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The Springboks will field an unchanged 23 for the first time since the last Rugby World Cup for their opening match of the 2019 version in Yokohama on Saturday (kick-off at 11h45 SA time).

Rassie Erasmus, director of rugby, on Wednesday named the same starting XV and eight replacements that defeated Japan, 41-7, in Kumagaya two weeks ago for the eagerly awaited clash against New Zealand.

No 8 Duane Vermeulen will be appearing in his 50th Test as one of 22 players who will, in fact, be appearing in their fourth match together this season.

The combination also fought to a 16-16 draw with the same opposition in Wellington before beating Argentina, 46-13, in Salta on their way to the Castle Lager Rugby Championship. The one exception is fit-again captain Siya Kolisi, who replaced Kwagga Smith to lead the side out against Japan.

The last time South Africa named an unchanged 23 was 51 matches ago – against New Zealand in the 2015 Rugby World Cup semi-final. The combination had beaten Wales 23-19 in the quarter-final, only to lose at Twickenham by two points a week later.

“We’ve found some consistency and some momentum in a number of ways this season,” said Erasmus, “and one of them is in selection.

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Babalwa Latsha said the Springbok Women were ready to measure the progress they have made as a team since the 2021 Rugby World Cup Qualifiers in Gauteng in August as the clock winds down to Saturday’s Test against Spain at the WJ de Wet Stadium in Despatch.

The team have been in Port Elizabeth since Sunday, 8 September, where they have been preparing for the Test and a friendly match between the SA Select Women and Spain Invitational XV – which the visitors won 17-5 last Saturday – but the intensity rose dramatically this week as the team switched in full Test mode.

“We are very excited about the game,” Latsha, Springbok Women’s captain, said at a coaching clinic at Mzontsundu High School in Kwazakele on Wednesday.

“We have been building to this test against Spain and the next two against Scotland for some time now. Our preparation started before the World Cup Qualifiers last month, so we are keen to see how far we have come as a team since then.

“Our training sessions here in Port Elizabeth have been going well and we are all on the same page in terms of what we need to do on the field and what is required of us at training. So it is now a matter of transferring that onto the field.”

Latsha relished the opportunity to showcase their skills in a region that is widely regarded as the heartland of women’s rugby in South Africa, and said: “It is fantastic to play in the Eastern Cape, especially since this is the powerhouse of women’s rugby.

“We are looking forward to the locals coming to see what we have to offer. I think the match is going to be a good spectacle for all of the Eastern Cape to enjoy.”

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Trevor Nyakane is expected to be fit and available for selection for the Springboks’ opening Rugby World Cup match against New Zealand on 21 September, Springbok management confirmed on Sunday.

The tighthead prop sprained a knee during the 41-7 victory over Japan in Kumagaya on Friday and was limited to a 14-minute appearance.

Nyakane made a scheduled return to South Africa on Saturday to be with his wife for the birth of their child this week. He will arrive back in Japan on Friday.

Mr Mark Alexander, President of SA Rugby, reacted with shock and disbelief when the news of the death of former Springbok wing and Blitzboks captain and coach Chester Williams surfaced on Friday afternoon.

Williams was a star of the Springboks’ Rugby World Cup-winning squad in 1995 and one of the best wings in South African rugby history. He passed away from a heart attack in Cape Town on Friday afternoon, aged 49.

“The news of Chester’s passing is devastating and hard to believe, as he was still young and seemingly in good health,” said Mr Alexander.

“Chester was a true pioneer in South African rugby and his performances at the World Cup in 1995, as a snapshot of his Springbok career, will forever be etched in the hearts and minds of our rugby public.

“As a member of the Springbok class of 1995, Chester was not only well-known in the rugby fraternity, but he was a much-loved South African whose influence stretched wider than just the rugby world.

“He was passionate about rugby and South Africa and as coach, at various levels, selflessly gave back to the game after he hung up his boots. He played with courage and was a beacon of light in his community and in the broader South African context.

“Chester Williams had so much more to give. Our thoughts and condolences are with his wife, Maria, his children, family and friends during this very sad time.”

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Western Province will target their third successive SA Rugby Women’s Interprovincial title, and with it a dream season, when they meet arch-rivals, Border, in the A Section final of the competition at City Park in Cape Town on Saturday.

The Xerox Golden Lions, meanwhile, will take on SWD in the B Section final, which will be played at 13h00 as a curtain-raiser to the main final, which kicks off at 15h00.

The Capetonians have been in fine form this season, winning all of their matches up to now, and they will look to finish the competition on a high note in front of their home crowd.

They will, however, face tough competition against Border – who edged their way into the final in the closing pool round – in what marks the fourth successive final between the sides, although this is the first one in Cape Town.

With a clean-sweep of wins in their five matches leading up to the final to only three wins by Border, Western Province may have a mental edge going into the clash, but the narrow margins between the sides on attack and defence in the pool stages indicate that it could be a tightly-fought affair.

The home side scored 26 tries to Border’s 22 and conceded 10 to their Eastern Cape rivals’ 11, and to spice things up even more, Western Province edged through for a narrow 22-21 victory in their pool match in Cape Town earlier this season.

In the last two finals, Western Province won by six and two points respectively, while no more than nine points separated the teams on the scoreboard in their round-robin matches in the last two seasons, meaning it could be an epic clash.

The B Section final between the Golden Lions and SWD is also expected to be gripping with the sides having been among the top contenders for the title in the last few seasons.

In fact, the two sides also met in the 2017 final, which SWD won 23-8, while the women from Johannesburg advanced to the 2018 final as well, but went down against Boland.

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SA Rugby can confirm being informed by the South African Institute of Drug Free Sport (SAIDS) that an adverse analytical finding had been detected in a sample collected from Springbok wing Aphiwe Dyantyi in a doping test on 2 July 2019.

Dyantyi’s B-sample also tested positive and he has now been formally charged with a doping offence for multiple anabolic steroids and metabolites.

SA Rugby, the Lions Rugby Company and Dyantyi are working with SAIDS, the World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) and all other relevant authorities on the matter and no further comment can be made at this stage

BRAKPAN, SOUTH AFRICA - AUGUST 17:  Babalwa Latsha of South Africa lifts the trophy with the team as they qualify during the Women's World Cup qualifier match between South Africa and Kenya at Bosman Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Brakpan, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

BRAKPAN, SOUTH AFRICA – AUGUST 17: Babalwa Latsha of South Africa lifts the trophy with the team as they qualify during the Women’s World Cup qualifier match between South Africa and Kenya at Bosman Stadium on August 17, 2019 in Brakpan, South Africa. (Photo by Sydney Seshibedi/Gallo Images)

Springbok Women’s coach Stanley Raubenheimer was delighted on Saturday as his charges booked their place in the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand with a 39-0 victory against Kenya in the deciding match of the qualifiers at the Bosman Stadium in Brakpan.

The win marked a clean sweep for the Springbok Women in the competition and wrapped up a full-house of points from their three matches following 89-5 and 73-0 victories against Uganda and Madagascar earlier in the tournament.

The Springbok Women ran Kenya ragged early on, which saw them earn their fourth try early in the second quarter and take a 24-0 lead at the break, and they built on this is in a competitive second stanza in which they added three more tries to their tally for the 39-0 win.

In the other match, Madagascar and Uganda played to 15-15 draw in a gripping encounter, in which both teams ran hard on attack and defended with intent.

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South African rugby players – men and women, schoolboys and adults – were congratulated for Saturday’s national team hat-trick by Mr Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, on Sunday.

The Springboks overcame Argentina, 24-18; the Springbok Women defeated Kenya, 39-0; and the SA Schools team beat England U18, 33-26.

“Saturday was a very satisfactory day for South African rugby,” said Mr Alexander. “We had national teams in action in Pretoria, Brakpan and Wellington – all of them in important matches and all of them came through.

“I’d like to congratulate our men and women players and our schoolboys on their successes. It’s not often that we have three national teams playing on the same day and to have them all victorious is cause for some pride.

“In particular I’d like to congratulate the Springbok Women on their qualification for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup.”

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The Currie Cup Premier Division – sponsored by DirectAxis Financial Services – is going down to the wire yet again and with only one round of the league phase left before the playoffs, five teams will be scrambling to determine how the top four finish.

Tafel Lager Griquas secured their first appearance in the semi-finals since 1998 with a good 27-23 win over DHL Western Province in Kimberley on Friday evening.

George Whitehead was the general for the men from Kimberley, while the rest of his team delivered a well-organised and physical performance as DHL Western Province made a number of handling errors and struggled in the scrum. The full match report and scorers can be found here.

On Saturday, the Toyota Free State Cheetahs had to dig deep, but in the end they had too much fuel in the tank as they outlasted the Phakisa Pumas by 43-37 in a high-scoring match in Nelspruit.

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