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Ken Borland



Bulls will be without unsung hero Paige 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

Scrumhalf Rudy Paige has probably been the unsung hero of the Bulls’ climb to the top of the South African SuperRugby Conference, but now they are going to have to do without the man who has become their attacking heartbeat for the crunch encounter with the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

Paige suffered a grade 1 medial ligament tear of his knee in the impressive win over the Sharks and will be out of action for at least two weeks, coach Frans Ludeke admitting that it is a major blow to his team.

“Rudy’s a very busy player and he gets a lot going for us, especially in terms of go-forward on attack. He brings a lot to our game,” Ludeke said.

The 25-year-old has not only provided a crisp, clean service from the base, but has also impressed with excellent decision-making in terms of who to pass to and when to probe gaps on his own.

Ludeke has two options when it comes to replacing Paige.

Francois Hougaard has played more rugby for the Springboks at scrumhalf than at wing, but the mercurial Paul Roos Gymnasium product has become an integral part of a Bulls back three that has produced some exceptional rugby and Ludeke could well decide not to potentially create two problems by moving him to halfback.

Piet van Zyl’s rugby has gone backwards since he moved to Pretoria, but he is likely to get a chance to shine now, at least for a couple of weeks, in the number nine jersey.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is keeping his cards very close to his chest this week, but he will be well aware of some Bulls’ weaknesses this season.

The Bulls are not a side that deals in offloads so the Stormers defence don’t need to worry about that, while, despite upstaging the Sharks last weekend at the breakdown, their record in the rucks has been far inferior to that of the Stormers’ this year.

You know what you’re going to get with the Bulls – the blunt instrument of forwards monotonously carrying the ball up – but it works for them and they have actually scored two more tries than the Stormers thus far in the campaign, even though the Capetonians boast the attacking abilities of Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh and Dillyn Leyds.

 

 

Many mountains to climb for the Stormers 0

Posted on October 12, 2015 by Ken

 

 

The Stormers have higher, far more treacherous mountains to climb than the picturesque hill near Newlands on Saturday. Ranked against them will be a crocked list that is as long as a teamsheet, their fans and the Reds – a side that has a strong pack and a potent attacking backline.

Oh, and if they lose there’s the possible purgatory of a promotion/relegation match against the Lions to look forward to.

Stormers supporters, their emotions coloured by all the recent success their team has enjoyed, are fearing the worst as their team take on the Reds in a crunch Vodacom SuperRugby encounter at Newlands on Saturday.

Coach Allister Coetzee, who delivered a long-awaited Currie Cup triumph last year as well as making the Stormers the most consistent South African team in SuperRugby over the last three years, is suddenly under enormous pressure after three successive losses overseas and a last-place finish in the Conference and an embarrassing – and potentially devastating – promotion/relegation match against the Lions now a possibility.

And to make matters worse, Coetzee now has to steer his side back to winning ways with a number of key players out injured.

Schalk Burger, Deon Carstens, De Kock Steenkamp, Michael Rhodes, Peter Grant, Jaco Taute and Ruan Botha have all been long-term injury losses, but in the last couple of weeks the coach has had to add Pat Cilliers, Frans Malherbe, Scarra Ntubeni, Deon Fourie, Andries Bekker, Rynhardt Elstadt, Duane Vermeulen and Juan de Jongh to the crocked list.

And so the Stormers go into the match against the Reds, a side that has a strong pack of forwards and a potent attacking backline, with several inexperienced SuperRugby campaigners trying to protect a six-point lead over the Southern Kings.

Damian de Allende, Nizaam Carr, Don Armand and Gerbrandt Grobler are all in the starting line-up despite still trying to find their feet at this level, and there are even more fresh faces on the bench with Martin Bezuidenhout, Chris Heiberg, Lions import Marius Coetzer, Rohan Kitshoff and Gary van Aswegen charged with making an impact.

One man who is not scared of all this youthfulness, however, is Stormers and Springbok captain Jean de Villiers.

“We have new players coming in and that’s exciting as it means there are players being presented with opportunities to stake a claim. I spoke to Chris Heiberg, a club player, and asked him if he would ever have dreamed he would be playing SuperRugby for the Stormers this year.

“This is his chance to play himself into the mix as a professional rugby player, it really is a big opportunity for him, and he is not the only player who is in that position this week. That is why I am excited about this team,” said De Villiers.

But most neutrals would agree that the Reds will probably offer more excitement on Saturday and flyhalf Quade Cooper could be a man on a mission after he was left out of the initial Wallabies squad to play the British & Irish Lions.

While the Stormers are battling just to stay off the bottom of the Conference, the Bulls are at the other end of the scale and could make themselves basically unopposed for the top spot if they beat the Sharks in Durban and the Cheetahs lose to the Kings in Port Elizabeth.

The Sharks will no doubt be relieved to be back at King’s Park after a torrid tour left them 10th on the log, but a misfiring attack makes one wonder how they are actually going to hurt the Bulls should the forward exchanges go their way.

Wing Piet Lindeque is now at outside centre after the Sharks lost yet another Springbok to injury in JP Pietersen, but the Bulls have often suffered at the hands of Pat Lambie and the incumbent Springbok flyhalf will be eager to build on the slowly-improving form he showed overseas.

The talk in Durban is that the Bulls are in for another of the Sharks’ surprises as the announced team is rumoured not to be the one that will take the field. The experience of Bismarck du Plessis and Butch James could yet feature on the teamsheet, even though coach John Plumtree did not announce them in the 22-man squad, saying that the injuries that have kept them out of the whole campaign thus far were still not quite right.

Be that as it may, the Sharks, with Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira back at loosehead prop, have the pack to match the Bulls. The lineouts will be an especially tough arena of battle as Franco van der Merwe and Pieter-Steph du Toit go up against Juandré Kruger and Flip van der Merwe; the quartet are all in the plans of Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer.

Keegan Daniel, who showed his character by leading the Sharks to victory over the Western Force after a horrible week for him personally, is another who usually lifts his game against the Bulls and he will have top-class flanks alongside him in Willem Alberts and Marcell Coetzee.

But the Bulls are a settled, confident and in-form side and a tight contest is tailor-made for Morné Steyn to play a match-winning hand.

The exciting Francois Hougaard gets a second chance to start at scrumhalf after a disappointing outing last weekend, but it’s the strategic brilliance of Steyn that is more likely to win the Bulls a tough derby contest.

Another vastly experienced stalwart returns in Wynand Olivier and he will form a steely defensive alliance with JJ Engelbrecht in midfield, which will be vital as the Sharks are likely to base their attack around Lambie and big forwards Alberts, Coetzee, Mtawarira and Du Toit running off him.

The Southern Kings have already done enough this season to suggest most people would like to see them around in SuperRugby for more than just one year, but they have the opportunity on Saturday to make themselves most unpopular with their predecessors as everyone’s favourite underdogs – the Cheetahs.

The Cheetahs are firmly in contention for Conference honours but they are six points behind the Bulls, so defeat in Port Elizabeth and a victory for the visitors in Durban could leave them 10 points behind. And the Bulls have a game in hand.

The Kings are coming off a bye and have pretty much returned to full strength. SP Marais, a wonderful attacker with pace, vision and skill, comes in at fullback and has the talent to be the Eastern Cape’s answer to Willie le Roux.

And the less subtle talents of the formidable Jacques Engelbrecht are also just waiting to be unleashed on the Cheetahs from the bench.

Where the Cheetahs could have an edge is up front, in the set-pieces, where former Springbok great Os du Randt has proven to be a brilliant mentor.

“I think we have done really well the last couple of weeks in the scrums and lineouts,” Cheetahs captain Adriaan Strauss said. “The guys have worked really hard and much of the credit must go to Os du Randt for his efforts with the forwards. We will have to take the Kings on up front and are looking forward to the challenge.”

If the Cheetahs get enough forward dominance, they can aim for the four-try bonus point because one fancies the Bulls aren’t going to get one in the cauldron of King’s Park.

But as big Os has surely pointed out, the Kings are a proud bunch, they will be refreshed and confident after their great debut season thus far, and they’re certainly not going to lie down and just allow the Cheetahs to run riot.

Teams

Southern Kings (v Cheetahs, Saturday 15:00): SP Marais, Siyanda Grey, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss, Marcello Sampson, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Cornell du Preez, Luke Watson, Wimpie van der Walt, David Bulbring, Steven Sykes, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: Virgile Lacombe, Grant Kemp, Rynier Bernardo, Jacques Engelbrecht, Nicolas Vergallo, Shane Gates, George Whitehead.

Cheetahs (v Southern Kings, Saturday 15:00): Hennie Daniller, Rayno Benjamin, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Willie le Roux, Elgar Watts, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagné, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Riaan Smit, Raymond Rhule.

Stormers (v Reds, Saturday 17:05): Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Don Armand, Siya Kolisi, Eben Etzebeth, Gerbrandt Grobler, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Chris Heiberg, Marius Coetzer, Rohan Kitshoff, Dewaldt Duvenage, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.

The Sharks (v Bulls, Saturday 19:10pm): Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Piet Lindeque, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Monde Hadebe, Wiehahn Herbst, Jandré Marais, Jean Deysel, Lubabalo Mtembu, Tian Meyer, Sean Robinson.

Bulls (v Sharks, Saturday 19:10): Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché/Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe.

Other fixtures: Chiefs v Crusaders (Friday 9:35); Rebels v Waratahs (Friday 11:40); Blues v Brumbies (Saturday 9:35); Force v Highlanders (Saturday 11:40).

Bye: Hurricanes.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-05-24-superrugby-preview-in-the-eye-of-a-storm/#.Vhucxvmqqkp

Proteas’ formula for success may come under threat 0

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Ken

Each highly successful Test team through the ages has had their specific formula for success  – think the West Indies and their fast bowlers or Australia and their aggressive batsmen setting the platform for Warne and McGrath to wheel away – and the current Proteas have always insisted that playing seven specialist batsmen has been a key factor in their climb to number one in the rankings.

But that philosophy may came under threat at SuperSport Park today when the first Test against the West Indies gets underway.

That’s largely due to the absence of the injured JP Duminy, which affects the balance of the Test side almost as much as the ODI outfit. An all-pace attack and seven specialist batsmen has been possible with Duminy there to bowl his tidy off-spin, but without him the options are either to have three pacemen and Robin Peterson, four quicks and no spinner save for Dean Elgar, or to go in with six specialist batsmen and play both the extra fast bowler and Peterson.

Although the seamers do traditionally bowl the bulk of the overs in Centurion, there have been occasions in the last five years when South Africa have relied heavily on spin – in both innings against Australia last season (22 and 31% of the overs bowled); in the second innings against India in 2010/11 (23%) and in both innings against England in 2009/10 (38 and 35%).

So there will be a reluctance to go into the Test, despite the rain around Gauteng on Tuesday and however grassy the pitch may be on the first day, without a specialist spinner.

“There might be a cracking blue sky at the game tomorrow so we’re not sure what our combination will be. We’ll see what happens on the day,” was all Hashim Amla, who will captain South Africa for the first time in a home Test, was willing to offer on Tuesday.

AB de Villiers was a bit more forthcoming, however.

“It’s the biggest decision management will have to make,” De Villiers said. “Centurion normally doesn’t turn that much which makes you feel that you can maybe go with that extra seamer, but with the team we are playing against, it might not be a bad idea to play a spinner. I’m pretty sure management will be tempted to play an all-pace attack though.”

For Dale Steyn, an extra batsman was important, despite the extra workload that would place on the stalwart fast bowler.

“It can be a bit sporty on day one, a bit slow, the last time we played here against Australia was crazy because it went up and down, but then in previous Tests it flattened out,” he said. “It was hard work to bowl teams out. Our batsmen were very dominant so it gave us enough time.”

The last time South Africa played the West Indies at SuperSport Park – in January 2004 – the tourists were tenderised by an opening stand of 301 between Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, followed by a Jacques Kallis century. Makhaya Ntini then took eight wickets in the match as the follow-on was enforced, resulting in a 10-wicket victory. Part-timers Smith and Jacques Rudolph were the Proteas’ spinners, bowling just 19.4 overs in the Test.

Steyn wasn’t quite laughing when he said: “I don’t think it really matters whether we play the spinner or the seamer, I think we’ll still do okay” – but the formbook and history both suggest the West Indies should be outclassed.

They are a formidable limited-overs outfit, but targeting cow-corner doesn’t often work as a strategy in Test cricket and few people will stake a fortune on the West Indies winning. One well-known bookmaker is offering odds of 1/33 that South Africa will win if there is a result in the match.

Even West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin was not sounding hugely confident on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be very challenging, we’re up against the number one team so they must be doing something very good to be on top, plus they’re at home. We need to be more consistent, especially our batting which has not been up to scratch lately. In the field we need to minimise our mistakes, not bowl so many bad balls and make sure our slip catching is up to par. If we perform well against the number one team, we should get credit for that. We will take it one step at a time and do our best,” Ramdin said.

While the West Indies are an inexperienced team with seven of their squad having played less than 10 Tests, South Africa will have just one greenhorn in action.

Stiaan van Zyl has staked his claim for a Test berth with a Sunfoil Series average of 49.57 and Amla admitted there was “a very good chance” of him playing, although he won’t bat at seven.

Let’s hope the silky strokeplay of the left-hander is employed at number six – specialist batsmen need to have the responsibility of batting in the top six – with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock at seven.

There is speculation, however, that Van Zyl might replace Alviro Petersen at the top of the order, thereby enabling South Africa to play four pacemen and a spinner, with Vernon Philander batting at seven.

Petersen has put himself in the firing line by not exactly scoring a keg-full of runs lately, with just one half-century in his last 10 innings, and he has yet to play any four-day cricket for the Highveld Lions this season.

Squads

South Africa: Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada.

West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Leon Johnson, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jason Holder, Denesh Ramdin, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Sulieman Benn, Shannon Gabriel, Asad Fudadin, Jermaine Blackwood, Chadwick Walton.

 



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