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Joshua tightlipped on future after reclaiming world titles

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Anthony Joshua rocks Andy Ruiz en route to reclaiming his world heavyweight titles © AFP / Fayez Nureldine

AD DIR’IYAH, Saudi Arabia, Dec 8Anthony Joshua would not be drawn on his future plans after regaining his world heavyweight titles from Andy Ruiz on Saturday.

The British star won back his WBA, IBF and WBO belts with a one-sided unanimous defeat of Ruiz in Diriyah outside Saudi Arabia’s capital.

The victory reinstates Joshua as a major player in boxing’s most glamorous division, and instantly renews speculation about a possible unification superfight with WBC champion Deontay Wilder.

But Joshua, 30, said while he remained open to a fight with the unbeaten Wilder, he would not “chase” the fight.

“It’s difficult to unite them,” said Joshua, who had seen negotiations with Wilder’s camp fall flat several times before his defeat to Ruiz in June.

“We’ll see what happens. Chasing that fight wasn’t playing to my benefit, so I’m going to let the path takes it course.

“When the opportunity presents itself to become unified heavyweight champion I’ll take it.”

Ruiz meanwhile is eager for a third meeting with Joshua. Although Joshua indicated he would be happy to face the Mexican-American again, that fight is unlikely to happen anytime soon.

In the short term, Joshua faces mandatory title defenses against IBF challenger Kubrat Pulev and WBO contender Oleksandr Usyk.

Promoter Eddie Hearn also declined to elaborate on Joshua’s future plans.

“Tonight’s about celebrating victory,” Hearn said. “We’ll speak to the governing bodies and see who goes first.”

“We are going to celebrate. Anthony Joshua is an amazing ambassador for the sport. Tonight, in Saudi Arabia, he becomes the two-time heavyweight champion of the world and that is beautiful.

“They wrote him off. They said he was all hype. He had to come back from humiliation at Madison Square Garden. Tonight, he is the governor. The governor of the division.”

Joshua, meanwhile, said he had never doubted his ability to regain the titles despite his shocking defeat in New York, when Ruiz knocked him down four times in one of heavyweight boxing’s greatest upsets.

“I’ve said it was like sitting an exam,” Joshua said. “I failed the exam first time. This time though I studied, prepared and I just knew I was going to pass.”

Joshua also defended his cagey tactical style, saying he had consciously avoided being sucked into a slugfest against the hard-hitting Ruiz.

“There were times when I looked in Andy’s eyes and I wanted to put my fist through his head,” Joshua said.

“But this is boxing. It’s dangerous. I had a gameplan, I had a strategy and I wanted to follow it through.

“I can knock people out when I want to, and I can box when I want to. Tonight was just about winning.

“If I box for the crowd, or box for other people’s opinions, I might not have been victorious. So I’m just going to follow my instincts and box for myself.”

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Europe beckons for South African rugby after Kiwi snub

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JOHANNESBURG, South Africa, Jul 20World Cup-winning Springbok Schalk Brits believes the future of South African rugby lies in Europe after New Zealand said there was no room for sides from the republic in Super Rugby.

“All of this jet lag and flying across different time zones just does not work,” said the hooker who retired after the triumphant 2019 World Cup campaign.

“We have got so many South Africans playing in Europe and it would be awesome to see them in action here for European clubs.”

With New Zealand favouring a trans-Tasman Super Rugby competition, South Africa Rugby chief executive Jurie Roux will address the media Tuesday about the way forward.

There has been no rugby in South Africa since mid-March due to the coronavirus pandemic, which claimed 5,033 lives by late Sunday, the most in an African country.

Here, AFP Sport looks at the possibilities for the world champions Springboks and Super Rugby teams the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers.

Rugby Championship

There has been speculation that the six-round annual tournament will be cut to four matches with New Zealand and Australia playing in South Africa only every second year.

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That would be a huge blow for SA Rugby coffers as the century-old rivalry with the All Blacks makes them a huge drawcard.

South Africa might consider abandoning the Championship and pursuing a suggestion by former All Blacks Justin Marshall and Jeff Wilson for three-Test tours between the great rivals.

“British and Irish Lions tours are so successful because we look forward to them,” noted another ex-All Black, John Kirwan. The same could be said of an All Blacks-Springboks series.

‘Seven Nations’

Should South African franchises move north, would the Springboks follow suit and apply to join England, France, Ireland, Italy, Scotland and Wales in a ‘Seven Nations’ championship?

Having the world champions on board would surely excite the organisers and costs would be greatly reduced if the Springboks played their three away matches on consecutive weekends.

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England, Ireland, France and Wales, in particular, would bring freshness for rugby followers, who have not rushed to the turnstiles for Championship visits by Australia and Argentina.

Ask the SA Rugby treasurer for his ‘dream’ line-up and he would surely say a multi-Test tour by the All Blacks and participation in the ‘Seven Nations’.

Super Rugby

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Although not official yet, the reality is that New Zealand want to play some Australian sides and the Pacific Islands in a new competition while excluding South Africa and Argentina.

The original version, a Super 10 between 1993 and 1995, was a superb competition, but constant tinkering and expansion has led to waning interest in a difficult-to-follow event.

Even those supporting the Golden Lions of South Africa could not have derived too much satisfaction from a 94-7 thrashing of Japanese visitors the Sunwolves three years ago.

South Africa sides often battled with time differences in Australasia — New Zealand is 11 hours ahead of the republic — and were weary after four-match tours.

‘Pro16’

Pro14 chief executive Martin Anayi says he would welcome Super Rugby ‘rejects’ the Bulls, Lions, Sharks and Stormers into an expanded edition.

“The tournament works well but could be even better if we added some South African teams,” he said, referring to a competition that also includes Irish, Italian, Scottish and Welsh teams.

But there may be no room for the two current South African Pro14 participants, the Cheetahs and Kings, who have experienced very different fortunes.

While the Cheetahs have been competitive, the Kings won just four of 55 matches in three seasons with some of the losing margins embarrassing.

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Currie Cup

The domestic competition has survived constant format changes to remain the vital ‘nursery’ from which Springboks emerge.

First staged in 1892, it was the bedrock of South African rugby until the dawn of professionalism after the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

As Test and Super Rugby fixtures took up an increasing amount of the season, the Currie Cup often battled for calendar space.

But it survived and this year could feature the four Super Rugby sides plus the Cheetahs, Kings, Griquas and Pumas, if play is possible amid the coronavirus.

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya records highest number of deaths from Covid-19

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Kenya’s coronavirus cases rise to 13,771 after 418 more infections

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By NATION REPORTER

Kenya on Monday reported 418 more Covid-19 infections, raising the country’s tally to 13,771 since the virus was first confirmed on March 13.

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Health Chief Administrative Secretary (CAS) Rashid Aman also reported four more deaths, raising the toll to 238. He rectified an earlier report about 19 deaths in a single day, which would have been the highest number ever recorded in Kenya.

The 418 new patients were found following the testing of 2,474 samples in the last 24 hours.

Four hundred and eight of them were Kenyans and 10 foreigners while male patients numbered 263 and female patients 155.

Dr Aman also announced that 494 patients had been discharged, raising the country’s total number of recoveries to 5,616.

Of the recovered patients, 465 were under home care and the rest in hospitals.

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