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Ken Borland



Bulls earn credit, but still lose 0

Posted on April 01, 2017 by Ken

 

The Bulls will earn deserved credit for their improvement, but the end result was still the same as they went down 28-12 to the Chiefs in a bonus point defeat in their SuperRugby match in Hamilton on Saturday.

A superb first-half display by the Bulls in which intensity crackled through everything they did – in attack they were direct and handled superbly, while their defence was physical and uncompromising – saw them claim a deserved 9-3 lead at the break.

But the Chiefs showed their class as they stayed composed and were able to pull away from the 50-minute mark, scoring three tries in an ultimately impressive victory.

The Chiefs had a terrible time in the first half trying to contain superb Bulls inside centre Burger Odendaal, who led the visitors’ resurgence with some powerful ball-carries and excellent midfield defence. It led to the home side having missed an awful 15 tackles by halftime.

But the Bulls just lacked the attacking incisiveness to convert their gains into points on the scoreboard.

When centre Jan Serfontein went inside instead of pinning his ears back on the outside following some storming runs by Odendaal in the fourth minute, it was one of many moments when the Bulls were left wondering what might have been.

The Chiefs had been caught offsides in the build-up, however, and flyhalf Handre Pollard was at least able to kick a penalty for an early 3-0 lead.

More superb carries and direct running by the Bulls, and a determined rumble forward by prop Trevor Nyakane, led to another Pollard penalty in the 10th minute, but the Chiefs dominated the first scrum four minutes later, earning a penalty kicked by flyhalf Aaron Cruden (3-6).

But the Bulls had the final say in the first half as the Chiefs tried to run the ball out of their own 22 after conceding a free kick, but were turned over, allowing the Bulls to string several phases together and earn another Pollard penalty for not releasing at the ruck.

But the tide began to turn in the 51st minute as wing Jamba Ulengo suffered another horrible moment in defence, wing Shaun Stevenson leaving him flatfooted as the Chiefs attacked off a lineout, and then grubbering through and regathering the ball for the first try of the match. Cruden converted to give the Chiefs a 10-9 lead.

That was quickly stretched to 13-9 with another Cruden penalty after Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss stupidly went off his feet at a ruck in front of his own poles, but the visitors had a stroke of luck in the 62nd minute when a dominant Chiefs scrum was penalised for illegal wheeling, Pollard’s long-range penalty closing the gap to one point (12-13).

But it was all the Chiefs in the final 15 minutes as the Bulls suffered another late-game fade.

The Bulls lost a four-man lineout in their own 22 but a superb tackle by lock RG Snyman prevented fullback Damian McKenzie from knifing through to score. But an earlier infringement allowed Cruden to kick a penalty and stretch the lead back to 16-12.

A lovely 71st-minute move from a scrum saw scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow running at the line before putting a grubber through that McKenzie raced on to and dotted down.

Another slick backline move with two minutes remaining saw different angles of running and McKenzie bursting through, before replacement prop Atunaisa Moli charged through and reached over the line for the bonus point try.

The scrums were hard-fought transactions, but they did allow the Chiefs to release some of the pressure on them as they had the edge in that set-piece. Nyakane’s move to tighthead was again a talking point.

Lock Lood de Jager was a hardworking – if not always accurate – member of the pack, with partner Snyman also shining, while Jannes Kirsten came off the bench after 20 minutes to replace eighthman Arno Botha and made his presence felt. He should be in the starting line-up next week.

Jesse Kriel was impressive at fullback and halfbacks Rudy Paige and Pollard were on the same page.

But while the Bulls were much-improved, being gutsy losers is not a tag they or their supporters will take kindly to.

Scorers

ChiefsTries: Shaun Stevenson, Damian McKenzie, Atunaisa Moli. Conversions: Aaron Cruden (2). Penalties: Cruden (3).

BullsPenalties: Handre Pollard (4).

Siboto earns the reprieve he had been hoping for 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Malusi Siboto had probably been hoping the ground could swallow him whole when he dropped a sitter of a catch in the 12th over of the CSA T20 Challenge final at SuperSport Park on Friday night; by the end of the match he was rushing off the field to embrace his gran, who was watching him play cricket for the first time and was able to see the 29-year-old deliver a superb final over to seal a thrilling six-run victory for the Titans over the Warriors.

In a gripping, low-scoring encounter, the Titans were defending just 156 and the Warriors looked well on course as they reached 91 for three in the 12th over with Colin Ackermann and Christiaan Jonker adding 48 off 37 balls.

That was when Ackermann, on 21, looped a sweep off wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi to short fine leg and Siboto, whose nickname is Lolly, dropped a dolly. Even though Jonker was out next ball for 33 off 25 balls, foolishly sweeping Shamsi to fine leg, Ackermann batted on and scored 34.

He and Qaasim Adams, trapped lbw for 17 by Shamsi, missing a sweep, were dismissed in successive overs in the midst of a superb Titans comeback. A magnificent penultimate over from Junior Dala cost just six runs, but it still left Siboto with only 11 runs to play with in the final over.

The former Knights seamer, enjoying his first season with the Titans, was brilliant, going full and straight and hitting the blockhole as he conceded just four singles and a wide.

“I dropped the wrong guy and in my mind I knew I should have taken that catch. So I told myself that when I bowl again I must make up for it … and I guess I did,” Siboto said afterwards.

“I was overwhelmed and just froze when I bowled the wide, but I knew I just had to try and make things right. Afterwards I ran off the field to my gran, who was watching me play cricket for the first time,” Siboto added.

For Titans coach Mark Boucher, the win, for his debut trophy in his first season in charge, was made even more special because the Warriors had been in a commanding position.

“It had been a bit frustrating because we put ourselves under pressure, but it became a tight match anyway and we held our nerve. It wasn’t the perfect game from us, we didn’t score enough runs, but we played pressure cricket and finals are often about who holds their bottle longest.

“I’m very proud of the guys because it was a dogfight, it wasn’t pretty. The Warriors had picked up momentum, but Junior Dala (4-0-25-0) hit his straps really well and pulled that momentum back, showing good pace and aggression. He handled the pressure very well – he even said to me that he doesn’t feel pressure! – and then Malusi, geez, he came good!

“He hadn’t had a great night, his first over went for 10 and then he dropped that catch, and other players might have gone into their shell and faded away, but he took the bull by the horns and got the ball in the right areas.

“You can’t train that sort of thing, you can practise skills and talk about tactics all day long, but the player has got to want those tough moments. The whole team really wanted that trophy, so they dealt with the pressure really well,” Boucher said.

The Titans had been sent in to bat and battled to 155 for six in their 20 overs, Aiden Markram scoring 33 and Albie Morkel 21, but nobody was able to score at much more than a run-a-ball, Boucher saying their struggles being born out of misreading the pitch.

“We got the wicket wrong and went too hard, too early; 160 was about par but scoreboard pressure played its part in the Warriors’ chase. We picked up vital wickets early on to put them on the back foot and the bowlers bowled in good areas with the pitch being a bit slow and up-and-down. It was a fantastic final, sometimes the low-scoring games are the best,” Boucher said.

That the Titans made it to 155 was thanks to David Wiese, who struck 24 not out off 15 balls and took 19 off the last over bowled by Sisanda Magala.

Wiese’s all-round performance was heroic as he then had to take over the captaincy in the first over of the Warriors’ innings after Morkel left the field with a strained hamstring after just five deliveries, and the opening wicket of Clyde Fortuin for a two-ball duck as Markram (brilliant in the field) held on to a scorcher at backward point. And Wiese then bowled four overs for just 31 runs and claimed the key wicket of Jon-Jon Smuts, caught behind for 16.

Dala and Lungi Ngidi, whose two for 27 included the vital scalps of Colin Ingram, caught behind for 12, and Ackermann, were also outstanding with the ball for the Titans.

Last rites for sad Bulls with Matfield last link to glory days 0

Posted on December 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls will complete another sad SuperRugby campaign in Pretoria today against the Cheetahs and, by the end of the game, Victor Matfield could be the last person remaining at Loftus Versfeld with any link to the glory days of 2007-2010 when they won the competition three times in four years.

The Bulls confirmed yesterday that the match against the Cheetahs will be the last for captain Pierre Spies and flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter as they join the overseas exodus of players that will also include Jacques du Plessis, Flip van der Merwe and Akona Ndungane, while Francois Hougaard is heading for Japan but negotiations are underway for him to return for next year’s SuperRugby tournament.

Matfield is not playing against the Cheetahs because he is being rested as per the agreement with the Springbok management, but he has already announced that his playing days will be over after the World Cup.

But the veteran lock is bound to be back at Loftus Versfeld in the new year because he is the favourite to replace Frans Ludeke as coach. The man who was behind the 2009 and 2010 wins faced the Bulls board yesterday in a last-ditch attempt to save his job, but unless there was a late change in heart, Ludeke is also on his way out.

So there will be a sombre mood at Loftus Versfeld tonight, made worse by the knowledge that even a Bulls victory will do little to change their fortunes in another season that has fallen way short of expectations.

At least the rugby on offer could provide some entertainment.

New Cheetahs coach Franco Smith is preaching an expansive, linking style of play, while Spies has stressed how determined the Bulls are to end on a high.

“There’s plenty of motivation because we want to end on a high. If we can get five points and finish in the top eight on the log then the picture looks a bit better. We want to play a good attacking brand of rugby and hold on to the ball for a few more phases. There should be plenty of broken-field play and the Cheetahs love that as well,” Spies said.

Putting their bodies on the line in defence is probably not going to rank too high on either side’s list of priorities, but the Bulls should have a slight edge in motivation as they look to avoid a third defeat on home soil this season.

 

The Lions & the Springboks are totally different environments 0

Posted on August 15, 2016 by Ken

 

So it didn’t quite end in jubilation, but the Lions’ SuperRugby campaign still brought enormous pride and good feeling over their rags-to-riches story, and the public will carry many of those emotions into the Rugby Championship that starts next weekend.

But it is vital to realise that the Springboks and the Test arena are entirely different environments to the Lions and SuperRugby, and comments calling for the whole of Johan Ackermann’s team to be promoted to the national side or for coach Allister Coetzee to simply copy the game plan are ill-informed, ill-judged and have the potential to be divisive.

The health of any rugby team has a lot to do with its unity of purpose and their togetherness as people, and one could sense some frustration this week when the Springbok management and some of the players were constantly asked questions that referred back to the Lions.

Hopefully Lions captain Warren Whiteley, whose hard work on the field and wise words off it are nothing short of inspirational, put that all to bed this week when he highlighted in no uncertain terms that the Springboks are different.

“There’s no debate about using the same playing style, these are two different sides and we are not talking about unions any more. You’re talking about a team at provincial level against a national side. Sure, we as Lions players can bring confidence to the Springboks and there are similarities in the way we are trying to play. But there’s a step up when you come to the Springboks and the intensity and speed with which we’ve been training is at another level to the Lions,” Whiteley said this week.

Last weekend’s column bemoaned the parlous state of the Currie Cup, South Africa’s flagship rugby competition, but the performance of the Lions is one of the reasons for optimism when it comes to South African rugby.

Amidst the ritz and glitz of the Olympics there was another reason for cheer, even if the Blitzbokke flattered to deceive and had to settle for a bronze medal (still a notable achievement and more than New Zealand or Australia could manage). I’m talking about Rasta Rashivenge being given the honour of refereeing the Sevens final, an appointment that continues a long line of excellence when it comes to South African officials.

They receive way more criticism than plaudits simply because of human nature, but our referees and the high standards they maintain is one of the best stories in South African rugby.

Some of the media were privileged this week to be able to sit down with leading referee Jaco Peyper for an information session just to help us scribes better understand why certain decisions are made on the field and how the officials are interpreting the details of the laws these days.

Peyper said a referee makes about 400 decisions in every game and there will always be little mistakes, but the important thing is to ensure these do not have a major impact on the game.

He also said it is important to note that the key focus areas that referees are blowing these days have been decided in consultation with the coaches and other stakeholders, notably medical staff. They have had their say on what the shape of the game should look like and how to make it safer, and the referee’s job is to facilitate that.

Interestingly, there are some well-known phrases in our rugby lexicon, like “downward pressure”, “the direction of the hands when passing” and “bringing the catcher of the ball down safely” that don’t appear anywhere in the laws of the game.

This has led to some confusion amongst the public when watching games and the referees and TMOs don’t take any of those polluting myths into account, most often leading to filthy language in the lounge. For a clear and thorough view of the laws, including the opportunity to discuss issues with leading referees, I would recommend going to http://www.sareferees.com/

 

 



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