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Exciting opportunity for scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse

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Sharks coach Sean Everitt says he is looking forward to seeing how young scrumhalf Jaden Hendrikse performs in his first start against the Cheetahs on Sunday.

After making his Currie Cup debut off the bench in last weekend’s loss to the Lions in Johannesburg, Hendrikse will make his first start for the Sharks when they travel to Bloemfontein to face the Cheetahs.

The 20-year-old was set to play for the Junior Springboks for a second time this year, before the Covid-19 pandemic resulted in the Junior World Championships being called off.

However, with incumbent Sanele Nohamba, who has started the majority of the Sharks’ Super Rugby Unlocked and Currie Cup matches, being rested, Hendrikse will get an opportunity to show why he is rated as one of the country’s most promising scrumhalves.

‘Sanele has got a rest this week, with Jaden Hendrikse getting a start and Grant Williams coming in on the bench,’ Sharks coach Everitt said. ‘Sanele has played a lot of rugby this year and he deserves a break. We are looking forward to the opportunities that the other two youngsters are getting and seeing how they go.

‘With a bit more time with Jaden, I am sure that he will improve with time in senior rugby. As you all know, he is still under 20 and a youngster, so it’s a good opportunity and exciting for him. ‘

Coming off a disappointing loss to the Lions, the Sharks are currently third on the table with two games to go before the playoffs.

Sunday’s match will be the first of two difficult away games to finish the Sharks’ round robin campaign, with a trip to Cape Town to face Western Province in a couple of week’s time.

Everitt said that despite the strange circumstances of training on Christmas Day, morale is high in their camp and the Sharks will be looking to take that energy into Sunday’s match.

‘The preparations for the Cheetahs this week has gone really, really well. The guys have learned from the mistakes they made against the Lions. We have identified the areas we needed to work on. The guys have gone about their business as usual, with a lot of energy and intent to rectify the poor result against the Lions.

‘It has been a strange week this week being Christmas, but the guys have embraced the Christmas feeling and have certainly taken to the field with a lot of energy, Training on Christmas day was slightly different, but the guys have worn their Christmas hats and had a secret Santa this morning. We are looking to really bring that Christmas feeling to the game on Sunday. ‘

Photo: Steve Haag/Gallo Images



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Wallabies, All Blacks, Rugby Australia, New Zealand Rugby, Hamish McLennan, video

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As New Zealand Rugby continues to crawl towards a private equity solution, Rugby Australia chairman Hamish McLennan says their own path towards overturning years of underinvestment is on course.

The former News Corp exec also believes bread can be broken with their New Zealand counterparts, with new NZR chair Stuart Mitchell helping ease tensions.

McLennan described Mitchell, who took over from Brent Impey at the end of May, as a “good bloke” but “straight down the line” and pivotal in getting the new Super Rugby Trans-Tasman competition across the line.

However, McLennan added if relations didn’t continue to improve they would reassess the new domestic deal in 2023.

Hamish McLennan says his counterpart Stuart Mitchell has helped trans-Tasman relations. Photo: News CorpSource: News Corp Australia

Over the weekend, the New Zealand Herald revealed the NZR were edging towards a resolution in getting their deal with Silver Lake across the line.

The NZ Herald reported the US technology investment giant, which had valued NZR at $3.1 billion previously and offered $387.5 million for a 12.5 per cent stake in the deal, had given an improved valuation for a 7.5 per cent stake.

Improved but still less than the cash-injection promised earlier, which potentially leaves the NZR needing to sell off more of its product later.

The previous deal hit a snag because the NZR had failed in its duty to give the New Zealand Rugby Players’ Association a seat at the negotiating table.

It left NZR boss Mark Robinson, who has struggled to fill the void left by his predecessor Steve Tew, scrambling for a solution as the Players’ Association boss Rob Nichol rejected the deal.

Now a series of demands have been included by the Players’ Association for any potential deal to proceed, including an independent NZ Rugby governance review that assesses the constitution.

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New Zealand Rugby Union Mark Robinson has come under fire in 2021. Photo: AFPSource: AFP

The list of conditions also includes the key principle to provide the opportunity for New Zealanders to invest in NZ Rugby.

Despite the developments, it is not fait accompli the deal will go ahead with one Players’ Association source telling the NZ Herald it remained a 50/50 chance.

The debacle has left Robinson vulnerable in his role as NZR CEO, with many losing confidence in his ability.

New Zealand sources have told foxsports.com.au the fractured relationship between the NZR and Super Rugby franchises continues.

The year’s messy private equity deals, which failed to include New Zealand’s players, Impey’s attack on the players, as well as the fractious relationship with closest ally Rugby Australia, has seen Robinson’s stocks take a hit and Nichol’s grow.

“If it wasn’t for Stuart Mitchell we would have cut them adrift and done Super AU only,” McLennan told foxsports.com.au.

“He’s a good guy, someone you can trust and he wants to do the right thing.

“We might still wind our relationship back with them over time if the relationship doesn’t settle at all levels. We’ll give it two years and re-evaluate.”

Private equity is on the doorstep for both Rugby Australia and New Zealand Rugby. Photo: Getty ImagesSource: Getty Images

RA remains on track to take their own private equity pitch to market in the coming months and said the governing body won’t face the same roadblocks, with RUPA boss Justin Harrison with them at every step.

The governing body is still hoping to strike a deal, which will sell off 12.5 per cent of its entities for a game-changing sum of money to help spearhead rugby’s future.

McLennan said there was an acceptance across the board the code needs an injection of capital.

“We’ll just run our own race,” he said. “But we are under capitalised. We still need more.

“They’ve got roughly $60 million in the bank and they get more broadcast and sponsorship with a population of under five million. We’ve underinvested for 15 years.”

Meanwhile, RA will not throw open the borders and ditch the ‘Giteau Law’ and other eligibility criteria that limits overseas players from representing the Wallabies.

The loosening of eligibility laws has benefited the Wallabies over the past month, with Samu Kerevi, who would not have qualified under the current Giteau Law like Quade Cooper, playing a key role in leading Dave Rennie’s men to consecutive wins over the world champion Springboks.

RA believes they are striking the right balance in targeting key players like Kerevi, as well as Sean McMahon who has arrived from Japan for the remainder of the Rugby Championship, to help inject star power and experience.

Others like Rory Arnold are expected to be called up for international duty in November for the Spring Tour.

With the help of contracting manager Nick Taylor, RA believes they have pinpointed the right youngsters to keep in Australia like Len Ikitau and Tate McDermott while also bringing back others such as Nic White and Andrew Kellaway.

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Fijian Drua name first players in debut Super Rugby Pacific squad

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The Fijian Drua have announced the first five members of its inaugural Super Rugby Pacific squad for the 2022 season.

The five players unveiled by the new expansion franchise are 2020 Tokyo Olympics gold medallist Napolioni Bolaca, one-test hooker Tevita Ikanivere, Bay of Plenty speedster Onisi Ratave, experienced loose forward Nemani Nagusa and young halfback Simione Kuruvoli.

Bolaca headlines the quintet given his success and experience in the Fijian sevens set-up in recent years.

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A utility back in XVs, the 24-year-old was a key member in Fiji’s successful rugby sevens Olympic Games title defence in July and was named in the 2019/20 World Rugby Sevens Series Dream Team after finishing as the series’ top point-scorer that season.

He will be joined in the backline by Ratave, who will be a familiar name to some New Zealand-based Super Rugby fans after setting the early stages of this year’s NPC alight while playing for Bay of Plenty.

The electric winger has scored three tries in just two outings for the Steamers and has been involved in the Fijian sevens squad since last year.

At the age of just 21, Ikanivere, a former Fiji U20 representative, made his test debut in Fiji’s Autumn Nations Cup win over Georgia last November and will look to add to his solitary test cap through his performances with the Drua next year.

Nagusa is by far the most experienced of the five newly-recruited players, having played 18 times for Fiji between 2012 and 2019.

With professional experience with Aurillac in France’s Pro D2 and the Newcastle Falcons in the Premiership, the 33-year-old is set to provide the Drua with valuable experience in its maiden Super Rugby Pacific campaign.

Kuruvoli, meanwhile, is among the youngest of the new signings, but the 22-year-old, another ex-Fiji U20 player, boasts two test caps after playing against Georgia last year and then starting against the All Blacks in Dunedin two months ago.

Interim Fijian Drua chief executive Brian Thorburn said in a statement that he was delighted with the first wave of player announcements, with the remaining 32 players set to be announced over the course of the next several weeks.

“We’re steaming ahead towards our historic first season, and today’s naming signals our intentions – we are going to delight rugby fans with that typical Fijian flair and playing style,” he said.

“It also underscores our commitment to offer a pathway for Fijian players into Super Rugby. The competition is about to get a whole lot more exciting, and we can’t wait for rugby fans to see our Fijian Drua in action.”

Fiji Rugby general manager high performance unit Simon Raiwalui echoed Thorburn’s sentiments as he emphasised the Drua’s intent of recruiting and developing homegrown talent.

“All five players unveiled today are homegrown and have come through our Fijian Sevens, age group or high performance programmes,” he said.

“It is wonderful to be able to reward these players with a professional contract to play in the world’s best club rugby competition.”

The Drua are also expected to announce its coaching staff in due course with pre-season scheduled to take place in Australia from mid-October.

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Tabai Matson celebrates win in first game as coach of English rugby champions Harlequins

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Former All Blacks centre Tabai Matson was delighted to get a five-point win in his first game as director of rugby at English rugby champions Harlequins while Kiwi compatriot Pat Lam has signed a new five-year contract at Bristol.

Matson has taken over the helm at Harelquins in his first major coaching appointment since he was released from the Chiefs coaching staff after the 2020 Super Rugby season.

Former All Black Tabai Matson with the English rugby premiership trophy won by Harlequins before he became the London club's director of rugby.

David Rogers

Former All Black Tabai Matson with the English rugby premiership trophy won by Harlequins before he became the London club’s director of rugby.

The 48-year-old was proud of Harlequins’ 26-20 win at the Newcastle Falcons on Sunday (Monday NZ time) after two tries from wing Louis Lynagh and scores by England internationals Joe Marchant and Danny Care.

“Coming up here and getting five points was more than we could hope for,’’ Matson said.

“Getting the victory was the focus and getting that done with a team that’s unscathed is a fanstastic start.’’

Harlequins director of rugby Tabai Matson oversees a training session.

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Harlequins director of rugby Tabai Matson oversees a training session.

Matson is no stranger to English rugby after serving a season as Todd Blackadder’s assistant-coach at Bath in 2016-17 before returning to New Zealand for family health reasons.

He had three years on the Chiefs’ staff, serving as attack coach under Colin Cooper for two seasons and defence coach for Warren Gatland in 2020.

His Harlequins coaching team includes highly-regarded former All Blacks first five-eighth Nick Evans, a Harlequins legend as a player, who nows guides Harlequins’ attack.

Matson, who was Fiji’s backs coach at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, is now looking forward to his first Harlequins home game at the Stoop next weekend against the Worcester Warriors.

Worcester will field Kiwi halfback Willi Heinz, who played for Canterbury when Matson was backs coach then head coach.

New Zealand halfback Willi Heinz scores on his premiership debut for English club Worcester after transferring from Gloucester.

Dan Mullan/Getty Images

New Zealand halfback Willi Heinz scores on his premiership debut for English club Worcester after transferring from Gloucester.

Heinz, who has earned 13 England caps, scored a try and claimed a try-assist on debut for Worcester in the Warriors’ 36-24 win over London Irish on Saturday. It was his first premiership game since switching from neighbours Gloucester.

Meanwhile, Pat Lam could not crown his new five-year contract as Bristol Bears director of rugby with a win against promoted club Saracens on Friday (Saturday NZ time).

Bristol were semifinalists last year, but lost 26-9 to Saracens, who are back in the premiership after being forced to spend a year in the second-tier due to sustained salary cap breaches.

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam watches on as his side lose to Saracens in his first game after signing a new five-year contract.

Bob Bradford – CameraSport/Getty Images

Bristol Bears director of rugby Pat Lam watches on as his side lose to Saracens in his first game after signing a new five-year contract.

Lam has developed a strong squad at Bristol, including ex-All Blacks Charles Piutau, Steven Luatua and John Afoa and crack Fijian centre Semi Radrada.

The former All Blacks loose forward said it was “an absolute honour’’ to continue at the Bears’ helm.

“To have the opportunity to work with a great group of people, and to represent our community with pride and love is very special,’’ Lam said.

Alex Lewington scored Saracens’ only try and Alex Lozowski kicked seven penalties.

In other opening round games, Chris Boyd’s Northampton Saints had a 34-20 win over Gloucester, the Sale Sharks edged Bath 20-19 on ex-England international Danny Cipriani’s Bath bow, and the Leicester Tigers scored an impressive 34-19 win over champions Exeter Chiefs.

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