Tuesday, May 27, 2014
Cheetahs hooker Adrian Strauss will miss the first three Springbok matches of the season after he was suspended for three weeks for a lifting tackle against the Stormers on Saturday night. Strauss pleaded guilty to the charge at the disciplinary hearing.
Strauss will miss the Boks' clash with the World XV as well as the Wales series that comprises of two home Tests in June. He'll be available again for the Scotland Test on June 28.
He was hit with the three-week ban after pleading guilty to a charge of lifting Stormers winger Kobus van Wyk off the ground and failing to bring him back down safely.
It adds to the headaches for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, who has already had to contend with the loss of captain Jean De Villiers to injury, and today the news that Frans Steyn might also be out.
They've called in little known Bulls hooker Callie Visagie as backup to Bismarck Du Plessis, as other players in the position are either injured or unavaible due to club commitments.
"Of the players who have been part of Springbok squads in the last two seasons, Scarra Ntubeni, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Tiaan Liebenberg are injured, while Schalk Brits and Craig Burden are playing in club finals this weekend and aren't available for the camp," said Meyer.
Strauss was yellow carded by referee Stuart Berry at the time, but a SANZAR judiciary found that the incident had an entry point in the low end range, which starts at a four week suspension. "I then added two weeks as a deterrent to send a further message that this type of tackle cannot be tolerated in the game due to the risk it poses to player," said Duty Judicial Officer Adam Casseldon.
"Factors considered in mitigation included the player's excellent record extending over 33 test matches for South Africa and over 100 Super Rugby matches, his good character and the player's early admission of guilt for the tackle and remorse shown for the incident."
Based on that, Casseldon reduced the six week suspension for Strauss to three weeks.
What are your thoughts on the decision, and the 'tip-tackle' law?
Posted at 2:07 pm | 44 comments
Monday, May 26, 2014
There were a lot of big tackles that took place over the weekend, but perhaps the most talked about was this by great shot by Toulon hooker Craig Burden against Saracens. There were some questions about it's legitimacy, but you be the judge.
Powerful hooker Burden came to prominence at the Sharks before heading to Europe after finding himself behind the likes of Bismarck Du Plessis and John Smit at both domestic and Test level.
He's been excellent for Toulon, and in the first half on Saturday he got them on the front foot by knocking back one of Saracens' most potent forces, another South African hooker, Schalk Brits.
Brits loves to take the ball at first receiver as he's an unbelievable playmaker, but in the 18th minute Burden shot out the line and knocked him into next week. Unlike Burden, Brits has played for the Springboks so whether there was extra bite in it because of that or not, a bit of competitive rivalry makes for a good story.
Brits stayed down for a while, but play continued before the Saracens hooker got back up, carried the ball once, and even had time for a neat flick between his legs.
Less than two minutes after the initial hit, he got the ball again. Predator Burden, who made his provincial debut as a wing, pounced again with another solid shot on Brits. The second hit wasn't as big but it was a thrilling few minutes.
Replays showed that the main tackle was similar to Bismarck Du Plessis' huge hit on Dan Carter last year, with the tacklers arms both being wrapped around the hapless victim.
The similarities don't end there, as obviously both players are South African and Du Plessis was also accused of being offside. In this case it looks as though Burden wasn't either, as the ball appeared to be out of the ruck (stand to be corrected) so he didn't need to be behind the last man's feet.
Whether you think it was legal or not (wrapped, offside line etc), it's no doubt one of the biggest hits of the season, from one of the strongest, most mobile and underated hookers in world rugby.
There were a few more great hits in this match too, so we'll get a compilation up soon. Also, you can see some of Burden's best tries for the Sharks in the Related Posts below the video.
Posted at 6:29 pm | 21 comments
Sunday, May 25, 2014
Toulon winger Bryan Habana has issued a public apology for what can only be described as a football-like dive in yesterday's Heineken Cup final. This evening he took to twitter in an attempt to smooth over the incident, and issued a public apology.
The 95 times capped Springbok winger has reached the peak of the game due in part to his incredibly competitive nature and high workrate. Unfortunately in recent times (on more than one occasion) it appears that he's going a bit far, milking small knocks for all they're worth.
Against Saracens he didn't get much ball so was probably quite frustrated. Off turnover ball he set off in typical fashion, but a chip and chase resulted in a slight bit of contact from Owen Farrell, and Habana went down, theatrically, as noted by Top 14 commentator Martin Gillingham.
He might have got the penalty anyway, but he flung his body back in a way that should never be seen on the rugby field. Saracens captain Steve Borthwick could be heard shouting 'Embarrassing, embarrassing' in Habana's direction, and referee Alain Rolland had a word with him.
So this evening, Habana manned up and took full responsibility for his actions, apologising.
"So before anything.. Apologies in every way and to the whole community for happened in the Heineken Cup final yesterday... It was in no way intended with malice or to bring the game into disrepute. Sportsmanship and integrity are key factors to what makes rugby so special and I let myself, the fans, our opponents and the game down. Hopefully it didn't take away from what was a fantastic spectacle and even more so a special victory for @RCTOfficiel."
Fair play to him. He's been at the highest level for ten years now and with this weekend's win he's joined an exclusive club of players to have won pretty much everything - Currie Cup, Super Rugby, British & Irish Lions, Tri Nations, World Cup and now, the Heineken Cup.
And next weekend, possibly the Top 14 too. But diving, that can't happen again.
Posted at 8:18 pm | 72 comments
Toulon joined an elite group of teams to have successfully defended their Heineken Cup title as they beat Saracens 23-6 on a historic occasion at the Millennium Stadium yesterday. Jonny Wilkinson contributed 13 points in his final game on British soil.
Both sides started slowly in what was anything but a free-flowing game, but Toulon broke loose to score two fantastic tries, with former Test stars Matt Giteau and Juan Smith both going over.
Today Wilkinson turns 35 but yesterday rolled back the years, playing a hand in both tries as well as converting them. He was faultless from the tee in what was the penultimate game of his career, and managed to slot a trademark dropgoal too, with his right (wrong) foot.
"It's a hell of a feeling. I can't say enough how proud I am to be a part of that and a part of this team," he said post match. "We've had a hell of a time and our season's got one more game but this is something I'll take with me for ever. There is a lot of relief, a lot of excitement."
The center paring of Mathieu Bastareaud and try scorer Giteau put in another top performance, and in the forwards Craig Burden was everywhere in the first half (more on that to follow), while flanker Smith rolled back the years to remind fans exactly how good a player he is when injury free.
Steffon Armitage claimed Man of the Match, outplaying England number eight Billy Vunipola in most departments, and again putting pressure on national coach Stuart Lancaster, who was in the crowd.
Saracens have another shot at glory next week in the Aviva Premiership Final against Northampton Saints, but will spend a few days trying to work out exactly what went wrong in Cardiff.
With the win Toulon have become just the third club ever to win back-to-back Heineken Cups, following on from English club Leicester in 2001-2002 and Irish powerhouses Leinster in 2011-2012.
The match featured many big tackles and plenty of bruising clashes, so we'll get a clip up of some of those soon, but for now here as the highlights of the game, including the post match celebrations.
Posted at 4:03 pm | 25 comments
Friday, May 23, 2014
Rugby HQ have put together their list of the best big man vs little man moments, with a David vs Goliath compilation that features some must see moments from both Super Rugby, End of year tours up north and a bit of local club rugby too. Number one is worth waiting for.
The terminology probably isn't quite right, but as you'll see it's explained during the video. Which other similar moments would you add to the list? One recent example of a good David vs Goliath clip would be when scrumhalf Frae Wilson smashed Jimmy Tupou, a lock.
View more Top 5 compilations in our category page for it - Top 5 Compilations
Posted at 5:52 pm | 22 comments
Toulon beat Racing Metro 16-6 last weekend to book themselves a spot in the Top 14 final against Castres. Tomorrow however they face Saracens in the Heineken Cup final, with bruiser Mathieu Bastareaud sure to have a big impact in the midfield.
He made this big tackle on flanker Jaques Cronje at the weekend, but was yellow carded for it. You'd think he was a little hard done possibly because it was a solid hit, but the laws are the laws.
Tomorrow he'll form a lethal midfield partnership with former Wallabies star Matt Giteau, who crossed for a very well taken try against Racing Metro. Working alongside Jonny Wilkinson, with good ball from the forwards, they'll no doubt have a telling influence on the game.
Former Toulon forwards coach Olivier Azam has compared 'Bastarocket' to Ma'a Nonu, saying that there aren't many centers in world rugby with such size and penetration. At 25-years-old and still improving, he's sure to rack up the Test caps over the next few years.
Without getting too into it, all around the park there are great matchups but the loose trios of both sides in particular making for an exciting prospect. It's Springbok, Argentina and England up against Scotland, Namibia and England (full team sheets below).
As mentioned on our Facebook page, another interesting aspect to the game is that if Toulon do manage to defend their title, winger Bryan Habana will become just the 5th player ever to win the Heineken Cup, Super Rugby and the Rugby World Cup.
The others are Brad Thorn, Danie Rossouw, Bakkies Botha and Rod Kafer.
15. Delon Armitage; 14. Drew Mitchell, 13. Mathieu Bastareaud, 12. Matt Giteau, 11. Bryan Habana; 10. Jonny Wilkinson (c), 9. Sebastien Tillous-Borde; 1. Xavier Chiocci, 2. Craig Burden, 3. Carl Hayman, 4. Bakkies Botha, 5. Danie Rossouw, 6. Juan Smith, 7. Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe, 8. Steffon Armitage. Replacements: 16. Jean-Charles Orioli, 17. Alexandre Menini, 18. Martin Castrogiovanni, 19. Ali Williams, 20. Virgile Bruni, 21. Maxime Mermoz, 22. Michael Claassens, 23. Jocelino Suta.
15. Alex Goode; 14. Chris Ashton, 13. Marcelo Bosch, 12. Brad Barritt, 11. David Strettle; 10. Owen Farrell, 9. Richard Wigglesworth; 1. Mako Vunipola, 2. Schalk Brits, 3. Matt Stevens, 4. Steve Borthwick (c), 5. Alistair Hargreaves, 6. Kelly Brown, 7. Jacques Burger, 8. Billy Vunipola. Replacements: 16. Jamie George, 17. Richard Barrington, 18. James Johnston, 19. Mouritz Botha, 20. Jackson Wray, 21. Neil de Kock, 22. Charlie Hodgson, 23. Chris Wyles.
Posted at 2:04 pm | 23 comments
Thursday, May 22, 2014
Reds lock Ed O'Donoghue was cleared of eyegouging following one of the most talked about few minutes of the season so far. The incident against the Rebels was briefly included in the Shortball earlier in the week, but here's a longer look.
With the scores tied at 27-27, Scott Higginbotham and O'Donoghue got in a tangle at the back of a ruck, then continued on the floor. There appeared to be a bit of a head clash (from Higginbotham), then O'Donoghue rubbed his hand all over the Rebels captain's face.
Referee Steve Walsh allowed play to continue but just as the Reds were about to throw in to an attacking lineout, the TMO intervened and recommended to Walsh that a red card - and penalty - for eyegouging was neccessary. The Rebels slotted the easy kick, winning the game 30-27.
Reds captain James Horwill was furious, saying that they were robbed by a 'stupid referee decision', and continued in the press conference by saying that Super Rugby was being ruined as a spectacle.
"I've played 150 professional games of rugby and I've never ever ever seen that happen before," an irate Horwill said. "This spectacle of Super Rugby is being ruined. There's too much going back and slowing of the game. It's getting beyond a joke.
"From my experience of eye gouging, there's a mark. There was no mark on Higgers. Higgers thought he was in trouble. He was surprised [at the gouging claim]. At every breakdown, there are hands, arms, elbows, knees. That's the reality of a physical game. You can't pick one moment out and not go back for every single one in every game," he added.
At the hearing it was found that there was no contact with the eyes, so O'Donoghue was cleared and the red card was scrapped from his record, no doubt compounding the frustration for the Reds.
"The act of eye gouging generally triggers a reaction from the victim, which was not evident in this case and helped support my finding," said the SANZAR statement. They also listened to submissions from the Rebels medical team, and Higginbotham himself, who said he had no complaints.
O'Donoghue says that eye-gouging sickens him."I despise the act of eye-gouging and to think my name is linked with it after a little wrestle around the ruck sickens me. I'm not a gouger."
The lesson in all this is that, as Rebels flanker Scott Fuglistaller says, 'the eyes are sacrosanct', and if you're going to stick your hand or fingers near them, be prepared to get a bit of heat for it.
Update: James Horwill has been charged with a code of conduct breach following his 'stupid refereeing decision' comment. He faces a possible fine of up to $500.
Posted at 1:45 pm | 24 comments