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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.

 

Morris to join other all-round stars at the Titans 0

Posted on June 01, 2016 by Ken

Chris Morris or David Wiese could be the answer to the glaring absence of an all-rounder in the South African team and they will both be playing for the Unlimited Titans next season after Morris announced on Wednesday that he is leaving the bizhub Highveld Lions.

Morris is coming off a superb season for the Lions, playing a key role in their Sunfoil Series triumph as he topped their bowling averages with 32 wickets at 20.18 as well as averaging 30.11 with the bat.

And the 27-year-old says there isn’t any ill feeling towards the Lions, his decision was motivated by a desire to push himself further as a cricketer. Having played five ODIs and two T20 internationals for South Africa, Morris is clearly someone the national selectors should have in their plans moving forward.

“I’ve spent seven years at the Highveld Lions and it just feels like time for a change of scenery. I feel like I’ve fallen into a bit of a comfort zone at the Lions, apart from when Zander de Bruyn was still playing I’ve always been the main all-rounder and played every game in every format. I always give 100%, but maybe I’m not pushing myself enough.

“They have different methods and a different culture at the Titans, I’ve bought into Rob Walter’s plan and it’s an exciting time to join them. It’s going to take a lot of hard work, they don’t back down in training, but I’m a Pretoria boy originally, so it will be nice to come home. Plus the traffic has been killing me!” Morris told The Citizen.

Any team facing the Titans next season, especially in limited-overs cricket, could have the daunting task of tackling Morris and speedster Marchant de Lange with the new ball, while also having to deal with a lower-middle-order of Albie Morkel, Wiese and Morris.

“We’re very happy that a quality player like Chris is coming home, his family has a proud history with Northerns cricket through his dad Willie, he’s a top performer, he can play in all three formats and, having got to know him while he was in Potchefstroom, I know he has a lot of tenacity,” Jacques Faul, the CEO of the Titans, said.

Morris is happy with the form he showed in the just-completed 2014/15 season, he took 12 wickets in the RamSlam T20 Challenge and had a strike-rate of 173.33 with the bat, but his Momentum One-Day Cup campaign was limited to just three games by injury.

“First it was the ankle op and then the rib-tip fracture, so it’s been nice to be playing, especially in such an excellent unit. With Hardus Viljoen, Kagiso Rabada and Dwaine Pretorius alongside me, there’s been pressure from all sides. Every day is a fishing day but not very day is a catching day, but I felt like I was firing on all cylinders, the Lions had a senior role for me and it was a nice responsibility,” Morris said.

Aggression is a key part of Morris’s bowling and there is no doubt the lanky paceman earned some wickets for his colleagues at the other end with the unrelenting pressure he exerted.

“When I was 16 I asked Curtly Ambrose about aggression and he asked me if I want to hold the batsman’s hand. He said I must make it as uncomfortable as possible for the batsman. So I’m a firm believer in playing hard, I like to feel that we’re in a battle and I try to hurt the batsman, obviously not badly of course,” Morris said.

The wise counsel of Neil McKenzie, who announced his retirement from four-day cricket earlier this week, has also led to an improvement in Morris’s batting and the use of the short ball is no longer as effective as it was against him.

“I’m very chuffed with my batting this season, I’ve been working with Neil, especially on the short ball which had become a bit of an issue, and I got my confidence back. I think I was over-complicating things, see-ball, hit-ball has always been my natural game.

“Previously, I knew the short ball was coming but now I just play it when it arrives. I’ve also had a bit more responsibility with the bat, but I still try to be attacking. If it comes off great, if not, I can make up for it with the ball,” Morris said.

The lure of a Green and Gold Proteas Test cap is still there for Morris and he is hoping a fresh environment will provide the spark for him to get there.

“I will always push hard to play for South Africa, obviously my ambition is to play Test cricket, but I think I’m still behind a couple of guys. There’s still a way to go, it will take a lot of hard work, but we all know there’s a spot in the Proteas team that needs to be filled. At the moment Ryan McLaren would be the man for me, but it’s a dream of mine as well,” Morris said.

http://citizen.co.za/354957/morris-to-join-other-all-round-stars-at-the-titans/

Le Roux & Vermaak could start the spark for Springboks 0

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Coach Heyneke Meyer knows that he needs to add more attacking spark in year two of his tenure with the national team, and the two new caps chosen for the Test against Italy in Durban on Saturday could be the first steps in that process.

Cheetahs wizard Willie le Roux will start at fullback and Bulls scrumhalf Jano Vermaak in the number nine jersey, with three other uncapped players on the bench in prop Trevor Nyakane, loose forward Arno Botha and centre Jan Serfontein.

By the end of this quadrangular series also featuring Scotland and Samoa, we should know whether Le Roux’s roaming style of play and his dazzling trickery with ball in hand can be successful at Test level. It has certainly sparked something special for the Cheetahs and the 35 tries they have scored so far this season in SuperRugby is the best in the South African Conference and only the Chiefs, Waratahs and Rebels have scored more overall.

It is the Bulls, however, who are leading the South African Conference and it is in no small way thanks to Vermaak’s snappy clearing of the rucks and his speed off the mark on attack that they have 32 tries themselves and have impressed with the balance of their game between penetrative forward runners and a backline that is growing in confidence.

Replacement Ruan Pienaar may have been a star for Ulster again this year, but the 29-year-old has not been part of any of the Springbok training camps and Meyer said he had also gone for the established Morné Steyn/Vermaak combination at halfback.

This means there is no place for Francois Hougaard, even on the bench, with Pat Lambie and Serfontein the other backline reserves. Hougaard would appear to have paid the price for his scrappy service during a slow return from injury, although he was much-improved in the Bulls’ impressive win over the Cheetahs last weekend.

The 20-year-old Serfontein could even be in line for a start, coming in for Jean de Villiers at inside centre if the captain does not recover sufficiently from a hamstring niggle.

Meyer is well-known for his fondness for a big, strong ball-carrier at inside centre, but he has ignored, for the moment anyway, the exciting possibility of having the robust Serfontein at 12 and De Villiers at outside centre.

Instead, JJ Engelbrecht, who the jury is still out on (is he a better centre than a wing?) will wear the number 13 jersey having only played 10 previous minutes of Test rugby as a replacement on the wing against Argentina last year.

Bjorn Basson, so brilliant in the air, makes a return on the left wing to play his first Test since 2011, with the rest of the team pretty much as predicted.

Lourens Adriaanse, Gio Aplon, Marcell Coetzee, Robert Ebersohn, Bismarck du Plessis, Zane Kirchner, Siya Kolisi, Lappies Labuschagné, Lwazi Mvovo and Franco van der Merwe will be twiddling their thumbs next to Hougaard on the side of the field as Meyer goes for some continuity with 10 of the players who appeared in the last Test of 2012, the 16-15 win over England at Twickenham, featuring again this weekend.

The likes of Adriaanse, Aplon, Coetzee, Ebersohn, Kolisi, Labuschagné, Mvovo and Van der Merwe are likely to be given the opportunity of picking up some valuable experience later in the series, but for now Meyer wants to get his 2013 campaign up-and-running with a win over the tricky Italians.

Italian rugby is certainly on the up, as shown by a fourth-place finish in the Six Nations, and their physical pack has the ability to front up to the Springbok forwards.

But how pleasing it would be if it were the attacking skills of a Le Roux-inspired backline that proved the difference at King’s Park.

Team: Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-06-springbok-team-the-proven-plus-a-pinch-of-pizzazz/#.Vxos5vl97IU

Markram rumours wide of the mark, but 4 other Titans will leave 0

Posted on March 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The rumours that junior world cup winning captain Aiden Markram could be lost to South African cricket are wide of the mark with the 21-year-old confirming on Tuesday that he has signed a contract with the Titans, who will, however, be losing four of their talented youngsters ahead of next season.

Markram will be spending the off-season playing for Walkden in the Bolton League, but the promising top-order batsman will be back in time for what is already shaping up as a massive summer for him. Especially since Theunis de Bruyn and Graeme van Buuren, two of his team-mates in the all-conquering Tuks side, are moving on to fresh pastures. Corbin Bosch, the opening bowler for Markram’s triumphant SA U19 team, has already relocated to Australia, having failed to break into the Titans team this season.

The Titans have also lost out on the services of wicketkeeper/batsman Mangaliso Mosehle, who is moving to the Highveld Lions next season.

Van Buuren has earned a two-year contract with Gloucestershire and, because his wife Hannah, the former Tuks conditioning coach, was born in London and has a British passport, he will try to qualify for England.

De Bruyn, one of the brightest batting talents in the country, will be moving to the Knights for the 2016/17 season, opening the way for Markram to play more regular franchise cricket, having made just two Momentum One-Day Cup appearances this season.

“I’m looking forward to spending the off-season in different conditions and growing my game, but I’m happy with where I am in my career. Any opportunity I get for the Titans I’m just going to try and take, but at the moment I’m really focusing on my preparation. At school, there might be four or five good players in the opposition, but in senior cricket there’s a lot more good players, so it takes time to work out how to play at that level. But the more cricket you play, the faster you learn,” Markram told The Citizen on Tuesday.

Van Buuren has been a highly-valued performer for the Titans, averaging 45 in the Momentum One-Day Cup and 30 in the RamSlam T20 Challenge, as well as bowling economical left-arm spin, but with doors opening up for him in county cricket, it was only natural that he would seize the opportunity.

“I’m not going with any regrets, I’m not at all complaining about anything, I owe the Titans for everything I’ve achieved, having played for them since Northerns U7s 18 years ago. So I’m very thankful to them, but this is a great opportunity in terms of my career as a professional cricketer and not a lot of players have this chance.

“I’m excited for something new, an unbelievable opportunity and a new chapter. Obviously I want to play international cricket, that’s the main reason for playing because you always want to push yourself to be the best. I’ll qualify for England when I’m 29 and until then I’ll just let things take their course,” Van Buuren told The Citizen.

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  • Thought of the Day

    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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