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Ken Borland



Return of Alberts just the tonic for Sharks 0

Posted on June 07, 2016 by Ken

 

The return of powerhouse flank Willem Alberts to the Sharks team is just the tonic they need in this time of crisis, but coach Gary Gold faces a difficult decision when it comes to either starting the Springbok against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday or bringing him on off the bench.

Alberts has been battling hamstring injuries since last year and has played just one SuperRugby match this season, against the Stormers in Cape Town a month ago, where he re-injured the tendon.

But he’s been back at training this week and Gold will need to decide whether to start with the battering ram and see just how much time they can get out of him, or bring him off the bench and hope he can make an impact and last for 20 minutes or so.

Alberts is the sort of player who can inspire a team and the 30-year-old was positive that the Sharks can turn their fortunes around, while acknowledging that things have not gone according to plan thus far.

“It’s been another new beginning for us this season with a new coaching staff, plus injuries or suspensions making players unavailable. But we still believe that we are in contention and we are working hard for each other. It was obviously a hiccup last week, but luckily in rugby, the next week brings a new chance and we have to take it and move forward,” Alberts said.

The former Lions player is a senior figure at the Sharks and he brushed off suggestions that it was the older players to blame for the KwaZulu-Natalians’ implosion in recent weeks.

“The younger players need to raise their level of play, they have to step up and show that they are up for big rugby. But we were all young players at some stage and we support them, we try our best to help them do their best. There’s a great environment here at the Sharks, with young and old players and we just want to go forward as a team,” Alberts said.

A couple of those older players –props Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira – have played for four weeks in a row now and, in terms of the agreement with Springbok management, they will need to be rested either this weekend or the next.

Given that the Sharks face the Bulls in Durban next week, Gold may well decide to rest them this week ahead of that must-win home match.

Bulls rectify lack of ball-carrying loosie with Potgieter signing 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls have looked to rectify their lack of big ball-carrying loose forwards by signing Springbok flank Jacques Potgieter on a three-year contract, the union confirmed at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old Potgieter, who is 6’4 and weighs 115kg, starred previously for the Bulls in 22 SuperRugby games in 2012-13, before becoming a high-profile player for the Waratahs. He joined the Sharks at the beginning of the year, but an ankle injury meant he never actually played a game for them, and John Smit, the CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal franchise, confirmed on Wednesday that they had released him from his contract. Potgieter is engaged to actress Angelique Gerber, whose career would be better served by them living in Gauteng.

“We always knew SuperRugby was going to be a battle on the gain-line, so we need good ball-carriers. We know what Jacques can do, we’ve seen how he’s played for the Bulls previously and for the Waratahs, so he’s definitely a good signing. At the beginning of the season we lost three loose forwards to injury at the same time, and Jacques also played four and seven for the Waratahs. Jannes Kirsten can do that too, and they both can really carry the ball,” coach Nollis Marais said.

High performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg said Potgieter, who has been seen at practice this week already, will probably be ready to train in a week’s time. He will probably play in all three SuperRugby rounds after the June break.

The acquisition of Potgieter offsets the disappointment of losing hard-working flank Lappies Labuschagne to Japanese club Kubota at the end of the SuperRugby season.

Janse van Rensburg told The Citizen they are hopeful, however, that Labuschagne will be able to return to play for the Bulls in the 2017 SuperRugby campaign at the end of the Japanese season. The fact that Frans Ludeke is coach of Kubota means the Bulls obviously have a negotiating platform, but they did fire Ludeke last year.

Van Rensburg also announced the signing of Southern Kings tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse, who Marais described as “a very competitive scrummager who stood his ground against the Crusaders”.

Life’s a risk for Sam Cane 0

Posted on October 15, 2014 by Ken

Life’s a risk for All Blacks flank Sam Cane, not only because he is the archetypal opensider who is constantly living on the edge of the law, but also because he backs his team to move the ball around whatever the weather.

While much of this Rugby Championship has been played in poor weather conditions, Saturday’s crunch encounter with the Springboks should be played in dry conditions on a fast Ellis Park surface, and Cane is clearly looking forward to a more enjoyable game and better spectacle.

“We’re always pretty excited if we get to go out and play with a dry ball, but we like to think we can play in all conditions. We like to be expansive and we back ourselves to do that even in the wet,” Cane said upon the All Blacks’ arrival at their Sandton hotel yesterday.

The breakdowns will obviously be a key area on Saturday and Cane said the potential loss of eighthman Duane Vermeulen, who has injured a rib cartilage, would be huge for the Springboks.

“Duane has taken his game to a whole new level this year, his presence at the breakdown is massive. He’s a big man, but he gets low and he’s hard to move, plus he’s a good carrier as well with some skill. Plus last week the Springboks had Schalk Burger on the bench!” Cane said.

SuperRugby will be a baptism of fire for Southern Kings 0

Posted on June 10, 2013 by Ken

The SuperRugby season kicks off on Friday with Australian teams getting the competition started. The five South African franchises join the fray next weekend with several burning questions still to be answered. Foremost of these is whether the Southern Kings have procured enough firepower to avoid totally embarrassing themselves and the South African Rugby Union administrators who promoted them with scant regard for on-field performance.

The Southern Kings have brought a dozen new players to Port Elizabeth, but they can best be described as SuperRugby journeymen. Even though hooker Bandise Maku and centres Waylon Murray and Andries Strauss are all Springboks, they are not what one would term star players capable of dominating at SuperRugby level. The Kings have also signed two seasoned Argentinean internationals in scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo and flank Tomas Leonardi, as well as former Toulouse hooker Virgile Lacombe.

The role of captain Luke Watson, of whom opinions vary from sulky trouble-causer to inspiring team-man and leader, is going to be very important in melding such a disparate group of players into a team. Massive expenditure is no guarantee of success in a sport that depends so greatly on team cohesion and attitude.

The Kings have also incurred the wrath of many South African fans who believe their inclusion in the competition is purely on political grounds and the pressure will be on them from the outset.

All eyes will be on their opening game when they host the Western Force, who are also trying to find their feet in SuperRugby. Then, before heading off on their overseas tour, the Kings face daunting meetings with the Sharks and defending champions the Chiefs.

The other game the Kings could possibly target in search of that morale-boosting first victory will be against the Rebels in Melbourne on 13 April, but that will be the last game of their overseas tour and whether they will still be on two feet remains to be seen.

On the positive side, this year provides an ideal opportunity for talented players such as flank Daniel Adongo, flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, centre Ronnie Cooke and lock Steven Sykes to make their mark on this semi-international stage.

The Bulls will be looking to build on their achievement in making last year’s playoffs as they showed there is still life in the union after so many of yesterday’s heroes moved on.

Pierre Spies’s team will include two new faces in utility back Lionel Mapoe and talented young lock Paul Willemse, but the Pretoria faithful will be relying on remaining stalwarts such as Morne Steyn, Spies, Flip van der Merwe, Francois Hougaard, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Wynand Olivier, Akona Ndungane and Zane Kirchner for bigger and better things in 2013.

None more so than Steyn whose eye will still be on the Springbok number 10 jersey. He can count on Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer still valuing his experience and goal-kicking ability, but he needs to play more like the dashing flyhalf of 2008/9 than a gout-ridden has-been turning out for the Blikkiesdorp over-35s.

Loose forward CJ Stander has moved on to new pastures, which counts as a big loss for the Bulls, but the likes of lock Juandre Kruger and backs JJ Engelbrecht, Francois Venter and Bjorn Basson are ready to take the next step and dominate at SuperRugby level.

The Cheetahs will be well aware that their neighbours in Gauteng are smarting over their exclusion from SuperRugby and the way their former allies in Bloemfontein helped betray them. So they will be nervous going into the SuperRugby season, desperate to avoid finishing last in the South African conference and having to face the Lions in a promotion/relegation series.

Their build-up to the campaign has not been good, with the final bell having rung on Juan Smith’s superb career and another favourite, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, still taking the first steps on his way back to recovery. The front row has been one of the Cheetahs’ premier areas of strength in recent years, but with WP Nel and Marcel van der Merwe both having left, coach Naka Drotske is a worried man, with his job under some pressure as well.

Twenty-year-old Johan Goosen is a potential match-winner for the Cheetahs and a popular choice for the Springbok number 10 jersey – he will be a key man for Drotske.

Captain Adriaan Strauss is a respected leader and brilliant hooker, but the state of the rest of the tight five will be the key factor in determining whether Goosen and other exciting backs like Sarel Pretorius, Robert Ebersohn, Johann Sadie, Raymond Rhule and Willie le Roux are able to play with the flair they are famous for.

The Cheetahs also have a bad draw: they have just a solitary home game against the Sharks before they head off overseas, their opening tour matches being against the defending champions, the Chiefs, and then the Highlanders at the House of Pain in Dunedin.

The Stormers topped the log in 2012 and are the Currie Cup champions, and there is plenty of optimism in Cape Town that they are heading into another golden age of Western Province rugby to rival that of the late 1990s/early 2000s. The SuperRugby title is the one they really want and they certainly have the players to become the second South African franchise to claim the trophy. Though their defence was famously committed and superbly organised last year, they will need to sharpen up on their attacking skills.

Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and Schalk Burger are household names, but they have also added some potential superstars in fullback Jaco Taute and flyhalf Elton Jantjies.

Their pack also boasts Springboks in Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Andries Bekker and new signing Pat Cilliers, while much is expected of loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt.

But items up for debate are whether they have enough depth in the tight five should injuries strike, whether scrumhalves Dewaldt Duvenhage, Nic Groom and Louis Schreuder have the star quality to get the best out of a phenomenal backline also featuring Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen, and when Burger will actually return to action after a succession of leg injuries.

It will be necessary for the Stormers to hit the competition running as their first three games are key away trips to conference contenders the Bulls and Sharks, followed by a meeting with the Chiefs at Newlands.

 

The Sharks have such a wealth of talent at their disposal across almost all positions that it is becoming inexplicable that they still haven’t managed to win a SuperRugby crown.

The only items causing some concern down Durban way will be the second row, where Franco van der Merwe is the experienced import among the greenhorns, who is going to start at hooker while Bismarck du Plessis continues his rehab from knee ligament surgery, and will Frans Steyn continue to captain while Keegan Daniel recovers from a knee injury?

A dreadfully slow start to the 2012 campaign was to blame for the Sharks only finishing sixth on the log and scraping into the playoffs. Travelling to Australia, Cape Town and then to New Zealand was a bridge too far for them and they will be mindful of the need to earn home playoffs this time round.

Although the Currie Cup ultimately ended in a shock defeat to Western Province in the final, the potential was plain to see in the likes of lock Anton Bresler, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, centres Paul Jordaan and Tim Whitehead, wing Sibusiso Sithole and fullback Louis Ludik.

The Sharks loose trio was arguably the best in the competition last year and Ryan Kankowski is back from Japan to join Marcell Coetzee, Daniel, Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes.

In Butch James, the Sharks have experienced cover for Pat Lambie in the flyhalf position, while Steyn provides muscle in midfield and JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo were inspirational on the wing last year.

The Sharks will also be spending the first eight weeks of the competition in South Africa, playing teams like the Stormers, Brumbies and Crusaders in Durban, so they should be in good spirits by the time they head overseas in the last week of April.

The Sharks will surely be in contention and, provided they don’t get in their own way, 2013 could be the year they finally get their hands on the SuperRugby trophy.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-02-15-superrugby-preview-brief-lull-before-the-storm-for-sa-franchises/#.UbXJOec3A6w

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    James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

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