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Ken Borland

Morkel & Titans back in Benoni & in great form 0

Posted on November 18, 2016 by Ken


Willowmoore Park in Benoni will play host on Friday night to the top-of-the-log CSA T20 Challenge clash between the Titans and the Knights, with Titans captain Albie Morkel leading his high-flying team at the ground where it all started for him back in 1999, and currently enjoying great individual form.

The Titans have won both their opening games with Morkel playing pivotal roles: first with the ball against the Highveld Lions when he claimed three for 12 in four outstanding overs, and then on Wednesday night with the bat when he steered his team to victory over the Cape Cobras with 34 not out off 16 balls.

“Albie sometimes plays himself down, but he’s a very valuable cricketer and the head of the side. He wants those pressure situations and he showed that again against the Cobras, winning the game for us with the bat, having done it with the ball in the previous game,” Titans coach Mark Boucher told The Citizen on Thursday.

Heinrich Klaasen, who was pushed up the order to open against the Cobras with some success as he scored 46, is likely to be partnered by Grant Mokoena on Friday as Henry Davids has strained a hamstring.

“We’ve been under pressure in both games because we lost a couple of quick wickets up front, but we still managed to get the middle-order firing. So it will be very exciting if we can get a good start,” Boucher noted.

Willowmoore Park has thrown up more than her fair share of tricky pitches for batsmen – in last season’s game in Benoni against the Knights, the Titans could only manage 136 for nine and were beaten by a spectacular all-round performance by West Indian Andre Russell (4-11 & 66*).

Russell is no longer in the Knights team but they have star quality in returning captain Theunis de Bruyn, fast bowlers Marchant de Lange and Duanne Olivier, and middle-order batting star David Miller.

“I just want a good cricket wicket for us to hopefully take advantage of, we’ve got both pace and spin covered. This is one game I’m really looking forward to because the Knights beat us in the four-day competition and they look like a side that will challenge for top spot. So we will be tested and we need good intensity,” Boucher said.

Friday night’s other game is in the fairest Cape, although there will be no love lost between the Cobras and the Warriors as they clash at Newlands.

The embattled Cobras have lost both their T20 games thus far, heaping more pressure on themselves, and they will be desperate to get their first win of the season in any format.

Just how good are the Sharks? We’ll know this weekend v Stormers … 0

Posted on March 10, 2016 by Ken


For anyone who wonders just how good the new-look Sharks team is under Gary Gold and Robert du Preez, the answer could well be forthcoming this weekend as they take on the high-flying Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

Assistant coach Du Preez certainly believes the Stormers will pose the toughest test yet for the team who are one of only four unbeaten sides after the first two rounds of SuperRugby.

“We’ve had four out of four in terms of wins if you include the two friendlies in France, so that’s good and we take a lot of confidence from that. But the Stormers are going to pose a very different challenge in Cape Town. They’re quite similar to us in terms of how we both want to play, and they have a very respected pack. We’re under no illusions as to what is lying in wait for us, but we’re confident and we’ll give it our best shot,” Du Preez said.

The attacking play of the Sharks has certainly showed enormous promise, although there were obviously way too many handling errors in last weekend’s win over the Jaguares. The humidity of the Durban summer does provide some explanation.

“It was very difficult conditions and the ball was very slippery, but that’s what you get this time of year in Durban. The intent was there, but we obviously coughed up too many balls. We created quite a few opportunities, but we should have converted quite a few more.

“But we are a work in progress, we’re getting better as we go along and there’s still a long season ahead of us. There’s a good balance between youth and some really experienced players in the set-up and it’s quite special what Gary and the rest of the coaching staff have created at this stage, it’s a nice vibe from the camp,” Du Preez said.

SA conference concertinas after Bulls & Stormers win 0

Posted on March 02, 2015 by Ken

The Bulls and Stormers reopened their roads to the SuperRugby playoffs at the weekend as their victories over the high-flying Cheetahs and Sharks respectively saw the South African Conference concertina in dramatic fashion.

The Bulls beat the Cheetahs 26-20 and joined the central franchise on 23 points and in seventh place overall, and the Stormers saw off the Sharks 22-15 and are now just six points behind the Conference leaders and three adrift of the Bulls and Cheetahs.

And, just to further emphasise how competitive the South African Conference is, the Southern Kings snatched a last-ditch 30-27 victory over the Rebels in Melbourne and are in 13th position overall and just five points off the Stormers.

The Kings ended their extraordinarily impressive maiden overseas tour with an amazing victory sealed by flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis’s drop goal after the final hooter. The Eastern Cape side only had about 35% possession through the match and, after an arduous four-week tour, looked a metre off the pace for most of the game.

But they showed amazing resolve, tenacity and composure to still win against the odds and they will be hoping to transport the same spirit to Port Elizabeth as they now return home.

The Rebels will be pondering what could have been as they led 27-17 early in the second half, but what really cost them was the number of handling errors they made, mostly due to passes being rushed.

The Kings scored three tries, two of them in the first 15 minutes, and one can only imagine what they could do with a decent share of possession!

The Sharks were convincingly outplayed by the Stormers in Cape Town, only scraping a scarcely-deserved bonus point after the final hooter thanks to Pat Lambie’s fifth penalty.

The Sharks had enough ball (52% of possession according to but what happened to their possession was the key as they could not get across the advantage line thanks to the Stormers putting their bodies on the line and dominating the collisions in emphatic style. Three of their players went off for concussion tests during the first half to exemplify their tremendous attitude.

The Stormers also dominated the set-pieces, especially and most surprisingly the scrums, to further undermine the Sharks’ ability to get front-foot ball.

The home side, like all good teams, scored just before half-time to transfer their dominance on the field on to the scoreboard. Captain and inside centre Jean de Villiers showed lovely hands in the tackle to send outside centre Juan de Jongh powering over for the only try of the match, taking the Stormers’ lead to 16-3.

The Sharks failed to make much of an impression against a Stormers defence that was led by the indefatigable Siya Kolisi, with Deon Fourie, Michael Rhodes and Andries Bekker not far behind.

The Sharks have now failed to score a try in four of their seven matches this season and the pedestrian nature of their attack, and the failure of anyone to really straighten the line, meant they were unlikely to trouble what has been the best defence in the competition in recent years.

The Stormers also won the territorial battle thanks to the splendid boot of fullback Joe Pietersen, who was also faultless when kicking at the poles, while Gary van Aswegen gave an assured display in the troublesome flyhalf position.

For the Sharks, too many of the senior players were not at the top of their games: Jannie du Plessis struggled in the scrums, Lambie was mediocre in terms of running the backs and Francois Steyn was disappointing at fullback, the Springbok wasting an overlap in the dying stages of the first half.

The Blue Bulls Rugby Union held a procession of former players at Loftus Versfeld to mark the union’s 75th anniversary and the old stars of Northern Transvaal rugby would have been delighted by the tremendous passion and commitment their side showed, especially in defence.

The Bulls were coming off three straight defeats overseas, but, back at home, the old intensity and confrontational fire was back as they held off a Cheetahs side that provided much to a game that was a wonderful spectacle.

The defences of both teams were excellent and it took the individual brilliance of scrumhalf Jano Vermaak to break the deadlock shortly after half-time.

The former Lions halfback sniped through the Cheetahs defence and the tackle of flank Lappies Labuschagne, dashing over from the 22-metre line in the 43rd minute.

The Bulls lineout was a clinical tower of strength throughout the game and, soon after Vermaak’s try, the Cheetahs found themselves under pressure on their own throw, trying to run the ball behind the advantage line and only managing to infringe at the ruck and give Morné Steyn a penalty to stretch the Bulls’ lead to 16-9.

With Victor Matfield now part of the Bulls’ coaching team, it’s no surprise their lineout is a work of such precision and Steyn was provided with another penalty in the 55th minute when the Cheetahs were again under pressure at the set-piece and Philip van der Walt tackled Pierre Spies off the ball.

But the Bulls also seemed to have plenty of information on the Cheetahs’ preferred exit strategies from their own half and their homework paid off in the 76th minute as Jan Serfontein was quickly up on Adriaan Strauss in midfield, the hooker dropping the ball under pressure, and, from the turnover, replacement hooker Callie Visagie was able to force his way over for the match-winning try.

Serfontein, despite being just 19 years old, was an immense presence at inside centre. Nothing went through his channel and he was also a highly effective ball-carrier. The 2012 IRB Junior Player of the Year is also a wonderful attacking player, with top-class skills, and it is hoped there will be a chance for him to display these other talents as well.

But Serfontein handled the pressures of a crucial South African derby, an in-form opposite number in Robert Ebersohn, and an expansive Cheetahs side that loves to stretch defences like a seasoned pro.

It is always marvellous to see youth being given its head and the Bulls should trust their structures as they look to continue their challenge for a playoff berth.

Not all looking so rosy now at Newlands 0

Posted on January 14, 2015 by Ken

There was a time not that long ago when everything was rosy at Newlands and the Stormers, having just beaten the defending champion Chiefs and the high-flying Brumbies, were happily ensconced as strong SuperRugby contenders.

But last weekend was a truly awful one for last year’s South African Conference winners as they crumbled before an under-strength Crusaders team and their own crowd was split down the middle, with allegations that the support for the visitors was way beyond the limits of decency. The Stormers team was booed when they stepped off the bus at their own stadium, were reportedly spat on and there were also reports of home team supporters being assaulted after the game.

The off-field clashes were bad enough, but once the Stormers were on the field, the lineout was a shambles, the scrum shaky and the attack virtually non-existent as they slumped to a 14-19 defeat that left them in 11th place on the log and trailing the Sharks by six points in the South African Conference.

Meanwhile, up in Bloemfontein, the Cheetahs were busy putting together an impressive 34-16 win over the Rebels. It was a record-equalling fourth successive win for the Central Franchise and it is difficult to imagine a bigger difference in the mood of two teams when the Stormers travel north to take on the Cheetahs on Saturday.

But as depressingly poor as the Stormers were against the Crusaders, they showed the previous weekend against the Brumbies that they are still equally capable of reaching great heights when they get it all together on the day.

Perhaps it was because the Brumbies gave them a very clear pointer of where to concentrate their efforts by all their talk of physicality before the match and the Stormers seemed rather vague in their game plan against the Crusaders, although even the best-laid plans will come to naught without any first-phase ball.

In previous years, the Cheetahs’ game has been based on all-out attack from even the most unpromising positions, but coach Naka Drotske has introduced a measure of selectivity now when it comes to spreading the ball wide, while the defence has been outstanding and the set-pieces solid.

Apart from the Cheetahs looking a better rounded outfit this year, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee also has injury problems to contend with.

Elton Jantjies has been named at flyhalf but has a badly bruised chest that may yet rule him out, while wing Gerhard van den Heever, flank Rynardt Elstadt and replacement lock Don Armand have succumbed to injury.

Up to now, there has been no pressure on the Cheetahs, but suddenly the expectation is growing and they can prove conclusively that their wonderful recent form has not just been a false dawn as they come up against one of the SuperRugby powerhouses.

Victory against the Stormers will lift the Cheetahs into the race for conference honours, in fact, they could top the South African section as the Sharks face their bogey team, the Crusaders.

But the Stormers have been knocked down, vilified and written off before. Their defence has remained phenomenal, heroic at times against the Crusaders, suggesting the attitude in the team is still good and Bloemfontein could well be the venue for their resurgence.

There has been speculation that the Crusaders might have poured all their resources and energies into winning at Newlands, but then again they have always found the Sharks a surprisingly soft touch, winning 14 of their 16 matches, including four at King’s Park. The average score is 32-22 to the New Zealanders.

A bye last weekend will ensure that the Sharks are well-rested, while the return of Jannie du Plessis at tighthead prop will give the home team considerable presence in a set-piece that has been a real strength for the Crusaders.

Sharks coach John Plumtree said this week that his team have also worked very hard to make sure that their lineout doesn’t suffer the same fate as the Stormers’, but much will also depend on the Natalians’ ability to win the collisions. Their loose trio of Keegan Daniel, Jacques Botes and Marcell Coetzee has a slightly lightweight look to it, and the injured Willem Alberts and Jean Deysel can’t return quickly enough.

Frans Steyn is back at fullback, where he should have much more space to attack, which the Sharks have the players to do with some success.

But they will not be beating the Crusaders unless they win the battle for possession up front. The Kiwis are also exceptionally clever in the legalised mess that makes up the rucks these days and, if they bring the same intensity and precise execution they displayed at Newlands, then the Sharks will be under pressure.

One feels the Sharks cannot afford to even be a bit off their game on Friday night, even though the Crusaders might not be as ferocious as they were in seeing off the Stormers.

The Southern Kings are the other local team in action as they take on the log-leading Brumbies in Canberra.

The Brumbies, after the hardship of flying back from their two matches in South Africa, produced perhaps the least impressive performance of their season last weekend in scraping past the mediocre Bulls, but the Australian front-runners can be expected to have regained the spark and clinical execution that saw them to the top of the standings.

The return of first-choice players like centre Pat McCabe, Fotu Auelua, the battering ram at eighthman, and Ben Alexander, the veteran prop, suggests coach Jake White is looking for the quick kill.

The rookie Kings have little protection against a slick Brumbies side if they fire on the night, save for the impressive tenacity they have shown in defence and some spirited attacking play that kept them in touch with the Hurricanes until the hour mark last weekend.

Springbok Waylon Murray starts at outside centre and will beef up the midfield, while the coaching staff are also managing their resources by playing hooker Bandise Maku, prop Kevin Buys, lock David Bulbring, loose forward Jacques Engelbrecht and scrumhalf Shaun Venter off the bench for the fourth match of their arduous five-week tour.


Southern Kings (v Brumbies, Friday 10:40): George Whitehead, Sergeal Petersen, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Ronnie Cooke, Demetri Catrakilis, Nicolas Vergallo; Cornell du Preez, Wimpie van der Walt, Devin Oosthuizen, Rynier Bernardo, Steven Sykes, Grant Kemp, Hannes Franklin, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, David Bulbring, Jacques Engelbrecht, Shaun Venter, Marcello Sampson, Elric van Vuuren.

Sharks (v Crusaders, Friday 19:10): Frans Steyn, Odwa Ndungane, Paul Jordaan, Meyer Bosman, JP Pietersen, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Keegan Daniel, Marcell Coetzee, Jacques Botes, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Anton Bresler, Ryan Kankowski, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen, Louis Ludik/Sbura Sithole.

Cheetahs (v Stormers, Saturday 17:05pm): Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Burton Francis, Piet van Zyl, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Francois Brummer, Ryno Benjamin.

Stormers (v Cheetahs, Saturday 17:05pm): Jaco Taute, Joe Pietersen, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon, Elton Jantjies, Nic Groom, Duane Vermeulen, Michael Rhodes, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Pat Cilliers, Gerbrandt Grobler, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Gary van Aswegen, Damian de Allende.

Other fixtures

Friday: Blues v Highlanders (Auckland, 8:35)

Saturday: Hurricanes v Waratahs (Wellington, 8:35am); Force v Rebels (Perth, 10:40).

Byes: Bulls, Chiefs, Reds.

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