for quality writing

Ken Borland



Beware the slip-up as Springboks take on Argentina 0

Posted on December 09, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks open their Rugby Championship campaign with a game against Argentina at the FNB Stadium on Saturday that has huge potential to be a real banana peel of a match – everyone expects South Africa to maintain their unbeaten record against the Pumas, but a slip-up and a defeat on home turf is still a definite possibility.

Duane Vermeulen, a powerful, physical eighthman, returns to the back of the scrum after a season once again disrupted by injury, while Juandre Kruger, a brilliant lineout organiser and jumper, is back in the number five jersey.

There are a couple of new faces on the bench as well – although the actual visages of scrumhalf Fourie du Preez and prop Gurthro Steenkamp are famous all over the rugby world as experienced former World Cup winners.

Vermeulen comes in for the injured Pierre Spies, the Bulls’ eighthman whose abilities are way more highly rated by the Springbok management than by those who base their opinion on televised displays.

 

“Duane can bring something different, he’s physical and unbelievably good on the ground, he’s like an extra openside flank because he competes very well for the ball. He’s good in the lineout too and I expect a good performance from him,” Meyer said on Wednesday.

Kruger, a good communicator in the lineout, returns in place of Flip van der Merwe, who moved from his normal number four position to number five to add some fire to the pack for their last Test against the combative Samoans in June.

For the time being, Meyer has decided to ease the Japan-based Du Preez into action off the bench, with Ruan Pienaar again the starting scrumhalf.

While we all wait with bated breath to see whether the talismanic 31-year-old can still dominate proceedings on the field as he did during his prime, there is no doubting Du Preez’s off-field value in guiding and motivating the Springboks.

“It would be unfair to expect and a lot to ask for Fourie to come straight in and start during his off-season, and it’s the right thing for the team for him to ease back in. He will definitely get game time and that’s a lot of experience to bring on,” Meyer said.

Meyer said Pienaar’s retention in the number nine jersey was all part of his desire for continuity.

“Ruan is the number one choice, he’s the guy in the saddle and we’ve opted for continuity.

“I don’t want to chop and change every week, we’ve won six Tests on the trot and we want to take that momentum forward. We’ve only had one week’s proper preparation for this Test, so that’s why I wanted to keep continuity. Because we’ve had very little time to prepare, continuity has been the deciding factor in selection,” Meyer said.

Because of this policy, the in-form Adriaan Strauss also retains the number two jersey ahead of the benched Bismarck du Plessis, who is considered the best hooker in the world.

The other key features of the selection are Meyer placing his faith in Willie le Roux at fullback and Bjorn Basson on the left wing, while the scavenging skills of Siya Kolisi see him earn the loose forward reserve’s spot on the bench ahead of ball-carrier and tackler Marcell Coetzee, a result of the coach’s new emphasis on the breakdown.

The defensive frailties of Basson are a concern and the awful mistake he made in the Bulls’ 22 during the SuperRugby final led to the match-winning, last-minute try by the Brumbies. JJ Engelbrecht, the outside centre for Saturday’s Test, has also shown a propensity to rush out of the defensive line, and the cut-throat intensity of international rugby means such mistakes can mean the difference between victory and defeat.

“We’ve only had one defence session during the week and it’s difficult to fix things like that in that time. But they are both great players and I have a lot of confidence in our defence, we’ve only been conceding a little more than one try per Test on average.

“Bjorn and JJ are both brilliant attackers and that means the other guys need to defend too. I want an attacking mindset, they say the best form of defence is attack, and even the best backline in the world will make mistakes now and then,” Meyer said.

Kolisi confirmed that the breakdown would be his key focus.

“I want to become more of an openside flank and I’ve been working hard on slowing down the ball and getting to the ball first. Richie Gray [the Springboks’ new breakdown consultant] really knows what he is talking about and he’s had us getting quickly off the ground.

“These days you can’t play with nobody for the breakdown, you need quick ball in order to score tries, and we’re looking forward to getting better in that department.

“It’s my first game in the Rugby Championship, so it’s huge for me. I don’t feel entrenched in the squad because there are a lot of good loose forwards, and I must perform well every week to stay part of the 23,” Kolisi said.

Meyer said pace to the breakdowns would be crucial against Argentina because they employ similar tactics to the All Blacks.

“Argentina give you the outside gaps and then counter-ruck you, like the All Blacks do. So cleaning out at the rucks is very important,” Meyer said.

Meyer will hope for the same precision and attention to detail in all facets of the game if the Springboks are to avoid turning the celebrations of Nelson Mandela’s birthday into a sorry start to the Rugby Championship.

Team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Morne Steyn, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Juandre Kruger, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Bismarck du Plessis, 17-Gurthro Steenkamp, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Flip van der Merwe, 20-Siya Kolisi, 21-Fourie du Preez, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-15-rugby-championship-boks-lineup-will-have-its-hands-full-against-argentina/#.WFPh-rJ97IU

This summer tradition will be almost unrecognisable 0

Posted on November 28, 2015 by Ken

 

The Nedbank Golf Challenge is almost as much of a summer tradition in South Africa as watermelon, mielies, Redchested Cuckoos calling “Piet-my-Vrou!” and cricket, but there will be a definite sense of the end of an era when the tournament starts at Sun City on Thursday.

The event that started in 1981 as the richest tournament in golf – the only one to offer a million dollars in prizemoney –had a field of just five invited contestants, before going to 10 the next year. There were eight golfers in 1987 and 1988 and the event had its traditional 12-man field from 1993 to 2012 (apart from 2003 when South Africa hosted the President’s Cup and both teams played), before becoming a 30-player tournament in 2013.

With the expansion came official European Tour status and more world ranking points, but still almost no Americans have visited Sun City in the last 10 years and there has almost been a feeling of Africa’s Major gradually sliding towards extinction in these vastly-different socio-economic times.

On the continent where human evolution began, it’s always been a case of adapt or die, and so it is welcome news that the Nedbank Golf Challenge will undergo a major change from next year.

For 34 years the tournament has been held in the first weekend of December, a harbinger almost of the festive season and a chance for corporate South Africa to have a year-end party. But now the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be a part of the European Tour’s prestigious and lucrative Finals Series, which has enhanced prizemoney and Race to Dubai points for the leading performers on tour that season, in November.

The fact that the Nedbank Golf Challenge will be the penultimate tournament on the calendar, starting on November 10, the week before the Tour Championship, the season finale in Dubai, raises hopes that some top-class golfers will once again visit South Africa.

At the end of the year, who knows, maybe even the likes of Rory McIlroy will be chasing points as he looks to defend his Race to Dubai crown.

I said a while ago that the Nedbank Golf Challenge’s best hope of survival would be to become a regular, albeit lucrative and prestigious, tournament on the European Tour schedule, and the other major change is that the field will now comprise 72 golfers.

The top 64 in the Race to Dubai standings will be invited, but there will still be space for the defending champion, the winner of the Sunshine Tour order of merit and six invited golfers, with Americans probably being the major target there.

A long time ago, Gary Player and Sol Kerzner had a dream to bring the world’s best golfers to South Africa and, with Nedbank staying on board and increasing their sponsorship to the extent that the prizemoney is now $7 million, the new era at Sun City will hopefully attract the cream of the crop, certainly in terms of European talent.

 

Tactical demands will decide who starts at 10 – Naas 0

Posted on July 14, 2015 by Ken

Handre Pollard was confirmed as the hottest young thing in South African rugby on Sunday night, but the winner of both the Young Player and U20 Player of the Year awards is not yet a definite starter in the number 10 jersey for the Springboks at the World Cup later this year.

Pollard himself accepts this and the most famous of all Springbok flyhalves, Naas Botha, believes the tactical demands of each individual match will decide whether the Bulls star or Pat Lambie start in the pivot position during the World Cup.

“Both Handre and Pat are absolutely fantastic flyhalves but I think it depends on what the Springboks want to achieve tactically when it comes to choosing between them,” Botha told The Citizen.

“Handre is different to most flyhalves because he’s more of a strike runner, when he’s under pressure he backs his physicality. I just think he’s a different attacker than your normal, smaller number 10s, he’s a lot more direct with ball in hand.

“Pat has quicker hands than Handre and can make something out of nothing outside him. Sometimes Handre will just decide to run into the defence, whereas Pat can create space out wide in those situations.

“But they’re both exceptional kickers and fantastic defenders, so I think it depends on where the Springboks want to attack the opposition: more directly or out wide,” Botha explained.

The 20-year-old Pollard says the most important thing for him in the forthcoming SuperRugby season is to develop the consistency that marks out first-choice Springboks.

“It’s a World Cup year so it’s massive for me and the team as well, but my first focus is on SuperRugby, because nobody has been selected for the World Cup yet. It’s a big year especially for the Bulls because we really need to step up this year.

“SuperRugby is going to be the biggest challenge yet for me and what I’ll be focusing on is consistency. Players like Victor Matfield and Jean de Villiers play well week in and week out,” Pollard said.

The suggestion that Lambie (1.78m, 87kg) and Pollard (1.88m, 97kg) could play alongside each other in the Springbok team, especially with inside centre De Villiers’ participation in doubt due to a serious knee injury, does not seem likely to happen given that the World Rugby Junior Player of the Year said that the Bulls will only use him in the number 12 jersey “if push comes to shove”.

*Naas Botha has criticised World Cup organisers for putting the Springboks and defending champion All Blacks in the same side of the draw for the knockout stages of the World Cup.

South Africa are in Pool B and New Zealand in Pool C and, if they both win their pools and their probable quarterfinals against England/Australia and France/Ireland respectively, then they will meet in the semi-finals, despite currently being the two best sides in the world.

“I don’t understand how New Zealand, who are ranked first, and us, who are second, can meet in the semi-finals. It is absolutely wrong. One versus two, if both teams do their job, should be the final.

“We know why it’s happening, but is it right? Nobody wants to see the two best teams playing each other in the semi-final!” Botha said.

The draw for the pools was done a year after the previous World Cup, but the All Blacks and Springboks were also the top two teams in the world at the end of 2012.

http://citizen.co.za/323290/pollards-star-shining-bright/



↑ Top