Entertainment central on the Chiefs wings
The Chiefs have two absolutely box-office wingers in their squad for this year’s Super season; Japanese international Ataata Moeakiola and Etene Nanai-Seturo, fresh off the World Sevens circuit.
Moeakiola burst onto the scene in 2016 at the World Rugby U20s, scoring a hat-trick within 30 minutes against South Africa. The Tongan-born wing performed to the point that he was being compared to Jonah Lomu. The 23 year old is quite a physical specimen; he stands 185cm and weighs in at 110kg. This will be Moeakiola’s debut in Super Rugby; he was on the books at the Sunwolves since 2017, but university rugby for Tokai took priority. It will be fascinating to see how the big man adapts to top level rugby, given that it is nearly three years since we saw him at U20 level.
If Ataata Moeakiola is Jonah Lomu, then Etene Nanai-Seturo is Christian Cullen. The 19 year old from Auckland is a much smaller operator than his Japanese compatriot, coming in at just under 90kg and six foot. He is similar in ways to Nehe Milner-Skudder when he first broke through, he is one hell of a stepper, and is one of those players that makes things happen, there is a sense of anticipation when he gets hands on the ball, as those who watched him play for Counties Manukau in this years Mitre 10 Cup are well aware. He showcased his try-scoring ability last weekend, with two tries, simple finishes as they were
Nanai-Seturo was the subject of legal battle when he was younger; he was contracted by the New Zealand Warriors as a 15 year-old, but after he had a change of heart, an agreement was reached between New Zealand Rugby and the Warriors to allow him to join New Zealand Sevens.
Break up with Nick Phipps, I’m Bored
The Rugby Championship was a tough one for Australia, and in particular the much-maligned Waratahs out-half Bernard Foley. Undroppable for Cheika in the past, Foley lost his spot to Kurtley Beale for a couple games. This weekend sees two potential Wallaby half-back pairings face off; Christian Leali’ifano and Joe Powell start for the Brumbies, opposite Will Genia and Quade Cooper for the Melbourne Rebels.
It’s been a difficult couple of seasons for Quade Cooper; he spent time playing for Souths rugby and Brisbane in the NRC after being told he was not part of Brad Thorn’s plans for the Reds. An attempt to make it into the Australian Sevens squad in 2016 didn’t pan out, and two year contract with Toulon ended prematurely.
Cooper’s contract with the Rebels is a lifeline, and his World Cup hopes are greatly benefitted by the fact that he’ll be playing every week opposite Cheika’s first choice scrum-half Will Genia. Half-backs are the source of a lot of Australia’s difficulties. Cheika’s policy of a 6/2 split on the bench means that there is almost never specialist out-half cover on the bench for Australia, Kurtley Beale is the backup. Beale has a lot of good qualities, but he is not a Test level out-half. Quade looked good in Rebels colours last weekend, and if he can get into a good run, it would be very hard to ignore him for a spot in the World Cup
The continued selection of Nick Phipps is also not good for Australia, considering he does not even start for the Waratahs regularly (Jake Gordon does). Joe Powell and Jake Gordon are both young, talented scrum-halves and the sooner Michael Cheika realises that he needs a scrum-half and out-half on the bench, and that he needs to delete Nick Phipps’ number off his phone, the better Australia will be come Japan this Autumn.
Guess who’s back?
Nonu is back folks. Turning 37 this summer, the legendary All Black started last weekend in the Blues midfield outside TJ Faiane. Nonu didn’t look the quickest, understandably, but he was making big hits and carried hard. Many people expected Nonu to retire after he left Toulon for family reasons but he will line out for the Blues this season in what his third stint in Auckland, after the 2012 and 2014 seasons. Nonu will be part of what is quite a tasty backline for the Blues this year; he will form a seriously destructive partnership with Sonny Bill Williams, and will have some lightning pace outside him, with likes of Melani Nanai and Rieko Ioane.
Nonu is hopeful of making it to the World Cup. He has said that he learned how to take better care of his body during his three years in France, is a goal for him during this Super Rugby season. He’ll have his work cut out for him however, with the likes of Sonny Bill, Ngani Laumape, Jack Goodhue, Ryan Crotty, Anton Lienert-Brown all in contention for a spot.
Will anyone stop the Crusaders?
In the eyes of many, the Crusaders are the best club team in world rugby. A club world cup like football has is something every rugby fan would love to see, the men from Canterbury lining out against Dublin’s finest, or a reenactment of the ancient battles from which the teams get their names, the Saracens taking a stand against the Crusaders.
Crusaders have been dominating Super Rugby for the last two seasons, going for the three in a row this year. It has been the Lions that have come closest, they were beaten finalists in 2017 and 2018. It is hard to see anyone beating the Crusaders to the title this year. Depth wise, they have the most impressive squad in Super Rugby. An all international pack, combined with some of the most exciting young backs coming through in New Zealand, Crusaders will be great to watch this year.
Most exciting to see are full-back Will Jordan, and halfback Ere Enari. Jordan has long been earmarked for stardom and coach Scott Robertson is excited to see him make his Super Rugby debut, telling Stuff.co.nz
“”Obviously a prodigious talent. You could see in the pre-season, his ability to beat players and take opportunities, he’s definitely got an eye for a gap and a bit of extra speed. He’s a good local boy, he always dreamed of being a Crusader, so it’s a dream for him this weekend.”
Ere Enari has had a torrid time with injuries over the past couple of years, suffering three leg breaks in the space of two years. Like Jordan, he is a star in waiting, who has had to bide his time before making it to Super Rugby, if he can string a good run of games together, it won;t be long before we see him wearing black.Embed from Getty Images
Also worth a watch are Manasa Mataele and George Bridge, both wingers, and Braydon Ennor in the midfield. Ennor in particular looks like a serious player; searing pace, and along with a highly intelligent rugby brain. It will be interesting to see if Richie Mo’unga can build on the calls for him to be given the All Black first five jersey, after his impressive Rugby Championship appearances, and his combining with Beaudy Barrett at full-back.Embed from Getty Images
Transfer fee involved in Siya Kolisi move to the Sharks
There had been rumblings for some time now that Springbok skipper Siya Kolisi was looking an exit from the DHL Stormers after an 11 year stint with the Western Province with The Cell C Sharks touted as his desired destination.
Kolisi signed with Western Province Rugby straight out of school, spending his entire professional career with Western Province Rugby Institute. Kolisi was not long in making an impact after making a try-scoring debut for the DHL Stormers in the opening game of the 2012 Super Rugby campaign, coming on as an injury replacement for Springbok legend, Schalk Burger.
Kolisi was appointed DHL Stormers captain in 2017 and led the team for two full Vodacom Super Rugby campaigns before he was appointed Springbok captain in 2018. He ends his time at Western Province Rugby as the second-most capped DHL Stormers player, with the legendary Burger (123) the only player to have bettered his 118 Vodacom Super Rugby caps for the franchise.
Kolisi’s current contract was set to come to an end in October 2021 and although the WP did everything possible to re-sign him, he chose not to take it up and has been released early from his contract, upon acceptance of a transfer fee.
Earlier this week, The Sharks confirmed the signing of Rugby World Cup-winning Springbok captain, Siyamthanda Kolisi, who joins the Cell C Sharks on a multi-year deal. This huge signing has already made a huge difference in the Betway betting odds for the upcoming Rainbow Cup. Those who bet on rugby may now see Cell C Sharks as a realistic challenger with the addition of Kolisi to their roster.
Speaking at the transfer unveiling by the Sharks, Kolisi revealed that there has been a transfer fee to be paid to Western Province Rugby due to his early release and he had taken care of that himself.
He confirmed that The DHL Stormers had put a new offer on the table but that had been rejected.
Kolisi said: “I bought into the vision of the Sharks immediately – the energy around the club, the management set-up, the squad and the potential for success was so strong.
“I have always had a desire to be the best and play with the best to reach my potential on-and-off the field and this move is just another step in maximising what I can achieve within my career.
“This is a very exciting new chapter for me and my loved ones and one I’m embracing fully. I arrive with a commitment to give this team everything I have and I’m thankful to the Sharks for the opportunity. We can’t wait to see what Durban has to offer.”
A Sharks club statement from their website added: “Kolisi’s ongoing strong appetite to win trophies and better himself on the field matched with the Sharks’ strategic vision and defined blueprint for success. It drove Kolisi’s motivation to expand his horizons within SA rugby and embark on this exciting new chapter in Durban.”
DHL Stormers Head Coach John Dobson wished Kolisi well and thanked him for his significant contributions over the years.
“Siya Kolisi will always be a DHL Stormers legend, his story is well-known throughout the world and everyone here is grateful to have played a role in that. We would have loved for him to stay and finish his career where it started, but we wish him all the best”
Kolisi said that he will always cherish the memories of his time with Western Province Rugby.
“I would like to thank everyone at Western Province Rugby for what has been an incredible time in my life in which I have grown as a rugby player and a person.
“All of the coaches, management and teammates who had such a big influence on me over the last 11 years and especially the DHL Stormers Faithful and people of Cape Town and beyond who made my time with the union so special. It has been a privilege to experience their support,”
Kolisi becomes the second high profile transfer of Springboks this year involving a transfer fee after The Bulls confirmed the signing of Marcel Coetzee from Irish Province Ulster Rugby. Coetzee had a year remaining on his existing deal with Ulster and it’s been rumoured that The Bulls will have copped a sizeable payout to secure his services.
The Betway odds sure make for interesting reading for the upcoming Rainbow Cup. Can any of the newly added South African franchises topple Irish favourites Leinster? Or will the Ospreys from Wales find form again to be challengers? It’s sure going to be an interesting competition. Round 1 is scheduled to begin on April 17th.
Rob Kearney secures move to Australia
Press Release from Western Force:
Ireland’s most decorated player, Rob Kearney, has signed with the Western Force on a one-year deal.
At club level, Kearney has earned 219 caps for Leinster, playing a crucial role in establishing the provincial side as Ireland’s most successful club team, where he lifted six PRO14 titles, four European Champions Cups and a European Challenge Cup since debuting against Welsh side Ospreys back in 2005.
Kearney’s aerial prowess, strength and reliability throughout his career has seen the Dundalk-born player also earn three caps for the British and Irish Lions, which included Tours to South Africa in 2009 and a series victory against Australia in 2013.
Having conquered the European club and international landscape for over a decade, Kearney is delighted for the opportunity to ply his trade in Western Australia.
“I am delighted to be joining the Western Force for their upcoming season and excited to play with such an ambitious club who are looking to improve on this year’s campaign,” Kearney explained.
“I hope to add value both on and off the field that complements the high ambition of the club.
“I’m particularly excited to immerse myself in a new performance environment and to play both with and against some of the best players and teams in the southern hemisphere.
“I look forward to moving to Western Australia to begin building relationships with my new teammates and coaches alike and to meet the ever-growing Western Force fan base which also includes a strong Irish contingent.”
Head of rugby Matt Hodgson is excited to see the Force attract world class talent, saying it shows the potential and positive development of the club.
“Rob is a fantastic signing, but more than that he is a great person who will be able to bring a lot to WA rugby,” Hodgson stated.
“He is a player of the highest calibre that brings a wealth of experience and quality to the side.
“He also brings a winning mentality, having experienced so much success for his country and Leinster. We can’t wait for the Sea of Blue and the sizeable Irish community within WA to see him pull on the Force jersey next season.”
Kearney will join the club for pre-season later this year.
More player announcements can be expected in the coming weeks.
Rugby Australia Make Significant Cuts
Following the coronavirus pandemic rugby has been hit hard with no way of playing games and now Rugby Australia have been forced into making cuts in order to retain staff in the long-run
Rugby Australia have confirmed that they will be standing down 75% of their staff in a bid to combat the growing struggles that the coronavirus pandemic is causing.
The workers will be released from tomorrow until the 30th of June due to the lack of finances available to Rugby Australia with the Super Rugby season currently on hold and a strong possibility of the Wallabies summer tests being called off.
In the worst case possible the organisation are predicting a loss of $120 million due to the virus and speaking on the latest developments the organisation’s chief executive Raelane Castle admitted this was the toughest decision she and her colleagues had ever had to make.
“Today we have had to deliver the hardest news imaginable to our incredible, hard-working and passionate staff, that many of them will be stood down for a three-month period so that the game can survive this unprecedented crisis. Since the suspension of our proposed domestic Super Rugby competition, we have been working to understand both the immediate and long-term financial implications for the game as a result of the suspension of the competition, and potential further loss of revenue-generating content as we look ahead to the international season. Our extensive modelling shows that as a code, we could lose up to $120 million in revenue should it not be possible for any rugby to be played in 2020. Of course, that is the worst case scenario, and we are very hopeful that we can recommence the Super Rugby season and domestic Wallabies test matches at some point this year. The measures we will implement from April 1, although extremely painful, are necessary to ensure the sport remains financially viable and to ensure that we are able to come out the other side of this global crisis, fully-operational and ready to throw everything into the rebuild. It is our priority to keep all of our valued team connected and engaged through this period,” she said.
Castle’s has already taken a 50% pay cut since the crisis began and the rest of Rugby Australia’s executives will have a 30% reduction in pay.
It is a tough call to make in order to preserve rugby in Australia and the fear is that things may get worse with a fear that not all four of the country’s Super Rugby franchises will make it through to next season due to the financial losses.
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