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Nienaber names unchanged XV for Pumas clash

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Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber named an unchanged starting team for their must-win Castle Lager Rugby Championship match against Argentina in Buenos Aires on Saturday, with the coach making only three changes to the replacements.

Talented young loose forward Elrigh Louw takes over from Duane Vermeulen on the bench, Faf de Klerk returns as scrumhalf cover in place of Cobus Reinach, and Andre Esterhuizen gets a run in place of Warrick Gelant in the match, which has been moved to Estadio Libertadores De América.

With New Zealand on 10 log points, and the Springboks, Australia and Argentina trailing by only one point each on nine points– although Nienaber’s men are currently in second place on the standings due to a favourable points’ difference – all four teams are under pressure to win their remaining matches and preferably with bonus points to give themselves the best possible chance of winning the title.

With the Boks coming off a strong performance against Australia in Sydney in their last match two weeks ago, where they registered a convincing 24-8 bonus-point victory, Nienaber opted to retain the starting team that laid a strong foundation for the win.

“We were in a fortunate position this week not to have any injuries, which allowed us the luxury of selecting the same starting team that ran out in our last match, and we also feel that this team offers us what we need against a physical Argentina outfit,” said Nienaber.

“Our first victory in Australia since 2013 gave us a lot of confidence, and I have no doubt that will boost the players’ confidence going into this match, but that said we are expecting a bruising and intense battle against Argentina in front of a hostile crowd, and we have seen in the past how much confidence they draw from their fans at home.”

Commenting on the changes among the replacements, Nienaber said: “Our plan from the outset was to give a few players a chance to prove what they can do and to build their Test experience, especially with the Rugby World Cup a year away, and there is no better opportunity to do so than in a match which essentially amounts to a semi-final for us if we want to win the tournament.

“We have fantastic depth within our squad with younger and more experienced players, and it requires a fine balancing act to select a squad that we think will be the best team for each match, while at the same time giving most of the players an opportunity to play.”

Eben Etzebeth will face Argentina for the 18th time - a new Springbok record.

Eben Etzebeth will face Argentina for the 18th time – a new Springbok record.

Zoning in on the match against Argentina, Nienaber said they expected a hard grind.

“It’s always tough to play in Argentina,” said Nienaber.

“They are a passionate rugby nation, and the Pumas will never give an inch. They also draw a lot of energy from their enthusiastic home crowd, so we are expecting a huge battle.

“They place a lot of emphasis on their physicality and their set pieces, and they have skillful backs as well, so they will test us in all departments.

“That said, we have been working hard on the areas of our game that we would like to improve on and we were able to give the players a few days off to rest and freshen up mentally last week, which we believe will set us in good stead for the match.

“We know the magnitude of the challenge ahead and that it will take nothing less than our best efforts for the full 80 minutes to register a victory on Saturday.”

Springbok team to face Argentina in Buenos Aires:

15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 77 caps, 65 pts (13t)
14 – Canan Moodie (Vodacom Bulls) – 1 cap, 5 pts (1t)
13 – Jesse Kriel (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 54 caps, 60 pts (12t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Wild Knights) – 64 caps, 40 pts (8t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 31 caps, 110 pts (22t)
10 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 22 caps, 14 pts (1t, 3c, 1p)
9 – Jaden Hendrikse (Cell C Sharks) – 8 caps, 5 pts (1t)

8 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 16 caps, 0 pts
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 57 caps, 10 pts (2t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 69 caps, 35 pts (7t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Wild Knights) – 62 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Cell C Sharks) – 104 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 52 caps, 5 pts (1t)
2 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 53 caps, 55 pts (11t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 65 caps, 5 pts (1t)

Replacements:

16 – Deon Fourie (DHL Stormers) – 2 caps, 0pts
17 – Ox Nche (Cell C Sharks) – 13 caps, 0pts
18 – Trevor Nyakane (Racing 92) – 58 caps, 5pts (1t)
19 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls) – 2 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Shizuoka Blue Revs) – 25 caps, 15 pts (3t)
21 – Faf de Klerk (Yokohama Canon Eagles) – 40 caps, 25 pts (5t)
22 – Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins) – 9 caps, 0pts
23 – Frans Steyn (Toyota Cheetahs) – 76 caps, 150 pts (11t, 7c, 24p, 3d)

Springbok record against Los Pumas in Argentina:

Played 15; Won 12; Lost 2; Drawn 1; Points for: 508, Points against: 318; Tries scored 59, Tries conceded 30; Highest score 52-23 Buenos Aires (1993); Biggest win 33 points Salta (2019). Win % 80%.

Milestones:

  • Eben Etzebeth will become the most capped Springbok against Argentina with 18 appearances when he takes the field.
  • Siya Kolisi will play in his 40th Test as captain.

Miscellaneous:

  • The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is 741.
  • There are 263 caps in the backline with 478 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 225 caps.
  • The average caps per player in the backline are 37, the forwards 59, while the players on the bench average 28.

Content & Images from – South Africa Rugby


International

Eddie upbeat for ‘intriguing’ World Cup

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Eddie Jones admits the Wallabies are in the chasing pack but still close enough to catch the favourites and win September’s Rugby World Cup.

Jones, after a 15-minute technical glitch, gave his first wide-ranging interview from England on Thursday after his shock appointment on Monday.

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He said the battle to wear the No.10 jersey in France was wide open, touched on the side’s ill-discipline and current eligibility laws, assessed the health of the code in Australia and had a neat return-of-serve to rugby league powerbroker Peter V’landys in the latest code-war chapter.

But when asked if he genuinely thought the inconsistent world No.6 side could win the World Cup this year, he was serious.

“There’s no long term; the whole thing is to win the World Cup in 2023,” said Jones, who is on a five-year contract.

“We have to concentrate on areas that will make the biggest difference to the performance of the team and we have to get selection right.
“And we’ve got to create an environment where players are going to give that little bit more, because nobody knows how much they can give.”

Jones will have just five Tests to prepare his men before the Cup and he turned to racing parlance to assess the current power rankings.

He says feels there’s still time for the field to settle with the team who improves the most between now and October set for victory.

“At the moment France and Ireland, in a horse race they’re at the front on the top of the rise,” he said.

“But there’s still plenty of work to do.

“Australia and England are nestled behind them and the team that improves the most over the next nine months will win the World Cup.

“This is the most intriguing World Cup we’ve ever seen.

“Throw in the volatility of the refereeing at the moment with red and yellow cards.

“You’ve got all these things happening that give us this massive opportunity.”

He said every player would have a chance to “select themselves” in club rugby and that replacing Rennie before his contract was to expire at the end of this year wasn’t in his control.

“I wasn’t thinking, ‘I can do this better than Dave, or, I’m a better person’, it’s not that at all,” he said.

“It’s the fact that there was an opportunity there that as an Australian when you get a chance to coach your country you want to do it, mate.”

In a boost for James O’Connor’s hopes after he was cut from Rennie’s extended squad, Jones said he’d base selection on Super Rugby Pacific form and keep an eye on his foreign-based playmakers.

But Jones admits time isn’t on his side when it comes to settling on a preferred partnership, with rival five-eighth Quade Cooper’s recovery from an Achilles tear counting against him.

“We are going to have to decide quite quickly who we think are the best nines and tens and 12s, particularly, to try and build up that cohesion,” he said.

Content & Images from – Australia Rugby


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6 Nations

England team to face Scotland in Six Nations opener

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Ollie Hassell-Collins will make his England debut at left wing, Max Malins returns to the side at right wing and Freddie Steward is named at full back.

Owen Farrell captains the side from inside centre and is joined in the midfield by Joe Marchant. Marcus Smith is at fly-half with Jack van Poortvliet at scrum half.

The front row is made up of vice-captain Ellis Genge and Kyle Sinckler with Jamie George at hooker. Maro Itoje and Ollie Chessum start at lock, while Ben Curry makes his second appearance for England at open-side flanker. Lewis Ludlam and Alex Dombrandt complete the back row.

Jack Walker is in line to make his England debut after being named as a substitute, Anthony Watson could make a first England appearance since March 2021, and if Dan Cole comes off the bench he will earn a 96th Test cap.

Mako Vunipola, Nick Isiekwe, Ben Earl, Ben Youngs and Ollie Lawrence make up the remaining replacements.

“There are few fixtures in the rugby calendar that excite both players and supporters alike more than the annual Six Nations meeting of the Auld enemy as they battle for the honour of lifting the Calcutta Cup,” said Borthwick.

“Another packed Twickenham will witness the start of the next chapter of English rugby in one of the most keenly contested tournaments in the world. There is no doubt this England team shares the supporters’ sense of eager anticipation.

“To a man, the players are determined to play with the commitment, fight and desire that is at the very heart of representing England, the sort of passion that our tremendous supporters rightly expect.”

England Match Day Squad

Starting

15. Freddie Steward

14. Max Malins

13. Joe Marchant

12. Owen Farrell (C)

11. Ollie Hassell-Collins

10. Marcus Smith

9. Jack van Poortvliet

1. Ellis Genge (VC)

2. Jamie George

3. Kyle Sinckler

4. Maro Itoje

5. Ollie Chessum

6. Lewis Ludlam

7. Ben Curry

8. Alex Dombrandt

Replacements

16. Jack Walker

17. Mako Vunipola

18. Dan Cole

19. Nick Isiekwe

20. Ben Earl

21. Ben Youngs

22. Ollie Lawrence

23. Anthony Watson


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6 Nations

Scotland name team to face England in 2023 Guinness Six Nations Opener

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Head coach Gregor Townsend has named his squad to face England in the opening fixture of the 2023 Guinness Six Nations this Saturday as Scotland bid to retain the Calcutta Cup.

Leading his side in the championship for the first time, blindside flanker Jamie Ritchie is joined at openside by Luke Crosbie, whose excellent recent form is rewarded with a second start for Scotland, with Matt Fagerson completing the back row.

In the second row, the experienced Richie Gray and Grant Gilchrist, who is named as Vice Captain, resume a partnership that impressed during last year’s Autumn Nations Series.

Pierre Schoeman starts at loosehead prop in what is a 17th consecutive international since his 2021 debut, with the evergreen WP Nel – who reached 50 caps in November – selected at tighthead and George Turner named at hooker.

In the back division, scrum-half Ben White will link up with stand-off Finn Russell, a year on from his try-scoring debut in the Calcutta Cup at BT Murrayfield.

Sione Tuipulotu and Huw Jones are named as a centre pairing, the former having scored his first tries for Scotland in November’s win over Argentina, with the latter having notched no fewer than four tries against England in as many games against them.

In the back three, Scotland’s record try-scorer Stuart Hogg continues at full-back, with Duhan van der Merwe and Kyle Steyn lining up on the wings.

Townsend has selected a bench with a 5-3 split between forwards and backs, with Glasgow Warriors clubmates Fraser Brown, Jamie Bhatti, Simon Berghan and Jack Dempsey, alongside Jonny Gray, listed as pack replacements. George Horne, Blair Kinghorn and Chris Harris complete the matchday squad as substitute options.

Scotland team to face England in the Guinness Six Nations opener on Saturday, 4 February at Twickenham, kick-off 4.45pm, live on STV and ITV

15. Stuart Hogg (Exeter Chiefs) 96 caps

14. Kyle Steyn (Glasgow Warriors) 5 caps
13. Huw Jones (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
12. Sione Tuipulotu (Glasgow Warriors) 11 caps
11. Duhan van der Merwe (Edinburgh Rugby) 23 caps

10. Finn Russell (Racing 92) 65 caps
9. Ben White (London Irish) 9 caps

1. Pierre Schoeman (Edinburgh Rugby) 16 caps
2. George Turner (Glasgow Warriors) 30 caps
3. WP Nel (Edinburgh Rugby) 50 caps
4. Richie Gray (Glasgow Warriors) 69 caps
5. Grant Gilchrist (Edinburgh Rugby) – Vice Captain – 59 caps
6. Jamie Ritchie (Edinburgh Rugby) – Captain – 36 caps
7. Luke Crosbie (Edinburgh Rugby) 2 caps
8. Matt Fagerson (Glasgow Warriors) 28 caps

Replacements

16. Fraser Brown (Glasgow Warriors) 57 caps
17. Jamie Bhatti (Glasgow Warriors) 25 caps
18. Simon Berghan (Glasgow Warriors) 31 caps
19. Jonny Gray (Exeter Chiefs) 72 caps
20. Jack Dempsey (Glasgow Warriors) 4 caps
21. George Horne (Glasgow Warriors) 18 caps
22. Blair Kinghorn (Edinburgh Rugby) 38 caps
23. Chris Harris (Gloucester Rugby) 39 caps

Tickets for Scotland’s match against Italy at BT Murrayfield in the Guinness Six Nations on Saturday 18 March are still available HERE

Images & Content – Scotland Rugby


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