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Friday, November 14, 2014

Joost van der Westhuizen speaks to Matt Dawson and team on Rugby Tonight

Springbok legend Joost van der Westhuizen has been in the UK of late, traveling around to not only watch matches but also to spread awareness for MND and the work his J9 Foundation does. He was on BT Sport's Rugby Tonight recently for a catch up chat.

A few weeks ago Van Der Westhuizen lost a former team mate to Motor Neuron Disease, as Western Province legend and Springbok tourist Tinus Linee tragically passed away after a 19-month struggle. Now more than ever, Joost aims to spread further awareness of this debilitating condition.

Ahead of England's Test against South Africa, he spoke to the Rugby Tonight team that includes Matt Dawson, Austin Healey, Martin Bayfield and Ben Kay - all players that the former number nine played against during his prolific Test career.

His brother, Pieter, helped out as Van der Westhuizen touched on the fact that Dawson and Healey were always fierce adversaries, but that he also remembers Dawson's famous dummy in the Lions tour of 1997.

Coming back to the present, the Blue Bulls legend feels that South Africa's loss to Ireland at the weekend is the kind of reality check they needed, saying that the Irish have done them a favour, just a year out from the Rugby World Cup.

On a more serious note, Joost has two small children and while he knows that his life is slowly ticking away, he aims to create as many memories and quality moments as possible. He has also said that there are two things you should not take for granted: time, and your healh. 

"There are two things we take for granted every day - time and health. The moment you lose them, then only do you wake up. I had a choice. Either I stay at home and die, or I live my life. I have a platform and now I’m using it to help with MND," he said recently.

If you were one of those that did the ALS Ice Bucket Challenge recently, this is what it's all about and while the hype surrounding it has died down, Joost and Linee are examples of the horrific realities of the affliction. If you're able to, please visit joost.co.za for more info

credit to BT Sport

Posted at 6:05 am | 7 comments

Wednesday, November 12, 2014

Five stars nominated for IRB World Rugby Player of the Year 2014

The International Rugby Board has announced a shortlist of five nominees for the IRB World Rugby Player of the Year 2014. The list comprises five players that were selected after forty-five matches were reviewed by the panel. Three countries are represented.

Two South Africans, two New Zealanders and an Irishman make up the prestigious shortlist that features a spread across the field - two outside backs, a fly-half, a number eight and a lock.

As worded by the IRB, here is a little bit about each player and their 2014 performances.

WILLIE LE ROUX (South Africa) A strong and elusive runner from full-back, Willie le Roux has started all 10 of South Africa’s Tests in 2014 to take his tally to 22 Tests since his debut against Italy in June 2013. The 25-year-old, who has scored seven Test tries, is strong under the high ball and is potentially the most exciting South Africa outside back to come onto the scene since Bryan Habana.

BRODIE RETALLICK (New Zealand) A towering presence in the lineout, Brodie Retallick’s partnership with Sam Whitelock makes arguably the best second row in world rugby at present. The 23-year-old’s powerful runs and work-rate across the pitch have brought him to the fore in 2014. An IRB Junior World Championship winner in 2011, Retallick has 35 Tests and one try – against South Africa in the 2013 Rugby Championship – to his name.

JULIAN SAVEA (New Zealand) With a try-scoring rate that few can match, Julian Savea has inevitably drawn comparisons with legendary All Black wing Jonah Lomu this year. The 24-year-old has scored 10 tries in 2014, including a hat-trick against England in the third Test in June, to take his tally to 29 tries in just 31 Tests. Savea was named the IRB Junior Player of the Year in 2010 after helping New Zealand win a third successive IRB Junior World Championship title.

JONATHAN SEXTON (Ireland) The oldest of the nominees at 29, Jonathan Sexton has been the stand-out player for Ireland in 2014 as they claimed the Six Nations title, a first series win in Argentina in June and the scalp of South Africa in Dublin last weekend. His control of the game at fly-half and perfect record from the kicking tee earned the 49-Test veteran the man of the match award against the Springboks.

DUANE VERMEULEN (South Africa) A classic South African number 8, Duane Vermeulen has won plaudits across the world in 2014 for his work at the breakdown, power in the tackle and his destructive ball carrying. With 26 Tests to his name, the 28-year-old was named man of the man in South Africa’s 27-25 victory over world champions New Zealand in October with his battle with Kieran Read worth the admission price alone.

The IRB World Rugby Player of the Year 2014 nominees were selected by the independent IRB Awards panel, chaired by Australia’s Rugby World Cup 1999 winning captain John Eales.

The panel, comprising Will Greenwood, Gavin Hastings, Raphaël Ibanez, Francois Pienaar, Agustín Pichot, Scott Quinnell, Tana Umaga and Paul Wallace, has deliberated on every major Test played in 2014, starting with the RBS Six Nations and culminating with the November internationals.

Previous winners include Kieran Read, Dan Carter, Thierry Dusautoir, Shane Williams, Bryan Habana, Schalk Burger, Jonny Wilkinson and Richie McCaw with the two All Black centurions the only players to have won the award on more than one occasion.

Who do you think is most deserving of the award this year?

Posted at 3:25 pm | 42 comments

Behind the scenes with Nick Cummins and the Barbarians

We all saw how well the Barbarians played against both Australia and the Leicester Tigers recently, and that was due in part to the kind of characters and talent they had in the multicultural squad. One of the most colourful of those characters was of course Nick Cummins, the Honey Badger.

In this Total Rugby segment we get to see a little bit behind the scenes with the BaaBaas as they prepared for the clash with the Wallabies while taking in some of the sights and sounds of London. Cummins leads the piece, and is as refreshing as ever in another entertaining interview.

Last night a Barbarians side played a Combined Services XV in a Remembrance match. The team was made up of mainly part timers or club players, but they did the invitational side proud as Josh Drauniniu, former Navy man now Worcester winger, scored two tries to contribute to a 31-15 win. 

Posted at 6:04 am | 0 comments

Monday, November 10, 2014

Referee decisions in spotlight as New Zealand prove too good for England

New Zealand coach Steve Hansen believes that England's new approach is what made them so competitive during the All Blacks' 24-21 win on Saturday. He also said that TV producers are favouring the home sides when it comes to the big screen replays.

Despite a late England try, New Zealand won the fixture comfortably in the end, but it was close throughout and Hansen says that it is due to England's move away from an expansive gameplan.

"Every match against England has been physically tough," Hansen said. "In that first Test in June they should have won and taken advantage of us only having five days to prepare.

"Okay, they had a young side but they still should have won. Our guys found a way to win. The second Test was an even game, there was one point in it, but with seven minutes to go we picked the bag up and went home.

"The last Test in New Zealand we dominated when they tried to play us at our own game, but on Saturday they went back to their old style. They wanted to get physical, drive us and out-scrum us. It is going to be with interest that I watch what they do over the next few weeks."

He also brought up the issue of television replays on the big screen, saying that local tv producers are in a position to influence referees by showing replays that get the crowd rilled up, and make the officials take notice. He said the same thing after their 27-25 loss to South Africa.

It happened with Dane Coles' yellow card at Twickenham, as replays were shown and referee Nigel Owens yellow carded the hooker for lashing out with his boot. A similar thing happened late in the game when Charlie Faumuina scored but Owens checked it again after a raucous crowd reaction.

"My biggest concern is that the TV producers are starting to have an influence on the game," Hansen said. "If something goes wrong, we see a replay 10 times even though the referee hasn't seen it, the touch judge hasn't seen it, the TMO hasn't seen it.

"Referees will make mistakes and some of those mistakes will cost you the game. You've got to live with that. The TV producers, they're starting to annoy me now somewhat," he added.

View a highlights wrap below, and on page two you can see Steve Hansen's review of the game in the post match press conference, and short highlights with New Zealand commentary

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Posted at 1:42 pm | 79 comments

Scotland score five times against Argentina in Murrayfield tryfest

Scotland scored five tries against Argentina and despite leaking a few points at the end, they entertained Murrayfield with a convincing 41-31 victory. Coach Vern Cotter has said that he was very proud, as they now shift focus to the New Zealand challenge.

Cotter appears to have already had an impact on Scotland's style of play, as they scored five tries and got past 40 points, something fans have all too rarely seen in the past. His first home match in charge was a success, and while the final ten minutes were sloppy, he was pleased overall.

"There was a certain excitement amongst them. I'm pleased for them that they got this result. I'm quite proud of them actually," said the Kiwi coach.

"They really enjoyed themselves, but they're a humble bunch. They’re very pleased with the effort and the result, but we’re in no position to get carried away."

Brothers Richie and Jonny Gray started together for Scotland for the first time, and they both managed to cross for tries in the first half. It's the 22nd time brothers have played for Scotland, and this formidable second row due may be there for some time to come.

Scotland led 41-17 with seven minutes left, so the final scoreline flattered the visitors somewhat, although they did well to fight back and restore some pride ahead of their upcoming fixtures.

New Zealand arrive at Murrayfield next, having averaged over 50 points on their last two visits.

"We're looking at just another opposition, and a very, very good one. We've got to embrace the opportunity to play against the best team in the world and really see where we sit," said Cotter.

The official highlights have been taken down, but you can view the post match press conference below. We'll update with highlights if and when possible. UK users view the highlights here 

credit: Scotland Rugby TV

Posted at 8:35 am | 6 comments

Sunday, November 09, 2014

Ireland upset South Africa with impressive physicality in Dublin

An inspired Ireland proved to strong for a rusty looking South Africa in Dublin on Saturday. The home side dominated the fierce breakdown battle, and took their points to win 29-15, for the Boks' first Northern Hemisphere team defeat since 2010.

Coming off a win over the All Blacks and success over Ireland in recent years, the Springboks were expected to be far more convincing, especially with dominant scrums and a solid lineout. The Irish forward pack forced errors though, with shaky looking scrumhalf play and missed chances, ill-discipline ultimately cost the tourists, as both sides scored two tries apiece.

Jonathan Sexton kicked four penalty goals and two conversions however, as South Africa chose not to kick penalties in the first half, instead opting for the lineout maul.

Trailing in the final quarter, a comeback was disrupted by a surprising yellow card decision by referee Romaine Poite, who sinbinned Adriaan Strauss for taking Rob Kearney in the air.

"We came right back into the game, started to get some quick ball later on, and then the yellow card," said Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer. "By then, away from home it's difficult to defend that, especially against a good quality side when they have a good kicking game, kicking behind us. 

"We are dissappointed with the way we played - we're much better than that. All credit to them and they were the better side tonight."

While the yellow card wasn't the reason for the loss, it halted momentum and a try was scored during that period. Meyer didn't focus on it too much though, instead praising the impressive Irish.

"We've got a saying at the Boks that the referee is always right. Willie [Le Roux] also in the first half went up, and... you know, we won't talk about that one. The ref's always right and thats the way I see it and it's not an excuse. You have to be careful. We can use it as an excuse but I don't want to.

"I thought Ireland were the better side, they were brilliant and that probably wouldn't have made a difference, although I thought we came back into the game, they still tactically outkicked us and outplayed us.

"We are sorry that we let our country and our supporters down with that performance," he added.

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt was full of praise for his brave, committed forward pack.

"I'm delighted with the performance. I don't think you could ask too much more from a courage perspective. I think there are a number of players who really stood up physically to what was going to be a really tough assignment.

"Paul [O'Connell] and the players put a lot of work into having a clear strategy. That strategy was well delivered by the players but the physicality they delivered allowed us to stay in the game."

South Africa play England next weekend, while Ireland take on Georgia.

View the Irish post match press conference below

Posted at 3:37 pm | 31 comments

Australia edge Wales in another agonising defeat for home fans

Australia edged Wales 33-28 in another tight encounter between the two sides, but it was the tenth successive time the Wallabies came up trumps. The home side started well and the first half was even, but Australia held their nerve late in the game.

The result extended Wales' losing streak against the big southern hemisphere sides to twenty one, even though this wasn't the first time that the scores were close. It was the ninth successive time that the winning margin was in the single digits. 

In the first half both sides scored three converted tries, taking them into the break at 21-21.

The second half was less eventful as Wales' picked up a converted penalty try, while Australia's Bernard Foley kicked three penalties and a well taken drop goal for a personal tally of 18 points.

Despite Wales losing 25 of their last 26 matches against Australia, New Zealand and South Africa, coach Warren Gatland remained upbeat.

"We've scored four tries to three and I thought we went out there and played some really positive rugby," he said. "To be honest I'm pretty positive about the performance.

Wales play Fiji next, then New Zealand and South Africa. Australia travel to Paris to take on France, followed by Tests against England and Ireland in the following weeks.

"There's plenty to improve on, we're not claiming that we had a cracker," said new Wallabies coach Michael Cheika, who joined the squad just days before flying to the UK.

"We've had just two weeks of getting our heads together and playing a new system, the guys getting into that, defensively as well, not just attack. What we're hoping is that on this trip we can build that while at the same time playing good enough rugby to grab a win here and there."

What were your thoughts on the game and the result? Let us know in the comments

View the Welsh camps reaction to the loss below. View official highlights from the match here (UK only), and on page two, short highlights from the WRU (no commentary).

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Posted at 12:05 pm | 8 comments

 
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