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Ken Borland

Snyman & Bulls eager to avoid repeat of last year 0

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Ken


Listening to Western Province coach John Dobson talking about the Blue Bulls having all the pressure as favourites in this weekend’s Currie Cup semi-final, it reminds one of the same stage of the competition last year when the Capetonians came to Pretoria and upset the home side.

Bulls lock RG Snyman is well aware of the history and is eager to avoid the same painful result this time around.

“We were in the same situation last year playing against Western Province at Loftus Versfeld and we’d like to change what happened in that game. The way we do that is by not changing what we’ve been doing this season, we have to stick to what we’ve been doing. But the good thing is that this semi-final feels like nothing new, it’s quite a difference playing it now when we’ve all been through another whole Currie Cup season and a season of Super Rugby,” Snyman told The Citizen on Tuesday.

The Bulls have focused on an exciting brand of rugby, but they went down 23-18 to Western Province in last year’s semi-final thanks to the visitors not allowing them any platform or space to play the type of rugby they wanted to produce.

This year they come to Pretoria with a much-less hardened pack and the Bulls youngsters are all a year older and coming into their prime, most notably Snyman, who turned 21 only this year.

“Western Province have a good pack and it will definitely be a physical battle, especially in the set-pieces. But if we can dominate at forward then we should do really well. With the break we’ve had a bit more time to prepare and the team has clicked a bit better through the competition. Hopefully we’ll see that greater experience and better cohesion come through now at the end of the tournament,” Snyman said.

Springbok reserve hooker Bongi Mbonambi will be coming to Loftus, as should prop Oli Kebble and lock JD Schickerling, and the Bulls are going to have to show some real grunt up front to ensure they make the final.

The most memorable performance by a fast bowler 0

Posted on August 01, 2016 by Ken


The thrilling Kagiso Rabada stole the show at the CSA Awards this week by claiming most of the trophies for himself with the same ruthlessness he displays in targeting the batsman’s wicket, but the most memorable performance by a fast bowler, for me, came the night before at the 25 Years of Unity celebration when Vincent Barnes spoke movingly about the challenges he had to face as a cricketer whose career was ruined by Apartheid.

Barnes is currently the high performance manager for Cricket South Africa, having previously served for many years as the national team’s bowling coach. But he was also arguably the greatest cricketer in the non-racial ranks during the decade before 1991’s formation of the United Cricket Board and the return to international cricket.

The pitches were notoriously poor on their side of the divide – the Apartheid government certainly wasn’t bothered with providing facilities for the majority back then – but Barnes’ figures stand head and shoulders above everyone else in his generation: 323 wickets at an average of just 11.95!

The injustices of Apartheid meant Barnes had to work doubly hard just to play cricket and the passion he has for the game overcame the fact that there was no higher outlet for his talents. But the 56-year-old has seldom spoken of those frustrations – unlike some of the privileged set who were denied international cricket due to isolation – and instead focused on passing on his knowledge to the new, unified generation of South African cricketers.

The greats of White cricket were also acknowledged at the celebration, but it was Barnes’ story of overcoming the odds which was the most poignant for me.

As good as the awards dinner was the next evening, the shadow of sports minister Fikile Mbalula’s enormous ego and Donald Trump-like “leadership” did hang over it a bit for me. I am sad that Cricket South Africa’s response to the increase in pressure from the sports minister for a faster transformation pace, purely intended to put the spotlight on himself in this election year, has been to kowtow to a man who is all bluster and no positive action.

First we had HD Ackerman shamefully removed from the hosting duties because he is taking up a job in Australia (Derek Alberts did a fine job standing in), and then the announcement that quotas will be formally introduced at national level. At least that ends the dishonest sham that resulted in disasters like last year’s World Cup semifinal.

As if to really drive home the point that CSA have worked harder on transformation than any other code, Rabada then takes home half-a-dozen awards.

What was miserable Mbalula’s response? – a tweet that read “Congratulatons! Kagiso Rabada, I sincerely believe you not gonna disappear after being used like all others who came bfo”.


Welcome to the big city, but please be more responsible with the pipeline 0

Posted on April 11, 2016 by Ken


Many of the country’s top rugby-playing schools came to the big city last weekend as Easter rugby festivals were held at St Stithians, St John’s and King Edward VII.

I always find it interesting to look at the composition of these teams because, if we accept that transformation has to occur in order for the Springboks to pick from all the talent in the country and if we also accept that developmental change has to happen at grassroots level and not at the top, then it follows that the responsibility for ensuring there are more black players in the pipeline must sit with the schools.

While there were some very exciting black players who lit up the festivals – I was hugely impressed by the Grey High backline at St Stithians and Jeppe eighthman Hacjivah Dayimane apparently stole the show at the KES festival – it seems choosing players of colour remains uncomfortable, at best, for certain schools.

It certainly did not sit well with me that my alma mater, Michaelhouse, had only one player of colour in their team. But Michaelhouse, although a decent side, are far from being one of the best schoolboy teams in the country.

Transformation only works if black players are developed through the pipeline and if they get the opportunity to play at the best schools, alongside the best players.

Paarl Boys High, Paul Roos Gymnasium and Affies are generally regarded as the top three rugby schools in the country but players of colour are few and far between in those sides. When those two great Boland teams, Paarl BHS and Paul Roos, played each other last, the local Stellenbosch newspaper featured a double-page spread with all the players mugshots on display. So that’s 44 faces and, barring a handful of kids, they were noticeably lily-white.

Perhaps quotas should be in the works at schoolboy level? How else are unions meant to get enough players of colour into their systems?

For the top rugby schools, who have a history of enticing the best talent, to just about ignore black players is unpatriotic to say the least. Just in the Boland example, there is plenty of fantastic talent right there.

This is yet another issue for Saru to wrestle with, but don’t hold your breath because at the moment they can’t even seem to get a coach for the Springboks sorted out.

You can still bank on the new man being Allister Coetzee, but the constant delays in his appointment are not doing him or the Springboks’ chances of success this year any good at all.

Cricket South Africa also faces interesting times as it ponders whether to keep their faith in their national coach, Russell Domingo.

Chief executive Haroon Lorgat said there will be a thorough review of the team’s performance under Domingo, but speaking to other coaches and players, the Eastern Cape man certainly has backing.

Again, timing is of the essence, though, and four Tests in Australia in November would not be a kind first assignment if they are going to make a change. Far rather use the triangular limited-overs series in the West Indies in June and the home Tests against New Zealand in August to bed someone new in.

Fortune favours relentless Bulls in first win 0

Posted on September 17, 2015 by Ken


The Bulls fought relentlessly for their first win of the Vodacom SuperRugby campaign and, with some good fortune finally going their way, it came with a thrilling 43-35 triumph over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

It was a much better performance by the Bulls, who made far fewer errors than on the opening two weekends, and had more fluidity on attack thanks to Rudi Paige starting at scrumhalf. This time they turned their pressure into points, mostly through the metronomic boot of flyhalf Handre Pollard, who piled on four penalties and three conversions in a faultless display before he left the field with cramp in the final quarter.

The Bulls just kept the scoreboard ticking over and led 33-22 on the hour mark thanks to Pollard’s last kick, before the Sharks pushed them all the way in a determined comeback.

Paige, so influential as a link man with his quick, clean service, tried a box-kick from the kickoff after Pollard’s penalty and his opposite number, Cobus Reinach, as alert an opportunist as you can get, charged down the kick and raced away to score a try that brought the Sharks strongly back into the game. As a tactic, the box-kick was debatable with Pollard behind him and the Bulls having carried the ball to much better effect up till then.

But Paige’s technique was also lamentable, with the scrumhalf stepping sideways from the base of the ruck to kick and not backwards, and there were no pillars shielding him, allowing Reinach to charge him down.

The Bulls began to falter under the pressure and, as silly errors crept in, the Sharks took the lead for the first time in the 72nd minute through two Pat Lambie penalties.

It was starting to look as if the Bulls, for all their endeavour, were going to lose their third successive home game and it was definitely not good news for them when Paige and Pollard went off with cramp.

But it was Pollard’s replacement, Tian Schoeman, who made a crucial play in the 75th minute when he kicked an angled, pressure penalty six metres from touch after the Sharks had entered a ruck from the side.

It was heartening to see the Bulls fight back, but it was a surprise when they won another penalty in the final minute and opted instead to kick for touch and try and chase the bonus point try.

Their positive attitude was rewarded however, even though the Sharks stole the lineout, as, trying to run from their own 22, the visitors knocked on and centre Jan Serfontein showed enormous strength to gather and force his way over the tryline.

The try was awarded by TMO Johan Greeff and it was mildly controversial. An earlier decision by him to award the Bulls a try was frankly disgraceful and it is high time this serial offender when it comes to poor decisions is retired.

The awful decision came in the 25th minute and up till then Pollard and Lambie had traded penalties for the Bulls to lead 9-6.

Fullback Jesse Kriel had sparked a counter-attack off turnover ball for the Bulls but he then threw a blatantly forward pass to Hougaard, who showed good pace and a nifty step inside, to dot down. It was referred to TMO Greeff who inexplicably gave the try, apparently saying that the replays he had were inconclusive!

Pollard converted and the Bulls had a 10-point lead, but it did not last long as Lambie kicked another penalty and then flank Renaldo Bothma, who had a strong game with ball-in-hand for the Sharks, charged through after claiming a kick-off, gave a lovely backhand offload to fullback SP Marais, who sped down the right before the ball went infield to eighthman Ryan Kankowski, who raced away for the try.

The Bulls had the final say before half-time, however, as they grabbed their second try.

Handling errors and wrong options had prevented them from turning pressure into points in their previous two games, but on Saturday night they were slick, patient and clever on attack.

A period of strong driving play and concerted pressure softened the Sharks defence before eventually the hole opened for the Bulls and Paige read the situation brilliantly to provide the perfect pass for flank Deon Stegmann to storm through.

The Bulls led 23-16 at the break and, although Lambie narrowed the lead to 23-19 early in the second half with another penalty, the next try also went to the home side.

Another patient, slick build-up in the Sharks’ 22 ended with Pierre Spies galloping around the ruck at the perfect moment for the perfectly-timed pass by Paige and the Bulls captain charged over for the try in what was a fine all-round game for the eighthman. The big star for the Bulls amongst the forwards, however, was flank Lappies Labuschagne, a tireless and powerful defender and ball-carrier.

Pollard’s conversion put the Bulls 30-19 ahead, but with Lambie also succeeding with every kick at goal and the Sharks certainly up for the fight, there was still plenty of hard work ahead for the Bulls.

That they managed to pull off the win, with a bonus point while denying the Sharks one, will be a massive confidence boost for the beleaguered three-time champions.


Bulls: Tries – Francois Hougaard, Deon Stegmann, Pierre Spies, Jan Serfontein. Conversions – Handre Pollard (3), Tian Schoeman. Penalties – Pollard (4), Schoeman.

Sharks: Tries – Ryan Kankowski, Cobus Reinach. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalties – Lambie (7).


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