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British & Irish Lions

3 players on Springbok debut against Georgia

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(Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

Rosko Specman, Aphelele Fassi and Jasper Wiese are in line to make their Springbok debuts on Friday when the Rugby World Cup champions line up against Georgia at Loftus Versfeld in the team’s first Test since lifting the Webb Ellis Cup in November 2019.

Toyota Cheetahs speedster Specman – who is no stranger to international rugby with an Olympic Games bronze medal and numerous Blitzbok tournament successes to his name – will start on the right wing, while Fassi, who has been in hot form for the Cell C Sharks, has been named on the left wing.

Wiese, a former star for the Toyota Cheetahs who has since moved to the Leicester Tigers, has been included on the bench and will earn his first Test cap should he take the field.

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber, who will guide the Springboks in his first Test as head coach, named 18 Rugby World Cup winners in his matchday squad – 12 of whom featured in their 32-12 final triumph against England.

Six of these 12 players will start against Georgia. They are Bok captain Siya Kolisi and his loose forward partner Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth (lock), Bongi Mbonambi (hooker), Willie le Roux (fullback) and Handré Pollard (flyhalf).

Springbok captain Siya Kolisi shares some tips with the uncalled Aphelele Fassi at a training session.

The other players who featured in the grand finale of the international extravaganza are Frans Steyn (centre), Franco Mostert (lock), Malcolm Marx (hooker), Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (both props) and Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf).

Kolisi will earn his 51st Test cap after striking his half century in the RWC final, while Pollard, Kitshoff and Kriel will all take a step closer to reaching the significant career milestone of 50 caps. Pollard will earn his 49th Test cap and Kriel his 47th, while Kitshoff will earn his 48th cap if he takes the field.

“We have selected the best team with an eye on what we would like to achieve in this Test against Georgia and we believe that we have a good balance with a number of experienced campaigners and a few young players who have made a strong statement this season,” said Nienaber.

“Most of the players in this squad are Rugby World Cup winners, while others have been part of the national squad for a few seasons, and this will be invaluable against a team that boast the passion that Georgia exhibit.

“We are also excited to see what the uncapped players bring to the table after impressive performances for their franchises in the last few seasons. Each one of them has proved that they deserve an opportunity at this level, and the commitment and enthusiasm they displayed at training has been striking.”

Nienaber was excited to return to the field after a 19-month absence from international rugby and said the physical challenge they would face against Georgia was exactly what they needed to prepare themselves mentally and physically as they look forward to the Castle Lager Lions Series.

The uncapped Jasper Wiese is in line to make his Bok debut off the bench on Friday.

“We are expecting Georgia to come out guns blazing with their passionate and physical rugby, so we need to find our rhythm early on and build up a good 80-minute performance,” said Nienaber.

“We know how big this challenge will be, but it is vital that we build a solid foundation in the next two Tests in order to refine our skill set, match readiness and ability to perform under pressure.”

Springbok team to face Georgia at Loftus Versfeld:

  1. Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 61 caps, 60 pts (12 t)
  2. Rosko Specman (Toyota Cheetahs) – uncapped
  3. Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles) – 46 caps, 60 pts (12t)
  4. Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 67 caps, 141 pts (11t, 7c, 21p, 3d)
  5. Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks) – uncapped
  6. Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 48 caps, 457 pts (6t, 74c, 89p, 4d)
  7. Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 14 caps, 30 pts (6t)
  8. Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 6 caps, 0 pts
  9. Pieter-Steph du Toit (DHL Stormers) – 55 caps, 25 pts (5t)
  10. Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 50 caps, 30 pts (6t)
  11. Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 39 caps, 5 pts (1t)
  12. Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 85 caps, 15 pts (3t)
  13. Trevor Nyakane (Vodacom Bulls) – 42 caps, 5 pts (1t)
  14. Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 36 caps, 35 pts (7t)
  15. Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 1 cap, 0 pts

Replacements

  1. Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 33 caps, 25 pts (5t)
  2. Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers – 47 caps, 5 pts (1t)
  3. Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers – 38 caps, 5 pts (1t)
  4. Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) – 3 caps, 0 pts
  5. Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – uncapped
  6. Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 10 caps, 20 pts (4t)
  7. Elton Jantjies (Pau) – 37 caps, 281 pts (2t, 62c, 49p)
  8. Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 6 caps, 5 pts (1t)

Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber.

Facts and Stats

  • It will be the Georgians’ first trip to South Africa to face the Springboks.
  • This match marks the second time these two nations meet – the first was in their pool match at the 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia, which the Springboks won 46-19.
  • Frans Steyn requires nine more points to reach the milestone of 150 Test points.
  • Elton Jantjies is one penalty goal short of his 50th for the Springboks – and should he achieve this feat, he will match Naas Botha in fifth place for the most career penalty goals.

Head to head v Georgia

Played: 1, Won: 1; Points for: 46; Points against: 19; Tries for: 7; Tries against: 1; Win%: 100%

Miscellaneous

  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
  • There are 236 caps in the backline with 314 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 174
  • The average caps per player in the backline are 33, the forwards 39 while the players on the bench average 21.

Match officials

  • The referee is Mike Adamson of Scotland. This will be his first Test as a referee of a match involving South Africa and his second career Test match.
  • The assistant referees are Wayne Barnes of England and Marius van der Westhuizen of South Africa. Marius Jonker of South Africa is the TMO.

Source – South Africa Rugby


British & Irish Lions

Tributes pour in for late Lions legend Doddie Weir

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #670 and MND campaigner Doddie Weir who has died aged 52.

Weir was called up to the 1997 Lions squad to South Africa and although his tour was cut short due to a nasty injury sustained against Mpumalanga Province, he still described it as one of the greatest experiences of his career.

The second row played 61 times for Scotland, scoring four tries, including two against New Zealand in the 1995 Rugby World Cup quarter-final, making him the only Scottish player in history to score twice against the All Blacks.

He was a club legend at both Newcastle Falcons and Border Reivers, starring in the Falcons side that won the Premiership title in 1998.

In 2017, Weir was diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease, and became one of the most vocal and prominent campaigners in the world – setting up his charity My Name’5 Doddie Foundation, which has raised more than £5 million since being launched.

Tributes have poured in to honour a true legend of the game both on the pitch and off it, with fellow British & Irish Lion and legendary commentator Brian Moore calling Weir an “outstanding man”.

Weir’s impact on Scottish rugby cannot be overstated and another of the nation’s rugby legends and a former teammate of Weir’s Scott Hastings called him “the most lovable man in the world”.

He has been such an inspiration since his diagnosis, raising both significant funds and also the profile of MND and that has led to him becoming a true national hero, with Scottish footballing icon Sir Kenny Dalglish praising him for his fight against the disease.

The news came during England’s match with South Africa at Twickenham, and when the announcement was made, the whole crowd rose to their feet for a round of applause to show their respects.

Former England captain Dylan Hartley and South African World Cup winner Bryan Habana spoke of Weir’s legacy both in and out of the sport.

Habana said: “He embodied everything the game stands for in terms of respect, charisma, spirit in which the game is played and the humour with which he embraced fellow teammates.

“What he brought to the game of rugby, he was a phenomenal player and what he has done in the last decade with a disease that would have seen a lot of people die a lot earlier, and how much money he has raised.

“Even with the struggles, to be able to walk two or three kilometres, just to be able to show to the world, the character he has.

“To his family, his loved ones, the deepest respect for someone who really lit up this world and made it a better place.”

The tributes kept pouring in, from presenter Gabby Logan – who last year appeared on TV show Who Wants to be a Millionaire to raise money for the foundation, to cycling great Sir Chris Hoy.

Outside the world of sport, author and Scotland fan JK Rowling paid her respects, as did the Prince and Princess of Wales.

Leeds Rhinos great and Leicester Tigers assistant coach Kevin Sinfield, who recently completed seven back-to-back ultra marathons, starting at BT Murrayfield where Weir presented the match ball for Scotland v New Zealand, released a statement.

He said: “Today is a deeply sad day for everyone who knew Doddie but especially his family, who are at the forefront of our thoughts.

“Doddie was a giant as a player but his campaigning following his MND diagnosis made him a colossus.

“When Bryan Redpath first put me in touch with Doddie to speak to Rob Burrow following Rob’s own diagnosis, he immediately said yes without hesitation. The sight of 5’4” Rob and 6’6” Doddie was something that will live with all of us and probably bonded the duo with the great humour they shared.

“Doddie was able to give Rob the greatest gift of hope that night. He has been like a big brother to all of us since that day.

“I know, on behalf of the whole Ultra 7 in 7 team, it was our ultimate honour that Doddie was at Murrayfield just two weeks ago when we set off on our fundraising challenge.

“With his trademark smile, he insisted that he wanted to be there with his new pink trainers on! The fact that a proportion of the money raised from the Ultra 7 in 7 will go to the Foundation set up by Doddie has particular poignancy as we look to continue his legacy on in the years ahead.

“I am honoured to have been able to call Doddie my friend and I know his spirit lives on in all of us who knew him. He will always be a champion.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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British & Irish Lions

Lions and Scotland great Doddie Weir dies aged 52

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Scotland and British & Irish Lions great Doddie Weir has passed away at the age of 52 after a long battle with motor neurone disease.

One of his country’s all-time greats, Weir won 61 caps for Scotland and was selected for the 1997 Lions Tour of South Africa.

His Tour was cut short by a serious knee injury suffered while playing against Mpumalanga Province, but despite returning home prior to the Tests – with the Lions beating the world champions 2-1, Weir singled out that experience as one of the best of his career.

Weir was diagnosed with motor neurone disease in 2017, with his charity, the My Name’5 Doddie Foundation having raised more than £5 million pounds since being launched.

A statement from the Weir family said: “It is with great sadness that we announced the death of our beloved husband and father, Doddie.

“Doddie was an inspirational force of nature. His unending energy and drive, his strength of character powered him through his rugby and business careers and, we believe, enabled him to fight the effects of MND for so many years.

“Doddie put the same energy and even more love and fun into our lives together, he was a true family man. Whether working together on the farm, on holiday, or celebrating occasions with wider family and friends, Doddie was always in the thick of it. We are lucky to have shared our lives with him and we cherish all those memories: his love and warmth, his support and advice, his quick wit and his terrible jokes. It is difficult to put into words how much we will miss him.

“MND took so much from Doddie, but never his spirit and determination. He battled MND so bravely and whilst his own battle may be over, his fight continues through his foundation, until a cure is found for all those with this devastating disease.”

Weir made his Scotland debut in 1990 and was a mainstay of the side for much of the decade, making his final appearance in the 2000 Six Nations against France.

Instantly recognisable for his galloping gait, the great Bill McLaren once described Weir as “on the charge like a mad giraffe.”

As incredible as Weir’s exploits were during his career, what he has done since has arguably been even greater.

After being diagnosed with MND, Weir set up a foundation to raise funds for research into a cure for MND and to provide grants to people living with the condition.

And in the five years since, it has raised more than £5 million for that objective, and will continue to fund research into a cure.

All those at the British & Irish Lions offer their condolences to the Weir family.

Source – British & Irish Lions


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British & Irish Lions

Tributes pour in for Lion and rugby legend Eddie Butler

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Tributes have been paid to British & Irish Lion #601 and iconic broadcaster Eddie Butler, who has died aged 65.

Butler was called up to The British and Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 1983, replacing Jeff Squire, and made one appearance.

The No.8 played 16 times for Wales and captained them on six occasions, scoring two tries.

He was a legend at his club side Pontypool, captaining the team between 1982 and 1985, and, after retiring from rugby, he carved out a remarkable career in journalism, broadcasting and commentary.

Tributes have already started pouring in to honour a great of the game, with World Rugby chairman Sir Bill Beaumont calling Butler one of the finest commentators of his time.

After beginning his journalism career with the Sunday Correspondent in 1988, Butler began writing for The Observer in 1991.

He joined BBC Wales in 1990, starting his commentary career alongside Bill McLaren before becoming the lead BBC rugby commentator.

His partnership with former Lions and England hooker Brian Moore received widespread acclaim and his commentary partner tweeted that he admired Butler as a broadcaster and as a man.

Butler’s montage-accompanying prose was the backdrop not only to sporting events but to some of the biggest news stories of the last two decades.

The final one he made marked the death of Queen Elizabeth II.

He commentated on Olympic sports, as well as the Invictus Games, and also put his voice to montages for the BBC’s NFL highlights programmes. He also published three novels and two non-fiction books.

Two-time Tour captain and fellow broadcaster Sam Warburton said: “Stunned at the news and passing of Eddie Butler. Thoughts with his family.

“What an amazing contribution to rugby and broadcasting. A privilege to have played and co-commentated with his voice.”

Scott Quinnell, who toured with the Lions in 1997 and 2001, said: “Absolutely devastated to hear the news. Eddie was such a wonderful man. Always loved our chats especially over a pint. Love and thoughts to Sue and the family.”

Source – British & Irish Lions


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