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Ken Borland



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.

 

Four Bulls changes as Ludeke delays the inevitable 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

He may well merely be delaying the inevitable, but Bulls coach Frans Ludeke on Thursday made four changes to his starting team for their final SuperRugby match against the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Whatever happens, the Bulls cannot make the playoffs and Ludeke’s fate as coach will be decided by a board meeting at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Jan Serfontein, Deon Stegmann, Dean Greyling and Lappies Labuschagne are all unavailable due to injury, while Handre Pollard and Victor Matfield are sitting out as part of the Saru rest agreement.

Matfield is replaced in the second row by Grant Hattingh, with Arno Botha coming in for Labuschagne at flank. Greyling, who was only ruled out on Thursday morning due to a tight hamstring, will be replaced by Morne Mellet at loosehead prop, while Adriaan Strauss is back at hooker after having his Springbok rest.

Unless there is a change of heart amongst the board, Ludeke is expected to be relieved of the SuperRugby coaching duties, but is likely to stay in charge for this year’s Currie Cup before moving into a director of rugby type position.

Matfield, who is currently doubling up as the team’s attack and lineout coach, is the heavy favourite to be named as Ludeke’s successor and South Africa’s most capped SuperRugby player confirmed that the board can call on him as the new head coach.

“I’ve always said that after rugby I would like to go into coaching and we will see what is decided on Friday. I would love to be the head coach of the Bulls and it’s been fantastic coming on board the coaching team the last couple of years. Rugby is my life, I hate to lose and you can really feel the disappointment at Loftus at the moment,” Matfield said.

The board will surely have Matfield on speed dial on Friday and the 38-year-old hinted that he would lay down the law if he became the Bulls’ new head coach.

“In Super Rugby, the margins are so small and to win, everything has to be 100% right. We have to look at how we do things both on and off the field in order to get that winning culture back into the team,” Matfield said.

The irony is that Matfield must share the blame for the lame attacking displays of the Bulls that led to their demise in the competition.

Ludeke is a top-class human being, but a coach has a shelf-life with any team and his journey with this particular group of players would appear to be over. But the most experienced coach in SuperRugby was able to put a positive spin on his situation at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.

“I’ve had positive meetings with management this week, there’s been transparency and honesty. After tomorrow [Friday] we will know more. I will give the board a review of the season and prepare for any questions they have. I will be accountable and we’ll also look at the way forward.

“We take responsibility because we haven’t achieved the goals we set ourselves and there are no excuses. But we have made big strides forward, the scrums have been a huge improvement, the maul has been really good and we’re definitely playing more ball-in-hand rugby and with more width. We’ve scored some great tries from open field and a lot of youngsters have come through who will play a lot of games for South Africa in the future,” Ludeke said.

Team: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal, Travis Ismaiel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis, Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Morné Mellet. Bench – Callie Visagie, Trevor Nyakane, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Roelof Smit, Bjorn Basson, Tian Schoeman, Jurgen Visser.

Injury curse muddying the selection waters for Blue Bulls 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

 

The injury curse is muddying the selection waters for Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais, with Ulrich Beyers returning from action in France and Italy in a reshuffled backline announced on Wednesday for Saturday’s Currie Cup clash against the Free State Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

Wing Jade Stiglingh’s excellent debut against Western Province last weekend was spoilt by an ankle injury that has put him out of action for six weeks, with the experienced Bjorn Basson shifting from fullback to replace the 23-year-old on the wing, where the Springbok has played most of his rugby.

That has forced Marais to turn to Beyers, a former Bulls player who left in 2014 to play for Bordeaux in France and Zebre in Italy.

Outside centre Dries Swanepoel has also strained a quad muscle in his thigh and will be replaced by Dan Kriel.

“Ulrich was here on a two-week trial because we were worried about fullback and centre cover if we got another injury. We are now in negotiations with him to lengthen his stay. Those will hopefully be completed in the next week,” high performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg said.

“Dan Kriel has not had many opportunities, we thought he would be able to play against the Waratahs but then we lost against the Brumbies and couldn’t afford to rest guys. He’s practising well at the moment and now he gets the chance to show why he’s at the Bulls and where he is going. Guys like Franco Naude also want to play, so Dan must show what he can do this weekend and it will be a good challenge for him against Francois Venter,” Marais said.

The return of lock RG Snyman, one of the stars of the SuperRugby campaign, is the main feature of the new-look bench that the Blue Bulls will take to Bloemfontein.

The starting second row of Jason Jenkins and Marvin Orie were outstanding against Western Province and the presence of Snyman will just increase the physicality and ball-carrying ability of the Bulls.

Edgar Marutlulle, the former Lions and Southern Kings hooker, is in line to make his first appearance in the light blue jersey, while Martin Dreyer, the well-travelled former Hoerskool Wonderboom prop, replaces Nxoba Mxoli, who has a chest injury.

Joshua Stander is the reserve flyhalf for this weekend, replacing Tony Jantjies, while the highly-rated Duncan Matthews is the other new face on the bench.

Team: Ulrich Beyers, Bjorn Basson, Dan Kriel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha (c), Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Entienne Swanepoel, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Bench – Edgar Marutlulle, Martin Dreyer, RG Snyman, Hanro Liebenberg, Andre Warner, Joshua Stander, Duncan Matthews.

 

Gold not hiding his disappointment even after Sharks win 0

Posted on July 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Despite the Sharks keeping their SuperRugby playoff hopes alive with their 26-10 win over the Cheetahs in Durban, coach Gary Gold did not try to hide his disappointment with the quality of their performance, with many feeling it was a fortuitous escape for the home side.

“I was disappointed in the performance, especially in two areas – the number of errors and our discipline. We kept the Cheetahs in the game by doing things like dropping the kick-off or kicking straight into touch, and we also wasted a couple of try-scoring opportunities.

“We didn’t get our territory game going, our set-piece struggled, our maul was penalised and our kicking game wasn’t good enough. We also conceded quite a soft try from our perspective. We said before the match that we didn’t want to get into a game of touch rugby with them, but that’s what happened,” Gold said after the win, which leaves the Sharks with a two-point lead over the Bulls as the hunt for the third South African qualifying place enters its final weekend.

Gold did, however, praise the character of his team, especially during the middle of the first half when captain Tendai Mtawarira was yellow-carded for slapping an opponent and they conceded three scrum penalties in a row on their own line.

“It was a test of character today and it was critically important the way we defended, especially during that period when we were already 7-3 down. If the Cheetahs had gone to 14, we would have had a real dog-fight on our hands. It’s not the glamorous part of rugby, but we had to really dig deep in the face of a potential penalty try. We defended really nicely then and I thought Andre Esterhuizen did particularly well. It would have been very difficult to have come back from conceding another try then,” Gold conceded.

While the Sharks, who play the lowly Sunwolves in Durban next weekend, are the favourites to claim the third SA qualifying berth, Gold said they really needed to up their game and produce a carbon-copy of the efficient performances they produced in New Zealand.

“We’ve been stuttering since the break and we need a properly good performance just to get our confidence going. To just win against the Sunwolves won’t be good enough, we need a clinical performance, like we had in New Zealand, and to really put them to the sword.”

Gold said the team was disregarding what the Bulls did and were focusing on their own game.

“We thought the Bulls would win, but we were focusing on this game because it was a potential banana skin. If we’d lost, everything we’d done in the last 13 weeks would have been in tatters. The fan would have been really dirty … ”

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    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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