South Africa ‘A’ coach Mzwandile Stick has included 14 capped Springbok players in his match-day squad to face Munster at Pairc Ui Chaoimh in Cork on Thursday, in their first of two mid-week games on the year-end tour, ensuring that he struck a good balance of experience and youth in his team.
The Springbok assistant coach took two players from the Springbok squad that trained in Dublin last week for their opening Castle Lager Outgoing Tour Test against Ireland, prop Thomas du Toit and lock Jason Jenkins, while the Du Preez twins – Dan (loose forward) and Jean-Luc (utility forward) – were called up to the squad on Sunday.
SA Rugby director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus, who was originally expected to join Stick and his coaching team in Cork, meanwhile, joined the Springbok team in France, although he will continue to assist the SA ‘A’ coaches remotely.
Aphelele Fassi (fullback), Cornal Hendriks (centre), Johan Goosen (flyhalf) and Herschel Jantjies (scrumhalf) are the capped Boks in the backline, while Jean-Luc du Preez (No 8), Elrigh Louw (flank), Ruan Nortje, Jason Jenkins (both locks) and the entire front row of Du Toit, Ntuthuko Mchunu (both props) and Joseph Dweba (hooker) will all bring their Test match experience to a strong and physical pack of forwards.
Du Toit will captain the team, with Hendricks serving as his deputy.
There are a further three Springboks on the replacements bench in Dan du Preez, Sikhumbuzo Notshe (loose forward) and Grant Williams (scrumhalf).
The backline will be boosted by exciting DHL Stormers wings Leolin Zas and Suleiman Hartzenberg in a talented back three with Fassi, while former Junior Springbok captain and up-and-coming Cell C Sharks loose forward Phepsi Buthelezi will start in a strong loose trio with Louw and Jean-Luc du Preez.
Stick’s bench also features exciting young players in Andre-Hugo Venter (hooker), Simphiwe Matanzima and Sazi Sandi (both props) among the forwards, with former Junior Springboks Sanele Nohamba and Gianni Lombard (both utility backs) as backline cover.
“We are pleased with the quality of the squad we selected, and we are confident that with this thrilling blend of experienced and young players have what it takes to perform against Munster,” said Stick.
“One of the main reasons for selecting SA ‘A’ and Springbok teams for the year-end tour was to cast our net as wide as possible to test our player depth less than a year out from the Rugby World Cup, while also giving as many players as possible top-class game time.
“Most of these players have either been in the Springbok squad in the last two seasons, or they have been on our radar, so this is an ideal opportunity to see them in action against what will be a physical and challenging encounter.”
Stick said the team has been working hard to get their structures in place after assembling in Cork on Sunday, and that every minute on the training field will count in ensuring that they deliver a classy showing.
“The SA ‘A’ coaches had the luxury of spending the week with the Springboks last week, where they attended all the coaches’ meetings and training sessions to give them a taste of Test rugby and what they will expect this week, and this allowed us to hit the ground running,” said Stick.
“The coaches, players and team management know what is expected of them and we are working hard to implement our structures as effectively and efficiently as possible, and I have no doubt we will be a tight unit by the time we take the field.”
Of the challenge posed by Munster, Stick said: “They are one of the top club teams and they balance their physicality with exciting backline play, so we are going to be tested thoroughly.
“That said, we have named an equally exciting team and we have a number of leaders in core positions. Every one of our players will also want to make the most of this opportunity to throw their names in the hat for World Cup selection, which will serve as an extra motivational factor to showcase their talent.”
South Africa ‘A’ team to face Munster in Cork:
15 – Aphelele Fassi (Cell C Sharks)
14 – Suleiman Hartzenberg (DHL Stormers)
13 – Henco van Wyk (Emirates Lions)
12 – Cornal Hendricks (vice-captain, Vodacom Bulls)
11 – Leolin Zas (DHL Stormers)
10 – Johan Goosen (Vodacom Bulls)
9 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers)
8 – Jean-Luc du Preez (Sale Sharks)
7 – Elrigh Louw (Vodacom Bulls)
6 – Phepsi Buthelezi (Cell C Sharks)
5 – Ruan Nortje (Vodacom Bulls)
4 – Jason Jenkins (Leinster)
3 – Thomas du Toit (captain, Cell C Sharks)
2 – Joseph Dweba (DHL Stormers)
1 – Ntuthuko Mchunu (Cell C Sharks)
16 – Andre-Hugo Venter (DHL Stormers)
17 – Simphiwe Matanzima (Vodacom Bulls)
18 – Sazi Sandi (DHL Stormers)
19 – Dan du Preez (Sale Sharks)
20 – Sikhumbuzo Notshe (Cell C Sharks)
21 – Grant Williams (Cell C Sharks)
22 – Sanele Nohamba (Emirates Lions)
23 – Gianni Lombard (Emirates Lions)
SA ‘A’ team management:
Head coach: Mzwandile Stick
Assistant coaches: Bafana Nhleko, Joey Mongalo, Wian du Preez
Technical analyst: Willie Maree
Operations manager: Zintsika Tashe
Logistics manager: Barry McDonald
Team doctor: Clement Plaatjies
Physiotherapist: Lance Lemmetjies
Conditioning coach: Johan van Wyk
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.