for quality writing

Ken Borland



Lions have earned universal respect despite failing to make playoffs 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions may have failed to make the SuperRugby playoffs after their dramatic weekend draw against the Stormers, but the Johannesburg-based franchise has certainly earned the respect of all their opponents this season.

Just two years after they were controversially relegated from SuperRugby, the Lions have clinched second place in the South African Conference and boast an almost identical record to the Brumbies, who have snuck into the playoffs ahead of them because of bonus points.

They have maintained their positive style of play with ball in hand, but where they have improved most is defensively, boasting the best tackling success rate in the competition. The Lions play at the highest tempo of all the South African sides as they swarm around in defence and always have great intensity on the ball. Their powerful scrum has provided a solid platform and their lineout has also been efficient.

“It’s all about playing with intensity and hunger, and we have to up our performance every week. There are plans in place, but I also allow the guys to be free spirits and you have to live with the small mistakes that come from that,” coach Johan Ackermann says. “Obviously I’m very proud of the team, it must be one of our best years and it shows that hard work is worth it.”

The Lions have certainly deserved all the praise that has come their way, beating the qualified Waratahs and Highlanders in the last five weeks and showing all season that they are never out of the contest with some superb second-half comebacks.

“There’s great belief within this side, a real hunger. We want to close down the opposition’s space and put them under pressure. We’ve built our physicality in defence, we want to be in their faces and not stand back,” captain Warren Whiteley says.

Their impressive performances have seen several of their players grow into Springbok contenders. The most likely Lions player to feature in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok World Cup squad is flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who dares to take the ball flat and attack the opposition line, has superb hands and is a strong defender, as well as kicking well this season.

Eighthman Whiteley is competing with Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger for a place at the World Cup, but he gets through a mound of work and is the only player in SuperRugby this year to have made more than 200 tackles, while also being highly effective in a linking role, possessing great skill and vision as befits a Springbok Sevens player who helped win the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year.

He is also adept at interfering with the opposition lineout, where Franco Mostert has also been a key performer for the Lions, as well as in the loose.

Warwick Tecklenburg has been outstanding in doing all the Lions’ dirty work, being second only to Whiteley in terms of tackles made, but fellow flank Jaco Kriel has been the most impressive forward.

A constant nuisance at the breakdown, he oozes raw talent in offence, having phenomenal pace, strength and hands, and has more often than not been able to spark the most sensational counter-attacks by the Lions.

Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe have proved to be two powerful centres, while scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Ruan Combrinck are two other backs who have announced themselves as future Springboks this year.

Despite their success over the last two years, Ackermann says at the moment they are just playing pretty rugby and haven’t won anything yet, there is more growing to do.

“We can look back on a good season regardless of missing the playoffs. The players know where they stand with me and they know my expectation on deserving the jersey. As long as they do that, I can’t ask for more. The growth from last year is definitely there, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“Nobody has achieved anything yet. We are not in the playoffs, we haven’t won the Currie Cup yet, we haven’t won any trophies yet. But if you ask me if there is a lot of growth, both for me as coach and for the team, then definitely if you look where we started in January 2014 until where we are now,” Ackermann says.

 

The Chiefs are the champions; the Lions will join them in SuperRugby 0

Posted on November 07, 2016 by Ken

 

The Chiefs are the SuperRugby champions once again and the Lions will be joining them in the competition next year after the dramatic final weekend of action in the toughest tournament in rugby.

The Chiefs made up a 12-22 deficit in the final quarter to beat the Brumbies 27-22 in the final in Hamilton and the Waikato men are clearly deserved champions. The defence of a title is almost always harder than winning it in the first place and the Chiefs’ back-to-back crowns were achieved the hard way, by topping the log, beating the Crusaders and then changing the momentum of the final in dramatic fashion.

The Lions were beaten 23-18 by the Southern Kings in the second leg of the promotion/relegation clash at Ellis Park, but the seven-point winning margin they claimed in Port Elizabeth was enough for them to win the series on aggregate. The Kings also mounted a stirring comeback in the final quarter, taking advantage of the yellow card to centre Stokkies Hanekom to overturn the 9-18 deficit that seemed to have settled the relegation contest. But in the end they were just one score short of returning to a competition in which they achieved the most wins by a side in their first season.

The Lions were roared on by 50 000 fans on a chilly night in Johannesburg and one wonders where all the people came from, judging by how sparse the crowds have been at Ellis Park for the last couple of years. Hopefully they don’t disappear into the night as quickly as they came and they have a responsibility to match the support the Kings enjoyed in Port Elizabeth – their attendance average was the third best in the competition – when the Lions face another daunting SuperRugby challenge next year.

Perhaps the Lions’ union bosses should take a hint from the fact that the Kings were based at the modern, superb Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Would the Lions not attract more consistent support if they played at the FNB or even Orlando Stadium?

 The Kings, bringing tremendous passion and fiery commitment, as expected with their survival as a team hanging in the balance, dominated the opening exchanges and really squeezed the Lions with their kicking game. Scott van Breda also kicked two penalties to give the Kings a 6-0 lead.

The Lions were really struggling to get out of their own half, the Kings enjoying 83% territory in the opening quarter, and some outstanding defence was also suffocating them.

But the one thing the Lions did prove during their otherwise rather meaningless series of challenge matches was that they have a pack that is up to the rigours of SuperRugby.

A top-class scrum, anchored by loosehead prop and captain JC Janse van Rensburg, and a formidable rolling maul are valuable weapons and partly a result of having Johan Ackermann and Balie Swart on the coaching staff.

Using their scrum and also driving effectively off the lineout, the Lions enjoyed a resurgence in the last 10 minutes of the first half, Elton Jantjies kicking a penalty and Derick Minnie being driven over the tryline, and they took a firm grip on the game after half-time.

The Kings scrum could probably be heard creaking in the nicely-paved plaza outside the stadium and Jantjies was able to give the Lions an 11-9 lead early in the second half after loosehead Schalk Ferreira had been penalised for losing his bind.

Flank Jaco Kriel then surged over for a try that was converted by Jantjies (18-9), enjoying the acres of space that a Kings defence that was far too bunched afforded him out wide.

The seven-point deficit from the first game meant that the Kings had to score 17 points in the last 20 minutes to avoid relegation and the Lions ensured that they had a sniff by making some crucial mistakes.

Jantjies missed an easy penalty after a powerful scrum had turned over possession and wings Chrysander Botha and Anthonie Volmink counter-attacked superbly – the Springbok flyhalf was poor with the boot in general – and Hanekom was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. The decision was fair according to the letter of the law because he lifted an opposition player and then just dropped him.

The response by the Kings was immediate as they kicked the Hanekom penalty to touch and set the rolling maul, which was defended well by the Lions. After a couple of pick-and-goes by the forwards and a sniping run by scrumhalf Shaun Venter that was stopped just short of the line, Ferreira, with Engelbrecht behind him, charged through replacement scrumhalf Guy Cronje to score.

Wing Van Breda, who was impressive with the boot as he came in for the injured Demetri Catrakilis, converted and then scored the Kings’ second try with just six minutes remaining.

The Lions were in possession deep inside the Kings’ half but Kriel was stripped of the ball by the abrasive Jacques Engelbrecht. The focus of the Lions flank seemed to be on equipment failure, however, as Kriel was fiddling with his headgear, which seemed to be slipping down the forehead, just before he went into contact.

The ball was quickly shipped to the backline by the Kings and Shane Gates, the replacement centre, made a searing break down the middle of the field. From there the Kings just needed to draw-and-pass and Van Breda was over in the corner.

The tricky conversion was nailed and the Kings, 23-18 ahead, needed just one more score to deny promotion for the Lions.

By now the crowd was frantic and George Whitehead must have felt like he was the epicentre of all that pressure as he failed to kick a penalty to touch that would have given the Kings a prime opportunity to attack inside the Lions’ half.

The future of rugby in the Eastern Cape is now once again in doubt. This Kings team, the most determined of new boys on the block, will be dismantled with director of rugby Alan Solomons already heading to Edinburgh and most of their better players already linked to the likes of the Bulls.

It is obviously not ideal for South African rugby to have one of their biggest areas not represented by a professional team, never mind that the Eastern Cape is the historical home of black rugby.

The future of the Lions is not exactly rosy either. The quality of their play suggests they will themselves be involved in the rigours of avoiding relegation next year, unless they are able to substantially bolster their squad, reserve depth being vital as well in such a gruelling tournament.

But how are they going to be able to attract players to Ellis Park with the guarantee of just one year of SuperRugby? Providing they can put aside the whole arch-rivals tag that led to some spicy, niggly moments in the first half of the match, several of the Kings players might well be moving to the Lions in the next few months.

But in the meantime we should allow the Lions to enjoy their return to the top-flight – and give great credit to Ackermann and his coaching staff for ensuring their team was up to speed – and mourn with the Kings as what looked a promising crop has been cut back to grassroots in the Eastern Cape.

At the other end of the SuperRugby spectrum, the Brumbies began the final playing with military precision to another canny Jake White game plan.

A ferocious presence at the breakdowns, getting up quickly (or being offsides) and in the faces of the Chiefs on defence and the faultless boot of Christian Lealiifano were the main vehicles for their success as they racked up a 22-12 lead by the hour mark.

Having a top-class openside in George Smith – and lock Scott Fardy was also a prominent player at the breakdowns – was obviously a major support for the game plan and the Chiefs looked a hassled and flustered side as half-time approached.

A defence that rushed inwards from the wings cramped the Chiefs’ preferred expansive style and they conceded a crucial try in the 40th minute when scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow threw a wild pass right into where the defence was concentrated and Lealiifano pouched a brilliant pick-up and sped away for a 47-metre intercept try.

A tally of 10 turnovers in the first half indicated where the Chiefs’ problems lay and they conceded a penalty at the breakdown early in the second half when Fardy and Smith made a great team in catching Kerr-Barlow in possession.

A fifth penalty by Lealiifano, stemming from another Smith turnover, put the Brumbies 22-12 ahead after 59 minutes and they were perhaps already booking an open-top bus in Canberra for a ticker-tape parade.

And that is when the Chiefs showed their champion quality. An alteration to their breakdown strategy – committing an extra man to protect the ball – and deciding to be more direct with ball in hand turned the tide.

And with referee Craig Joubert starting to lose patience with the Brumbies’ spoiling tactics, the final quarter belonged to the Chiefs.

Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White produced a terrible kick to touch off a penalty, leading to a five-metre scrum for the Chiefs and then followed Kerr-Barlow as he went wide, opening up a lovely gap for flank Liam Messam to power through and cut the deficit to 17-22.

Flyhalf Aaron Cruden missed the conversion – and kicked poorly throughout, missing two penalties as well – but it didn’t matter as the Chiefs scored again just four minutes later.

Centres Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Bundee Aki broke out of their own territory and Robbie Robinson then cruised through the defence after one little sidestep.

Cruden then put aside his bum kicking form to kick a late penalty and the Chiefs had the title in the bag.

So the Chiefs win the overall title and the Lions will be benefiting from several million rand more than they had this year, but the other big winner over the weekend was scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

Du Preez, one of the heroes of the 2007 World Cup triumph, has been recalled to the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship. His Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, have however insisted he only play in the Tests in South Africa.

People may well be asking questions as to why Du Preez has been selected when he’s only available on a part-time basis and whether he will be sharp enough after playing for the last two years in the less intense Japanese league.

But one can hardly blame Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer for wanting to have a look at Du Preez, one of the all-time great scrumhalves, given South Africa’s stocks in that position at the moment and the fact that his contract in Japan is coming to an end and he will be available for the 2015 World Cup.

The inexperienced Jano Vermaak and the solid but unspectacular Ruan Pienaar are the other scrumhalves in the squad, while the young Piet van Zyl will replace Du Preez in the squad when they travel overseas. Francois Hougaard is out for the rest of the season after surgery on the ankle that has hampered him all year.

The success of George Smith with the Brumbies is a sign that using Japan-based players might not be on the wrong side of reason, and Meyer has also chosen seven other overseas-based players, the most ever, in both Vermaak and Pienaar, Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw and Gurthro Steenkamp.

Du Preez, experienced Toulouse prop Steenkamp and fit-again eighthman Duane Vermeulen are the three recalled players who did not feature in the incoming quadrangular series in June.

The main criticism of the squad will be the composition of the front row where Meyer has chosen just a single specialist tighthead in the over-worked Jannie du Plessis and four looseheads, although the Springbok coach hopes to convert Coenie Oosthuizen into a number three.

The Cheetahs hero is however definitely more comfortable at loosehead and Meyer really needs to develop the tighthead talent that is there in Oosthuizen’s team-mate Lourens Adriaanse and Wiehahn Herbst of the Sharks. Frans Malherbe of the Stormers is also a candidate but is currently out injured.

Springbok squad – Willie le Roux, Zane Kirchner, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana, Bjorn Basson, Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie, Fourie du Preez, Jano Vermaak, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi, Juandre Kruger, Franco van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Tendai Mtawarira, Gurthro Steenkamp, Trevor Nyakane.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-05-superrugby-chiefs-are-champs/#.WCBoV_l97IU

Lions finish strong in dramatic win over Bulls 0

Posted on June 02, 2016 by Ken

 

The Emirates Lions shrugged off any suggestions that they might fade after returning from their epic tour of Australasia as they snatched a last-minute 22-18 win over the Vodacom Bulls in a dramatic SuperRugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

For 79 minutes there weren’t any tries, but there was no shortage of intensity nor excitement as the two neighbours went at each other tooth, claw and horns, flyhalves Elton Jantjies and Jacques-Louis Potgieter trading the penalties that came from hard-earned, narrow advantages.

There also cannot be any doubts about the belief within this Lions side either as, having controversially seen Jaco Kriel called up for a marginal late tackle by the TMO, the penalty being advanced into range for Potgieter to give the Bulls an 18-15 lead with less than a minute to play, they came storming up in defence to set themselves up for the dramatic winning try.

Hooker Armand van der Merwe is the sort of employee any union would want – he sits long hours on the bench but never fails to make an impact when he comes on and is a constant source of inspiration for his team-mates. The stocky 23-year-old merely added to his growing legend at Ellis Park as he barged over for the winning try after the Lions had tapped the penalty they earned after counter-rucking the Bulls off the ball from the restart.

For most of the first half, it looked as if the slow poison of the Bulls would get the better of the Lions. The visitors had dominated territory and possession, and although the attacking play of the Lions had looked sharp, they simply never had enough of the ball.

The effects of the strangulation took a while to be reflected on the scoreboard, however, as Potgieter missed an early drop-goal attempt and two long-range penalties, while Jantjies took six points from the Lions’ two forays into Bulls’ territory.

But the ferocious work of the Bulls at the breakdowns and in defence eventually took its toll.

The scrums were a terrific contest throughout and the Bulls gained an early confidence boost with a massive effort that shoved the Lions back 15 metres, earning Potgieter’s first successful kick at goals in the 26th minute.

The powerful driving play of Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Spies and Deon Stegmann earned another three points eight minutes later and then the power of the rolling maul allowed Potgieter to put the Bulls 9-6 ahead at the break.

The Lions started the second half with all the verve they are famous for, lifting the tempo and stretching the Bulls. But eventually the stout defence forced the error and the Bulls swept upfield. They looked set to score the opening try in the left corner, but the ball went astray and they could not add to their lead.

It was obviously a crucial moment as the game then “regressed” into a tremendous arm-wrestle, with penalties the only concessions either side was willing to give.

The scrum took centre stage and the penalties went this way and that as the reserve front rows came on.

Jantjies first levelled the scores at 9-9 in the 57th minute and then claimed a 12-9 lead after Morne Mellet lost his bind  and scrummed in on the loosehead side.

But the Lions were then penalised for hands in the ruck (12-12) and then the Bulls scrum won another penalty for Potgieter in the 70th minute.

The Bulls’ 15-12 lead only lasted four minutes, however, as the Lions’ maul then steamrolled their way to another penalty, kicked by Jantjies.

But the controversial Kriel penalty in the 79th minute seemed to have decided the outcome, before the Lions showed the spirit and belief that characterised the matches overseas to claim the spoils from the most dramatic of matches.

Scorers

Lions – Try: Armand van der Merwe. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (5).

Bulls – Penalties: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (6).

http://citizen.co.za/356733/lions-finish-strong-in-dramatic-win-against-bulls/

Hands off our cricket, Guptas! 0

Posted on March 29, 2016 by Ken

 

It would be naïve to think, after all the dramatic revelations this week of just how far the tentacles of the Guptas have infiltrated into practically every organ of state, that sport in this country is okay. Never mind football’s problems now that Fifa have named South Africa as being complicit in bribery.

Sports Minister Razzmatazz may just want to carry on partying and living the life, hoping it all just goes away (“Fifa must retract”, have you ever?), but the government’s ability to make things just disappear doesn’t work so well in overseas courts.

And cricket could face another day of reckoning once it is exposed just how thoroughly Cricket South Africa sold out to the Guptas. It was a few years ago, but many of those same, morally deficient administrators are still on the board.

As with so many of CSA’s problems, it all started with the IPL South Africa hosted in 2009. Initially it all looked okay, a wonderful jamboree of cricket brought to our shores. But it didn’t take long for the sordid underside of the tournament to become visible.

Such a billion dollar event was obviously going to be irresistible to the rapacious Guptas and their fingers had to be in the pie. The Family (ironically, this is how they are known in cricket circles) were involved in the assault of a man in the Wanderers Long Room and when the police were called they were instructed by the Guptas to arrest the victim. It is believed he was subsequently deported.

The IPL was moved to South Africa due to security concerns surrounding the Indian general election, and the South African government instituted a requirement that anyone travelling from troubled areas of India to the tournament would have to undergo a 30-day security clearance process. But when all the Guptas’ friends from Uttar Pradesh wanted to come over for the IPL final, this requirement was mysteriously waived for them, allegedly on the instruction of the family.

A leading administrator of the time says “Many cricket administrators colluded with the Guptas, like the politicians. The Guptas controlled the administrators and Gerald Majola, especially, was their man. He was the means to their control and so, when we were fighting him, we were actually fighting the Guptas.”

Little wonder then that, when some board members, with the support of then BCCI president Shashank Manohar, called for clarity as to how the amount of R400 million paid to CSA for the tournament was spent, there was a furious response from other directors and KPMG were prevented from doing an audit.

There is no doubt there was a you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours relationship between CSA and the Guptas. The Guptas even had their family spokesman, Gary Naidoo, sitting on the board.

When Majola was finally removed from office, his successor, Jacques Faul, faced a vicious onslaught from The New Age, the Gupta newspaper.

Board members have often been invited to Saxonwold and in return the Guptas are used to being treated like royalty at cricket matches, demanding their own tables and such like. The Guptas invited the CSA board to 2010 soccer World Cup games and CSA had board meetings in the family’s R50 000 a day penthouse at the luxurious Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks. Security measures that have been in place for everyone else attending matches, including top CSA administrators, have been waived for the Guptas because they refused to comply.

No one seems to know for sure how much per annum stadiums like Willowmoore Park, Newlands and Kingsmead received for Sahara [the Guptas’ computer company, they even “borrowed” the name of the more famous Indian version] getting the naming rights; but the talk is it was a negligible amount.

The finger has also been pointed at TV broadcasters, with a schools cricket game at St David’s being shown live in prime time; co-incidentally one of the Gupta sons was playing.

Cricket administrators also speak of the build-up to the IPL when they were told by the Guptas not to bother keeping then sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile informed of proceedings because “we have been to the cabinet kgotla and he won’t be sports minister for long”. That’s another thing Fikile Mbalula has to answer for, given his denials about how he was put in his post in the first place.

The day is hopefully coming soon when South Africa is rid of this parasitic family, whose presence must become as unpopular as e-toll gantries given how they have sucked the blood of the people along with their corrupt accomplices.

 

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • 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



↑ Top