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Ken Borland



Lions victory due in no small part to Jantjies masterclass 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions roared into the SuperRugby final with a 42-30 victory over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday due in no small part to a masterclass in flyhalf play by Elton Jantjies.

Jantjies was his usual brilliant self with ball in hand, scoring one try and setting up another for wing Courtnall Skosan with a dazzling blindside break from his own 22, while he was once again reliable kicking for poles, nailing four conversions and three penalties from his eight shots at goal. He was also strong defensively, holding his channel well and it was his hit in midfield in the 24th minute that provided the loose ball for centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg to score and increase the Lions’ lead to 17-3.

But it was his tactical kicking that was at another level in Saturday’s semifinal as the Lions consistently cleared any danger in their own 22, nullifying the strong kicking game of the Highlanders and driving them back in the territory battle, as well as turning their defensive line around very well.

Jantjies said it was due to getting the decision-making right on the day.

“It’s a privilege to play with this group of players and it just came down to making the right decisions. You look to create opportunities and you hope the gap opens up, otherwise you kick. I just play what is in front of me,” Jantjies said. “I just enjoyed it out there, we worked hard at playing at huge intensity and to go for the whole 80 minutes, which we needed to do.”

Coach Johan Ackermann was more forthcoming in praising his flyhalf general.

“It was very important that we did well at the exits, as shown by the one time we let it slip and the Highlanders scored. In general we were accurate at our exits, and decision-making goes hand-in-hand with that. The kicking and passing games were both good tonight, and now’s the right time for players like Elton to be in really good form,” Ackermann said.

Jantjies had some bad defensive misses when playing for the Springboks against Ireland in the June internationals to raise some question marks over that area of his game, but the 25-year-old was excellent in defence on Saturday and put it down to hard work during the week.

“I’ve had a few challenges, but this week I did a lot of one-on-one tackling work, I focused on that,” Jantjies said.

The Lions will now fly to Wellington on Sunday night, arriving midnight on Monday, and one of the features of the final will be the battle of the flyhalves between Hurricanes star Beauden Barrett and Jantjies, probably the two most in-form number 10s in the world right now.

But Jantjies was not going to be drawn on that match-up.

“I don’t have individual battles, it’s all about the team and just making sure I do my job for the team. The Hurricanes and Beauden Barrett are playing good rugby, and obviously they’re one-up on us after giving us 50 points at Ellis Park a few months ago. But we learnt a lot from our last game against them and we played some good stuff tonight. But we will have to reassess again on Monday,” Jantjies said.

Ackermann said he was content going to Wellington for a chance to put the cherry on top of what has already been a historic season for the Lions – their best ever in SuperRugby.

“Three years ago this week we were playing promotion/relegation and now this week we’ve made the final, which is really stunning. In finals, I believe everyone has a chance, they’re 50/50. Yes, we have to travel, but we won three out of four games last year and two out of three this year on the road, so this team loves to be together and to travel.

“It’s a once-off game and, as the Highlanders reminded us when they came into our changeroom after the game, they won there in Wellington last year. The pressure is on the Hurricanes, it’s a home game for them,” Ackermann said.

Bulls bench three more Springboks for Kings match 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls are already without the services of Springboks due to injury, but such is their confidence at the top of the South African Conference that they have put another three on the bench for their Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Southern Kings at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Chief among the three on the bench is flyhalf Morne Steyn, the provider of most of their points, tactical direction and territorial dominance, who finally gets a break.

Louis Fouche will start at flyhalf, while lock Juandre Kruger and centre JJ Engelbrecht are also on the bench. Former Lions star Grant Hattingh will start in the number five jersey, while resting Engelbrecht has allowed coach Frans Ludeke to try Jan Serfontein at outside centre, which could also have interesting implications for the Springboks as well.

The Bulls will be grateful for the seven-match winning streak that has given them an eight-point lead in the South African Conference and, even with Jano Vermaak, Arno Botha and captain Pierre Spies being ruled out due to injury during the June internationals, they still have 13 Springboks in their starting line-up and nobody really expects them to lose to the Kings at their Loftus Versfeld fortress. And even if they do, they will still be sitting pretty.

Their chief rivals, the Cheetahs, have no such liberties and they simply have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive when they travel to Cape Town to take on a Stormers side that will have been given licence to express themselves with their competition hopes all but over.

The Cheetahs have rushed all their Springbok squad members back into action, but the good news for them is that Robert Ebersohn, Lappies Labuschagne and Lourens Adriaanse saw no actual on-field action and will therefore be rested and refreshed, while Piet van Zyl, Coenie Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane had little game time.

Even without Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who has finally succumbed to injury, the Stormers still boast high-profile players such as Bryan Habana, Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi and there is nothing they would like more than to cut the Cheetahs down to size.

The Cheetahs snatched victory over the Stormers in Bloemfontein back in April with an 82nd-minute penalty by Burton Francis and since then the Stormers’ fortunes have nosedived to the extent that they are eleventh on the overall log.

But the Cheetahs have only won once before at Newlands and have won just three of their 10 SuperRugby meetings with the Stormers overall, so the home side has plenty of pride to play for.

On the theme of being cut down to size, the Sharks return to SuperRugby action this weekend with a new coach after their incoming CEO wielded the axe in dramatic fashion.

How the players respond to all the uncertainty stemming from John Smit’s arrival and the unceremonious departure of former CEO Brian van Zyl and coach John Plumtree remains to be seen as they tackle the Blues, who are still fighting for a playoff place.

Former assistant coach Grant Bashford has temporarily taken the reins of the Sharks.

For all the teams, however, there is the question of how the three-week break has affected them. Will their motors splutter back to life in clouds of smoke and not much acceleration, or will they return smoothly to the track and quickly find fifth gear?

For the Bulls and Cheetahs, there is crucial momentum to be maintained, but for the Sharks and Stormers, there is the possibility of a fresh start and a much better finish to the competition than the way they began.

The Southern Kings, meanwhile, are almost guaranteed to finish last in the South African Conference despite all their effort and determination and they need to make important decisions about the balance between resting key players and having them ready for the playoff / relegation series against the Lions.

There is bound to be more drama before the end of the tournament, with the Allister Coetzee household no doubt in a state of some trepidation as many Stormers fans have been calling for his head. And the board might just have been emboldened by the Sharks’ move to change coach.

Coetzee’s best insurance of course is to win and Newlands will host the pick of the weekend’s fixtures as a quality side looking for redemption faces the new contenders, desperate for victory and with in-form future stars in their ranks.

Teams

The Sharks (v Blues, Saturday 14:50): Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Louis Ludik, Butch James, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Edwin Hewitt, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements – Bismarck du Plessis, Danie Mienie/Wiehahn Herbst, Jandré Marais, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Jaco van Tonder.

Bulls (v Southern Kings, Saturday 17:05): Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Jan Serfontein, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Louis Fouché, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements – Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Juandré Kruger, Jono Ross, Rudy Paige, Morné Steyn, JJ Engelbrecht.

Southern Kings (v Bulls, Saturday 17:05): SP Marais, Michael Killian, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss, Marcello Sampson, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, Darron Nell, David Bulbring, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – Grant Kemp, Hannes Franklin, Rynier Bernardo, Devin Oosthuizen, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whitehead, Shane Gates.

Stormers (v Cheetahs, Saturday 19:15): Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi, De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements – Scarra Ntubeni, Ross Geldenhuys, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Dewaldt Duvenage, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.

Cheetahs (v Stormers, Saturday 19:15): Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagné, Heinrich Brüssow, Ligtoring Landman, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements – Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Waltie Vermeulen, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Howard Mnisi.

Other fixtures: Chiefs v Hurricanes (Friday 9:35); Highlanders v Crusaders (Saturday 9:35).

 

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-28-superrugby-confident-bulls-to-rest-three-more-against-southern-kings/#.Vw-E6_l97IU

Former players’ SuperRugby predictions 0

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Ken

 

How will SuperRugby work out? I spoke to some former players who gave their views on what shape the various franchises are in and what they need to work on …

 

Butch James (2007 World Cup winner, former Sharks & Lions flyhalf)

I always hope the Sharks do well and hopefully they can go one step further this year. It will be interesting to see Pieter-Steph du Toit back and I think he’ll have a big season.

I think when Pat Lambie spoke about not worrying about scoring tries, he was playing it down because everyone seems to be on that course. So he’s trying to take the pressure off the team, but if they can put some tries on the scoreboard then they have a good chance of winning the competition. They’re not going to play a kicking game. Every team will try and score tries, the Bulls also want to do that.

The Sharks have brilliant forwards, a great pack, but I see some difficulties in the backs. I hope numbers nine-to-15 stay injury free this year because that’s what let us down last season.

 

Marius Hurter (1995 World Cup winner, former Bulls & Lions prop)

In our conference I’m backing the Sharks and Bulls to do well. The Bulls are due some luck, they’ve been through some hard times but I think Frans Ludeke is getting the squad fired up this year.

The Sharks are always a good outfit and they’re consistent as well.

The Bulls’ scrum is a worry, us Bulls always pride ourselves on that and I hope they sort it out. It’s just little things, but the scrum gives you a tactical advantage and it has a psychological effect as well. If you’re doing badly in the scrums then all your plays, all your attack, defence, is on the back foot. That piles up and it has a snowball effect. Lineouts, scrums, rucks is what Bulls rugby is about, and they just need to adapt to the laws and the referees.

But the Bulls have got the squad, it’s just a few technical things to sort out and gelling as a team.

 

John Slade (played over a hundred games for the Sharks at lock during the halcyon 1990s)

John Smit has brought something different to the Sharks and made some really good changes, so I’m very positive about their chances. Even last year they were very good, but then stumbled at the last hurdle in a very tough competition.

Gary Gold is a very good coach, Brendan Venter is a master craftsman, so the structure’s in place, they have the players and they’ve brought some extra players in like Mouritz Botha, Jean Deysel and Michael Claassens because what you need is depth.

It’s also a very happy squad and that flows on to the field and winning comes naturally. It’s very important that there’s no discontent, because that leads to trouble.

 

Joel Stransky (1995 World Cup winner, former Northern Transvaal, Sharks & Western Province flyhalf)

The Bulls have got some injured players back and they’ve said up front that they want to play with more freedom, but can they sustain that in pressure situations? The way they play has been a bit disappointing in the past and hopefully they use the ball a bit more this season.

The Sharks have a blend of youth and experience and they’re going to be a real force, while the Stormers tend to be hot and cold, they need to be more consistent. The Cheetahs are by far our weakest franchise, while the Lions are an unknown quantity. They have no real stars, but a wonderful game plan, they give it a full go, they’re committed and gutsy. But how long can they sustain that? In the end injuries will decide whether they have a mixed bag of results or not.

 

 



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