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Ken Borland


Sharks surprise nobody but nearly unhinge the Lions 0

Posted on July 22, 2017 by Ken

 

Not many people, least of all the Lions, will have been surprised by the Sharks bringing an intensely physical, in-your-face approach to their SuperRugby quarterfinal at Ellis Park on Saturday, but it so nearly unhinged the home side, the overwhelming favourites.

In the end, the Lions had to be bailed out by a phenomenal penalty kick by wing Ruan Combrinck, who slotted the ball over in the 78th minute from six metres inside his own half and 10 metres from touch, to make the final score 23-21.

Combrinck did not have much opportunity in the match, thanks to the Sharks’ swarming defence swallowing up practically all the space on the field, but he showed that he is a person who thrives on the big moment.

“It’s just Ruan’s character that he’s always looking for opportunities and the big moments, he’s normally the last one to leave kicking practice, even though we don’t know how many kicks he gets over!” captain Jaco Kriel joked after the nailbiting victory.

“I always look to the touchline to see if the coach is giving any advice, and both JP [Ferreira, defence coach] and Cash [Ivan van Rooyen, conditioning coach] were pointing to the line to set up the lineout, but Ruan already had his tee in his hand, even though he told me he cramped when he missed his previous kick!”

More drama was to follow in the final minute as the Lions received the kickoff and then set up a series of slow-mo pick-and-goes and rucks as they counted down time. The incensed Sharks were screaming at referee Marius van der Westhuizen, who was the epitome of indecision throughout, for holding on, but the Lions refused to concede anything, even though Kriel afterwards admitted that “we nearly lost the ball in that last ruck”.

The Lions roared into Sharks territory from the first kickoff, which lock Stephan Lewies dropped, and showed their aggressive, confident intent as they turned down two penalties at goal to rather set up lineout drives.

The Sharks were also having early problems in the scrum and the Lions’ third penalty came from that set-piece, and this time flyhalf Elton Jantjies went for poles.

The easy kick from just inside the 22 hit the post, however, and it set the tone for an awful kicking display by the incumbent Springbok flyhalf.

Lionel Mapoe was chasing the rebound, though, and for the umpteenth time, lock Etienne Oosthuizen cost his team points as he took the outside centre out off the ball, giving Jantjies an even easier shot at goal which he slotted to give the Lions a 3-0 lead.

The Lions are always intent on playing the game their way, but in the face of such an aggressive defence and the Sharks’ strategy of getting players in-between their backs, perhaps they should have played the situation more than their preconceived tactics.

A case in point came straight after they had opened the scoring as they tried to pass the ball around in their own 22 after the restart, with both Sharks prop Thomas du Toit and outside centre Lukhanyo Am getting intercepts. Am cut inside and then fed flank Jean-Luc du Preez, who freed wing Kobus van Wyk to go racing over in the corner for the first try.

The Sharks were playing the knockout rugby, building their play around the intensity of their pack and defence, and using the boot of flyhalf Curwin Bosch to good effect.

Coach Robert du Preez played in the Currie Cup-winning Northern Transvaal sides of superboot Naas Botha, so it was no surprise to see Bosch using the drop-kick, and he succeeded with one in the 17th-minute, centre Andre Esterhuizen’s powerful run at the flyhalf channel providing front-foot ball and plenty of time for him to stretch the lead to 8-3.

Jantjies then missed a penalty from in front of the poles, after another Sharks scrum infringement, and the sense of unease grew at Ellis Park as the flyhalf then lost the ball in his own half and lock Andries Ferreira knocked on, forcing the Lions to play the ball on the ground and allowing Bosch to kick a penalty (11-3).

Just before halftime, the Lions were on the wrong end of a 50/50 ruck call and another Bosch penalty put the Sharks 14-3 in front at the break, and seemingly in command.

But the Lions came out for the second half playing much more direct rugby, and with a greater focus on hanging on to the ball rather than throwing speculative passes.

Immediately, the pressure shifted on to the Sharks and a couple of offsides calls led to Lewies being yellow-carded in the 46th minute, an important development as the Lions scored two tries, both unconverted, while he was off the field.

The great work of the Lions scrum set up the first try as lock Franco Mostert plunged over the line a couple of phases after the set-piece had the Sharks forwards going backwards; and four minutes later, flank Kriel burst through the weak defence of Bosch to score.

The woeful kicking of Jantjies meant the Lions were still one point behind though (13-14), but just after the hour mark they won a penalty on their own 22 for a high tackle – although it was not the most obvious offence.

Centre Harold Vorster took a quick tap and jinked his way through the disorganised defence, making it well into the Sharks half before he freed Mapoe on his outside for the Springbok to speed over for the try. This time Jantjies converted (20-14).

But the Sharks regained the lead four minutes later.

Ferreira was blatantly offsides at a ruck and the Sharks kicked the penalty to touch to set up the drive, which was collapsed by Mostert. But the Sharks, playing with the advantage, went over the line as scrumhalf Cobus Reinach nipped over from a ruck close to the poles.

But the TMO referral showed that the ill-disciplined Oosthuizen had once again cost his team points, this time by shoving Mapoe to create the gap that Reinach went through.

The Sharks had another chance though, because Mostert was yellow-carded for his earlier offence and the visitors chose a five-metre scrum, where this time they had the edge and eighthman Daniel du Preez scored against the post.

The Bosch conversion made it 21-20 and the lead lasted all the way through until the thrilling final couple of minutes, with Combrinck missing a penalty in the 70th minute.

The Sharks nearly scored in the right corner as Van Wyk, under pressure from Courtnall Skosan, just failed to gather the bouncing ball. The Lions had the throw-in, under severe pressure, five metres from their line, and Akker van der Merwe, having replaced the excellent Malcolm Marx at hooker, threw over the top for Kriel, charging forward on a storming run.

Mapoe gave great support and the Lions were out of their territory and able to win the fateful penalty that gave Combrinck his moment of glory.

 

Germany & Belgium confirmed as men’s finalists 0

Posted on July 21, 2017 by Ken

 

Germany and Belgium confirmed themselves as the men’s finalists for the Hockey World League at the Wits Astro on Friday night with thrilling semi-final wins.

Germany were 1-0 down to Spain as they entered the last five minutes of their semifinal, but they never lost their composure, never tried anything silly and barely looked like a side chasing the game for a spot in a  final.

Having just taken off their goalkeeper and with sterling defender Mathias Muller acting as a kicking back, captain Mats Grambusch then produced a superb run along the baseline before flipping the ball back for Ferdinand Weinke to slap in the equaliser.

Grambusch also marked himself out as a special player in the shootout, which went to sudden death, as he scored with both of his brilliant attempts.

Christopher Ruhr, firstly after Dieter-Enrique Linnekogel had won a penalty stroke, provided the other two goals in the shootout and goalkeeper Mark Appel also made some great saves for Germany to find their way through to the final.

In the other semifinal, Cedric Charlier and Amaury Keusters both scored for Belgium, before Australia pulled a goal back from a short-corner after the hooter for the end of the third quarter, through a fine flick by Jeremy Hayward.

Then, with just 19 seconds left in the match, Kiran Arunasalam thought he had scored the equaliser for Australia, but Kiwi umpire Gareth Greenfield called for a referral and a small foot was discovered, leading to the goal being disallowed.

The USA and Germany will meet in the women’s final on Sunday, while South Africa’s women’s side play in the fifth/sixth playoff against Japan on Saturday at 1.30pm.

Earlier on Friday, South Africa’s national men’s team beat Japan 4-2 in their playoff for ninth and 10th place with veteran former South African captain Austin Smith proving himself a jack of all trades as he scored two goals and led a determined defensive effort.

The hard-fought victory ensured the hosts not only didn’t finish last in the tournament, but it means they avoid relegation from the elite level of the event.

While the 32-year-old Smith twice rocketed superb short-corner drag-flicks into the right-hand corner of goal, the match was marked by a top-class display from the 18-year-old prodigy Dayaan Cassiem.

Cassiem was a constant threat running with the ball and he set up both the 29th-minute short-corner that saw South Africa go 2-1 up through Smith’s second goal, and the penalty-corner four minutes from full time that made sure of victory.

Cassiem pounced on a deflection and, spinning and shooting all in one motion, he fired the ball into goal to give the home side a two-goal cushion.

Coach Fabian Gregory said the performance left no doubt that Cassiem is a future superstar.

“Dayaan was fantastic today, I took huge flak for choosing him because he was just 18 years old and had not played in an IPT yet, but you could see today that it was a no-brainer. He’s the most exciting striker in the country, a real goal-scorer and he’s always just so focused on the rebounds.

“He’s had offers from all around the world, but first he must get his matric and study further. As a player, he’s really hard on himself and is extremely humble. He’s such an exciting prospect, but he’s really grounded,” Gregory told The Citizen on Friday.

Japan equalised just a minute after Smith had scored his first short-corner goal, but the defender put South Africa 2-1 up just before halftime. The Japanese dominated the third quarter, however, with Genki Mitani ramming home their second equaliser.

South Africa claimed a 3-2 lead though after a superb breakaway. Julian Hykes ran aggressively from midfield, combining with Rhett Halkett down the left, before Cassiem’s mis-hit shot hit a Japanese defender in the goalmouth, leading to a penalty stroke. Jonty Robinson’s flick was not his most confident effort, but it nevertheless went into the right-hand corner of the goal.

Gregory said he was pleased his team had won playing a more exciting brand of hockey.

“Playing the youngsters with their exuberance and their willingness to go out and play is exciting and they showed the way forward today, it was good for the team to show they can play attacking hockey. We want to try and score goals, we want to play with more speed, play with no fear. The ability to close out a game is also important and knowing when to put the knife in,” Gregory said.

Results: 9th-10th – South Africa 4 (Austin Smith 2, Jonathan Robinson, Dayaan Cassiem) Japan 2 (Koji Yamasaki, Genki Mitani); 5th-8th New Zealand 2 (Nick Haig, Kane Russell) Egypt 0, Ireland 1 (Shane O’Donoghue) France 1 (Hugo Genestet), Ireland won shootout 4-3 (Conor Harte, Eugene Magee, John Jackson, Chris Cargo vs Viktor Lockwood, Jean-Laurent Kieffer, Pieter van Straaten); Semi-finals – Germany 1 (Ferdinand Weinke) Spain 1 (Ricardo Sanchez), Germany won shootout 4-3 (Mats Grambusch 2, Dieter-Enrique Linnekogel/Christopher Ruhr 2 vs Sergi Enrique 2, Alvaro Iglesias); Belgium 2 (Cedric Charlier, Amaury Keusters) Australia 1 (Jeremy Hayward).

Saturday’s fixtures: Women’s 7th-8th – 11.15am India v Ireland; Women’s 5th-6th – 1.30pm South Africa v Japan; Men’s 7th-8th – 3.45pm Egypt v France; Men’s 5th-6th 6pm New Zealand v Ireland.

 

SA women ensure they will travel to World Cup 0

Posted on July 20, 2017 by Ken

 

 

The South African women’s hockey side made sure that they will travel to London next year for the World Cup as they beat Ireland 3-0 in the Hockey World League at Wits Astro on Thursday, ensuring that they will finish either fifth or sixth in the prestigious tournament that ends on Sunday.

Normally, the top five from the Hockey World League semi-finals gain automatic qualification for the World Cup, but because England are hosting the 2018 edition of hockey’s biggest event and they finished in the top five in Johannesburg, it has opened up another spot and sixth place will be good enough for South Africa.

South Africa dominated the first half against Ireland, but took their time in transferring that on to the scoreboard.

The opening goal eventually came in the 24th minute after three successive short-corners, with a rebound falling to Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, who lashed an excellent reverse-sticks shot into goal at the near post.

But South Africa lost focus for the next 20 minutes, giving too much ball away through poor basics or ill-judged passes, and were fortunate that Ireland did not equalise.

Just a minute before halftime, Deirdre Duke’s swerving run earned Ireland a short-corner, and although goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande made a good save, the ball deflected into Nicolene Terblanche standing in front of goal. It was touch-and-go whether the ball was going into goal or missing, with Australian umpire Aleisha Neumann wisely calling for a video review of her own decision to award a penalty stroke.

The views from in front of the action and from behind seemed to contradict each other on the path of the ball and it would have been unwise for the TV umpire to over-rule the on-field official’s call.

So Roisin Upton stepped forward to take the stroke, but sent it flying into the post and a massively relieved home side went into the break still 1-0 up.

Mbande has alternated through most of the tournament with Nicole la Fleur in goal, and the University of Pretoria graduate pulled off an excellent reflex stick-save to deny Chloe Watkins early in the second half and Watkins also threatened goal from a short-corner in the 43rd minute.

But if nothing else, this South African side has shown true character and growing composure and confidence through the tournament, and, having weathered the storm, they ended the match by dominating the final quarter.

The second goal came against the run of play, in the 50th minute, with Bernie Coston just failing to latch on to the promising ball from Sulette Damons, but she never gave up, kept fighting and then robbed the defender, made sure of at least the short-corner and then fired past the goalkeeper into the right-hand corner of the goal.

The Irish threw on a kicking back for the closing stages, and Lilian du Plessis applied the finishing touches to an impressive South African win with a lovely run from outside the 23, easily beating the kicking back when she threw herself at her feet and just pushing the ball into the goal.

“We’ve done what we wanted to do by qualifying for the World Cup and now we want to make the top-five, and to do that we’ll have to come out really hard against Japan on Saturday. There were some nerves and we did not execute 100% in the third quarter, but we pulled it back well,” coach Sheldon Rostron said.

“The team definitely showed a lot of character and I’m really pleased that we’re starting to show control during the game, we’re remaining relatively composed. The uncertain moments are becoming less and further apart and it was a very good performance tonight.”

Deetlefs, the opening goal-scorer and the mainstay of South Africa’s defence, said the home side were not surprised that they had to ride out the tough times posed by the Irish.

“It’s always very tense against Ireland, the last time we played them too, and we know they will keep playing till the last minute. So we knew they would come into the second half with all guns blazing and it was a very good defensive effort for us, man-on-man we did well.

“I saw the ball and just tried to hit it as hard as I could for the goal, so that was a great start. It takes a lot of pressure off us to get the World Cup qualification, that’s the goal we set for this tournament,” Deetlefs said.

 

Later, the sixth-ranked USA team and the seventh-ranked Germans advanced to the women’s final, to be played on Sunday.

Germany beat Argentina 2-1, although the end of the match was mired in controversy as two crucial umpiring decisions went against the South Americans, while the USA pipped England in a shootout, after the match had ended 1-1 in regulation time.

Melissa Gonzalez, the captain, scored the USA goal in the first set of five shootouts that ended 1-1 and then scored the winner in sudden-death.

Results: 9th/10th – Chile 2 (Manuela Urroz, Camila Caram) Poland 1 (Marlena Rybacha). 5th-8th – Japan 2 (Kana Nomura, Naho Ichitani) India 0; South Africa 3 (Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Bernadette Coston, Lilian du Plessis) Ireland 0. Semi-finals – Germany 2 (Naomi Heyn, Charlotte Stapenhorst) Argentina 1 (Lucina von der Heyde); United States 1 (Jill Witmer) England 1 (Hannah Martin), USA won shootout 2-1 (Melissa Gonzalez 2 v Sarah Haycroft 1).

Friday’s fixtures (men): 10am South Africa v Japan (9th/10th); 12.15pm Egypt v New Zealand (5th-8th); 2.30pm Ireland v France (5th-8th); 4.45pm Spain v Germany (semi-final); 7pm Australia v Belgium (semi-final).

 

 

Germany get the tolerance & the only goal 0

Posted on July 18, 2017 by Ken

 

 

South Africa went down 1-0 to Germany in their Hockey World League women’s quarterfinal at the Wits Astro on Tuesday night, in a game marred by the officials’ tolerance of the Germans’ over-robust play and their bumbling use of the video referral system.

After an evenly-contested first quarter, in which there were chances at both ends but SA goalkeeper Nicole la Fleur’s double-save at a short-corner was a highlight, the home side launched a promising attack which led to a short-corner as Sulette Damons’ good cross was met by Jade Mayne, whose reverse-sticks shot was saved but not without a penalty corner being conceded.

Bernie Coston was then barged over as she went for the deflection from the set-piece, an infringement missed by New Zealand umpire Kelly Hudson. But South Africa called for the video referral and Russian TV umpire Elena Eskina agreed that there had been an off-the-ball body tackle, but called for a card and a short-corner. Ordinarily, a card would be given for a deliberate offence and, being in the circle, that should lead to a penalty stroke.

Umpire Hudson then awarded the short-corner but did not issue the card, leading to confusion all round.

“We asked about the card and what the video umpire said, but the umpire just waved us away and said we must play on,” South Africa captain Nicolene Terblanche, who was celebrating her 200th cap, said afterwards.

The Germans were also extremely physical, often shouldering South African players off the ball, but the home side maintained their composure exceptionally well and certainly ensured the world’s seventh-ranked side were in a fierce contest.

“Germany are always physical and they won a lot of 50/50 balls, which are about who fights hardest. But we were very composed and stuck to our guns, I was very happy with how we reacted. We had control of the game in general and had enough chances to get a win out of it, but we just couldn’t turn them into goals,” South Africa coach Sheldon Rostron said.

Germany brought their typical measured, controlled approach to the game, but South Africa more than held their own as they too played mature, impressive hockey. Their build-up work was at times brilliant, but sadly the finishing touches were lacking.

With two minutes to go to halftime, Camille Nobis received the ball close to goal, swivelled and easily took La Fleur out of the game before flipping the ball into the empty goal to give Germany their 1-0 lead.

South Africa had more than enough chances to equalise, starting with one just a minute later when German goalkeeper Julia Ciupka dived to keep out the impressive Ilse Davids’ reverse-sticks shot from the top of the circle.

In the 41st minute, Damons just had the goalkeeper to beat, but lost control of the ball and was tackled by Ciupka, but the best chance of all fell to Candice Manuel, the heroine of the thrilling win over the USA that put South Africa into the quarterfinals.

Davids intercepted the ball in the German defence and passed to Manuel, who flicked over the advancing goalkeeper only to see the ball bounce wide of the open goal.

The German goalkeeper conceded another short-corner in the 54th minute, but with the ball bobbling about the goalmouth, the home side were just unable to scramble the ball into goal.

The Germans had a goal disallowed on review, umpire Hudson missing that the ball had come off the leg of an attacker, and the South Africans forced one last short-corner in the 59th minute and should have been awarded another but the ball was cleared.

The home side will now chase fifth spot and automatic qualification for the World Cup in London next year, with the gutsy Irish side the first hurdle to get over in that regard. The match will be played on Thursday, before the semi-finals between Germany and Argentina, and England and the United States.

Results: USA 1 (Michelle Vittese) Japan 0; Argentina 2 (Delfina Merino, Julia Gomes) Ireland 1 (Roisin Upton); England 4 (Giselle Ansley, Alex Danson, Susannah Townsend, Hannah Martin) India 1 (Gurjit Kaur); South Africa 0 Germany 1 (Camille Nobis).

Wednesday’s fixtures (men’s quarterfinals): 11.15am Australia v Egypt; 1.30pm Spain v Ireland; 3.45pm Germany v France; 6pm Belgium v New Zealand.

 



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