The famous Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie talking Euos and Sharks

The curtain is quickly coming down on the careers at the Sharks of the famous Du Plessis brothers, Bismarck and Jannie, after a final offer to keep them in Durban was turned down last night in favour of French club Montpellier.

The Sharks have attempted to move heaven and earth to keep the famous brothers in Durban next year and, in conjunction with SARU, put an offer on the table that that would have made them arguably the best paid players in South Africa, according to Sharks CEO John Smit.

The Du Plessis’s are both Brothers in Arms for the Sharks and the Springboks, and they are also a package deal when it comes to negotiating their future, and after years of French clubs (unsuccessfully) making mega-bucks offers to the pair, it seems South of France club Montpellier has finally nailed down the Bethlehem “boets.”

Bismarck, 31, has played his entire career at the Sharks since moving to Durban from Bloemfontein as an 18-year-old in 2004 and is his franchise’s most capped Super Rugby player (129) while Jannie, 33, joined his younger brother in becoming a fixture in the Sharks (and Springbok) front row since he moved to the Sharks from the Cheetahs in 2008 and himself has subsequently earned 114 Super Rugby caps for the Durbanites.

Sharks CEO John Smit last night said that as a last resort he had put together a deal that would probably have elevated the brothers to the highest salaries possible in South Africa, but the pair have decided to move on and play two years of club Rugby in France.

While figures of what rugby players earn are highly guarded, it is known that Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen is currently the top earner in South Africa.

It is also reliably known than the brothers have had second thoughts about joining Montpellier since none other than Jake White became the club’s coach last year after he had “moved on” from a Sharks squad and management that were not prepared to work with him going forward. It is an open secret that that the brothers did not get on with the unpopular White, and now perhaps are not that keen to re-unite with their old boss.

An additional problem is the Euros 150 000 pre-contract agreement that is the norm in France, and with the Du Plessis’ having signed this stipulation, according to press reports from Montpellier, that would mean a joint Euros 300 000 forfeit they would have to repay the club.

There will be conspiracy theorists that will also wonder if Montpellier negotiated with the Du Plessis’s outside of the IRB-endorsed window period — July 1 in South Africa and September 1 in Europe which, if proved true, in turn could spell censure for both the club and the players.

Whatever the case, the Sharks have done their best to keep the brothers, first negotiating their future with them back in February.

“We heard through the grape vine that there was discussion between the Du Plessis’s and Montpellier a month before Jake became the Montpellier coach, but I am not going to allege in the media that this was outside the window in which it should have taken place,” Smit said. “We were prepared to increase our off but we never had a response.

“We then offered them a new figure in March, knowing that we would only have them for about nine games of the Super Rugby season, and we were talking about another R1-million per player.

“That was also declined,” Smit continued. “Then the South African Rugby Union came to the party, offering a three-year-deal, and added financial value to the offer. The brothers did not accept. We then this week made a final offer that would take them to the highest salary scale in the country, but this has been declined.”

by Mike Greenaway

It took fourteen weeks before the Hurricanes produced a howler.

It took fourteen weeks before the Hurricanes produced a howler.

From a completely dysfunctional lineout to a late Ma’a Nonu blooper, the Hurricanes were not themselves in Nelson where they lost 35-18 to a fired up Crusaders.

The loss doesn’t damage the Hurricanes’ playoff hopes, but a likely season-ending knee injury to reserve hooker Motu Matu’u and a serious concussion to wing Matt Proctor provide late season dents.

Hurricanes first five-eighth Otere Black fends off Crusader Luke Romano at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park.

Hurricanes coach Chris Boyd was at a loss to explain his side’s malaise after a good build up, but made no excuses for his team’s worst performance of the season.

“We were out-muscled, out-passioned, out-played, all the things we talked about before the match we didn’t want to happen,” he said. “We were up against a side desperate to start their resurrection, but we just didn’t turn up. There aren’t too many positives to take out of that.”

Crusaders’ second-five David Havili fends off two Hurricanes players during his side’s 35-18 win in Nelson.

Boyd said Matu’u’s season was “probably over”, while Proctor was up and about, but would clearly have to through the concussion protocols before being considered again.

Proctor looked to be in serious trouble after putting his head on the wrong side of Crusaders fullback Tom Taylor late in the match and was stretchered off Trafalgar Park.

Boyd hailed the control of Crusaders first five-eighth Dan Carter, who played a masterful hand after returning to his favoured position and kicked six of seven shots at goal.

Crusaders’ first-five Dan Carter looks for a way through the Hurricanes’ defence at Nelson’s Trafalgar Park.

“He guided them through the match, he kicked extremely well. They didn’t play when they didn’t have too,” Boyd said.

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Openside Ardie Savea had been exceptional in his first head to head with All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, but Boyd said his side had been collectively beaten to the punch at the tackle.

The Crusaders’ bonus-point win keeps their slim playoff hopes alive, while the Hurricanes need to regroup before they head to Napier next week to play the Highlanders.

More importantly, the door remains open to the Hurricanes’ New Zealand Conference rivals the Chiefs and Highlanders, who can steal home advantage in coming weeks.

Boyd wasn’t sure why the lineout had malfunctioned, but said the Crusaders forwards brought out the worst in the Hurricanes set piece.

Ardie Savea showed off his full array of skill, strength and pace, and his try after halftime will feature on the Super Rugby season highlights reels after he finished off an 80 metre counter attack, and lock James Broadhurst carried the ball strongly.

But mostly the Hurricanes lacked polish. When Nonu held off grabbing a Carter cross kick in the 73rd minute and wing Nemani Nadolo slid past for the try, it ended any hopes of a comeback win, and summed up the night.

Nadolo was a nightmare for the Hurricanes, his power evident from the early exchanges and by full time the Fijian colossus would have set up two tries and scored one himself.

Together with centre Robbie Fruean, Nadolo provided the one-two power punch the Crusaders have lacked all season.

The Hurricanes closed to 18-16 at halftime when hooker Dane Coles grabbed a try with Fruean in the sin bin for dumping wing Nehe Milner-Skudder on his head.

But the visitors were too sporadic.

James Marshall had a forgettable first half at fullback dropping two highballs and was brushed aside by Nadolo on the half-hour mark as halfback Mitchell Drummond’s try gave the home side a 16-3 lead.

Savea’s long range try closed the gap to one point after halftime before TMO Chris Wratt then continued the season’s baffling officiating when he missed a knock on by Matt Todd and awarded a try to wing Nafi Tuitavake to restore the eight-point buffer.

But the TMO didn’t miss any tackles and Nadolo struck again a few minutes later when he blasted through Savea and off-loaded to Todd to push the score out to 30-18 with 20 minutes to play.


Crusaders 35 (Mitchell Drummond, Nafi Tuitavake, Matt Todd, Nemani Nadolo tries, Dan Carter 3 pens, 3 cons)Hurricanes 18 (Dane Coles, Ardie Savea tries, Otere Black con, 2 pens) HT: 16-8 Crusaders.


Join us LIVE for the 8th annual Google I/O developer conference. TODAY – 4PM (SA) Catch it all on MEX

Join us LIVE for the 8th annual Google I/O developer conference. Thursday 28 May – 4PM (SA)

Catch it all on MEX

Roeshdien Jaz and Siphokazi Jonas Live Sat 30 May -Reeler Theatre Rondebosch -Book Computicket

Roeshdien Jaz and Siphokazi Jonas Live Sat 30 May -Reeler Theatre Rondebosch -Book Computicket

Dan Carter at flyhalf amongst the 7 changes for the Crusaders against Hurricanes on Friday

The Crusaders will host the Hurricanes in Nelson this Friday night, in their final home game of this season. Head Coach Todd Blackadder has made seven changes to the starting line-up that faced the Waratahs last weekend and four further changes in the reserves.

Prop Alex Hodgman will make his first start of the season with Joe Moody out with a foot injury. Providing prop cover on the bench are Nepo Laulala and Tim Perry, who is set to play his first game since rupturing his achilles at the end of 2014.

Three players have been ruled out this week following head knocks in the game against the Waratahs, they are lock Sam Whitelock, number 8 Kieran Read and midfielder Ryan Crotty. That sees Jimmy Tupou start at lock alongside Luke Romano, while Dominic Bird takes a spot on the bench. Richie McCaw steps into captaincy duties and the number 7 jersey, with Matt Todd playing at 6, Jordan Taufua at 8 and Luke Whitelock on the bench.

Robbie Fruean is making his return from injury at centre and David Havili will start at 2nd five. Colin Slade and Israel Dagg are also both out with injuries this week, so Dan Carter starts at 1st five on Friday night, Tom Taylor at fullback and Kieron Fonotia joins the reserves.

Kick-off is at 7:35pm this Friday night at Trafalgar Park. Crusaders team to play the Hurricanes:

1 Alex Hodgman RESERVES
2 Ben Funnell 16 Codie Taylor
3 Owen Franks 17 Tim Perry
4 Luke Romano 18 Nepo Laulala
5 Jimmy Tupou 19 Dominic Bird
6 Matt Todd 20 Luke Whitelock
7 Richie McCaw (c) 21 Andy Ellis
8 Jordan Taufua 22 Kieron Fonotia
9 Mitchell Drummond 23 Jone Macilai
10 Dan Carter
11 Nemani Nadolo
12 David Havili
13 Robbie Fruean
14 Nafi Tuitavake
15 Tom Taylor

Sharks tour report 2015 -Oops what a tour !

There was an almost comical moment in the 69th minute of the Sharks’ 21-14 victory over the Reds on Friday which both summed up their season and also what needed to happen for them to snap out of a six-match losing streak.

There was scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer limping near the Reds line in clear discomfort and wanting to leave the field after the ball had been cleared from a ruck, when suddenly the ball screwed laterally from the boot of James O’Connor, who was attempting a regulation clearance, straight into the gut of Ungerer. In golf terms it was a shank, and for Ungerer, It was like one of those slip catches in cricket that either stick or they don’t, and the former SA Under 20 scrumhalf literally staggered three metres over the line for a freak try, and then off the field with a yet to be disclosed injury.

Despite yet another injury, finally the Sharks had had the bounce of the ball, the rub of the green, call it what you like, because O’Connor has probably never made a howler of that nature before and is unlikely to repeat it.

Earlier the Sharks had seen lock Stefan Lewies carted off with a dislocated knee cap, centre Francois Steyn leave the field midway through the second half with what looked like a pectoral injury after having been an influential presence, and replacement prop Dale Chadwick go off in considerable pain not long after replacing the Beast.

The Sharks had led from the third minute but looked to be out on their feet as the match entered the final quarter, and the momentum was with the Queenslanders, who then conspired to give the Sharks mental boosts to hang on for the win. There was O’Connor’s fluffed kick and not long after Reds centre Samu Kerevi had blasted clean through, with only Lwazi Mvovo at the back to beat, when he inexplicably kicked ahead instead of passing inside to his supporters. Mvovo caught and marked the ball and a certain seven-pointer was averted.

It is true that the rugby gods have been looking every which way but at the Sharks throughout their campaign – it seems a season ago that in a third-round match against the Bulls at Loftus a series of poor decisions by referee Johan Greeff possibly cost them the result – and injuries have mounted after each game. They also had “Mr Bean”, alias Rohan Hoffman, last week in Sydney.

But let’s not gloss over the Sharks’ self-created deficiencies this season. They have been their own worst enemies as far as discipline and defence are concerned, and in some games it has seemed that some big names have been cruising while others have been busting a gut.

Week in week out we have seen loose forwards Marcell Coetzee and Renaldo Bothma standing out for unstinting effort, and veteran lock Marco Wentzel has won much respect since taking over the captaincy from Bismarck du Plessis.

But you need the whole pack to fire at the same time if you are to win the close games. That is when you start getting the rub of the green …

Outside centre JP Pietersen, having been dormant for so long, was another who burst into life with a huge performance, particularly on defence.

On their opening game on tour, the Sharks were terrible against the Highlanders in Dunedin but as a team they then started fighting, and there were disheartening losses to the Hurricanes and Waratahs, who could easily have lost those games had the Sharks not been inconsistent on defence, missing 30 tackles in each of those games against leading teams in the competition.

Perhaps the best thing to come out of the face-saving win against the Reds was the tenacity of the team. As early as the fifth-minute of the second half, Wentzel told the referee that his players were struggling because most of them were “walking wounded’, and they needed more time at stoppages to get medical attention.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis was immense in setting the example that he failed to do when he was captain and then suspended for four weeks. He was at his belligerent best and on tour has shown the form required to reinstate him as No 1 Springbok hooker ahead of Adriaan Strauss.

The tour also unveiled new backline players that injury to stars otherwise would have kept unearthed.

Scrumhalf Ungerer comes home injured but with a reputation he did not have a month ago having been third choice behind Cobus Reinach, who was injured after the Highlanders game, and Conrad Hoffman, whom he has outplayed.

Similarly, flyhalf Lionel Cronje has taken his chances while the same possibly cannot be said for Fred Zeilinga, who was the second-choice behind Patrick Lambie at the start of the season.

Cronje and Ungerer have been the 9-10 combination for the last three games.

The Sharks won ugly against the Reds, let’s not fool ourselves, with guts and good fortune winning the day. The challenge now is to use the victory to polish up their game to beat the Rebels this week and the Stormers next week, both games being at Kings Park, and then we can truly speak about pride and respect being restored.

by Mike Greenaway

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