Who’s hot and who’s not: Louis Rees-Zammit’s NFL move, Joe Schmidt’s Wallabies appointment and Elton Jantjies’ fall from grace

Jared Wright
Wales winger Louis Rees-Zammit and former Springboks fly-half Elton Jantjies.

Wales flyer Louis Rees-Zammit and Springboks fly-half Elton Jantjies.

It’s time for our Monday wrap of who has their name in lights and who is making the headlines for all the wrong reasons after the weekend.


Joe Schmidt and Rugby Australia: We can’t remember the last time Australia featured this side of ‘hot and not’, but this is certainly the first occasion in 2024, and for good reason. The bigwigs at Rugby Australia have lured the world-class Joe Schmidt Down Under to turn things around with the Wallabies. It’s a massive coup for the Australians, and we are eager to see what Schmidt can do with the Wallabies.

Gloucester shine in Europe: It’s been a challenging season for the Cherry and Whites in the Premiership, winning just two of their 11 matches in the league, but it’s been an entirely different story in the Challenge Cup as George Skivington’s side sealed their passage to the knockout stages of the European competition by winning all four of their pool games including a 35-5 thumping of Castres at the weekend.

Louis Rees-Zammit chases NFL dream: Fair play to the lad. He is 22 and has already reached the pinnacle of rugby, and last Sunday, he got a call to chase another dream in the NFL. While many feel it’s a poor career move, we believe it’s an incredibly brave choice and one that had to be made at the drop of a hat. Best of luck to him, and hopefully, we’ll see him shine in the sport with the other oddly shaped ball.

Six Nations call-ups and uncapped players: The first Test squads of the year are in, and a huge congratulations go to those who have been selected to represent their country in the Six Nations. It was a particularly memorable week for those earning their maiden call-ups and potentially their first caps! Now the battle for matchday selection ensues as training sessions will be where players can impress their coaches.

Late winners and close encounters: The last round of the Investec Champions Cup served up some tasty and feisty encounters. While Friday’s games were largely one-sided, that was not the case on Saturday, with the Bulls and Bordeaux playing out an 86-point thriller, with the hosts coming out 46-40 victors in Pretoria. We did not have to wait long for another thriller as 14-man Northampton came from behind to defeat Munster 26-23 at Thomond Park, and at the same time, the Stormers left it late to claim their spot in the play-offs, defeating Stade Francais 24-20. Meanwhile, Bath pushed Toulouse all the way, but a strong finish from the French side secured them a 31-19 win on Sunday.

Cheslin Kolbe and Sam Cane inspire remarkable comeback: Suntory Sungoliath got off to a poor start this weekend against the Dynaboars, trailing 29-0 after just 21 minutes of the Japan Rugby League One fixture. However, their box office Springboks and All Blacks duo, Kolbe and Cane, helped them come from behind in epic fashion to clinch a remarkable 36-34 victory, thanks to a try after the hooter.


Repeat Champions Cup games in last-16: While the Investec Champions Cup produced several entertaining matches in the last round of the pool phase of the competition, what isn’t great about the tournament is the number of repeat fixtures which are set to take place in the Round-of-16. The tournament uses a seeding system, which means that five out of the eight showdowns in the Round-of-16 will be repeats of matches that took place during the group phase of the competition. Those meetings are: Leinster v Leicester Tigers, Northampton Saints v Munster, Bordeaux-Begles v Saracens, the Bulls v Lyon and the Stormers v La Rochelle. Not cool! Let’s hope this is rectified by next season.

Munster and Ulster: It was a tough weekend for the red and white Irish teams this weekend as Munster and Ulster fell to defeats in the Investec Champions Cup. Graham Rowntree’s charges were in a winning position against Northampton Saints before falling to a 26-23 loss, while Ulster were soundly battered 47-19 by Harlequins. A hard watch for both sets of supporters, especially as Saints had a man red carded.

Another top referee retires: There is no doubt that Test rugby will be poorer without Wayne Barnes, and the same is absolutely true for South Africa’s Jaco Peyper, who hung up his whistle this week. He was set to officiate during the upcoming Six Nations but an Achilles injury prevented him from doing so, and he has decided to call it a day. An outstanding referee who deserved a better send-off. We wish him well.

Elton Jantjies: A truly remarkable fall from grace after helping South Africa win the 2019 Rugby World Cup. Jantjies was handed a four-year ban last year and quickly stated that he would contest the suspension, but he failed to meet the deadline to do just that, and his playing career is now in tatters.

Curtis Langdon’s sending-off: There were horrible scenes at Thomond Park on Saturday when Munster second-row Thomas Ahern was forced off the pitch after copping a knee to the head in the first half of their Champions Cup game. The decision to red card Langdon proved to be polarising for fans, but regardless of your feelings on the incident, it certainly was a horrible end to the match for the Munster player.

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