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Ken Borland



Sensational Lions ensure they stay in pole position 0

Posted on May 30, 2016 by Ken

 

The Emirates Lions hammered the Vodacom Bulls 56-20 in their SuperRugby derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday to ensure that they will return to action after the international break in pole position for the playoffs and with their confidence sky-high.

It was a sensational display by the Lions and it was their sheer intensity, pace, power and vision that blew the Bulls away, the visitors running in seven tries in delivering the sort of hiding that has rarely been inflicted on the home side at their Pretoria fortress.

The Bulls knew from the start that they were going to be in for a tough evening as the Lions earned a penalty from the kickoff, the home side not releasing in the tackle and Marnitz Boshoff slotting the kick. That was not the only time the Bulls erred at the breakdown.

Another Boshoff penalty stretched the lead to 6-0 and the opening try came in the 19th minute. The Lions were put on attack by scrumhalf Faf de Klerk’s searing break and the power of inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg then carried him over for the try, although the Bulls pleaded in vain for the visitors to be penalised for obstruction as there was crossing in the midfield.

The Bulls struck back from the kickoff though when the Lions misjudged the flight of the ball, which then bounced over the head of fullback Sylvan Mahuza, who had come rushing up to cover. Outside centre Jesse Kriel gathered the ball and stormed over for the try to cut the deficit to 5-13.

The Lions scrum then made their presence felt in the 27th minute, a big shove seeing the ball bounce out – was it out the tunnel or through the legs? – into De Klerk’s hands and the deserved Man of the Match launched a rapid counter-attack, finished by the pace and power of outside centre Lionel Mapoe, who would not look out of place in the New Zealand backline.

The Bulls, to their credit, did not harp on about all the 50/50 decisions that went against them, but it would have been churlish considering how comprehensively they were outplayed.

The Bulls did pull the gap back to 8-18 with a Francois Brummer penalty, but the Lions were firmly in charge at the break as another try took them out to 25-8.

De Klerk may have been the director of all the attacking brilliance, but this try saw the fabulous pack take control. Hooker Malcolm Marx, who was immense, ripped the ball off the Bulls to set up a series of drives and the home side eventually ran out of defenders, allowing powerhouse tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys to stroll over the line.

The Bulls defence is one of the best in the competition – before the match they had missed the least tackles – but the Lions continued to cut them open with astonishing ease, thanks to the high tempo with which they moved the ball, and their wonderful vision and skills.

Flank Warwick Tecklenburg is one of the unsung heroes of the Lions and his inside ball to Boshoff saw the flyhalf break clear, earning a penalty for a high tackle, which he slotted to ensure the visitors continued the momentum in the second half.

De Klerk showed again just how dangerous he is with ball-in-hand in the 54th minute when he took a quick tap-penalty and was away in the blink of an eye; he had Jaco Kriel inside him and the brilliant flanker is one of the paciest loose forwards around, roaring over the line for the Lions’ fourth try.

The Bulls were 33-8 down but they did restore some pride with their second try, protecting the ball long enough to get a driving maul going, skipper Adriaan Strauss dotting down.

But there was little respite from the dazzling onslaught from the Lions: wing Courtnall Skosan ran a great line and received the scoring pass from captain Warren Whiteley, in a moment of superb play that showcased the eighthman’s wonderful appreciation of space and time.

Boshoff added his fourth conversion to put the Lions 42-13 up and things got worse for the Bulls when replacement flyhalf Tian Schoeman received a yellow card from referee Craig Joubert for a ruck offence after a team warning.

Shortly thereafter, the scrum once again got their shove on and the nefarious De Klerk was able to dart over for a well-deserved try of his own. Boshoff converted to put the Lions on the brink of the half-century mark and the hell was not over yet for the Bulls as a magnificent breakout by the Lions saw Skosan put clear on a switch move. He showed the pace that has seen him rightly rewarded with an SA A place, and he passed outside to Janse van Rensburg, who showed that he has speed to go with his power as he stormed over for the try.

Replacement flank Deon Stegmann scored under the posts for the Bulls in the final minute, but it was scant consolation for a side that were nowhere near their best and played off the park as a result.

Scorers

Vodacom BullsTries: Jesse Kriel, Adriaan Strauss, Deon Stegmann. Conversion: Tian Schoeman. Penalty: Francois Brummer.

Emirates LionsTries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2), Lionel Mapoe, Julian Redelinghuys, Jaco Kriel, Courtnall Skosan, Faf de Klerk. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (6). Penalties: Boshoff (3).

http://www.citizen.co.za/1136419/sensational-lions-thrash-bulls/

Bulls have renewed energy to maintain momentum 0

Posted on February 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls will look to the renewed energy levels in the camp after the bye week to help maintain the momentum they gained before the break when they take on the Western Force in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls started the campaign with two losses at home in Pretoria but then beat the Sharks and the Cheetahs over the next fortnight to put themselves in the top eight on the log and six points behind the Conference-leading Stormers, with a game in hand.

The Force are the last Australian team to win in the capital, and even though that was way back in 2007, the Perth-based side have traditionally been the toughest of foes for the Bulls to see off, with the average score being 25-22.

“We always seem to be in tight matches against each other. The trick for us will be to play the big moments better and to execute whenever we create scoring opportunities.

“We’ve been quite lucky with our draw, I think the bye came at the right time for us, the week off was very good and the guys have come back energised,” captain Pierre Spies said this week.

The Force come to South Africa in not the best frame of mind, the epic bonus-point win over the defending champion Waratahs in the opening round being followed by four successive defeats, and the coach, Michael Foley, has shuffled the backline, with former Free Stater Sias Ebersohn starting at flyhalf.

The match also marks the return of reserve lock Wilhelm Steenkamp to the place where it all began for the 30-year-old, back in 2005.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has called for more accuracy in implementing the basic but effective game plan he sponsors.

“The accuracy suddenly changed, then the belief came, and with that the momentum came as well. We would like to continue with what made us a dangerous side before the break, getting into the right areas, converting that opportunity, accuracy on defence and squeezing opportunities, and hopefully winning that field-position battle,” Ludeke said.

Teams

Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Rudy Paige, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Grant Hattingh, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Marcel van der Merwe, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Dean Greyling. Replacements – 16-Jaco Visagie, 17-Morne Mellett, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-Victor Matfield, 20-Arno Botha, 21-Tian Schoeman, 22-Piet van Zyl, 23-Jurgen Visser.
Western Force: 15-Luke Morahan, 14-Marcel Brache, 13-Kyle Godwin, 12-Luke Burton, 11-Nick Cummins, 10-Sias Ebersohn, 9-Alby Mathewson, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Kane Koteka, 6-Steve Mafi, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Sam Wykes, 3-Tetera Faulkner, 2-Nathan Charles, 1-Pek Cowan. Replacements – 16-Heath Tessmann, 17-Chris Heiberg, 18-Oli Hoskins, 19-Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20-Angus Cottrell, 21-Ian Prior, 22-Zack Holmes, 23-Junior Rasolea.

 

 

 

 

SACA MVP top-ranking will keep Van der Merwe warm through winter 0

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Ken

The winter break is often a good time to consider the talent that is coming through at franchise level, who the players to follow are as they bid for national recognition, and the South African Cricketers’ Association’s MVP Rankings are perhaps the most accurate measure of just who the most valuable stars are just one step below the Proteas.

The franchises play in three very different formats these days, of course, so comparing players can sometimes be a confusing, almost impossible task.

But this is where the Saca MVP rankings are so good: They take into account the four-day Sunfoil Series, the 50-over Momentum One-Day Cup and the RamSlam T20 Challenge. And the points are awarded based on a complex calculation that takes into account far more than just the number of runs scored or wickets taken.

The Saca MVP rankings are weighted so that those performances that really matter in terms of influencing the result of a game earn more points.

“What sets our rankings aside from other rankings or stats is that the MVP rankings take both the stats and the match context into account. For instance, a batsman scoring 100 not out in a total of 634 for three declared is going to earn way fewer points than one who scores 100 out of 150.

“Similarly, a bowler who gets the top-order out will earn more points than someone who gets nine, 10 and jack out.

“There are also different weightings depending on the format. For instance, economy rate and strike rate are more important in T20 cricket. Plus there are more points on offer if your team wins and for the captain of winning teams.

“It’s all about who performs in clutch situations, who pulls the team through and is also a consistent performer,” JP van Wyk, Saca’s player services manager, told the Daily Maverick.

And the 2012/13 rankings tell us that Titans all-rounder Roelof van der Merwe, famed for his tenacity in just those sort of pressure situations, was the most valuable player of last season.

The mere statistics inform us that Van der Merwe scored 515 runs in the Sunfoil Series, the most for the beleaguered Titans, with five half-centuries and he took 12 wickets. The left-arm spinner has always been a top-class performer in the limited-overs formats and 58% percent of his 473.47 points came from the 50 and 20-over competitions.

Van der Merwe was the leading spinner in the One-Day Cup, taking 22 wickets at an average of 19.95 and economy rate of just 4.69, taking five wickets in an innings twice. In the T20 Challenge, he took nine wickets at a good economy rate of 7.09 and his 208 runs were the second-most for the Titans, at a handy average of 23.11 and a strike rate of 107.

The 28-year-old is hardly a promising youngster though, but rather a renowned competitor who revels in the nickname “Bulldog”.

Instead of trying to break into international cricket, Van der Merwe is trying to get back there. The Waterkloof product has played in 13 ODIs and 13 T20 internationals, but has not represented South Africa since June 2010 in the West Indies. He was outstanding in his last game, taking one for 27 in 10 overs and then scoring 10 not out off seven balls to clinch a thrilling one-wicket victory in Port-of-Spain, but was then strangely dropped.

“I don’t think anything went wrong, it was more a case of different combinations being used and different times. Over time we’ll see if those combinations work out… ” Van der Merwe says phlegmatically from Delhi, where he is playing for the Daredevils in the IPL. “You never know in terms of a comeback in international cricket, but I’m not too worried about it. If I perform well, then it has to happen.”

Van der Merwe has been included in South Africa’s preliminary 30-man squad for the Champions Trophy in England in June and it must be a good omen that some of the strongest early challengers for the MVP crown – Kyle Abbott, Rory Kleinveldt, Dean Elgar and Quinton de Kock – all found themselves in the national team before the end of the summer.

Leg-spinner Imran Tahir and fellow orthodox left-armers Robin Peterson and Aaron Phangiso are the other spinners in the squad, but it counts in Van der Merwe’s favour that he is cosy bowling both up front with the new ball and at the death.

“At the death you’re on a hiding to nothing, but it’s all about your attitude. I want to do that job and that helps a lot. I don’t see myself as the most talented cricketer, so I’ve got to have aggression, that Bulldog spirit if you like,” Van der Merwe says.

That same determination has also seen Van der Merwe break out of his pigeonhole as a limited-overs specialist. Having scarcely been used by the Titans in four-day cricket, sitting behind the likes of Paul Harris, Imran Tahir and Shaun von Berg in the queue, he could have fobbed off the longer version of the game, especially since his financial future is secure with his involvement in the IPL.

But the Johannesburg-born fighter played every Sunfoil Series game this season for the Titans (wicketkeeper/batsman Heino Kuhn was the only other player to do so).

“My game has developed the last few years and I’m playing four-day cricket again after a lot of hard work. In the past, the Titans had great longer-form bowlers and I didn’t get much opportunity. But I was told I have to work on my batting if I want to take my career further and being able to bat as well definitely helps.

“Bowling in the longer form also helps my limited-overs bowling. In four-day cricket, there’s a lot more skill involved, you need more pace and variations and that’s what I’m also working on in India,” Van der Merwe says.

Van der Merwe held off a strong challenge from Warriors paceman Andrew Birch (450.89pts) for the MVP title, while De Kock, Hardus Viljoen and Abbott also scored more than 400 points.

The country’s leading players struggle to crack the top 100 because they are off on international duty so often.

The MVP award also comes with the sizeable cash prize of R110,000 for Van der Merwe, with Birch and De Kock winning the runners-up cheques of R66 000 and R50 000 respectively.

The top players in each competition were also the recipients of cash incentives, with Abbott, Johann Louw and Birch being the top three in the Sunfoil Series; Van der Merwe, Richard Levi and Birch dominating the One-Day Cup; and De Kock, Albie Morkel and Sohail Tanvir the pacesetters in the T20 Challenge.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-25-coming-up-through-the-rankings-roelof-vd-merwe/#.VVsjOPmqqko



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