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Ken Borland



Springboks overcome tough times to get back on right track 0

Posted on June 10, 2017 by Ken

 

France gave them a tough time, but in the end the Springboks started their 2017 campaign with a highly satisfactory 37-14 win at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday night.

There were enough positive signs to suggest coach Allister Coetzee and his team have the Springboks back on the right track after hitting rock bottom in 2016.

The Springboks were put on the front foot by a superb effort from their pack, which was clearly dominant. Enjoying the lion’s share of possession, the home team were not always direct enough on attack, sometimes becoming too lateral, so the scoreboard did not always reflect how in charge they seemed to be.

The French were able to create space out wide too easily at times and some moments of defensive frailty from the Springboks meant the visitors were very much in the game until the final quarter.

With the clock on the hour mark, the match was on an even keel with the Springboks leading 16-14 when the turning point came.

The quick-thinking of scrumhalf Ross Cronje and the clever boot of flyhalf Elton Jantjies saw the ball bouncing over the French line with Courtnall Skosan in hot pursuit down the left wing. He had the pace to get there first but, as he was reaching up for the ball, he was played by French fullback Brice Dulin and the ball went astray.

The Springboks called for the early tackle and the TMO, Englishman Rowan Kitt, and referee Glen Jackson made the ruling that the contact had been a split-second too early. It was a marginal call either way and it was desperately tough on the French to concede a penalty try and for Dulin to be yellow-carded.

The Springboks scored two more tries in the 10 minutes he was off the field and the contest was over with the lead 37-14 with 12 minutes to play.

The first try came from the training ground with a slick lineout move. Captain and eighthman Warren Whiteley shifted backwards to take a deep lineout throw and then, having barely held on to the ball, immediately passed it into the gap for Cronje to come roaring through and score a memorable try on debut.

Seven minutes later, turnover ball allowed replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard to go on a sniping run, before fullback Andries Coetzee hit the afterburners and stormed into the open spaces before sending centre Jan Serfontein on a diagonal road to the tryline.

The road to victory was bumpy at first for the Springboks as the French driving maul earned them an early penalty, but flyhalf Jules Plisson missed.

With half-an-hour gone, South Africa only had two Jantjies penalties to their name. The first came after a lovely interchange of passes between hooker Malcolm Marx and wing Raymond Rhule led to the French being offsides. The visitors were up quickly in defence and combative in the tackle, but it was an area referee Jackson did police well.

The other Jantjies penalty came from a rolling maul, an area of the game in which the Springboks also showed pleasing work.

Marx produced a phenomenal first-half display, charging around the field like some intergalactic giant beast, and he provided the scoring pass for outside centre Jesse Kriel to go racing over for the first try in the 31st minute, after Coetzee, the other star up till then, had fought hard in the tackle and then burst clear.

The Springboks were 13-0 up with Jantjies’ conversion, but then the French began pulling back on the scoreboard.

The ease with which they were able to create space out wide is one of the aspects of play the Springboks will have to improve and, in the 36th minute, right wing Yoann Huget had acres of space and then chipped ahead, Coetzee totally missing the bouncing ball on the goal-line, allowing centre Henry Chavancy to dot down.

Jantjies, who did everything that could have been asked of him at flyhalf in a busy, courageous performance, scored the final points of the first half with a penalty to make it 16-7. The kicking of the Lions pivot was an obvious high point of his game as he succeeded with all six of his shots at goal.

The French scored the first points of the second half to keep the minds of the Springboks focused as Chavancy ran straight over Kriel in midfield, the Bulls player having to leave the field with concussion, and, from the next ruck, replacement scrumhalf Baptiste Serin dummied and went over the line.

Plisson’s second conversion narrowed the lead of the South Africans to just two points (16-14), but the final quarter belonged to the home side.

The physical effort of the Springboks never flagged, thanks to the impact off the bench of players like Jean-Luc du Preez, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen and Bongi Mbonambi, and the outstanding scrum was the other highlight of the performance.

It was just the sort of encouraging performance the Springboks needed to start their year.

Points scorers

South AfricaTry – Jesse Kriel, penalty try (7pts), Ross Cronje, Jan Serfontein. Conversion – Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties – Jantjies (3).

FranceTries – Henry Chavancy, Baptiste Serin. Conversions – Jules Plisson (2).

Pieter-Steph du Toit & Warren Whiteley Q&As 0

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit

 

Q: How did it feel for the Springboks to be booed off the field at halftime?

PSdT: Well the first half was quite a shocker and being booed, well we fully deserved it. But we were 100% better in the second half and we showed what we can do. It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you get booed like that, but it made me a bit angry, I wanted to show that we are not that bad. If you play good rugby, then the crowd gets behind you.

 

Q: What went wrong in the first half?

PSdT: Us players were all on the field, but we just weren’t playing, we had no energy, we all just seemed a bit tired. I do not know why that happened in the first half, I have no explanation at the moment, except that our game plan was to work around the corner and we didn’t do that as the forwards.

 

Q: How did the Springboks manage to pull off such an amazing comeback?

PSdT: Eben Etzebeth and I spoke about it and we never doubted that we could win, and if you believe it then you can do it. There was a mindshift – we knew we had to win, so we had to lift our game to a different level and the changes helped too, a guy like Ruan Combrinck was man of the match after playing just 40 minutes, so that’s quite an effort. We stuck to the game plan more, the forwards came into the game and we cut out the mistakes. We made a lot of errors in the first half, we didn’t keep the ball, and Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss spoke to us about that and said if this was our last Test for South Africa, how would we play? Of course they were upset.

 

 

Warren Whiteley

 

Q: How satisfying was that second-half comeback and how did you pull it off?

WW: We’re delighted with the win and the character we showed. We definitely felt the momentum swing early in the second half and that gave us a chance. We got quick ball and we were hitting the advantage line and so creating space out wide. We managed to keep that width, make holes in the middle and earn the right to go wide. It means a lot because we were extremely disappointed after the first half, but we showed our character in the second half, which is definitely going to be a massive confidence boost.

 

Q: Did you feel extra pressure coming on straight after halftime in front of your home crowd with the Springboks in a hole, and do you think you’ve secured a starting place now?

WW: Every time I step on to the field it’s a privilege and I try to make sure I use every opportunity. I didn’t feel any extra pressure, but I was highly motivated to make a difference. No, I don’t think I can talk about starting places because there are a lot of very talented loose forwards in the squad – Jaco Kriel hasn’t even played a game yet and there’s a guy like Sikhumbuzo Notshe also waiting in the wings.

 

Q: There’s been plenty of talk already about the win being down to all the members of the Lions team you captain who were on the field in the second half … is that why the Springboks won the game?

WW: There’s no way it was the Lions team who won the game, collectively we worked together on the game plan and the style of rugby we wanted to play. The first week together was tough, we did lots of work but lost, and this week was tough too. But slowly and surely we’re getting into our rhythm, we’re still reading and learning about each other. This was only my fifth Test, I’ve never had to link with Damian de Allende before, I’ve never scrummed behind Pieter-Steph du Toit before, so I’m still learning how to play with them.

 

Nollis rightly gives full credit to the Lions 0

Posted on May 30, 2016 by Ken

 

Few would have disagreed with Bulls coach Nollis Marais when he gave the Lions full credit for their dazzling 56-20 victory in their SuperRugby derby at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

“The Lions were excellent, they played for the whole 80 minutes and showed us how far behind we are, the score reflects that. The Lions showed why they are a top-class side, they are all excellent rugby players and definite title contenders. We learnt a lot tonight because they are similar to the New Zealand sides,” Marais said.

Although the Lions backs scored some spectacular tries, it was up front where they first got their hooks into the Bulls, with a mighty display from their pack.

“We stole a couple of their lineouts early on, but then we lost two or three and the lineout became messy. The first scrum was a penalty against us and the next one was fed on to the prop’s leg and bounced out, plus we were penalised a lot at the breakdown. We couldn’t get our set-pieces going, so we were just hanging on, we couldn’t play,” Marais said.

The Bulls coach said he was gutted, not so much at the loss – because the Lions are a brilliant side – but at the performance which was nowhere near the levels they reached the previous weekend against the Stormers.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann agreed that the display was one of the best his team have produced this season.

“Obviously we’re very pleased, we played for the whole 80 and it was probably one of the better performances we’ve had. The credit must go to the players because they’ve worked on some of the lessons from the Hurricanes game and worked really hard on the contact area which is so important to our game.

“The Bulls are definitely a good team, big and physical with a strong defence, so I would have taken any win. Credit to the whole pack, who put in a lot of hard work, and the exceptional finishing of the backs,” Ackermann said.

No secret that Bulls are vulnerable in scrum, but still disappointing for Strauss 0

Posted on March 01, 2016 by Ken

 

It was hardly confidential that the Bulls were vulnerable in the scrums when they opened their SuperRugby campaign against the Stormers at Newlands, but captain Adriaan Strauss was nevertheless disappointed that his team gave their hosts so much opportunity to dominate that set-piece as they romped to an impressive 33-9 victory.

“The Stormers scrummed well in the second half and we also struggled against the Lions in the latter part of that warm-up game. There are technical things we need to work on and improve, but the coach said before the game that scrummaging would be our challenge and that’s precisely where the Stormers took us on and they won that battle.

“But we didn’t give them that opportunity in the first half, it was a tactical game, there wasn’t much space, a typical, hard South African derby. The Stormers took their opportunities in the second half but we gave them some of those. It’s frustrating because I know the side has got potential, like we showed in the first half, but then we didn’t play to our ability in the second half. Credit to the Stormers for playing very well, but we made silly mistakes at the lineouts and we didn’t apply pressure, giving them easy exits,” hooker Strauss said after the game.

Bulls coach Nollis Marais hinted that the true valuation of his side will only come further down the line, perhaps not even during this year’s SuperRugby competition.

“The match showed how young and inexperienced we are in certain positions. But we need to play these youngsters, they’ll get better every week and will be ready down the line. Otherwise two years from now we will have the same problem. It’s not nice, but we have to stick with it and the guys have to learn. A match like that is not fun, but it’s a good way to learn and the team will grow every week,” Marais said.

“The big question mark was always going to be whether we were under pressure in the set-pieces and the Stormers did that to us in the second half. Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit showed their class in the lineouts and they had very good substitutions in the scrum. If you don’t win your set-pieces, you can have thousands of plans, but without good scrum or lineout ball, you can’t attack,” the coach added.



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