The final line-up for the 2019 Gold Cup has been confirmed following a nailbiting conclusion to the domestic club season in the Boland town of Worcester on Saturday.
An intercept try deep into injury time gave Onelogix United Bulk Worcester Villagers a 36-29 win over defending champions Roses United in the Boland Grand Challenge final, held in front of an estimated 12,000 fans at one of the country’s most iconic and historic venues, Esselen Park.
Villagers’ victory brought the curtain down on one of the longest club seasons on record, with both the Boland and Western Province leagues, at one stage threatened with cancellation, only kicking off in June due to the drought that devastated the Western Cape.
The 2018 season was also one of the most memorable in years, with large crowds commonplace across the country as club and community rugby showed a remarkable resurgence in popularity.
The newly-crowned Boland champions, established in 1883 and celebrating their 136th anniversary in 2019, will having the honour of being the oldest club in next year’s Gold Cup.
Nolusindiso Booi believes the Springbok Women are on the right track as they prepare to take on Spain in the second Test on their European tour on Saturday.
After going down 19-5 in a spirited performance against Wales last weekend, the Springbok Women’s captain was confident that her charges would be better prepared mentally for Saturday’s Test at Campo de Rugby in Villajoyosa.
“The performance against Wales was good from a confidence perspective; it showed we are on the right track,” said Booi.
“It was our first Test in a few years and we had a new team, so hopefully we can build on that performance against Spain.
“With most of the players having had a taste of Test rugby against Wales, I think we will be better prepared for the challenge ahead because we know what to expect and what we need to do as a team.”
The Springbok Women started their preparations for the clash against Spain on Monday after a travel and recovery day on Sunday, and Booi said they had settled in well after making the journey from Cardiff.
Springbok Women’s assistant coach Eddie Myners said there was a deep desire within the team to improve on their performance when they face Spain on Saturday after a morale-boosting reintroduction to Test rugby last week.
The Springbok Women went down 19-5 against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday in their first Test since the 2014 Women’s Rugby World Cup after trailing 12-5 for most of the second half. This followed a 31-12 victory against the UK Armed Forces in Richmond in their tour opener.
Myners’ was upbeat as the team began their preparations for the clash against Spain, which will be hosted at Campo de Rugby in Villajoyosa.
“The mood in camp is great and the players are really looking forward to the match,” said Myners on Monday.
“We took several positives from the game against Wales, and there is a desire throughout the squad to improve on that performance this week.
“We had 56% possession and 47% territory in that match, but we were unable to convert that pressure into points. The players certainly learned that this is the golden rule of Test rugby.
“The other encouraging aspects we took from that performance were the quality of our defence, breakdowns and lineouts, and we will certainly look to build on that this week.”
The Springboks and France will both be desperate for a win at Stade de France on Saturday according to Springboks captain, Siya Kolisi, who admits that his side is determined to return to winning ways following two close defeats against the All Blacks and England in their previous matches.
“We don’t want to dwell in the past, but we feel that we lost the game last week (against England at Twickenham) because of our lack of execution. We feel like we lost it to ourselves, and this week it’s about making sure we play with the same intensity and purpose, but obviously with better finishing,” explained Kolisi.
Regarding the challenge from the French, Kolisi said: “I’ve played a couple of time against the French and every game against them have been really tough,” the flanker admits.
“They now have a new team and will be fresh, plus they’re welcoming back a few players who’ve returned from injuries. So we are looking forward to another strong challenge, especially from their big physical pack of forwards,” explains the Bok skipper.
The experienced trio of Willie le Roux, Faf de Klerk and Franco Mostert are back in the Springbok starting team for Saturday’s Test against France at the Stade de France in Paris.
The match in the French capital is South Africa’s second fixture of the 2018 Castle Lager Outgoing Tour to the United Kingdom and France and kicks off at 22h05 (SA time).
The inclusion of Le Roux, De Klerk and Mostert – with close to 100 Test caps between them – are the only changes announced by Rassie Erasmus, the SA Rugby Director of Rugby, to the run-on team when he confirmed the Springbok match-23 on Thursday.
Le Roux takes over the No 15 duties from Damian Willemse while De Klerk comes in at scrumhalf to replace Ivan van Zyl, with the rest of the backline kept unchanged.
Mostert replaces Eben Etzebeth, who sustained a foot injury in last weekend’s 12-11 loss to England at Twickenham, in the only change to the pack.
With the availability of the Boks’ European-based players, Erasmus also announced three changes to the replacements. Vincent Koch (prop), Francois Louw (loose forward) and Cheslin Kolbe (utility back) are set to provide impact off the bench.
“It’s good to have the experienced players back in the starting team for France,” said Erasmus.
Springbok centre Damian de Allende said on Tuesday they are working hard this week in the build-up the Test against France, whom the South Africans are expecting to be a tough opponent in Paris on Saturday evening.
The match is the second fixture of the Boks’ 2018 Castle Lager Outgoing Tour of the United Kingdom and France. England edged South Africa 12-11 in a tightly fought affair last Saturday in London.
De Allende said that despite the narrow defeat at Twickenham and the disappointment of not winning, the Boks will continue with their processes, adding that the French will provide a very difficult challenge on home soil.
“We are focussing on ourselves and where we can rectify the mistakes we made against England, so that we can improve and play better against France,” said De Allende.
The powerful midfielder has struggled with injuries earlier this season, but since his return to fitness, De Allende has resumed his partnership with Jesse Kriel at outside centre and Handre Pollard at flyhalf.
“We are constantly working on making our combination better, as well with the other players in the squad who also covers the midfield positions, and then also with our team mates on the outside of midfield,” said De Allende, who added that the Boks had put in a lot of very hard work at their training camps this year.
The Springbok Sevens team entered the final stretch of their preparations for the first two tournaments of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series, in Dubai and Cape Town, in less than a month.
All the players have now assembled for the final push for the opening tournaments in Dubai, starting on 30 November, and the HSBC Cape Town Sevens a week later, on 8 and 9 December at the Cape Town Stadium.
With a number of regulars moving on to fifteens and some current squad members out injured, Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has the opportunity to combine some old hands with a number of less experienced players as he looks to find the correct mix to defend the Emirates Airline Dubai Sevens title.
Seabelo Senatla, Kwagga Smith, Dylan Sage, Ruhan Nel, Rhyno Smith and Tim Agaba are done with sevens for now, while Cecil Afrika, Stedman Gans and Heino Bezuidenhout are unavailable for selection due to injuries.
Afrika (hamstring) is recovering from an injury sustained earlier this year, when the Blitzboks clinched a second consecutive HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series title and will not be ready for selection in two weeks’ time when Powell names his first squad of the season.
Faf de Klerk, Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Franco Mostert, Francois Louw and Vincent Koch have joined the Springbok squad in Paris and are all available for selection for Saturday’s Castle Lager Outgoing Tour Test against France.
De Klerk (scrumhalf) linked up with the South African squad on Monday after Le Roux (fullback), Louw (flank), Koch (prop), Mostert (lock) and Kolbe (utility back) met up with their team mates on Sunday evening in French capital.
The nippy scrumhalf and the other European-based Springboks were not considered for the past weekend’s match against England at Twickenham because that match fell outside the official international window.
De Klerk (20 Test caps) was last week named as a 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year nominee, alongside Bok team mate Malcolm Marx (hooker).
“It’s good to welcome Faf, Willie, Cheslin and the others back into the squad,” said Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby.
“They bring along some valuable experience and knowledge of the European conditions and we are looking forward to working with them again. All of them will be available for selection for this weekend.”
Two Springboks, Malcolm Marx and Faf de Klerk, are amongst a group of five players nominated for the prestigious 2018 World Rugby Player of the Year Award.
Marx (hooker) and De Klerk (scrumhalf) join their Springbok colleague Aphiwe Dyantyi as South African nominees for the various 2018 World Rugby accolades, after the Bok speedster was shortlisted as one of three candidates for the Breakthrough of the Year prize.
World Rugby confirmed the shortlists for the Men’s and Women’s 15s Player of the Year awards for 2018, which will be presented at the World Rugby Awards at the Salle des Etoiles in Monte Carlo on 25 November. Following a stellar year for international rugby, the shortlists for the ultimate accolade feature players who have excited and inspired fans around the world with their feats in 2018.
The Springbok duo will be up against All Blacks Beauden Barrett and Rieko Ioane, as well as Ireland’s Johnny Sexton for 2018 World Rugby Men’s 15s Player of the Year Award, in association with Mastercard.
Marx, the Boks’ a dynamic ball-carrying hooker, has played the fewest tests of the nominees with only six, having missed the June internationals through injury.
With five starts and a try in the win over New Zealand in Wellington, the 24-year-old Marx has picked up where he left off in 2017, combining athleticism, power, pace and a wide skill-set in attack with the breakdown skills to turnover many a ball for South Africa.
De Klerk returned to the Springbok jersey after missing the 2017 Test season and quickly made himself indispensable, showing why rugby is a sport for all with his ferocious defence and fearless play despite his small stature.
Duane Vermeulen and Warren Whiteley both return to the Springbok starting team and together with Siya Kolisi (captain) they will form a new-look loose forward combination for Saturday’s Castle Lager Outgoing Tour Test against England at Twickenham.
The much-anticipated Test will kick off the Springboks’ four-match tour of the United Kingdom and France, which also includes Tests against France, Scotland and Wales. Kick-off at Twickenham is 15h00 (17h00 SA time) and the Test will be televised live on SuperSport 1.
The Springboks have announced a side with seven changes to the starting 15 which lined up against New Zealand three weeks ago in Pretoria. No European-based players were considered for selection because the match falls outside the international Test window.
The reshuffled loose trio now consists of Whiteley at No 8 and Vermeulen at blindside flank, while Kolisi retains his spot on the openside. This means a return to lock for Pieter-Steph du Toit, who has played mostly in the No 7 jersey so far this year.
Whiteley has recovered from the groin injury which ruled him out of the Boks’ last two Tests, against the Wallabies in Port Elizabeth and the All Blacks in Pretoria, while Vermeulen missed the entire Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign after he played a pivotal role in South Africa’s 2-1 series win over England in June.
Du Toit fills the vacant position of Franco Mostert and resumes his provincial second row partnership with Eben Etzebeth, who is the most experienced player in the team with 73 Test appearances.