UEFA honours David Beckham with President's Award

UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin hailed Beckham as the “a true football icon of his generation” after selecting the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder to receive the award in Mon

Manchester United and England legend David Beckham will receive the 2018 UEFA President’s Award, in recognition of his remarkable career and humanitarian efforts, the sport’s European governing body said on Tuesday.



UEFA President Aleksander Ceferin hailed Beckham as the “a true football icon of his generation” after selecting the former Manchester United and Real Madrid midfielder to receive the award in Monaco later this year.



“The President’s Award recognises outstanding achievements, professional excellence and exemplary personal qualities,” Ceferin said in a statement.



“I have chosen David Beckham as the recipient of this year’s award because he has been a global ambassador for football, promoting the game and all its values in every corner of the planet.



ALSO READ: Mo Salah, Ronaldo & Modric on UEFA player of the year shortlist

“His tireless humanitarian efforts, which have helped the lives of many children around the world, should also be celebrated. Beckham is a true football icon of his generation.”



Beckham’s illustrious career



Beckham made 762 appearances for club and country, scoring 130 goals in a career spanning over 20 years.



He won six Premier League titles, two FA Cups and a Champions League with his boyhood club United, before claiming the Spanish La Liga title with Real.



A stint at Los Angeles Galaxy along with two short loan spells at AC Milan followed, before he finished his career with Paris St Germain in 2013.



‘It’s an honour’



Beckham will become only the third Englishman to receive the award after Bobby Robson (2002) and Bobby Charlton (2008).



It is an honour for me to receive the UEFA President’s Award,” Beckham said.



“During my career I always gave 100% and tried to uphold the values of teamwork and fair play and I am proud to join the illustrious list of players who have previously won this award.”



Beckham made 115 appearances for England, scoring 17 goals, and featured in three World Cups.





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Guinea wins West African Football Union tournament

Both sides had drawn 0-0 following 90 minutes and extra-time in a disappointing final on Saturday.

A big win for Guinea as its side A thrashed Cape Verde 4-3 on penalties to win the first ever consolation Plate competition in the West African Football Union tournament in Thies, Senegal.

Both sides had drawn 0-0 following 90 minutes and extra-time in a disappointing final on Saturday.

Cape Verde can afford to count themselves fortunate when they had a seemingly good goal by Osvaldo Martins ruled out for offside.

The ball fell into Martin’s path via a Guinea defender and should have stood.

Team Cape Verde also had the best of the chances.

But the team missed two of their penalties in the shootout with Guinea’s Morlaye Sylla keeping calm to convert the vital kick.

AP

‘The best moment in my life’- Eliud Kipchoge, Marathon record holder

That was the best moment in my life. When I had 500 meters to go and the time was actually to make history. You know, pressure it was actually very picking in my shoulders, in fact yesterday, I had a

“That was the best moment in my life. When I had 500 meters to go and the time was actually to make history. You know, pressure it was actually very picking in my shoulders, in fact yesterday, I had a lot of pressure. I have received a lot of phone calls, a phone call for the president of Kenya, his deputy is here. I received phone calls for all over the world and all the messages from those great men, and you know, when you receive a lot of calls from high-profile people, on the other hand it is pressure,” said Eliud Kipchoge, first under two-hour marathon runner.

Eliud Kipchoge admitted that becoming the first two-hour marathon runner in history ‘was the best moment in my life’ during a press conference in Vienna.

The Olympic champion and world record holder from Kenya clocked 1 hour, 59 minutes and 40.2 seconds at the INEOS 1:59 Challenge on Saturday, an event set up for the attempt.

Eliud further said, “For the first kilometers I was really comfortable. I have been training for it for the last four and a half months. (Inaudible) I have being putting in my heart, and my mind that I will run under two hours in marathon to make history and past a positive thought, a message to the whole world that not human is limited. “

Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge makes history, breaks world marathon record

Eliud Kipchoge has became the first man to pass under the two hours barrier in the marathon Saturday during an unofficial race in Vienna.

Eliud Kipchoge Saturday became the first man to run the marathon under two hours after clocking one hour, 59 minutes and 40 seconds during the INEOS 1:59 Challenge at Prater Park in Vienna, Austria.

The Kenyan Olympic champion, in black shorts and white jersey, completed its course in 1 h 59 min 40 sec, or almost two minutes less than his world record (2 h 01 min 39 sec) established under conditions approved in Berlin last year.

Kipchoge assisted by 41 pacemakers enters the Guinness Book of World Records for running the first sub two-hour marathon though his feat will not be recognised by the world athletics governing body, IAAF, as the new world marathon record.

“Marking history was my goal, I’m a happy man, there are no human limits,” the organizer’s microphone told the marathon recorder after his feat, which he compared to “walking on the Moon “for the first time.

“I followed the same training, my team is the same, but I still improved my mind,” he explained before his attempt. “I feel better prepared and confident.”

The Kenyan is one of the greatest athletes of all time, revealed to the public during his victory over 5,000 m of the Paris World Championships in 2003. Winner of the marathon of the Rio Olympics (2016), Eliud Kipchoge is almost undefeated on this distance since 2013. This time, he said he wanted to “run for history”. He has definitely entered the books of history this Saturday.

Kenya's Kipchoge sets time for sub-two hour marathon attempt

Kipchoge, 34, who is the reigning Olympic champion and set an official world record of 2:01.39 at the Berlin marathon last September, missed out by 26 seconds when he previously attempted to break the

Kenya’s Eliud Kipchoge will on Saturday at 0815 local time (0615 GMT) take on the historic task of running a sub-two hour marathon, race organisers said on Friday.

The provisional start time had been set at between 0500 and 0900 local time for the world record holder’s attempt to break the two-hour barrier.

The sport’s governing body, the IAAF, will not recognise the run as an official record because it is not in open competition and it uses in-and-out pacemakers.

“His team are keen that a significant crowd will attend to cheer Kipchoge on and help him make history,” the organisers said in a statement.

The weather in Vienna on Saturday is expected to be dry and sunny with a forecast temperature of 9 Celsius at the start, rising to 12 Celsius at the finish.

Record-breaking athlete

Kipchoge, 34, who is the reigning Olympic champion and set an official world record of 2:01.39 at the Berlin marathon last September, missed out by 26 seconds when he previously attempted to break the two-hour barrier in Monza in May 2017, without spectators.

“I am running to make history, to show that no human is limited. It’s not about money, it’s about showing a generation of people that there are no limits,” Kipchoge told reporters.

‘‘Running Berlin and running Vienna are different. Running Berlin is for winning and running a world record, Vienna is like going to the moon.’‘

Kipchoge’s coach Patrick Sang told reporters that he was “100 percent sure” that the presence of the public this time would help the athlete’s attempt.

“He believes more in himself,” he said, adding that Kipchoge’s run in Monza had shown that barriers could be broken.

“If you see the times that have been run since Monza and now in the marathon, so many athletes have run 2:02 hours, 2:03…it’s a clear indication we are learning more every day,” he said.

Kipchoge will be supported by 41 pacemakers who will run 4.8 kilometre stints and will form a V shape around Kipchoge, as opposed to a Diamond formation in Monza, to try and protect him from the wind.

“More knowledge has gone into the concept of the formation,” said Sang. Kipchoge will run 4.4 laps of a 9.54 kilometre course, consisting of a long straight with a loop at each end, in the Prater park.

Rugby World Cup: weekend matches cancelled over Typhoon Hagibis fears

Namibia and South Africa are in Pool B, along with defending champions New Zealand, Italy and Canada.

Typhoon Hagibis affects matches

Organisers of the Rugby World Cup deemed the risk from Typhoon Hagibis so high that they cancelled matches for the first time in the tournament’s 32-year history.

With the huge storm set to potentially devastate parts of Japan, Italy’s game against New Zealand in Toyota and England’s match against France in Yokohama on Saturday have been cancelled while Japan’s game against Scotland on Sunday is also in doubt.

The host nation would advance to the quarter-finals for the first time if their game in Yokohama is called off.

“While making every possible effort to put in place a contingency plan that would enable all of Saturday’s matches to be played, it would be grossly irresponsible to leave teams, fans, volunteers and other tournament personnel exposed during what is predicted to be a severe typhoon,” said tournament director Alan Gilpin.

“We fully appreciate that England, France, New Zealand and Italy fans will be disappointed, but we trust they will appreciate that their safety must come first.”

Super Typhoon Hagibis is heading north toward Japan’s main island and could make landfall on Saturday, with torrential rain, high winds, storm surges and high waves expected.

As it stands, New Zealand will finish top of Pool B with South Africa going through as runners up.

South Africa vs Canada

South Africa celebrated their 500th test by storming into the Rugby World Cup quarter-finals with a 66-7 victory over Canada on Tuesday.

The Springboks ran in six tries in the first half hour at Kobe Misaki Stadium, and Canada’s woes deepened a couple of minutes before halftime when replacement lock Josh Larsen was shown a red card for an illegal shoulder charge at a ruck.

The Boks had wrapped up the bonus-point they needed to secure their quarter-final berth by the 18th minute, with the best of those tries coming from Reinach as he picked up the ball at the base of a ruck inside the Bok 22 and scythed through a gap in the defence.

The Boks will find out who they face in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Ticket target hit

Rugby World Cup organisers announced on Friday they had hit their target of selling 1.8 million tickets during the tournament.

Despite fears that crowds might be sparse in Japan, not a traditional rugby nation, fans have turned out in their droves, packing stadiums even for games not involving tournament heavyweights.

World Rugby chief Bill Beaumont said the tournament had “captured the hearts and minds of a nation and the global rugby family” and congratulated the Japanese organised for hitting their milestone.

There are now a “limited” number of tickets available on the official ticketing website, as sponsors and nations hand back some seats, organisers said.

“While tickets remain available, our advice to fans is to only buy through official channels to avoid being disappointed,” said Beaumont.

Ticket prices vary widely, from 100,000 yen ($936) for the best seats at the final, to 2,000 yen for the cheapest entry to the pool game between USA v Tonga.

South Africa trounce Italy

South Africa took a critical step towards qualification to the quarter-finals of the Rugby World Cup when they crushed an Italy side reduced to 14 men for most of the second half 49-3 on Friday.

The win at Shizuoka Stadium took the Springboks above the Italians and New Zealand to the top of Pool B.

The ever-dangerous Cheslin Kolbe scored a try in each half and Bongi Mbonambi, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi, RG Snyman and Malcolm Marx also crossed to comfortably earn the twice World Cup winners a bonus point.

Italy’s already tricky task became nigh on impossible when they had prop Andrea Lovotti sent off for dropping Duane Vermeulen on his head in the 43rd minute and their slim hopes of progressing now rest on beating the All Blacks for the first time.

“It was tough in the beginning, we knew what the challenge would be and that it would be a forward battle, so from the first scrum we wanted to give everything,” South Africa captain Siya Kolisi told reporters.

“We wanted to control the set-pieces, because they are very strong in that, and we did that today.

“It’s been a tough couple of weeks but we have regrouped. Our coaches and management have been backing us by giving us as much information as possible and the way we responded today was really good.”

Italy had spoken before the game of how discipline would be crucial in deciding the outcome but they specatacularly failed to back their words with action as they battled to match the physicality of their fired-up opponents.

“We played against a very strong side,” Italian captain Sergio Parisse said. “We tried to come back in the second half but after the red card it was very difficult.

“It’s tough for us, but we must keep going forward. We are very disappointed, but we must try and finish well against the All Blacks (on Oct. 12).”

Spectator from space

South Africa’s clash against Italy will be watched by millions of fans across the planet, and one Italian astronaut Luca Parmitano who will be cheering on his team from space.

Parmitano will be watching Friday’s Pool B match from the International Space Station as it orbits some 400 km above the earth.

Italy are looking to upset the Springboks and reach the knockout stages for the first time.

Parmitano, who has been in space since July, had a message for the Italian team.

“You are a team and have to work all together to reach your goal, which is that of winning,” he said in a video posted by the European Space Agency and the Italian Rugby Federation.

It is not the first time Parmitano has broken new ground in space.

In August he became the first person to DJ in space when he played a set from the ISS for a club in Ibiza.

Boks make changes ahead of Italy clash

South Africa have made a few changes in their ranks ahead of the crunch Rugby World Cup Pool B clash against Italy at the Shizuoka Stadium on Friday.

The Boks made three changes to their first-choice pack as they brace for a muscular forward challenge from Italy.

Two of the switches are in the front row as hooker Bongi Mbonambi and experienced prop Tendai Mtawarira come in for Malcolm Marx and Steven Kitshoff respectively.

Lock Lood de Jager, who did not start against New Zealand in their opening fixture, has also been preferred to Franco Mostert as coach Rassie Erasmus looks for continuity in the line-out after a six-day turn-around from the 57-3 victory over Namibia in Toyota City.

“This game is going to be decided by the forwards and at the set phases and we wanted to maximise our options in those battles,” Erasmus told reporters on Tuesday.

“For us this is a crunch game, it’s do-or-die. We will do what we have to do, if we have to grind it out, no matter how we do it, win with a drop-goal or something, we will do it to get out of the pool stages.”

The Boks have chosen a six-two split on the bench, overloading with forwards – hooker Marx, props Kitshoff and Vincent Koch, locks RG Snyman and Franco Mostert, and loose-forward Francois Louw, another sign that Erasmus is concerned about the battle in the pack.

It means the only backline cover comes from utility back Frans Steyn and scrum-half Herschel Jantjies, but Erasmus feels they have enough versatility on the pitch to cover for any eventualities.

“People may think it is a gamble to have only two back replacements, but we want to have plenty of ammunition for what is likely to be a major forward battle.

“It’s a 23-player game these days and the players who come on will be expected to contribute almost as much in game time as those who start among the front rowers.

“Frans can cover (number) 10, 12 and 15, Damian de Allende can play at 13, Cheslin (Kolbe) can play scrumhalf or full-back and Faf (De Klerk) can even play as a flyhalf if needed. So we have a lot of options.”

Centre Jesse Kriel has not been considered as he recovers from a hamstring injury picked up in the opening 23-13 loss to New Zealand.

Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cheslin Kolbe, 13-Lukhanyo Am, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Makazole Mapimpi, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Faf de Klerk, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 6-Siya Kolisi (captain), 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Frans Malherbe, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Tendai Mtawarira

Replacements: 16-Malcolm Marx, 17-Steven Kitshoff, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-RG Snyman, 20-Franco Mostert, 21-Francois Louw, 22-Herchel Jantjies, 23-Frans Steyn.

The Italians also made changes of their own with South African-born Braam Steyn shifting from number eight to the side of the scrum to accommodate the return of talismanic captain Sergio Parisse.

The match is a must-win game for both sides as they seek a quarter-final berth and will have a knockout feel, with Parisse’s vast experience of 141 caps and five World Cups adding huge value for the Italians.

Steyn will provide muscle, South African know-how and foraging at the breakdown for what Italy coach Conor O’Shea expects to be a brutal physical battle.

“We feel this is the best squad that we could have selected based on the specific game-plan we have for South Africa, so we are very pleased to have everyone fit and available,” O’Shea told reporters in Shizuoka on Wednesday.

“It’s going to be a massive physical challenge and these guys will have to front-up, otherwise we have lost the game before it has even started.”

Italy have a full haul of 10 points from their two Pool B matches but must still face New Zealand after their meeting with the Boks.

Team: 15-Matteo Minozzi, 14-Tommaso Benvenuti, 13-Luca Morisi, 12-Jayden Hayward, 11-Michele Campagnaro, 10-Tommaso Allan, 9-Tito Tebaldi, 8-Sergio Parisse (captain), 7-Jake Polledri, 6-Braam Steyn, 5-Dean Budd, 4-David Sisi, 3-Simone Ferrari, 2-Luca Bigi, 1-Andrea Lovotti

Replacements: 16-Federico Zani, 17-Nicola Quaglio, 18-Marco Riccioni, 19-Federico Ruzza, 20-Alessandro Zanni, 21-Sebastian Negri, 22-Callum Braley, 23-Carlo Canna.

Ecstatic Japan players

Japan’s stunning victory over Japan victory put the host nation in pole position to qualify for the knockout stages and it will surely lead to an explosion of interest in Japan.

“Thank you for today!” Japan hooker Shota Horie said to the crowd after being named man of the match. “Thanks to your cheers, I was able to run to the last centimetre, the last millimetre.

“The tournament still continues, let’s fight calmly and let’s fight together. Thank you for today!”

Veteran forward Luke Thompson echoed those sentiments.

“I am so happy but it’s not finished yet,” he said. “We will concentrate for the Samoa game from tomorrow. We practised the breakdown a lot. Good team work today. I am happy.”

Coach Jamie Joseph said the stunning victory, which matched the upset of twice world champions South Africa at the last World Cup in 2015, had been long in the planning.

“We’re ecstatic about the result,” the New Zealander said.

“We’re really proud of the players, we had a plan, we’ve been training for a long time. We’ve been thinking about this game for quite a long time, obviously Ireland have been thinking about it for the last six or seven days.

“We’ve got another couple of games to go but we’ll enjoy tonight I reckon.”

Japan next face Samoa on Oct.5.

South Africa vs Namibia

South Africa claimed their first victory at the Rugby World Cup, emerging 57-3 victors over Namibia at the City of Toyota Stadium on Saturday.

South Africa ensured that there would be no repeat of the upset earlier in the day by Japan, who beat Ireland, as they ran in nine tries in a slick display.

The Springboks next face Italy on Friday in Fukuroi City in a match that should decide second place in the pool, while Namibia face the daunting prospect of meeting New Zealand in Tokyo on Oct. 6.

Japan upset Ireland

Hosts Japan stunned Ireland 19-12 in an extraordinary upset on Saturday to win their second match of the Rugby World Cup and give themselves a strong chance of reaching the knockout stages for the first time.

The Brave Blossoms came from behind at Shizuoka Stadium to beat a side recently ranked number one in the world in a shock to match their victory over twice world champions South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

Namibia relishing opportunity to take on Boks

Minnows Namibia take on their neighbours South Africa in what they believe will be an exciting Rugby World Cup encounter.

“The nerves are sky-high, it’s something that I have been dreaming of my whole life. I can’t explain the feeling, it just feels very big,” Namibia centre PJ Walters told reporters on Friday.

Walters, who made his international debut off the bench against Italy in the 47-22 loss last Sunday, says his main aim is not to “try anything stupid”.

He played in the fullback position against Italy, but he will line up at the City of Toyota Stadium at inside centre and will likely have a busy evening as the much more fancied Springboks batter the Namibia defensive line with their powerful runners.

As for a gameplan, he said his focus is on sticking to the instructions of coach Phil Davies.

“Stick to the basics… do everything that we have been training on in the last few months. And don’t try anything stupid!”

There is a chance that the enthusiasm of the Namibians may get the better of them and in a World Cup where overzealous, and high tackles are already a major talking point, Walters says the players are well-aware of the consequences.

“It’s on our minds (about high tackles), you know you can get cited. The low cut is the best tackle you can get, so we must just stick with that,” he said.

Walters, 26, is one of many players in the Namibia squad who have been exposed to South African rugby through their schooling and studies.

Born in the tiny southern Namibian town of Keetmanshoop, he was schooled across the border in Upington in South Africa’s Northern Cape.

He was part of the academy of the Johannesburg-based Golden Lions, but never managed to break into the professional scene in the country.

That failure makes Saturday’s clash all the more significant for Walters, giving him a chance to prove his ability, and perhaps put himself in the shop window for professional South African and European clubs.

“When I got the news (of a World Cup call-up) I was having a braai (barbecue) with my cousin and just chilling. Coming from where I come from, it was a very, very big thing for me,” he said.

“There will be no love lost on Saturday because it is against our neighbours, but we also represent Africa together.

“I just think it will be a great clash, a great atmosphere and a big opportunity for us (as players).”

New Zealand, Ireland are good: Boks

South Africa’s coaching staff say New Zealand and Ireland have been the most impressive teams at the Rugby World Cup so far, adding that the Springboks emerged stronger from their 23-13 loss to the defending champions.

“Apart from New Zealand they were the only other team that put in a full 80 minutes of constructive, well-planned, decisive and clinical rugby (in the opening matches),” Bok coach Rassie Erasmus said.

“Physically and tactically they were really good, the same as New Zealand. Those are the two teams that I think have been really consistent in the last two years and they will both be a really tough opponents.”

We are stronger: Boks

The Springboks dominated large parts of their match against New Zealand on Sept. 21 but were undone by two tries in four minutes from the world champions, both coming from South African errors in fielding high balls.

‘‘I know it is a cliché that everybody says when they lose, that ‘we learnt a lot out of it’, but we did. For us it was a great match in terms of tactical, physical and getting challenged in all departments,’‘ Erasmus said.

“Mentally … the build-up during the week, the enormousness of the game, the physicality and speed. You know if you play the All Blacks and you make two errors, it is 14 points (against you), so it was nice to play in a game like that where there is so much pressure.”

The Boks are next in action against minnow neighbours Namibia in Toyota City on Sept. 28 and have made 13 changes to their side in what is expected to be a comfortable win.

South Africa are widely expected to breeze to a bonus-point win over Namibia, which lost its opener 47-22 to Italy, but Nienaber said there are no specific targets in the game other than to put in a performance that showcases what the team has worked on in training.

“We have had an unbelievable vibe at training in terms of the intensity and the things we wanted to fix. Our system will develop and New Zealand opened up something in the way they attacked and their style of play that we have to work on, so it was nice to get that (challenge).”

“We are always trying to improve, so there is no points limit, or to say, ‘if we only concede three points that would be a good defensive performance’, or ‘if we concede 30 I will be disappointed’.

New Zealand regains top rank

Defending champions New Zealand are back to the top of the world rankings, following their Rugby World Cup victory over South Africa.

The All Blacks’ decade-long reign at the world’s number one ranked team came to an end last month, first losing the mantle to 2019 Six Nations champions Wales and then to Ireland.

According to the intricacies of how the standings are calculated, New Zealand would have returned to the summit with a win over their Rugby Championship rivals, regardless of how Ireland did against Scotland, World Rugby said.

In the event, the world champions beat the Springboks 23-13 while Ireland cruised past the Scots 27-3.

South Africa’s defeat pushed them down to fifth, below Wales who start their World Cup campaign later on Monday against Georgia. France’s dramatic victory over Argentina pushed them ahead of Scotland into seventh spot.

Rugby fans react to opening weekend

Namibia impress despite loss

Namibia impressed many rugby fans and pundits, despite falling to a 47-22 loss against Italy, in their Pool B opener at the Hanazono Rugby Stadium in Osaka on Sunday.

Italy scored three tries within the space of 10 minutes either side of halftime to give themselves some breathing room against a stubborn Namibia side.

Namibia, who have now lost all 20 of their World Cup matches, still managed to give the crowd something to cheer with tries to scrumhalf Damian Stevens and wingers J.C. Greyling and Chad Plato.

The Italians now travel to Fukuoka to meet Canada on Thursday, while Namibia face South Africa in Toyota City on Saturday.

South Africa lose New Zealand clash

New Zealand emerged 23-13 victors over South Africa in a clash between two World Cup favourites on Saturday that never quite lived up to its billing.

Having wrestled the Rugby Championship from their rivals last month, South Africa pinned a scrappy New Zealand back for 20 minutes but, with only three points to show for it, the Springboks were left stunned by two scintillating team tries from wing George Bridge and lock Scott Barrett.

The All Blacks, who have an 11-day break before their next game against Canada, should go on to top Pool B and hope for an easier quarter-final as a result. South Africa next face Namibia in Toyota City.

“It was the full 80 minutes and right to the end of the test match we had to work (hard),” New Zealand captain Kieran Read said.

“Good fortune sometimes happens and in those two moments we managed to take them and that made the difference in the game.”

Read suggested that a greasy ball coming off the Yokohama pitch had made life difficult for the players.

“We had to defend early, but when we did get opportunities we tried to speed up the play a bit but it was pretty tough out there with the conditions.”

The Springboks had the physicality to match New Zealand but not the precision, with too many missed tackles, at times aimless kicking and poor hands under the high ball gifting away territory.

“We didn’t start well and they did, handling our kicking game really well,” Bok captain Siya Kolisi said.

“And a little bit of their physicality as well, I think we took too long to get into the game.

“We stuck to our guns in the second half and we scored first, like we planned, but we couldn’t capitalise on our opportunities.”

Weekend fixtures

Africa’s representatives at the World Cup, South Africa and Namibia, who are both in Pool B, will be in action this weekend.

South Africa’s Springboks will take on defending champions, New Zealand All-Blacks on Saturday, while Namibia take on Italy on Sunday.

Japan wins World Cup opener

Hosts Japan on Friday won the tournament opener against Russia, running out 30-10 winners after being given an early scare by the Russians.

Kotaro Matsushima scored a hat-trick of tries, as the hosts recovered from conceding an early try.

After an opening ceremony featuring a dazzling laser light show and appearances by Japan’s Crown Prince Akishino and All Blacks great Richie McCaw, there were quickly a few fireworks on the pitch.

The Russians, laid on as sacrificial lambs for the opening party, stunned the noisy crowd of 48,745 into silence when they pounced on a Japanese error and scored the tournament’s first try through winger Kirill Golosnitskiy in the fourth minute.

Man of the Match Matsushima replied with Japan’s first try seven minutes later but it was not until he went over for his second just before the break that the error-prone home side took the lead at 12-7.

Japan looked more direct after the break and flanker Pieter Labuschagne soon extended the lead with an individual effort, stripping the ball from an opponent and then running a third of the pitch to touchdown under the posts.

Russia kept coming at the home side but 12 minutes from time Matsushima again showed his pace on the outside to secure the bonus point that might be key to Japan’s hopes of advancing from Pool A, which also includes Ireland, Scotland and Samoa.

“You get out there and realise just how much pressure there is on the night,” Japan coach Jamie Joseph told reporters.

“Our kicking game was pretty poor tonight so we’re going to fix that up quickly,” he added, conceding that his team made a lot of unforced errors.

The Russians next take on Samoa on Sept 24, while Japan go up against the number one-ranked Irish in Fukuroi City on Sept 28 in a match the hosts will be desperate to win if they wish to progress to the quarter-finals for the first time.

They will need a much-improved performance to get anywhere close to what would be a stunning upset to rank with their win over South Africa at the 2015 World Cup.

New Zealand focused on South Africa clash

Defending champions New Zealand say they are focusing all their energy on the World Cup opener against South Africa on Saturday, which they consider to be their most challenging match.

The two old rivals, who have won the World Cup five times between them, meet in Yokohama to kick-start the tournament and lay down a marker for the weeks to come.

With Italy, Namibia and Canada the other teams in Pool B, regardless of Saturday’s result New Zealand and South Africa would expect to qualify for the quarter-finals.

It means the All Blacks, who are chasing a third consecutive World Cup, will be holding nothing back on Saturday.

“We’re actually not thinking too far ahead in this tournament right now because this weekend is a pretty big weekend, isn’t it?” assistant coach Ian Foster said on Tuesday.

“And it’s kind of made it really good for us as coaches because we can just put all our energy into that first game.

“Whichever way it goes then I guess we can sort out the plan that we follow after that.”

South Africa come into the tournament having only lost once in their last seven matches, including a draw with New Zealand in July. The Springboks were victorious when the two sides met in Wellington this time last year.

That means New Zealand are way of the threat posed by coach Rassie Erasmus’ team and are looking at the match more as a standalone contest than a World Cup tone setter.

“We’re at a heightened state always when we play South Africa,” said Foster. “I know the World Cup is big but I guess our focus has been on this game for a while.”

REUTERS

South Africa calls for fairness

South Africa’s Springboks on Monday called on the French referee Jerome Garces to treat them as equals during this weekend’s opening Pool B blockbuster clash with defending champions New Zealand.

Assistant South Africa coach Mzwandile Stick said that with the gap between the All Blacks and their potential rivals for the Webb Ellis Cup closing, match officials need to be consistent in how they applied the laws to all teams.

In the past, World Cup-winning All Blacks captain Richie McCaw, a wizard in the loose, was often accused of influencing referees to rule in his favour at the breakdown.

“The fans are excited by this one and looking forward to it,” former South Africa sevens specialist Stick said of the Saturday’s showdown in Yokohama.

“Hopefully the officials maybe will treat everything equally and respect the game and also respect the fans.”

South Africa topped New Zealand in this year’s Rugby Championship and Ireland are currently ranked world number one but Stick said the All Blacks remain the team to beat.

“If you look at previous history when it comes to the All Blacks, they’ve been dominating at Test level and it’s always the case that whenever they go to the World Cup they are favourites,” he said.

Recent history between the Boks, who are blooming under coach Rassie Erasmus, and Steve Hansen’s All Blacks promises to make for a tight encounter on Saturday.

“Things are a lot more balanced between us an New Zealand right now,” Stick said.

“We can’t ask for any better build-up towards the World Cup: if you look at the last three games we played against the All Blacks, in Wellington last year we won by two points, they came to Pretoria and won by two points, and then we drew against them again this year in Wellington.

“We’re looking forward to this challenge, it’s going to be a tough one… against one of the best teams in the world and given the history between the two teams.”

AFP

South Africa defeats Japan

South Africa cruised to a comfortable 41-7 victory over Japan on Friday in their final World Cup warm-up match, thanks to a hat-trick of tries from Makazole Mapimpi.

Winger Cheslin Kolbe opened the scoring with a neat finish on seven minutes, before Mapimpi ran in two easy tries from the other flank as the Springboks built a 22-0 lead at halftime in Kumagaya.

Further tries from Mapimpi and Kolbe either side of Kotaro Matsushima’s consolation and a final flourish from Herschel Jantjies secured victory for South Africa and helped soothe the memory of Japan’s famous win at the 2015 World Cup.

With this victory, South Africa laid down a tournament marker and gained revenge for defeat four years ago, while Japan must look for improvement in their World Cup opener against Russia on Sept. 20.

Africa’s representatives

South Africa and Namibia, who will be representing the African continent at this month’s Rugby World Cup, are finalising preparations that they hope will be sufficient to secure glory.

Both teams are in Pool B, along with defending champions New Zealand, Italy and Canada. Hosts Japan will open the World Cup against Russia on Sept. 20 in Tokyo before South Africa face old rivals New Zealand in Yokohama. Namibia play their first match against Italy on Sunday 22.

South Africa raring to go

South Africa, who have won the World Cup twice, are set to play their final warm-up match against hosts, Japan.

The Springboks will be wary of Japan who caused one of the biggest upsets in tournament history with their 34-32 victory over them at the 2015 World Cup in England.

“You can definitely see this is a much different team, much more fitter, much more stronger. Their systems are working and they know exactly what they are about, they know their strengths and weaknesses,’‘ said Siya Kolisi, South Africa’s captain ahead of the match.

Namibia seeks maiden victory

Namibia will be seeking their first ever World Cup victory, 20 years after they debuted at the prestigious tournament.

They are banking on the experience of their Welsh coaches to end a 19-match losing streak.

Former Wales forward Phil Davies has been in charge of a team known as the Welwitschias, a sturdy desert plant, since just before the last World Cup in 2015.

Davies works with compatriots Mark Jones (backs) and Dale McIntosh (forwards) as assistant coaches, while another Welshman, Wayne Proctor, is responsible for strength and conditioning.

“This is not a case of jobs for the ‘boyos’,” Davies stressed. “They are used to working with full-time and part-time professionals and that is what we have in the Namibian squad.”

Scrum-half Eugene Jantjies is set to play at a fourth consecutive World Cup and says the Welwitschias’ aim continues to be finding a winning formula.

“This is the best squad we have had for many years and after coming so close to winning four years ago, I believe we can create history in Japan,” he said.

READ MORE: South Africa names squad for 2019 Rugby World Cup in Japan