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Ken Borland



Marais not happy that bonus point eludes Bulls 0

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Bulls coach Nollis Marais said he was not happy about the bonus point which eluded his team despite their convincing 41-22 victory over the Reds at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

The Bulls were leading 27-8 after 50 minutes, but conceded two quick tries to powerful Reds centre Samu Kerevi, and, although they finished with five tries, they ended one short of the bonus point, losing the throw at a lineout five metres from the opposition tryline after the final hooter.

“I wasn’t happy that we didn’t get the bonus point, we should have used that lineout at the end. We got back in the game after they scored an excellent try up front, but at certain stages there was too much individual play. At halftime we said we must stick to the structures and let the ball do the work, not the man. We weren’t accurate enough,” Marais said after the win, which kept them up with the leaders in the South African Group.

“But we are getting better every week. We played for seven years with the same style here and now we’re trying something different, even though it might not always look like it. Previously guys would just tuck the ball under the arm and go straight for the opposition, but guys like Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel are now moving the ball.

“It’s a game plan which the Lions are a couple of years down the line with, but we must stick to that – it’s important to see the space,” Marais said.

The Bulls now have a bye before going on tour to Australia and both Marais and captain Adriaan Strauss warned that it is not going to get any easier as they try to nail down a playoff spot.

“We are a process-driven team and we’re not where we want to be, but we’ll take a win any day. It was a good win, but we are chasing high standards, the perfect game, so we mustn’t get ahead of ourselves.

“It’s definitely not going to get any easier, especially on tour. We’ll enjoy the win and the week off, but then we need to focus 100% on the Force, which will be a tough challenge,” Strauss said.

“To have our two byes so early is a challenge, I would have liked one after the tour. But now the weekend after we come back from tour, we play the Stormers here. So that’s going to be a big challenge and we need to make sure the guys are rested enough,” Marais added.

Attack will be at the forefront in new expanded SuperRugby 0

Posted on February 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Jaguares of Argentina were at the SuperRugby launch at the SuperSport studios in Randburg on Thursday and, despite their loss to the Stormers in a warm-up game, everyone expects them to continue with the attacking, ball-in-hand approach that took them to the semi-finals of last year’s World Cup.

Then again, all of the South African teams have also committed themselves to a more positive, expansive brand of play, with some coaches intimating that local rugby is standing at a crossroads.

The Lions are the team that has been leading the way for South African teams in terms of a new, more high-tempo style of play and they will be the next team to face the Jaguares, albeit in another warm-up game, when they meet at Wits University on Friday night.

And coach Johan Ackermann is expecting a lot from the Argentinians.

“Although the Jaguares lost, Gert Smal of the Stormers told me that they were impressed by them, that they played an exciting brand of rugby. They can all step and offload, they run the ball and really push the pace. It’s basically the Argentina Test side and we couldn’t ask for a better test when it comes to seeing if our players can handle the pressure of SuperRugby,” Ackermann said on Thursday.

That Argentina are now a top-class Test side is beyond dispute, but fielding a team in SuperRugby is a different dynamic for them and flyhalf Martin Landajo says they are treating it all as a learning experience at the moment.

“It was very important for us to have a good World Cup and lots of players from that team are in the Jaguares. But we are just trying to go slowly and try and learn a lot, we must just enjoy it, that’s the most important thing. But the people back home are really happy and we have a lot of support from Argentina rugby fans,” Landajo said.

While the Jaguares will enjoy the lack of expectation that comes with being tournament rookies, the Stormers are always under pressure from their demanding fans, but new coach Robbie Fleck is calling for a “fearless” approach from his team.

“We’ve prepared very well and although we’ve had changes in management and new faces in the team, we still have a quality spine to the side. There are a lot of youngsters, but some of them are 22 or 23 years old and senior players.

“It’s exciting to blood youngsters and develop a new culture, and I feel these are very exciting times for South African rugby as a whole, particularly with all the new coaches on the scene and being in the unique position that we can now really develop players. I want our team to be fearless, even though there is a lot of pressure on them to perform and a lot of pressure off the field,” Fleck said.

The Southern Kings are meeting the Sharks at Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium in Port Elizabeth on February 27 in their first game back in Super Rugby since 2013 and, despite their tumultuous build-up, captain Steven Sykes says they will be ready come opening day.

“We’ve done enough so that we can compete, it was very tough only starting our pre-season preparation on January 4, but we’ve had six-day weeks and put in a lot of work so we are prepared. I believe we will be fine depth-wise, there are new players coming in every week, and we have a really nice team environment and facilities.

“We’re in the same shoes as the Lions were in a few years ago in that we have a lot of young players who want to show how they can compete. Plus we have a lot more experience than in 2013 and one of our goals is to make a better showing this year. But we have a good mix that I am excited about,” Sykes said.

Up in Pretoria, Nollis Marais is one of the coaches in their first year of SuperRugby and he has already inculcated a more attacking style of play into the Bulls, having brought it into the Currie Cup campaign in which a callow side went down to Western Province in the semi-finals.

Marais is unapologetic that he has placed his faith in youth.

“We’ve lost a lot of top players but it’s time to adapt, it’s time for new blood and that makes it easier down the line because it’s a long competition. We’ve had a lot of senior players leave and it’s time for the youngsters to step up and take their chance, although they still have a couple of guys that have played SuperRugby before who they can learn from.

“But I believe in the Bulls structures, I’ve been part of the system for five years, and it’s important for South African rugby that we develop the players in the pipeline too. The Bulls once had a lot of senior players and the youngsters couldn’t come through, there was no opportunity for them, but we need to keep an eye on them,” Marais said.

In Durban, there is an optimistic mood after two impressive wins over Toulon and Toulose and coach Gary Gold is happy that the pre-season has gone according to plan.

“We had a very clear strategy pre-season in terms of how we wanted to prepare and the two games in France showed us how far we’ve come in certain areas. But we’re being harsh on ourselves and we know that there are other areas we now need to spend time on.

“We’re very satisfied with the things we’ve worked on, we got reward from those, we’ll bank those, but now we need to sharpen the pencil in other areas. We’d be dumb to think we won’t come a cropper if we don’t spend time and energy on those areas,” Gold said.

While the new complex conference system has its detractors, South African Rugby Union CEO Jurie Roux is banning all such negativity from his thoughts.

“It’s a new era, SuperRugby is now almost a global competition, spanning five continents and 16 time zones. And the great positive is that half the South African teams can now qualify for the playoffs. The key things that make it a win-win for South African rugby are that we play less games, and travel used to be a big issue because our teams used to be unfairly treated, but now we have significantly reduced the tour to Australasia.

“People said they wanted a new product, we’ve given it to them and time will tell whether they like it or not. We wanted six franchises, we’ve got it; we wanted less travel and more derbies, we got that; and we’re playing different teams because people didn’t want to play all the same teams all the time,” Roux said.

 

 

6 weeks in a row for Bok trio but Sharks say they will honour Saru agreement 0

Posted on February 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Director of Rugby Gary Gold said on Thursday that the Sharks will honour the agreement they entered into with the South African Rugby Union (Saru) over the resting of Springboks, despite naming Marcell Coetzee, Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach in the starting line-up for the sixth week in a row for their crunch match against the Chiefs in Durban on Saturday.

Saru confirmed this week that the agreement with the franchises that key Springboks would not play for more than five consecutive weeks and that they would have rest weeks during the tournament was “the ideal” and was not legally binding.

With the Sharks having endured a difficult start to the season, Saturday’s match against the powerful Chiefs is a key one as they look to close the five-point gap between them and the Stormers in the South African Conference, and Gold said the selection should be seen in the light of this.

“Our view is that we’re 100% behind the Boks in resting players, I think it’s the right thing to do and we’ve agreed to a plan. But we have a different challenge on our hands that other Unions don’t have. We have the most number of Springboks and our first bye is only in Week 11. So when other teams get that bye, they have the break within the five weeks.

“Where it becomes problematic is not being able to meet that five-week period this week. We haven’t been given the benefit of a bye which three of the five South African franchises have already. But as of last week, we’re the only team to have rested Springboks.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something we’re committed to. It’s the right thing to do, I think the Springboks do need to get some rest time, and I want to make it very clear that we’re committed to that agreement. No-one wants the Springboks to win this Rugby World Cup more than me after going through the disaster of 2011,” Gold, who was the assistant coach when South Africa were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage of the last World Cup, said.

The selection of the current national players means there is just one change to the Sharks team that won so convincingly last weekend in Bloemfontein, with Marco Wentzel, capped as a Springbok in 2002, named as the replacement for the injured lock Pieter-Steph du Toit.

The in-form Du Toit’s knee injury is not as serious as first feared, with the 22-year-old now being ruled out for three months.

After such a good performance as the one in Bloemfontein, Gold said it would be silly to now make changes.

“The guys took a lot of confidence out of a tough game, the Cheetahs are not a roll-over. We played in tough conditions and we’re able to keep continuity going for the same guys in the same positions. From next week we’re going to have to look at jiggling things,” Gold said.

 

Rabada is the man – AB 0

Posted on January 20, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Man of the match Kagiso Rabada believes he still hasn’t “arrived” in Test cricket despite becoming the youngest fast bowler to take 13 wickets in a game as he bowled South Africa to a massive 280-run victory over England in the fourth Test at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Tuesday.

Rabada finished with six for 32 as England were routed for just 101 in their second innings, losing their last seven wickets in just 68 manic minutes on the final morning, giving the 20-year-old match figures of 13 for 144.

In the history of Test cricket, only one bowler, Indian spinner Narendra Hirwani, has had a better return at a younger age, taking 16 for 136 for India against the West Indies in Chennai when he was just 19 years and 85 days old.

Rabada’s figures are also the best ever for South Africa against England, and the second-best against all opposition, bettered only by Makhaya Ntini’s 13 for 132 against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 2004/5.

“The ball was coming out very nicely and I had good rhythm as the match went on, it felt better today. I just tried to do the basics right, I’m a youngster and I’m still learning. I still haven’t arrived yet but I’m just going to enjoy the moment because in my first bowl of the series I only took three wickets and got smashed everywhere. It’s great to take 13 wickets, something you don’t do every day,” Rabada said.

As far as captain AB de Villiers is concerned though, Rabada is the man.

“Every time I asked him to perform he did. He’s shown the maturity of someone who’s played more than a hundred Tests, while he’s got the pace of someone who’s just played one or two!

“KG has impressed us all, we need to look after him very well and make sure that he’s always fresh when he walks on to the field. A guy like him is always hugely exciting,” De Villiers said.

South Africa’s comprehensive victory, although not enough to prevent England from winning their first series on these shores since 2004/5 – which were also times of transition in the Proteas Test team – does bring to an end a run of nine Tests without victory and De Villiers was obviously mightily relieved to enjoy the turnaround in fortunes.

“Teams go through phases and I never felt it was panic stations. In this game we managed to apply pressure for longer and did the basics better, and because of that we got it right in terms of the result, it’s not that complicated. If you do the small things right, more often than not you’ll win.

“It feels a bit like a new beginning, although it’s dangerous to say that. We’re doing the same things we’ve done for the last few years and we haven’t changed our thought processes. Our attitude was always good, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. There are a lot of reasons to feel that,” De Villiers said.

The arrivals of Rabada, the most exciting bowler to emerge in South Africa since Dale Steyn, as well as the difference made by Stephen Cook as a solid specialist opener and Temba Bavuma in the middle-order, have clearly, however, provided a boost to a struggling Proteas outfit.

“A couple of changes were necessary, they brought a fresh vibe and confidence from having done well in domestic cricket. Stephen Cook also brought a lot of experience into the squad because he’s played a lot of first-class games and scored a lot of runs.

“Temba has been a real bright spark. There were signs in Bangladesh and India that he looked at home, like he belonged. So I knew it was just a matter of time before he scored big runs and he’s had a fantastic series. Him and KG coming through has been fantastic. We all know the history of our country and the racial issues, and having them step up and perform together has been one of the highlights of my career,” De Villiers said.

 

 



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