Tag Archives: springbok

Bryan Habana joins Toulon

Habana joins Jonny and Co at Toulon as South Africa star pens three-year deal with French side

Chris Foy


13:54 GMT, 11 January 2013



14:01 GMT, 11 January 2013

Bryan Habana's move to Toulon has been confirmed with the World Cup-winning Springbok wing joining a host of other Galacticos on the Cote d'Azur, on a three-year deal.

The 29-year-old, who has amassed 83 caps, has scored 47 Test tries along the way in establishing himself as one of the most prolific finishers in the world game.

He was named the IRB Player of the Year in 2007, after being at the forefront of the Boks' successful World Cup campaign in France.

Catch me if you can: The South Africa star has joined Toulon on a three-year deal

Catch me if you can: The South Africa star has joined Toulon on a three-year deal

His career has taken him from the Pretoria-based Blue Bulls to Cape Town, where he has played for Western Province and the Stormers in Super Rugby.

Now, after years of being linked with a lucrative move to Europe, he has agreed to add his name to the stellar cast list at Toulon, alongside the likes of Jonny Wilkinson, Matt Giteau, Carl Hayman and Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe.

Here's Jonny: Wilkinson will be joined by Habana at Toulon

Here's Jonny: Wilkinson will be joined by Habana at Toulon

'I would like to thank everyone at Western Province for their support throughout my stay in Cape Town,' Habana said.

'I've had three great seasons in the Cape thus far, and I am looking forward to finishing off on a high before taking on a new challenge overseas.'

In the past, such a move would have removed a player from contention to be picked for South Africa, but that restrictive practice has been relaxed, which leaves the path clear for Habana to aim for a century of international appearances.

'Playing for the Boks is a huge part of my life and I would never turn
my back on my country,' he added.

'I will never stop giving 100 per cent on the field for any team I play for, and
if the Springbok coach picks me, I will be there. It's a wrench to
leave my home, even if only for a short while, but the chance to test
myself against different opposition in a new environment was difficult
to turn down.'

What Toulon will have at their disposal is a player renowned for his blistering pace, having reportedly clocked a time of 10.2 seconds for the 100metres. Such was the fixation with his raw speed that Habana was once pitted against a cheetah in a race.

Having made his Test debut against England at Twickenham in 2004, he soon established himself as a lethal try-scorer and equalled Jonah Lomu's World Cup record tally of eight at the 2007 tournament.

Four years later, he broke the South African record for international tries when he struck against Namibia in a pool match.

Toulon coach Bernard Laporte was in charge of France during the 2007 World Cup and he has made a strong push to recruit the Springboks who evidently caught his attention during that event across the Channel.

In addition to the previous signing of Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw is due to arrive at the club shortly, when he has finished his final season in Japan, while ex-Bok skipper John Smit has agreed to join Toulon from Saracens at the end of this season.

Ben Kay: England need to show cunning in second Test

England need to show cunning to level the series



23:13 GMT, 15 June 2012

Better balance: Jonathan Joseph

Better balance: Jonathan Joseph

England can beat South Africa in Saturday's second Test but they have to be cute to win at the altitude of Johannesburg.

Stuart Lancaster's team need to take a close look at how the All Blacks play in order to make the most of their opportunities.

The All Blacks have perfected the ability to be very clinical and to conserve their energy – something England need to do in the demanding conditions of Ellis Park.

New midfield options England have certainly picked a midfield designed to unlock defences. Jonathan Joseph's outside break – reminiscent of Jeremy Guscott, no less – provides better balance in the centres.

The London Irish youngster also gives England a doublethreat rather than just the direct approach of Brad Barritt and Manu Tuilagi.

Tuilagi showed his ability to brush off the first defender last week and the Springboks cannot afford to double tackle him and leave Joseph, in his first Test start, an inch of space on the outside.

Line-out battle

This provided plenty of possession for England last week, but they should remember to put pressure on the Springbok throw. This will spoil and disrupt their possession and make things as difficult as possible for the half-backs to put in those 'bombs' they are inevitably going to deploy.

Power play: England practice their scrummaging

Power play: England practice their scrummaging

Scrum Time

England need a good start up front. Last week they conceded three free kicks at the first three scrums, which dented confidence. The England trio need to curb their initial enthusiasm in order not to get on the wrong side of referee Alain Rolland. The return of fit-again Alex Corbisiero to the bench should also strengthen England.

Best of Youngs

Ben Youngs is one of England's best attackers and there is no one better at seizing an opportunity. But he is under pressure and the performance of Harlequins' Danny Care in midweek puts him under the spotlight even more. Care's ability to fire out quick passes gave England's midweek team a little bit more time.

Win Kicking Game

England have got to do better in this area. South Africa's dominance helped give their forwards the momentum in that critical period after halftime last week in Durban.

Jean de Villiers expecting brutal midfield battle against England

New Springbok captain De Villiers expecting brutal midfield battle against England pair



15:03 GMT, 8 June 2012

Jean de Villiers is expecting a tough baptism as South Africa captain when he comes up against England midfield pair Manu Tuilagi and Brad Barritt.

Springboks centre de Villiers was this week confirmed as captain for the three-Test series against England which begins in Durban on Saturday.

De Villiers has 72 caps and will partner another experienced performer in Frans Steyn, who has made 47 appearances, but he is anticipating a stern examination from England's centres.

Ready for battle: De Villiers (left) with midfield partner Frans Steyn

Ready for battle: De Villiers (left) with midfield partner Frans Steyn

The explosive Tuilagi has been identified as one of England's most likely match-winners and his new partnership with South African-born Barritt showed potential in this year's RBS 6 Nations.

De Villiers, 31, said: 'Manu Tuilagi has shown he is a massive threat on attack and defensively he is very solid as well.

'He has really formed a great partnership with Brad Barritt.

'Frans and I will have our work cut out tomorrow. It is going to be a tough day at the office but it is a challenge we are looking forward to.

'We are representing our country, they are representing theirs and that is what Test match rugby is all about.

Centre of excellence: De Villiers was full of praise for opposite man Manu Tuliagi (above)

Centre of excellence: De Villiers was full of praise for opposite man Tuliagi

'It is putting your bodies on the line and digging in for your country.'

De Villiers has dismissed fears the Springboks might be under-prepared going into their first match under new coach Heyneke Meyer at Kings Park.

Meyer's new-look squad only assembled for the first time earlier this week after a round of Super 15 matches last weekend.

De Villiers said: 'I really think we have had a fantastic week preparation-wise.

'We have only had three days but the camps Heyneke did during the year with the franchises has really worked and we are reaping the rewards now.'

New era: Meyer address his Springbok squad

New era: Meyer address his Springbok squad

South Africa, after a number of retirements and injuries, will begin the Meyer era with three new caps in their pack in flanker Marcell Coetzee and locks Juandre Kruger and Eben Etzebeth.

De Villiers said: 'For those guys making their debuts, it is a great a honour.
'They know they have worked hard to get here and they know all they need to do now is perform in the way they did for their franchises, then everything will go well on Saturday.

'I think when you represent your country there is always pressure and there is obviously a lot of pressure for tomorrow's game.

'But I don't think we are focusing on the result now. We know what we need to do as a team to perform well and hopefully then get the result.'

Sam Vesty already in bother with new Bath bosses – World of rugby

Vesty already in bother with Bath's new bosses



22:00 GMT, 26 April 2012

Gary Gold and Mike Ford will be put in charge of engineering a revival at Bath from next season – a prospect which might just cause a sense of trepidation for one of the West Country club's players.

In the circumstances, Sam Vesty may view the impending, yet-to-be-confirmed management changes at The Rec with something approaching panic.

After all, the former Leicester back is not especially popular right now with the two men who will take control of Bath this summer.

Big job: Newcastle head coach Gary Gold (centre) is set to take over at Bath

Big job: Newcastle head coach Gary Gold (centre) is set to take over at Bath

At present Gold, the former Springbok coach, and Ford, the long-time England defence guru, are engaged in a desperate struggle to keep Newcastle in the Aviva Premiership.

Their prospects of doing so were undermined by Wasps' ability to cling on for a losing bonus point at Bath last week. Dai Young's side were able to secure that precious point because Vesty squandered a late try-scoring chance with a premature celebration.

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Having been put clear near the line, he raised an arm in triumph only for Tom Varndell to capitalise and execute a sensational cover tackle which prevented the ball being grounded and earned Wasps their vital consolation.

Vesty is a diligent professional who has been left devastated by an episode with such far-reaching consequences, as he admitted this week, saying: 'I don't think I have ever felt as embarrassed on a rugby field as I was last weekend. I was absolutely mortified and I apologised to my team-mates as soon as we got back in the changing room.

'I have never felt like such an idiot and I have had plenty of stick for it since. Showboating is not in my repertoire, but I just lost myself for a moment and have paid the price.'

He's not alone in paying a price, as his rash conduct could have a major say in the outcome of the two-way tussle to avoid relegation if – as is feasible – Newcastle go down on points difference.

When Gold and Ford arrive in Bath, Vesty must hope they don't bear grudges. But in all seriousness, they have had a noticeable impact in a short time on Tyneside, so there is a good chance they can work wonders with added support from Bruce Craig's fortune and a large fan base.

Meanwhile, Gold's other interim assistant at the Falcons, former England forwards coach John Wells, is poised to agree a three-year contract to stay at Kingston Park, to work with his old Leicester team-mate, Dean Richards.

Jersey sure have potential

The story of Jersey's rise is entering fairytale territory, following their win over Coventry last weekend which secured promotion to the Championship.

It is the fourth time in five seasons that the Channel Islands side have moved up a division, having been down in London South West Division Three as recently as 2005.

Jersey have already produced a player, Matt Banahan, who has made his mark in the Aviva Premiership; now the whole club should be aiming similarly high.

Jersey have remarkable potential.

Jersey old boy: Matt Banahan (tackling) hails from the Channel Island

Jersey old boy: Matt Banahan (tackling) hails from the Channel Island

Crowds fall in for a major battle

The biggest sporting crowd in the country this weekend is expected at Twickenham on Saturday for the Babcock Trophy showdown between the Army and Royal Navy.

Rugby has a proud tradition of supporting the armed forces, but the servicemen invited on to the field at HQ are usually in uniform, in a ceremonial role, whereas this time they will be in kit for what is typically a fiery annual fixture.

On this occasion, officials are anticipating 65,000 supporters to witness the battle at close quarters.

Remember me

There will be personal agendas at stake in Bordeaux on Sunday when Heineken Cup holders Leinster face French heavyweights Clermont Auvergne in the semi-final of this year's tournament.

First of all, both coaches have admitted to nerves before they renew acquaintances. Joe Schmidt, now in charge of the Irish province, was Vern Cotter's deputy at Clermont when they ended their painful wait to claim the Top 14 title in 2010, and the New Zealanders had previously worked together at Bay of Plenty.

Point to prove: Clermont Auvergne second row Nathan Hines (right)

Point to prove: Clermont Auvergne second row Nathan Hines (right)

Then there's former Scotland lock Nathan Hines, who helped Leinster to European glory last season and is now hoping to excel for Clermont against his former team-mates, as another giant step towards being involved in back-to-back title triumphs.

The last word

From a distance, it would appear South Africa are in a bit of a state ahead of England's visit for a three-Test series in June.

New coach Heyneke Meyer, briefly of Leicester, has asked lock and talisman Victor Matfield to come out of retirement as an emergency captain, amid an injury crisis.

Schalk Burger is unlikely to be fit, while his fellow back-rower Juan Smith has been out of action for almost a year.

Former skipper John Smit and Bakkies Botha have stepped down in favour of stints in Europe, with Saracens and Toulon respectively, while the current leading second row, Andries Bekker, is another injury doubt.

On the face of it, the Springboks, so renowned for their forward might, appear vulnerable, there for the taking even.

Stuart Lancaster will not be fooled and rightly so. Come June 9, Meyer will surely amass a fearsome pack to unleash on England, whether Matfield agrees to return or not.

Six Nations 2012: Sam Warburton exclusive

EXCLUSIVE: Warburton: Granddad's death helped draw line under red card

The best openside flanker in the world dips his head to fit through the wooden door frame of his old clubhouse and introduces himself to the locals as 'Sam'. It is the most unnecessary introduction in the history of introductions.

Sam Warburton is the 23-year-old captain of Wales who has fronted one of the most famous assaults on World Cup glory, established himself as the stand-out candidate to lead the next Lions tour and is consistently hailed by his coach Warren Gatland as the best in the business.

'I was sat next to Warren when he first said that,' he groans. 'It was two days before the South Africa match at the World Cup. People were going on about the Southern Hemisphere sevens and Warren put that statement out there. I was sat there thinking in my head “no pressure then” and I started sweating. He didn't tell me he was going to say it.'

Sam's the man: Wales head into the Six Nations with one of the planet's most exciting players leading them

Sam's the man: Wales head into the Six Nations with one of the planet's most exciting players leading them

If Warburton's talent ever met his ego in a dark alley, it would not be a fair fight. Two days later, on the same night certain England players were hitting the bars of Queenstown, Warburton was hitting Springbok after Springbok. He made a quarter of his side's tackles in that match and earned worldwide admiration.

'My parents always say the bigger the game the better I play. Certainly the more I enjoy it and the less nervous I am.

'The least nervous I've been for any match was the semi-final against France. It's quite strange, inversely proportional, but you relish the big battles. There's no point in playing duff teams and duff players. I've such a competitive nature you want to be the best in the world.'

Tipping the balance: Warburton's now infamous tackle on Vincent Clerc which earned him a red card

Tipping the balance: Warburton's now infamous tackle on Vincent Clerc which earned him a red card

The semi-final will always be remembered for the tip tackle on Vincent Clerc and the red card that followed. But for Warburton, the story has moved on. While Wales mourned a lost shot at the Web Ellis Cup, he lost his grandfather before Christmas and gained some perspective.

'When I came home, I went to London with my girlfriend Rachel,' he says. 'The first guy we saw at the hotel took our bags upstairs and, as he turned to leave the room, he said: “/02/03/article-2096149-0E49007E00000578-986_468x286.jpg” width=”468″ height=”286″ alt=”Best in the business: Warren Gatland hailed his captain before the World Cup” class=”blkBorder” />

Best in the business: Warren Gatland hailed his captain before the World Cup

'They are my parents' dogs, Gus and Ted (after Tottenham legends Poyet and Sheringham), but I don't want to get my own while they're still alive because it would feel like I'm cheating on them. I can't have them seeing me with another dog.'

He is just as engaging off the topic of rugby. If he isn't drumming topless during a jam session with his mates, he is dreaming about being reincarnated as a turtle. Seriously.

'I haven't drummed for a while, but I need to get back into it,' he says. 'I couldn't have been a rock star though I can play with my top off and get a sweat on. That's as far as it goes. I'll have a jam with my mates. He'll make up a riff and I'll come in or vice versa, only messing around.

'I watch quite a bit of Discovery Channel in my time off too and I liked Blue Planet. Rachel got me the series for Christmas and they were doing a bit on the turtle. After all the pressures of playing rugby, if I could be reincarnated, a nice, placid life as a turtle in the ocean sounds ideal.'

You could say Warburton took to captaincy like a turtle to water. His interpretation of leadership is compelling.

'You get some captains who will talk at every opportunity in a meeting and give you all the cliches all week. But if I was a player I wouldn't remember what somebody said to me on Monday morning after a session. If there's something to be said I'll say it but I won't just talk for the sake of talking. I don't want to try to act like a captain, I want to be myself.

Back to action: Warburton is hungry for Six Nations success after the heartache he experienced in New Zealand

Back to action: Warburton is hungry for Six Nations success after the heartache he experienced in New Zealand

'The players know my style. It probably took them a while to get used to it, and they probably thought I was a bit quiet but they are used to it now. Being a senior player doesn't mean you're the oldest, it means you're an experienced, consistent performer. We've got lots of them which is what makes my job quite easy.'

A significant factor to Wales' success — besides a bucket of talent, pace and power — has been their unique physical conditioning. They were without question the fittest side at the World Cup.

'We call it “putting it in the bank”', he says. 'When you're in that dark place in a match and you're struggling, you just think back to a tough session in Poland and it helps you get through because you've been to a worse place and survived.

Up for the cup: Warburton with coach Gatland

Up for the cup: Warburton with coach Gatland

'Going on the beach at -10 for sprints on the sand with the chill coming off the sea was brutal. I had five layers on, gloves and a beanie hat and when it finished I was still cold.

'But it gives us confidence and I know everyone is expecting great things from us. You walk past the Millennium Stadium and they've got the three fixtures, the last of which is Wales v France which is already sold out because people anticipate it will be a Championship game. That's where the Welsh public are at. But you're going to have highs and lows, you're not going to be at the top of your game for 10 years.'

The Warburton fan club seems to transcend all generations. The interview is interrupted twice, first by a flock of elderly ladies who want photographs, and finally by a class of screaming eight-year-old girls.

They see Warburton walk past the window of their school and start singing to him in perfect unison. It is a song they have been practising for singing class, according to the teacher, who emerges blushing from the classroom.

The song is Cee Lo Green's 'Forget You'. Somehow, I don't think Wales will.

Sam Warburton is supporting NatWest RugbyForce, the community volunteer programme that is improving club facilities. To register your club in Wales visit natwest.com/rugbyforce and to register in England and Scotland visit rbs.com/rugbyforce.