of whom were back in green and gold for the first time since 2016.

Aphiwe Dyantyi, also on debut, scored in the second half, and Handre Pollard added four conversions and three penalty goals for a personal haul of 17 points.

“It certainly wasn’t the start we wanted in our first Test at home and I was worried, because we had a lot of young players against a very experienced England side,” said Erasmus.

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Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux was disappointed with his team’s 46-29 defeat against France in their final World Rugby U20 Championship pool match in Narbonne on Thursday, but he lauded their effort to grind out the bonus point to book their place in the semi-final against England.

France came out with a bang in front of a passionate crowd in a jam-packed stadium and ran in five first-half tries to one by the Junior Springboks to take a 36-7 lead at the break. The SAU20’s, however, fought back to score four second-half tries, which saw them take up the last semi-final spot.

“We are through to the semi-final,” said Roux. “I think the players showed tremendous character in the second half to score four tries. We didn’t start off well, we were like rabbits in the headlights, while France were physical and they ran hard at us.

“But I take full responsibility for the result.

“We will do our recovery, go back and look at the game, learn from our mistakes, and then we will take on England in the semi-final.”

Looking forward, Roux said: “I think we need to go through our processes. We are not going to do things differently.

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