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Ken Borland



Stormers are confident despite disappointing dress rehearsal 0

Posted on July 15, 2017 by Ken

 

The Stormers are going to go into their SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Chiefs with some winning confidence and momentum after beating the Bulls 41-33 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but there will be aspects of their play that they will be disappointed with, most notably some of their defence.

The Stormers are certainly still a potent attacking side, especially off turnover ball, and they ran in six tries, several of them quite dazzling in quality. But they are clearly going to have to tighten up against the Chiefs because they also conceded five tries against the worst-performing South African side, who had also scored the least tries before Saturday’s game.

Skilful wing Duncan Matthews, who showed once again what a pity it is that he has been unroadworthy due to injury for most of the season, set the tone for a thrilling game in the eighth minute as he ran from the back. The big vehicles in the Bulls pack then took over, with lock RG Snyman charging forward, before hooker Adriaan Strauss provided great support and flank Abongile Nonkontwana, a late replacement for the ill Nic de Jager, then gave a neat offload as the home side stormed into the 22. From the ruck, lock Jason Jenkins forced his way over for the opening try.

It was an exciting start but the home side, perhaps overloaded with enthusiasm, then tried to run from the kickoff, lost the ball and wing Cheslin Kolbe then set off on a marvellous jinking run that took him through half the Bulls side before he completed a fine individual try.

The fairness of the grounding had to be confirmed by TMO Marius Jonker, but there were no questions about the Stormers’ second try, four minutes later. Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak spotted a gap quite a long way from the ruck but had the pace to exploit it, before impressive outside centre EW Viljoen threw a lovely dummy and then sent flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe, a late replacement for Rynhardt Elstadt, strolling over the line.

Matthews then took centre stage as he scored a try and then set up another as the Bulls claimed a 21-12 lead after 28 minutes. First he finished a fine try from deep by the Bulls, which began with them spreading the ball wide down their backline inside their own 22, before fullback Warrick Gelant darted for the gap, drawing two defenders and then releasing outside centre Jesse Kriel, who roared up on the outside before sending Matthews racing over the line.

Ten minutes later, from a lineout, scrumhalf Rudy Paige gave a superb inside ball for Matthews, speeding up on a great line, and the 23-year-old then produced a phenomenal offload in the tackle to Kriel, racing up on his shoulder to complete a great try.

But to once again show how important it is that the team that has just scored clears the kickoff efficiently, the Bulls once again fluffed their exit and, with the Stormers pressing hard in their 22, captain Strauss was penalised for a high tackle, allowing Willemse to cut the visitors’ deficit to 15-21.

The Bulls’ defence also bordered on incompetent at times and, three minutes later, wing Seabela Senatla was able to burst through. His pass went astray though, and the Bulls had the ball but made a hash of clearing their lines, turning over the ball and allowing the brilliant Dillyn Leyds to knife through and score the try that gave the Stormers a one-point lead at halftime with Willemse’s conversion (22-21).

Outside backs Leyds, the epitome of slipperiness from the back but also with an educated boot, and Senatla were the main drivers of the Stormers success in the second half.

The Bulls tightened up and used some of their heavyweights as ball-carriers, putting the Stormers under pressure, but flyhalf Tian Schoeman missed an important penalty attempt in the 50th minute.

Two minutes later, Leyds was racing up from the back again when tighthead prop Conraad van Vuuren tried to rein him in with a tackle that was more like a seatbelt restraining an F1 driver from over the shoulder. It seemed a bit harsh, but he was yellow-carded and that put the Stormers in the driver’s seat as they scored twice in the next 10 minutes.

In the 55th minute, Senatla was brought in on a run off a scrum and he linked up with Viljoen, before captain Siya Kolisi rumbled across the line.

Willemse converted and the Stormers had stretched their lead to 29-21.

Six minutes later, Leyds showed his tremendous attacking mentality as he fielded a kick from replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl and raced through a poor defensive line and then sent Willemse racing away on an angled run for a crucial try that gave the Stormers some breathing space with a 34-21 lead.

Some basic mistakes then corrupted the Stormers effort, setting up the game for a thrilling finale.

A breakdown in defence allowed Van Zyl to get the ball from a ruck, throw a dummy and then go racing for the corner flag, the Bulls cutting the deficit to 26-34 in the 65th minute.

Four minutes later, the Stormers tried a long pass off the lineout, it went to ground and Jesse Kriel pounced, scooping up the ball and running 60 metres to score an opportunistic try.

Replacement flyhalf Tony Jantjies converted and the Bulls were once again just one point behind (33-34).

The Bulls were full of fire and gave the Stormers pack just the sort of workout they need before the quarterfinals, and the tenseness of the situation was seen in Willemse taking a penalty shot at goal, and missing, in the 73rd minute.

With just a minute to go, Jantjies made a half-break and the Bulls were on attack inside the Stormers half. Replacement centre Burger Odendaal then burst clear and suddenly things looked promising for the home team.

But their lack of mobility and pace in some of their pack then came home to haunt them and there was no-one up in support when Odendaal was stopped, leading to a turnover and Leyds chipping the ball ahead for Senatla to dash on to and score the matchwinning try.

The Bulls gave as good as they got, but what they lack is the polish to their game – the small, but vital things like good exits, strong support play and accurate decision-making in both attack and defence.

The Stormers will obviously have to step up another notch to beat the Chiefs in their quarterfinal at Newlands next weekend, but the sheer muscle of their pack and the ruthlessness of their counter-attacking backs means they have reasons to be confident of banishing the memories of last year’s awful match against the same opponents at the same stage.

 

Scorers

BullsTries: Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews, Jesse Kriel (2), Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3), Tony Jantjies.

Stormers Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dillyn Leyds, Siya Kolisi, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla. Conversions: Willemse (3), Kolbe. Penalty: Willemse.

CSA slammed out the park too often 0

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Ken

 

If Cricket South Africa were a bowler, they would be the type that gives you an over comprising three great deliveries, beating the bat a couple of times and maybe bowling the batsman, and three rank full tosses that are hammered out of the park, and are no-balls just to make matters worse!

There are so many good things going on in CSA, so many people within that organisation who have a deep love for the game and are faithful servants of it, often at considerable cost to themselves. While those good balls are being bowled, it is easy to believe that everything in South African cricket is hunky dory and the future is bright.

Like when you go to the Centre of Excellence and National Academy in Pretoria. This is a superb facility where national teams can prepare with the latest technology at their fingertips.

The gadgets have recently been improved with the world’s most advanced batting simulator – the PitchVision Batting Studio – now installed. The high-tech bowling machine and smart lane equipped with sensors takes net batting to the next level. The simulator features a moveable bowling machine that can bowl over or around the wicket, videos of bowlers, shot-tracking, field setting and tracking of runs scored. The system also records technique for video analysis.

The batsman can set up any match scenario and bat with the realistic pressures of finding the gaps and trying to chase down a score at the death.

The technology even showed that I was planting my front leg when batting, but then a good coach could probably have pointed that out anyway. And, as I told coaches Shukri Conrad and Vincent Barnes, nobody has trapped me lbw for a long time! (Now I’m just tempting fate!)

There are lots of other good news stories around CSA at the moment, such as the thawing of relations with India. According to Haroon Lorgat, the CSA chief executive, the BCCI are keen on the idea of South Africa and India developing an icon series like the Ashes. The Proteas will be playing four Tests in India this year and the next tour to South Africa is not going to be the thoroughly inadequate shortened series which was foisted upon CSA in December 2013.

Sadly, however, there are still people in CSA who seem more intent on furthering their own agendas than the good of the game.

Despite CSA continuing to swear blind that there was nothing untoward in the selection of the team for the World Cup semi-final, that merit is the only criterion for the Proteas (except when the call is 50/50), the gathering of the cricket family this week for the CSA Awards (another example of how well they can do things) meant I was given yet more snippets of information that would seem to confirm that the side that took the field at Eden Park was not the one Russell Domingo, AB de Villiers or the selectors initially wanted.

And now, an event as happy and well-organised as the awards banquet has also been marred by the same faceless, cowardly interferers as allegations of the judges’ decisions being changed rear their ugly heads.

Two members of the judging panel confirmed to me that one of the franchise award-winners had been changed – that when they left their selection meeting, they were under the impression that a different player had won.

The last thing I want to do is cast aspersions on the ability and class of Robin Peterson (poor Vernon Philander was shamefully treated by the World Cup fiasco), whom I rate highly and believe should be in the Test squad ahead of Aaron Phangiso, but apparently he was the third-choice for the Momentum One-Day Cup Player of the Season, behind Dean Elgar and Andrew Puttick.

So the last week has pretty much summed up CSA’s performance in general: leading the field in many ways, like the centre of excellence in Pretoria, enjoying the support of an ever-growing list of sponsors and putting on superb events, but then also shooting themselves in the foot through dishonesty and backroom dealings. It felt like a family gathering this week, even if the family is dysfunctional at times, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some members who really would be better suited to Fifa than cricket administration.

Sharks have tough time against 14-man Rebels 0

Posted on November 18, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks had a tough time beating a 14-man Melbourne Rebels team in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Kings Park in Durban on Friday night, eventually scrambling to a 25-21 victory.

The crowd had little to get excited about in the first half until the 29th minute when a fight broke out between Sharks tighthead Jannie du Plessis and the Rebels number three, Laurie Weeks.

Replays showed that Du Plessis had slapped Weeks on the back of the head, prompting a barrage of punches from the Rebels frontrower. With the input of the TMO Marius Jonker, referee Jaco van Heerden yellow-carded Du Plessis and gave Weeks a red card.

It meant that the Rebels played with one man short for the whole second half, but it didn’t seem to faze them as they held their own in the scrums and had a real chance of winning after scoring two tries in the final quarter.

The Sharks had little impact on attack because they lacked straight runners and their handling – as well as the Rebels’ – was dreadful.

They were given a 10-0 lead five minutes after the Du Plessis/Weeks fracas thanks to a storming run by wing S’bura Sithole, who stood out for the Sharks with his work-rate and powerful running, but the Rebels were able to cut the deficit to 7-10 on the halftime whistle, thanks to a try by eighthman and captain Scott Higginbotham, who was rightly given the man of the match award despite finishing on the losing side.

The Sharks defence had held off the Rebels for numerous phases, but the explosive Higginbotham was then given the chance to score by a weak tackle by flyhalf Lionel Cronje.

The Sharks were under pressure early in the second half, but fullback Lwazi Mvovo saved them by intercepting on his own 22 and then racing away for an 80-metre try.

The home side were plagued by scrappy ball-retention and hesitancy on attack, but replacement centre Heimar Williams lifted them to a 22-7 lead after 52 minutes with a brilliant solo try.

The 23-year-old produced the direct running that had been so lacking, cutting back inside and then racing past the cover defence for the first try of his SuperRugby career and a memorable one at that.

The Rebels fought back doggedly, however, inspired by the brilliance of Higginbotham.

On the hour mark, he stormed through a big hole in the Sharks’ midfield for his second try and, with five minutes left in the match, he set up the Rebels’ third try, by replacement wing Bryce Hegarty.

The Sharks had been on attack after Mvovo broke from deep for the second time, but once again the poor ball-retention let them down, the Reds winning a turnover and Higginbotham surging forward from the 22-metre line.

The defeat means it is the end of the road for the Rebels’ hopes of reaching the playoffs, while the Sharks are still trying to rid their game of the basic errors that hold them back.

The defence was good at times, but the attack is amongst the most insipid in the competition.

Scorers

Sharks – Tries: S’Bura Sithole, Lwazi Mvovo, Heimar Williams. Conversions: Lionel Cronje (2). Penalties: Cronje (2).

Rebels – Tries: Scott Higginbotham (2), Bryce Hegarty. Conversions: Jack Debreczeni (3).

 

Ludeke has big fat grin, with good reason 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke sat with a big fat grin in the post-match press conference and with good reason as his team had produced one of their best performances this season in beating the Sharks 17-10 in a hard-fought local derby at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

The Bulls have struggled to win away from home in recent years, with the win over the Cheetahs in the first week of March their first victory on the road in two seasons, so the triumph over the Sharks could be a watershed.

“It’s a great feeling, we haven’t had a lot of wins here over the last few years and it’s always a tough assignment. You have to be at your best, and we played well and we played for the full 80 minutes, closing the game well by squeezing penalties,” Ludeke said.

The Bulls certainly did play well, enjoying the bulk of possession and territory, as their big ball-carriers dominated the attacking rucks and their pack, as a unit, exerted huge pressure at the defensive breakdown.

“We had all the possession and field position, especially in the first half, because we worked hard. We knew they would be competitive at the breakdown, so we put in an extra effort there in terms of ball-security, which all starts with the ball-carrier,” the coach said.

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said his team were in the contest throughout and said there was a very narrow line between winning and losing.

“There was no lack of effort, in fact it was a massive effort against such a big, physical team and we were in the game for a large part of it. But if you don’t take literally two or three opportunities and they do, then you’re going to lose,” Gold said.

The defeat has seriously trimmed the Sharks’ chances of winning the South African Conference as they are now seven points behind the Bulls, who have a game in hand, but Gold said their hopes have not been killed yet.

“There is still hope, even though there is unbelievable disappointment and it’s a very sombre dressing room.”

 



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