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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.

 

Crusaders are inspired but no miracle comeback for Cheetahs 0

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Riaan Smit almost nailed a touchline conversion to complete a miraculous Cheetahs comeback against the Brumbies, but that Vodacom SuperRugby qualifying playoff was dwarfed in quality and importance by the inspired performance dished up by the Crusaders in hammering the Reds.

The only team probably celebrating the Cheetahs’ loss in Canberra more than the Brumbies will be the Bulls, because it means they will now host the Australians this weekend in Pretoria, instead of facing the Crusaders, whose current form suggests it would take a miracle to beat them.

They dismantled the Reds, the 2011 champions, 38-9 in Christchurch, scoring four tries to none, with ace flyhalf Dan Carter contributing 20 points.

“We were just outclassed. The Crusaders were exceptional and I am sure they will be very hard to beat in the finals,” Reds scrumhalf Will Genia admitted.

Carter showed that he was back to his best ahead of the Rugby Championship, controlling the Crusaders game plan superbly and constantly probing the Reds defence as he took the ball to the line.

In contrast, much-hyped Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was anonymous. Although he was impaired by the back-foot ball his forwards gave him, the fancy tricks his fans are so fond of look great but unless they’re produced on the gain-line and actually put other players into space, they are irrelevant. His critics will be able to point to what influence he actually has on the game.

An impressive start to the match saw the Crusaders take the ball through 15 phases and win an early penalty, and the display of precision led to an understandable nervousness amongst the Reds. That led to an abundance of basic errors by the visitors and then to a definite sense of panic.

An amazing exhibition of running lines and support play by the Crusaders – both forwards and backs – then exploited the holes in a retreating, disorganised defence.

The Crusaders pack was like an armoured vehicle ploughing through the Reds, such was their cohesion and the sheer ferocity they brought to the collisions and breakdowns.

The Crusaders also had the security of knowing that the Reds were really struggling to make any inroads against a steely defence that conceded just four line-breaks, allowed just four offloads and had a 92% tackling success rate.

In contrast, the Crusaders enjoyed making 15 line-breaks and 22 offloads.

If the Crusaders were an armoured vehicle, then the Cheetahs and Brumbies looked like milk delivery vans instead.

The Brumbies eventually won a messy, scrappy encounter 15-13 but the game never rose to any great heights.

The Cheetahs, playing in their first SuperRugby knockout game, seemed to freeze in a chilly Canberra and a host of errors meant they did not obtain any attacking momentum until the final quarter, by when they had left it too late.

Dropping the kickoff and then seeing star eighthman Philip van der Walt go down with a knee injury (he stayed on but was clearly hampered by it) and conceding a penalty all in the first minute made for a nervous start for the Cheetahs.

The game was there for the seizing by the Brumbies, but they were also unimpressive, wasting the possession and territorial advantage they had and only managing to score two penalties in the first half, with Christian Lealiifano missing another two shots badly.

There was one bright moment for the Cheetahs, however, with outside centre Johann Sadie crossing for a try after wing Raymond Rhule had burst through in midfield. There had been a forward pass from Willie le Roux in the build-up, but it was still a try of vision and clinical finishing.

There was little else in terms of attacking spark though from the Cheetahs. Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl was having an off-day and flyhalf Riaan Smit was not able to stamp his presence on the game either.

But then the platform given to the half-backs was not great either. The scrum was not the area of dominance for the Cheetahs it was expected to be and the apparent lack of homework done on the Brumbies scrum was disappointing.

Loosehead prop Coenie Oosthuizen was a pale shadow of the man who has buckled tightheads, carried the ball strongly and put in crunching tackles this season and there was no one in the starting line-up able to ignite the Cheetahs on the biggest day of their history as a franchise.

Until Van Zyl, having had no impact for an hour, was eventually replaced by Sarel Pretorius and no sooner had the livewire substitute scrumhalf come on than the Cheetahs suddenly roared into life.

They finally backed themselves with ball in hand and scored their second try when the inspired Pretorius threw a great pass out wide to replacement wing Rayno Benjamin, who knifed over in the corner.

Smit’s conversion attempt from the touchline to send the game into extra time looked a beauty, but it kept swinging until it passed outside the left upright by no more than a foot.

It was an agonising ending to the game for the Cheetahs, but the result was no more than they deserved after producing one of their worst performances of an otherwise wonderful season.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-22-superrugby-what-the-heck-happened-to-the-cheetahs/#.V2fZhvl97IU

Raising glasses to the Lions for an unbeaten campaign 0

Posted on October 26, 2015 by Ken

 

The 1995 World Cup-winning squad enjoyed a luncheon in London on Thursday ahead of the Springboks’ semi-final against the All Blacks, and apparently they metaphorically raised their glasses to the Golden Lions team that will aim to complete a rare unbeaten campaign when they take on Western Province in the Currie Cup final at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The 1995 Springbok squad was, of course, predominantly made up of Lions (or Transvaal as they were then known) players, but it was Natal who won the Currie Cup that year and in 1996, when they went through the season unbeaten, the last team to do so.

Lock Mark Andrews was a pivotal figure and he said the main similarity between the Natal Sharks of 1996 and the Lions of today was their ability to create and sustain momentum.

“We were just talking about it at our ’95 World Cup lunch today,” Andrews told The Citizen on Thursday, “about how we spent a fair amount of time as forwards on ball-handling drills, but you have to have momentum on the field to use those, because that’s what gives you more time and space. You can’t really use those skills if you’re under pressure because then you’re always struggling to clear the ball away.

“Our Natal coach Ian McIntosh instituted a game plan based on momentum, the forwards getting over the gain-line and having good ball-skills and an ability to link with the backs, and I’m also impressed with the way the Lions can create momentum and sustain it. They do it by keeping ball-in-hand and they’ve shown that you can win games doing that, even from their own 22.

“In general, South African teams try and kick from their own 22 and put pressure on the opposition in their own territory and try and win penalties. The Lions have shown a different skill-set, it’s a refreshing approach for a South African team, much like we had an innovative strategy back in 1996,” Andrews said.

One big difference though between now and 1996 is that the Currie Cup doesn’t feature the leading Springboks anymore.

“All the provinces had all their Springboks back then, but you still have to give the Lions credit for their consistency. You need some luck too, but it comes down to preparation and belief in your structures. You need some kicks to go over as well to win the tight games, but if you are consistently getting over the gain-line and making your tackles, then you are very hard to beat,” Andrews added.

Natal went through 14 consecutive Currie Cup matches unbeaten in 1996 and beat Transvaal 33-15 in the final at Ellis Park, leading rugby writer John Bishop of The Natal Witness describing it as a display of “devastating brilliance”.

 

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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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