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Ken Borland



Nollis is not going anywhere – Van Graan 0

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ken

 

Nollis Marais is the Bulls’ head coach and is not going anywhere – at least in the short-term – franchise CEO Barend van Graan confirmed on Thursday.

Pressure is mounting on the Bulls and their management, with their poor results – just one win from six matches – dragging them into the discussion about which two South African franchises should get the chop for next year’s Super Rugby competition.

But Van Graan said on Thursday that as disappointing as the results have been, the franchise is requesting their supporters to be patient and the administration will not resort to any kneejerk reactions.

“We’ve got a head coach, Nollis Marais, and he has our support. But we have had serious talks with the coach, some of the coaching team and some players. I must stress that we are all as disappointed as the fans with the results. But I can’t promise anything about this weekend except that we will try our hardest to enhance our performance,” Van Graan said at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.

Apart from their on-field struggles, the Bulls have also been in the news for supposed financial difficulties. Van Graan admitted that there is pressure on their finances but certainly not to the extent suggested by weekend reports, which he described as “mistaken”.

“In last year’s annual report I said we are under pressure and when you manage a business like the Bulls then you have to balance your revenue, which you need to increase, with your expenses, which are player costs. But we have an advance plan, although there is only a limited amount of cash we can spend and we must balance that between marquee players and youngsters.

“And as a country, South Africa as a whole is under economic pressure. Overseas clubs have realised they can go for younger guys now, they are professional athletes so it will happen. But winning Super Rugby in 2018 is still our goal, it might not happen but there’s nothing wrong with the talent we have or the effort we’re putting in,’ Van Graan said.

Van Graan admitted, however, that the anger and frustration felt by the fans was an appropriate response that showed their love for the Bulls team.

“There’s a lot of disappointment and a lot of questions among our supporters and a lot of suggestions about where we need to go to. But it’s important that the board, the management, the coach, captain and players, who are all under an immense amount of pressure, keep perspective, they need to know where this is coming from.

“It’s because of the passion and loyalty of our supporters. The fact is, they love the brand and we realise how important the Bulls brand is to them. The people are worried and their complaints are justified,” Van Graan said.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1487522/embattled-nollis-marais-has-the-bulls-faith-as-coach/

Bulls have the spirit but little power 0

Posted on April 22, 2017 by Ken

 

It was far from the displays of arrogant power the Bulls have historically produced at Loftus Versfeld, but at least they managed to get the win as they scraped through 20-14 against the Cheetahs in their SuperRugby match in Pretoria on Saturday night.

The Bulls were once again their own worst enemies with numerous unforced basic errors, and they left it late to keep their unbeaten record at home intact for this season as Jesse Kriel’s 74th-minute try gave them the lead for the first time and ended up being the last score of the game.

The Cheetahs had led 11-3 at halftime and were able to use their scrum as a tremendous platform, while also disrupting the Bulls’ lineout maul and causing problems with their own driving maul. The visitors were also more slick on attack and credit must go to the Bulls defence for restricting them to just one try, and that from a rolling maul.

The Cheetahs scrum made themselves known in the first set-piece of the match, shoving the Bulls towards the touchline and allowing space for a backline move which saw right wing William Small-Smith looping around and then stabbing a clever grubber through which forced the Bulls to concede a five-metre lineout.

The Bulls were penalised for sacking the driving maul and the Cheetahs kicked to touch again, fiery loose forward Paul Schoeman rumbling over for the opening try from the second drive.

The Bulls also did themselves no favours through a lack of presence at the breakdowns, and a nice little dart by outside centre Francois Venter earned the Cheetahs a ruck penalty, which flyhalf Niel Marais slotted to put them 8-0 ahead in the 10th minute.

The Bulls are capable of playing some impressive rugby when they can hang on to the ball without someone dropping a straightforward pass, and 19 phases of sustained pressure eventually led to a penalty, allowing flyhalf Tian Schoeman to put them on the board in the 26th minute.

But the scrums are always an area of concern for the Bulls and they soon went down in a heap once again, allowing Marais to extend the Cheetahs’ lead back to 11-3 with another penalty.

That was the halftime score and it had been a disappointing first 40 minutes, with the sheer number of errors backing up those who feel South African rugby players are well behind when it comes to skills.

At least the Free Staters can still scrum, with loosehead prop Charles Marais thoroughly dictating affairs against Bulls tighthead Jacobie Adriaanse, the steady stream of penalties from that set-piece messing up the flow of the game for the home side.

But Adriaanse, together with openside flank Nick de Jager, who had struggled to make any impact at the breakdowns, then sponsored replacement flank Jacques Potgieter for the second try with fine runs and nifty offloads.

Although the Bulls undoubtedly lifted their game in the second half, they still made a lot of unforced errors and they wasted a fine counter-ruck by replacement prop Lizo Gqoboka when scrumhalf Piet van Zyl fumbled the ball, was tackled and then conceded a penalty at the ruck, Niel Marais stretching the Cheetahs’ lead to 14-10 after the home side had closed to 10-11.

Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman brought the gap back to just one point, however, with an excellent long-range penalty punishing the Cheetahs for a high tackle after the home side had run from their own half.

The Bulls certainly showed more attacking spark in the final quarter and the match-winning try also came from a long way out.

Right wing Travis Ismaiel effected a vital turnover inside his own half and left wing Jamba Ulengo then went through the gap, centre Burger Odendaal then feeding outside centre Jesse Kriel out wide, the Springbok cutting back inside to evade two cover-tacklers and score the second, crucial try.

Tian Schoeman converted for a 20-14 lead, but the Bulls defence still had to hold out at the end, Ismaiel and fullback Warrick Gelant combining to tackle left wing Raymond Rhule out on the corner flag in the last play of the game.

It was typical of the spirited defence the Bulls showed all night and the determination of the team not to lose, despite how badly they were playing, must please coach Nollis Marais.

But the Bulls must still do more when they have the ball and their skills have to be better if they are to be a force in SuperRugby. They have the pace and power out wide, but too often they are running from deep, which stifles their attacking efforts.

The Bulls will be enjoying a bye next week, but then they host the Crusaders and Highlanders on successive weekends and they will be far more ruthless in punishing the many errors they are still making.

Points scorers

Bulls: Tries – Jacques Potgieter, Jesse Kriel. Conversions – Tian Schoeman (2). Penalties – Schoeman (2).

Cheetahs: Try – Paul Schoeman. Penalties – Niel Marais (3).

 

The thrills and drama of the Sunfoil Series 0

Posted on February 24, 2017 by Ken

 

The Sunfoil Series – the four-day domestic franchise competition – came down to the most thrilling of conclusions last weekend with the Knights claiming the title by just 1.78 points, the equivalent of 89 runs over a tournament that lasted 10 weeks, once again proving that, at least in the minds of the players and the aficionados of the sport, it is the premier trophy in the local game.

Nicky Boje, the Knights coach, confirmed that the four-day competition was the main target in their minds this season, and the other franchise coaches made similar comments through the campaign.

The thing about four-day cricket is that it provides the most all-encompassing test of a player’s skills and of a team’s quality – it’s essentially 40 days of cricket, 96 overs a day, so an examination that can last 3840 overs.

And it still came down to the narrowest of margins, so small in fact that Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn gave a large part of the credit for his team’s triumph to a partnership of just 10 runs between the last pair in their penultimate game against the Cape Cobras.

Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli took the Knights’ first innings in Paarl from 143 for nine to 153 to get them one batting point – 150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point, make 149 and you get zero. Even though the Knights went on to lose the match by 151 runs, that single point made their life a lot easier in the final game against the Highveld Lions because it meant they were targeting 430 in 100 overs rather than around 480.

“It allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said, and we all know belief plays a massive role in any achievement.

I just wish Cricket South Africa had a bit more belief in their four-day competition. It would be unrealistic to expect huge crowds to attend, but they could certainly do more to generate greater interest in the tournament that makes our Test cricketers. They have scheduled media sessions with the franchises before T20 and Momentum One-Day Cup games, why not before Sunfoil Series matches?  Their decision to no longer pay for a scorer to sit in the press box during four-day games suggests their attitude is to cut investment in the competition rather than promote it.

Scorers are an essential help to the media in terms of getting all their stats and figures correct, and it is heartening that CSA’s official statistician, Andrew Samson, is very much a long-format man.

The Oracle, as our media call him – I’m not sure what the BBC Test Match Special team call him but he is also their official statistician – has just brought out a book, The Moon is Toast, which is a celebration of all the quirky statistics the wonderful game of cricket throws up, written in the format of a year-long diary.

Copies of the book are available from http://tinyurl.com/hgbulfp and the wry humour of Samson makes what could become a boring read into an entertaining delight.

Long-form cricket obviously lends itself to more statistical gems than the wham-bam! of limited-overs cricket and the greater scope for all sorts of possibilities to occur was shown by the dramatic conclusion of our own four-day competition.

The longer the game, the greater the chance of an amazing comeback, just as the New South Wales team did in their recent Sheffield Shield game against Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground. They were two for two in their first innings before going on to make 603 for six declared which, Samson tells me, is only the fourth time in all first-class cricket that a team has lost their first two wickets for two or less runs but still gone on to score more than 600.

The South African example is Griqualand West recovering from one for two and then three for three to make 602 all out against Rhodesia in Kimberley in 1930, thanks to a double-century by the exotically-named Xenophon Balaskas, the Test all-rounder.

Journeyman Ahlers guaranteed more than a million at Sun City 0

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Ken

Jaco Ahlers has earned an average of R445000 in each of the nine years he has been a professional on the Sunshine Tour, but now the 32-year-old from Centurion is guaranteed to earn at least R1.1 million from a single event following his qualification for the Nedbank Golf Challenge starting at Sun City on Wednesday.

Ahlers will fill the 30th and final place in the elite field following his thrilling weekend playoff victory in the Cape Town Open. Even if he finishes last at the Gary Player Country Club, he will earn $100 000, a massive windfall for someone whose career earnings on the Sunshine Tour are just over R4 million.

Ahlers’ triumph – he beat compatriot Hennie Otto and Englishman Ross McGowan in the playoff – takes the number of South Africans in the Sun City field to seven, with Charl Schwartzel, Dawie van der Walt, Danie van Tonder, Louis Oosthuizen, George Coetzee and Tim Clark also teeing it up.

Fans will be able to enjoy the presence of three former champions in the field: Thomas Bjorn, Martin Kaymer and Lee Westwood, the winners of the last four tournaments dating back to 2010.

Five of the triumphant European Ryder Cup team will be present – the three former champions plus Jamie Donaldson and Stephen Gallacher.

“This is obviously life-changing for me. I turned 32 last week, but right now, I feel about 40 years old. But it’s a happy 40 years because now I’m going to Sun City. What a birthday present! That is a lifelong dream come true,” Ahlers said after his victory at Royal Cape Golf Club.

There would have been eight South Africans in the Nedbank Golf Challenge field but for Ernie Els suffering from a troublesome right hip niggle, which he has decided to rest over the festive season.

 



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