South Africa pick up the pieces after devastating loss

Sport360 staff 06:08 20/07/2015
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Down: South Africa.

South Africa’s squad depth will be tested ahead of this week’s Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand after picking up injuries in their heart-breaking loss to the Wallabies.

Crestfallen by their 24-20 defeat on the last play of the game in Brisbane, the Springboks are also licking their wounds. Captain and line-out general Victor Matfield was forced off with a hamstring strain midway through the first half and flanker Marcell Coetzee suffered a knee injury in the final stages.

Prop Jannie du Plessis also came off the field following a head knock and flanker Francois Louw suffered a nasty cut to his mouth. All the injured players will be re-assessed by the Springbok medical team in Johannesburg on Monday, the team said.

Matfield and Coetzee will be in a race against time to be fit to face New Zealand in Johannesburg on Saturday.

“There were lots of hard knocks out there and all these injuries will certainly test our depth, but the guys next in line will have to show what they’ve got and stand up next Saturday,” coach Heyneke Meyer said.

“We’re already without experienced players such as Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts, but we always wanted to use the Tests in the Rugby Championship to see what depth we have and there will probably be more changes next week.”

– Australia down South Africa with final play
– #360RUGBY: Still no room for Fiji on Lions tour
– UAE: Perelini keen on developing Emirati players

Meyer said it was another bitter loss to the Wallabies after losing in similar fashion in 2014.

“It’s heart-breaking to lose like that for a second year running in Australia, but we simply can’t dwell on it and have to take some harsh but valuable lessons to heart,” Meyer said.

“Losing our captain early was tough and we finished the match with eight players who were playing in their 10th Test or fewer than that. It’s not an excuse – we will be better for it and we will have to look at ways to overcome this.

“Although we played some brilliant rugby at times, our execution let us down and I think we left two tries out there, right at the end of the first half and midway through the second.

“We probably lacked some experience at the end when we needed to close the match, but we’ve said from the word go this season that we wanted to use our five matches in the build-up to the Rugby World Cup to get ready.”

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Quade Cooper backs out of big-money Toulon switch

Sport360 staff 05:57 20/07/2015
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Staying around: Quade Cooper.

Wallaby star Quade Cooper has pulled out of his big-money move to France to remain in Australian rugby, according to reports in his homeland.

The Australian Rugby Union is set to confirm the Wallabies playmaker has signed a four-year deal to remain in the country, opting out of his lucrative contract with glamour French club Toulon.

An announcement is expected to be made on Monday confirming Cooper’s re-signing with the ARU, after his Queensland Reds team severed ties with him last month amid acrimonious contractual negotiations.

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika gave nothing away on Sunday following his team’s last-gasp 24-20 win over South Africa in the Rugby Championship opener in Brisbane on Saturday night.

But Cheika has reportedly been a significant figure in the ARU’s talks with Cooper and his management and has repeatedly underlined the importance of keeping the skilful fly-half in Australian rugby.

“I haven’t been on top of it, I’ll be honest with you, this week, at all,” Cheika said. “Obviously, you can see by him getting the first selection (at fly-half ) what we think about him as a player.

“With us helping him get to where he wants to go and become an even better player, we’re still yet to see the best of Quade Cooper.”

Australia down South Africa with final play
– #360RUGBY: Still no room for Fiji on Lions tour
– UAE: Perelini keen on developing Emirati players

Cooper will reportedly devote all of next year to the Sevens Olympics programme, and then return to Super Rugby in 2017. Cheika said Cooper did a “pretty nice job” against the Springboks but may yet shuffle his options for the remainder of the Rugby Championship with the likes of Matt Toomua, Matt Giteau and Kurtley Beale at his disposal.

“I don’t know if we delivered the platform consistently enough for Quade to get on the front foot,” Cheika said. “Whereas Toomua is a sort of bulkier player who will almost take it on as a third or fourth backrower as well as a playmaker. That’s the different profile the guys have. We’ve got good options there, we’ll have a look at it.”

Meanwhile, Will Genia and Rob Horne have been ruled out of Australia’s game in Argentina on Saturday with injuries sustained in the win over South Africa. Scrum-half Genia will have knee surgery after he was replaced at half-time.

Winger Horne has a calf muscle strain and will also miss the game in Mendoza. Winger Nick Cummins and scrum-half Nic White will join the squad as their replacements, with two further additions in hooker James Hanson and prop Tetera Faulkner.

“It’s disappointing for Will and Rob to miss this upcoming Test,” Cheika added. “They have both made an outstanding contribution to the group these past two weeks, and will continue to remain part of the wider squad from afar.”

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Australia down South Africa in Rugby Championship thriller

Sport360 staff 17:35 18/07/2015
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Tevita Kuridrani scored a controversial late try to win the game.

Wallaby centre Tevita Kuridrani scored with the last play of the match to give Australia a dramatic 24-20 win over South Africa in their Rugby Championship match in Brisbane.

South Africa looked like they would hang on to win a pulsating Test match as the Wallabies threw everything at the tiring Springboks.

But with the 80 minutes of time up, the powerful Kuridrani crashed over in the arms of two Springbok defenders.

Referee Nigel Owen sent the decision to television match official Ben Skeen, who ruled Kuridrani had just managed to ground the ball.

The Wallabies had looked second best for three-quarters of the match as the South African forwards dominated their Australian counterparts.

The visitors led 20-10 with six minutes to go but the longer the match went the more dangerous the Wallabies looked.

Flanker Michael Hooper scored in the 75th minute to narrow the gap to three points before Kuridrani’s heroics following captain Stephen Moore’s decision to take a line-out rather than a kickable penalty that would have tied the match.

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South Africa shaded the first half and opened the scoring with two Handre Pollard penalties. The Wallabies struck back six minutes before the break from a brilliantly worked move from the line-out, which saw Matt Giteau playing first receiver and passing to Quade Cooper, who found Adam Ashley-Cooper on his inside, the right winger crossing for his 31st Test try. Cooper converted to make it 7-6 to the home side.

But four minutes later South Africa were back in front when Eben Etzebeth crashed over in the corner after Brian Habana climbed high over Israel Folau to tap the ball back to fullback Willie le Roux, who then found the towering Springbok lock who crashed over in the corner.

The Boks went further ahead four minutes after the restart when outside centre Jesse Kriel, playing his first Test, stormed onto the ball 20 metres out and beat three Australian defenders to score.

Pollard’s conversion made it 20-7 to the visitors. Wallaby coach Michael Cheika brought on Queensland forwards Greg Holmes and James Horwill, and the Australian pack began to gain the upper hand.

A Cooper penalty from right in front made it 20-10 and he should have had another when the Wallabies won a rare scrum penalty, but he pulled it wide.

With time running out the Wallabies were throwing everything at the Boks and they were rewarded when Hooper burrowed his way over from close range.

Cooper’s conversion made it 20-17 with five minutes left. But just as it looked like the Springboks were safe, Moore opted for the line-out and Kuridrani ensured it was the right decision.

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