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Wales Online
Wales Online
John Jones

Tonight's rugby news as South Africa refuse to go easy on Wales, WRU hopeful is replaced and Welsh star returns after World Cup nightmare

Here are the latest rugby headlines on Sunday, June 4.

Springboks boss reveals plan for Wales clash

South Africa head coach Jacques Nienaber has revealed his side's game plan for their Tests leading up to the World Cup as they look to successfully defend the title they won in Japan four years ago.

The Springboks have six games to play between now and the tournament kicking off in France, with the Rugby Championship to contend with in July before warm-up games against Argentina, Wales and New Zealand in August. But while Nienaber admits his side are determined to win the Rugby Championship, they are willing to sacrifice it if it means they are better prepared for the World Cup, with the coach explaining his plan for the summer games.

“Let’s divide it into six matches, with three determining the outcome of the Rugby Championship and three warm-up matches, which is Argentina, Wales and New Zealand," he told reporters. “Obviously, we want to go and try and win the Rugby Championship but, depending on what happens, if we can rejig and look for combinations [we will]. We always want to win every single match but there might be some rotational changes within the six Test matches leading up to the World Cup.”

While the warm-up matches lend themselves to rotation, however, Nienaber is keen to maintain momentum ahead of their first World Cup pool game against Scotland on September 10, meaning he could still field a stronger than expected team against Wales when the Springboks come to Cardiff on August 19.

"You want to go into the World Cup with momentum,” he added. “We probably have a plan in terms of how we want to go into the first three Test matches but, depending on injuries and how much squad depth there is per position, we might rejig even in the Rugby Championship. After the three games in the Rugby Championship, we might be getting guys back from injury so we might start introducing them in that Argentina away game. We might need to build momentum in the following two games, so I think we’ve got a plan set out in how we want to tackle those first six Test matches, but we will have to look and see how things are going.”

Wales face England twice, home and away, in August before hosting the Springboks in Cardiff. Warren Gatland's squad have been hit by three veteran retirements - Alun Wyn Jones, Justin Tipuric and Rhys Webb - just months out from the tournament, and head to France off the back of a disappointing Six Nations where they finished fifth thanks to a solitary win over Italy.

Wales star returns after serious injury

Wales flanker Alisha Butchers has returned to action after recovering from a serious knee injury which saw her leave last autumn's Rugby World Cup in agony before being ruled out of the 2023 Six Nations.

Butchers, who last year was named Wales Women's player of the year, sustained the "significant" injury in her side's opening-round victory over Scotland in New Zealand in October and has undergone lengthy rehabilitation to get back to full fitness.

The flanker, one of Wales' 25 full-time professionally contracted players, made her long-awaited return for club side Bristol Bears on Saturday as she started their bonus-point victory over Wasps, with the win setting up a clash with Gloucester-Hartpury in the Allianz Premier 15s play-off semi-finals. After the game, the 25-year-old said it was "great to be back" on the pitch having returned to training earlier this year, and spoke of her excitement about potentially being involved in a final having missed so much of the season through injury.

"I love playing for the Bears and I think it was a great opportunity to come here and play against Wasps in their last league game, so I feel really lucky and I'm really happy to be back," she said. "I am just so thankful to all my physios and nurses who have helped me along the way at Wales and Bristol. I've had great support and I think that really goes to show with how I've come back and how quickly I've come back so I think all credit really goes to them. It is the business end of the season [now] and I'm so excited that I'm able to be part of it".

WRU CEO hopeful replaced after 'clashes'

Former Wales international Andy Marinos has reportedly been replaced as Rugby Australia CEO, a month after he quit the role amid reports of "clashes" over a controversial signing.

Marinos, who won eight caps for Wales between 2002 and 2003 while playing centre for Newport, is on the shortlist of candidates to become the next chief executive of the Welsh Rugby Union, on rugby bosses' radar along with interim CEO Nigel Walker, Dragons boss David Buttress and football chief Steve Dalton OBE.

Since retiring from the game in 2004, 50-year-old Marinos has forged a successful career as a sports administrator and held down senior roles within the South African Rugby Union and as SANZAAR chief executive between 2016 and 2021. He became CEO of Rugby Australia in December 2020 and turned around their finances despite the hit of the coronavirus pandemic, with the governing body recording an $8.2million profit in 2022.

However, he quit the role at the start of May and has now reportedly been replaced by former Wallabies skipper Phil Waugh. While the appointment has not been formally announced, the Sydney Morning Herald say they have had the news confirmed by multiple sources.

Marinos' resignation came three months out from the World Cup, but it is now understood to be partly due to tension over RA's signing of NRL player Joseph Suaalii, who signed a $1.6million-a-season deal with the governing body to defect to union from 2025. While chairman Hamish McLennan reportedly wanted to target NRL stars to switch codes, Marinos clashed with him over the move, according to the Daily Mail, which ultimately led to him walking away from the role, becoming the third CEO to leave in just three years.

Kolbe set for Japan as he turns down South Africa offer

Cheslin Kolbe is reportedly set to sign for a Japanese side after leaving Toulon, with the Springbok star snubbing a huge money offer to return to South Africa. It was confirmed last week that the back had been released from his contract with Toulon a year early, with Kolbe now on the lookout for a new club.

South African newspaper The Rapport now say the Stormers made an offer believed to be in the region of around £620,000 a year, close to what he was being paid in France. If accepted, it would have made him one of the highest-paid players in South Africa, with the average player earning a salary of between £225,000 and £290,000.

However, the 29-year-old turned down the offer with the Stormers still under administration and unable to meet his salary demands, which coach John Dobson described in a recent interview as "a number that probably was the GDP of Lesotho”.

Instead, The Rapport say Kolbe looks set to continue his career in Japan, with Suntory Sungoliaths now the favourites to sign him having offered him a staggering reported salary of around £900,000, a figure which would make him one of the world's best-paid players.


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