Crusaders deny homophobic abuse allegations in Cape Town

Crusaders management have denied that their players were involved in a homophobic altercation in Cape town on Saturday night.

Accusations spread on social media on Monday morning that a group of Crusaders players were involved in an altercation in a Cape Town fast food restaurant after their 19-19 draw with the Stormers at Newlands.

Instagram user @alxethelion posted a series of videos to his story, detailing his version of events while Twitter user @adamlennox posted a note on his account about the incident.

The allegations began to spread on social media with a host of users commenting on the Crusaders Instagram account calling them out for the alleged incident and criticising the organisation.

“We were attacked by members of the New Zealand rugby team in the McDonald’s on Long/Kloof St last night,” the South African Twitter user wrote.

“As we entered, we were met with jeering and sniggers from them.

“They then proceeded to record us as a joke (also, upon looking on his phone screen, it was a recording for either Insta/Snapchat). When catching them in the act, they told us they did it because we looked funny to them.

“They then said they can record us in a public space if they want to. Upon telling them that this is wrong, they then began physically intimidating us (coming up to our faces, telling us we better stop arguing or they will ‘f**k us up if we don’t watch it’).

“Then, after arguing that straight white men are losing power – we were met with homophobic slurs, limp wrists and high-pitched voices, which were clearly in gest [sic].”

As well as the note, the user posted a four-second video featuring a man, who was not readily identifiable as a member of the Crusaders setup.

The defending Super Rugby champions released a statement on Monday afternoon, saying they would meet with the team when they returned to Christchurch but strongly denied the accusations.

“The BNZ Crusaders have been made aware of allegations of an incident in Cape Town involving some of our players,” the statement read.

“Allegations have been made via social media that there was a verbal altercation between members of the public and some Crusaders players who were out getting food after the match against the Stormers in Cape Town. The original post claimed players exhibited homophobic behaviour.

“The three players, team management and the South African-based security adviser with them strongly refute the socialised account of what happened. They are devastated by the allegation and the implication of the homophobic behaviour.”

Crusaders CEO Colin Mainsbridge said he was confident that the team’s version of events was accurate.

“This is an organisation that is committed to inclusivity and is proud to have earned the Rainbow Tick certification. That is what makes these allegations particularly distressing,” he said.

“Given the serious nature of these allegations I will be meeting with team management and players on their return to Christchurch. However, I am confident in the account that we have received from the team and the security adviser who was present.”

Tolu Latu axed from Wallabies training camp

Waratahs Tolu Latu has lost his place in the Wallabies squad and has been called in front of the Rugby Australia Integrity unit after getting caught drink-driving.

With the Waratahs still reeling in the wake of the Israel Folau saga, the news of Latu’s charge on last Thursday night was only broken to them on Saturday afternoon by the Daily Telegraph newspaper.

Latu was reportedly found “slumped” behind the wheel of a car on Thursday and charged with driving under the influence after allegedly recording a blood alcohol reading of 0.135.

Waratahs coach Daryl Gibson and chief executive Andrew Hore confirmed they were unaware of the incident until contacted by the Daily Telegraph on Saturday afternoon, just hours before they played the Reds, and it is understood Latu did not inform Rugby Australia either.

Latu was due to remain in Brisbane to attend the Wallabies’ pre-World Cup camp but a Rugby Australia statement said the 26-year-old had been sent back to Sydney.

“Wallabies and Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu has today returned to Sydney and will not participate in the national training camp in Brisbane,” the statement said.

“Latu will meet with Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit as well as New South Wales Rugby CEO Andrew Hore on Monday. The matter is still under investigation.”

Speaking on Saturday night, Hore would not say whether calls had been made to New South Wales police to confirm whether Latu had been charged and was facing court.

“We were made aware today by the Telegraph around the incident and we’ve got to look into that and there’ll be a process put in place to investigate the issue,” said Hore.

“I don’t know the facts… and that’s the point, we don’t know the facts yet and we need to look into that.

“At the moment, it was an article in a newspaper and we reacted.”

But Gibson was more forthcoming, saying it was disappointing he and Latu’s team-mates had not been informed until hours before the match.

“I’m pretty disappointed to only learn of it so close to the game,” said Gibson.

“It’s probably the disappointing aspect as a coach.

“Having that information earlier, would have made a far better, considered decision.

“But that’s all stuff that was out of our control.”

With the team not having another hooking option in Brisbane, Latu was allowed to play, with Hore saying checks had been made with SANZAAR and Rugby Australia first.

“We checked with SANZAAR and also Rugby Australia in and around the facts we did have and there was nothing that could clarify that it was a breach of (clause) 4.4 of the code of conduct,” explained Hore.

“As far as we’re aware, he’s an innocent man until there’s been a proper formal investigation.”

News of the incident broke in Sydney’s Daily Telegraph on Saturday afternoon.

But the reserve hooker was allowed to retain his place on the Waratahs’ bench for their vital Super Rugby clash against the Reds and took the field in the 67th minute, going on to play a crucial part in the match when he helped the Sydneysiders win a scrum against the feed late in the game to ensure victory.

Gibson would not buy into whether Latu’s key strike for the ball was in part to make up for letting the team down.

“Possibly. I’m sure there’s a number of things that he’ll need to say to the team,” Gibson said.

Hore cautioned against trying to connect Latu’s issue with Folau though.

“You can’t connect the two,” he said.

“The complexity of case A (Folau) was pretty full on, so you’ve got to take each hurdle as it comes.”

Last-gasp penalty sees Stormers hold Crusaders to a draw

The Stormers sealed a 19-19 draw against the Crusaders with the final kick of the match after an absorbing contest at Newlands Stadium on Saturday.

With the Crusaders almost enjoying home support due to the large amounts of fans they have in Cape Town, many were predicting a runaway victory for the table-toppers from Cristchurch, but the Stormers proved to be no pushovers.

The opening try arrived in the sixth minute courtesy of Springbok captain Siya Kolisi. It was a stolen line-out on the Crusaders 22 that put the home side on the front foot, and a simple pass to Kolisi in the midfield that allowed the flanker to cut through a gap in the middle, shrugging off one defender being going all the way.

Number 10 Josh Stander added the extras, and then added three more points 10 minutes later after a penalty was awarded in a kickable position.

The Crusaders were never going to be kept quiet for too long, however, and after finding a bit of rhythm they were soon rewarded with their first try just before the half-hour mark.

Opting for an attacking line-out in the opposition 22, captain Sam Whitelock collected the ball and set up the maul, which advanced quickly before No 7 Matt Todd broke off to the side and fell over the line.

Both teams were looking to run with the ball, making for exciting, free-flowing rugby, and the Crusaders took the lead for the first time five minutes before the break when they scored their second try through fullback David Havili.

It was a crosskick from flyhalf Richie Mo’unga following a scrum that did the trick, with Havili collecting the ball and scoring before Mo’unga kicked his first successful conversion to give the visitors a 12-10 lead at the break.

It didn't take the Crusaders long to pick up where they left off in the second half, with substitute Braydon Ennor scoring their third try just four minutes in.

It was a break on the wing that had the Stormers defence in trouble, allowing Ennor to find a way through and dot down after collecting the offload from Codie Taylor.

Mo’unga added the extras to make it 19-10 to the visitors, though Stander was able to chip away at the lead somewhat with his second penalty kick of the evening seven minutes later.

The home side kept plugging away and getting themselves into the opposition territory, and they were rewarded with another scrum penalty not long after to cut the visitors' lead to three points, substitute Jean-Luc du Plessis having taken over the kicking duties.

But the Crusaders were showing their mettle in defence, and continued to look dangerous on attack, and with three minutes left on the clock No 14 Sevu Reece looked to have made sure of the victory after a clever chip and chase saw him cross the line, only for the try to be ruled out by the TMO for a forward pass in the build-up.

And with time running out, the Stormers were handed another penalty while on the attack in the opposition 22, and left with the choice of kicking for the draw, or trying for the win one more time, they opted for the former, as Du Plessis slotted the ball through the uprights to tie things up just as the final whistle blew.

Stormers – Tries: Siya Kolisi. Conversions: Josh Stander. Penalties: Josh Stander (2), Jean-Luc du Plessis (2).

Crusaders – Tries: Matt Todd, David Havili, Braydon Ennor. Conversions: Richie Mo’unga (2).

Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 Johannes Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siyamthanda Kolisi (captain), 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Mbongeni Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff.
Replacements: 16 Siyabonga Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel.

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock (captain), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower.
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor.

Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Lions go top of SA conference with Highlanders victory

The Lions propelled themselves to the top of the South African conference with a 38-29 victory over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Both teams manged to score five tries on the day, but the hosts ultimately came out on top thanks to the deadly boot of flyhalf Elton Jantjies, which kept them in front.

The Highlanders scored the game's first try in the fifth minute. The home side lost the ball forward and Matt Faddes' kick over the top down the left wing was collected by Courtnall Skosan, who was penalised for holding on. The visitors took a quick tap from the penalty and swung the ball out right catching the Lions' defence napping, with Sio Tomkinson doing well to keep his width and create the space for an easy finish in the corner. Fly-half Josh Ioane failed to convert.

Both sides were looking to run the ball, even from deep in their respective halves, which made for an entertaining, end-to-end game.

The Lions hit back in the 13th minute. Fly-half Elton Jantjies offloaded for Kwagga Smith, who broke the line and ran 40 metres down the left wing before passing inside to full-back Andries Coetzee, who stepped past Faddes and went in under the posts for a superb team try. Jantjies added the extras for a 7-5 lead.

The men from Otago got their second try five minutes before the interval. Faddes made the break down the right wing and looked to have released Sio Tomkinson, but the wing was denied by a last-ditch ankle tap by Coetzee. However, the ball was recycled back to the left and after a series of carries, Ioane put lock Tom Franklin through a gap and over the whitewash with a neat offload for a 12-7 lead after Ioane converted.

However, it was Swys de Bruin's side who went in to the interval in the ascendancy at 14-12 after Smith completed a routine finish and Jantjies converted. Franklin was lucky to escape a yellow card which would have resulted in a penalty try due to a deliberate knock-down in the build-up.

Kwagga Smith then grabbed his brace in the 53rd minute when he took a quick-tap penalty and powered over from close range after persistent pressure from the Lions deep inside the visitors' territory. Jantjies added the extras for a 21-12 lead.

Aaron Mauger's side responded five minutes later. Having earned the right to go wide with a series of powerful carries up the middle, some slick hands freed Jordan Hyland on the overlap out on the left wing to dot down.

Soon after, the Highlanders completed the turnaround when they took the lead against the run of play. Scrum-half Aaron Smith came through the gate to steal the loose ball and ran 30 metres before drawing Kwagga Smith and releasing Faddes down the right wing, with the full-back having enough pace to cross the chalk. Hollinshead missed the conversion but the visitors still led 22-21.

Jantjies put the hosts back in front at 24-22 with the game's first successful penalty after Highlanders' replacement loose forward James Lentjes was penalised for not rolling away with 15 minutes to go.

The Highlanders looked to be wilting due to the effects of the altitude in the final quarter. Some lovely play from the Lions' backline with Sevens-style offloading and running off the ball resulted in Shaun Reynolds delivering what looked to be a killer blow in the 70th minute when he ran in under the posts. It came via a move that included slick passing from Jantjies and Aphiwe Dyantyi in the face of some heavy Highlanders' traffic. Jantjies' conversion took the hosts' lead out to 31-22.

The visitors still had more left in the tank, however, and after a lovely build-up, Ioane touched down at the base of the post before Dan Hollinshead converted to make it 31-29 with five minutes left on the clock.

But the Lions finally put the result beyond doubt with a minute to go. Dyantyi showed searing pace out on the left wing before passing on his inside for Skosan to dot down as Jantjies took matters beyond the Highlanders' reach with the conversion after the hooter.

Lions - Tries: Coetzee, K Smith (2), Reynolds, Skosan. Conversions: Jantjies (5). Penalty: Jantjies

Highlanders - Tries: Tomkinson, Franklin, Hyland, Faddes, Ioane. Conversions: Ioane, Hollinshead.

Lions: 15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Courtnall Skosan, 13 Lionel Mapoe, 12 Harold Vorster, 11 Aphiwe Dyantyi, 10 Elton Jantjies, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Kwagga Smith, 7 Cyle Brink, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Marvin Orie, 4 Stephan Lewies, 3 Carlu Sadie, 2 Malcolm Marx (c), 1 Dylan Smith
Replacements: 16 Jan-Henning Campher, 17 Sti Sithole, 18 Johannes Jonker, 19 Vincent Tshituka, 20 Hacjivah Dayimani, 21 Nic Groom, 22 Shaun Reynolds, 23 Tyrone Green

Highlanders: 15 Matt Faddes, 14 Jordan Hyland, 13 Rob Thompson, 12 Teihorangi Walden, 11 Patelesio Tomkinson, 10 Josh Ioane, 9 Aaron Smith, 8 Shannon Frizell, 7 Dillon Hunt, 6 Luke Whitelock (c), 5 Tom Franklin, 4 Josh Dickson, 3 Tyrel Lomax, 2 Liam Coltman, 1 Ayden Johnstone
Replacements: 16 Ash Dixon, 17 Daniel Lienert-Brown, 18 Siate Tokolahi, 19 Jack Whetton, 20 James Lentjes, 21 Kayne Hammington, 22 Daniel Hollinshead, 23 Waisake Naholo

Referee: Rasta Rasivhenge (South Africa)
Assistant referees: Jaco Peyper (South Africa), Griffin Colby (South Africa)
Television match official: Willie Vos (South Africa)

Wallaby hooker charged with DUI

Rugby Australia have issued a statement revealing they are investigating reports that hooker Tolu Latu has been charged with drink driving.

According to Sydney’s Daily Telegraph, the Australia international was found sleeping in his car in the early hours of Thursday morning.

The 26-year-old Waratahs front-rower played for his Super Rugby outfit on Saturday in their 40-32 victory over the Reds in Brisbane.

However, this report overshadowed the triumph and with the Israel Folau case continuing to dominate headlines, it is an unwanted sideshow for Rugby Australia, who released a statement regarding the recent news.

“Rugby Australia and New South Wales Rugby Union have been made aware today by the Daily Telegraph of an incident involving Wallabies and Waratahs hooker Tolu Latu,” they said as they investigate further.

“Rugby Australia’s Integrity Unit is working with the New South Wales Rugby Union to ascertain all of the facts.”

Waratahs edge Reds in Brisbane thriller

The Waratahs leapfrogged the Reds in to third place on the Australian conference with a pulsating 40-32 victory at Suncorp Stadium in Brisbane on Saturday.

The 'Tahs have now won their last 11 clashes with the Queensland outfit.

The away side opened the scoring in the fourth minute when some poor tactical kicking from the hosts allowed Waratahs centre Adam Ashley-Cooper to counter-attack, before Bernard Foley got on the outside of Taniela Tupou and bundled over the whitewash. The fly-half converted his own try for a 7-0 lead.

The hosts hit back in the 10th minute. From an attacking scrum deep in Waratahs' territory, captain Samu Kerevi got the Reds on the front foot before Angus Blyth powered over from close range with a good, low body position.

Five minutes later, the Reds took the lead, with Kerevi instrumental once again. The Wallabies centre busted through Foley's tackle in midfield before getting a brilliant offload away for Jock Campbell to finish in the corner. Bryce Hegarty failed to convert for the second time in quick succession.

The visitors responded in the 20th minute. After securing their own lineout, the 'Tahs spread the ball to the right flank. Foley was instrumental in spraying some telling passes in the build-up as Beale got the better of Kerevi before laying off the ball to number eight Wells, who added the finishing touch.

But the topsy-turvy nature of the game continued with Brad Thorn's side restoring their lead just before the half-hour mark. A Hegarty grubber kick was not cleanly collected by Beale, with Lukhan Salakaia-Loto pouncing on the loose ball. The flank quickly passed to full-back Matt McGahan, who showed excellent hands to release Sefa Naivalu for the finish in the left-hand corner.

After securing the kick-off to the first-half, Daryl Gibson's side tried to run the ball but Foley's pass intended for Ned Hanigan was intercepted by Reds centre Chris Feauai-Sautia who ran 30 metres before getting a lovely pop-pass while falling to the ground away for the supporting Hegarty, who had enough pace to run in under the sticks.

But the 'Tahs hit back almost immediately. After good build-up play down the right-hand side, scrum-half Nick Phipps' short ball released wing Alex Newsome through a gap and over the line.

The away side were proving to be their own worst enemy with their wayward passing allowing the Reds back in to the game time and time again. Some more poor distribution allowed the hosts to make another interception but hooker Alex Mafi was held by Cam Clark over the line. However, the hosts would score from the resulting scrum, as Hegarty stepped his way over for his second try in quick succession after the half-time break. The number ten could not convert his own try, however, as his effort was charged down by Phipps.

But credit to the visitors for showing the mental resilience to go up the other end and respond once again. Some entertaining ball-in-hand rugby stretched the Reds' defence out on the right-hand side before Phipps went back in field where Beale played the killer pass for Wells to break the line from close range and dot down for his brace. Foley added the extras for a 28-27 lead.

The Wallabies fly-half added a penalty goal on the half-hour mark to stretch the Sydneysiders' lead to four points after Campbell conceded a penalty for not releasing the ball.

With 15 minutes to go, it was the Reds' turn to put the ball through the hands and stretch the opposition defence. Campbell made good ground on the right before McGahan's pin-point cross-field kick found Naivalu on the left wing, who cut inside past his defender to dot down. Hegarty was unable to convert yet again - a poor kicking performance from the fly-half.

Foley then added three unanswered penalty goals in the final quarter of the match to take the result beyond the Reds' reach and make sure of the victory.

Reds - Tries: Blyth, Campbell, Naivalu, Hegarty (2), Mafi. Conversions: Hegarty.

Waratahs - Tries: Foley, Wells (2), Newsome. Conversions: Foley (4). Penalties: Foley (4).

Reds: 15 Matt McGahan, 14 Jock Campbell, 13 Chris Feauai-Sautia, 12 Samu Kerevi (c), 11 Sefa Naivalu, 10 Bryce Hegarty, 9 Tate McDermott, 8 Angus Scott-Young, 7 Liam Wright, 6 Lukhan Salakaia-Loto, 5 Angus Blyth, 4 Izack Rodda, 3 Taniela Tupou, 2 Alex Mafi, 1 JP Smith
Replacements: 16 Brandon Paenga-Amosa, 17 Harry Hoopert, 18 Ruan Smith, 19 Scott Higginbotham, 20 Caleb Timu, 21 Moses Sorovi, 22 Duncan Paia’aua, 23 Seb Wileman

Waratahs: 15 Kurtley Beale, 14 Alex Newsome, 13 Adam Ashley-Cooper, 12 Karmichael Hunt, 11 Cameron Clark, 10 Bernard Foley, 9 Nick Phipps, 8 Michael Wells, 7 Michael Hooper (c), 6 Lachlan Swinton, 5 Rob Simmons, 4 Ned Hanigan, 3 Sekope Kepu, 2 Damien Fitzpatrick, 1 Tom Robertson
Replacements: 16 Tolu Latu, 17 Harry Johnson-Holmes, 18 Chris Talakai, 19 Tom Staniforth, 20 Will Miller, 21 Jake Gordon, 22 Lalakai Foketi, 23 Curtis Rona

Referee: Ben O’Keeffe (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Angus Gardner (Australia), Damon Murphy (Australia)
Television match official: James Leckie (Australia)

Blues end Chiefs hoodoo in Auckland

The Blues kept themselves in the Super Rugby play-off hunt after they battled to a 23-8 triumph over the Chiefs at Eden Park on Saturday.

Leon MacDonald’s charges controlled much of the first half but errors prevented them from building a healthy buffer at the interval. Harry Plummer and Melani Nanai did cross the whitewash for the hosts but they only went into the break with a two-point lead, with Mitch Karpik and Marty McKenzie keeping Colin Cooper’s side in the contest.

After being on the back foot in the opening period, the Chiefs were reprieved by the home side’s profligacy, but they failed to profit in the final 40 minutes and the Aucklanders completed the win through Ofa Tuungafasi and Gerard Cowley-Tuioti tries.

As a result, they moved above Cooper’s charges in the New Zealand Conference, but the hosts will have to improve if they are to reach the top-eight following this scrappy win.

It was a game that was rather symptomatic of both teams. Some excellent play was interspersed with a number of mistakes and it resulted in a competitive, if frustrating, encounter.

The Blues did most of the early running and created several opportunities, but were unable to take advantage and, when the inevitable error was made, the Chiefs countered.

To the visitors’ credit, it was initially well worked as Angus Ta’avao broke through and fed Etene Nanai-Seturo, who kicked ahead. It should have been dealt with by star wing Rieko Ioane but his attempted off-load on his own line was caught and finished by opposition flanker Karpik.

Ioane perhaps should have taken lessons on how to deal with such situations from younger team-mate Caleb Clarke. The 20-year-old did brilliantly to halt a Chiefs breakaway when Anton Lienert-Brown and Shaun Stevenson combined, and that effort helped the Aucklanders get back into the contest.

Following Clarke’s defensive excellence, another youngster showed his nous and potential when Plummer produced a nice outside line to touch down and level matters.

Although the Waikato-based outfit hit back immediately via McKenzie’s penalty, the Blues had the momentum and crossed the whitewash for a half-time lead. Another turnover gave them a chance in the opposition half and MacDonald’s men benefited, going through the phases, before Nanai stepped his way across the whitewash.

The second period continued in the same vein as the first with the Blues dominating possession and territory. They also had positive contributions from Ioane, who produced a couple of neat touches to get them on the front foot, and it resulted in Plummer kicking a three-pointer.

That score was thoroughly deserved and it was then followed by the game-clinching effort when Tuungafasi went over from close range.

It was controversial as the prop appeared to lose control of the ball in the act of touching down and those frustrations increased for the Chiefs as Pita Sowakula and Sam Cane, who was making a welcome return to action after a horrific neck injury, were denied tries.

With those decisions, the match was finished, but the Blues still had the bonus-point to play for and they duly secured it when Cowley-Tuioti barged across the line.

Blues - Tries: Plummer, Nanai, Tuungufasi, Cowley-Tuioti. Penalty: Plummer.

Chiefs - Try: Karpik. Penalty: McKenzie.

Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (cc), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (cc), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Lua Li, 18 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Duffie

Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell

Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
Television match official: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Bulls surprise the Rebels in their own backyard

The Bulls had too much firepower for the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday night, as they ran out deserving 32-17 winners.

The victory lifted the visitors to the top of the South African conference, while the Rebels remain in second in the Australian table.

It was the home side who started on the front foot, controlling virtually all of the possession in the opening minutes, and it soon resulted in their opening score.

An attacking line-out five metres out that did the trick , as the ball was moved out wide where captain and fullback Dane Haylett-Petty managed to offload it in the tackle for winger Marika Koroibete, who crashed over the line to score before Quade Cooper added the extras.

That try appeared to shake the Bulls out of their early slumber, however, and they soon found themselves back on level terms.

Winger Rosko Specman who carried the ball up from a maul before linking up with Warrick Gelant and Cornal Hendricks as they entered the 22. A penalty was awarded and Handre Pollard took it quickly, launching a crossfield kick for Hendricks to collect before crossing over to score.

The Bulls were well and truly awake now, and it took just six minutes for the visitors to bag their second try and take the lead. From a lineout just outside the Rebels 22, the ball was flung out wide where Specman was waiting, running the perfect line to cut open the defence and touch down.

The home side needed to respond and respond they did nine minutes later. It was a failed up and under from the Bulls that put the Rebels on the front foot, and after some good interplay between the backs, scrumhalf Will Genia dived over in the corner to get the hosts back to within two points - as Cooper failed to convert.

There was one more chance for the Bulls to add to their tally before half-time after they were awarded a penalty in a kickable area and Pollard slotted it to make it 17-12 to the visitors heading into the break.

It took just three minutes for the Rebels to tie things up in the second half, a simple shift out wide that ended with Koroibete picking the ball up off the ground and diving over the line for his second try of the evening to make it 17-all.

The match continued to ebb and flow, however, and the Bulls retook the lead shortly before the hour mark thanks to some great work from Specman. The winger collected a bullet pass right on the touch line and kicked a cheeky little chip over the defence before regathering the ball and passing it to Burger Odendaal, who cut inside and dotted down next to the posts.

Pollard added the extras to make it 24-17 with 20 minutes to go, and nine minutes later the Bulls landed a potentially killing blow with their fourth try of the night.

After earning a penalty, opting for an attacking line-out and setting up a maul, it was a long pass from Gelant that found the irrepressible Specman, who ran over unopposed for his second five-pointer.

Pollard missed the conversion, but it made little difference as he slotted a penalty shortly after to put the Bulls a whopping 15 points in front.

And that was how it ended, as the Rebels failed to add to their tally to hand the Bulls a valuable victory on the road.

Rebels – Tries: Marika Koroibete (2), Will Genia. Conversions: Quade Cooper.

Bulls – Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Rosko Specman (2), Burger Odendaal. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3). Penalties: Handre Pollard (2).

Melbourne Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (captain), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Rob Leota, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner.
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Pone Fa’amausili, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Matt Toomua.

Bulls: 15 Warrick Gelant, 14 Cornal Hendricks, 13 Johnny Kotze, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Rosko Specman, 10 Handré Pollard, 9 Andre Warner, 8 Duane Vermeulen, 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Paul Schoeman, 5 Jason Jenkins, 4 Rudolph Snyman, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Schalk Brits, 1 Lizo Gqoboka.
Replacements: 16 Jaco Visagie, 17 Simphiwe Matanzima, 18 Wiehan Herbst, 19 Jannes Kirsten, 20 Marco van Staden, 21 Embrose Papier, 22 Manie Libbok, 23 Divan Rossouw.

Referee: Federico Anselmi
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy, Aaron Pook
TMO: Ian Smith

Jaguares stun Hurricanes in Wellington

The Jaguares produced an excellent display to boost their play-off hopes following a 28-20 win over the Hurricanes in Wellington on Friday.

As expected, this was a fast-paced and entertaining affair with both sides giving the ball plenty of air but the visitors were deserved winners in the end as they outscored the Hurricanes by four tries to three.

For the Jaguares, Agustin Creevy, Jeronimo De La Fuente and Julian Montoya crossed the whitewash and they were also awarded a penalty try while Joaquin Diaz Bonilla slotted three conversions.

Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape and Kane Leaupepe scored tries for the Hurricanes and Jordie Barrett added a conversion and a penalty.

The result means that the Jaguares have won five out of their last six matches with their only blip being last weekend’s narrow defeat to the Highlanders in Dunedin. The Buenos Aires-based outfit are now sitting pretty at the top of the South African Conference standings.

The home side made a terrific start and took the lead as early as the first minute when Fifita dotted down in the left-hand corner after a mazy run from Barrett in the build-up.

The next 15 minutes saw both sides running the ball from all areas of the field but with little reward. The Jaguares eventually drew level courtesy of a penalty try after a Bonilla grubber kick was punched away by Barrett over the dead ball line – an action for which the All Black utility back was yellow-carded.

Despite their numerical disadvantage, the Hurricanes did well not to concede points during Barrett’s stint on the sidelines but shortly after he returned to the playing field, Creevy crossed for a deserved try off the back of a lineout drive deep inside Hurricanes territory.

Barrett narrowed the gap with a penalty on the half-hour mark but five minutes later the visitors struck back with a well-taken try from De La Fuente, which gave them a 21-8 lead at half-time.

Just like the first half, the Hurricanes were fastest out of the blocks in the second stanza and 10 minutes into the half Laumape went over for their second try but once again they failed to convert.

That proved costly as it meant they were trailing by eight points and the Jaguares extended their lead when Montoya went over for their fourth five-pointer in the 66th minute, before Leaupepe scored a consolation try for the home side in the game’s closing stages.

Hurricanes - Tries: Vaea Fifita, Ngani Laumape, Kane Leaupepe. Cons: Jordie Barrett. Pens: Jordie Barrett.

Jaguares - Tries: Agustin Creevy, Jeronimo De La Fuente Julian Montoya.  Cons: Joaquin Diaz Bonilla 3 

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 James Marshall, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Salesi Rayasi

Jaguares: 15 Emiliano Boffelli, 14 Sebastien Cancelliere, 13 Matias Moroni, 12 Jeronimo de la Fuente (c), 11 Ramiro Moyano, 10 Joaquin Diaz Bonilla, 9 Tomas Cubelli, 8 Javier Ortego Desio, 7 Juan Manuel Leguizamon, 6 Pablo Matera , 5 Tomás Lavanini, 4 Guido Petti, 3 Enrique Pieretto, 2 Agustin Creevy, 1 Nahuel Tetaz Chaparro
Replacements: 16 Julian Montoya, 17 Mayco Vivas, 18 Santiago Medrano, 19 Lucas Paulos, 20 Marcos Kremer, 21 Felipe Ezcurra, 22 Domingo Miotti, 23 Matias Orlando

Referee: Brendon Pickerill
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser, Paul Williams
TMO: Aaron Paterson

Stormers boosted by Springboks return

The Stormers have no less than three current Springboks back in their lineup for their Super Rugby clash against the Crusaders at Newlands on Saturday.

Damian de Allende takes his place in midfield alongside fly-half Joshua Stander, with Jean-Luc du Plessis and Dan Kriel on the replacements bench.

In the pack, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit are on the flanks with Jaco Coetzee at the back of the scrum, while Cobus Wiese starts in the second-row next to Eben Etzebeth.

The only front-row change comes on the replacements bench, with the experienced Frans Malherbe set to provide an impact in the second half.

Stormers head coach Robbie Fleck said his team is looking forward to playing at Newlands again.

“We have a good home record and this is another great opportunity for us to perform in front of our supporters,” he said.

“We have put the hard work in on the training pitch and we want to ensure we are focused on Saturday so that we can be as accurate as possible.”

Captain Kolisi said that his team is looking forward to an electric atmosphere at Newlands. Urging fans to stand together and attend he said: “We know that we will get great support from the Newlands Faithful and will do everything we can to get the win for them.”

Stormers: 15 Damian Willemse, 14 Seabelo Senatla, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Damian de Allende, 11 Dillyn Leyds, 10 Josh Stander, 9 Herschel Jantjies, 8 Jaco Coetzee, 7 Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6 Siya Kolisi (c), 5 Cobus Wiese, 4 Eben Etzebeth, 3 Wilco Louw, 2 Bongi Mbonambi, 1 Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16 Scarra Ntubeni, 17 Corne Fourie, 18 Frans Malherbe, 19 Kobus van Dyk, 20 Sikhumbuzo Notshe, 21 Justin Phillips, 22 Jean-Luc du Plessis, 23 Dan Kriel

Date: Saturday, May 18
Venue: Newlands
Kick-off: 17:15 local (16:15 BST, 15:15 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Barrett rested for Jaguares clash

Hurricanes head coach John Plumtree has left Beauden Barrett out of his team to face the Jaguares as the flyhalf takes the second of his two All Black rest weeks.

The experienced James Marshall will start at fly-half in the absence of Barrett while Du’Plessis Kirifi will start at openside flanker.

Marshall, who will make his 49th appearance for the Hurricanes, has impressed off the bench after returning from the shoulder injury he suffered in round one and gives the side maturity in a pivotal position.

Kirifi’s inclusion sees Ardie Savea move to number eight with Reed Prinsep unavailable after he suffered a bad cut to his face in the Hurricanes 22-12 win over the Blues last round.

There are four changes to the bench from last week with Heiden Bedwell-Curtis providing loose forward cover, prop Chris Eves replaces an injured Fraser Armstrong while Fletcher Smith and Salesi Rayasi come into the match-day squad.

Plumtree was impressed with the overall work of the whole squad at Eden Park and the impact they got off the bench against a really physical Blues side.

“We are expecting the same sort of physical challenge from the Jaguares, who showed last year and last week against the Highlanders that they can perform really well in New Zealand,” he said.

“They also play a really entertaining style of rugby and are prepared to use the ball from anywhere on the field so our defence is going to have to be really good again this week.

“We really want to end this block of five games on a high in front of our fans and head into the bye week in good shape.”

Hurricanes: 15 Jordie Barrett, 14 Wes Goosen, 13 Matt Proctor, 12 Ngani Laumape, 11 Ben Lam, 10 James Marshall, 9 TJ Perenara (c), 8 Ardie Savea, 7 Du’Plessis Kirifi, 6 Vaea Fifita, 5 Isaia Walker-Leawere, 4 James Blackwell, 3 Jeff To’omaga-Allen, 2 Asafo Aumua, 1 Toby Smith
Replacements: 16 Ricky Riccitelli, 17 Chris Eves, 18 Ross Geldenhuys, 19 Kane Le’aupepe, 20 Heiden Bedwell-Curtis, 21 Finlay Christie, 22 Fletcher Smith, 23 Salesi Rayasi

Date: Friday, May 17
Venue: Westpac Stadium
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Brendon Pickerill (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Mike Fraser (New Zealand), Paul Williams (New Zealand)
TMO: Aaron Paterson (New Zealand)

Blues ring the changes for Chiefs clash

Blues head coach Leon MacDonald will has made four changes to his starting lineup for their Super Rugby clash against the Chiefs in Auckland.

MacDonald has retained the bulk of his run-on side with Scott Scrafton moving in to start at lock after an impressive performance against the Hurricanes last weekend.

Other changes include Alex Hodgman coming in at loosehead prop, with All Black Karl Tu’inukuafe set to make his impact off the bench, Jonathan Ruru will start at scrum-half with Sam Nock out injured (finger), and speedster Caleb Clarke will take up his starting position on the right wing replacing the injured Tanielu Tele’a (foot).

Loose forward Dalton Papalii retains the number six jersey after a strong performance last weekend, while the physically imposing Tom Robinson is set to make his return from concussion, off the pine.

MacDonald said there was real intensity to the team’s preparation and strong motivation from the side this week.

“We feel we are really close to achieving the complete performance we’ve been striving for,” he said.

“This team continues to impress me with their heart and determination.

“This weekend, we probably have a little unfinished business here; I know the boys are pretty motivated after last week, and we definitely have a few things we want to revisit with the Chiefs.”

Blues: 15 Melani Nanai, 14 Caleb Clarke, 13 TJ Faiane, 12 Ma’a Nonu, 11 Rieko Ioane, 10 Harry Plummer, 9 Jonathan Ruru, 8 Akira Ioane, 7 Blake Gibson (cc), 6 Dalton Papalii, 5 Scott Scrafton, 4 Patrick Tuipulotu (cc), 3 Ofa Tuungafasi, 2 James Parsons, 1 Alex Hodgman
Replacements: 16 Matt Moulds, 17 Lua Li, 18 Karl Tu’inukuafe, 19 Gerard Cowley-Tuioti, 20 Tom Robinson, 21 Augustine Pulu, 22 Otere Black, 23 Matt Duffie

Date: Saturday, May 18
Venue: Eden Park
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Toomua set for Rebels debut

Star recruit Matt Toomua looks set to play his first game for the Rebels after being named on the bench for their clash against the Bulls at AAMI Park on Friday.

It could be Toomua’s first Super Rugby game since he played 88 games for the Brumbies between 2008-2016.

He will be joined by Sam Jeffries who will return to the side to bolster the forward stocks, finishing off a 5-3 split on the bench.

Meanwhile, loose forwards Richard Hardwick and Rob Leota have been promoted to the side’s starting XV to battle the Bulls at AAMI Park this Friday night.

Hardwick, who came off the bench in last week’s big win over the Reds, has been elevated to the number seven jersey, while Leota will step up to the number eight jersey.

Luke Jones and Isi Naisarani were the two players left out of the side, after both suffered a fractured eye socket and a foot injury respectively in last Friday’s victory over the Reds.

In better news for the team, Quade Cooper has been cleared to play following a nasty incident where the number 10 was concussed by a knee to the head form Reds skipper Samu Kerevi.

Head coach Dave Wessels says Cooper is raring to go against an in-form Bulls side after being cleared by medical professionals.

“He’s fine, he pulled up straight away after the game and was feeling fine, he followed the concussion pathway and passed all of those markers, so he’s feeling good,” Wessels said.

With star forwards Jones and Naisarani ruled out, Wessels has backed in forwards Rob Leota and Richard Hardwick to fill the void against a strong Bulls forward pack.

“We’re lucky we’ve got some depth in the back five of the scrum,” he added. “Rob Leota, obviously everyone knows how well he’s been playing, so it’s great to have him in the mix.

“We’re fortunate to have Dickie (Richard Hardwick) who’s a Wallaby, we’ve missed having a specialist flanker who plays to the ball, so that’s a part of our game that Dickie will really help with.”

Rebels: 15 Dane Haylett-Petty (c), 14 Jack Maddocks, 13 Reece Hodge, 12 Billy Meakes, 11 Marika Koroibete, 10 Quade Cooper, 9 Will Genia, 8 Rob Leota, 7 Richard Hardwick, 6 Angus Cottrell, 5 Matt Philip, 4 Ross Haylett-Petty, 3 Jermaine Ainsley, 2 Anaru Rangi, 1 Tetera Faulkner
Replacements: 16 Hugh Roach, 17 Matt Gibbon, 18 Sam Talakai, 19 Sam Jeffries, 20 Pone Fa’amausili, 21 Michael Ruru, 22 Campbell Magnay, 23 Matt Toomua

Date: Friday, May 17
Venue: AAMI Park
Kick-off: 19:45 local (10:45 BST, 09:45 GMT)
Referee: Federico Anselmi (Argentina)
Assistant referees: Damon Murphy (Australia), Aaron Pook (Australia)
TMO: Ian Smith (Australia)

Cane back in the mix for the Chiefs

Sam Crane is likely to get his first run out for the Chiefs this season after being named on the bench following his recovery from a fractured neck.

Head coach Colin Cooper has named a strong matchday squad to take on the Blues in their Super Rugby derby at Eden Park on Saturday.

Cooper and the team will welcome the return of their co-captain Cane. Cane sustained the neck fracture while on duty for the All Blacks in a Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks in Pretoria last year.

Brad Weber will continue to captain the side from scrum-half.

Angus Ta’avao will start at tighthead in his 100th Super Rugby match, shifting Nepo Laulala to the bench. A new locking combination of Jesse Parete and Mitchell Brown will take the field, with Tyler Ardron back to number eight. Pita Gus Sowakula will start at six in place of Luke Jacobson who sustained a head knock at training.

Again Cooper has named an unchanged back-line from the side that took the field against the Sharks in Hamilton.

Joining Cane on the reserves bench, loosehead prop Aidan Ross returns from his neck injury and Waikato loose forward Mitchell Jacobson will be hoping to make his Super Rugby debut in jersey number 19.

Cooper said: “It is always a great rivalry between us and the Blues. We expect another brutal encounter again this weekend. They have some great attacking ability among their team. We will need to continue to build on our performance against the Sharks.”

Chiefs: 15 Solomon Alaimalo, 14 Sean Wainui, 13 Tumua Manu, 12 Anton Lienert-Brown, 11 Etene Nanai-Seturo, 10 Marty McKenzie, 9 Brad Weber (c), 8 Tyler Ardron, 7 Mitchell Karpik, 6 Pita Gus Sowakula, 5 Mitchell Brown, 4 Jesse Parete, 3 Angus Ta’avao, 2 Nathan Harris, 1 Atu Moli
Replacements: 16 Liam Polwart, 17 Aidan Ross, 18 Nepo Laulala, 19 Mitchell Jacobson, 20 Sam Cane, 21 Te Toiroa Tahuriorangi, 22 Shaun Stevenson, 23 Alex Nankivell

Date: Saturday, May 18
Venue: Eden Park
Kick-off: 19:35 local (08:35 BST, 07:35 GMT)
Referee: Glen Jackson (New Zealand)
Assistant referees: Nick Briant (New Zealand), Dan Waenga (New Zealand)
TMO: Glenn Newman (New Zealand)

Whitelock returns for the Crusaders

The Crusaders welcome back captain Sam Whitelock from injury just in time for their crucial Super Rugby clash against the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

Head coach Scott Robertson has made three changes to the side that ran in seven tries in their 45-13 bonus-point win over the Bulls last Friday.

In the front-row, Joe Moody will be rested this week, allowing a leg wound he sustained against the Bulls, to heal. George Bower will start at loosehead prop and Harry Allan provides cover in the reserves.

Whitelock returns to captain the side from the second-row, having re-joined the squad in Cape Town earlier this week. The final change to the side sees Ethan Blackadder get an opportunity to start on the blindside flank, with Jordan Taufua shifting to the bench.

The Crusaders’ back-line remains unchanged from last weekend’s game, including man-of-the-match Richie Mo’unga at fly-half and right wing Sevu Reece, who ran in three tries against the Bulls.

Crusaders: 15 David Havili, 14 Sevu Reece, 13 Jack Goodhue, 12 Ryan Crotty, 11 George Bridge, 10 Richie Mo’unga, 9 Bryn Hall, 8 Kieran Read, 7 Matt Todd, 6 Ethan Blackadder, 5 Sam Whitelock (c), 4 Scott Barrett, 3 Michael Alaalatoa, 2 Codie Taylor, 1 George Bower
Replacements: 16 Andrew Makalio, 17 Harry Allan, 18 Oliver Jager, 19 Luke Romano, 20 Jordan Taufua, 21 Mitchell Drummond, 22 Mitch Hunt, 23 Braydon Ennor

Date: Saturday, May 18
Venue: Newlands
Kick-off: 17:15 local (16:15 BST, 15:15 GMT)
Referee: Nic Berry (Australia)
Assistant referees: Marius van der Westhuizen (South Africa), AJ Jacobs (South Africa)
TMO: Marius Jonker (South Africa)

Barrett rotated out of Hurricanes outfit

Beauden Barrett is part of two changes head coach John Plumtree has made to the Hurricanes side to face the Jaguares in Wellington on Friday.

The experienced James Marshall will start at fly-half in the absence of Beauden Barrett who is on the second of his All Black rest weeks while Du’Plessis Kirifi will start at openside flanker.

Marshall, who will make his 49th appearance for the Hurricanes, has impressed off the bench after returning from the shoulder injury he suffered in round one and gives the side maturity in a pivotal position.

Kirifi’s inclusion sees Ardie Savea move to number eight with Reed Prinsep unavailable after he suffered a bad cut to his face in the Hurricanes 22-12 win over the Blues last round.

There are four changes to the bench from last week with Heiden Bedwell-Curtis providing loose forward cover, prop Chris Eves replaces an injured Fraser Armstrong while Fletcher Smith and Salesi Rayasi come into the match-day squad.

Plumtree was impressed with the overall work of the whole squad at Eden Park and the impact they got off the bench against a really physical Blues side.

“We are expecting the same sort of physical challenge from the Jaguares, who showed last year and last week against the Highlanders that they can perform really well in New Zealand,” he said.

“They also play a really entertaining style of rugby and are prepared to use the ball from anywhere on the field so our defence is going to have to be really good again this week.

“We really want to end this block of five games on a high in front of our fans and head into the bye week in good shape.”

RG Snyman to join Honda Heat

Springbok lock RG Snyman is the latest Bulls player to be confirmed as leaving the club after penning a deal with Japanese club Honda Heat.

While Snyman will miss the 2020 Super Rugby season, the three-times Super Rugby winners are expecting him to return in 2021.

"We're confident that RG will return in 2021," Bulls CEO Alfons Meyer told Netwerk24.

It follows in the footsteps of the announcements of the departures of Handre Pollard (Montpellier), Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks), Jason Jenkins (Canon Eagles) and Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles).

Morne Steyn rejoins Bulls

The Bulls have confirmed that former Springbok fly-half Morne Steyn will rejoin the Pretoria-based club after a six-year stint with Stade Francais.

The three-time Super Rugby winners have drafted Steyn in as a replacement for Springbok fly-half Handre Pollard, who is joining French Top 14 side Montpellier.

According to Netwerk24, Steyn has penned a two-year contract with his former team. The 34-year-old made over 100 appearances for Stade Francais since joining the Parisians in 2013.

New Bulls CEO Alfons Meyer said: "Even Rassie (Erasmus, Springbok coach) thinks it's a good acquisition. With Handre going to France, it means Manie Libbok is the only flyhalf remaining in our group.

"Morne is very experienced and he can be a very good mentor for Manie."

Steyn played 124 matches for the Bulls between 2008 and 2013 and also represented the Springboks in 66 Tests between 2009 and 2016.

Du Preez twins to join Sale Sharks on loan

Jean-Luc and Dan du Preez will be joining Sale Sharks on loan deals next season before coming back to South Africa for the 2020 Super Rugby campaign.

The 23-year old Du Preez twins will follow their brother Rob to Manchester for the start of the 2019/20 Premiership campaign, before returning to play for the Sharks in the 2020 Super Rugby tournament.

Sale Sharks supporters will be familiar with Jean-Luc after an impressive spell with the club earlier this season. The back-rower joined the Sharks in November as cover for Tom Curry who was injured during the November internationals. He made an instant impact in Manchester adding his huge physicality to the Sharks pack, making six appearances in total for the club scoring one try before returning to Durban in January.

Both twins made their first-team debuts for the Sharks in 2015 and have since gone on to make over 60 appearances each for the Durban-based franchise.

The powerful back-rowers have both also represented the Springboks at senior level and offer an immense physical presence on the international stage too. Jean-Luc has been capped 23 times by his country whilst Daniel has made four appearances to date.

Sale Sharks director of rugby Steve Diamond was especially pleased to secure the services of both twins for the 2019/20 season and believes they will have an instant impact within the Premiership.

“I am delighted to secure the services of both Jean-Luc and Daniel ahead of the 19/20 Gallagher Premiership, Both lads are huge men with a commanding physical presence and to be able to add two world class internationals to our forward pack for next year is a huge boost for the club. I look forward to welcoming both twins to Carrington later in the year,” he said.

Jean-Luc admitted he couldn’t wait to return to the UK along with brother Rob at the club.

“I’m really excited and honoured to announce that I will be joining Sale Sharks again,” he said. “I really enjoyed my short stint with the club late last year, so much so that I have decided to sign another short-term contract in the UK. The club has set really high standards and the squad that has been built is really exciting and signals the clubs intent within the Gallagher Premiership. In the meantime, I am fully committed to the Cell-C Sharks and want to finish the season on a high before I head over to the UK for the winter.”

Twin brother Dan added: “I’ve heard some really good things about the club from Rob and Jean-Luc and can’t wait to link up with Sale in the winter and play some rugby in the Gallagher Premiership with my brothers. I’m excited about the new challenge ahead in Manchester and can’t wait to test myself in one of the toughest leagues in the world.”

Rebels ready to welcome Toomua into the fray

Matt Toomua looks set to make his debut for the Rebels following an injury to fly-half Quade Cooper.

Toomua has arrived in Melbourne from England and is set to train with his new team-mates later on Monday ahead of their Friday clash against the Bulls.

The inside back was originally expected to return to Australia after his Premiership season with Leicester finished on May 18.

While that would have put him in the frame for a Super Rugby return against the Sunwolves, the plan was to put a week of training under his belt with his debut likely to come a week later against the Waratahs in Melbourne.

With Cooper suffering a head knock in the 54th minute against the Reds at the weekend, that equation changed.

Cooper could yet play in Friday’s match against the Bulls at AAMI Park with the fly-half still going through his concussion protocols but Toomua’s return gives the Rebels the luxury of an extra playmaking option.

In the wake of Cooper’s concussion, it is believed the Rebels went back to Leicester to request a release and this time the Tigers were open to the idea, letting him return to Australia a week early.

In England, the Tigers are 10 points clear of the relegation zone with one regular round to go, ensuring they will play top level rugby next year.

With the side well out of finals contention, there is little on the line for the team apart from pride in the final regular fixture.

Rebels coach Dave Wessels said on Friday that Toomua’s impending addition would take some of the toll off Cooper, who had played virtually every minute of the season before Friday’s Reds clash.

Reece Hodge stepped into the prime playmaking spot when Cooper exited on Friday and was strong in a 30-24 win but 10 is not his first-choice spot.

Toomua’s early return could also be a boost for Australia, with the back available to take part in next weekend’s Wallabies camp in Brisbane ahead of September’s Rugby World Cup.

Though his form has been inconsistent in England this season, his ability as a 10 and 12 makes him a valuable commodity for the national outfit.

Cooper is one of just two big-name injury concerns for the Rebels this week.

Lock Adam Coleman is battling with a shoulder injury that has kept him out for the past fortnight while hooker Jordan Uelese made a successful return to club rugby last weekend and could play for a second-string Rebels team against the Japan A Wolfpack this weekend.