All Blacks captain Sam Whitelock is amongst a host of stars set to stay in NZ miss the third Bledisloe Cup match against the Wallabies.
Whitelock will remain in NZ as he awaits the birth of his child, with hooker Codie Taylor the leading contender to take on the role.
He is joined in the maternity ward by first-choice halves Richie Mo’unga and Aaron Smith, who won’t travel to Australia on Thursday for their own imminent baby arrivals.
This leaves the returning Beauden Barrett as the lone flyhalf in the squad, expected to step up into the starting side in Mo’unga’s absence.
His Super Rugby teammate Finlay Christie has been added to their 35-man squad after a strong showing for the Trans-Tasman champions.
Chiefs hooker Samisoni Taukei’aho has also been retained after he was a late call-up in the first Test due to an injury to Dane Coles, who will stay in New Zealand as he undergoes treatment.
However, Ian Foster has been boosted by the re-call of Joe Moody (foot) and Ofa Tu’ungafasi (knee), with the pair likely pushing for a return later in the Rugby Championship.
“We’ll be playing ten Tests in 12 weeks in both the southern and northern hemispheres, and with Covid-19 travel and quarantine restrictions, this will be a tour like no other for us in the professional era,” Foster said in a statement.
“We can’t wait to get underway and once again represent our country on the world stage.”
Hookers: Asafo Aumua, Samisoni Taukei’aho and Codie Taylor.
Props: George Bower, Ethan de Groot, Nepo Laulala, Tyrel Lomax, Joe Moody, Angus Ta’avao, Karl Tu’inukuafe and Ofa Tuungafasi.
Locks: Scott Barrett, Brodie Retallick, Patrick Tuipulotu and Tupou Vaa’i.
Loose forwards: Ethan Blackadder, Akira Ioane, Luke Jacobson, Dalton Papalii, Ardie Savea and Hoskins Sotutu.
Halfbacks: Finlay Christie, TJ Perenara and Brad Weber.
First five–eighths/flyhalf: Beauden Barrett.
Midfielders:Braydon Ennor, David Havili, Rieko Ioane, Anton Lienert-Brown and Quinn Tupaea.
Outside backs:Jordie Barrett, George Bridge, Will Jordan, Damian McKenzie and Sevu Reece.
SA Rugby assumes administrative control of Western Province RFU
SA Rugby has advised the Western Province Rugby Football Union (WPRFU) that it was invoking its constitutional power to take administrative control of the Union.
The advice was provided following a decision by the Executive Council (Exco) of the South African Rugby Union on Monday.
Experienced former SA Rugby CEO, Rian Oberholzer, has been appointed as an administrator and will assume oversight of the union’s affairs immediately. His remit includes supervision of the operational affairs of Western Province (Pty) Ltd, which manages the professional playing teams of the DHL Stormers and Western Province.
The president of Western Province, Mr Zelt Marais, was informed of the decision this morning (Tuesday).
SA Rugby president, Mr Mark Alexander, said the decision had been taken with extreme reluctance.
“We had engaged with the WPRFU over a number of months on the challenges the organisation faced and tried to assist them in finding solutions,” said Mr Alexander.
“We attempted to partner in a joint oversight committee but were frustrated in our attempts to receive accurate information and engage constructively.
“However, the Union has regressed in its attempts to extricate itself from those challenges and we could no longer stand by.
“This is very much the last resort, but it had become apparent that the Union’s leadership was incapable of putting in place the actions to regularize its position.
“Several of the Union’s stakeholders have contacted our offices to express their dismay and we are aware of the public alarm.
“Clause 29 of the constitution of the South African Rugby Union charges that all unions have to ‘conduct their business affairs in such a way that, at all times, they are in a sound financial position, comply with the laws of the Republic and adhere to the requirements of good governance’.
“It is Exco’s view that WPRFU has failed that test and we could no longer distribute SA Rugby income in that knowledge. On that basis we have taken this decision with a heavy heart.”
The powers of clause 29 allow for the “assumption of responsibility for the affairs of unions…[including] the suspension from office of their elected and/or appointed officials, and the appointment by SARU of administrators, who shall assume all decision-making powers of the unions at both governance and operational levels, and who shall have the authority to direct employees, including chief executive officers, on a day to day basis, such administrators to report and be accountable to and to take direction from the executive council.”
Mr Alexander said that all stakeholders – the union’s commercial partners, broadcaster, coaching staff, players’ union and Vodacom United Rugby Championship partners – had been advised of the decision.
He assured supporters that the appointment of an administrator was to stabilise the Union’s governance and operational business and was not to have any direct influence on DHL Stormers affairs.
“Clause 29 gives us the authority to remain in administration until the Union’s affairs are stabilised,” said Mr Alexander.
“It is not possible right now to put a timeline to that – although it is our intention and desire to make this process as short-lived as possible.
“The most important thing right now is to quietly go about the off-field business so that coach John Dobson and the DHL Stormers squad can focus on performing to their best in their debut season in the Vodacom United Rugby Championship.”
Big names bolster All Blacks for northern tour
All Blacks captain Ardie Savea will continue to lead the side as they prepare for their northern hemisphere tour on Queensland’s Sunshine Coast.
Coach Ian Foster said with Sam Cane, Sam Whitelock, Dane Coles and Shannon Frizell meeting up with the All Blacks in Washington their readiness to play would be assessed before any captaincy change was considered.
“At the moment, we’re going to stay with the status quo,” Foster said. “…so, Ardie will carry on leading this team in the short-term future but then once we get to Washington and Wales, we’ll make some assessments about where the other guys are, then we’ll let people know.”
Cane would be left to come back into the environment for two or three weeks to get his confidence up. The 29-year-old loose forward has not played since the end of March, when he suffered a pectoral injury against the Blues in Super Rugby Aotearoa,
The All Blacks are to play: the United States on October 24 in Washington, Wales in Cardiff on October 31, Italy in Rome on November 6, Ireland in Dublin on November 14 and France in Paris on November 20.
With locks Scott Barrett and Patrick Tuipulotu returning home, after securing places in the MIQ lottery, the way was open for Taranaki bolter Josh Lord to join Brodie Retallick, Tupou Vaa’i and Sam Whitelock as the locks for the trip.
Foster said Lord was a young player with a lot of promise who had impressed the selectors when doing their rounds of the Super Rugby sides.
“He’s very athletic and we saw this as an opportunity to grow a young player for the future. He’s got the physical attributes that we think are right, and it’s a chance to get him on this tour and start working with him,” he said.
It wasn’t a new ploy by the All Blacks as Jerome Kaino, Isaia Toeava and, Asafo Aumua were examples of what former coach Sir Graham Henry described as ‘special projects’ on past tours.
There was a temptation to include another lock but, with Frizell, they felt they had sufficient cover.
Vaa’i would have an increased role with the side, and Foster was confident of his ability to handle that.
“We love what he did with us last year. We saw Tupou come in quickly last year, and he dealt with a starting role in a Bledisloe Cup game under a lot of pressure. Whenever we put him on the park, we felt he performed well, and he’s continued to do that and impress us.
“We see this tour as a chance for him to get some significant game time and have a big role,” he said.
Whitelock and hooker Coles will play Bunnings NPC games this weekend, and with Bay of Plenty on a bye, efforts are being made for Cane to play a Heartland game.
While the NPC continuing into November would be ideal should injuries be an issue for the All Blacks, Foster said it wasn’t a concern because previous northern tours occurred when the NPC had finished.
Having the competition continue meant it would be easier to get players into Europe and that would be a useful backup should they get an injury.
“The fact that some NPC is going is still a positive for us,” he said.
They were resigned to halfback Aaron Smith not joining them, but such was the situation that it was a case of ‘never saying never’, he said.
Doubt cast on South Africa’s northern tour
South Africa is threatening not to undertake its northern hemisphere tour next month if required to go through a strict bio-bubble environment.
The Springboks have been in bubbles since June, ahead of their hosting of the British & Irish Lions tour.
After their 31-29 win over the All Blacks that ended the Rugby Championship on the Gold Coast on Saturday, South Africa’s players headed home before heading to France for a camp ahead of their northern tour.
They are to play Wales on November 6, Scotland on November 13 and England on November 20.
South Africa is on Britain’s ‘red list’ of countries, although it hopes to be removed from the list soon.
South Africa sits 17th in the world for Covid-19 cases with 2.91million cases and 87,753 deaths. Britain has had 7.87million cases, the fourth highest in the world, and 137,000 deaths.
South Africa Rugby’s president Mark Alexander hopes a solution can be found with the British government.
“Another strict bio-bubble is out of the question, it will break the players,” he told South African newspaper Die Burger.
The players could not endure another set of restrictions, he said. They had already had extended periods confined to their hotels, a high number of Covid tests and limited movement.
No8 Duane Vermeulen said after Saturday’s win, people didn’t understand what the players had to go through to play.
“It’s difficult. People say it is your job and whatever, and we don’t listen to the public’s opinion, but, it’s not as easy as people think,” he said.
“Our first two weeks [in Australia], we were in hard lockdown, we couldn’t do anything. We had no support in the hotel. You had to do all the things on your own, make your bed, clean your room, and it’s a whole different set-up.
“And then, once you are out of quarantine, it’s a whole different thing as well. You have got to keep on adjusting to what is thrown at us, and sometimes it is difficult. But, at the end, we got it all together and walk away with a win at the end of the tour.
“It’s good vibes and good energy now and, hopefully, we can take that positive energy going into the end-of-year tour.
“We only have two weeks off back home, and then we go on another five or six-week tour.
“It’s difficult, it’s a whole different set-up and with Covid, it makes it more difficult, but the team is in a good mental state at the moment and, hopefully, we can take that going into the end of the year,” he said.
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