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Ken Borland



Lions show they can win well without the ball 0

Posted on July 23, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions had to show they are able to win without the ball and they did that to impressive effect at Ellis Park on Saturday night as they beat the Crusaders 42-25 in their SuperRugby quarterfinal.

The Lions probably only enjoyed about 40% of possession and territory, but their defence was superb and they showed a ruthless streak when they did have the ball, clinical finishing giving them five tries.

It was one-way traffic in the first 10 minutes though as the Lions scored two tries to settle their nerves and give them a 12-0 lead which the Crusaders chipped away at, but could never entirely eliminate.

After flank Warwick Tecklenburg had barged over the advantage line, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk made a good decision to go left and wing Courtnall Skosan showed lovely footwork to step past a couple of defenders and then race away from the halfway line for a superb second-minute try.

De Klerk was once again prominent in the Lions’ second try five minutes later as he intercepted a pass and led a breakaway from their own territory, Skosan loomed up in support and was stopped just short of the tryline, illegally, leading to a penalty.

Sensing blood, the Lions kicked to touch and got the rolling maul going and this time there was no avoiding a yellow card for the Crusaders when they sacked it illegally, lock Luke Romano being sent off the field by referee Craig Joubert.

That penalty was also kicked to touch and, a couple of phases after the lineout, bulldozer centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg went over for the try.

Elton Jantjies converted and seven minutes later he added a penalty after De Klerk had linked well with his forwards and backs and decoy runners had caused some confusion in the Crusaders defence.

The Lions were 15-0 up but they spent most of the second quarter pinned in their own territory and having to defend courageously, making tackle-after-tackle, to keep the Crusaders out.

While the visitors showed excellent ball-retention, most of the Lions’ problems were related to their poor tactical kicking and not getting enough distance on their clearing kicks.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga kicked a 19th-minute penalty and the Crusaders eventually made their territorial dominance count in terms of tries when another telling dart by wing Johnny McNicholl, who had been a handful on attack, led to outside centre Ryan Crotty dotting the ball down on the side of the post.

Mo’unga’s conversion closed the gap to 15-10 and the momentum was certainly with the Crusaders.

But the Lions brushed aside the difficulties of the last half-hour, a power scrum winning a penalty, which was again used to set the rolling maul, from which hooker Malcolm Marx scored.

Jantjies converted and the Lions were far more comfortable on the scoreboard – 22-10 up – than they were in reality at halftime.

But the Crusaders are a skilful side good at building pressure and they kept the ball through multiple phases at the start of the second half, trapping the Lions offsides and earning Mo’unga another penalty (13-22).

The Lions are perhaps too reliant on De Klerk using clearing kicks from the base, which are inevitably going to be more like an up-and-under than a long, raking touchfinder, but when Jantjies did manage to kick long and force the Crusaders back for a 22 drop out, it led to a penalty advantage and the flyhalf slotted a neat drop goal for the Lions to rebuild their lead.

The Crusaders were disappointed with the penalty count against them and they gave Jantjies another shot at goal in the 61st minute, the Lions getting front-foot ball as Janse van Rensburg crashed through the advantage line yet again.

The kicking game of the Crusaders was much better than the Lions’ and it earned them their second try when fullback Israel Dagg put pressure on the home side trying to field an up-and-under, the ball went loose and was tidied up by Mo’unga. He made it inside the Lions’ 22 before feeding replacement scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond for an easy run-in.

Mo’unga’s conversion made it 20-28 and the result was obviously back in the balance with 17 minutes remaining.

But the surprise substitution of the outstanding Janse van Rensburg brought immediate rewards. His replacement Howard Mnisi put outside centre Lionel Mapoe away with a sublime first touch, the Springbok incumbent racing through and then showing good composure to wait for the arrival of wing Ruan Combrinck in support. The power finish of the new international completed probably the try of the match.

On a special evening for the Lions, it was fantastic that some of their unsung heroes like Mnisi, Skosan and Tecklenburg produced some of the biggest plays.

Mnisi was in the thick of things again just five minutes later as his big tackle on McNicholl led to a turnover, which was sent wide, Mapoe chipping infield and replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje getting to the ball first and then fighting his way over the line.

Unfortunately, he injured himself in the process and his fitness is a concern for next weekend’s semi-final at Ellis Park.

With Jantjies’ conversion making it 42-20, the Lions no longer had to worry and an attempt to run the ball in their own 22 instead gave the Crusaders a consolation try through replacement flyhalf Ben Volavola.

But the Lions were convincing winners and by beating the seven-time champions and playoff experts, they have marked themselves as strong contenders for the title.

If they are as clinical on attack and as determined in defence as they were against the Crusaders, it would be silly to bet against them in their home semifinal next weekend.

 

 

Sharks come badly undone against superb Lions 0

Posted on July 02, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions played with superb fluency and confidence, pace and power, to ensure the Sharks would come badly undone on their visit to Johannesburg, the hosts winning their SuperRugby match 37-10 at Ellis Park on Saturday.

After weathering an impressive first five minutes from the Sharks, the Lions were quick to communicate their intention to pick up where they left off before the June international break, their previous result being a similarly superb 56-20 demolition of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

The Sharks’ bright start withered in the face of some ferocious defending from the Lions and they simply pushed the visitors ever further from the advantage line, bossing the collisions and producing the quick ball that they flourished on, displaying wonderful skills and intensity in the process.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies put the first points on the board with a seventh-minute penalty and the woes began for the Sharks as Paul Jordaan limped off with a knee injury. They had already been forced to make a midfield change when Andre Esterhuizen failed to recover in time from the hamstring strain he picked up during the week, which meant Jordaan was playing inside centre and JP Pietersen shifted to number 13 and S’bura Sithole came on to the wing.

Heimar Williams then came on to replace Jordaan and, with Garth April appearing flustered at flyhalf, the Sharks had a severely disrupted backline, the Esterhuizen/Jordaan combination being one of their strong points this season.

But what was unforgivable was the number of basic mistakes the Sharks made in the first half, starting with scrumhalf Michael Claassens basically bailing out of taking an up-and-under, giving the Lions prime attacking position. Lionel Mapoe produced an incisive run, Jaco Kriel, as ever, was up in support and made the final pass for wing Ruan Combrinck to score the opening try in the 15th minute.

The Sharks were also poor at relieving pressure in their own territory, allowing the Lions to mount relentless attacks because their kicks were often up-and-unders instead of touchfinders, and too often they did not find touch or grass.

The second try came after an up-and-under from the base rather than a lengthy kick to clear the lines, followed by Odwa Ndungane dithering and not claiming a mark that could also have relieved the pressure. Instead the Lions piled on to attack, lock Franco Mostert powered through close to the line and eventually centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg grabbed the ball out of a maul and swiveled over the line.

On the half-hour, the jittery April kicked straight to fullback Andries Coetzee, who launched the attack and Combrinck’s little chip behind the defensive line bounced wickedly for Lwazi Mvovo, again in the north-east corner of Ellis Park, with eighthman Ruan Ackermann gathering and passing to hooker Malcolm Marx to storm over for the third try.

The Sharks were 20-0 down and then butchered the best chance they had to get on the scoreboard when Mvovo’s pace took him clear, but his pass inside to Ndungane was a bit behind the fullback and the veteran dropped the ball with the line clear ahead of him.

While the dazzling attacking play of the Lions backline gets most of the plaudits, their pack is also brilliant and they deserve the credit for the fourth try, scored on the stroke of halftime, as the forwards went on the charge, battering through the advantage line until Ackermann, one of the stars of the show as he stood in for the injured Warren Whiteley, powered over the line with two of his colleagues behind him.

Jantjies’ conversion meant the Lions would go into the break with a commanding 27-0 lead and the problems that bedevilled the Sharks did not go away in the third quarter either.

April produced an awful kick from his own 22 that did not go anywhere but straight up, leading to a penalty slotted by Jantjies, and the ball-hungry Kriel then crashed over the line in a move that again highlighted the pace and power of the Lions forwards.

At 37-0 down with 22 minutes to play, the Sharks were really just chasing pride and their replacements, especially lock Ruan Botha, added some much-needed energy.

The visitors were finally on the board in the 63rd minute, Sithole cutting through the Lions defences and some clean hands by April and replacement fullback Rhyno Smith delivered the ball to Mvovo, who stepped inside and dotted down.

Six minutes later, Botha, who announced his return from long-term injury with a compelling performance in the Ellis Park fortress, soared high to take a lineout and set up the rolling maul, from which another Sharks import, replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, scored.

That made it five tries to two and, if the Sharks had managed to score once more in the last 11 minutes it would have robbed the Lions of a well-deserved bonus point, but Johannesburg’s pride held out to ensure they will top their conference and host the city’s first SuperRugby knockout game since 2001.

Ireland unable to handle entry of Boks’ big weapons – Schmidt 0

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Ireland coach Joe Schmidt said the entry of South Africa’s big weapons in the second half had delivered an onslaught that the tourists were unable to handle as the Springboks turned a 19-3 halftime deficit into a thrilling 32-26 victory in the second Test at Ellis Park at the weekend.

“We said at halftime that we can’t sit on the lead with the weaponry South Africa have, and that was in full evidence in the second half. They delivered an onslaught that we couldn’t match up to, the result was earned by the Springbok ball-carriers.

“The way the Springboks came back was relatively irrepressible – Damian de Allende is a devastating carrier, Ruan Combrinck is unbelievably tough to put down, once he got the ball in his hands he was a real handful, and Warren Whiteley scored a really well-taken try,” Schmidt said after the game.

Ireland captain Rory Best said his team still believed they could go to Port Elizabeth and win the series in the third Test next weekend.

“Obviously this defeat is very hard to take, for large parts of the first two-thirds of the game we did all the things we talked about – we were physical, we got off the line quickly and we held on to the ball. But we couldn’t defend that lead because once the Springboks started to come around the corner we began to slip tackles. If you don’t compete around the fringes against the Springboks then you’re going to lose.

“But we’ll take this loss on the chin and come out stronger on the other side. We still have a chance to win the Test series and we have to make sure that if we’re in this position again, we don’t make the same errors. We must improve on the last quarter,” hooker Best said.

 

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/

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  • 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



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