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Ken Borland

Springbok greats concerned, but not writing Meyer’s team off 0

Posted on August 17, 2015 by Ken


Former Springbok greats Frik du Preez and Carel du Plessis admit they have concerns after the current team lost to Argentina for the first time ever, but both say one result does not mean that South Africa suddenly have no chance at the World Cup.

The Springboks went down 37-25 to Argentina last weekend in Durban and tonight’s re-match in Buenos Aires is not only a chance to redeem themselves after one of the lowest points in the team’s history but also their last official Test before the World Cup starts on September 18.

“We’re all disappointed by the game against Argentina but let’s be honest, against Australia they played very well and they improved by 60% the next weekend against New Zealand but just lost again. It’s been the first time a Springbok rugby team has been allowed to run the ball from everywhere and they need to get used to this new pattern of play, they’ve never played this type of rugby before. Of course there are going to be mistakes because it is high-risk,” Du Preez, South Africa’s Rugby Player of the 20th Century, told The Citizen on Friday.

Du Plessis, whose 12 Tests in the 1980s were enough to earn him the nickname ‘Prince of Wings’ and who also coached the Springboks in 1997, agreed with Du Preez.

“I don’t think you can go on just one bad performance, they played well against New Zealand and Australia, but there are obviously some concerns around systemic things like selection and playing guys in different positions. I’m also concerned that we might be overly leaning towards experience, because their performance might not be up to the required intensity,” Du Plessis said.

But Du Plessis’ captain in 1997, Gary Teichmann, said he now worried that the Springboks had lost their way just before the World Cup.

“I thought we were on the right track after we were in position to win the matches against the Wallabies and All Blacks but for a couple of lapses in concentration, but it’s pretty obvious after last Saturday that we’re not. The loss to Argentina threw a big spanner in the works, we just didn’t arrive for the game. That has definitely set us back and I’m worried that we’ll go back to the kick-chase game which won’t win us the World Cup,” Teichmann said.

Du Preez said the Springboks still have the players to win the World Cup for the third time.

“Argentina have done us a great favour because now we’re not one of the favourites for the World Cup, but I still believe we have an outside chance. We have got the guys to surprise everyone, but we have brilliant players who are injured. They’ve been out for months and we don’t know if they can all of a sudden perform. The problems are up front because we have a beautiful backline,” Du Preez said.

Teichmann agreed that the personnel is there, but coach Heyneke Meyer has to keep his nerve.

“We’ve certainly got the players but Heyneke tends to go back to what he knows. We had previously played a good brand of rugby, but then when we didn’t win, Meyer went across to the UK and changed it. When the pressure mounts, he tends to go back to the different style of more kick-chase and less ball-in-hand, which is a concern,” Teichmann said.

Du Plessis said Meyer had really managed the players well up till now and he needed to ensure there were settled combinations at the World Cup.

“He needs to try and settle the team and bed the combinations down as quickly as possible, which is going to be a challenge. His decisions may be unpopular, but he needs to make them earlier rather than later to allow the team to settle down. The leadership also still needs to be determined … ” Du Plessis said.

“People may look at things differently, but now is not the time to make changes. Heyneke’s obviously going to stick to what he believes in and the style of play that has been successful before, trusting his players to deliver is going to give them their best shot.”

Du Plessis said that, in terms of transformation, Meyer had to have given potential black players enough time by now in the team environment for them to be settled and confident at international level.

“There are some good players who should have had a run, but Heyneke has to believe that they will improve his team and it’s a bit late now!”


Locals aim to bring SA Open crown home for first time since 2011 0

Posted on March 06, 2015 by Ken

A strong contingent of local golfers will tee it up at the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club from Thursday as most of the country’s biggest stars go in search of bringing the national open crown back to these shores for the first time since 2011.

A home golfer has not won the South African Open since Hennie Otto’s triumph at Serengeti Golf Club in 2011 and former champions Ernie Els and Richard Sterne, as well as top contenders Charl Schwartzel, who has just overtaken Tiger Woods in the world rankings, Branden Grace and George Coetzee will all be gunning for the prestigious title of the game’s second oldest national open.

Louis Oosthuizen has sent his apologies and is the major South African absentee, but there is plenty of other home-grown talent for fans to enjoy with Jake Roos, Jacques Blaauw, Darren Fichardt, J’be Kruger, Dawie van der Walt, Danie van Tonder, Jaco van Zyl, Jaco Ahlers, Thomas Aiken and Jean Hugo all having entered.

However, there is also a powerful overseas contingent coming to Edenvale aiming for a third successive overseas win. Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen is back for his title defence, aiming to become the first golfer to win back-to-back titles since Trevor Immelman in 2003/4.

Edoardo Molinari, who impressed for Europe in the 2010 Ryder Cup, will be one of the favourites from offshore, but any of Peter Uihlein, Pablo Martin, Anders Hansen, Paul Lawrie, Niclas Fasth or Andy Sullivan could continue the recent foreign dominance in the South African Open.

The final field of 166 entrants has yet to be printed, however, with 377 golfers aiming for the last 12 spots at the qualifiers to be held on Tuesday at Kempton Park, Zwartkops and Irene.

Lions finish in style – 7 wins in a season for 1st time 0

Posted on July 22, 2014 by Ken

The Lions finished their most successful SuperRugby season in style with a 60-25 thrashing of the Cheetahs at Ellis Park on Saturday night to claim seven wins in a campaign for the first time.

“Obviously we’re very pleased and it was good to see everything come together tonight. The players have always been positive, even in those bad patches just before and on tour, so I’m very pleased for them,” Lions coach Johan Ackermann said in the wake of the Lions’ biggest SuperRugby triumph.

It is a wonderful story of the underdog, who everyone expected to be the whipping boys upon their return to SuperRugby, rising above their individual talents and proving that hunger and good coaching can take a team a long way. Although they only finished in 12th place, the Lions had as many wins as the three sides immediately above them on the log – the Stormers, Blues and Bulls.

“We have a good team profile, although maybe we don’t have the biggest guys, but they can run and play. They’ve shown the willingness to work hard, they were asked to play with commitment and pride, and that comes from deep inside. The challenge is to keep that hunger,” Ackermann said.

Even the overwhelming win over the Cheetahs was not achieved without the hard work that has become the hallmark of this Lions side.

The Cheetahs dominated the first quarter to lead 10-3 and the opening exchanges of the second half were fiercely contested as the visitors closed to within seven points.

But the forward dominance of the Lions – especially in the scrums – was tiring the Cheetahs and forcing them to try and cut corners, leading to ill-discipline and yellow cards. Plus the visitors’ defence was once again weak at critical moments.

The Lions seized control from the 52nd minute when the selection of Coenie Oosthuizen at tighthead once again failed and the Springbok was yellow-carded for yet another scrummaging offence under pressure from Schalk van der Merwe. The lineout and rolling maul were set by the Lions, and hooker Robbie Coetzee scored the try that stretched the lead to 34-20 with sharpshooter Elton Jantjies’ conversion.

Things rapidly turned sour for the Cheetahs thereafter as eighthman Warren Whiteley, after wing Anthony Volmink had pounced on a spilt ball by Willie Roux, Andries Coetzee, running the length of the field after an intercept, wing Lionel Mapoe, from turnover ball deep in his own half, and replacement prop Corne’ Fourie, with a thrilling run and dummy, all scored tries.

Apart from the excellence of their front row, the Lions loose trio foraged and attacked like a pack of wild curs, while Jantjies, making a rare start, dished up an accomplished performance at flyhalf, not least of all with the boot as he succeeded with nine of his 10 kicks at goal.

Cheetahs wing Cornal Hendricks did have the pace – and the football skills – to score a breakaway try from his own 22, but it’s clear the Central franchise have serious problems.

“We’re our own worst enemies,” captain Adriaan Strauss admitted. “In the first half we created one or two chances, so we weren’t out of the game from the get-go. But our discipline let us down, we gave them easy exits and let them run at us.

“When you have cards, it messes with the roles and responsibilities of guys in the defensive line. There are guys missing so the opposition attack that space, and when you adjust, they attack other spaces.”

The impressive Lions squad obviously now have a price on their heads, with the other franchises sniffing around at Ellis Park.

“Obviously the players are now being hunted and I hope we can hang on to them. But the core of the squad has already been signed up and we hope to build on that. A new year brings new challenges and you can’t rely on what you did the previous year. The hard work starts all over again,” Ackermann said.

But, as this match graphically illustrated, it’s not how you start but how you finish that counts.

The Cheetahs started brightly, with Le Roux setting up the opening try in the 17th minute as he found Raymond Rhule with a long pass, the wing striding past fullback Coetzee and then passing inside for the Springbok fullback to score.

But the Lions struck back with the first of Mapoe’s hat-trick of tries, a lovely break by Jantjies going a long way to setting him up, and the much-improved scrumhalf Ross Cronje then showed nifty footwork to beat a couple of defenders and score the home side’s second try.

The Lions’ penchant for long-range tries was once again on display six minutes before the break as they counter-attacked from their own 22. Practically everyone handled the ball until Mapoe gathered a half-charged grubber from impressive centre Stokkies Hanekom and burst through to score.

Cheetahs mentor Naka Drotske complained of a “19-5 penalty count and four yellow cards” against his team – the actual stats were 12 penalties against 11 and three dismissals – but such spurious outbursts are a clear sign of a coach whose job is in the balance.

Given that the Cheetahs, with several Springboks in their ranks, finished in 14th position, having featured in the playoffs last season, it seems entirely fair that serious questions should be asked about Drotske’s future.

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