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Pro14

Fourie Aiming for Play-Offs with Cheetahs

Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie has set his sights on a play-off spot in the PRO14 this season but has pointed out the one area his team need to work on to get there

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(Photo by Frikkie Kapp/Gallo Images/Getty Images)

Toyota Cheetahs head coach Hawies Fourie believes his team should be aiming for a play-off spot in the PRO14 this season, but knows their away form must change to get there.

The Cheetahs are in Conference A this year along with the likes of Leinster, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors, but opened their account well with three home wins on the bounce only to lose their three away games that followed. 

The results have left them third in the table after the opening six rounds, and Fourie thinks that they should be competing in that area for the remainder of the season. 

“We are competing against three really strong teams for the three play-off places in our conference. Leinster are way out in front at the moment, but ourselves, Ulster and Glasgow Warriors are all very close together on the log. Only three of the four teams will go through. In the first season the Cheetahs played in the PRO 14 they won just one game away and lost just one at home and that was enough. But with those teams competing with us for places that probably won’t be enough this time. The way we see it we need to win four of five games away from home. And then we can’t afford to lose more than one or two at home,” he said. 

The South African-based side reached the play-offs during their first season in the competition due to their incredible home form, which saw them only lose one game on home soil throughout the whole season. 

However, as Fourie has stated that isn’t enough to get to the top anymore and he is hoping that his team can kick-start their winning run on the road when they take on the Ospreys this weekend. 

“This is definitely a good opportunity for us and we have noted that the Ospreys haven’t had a great season so far. But we know we still have to play well against them, and they may be better than their record suggests. Even though they lost, they played well against Munster (in the Champions Cup). They are a very good scrummaging team and their mauls are also really good. They are also a very disciplined team. They don’t concede many penalties, just eight a game, so you don’t get much opportunity to kick to touch to set up the lineout. You only get about 10 lineouts a game against them, and of course our lineout attack is one of our main weapons. We will have to play a lot from turn-overs and poor kicks,” he added. 

As mentioned above the Cheetahs are currently in third-place in Conference A, three-points off second-placed Ulster and two-points ahead of fourth-placed Glasgow. 

The Ospreys have had their struggles so far this season, but will hope, like most sides, that the return of some of their international stars will see them pick up points sooner rather than later. The Cheetahs will be aware that when stars return their opponents will become stronger, but Fourie and his team have a goal and if they can improve their performances away from home, who would put it past them reaching their target.

Pro14

Former Welsh Ace to Hang Up Boots

One of Wales’ former stars has confirmed that he will retire from rugby come the end of the current season

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(Photo by Athena Pictures/Getty Images)

Former Wales back James Hook has announced that he will be calling time on his professional rugby career come the end of the current season.

Hook is contracted to the Ospreys, but with his deal set to end at the end of the campaign he has decided the time has come to pull the curtain on a professional career spanning 16 years. 

“It’s sad but something I’m really looking forward to. It comes to everyone at some point and now it’s time for me. I’ve had lots of highlights, winning Grand Slam titles and Six Nations and going on the Lions tour in 2009. Then signing my first professional contract was a big moment for me. Growing up I always aspired to be a professional rugby player. You never think it’ll actually happen so when it did it really was amazing,” he said in a post on social media. 

The 34-year old picked up a total of 81-caps for Wales to go along with his 148 appearances for the Ospreys. 

As well as his time with the Welsh region Hook had spells at both Top 14 side Perpignan and English Premiership outfit Gloucester between his stints at the Ospreys. 

Hook has admitted he hopes to continue his rugby journey off the pitch, but that he is also looking forward to having more time to spend with his family after such a long time on the playing field. 

“I want to stay involved in the game, particularly working on the skills, like I do now with the young kickers and the age-grade sides, and I’m hoping to finish my level three coaching qualification. It’ll be nice to spend time with my family, my three young boys and my wife. It’s going to be sad not playing at the end of the season, but you’ve got to be positive and look on the bright side and I’m looking forward to what’s next,” he added. 

As well as his rugby career Hook has also written a series of children’s books that are set to be released later this year and that could provide him with something else to venture into if they are successful. 

However, for now he will be hoping that he can help the Ospreys turn around their disastrous season to date before he hangs his boots up for good. 

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Champions Cup

Connacht Set to Lose Big Star

Connacht look set to without one of their key men next season according to reports as he appears set for a move

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Connacht look as though they will have to deal without flanker Colby Fainga’a next season as he appears to be set for a move to French side Lyon according to Irish outlet the42.

They are reporting that the former Rebels man is the Top 14 side’s preferred replacement for the departing Liam Gill, who will leave at the end of this season. 

Connacht were keen to keep their players’ player of the year from last season and had entered contract talks to extend his deal past the original two years, but with talks stalling Lyon have come in with a reported offer of 300,000 euro a season which would be hard to refuse. 

The 28-year-old would be a huge loss to the western province having been such a massive influence since his arrival in 2018. 

However, more positive news for fans is that the back-rower is set to return from a knee injury this weekend against Toulouse, to help Connacht during a period where injuries have severely hampered them. 

It is understood that Connacht would like to replace Fainga’a with another overseas star, but for now they will hope to get the most out of the Aussie between now and the end of the season.

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6 Nations

Carbery Confirms Feelings on Latest Set-Back

Joey Carbery was ruled out for the foreseeable future yesterday and the injury prone star has taken to social media to reach out to his fans

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(Photo by Andrew Surma/NurPhoto via Getty Images)

Munster and Ireland out-half Joey Carbery has admitted he is more than “devastated” following the news that he will be sidelined through injury once again.

Carbery, who had an injury-hit 2019, suffering hamstring injuries that kept him out of large parts of the end of last season, before picking up an ankle injury before Ireland’s Rugby World Cup campaign, suffered a wrist ligament injury during last weekend’s loss to Ulster and will now likely miss the start of Ireland’s Six Nations campaign. 

The fly-half took to social media after the news broke to thank fans for their support during a tough time in his career. 

“Devastation doesn’t even describe how I’m feeling. Thanks for all the well wishes. Been a tough couple of months physically and mentally, and thought I was in the clear. But will be back soon, better than ever,” he said on Instagram. 

It was announced by Munster that the Ireland star will undergo surgery on the injury and he appears set to miss their last two Champions Cup Pool stage matches along with the games with the national team. 

His start against the northern province was his first since last season’s PRO14 semi-final loss to Leinster in May and now fans will have to wait once again for their key man to return to action. 

It is a cruel blow for Carbery, who looked to be in line for a starting role for Ireland in the first couple of rounds of the Six Nations with first-choice fly-half Johnny Sexton also currently sidelined with injury. 

Leinster’s Ross Byrne now appears set to be handed the reins at No 10 for the men in green and if he takes his chance Carbery could find it even harder to get back into the team.

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