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Bismarck wants to help push young Vodacom Bulls stars to greatness

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Early in his career, Bismarck du Plessis never dreamt he would wear a Vodacom Bulls jersey and call Loftus Versfeld home. Now, the big man with the even bigger heart cannot see himself anywhere else. A farmer in his core, Du Plessis believes he’s now sowing the seeds of possibly his greatest contribution to the game he’s served so well – to push the next generation to greatness.

“I can’t tell you how excited I am for this coming season. I get goosebumps thinking about it. I’ve had my time. If I can now help the younger players around me, then I believe I’m doing my job at the Vodacom Bulls,” Du Plessis said on Saturday as he joined over 200 dads and their sons at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout at Loftus Versfeld.

The 38-year-old was there with his six-year-old twin boys – Francois and Gideon – as well as brother Jannie’s six-year-old son, Frans Andreas. He joined the likes of Schalk Brits, Cornal Hendricks, Lizo Gqoboka and Morné Steyn and their sons as they took their place in the 80 tents dotted around one of the most iconic rugby fields in world rugby and joined the other dads in their desire to be the fathers their boys need them to be.

And as he looks ahead to this coming Vodacom United Rugby Championship season, there is a definite sense of a “fatherly” role Du Plessis is taking on in this team.

“I’m not competing with the youngsters. I’m here to help them every single day to get better. There are so many things in this Vodacom Bulls team that remind me of my early career as a young player. Seeing young players develop and become Springboks is so rewarding. When Kurt-Lee Arendse became a Springbok, I phoned his mom and told her how proud I was of him, but also how proud I was of her. This is what it’s about. To get those young players like Canan Moodie and help them to play 100 Tests for the Springboks. The first time I saw Canan training I phoned JP Pietersen and said I’ve just seen a young player who reminds me of you. And there Canan goes and becomes a Springbok. JP didn’t even have rugby boots when he was selected for the Sharks for the first time. I see so many similarities of my time then and this time now, and it makes me excited. What John Smit and Johan Ackermann put into me when I was younger is what I want to be for these young players. It’s a very personal thing for me. I am going into this season to be as fit and strong as I can be to be able to push those young players to be better.”

Du Plessis’ new rugby focus at this late stage of his career definitely lines up with the focus of every single dad who was there with him at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout on Saturday – to lead the next generation, and to be better men for them.

“You try to be the dad that you had. I was fortunate to have had a dad that always gave more than what he ever expected back. For me, that’s massive.”

As he talks, his sons are running around a Loftus Versfeld field that is now definitely their favourite rugby home.

“I never thought I’d end up calling Loftus Versfeld home. My boys are now 100% Vodacom Bulls supporters. They even had their own Vodacom Bulls birthday party the other day. This is what rugby is all about – events like this. We’re here as dads to catch these boys and build into them before they have to one day make their own decisions.”

 

Photo: Bismarck du Plessis with his twin sons Francois and Gideon and his brother Jannie’s son Frans Andreas at the Vodacom RED Father and Son Campout at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Content & Images from – Vodacom Bulls Rugby


Champions Cup

Academy Trio Stepping Up & Contract News

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Munster Rugby and the IRFU are pleased to announce that Academy trio Tony Butler, Ethan Coughlan and Mark Donnelly will be promoted to the senior squad in the summer.

We can also confirm that hooker Scott Buckley, who graduated from the Academy to the senior squad in 2022, has signed a contract extension.

Out-half Butler, scrum-half Coughlan (both 21) and 22-year-old prop Donnelly have all signed on for the next two seasons after impressing over their three years in the Academy.

Butler and Coughlan become the first Ennis RFC players to earn senior Munster contracts.

As previously confirmed, Academy lock Edwin Edogbo (21), who also came up through the Munster Youths system with Cobh Pirates, will graduate from the Academy to the senior squad on a two-year deal next season.

Buckley, Butler, Coughlan and Donnelly all made their Munster debuts in the famous Champions Cup win over Wasps in December 2021.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Tony Butler in action against Dragons.

Ennis out-half Tony Butler has earned his first senior contract after a very productive three years in the Academy.

He has made six senior appearances to date, including two starts so far this season against Dragons and Connacht.

A Grand Slam winner with the Ireland U20s in 2022, Butler now plays his AIL rugby with Young Munster having previously lined out for Garryowen.

He captained Ennis at underage level, teaming up with Coughlan in the half-backs as they enjoyed success in the Munster U16 and U18 Clubs competitions.

Scrum-half Ethan Coughlan is enjoying an excellent campaign with three starts so far this year and eight senior appearances in total since joining the Academy.

He enjoyed great success alongside Butler with Ennis RFC at underage level before captaining the Ireland U18 Clubs team.

He also won a Grand Slam with the Ireland U20s in 2022 and plays his AIL rugby with Shannon.

Prop Mark Donnelly has already made nine senior appearances for Munster after coming up through the ranks at Midleton RFC, Midleton College and CBC.

He was a Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup winner with CBC in 2019 and featured for the Ireland U20s in the 2021 Six Nations.

He joined the Academy that summer before making his Munster debut along with Buckley, Butler and Coughlan against Wasps in December 2021

Along with his nine senior Munster appearances, Donnelly has also played regularly for Garryowen in the AIL over the past three years.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Mark Donnelly at Munster training.

Hooker Scott Buckley (23) has signed a one-year contract having made 25 appearances for Munster to date.

A product of the Munster Rugby Academy, Buckley started out with Kinsale RFC before captaining CBC to the Pinergy Munster Schools Senior Cup in 2019.

He was Player of the Match against Wasps on his Munster debut and made nine appearances last season as Munster won the URC title.

A UCC clubman, he scored the match-winning try against Crusaders at Páirc Ui Chaoimh earlier this month.

Scott Buckley scores a try against Leinster in pre-season.

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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URC

Squad Update Ahead Of Zebre At Virgin Media Park

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The Munster squad are preparing at the HPC ahead of Friday night’s URC Round 11 clash against Zebre at Virgin Media Park (7.35pm).

There are a limited number of tickets available here.

25 players lined out in the thrilling encounter against Harlequins on Friday night, including eight Academy players and two young club players. Scroll down for match highlights.

The squad is boosted by the return of Tom Ahern, Craig Casey and Jeremy Loughman from international duty ahead of Friday night’s clash in Cork.

On the injury front, Academy back-row forward Ruadhán Quinn has completed the return to play protocols and is available for selection.

Following the game against Harlequins on Friday night, Academy duo Shay McCarthy (ankle) and Daniel Okeke (elbow) will go for scans and are unavailable this week.

Continuing to rehab: Simon Zebo (knee), Patrick Campbell (shoulder), John Hodnett (finger), Paddy Patterson (knee), Jack O’Donoghue (knee), Dave Kilcoyne (shoulder), Diarmuid Barron (foot), Jean Kleyn (eye/knee), Liam Coombes (shoulder), Roman Salanoa (knee).

Video | Harlequins v Munster Highlights

Tickets

URC Round 11: Friday, March 1

Munster v Zebre Parma, Virgin Media Park, 7.35pm; Buy final tickets here

U20s 6 Nations Round 5: Friday, March 15

Ireland v Scotland, Virgin Media Park, 7pm; Buy final tickets here

URC Round 13: Saturday, March 30

Munster v Cardiff Rugby, Thomond Park, 7.35pm; Buy tickets here

Women’s 6 Nations Round 3: Saturday, April 13

Ireland v Wales, Virgin Media Park, 4.45pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 16: Saturday, May 11

Munster v Connacht, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

URC Round 18: Saturday, June 1

Munster v Ulster, Thomond Park, 5.15pm; Buy tickets here

Images & Content from Munster Rugby


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URC

Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

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Dan McFarland departs Ulster Rugby

3 minutes ago

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Ulster Rugby and the IRFU can confirm that Dan McFarland will step down from his position as Head Coach.

After joining the club in 2018, McFarland has been the longest-serving Head Coach for the province in the professional era, with the club reliably securing play-off rugby in URC and EPCR competitions during his time at the helm, including reaching the PRO14 final in 2020.

Ulster Rugby CEO, Jonny Petrie, said:

“We would like to thank Dan for his determination in driving forward the professional squad over the past six seasons, and I would like to wish him and his family the best for the future on behalf of all at Ulster Rugby.”

The change to the Senior Men’s coaching set-up is with immediate effect, with Ireland U20s Head Coach, Richie Murphy, to link-up with the province as interim Head Coach until the end of this season following the Under-20s Six Nations. Bryn Cunningham, Head of Rugby Operations and Recruitment at Ulster Rugby, will also assume greater management responsibilities within the performance function during this time.

Assistant Coach, Dan Soper, will oversee operations next week ahead of Ulster facing Dragons at Kingspan Stadium in Round 11 of the BKT United Rugby Championship.

Petrie continued: “With Richie coming to Ulster in the coming weeks, ahead of the squad travelling to South Africa, our focus will be on consistently performing to the best of our abilities at this crucial time of the year.”

Images & Content – Ulster Rugby


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