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Ken Borland



Sheer delight for SA rugby 0

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Ken

 

Following the awful disappointments of 2016, what a sheer delight the last three weeks of Springbok rugby have been, culminating in the series whitewash over France in front of more than 55 000 people at Ellis Park, as well as a wonderful game the night before at Orlando Stadium between the SA A and French Barbarians sides.

Apart from the winning, up-tempo rugby played by both the Springboks and their second-stringers, the other similarity between the two teams is that both clearly enjoy a wonderful team culture.

It cannot be understated how important a role a good team environment will play in the success of a side and we saw last year how the Proteas cricket team drastically improved their results after a “culture camp”.

At the top level, teams are very similar in terms of physicality, conditioning and skill, so the crucial extra 1% that gives sides the edge is often found on the mental side of sport – happy players committed to a cause or a “brotherhood”, to use the in-vogue expression, will give more out on the field.

Sure, Brendan Venter and Franco Smith have come along and brought considerable technical expertise to the Springboks, but I have never, in 25 years of covering South African rugby, seen a squad speak more about just how happy they were to be together and how much they loved the environment than the current group under Allister Coetzee and his fellow coaches. The captaincy of Warren Whiteley must also be mentioned because there’s no doubt he has played a big role in the team culture as well.

It is a similar culture, borne from adversity, that is seen in Whiteley’s Lions team and it is also evident in the SA A side under Johan Ackermann. It was clearly displayed at the end of the game against the French Barbarians in Orlando when scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was spontaneously, just for the sheer joy of it, lifted on to the shoulders of his team-mates after kicking the last conversion, and when the whole squad sang stirring songs together, bobbing in a tight embrace, after the trophy presentation.

The fact that Ackermann has managed to create that culture in the SA A side in just a few weeks is testament to what a fine coach he is and hopefully he will be back in South Africa soon after increasing his experience and knowledge with Gloucester in the United Kingdom.

Ackermann, a former Springbok lock, first made his name as a coach through his technical and tactical acumen in the set-pieces, but he also has the ability to inspire a team, a crucial man-management skill in any coach.

Singing along with the SA A team were a bunch of supporters in the far grandstand and I believe playing top rugby in Soweto has a great future. The SA A game was played at 8pm on a Friday night the day before a Test at Ellis Park, so the crowd was always going to be small.

But I know it is in SA Rugby’s future plan to play more games in Soweto, and to stage them at 3pm in the afternoon and not during a Test week in the same city. There’s no doubt we will then see the crowds pouring in, because there is a great love for the game in Soweto, but access remains a problem.

Orlando Stadium is also a magnificent venue, modern, spacious and with one of the best views of the field, from any vantage point, you will see.  The fact that top rugby did not return earlier to Orlando after the memorable 2010 Super Rugby final that inspired such goodwill is a great pity.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170701/282321090023086

Delight & relief off the grid for Coetzee 0

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee admitted that his delight and relief were both off the grid after his team’s exceptional comeback win over Ireland at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Having lost the first Test in Cape Town last weekend, the Springboks looked almost certain to suffer a rare series loss on home soil when the Irish capitalised on an horrific first half by the home side to lead 19-3 at halftime.

For Coetzee and captain Adriaan Strauss, defeat would have meant immense pressure on both of them as they look to guide South African rugby into a new era. So the stakes were high, even by the do-or-die standards that always suffocate Springbok rugby.

But a remarkable second-half performance saw the Springboks run in four tries in a compelling display of power and pace as they snatched a 32-26 victory.

“Obviously I’m more than 100% relieved and more than 100% delighted with the way we came back,” Coetzee said when he was asked afterwards what sort of mix of relief and delight the triumph had invoked.

“The way we put the second half together is how we planned to play and it was testament to the resilience and character of this team. Resilience is one of the core values of this team and we would never have beaten a quality Ireland side without it.

“When you add the first half to what happened last week, we were in a hole and we would not have worked a way out of it unless this team had something special. When their backs were to the wall, they showed they can fight. I believe that as a team we are on the right track, we are embarking on a journey to becoming a good team. Today was a building block, it showed not to write us off,” Coetzee said.

The new Springbok coach did not shy away from how awful the first half was, though, with the Springboks making a litany of basic mistakes. They again gave away a flurry of penalties in the opening half-hour, allowing flyhalf Paddy Jackson to kick Ireland into a 12-3 lead, and they made a string of passing and handling errors, while also once again showing terrible ball-retention skills in contact. Plus the Irish kicking game produced great dividends due to a number of spilt aerial balls.

“Obviously I’m not pleased with the first half. I don’t think it was a lack of urgency, more a lack of discipline. The guys were over-exuberant, they showed a bit of inexperience, and those penalties just broke our rhythm.

“The impact from the bench turned it around for us, the ball-carries, at the right height, got us momentum. We looked after the ball and we were better tactically. Before that we were losing ball through poor carries and not fielding the high balls.

“The work ethic was terrible in the first half and we had to step up the work-rate in the second half. There were no forwards coming around the corner. But in the second half we lifted the work-rate and we were more accurate,” Coetzee said.

The coach said it was important to keep perspective in the thrill of such an unlikely victory, even though he had allowed the players some post-match jubilations.

“Now we start from zero again. I allowed the players to jump around a bit tonight, but we shouldn’t get too excited about just beating a team. The war has not been won, just a battle. We need to take all the emotion out and improve on tonight’s performance, we have to get the basics right in Port Elizabeth. The next game is the next building block,” Coetzee stressed.

http://citizen.co.za/1168147/delight-and-relief-off-the-grid-for-coetzee/

Even schedule from hell can’t keep Sharks from playoff mix 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

Even though the Sharks have had the schedule from hell, they will go into the June international break still very much in the playoff mix following their 53-0 romp over the Southern Kings in Durban at the weekend, much to the delight of coach Gary Gold.

The Sharks are second in Africa Conference 2, just two points behind the Lions, and third in the Group, three points ahead of the Stormers, although they have played one more game than the three other top local sides and have a bye this coming weekend.

“I’m very satisfied and particularly pleased tonight that we got the bonus point and kept the opposition to zero. We knew the last six weeks would be tough, playing on three different continents in three weeks, but I’m really happy with the attitude of the players and how they’ve dealt with all the travel. It has been tough and it’s taken its toll, but to be as competitive as we have been, especially against the New Zealand sides, is very pleasing.

“The guys have shown a lot of character and now they have a bit of downtime. We can fix the guys that are broken and hopefully get some big names back. It’s good that we can try and keep our noses ahead rather than play catch-up,” Gold said.

The Sharks played some tremendous rugby in the first half against the Kings, getting the ball wide and scoring six tries, including three in a dazzling five-minute spell midway through the half. But they went off the boil in the second half and Gold said one of the things that still concern him is the team’s tendency to waste chances.

“We had a very specific plan at the start, you never want to get into an arm-wrestle against a side as courageous as the Kings, and we controlled things nicely in the first half and took our chances. Not so much in the second half, maybe there were too many changes, but it was a bit disappointing. The Kings are a never-say-die side, especially in the contact situations, and we lost a lot of ball.

“We didn’t take our chances as clinically and the lineout didn’t function as well. We need to step up, we are not the finished product, there are simple options not being taken. We tend to over-complicate things, if we take the simple options we will score more tries,” Gold said.

 

Delight for Stormers as they upset Bulls at Loftus 0

Posted on August 05, 2015 by Ken

The DHL Stormers had their fans at Loftus Versfeld screaming with delight on Saturday night as they upset the Vodacom Bulls 29-17 for their first SuperRugby win in Pretoria since 2012.

While the small but noticeable group of Stormers supporters left Loftus thrilled by their underdogs pulling off a surprisingly convincing victory over the highly-rated Bulls, the home fans were left contemplating how, for all the talk of a new era, their team played much as they did last year. The Bulls were flat, did not make enough use of their possession, wasting a lot of it through basic errors, and their scrum was always under pressure.

In fact, it was even worse than last year because the Bulls were undefeated at home in the 2014 SuperRugby competition.

And it had all started so promisingly for the Bulls as wing Bjorn Basson came bursting through on a lovely switch, earning a fourth-minute penalty for offsides. The Bulls bravely kicked it to touch and their rolling maul steamrolled over the line, with flank Deon Stegmann getting the opening try.

And then fullback Jurgen Visser dropped a regulation kick ahead by Dillyn Leyds, which the Stormers wing picked up as he followed through, racing over the line for the visitors’ first try. From then on, the Bulls’ wheels began falling off.

Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis kicked a penalty and then eighthman Duane Vermeulen came storming through on an angled run to score the second try, with centre Damian de Allende shaking off several defenders to make the try-scoring pass.

By now the Stormers were winning the scrum battle hands down and were defending with tremendous ferocity, while also carrying the ball with greater intensity than the home side.

Going into the break with a 5-17 deficit, the Bulls desperately needed to lift themselves in the second half and they played with greater accuracy and urgency in the third quarter.

Flyhalf Handre Pollard, having missed his first three kicks at goal in the first half, succeeded with a 42nd-minute penalty after strong runs by eighthman Pierre Spies and lock Jacques du Plessis.

Pollard registered further penalties in the 48th (after Basson claimed a fine take in the air), 54thand 60th minutes, while Catrakilis kept his perfect record intact with a 51st-minute penalty.

But the shaky foundation at the scrum and the tremendous Stormers defence meant that the Bulls were often running up blind alleys and the visitors finished the match strongly.

De Allende, a shining light in the Stormers backline, almost scored but was forced out on the corner flag by Jan Serfontein and Pollard, but it still led to another penalty for Catrakilis (23-17).

His replacement, Kurt Coleman, slotted a penalty in the 73rd minute as another Bulls scrum came crashing down, and then a drop goal two minutes from time, widened the wound for the Bulls into a gaping gash.

For all their talk about raising the tempo of their play, there still seemed to be too many Bulls carthorses in comparison to the livewire, all-action Stormers.

The decision to sign tighthead prop Vincent Koch on a loan deal from the Pumas looks a masterstroke as he gave the Stormers scrum a tremendous foundation, as well as being a force in the loose.

Locks Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn also looked full of promise and there are plenty of promising signs for the Stormers for the season ahead.

Scorers

Bulls: Try – Deon Stegmann. Penalties – Handre Pollard (4).

Stormers: Tries – Dillyn Leyds, Duane Vermeulen. Conversions – Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalties – Catrakilis (3), Kurt Coleman. Drop goal – Coleman

http://citizen.co.za/327043/bulls-vs-stormers-low/



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