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Ken Borland



Burger, Kitshoff & Catrakilis the heroes as Stormers fight back 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

Schalk Burger, Steven Kitshoff and Demetri Catrakilis were the heroes as the DHL Stormers overcame a niggly Brumbies side 25-24 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Newlands on Saturday night.

The indefatigable Burger spent most of the evening cleaning up after his team-mates had spilt the ball and he scored the Stormers’ only try to finally put them ahead on the hour mark.

Loosehead prop Kitshoff anchored a Stormers scrum that provided an invaluable platform in their efforts to shake off a Brumbies side that did everything they could to spoil and disrupt, playing precious little rugby themselves. Kitshoff was also huge in defence and when carrying the ball, and was often used at the front of the lineout as well.

Ultimately it was the boot of Catrakilis that kept the scoreboard moving for the Stormers, the flyhalf kicking five penalties, a conversion and a drop goal as he missed just one shot at goal.

The Brumbies had a golden chance to snatch victory at the death after fullback Jesse Mogg had raced out of his own half in an acre of space, forcing the Stormers to concede a five-metre lineout. If that defensive breakdown wasn’t bad enough, flank David Pocock was then able to stroll over through a gaping hole for a try from the lineout.

The conversion was from in front of the posts, but flyhalf Christian Lealiifano somehow managed to hit the upright, and what should have been a one-point victory for the Brumbies remained a single-point win for the Stormers.

It was a gutsy fightback from the Stormers, who at one stage trailed 3-16, and they had to overcome a horrid first half in which they looked at sixes and sevens with a ridiculously high unforced error-rate.

It started from the kickoff when the Stormers failed to exit due to poor communication and were then penalised at the scrum, Lealiifano putting the Brumbies 3-0 up.

Three minutes later, eighthman Duane Vermuelen was charging up on attack off a commanding Stormers scrum and the Brumbies went off their feet at the ruck, allowing Catrakilis to level the scores with his first penalty.

Damian de Allende’s troubles typified the Stormers’ first-half battle and the centre seemed to be bewitched as he knocked on twice in the opening minutes, gave away a penalty to Lealiifano and then scuffed a grubber attempt straight into the hands of Joe Tomane, allowing the Brumbies wing to race away for the opening try in the 14th minute.

It looked like being a magical evening in Cape Town for the Brumbies when Jesse Mogg kicked a 52-metre penalty to put them 16-3 ahead on the half-hour.

But the Stormers have a mighty scrum and the penalties they earned there gave them a foothold back in the match, starting in the 38th minute when Catrakilis made it 6-16.

As the Stormers forwards took control, the Brumbies were not willing to play along and there were constant flare-ups as their off-the-ball niggle and spoiling tactics went unpunished by weak referee Stuart Berry. Three more Catrakilis penalties either side of halftime pulled the Stormers back to within a single point (15-16) and then eventually the visitors were given a yellow card when replacement lock Jordan Smiler tried to bury Burger at a ruck by upending him.

Six minutes later, Burger, who had an awful brush with the cemetery last year, forced his way over for the Stormers’ only try, to cap another mighty performance on his amazing comeback from serious illness.

The restart meant that, for the first time in ages, the Brumbies were able to attack after being camped in their own half for most of the second half and Lealiifano slotted a penalty after Catrakilis was adjudged to have his hands in a ruck.

Catrakilis made up straight away with a brilliant 40m drop goal, but Mogg’s breakaway and Pocock’s try should have put the Brumbies in front with 10 minutes left were it not for Lealiifano’s inexplicable miss.

The victory, achieved in the most trying circumstances, means the Stormers are back in first position in the South African Conference, although the Bulls have the same number of points and a game in hand.

Scorers

Stormers – Try: Schalk Burger. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Catrakilis (5). Drop goal: Catrakilis.

Brumbies – Tries: Joe Tomane, David Pocock. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Lealiifano (3), Jesse Mogg.

http://citizen.co.za/379572/burger-kitshoff-and-catrakilis-heroes-as-stormers-fight-back/

Chiefs favourites but a sad day awaits for SA rugby 0

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Ken

 

About 80% of respondents on the country’s biggest sports website believe the Chiefs will beat the Brumbies to win back-to-back Vodacom SuperRugby titles on Saturday, and one imagines a similar proportion of fans would declare it a sad day for South African rugby when the Southern Kings or Lions are banished into the wilderness later in the day after the second leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The future of both the Lions and the Kings as professional, commercially viable franchises rests on Saturday afternoon’s match at Ellis Park. The Eastern Cape side have a deficit of seven points to make up, never mind the fact that they have to win and prevent the hosts from getting a bonus point.

It is obviously a no-win situation for South African rugby: either the tremendous growth of the game in the Eastern Cape, the Kings having performed much better than expected, or one of the traditional powerhouses will be sacrificed.

The lack of SuperRugby action in 2013 has left the Lions with their heads barely above water and the coffers of the proud union, already struggling before their relegation from the competition, could well run dry if they do not have top rugby to host next year.

The incompetence of the officials the South African Rugby Union (Saru) sent to negotiate the expanded SuperRugby format means the sport in this country will lose a leg this weekend … it’s a bit like asking someone whether they’d like to have their left leg or their right leg chopped off.

It also makes it absolutely imperative that Saru are already planning for 2016 when the next Sanzar expansion is scheduled to occur and that they have contingency plans in place to keep either the Kings or the Lions afloat until then.

The Lions edged out the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend because they kept their composure better under pressure. The ill-discipline of the Kings allowed Elton Jantjies to keep chipping away at the scoreboard. Now that the chips are down and the Kings have to beat the Lions at a sold-out Ellis Park, how will they respond?

There seems little doubt that the Kings will need to add something extra to their ultra-conservative game plan in order to beat the Lions, but is there the attacking skill to do that within their side?

Director of rugby Alan Solomons, who is leaving the Kings to coach Edinburgh whatever the outcome of Saturday’s match is, is backing a new centre pairing of the experienced duo of Waylon Murray and Ronnie Cooke.

Star flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is out with a hand injury, with George Whitehead taking the number 10 jersey, while debutant Scott van Breda, who is normally a centre, is on the left wing and is going to handle the goal kicking for the Kings.

The Kings, as the rank underdogs in SuperRugby, have honed their defensive skills to such an extent that they made the most tackles and had the best completion-rate in the competition; but Saturday’s game is calling for them to showcase attacking capabilities that have been lying dormant.

The Lions, on the other hand, have been racking up the tries in non-competitive matches and the backline is used to crossing the whitewash this year; Jantjies is a skilful distributor, they have a quality centre pairing in Stokkies Hanekom and Dylan des Fountain and dangerous finishers in the back three in Antony Volmink and Ruan Combrinck.

Up front, hard, experienced men such as Franco van der Merwe, captain JC Janse van Rensburg and flank Derick Minnie ensure that the Lions aren’t lambs to the slaughter when it comes to matching the intensity and physicality of a SuperRugby side.

But whatever the outcome, one hopes that Saru will take steps to ensure that, when we look back through the mists of time, we don’t remember the Kings, representing such a strategically important chunk of the country as the Eastern Cape, as having one season of SuperRugby as some sort of quirky experiment; or the Lions as being a once-great union, the first winners of the Super 10 competition that preceded the Sanzar tournament, that has faded into obscurity.

The Brumbies are a side that is returning from relative obscurity in SuperRugby as they contest the final for the first time since their 2004 triumph. They will be travelling to Hamilton and will need to overcome a Chiefs side that has the confidence of winning the title last year, scoring the most points and tries this season, and the prestige of beating the heavily-favoured Crusaders last weekend.

Jake White’s men will also have to overcome travelling from Pretoria to New Zealand and the distracting effects of thousands of cow bells as a 25 000 capacity crowd roars on the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Brumbies have certainly bought into the former World Cup winning coach’s philosophy and they showed at Loftus Versfeld last weekend that they are willing to risk their limbs in defence and have a steely focus on sticking to the game plan.

And the Brumbies have the kicking game and a powerful lineout that could trouble a Chiefs side that, amazingly, had the ball for the least time out of all sides in SuperRugby.

But the fact the Chiefs scored the most points and tries in regular season play shows their greatest strengths – their ability to make metres when carrying the ball and the skills of their players in beating defenders.

Locks Brodie Retallick and Craig Clarke and loose forwards Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer bring a hard edge to the pack, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden have the tactical vision and skills that have been central to the Chiefs’ success.

Those website pollsters clearly believe the Brumbies will need a miracle to beat the Chiefs at their home ground in Hamilton. But miracles do happen in rugby, as the spirited, well-coached Brumbies discovered last weekend in Pretoria.

Teams

Lions: 15-Ruan Combrink, 14-Deon Helberg, 13-Stokkies Hanekom, 12-Dylan des Fountain, 11-Antony Volmink, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Ross Cronjé, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Derick Minnie, 6-Jaco Kriel, 5-Franco van der Merwe, 4-Hendrik Roodt, 3-Julian Redelinghuys, 2-Martin Bezuidenhout, 1-JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements – 16-Robbie Coetzee, 17-Martin Dreyer, 18-Willie Britz, 19-Warwick Tecklenburg, 20-Guy Cronjé, 21-Marnitz Boshoff, 22-Chrysander Botha.

Southern Kings: 15-SP Marais, 14-Hadleigh Parkes, 13-Ronnie Cooke, 12-Waylon Murray, 11-Scott van Breda, 10-George Whitehead, 9-Shaun Venter, 8-Jacques Engelbrecht, 7-Wimpie van der Walt, 6-Cornell du Preez, 5-Darron Nell, 4-David Bulbring, 3-Kevin Buys, 2-Bandise Maku, 1-Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – 16-Charl du Plessis, 17-Hannes Franklin, 18-Steven Sykes, 19-Devin Oosthuizen, 20-Nicolas Vergallo, 21-Wesley Dunlop, 22-Shane Gates.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-02-superrugby-relegation-or-promotion-speaks-volumes-of-saru/#.V6R-8Pl97IU

Brumbies stick to game plan to snatch victory over Bulls 0

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Ken

 

It was all about sticking to game plans as the Brumbies upset the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, snatching a 26-23 victory at the death in their Vodacom SuperRugby semi-final in Pretoria.

With just a minute remaining, the Bulls looked about to win despite turning down three shots at goal in the preceding minutes as they led 23-19, but the Brumbies then scored a dramatic try as Bulls wing Bjorn Basson rushed up far too early on defence, leaving a yawning gap for flyhalf Matt Toomua to slide through and then pass inside for centre Tevita Kuridrani to break the home side’s hearts.

Much more fuss has been made over Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter’s decision to turn down shots at goal for three kickable penalties in the 67th, 69th and 72ndminutes than over Basson’s awful defensive lapse, but the loose forward fronted up for his options after the game.

Potgieter did eventually tell Morne Steyn to aim for goal after a massive scrum by the Bulls had earned them another penalty in the 76th minute, the flyhalf increasing their lead to 23-19, but the Bulls failed to successfully exit their own territory from the kick-off, allowing the Brumbies to attack within their 22.

“My feeling was that we hadn’t exited well the whole evening, we struggled to get out of our own half, so I wanted to keep the Brumbies down there. We did that for 10 minutes and my only regret is that I went for poles in the last five minutes. I should have backed my earlier decisions and kept them down there.

“I chatted to Morne Steyn every time we got a penalty and he had the same mindset as me, to keep them down there. The Brumbies aren’t the sort of team you expect to score from their own territory and even if there was a turnover, we were confident of keeping them there. I also felt that we were getting the upper hand through our forwards and that altitude was also playing a role,” Potgieter said.

There’s nothing wrong with the thinking behind Potgieter’s decisions, except that it meant a departure from the Bulls’ game plan all season. They have readily admitted that their strategy is to play for penalties and they have the most accurate goal-kicker of the competition in Steyn. Coach Frans Ludeke confirmed that building a bigger lead on the scoreboard had been the tactic he would have preferred.

“I spoke to Dewald afterwards about what happened and he had a totally different view to me. He felt like they should keep the Brumbies in their own territory, because he wanted to keep the pressure on them. To my mind, we should have been building a cushion on the scoreboard, but that’s rugby and I back him still as a brilliant leader,” Ludeke said.

The leadership skills of Potgieter are not in doubt – he led by example in a flat first half for the Bulls as well – and the courage and transparency he showed in being willing to discuss his decisions was in stark contrast to many other captains and teams. The Sharks left Loftus Versfeld a couple of weeks ago without even attending the press conference after suffering a one-point defeat.

Apart from deviating from the trusted game plan, the only other real criticism one can make of Potgieter’s strategy was that he may have been guilty of looking too far ahead, and even backwards to previous games, and not just focusing on winning the semi-final.

“I would back the same call again. When we lost against the Chiefs we were maybe too conservative. It was not just about closing out this game, but also how we wanted to walk into the next game. You need a total game to go all the way, the right attacking mindset brings reward,” Potgieter said in further revealing his thinking.

The Brumbies, in contrast, stuck to their game plan and executed with precision. From the opening kick-off to Akona Ndungane, which was chased hard and forced the wing into touch, giving the visitors a lineout from which they attacked through several phases and then won a penalty, it was clear they were playing to a plan and the plan was followed right until the 80th minute.

The shrewd hand of coach Jake White was very apparent as the Brumbies qualified for their first SuperRugby final since 2004.

“That opening was part of a specific plan and that was the way we wanted to start. We knew how nervous we were playing in front of our home crowd last week, plus the Bulls didn’t play last week, so we wanted a good start.

“It’s one of the greatest Brumbies win ever, we were down and out after 75 minutes but became the first team to win at Loftus this season. It’s a massive achievement,” White said.

The former Springbok coach, who never enjoyed the best of relationships with the Loftus Versfeld hierarchy, was also critical of Potgieter’s decision to spurn shots at goal in the last 10 minutes.

“We grew a leg when they didn’t go for poles, it helped us because it left the door open. If I had a new hooker on the field and the best goal-kicker in the competition, I’d be telling Stephen Larkham [Brumbies assistant coach] to get the kicking tee on as quickly as possible!”

While the last 10 minutes will remain fresh in most people’s memories, the truth is that the Bulls also didn’t show nearly enough intensity in the first half to stamp their dominance and make use of home-ground advantage.

“We had a very complacent first 15/20 minutes,” Potgieter admitted.

The dominance of the Brumbies in the scrums and at the breakdowns, thanks mainly to the brilliance of George Smith and the occasional leniency of referee Craig Joubert, was also obvious and the set-piece woes of the Bulls are something that must focus the minds of the management as they review the campaign.

“The Brumbies applied pressure through the set-piece and put points on the board through that. We need a solid set-piece, but it was under pressure,” Ludeke admitted.

The character of the Bulls was shown, however, by the way they fought back in the second half, gaining more parity in the scrums, pressurising the lineout and forcing penalties.

Unfortunately, those infringements by the Brumbies were neither punished nor taken advantage of.

The Brumbies will now travel to Hamilton to take on the defending champion Chiefs, who established themselves as the pre-eminent force in New Zealand rugby by beating the Crusaders 20-19 in their epic semi-final.

The Chiefs were under the cosh, the Crusaders controlling the set-pieces and the pace of the game, until the 53rdminute when the Waikato team were inspired by wing Lelia Masaga.

The Chiefs, having absorbed tremendous pressure from the Crusaders in the opening minutes of the second half, were hard on attack and Masaga received a long pass by scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow. By running straight back in the direction of the pass, Masaga surprised the Crusaders defence and, once he had built up some momentum, the 26-year-old had the pace and power to plough through the heavy traffic, going through four tackles to score.

The Chiefs had the lead for the first time (13-9) and the Crusaders were then shut out by some brilliant defence. Crotty was denied a try by a last-ditch Aaron Cruden tackle and, playing behind the advantage line thanks to crunching hits by the likes of Ben Afeaki and Tanerau Latimer, the Crusaders then conceded an intercept try. Crotty’s long pass, with his back to the Chiefs, was claimed by Cruden, who sprinted clear for the try and a 20-9 lead.

The Crusaders struck back with a brilliant individual try by Israel Dagg and a conversion and penalty by Dan Carter, but the Chiefs hung in for a brilliant victory against a team that was meant to be peaking at the right time.

Having enjoyed a lot of attacking ball in the first half, but wasting it through turnovers and set-piece failures, the Chiefs resorted to the safety of a simpler, more direct approach in the second half. The Crusaders, meanwhile, were forced to go wide too early by the aggressive defence and Carter trying an unlikely drop goal while he was on the run in the final minute epitomised how they had been shaken off their game.

“I just anticipated it and luckily he threw it for me,” Cruden said of his intercept try with some understatement. For connoisseurs of the game, watching Cruden and Carter display their magic was an absolute treat and it seems fair to say the All Blacks boast the two best flyhalves in world rugby.

While those two produced their best under pressure, there was arguably a match with even higher stakes played in Port Elizabeth, where the Southern Kings hosted the Lions in the first leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The Lions called on all their composure and an impressive display by their young flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, to beat the Kings 26-19.

Playing on their home ground, the Kings perhaps felt the weight of desperate expectation on their shoulders as their passionate home crowd willed them on to victory and a better chance of survival in SuperRugby.

Sadly, the Kings did not show as much composure under pressure as the Lions and four moments of ill-discipline in the first half allowed the on-target Jantjies to give the visitors a 12-6 lead by the half-hour.

Demetri Catrakilis then landed a cross-kick on the proverbial ticky for wing Marcello Sampson to dot down the Kings’ first try, but he made two important mistakes before half-time and then went off injured before the hour mark in a major blow for the Eastern Cape team, both in terms of the match and their prospects of overturning the deficit next weekend.

He firstly struck the post with a 37th-minute penalty after the Lions players had been in front of a chip by replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje, and then Catrakilis threw the pass that was intercepted by impressive outside centre Stokkies Hanekom for a 39th-minute try that must have felt like a real kick in the shins for the Kings as it gave the visitors a five-point lead at the break.

Hanekom – remember his name, people! – also scored the Lions’ second try after bursting through the line on the angle. The pass from Jantjies looked slightly forward and has drawn the ire of Kings supporters, but judging on the decisions made previously in SuperRugby this year, the TMO may well have ruled it was flat anyway.

The Kings were the victims, however, of losing out on many 50/50 decisions by referee Jaco Peyper, the Lions attacking the breakdowns with particular vigour, with Derick Minnie a hugely disruptive presence.

The Lions were good value for their win, however.

The pace and intensity of SuperRugby was made clear to them from the opening seconds when tighthead prop Kevin Buys, responsible for several big hits against his former team, crashed into Minnie, knocking the ball loose and leading to the first points of the match via a Catrakilis penalty. But the Lions adapted immediately and much credit must go to the new coach, Johan Ackermann, and his assistants for ensuring the Lions were ready for the battle without the same level of competition as the Kings have enjoyed.

The Kings did at least claim the bonus point for losing by seven, but the Lions are certainly the favourites for the decider next weekend at Ellis Park.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-29-superrugby-semi-finals-sometimes-off-the-game-plan-but-always-on-the-game/#.V5X7pPl97IU

Bulls not relying on home ground advantage but knockout experience 0

Posted on July 08, 2016 by Ken

 

While the army of supporters at Loftus Versfeld might not actually sell out the stadium, the Bulls will appreciate their help but not be relying on it for victory in their Vodacom SuperRugby semi-final against the Brumbies on Saturday.

Instead of home ground advantage and a phenomenal record at Loftus Versfeld, the Bulls will put their faith in being a well-drilled team that makes the right decisions at the right time, and the fact that they have way more experience of knockout SuperRugby than the rebuilding Brumbies do.

The Bulls have won two semi-finals and two finals and lost in just one qualifier since 2009, while the Brumbies last appeared in the playoffs back in 2004, when they won the title, which explains the presence of veterans George Smith and Clyde Rathbone in their starting line-up.

Brumbies coach Jake White knows how important it is for his team to make a good start in order to silence the passionate Loftus Versfeld crowd, which may or may not be a full-house, with only 30,000 tickets sold by Thursday morning.

The last time the Brumbies came to Pretoria and won was back in 2006 and White doesn’t want his team to “freeze” in the opening exchanges, like the Cheetahs did against them last weekend in Canberra.

The Brumbies have carried the ball more than the Bulls this season, have gained more metres and beaten more defenders so they might just decide to keep ball in hand a bit more than they did against the Cheetahs, especially in the opening stages. They did this to great effect against the Sharks in Durban in March, scoring four first-half tries to settle the outcome early on.

The Bulls will certainly be mindful of stopping the Brumbies’ attacking threats out wide, with wing Henry Speight being the second leading try-scorer in SuperRugby this season and long-striding fullback Jesse Mogg always a threat when he joins the line or counter-attacks.

The Bulls have one of the best kicking games in the competition and the best lineout (hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle has been the best thrower overall), so they will undoubtedly look to force the Brumbies back into their own territory and then pressurise them at the set-piece.

Where the Brumbies will target the Bulls will be in the scrums and at the breakdowns. The Australians earned six scrum penalties off them in Canberra when they beat the Bulls 23-20 at the end of March, while Smith has served them well at the rucks, where the Brumbies have won the third-most turnovers in the competition.

The Brumbies will follow the Sharks’ and Stormers’ approach of disrupting the Bulls at the breakdown, and injured captain Pierre Spies spoke of the importance of ensuring the referee (Craig Joubert) favoured them in that crucial area on Saturday.

“You have to make the breakdown work for you and a lot depends on how the referee interprets that area. George Smith is a brilliant player and we’ll obviously have to nullify him, but the breakdown is something you have to look at during the game and sort out. Even if it’s a tough day at the breakdown, as long as you get the result, that’s the important thing,” Spies said.

Interestingly, not losing possession at the rucks is an area the Bulls have generally been able to tick in this year’s competition, as they have conceded the fourth-least turnovers, just marginally more than the Brumbies. Other areas the Bulls can tick are discipline – they’ve conceded the fourth-least penalties while the Brumbies have infringed the most – the ability of their backline to make clean breaks (7th, Brumbies 11th) and their goalkicking, which has been the best in the competition thanks to Morne Steyn’s 86% success rate.

White, who had a reliable goalkicker as his first choice for the Springboks, will be nervously contemplating the 70% success rate of the Brumbies when kicking at goal this season.

As devout as most of the Bulls are, the Brumbies know there will be no Christian charity awaiting them at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday. Jake White’s men have lengthy odds to overcome but if they hold their nerve and do the basics better than the Bulls, then they can certainly come away victorious.

“It’s finals rugby, so it’s about pressure, both applying and absorbing it. We have to use our opportunities and I hope for a clinical performance,” Spies added.

While the Bulls are favoured to win at home, maintaining their unbeaten record at Loftus Versfeld this year, it seems only a minority of people are backing the Chiefs to win at home against the Crusaders in their semi-final in Hamilton.

Finals rugby is when the Crusaders, appearing in an extraordinary 12th successive semi-final, are generally at their best and the Crusaders machine is growing more powerful every week. They sent out a chilling warning last weekend that they are peaking when they demolished the Reds 38-9 in their qualifier and the scarring is still fresh for the Chiefs after the seven-time champions hammered them 43-15 three weeks ago.

Chiefs coach Dave Rennie is saying it suits his team to be underdogs, but his anxious state of mind is perhaps revealed by the seven changes he has made to his team.

The Crusaders are settled and have the sort of players you would go to war with in Richie McCaw, Dan Carter, Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks, Corey Flynn, Wyatt Crockett, Luke Romano and Andy Ellis.

The biggest battle for the Chiefs will be up front, where the Crusaders pack are playing with the sort of cohesion and ferocity that has been the trademark of the All Blacks. The front-foot ball is bound to be used well by the masterful Carter, who has the luxury of potent attacking forces outside him in Israel Dagg, Tom Marshall and Ryan Crotty.

The Chiefs will be dangerous in broken play, but the Crusaders’ lineout and territorial game is also amongst the best, and the patience and composure of the Cantabrians means the mistakes are few and far between.

Ironically, the most high-stakes game of the weekend will involve the SuperRugby team that finished last as the Southern Kings host the Lions in Port Elizabeth in the first of two promotion/relegation matches tonight.

They are playing ostensibly for the right to be the country’s fifth SuperRugby franchise, but in fact they are basically playing for the survival of their professional status.

Without the security of a long-term, guaranteed presence in SuperRugby, neither the Kings nor the Lions have been able to attract decent sponsorship or sign marquee players and the harsh economic times means both franchises are battling to stay afloat.

The Kings, who are without the injured Luke Watson and Andries Strauss, have the conditioning of being exposed to the pace and intensity of SuperRugby for the last five months and the backing of one of the best crowds in the competition.

The Lions have been bolstered by the return of lock Franco van der Merwe, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and hooker Martin Bezuidenhout from loan deals to the Sharks and Stormers, and will be fresher and desperately hungry after looking in from the outside all year.

With Springbok tourist JC Janse van Rensburg anchoring the front row, they should be able to match the Kings in the set-pieces and much will depend on how Jantjies responds to being back with his former colleagues.

The Kings have a tenacious defence which Jantjies will need to unlock, and in the boot of Demetri Catrakilis and the rolling maul, they have two of the most efficient points-gathering mechanisms in the competition.

There is a fine line between desperation and anxiety, and the team making the least mistakes is bound to win in Port Elizabeth.

*Statistics courtesy of Opta and allblacks.com – http://files.allblacks.com/kickoff/opta/ISR-Season-Review-Opta.pdf

Teams

Bulls: Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements – Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Morné Mellett, Paul Willemse, Jono Ross, Jano Vermaak, Jürgen Visser.

Brumbies: Jesse Mogg, Henry Speight, Tevita Kuridrani, Christian Lealiifano, Clyde Rathbone, Matt Toomua, Nic White, Ben Mowen, George Smith, Peter Kimlin, Scott Fardy, Sam Carter, Ben Alexander, Stephen Moore, Scott Sio. Replacements – Siliva Siliva, Ruan Smith, Fotu Auelua, Colby Faingaa, Ian Prior, Andrew Smith, Joseph Tomane.

Southern Kings: SP Marais, Hadleigh Parkes, Ronnie Cooke, Shane Gates, Marcello Sampson, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, Darron Nell, David Bulbring, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – Charl du Plessis, Hannes Franklin, Steven Sykes, Devin Oosthuizen, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whitehead, Waylon Murray.

Lions: Ruan Combrink, Antony Volmink, Stokkies Hanekom, Dylan des Fountain, Deon van Rensburg, Elton Jantjies, Michael Bondesio, Warren Whiteley, Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Franco van der Merwe, Hendrik Roodt, Julian Redelinghuys, Martin Bezuidenhout, JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements – Robbie Coetzee, Martin Dreyer, Willie Britz, Warwick Tecklenburg, Ross Cronjé, Marnitz Boshoff, Chrysander Botha.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-26-superrugby-expect-no-mercy-this-weekend/#.V3-alfl97IU

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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