Category Archive: South Africa Rugby

South Africa Rugby News

Feb 06

Joost van der Westhuizen obituary

One of rugby’s greatest scrum-halves who played a vital role in the historic 1995 World Cup final against the All Blacks

The 1995 World Cup final was the most momentous game in the history of rugby union, the match that helped unite Nelson Mandela’s new South Africa. At the heart of the Springboks’ 15-12 victory over the side many consider to be the greatest ever New Zealand team was the scrum-half Joost van der Westhuizen. Van der Westhuizen is perhaps second only to Wales’s Gareth Edwards in the pantheon of leading scrum-halves.

Van der Westhuizen, who has died of motor neurone disease aged 45, gave the pass that June day in Johannesburg for Joel Stransky to kick his winning drop-goal in extra time. But it was his tackle on the fearsome Jonah Lomu, who was in full flight, that sticks in the memory and at the game’s final scrum close to the All Blacks’ try-line it was Van der Westhuizen who was helping push the New Zealand pack backwards as the seconds ticked away.

Related: Joost van der Westhuizen will be remembered for inspirational spirit and dignity | Robert Kitson

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/06/joost-van-der-westhuizen-obituary

Feb 06

Joost van der Westhuizen will be remembered for inspirational spirit and dignity | Robert Kitson

South Africa’s World Cup-winner ranked among the finest scrum-halves the rugby world has seen, but the bravery he displayed in his fight against motor neurone disease was more inspiring still

Among the most iconic pictures in South African sport is an image of the hulking Jonah Lomu being tackled by the Springbok No9 Joost van der Westhuizen at a crucial juncture in the 1995 Rugby World Cup final. Two great players in their prime, then aged 20 and 24 respectively. Both, tragically, have now passed on within the past 15 months. Even athletic immortals do not earn immunity from real life’s sting.

Perhaps the ultimate tribute, however, is that both men will be remembered worldwide as much for the spirit and dignity they ended up showing off the field as what they achieved on it. Van der Westhuizen, who has died aged 45, ranked among the finest scrum-halves the rugby world has seen but the bravery he displayed in his subsequent fight against the ravages of motor neurone disease was more inspiring still.

Related: Joost van der Westhuizen, South Africa rugby great, dies aged 45

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/06/joost-van-der-westhuizen-died-south-africa-rugby-union

Feb 06

Joost van der Westhuizen, South Africa rugby great, dies aged 45

• World Cup-winning scrum half had motor neurone disease since 2011
• Van der Westhuizen was admitted to hospital on Saturday

Joost van der Westhuizen, the South African Rugby World Cup winner, has died aged 45. The former scrum-half had been living with motor neurone disease since 2011 and was admitted to a Johannesburg hospital on Saturday morning.

The J9 Foundation, the charity founded by Van der Westhuizen in 2012, confirmed that he had died at home, saying in a statement: “It is with great sadness that we confirm the passing of Joost. He passed away in his home surrounded by his loved ones. He will be sorely missed.”

Related: Joost van der Westhuizen will be remembered for inspirational spirit and dignity | Robert Kitson

RIP Joost van der Westhuizen. An incredible player and fighter to the end. The first of the new age 9’s.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2017/feb/06/joost-van-der-westhuizen-south-africa-rugby-great-dies

Dec 11

England seal Cape Town sevens after South Africa miss final-kick conversion

• England win 19-17 in final of second round of World Rugby Sevens Series
• Australia’s disappointing weekend ends with ‘consolation’ loss to Argentina

England beat South Africa 19-17 in Cape Town to win the second round of the 2016-17 World Rugby Sevens Series after Justin Geduld missed a conversion for the hosts with the last kick of the final.

Chris Dry got the Blitzboks off to a flyer, finishing off a fine move from halfway to touch down in the corner. Branco du Preez missed the conversion. England hit back through Richard de Carpentier, who covered half the pitch to score under the posts. Tom Mitchell’s conversion gave England a 7-5 lead.

Related: Global contract negotiator Michael Cheika remains key to Wallabies recovery | Rajiv Maharaj

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/dec/11/england-sevens-south-africa-australia-cape-town

Nov 27

Wales’ flawed win leaves South Africa’s Allister Coetzee carrying the can

• Wales 27-13 South Africa
• Springboks coach will almost certainly be sacked in December

The last time South Africa lost all their autumn Tests they at least went down swinging. A 50-point defeat by England in 2002 was brutal, nasty even, and left Clive Woodward irate at the injuries incurred by the Springboks’ strong-arm tactics. Today it is only the Springboks licking their wounds.

A record eighth defeat in a calendar year, and only the third in 110 years by Wales, has proved the final straw and the South African Rugby Union has promised root-and-branch reform. Allister Coetzee looks likely to lose his job after he reports to his employers in mid-December but to suggest the buck stops with him is risible. Political interference – it was the sports minister who labelled the Springboks “a bunch of losers” after the defeat by Japan last year – outdated domestic infrastructure and the ever increasing player drain renders this South Africa’s lowest ebb.

Related: Wales and Tipuric boost Howley to leave South Africa and Coetzee gloomy

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/27/wales-win-south-africa-allister-coetzee

Nov 26

Wales and Tipuric boost Howley to leave South Africa and Coetzee gloomy

• Wales 27-13 South Africa
• Ken Owens and Justin Tipuric score home side’s tries

It may go some way to earning Rob Howley the job permanently, but this was a victory for Wales straight out of the Warren Gatland playbook. All power and physicality, putting concerns of a lack of Welsh wizardry to one side, they fully warranted this comfortable win, albeit against a South Africa who continue to plumb new depths.

Ken Owens and the excellent Justin Tipuric scored the tries, but Leigh Halfpenny was metronomic from the tee and a youthful South Africa so redundant throughout. It was not plain sailing for Wales – it never is these days – but it was their best performance of the autumn.

Related: Keith Earls seals Ireland win over Australia to complete big-three sweep

Related: England and Owen Farrell dig deep to win 14-man battle with Argentina

Related: Stuart Hogg stars with two tries as rampant Scotland see off Georgia

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/26/wales-south-africa-autumn-internationals-match-report

Nov 25

Embattled Wales and South Africa coaches seek a pick-me-up | Paul Rees

Both Robert Howley and Allister Coetzee have tried to move with the zeitgeist and change their teams’ structured style this year, but are facing significant pressure and media scorn

Robert Howley and Allister Coetzee are head coaches for whom victory at the Principality Stadium on Saturday afternoon may not be enough at the end of a year when they have tried to change the way their sides play and add a splash of colour. The result has been like an explosion in a paint factory, the muddle, rather than the middle, way.

They could be forgiven for feeling, in PG Wodehouse’s words, like a man who, chasing rainbows, has had one of them suddenly turn and bite him in the leg. Wales and South Africa have in recent years been exponents of structured rugby, preferring to impose themselves physically rather than take risks, but the zeitgeist now is a faster, more fluid game, playing to win rather than not to lose.

Related: Rugby union autumn internationals: 10 things to look forward to this weekend

Related: Gus Pichot: ‘The Fiji v England game wasn’t very good for rugby … it’s unfair’

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/25/wales-south-africa-springboks-howley-coetzee-

Nov 24

South Africa go all in on youth policy for Test against Wales

• Allister Coetzee selects Springboks side with 260 caps between them
• ‘We are seeking revival, not redemption,’ says coach after Italy defeat

At the end of what he described as a terrible year, the South Africa coach, Allister Coetzee, has chosen the rawest Springboks side in the professional era for Saturday’s Test against Wales rather than rely on experience to secure the victory some believe he needs to keep his job.

The back division have a total of 40 caps, a figure reached by five of Wales’s backs, with the three-quarters sharing eight. There are three new caps and seven changes from the side who lost to Italy last Saturday. The front-rowers Tendai Mtawarira and Adriaan Strauss, the South Africa captain who is making his final international appearance, have more caps between them than their 13 team-mates combined.

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/24/south-africa-youth-policy-wales-autumn-international

Nov 23

Wales to pit Taulupe Faletau against South Africa after 55-minute comeback

• Bath No8 has made one brief appearance since September
• ‘Toby looks like he hasn’t been out,’ says Wales’ Neil Jenkins

Taulupe Faletau is in line to make a Test return, despite playing less than an hour of competitive rugby in 12 weeks. The Bath No8 is on course to be involved when Wales complete their autumn series against South Africa on Saturday.

Faletau suffered a knee injury on his Bath debut against Northampton in early September. He was sidelined until last Friday’s match with Bristol – when he played for 55 minutes – and missed Wales’s matches against Australia, Argentina and Japan.

Related: Coach Allister Coetzee hopes defeat by Italy will galvanise South African rugby

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/23/taulupe-faletau-wales-south-africa-rugby

Nov 22

Rugby’s disciplinary mess deepens as body count rises and grey areas grow | Robert Kitson

Rugby is now cleaner but no safer and as New Zealand’s brutal, bruising clash with Ireland – and the citings that followed – showed, something must change

Playing rugby is always going to hurt. That is why some people play it, just as boxers, racing drivers and mountaineers take their own calculated risks. The tricky bit comes when it is not your misjudgment that causes serious injury but someone else’s. At that point people rightly start asking hard questions and the blurred lines of contact sport have to be re‑examined.

New Zealand’s massively physical game against Ireland in Dublin has generated just such a debate. It was inevitably going to be intense, given the All Blacks’ reputation was on the line. As their coach, Steve Hansen, said: “It wasn’t pretty but it never is when you have to win.” Note the word “have”. There was simply no way the visitors could be beaten by Ireland twice within a fortnight. The Irish had also developed a taste for famous victories. Blood was liable to be spilt either way.

Related: Rugby union autumn internationals: talking points from the latest action

Related: England hint at attacking riches to rival pomp of Woodward era in defeat of Fiji

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/nov/22/new-zealand-ireland-rugby-discipline-citing-brutal

Nov 21

Coach Allister Coetzee hopes defeat by Italy will galvanise South African rugby

• Springboks dropped out of top four of rankings for first time in 10 years
• ‘Wales is the biggest game of my life,’ says retiring captain Adriaan Strauss

On the day that South Africa dropped out of the top four of the world rankings for the first time in 10 years following their defeat against Italy in Florence on Saturday the Springboks head coach, Allister Coetzee, called on everyone involved in the game in the republic to work together, shake it up and stop papering over cracks.

Coetzee, who succeeded Heyneke Meyer this year, will face calls for his sacking when he returns home, regardless of the result against Wales in Cardiff on Saturday. The experience of the Welsh from the end of the 1980s, when they kept sacking coaches and results became even worse as they ignored structural decay, suggests caution.

Related: Italy celebrate famous first win over sorry South Africa

Related: Rugby union autumn internationals: talking points from the latest action

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/21/south-africa-rugby-wales-italy-allister-coetzee

Nov 20

Ireland nurse wounds after New Zealand prevail in bruising encounter

• Ireland 9-21 New Zealand
• World Rugby have questions to answer following catalogue of injuries

Those eagerly awaiting this match, which was anyone in the world with a passing interest in rugby, were not to be disappointed but the repercussions of a ferocious contest are likely to be felt for some time. Most immediately, there is the injury count. Ireland came off worse, with Johnny Sexton and Robbie Henshaw almost certainly out of the match against Australia on Saturday. CJ Stander and Rob Kearney are further doubts, while New Zealand will most likely be without Sam Cane and Ben Smith for the final date of their tour, against the French in Paris.

Cane’s ankle was twisted in a ruck; Sexton’s hamstring (not the one he has had so much trouble with) gave out; Henshaw and Stander went off, the former on a stretcher, for head injury assessments and never returned. That was all by the 25-minute mark. Smith was later withdrawn with a broken finger that punctured the skin, and Kearney was another to have his head assessed.

Related: Malakai Fekitoa ensures All Blacks get their revenge against Ireland

Related: Ireland 9-21 New Zealand: rugby union autumn internationals – as it happened

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/20/ireland-new-zealand-match-report-autumn-internationals-rugby-union

Nov 19

Italy celebrate famous first win over sorry South Africa

• Italy 20-18 South Africa

Italy claimed their first victory over South Africa on Saturday, beating the demoralised southern-hemisphere giants 20-18 in Florence.

A delirious home crowd gave their team, ranked 13th in the world, a standing ovation after the match as the visitors – ranked fourth – formed a lonely huddle in the middle of the field, reminiscent of their shock loss against Japan in last year’s World Cup.

Related: England v Fiji: rugby union autumn internationals – live!

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/19/italy-beat-south-africa-first-time

Nov 18

Rugby union autumn internationals: what to look forward to this weekend

Fijians are on display for and against England, Ireland are looking to make history (again), Scotland have a Six Nations point to prove and Emily Scarratt returns

With Billy Vunipola declared fit to start against Fiji, it is little surprise that Eddie Jones delayed naming his starting XV by 24 hours. Leaving the Wales match – the day after the Premiership final – aside, Vunipola has started in every game under Jones and while he is not the only player to do so, he is the most important. A leaner, meaner Vunipola, making carries in areas that hurt the opposition, has been the bedrock of Jones’s side and without him England would have needed to find other means of breaking the gain line. His selection though means there is just one change in the pack and another chance for Teimana Harrison to stake his claim as England’s No7 while behind the scrum, perhaps more by circumstance than design, Jones’s lineup genuinely excites. Elliot Daly’s selection on the wing does not hurt England’s firepower and with Alex Goode at full-back, facing the side against whom he dazzled on his first home start four years ago, the hosts should have the capacity to play with real swagger. The concern, with two fly-halves already on the pitch, is that – much like in the first half against Uruguay last year – England look to throw the ball around from the outset and are not direct enough. It is hard however, to see Jones, who has been at pains to point out that he does not want his side to take Fiji on at their own game, allowing that to happen.

Related: England’s Billy Vunipola passed fit to start Test against Fiji

Related: New Zealand coach Steve Hansen insists All Blacks are underdogs in Dublin

Related: New Zealand’s Steve Tew: ‘We will not change our culture overnight’

Related: Katy Mclean and Emily Scarratt to start for England against New Zealand

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/blog/2016/nov/18/rugby-union-autumn-internationals-england-fiji-ireland-all-blacks

Nov 17

Player exodus threatens international rugby and European unions | The Breakdown

Talks over a global calendar are all very well, but the international game is being undermined by clubs, mainly in the Top 14, taking advantage of its instability

Brighton is an unlikely setting for a rugby revolution, but Japan’s 34-32 victory against South Africa there in the World Cup last year showed how the old order was changing. There had been shocks before, not least Western Samoa beating Wales in Cardiff in 1991, but the toppling of the Springboks, twice winners of the tournament and who had never before lost to a tier two nation, brought a giant crashing to the ground.

Related: From Tonga to Twickenham: Mako and Billy Vunipola’s incredible journey | Andy Bull

Related: Rugby union’s rewards have never been higher but risks have never been greater

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/17/europe-south-africa-slide-australia-international-rugby-union-reckoning

Nov 15

Tier-two nations closing gap on top countries, says Wales’ Luke Charteris

• Wales play Japan in Cardiff on Saturday
• ‘We know it will be tough against Japan, with their high tempo’

A tour of Europe by the southern hemisphere superpowers often generates talk of the gap between north and south, but with this month’s score 3-2 in favour of the four home unions the Wales lock Luke Charteris believes the debate has changed.

There are gaps in the southern hemisphere,” the Bath second-row said. “New Zealand are significantly ahead of South Africa and Australia and the task for the rest of the world is to catch them up. Ireland have shown that beating New Zealand is doable and the more you play these teams, the more confident and better you get.”

Related: Japan beat South Africa in greatest Rugby World Cup shock ever

Related: Wales ring changes and end woeful run with narrow win over Argentina

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Permanent link to this article: https://www.theguardian.com/sport/2016/nov/15/wales-luke-charteris-tier-two-nations-closing-gap-japan