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Nine Junior Springbok stars were among the half century of emerging young players who were taught a thing or two by REF (the Rugby Education Foundation) in 2018 after winning education bursaries though the SA Rugby-run programme.

Junior Springbok prop Alulutho Tshakweni (Sports Management) and centre Rikus Pretorius (Sports Administration and Coaching) were among a handful of SA Under-20 players who were REF bursary recipients, with the group also including Xerox Golden Lions flanker Mandisi Mthiyane (Marketing Management).

They formed part of the SA Rugby Academy Programme which aims to balance formal education with high performance training and player welfare. The foundation, which was launched in October 2015 thanks to the vital support from corporates, have assisted over 100 players with bursaries to date.

The recipients are identified in consultation with scouts, school coaches, provincial rugby unions, as well as SA Rugby high performance staff. Given the success of the programme to date, the aim for 2019 is to assist 75 players with education bursaries.

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Pic: businesliveJustin Geduld has recovered from the injury, which cut short his participation in the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens, while Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell believes the improvement shown by his 13-man squad in the latter stages of last weekend’s tournament was enough to keep faith in the same players for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.

Powell named the same 12-man squad from last weekend to front up in the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday. With Geduld back, Selvyn Davids will again be the official replacement.

Geduld took a knock halfway through the tournament in Dubai and was replaced by Davids. However, the experienced Blitzbok playmaker was cleared to play on Thursday, so the 24-year-old utility back reverts to the bench again.

“I was pleased with the performances against Scotland and Fiji, our last two matches last Saturday, and I saw more of that fluency and urgency in training as well this week,” said Powell.

“Knowing the players, they will all be desperate to correct last weekend’s disappointments and they get a chance to redeem themselves this week.”

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The SA Rugby Referees Panels were confirmed on Wednesday, with nine referees named in the elite Premier Panel, a further 17 on the National Panel while there are nine Television Match Officials listed for next year. In addition, seven names are on the Sevens Panel for 2019.

The complete SA Rugby Match Official Panels for 2019 were confirmed following the annual selection and grading meeting held last month at SA Rugby’s offices in Cape Town. This was followed by the Referees Department strategic planning meeting which happened last Thursday and Friday in Stellenbosch.

SA Rugby Referees Manager, Banks Yantolo, said that while South African match officials continue to play a prominent role on the international stage, a lot of hard work is being done behind the scenes to ensure local referees perform to international standards and that a steady stream of young men and women’s referees are identified and developed with the future in mind.

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Note to editors: Audio notes of Springbok Sevens players, Werner Kok and Branco du Preez (Afrikaans and English) on the forthcoming HSBC Cape Town Sevens can be downloaded here.

The players in the Springbok Sevens team took full responsibility for the hiccup in Dubai, where an individualistic approach in the opening matches of last week’s tournament led to the less than perfect start to the season for the Blitzboks.

That is the opinion of Springbok Sevens strongman Werner Kok as the team prepare for the HSBC Cape Town Sevens, to be played in the Cape Town Stadium on Saturday and Sunday.

“It felt like we played for ourselves and not the team in those opening matches,” said Kok.

“We lacked a team effort, but once we sorted that out and found the team structure again, things went well, especially in the matches against Scotland and Fiji. So we need to start from that base here in Cape Town.”

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South African rugby is entering a whole new universe in 2019 as SA Rugby, SuperSport, Vodacom and Marvel team up to bring Super Heroes to life and create an all-conquering, planet-shifting, villain-busting “Superpowered” Vodacom Super Rugby competition.

Some of Marvel’s most iconic Super Heroes will join forces with South Africa’s most powerful rugby stars to turn every one of the South African derbies in the 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby season into an action-packed adventure in and outside the stadiums.

In a ground-breaking collaboration between SA Rugby, SuperSport, Vodacom and Marvel, each of the South African Vodacom Super Rugby teams will be assigned a Marvel Super Hero as their look for the home derbies next season.

The Vodacom Bulls kit will be emblazoned with the colours of Captain America, the Emirates Lions will channel their inner-Spider-Man, the Cell C Sharks’ kit will be inspired by Black Panther and the DHL Stormers will be wearing Thor’s colours. The kit designs will be revealed at a later stage.

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At the 27th annual General Council meeting of the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) held at DHL Newlands on Monday, November 26, the General Council voted Zelt Marais in as the new WPRFU President.

With outgoing President Thelo Wakefield stepping down after completing a second term, the former Deputy President Marais was chosen by the clubs to replace him.

Wakefield’s tenure as WPRFU President ran from 2012 until 2018, which is the maximum term of office.

“It has been a pleasure to serve the WPRFU for the last 28 years and especially the last six years as President. I have given my all for this Union and will cherish the memories made during my term of office,” he said.

Marais has served as a WPRFU Executive Committee member for 12 years and was Deputy President of the Union for the last two years.

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The revival of club rugby will receive another boost in 2019 when a pioneering amateur provincial competition is trialled in the Western Cape.

The pilot project – a joint initiative between SA Rugby and the SWD Rugby Football Union – will see the best club players in SWD being given the opportunity to represent their municipal regions in an eight-team tournament that will take place across the length and breadth of the Garden Route (formerly Eden) and Central Karoo Districts.

The competition will be divided into two divisions, with representative teams from George, Oudtshoorn, Mossel Bay and Hessequa Local Municipalities contesting the Community Cup. Bitou, Knysna and Kannaland Local Municipalities will be joined by Central Karoo District in the Community Shield.

The pilot – which for the first time in South African rugby will see senior select teams representing their municipal regions – will kick off on 28 September 2019, with each team playing the other three sides in their division home and away. The top two teams in each division will contest the Community Cup and Shield Finals at Outeniqua Park, George, on 9 November 2019 – the weekend after the Rugby World Cup Final.

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A wider DHL Stormers training squad began preparations for the 2019 Vodacom Super Rugby season this week.

DHL Stormers Head Coach Robbie Fleck has assembled a 32-man training squad to begin the groundwork for next year’s campaign with a four-week training programme.

This squad does not include the 13 players who are currently on tour with the Springboks in Europe, while lock Chris van Zyl will join the squad once he returns from a short-term loan with English Premiership side Saracens.

Captain Siya Kolisi, Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi, Frans Malherbe, Wilco Louw, Eben Etzebeth, JD Schickerling, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Damian Willemse, Damian de Allende, Ruhan Nel and Sergeal Petersen will all take a deserved break in December and will begin their preparations for the 2019 season in January.

The pre-season schedule will see the players work hard on their fitness and individual skills, while also getting to grips with the tactical and technical detail that will make up the team’s approach in 2019.

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A last-gasp opportunity has opened up for fans to get their hands on HSBC Cape Town Sevens tickets with a limited number available on general sale through Computicket (website and outlets) from 10h00 this morning (Friday, 23 November 2018).

More than 102 000 tickets for the event have been snapped up, with tickets successfully offered to every individual who registered for the new loyalty programme. However, not all loyalty registrants exercised their rights, while there has been a return of tickets from commercial partners and other stakeholders.

It means there are just less than 2 000 tickets available for Sunday’s action and 7 000 for Saturday’s play. They will be on sale from 10h00 at prices ranging from R195 to R325.

Tickets can be accessed on Computicket’s website (www.computicket.com) or their app, as well as at outlets at Shoprite or Checkers stores nationwide.

An unchanged Springbok starting side will take on Wales in the final Test match of the 2018 Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to the United Kingdom and Europe in Cardiff on Saturday.

The Test at the Principality Stadium, the fourth of the Springboks’ tour to the northern hemisphere, kicks off at 17h20 (19h20 SA time).

It will be the first time this season the Springboks run out with an unchanged line-up. There is however one change amongst the replacements, where Eben Etzebeth is set to provide impact off the bench. The experienced lock has recovered from his calf problem and comes into the 23-man squad in place of Lood de Jager.

The rest of the Springbok match squad that defeated Scotland 26-20 last Saturday in Edinburgh is unchanged for the final tour match.

Duane Vermeulen (No 8), Pieter-Steph du Toit (No 7 flank) and Siya Kolisi (No 6 flank and captain) will yet again form the loose trio, Franco Mostert and RG Snyman the lock combination while Frans Malherbe, Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff will pack down in the front row.

Jesse Kriel will play in his 40th Test match for the Springboks and he lines up next to Damian de Allende in the midfield. Handré Pollard and Embrose Papier are the halfbacks and the back three consists of Willie le Roux (No 15) and speedsters Sbu Nkosi (No 14) and Aphiwe Dyantyi (No 11).

Following an agonising one-point loss to England at Twickenham at the start of the tour, the Springboks have subsequently gained hard-fought victories over France in Paris and Scotland.

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