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Ken Borland



Bulls & Lions get their waggle on 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Social media was overflowing with praise for the Hurricanes and the Crusaders after their enthralling match in Wellington on Saturday morning, but the Bulls and Lions showed that evening at Loftus Versfeld that South African sides can also put on a show and both Victor Matfield and Johan Ackermann were waggling their metaphorical fingers at all the prophets of doom over the strength of local rugby.

The Bulls edged out the Lions 35-33 in a scintillating match in which seven tries were scored, several of them dazzling efforts using the width of the field and featuring superb offloading skills and vision.

“I saw the Hurricanes play the Crusaders this morning and I thought ‘what a great game’. But people must have enjoyed this game too, there was a lot of width and ball-in-hand rugby. New players are standing up in South African rugby and I’m sure the senior guys will start hitting their best form too towards the end of Super Rugby,” Bulls captain Matfield said after the win which returned his side to the top of the South African Conference.

“I think we have a different physicality when it comes to the rucks and scrums here in South Africa, whereas it’s more of a free-for-all when they play each other in New Zealand. They have a different mindset over there, the defences aren’t so tight. I still believe the best South African players compare to theirs and especially when you put them in a Springbok jersey,” Lions coach Ackermann said.

The Bulls started the game in exhilarating fashion playing the sort of rugby usually associated with the free-spirited Lions and coach Frans Ludeke said he was delighted with the first half, which ended with the home side 25-13 up.

“The first half was almost perfect and we had those attacking shapes Victor’s been chasing, we were accurate and really put them on the back foot. Getting momentum on the gain-line really helped and Victor has worked really hard on keeping the players on their feet and making good decisions,” Ludeke said.

But the Lions totally dominated the third quarter to snatch a 26-25 lead in the 54th minute and Matfield said the pressure was then really on his side.

“We started well, playing the way we wanted to – with width, but after the break we made mistakes and that put us under pressure. We showed great character to fight back and get the momentum back and I was very happy about the team’s will to win,” the veteran lock said.

Matfield mentioned “needing magic from someone” to get the Bulls out of their hole and that someone was replacement Pierre Spies, who sparked the move that ended with him powering through several tackles to score and regain the lead.

Ackermann bemoaned mistakes that cost his team but was pleased with their overall performance and contribution to a great game of rugby.

“All I ask is for them to play with their hearts and they did. I’m willing to lose if the passion and commitment are there and credit to the Bulls, especially for that first half. They punished every mistake we made,” Ackermann said.

 

Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland on what will be key for the Lions in their semifinal 0

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions’ scrum was superlative against the Crusaders in their SuperRugby quarterfinal and I think it will be one of the key things they will use against the Highlanders in their semifinal this weekend.

They really put the Crusaders under pressure in the scrums and that’s against an All Blacks tight five, so that’s very encouraging for the Lions’ championship hopes.

Their scrum is a destructive weapon and it will be one of the keys against the Highlanders, as well as mauling well.

The Highlanders don’t have the same quality forwards as the Crusaders do, but they do have explosive backs and if the Lions don’t kick for distance then there will be problems for them, they will find themselves under a lot of pressure around their own 22.

Ben Smith is so good at counter-attacking, he’s the best in the world at it for me, ahead of Israel Folau. He will run the ball back and he has a tremendous ability to step, find gaps and beat people.

The one negative about the Lions team is the distance they get on their relieving kicks and that’s at altitude, they might have to take that to sea level if the final is in Wellington. You compare their kicking against the Crusaders to the quality of Beauden Barrett’s tactical kicking in a gale in Wellington and you can see that will be a concern in an away final. Every South African will be praying the Chiefs win that semifinal against the Hurricanes.

The Highlanders are a very different New Zealand team in that they have a very strong kicking game thanks to Lima Sopoaga and Aaron Smith.

Sopoaga is very clever with his little chips which always seem to find space, while Aaron is a superb tactical kicker and takes responsibility for it. Having a kicker at scrumhalf means the chase line is right on top of you, so the kicks are normally contestable. Aaron always kicks off at the restarts and the Highlanders have two big wings who are very good in the air, when Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo are running at you, you know you’re going to go backwards!

So field position still has a huge influence and top teams turn that into points. The Lions got away with not having much territory against the Crusaders because they were very disciplined, they didn’t give a lot away, and they built a score early on so the Crusaders were under pressure. Those two early tries took the wind out of the Crusaders and they had to chase the game from the start.

It’s typical of that Lions team, they have come through such adversity. It’s a tremendous story, most of their players were rejected somewhere else, they weren’t the first choices when they were 19 or 20 years old.

Franco Mostert was at the Bulls for four or five years and didn’t get the opportunity, and now he’s a player the Lions rally around. Warwick Tecklenburg also didn’t make it at the Bulls and he’s really matured as a player.

A lot of them have also spent seasons overseas, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe and Tecklenburg have all played in Japan. So a guy like Elton gets coaching from Swys de Bruin but also from someone like Rob Penney at NTT Shining Arcs, who used to coach Canterbury.

The way Malcolm Marx has progressed is very pleasing for me because I worked with him before. He used to drive for an hour to Pretoria to come throw for an hour and then drive back on his off day, because there was a perception in his junior days that his lineout throwing wasn’t good. He’s worked so hard and that’s what people don’t appreciate about this Lions team.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg is tearing up trees now but he also played Vodacom Cup for the Blue Bulls and look at how he is playing now. Andries Coetzee was also at the Bulls as a junior and was released, even though he had that big left foot even then.

The Lions have played together consistently, they’re very grounded as a group. Most of them actually live in Pretoria and are up at 5.30 every morning so they can be at the Lions by 6.30. Johan Ackermann and JP Ferreira get up at 4.30am! So they are a very hard-working bunch.

But the keys this weekend will be for them to use their scrum and to maul well, and to kick more contestable balls. They can’t give the Highlanders time on the ball, the defence must be on top of them, and the Lions have been defending very well, plus their back row are all stealers of the ball and Malcolm Marx is like a fourth loose forward. The Lions need to raise the tempo, like they did when they carved up the Crusaders midfield.

In terms of the other quarterfinals, the Stormers were such a disappointment and they have lost so many playoff games now, and convincingly at that and at home! So they have to look at their preparation. Their generals against the Chiefs, Robert du Preez and Jaco Taute, just haven’t played enough rugby this year.

To say they were taken by surprise by the extra intensity of the New Zealand sides is a weak excuse. The Stormers should have had that intensity and enthusiasm playing at home in a playoff game and it was Schalk Burger’s last appearance at Newlands.

The Chiefs did play really well, you have to give them credit, but I don’t think not playing a New Zealand side before was that relevant for the Stormers.

The wheels have really come off the Sharks since the June Tests, they’re not the same side they were before that. What was most disappointing about their loss to the Hurricanes was that they showed so little ambition. They just had the maul, pick-and-go and kick, they never used their Springboks back three.

The Hurricanes played well, Beauden Barrett kicked superbly, but the Sharks never fired a shot, that’s what was really concerning.

For the South African teams to concede 17 tries in their three playoff games is a big worry.

I would say the Hurricanes/Chiefs semifinal is a 50/50 game, although the Hurricanes are without Dane Coles, who is their talisman as captain, he’s full of energy and he rallies the team. The Hurricanes lineout will be under intense pressure from Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird and they don’t have their first-choice hooker. So that game could go either way.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

 

 

Lions show they can win well without the ball 0

Posted on July 23, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions had to show they are able to win without the ball and they did that to impressive effect at Ellis Park on Saturday night as they beat the Crusaders 42-25 in their SuperRugby quarterfinal.

The Lions probably only enjoyed about 40% of possession and territory, but their defence was superb and they showed a ruthless streak when they did have the ball, clinical finishing giving them five tries.

It was one-way traffic in the first 10 minutes though as the Lions scored two tries to settle their nerves and give them a 12-0 lead which the Crusaders chipped away at, but could never entirely eliminate.

After flank Warwick Tecklenburg had barged over the advantage line, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk made a good decision to go left and wing Courtnall Skosan showed lovely footwork to step past a couple of defenders and then race away from the halfway line for a superb second-minute try.

De Klerk was once again prominent in the Lions’ second try five minutes later as he intercepted a pass and led a breakaway from their own territory, Skosan loomed up in support and was stopped just short of the tryline, illegally, leading to a penalty.

Sensing blood, the Lions kicked to touch and got the rolling maul going and this time there was no avoiding a yellow card for the Crusaders when they sacked it illegally, lock Luke Romano being sent off the field by referee Craig Joubert.

That penalty was also kicked to touch and, a couple of phases after the lineout, bulldozer centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg went over for the try.

Elton Jantjies converted and seven minutes later he added a penalty after De Klerk had linked well with his forwards and backs and decoy runners had caused some confusion in the Crusaders defence.

The Lions were 15-0 up but they spent most of the second quarter pinned in their own territory and having to defend courageously, making tackle-after-tackle, to keep the Crusaders out.

While the visitors showed excellent ball-retention, most of the Lions’ problems were related to their poor tactical kicking and not getting enough distance on their clearing kicks.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga kicked a 19th-minute penalty and the Crusaders eventually made their territorial dominance count in terms of tries when another telling dart by wing Johnny McNicholl, who had been a handful on attack, led to outside centre Ryan Crotty dotting the ball down on the side of the post.

Mo’unga’s conversion closed the gap to 15-10 and the momentum was certainly with the Crusaders.

But the Lions brushed aside the difficulties of the last half-hour, a power scrum winning a penalty, which was again used to set the rolling maul, from which hooker Malcolm Marx scored.

Jantjies converted and the Lions were far more comfortable on the scoreboard – 22-10 up – than they were in reality at halftime.

But the Crusaders are a skilful side good at building pressure and they kept the ball through multiple phases at the start of the second half, trapping the Lions offsides and earning Mo’unga another penalty (13-22).

The Lions are perhaps too reliant on De Klerk using clearing kicks from the base, which are inevitably going to be more like an up-and-under than a long, raking touchfinder, but when Jantjies did manage to kick long and force the Crusaders back for a 22 drop out, it led to a penalty advantage and the flyhalf slotted a neat drop goal for the Lions to rebuild their lead.

The Crusaders were disappointed with the penalty count against them and they gave Jantjies another shot at goal in the 61st minute, the Lions getting front-foot ball as Janse van Rensburg crashed through the advantage line yet again.

The kicking game of the Crusaders was much better than the Lions’ and it earned them their second try when fullback Israel Dagg put pressure on the home side trying to field an up-and-under, the ball went loose and was tidied up by Mo’unga. He made it inside the Lions’ 22 before feeding replacement scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond for an easy run-in.

Mo’unga’s conversion made it 20-28 and the result was obviously back in the balance with 17 minutes remaining.

But the surprise substitution of the outstanding Janse van Rensburg brought immediate rewards. His replacement Howard Mnisi put outside centre Lionel Mapoe away with a sublime first touch, the Springbok incumbent racing through and then showing good composure to wait for the arrival of wing Ruan Combrinck in support. The power finish of the new international completed probably the try of the match.

On a special evening for the Lions, it was fantastic that some of their unsung heroes like Mnisi, Skosan and Tecklenburg produced some of the biggest plays.

Mnisi was in the thick of things again just five minutes later as his big tackle on McNicholl led to a turnover, which was sent wide, Mapoe chipping infield and replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje getting to the ball first and then fighting his way over the line.

Unfortunately, he injured himself in the process and his fitness is a concern for next weekend’s semi-final at Ellis Park.

With Jantjies’ conversion making it 42-20, the Lions no longer had to worry and an attempt to run the ball in their own 22 instead gave the Crusaders a consolation try through replacement flyhalf Ben Volavola.

But the Lions were convincing winners and by beating the seven-time champions and playoff experts, they have marked themselves as strong contenders for the title.

If they are as clinical on attack and as determined in defence as they were against the Crusaders, it would be silly to bet against them in their home semifinal next weekend.

 

 

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

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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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