An epic Guinness PRO14 derby between the Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings is set to play out in Bloemfontein on Saturday, when both sides will target a victory at all costs.
While the Toyota Cheetahs are determined to register their sixth victory of the season to remain in third place in Conference A and gain some breathing space between themselves and the Glasgow Warriors on the log, the Isuzu Southern Kings are highly motivated to avenge their last minute 31-30 defeat last week against their countrymen.
Should the Free Staters register a victory, they will maintain their dominance against the men from Port Elizabeth in the tournament, which has seen them win all six encounters between the sides to date.
Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie was adamant that his charges had to deliver a much better display at home to emerge victorious: “There were a lot of things going through my head in the last 10 minutes last week. I had three different speeches for the changeroom and the press, but I was just grateful we pulled it through.
“We played really well in the closing minutes and put up a fight to pull the game back, and I’m proud of that. But in saying that, we all know we need to improve and that will start with a win at home.
“We want to be in the playoffs, and we are currently third on the log, so it is in our hands to stay there. We have played a game less than Glasgow and things are back on track,” added Fourie.
The Toyota Cheetahs are likely to welcome back physical looseforward Jasper Wiese – who has served his three-week suspension for a dangerous clean-out at a ruck – and Fourie was excited by the prospect after a tough forward battle in the first half against the Isuzu Southern Kings last week.
“We missed him,” said Fourie. “He is a skillful player with power and speed, and he brings a lot to the table.
“They (the Isuzu Southern Kings) definitely won the contact battle in the first half, and we spoke about that at half time and made a bit of a step up in the second half.
“If we can just get a bit more continuity, play through more phases and stretch the defence, I am pretty sure we will get the line breaks and the tries we need.”
Isuzu Southern Kings assistant coach Braam van Straaten was still annoyed this week after his charges let slip a 30-12 lead in Port Elizabeth, and he emphasised the importance of good discipline and brute physicality to give them a chance of earning their second win of the season.
“We worked so hard to win that game and we were controlling the match and winning the battle, and then in the dying minutes we lost composure and gave it away,” said Van Straaten.
“We are determined to go to Bloemfontein and turn that result around this week. We need to go out and perform to the best of our abilities without getting pulled into too many incidents. Our job is to focus on the game. It will be very physical but within the rules.”
Van Straaten added: “Cards have been an Achilles heel for us, and we’ve been getting on the wrong side of the referee, so discipline has been a big focus for us this year.
“High tackles are getting less and less, and we need to maintain that improvement. It is also crucial that we don’t give away soft penalties that will allow them to get into our half.”
Divan Uys, who hails from the Northern Suburbs of Cape Town and is on the National Panel of referees at SA Rugby after a steady progression up the ranks in South Africa in recent years, will make his Guinness PRO14 refereeing debut with the whistle.
The 33-year-old Uys made his Currie Cup debut in 2019 when the Vodacom Blue Bulls took on Tafel Lager Griquas, and has international experience at age-grade level, having refereed in the U18 International Series last year, featuring South Africa, England, Wales, France and Argentina.
Guinness PRO 14 fixture:
Toyota Cheetahs v Isuzu Southern Kings
SA time: 17h00
Date: Saturday, 1 February
Venue: Toyota Stadium, Bloemfontein
Referee: Divan Uys
Assistant Referees: Cwengile Jadezweni and Quinton Immelman
TMO: Johan Greeff
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
The 25th edition of Vodacom Super Rugby kicks off this weekend, starting with an exciting South African derby between the Cell C Sharks and Vodacom Bulls in Durban on Friday evening. The DHL Stormers and Emirates Lions start their respective campaigns on Saturday and Sunday.
Flyhalf duel adds spice to Vodacom Super Rugby opener in Durban
Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am will lead an exciting Cell C Sharks team in their opening Vodacom Super Rugby clash with the Vodacom Bulls at Jonsson Kings Park on Friday evening, with a number of players set to make their competition debut for both teams. Kick-off is at 19h10.
The Vodacom Bulls welcome back former Springbok flyhalf Morné Steyn, who last played for the Pretoria outfit in 2013 and is the only three-time Vodacom Super Rugby champion that remains within the South African circuit. His duel with Bosch is bound to play a key role in the outcome of the match.
Click here to read the full match preview.
Kolisi leads DHL Stormers from No 8 against Hurricanes
Springbok Rugby World Cup winning captain Siya Kolisi will lead the DHL Stormers in the No 8 jersey when they host the Hurricanes in their first Vodacom Super Rugby match of 2020 on Saturday. Kick-off at DHL Newlands is 15h05 and the match will be televised live on SuperSport.
Wales and British & Irish Lions international Jamie Roberts will make his DHL Stormers debut alongside 10 Springboks named in the matchday squad for the opening round clash with the Kiwis. Roberts will start at inside centre.
Click here to read the full match preview.
Emirates Lions face difficult task first up in Buenos Aires
Springbok flyhalf Elton Jantjies is set to captain a new-look Emirates Lions team when they run out against the formidable Jaguares in their first Vodacom Super Rugby fixture of 2020. The match kicks off at 01h00 on Sunday morning (SA time) in the Argentinean capital of Buenos Aires.
Included in the Emirates Lions travelling squad were number of new faces, including the experienced former Springbok prop Jannie du Plessis, who is set to make his first Vodacom Super Rugby appearance since 2015.
Click here to read the full match preview.
Vodacom Super Rugby media resources: Latest News / Match Centre / Statistics / Teams & Players
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
There were contrasting emotions in the Toyota Cheetahs and Isuzu Southern Kings camps following the dramatic Guinness PRO14 derby between the sides at the Nelson Mandela Bay stadium in Port Elizabeth on Saturday in which a brave comeback allowed the Free Staters to edge through 31-30.
While Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbie Kempson was angry at his team’s last-minute defeat, Toyota Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie praised his side’s fighting spirit and veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar’s influence as they bounced back from 30-12 down to earn the win.
Pienaar, who took the field a replacement, slotted over two conversions in the last 10 minutes – the second of which was to win the match.
The victory ensured that the Free Staters remained at the top-end of their conference, keeping them in the race for a possible playoff spot later in the season.
“We expected it to be a tight game, but I hoped it wouldn’t be that close,” said Fourie. “It is always a dogfight here. The Kings played really well.
“We made a lot of mistakes that earned them points, especially in the first half. There were three soft tries and that made the game difficult for us.”
Commenting on Pienaar’s influence, Fourie said: “It is great to have a guy with that sort of experience. I trusted him to take that kick. It was the difference between five points and two points, so it was a really important kick for us.”
Fourie complimented the Isuzu Southern Kings’ determined efforts, saying: “I feel that they dominated the contact on attack and defence, especially in the first half, and their lineout functioned well. They had us under pressure for moments in the game.
“They are definitely making progress, and there is a nice vibe in the camp, so they will do well going forward.”
In stark contrast to Fourie, Kempson was a disappointed man, and said individual mistakes cost the team in the end.
“It’s probably more anger than heartbreak,” said Kempson. “That is a game we could have and should have won, but we didn’t. Individual mistakes cost the team, and we have to look at those and make adjustments for the sake of the team, as that is much more important than the individual.
“All their points came from our mistakes.
“I think we had the upper hand on defence, and physically we were harder than them and you could see that from the number of guys who went off the field.”
Despite the disappointment, Kempson took some positives from the performance and said: “The most important thing was the way these guys climbed in on defence. The way our boys defended shows character. They are playing for the jersey but we are not getting the rub of the green in certain circumstances, although you can’t fault the players for that.”
The teams will meet again next Saturday, this time in Bloemfontein.
Click here for the full match report.
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Pieter-Steph du Toit capped off phenomenal 2019 season when he added the prestigious SA Rugby Player of the Year award to his World Rugby Player of the Year accolade.
Rassie Erasmus and the Springboks were also honoured for a brilliant 2019, when they won the Rugby World Cup and Castle Lager Rugby Championship, as well as the World Rugby Awards for Coach and Team of the Year, by walking away with the same awards in South Africa.
The 27-year-old Du Toit beat Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi and Duane Vermeulen to the top individual award in South African rugby.
In the process, the Springbok looseforward became only the third player, behind Naas Botha and Bryan Habana, to take the title for a third time, after he also won it in 2016 and 2018.
Mr Mark Alexander, president of SA Rugby, congratulated all the winners for their contribution to a memorable 2019 season in South Africa.
“Pieter-Steph led the charge for the Springboks and he deserves this accolade to go with his World Player of the Year Award,” said Mr Alexander.
“The 2019-season will be ingrained in our memories for decades to come, thanks to Rassie, Siya and the Springboks, but all our national teams did well and we are proud of all the winners.
“At franchise and provincial level we also saw an upward surge which bodes well for the forthcoming season. Congratulations to all the winners and to all our teams, coaches and players across all levels here in South Africa, best of luck for the 2020 season – may we continue to spread hope and happiness.”
Other big winners from the Boks’ RWC squad included Herschel Jantjies (Young Player of the Year) and Handré Pollard (Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year).
The 23-year-old Jantjies, who played in 10 of Boks’ Tests in2019, arrived on the international scene like a bullet train, scoring a brace of tries in his Test debut against the Wallabies in Johannesburg, as well as a crucial five-pointer in the drawn Test against New Zealand in Wellington.
Pollard, the top points’ scorer at the RWC in Japan, walked away with the award for Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Year. His 194 season points were the most in 2019 as the Springbok pivot helped steer the Vodacom Bulls to the quarter-finals.
Springbok Sevens Player of the Year, Siviwe Soyizwapi, had a stellar year for the Blitzboks, finishing the 2018/19 season as leading try-scorer and playing in all 10 tournaments. He took over the captaincy from injured Philip Snyman halfway through the season and in that capacity lifted trophies in Vancouver and Singapore.
Junior Springbok Player of the Year, Jaden Hendrikse, was a key figure in the SA U20s’ 2019 World Rugby U20 Championship campaign in Argentina, with his accurate goal-kicking and play-making abilities earning him a regular place in the starting line-up. His consistently effective displays also earned him a nomination for the breakthrough player of the tournament award.
Aseza Hele (No 8), the Springbok Women’s Achiever of the Year, was a key figure for the national team with her powerful presence and hard running setting the field alight – skills that proved valuable in the team’s qualification for the 2021 Women’s Rugby World Cup in New Zealand.
Livewire hooker Joseph Dweba was a standout for the Toyota Free State Cheetahs as they won the Currie Cup and was deservedly named Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year, while Cody Basson, tough-as-nails looseforward of the Down Touch Griffons won the Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year Award.
Aimee Barrett-Theron was named the Outsurance Referee of the Year. She took charge of six Test matches in 2019, which included the opening match of the Women’s Six Nations, where she will again be in action in February.
The Club Player of the Year was won for a record third time by the evergreen Leon du Plessis of Rustenburg Impala and Dylan Alexander of Western Province was the Craven Week Player of the Tournament for 2019.
In a new category, SA Wheelchair Rugby (SAWR) was named as the first recipient of the award for SA Rugby Associate Member of the Year.
All the winners and other nominees are:
SA Rugby Player of the Year: Pieter-Steph du Toit
Nominees: Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Makazole Mapimpi, Duane Vermeulen.
SA Rugby Young Player of the Year: Herschel Jantjies
Nominees: Curwin Bosch, Sbu Nkosi, JJ van der Mescht, Damian Willemse.
Team of the Year: Springboks
Nominees: Toyota Free State Cheetahs, Springbok Sevens.
Coach of the Year: Rassie Erasmus
Nominees: Neil Powell, Franco Smith.
Junior Springbok Player of the Year: Jaden Hendrikse
Nominees: Phendulani Buthelezi, JJ van der Mescht.
Springbok Sevens Player of the Year: Siviwe Soyizwapi
Nominees: Kurt-Lee Arendse, Selvyn Davids, Werner Kok.
Vodacom Super Rugby Player of the Tournament: Handré Pollard (Vodacom Bulls)
Nominees: Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers), Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls).
Currie Cup Premier Division Player of the Year: Joseph Dweba (Toyota Free State Cheetahs)
Nominees: Tyrone Green (Xerox Golden Lions), Ruan Pienaar (Toyota Free State Cheetahs).
Currie Cup First Division Player of the Year: Cody Basson (Down Touch Griffons)
Nominees: Athenkosi Mayinje (EP Elephants), Domingo Miotti (Jaguares XV), Robbie Petzer (Down Touch Griffons).
SuperSport Rugby Challenge Player of the Year: George Whitehead (Tafel Lager Griquas)
Nominees: Jamba Ulengo (Toyota FS Cheetahs XV), Anthony Volmink (Tafel Lager Griquas).
SA Rugby Associate Member of the Year: SA Wheelchair Rugby (SAWR)
Nominees: SA Deaf Rugby Association (SADRA), SA Rugby League Sporting Associations (SARLSA), SA Schools Rugby Association (SASRA).
Outsurance Referee of the Year: Aimee Barrett-Theron
Springbok Women’s Achiever of the Year: Aseza Hele
Craven Week Player of the Tournament: Dylan Alexander (DHL WP)
Club Player of the Year: Leon du Plessis (Rustenburg Impala)
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Jacques Nienaber was named as the new Springbok coach on Friday as part of a revised coaching panel, that will report directly to Rassie Erasmus, South Africa’s director of rugby.
Nienaber is promoted from an assistant coach’s role to carry the day-to-day responsibility while Erasmus will continue to direct strategy in a tweaking of a panel that is heavily accented on continuity.
Mzwandile Stick has been reappointed as an assistant coach while in an innovative inclusion, Felix Jones will continue but in a new role as a European-based coaching consultant.
There are two new appointments with Deon Davids appointed forwards coach while Daan Human – the Vodacom Bulls’ scrum coach – takes up the same role with the Springboks on a shared basis.
The appointment of Nienaber, 47, underlines a commitment to continuity with the vastly experienced understudy to Erasmus promoted to the headline role, although the director of rugby would still carry the responsibility for Springbok performances.
“Jacques is highly experienced and has worked with the Springboks on three separate occasions now so knows exactly what the job is about,” said Erasmus.
“Jacques will be responsible for the Test match preparation and day-to-day team operations but, as the director of rugby, I will be with the team for the majority of the time and in the coaches’ box with Jacques at matches.
“I’ll still be responsible for the strategy and results with Jacques taking operational control. The structure allows the director of rugby to spend more time on other aspects of the role,” said Erasmus.
Nienaber said: “This is a massive honour and responsibility, but I think I have a good understanding of what it entails, especially in this new structure.
“I’ve worked with Rassie in a coaching capacity for nearly two decades now and we have a very good idea of how each of us thinks and as I’ll still be reporting to him our working relationship won’t be changing.
“It’s a big step-up for me in terms of carrying the day-to-day leadership role and there’ll be other adjustments but in many ways it will also be business as usual. We’ve built up a good culture over the past two years and we’ll simply be looking to extend that.”
Meanwhile Erasmus thanked departing forwards coach, Matt Proudfoot, for his work with the team over the past four years as the only departing member of the coaching team.
“Matt did a brilliant job with our pack and I’d like to thank him from me, the team and SA Rugby,” said Erasmus.
Davids, 51, graduates after a tough apprenticeship as head coach of the Isuzu Southern Kings, firstly in Vodacom Super Rugby (2016-17) and then in Guinness PRO14 until parting company with the team at the completion of the last season.
Human, 43, the former Springbok front ranker, will continue to work as the scrum coach of the Vodacom Bulls during the Vodacom Super Rugby season but will join the Springboks for the Castle Lager Incoming Series in July, the Castle Lager Rugby Championship and the Castle Lager Outgoing Tour in November.
Stick, 35, retains his place in the coaching team as an assistant coach with special responsibility for skills while the highly-rated Jones (32) – who was a last-minute appointment on the eve of the Rugby World Cup – will be based in Europe to improve communication and alignment to address the reality of the number of South African players based on that continent.
The panel was approved by the Executive Council in December.
“The coaching team has undergone a refresh but there is a strong theme of continuity and succession planning,” said Jurie Roux, SA Rugby CEO.
“The recommendation of the Director of Rugby was unanimously accepted as it strongly accented those aspects.
“Rassie will remain the director of Springbok affairs but this is a deserved opportunity for Jacques to come out of the shadows and provide Test experience to Daan and Deon.
“We are defending the Castle Lager Rugby Championship title in 2020 and are already looking forward to the visit of the British & Irish Lions in just over 18 months’ time so there is no let-up for the team.”
The Springboks play their first match as reigning Rugby World Cup champions against Scotland on Saturday, 4 July (venue to be confirmed).
Springbok coaching team:
Issued by SA Rugby Communication
The Isuzu Southern Kings and Toyota Cheetahs will be bracing themselves for an action-packed Guinness PRO14 derby on Saturday at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth in what will mark the first encounter between the sides this season and the only match of the weekend.
Pride will be a big factor for both sides, but a good result will be of utmost importance too. The Free Staters are determined to win to remain close to the top of the log in their conference to stay in contention for a playoff spot later in the season, while a victory for the hosts would serve as proof that their steady improvement is paying dividends.
With four victories in their last eight matches to only one win by the Isuzu Southern Kings, the Toyota Cheetahs will enter the match as favourites, but Hawies Fourie (coach) insisted that they would not underestimate their countrymen, especially after making that mistake against Zebre early in January, which saw them slump to a 41-13 defeat.
In fact, Fourie went as far as warning his charges to “pitch up” or risk facing a big blow to their playoff hopes.
“I told the players that the previous three games in Port Elizabeth were close, with the scores being 29-20, 21-20 and 24-17,” said Fourie.
“And that is what we will encounter again. If we don’t pitch up and play well, then we will be in the same boat that we were in against Zebre.
“We have worked hard and mentally we know where we are. We know what mistakes we made against Zebre, so we will definitely put up a better performance.”
Fourie added: “You can’t underestimate any team in the competition. Zebre is a quality team, and our problem was that there were individuals that believed we would come back with five points in the bag.
“This means that we need to win another game to get back to where we need to be.”
Fourie expected a strong challenge from the hosts and said: “My feeling is that this is the game the Kings have been looking forward to for the entire season. If they beat us they will feel they are the best Guinness PRO14 side in South Africa. They have improved quite a lot since the start of the competition, and we will not underestimate them.”
Isuzu Southern Kings coach Robbie Kempson, meanwhile, said they were looking forward to meeting the Toyota Cheetahs and he predicted an entertaining spectacle.
“There’s always is something in these games,” said Kempson.
“It’s mates playing against each other and they have quite a few of our ex-players up there playing for them. There is already quite a bit of banter going on.
“I think it will be a good spectacle of rugby, especially given the way we both want to play. It will appeal to anyone who is watching.”
Kempson was confident that his team’s character would shine through in the clash and said: “In the last six to eight months we went through a process where we really changed the culture of the group. The leadership group has changed significantly from what we had initially and the culture of the team has grown immensely.”
Guinness PRO14 fixture:
Isuzu Southern Kings v Toyota Cheetahs
SA time: 15h30
Date: Saturday, 25 January
Venue: Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, Port Elizabeth
Referee: Stuart Berry
Assistant Referees: Divan Uys and Quinton Immelman
TMO: Johann Greeff
Issued by SA Rugby Communications
Four 2019 Junior Springbok World Rugby U20 Championship players and another 10 who travelled to Georgia with the SA U19 team in December were included in a 19-man squad invited to the first of four SA Rugby Academy alignment camps in Stellenbosch in February.
Celimpilo Gumede (flanker), fondly known as “Brick” by his team-mates, Emile van Heerden (lock), Sibusiso Sangweni (looseforward) and Thabiso Mdletshe (prop) all participated in the World Rugby U20 Championship in Argentina last year, while a number of their team-mates made their presence felt in the South Africa U19 team’s successful tour to Georgia, where they won both matches against the hosts.
The camps, which will each feature a different group of players, will play an integral role in the talent identification process for both the Junior Springbok squad and SA Rugby Academy programme.
The World Rugby U20 Championship will be hosted in Italy from Sunday 28 June to Saturday 18 July, with the Junior Springboks set to face England, Fiji and hosts, Italy, in the pool stages.
The SA Rugby Academy programme, meanwhile, will run from 13 March to the middle of May. The first alignment camp, which will be hosted at the Stellenbosch Academy of Sport, will run from Monday, 3 to Thursday, 6 February.
“The SA Rugby Academy programme and the Junior Springboks play a vital role in developing and grooming the top age-group players in the country for first class rugby, and these alignment camps will give us a good idea of the talent available with an eye on selecting these squads,” said Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux.
“The SA Rugby Academy programme has been a great success in terms of developing Junior Springboks, and the fact that all of the players who participated in the World Rugby U20 Championship last year came through the programme is evidence of that.
“These camps will also serve as part of our preparation for the World Rugby U20 Championship later in the year, so this is the start of an exciting journey for us.”
Players invited to first SA Rugby alignment camp (3 to 6 February – in alphabetical order):
Adriaan Alberts (Xerox Golden Lions; lock)
Mthenjane Banele (Xerox Golden Lions; prop)
Morne Brandon (Xerox Golden Lions; flanker)
Werner Coetzee (Cell C Sharks; lock)
Dylan de Leeuw (DHL Western Province; lock)
Dewald Donald (Vodacom Blue Bulls; prop)
Sphekahle Dube (Cell C Sharks; prop)
Werner Gouws (Vodacom Blue Bulls; No 8)
Celimpilo Gumede (Cell C Sharks; flanker)
Hanro Jacobs (Cell C Sharks; prop)
Thabiso Mdletshe (Cell C Sharks; prop)
Lunga Ncube (Cell C Sharks; lock)
Thabo Ndimande (Xerox Golden Lions; flanker)
Wian Otto (Vodacom Blue Bulls; prop)
Evan Roos (Cell C Sharks; No 8)
Sibusiso Sangweni (Xerox Golden Lions; looseforward)
Uzile Tele (Vodacom Blue Bulls; utility forward)
Cullen van der Merwe (Cell C Sharks; hooker)
Emile van Heerden (Cell C Sharks; lock)
Issued by SA Rugby Communications