Sharks upbeat about 2018 Super Rugby season

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The Sharks head coach Robert du Preez says there’s great energy in his squad ahead of the tough 2018 Super Rugby season. He’s banking on a team with a good mixture of youth and experience to produce the results this season.

The Sharks are not taking the 2018 rugby season lying down. They’re sweating it out in the sweltering Durban heat stretching themselves to the limited.

They are sharpening their skills ahead of a tough couple of months of rugby.

Sharks head coach, Robert du Preez says, “We’ve got some really talented youngsters and these guys haven’t looked out of place. A guy like Pepsi Buthelezi, who is the Sharks under 18 captain last year and JJ Van Der Mescht, they’ve trained with us right through pre-season and they haven’t looked out of place, it’s great to have a mix of the youth and the more experienced guys.”

The Sharks are heading into the 2018 Super Rugby competition with a pep in their step, but say they want to take it one step at a time.

Sharks player, Franco Marais says, “So obviously we are playing New Zealand sides this year and we got two weeks in Australia and two weeks in New Zealand and I think we need to take it week for week. I know it’s an old cliché but Super Rugby is a tough competition and you can’t aim to far in the future, but for us a home a quarter final is definitely one of our goals and hopefully a home final.”

They’ll be playing two warm-up matches prior to the competition.

On the 27th of January they meet the Bulls in Polokwane and on the 3rd of February they head to Hong Kong, where they’ll take on Racing 92.

On Saturday, Sharks fans are in for a treat. They’ll get an opportunity to meet the entire squad at Kings Park.

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Nedbank Cup to see ABSA premiership teams battle it out

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A number of ABSA Premiership teams will play each other in the opening round of the 2017/18 Nedbank Cup.

The draw that took place in Johannesburg on Monday threw up some intriguing and mouth-watering clashes.

There will hardly be a David versus Goliath clash in the Nedbank Cup this season.

Perhaps the only two matches that will provide such affairs are Mamelodi Sundowns against Cape Town All Stars and Maritzburg United versus Moroka Swallows FC.

There are a few mouth-watering matches to look forward to. One of those will be the battle between Bidvest Wits and Cape Town City.

The two sides have already met three times this season with the Citizens causing an upset on all three occasions against the defending Premiership champions.

Gavin Hunt, Bidvest Wits Coach, elaborates:

“We have won three in 14 months, but look where we are now… So football can turn on a kick of a ball and things can happen easily in football. They have a great record against us over the last two seasons, and this season we have lost to them three times, but this is another game we will see what happens.”

Kaizer Chiefs have a tricky first round encounter against Golden Arrows.

Although the KZN outfit has not been able to pick up many wins this season, they have however proved to be a tough side to play against.

Stephen Komphela, Chiefs coach:

“In terms of profiling I could immediately go back they know who we are. So there is not going to be much research but going forward, obviously depending on how things unfold then, there is going to be an issue where you have to go check the opponent but with them it’s a bit easier in terms of understanding who you are up against.”

Orlando Pirates welcome back former mentor Muhsin Ertugral for the first time.

The Turk will be on the bench of Ajax Cape Town when the Soweto giants host the Urban Warriors a team that is hoping for some success following a poor start to the season.

Other ties between top-flight sides see Platinum Stars host Baroka FC, while Nedbank Cup Champions from the past two seasons, Supersport United, travel to Bloemfontein Celtic.

Eric Tinkler, Supersport United coach says:

“Very tough start we played them in the Telkom Cup and unfortunately lost after penalties. We gave away a two nil lead and hopefully we can go there and turn that around. We are obviously defending champions we have won it two years in a row and we would like to make it a third and become the first club to ever do that so I think the motivation will be there.”

The dates, venues and kick-off times will be confirmed by the PSL at a later stage.


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All systems go for Cape Town Cycle Tour

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Organisers of the popular Cape Town Cycle Tour say this year’s event is going ahead, despite the critical water shortage in the Cape.

Director David Bellairs says a well thought-out plan is in place with all suppliers and service providers.

This will ensure that they reduce their reliance and impact on the municipal water supply to as close as possible to 0 percent.

Bellairs says they are positive that they’ll be able to meet this goal.

Participants will also be provided with practical tips on how to do their part to save water while staying in the Mother City for the event on 11 March.

Bellairs says no shower facilities will be provided this year. Chemical toilets and hand sanitisers will be used instead.

Spring water will be brought in while grey water and desalinated water will be used to further save water.


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SA sees growth in women’s golf

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Golfer Ashleigh Buhai says local golfers will be able to test themselves against the best and see the level they need to step it up to because it is a big step from an amateur to a professional.

This comes after the Sunshine Ladies Tour and the Women’s PGA of South Africa announced on Monday that the 2018 Investec South African Women’s Open will be jointly co-sanctioned between the Sunshine Ladies Tour, WPGA and the Ladies European Tour.

“This means that the Women’s golf in the country is going from strength to strength and we going to have a lot of strong players competing for the Investec South African Women’s Open this year,” says Buhai.

Click below to watch full interview:

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Branden Grace, three eagles later, settles for a share of the lead

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Branden Grace achieved a career first of three eagles in one round as he opened with a 65 to share the lead on Thursday’s Day one of the BMW South African Open at Glendower Golf Club.

Grace’s round of seven under par saw him join American Chase Koepka at the top of the leaderboard and one stroke clear of England’s Chris Paisley.

“It was good. I was a little bit rusty with some of the wedge shots and things like that but all in all very pleased with the outcome and I think I pretty much got the most out of that round. It’s a great start to 2018,” said Grace.

The South African is still revelling in his Nedbank Golf Challenge victory last November, and he displayed similar form when he eagled the par-five second, eighth and 15th holes at Glendower in a round that also included three birdies and two bogeys.

“On all the par-fives, I pretty much hit great tee shots and really gave myself some chances.”

The eagle on the second saw Grace hole a 25-footer, which he says was crucial to his round.

“I get on a streak like this where I make one of those longish putts in the first couple of holes, then I pretty much know I just have to get it there. I had the lines on all of them.”

Koepka, the brother of PGA Tour campaigner and US Open champion Brooks Koepka, was delighted with his round after he opened with a bogey.

“I made eagle on the second hole and kind of kept it going from there. I just stayed patient after that first hole.”

Former SA Open champion Richard Sterne is well-placed at five under, while amateurs Garrick Higgo and Kyle McClatchie impressed with their opening rounds of four under.

And Jamie Donaldson recorded the first hole-in-one of this year’s tournament when he aced the par-three 14th with a nine iron.

Retief Goosen and Charl Schwartzel head into the second round on three under, while Ernie Els is at one under.

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Aguero double keeps Man City’s FA Cup hopes alive

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Sergio Aguero scored a quickfire brace in the second half as Manchester City  maintained their interest in four trophies by beating Burnley 4-1 in the FA Cup third round at the Etihad Stadium on Saturday.

The Argentine striker helped rescue the tie for Pep Guardiola’s team after they trailed to Ashley Barnes’s first-half opener for their Premier League rivals.  But the equaliser, in the 56th minute, was not without controversy as Ilkay Gundogan’s quickly taken free-kick caught Burnley unprepared and played Aguero clean in on goal for City’s all-time leading scorer to complete a routine finish.

That led to a furious reaction from Burnley players, who clearly felt the free-kick had been taken too quickly and Guardiola and his opposite number Sean Dyche became embroiled in an angry argument with the fourth official and each other.

That row was still ongoing when Sergio Aguero claimed a brilliant second, playing a pass to Gundogan, who back-heeled the ball cleverly back to the forward, who again gave Nick Pope no chance with an unstoppable shot.

Leroy Sane ensured City would have a comfortable passage into the fourth round after 70 minutes with another well-worked goal.

The German played another devastating one-two with David Silva, running through to receive the return pass before finishing impressively from a wide angle.

And, with eight minutes to go, Pope rushed from his area to try and beat Sane to a Kevin De Bruyne through ball, allowing the winger to round him and square for substitute Bernardo Silva to score into an open goal.

It was a harsh scoreline on the visitors, who had already threatened by the time Barnes fired them into a 25th-minute lead.

It was the most direct goal imaginable as Sam Vokes rose to flick on a long punt forward from goalkeeper Pope.

There was ample opportunity for John Stones to clear the danger but the England defender completely miskicked his attempted clearance, allowing Barnes to sprint through on goal and beat Claudio Bravo with an accomplished finish from 15 yards.

City could not say they had not been warned, with the best chance of the game having already fallen to the visitors from Johann Berg Gudmundsson’s 18th-minute corner, which former City junior Ben Mee headed powerfully across an empty six-yard area.

But prior to the opening goal, City had enjoyed the bulk of possession, without forcing Pope into a save, with full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko summing up his team’s lack of imagination with a couple of long-range shots that cleared the bar.

Ashley Westwood was fortunate to concede a free-kick, rather than penalty, after 15 minutes when he clumsily pushed Sergio Aguero in the back but Gundogan drove that dead ball into the Burnley wall.

Nor was there much immediate improvement from City after the restart, with full-back Danilo’s frustrations evident when he collected a yellow card for a crude challenge on Barnes.

Burnley still looked threatening on the break, with Vokes and Gudmundsson combining well to set up goalscorer Barnes for another shot which he sent rising over the cross-bar.

However, the game changed dramatically within the space of three minutes with the Aguero goals and Sane should have scored his team’s third soon after, shooting over an open goal from six yards after Pope had blocked a Danilo shot.

After Sane had made amends, by claiming his team’s third, Sergio Aguero might have had a hat-trick but failed to control a near-post ball before City’s matchwinner made way for Bernardo Silva with 10 minutes left.

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Polokwane City brings Sundowns down to earth

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Polokwane City have beaten Mamelodi Sundowns for the second time in the ABSA Premiership this season.  Rise and Shine came back from a goal down to win 3-2 in a tension filled match played at the Peter Mokaba Stadium.

The win is a moral booster for the Polokwane based team who were not doing well last year.

The win for Polokwane City moves them to eleventh position on the log.

Mamelodi Sundowns coach Pitso Mosimane risked playing George Lebese who has not seen much action this season.  The coach was rewarded when the former Kaizer Chiefs player connected a cross from Hlompho Kekana.

The combination of Themba Zwane and Percy Tau confused the Polokwane defense.

And had all their attempts been on target, Sundowns would have been leading 4-0 half way through the first half.

This was a grudge match after Polokwane City beat Sundowns in their own back yard last year.

Sundowns were made to rue their missed chances after they failed to wrap the match in the first half. They conceded two goals in a space of one minute as Polokwane led 2-1 in the second half.

However, Sundowns regrouped and Percy Tau dished a delightful through pass that was scored by Oupa Manyisa.

And when everyone thought the match was heading for a two all draw, Rodney Ragagalela rewrote the script and once again got the better of his former coach Mosimane.

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Coutinho’s move to Barcelona nears completion

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Barcelona and Liverpool have agreed on a deal in principle for Philippe Coutinho to move to the Spanish giants in a deal worth up to 160 million euros ($192 million), reports in Spain said Saturday.

Barcelona-based Sport newspaper said Coutinho would join Barca this month on a contract for five seasons, although it said the details of the deal were still to be finalised.

“The club reached a deal in principle yesterday evening with Liverpool on the final amount of the deal,” Sport reported.

Another newspaper, Mundo Deportivo, said Liverpool were demanding 160 million euros for 25-year-old Coutinho, but that the sum would be made up of a 120 million euro transfer fee and 40 million euros of “variables”.

Coutinho stayed in Liverpool on Saturday while his teammates jetted off to Dubai for warm-weather training, fuelling speculation that he was set to leave the Premier League club.

Barcelona coach Ernesto Valverde refused to be drawn on the issue when he gave a press conference on Saturday.

“Coutinho is a great player, like other players that I am often asked about in press conferences. But I prefer to talk about the players that I already have,” Valverde said.

“When there is something new to say, the club will announce it,” he added.

Barcelona tried to sign Coutinho in the summer, but Liverpool rebuffed their £100 million bid.

His departure now would be a blow to Liverpool as the playmaker has just returned to top form after an injury-hit start to the season. He scored six goals in the last seven games of 2017 to put his side firmly in the Champions League places.

Capturing Coutinho would allow Barcelona to move on from the bitter experience of losing his Brazil teammate Neymar last summer to Qatar-backed Paris Saint-Germain for a world record 222 million euros.

Coutinho’s age is also highly attractive to Barca, whose three main stars, Lionel Messi, Luis Suarez and Andres Iniesta are all in their thirties. Iniesta, at 33, has shown signs of fatigue this season.

Reports and tweets, from AS newspaper and their reporters, said Coutinho could arrive in Barcelona later Saturday, watch Barcelona’s game against Levante at the Camp Nou on Sunday and be unveiled on Monday.

French sports daily L’Equipe reported on Saturday that Liverpool were lining up Leicester’s Riyad Mahrez to replace Coutinho, although Britain’s Press Association said the Anfield club had contacted Leicester to inform them that the reports were pure speculation.

Liverpool have also been strongly linked with Monaco forward Thomas Lemar, who Arsenal tried to sign before the season.

Coutinho played no role in Liverpool’s 2-1 victory over city rivals Everton in the FA Cup on Friday.

Liverpool’s winning goal was scored by Virgil Van Dijk, the Dutch defender signed last week from Southampton for £75 million ($101.7 million, 84.5 million euros).

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SA’s Kevin Anderson hires new coach

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South Africa’s Kevin Anderson has hired new coach Brad Stine, it was confirmed on Wednesday.

“I‘m excited to tell you all that I am working with Brad Stine this year!,” said Anderson on his Facebook page.

“We’ve had a great start already and he’ll be joining me in 2018 as my coach on tour as we work toward more great results.”

Anderson earlier on Wednesday reached the quarter-finals of the ATP Maharashtra Open in Pune.

Stine coached former world number one Jim Courier during the mid-90s and has since mentored Sebastien Grosjean and Byron Black.

Anderson split with his previous coach Neville Godwin in November.

The 31-year-old Anderson had an incredible run in the US Open last year where made it to the final before losing to Spain’s Rafael Nadal in September. Anderson, at the time was the the world No 32, was the lowest-ranked US Open men’s singles finalist since the inception of the ATP rankings in 1973.

The South African started the season at No 80 in the ATP Rankings after an injury-ravaged 2016. It was his lowest mark since August 2010. Anderson reached a career-high ranking of 10th in October 2015 soon after beating Britain’s Andy Murray to reach the US Open quarterfinals.

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Chiefs get their man, but it’s not Ntshangase

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Having missed out on Baroka FC midfielder Siphelele Ntshangase, Kaizer Chiefs have instead swooped for Bloemfontein Celtic winger Kabelo Mahlasela.

Chiefs had been linked with Ntshangase since his Black Leopards days and appeared to be closing in on capturing his signature.

But according to Baroka CEO Morgan Mammila, Amakhosi were not willing to meet their asking price and the deal was called off on Wednesday.

However, it was still to be a fruitful day for the Soweto giants as they confirmed the arrival of Mahlasela, the 26-year-old former Royal Eagles player having been on Chiefs’ radar after some scintillating performances for Celtic this season.

“Kaizer Chiefs would like to confirm the signing of attacking midfielder Kabelo Mahlasela from Bloemfontein Celtic on a 2 and a half year deal with a one year option,” the club tweeted on Wednesday afternoon.

And as part of the deal, central defender Lorenzo Gordinho will head to Bloemfontein for a one-year loan period.

Cape Town City coach Benni McCarthy, meanwhile, continues to reshape his squad, the Citizens on Wednesday announcing the signing of the former Stars of Africa attacker Surprise Ralani, who arrives from Swedish outfit Helsingborg IF.

The 30-year-old from Kimberley has never played in the PSL, having spent his career in Sweden and Denmark. His signing follows on from that of Kenyan forward Masoud Juma on Tuesday.

The Cape side have, however, seen Lehlohonolo Majoro leaving for Bidvest Wits while Aubrey Ngoma went to Mamelodi Sundowns in a big money move.

In other confirmed PSL transfer business, Bloemfontein Celtic have signed Menzi Masuku from Chippa United.

Bidvest Wits, meanwhile, parted ways with former Bafana Bafana and Everton midfielder Steven Pienaar, who leaves after just half a season during which time he featured in only six league matches.

The 35-year-old, who also played for Ajax Amsterdam, Borussia Dortmund and Sunderland in a glittering career, had been linked to Orlando Pirates before joining the Clever Boys. But that was before Milutin Sredojevic was appointed head coach at Pirates.

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