Junior Springbok coach Chean Roux is expecting a challenging World Rugby U20 Championship campaign in Argentina after the SA Under-20s were drawn in Pool C with New Zealand, Scotland and Georgia for the international showpiece, which takes place from 4 to 22 June.
The SA U20s will be based in Rosario and kick off their campaign on against Scotland on Tuesday, 4 June, before taking on Georgia (Saturday, 8 June) and New Zealand (Wednesday, 12 June) in the pool stages. The semi-finals will be contested on Monday, 17 June, and the final on Saturday, 22 June.
World Rugby announced the fixtures on Thursday. Australia will meet Italy in the opening match of the tournament on Tuesday 4 June, in Sante Fe, where six-times champions, New Zealand, will meet Georgia, and England take on Ireland.
Argentina, the hosts in 2019, will meet Wales, while defending champions, France, will face newly promoted, Fiji, in the two other matches scheduled for Rosario.
“New Zealand, Georgia and Scotland are all quality teams, so we are expecting another testing campaign,” said Roux.
“We defeated New Zealand in the bronze playoff in the south of France last year, so they will be charged up against us.
“Georgia are a very physical and passionate team, with a strong scrum and big forwards, while Scotland also pride themselves on their physicality. After having faced Scotland last year on our warm-up tour, they will also be determined to make a strong statement against us.”
Roux added: “Argentina has a rich culture and a deep passion for rugby, and it will be exciting for the players to experience that first hand. It is going to be a tough tournament, but we are very excited.”
World Rugby Vice-Chairman and Rugby Americas President Agustín Pichot said: “The U20 Championship has proven itself to be a very important competition for the uncovering and development of the future stars of our game and attracting new, young fans to the sport.
“The 2018 edition of the U20 Championship in France was an outstanding success and it is a great honour for Argentina to take the pass and host this prestigious competition.
“The 12 participating nations will experience a warm Argentinian welcome and we look forward to an excellent tournament with enthusiastic fans and spectacular action on the field of play.”
Junior Springbok World Rugby U20 Championship pool fixtures (SA kick-off times):
Tuesday, 4 June (15h30): SA v Scotland (Racecourse Stadium, Rosario)
Saturday, 8 June (15h30): SA v Georgia (Racecourse Stadium, Rosario)
Wednesday, 12 June (20h30): SA v New Zealand (Racecourse Stadium, Rosario)
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They took to sevens like ducks to water and Selvyn Davids and Stedman Gans are double HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series champions already, but both are adamant that they still have much more to offer the Blitzboks.
Davids, who was a standout for the Down Touch Griffons in fifteens, is in a second full season with the Blitzboks, while Gans, a former Junior Springbok, also broke into the team in the 2017 season. Both are now comfortable with the growing roles of responsibility that are being added to their wicked stepping and playmaking.
Davids, in particular, has been elevated due to the injury to Cecil Afrika and Rosko Specman moving to fifteens, while Gans is taking over from Ruhan Nel in the midfield.
“It is nice to get more opportunities – you need to play to gain confidence and I think the bigger involvement I have now has been good for me," Davids said.
The former fullback stepped up in Australia earlier this month, where he excelled in the role of sweeper at the HSBC Sydney Sevens. Davids scored 30 points as well, kicking a number of good conversions, an area where South Africa needed to improve on.
“The more comfortable one gets, the more you relax and starting to enjoy stuff and that works for me in the Blitzboks. I love that I get more playing time," said Davids, who will be playing in his 10th tournament.
Gans debuted in Las Vegas in 2017, when the Blitzboks won, and he believes it could be another good outing for the team.
"We are getting closer and closer to that weekend where we will be unbeatable,” said Gans, who will be playing in his 14th tournament.
“The young guys are learning all the time and we are improving as a squad. We are getting good confidence and had a good week training. Everyone is keen to contribute and fulfil their responsibilities and if we do that, the results will look after itself.”
The Springbok Sevens team face Japan and Chile on the first day of the tournament, which starts on Friday. They will face England in their remaining pool D clash on Saturday.
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The SA Schools Under-18 Sevens team will look to continue their dominance at the Capricorn Group Sevens tournament in Windhoek next weekend, with Marius Schoeman (coach) again assembling a strong outfit to travel to Namibia.
South Africa face the national Under-18 teams from Zambia, Zimbabwe and Namibia on Friday, 8 March and Germany and Botswana on Saturday, 9 March at the Windhoek Gymnasium Private School in the annual tournament where they have yet to taste defeat in three years.
For Schoeman, this tournament is vital in the development of the next generation of Springbok Sevens players.
"We have seen how quickly players can progress in the Blitzboks set-up, because if you are good enough, age will not hold you back,” said Schoeman.
“Someone such as Muller du Plessis played in the tournament two years ago, and last year we had Christi Grobbelaar, who is now with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy, so the future is bright if you show the willingness and talent.
"The most important element of this tournament for me is the fact that the boys learn to play sevens in a competitive tournament structure. The exposure to sevens in such an environment is valuable for the players. Many of them will do this for the first time and will be better players afterwards because of it."
Schoeman is also keen to have the other national teams involved: “We want to help our neighbouring teams where we can and this tournament is also an important measurement for them. It is about making them better teams as well.”
The SA Under-18 Sevens team is:
1. Christiaan Smit (Ben Vorster HS)
2. Tiaan Pretorius (Paul Roos Gymnasium)
3. Siviwe Zondani (Grey HS)
4. Janco Cloete (Grey College)
5. Renzo du Plessis (Ben Vorster HS)
6. Hlumelo Klaas (Grey HS)
7. Latica Nela (Hilton College)
8. Nico Steyn (Glenwood)
9. Sacha Mngomezulu (Bishops)
10. Hanco van Wyk (Monument)
11. Danvon Blood (Rondebosch BHS)
12. Curwin Gertse (Paarl Gymnasium)
13. Javier Farmer (Paarl BHS)
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Dozens of home-based players will be taken into Springbok succession planning next year as part of a radical new contracting strategy announced by SA Rugby on Saturday.
Players will be ranked by position – with next generation talent also brought into a significantly widened pool – and those who are plying their trade in South Africa will receive top-up payments from their provinces – funded by SA Rugby.
Going hand-in-hand with the policy is the intention to formally scrap the 30-cap rule for overseas-based players. The regulation was put in place at the start of the 2017 season and stipulates that only players with 30 or more Springbok caps would be eligible for national selection if they were playing for an overseas-based team.
And SA Rugby has written to the leading foreign clubs and leagues (as well as advising other nations) that it will strictly enforce the requirements of World Rugby’s Regulation 9, which prescribes when and how frequently club players must be released for international duty.
“We have been agonising over how to keep players in the country since the game went professional more than 20 years ago and the bottom line is that the rand is too weak and the economy of South African rugby too small to compete,” said Rassie Erasmus, Director of Rugby at SA Rugby.
“A South African player can earn more from a two-month contract in Japan than he can if he were to win the World Cup with the Springboks this year. That’s the reality we have to face up to.
“In recent years we have focused on trying to retain a small number of high profile players. But it has been a small group and many of those players end up leaving anyway. Last season those contracted players only appeared for 38 percent of their available time.
“Once we have done our work, the new strategy could see as many as 75 players in Springbok succession planning and being financially rewarded for it.
“We had to disrupt the model.”
Erasmus explained the new strategy also involved direct communication with the overseas contracting clubs.
“We have told the overseas clubs that we will be enforcing Regulation 9 and will be requiring our players for up to 14 weeks of the year. If the clubs don’t like that then they have the option of not signing the player.”
However, he said the greatest advantage of the new system was more effective succession planning.
“The only solution that would keep everyone happy would be if we had enough money to pay the players we wanted to keep as much as they wanted to receive – but that’s not the world we live in,” he said.
“We’ve got to deal with the practical realities and stay focused on our objective, which is to field the best available 23 players who really want to play for the Springboks and who are prepared to make sacrifices whether they are playing here or overseas.
“We only have a limited budget to do that, but we have many players who have the potential to become Springboks. This way, we can give them that message in a practical way.
“They will know that there is a future for them with the Springboks and that they can move up the succession ladder if their play merits it.”
Erasmus said the new model would spread the risk inherent in the old model, which saw contracts awarded to a small number of players. “This way we incentivise and encourage a broader group, subsidize the franchises by giving a larger number of players additional income and put in place proper succession planning,” he said.
Erasmus said the plan had been explained to the main employers of elite players – the franchise CEOs – as well as the players’ union, MyPlayers.
He explained that the rankings would be reviewed on an annual basis while mechanisms would be put in place to make in-season adjustments in exceptional circumstances.
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Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell has selected the 20-year-old debutant Sako Makata in the Springbok Sevens team for the HSBC World Rugby Sevens tournaments in the USA and Canada next month.
The former Stirling High School player will become the 176th Blitzbok since the inception of the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series 20 years ago when he takes to the field at Sam Boyd Stadium in Las Vegas on Friday, 1 March.
Earlier this month, 21-year-old JC Pretorius was handed his debut in Sydney and with Makata joining him in the forwards, the Blitzboks will travel with a youthful squad to Las Vegas, where South Africa will face Japan, Chile and England in Pool D of the tournament.
Powell also recalled Ryan Oosthuizen, Mfundo Ndhlovu and Muller du Plessis to the travelling 13-man squad that will depart for the USA on Friday, totalling four changes to the side what placed fifth in Sydney in their previous tournament.
Chris Dry was ruled out with a rib injury, while Kyle Brown, the most capped Blitzboks ever, sits out on this trip. Dewald Human and Zain Davids will also remain in Stellenbosch to continue training with the SA Rugby Sevens Academy squad.
The 21-year-old Ndhlovu was due to play in Hamilton and Sydney before a hamstring niggle ruled him out shortly before departure, while Oosthuizen, 23, last played for the Blitzboks at the HSBC Cape Town Sevens.
The 19-year-old Du Plessis, who picked up an injury in the opening match in Cape Town in December, is also eased back into action and will travel east as 13th player.
For Powell, Makata’s inclusion was always on the cards.
“Sako has been with us for the last two years and deserves this opportunity,” said Powell.
“He has been a real stalwart for the SA Rugby Academy side in that time, co-captaining them to Dubai and South America, and now he gets the opportunity he has been working very hard for.”
Makata represented Border at the Under-18 Craven Week in 2016, where he was spotted and scouted into the SA Rugby Sevens Academy. He also played for DHL Western Province Under-19 on the wing in 2017 and represented the Academy in 2018.
“Sako is a strong young man and I am very pleased to have him in the squad,” said Powell.
“JC showed in Sydney that the younger guys are ready and itching to play. Part of the wider strategy this year was to expand the player base and Sako is part of our plans going forward, so his inclusion is a natural progression in our plan.
“Ryan has worked hard since his last tournament in Cape Town and Mfundo and Muller are both fit again, so I am very pleased to be able to take both to North America. Mfundo was unlucky to pick up a strain just before we left for New Zealand and Muller has slotted in well when he returned to the squad last week.”
Powell said the trip will be about restoring pride in their performances: “We are travelling with a younger group, but I have faith in the abilities of every player in the squad.
“We need to regain our consistency and we fixed a number of things at training in the last week, so the focus will be in implementing that in our matches against Japan, Chile and England,” he said.
The Springbok Sevens squad is:
1.Ryan Oosthuizen – 12 tournaments; 56 matches (60 points, 12 tries)
2.Philip Snyman (captain) – 58 tournaments; 263 matches, 356 points (65 tries, 16 conversions)
3.Impi Visser – 4 tournaments; 24 matches, 10 points (2 tries)
4.Sako Makata – on debut
5.Werner Kok – 41 tournaments; 208 matches, 480 points (96 tries)
6.JC Pretorius – 1 tournament, 6 matches, 0 points
7.Branco du Preez – 65 tournaments; 328 matches, 1204 points (86 tries, 383 conversions, 1 penalty, 1 drop goal)
8.Selvyn Davids – 9 tournaments; 42 matches, 160 points (20 tries, 30 conversions)
9.Justin Geduld – 40 tournaments; 206 matches, 889 points (92 tries, 213 conversions, 1 penalty)
10.Stedman Gans – 13 tournaments; 58 matches, 85 points (17 tries)
11.Siviwe Soyizwapi – 22 tournaments; 113 matches, 360 points (72 tries)
12.Mfundo Ndhlovu – 2 tournaments, 10 matches, 10 points (2 tries).
13. Muller du Plessis – 6 tournaments, 26 matches, 85 points (17 tries) – official reserve
● The Blitzboks have won the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens four times – in 2011, 2013, 2014 and 2017.
● Branco du Preez was part of the squad that won the HSBC Las Vegas Sevens on all four occasions.
● Werner Kok could score his 100th try for the Blitzboks in the HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series. He dotted down 96 times for his country already.
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The fixtures for the sixth edition of the Gold Cup — SA Rugby’s flagship national championship for non-university clubs — have been confirmed, with eight eagerly-awaited matches kicking off the popular tournament in cities and towns across the country on Saturday 9 March.As part of wider changes to South African rugby’s competition landscape, this year’s event will revert to the pre-season time-slot that was a feature of the first three editions from 2013-2015. A leaner 16-team, six-week format is expected place a greater emphasis on strength versus strength, while the recent success of the past weekend’s #SuperHeroSunday event at Cape Town Stadium will be replicated at grassroots level with a number of double-header match days planned.
With defending champions DirectAxis False Bay having failed to qualify after a semifinal loss to Durbanville-Bellville in the 2018 Western Province Super League, the 2019 Gold Cup will see a new champion crowned and looks set to be the most closely fought edition in years.
KZN champions College Rovers – finalists in 2013 and 2017 – will start the tournament as one of the favourites, while the presence of 2014 and 2016 Cup winners Newrak Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), 2015 champions Durbanville-Bellville (WP) and 2014 runners-up RotoTank Roodepoort (Golden Lions), amongst others, will ensure arguably the strongest field yet assembled.
Boland champions OneLogix United Bulk Villagers Worcester, established in 1883 and celebrating their 136th anniversary this year, have the honour of being the oldest club in this year’s Gold Cup. They will get their campaign underway at their Boland Park fortress against Northam Platinum Rhinos, the Limpopo mining club who celebrate their 25th anniversary milestone this year.
Club rugby’s rich history and heritage is further illustrated by the fact that College Rovers will celebrate their 120th anniversary – having been formed during the Anglo Boer War in 1899 – while Roodepoort are 75 years old this year. A number of other teams are also household names in SA club rugby.
“Club rugby is a national treasure and it’s a testament to everyone involved at this level of the game, from dedicated administrators and players to diehard fans and loyal sponsors, that it remains vibrant and relevant despite ongoing challenges,” said SA Rugby CEO, Jurie Roux.
“Nowhere on the planet does amateur rugby attract the crowds that it does in South Africa, especially in the Western and Eastern Cape.
“Last year alone, iconic venues such as Outeniqua Park in George, Boland Stadium in Wellington and Esselen Park in Worcester sold out for big club matches, while more than 10,000 people crammed into the Bridgton Sports Ground in Oudtshoorn for a second year running to watch a televised Gold Cup qualifier as part of the SuperSport Rugby Challenge.
“We expect similarly large crowds in the Gold Cup this year, none more so than at historic community venues such as Boland Park in Worcester, Rosemore Stadium in George, Reigerpark on the East Rand and Derrick Ferreira Stadium – better known as ‘Die Hok’ – in Uitenhage.
“Let’s also not forget that Durbanville-Bellville drew more than 5,000 people for a televised Gold Cup semifinal in 2016, while our broadcast partners SuperSport have televised club and provincial rugby from Impala Rugby Club in Rustenburg every year since 2015 thanks to its big crowds and vibrant, platteland atmosphere.”
Roux said that a sponsor for the 2019 Gold Cup had been secured and that an announcement in this regard would be made before the start of the tournament.
“It is also encouraging to see the number of clubs in this year’s field that have managed to secure naming-rights sponsors,” he said.
“It shows that club rugby holds a certain appeal, especially at a local or community level, and it is here that sponsors are recognising the value of being associated with their local team, who are often supported by thousands of people in the area in which they do business.”
The seedings for the four pools are based, amongst other things, on teams’ final positions in the last Gold Cup. The top two teams from each pool will progress to the quarterfinals on the weekend of 30 March, with the remaining eight teams eliminated.
The Gold Cup final, as well as a playoff for third and fourth place, is scheduled for the weekend of 13/14 April. Fixture venues and kick-off times, including those of planned double-headers, will be confirmed in due course.
2019 GOLD CUP POOLS:
Pool A: Stiles Progress George (SWD), Durbanville-Bellville (WP), OneLogix United Bulk Villagers Worcester (Boland), Northam Platinum Rhinos (Limpopo).
Pool B: Multisure Gardens (EP), Sasol Digi Mag Secunda (Pumas), College Rovers (Sharks), Phakisa Holdings East Rand United (wildcard, Falcons).
Pool C: ABE Midas Naka Bulls (Blue Bulls), CT Hydraulics Sishen (Griquas), Welkom (Griffons), Recall Security Bloemfontein Police (Cheetahs).
Pool D: RotoTank Roodepoort (Golden Lions), Newrak Rustenburg Impala (Leopards), KWV Springs (Falcons), Hollywoodbets Swallows (Border).
2019 GOLD CUP FIXTURES (all kick-off times & venues to be confirmed):
Round 1 – Sat 9 March:
Stiles Progress George v Durbanville-Bellville
OneLogix United Bulk Villagers Worcester v Northam Platinum Rhinos
Multisure Gardens v Sasol Digi Mag Secunda
College Rovers v Phakisa Holdings East Rand United
ABE Midas Naka Bulls v CT Hydraulics Sishen
Welkom v Recall Security Bloemfontein Police
RotoTank Roodepoort v Newrak Rustenburg Impala
KWV Springs v Hollywoodbets Swallows
Round 2 – Sat 16 March:
Durbanville-Bellville v Northam Platinum Rhinos
Stiles Progress George v OneLogix United Bulk Villagers Worcester
Phakisa Holdings East Rand United v Sasol Digi Mag Secunda
Multisure Gardens v College Rovers
CT Hydraulics Sishen v Recall Security Bloemfontein Police
ABE Midas Naka Bulls v Welkom
Newrak Impala v Hollywoodbets Swallows
Rototank Roodepoort v KWV Springs
Round 3 – Sat 23 March:
OneLogix United Bulk Villagers Worcester v Durbanville-Bellville
Northam Platinum Rhinos v Stiles Progress George
Sasol Digi Mag Secunda v College Rovers
Phakisa Holdings East Rand United v Multisure Gardens
Welkom v CT Hydraulics Sishen
Recall Security Bloemfontein Police v ABE Midas Naka Bulls
KWV Springs v Newrak Impala
Hollywoodbets Swallows v Rototank Roodepoort
Quarterfinals – 30/31 March:
Quarterfinal 1 – Winner Pool C v Runner-up Pool D
Quarterfinal 2 – Winner Pool B v Runner-up Pool A
Quarterfinal 3 – Winner Pool D v Runner-up Pool C
Quarterfinal 4 – Winner Pool A v Runner-up Pool B
Semifinals – 6/7 April:
Semifinal 1 – Winner QF1 v Winner QF2
Semifinal 2 – Winner QF3 v Winner QF4
Final & 3rd/4th Playoff – 13/14 April:
Winner SF1 v Winner SF2
Gold Cup Champions:
2013 – Despatch (bt College Rovers in final)
2014 – Newrak Impala (bt RotoTank Roodepoort in final)
2015 – Durbanville-Bellville (bt Newrak Impala in final)
2016 – Newrak Impala (bt DirectAxis False Bay in final)
2017/18 – DirectAxis False Bay (bt College Rovers in final)
Article Source: SA Rugby