Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber was forced to make a late change to his team for their opening Castle Lager Rugby Championship Test against the Wallabies in Pretoria on Saturday with prop Steven Kitshoff replacing Ox Nche, who suffered an injury to his pectoral muscle on Tuesday.
Nche is expected to be out of action for several weeks, which has ruled him out of the southern hemisphere showpiece.
As a result, Kitshoff was withdrawn at the last minute on Tuesday from the early travelling squad to Auckland for next week’s clash against the All Blacks and drafted directly into the starting line-up for the Wallabies encounter at Loftus Versfeld.
Former Junior Springbok prop Gerhard Steenekamp has been drafted into the national squad, and had his first training session with the team on Wednesday. The talented 26-year-old will travel to New Zealand on Wednesday night to train with the players who departed on Tuesday.
Experienced prop Trevor Nyakane is also training with the squad in Pretoria and will continue to serve as back-up cover with Elton Jantjies (flyhalf) and Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) for the Australia Test.
“It’s never ideal to lose a player to injury days before an important Test match, but unfortunately it’s part of the game,” said Nienaber.
“We are particularly sad for Ox because he’s been working very hard in the last few months and making a great contribution on and off the field. We wish him a speedy recovery.”
Nienaber added: “On the upside we have players like Steven and Trevor to fall back on, and with both players having been with us in Pretoria for the last three-and-a-half weeks, it’s an easy switch for this match.
“We’ve always emphasised the importance of being adaptable as a team and that will be particularly important this season with the Castle Lager Rugby Championship, World Cup warm-up games and the global showpiece itself coming up.
“We are fortunate to have such depth at our disposal. We’ve been tracking between 50 and 60 players in the last few seasons with an eye on the World Cup, so we know what talent we have at our disposal.
“This will also be a fantastic opportunity for Gerhard to experience our systems and to be in the national set-up. He’s been impressive for the Vodacom Bulls this season and he’s a former Junior Springbok, so we are excited to see what he has to offer at training.
Springbok team to face Australia in Pretoria:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 83 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) – 4 caps, 5 pts (1t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 31 caps, 30 pts (6t)
12 – Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins) – 11 caps, 0 pts
11 – Kurt-Lee Arendse (Vodacom Bulls) – 7 caps, 35 pts (7t)
10 – Manie Libbok (DHL Stormers) – 3 caps, 10 pts (5c)
9 – Cobus Reinach (Montpellier) – 24 caps, 45 pts (9t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (captain, Ulster) – 65 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz) – 66 caps, 25 pts (5t)
6 – Marco van Staden (Vodacom Bulls) – 10 caps, 0 pts
5 – Marvin Orie (DHL Stormers) – 11 caps, 0 pts
4 – Jean Kleyn (Munster) – uncapped for SA (Ireland 5 caps)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 58 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (Cell C Sharks) – 56 caps, 60 pts (12t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 71 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Joseph Dweba (DHL Stormers) – 4 caps, 0 pts
17 – Thomas du Toit (Cell C Sharks) – 15 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Stade Francais) – 41 caps, 0 pts
19 – RG Snyman (Munster) – 23 caps, 5 pts (1t)
20 – Evan Roos (DHL Stormers) – 3 caps, 0 pts
21 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 5 caps, 0 pts
22 – Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks) – 1 cap, 0 pts
23 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 27 caps, 36 pts (2t, 4c, 4p, 2d)
Munster Confirm Three New Signings
Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to confirm the signing of Oli Jager from the Crusaders with the tighthead prop signing a contract until the summer of 2027.
Hooker Eoghan Clarke is rejoining Munster on a short-term contract with back three player Colm Hogan also returning on a short-term deal.
Jager will join the province in the coming weeks with his contract beginning at the start of December.
Born in London, Jager started out at Naas RFC before playing schools rugby at Newbridge College and Blackrock College. He lined out for the Ireland U18 Schools team in 2013 before moving to Canterbury in New Zealand at the age of 17.
Initially attending the Crusaders International High Performance Unit, he earned a place in the Crusaders Academy in 2014. After impressing with New Brighton RFC, he earned a place in the Canterbury squad for the Mitre 10 Cup in 2016.
Jager made his Super Rugby debut for the Crusaders in 2017 and has been a key member of their squad for the past seven years, winning seven consecutive Super Rugby titles.
Eoghan Clarke spent three years in the Munster Academy before departing for Jersey Reds in March 2021. A former Ireland U20 international, Clarke won the English Championship with Jersey Reds last season before the club went into liquidation last month.
Colm Hogan, who has lined out for Ireland U20 and Munster A in the past, played his schools rugby with Glenstal Abbey. He captained Dublin University in the AIL and also had a spell with Colomiers in the PRO D2 while studying in France.
The 26-year-old played for Leinster against Chile last year and lined out with recent Munster arrival Alex Nankivell for Tasman Mako in the NPC this year.
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Key All Black announces sabbatical to play in Japan
All Blacks captain Sam Cane will take up a sabbatical option in his New Zealand Rugby (NZR) contract in 2024 to play a season for Suntory in Japan League One.
The 31-year-old, 95-Test loose forward will miss the 2024 DHL Super Rugby Pacific season with the Chiefs, but will return to New Zealand in June to be available for selection to the All Blacks for the 2024 Steinlager Series and Rugby Championship campaign.
Cane, who is contracted to NZR through to the end of 2025, said he was looking forward to experiencing a new playing environment with Suntory and learning more about a new culture in Japan.
“When the opportunity to play for Suntory in 2024 came up it felt like the right time following the Rugby World Cup to try something new and also a great chance to continue to grow and learn in my rugby and life journey. I’m grateful to New Zealand Rugby for their support to take this opportunity.
“It wasn’t an easy decision to skip a season with the Chiefs, but I know the team is in a great place and has an incredible group of leaders in the squad and the coaching group to have a successful 2024, and I’m really pleased to be able to return in time to put my best foot forward for selection in the All Blacks.”
NZR CEO Mark Robinson said:
“Sam’s decision to take a sabbatical in 2024 has our full support and we wish him and his family all the best for their time in Japan. There are very few players who have given as much as he has to the jerseys he’s worn in his career to date and it’s a mark of his commitment to the All Blacks that he will return and make himself available for the Test season.”
Gallagher Chiefs Head Coach Clayton McMillan said:
“Sam has given everything to this team on and off the field and deserves to take this opportunity to experience something different. He is an exceptional player and influential leader who has been an integral part of the Gallagher Chiefs for many years. We wish him and his family all the best and hope they enjoy their time in Japan after a full-on year.”
Key All Black commits to Gallagher Chiefs until 2025
Dominant loose forward Luke Jacobson has extended his contract with the Gallagher Chiefs, Waikato and New Zealand Rugby until the end of 2025.
The 18-test All Black was a consistent starter for the Gallagher Chiefs this year and a key element of their outstanding DHL Super Rugby Pacific performances. He consequently went on to be named in the All Blacks squad to travel to France.
Gallagher Chiefs head coach Clayton McMillan is delighted to have Jacobson sticking around for another two seasons.
“Luke is an outstanding player; he’s a workhorse, a consistent performer and considered a real warrior within our group. Luke leads by example both on and off the field. He isnt one to waste words and prefers to let his actions speak for themself. In the absence of some senior players who have moved on, I have no doubt Luke will play an integral part providing the leadership and guidance our younger players will be looking for”.
Jacobson has impressed throughout his career, playing for the New Zealand U20s team twice and captaining them in his second season to win the 2017 U20 World Championship title. This aptitude for leadership has seen him pull on the Gallagher Chiefs captain’s armband on multiple occasions.
Waikato Rugby head coach Ross Filipo is excited about Luke extending his career with Waikato. “He is a great man and a great leader who continues to make huge contributions on and off the field and always represents the region with pride.”
Speaking on his signing Jacobson said: “I’m stoked to signing on with the Waikato, Chiefs and NZR for another two years. I love representing these teams and am very proud to be able to call myself a Waikato/Chiefs man and also and All black. I’m hungry to succeed with these teams and tick off a few unticked boxes.”
The 2024 Gallagher Chiefs squad will be named later this year ahead of assembling for pre-season training.