Duane Vermeulen will make his first appearance for the Springboks since the 2019 Rugby World Cup final when South Africa resume their Castle Lager Rugby Championship campaign on Sunday against Australia at the CBUS Super Stadium in Gold Coast.
The experienced No 8 – who joined the Springbok squad at the start of the Castle Lager Lions Series in August but has yet to play a match – has recovered fully from the ankle surgery he had earlier this year and headlines the return of a handful of injured players for the important encounter.
Scrumhalves Faf de Klerk (leg strain) and Herschel Jantjies (hip pointer), and flank Marco van Staden (ankle) are also back from injury as Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber made 13 changes to his matchday squad for the match – seven in the starting lineup and six on the replacements bench.
Five of the changes to the starting team that defeated Argentina 29-10 in the second round of the Castle Lager Rugby Championship in Nelson Mandela Bay were amongst the forwards. Vermeulen takes over from Jasper Wiese at the back of the scrum, and Eben Etzebeth comes in for Marvin Orie at lock, while a new front row of Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe (both props) and Bongi Mbonambi (hooker) will be in action.
The two changes in the backline are on the right wing, where Sbu Nkosi replaces Cheslin Kolbe who took a knock to the leg at training, and scrumhalf, where De Klerk returns for the first time since the second Test against the British & Irish Lions in place of Cobus Reinach.
Malcolm Marx (hooker), Ox Nché, Vincent Koch (both props), Van Staden, Wiese and Jantjies, meanwhile, will join Damian Willemse (utility back) and Kwagga Smith (loose forward) on a powerful replacements bench, which features a six-two split of forwards.
Nienaber was pleased to have a handful of players back from injury as the Springboks embark on a challenging four week stretch to defend their Castle Lager Rugby Championship title, with back-to-back Tests against Australia before successive encounters against New Zealand.
“We have been following the progress of the injured players on a daily basis, so we knew that we would be in a position to select most of them for this match,” said Nienaber.
“Duane has played an active role off the field in our team meetings and with the analysis of the opposition, and he has also provided guidance at training. He returned to full training when we arrived in Australia, so he has been in the thick of things for a while now.
“Duane, Faf and Herschel are Rugby World Cup winners, and so is Eben, who is back after we rotated him to manage his workload, while Marco has made a strong impact on the field this season as well, so we are pleased to have them back in the fold.
“Australia pose a strong threat with their running rugby and they like to keep the ball in play. They will also be playing in front of a charged-up home crowd, so it will be good to have these experienced players back as they know what it takes to perform in big matches.
“Unfortunately, we lost Cheslin to injury, but we are fortunate to have Sbu who steps in. He’s been working hard at training and he is eager to get back on the field.”
With the Springboks’ last Test being close to three weeks ago, Nienaber said it was important for the team to hit the ground running against Australia to maintain the momentum they’ve built up this season.
“We had sufficient time since our last Test to give the players a break after the physically taxing start to the season, and to work in a hard conditioning week before we tackle the remaining four Castle Lager Rugby Championship matches,” said Nienaber.
“We will be tested thoroughly in the next four weeks, so we have to be up for the challenge mentally and physically. There are also trophies such as the Nelson Mandela Challenge Plate and the Freedom Cup up for grabs, so we will prepare well and give our best on the field.”
Luke Pearce (England) has been appointed the match referee, with Australia’s Damon Murphy and Jordan Way serving as assistant referees, and England’s Matthew Carley will be the TMO.
Springbok team to face Australia in Gold Coast:
15 – Willie le Roux (Toyota Verblitz) – 66 caps, 60 pts (12t)
14 – Sbu Nkosi (Cell C Sharks) – 12 caps, 40 pts (8t)
13 – Lukhanyo Am (Cell C Sharks) – 19 caps, 20 pts (4t)
12 – Damian de Allende (Munster) – 51 caps, 30 pts (6t)
11 – Makazole Mapimpi (Cell C Sharks) – 18 caps, 80 pts (16t)
10 – Handré Pollard (vice-captain, Montpellier) – 53 caps, 521 pts (6t, 82c, 105p, 4d)
9 – Faf de Klerk (Sale Sharks) – 32 caps, 25 pts (5t)
8 – Duane Vermeulen (Vodacom Bulls) – 53 caps, 15 pts (3t)
7 – Franco Mostert (Honda Heat) – 44 caps, 5pts (1t)
6 – Siya Kolisi (captain, Cell C Sharks) – 56 caps, 30 pts (6t)
5 – Lood de Jager (Sale Sharks) – 50 caps, 25 pts (5t)
4 – Eben Etzebeth (Toulon) – 90 caps, 15 pts (3t)
3 – Frans Malherbe (DHL Stormers) – 43 caps, 5pts (1t)
2 – Bongi Mbonambi (DHL Stormers) – 41 caps, 40 pts (8t)
1 – Steven Kitshoff (DHL Stormers) – 52 caps, 5pts (1t)
16 – Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears) – 39 caps, 35 pts (7t)
17 – Ox Nché (Cell C Sharks) – 4 caps, 0 pts
18 – Vincent Koch (Saracens) – 24 caps, 0 pts
19 – Marco van Staden (Leicester Tigers) – 6 caps, 0 pts
20 – Kwagga Smith (Yamaha Júbilo) – 12 caps, 5 pts (1t)
21 – Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers) – 5 caps, 0 pts
22 – Herschel Jantjies (DHL Stormers) – 14 caps, 25 pts (5t)
23 – Damian Willemse (DHL Stormers) – 12 caps, 5pts (1t)
Springbok record against Australia:
Played 88; Won 48, Lost 37, Drawn 3; Points for 1733, Points against 1550; Tries scored 202, Tries conceded 159; Highest score 61 pts, Biggest win 45 pts; Win %: 54%.
- Makazole Mapimpi has scored 16 tries in 18 Tests, which equates to a try-scoring record of 88.9%. The player with the best try-scoring ratio with more than 20 Test caps, is former Springbok centre Danie Gerber, who ended his career with 19 tries in 24 Tests (79.2%).
- Duane Vermeulen will start his 53rd Test in the Springbok No 8 jersey, stretching his number of starts to six more than the second-placed Pierre Spies (47).
- The total Test caps for the Springbok starting line-up is
- There are 251 caps in the backline with 429 caps amongst the forwards. On the bench there are a further 116
- The average caps per player in the backline are 36 the forwards 53 while the players on the bench average 14.
Andy Farrell Names 40-Player Squad For New Zealand Tour
Ireland head coach Andy Farrell has named an extended 40-player squad for the five-match tour of New Zealand this summer.
Jonathan Sexton will captain the squad in what will be Ireland’s first tour since their memorable 2018 series win over Australia.
Farrell’s men will play three Test matches against New Zealand in Auckland, Dunedin and Wellington, as well as two fixtures against the Māori All Blacks – in Hamilton ahead of the first Test, and in Wellington following the second Test.
Ireland have not toured New Zealand since 2012 and have never recorded a victory over the All Blacks in Aotearoa.
Five players in the current squad toured New Zealand in 2012 – Cian Healy, Peter O’Mahony, Conor Murray, Sexton and Keith Earls – while Tadhg Furlong, Iain Henderson, O’Mahony, Murray, Sexton and Robbie Henshaw were part of the British & Irish Lions squad that toured New Zealand in 2017.
There are five uncapped players included in Ireland’s summer tour squad – the Leinster trio of Ciaran Frawley, Joe McCarthy and Jimmy O’Brien, Munster prop Jeremy Loughman and Connacht flanker Cian Prendergast.
There are a further 12 players included who have won less than 10 caps for Ireland – Harry Byrne, Craig Casey, Gavin Coombes, Mack Hansen, James Hume, Michael Lowry, Ryan Baird, Dave Heffernan, Tom O’Toole, Dan Sheehan, Nick Timoney and Kieran Treadwell.
Robert Baloucoune, Andrew Conway, Chris Farrell and Ronan Kelleher have been ruled out of the tour through injury.
Ireland head coach Farrell commented:
This is the start of our Rugby World Cup campaign and it is going to be a fantastic challenge for our group facing five massive tests across the three weeks.
Due to Covid we haven’t had an opportunity to tour, and touring plays a massive role in teams gelling together and building cohesion on and off the field.
This group could also be the last to play a Test series in New Zealand which makes it even more special.
“We will learn so much about the players and the group as a whole as we have to front up for five incredibly tough fixtures, far from the comforts of home and in grounds where the home support will greatly outnumber travelling Irish fans.”
Connacht senior coach Peter Wilkins will join the national coaching group for the duration of the summer tour to assist in team preparation.
Mick Kearney has been reappointed as men’s national team manager following Gerard Carmody’s promotion to the IRFU Director of Operations role.
Mick previously held the position between 2012 and 2016 and will fulfil the role through to the end of the Rugby World Cup in France next year.
Geraldine Armstrong will lead team operations for the tour to New Zealand, while Carmody will continue to support team operations and planning for Rugby World Cup 2023.
Ireland’s summer tour fixtures will be broadcast live on Sky Sports across Ireland, and there will also be live radio commentary on RTÉ Radio.
IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR SQUAD:
Bundee Aki (Galwegians/Connacht) 37
Harry Byrne (Lansdowne/Leinster) 2
Joey Carbery (Clontarf/Munster) 32
Craig Casey (Shannon/Munster) 5
Keith Earls (Young Munster/Munster) 96
Ciaran Frawley (Skerries/Leinster) *
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 17
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 4
Robbie Henshaw (Buccaneers/Leinster) 57
James Hume (Banbridge/Ulster) 3
Hugo Keenan (UCD/Leinster) 20
Jordan Larmour (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 30
James Lowe (Leinster) 12
Michael Lowry (Banbridge/Ulster) 1
Conor Murray (Garryowen/Munster) 96
Jimmy O’Brien (Naas/Leinster) *
Garry Ringrose (UCD/Leinster) 42
Jonathan Sexton (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) (capt) 105
Ryan Baird (Dublin University/Leinster) 8
Finlay Bealham (Buccaneers/Connacht) 23
Tadhg Beirne (Lansdowne/Munster) 30
Jack Conan (Old Belvedere/Leinster) 27
Gavin Coombes (Young Munster/Munster) 2
Caelan Doris (St. Mary’s College/Leinster) 17
Tadhg Furlong (Clontarf/Leinster) 57
Cian Healy (Clontarf/Leinster) 116
Dave Heffernan (Buccaneers/Connacht) 6
Iain Henderson (Academy/Ulster) 68
Rob Herring (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 26
Jeremy Loughman (Garryowen/Munster) *
Joe McCarthy (Dublin University/Leinster) *
Peter O’Mahony (Cork Constitution/Munster) 84
Tom O’Toole (Ballynahinch/Ulster) 2
Andrew Porter (UCD/Leinster) 43
Cian Prendergast (Connacht) *
James Ryan (UCD/Leinster) 43
Dan Sheehan (Lansdowne/Leinster) 7
Nick Timoney (Banbridge/Ulster) 2
Kieran Treadwell (Ballymena/Ulster) 5
Josh van der Flier (UCD/Leinster) 40
* Denotes uncapped player
IRELAND 2022 SUMMER TOUR FIXTURES:
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
FMG Stadium, Hamilton, Wednesday, June 29 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
New Zealand v IRELAND
Eden Park, Auckland, Saturday, July 2 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
New Zealand v IRELAND
Forsyth Barr Stadium, Dunedin, Saturday, July 9 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
Māori All Blacks v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Tuesday, July 12 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
New Zealand v IRELAND
Sky Stadium, Wellington, Saturday, July 16 (kick-off 7.05pm local time/8.05am Irish time)
Images & Content from Irish Rugby & Images © Inpho Photography
Sean O’Brien to retire from rugby
London Irish can confirm Seán O’Brien is set to retire from rugby at the end of the 2021/22 season.
The back-row forward will bring a storied 14-year career to a conclusion this summer after two-and-a-half years with the Exiles.
O’Brien spent eleven seasons with his home province of Leinster, winning four Pro12/ Pro14 league titles, four Heineken Cup/ Champions Cup honours and an Amlin Challenge Cup, whilst also earning the ERC European Player of the Year accolade in 2011.
He was capped 56 times for Ireland between 2009 and 2019 and represented the British and Irish Lions on two tours, firstly to Australia in 2013 and then to New Zealand in 2017.
O’Brien joined London Irish in December 2019 and has played a vital part across three successful seasons in west London, becoming a fan favourite amongst the Exile Nation.
On his decision to retire, O’Brien stated: “After much deliberation and consultation with my family and friends, I can confirm that I have decided to retire from playing professional rugby at the end of the season.
“I’ve had an incredible career and am thankful for every second of my time at Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the British & Irish Lions.
“As a 20-year-old, I fulfilled my childhood dream by pulling on the Leinster jersey, and when I made my debut against Cardiff Blues in 2008, I never imagined what would then follow over the next 14 years.
“A special mention must go to Colin McEntee for his ‘big brother’ approach when I joined the academy.
“I feel lucky to have experienced so many wonderful highlights over the course of my career.
“At an international level, I feel privileged to have won 56 caps for Ireland.
“I gave everything I could possibly give, and I will always look back with great pride at every time I pulled on the Irish jersey to represent my country, my county, my friends, and family.
“I feel very fortunate to have had the career I’ve had but none of it would have been possible without the support of so many people.
“Firstly, I would like to thank my Mam and Dad for taking me to Ballon Rathoe Community Games and then Tullow RFC when I was 8 years old.
“They took me to every sport in my area which gave me the exposure to all types of sport.
“They were the perfect role models who taught me to not be afraid of hard work, which certainly helped me progress my career and I can’t thank them enough.
“I was lucky to play alongside some great players and under some brilliant managers and coaches during my time at Tullow, Leinster, Ireland, London Irish and the Lions and I would like to thank every one of them.
“I would also like to thank the backroom staff at each of those clubs, they all showed me fantastic support during my time with them.
“I would like to say a special thank you to some people who believed in me early on in my career, who are sadly no longer with us.
“Jim Kealy (Tullow RFC) and David Wilkie (Edenderry RFC) always said the right thing to me and gave me direction when needed.
“Away from rugby, I feel lucky to have had such a close group of friends that I have always been able to count and rely on throughout the course of my career.
“Thanks to all of you, especially James Foley and Daniel Davey.
“Finally, the most important thank you is reserved for my family.
“I can’t thank my Mum, Dad and brothers (Stephen and William) sisters (Caroline and Alex) enough for their unconditional support over the years.
“It has meant everything to me and to have 6 nephews watching means the world to me.
“There is still a lot of rugby to be played this season before the time comes to hang up my boots, and I am fully focused on giving my all in the London Irish jersey until then.
“I’m going to soak up every minute I get on the pitch and look forward to helping the team wherever I can.
“I am excited about the future and feel I still have a lot to offer the game, in whatever capacity that may be.
“I am currently taking my time to consider a number of options and will make an announcement with regards to the next stage of my career very soon.”
Ryan And Baird Ruled Out Of Scotland Game. 2 called up.
The Ireland squad returned to Dublin on Saturday evening following the victory over England at Twickenham and reassembled at Carton House on Sunday evening.
James Ryan will not be considered for selection this week and his return to rugby protocols will be supervised by the Leinster Medical Team. Ryan Baird is ruled out of the final fixture of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations with a back issue.
Uncapped locks Ross Molony and Joe McCarthy have been called up to train with the squad. Ross has been involved in Ireland squads since the summer of 2021 while Joe, a former Ireland U20 player, made his Leinster debut against Cardiff in January having impressed for Dublin University in the Energia AIL.
Robert Baloucoune, Nick Timoney and Mike Lowry all return after lining out for Ulster in the URC against Leinster at the weekend.
Ireland play Scotland in the final round of the 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championship on Saturday 19th March at 4.45pm. The game is being televised by Virgin (ROI) and ITV (NI).
Ireland Squad Round 5 2022 Guinness Six Nations Championships
Bundee Aki (Connacht/Galwegians) 36 caps
Robert Baloucoune (Ulster/Enniskillen) 2 caps
Joey Carbery (Munster/Clontarf) 31 caps
Jack Carty (Buccaneers/Connacht) 11 caps
Craig Casey (Munster/Shannon) 5 caps
Andrew Conway (Munster/Garryowen) 30 caps
Jamison Gibson Park (Leinster) 16 caps
Mack Hansen (Connacht) 3 caps
Robbie Henshaw (Leinster/Buccaneers) 56 caps
James Hume (Ulster/Banbridge) 3 caps
Hugo Keenan (Leinster/UCD) 19 caps
James Lowe (Leinster) 11 caps
Michael Lowry (Ulster/Banbridge) 1 cap
Conor Murray (Munster/Garryowen) 95 caps
Garry Ringrose (Leinster/UCD) 41 caps
Johnny Sexton (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 104 caps CAPTAIN
Finlay Bealham (Connacht/Buccaneers) 22 caps
Tadhg Beirne (Munster/Lansdowne) 29 caps
Jack Conan (Leinster/Old Belvedere) 26 caps
Gavin Coombes (Munster/Young Munster) 2 caps
Caelan Doris (Leinster/St Mary’s College) 16 caps
Tadhg Furlong (Leinster/Clontarf) 56 caps
Cian Healy (Leinster/Clontarf) 115 caps
Dave Heffernan (Connacht/Buccaneers) 6 caps
Iain Henderson (Ulster/Academy) 67 caps
Rob Herring (Ulster/Ballynahinch) 25 caps
Dave Kilcoyne (Munster/UL Bohemians) 47 caps
Jeremy Loughman (Munster/Garryowen) uncapped
Joe McCarthy (Leinster/Dublin) uncapped
Ross Molony (Leinster/UCD) uncapped
Peter O’Mahony (Munster/Cork Constitution) 83 caps
Dan Sheehan (Leinster/Lansdowne) 6 caps
Nick Timoney (Ulster/Banbridge) 2 caps
Kieran Treadwell (Ulster/Ballymena) 4 caps
Josh van der Flier (Leinster/UCD) 39 caps