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Saturday’s big read | Siya Kolisi’s move to the Sharks gathers steam

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Springbok, Stormers and WP captain Siya Kolisi’s rumoured move to the Sharks could be the first real signal of player intent by the new majority shareholders in the KwaZulu-Natal union.

READ | SIYA KOLISI SHARES IMPORTANT COVID-19 AWARENESS MESSAGE

American consortium MVM Holdings completed an agreement to purchase a 51% stake in the Sharks this week.

The Sharks will hold 26% while SuperSport will control the remaining 23%.

MVM Holdings, headed by Amamzintoti-raised New York attorney Marco Masotti, had previously attempted to purchase a similar 51% controlling share in WP Rugby for a reported $6 million.

That deal fell flat.

ALSO READ | APHIWE DYANTYI OPTS TO APPEAL 4-YEAR DOPING BAN

Masotti will have the support of Vincent Mai who hails from the Eastern Cape and enjoys a strong bond with Kolisi.

Kolisi and Mai, who both attended Grey High in Port Elizabeth, have been photographed together in New York on social media.

In addition, among Masotti’s partners is Michael Yormark, the president of Roc Nation Sports International, who count Kolisi as one of their clients (as well as Springbok sensation Cheslin Kolbe).

DEAL WOULD GIVE SHARKS SAME CLOUT AS THE BULLS ENJOY

The deal could give the Sharks similar financial muscle to that currently enjoyed by the Bulls who are backed by South African billionaires Patrice Motsepe and Johann Rupert.

READ | WP V SHARKS CURRIE CUP CLASH CALLED OFF

Reports suggest MVM Holdings have every desire to turn the Durban-based franchise into one of the premier teams and brands not only in South African rugby, but on the world stage.

Nothing breeds success like winning and while the Sharks have done a fair bit of that over the years, honest, die-hard Sharks fans will still point to more disappointments than trophies.

WHETHER KOLISI IS AMONG THE ‘BEST’ IS UP FOR DEBATE

In order to win, the best players will need to be attracted by the Sharks brand and willing to sign on the dotted line.

Even if it means forgoing pounds, euros and yen to earn good old-fashioned South African rands.

READ | SPRINGBOKS TO PLAY BRITISH & IRISH LIONS IN THE UK?

Whether Siya Kolisi is among the ‘best’ players out there is for debate. Whether WP fans will see it as a massive loss and whether Sharks fans will be falling over themselves to see their latest recruit in action remains to be seen.

Kolisi, like so many South African players, is under contract at WP Rugby until after the 2021 British & Irish Lions tour in July.

Thereafter, it’s open season on a number of household names – many of which currently play their rugby in Cape.

KOLISI WILL BE 30 COME THE END OF THE LIONS’ TOUR

Kolisi, who will be 30 come the end of the British & Irish Lions’ tour (should it go ahead), will have a tough decision to make.

He has a young family and is settled in Cape Town.

But, as is so often the case with so many rugby and cricket players in particular, they needn’t reside in the province they play their rugby – or cricket.

Duane Vermeulen, Faf du Plessis and Dale Steyn – by way of just three examples – all play for the Bulls or Titans, but all reside in Cape Town.

Expect plenty of denials and ‘no comment’ responses until confirmation of where in the world Kolisi elects to continue his career.

Certainly interesting times in South African rugby.

IN CLOSING | JAKE WHITE: I BATTLED COVID-19 AND LOST CLOSE FRIENDS

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Cheetahs bolster pack after more key player departures

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The Cheetahs struggle to keep hold of their best players has continued this week with the revelation that skipper Carl Wegner and utility back Rhyno Smith would join hooker Jacques du Toit in leaving Bloemfontein.

Cheetahs hit by skipper’s departure

Wegner and Smith will be on their way to Italy to join Pro 14 outfit Treviso after the upcoming Franchise Cup. While details of that tournament are still sketchy, the Cheetahs will have both Wegner and Smith available to them until April.

The players are likely to then meet some of their domestic rivals in the Rainbow Cup tournament that will feature the 12 European teams of what was the Pro14 and the South Africa’s four former Super Rugby franchises.

With the Cheetahs having already lost Sintu Manjezi and Walt Steenkamp to the Bulls, they desperately needed reinforcement in the second row.

The 29-year-old second row, Rynier Bernardo, played for the Cheetahs from 2017 to 2018 and made 27 appearances for the team and will be making his return to Bloemfontein after a stint abroad with the Canon Eagles in the Japanese Top League. He is a product of Framesby High School in Port Elizabeth and represented the SA Schools Academy team in 2008.

“Barnardo stands at 1.99m tall and weighs in at 112kg and has proven in the past that he is valuable at lineout time, while he is also a strong ball-carrier,” a Cheetahs press announcement read. 

Former Sharks and Bulls lock Jean Droste will reporting for duty at the Cheetahs on 3 February as well.

Droste has also enjoyed a stint in the Japanese Top League with the Kubota Spears recently but is looking forward to a return to South African rugby.

“I’m really looking forward to the stay in Bloemfontein and excited to get going with the team. With everything that is going on contracts are a bit difficult to come by. You need that opportunity to come your way,” Droste said.

“I’m thankful to the Cheetahs for giving me this opportunity to go out there play again and prove myself.

“For me, it is a good move to come to the Cheetahs and hopefully I will be able to get a lot of game time. I’m looking forward to the challenge, meeting everyone here, and the season that lies ahead. Whatever lies ahead we are not sure about yet, but looking forward to the unknown as well.”

Border-bred prop headed to Bloem

East London-born and bred loosehead prop, Alulutho Tshakweni, will be joining the Toyota Cheetahs to bolster the front-row department.

Tshakweni made five appearances for the Baby Boks during the 2018 World Rugby under 20 Championship in France

A product of Hudson Park High School Tshakweni previously played for the Border Bulldogs, as well as the Southern Kings and Bulls.

During the 2018/19 season, he turned out for the Kings in 11 PRO14 matches.

The Cheetahs are expected to announce their Franchise Cup squad in the coming weeks.

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Peter de Villiers wades into British & Irish Lions tour debate

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Former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers has aired his views on the scheduled – at time of publishing – British & Irish Lions tour of South Africa in mid-2021.

FEEL GOOD | RONALD BROWN BEATS CANCER TO JOIN BLITZBOKS ON PLANE TO SPAIN

In a lengthy social media post, De Villiers feared that the tour would be moved to the UK for purely commercial reasons.

The eight-match tour, which includes three Tests, is due to start in early July.

However, due to Covid-19 concerns, frantic meetings are still ongoing as to whether to go ahead with the tour, hold it in the United Kingdom or postpone until 2022.

At this stage, it appears unlikely the tour will go ahead in South Africa this year while a postponement by 12 months has also faced opposition due to the already pencilled in plans for the four Home Unions in particular.

READ | JACO PEYPER TO BLOW CURRIE CUP FINAL

That leaves the most likely scenario as holding a British & Irish Lions “tour” in the UK for the first time ever.

While, such a decision wouldn’t prove popular with everyone and the UK currently faces as problematic a Covid-19 situation as South Africa does, SA Rugby Director of Rugby Rassie Erasmus is on record as saying the organisation would “do anything” to play the British & Irish Lions.

It also doesn’t sit well with De Villiers who coached the Springboks during the British & Irish Lions’ last tour of the country in 2009.

Peter de Villiers, the new EP Elephants coach, is in favour of a postponement to 2022.

READ | SHARKS JOIN FORCES WITH JAY-Z’S ROC NATION

‘Over the last few weeks, I have managed to find a small amount of time to reflect on the British & Irish Lions tour to South Africa in 2009 and the ongoing discussion on where and when the 2021 tour should take place.

‘The Lions tour will forever live with me as one of the greatest events I have ever experienced in rugby and it was not purely because of the results.

‘The Lions bring an aura that can’t be matched. Whilst on tour, they travel the country, they hold coaching clinics in communities, schools and townships, they fill stadiums and pump immeasurable amounts of money into a crippling economy that in 2021 or in 2022, we can ill-afford losing out on.

‘I know of a numerous amount of UK charities and tour operators who donate to South African charities and projects that will not be able to do so should this tour not go ahead here in South Africa. The chance to have a social impact in a country that is so desperate for it will be lost.

‘My biggest fear is that if they do move the tour to the UK, they will be doing it to appease sponsors and commercial obligations rather than rugby reasons and that would not sit well with me.’

WATCH | SIYA KOLISI SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HIS WIFE MAY BREAK THE INTERNET

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Feel good | Ronald Brown beats cancer, joins Blitzboks on plane to Spain

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Uncapped Ronald Brown, who recently recovered from serious illness, will join a raft of experienced Springbok Sevens players when they travel to Madrid next month for two tournaments to be hosted by the Spanish Rugby Union.

WATCH | SIYA KOLISI SINGING HAPPY BIRTHDAY TO HIS WIFE MAY BREAK THE INTERNET

South Africa’s two most experienced players, Branco du Preez and Chris Dry, will make the three-week trip to Europe along with an experienced group of HSBC World Rugby Sevens Series stalwarts, with Brown the only player to take to the skies for the first time in the green and gold.

Ronald Brown, a recent product of the SA Rugby Sevens Academy set-up and a Varsity Cup star for the University of Johannesburg, graduated with an education degree in 2019.

RONALD BROWN WAS DIAGNISED WITH HODGKIN’S LYMPHOMA

It was the same year he was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma and following a number of chemotherapy sessions lasting several months, the sweeper has been cleared of the illness and is fit to resume his rugby career.

“Ronald Brown’s story is remarkable and it’s great to finally see him graduate to the Blitzboks set-up,” said Neil Powell, coach of the Springbok Sevens team.

“The resilience he’s shown in fighting his illness, as well as his discipline and work-ethic, are the kind of characteristics we look for in players and I’m excited to see what Ronald can bring to the team.”

Also included in the squad are JC Pretorius and Selvyn Davids, who were named in the World Series Dream Team for the shortened 2020 season, while Zain Davids and Muller du Plessis also returned from their stints at the Sharks, where they were part of the Durbanites’ Currie Cup and Super Rugby Unlocked squads.

Siviwe Soyizwapi will lead the team for the first time since December 2019. The winger was injured prior to last year’s tournaments in Hamilton and Sydney and then missed out altogether as the season was cut short due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

READ | SHARKS JOIN FORCES WITH JAY-Z’S ROC NATION

The two tournaments will be played on consecutive weekends – from 19-21 and 26-28 February – at the Campo UCM Central, Madrid and will be the first arranged by World Rugby to prepare teams that qualified for the Tokyo Olympics in July.

The world body in December announced financial grants to all Olympic participants, which were to be used towards training camps, competition support, technical and sports science, medical programmes and high-performance preparation events.

This will be the first of these events and for Neil Powell, it comes at just the right time.

“We last played almost a year ago and we have been on the training field for almost six months now,” said Powell.

“All the players are very keen to get going and for us as coaches, the two tournaments will be an ideal opportunity to see where we are with regards to fitness, tactical awareness and squad depth.

“We have picked this squad for that purpose in mind, bearing in mind that some players, including Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans and Angelo Davids, were still involved in the Currie Cup and will have a rest period once that is completed.

“The rest of the group will stay behind in Stellenbosch and continue with their preparations. They will be in the mix when the next set of tournaments come around, Covid-depending.”

The travelling squad will undergo Covid-19 testing prior to departure to Spain, in adherence to tournament regulations, and will again be tested upon arrival in Europe, where the tournaments will be played in a bio-bubble.

READ | JACO PEYPER TO BLOW CURRIE CUP FINAL

Springbok Sevens squad:

Chris Dry, JC Pretorius, Zain Davids, Sako Makata, Christie Grobbelaar, Selvyn Davids, Branco du Preez, Justin Geduld, Ronald Brown, Muller du Plessis, Mfundo Ndhlovu, Siviwe Soyizwapi (captain)

James Murphy and Darren Adonis are the non-travelling reserves

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