for quality writing

Ken Borland

Bulls kneel in submission to Crusaders at Loftus 0

Posted on May 06, 2017 by Ken


The hapless Bulls were forced to kneel in submission to the might of the Crusaders as they were thrashed 62-24, suffering their biggest ever defeat at their Loftus Versfeld fortress, in their SuperRugby match on Saturday night.

It is both the most points the Bulls have conceded at home and the biggest losing margin, worse than their 56-28 defeat at the hands of the Blues in 2003.

As brilliant as the Crusaders were, the Bulls were utterly supine, their defence passive and lacking any of the fire they had spoken of in the week leading up to the match. Their attacks invariably started from so deep that they were seldom any real threat to a Crusaders side that is playing magnificent rugby at present.

There weren’t many lineouts in the game, but scrummaging was once again the bane of the Bulls’ lives, with that set-piece being destroyed with regularity by a Crusaders tight five led by stalwart Wyatt Crockett. Aimless kicking, poor defensive alignment and bad basic skills were some of the other failings to bedevil the Bulls.

As dismal as the Bulls were, the Crusaders deserve huge credit because they are playing proper rugby at the moment – strong in the set-pieces, direct with plenty of pace and power out wide, their execution is immaculate and coach Scott Robertson is clearly getting a new-look side to play with confidence while thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Outside centre Jack Goodhue, a former All Blacks Sevens player and Junior World Cup winner, was the central figure in the Crusaders’ enforcement of their huge dominance of the advantage line. His decision-making was outstanding, knowing exactly when to carry the ball, which he did with pace and great footwork, and when to put through clever grubbers which ripped the Bulls apart. Two tries were just reward for a powerful display.

The soft defence of the Bulls was obvious in the opening minutes when flank Pete Samu, bursting from a scrappy lineout, was tackled but then just let go inside the 22, allowing the Australian to regather the ball and storm over the line for the opening try. The heart of the Bulls has to be called into question because everyone expected them to come out breathing fire, playing with great physicality to at least make the Crusaders’ expected win tough to achieve.

The scrums were a disaster area for the Bulls with the Crusaders employing the tactic of shifting to the left immediately after the hit. Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss admitted after the game that it was a clever strategy and entirely within the law, the home side just not coping with it.

The Bulls attack is running from deep so often that it is always going to be a huge uphill battle for them to get over the advantage line. The Bulls’ backline is certainly a threat on turnover ball but the lack of vision and skill is also so apparent. A key moment in the game came in the 19th minute when the Bulls created space out wide for fullback Warrick Gelant, who raced down the touchline and then fed the ball inside to Piet van Zyl. The scrumhalf had a man on his inside and outside, but held on to the ball too long and the move broke down. Tian Schoeman then missed the resulting penalty. It was the sort of chance that is a certain try for every New Zealand team and it would have made the score 10-14 to the Crusaders.

The bench did at least make some impact for the Bulls, with Jan Serfontein and replacement flyhalf Francois Brummer, in particular, showing that the way forward may well include them in the starting line-up.


Points scorers

Bulls – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo, Jan Serfontein. Conversions: Francois Brummer (3). Penalty: Tian Schoeman.

Crusaders – Tries: Pete Samu, Tim Bateman, Scott Barrett, Jack Goodhue (2), Seta Tamanivalu, David Havili, Richie Mo’unga, Andrew Makalio, Mitchell Hunt. Conversions: Mo’unga (5), Hunt.


Sparkless Boks facing the attacking masters 0

Posted on September 18, 2012 by Ken


The lack of attacking spark has been a theme for the Springboks in their first year under Heyneke Meyer, and on Saturday they come up against the masters of offensive play, the All Blacks, at one of their fortresses – Dunedin.

Interestingly, the Springboks and the All Blacks have both scored just five tries from three matches in the Rugby Championship thus far, but for South Africa, three of those came in the opening match against the debutants, Argentina, in the shadow of Table Mountain at Newlands.

The All Blacks are playing their last Test at home this year, and they are eager to produce the 100% performance that has eluded them thus far in 2012.

“We always aim for that perfect performance; it’s the last time that we are playing in New Zealand for a while, although I think wherever you play you want to improve on before. But certainly, seeing that it’s the last time we play, it would be nice to put a good one together before we head off,” New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said on the eve of the game.

“At times we have not been as accurate as we could be, but it won’t stop us from trying to play. One or two passes sometimes can make the difference. It is just a matter of getting the timing right to do that, and keep the guys creating those opportunities.”

The good news for the All Blacks – and very bad news for the Springboks – is that the venue for the Test, the Forsyth Barr Stadium, is enclosed under a roof and therefore the outside elements will play no part. There will be no swirling wind to make South Africa’s much-loved up-and-unders difficult to catch and there will be none of the wetness that helped Argentina in their mission of stopping the world champions from playing their favoured ball-in-hand game.

Coach Meyer has admitted that the conditions will be similar to a dry, windless winter’s day on the Highveld, and the All Blacks have regularly lit up Loftus Versfeld with their dazzling running play. South Africa tends to avoid playing New Zealand in Pretoria these days, which is not surprising when you consider the previous four results have been 45-26, 52-16, 34-18 and 33-26 in favour of the visitors to the Blue Bulls citadel.

Up-and-unders are not going to be the answer on Saturday against the thrilling All Blacks back three of Israel Dagg, Cory Jane and Julian Savea. South Africa’s best hope is to really get up the noses of the All Blacks at the source, up front.

But the Springboks’ inexperienced pack will be up against McCaw, arguably the greatest rugby player ever, and the likes of Kieran Read, Andrew Hore and Tony Woodcock, who are up with the all-time greats.

They are bound to supply their backline with at least 50% possession and at least 50% of that will be front-foot ball, so New Zealand will create enough try-scoring opportunities for their lethal finishers.

The Springboks, on the other hand, are labouring with a flyhalf that stands too deep, an inside centre who has just played crash ball all year, an outside centre who looks out of place, and a fullback not known for his attacking prowess.

With 64% possession against the desperate Wallabies last weekend, the Springboks could still only score one try.

It is difficult to see what weapon the Springboks could possibly hurt the All Blacks with.

They will probably try to physically intimidate and rattle their hosts, but that approach has rarely borne fruit in New Zealand and has usually led to a yellow card and more gaps for the best users of space in the game.

After the All Blacks have absorbed the physical challenge, they will be able to play their game and that’s when it will become a rough night for the Springboks.

Like men overboard in turbulent seas, they’re going to have to cling on to every tackle in sight, claim every scrap of 50/50 ball that they are presented with and hope that the All Blacks believe that they are invincible and try and run the ball from everywhere, including positions that will just put them under pressure.

The Springboks have claimed just nine victories in New Zealand since 1921,and some great South African sides have fallen short in the Land of the Long White Cloud. There won’t be many expecting Meyer’s inexperienced and embattled team to secure a 10th win.

↑ Top