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Ken Borland



Springboks overcome tough times to get back on right track 0

Posted on June 10, 2017 by Ken

 

France gave them a tough time, but in the end the Springboks started their 2017 campaign with a highly satisfactory 37-14 win at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday night.

There were enough positive signs to suggest coach Allister Coetzee and his team have the Springboks back on the right track after hitting rock bottom in 2016.

The Springboks were put on the front foot by a superb effort from their pack, which was clearly dominant. Enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the home team were not always direct enough on attack, sometimes becoming too lateral, so the scoreboard did not always reflect how in charge they seemed to be.

The French were able to create space out wide too easily at times and some moments of defensive frailty from the Springboks meant the visitors were very much in the game until the final quarter.

With the clock on the hour mark, the match was on an even keel with the Springboks leading 16-14 when the turning point came.

The quick-thinking of scrumhalf Ross Cronje and the clever boot of flyhalf Elton Jantjies saw the ball bouncing over the French line with Courtnall Skosan in hot pursuit down the left wing. He had the pace to get there first but, as he was reaching up for the ball, he was played by French fullback Brice Dulin and the ball went astray.

The Springboks called for the early tackle and the TMO, Englishman Rowan Kitt, and referee Glen Jackson made the ruling that the contact had been a split-second too early. It was a marginal call either way and it was desperately tough on the French to concede a penalty try and for Dulin to be yellow-carded.

The Springboks scored two more tries in the 10 minutes he was off the field and the contest was over with the lead 37-14 with 12 minutes to play.

The first try came from the training ground with a slick lineout move. Captain and eighthman Warren Whiteley shifted backwards to take a deep lineout throw and then, having barely held on to the ball, immediately passed it into the gap for Cronje to come roaring through and score a memorable try on debut.

Seven minutes later, turnover ball allowed replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard to go on a sniping run, before fullback Andries Coetzee hit the afterburners and stormed into the open spaces before sending centre Jan Serfontein on a diagonal road to the tryline.

The road to victory was bumpy at first for the Springboks as the French driving maul earned them an early penalty, but flyhalf Jules Plisson missed.

With half-an-hour gone, South Africa only had two Jantjies penalties to their name. The first came after a lovely interchange of passes between hooker Malcolm Marx and wing Raymond Rhule led to the French being offsides. The visitors were up quickly in defence and combative in the tackle, but it was an area referee Jackson did police well.

The other Jantjies penalty came from a rolling maul, an area of the game in which the Springboks also showed pleasing work.

Marx produced a phenomenal first-half display, charging around the field like some intergalactic giant beast, and he provided the scoring pass for outside centre Jesse Kriel to go racing over for the first try in the 31st minute, after Coetzee, the other star up till then, had fought hard in the tackle and then burst clear.

The Springboks were 13-0 up with Jantjies’ conversion, but then the French began pulling back on the scoreboard.

The ease with which they were able to create space out wide is one of the aspects of play the Springboks will have to improve and, in the 36th minute, right wing Yoann Huget had acres of space and then chipped ahead, Coetzee totally missing the bouncing ball on the goal-line, allowing centre Henry Chavancy to dot down.

Jantjies, who did everything that could have been asked of him at flyhalf in a busy, courageous performance, scored the final points of the first half with a penalty to make it 16-7. The kicking of the Lions pivot was an obvious high point of his game as he succeeded with all six of his shots at goal.

The French scored the first points of the second half to keep the minds of the Springboks focused as Chavancy ran straight over Kriel in midfield, the Bulls player having to leave the field with concussion, and, from the next ruck, replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Serin dummied and went over the line.

Plisson’s second conversion narrowed the lead of the South Africans to just two points (16-14), but the final quarter belonged to the home side.

The physical effort of the Springboks never flagged, thanks to the impact off the bench of players like Jean-Luc du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen and Bongi Mbonambi, and the outstanding scrum was the other highlight of the performance.

It was just the sort of encouraging performance the Springboks needed to start their year.

Points scorers

South AfricaTry – Jesse Kriel, penalty try (7pts), Ross Cronje, Jan Serfontein. Conversion – Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties – Jantjies (3).

FranceTries – Henry Chavancy, Baptiste Serin. Conversions – Jules Plisson (2).

Top-class Sharks halfbacks hoping for a change in injury fortunes 0

Posted on February 21, 2017 by Ken

 

Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach have endured a wretched time when it comes to injury in recent SuperRugby seasons, but Sharks backline coach Sean Everitt said on Tuesday that the team are excited about being able to field a top-class halfback pair in this year’s campaign.

“That’s where we’ve fallen short in the last couple of years, losing Pat early and then Cobus being unlucky in the last few years, means they have missed a lot of SuperRugby which is never easy for a team to lose their first-choice halfbacks. And SuperRugby is not really the sort of tournament you want to breed youngsters in, that’s more for the Currie Cup, and we’ve also had no Frans Steyn.

“But the youngsters are important and they’ve been working hard, because Pat has to rest at some stage. Innocent Radebe and Benhard Janse van Rensburg have done well and Curwin Bosch can play flyhalf as well.

“Cobus will certainly provide some x-factor, he’s an opportunist, but he does the basics well and has a good boot too. He’s been here a long time, he knows the systems well and he delivers on the field,” Everitt said.

While experience at nine and 10 will obviously be cherished by the Sharks, they do have a herd of youngsters challenging for backline places and that has pleased Everitt as well.

“The youngsters have a lot of enthusiasm and since losing JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux and Odwa Ndungane last year, the Currie Cup bunch have grown considerably. They’ve certainly played themselves into contention and that’s exciting.

“We have Kobus van Wyk on the wing, although we will look at him at centre if we have problems there. But Lukhanyo Am has done well in the Currie Cup and has had good preparation, so we’ll be looking to build up his combination with Andre Esterhuizen.

“Jeremy Ward is obviously a good signing because he was one of the top age-group players in his position [centre] last year and we mustn’t forget Johan Deysel from the Leopards, who played in the 2015 World Cup for Namibia. It’s time to move on and these guys have what it takes,” Everitt said.

But there is also the presence of veteran French fullback Clement Poitrenaud and Everitt said he would play a leadership role in guiding the young backline.

“Clement is definitely in contention for selection in the match-day 23, he has a lot of experience having played 47 Tests. We have a young backline, so he will be good for us, leading and helping those guys. He’s very popular amongst his team-mates, his English is quite good and he has a good sense of humour. Most importantly, the guys admire his skill-set,” Everitt said.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1428003/sharks-holding-thumbs-their-dynamic-duo-keep-fit/

Inconsistency of the batting the story of the Lions’ T20 campaign – Toyana 0

Posted on December 15, 2016 by Ken

 

The inconsistency of the Highveld Lions batting was once again to the fore as they bowed out of the CSA T20 Challenge in the playoff against the Warriors, and was the story of their campaign according to coach Geoff Toyana.

The Lions could only muster 136 for seven in their 20 overs against the Eastern Cape side, everyone in the top six reaching double figures but nobody scoring more than Reeza Hendricks’ run-a-ball 32, as the trio of Warriors spinners dominated the middle overs.

“It was disappointing and not good batting, we didn’t push through. The whole season we’ve been falling apart in the middle overs and losing wickets. The absence of Alviro Petersen’s experience was a big loss,” Toyana told The Citizen on Wednesday.

Opener Rassie van der Dussen was the only consistent Lions batsman through the tournament, scoring 345 runs, including three half-centuries – exactly half of the total amount scored by the team.

While the bowling of Bjorn Fortuin, Hardus Viljoen, Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie was excellent throughout, Viljoen lacked the support of another reliable pace bowler, with Dwaine Pretorius unable to match his form for the Proteas in the six games he played.

But Toyana pointed to the character showed by a young side and the occasional performances of inexperienced players like Fortuin (more often than not), Hendricks, Nicky van den Bergh and Wiaan Mulder as indications of a bright future.

“There have been lessons learnt and I’m quite happy with the whole competition, for a young side to come through to the playoffs. The bowlers were the highlight, they were superb, with the spinners choking the batsmen in the middle overs.

“It’s been good to give youngsters that opportunity and they will play better for it in the future. To lose the first two games with bonus points and then win three on the bounce to give ourselves a chance again showed their character, especially beating a quality Cobras side in Paarl. We fell short in the end, but I’m happy with the team,” Toyana said.

 

Last rites for sad Bulls with Matfield last link to glory days 0

Posted on December 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls will complete another sad SuperRugby campaign in Pretoria today against the Cheetahs and, by the end of the game, Victor Matfield could be the last person remaining at Loftus Versfeld with any link to the glory days of 2007-2010 when they won the competition three times in four years.

The Bulls confirmed yesterday that the match against the Cheetahs will be the last for captain Pierre Spies and flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter as they join the overseas exodus of players that will also include Jacques du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe and Akona Ndungane, while Francois Hougaard is heading for Japan but negotiations are underway for him to return for next year’s SuperRugby tournament.

Matfield is not playing against the Cheetahs because he is being rested as per the agreement with the Springbok management, but he has already announced that his playing days will be over after the World Cup.

But the veteran lock is bound to be back at Loftus Versfeld in the new year because he is the favourite to replace Frans Ludeke as coach. The man who was behind the 2009 and 2010 wins faced the Bulls board yesterday in a last-ditch attempt to save his job, but unless there was a late change in heart, Ludeke is also on his way out.

So there will be a sombre mood at Loftus Versfeld tonight, made worse by the knowledge that even a Bulls victory will do little to change their fortunes in another season that has fallen way short of expectations.

At least the rugby on offer could provide some entertainment.

New Cheetahs coach Franco Smith is preaching an expansive, linking style of play, while Spies has stressed how determined the Bulls are to end on a high.

“There’s plenty of motivation because we want to end on a high. If we can get five points and finish in the top eight on the log then the picture looks a bit better. We want to play a good attacking brand of rugby and hold on to the ball for a few more phases. There should be plenty of broken-field play and the Cheetahs love that as well,” Spies said.

Putting their bodies on the line in defence is probably not going to rank too high on either side’s list of priorities, but the Bulls should have a slight edge in motivation as they look to avoid a third defeat on home soil this season.

 



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