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Ken Borland



A simple calculation for WP: Forward might is right 0

Posted on October 28, 2017 by Ken

 

It may not be a straightforward calculation to measure the exact amount of momentum Western Province gained from their pack in the Currie Cup final against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday, but it was simple as anything to work out that it was the visiting forwards who played the key role in their convincing 33-21 victory.

At practically every scrum, the Sharks were going backwards, and even on the one occasion they got the shove on Western Province, it still ended in a try for the visitors as eighthman Nizaam Carr broke blind and set up fellow loose forward Cobus Wiese for the try.

Western Province were also dominant on the gain-line, meeting a Sharks pack, that has powered through most other opposition this season, head-on in a brutal battle.

Western Province flyhalf Robert du Preez was a composed general behind this juggernaut pack, while opposite number Curwin Bosch lost his cool, being exposed defensively and only succeeding with 50% of his kicks at goal.

It took a while for the Western Province ace to be reflected on the scoreboard though, with the Sharks thriving in the first half as they capitalised on soft mistakes by the visitors to run up a 21-10 lead that lasted until the final moments before the break.

The Sharks were tied down in their 22 as the final hooter went and, even though Carr was held up over the line by Garth April, a five-metre scrum resulted in concerted pressure, and eventually wing Kobus van Wyk rushed out of the defensive line, allowing opposite number Dillyn Leyds to go over in the corner.

From that point on, the Sharks were on the back foot; pushed back on the gain-line, unable to get their hands on the ball and condemned to playing in the wrong areas of the field by the tactical nous of on-song flyhalf Robert du Preez.

Wiese’s 51st-minute try brought Western Province practically back on level terms and they took the lead for the first and final time when Bosch went high on wing Seabela Senatla, who brushed him off and was able to offload to centre Huw Jones, who skipped past a few defenders on his way to the tryline.

Western Province then relied on the boot of Du Preez to close out the game and they can justifiably feel proud by how they finished the season as thoroughly convincing champions, having been underwhelming in the opening half of the competition.

No team can expect to win a final with their pack being so badly beaten, but the Sharks certainly made a good fist of it for the first 35 minutes.

Despite being shoved off the ball in the opening scrum to concede a tighthead, it all started so positively for the Sharks with centre Marius Louw slicing through the Western Province defence like a can-opener to set up Odwa Ndungane, in his 251st and last game for the Sharks, with a dream try.

But glory can turn into humiliation very quickly in finals and Jones then stepped inside an on-rushing Ndungane for Western Province’s opening try just four minutes later. The Sharks will be more disappointed that they conceded a five-metre scrum, from which the try came, through players just being in the wrong place at the wrong time at a ruck, resulting in accidental offsides.

Eighthman Daniel du Preez then muscled his way over in the 18th minute, but it would end up as a bad day for the twins as Jean-Luc had to be helped off the field moments later with an ankle injury, and Daniel would be yellow-carded late in the second half for tackling a player off the ball.

Having their most physical forward excluded from the gain-line battle certainly didn’t help the Sharks, but to be fair, Western Province were already dominating the scrums and had kept Jean-Luc in check up until his departure.

The home crowd would have hoped the phenomenal long-range drop goal Bosch fired over off a retreating scrum would mean the youngster was settling into the game, but unfortunately the pressure was inexorably transferred on to him and the Springbok hopeful did not handle it well.

The game-management of Robert du Preez was outstanding, though, and the other chief heroes for Western Province in a fine all-round display were Wilco Louw, the player of the match for the way he provided the foundation for the huge scrummaging display that laid the platform for victory; Jones, the Scotsman who brought tremendous physical presence and great feet to the midfield, and Carr, the workhorse of the team.

The Western Province front row, with Bongi Mbonambi and JC Janse van Rensburg providing powerful support to Louw, is where the victory had its starting point though.

 

Bok backline dazzles but credit to pack for quick ball 0

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springbok backline dazzled with their clinical finishing as Samoa were thumped 56-23 in an eight-try romp at Loftus Versfeld, but quick ball was why they were able to shine and for that credit must go to the forwards for a superb display.

The pack stepped up magnificently and physically dominated the bulky Samoans so the Springboks had front-foot ball and could show their ability to get the ball quickly wide and convert possession into tries.

There have been many critics of the Springboks saying they are one-dimensional and boring on attack, but they looked a polished, exciting offensive force on Saturday night, especially when fullback Willie le Roux joined the line. JJ Engelbrecht also scored a brilliant individual try and is rapidly growing into a fine attacking outside centre.

Like any team, if their forwards get on top, then the backs can play.

“We really are building on something special, this is a well-balanced side. We mauled well, the defence was excellent and there were some brilliant small touches,” said coach Heyneke Meyer after the game.

“It is one of the things we’ve been working on, getting turnover ball quickly wide, and we scored some awesome tries. But we did the basics well, Francois Louw and Willem Alberts brought a lot of physicality. But one guy can’t make all the difference because he can’t be at every ruck. The guys were all very focused and it was one of the best forward efforts I’ve seen.”

Bryan Habana, as ever, led the way when it came to clinical finishing, his two tries taking him to 50 in 86 Tests, with only five other players in world rugby having achieved that milestone.

“We showed that when we get quick ball and we get over the gain-line, our backs can be dangerous,” Habana said. “Most tries come from turnovers or broken field play and you’ve got to see those opportunities and execute. This weekend we were really clinical and it was pretty important that we made decisions quickly. But the guys who do all the hard work don’t always get the credit and our forwards were fantastic, as were the guys on the inside.”

Many rugby followers think an openside flank should be measured by the number of balls he steals in the ruck. This is a very simplistic view though, as former Springbok forwards coach Gary Gold so aptly explains here.

By that measure, Francois Louw was ineffective at Loftus Versfeld because he did not effect a single turnover against Samoa. But the freshly married Bath star was magnificent and was all over the field, carrying the ball strongly, slowing down ball at the rucks and defending stoutly.

Although he is not one of the bigger Springbok forwards, many of Louw’s ball-carries bashed through the Samoan defence, as epitomised by his 76th-minute charge through three tacklers and over the tryline, as well as by the fact he gained 32 metres with ball in hand during the match, with only Le Roux (82) and Habana (36) being more successful in that department.

“The guys were looking for me at the breakdown and it was a tough day at the office there, but that’s the kind of rugby I like,” Louw said. “It separates the men from the boys. But we want to play running rugby and there’s nothing better than having ball in hand, nothing beats that. We want to play positive, good strong, hard rugby.”

There aren’t many stronger or harder rugby players than Willem Alberts and the returning Sharks player was also immense on the gain-line. Not only did he carry the ball like a bullocking rhinoceros, he was an adamantium wall in defence, making 16 tackles.

The uninitiated might not fully comprehend the effort that it takes against a team like Samoa, but if you consider that 16 of their 23-man squad weighed over 100kg and that they generally like running into people, then one can begin to understand the enormity of the task. Alberts and Louw led the way, but the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi and Jean de Villiers in the backline were also outstanding defensively.

“I asked for a big performance and that was a big step up physically. I believe it was a forward performance, but it was typical Springbok rugby,” Meyer cooed.

The Springboks were also excellent in the set pieces, dominating a powerful Samoan scrum and winning all 18 of their lineouts, from which they often mauled to great effect.

They varied their game intelligently, however, Louw scoring his first try from the rolling maul, but scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar then cleverly breaking blind from one in the second half to set up Habana’s second, historic try.

The Samoans are famous for their physicality, but they are also notorious for crossing the line in terms of foul play.

It was a great disappointment that, once it was clear they were losing the collisions, they resorted to dirty play.

James So’oialo’s testicle-grabbing was the talk of Pretoria afterwards, while Alesana Tuilagi was red-carded for an awful stiff-arm high tackle on De Villiers. But there was also scrumhalf Jeremy Su’a’s stamp on Louw’s head at a ruck, causing him to leave the field for stitches, and Census Johnston kicking out at Coenie Oosthuizen after the burly prop had put him on his backside with a totally legitimate tackle.

Samoa are consistently trying to portray themselves as the victims of discriminatory refereeing. “There have historically been harsh calls against us and some of the calls tonight were a wee-bit hard. The things they were referring upstairs, they looked quite soft,” captain Paul Williams said.

But coach Stephen Betham was closer to the truth when he said: “The ill discipline came down to frustration, but there’s no excuse. We’ve worked hard to get it out of our game but we were intimidated and we faltered.”

But it is also clear that the International Rugby Board are more concerned with tip tackles than thuggish acts of violence on the field. To his dishonour, Judge Jeff Blackett cleared So’oialo of any deliberate malfeasance for his indecent assault on livewire hooker Adriaan Strauss, while Su’a and Johnston weren’t even cited by commissioner Peter Larter, despite the ugly stamp being clearly visible on a television replay.

Tuilagi received a two-week ban, but it’s meaningless because the Japan-based player is on holiday now anyway.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-24-springboks-smash-samoans-a-promise-of-things-to-come/#.VuqZUuJ97IU

‘How Bulls pack react to pressure is crucial’ – Maku 0

Posted on October 16, 2015 by Ken

 

Blue Bulls hooker Bandise Maku knows that how the pack responds to the pressure the powerful Western Province forwards will put them under will go a long way to deciding who wins their Currie Cup semi-final at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Western Province will come to Pretoria with a SuperRugby-strength team featuring a powerful front row of Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw, and two of the best young locks in the country in Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn, while the combative Nizaam Carr, the intimidating Rynhardt Elstadt and the pacy Sikhumbuzo Notshe form a superbly well-balanced loose trio.

“As a pack, we’ve gone quite well and guys like Pierre Schoeman, Marvin Orie and RG Snyman have come through well. But Western Province have a very good set-piece and are strong on the drive as well, so we’re expecting a big clash up front. Myself, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha have the experience, we need to stay level-headed because there’s always going to be pressure in a semi-final. It’s how you react to it that’s crucial and the set-piece battle is going to be very important, lineouts and defending the drive as well,” Maku told The Citizen on Tuesday.

Western Province, with Kitshoff at the forefront, will no doubt see the Blue Bulls scrum as a potential area of weakness, but Maku said they have improved since being worked over in Cape Town a month ago when the Blue Bulls were beaten 29-14.

“It’s important to get the combinations right up front and we’ve been doing quite well in the scrums lately. It’s still a work in progress, it’s long-term, but we have improved. There’s been a change in personnel and now we want to scrum, plus we have Werner Kruger coming off the bench to add his experience,” Maku said.

The 29-year-old Springbok is one of the most experienced players in the Blue Bulls team with 74 Currie Cup and 53 SuperRugby caps, and he sees taking whatever points are on offer as being the key factor in whether they reach their first final since 2010.

“It’s all about taking your chances. If you have a lineout five metres out, then you have to make it count. You need to take your points so you create scoreboard pressure, so you also have to kick very well, kick when you have to and keep the pressure on them with the boot. We’ll also need to play with more discipline because that will put pressure on them as well,” Maku said.

 

Four reasons for the Springboks to be optimistic 0

Posted on November 04, 2014 by Ken

1)      Their forwards can match anybody

While the backs stole much of the glory at Ellis Park, it was the hard workers up front who made the razzle-dazzle possible. The All Blacks had a tough time making much headway with ball-in-hand as their ball-carriers were suffocated by the physicality of the Springbok forwards. New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said after the game that the pressure exerted at close quarters by the South Africans caused many of the handling mistakes that robbed them of momentum.

The Springboks had a few problems in the lineouts in the second half, but that set-piece was generally solid and the scrum, which had been the focus of much concern earlier in the competition, ended the competition in impressive fashion by enjoying an edge over the All Blacks.

 

2)      They have two world-class, match-winning flyhalves

Flyhalf has been a position of almost perpetual uncertainty for coach Heyneke Meyer, but Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie were the heroes of their win over the All Blacks and have shown they have what it takes to perform against the best, under severe pressure.

Pollard has been touted as the next big thing ever since he was the player of the tournament as he led the South Africa U20s to the final of the IRB Junior World Cup in June, and he was given his first Test start at the end of that month against Scotland, playing with tremendous assurance in a 55-6 win for the Springboks.

Two more starts against Argentina followed, but with the forwards struggling, he did not set the world alight and Morne Steyn returned for the match against Australia in Perth. The veteran’s disastrous performance meant the number 10 jersey was given back to Pollard for the match against the All Blacks in Wellington, with the 20-year-old producing a composed display.

A solid outing against Australia in Cape Town followed, but this weekend at Ellis Park he was nothing sort of top-class.

A graceful runner with ball in hand, he is deceptively quick and very powerful, as he showed by scoring through McCaw.

A dangerous, direct runner, Pollard adds considerably to the Springbok attack, but his kicking is still a work in progress.

The presence on the bench of somebody as cool and composed under pressure as Lambie provides tremendous security for Meyer. The Sharks star played pivotal roles as a replacement in the wins over both Australia and New Zealand and, having spent many frustrating days injured and then waiting to get more game time, the 23-year-old can look forward to many more Test appearances.

The Steyn era may now have passed but the Springboks will be pleased to have his experience in the background, while the talents of Racing Metro flyhalf Johan Goosen are also on the radar.

 

3)      The midfield is gelling

The centre pairing for the Springboks has been the subject of much debate with Jan Serfontein moving to number 13 to partner Jean de Villiers. The critics have been calling for the more naturally attacking outside centre skills of a Juan de Jongh or a S’Bura Sithole, but the De Villiers/Serfontein partnership is certainly gelling judging by the ease with which they created space on the outside against the All Blacks. The marvellously quick hands of De Villiers were a major factor in this.

The goal will be for Serfontein to become totally defensively attuned to the number 13 position but the backs scoring three tries against the All Blacks suggests the attacking aspect is coming together.

 

4)      Confidence and belief will be sky-high

The Springboks will now believe that they can beat any other team in world rugby and that they can master a high-tempo, attacking brand of play, as well as a more forward-dominated, tighter strategy.

The pace at which they are able to perform – they have closed the gap on the All Blacks in this respect – will be a valuable weapon against Northern Hemisphere teams at the World Cup and there will no longer be the burden of a losing streak against a certain side.

 



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