Much-changed Springboks out to restore some pride

Sport360 staff 00:44 13/08/2015
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In at No10: Patrick Lambie.

South Africa have changed eight of the team humiliated at home by Argentina last weekend for a Test rematch in Buenos Aires on Saturday.

In come full-back Zane Kirchner, winger Lwazi Mvovo, fly-half Patrick Lambie, front rowers Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe, lock Victor Matfield and loose forward Willem Alberts.

And out go injured quintet Willie le Roux, skipper Jean de Villiers, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager and Marcell Coetzee, plus Handre Pollard, Tendai ‘The Beast’ Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis.

There is also one positional switch with Jesse Kriel moving from the right wing to outside centre, from where he scored tries against Australia and New Zealand in other Rugby Championship games.

With the Championship finished, the Buenos Aires Test is the last for both countries before they name 31-man squads for the Rugby World Cup, which kicks off on September 18 in England.

Veteran lock Matfield leads the side in the absence of injury-plagued centre De Villiers, who fractured his jaw during the 37-25 loss to the Pumas, but will be available for World Cup selection.

It was the first time the Springboks lost to the South Americans in 20 Tests and the most embarrassing defeat for the green and gold since a 49-0 meltdown in Australia nine years ago.

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“We are all looking forward to going to Buenos Aires and improving on our performance of last weekend,” coach Heyneke Meyer said.

“A few more players in our enlarged squad will get opportunities this weekend and I am excited to see what they can do.

“The circumstances will be difficult, playing away in front of a very noisy crowd against strong opponents.

“Our physicality was not what it should have been last weekend and we need to make a big step up in that department.”

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Hart demands huge improvement from Dragons players this season

Matt Jones - Editor 00:12 13/08/2015
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Dragons are training hard to ensure they rebound from a dreadful 2014/15 campaign.

New Jebel Ali Dragons director of rugby Paul Hart has labelled last season “simply not good enough” and says the club won’t accept the same failure in 2015/16.

The 37-year-old admits the Centre of Excellence outfit are in a transitional period but hopes Dragons will roar once more after a dismal campaign saw them deposed as UAE Premiership, Dubai Sevens and West Asia champions.

Dragons surrendered their Premiership and Sevens titles to Abu Dhabi Harlequins, while new force Abu Dhabi Saracens took their West Asia crown.

Jebel Ali looked a shadow of the team that won successive trebles in 2012/13 and 2013/14 but Hart, a former Worcester Warriors player, insists the club will show their fighting spirit this season.

One of his first tasks as director of rugby has been to oversee the appointment of new first team coach Bruce Pendrey, who spent a year learning under the coaches at New Zealand Super Rugby side Canterbury Crusaders’ academy.

Back to their best: Paul Hart.

Pendrey is just 26 but Hart revealed the club is excited by his arrival.

“He is young but extremely talented and motivated and we don’t see his age as a problem,” said Hart.

“He came highly recommended and we gave him a month trial. We knew within the first hour he was the guy for us. We’re excited to have him.”

Hart is entering his fifth year with Dragons, who he captained to their first treble in 2012/13. Fortunes have altered a little since, but the Englishman is adamant the club can recover from last season’s debacle.

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“We want to draw a line under last season,” he said. “I’ve heard the excuses of injuries and investment by other clubs, but we’re judged on results and results were simply not good enough.

“We won’t accept the same this season. We’re rebuilding, it’s a really important season, but we want to bounce straight back.”

As well as changes off the field, there will be plenty on it too, although a lot of the new faces are actually familiar, with several players either returning to the club after stints away or on the sidelines last season.

Former Leinster No8 Richie Leyden is returning to Jebel Ali after a two-year absence for what he says will be a swansong.

Back-rower and UAE international Adam Telford is back after a bicep injury last pre-season ruled him out for the entire campaign.

South African flanker Byron Kraemer, described by Hart as one of the best players in the UAE in the last decade, also returns after injury, with Dan Bell and Andy Russell. Sri Lankan full-back Imad Reyal, meanwhile, is also back in the fold after a season playing in New Zealand.

“I’m excited for the new season now,” said Hart.

“There is a good feeling about the club. We are determined to right a few wrongs.

“No-one enjoyed watching the decline of the team but our strength this year will be on a par with our treble winning teams.”

Ex-London Irish and London Scottish scrum-half Ross Samson will be first team captain, with Mike Taylor second and Ian Jones third team/veterans skipper.

The club is also close to confirming a backs coach.

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Kotze confident UAE can shine at Asia Rugby Sevens

Matt Jones - Editor 00:08 13/08/2015
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Man in charge: Roelof Kotze.

Roelof Kotze says his new-look UAE Under-20’s squad have bought into his philosophy and are thoroughly focused on success in the Asia Rugby Under-20 Sevens Series.

The youngsters arrive in Malaysia today ahead of the first of two legs where the UAE will be hoping to finish among the medals.

Kotze, 45, says he is happy with his 13-man squad and believes he has a good blend capable of success in Malaysia.

“We have a well balanced team that’s come together nicely over the last few weeks,” Kotze told Sport360 ahead of jetting off to the Far East on Wednesday.

“We have big strong forwards, pace in the backs and skill in the middle. Confidence is high. I believe I have a blend that can be successful.”

The UAE will play hosts Malaysia, Singapore and Kazakhstan in Pool 1. Hong Kong, Chinese Taipei, Sri Lanka and Thailand are in Pool 2.

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The South African said: “We’ve played Malaysia a few times so know what they’re all about and we know Kazakhstan will be big, strong and physical.”

He believes the whole team is on the same wavelength. “I want to be successful but that’s not just my goal, the guys want to do well, they’ve really bought into it. They’re really focused on getting it done,” he added.

“They’re really focused on getting it done” – Kotze

Expat trio Kip Chirchir, Tomasi Tirikula and Devante Steele are excited to represent their adopted country.

Kenyan forward Chirchir, 18, said: “I’m ecstatic about this opportunity. We’re well prepared due to all the training we have done. We have a chance and I’m confident we may be able to improve our ranking and win.”

Fijian hooker Tirikula, 17, said: “It’s wonderful to be selected. I’m grateful for the opportunity and looking forward to doing my best and helping the team win.”

American centre Steele, 18 and a fellow Ambler, added: “I’m pumped for making the team. I’m just going to try my best to stay focused and play to the best of my ability.”

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