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Ken Borland



Failure to pitch a recipe for disaster for Boks 0

Posted on February 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Meeting a fired-up Argentina team on their home turf is never an easy prospect, regardless of what happened the previous week, so when the Springboks decided not to “pitch” physically for their Rugby Championship Test in Mendoza at the weekend, it was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

For whatever reason, the Springboks failed to match the intensity and physicality of the Pumas and for long periods it just looked as if they weren’t “up” for the game.

With Argentina attacking the collisions and breakdowns with tremendous ferocity, it meant the Springboks were always on the back foot and had little decent ball to actually launch the attacking side of their game, which had been so impressive the weekend before back in Johannesburg.

The Springboks eventually won the Test 22-17 with two late penalties by Morne Steyn, but it was hardly an authoritative performance. The massive physicality that had blown the Pumas away at the FNB Stadium and set up the record 73-13 victory a week earlier was as absent this weekend as the president of the South African Rugby Union.

The home side pressed forward from the outset and, after robbing scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar of possession at a ruck – he endured a torrid day as he was hassled throughout at the breakdowns – they scored the opening try through flank Juan Manuel Leguizamon after just two minutes.

It meant the Pumas’ prayers were answered in terms of getting their passionate crowd behind them and they enjoyed a 10-3 lead after 10 minutes as Felipe Contepomi and Steyn traded penalties.

Centre Contepomi was then partly to blame for the Springboks’ only try, in the 14th minute, as he failed with a clearance kick, gifting the ball to the Springbok backs. Willie le Roux – he didn’t have the best of games overall – then showed tremendous hands to put wing Bjorn Basson away for the try.

But the Springboks’ hopes were severely dented just before half-time when centre Marcelo Bosch crashed through to score Argentina’s second try.

The Pumas had generally tried to avoid lineouts – a Springbok strength – in the first half, but eventually they had one inside the 22, only the third of the match. From there, another direct attack with short pop passes led to Bosch powering over.

The Argentine loose forwards continued to rob and spoil the Springboks’ ball in the second half and their more direct approach with ball-in-hand also hurt the South Africans. But there is something almost naive about this Springbok side in that they sometimes give the impression that they expect the opposition to be placid, to allow them an easy stroll through a game. And so not enough numbers were committed to the breakdowns or the defence close-in and the Pumas were adept at exploiting the gap in the first channel from the ruck.

The Springboks were, frankly, being bullied and they even sought referee Steve Walsh’s attention, alleging eye-gouging and biting. Two Argentinean loose forwards, Leonardo Senatore and Pablo Matera, would later be cited for foul play, but the whistleman’s focus during the match seemed to be on all sorts of peripheral things rather than keeping the breakdown contest tidy and enforcing offsides lines.

The Pumas’ ill-discipline was eventually punished by Walsh, allowing Steyn to kick four second-half penalties that won the game.

Questions, though, will be asked over some of coach Heyneke Meyer’s decisions, such as leaving the struggling Pienaar on for the entire game or not giving the more physical Flip van der Merwe a longer run in the second row.

But it’s the failure of the Springboks to lift themselves – having spoken all week about how they expect the Pumas to bounce back ferociously – that is perhaps of most concern.

They will now travel to Australasia next weekend for their two Tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks and they are not going to win those unless their pack rediscovers the fire they showed at the FNB Stadium.

The Springbok backline are not going to be able to win those Tests on their own; the forwards are going to have to do the gruntwork and lay the foundation.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-26-rugby-boks-win-but-without-conviction/#.WJHMPVN97IU

Sharks sing the blues once again 0

Posted on November 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks sung the blues once again on their overseas tour as they were unable to overcome their own first-half mistakes, a fired-up Waratahs side and one of the most disgracefully one-eyed officiating performances in Sanzar history in losing 33-18 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match in Sydney on Saturday.

Referee Rohan Hoffman, TMO George Ayoub and the assistant referees were so determined to sing the home side’s tune that the Sharks never had a chance, despite turning in an excellent second-half performance against a team that surely does not have it in them to be repeat SuperRugby champions unless other forces are at play. The fact that Sanzar are based in Sydney does not ease the speculation that was running rampant on social media on Saturday nor the genuine fears that rugby is totally naïve when it comes to matchfixing, much as cricket was.

The decisions to award wing Taqele Naiyaravoro’s 53rd-minute try, although he lost control of the ball and there was absolutely no evidence of grounding, and the TMO’s call to disallow opposite number S’bura Sithole’s touchdown in the 70th minute, were particularly damaging to the Sharks.

Waratahs flyhalf Bernard Foley was also able to kick four penalties as Hoffman punished the Sharks for a high tackle when the ball-carrier had clearly slipped and fallen into an arm that was at a perfectly legal height and for ruck offences when the home team were clearly not supporting their own body weight.

As outrage grew on South African social media, Sharks CEO John Smit told The Citizen: “I’m sure Sanzar leadership is strong enough to do something before we need to enquire … I hope”.

It looked like it was going to be a miserable day for the Sharks right from the outset as centre Adam Ashley-Cooper scored after 55 seconds, but that was entirely down to the visitors’ lacklustre defence and the brilliance of the Waratahs in exploiting the gaps.

The Sharks kicked out on halfway from the opening kickoff, and scrumhalf Nick Phipps passed inside after the lineout tap to livewire flank Michael Hooper, who burst through a huge gap the visitors were shockingly slow to close, before passing out to Ashley-Cooper, who powered over the line.

Sharks centre Francois Steyn pulled back a penalty from a scrum in the 17th minute, but Foley was able to stretch the lead to 10-3 at the end of the first quarter after captain Marco Wentzel, in a bid to turnover a loose ball, held on under pressure from Ashley-Cooper and conceded a penalty after another Waratahs attack sparked by Hooper.

The Sharks would have begun to feel Hoffman was screwing them over in the 28th minute when he made a ridiculous forward-pass call against Bismarck du Plessis, the Waratahs then being given another penalty as the scrum went down, Foley making the score 13-3.

Steyn narrowed the gap to 6-13 five minutes before the break after a sneaky hand in the ruck by the Waratahs was penalised. They then managed to win a Waratahs lineout throw on their own line after brilliant scramble defence stopped fullback Israel Folau from scoring and won a penalty. Hoffman told the Sharks it was halftime, so they kicked the ball straight out only for the disgraceful referee to give the Waratahs the lineout!

The Sharks were certainly in the game after the shock of conceding that first-minute try, but a shaky defence – six tackles were missed in the first 10 minutes and 15 in the first half alone – and their own basic mistakes were really hurting them as their promising attacks lacked the finishing touches.

Consultant Brendan Venter was seen addressing them during the break and the Sharks dished up some impressive fare in the second half.

They claimed the vital first score of the second half when they closed the gap to 11-13 thanks to flyhalf Lionel Cronje’s brilliant crosskick from a penalty, that was well-finished by wing Odwa Ndungane.

But three minutes later, it became clear that the officials would ensure the Sharks could say farewell to any chance of a morale-boosting win against the defending champions.

Massive wing Taqele Naiyaravoro powered down the right but lost control of the ball in the tackle by Sithole on the goal-line. With two pairs of legs rolling over and the ball seemingly stuck in between them, TMO Ayoub, (the whole of South Africa rejoiced when he was no longer an on-field referee), awarded the try despite there being absolutely no evidence of grounding.

Foley’s conversion gave the Waratahs a crucial 20-11 lead after 53 minutes but the Sharks lifted themselves when veterans Du Plessis and Steyn showed that they are not rugby oupas by slickly combining for the centre to score, Cronje also providing some vital touches in the build-up.

Steyn’s conversion made it a two-point game (18-20), but the Sharks were knocked back to the mat as Hoffman awarded two more controversial penalties against the Sharks – the ridiculous high-tackle call against Cronje when centre Kurtley Beale slipped and fell over into the tackle and a harsh deliberate knock-on call against JP Pietersen.

There was much to enthuse about the Sharks’ second-half display on attack, none more so than when they got the ball wide to Sithole and he powered down the left in a thrilling run, but the fun for the visitors was soon ended when Beale shoulder-charged the wing into the corner flag. That does not mean he is in touch, of course, but Ayoub decided he was and Beale escaped punishment for his no-arms tackle.

Any chance of even taking a point out of a game that they could well have won given decent officiating disappeared in the 79th minute when a poor pass from the otherwise good scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer was fumbled by Cronje and Foley pounced, kicking the ball through and re-gathering to score.

These days, any referee appointed by Sanzar could be incompetent, but this game seemed different in that there weren’t any bad calls against the Waratahs.

Whether any action will be taken by Sanzar remains to be seen, but past experience suggests the carpet in their Sydney headquarters will merely have more swept underneath it.

Scorers

Waratahs: Tries – Adam Ashley-Cooper, Taqele Naiyaravoro, Bernard Foley. Conversions –Foley (3). Penalties – Foley (4).

Sharks: Try – Odwa Ndungane, Francois Steyn. Conversion – Steyn. Penalties – Steyn (2).

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/383666/sharks-sing-the-blues-once-again/



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