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Ken Borland

Sharks come badly undone against superb Lions 0

Posted on July 02, 2016 by Ken


The Lions played with superb fluency and confidence, pace and power, to ensure the Sharks would come badly undone on their visit to Johannesburg, the hosts winning their SuperRugby match 37-10 at Ellis Park on Saturday.

After weathering an impressive first five minutes from the Sharks, the Lions were quick to communicate their intention to pick up where they left off before the June international break, their previous result being a similarly superb 56-20 demolition of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

The Sharks’ bright start withered in the face of some ferocious defending from the Lions and they simply pushed the visitors ever further from the advantage line, bossing the collisions and producing the quick ball that they flourished on, displaying wonderful skills and intensity in the process.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies put the first points on the board with a seventh-minute penalty and the woes began for the Sharks as Paul Jordaan limped off with a knee injury. They had already been forced to make a midfield change when Andre Esterhuizen failed to recover in time from the hamstring strain he picked up during the week, which meant Jordaan was playing inside centre and JP Pietersen shifted to number 13 and S’bura Sithole came on to the wing.

Heimar Williams then came on to replace Jordaan and, with Garth April appearing flustered at flyhalf, the Sharks had a severely disrupted backline, the Esterhuizen/Jordaan combination being one of their strong points this season.

But what was unforgivable was the number of basic mistakes the Sharks made in the first half, starting with scrumhalf Michael Claassens basically bailing out of taking an up-and-under, giving the Lions prime attacking position. Lionel Mapoe produced an incisive run, Jaco Kriel, as ever, was up in support and made the final pass for wing Ruan Combrinck to score the opening try in the 15th minute.

The Sharks were also poor at relieving pressure in their own territory, allowing the Lions to mount relentless attacks because their kicks were often up-and-unders instead of touchfinders, and too often they did not find touch or grass.

The second try came after an up-and-under from the base rather than a lengthy kick to clear the lines, followed by Odwa Ndungane dithering and not claiming a mark that could also have relieved the pressure. Instead the Lions piled on to attack, lock Franco Mostert powered through close to the line and eventually centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg grabbed the ball out of a maul and swiveled over the line.

On the half-hour, the jittery April kicked straight to fullback Andries Coetzee, who launched the attack and Combrinck’s little chip behind the defensive line bounced wickedly for Lwazi Mvovo, again in the north-east corner of Ellis Park, with eighthman Ruan Ackermann gathering and passing to hooker Malcolm Marx to storm over for the third try.

The Sharks were 20-0 down and then butchered the best chance they had to get on the scoreboard when Mvovo’s pace took him clear, but his pass inside to Ndungane was a bit behind the fullback and the veteran dropped the ball with the line clear ahead of him.

While the dazzling attacking play of the Lions backline gets most of the plaudits, their pack is also brilliant and they deserve the credit for the fourth try, scored on the stroke of halftime, as the forwards went on the charge, battering through the advantage line until Ackermann, one of the stars of the show as he stood in for the injured Warren Whiteley, powered over the line with two of his colleagues behind him.

Jantjies’ conversion meant the Lions would go into the break with a commanding 27-0 lead and the problems that bedevilled the Sharks did not go away in the third quarter either.

April produced an awful kick from his own 22 that did not go anywhere but straight up, leading to a penalty slotted by Jantjies, and the ball-hungry Kriel then crashed over the line in a move that again highlighted the pace and power of the Lions forwards.

At 37-0 down with 22 minutes to play, the Sharks were really just chasing pride and their replacements, especially lock Ruan Botha, added some much-needed energy.

The visitors were finally on the board in the 63rd minute, Sithole cutting through the Lions defences and some clean hands by April and replacement fullback Rhyno Smith delivered the ball to Mvovo, who stepped inside and dotted down.

Six minutes later, Botha, who announced his return from long-term injury with a compelling performance in the Ellis Park fortress, soared high to take a lineout and set up the rolling maul, from which another Sharks import, replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, scored.

That made it five tries to two and, if the Sharks had managed to score once more in the last 11 minutes it would have robbed the Lions of a well-deserved bonus point, but Johannesburg’s pride held out to ensure they will top their conference and host the city’s first SuperRugby knockout game since 2001.

Little goes right for Lions, hammered by Knights 0

Posted on June 19, 2015 by Ken

Little went right for the bizhub Highveld Lions as they were hammered by seven wickets with 12 overs to spare by the Chevrolet Knights in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at the Wanderers on Friday night.

Set a mediocre 228 for victory, the Knights had little trouble registering a crucial bonus-point win, reaching 229 for three in 38 overs.

As disciplined and probing as they were with the ball in sunlight, the Knights were ruthless with the bat under floodlights, with Gerhardt Abrahams, Rudi Second and Pite van Biljon all scoring bright half-centuries.

Van Biljon was there at the end with 51 not out off 58 balls, alongside Obus Pienaar (25*), their unbeaten 53-run stand providing the finishing touches to a tremendous victory.

Having produced a terrible batting display in meandering to 227 for nine in their 50 overs, the Lions began awfully with the ball.

Hardus Viljoen, on his return from long-term injury, was here, there and everywhere. He bowled four wides in the first over, which went for 12 runs, and added three more wides and a couple of no-balls in his second.

Pumelela Matshikwe also struggled, conceding 31 runs in his opening spell of four overs, and the Knights were quickly away.

Viljoen managed to get one ball on target in his opening burst, Lefa Mosena edging to second slip to be caught for six, but there was precious little for the Lions to cheer about for the next 17 overs as Abrahams and Second added 107 off 108 balls.

Abrahams, who was brought into the side to replace SA A batsman Reeza Hendricks, was dashing and able to put away the bad delivery as he raced to 62 off 54 balls with 10 fours, before he was bowled by wrist-spinner Eddie Leie attempting a big slog-sweep.

There was no respite for the Lions, however, as Second and Van Biljon continued scoring freely, another 39 runs being added before Second was also bowled by Leie, although he was deceived by a yorker. The wicketkeeper scored a fine 55 off 78 balls, with seven fours.

The scoring slowed down during the partnership between Van Biljon and Pienaar, but the Knights had no reason to rush with the bonus point always well in their sights.

Viljoen returned and was struck for successive boundaries by Van Biljon to end the game, conceding 60 runs in his seven overs, to perhaps suggest he was rushed back into action too early.

Leie tried enthusiastically to get the Lions back in the game, taking two for 48 in nine overs, while Kagiso Rabada was tidy, conceding just 37 runs in his nine overs.

The five points for the win lifts the Knights back into contention on 13 points in fifth place, now just two behind the Lions.

The Highveld Lions never got out of first gear before falling away badly in the middle overs, and, on the same pitch on which South Africa scored billions of runs just two weeks ago, they could never get close to a run-a-ball, despite a solid platform laid by the top three.

The Knights won the toss and gave the Lions batsmen first use of a bare, bouncy pitch and openers Stephen Cook and Rassie van der Dussen gave the home side an ideal start by bringing up their fifty partnership off 66 balls.

A shifting of gears was required but Cook (34 off 39, 5×4) tried to pull a delivery from fast bowler Quinton Friend and, cramped for time and space, he could only dolly a simple catch to midwicket.

Alviro Petersen came in and looked top-class as he cruised to 39 off 51 balls, with five fours, before paceman Dillon du Preez held on to a sharp return catch.

The Lions were still in a strong position on 124 for two after 28 overs, but a dramatic middle-order collapse then ensued as they slumped to 162 for seven in the 41st over.

Van der Dussen’s 57 off 90 balls was a passable effort in terms of building a foundation, but he needed to go on and anchor the innings. Instead he became one of three wickets to fall in four deliveries as he drove outside off stump and was caught behind off Shadley van Schalkwyk.

Temba Bavuma (3), caught trying to pull Du Preez, Neil McKenzie (15), top-edging a sweep off Werner Coetsee, and Dwaine Pretorius, caught behind for a duck off Van Schalkwyk as he wafted outside off stump, all made little impression.

Viljoen was brilliantly caught by a diving Michael Erlank in the covers for 10 off Du Preez.

Thami Tsolekile (34) and Rabada (22) did at least add 49 off 45 balls for the eighth wicket to give the Lions something to bowl at, but the probing Knights bowlers remained in control throughout the innings.

Du Preez was outstanding with four for 34 in 10 overs – yes, he even bowled yorkers regularly at the death – while Van Schalkwyk (10-2-43-2) and Friend (10-1-45-1) could also be happy with their contributions.

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