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Nkosi & Du Plessis return ahead of Stormers clash

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The Vodacom Bulls have announced a strong matchday 23 that will do battle against the DHL Stormers in round 14 of the  2022/23 Vodacom United Rugby Championship, in Pretoria. The herd sees minimal changes in the front, with a number of forced changes to the back.

The clash between these two South African rugby titans is set for Loftus Versfeld with kick-off scheduled for 17h05pm in the afternoon.

The Pretoria outfit are still without the services of Springbok duo, Canan Moodie and Kurt-Lee Arendse, who are still on a rest break whilst creative midfielder, Johan Goosen recovers from a successful shoulder surgery that will see him side-lined for up to six weeks.

Lock, Jacques Du Plessis, is the only change in the forward pack from the matchday squad that lined up against Welsh side, Scarletts. At the back, Director of Rugby, Jake White has made a number of changes, with Zak Burger and Chris Smith combining at half-back. In the midfield, Harold Vorster and Wandisile Simelane pair up as inside and outside centre’s respectively.

Speedstar, Sbu Nkosi returns into the fold to start at left wing whilst Cornal Hendricks gets a run on the right with David Kriel shifting to full-back.

Jan-Hendrick Wessels, Simphiwe Matanzima, Francois Klopper, Ruan Vermaak,  Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Morne Steyn and Lionel Mapoe will all get the opportunity their run from the bench.

Steyn, will run out for his 150th club game in the Vodacom Super Rugby and United Rugby Championship era, a feat only achieved by a select few players. The Springbok and Vodacom Bulls legend has spent the last 14 years applying his trade in Pretoria, earning his unrivalled icon status across South Africa’s rugby-loving communities.

Speaking with the media at the team announcement press conference, White reflected on Nkosi’s return by saying: “You never know when the right time is. Had we had Canan [Moodie] or Kurt-Lee [Arendse] or maybe Johan Goosen he may have been on the bench, because those guys would have been guys we go to. But sometimes life works in a wonderful way. I think he needs to play well for himself,”

“They always say get back on the horse as quickly as you can and I think he’s a World Cup winner, he is very talented, he wants to play rugby, and there is no use for me to wait another week or two. What am I going to achieve by that? I think it is a great opportunity for him to get on the horse again and then hopefully if he has a great game tomorrow everything will be positive for him too,”

“But there is no pressure – it isn’t as if I’m putting pressure on him. I just want him to get back onto the field and it is a great game,”

“How nice it must be for him to come back and there are 40 000 people here in a north-south derby. It is a nice way to get back in rugby.”

On Jacques Du Plessis returning after recovering from a broken hand, the Vodacom Bulls mentor said: “Jacques played really well in that Lyon game and then he broke his hand. He would have had a lot more game time had he not been injured. As it turned out he had a bit of a break and he is now fit to play,”

“I thought Ruan Vermaak played very well in the time he played while I was away. He hasn’t been dropped or anything. It is just a chance for Jacques,”

“In a lot of ways we’re probably missing something in our pack, perhaps someone older – he’s 28 and played in France. I had him in Montpellier when he was younger so I’ve known him a long time and I’m hoping he is the little bit of something that we need in our pack.

“He has won the Challenge Cup when I was at Montpellier in front of a big crowd. He’s played in big games at Clermont, Toulon and Toulouse so I’m hoping that added little bit of experience will help us.”

With already more than 35 000 tickets sold, the hosts expect a full house which will bolster their confidence as they look to continue building momentum towards the playoffs of the championships. The expected crowd is set to be the largest in the competition, for a match featuring two sides, with the current record attendance set at 62 000 for the 2018 edition of Judgement Day; a fixture that features all four teams in Wales, playing at the Principality Stadium, over one afternoon.

Tickets for the clash start from R25.00c and can still be purchased through the Vodacom Bulls App and TicketPro

VODACOM BULLS STARTING XV: 1. Gerhard Steenekamp, 2. Johan Grobbelaar, 3. Mornay Smith, 4. Jacques Du Plessis, 5. Ruan Nortje (c), 6. Marco van Staden, 7. Cyle Brink, 8. Elrigh Louw, 9. Zak Burger, 10. Chris Smith, 11. Sbu Nkosi, 12. Harold Vorster, 13. Wandisile Simelane, 14. Cornal Hendricks, 15. David Kriel

VODACOM BULLS IMPACT SQUAD: 16. Jan-Hendrik Wessels, 17. Simphiwe Matanzima, 18. Francois Klopper, 19. Ruan Vermaak, 20. Nizaam Carr, 21. Embrose Papier, 22. Morne Steyn, 23. Lionel Mapoe

MANAGEMENT: Jake White – Director of Rugby, Nollis Marais – Breakdown, Russell Winter – Forwards, Chris Rossouw – Backs, Werner Kruger – Scrum Coach, Pine Pienaar – Defense Coach, Andre Volsteedt – Strength & Conditioning, John-William Meyer – Technical Analyst, Dr. Herman Rossouw – Team Doctor, Lance Lemmetjies – Senior Physiotherapist, Kyle Mayer – Physiotherapist, Elias Bennett – Team Manager, Simon Dyidi – Logistics Manager

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

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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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