for quality writing

Ken Borland



Lions hit Bulls early & hard 0

Posted on May 20, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions hit the Bulls with a ferocious first-half onslaught from which they could never recover as they notched a mighty 51-14 victory in their SuperRugby local derby at Ellis Park last night.

For periods in the first half, it was like men against boys as the Lions toyed with the Bulls, scoring four tries in the second quarter to open up a commanding 39-14 lead at the break.

And it was not as if the Bulls weren’t trying, either. They had their moments, but the Lions were just so much better at spotting and making space, and the pace and accuracy of their play was at another level.

The warning lights were flashing for the Bulls as early as the second minute as the Lions began their dissection. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies is almost as skilled as a Beauden Barrett, and he gave a masterful display of pulling the strings throughout, his direct play and ability to commit defenders on the gain-line opening up space out wide, which the Lions clinically exploited.

Ruan Combrinck’s rugby story is one of the more heartwarming ones and the 2016 Springbok debutant scored with his first touch upon his return to SuperRugby, having been out of the game since August when he fractured his fibula. A lovely midfield move saw Jantjies feed wing Courtnall Skosan on an inside run, the flyhalf then getting the ball out wide to fullback Andries Coetzee, who passed to Combrinck, who finished clinically with a deft chip and regather.

For all the criticism, it is apparent that there is ability in this Bulls team and there are moments when it is clear that they are well-coached.

Such a moment came in the sixth minute when they scored a wonderful set-piece try, certainly the equal of the Lions’ opening score.

From a lineout, a lovely interchange of passes between fullback Jesse Kriel and Sibahle Maxwane sent the debutant wing racing through the defensive line before centre Jan Serfontein stormed over for the try.

The Bulls were doing well in the first quarter, holding the Lions to just two penalties kicked by Jantjies, the first from a scrum, the second from a prolonged build-up which showed that the visitors were at least causing some frustration, the home side having earlier kicked goalable penalties to touch.

But the Bulls’ well would quickly run dry.

Blindside flank Jannes Kirsten is known for being a strong ball-carrier, an abrasive player who is difficult to stop. But when he came charging from deep at the much smaller Kwagga Smith, the Lions’ openside did not surrender an inch on the gain-line, instead holding Kirsten up for long enough for his fellow forwards to support him and force the turnover.

From the resulting scrum, Jantjies spotted that Kriel was standing too deep at fullback and his lovely chip into that space was claimed by Skosan, who raced into the Bulls’ 22 before passing out wide for Smith to score.

That was followed by lock Franco Mostert bursting clear in midfield from the kickoff and his good offload over the top went to up-in-support Ruan Dreyer, the tighthead prop showing that he has the mobility to go with his undoubted scrummaging prowess, for the Lions’ third try, all of them converted by Jantjies.

Kriel showed that he was up for the contest, however, when he burst through the weak tackles of Smith and Skosan to score the Bulls’ second try, in the 28th minute, when there really wasn’t much on for the visitors.

Brummer converted to make it 14-27, but that would be the last time they scored in the match.

To make matters worse, two stupid mistakes would gift the Lions two more tries before halftime.

It had been one-way traffic for a while, but for an international scrumhalf, it was exceptionally poor of Rudy Paige to telegraph his box-kick so blatantly by the way he was standing. Eighthman Warren Whiteley, who once again led from the front in inspirational fashion, charged down the kick and did well to dot down as the ball threatened to squirm out of his grasp on the tryline.

In contrast to Jantjies’ game-management, opposite number Brummer was a non-entity, although he did not have front-foot ball to play with. But his failure to find touch from a penalty kick on the Lions’ 22, which would have provided a wonderful attacking platform, was inexcusable.

Instead the Lions took a scrum on their 22, won a penalty and set up a lineout in Bulls’ territory. From there Jantjies’ direct run drew two defenders and then it just took two passes out wide for Combrinck to be racing over in the corner again, ending the first half as he had begun it.

The Bulls were staring a horror movie in the face, 39-14 down at the break, but instead of being disembowelled by the ravenous Lions, they did manage to claw back some pride with a better second half.

There were no further gains on the scoreboard, but limiting the Lions to just two more tries, in the 43rd and 80th minutes, was something of a success.

Jantjies manufactured the first one with a lovely little chip-pass to Skosan, hooker Malcolm Marx, never far from the action, came storming up in support and Mostert went over from the next ruck.

The final try came after outside centre Lionel Mapoe went into a half-gap and an interchange of passes with replacement centre Jacques Nel saw the Springbok split the tired defence and race away for the try, Jantjies converting to seal the Lions’ biggest winning margin against the Bulls.

While the Bulls did fight back in the second half, it was still a poor display and they were utterly humbled by their neighbours. As a corporation as a whole, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Most galling is the fact that the core of the Lions side comes from players rejected by the Bulls. Coach Nollis Marais is likely to get the sack this week, but there are poorer performers above him in the Bulls hierarchy who should not be immune to the blame.

Points scorers

Lions: Tries – Ruan Combrinck (2), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions – Elton Jantjies (5). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

Bulls: Tries – Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel. Conversions – Francois Brummer (2).

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.

 

Bulls hold off ferocious Sharks to go top of SuperRugby 0

Posted on May 25, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls held off ferocious mobs of Sharks players and an unsympathetic referee to claim top spot on the Vodacom SuperRugby log with a thrilling 20-19 victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The Bulls were trailing 13-19 with just seven minutes remaining, but managed to put an evening of immense frustration and testing behind them and snatch victory through a try by replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, converted by sharpshooting flyhalf Morne Steyn.

The embattled Sharks produced an epic performance and pushed the form team in SuperRugby to the limit, but poor goal-kicking and a moment of madness that saw captain Butch James yellow-carded were behind their defeat.

For intensity and drama, it was a top-class game of rugby, with both teams fighting relentlessly for every centimetre on the gain-line, but also using their backs to strike when a chance to spread the ball presented itself.

The Sharks, with a team ravaged by injury and a stand-in coaching team, will be heartened that they managed to give the Bulls, on a phenomenal eight-match winning streak, a real run for their money at their home fortress, where they have not lost a game since June last year.

But they will be gutted that a wayward kicking display by Pat Lambie cost them 10 points, while Riaan Viljoen also missed two penalties, including a last-minute effort that would have reversed the result.

James, a surprise choice as captain as the Sharks pulled a typical late shuffle with regular captain Keegan Daniel shifted to the bench to make way for another battering ram in Jean Deysel, was a commanding presence at flyhalf (his swop with Lambie being another late change) until the last 10 minutes when he lost the plot and then almost decapitated Bulls replacement back Jurgen Visser with a flying head-high tackle.

The Bulls not only had to overcome a feisty Sharks team but also a spate of penalties awarded against them by referee Jason Jaftha. The visitors had already been given a dozen penalties by the time the Bulls received their second, and the breakdowns were the most obvious area of difficulty for them when it came to deciphering the bizarre rulings of Jaftha.

The official line of Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter was that “the odds were a bit against us and there were a lot of technical decisions at the breakdown, we need to adapt to the way the referee is blowing” – but the obvious feeling in the Bulls camp was that Jaftha was only watching them at the rucks.

But the character and composure of the Bulls remained intact, although there were times in the third quarter when they looked rattled and were thrown off their game-plan. But it was the ideal sort of test for their young side ahead of the pressure of sudden-death play in the playoffs.

“The way we kept our cool and grinded it out and the way we pulled it back were very pleasing. These local derbies get the best out of the teams and we always invite competition, there were areas where they really tested us and it’s good that that happened and we were still able to get the result.

“In the second half, there were a few opportunities when the corners were open and field position was vital. We made mistakes then, but the players were probably feeling that they wanted momentum and ball-in-hand, trying to win the gain-line battles. You don’t want to win that way, but we’ll take it and hope to take great things from it,” coach Frans Ludeke said.

With the help of a seemingly anti-Bulls referee, the Sharks dominated the breakdowns for the first hour and were able to up the pace of the game and stretch the Bulls, before they resurrected their home playoff hopes in miraculous fashion at the death, moving them into first place on the log, two points ahead of the Chiefs and four ahead of the Brumbies going into the final round of regular-season play.

There were also celebrations in Bloemfontein as the Cheetahs confirmed they will advance to the playoffs for the first time as they beat the Blues 34-13.

The Cheetahs dominated at forward to set up their victory, but took a long time to seal the deal as they wasted several try-scoring chances in a nervy second half.

A fifth-minute try to Blues scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park served as a timely warning to the Cheetahs of the perils of giving the visitors turnover ball, but the home side’s scrum then went to work where it really mattered – inside the opposition 22 – to earn a penalty and then a tighthead that led to eighthman Phillip van der Walt’s try and a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Impressive flyhalf Riaan Smit kicked two more penalties to give the Cheetahs a 19-10 half-time lead, but Willie le Roux wasted two great opportunities to get the second try early in the second half, before Baden Kerr kicked a 58th-minute penalty to give the Blues the first points after the break and close the gap to 13-19.

But the Cheetahs, dominating the rucks thanks to their brilliant loose trio of Brussow, Van der Walt and Labuschagne, were able to build multiple phases in the last 10 minutes and it was almost inevitable that nippy replacement scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius would find a gap and score.

He did so in the 75th minute and replacement flank Boom Prinsloo added a third try three minutes later to put the cherry on top.

It was a top-class forward effort by the Cheetahs, with lock Rynard “Ligtoring” Landman also a stand-out player along with a front row that is also a phenomenal unit.

The backline made a plethora of handling errors, but Le Roux was so often a lethal threat with ball in hand, while outside centre Johann Sadie also had a fine game.

The Southern Kings went into their derby against the Stormers with a simple and brutal mode of attack that sought to disrupt the opposition as much as possible at source.

With the Stormers not exactly being the most dazzling attacking side themselves these days, it led to an ugly war of attrition at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, which the visitors won 24-12.

Due to earlier happenings at the Free State Stadium, it meant little because the Cheetahs’ win had already knocked the Stormers – and the Sharks for that matter – out of contention for the playoffs.

While the Kings are rightfully lauded for their magnificent defence, they probably show the least attacking intent of all the SuperRugby sides and they seemed content to just spend the 80 minutes snapping at the ankles of the Stormers, in other words being a nuisance rather than going out and trying to win the game.

Stormers captain and flank Deon Fourie scored two tries to add to the joint goalkicking efforts of Elton Jantjies and Joe Pietersen in a game that was a poor spectacle.

Referee Lourens van der Merwe must foot much of the blame for that as cynical play in the breakdowns continuously went unpunished.

Just like last weekend in their rousing victory over the Cheetahs, it was the Stormers’ forwards who did the legwork for the win, none more so than Fourie.

People are constantly bringing up Heinrich Brussow’s name when it comes to traditional openside flanks, but for all-round impact, Fourie also punches way above his weight and his livewire performances have been integral to the Stormers’ recent improvement in form.

Lock Eben Etzebeth – apart from being involved in several off-the-ball incidents – and prop Steven Kitshoff were also prominent in giving the Stormers a physical edge in the forward battle.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-08-throwing-the-bulls-sharks-fight-hard-but-come-off-second-best/#.V0TNl_l97IU

  • 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