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Ken Borland



Lions players with heavy hearts after semi-final loss 0

Posted on July 07, 2017 by Ken

 

There were plenty of Lions players with a heavy weight on their shoulders after Saturday night’s heartbreaking Currie Cup semi-final loss to Western Province.

The Lions, defending the title they had won in fairytale fashion last year, had dominated most of the match and seemed to have finally secured victory – when everything changed.

The Lions’ apparent lead all turned belly-up after flyhalf Elton Jantjies had kicked an angled penalty to switch the score to 16-14 with less than two minutes remaining.

Then the ball was carried back from the kickoff and Jaco Taute put too much on his clearing kick, the ball sailing directly into touch to give Western Province a vital lineout inside the Lions’ 22. The visitors’ rolling maul once again carried too much momentum to be stopped, and the Capetonians had the match-winning try with a dozen seconds left in the game.

While the loss will weigh most heavily on Taute and Jantjies, who missed three first-half kicks that denied the Lions vital reward for their dominance, it was also a sad end to an era. This Lions team that showed the courage to win the Currie Cup last year after they had been humiliated in SuperRugby, who stood up as a unit to get rid of their bullying coach, John Mitchell, and who shrugged off the awful news that they would not be playing in the Sanzar tournament in 2013, will now break up.

Already, Jantjies, Taute, lock Michael Rhodes and prop Pat Cilliers have been confirmed as heading to the Stormers, while two unsung heroes of the tight five, Franco van der Merwe (Sharks) and Jacobie Adriaanse (Scarlets), are also departing.

The loss of these players, and probably more in the near future, means the Lions will have to rebuild yet again.

“We’ve lost guys who we’ve worked on for two or three years to get to this level, and now we’ll have to get new guys to that level as quickly as possible,” coach Johan Ackermann admitted.

“This group has become so close, they really play for each other. For the first time in years, we have a number of players in every position and we would have gone into SuperRugby with some depth and with players going into their second or third year in that competition.

“But now this whole group breaks up and we have to start building up a new team again … I know those are words Lions supporters don’t want to hear, but we have to do it.”

The mere fact that the Lions finished the year as strong Currie Cup contenders, hosting a semi-final, and not as the clowns some haters like to portray them as, is amazing considering all the obstacles they faced.

“We could of fallen apart and finished sixth and gone into a promotion/relegation playoff, but instead our goal was to win the Currie Cup. I’m still very positive, even though we’re just disappointed now because that was a game we should have won. But I’d rather be losing in a semi-final than playing promotion/relegation,” Ackermann said. 

The Sharks, having seen off the Bulls 20-3 in difficult conditions in Durban, will now go into the Currie Cup final as firm favourites.

Thus far in the competition, they have undoubtedly been the most cohesive unit, they have the best all-round players and they will have home ground advantage.

Ackermann predictably backed his former Sharks side to beat the Streeptruie next weekend, saying “they can’t get that lucky twice, Christmas only comes once a year”, but even Western Province coach Allister Coetzee was saying the Natalians would be favourites.

“We’ll be up against the best side in South Africa; the Sharks are unbelievably strong, to hold the Bulls to just three points is very telling. They are a real quality side, they are good on attack and defence and they have good kickers. Maybe we’ll need all 22 players on the field to beat them … ” Coetzee said.

If you believe their detractors, Western Province tend to “choke” in the big games, but their victory over the Lions showed there is immense character and patience in their side. Nothing seemed to be going for them for three-quarters of the match, but then, as the game entered the crucial final stages, they were able to up the tempo and be clinical on attack.

“It’s one of the best wins I’ve experienced with Western Province, the character of the team really stood out and they never gave up. In the latter stages of the second half, we found space and width and the bench gave us great impetus on attack.

“The team showed a great will to win and the side that capitalises on their opportunities normally wins playoffs. People like to throw out that ‘chokers’ term at us, but the connection in this team is incredible, both to each other and to the game plan,” Coetzee said.

To upstage the Sharks, however, Western Province are going to have to improve markedly up front. The Lions bossed them at scrum time and the Sharks front row, spearheaded by Springboks Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira, will be looking to do the same.

The Sharks forwards were magnificent in stopping the big Bulls’ ball-carriers’ efforts to get over the gain line and they certainly have the backline to make better use of possession than the Lions did.

A sopping wet day in Durban was an equaliser, helping the Bulls’ strengths, but to win so convincingly just shows that the Sharks have the quality to rise to any occasion or conditions.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-21-currie-cup-lions-fans-welcome-to-heartbreak-hotel/#.WV99GISGPIU

John McFarland Column – Stormers’ turn to show they can bounce back 0

Posted on April 25, 2017 by Ken

 

SuperRugby is such a tough competition that every team at some stage will experience a crisis and it’s now the Stormers’ turn to face a test of character as to how they bounce back from their heavy defeat at the hands of the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Stormers were fortunate to get out of jail a bit in their previous games with things like intercept tries from their own goal-line, but their luck ran out in Christchurch. Things they got away with in the first few weeks were punished by the Crusaders, who have a much more accurate passing game than most teams, and that exposed the Stormers. They struggled to deal with the width of the Crusaders’ game, they were up against a two-four-two set-up and the likes of Codie Taylor and Kieran Read in the tramlines proved too much for them.

The Stormers’ wings were continually being pressured by the poor defensive spacing on the inside; the main Stormers problem was their spacing around the ruck, there were too many players close to the breakdown inside their own 22. They need to get more players out wide, they were much too compressed in defence at the ruck. They were caught cold by the width of the Crusaders attack.

But for a lot of the Stormers players it was their first time in New Zealand and it takes some time to adjust. Plus the Crusaders are obviously on fire at the moment under new coach Scott Robertson and they were just too good for the Stormers.

I spent time with the Stormers in pre-season and coach Robbie Fleck is determined to play a hugely exciting brand of rugby, which has been successful, but now they’ve just hit a blip.

But the Stormers played quite well in the second half, with two of the Crusaders’ tries coming from intercepts, and they will draw some positivity from that. They obviously need to regroup against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday and having the roof closed will suit their game.

It was encouraging the way they came back against the Crusaders and now they are in Queenstown in a very pleasant part of the world where they can walk to training, so hopefully they will be in a better frame of mind come Friday.

It was a weekend of contrasting emotions with the excitement coming from the Southern Kings. For them to come through the way they did, for their forwards to play so well as they came back from 17-0 down after half-an-hour, and to win so convincingly really takes some doing. Plus any away win is super, so it really was a sensational result in Sydney, to win there without any Springboks (Waylon Murray being injured) was truly remarkable.

The Kings forwards certainly outmauled the Waratahs and the visitors took their chances, a charge-down try getting them back into the game. It was certainly a comprehensive win with the Waratahs scoring on the final hooter and one of their tries was also from an intercept.

The win shows that South Africa still has forwards that are well-drilled and marshalled and you have to credit coach Deon Davids. Sometimes on the third game on tour the players are thinking of going home, especially since you have to leave Sydney very early the next morning so you’re packing and getting ready for the game all at the same time!

You could tell how much it meant to the Kings players at the end of the game and it was the sort of win to resurrect some careers. Someone like Lionel Cronje has played at practically every union and although there is respect for his play, he hasn’t really fulfilled the promise of his SA U20 days. But time out of the game forced him to re-evaluate his priorities and he has come back a renewed guy.

The Lions against the Jaguares was a good game with Harold Vorster once again shining, the try he scored, running the same line as he did against the Stormers, got the home side back in the game.

The variety of plays the Lions have from five metres away from the tryline is impressive and it shows they want seven-pointers instead of three – they have front-peels, back-peels, shift-drives and normal drives.

It was also pleasing to see Elton Jantjies kicking a pressure goal. He’s certainly in the running to be the Springboks’ starting flyhalf, especially with both Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie injured at the moment, and it’s good to see him so composed.

Lionel Mapoe is also hitting some form and his dummy-and-go and finish for his try was first-class and he also put away Andries Coetzee for the final try.

So it will please Allister Coetzee to see those two coming back into form.

Two of the Tests against France will be on the Highveld so they will be quick games, with the Springboks also surely trying to up the pace because the matches are at the end of the French season and there will obviously be some tiredness. For that Allister should choose quick, Lions-type players – those Tests should really suit guys like Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel.

At the end of the day, the Lions are our flagship franchise and that should be reflected in selection.

The SuperRugby quarterfinals will probably be contested by four New Zealand teams, three from South Africa and one from Australia, so the likelihood is that the Lions will play a New Zealand side in the quarterfinal. So it’s important that they keep winning and now that they are overseas, they need to get on a roll. So it was good for them to come through the Jaguares game with a win.

The Hurricanes have still got to tour and the Crusaders are now in South Africa, so let’s hope the Cheetahs and Bulls can do something against them.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

Bulls give Reds another Loftus hiding 0

Posted on June 08, 2016 by Ken

The Reds must be heartily sick of the view from behind the Loftus Versfeld goalposts as they succumbed to another heavy defeat there at the hands of the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday night, conceding six tries in a 43-22 defeat.

It was the Reds’ sixth successive loss in Pretoria and they have now conceded exactly 300 points in those games.

The Bulls are now top of the SuperRugby South African Conference, two points ahead of the Stormers, three points ahead of the Lions and four in front of the Sharks, with a game in hand over both of those last two sides, so they must be heading towards their overseas tour with confidence building.

Fullback Jesse Kriel must be in contention as a World Cup bolter later this year, featuring strongly in the tournament rankings for defenders beaten, carries and metres gained, and he was outstanding in all facets of his game on Saturday night, attacking with vigour from the back, kicking well and defending stoutly.

It was Kriel who set the Bulls on their way in the eighth minute as, following a Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalty four minutes earlier, he sped away from his own 22 after gathering an attempted grubber that had been deflected by wing Francois Hougaard.

Kriel ran all the way to the Reds’ 22 before passing inside to Hougaard, who had enough strength to carry a tackler over the line for the opening try.

The first half was dominated by the Bulls’ successful tactic of bombarding the Reds with high kicks, but it was nevertheless exciting viewing and the second half opened up into a try bonanza.

The Reds deserve to be included in any praise for the spectacle as they played with plenty of ambition, especially in the second half, and they showed their intent with their fine opening try in the 16th minute.

Flyhalf Nick Frisby attacked the line, chipped over and then re-gathered, before sending a long pass out to wing Lachie Turner to race away and score.

But aerial warfare was the name of the game for the Bulls in the first half and they quickly replied with their second try, eighthman Pierre Spies storming on to the ball after Turner had failed to gather a Kriel kick, the Bulls captain roaring over from 30 metres out.

The Reds actually had more possession than the Bulls in the first half, but the home side put in some tremendous hits as their aggressive defence continually pushed the Queenslanders back. Five minutes before the break, Hougaard stole the ball from prop James Slipper and was off for a 60-metre try that gave the Bulls a commanding 24-5 halftime lead.

The home side went into their shells a bit at the start of the second half and the Reds never hid their belief they could get back into the contest. And they did just that with two tries in three minutes closing the gap to 24-17.

Scrumhalf Will Genia was the spark as he scampered over from 20 metres out with a lovely run off a scrum and then placed a lovely dab through with the boot for Frisby to dash on to and score. The Reds had been put on attack by a powerful run by outside centre Samu Kerevi, and the 21-year-old Fijian then set up the visitors’ bonus-point try in the 59th minute with a breathtaking burst from his own 10-metre line. He powered on to a pop pass and then through half-a-dozen defenders before being stopped by Kriel just short of the line, replacement lock Marco Kotze being on hand to pick up and score.

But by then the Bulls had secured their own bonus-point try, replacement prop Marcel van der Merwe driving strongly off a rolling maul to score, eighthman Adam Thomson having just been yellow-carded for collapsing the previous maul.

It was a telling moment and, despite Kerevi’s magic, the Reds faded away at the end and conceded two more tries.

First Burger Odendaal produced an exceptional run from 30 metres out to power over the line and then another exciting run by Hougaard was stopped just short of the line, replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl then throwing a dummy and ducking over to score.

If Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has a natter with Frans Ludeke over the phone on Sunday then the Bulls coach can report back on a strong showing by Hougaard on the wing, another fine performance from tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane, and the continued growth of an exciting talent in Kriel.

But it was also pleasing to see loosehead prop Dean Greyling put in a number of massive hits and Spies did numerous good things around the park.

Scorers

Bulls – Tries: Francois Hougaard (2), Pierre Spies, Marcel van der Merwe, Burger Odendaal, Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3), Tian Schoeman (2). Penalty: Potgieter.

Reds – Tries: Lachie Turner, Will Genia, Nick Frisby, Marco Kotze. Conversion: Turner.

http://citizen.co.za/361081/bulls-give-reds-another-loftus-hiding/

Heyneke’s hope in experience, trusted lieutenants & walking wounded 0

Posted on September 01, 2015 by Ken

 

Springbok rugby coach Heyneke Meyer announced a World Cup squad heavy with experience and his trusted lieutenants, admitting that he was “hoping” many of the walking wounded would be fit for their opening game against Japan in Brighton on September 19.

Meyer has chosen nine members of the victorious 2007 World Cup squad in Schalk Burger, 2015 captain Jean de Villiers, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield, Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen, while players such as Willem Alberts, Zane Kirchner, Tendai Mtawariria and Morne Steyn have been stalwarts of his four-year term.

But a massive injury cloud hangs over the Springboks with De Villiers, key eighthman Duane Vermeulen, Jannie du Plessis, Du Preez, Willie le Roux, Francois Louw and Coenie Oosthuizen all having their build-up to the World Cup disrupted by injuries.

“The medical advice is that they are 100% confident that all 31 players will be fit for the first game and I’m hoping that will be the case. It is a worry to be honest, but certain players are warriors and they’re like charcoal that becomes diamonds under pressure.

“I know what a guy like Fourie du Preez can do, we’ve been training against Namibia, we’ve been having semi-opposed contact and I can see how ready they are in training. We’ll have four pool games at the World Cup to blend guys in and players like Flo and Duane are in the best form I’ve ever seen them in. Guys like that just need 30 minutes on the field and they’re back in the game,” Meyer said at the squad announcement at the team’s Umhlanga Rocks hotel on Friday night.

Meyer admitted that the last week had been a highly emotional one with players like flank Marcel Coetzee, who is 50/50 to be fit in time for the first game, and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach the unluckiest players to miss out on the squad.

“I started coaching because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, to make dreams come true. But these have been some of my most emotional days, it has felt like life and death. All the guys have put their bodies on the line and every single guy is good enough to play in a World Cup final.

“But I saw every player in a one-on-one and many of them burst into tears when I told them they had been selected and the same for those guys who I had to tell that they had not been selected,” Meyer said.

Scrumhalf Rudi Paige is the only uncapped member of the squad, although he was selected for the 2014 end-of-year tour before getting injured.

The average age of the squad is just over 26.

 



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