'We have to capitalise on opportunities' - Springboks look for World Cup hope in All Blacks Test

The chaos that occasionally appears at the heart of South African rugby has been evident in the Springboks' preparation for Saturday's Rugby Championship test against New Zealand.

Bold predictions, dire warnings, mixed messages and the collision of short term and long term goals have combined to complicate South Africa's preparation for a match they are already given little chance of winning.

A warning from head coach Rassie Erasmus that his job may be on the line if the Springboks lose tomorrow night has been characterised as an attempt to motivate his players in the hope of avoiding a third-straight loss.

As South Africa's Director of Rugby, Erasmus has a say in the hiring and firing of any Springbok coach and there is no movement among South African rugby bosses to remove him from either role.

Erasmus said history shows his recently-signed six-year contract can quickly be terminated if Springboks fans lose confidence in him.

But the message that Erasmus's future may hang on the outcome of a single match is contradicted by his assertion that the Springboks' coaching staff are focused on the long term — on winning the next two World Cups — and not on the result of a single test.

The messages are not entirely discordant: the best way for Erasmus to demonstrate he has a plan to win a World Cup in 12 months would be to beat the world's No. 1 team tomorrow.

Having the capacity to do so is essential to achieving the kind of long-term success Erasmus espouses.

But the Springboks' performance against the Wallabies was so lacking in direction, particularly in attack, there was no indication they have the ability to become World Cup contenders, a year out from the tournament.

The Springboks obeyed first principles and tried to dominate Australia up front but a shaky scrum and poorly-functioning lineout made that impossible.

The return of Malcolm Marx at hooker on Saturday should improve the lineout.

Without scrum and lineout solidity, there was no platform for the Springboks to attack from set piece and they showed no aptitude for counter-attack, lacking communication on the field.

There seems no single step the Springboks can adopt Saturday to turn around that performance, though they have shown in the past an ability to achieve improvement in a short time.

Last year they lost 57-0 to the All Blacks in Auckland, but by a single point in Cape Town three weeks later.

South Africa's best hope seems to lie in matching the All Blacks' physically and minimizing the errors which contributed to their defeat last week, though Erasmus believes the Boks can compete in the open field.

"I don't think it will be physicality in this game. The way the All Blacks are playing, there is so much finesse in their game, they are so good at taking small opportunities," he said.

"We currently are creating opportunities and just throwing them out the window every single time.

"I think obviously both teams will have to compete physically because that's New Zealand and South African rugby but - we have to capitalise on opportunities like New Zealand do if we are to be successful."

Erasmus said Saturday's selection and performance will serve a long-term purpose.

"We're trying to mix and match a little bit to see who we can take to the World Cup and who can handle the pressure in different situations," Erasmus said. "It's not just Elton and Handre.

"After six matches I'm finding out about players in different situations. I think this team is the closest to the strongest 23 that we've put out for the seven tests we've played."

Makazole Mapimpi celebrates a try with Aphiwe Dyantyi and Eben Etzebeth of South Africa of South Africa  during the 2018 The Rugby Championship match between South Africa and Argentina at Kings Park Stadium, Durban on 18 August 2018 ©Samuel Shivambu/BackpagePix / www.photosport.nz
Springboks winger Makazole Mapimpi celebrates a try with Aphiwe Dyantyi and Eben Etzebeth of South Africa against Argentina. Source: Photosport


'Thinking of ways to keep this big machine going' - Steve Hansen looking for ways to keep talent in NZ

New Zealand are as fragile off the field as they are dominant on it.

That's the grim assessment of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, who has renewed a call for New Zealand government support if his all-conquering team are to maintain their pre-eminent place in world rugby.

Hansen's concerns about the financial strain on the Kiwi game came in the same week World Rugby vice-chairman Augustin Pichot warned the international scene is in danger of disintegrating if a unified global calendar can't be nailed down within 12 months.

Pichot said rugby's business model doesn't add up for most countries.

He has threatened to walk away rather than "be an accomplice to rugby's ruin".

Despite its success at all levels, New Zealand Rugby is losing money and struggling to retain all of its leading players who are being courted by large offshore clubs.

Hansen says finding a financial solution is imperative.

"The word complacency's been bandied around about us as a team but we're fighting it all the time with our fans and our country," Hansen said.

The All Blacks coach said he is trying to implement ways of keeping top Kiwi talent in NZ. Source: 1 NEWS

"It's not an everlasting thing that we're doing. I'm sure there would be a different attitude if this team wasn't performing."

Former All Black Lima Sopoaga this week said playing for New Zealand was losing its allure and that players will increasingly accept overseas deals, such as he has with English club Wasps.

Hansen hoped New Zealand Rugby's commitment to protecting player welfare can help prevent the current trickle of departures turning into a torrent.

"I don't think there's any more going than there has been and there's a lot of guys over there who think it's a grind," Hansen said.

"But we have to keep thinking of ways to keep this big machine going."

Hansen's previous plea for government support of the country's richest sport organisation was greeted with widespread negativity.

He pointed out central funding could be a means to boost the grass roots game, freeing up more sponsorship money to retain top players.

That, in turn, would protect an All Blacks brand he believes puts Kiwis on the map.

"Rugby in this country is part of who we are and what we are.

"You can go anywhere in the world and people may not know New Zealand but they've heard of the All Blacks."

All Blacks coach Steve Hansen.
All Blacks v France. Rugby Union. Steinlager Series, 2nd test match. Westpac Stadium, Wellington, New Zealand. Saturday 16 June 2018. © Copyright photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
All Blacks coach Steve Hansen. Source: Photosport


Wallabies coach Michael Cheika in no joking mood for Pumas Test

Wallabies assistant Stephen Larkham has had his wings clipped by the boss ahead of what is being likened to a family reunion on the Gold Coast on Saturday.

Australia will face an Argentina side now headed by former Wallabies forwards coach Mario Ledesma at Cbus Super Stadium.

Ledesma helped transform Australia's scrum in the lead up to the last World Cup before leaving for his homeland on the best of terms with coach Michael Cheika.

Joking when asked of Ledesma's influence earlier this week, Larkham cheekily replied that "he struggled as an assistant coach" and "didn't know what he's going to come up with this weekend".

Tongue firmly in cheek, Larkham also suggested his former colleague would be stealing from the Wallabies play book on the Gold Coast.

Cheika wasn't laughing about it on Thursday though, bristling when asked what he thought of Larkham's banter.

"I'm not that into it, you know what I mean," he said.

"I get it, the joke and everything, but there won't be any joking on Saturday."

Cheika will save the jovial interaction for after the game, knowing his side has a chance to pull back more ground after a morale-boosting defeat of South Africa in Brisbane.

Argentina split a home-and-away series against South Africa to start their campaign before a plucky 46-24 loss to the All Blacks last weekend.

"He's (Ledesma) done an excellent job. I'm biased, he's like family to me, but it won't make a difference on Saturday," Cheika said.

The Wallabies are $1.27 favourites to win with some bookies but, after back-to- back Bledisloe Cup floggings to begin the Rugby Championship, Cheika isn't getting ahead of himself.

"We've copped a fair bit of flak recently so after last weekend we get a lot of people telling you 'it's all good, all good'," he said.

"It ain't all good until you're consistent every single day. It's a laugh (the banter), but laughs for me are after the game."

Wallabies coach Michael Cheika during the Wallabies Captain's Run at Eden Park ahead of this weekend's Bledisloe Cup and Rugby Championship match in Auckland. Friday 14 August 2015. Copyright Photo: Andrew Cornaga / www.Photosport.nz
Wallabies coach Michael Cheika Source: Photosport



Watch: Waikato lock away Ranfurly Shield with sublime offloading display against hapless Hawke's Bay

Waikato have completed their first successful defence of the Ranfurly Shield after a stunning second half performance against Hawke's Bay in Hamilton tonight.

The two Championship sides were locked in a close battle at halftime with Waikato hold a 21-15 lead.

They managed to earn that lead thanks to a yellow card given to Pasqualle Dunn just 12 minutes into the match when the Magpies midfielder made his second dangerous tackle minutes after his first.

That gave Waikato a chance to strike and allowed them to nullify an early try to Brad Weber and build a 14-10 lead before the sides traded blows late in the half.

But it was all one way traffic in the second 40 minute block as Waikato piled in three tries in 11 minutes to lock the Log o' Wood away.

Their final try was a sublime effort from the entire team as three offloads set up reserve Raniera Takarangi to dive over the line and push the lead to 42-15 with nine minutes left.

Hawke's Bay managed a late consolation try but it didn't change the fact they were dominated at the lineout and breakdown throughout the match, leading to the big loss.

The result sees Waikato continue their climb after their horrid start to the season, sitting top of the Championship table with their third-straight win six matches.

Hawke's Bay sit directly under them, although they do have a game in hand having taken three wins in their first five games of 2018.

One thing they don't have though is the Ranfurly Shield which Waikato won't defend again for another two weeks until Southland comes to town.


As it happened: Waikato's wild second half leads to successful Ranfurly Shield defence against Hawke's Bay

Relive 1 NEWS NOW's live updates of tonight's Ranfurly Shield contest between holders Waikato and challengers Hawke's Bay at FMG Stadium in Hamilton.

FT: WAI 42-22 HB

There's a HB TRY on the final whistle to Tofilau but it doesn't matter. Waikato have held onto the Log o' Wood with a stellar second half on attack. The Magpies were their own biggest enemy tonight. Too many handling errors and a poor performance on their lineouts really hurt them. That means Waikato hold the Shield for at least another two weeks until Southland comes to town. That's it from us folks. Pо̄ marie!

77min: WAI 42-15 HB

Hawke's Bay will get one last shot at consolation as Waikato are penalised in their own half for hands in the ruck. The Magpies take it quickly and carry the ball over into Waikato's 22m.

75min: WAI 42-15 HB

Hawke's Bay continue to be their worst enemies as they knock on the first decent touch they've had of the ball in the last 10 minutes. That gives Waikato a scrum 35m from Hawke's Bay's line.

73min: WAI 42-15 HB

WAI TRY! Waikato pull out all the stops and deliver the final blow. It takes them seven phases to get inside Hawke's Bays' 22m from the lineout. They attack to the right wing and  McWhannell gives a beautiful offload to Tucker. He links up with an offload to Takarangi 10m out and he goes the rest of the way to score. Three tries in 11 minutes. That's how you seal away the Ranfurly Shield for another week!

70min: WAI 35-15 HB

Hawke's Bay hurt themselves once again as they're penalised shortly after getting the ball back from kickoff for going off their feet in the ruck. Waikato use the penalty to find touch and it's a lineout on halfway.

68min: WAI 35-15 HB

WAI TRY! Smith floats behind the scrum and attack the blindside. It's popped to him from the base at speed and he bowls through the line and stretches out to score. That could just do it. 

65min: WAI 28-15 HB

Waikato looks destined to score again but there's a stunning trysaving tackle! Ball wrapped up and there's no one it's finding the grass. Hawke's Bay aren't out of the woods yet though. That just gives Waikato a 5m scrum.

63min: WAI 28-15 HB

Waikato follow up their end-to-end magic with a fantastic clearance kick from Smith. It gets every inch possible from 10m off his own line and pushes Hawke's Bay to a lineout on halfway.

61min: WAI 28-15 HB

WAI TRY! Didn't see that coming! Hawke's Bay lose the ball off their lineout and it leads to yet another stellar run from Reece. That gets Waikato to 30m from the Hawke's Bay line and they recycle quickly. It gets to the right wing but the defence stops it 1m short. A couple pick and gos and finally the line is broken thanks to Iti. Big moment in the match.

57min: WAI 21-15 HB

Hawke's Bay attacks for eight phases and they earn a penalty after a dangerous tackle. Nothing too serious. Just a bit high. But it gives the Magpies amazing field position as they earn a 5m lineout.

54min: WAI 21-15 HB

Waikato's turn to be sloppy. They butcher the scrum and there's a knock on at the base. Hawke's Bay scrum deep in their own territory. To make matters worse, there's a penalty soon after for kicking in the ruck so Hawke's Bay clears and gets a lineout 10m inside Waikato's half.

52min: WAI 21-15 HB

Waikato build pressure with a tactical kick floated and bounced into touch to force the Magpies into a lineout 15m from their line. It works perfectly as there's a knock on at the lineout and Waikato get a scrum 15m short.

50min: WAI 21-15 HB

Hawke's Bay turn over the ball but not for long. They look to attack on the right wing but there's an accidental shepherd shifting the ball out there so Waikato get a scrum on halfway.

48min: WAI 21-15 HB

Hawke's Bay's gamble backfires! It's lost at the lineout and Waikato recover it. They clear and to make matters worse for the visitors, they get pulled up for a forward pass in their counter attack bringing the ball back. Waikato scrum on 15m from halfway.

46min: WAI 21-15 HB

Moments after a brilliant play, the Waikato forwards let themselves down as they're penalised for collapsing the scrum. Hawke's Bay smell blood and turn down the three for a kick in the corner. 5m lineout coming up.

45min: WAI 21-15 HB

Waikato clear from their 22m but as Hawke's Bay look to return it, the ball gets held up for a maul. It's going nowhere and the ball is trapped so that's a Waikato scrum. 30m from their own line.

43min: WAI 21-15 HB

Wild start to the half as both sides throw their bodies at the contest for early posession and territory. Waikato make a break down the left wing but Tupaea is isolated and Hawke's Bay turn it over. There's no one back so Weber hoofs it downfield and bounces it into touch inside Waikato's 22m.

40min: WAI 21-15 HB

Waikato get us going again in Hamilton!

HT: WAI 21-15 HB

Hawke's Bay try one last shove but they're dragged into touch for halftime. Back and forth first 40 on our hands and everything you want in a Ranfurly Shield match. Reece is having another blinder for the hosts but Weber is looking just as dangerous for the Magpies. Don't go anywhere. We'll be back with the second half.

37min: WAI 21-15 HB

HB TRY! Hawke's Bay strike right back! Waikato are penalised immediately after the kickoff and the Magpies use it to get a 5m lineout. From there, they convert at the setpiece and cut the deficit to six points. 

34min: WAI 21-10 HB

WAI TRY! Waikato convert on the penalty and it's Reece magic! He breaks down the left wing and looks for an offload 2m from the line. Finds it, and Manihera scores. Mooloo men take a big lead.

31min: WAI 14-10 HB

Waikato straight back on attack after Hawke's Bay are penalised early after kickoff. Big kick from Smith and it reaches halfway for a lineout.

30min: WAI 14-10 HB

WAI TRY! What a solo run by Reece! The lineout is a shocker but the winger comes through and takes the bounce perfectly. Flies through Hawke's Bay's line and bolts for the posts. No one touches him. Try time!

28min: WAI 7-10 HB

It takes them a couple of attempts but they finally find the angle they want for a good clearance. Waikato lineout 35m from Hawke's Bay's line.

26min: WAI 7-10 HB

Waikato slowly build pressure after getting the ball back from kickoff. After 8 phases their on the Hawke's Bay 22m thanks to strong forward runs. It gets to 18 phases and their 1m out. They go for the line with a pick and go and there's a knock on on the line! Unbelievable. Hawke's Bay scrum on their 5m.

23min: WAI 7-10 HB

HB THREE! Waikato are penalised for leaving their feet in the ruck. Magpies are down a man so they take free three on offer.

21min: WAI 7-7 HB

Magpies immediately back on attack as they earn a scrum from the kickoff holding up ball-taker Manihera for a maul. Ball is stuck and going no where so it leads to Hawke's Bay feed 20m from Waikato's line.

20min: WAI 7-7 HB

WAI TRY! Too easy. Manihera pops to Stratton. He draws and passes to Sweeney in a hole and the skipper dives under the posts. All tied up.

18min: WAI 0-7 HB

Waikato hit the line and the ball comes loose! Hawke's Bay dives on it but they knock it on in their desparation! Waikato with their fourth 5m scrum in as many minutes.

17min: WAI 0-7 HB

Hawke's Bay's scrum is penalised and Waikato use it to set another. Something has to give.

15min: WAI 0-7 HB

Waikato come up inches short but they'll get a scrum for their efforts. 5m out, can they convert on this pressure?

14min: WAI 0-7 HB

Waikato using their backs with the numbers advantage but after a ruck is set, there's a knock on by Hawke's Bay trying to steal the ball. That means it's a Waikato scrum 20m from the line in the middle of the field. Prime attacking position.

12min: WAI 0-7 HB

HB YELLOW! Dunn is sent to the bin after his second dangerous tackle in less than 10min. Two poor lifting tackles and Waikato with a big advantage now. They kick for touch with the penalty and it's a lineout on Hawke's Bay's 22m.

9min: WAI 0-7 HB

It's a sloppy lineout but Hawke's Bay get a scrum from it. 10m inside Waikato's half.

8min: WAI 0-7 HB

Waikato get the ball back shortly after kickoff but Hawke's Bay's defence leads to a penalty. Didn't release in the ruck so that's a free kick for touch and a Magpies lineout 30m from Waikato's line.

6min: WAI 0-7 HB

HB TRY! What a try by the Magpies! There's a linebreak on halfway before the ball gets to Weber with 25m to go. He shakes off two, steps inside a third and dives under the posts. Perfect start for the visitors.

3min: WAI 0-0 HB

Waikato clear after the kickoff and Hawke's Bay try to counter attack. Six phases gets them no where so they float a kick into Waikato's 22m. No one there and it bounces into touch. Waikato lineout 20m from their line. Pressure is diverted soon after though as there's a dangerous tackle. Waikato find touch and it's their lineout on halfway.


Hawke's Bay get us going in the Tron!


After a slow start to the season, Waikato have found some red-hot form and claimed the Log 'o Wood with it thanks to a stunning 33-19 win over Taranaki on Sunday.

But celebrations have been cut short with their first defence already arrived as a Championship-leading Hawke's Bay come to town looking to strip it from them.

The Magpies only have one loss so far this season to Premiership outfit Counties but have posted wins over Southland, Otago and Bay of Plenty entering tonight's contest.

Waikato on the other hand started 2018 cold with losses to Manawatū, North Harbour and Auckland before toppling Premiership sides Wellington and and Taranaki last week.

Head-to-head, the hosts come in with a minor advantage having won 27 of the 49 contests between the two. The last time the two teams met in 2016, Waikato earned win No.27 with a 46-22 thumping in Hamilton as well.


Waikato: 1.Ayden Johnstone, 2.Samisoni Taukei'aho, 3.Joshua Iosefa-Scott, 4.Tim Bond, 5.Laghlan McWhannell, 6.Adam Burn, 7.Mitch Jacobson, 8.Jordan Manihera, 9.Jack Stratton, 10.Fletcher Smith, 11.Sevu Reece, 12.Dwayne Sweeney, 13.Quinn Tupaea, 14.Bailyn Sullivan, 15.Mathew Lansdown.

Substitutes: 16.Sekope Lopeti Moli, 17.Haereiti Hetet, 18.Sosaia Fale, 19.James Tucker, 20.Murry Iti, 21.Raniera Takarangi, 22.Mosese Dawai, 23.Tyler Campbell.

Hawke's Bay: 1.Ben May, 2.Kianu Kereu-Symes, 3.Joe Apikotoa, 4.Tom Parsons, 5.Michael Allardice, 6.Marino Mikaele-Tu'u, 7.William Tremain, 8.Gareth Evans, 9.Brad Weber, 10.Tiaan Falcon, 11.Mason Emerson, 12.Pasqualle Dunn, 13.Stacy Ili, 14.Jonah Lowe, Jamie-Jerry Taulagi.

Substitutes: 16.Jason Long, 17.Mark Braidwood, 18.Pouri Rakete-Stones, 19.Geoff Cridge, 20.Josh Kaifa, 21.Folau Fakatava, 22.Tofilau Sasa, 23.Michael Buckley.

Waikato's Josh Hohneck beaks a tackle to score a try. Ranfurly Shield Challenge, Hawkes Bay v Waikato, New Zealand. Friday, 09 October 2015. Copyright photo: John Cowpland / www.photosport.nz
Waikato's Josh Hohneck beaks a tackle to score a try in 2015. Source: Photosport