Today's rugby news as Wales star handed ban and South Africa make surprise announcement

-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd)
-Credit: (Image: Huw Evans Picture Agency Ltd)

Here are your rugby morning headlines for Sunday, June 9.

Bath boss refuses to criticise referee despite red card

Bath boss Johann van Graan insists Beno Obano's red card in their 25-21 Gallagher Premiership final defeat to Northampton Saints was not foul play.

With the scored tied at 3-3 Obano made direct contact with the face of Northampton No 8 Juarno Augustus leaving referee Christophe Ridley no choice but to award the powerful loosehead a red card. Bath fought back valiantly but ultimately fell short after a late Alex Mitchell try sealed the title for Northampton.

“Look, I’m not going to comment on any laws," said Van Graan. “That’s way above my pay grade.

“All that I can do is adapt to what decisions are made on the pitch. Obviously, everybody wants the Premiership final with 15 vs 15 on the pitch but I thought Christophe went through the process with the TMO and his assistant referees – and I thought he has been the best ref in the Premiership – and all credit to him and well done on his first final.

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“Shook his hand afterwards and we’ll have no issue with the red card decision that was made. Nothing more to say on that really.” However, van Graan went on to say he did not think the England internationals tackle was foul play.

"Yes, I don't believe that is foul play. I believe that is a collision between two extremely powerful rugby players, a ball carrier and a tackler.

“I’m not going to get into the whole red card debate. It’s unfortunate. We had a World Cup final with a captain being red carded and a captain being yellow carded, and a Premiership final with a red card.

“With the decision itself, I have got no issues. I’d love to keep 15 vs 15 on the pitch but, as I said, there is absolutely no reaction from Ben (Spencer) or me or anybody in the group about the red card. That was the referee’s call and we will stick by that. All we focus on is our performance, which was heroic.”

Wales lock handed ban

Cardiff lock Seb Davies has been given a three-game suspension following his red card in his side's defeat against the Ospreys at Judgement Day last weekend.

The Wales international was sent off for a dangerous tackle on Owen Watkin which made direct contact with the Ospreys centre's head. Davies pleaded guilty which meant his ban was reduced from six weeks to three weeks.

The suspension will be reduced by a further week should Davies complete a World Rugby Coaching Intervention Programme. Davies missed out on selection for Wales' summer Tests against South Africa and Australia but will be available for the start of the 2024/25 season.

Boks name training squad

Rassie Erasmus has named 11 uncapped players in his first South African training camp of the year in a late-night Saturday evening announcement.

The Boks takes on Wales at Twickenham later this month.

The uncapped players in the squad are Jordan Hendrikse, Quan Horn, Edwill van der Merwe, Morne van den Berg, Phepsi Buthelezi, Siya Masuku, Ethan Hooker, Ben-Jason Dixon, Sacha Feinberg-Mgomezulu, Neethling Fouche and Andre-Hugo Venter.

Players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland will not be considered for first Test of the season against Warren Gatland's men.

“We selected a group of players featuring a good mix of youth and experience, and in terms of the young players especially, we believe they have the potential to make the step-up to top international rugby,” said Erasmus.

“We’ve been following all their performances closely, we had the luxury of presenting our plans to them and getting to know them as individuals off the field at the alignment camps, and we are pleased with the enthusiasm they showed and willingness to learn.

“With the players based in Europe, the UK and Ireland not available for Wales, we anticipate that there will be a few players making their Test debuts in that match, but even for those who do not make the cut, having them in camp and getting the chance to work closely with them on the field will set them and the team in good stead as we prepare for this season and start laying the foundation for the 2027 World Cup in Australia.”

The 35-man squad meet tomorrow in Pretoria.

Forwards: Phepsi Buthelezi (Sharks), Joseph Dweba, Ben-Jason Dixon (both Stormers), Pieter-Steph du Toit (Toyota Verblitz), Eben Etzebeth (Sharks), Neethling Fouche (Stormers), Vincent Koch (Sharks), Frans Malherbe (Stormers), Malcolm Marx (Kubota Spears), Bongi Mbonambi (Sharks), Ntuthuko Mchunu (Sharks), Salmaan Moerat (Stormers), Franco Mostert (Honda Heat), Ox Nche (Sharks), Evan Roos (Stormers), Kwagga Smith (Blu Revs), Andre-Hugo Venter (Stormers), Jasper Wiese (Leicester Tigers).

Backs: Damian de Allende (Panasonic Wild Knights), Faf de Klerk (Canon Eagles), Andre Esterhuizen (Harlequins), Aphelele Fassi (Sharks), Jordan Hendrikse (Lions), Sacha Feinberg-Mngomezulu (Stormers), Ethan Hooker (Sharks), Quan Horn (Lions), Cheslin Kolbe (Suntory Sungoliath) Jesse Kriel (Canon Eagles), Manie Libbok (Stormers), Makazole Mapimpi, Siya Masuku (both Sharks), Handre Pollard (Leicester Tigers), Morne van den Berg (Lions), Edwill van der Merwe (Lions), Grant Williams (Sharks).

United Rugby Championship semi-finals take shape

The Bulls, Leinster and Glasgow Warriors will join Munster in the semi-finals of the United Rugby Championship.

South African outfit the Bulls edged past an impressive Benetton outfit 30-23 in Pretoria to set up a home semi-final against Leinster who comfortably overcame Ulster 43-20 at the Aviva Stadium. Following their victory over the Ospreys on Friday night Munster will host Glasgow at Thomond Park in the semi-final after a hard fought 27-10 win over the Stormers at Scotstoun.

Undoubtedly the game of the quarter-finals came in Pretoria where Benetton pushed the Bulls to the very limit. Beaten finalists in 2022, the South African side scored after just 25 seconds through the first of two Kurt-Lee Arendse tries, with David Kriel also going over. Johan Goosen converted all three tries and also landed three penalties.

Benetton, in the play-offs for only the second time and first since 2019, stayed in the game throughout with tries from Onisi Ratave, Tomas Albornoz and Malakai Fekitoa, with Rhyno Smith adding one conversion and kicking two penalties, but the Bulls held on.