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Forgotten Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks will make a return to Super Rugby after a four year hiatus when he starts for the Bulls in their away clash against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires. Hendricks replaces the ill Johnny Kotze who is suffering from meningitis. Bulls coach Pote Human believes that Hendricks will make good of his opportunity after being out of top flight rugby for so long due to an undisclosed heart condition. Human is under no illusion of how tough it is going to be in Argentina but believes they have the right game plan to beat the Jaguares if they can build on their winning performance against the Stormers last weekend.
Lions defence coach Joey Mongalo says it was important that they start this year’s Super Rugby campaign with a history defying win against the Jaguares in Buenos Aires last weekend. However, Mongalo says they need to move on from that game and focus on the next task ahead which is the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday. Mongalo says it was rewarding to see the huge effort the Lions players put on defence in their win against the Jaguares and praised the players for the character they showed.
The Stormers will look to bounce back from their disappointing 40-3 loss to the Blue Bulls on Saturday, when they host the Lions at Newlands this coming weekend. The team re-grouped at training on Monday to reflect on what went wrong at Loftus on Saturday, where the Bulls dominated and ran out comprehensive winners. Stormers fullback Dylan Leyds says it was a tough morning as they looked back at what went wrong, but he feels it was a good honest session with the team. Despite the defeat, Leyds is hopeful that the Stormers fans will come out on Saturday and get behind the team. The 26-year-old is confident that Stormers can bounce back this weekend, and says they still believe they can have a successful season. But Leyds knows it will not be easy on Saturday, against a Lions team he rates as the best in South Africa over the past few seasons, who themselves started with a good 25-16 away in Argentina against the Jaguares.
Bulls coach Pote Human says as good as it is having 10 Springboks in his starting team to face the Stormers in their Super Rugby season opener, it will be meaningless if the players don’t back it up with a good performance. Including the plethora of Springboks in the Bulls team, Springbok Sevens star Rosko Specman will be making his Super Rugby debut for the Pretoria side on Saturday with another Springbok Sevens player Dylan Sage also set to make his Super Rugby debut from the bench. Human is hopeful that they will get a big crowd in at Loftus especially with a new coaching staff and a couple of high profile internationals having joined the team. At the same time, Human says his team needs a good start to the competition to set the tone for the remainder of the season.
Springbok and Bulls prop Trevor Nyakane says they are prepared for whatever the Stormers throw their way in their upcoming Super Rugby derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. The Bulls Springbok front row which includes hooker Schalk Brits and Springbok tourist Lizo Gqoboka will have their work cut out for them as they face the Stormers all Springbok front row. Nyakane believes that consistency from the Bulls and in all departments will be key to them doing well in this year’s Super Rugby campaign.
Junior Springbok and Lions utility back Wandisile Simelane says he is feeling no pressure ahead of his debut Super Rugby season. Simelane is one of the most sort after junior players in world rugby but the former Jeppe Boys High School pupil says he is enjoying his time with the Lions Super Rugby squad. He has played outside centre for most of his fledgling career but is also versatile enough to play on the wing. However, Simelane is not being fussy about where he plays and instead wants to get as much game time as possible.
Lukhanyo Am is thrilled to be back playing again after making a return to the Sharks after a four month lay-off in a pre-season friendly against the Lions last weekend. A wrist injury saw the Springbok centre miss the second-half of the international season last year. It is a timely return for the 25-year-old as the Sharks get their Super Rugby campaign underway on the 16th of this month against the Sunwolves in Singapore. Am says he was delighted to get stuck in after months of intensive rehabilitation.
Springbok Sevens forward Zain Davids says the team still harbours ambitions of being the top team on the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series but it is important for them to stick to their processes ahead of the Sydney leg of the series. The Blitzbokke, who are the defending world series champions, finished fourth in last weekend’s Hamilton leg of the series after losing to hosts New Zealand in the bronze medal match. The Blitzbokke are currently in fourth place on the world series standings on 44 points and 13 points adrift of series leaders Fiji who won in Hamilton. A former Junior Springbok, Davids, started all the matches in Hamilton at prop ahead of regular captain Philip Snyman and Davids says the three years serving his apprenticeship in the side has helped him with his confidence in knowing he can fill Snyman’s boots. Davids revealed that it was Snyman who suggested to coach Neil Powell that Davids starts ahead of him and the former Rondebosch Boys’ High star says he will do his best not to disappoint his captain and teammates.
Lions captain Warren Whiteley believes that this year’s Super Rugby competition will be highly competitive particularly amongst the South African franchises because it is a Rugby World Cup year. Whiteley says that a lot of players will want to put up their hands for selection into the Springbok team and go to Japan later this year.
Veteran Springbok and new Bulls hooker Schalk Brits believes the Bulls have a good mix of talented youngsters and enough experienced players to do well in this year’s Super Rugby competition. Brits who recently joined the Bulls for the upcoming Super Rugby season admits that they do not have a lot of time but has promised that the team will certainly show growth in the competition and that success is imminent in the not too distant future.
The DHL Stormers have been working hard in pre-season preparation for next year’s Super Rugby campaign. Robbie Fleck began to assemble his squad from mid-November as they prepare for another demanding season, and he has been pleased with the work put in so far. Fleck says he has been working closely with all the coaches in the Western Province structures. He says this year they have assembled a smaller squad than in the past, so they could focus more intensely on individual skills. The Stormers squad has not made too many changes for the season, but Fleck confirms that former Lions prop Corne Fourie has joined up with the team, after a stint with the Wild Knights in Japan. One of the Stormers stars to keep an eye on this season is Springbok Damian Willemse. Fleck says that the versatile 20-year-old is keen to play at full back, but the team will come first. The Stormers will begin their Super Rugby campaign on February 16 when they face the Bulls away at Loftus.
Toulon have announced that Springbok and Stormers lock Eben Etzebeth will be joining the French club after next year’s World Cup in Japan. Toulon’s website announced that Etzebeth will join on a two year multi-millon Rand deal, as they look to re-build their Top 14 side. However this news has come as a shock to Western Province rugby CEO Paul Zacks, who says the first they heard about Etzebeth’s impending move was in the media yesterday. Zacks says the news came as a complete surprise and he says they will be writing a letter to SA Rugby to discuss the protocol. Zacks does not want to put all the blame on the player, and says that he has problems with the lack of communication regarding this deal.
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