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Ken Borland



Titanic clash as Bulls search for revenge for opening-weekend hammering 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls and the Stormers are the two leading sides in the South African SuperRugby Conference and are age-old rivals, so it will be a titanic clash when they meet at Newlands on Saturday, with the Bulls expecting a ferocious contest up front as they go in search of revenge for the 29-17 hammering they suffered at the hands of the Capetonians at Loftus Versfeld on the opening weekend of the season.

“It’s going to be another tough South African derby and it’s nice that it’s such an important game. They came here and won and hopefully we can do the same down there. It’s important that we play for the full 80 minutes, we have to be consistent and use our opportunities well,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said in Pretoria this week.

“The Stormers are very direct, they work hard on the gain-line and the game is going to be decided up front, whoever can get a solid base up there will be on the front foot. The gain-line is going to be crucial because that’s where the penalties and the line-breaks happen. And the team that keeps their discipline best normally comes out on top,” coach Frans Ludeke added.

Apart from the SA Conference lead being up for grabs, what makes the match so mouthwatering are the head-to-head clashes in this World Cup year – Marcel van der Merwe v Steven Kitshoff, Flip van der Merwe v Eben Etzebeth, Spies v Duane Vermeulen, Jan Serfontein v Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel v Cheslin Kolbe.

“Those will definitely spice up the game, even though we’re not thinking about the World Cup now. It’s always there though in the background and this might be the last time we play each other before then. We don’t try to get involved in personal battles, but the media sets the table for us, it’s always there,” Spies said.

The Bulls and the Stormers are also like peas in a pod in the way they have evolved since that opening encounter on Valentine’s Day.

As Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee pointed out this week, Jesse Kriel has started in place of Jurgen Visser at fullback since then and has changed the shape of the Bulls’ attack.

The Bulls’ scrum is also likely to be a harder nut to crack than it was that day at Loftus Versfeld, with the two Van der Merwe’s back and Trevor Nyakane full of confidence and ready to come off the bench and make an impact.

“We lost Werner Kruger in the first three minutes of that game and Trevor was thrown into the deep end at tighthead. But I felt we finished the scrums well, we battled through. But that game is in the past, we’ve improved a lot and we are definitely a different side compared to then. A lot of players have come back from injury and we definitely have a more all-round game,” Ludeke said.

The Stormers have switched to a more pragmatic approach after three successive losses to New Zealand teams, being more patient in terms and when and where to attack and it has borne fruit with victories over the Waratahs and the Force on tour.

But for all the backline brilliance both teams will bring to Newlands, the real battle will be underground in the trenches up front.

 

Sharks expect & train for physicality & high tempo from Jaguares 0

Posted on March 02, 2016 by Ken

 

Physicality and a high tempo from the Jaguares is what the Sharks are expecting and have trained for ahead of their SuperRugby clash against the tournament newcomers at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, according to veteran wing Odwa Ndungane.

After the Sharks hammered the Kings in Port Elizabeth and the Jaguares staged a dramatic comeback to pip the Cheetahs in the opening round of matches, the KwaZulu-Natal franchise are one point ahead of the Argentinians in their conference and intend to stay ahead of their dangerous opponents.

“Watching the Jaguares in the World Cup and the Rugby Championship, and then again against the Cheetahs, it’s definitely going to be a tough game, they are physical and play at a fast tempo, they showed they like to throw the ball around last weekend.

“But that’s what we’ve been exposed to in SuperRugby. Although we beat Toulon and Toulouse on our pre-season tour and they were a good test, we knew that it wasn’t really SuperRugby level. We always knew we would have to make a step up and it will be no different this weekend. We’ll have to be really tight and not give them a sniff,” Ndungane said on Tuesday.

When they managed to get quick ball against the tenacious Kings, the Sharks were able to play some daring rugby, with Ndungane scoring twice in a typically busy-bee performance by the evergreen 35-year-old.

“To score six tries in Port Elizabeth is not easy to achieve, but it’s what we set out to do and it’s wonderful to achieve that in the first game. So there were a lot of good things we take out of that performance, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement and we’ll work hard again this week to get those things right,” Ndungane said.

Defence coach Omar Mouneimne said he was pleased the team had been tested by the hard-hitting Kings as warm-up games don’t quite have the same buzz and intensity.

“We hadn’t had physical contact for two weeks, so we needed a physical hit-out in a real game and get the nerves bled out, to feel like we’re really in the tournament. We needed real bullets fired under real pressure after two warm-up games. We were a bit messy and could have been a little more accurate. But in saying that, I think it was down to nerves. You’re not going to do things perfectly in the first game and, at half-time, the talk was about lifting the intensity, about playing at another level and to outpace and outmuscle them, and there were signs of that,” Mouneimne said.

Sharks close to full-strength for trip to Toulon 0

Posted on March 15, 2015 by Ken

The Sharks are expecting to go to France in a month’s time with a close-to-full-strength squad for their challenge match against European champions Toulon, according to assistant coach Brad Macleod-Henderson.

The mouth-watering clash against the Heineken Cup powerhouses will take place on Thursday, February 5 at the Stade Mayol, with the Sharks leaving for France on January 31. Barring any injury concerns, it will be the final SuperRugby squad that goes on tour, and Macleod-Henderson said the period of team-building during the week in France would be as important as the actual game.

“Toulon are the best team in Europe, so obviously it’s going to be a good test for us, but it’s also a time when we can strengthen the relationships within the team,” Macleod-Henderson told The Citizen.

The current Springboks in the squad will start training on Monday and most of them will be available for the Toulon match, while the likes of Willem Alberts and Pieter-Steph du Toit are online with their rehabilitation to play in the Sharks’ opening SuperRugby fixture on February 14 against the Cheetahs in Durban.

This year’s SuperRugby competition will be slightly different, with no break in June for international rugby and the World Cup in September providing plenty of motivation for the players.

The focus for the Sharks in their pre-season preparations has been on their attack, with Macleod-Henderson saying they need to score more tries.

“The World Cup is definitely going to up the ante this year and we need to score more tries to win the competition, the Waratahs showed that last year. We’re working on it, we’re spending quite a bit of time on our attack,” he said.

But the 2013 Currie Cup-winning coach said there was still plenty of work going into the details of defence and the breakdown.

 



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