for quality writing

Ken Borland



‘Lack of bonus points has hurt us’ – Nollis 0

Posted on June 29, 2016 by Ken

 

“The lack of bonus points is what has hurt us,” Bulls coach Nollis Marais said on Tuesday as he contemplated the three-point gap between them and the Sharks and the four extra points the Stormers have, deficits they now have three weeks to make up, starting with this weekend’s awkward trip to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares .

The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers all won seven of their dozen matches in the first segment of SuperRugby, so Marais is spot on with his analysis.

“Not getting bonus points when we beat the Reds and Rebels is now a problem for us and we have to make sure we win our next three games, just to control our destiny a bit. But it doesn’t help if we now just allow ourselves to stagnate, we must definitely move forward in our intensity and in the way we want to play.

“We want to show our fight and we must go out and play an attacking brand of rugby. We definitely have that mindset. We can’t just maul sides, that’s not the way we want to play. We want to play more with the ball in certain areas, play a high-intensity game. The maul and set-pieces still play a big part, but we can’t just have that, we must also break the line,” Marais said.

The Bulls squad that will leave for Argentina on Wednesday has been rocked by injuries.

Flank Deon Stegmann, lock Grant Hattingh and wing Bjorn Basson have injured themselves in training, to add to the injuries picked up on international duty by prop Trevor Nyakane and lock RG Snyman.

The Bulls will also be led by Lappies Labuschagne because Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss is being given a rest as per the agreement with Saru.

“Nothing needs to be said by me, everyone knows what needs to be done and we’re all working towards the same goal. We’re in a good space, it’s a big game and one we really want to win. The past is in the past, but we can rectify the mistakes we made and we’re really fired up for the rest of the season. We’re really positive for what lies ahead,” Labuschagne said.

The lack of interest in the Olympic golf competition is palpable 0

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Ken

 

The announcement of South Africa’s team for the golf component of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is now a month away and the lack of major interest is palpable for a sport that should give the country a chance of a precious medal.

The legendary Gary Player is the captain of South Africa’s team but the two-man outfit will be chosen purely on the basis of the world rankings on July 11. Because Branden Grace is the only available South African in the top-15, we will only be able to send two players.

The great pity is that Louis Oosthuizen, currently 14th, has withdrawn from Olympic contention, so the prospect of sending a third player in Charl Schwartzel and maybe even a fourth in Jaco van Zyl, falls away. Only countries with more than two players in the top-15 are allowed to send bigger teams.

Schwartzel has also made himself unavailable, joining the Australian Adam Scott in snubbing the Olympics.

Golf was always going to be a tough fit for an event based on such classical ideals as amateurism. Today’s top golfers care mostly about the paycheque and winning Majors, that’s what really counts for them.

But instead of harping on about why the sport shouldn’t be at the Olympic Games, here are a couple of suggestions that could make a gold medal more attractive to golfers.

Firstly, it’s going to take time.

Tennis only returned to the Olympics in 1988 and initially there seemed to be similar problems to what golf is experiencing. But now Novak Djokovic is going all out to win that gold medal and a small thing like the Zika Virus is not going to keep him away.

Roger Federer is going to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles for Switzerland, while Rafael Nadal has been given the honour of carrying Spain’s flag into the Maracana Stadium.

Secondly, to make it more enticing for golfers, why not make it into a team competition, rather than an individual strokeplay? We’ve seen what the Ryder Cup does to them, it’s one of the highlights of any European or American golfer’s career.

How about bringing an amateur component into the competition, teaming a country’s top two amateurs with their top two pros?

Or what about making the golf a mixed team competition?

One gets the feeling that the Olympic Games might be struggling to remain as one of the most important sporting events, hence their decision to extend invitations to global sports like golf and rugby, but they have to get the format right if these events are going to add to the spectacle and not detract from it.

Ball-carriers, but chiefly attitude the Springboks’ major problem – Coetzee 0

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Ken

 

Apart from the lack of effectiveness of the ball-carriers, which was chiefly a technical issue, coach Allister Coetzee intimated on Monday that attitude was a major factor in the Springboks’ first ever home loss to Ireland in Cape Town at the weekend.

Coetzee said the team had got carried away, perhaps trying to replicate the flavour-of-the-month style of the Lions in SuperRugby, without attending to the necessary basics first.

“We shouldn’t have got sucked into the SuperRugby vibe, all the feel-good stuff about keeping ball in hand. Test rugby is different, a lot of the time it looks on out wide but it isn’t.

“All credit to Ireland because they scrambled well and worked exceptionally hard with 14 players, but we allowed them to look good by running laterally and unnecessarily forcing offloads. We needed a bit more composure and trust in the system,” Coetzee said on Monday in Johannesburg, where the Springboks play the decisive second Test on Saturday.

Although the shocker at Newlands was meant to be the start of an exciting new era of more positive rugby from the Springboks, the home side got totally carried away, just shovelling the ball wide most of the time and totally failing to capitalise on the one-man advantage they had for an hour after CJ Stander’s red card.

Coetzee said there had been some harsh words about making sure the basics are adhered to first.

“We’ve been brutally honest with each other that that performance was definitely not up to Springbok standard. Some of the lessons are internal things that are definitely only for the camp to know, but Test rugby is definitely built around territory, physicality is crucial and scoreboard pressure as well, because three points in a Test is like a try in SuperRugby. Those are non-negotiables,” Coetzee said.

“Tactically we were off-colour, it was a pressure test and that forced old habits to come out, they played like they do in SuperRugby – have a crack, have a go. But you have to respect certain areas of the field and you can’t force things because that’s what leads to turnovers and sloppy handling.

“The Northern Hemisphere sides are playing much closer to Test rugby than we are in SuperRugby. We’re all talking about ball-in-hand, but there’s still a place for kicking. All Ireland had to do was make it as difficult as possible for us to exit, we got bogged down in our 22. They were very clever tactics and we did not handle them well.”

The Springboks not only found themselves hemmed in when they favoured hands over kicking, but also struggled to get over the advantage line, which Coetzee put down to poor technique.

“We also let ourselves down with our contact skills, to get stripped of the ball so often just shows a lack of awareness in the collisions. It’s about our body height in contact, all about the shoulder battle. Ireland carry the ball very low so they are difficult to stop on the gain-line, they get that extra yard and their cleaners are going forward.

“We need effective ball-carriers, our physicality and intensity were a bit off, not where they should be in Test rugby. It’s about the height of the ball-carriers and how effectively they attack space,” Coetzee said.

In some ways, the red card shown to Stander for his reckless and extremely dangerous “tackle” on Pat Lambie was a blessing in disguise for Ireland; it lifted them to greater heights while there was an unmistakable sense that the Springboks just expected to steamroller them after that.

“I’ve seen many teams win with 14 men. Psychologically, the team with 15 tends to think it will just happen for them and the team with 14 know they have to put in extra effort. How hard Ireland worked was shown by how they managed to tackle JP Pietersen out in the corner at the end of the game. In those situations you have to make sure you go back to basics and do those things right,” Coetzee said.

The coach said the majority of the team that played in the first Test would get the chance to play in the second game at Ellis Park, which they have to win to ensure they don’t lose a series at home to a Northern Hemisphere side for the first time since the 1997 loss to the British Lions.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place because the team as a collective did not play well, but you need to look to give them a second opportunity to rectify that. If you make changes then it looks like panic, but first and foremost, I will be choosing the best team for Saturday.

“I always see the glass as half-full and you will lose rugby Tests, you’re not going to win all your games, whether it be your first Test or your last. The most important thing is how the team responds and I look forward to seeing that. We have to make sure we improve,” Coetzee said.

That means Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk, whose game management earned mixed reviews at Newlands, are bound to start at halfback, although Morne Steyn is likely to provide a reassuring presence on the bench, having been called up on Monday.

Steyn may not be the media’s favourite flyhalf for the future, but there is no doubt that the experience, calm and tactical kicking ability he will bring to Ellis Park was badly missed in the first Test.

 

Bulls rectify lack of ball-carrying loosie with Potgieter signing 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls have looked to rectify their lack of big ball-carrying loose forwards by signing Springbok flank Jacques Potgieter on a three-year contract, the union confirmed at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.

The 30-year-old Potgieter, who is 6’4 and weighs 115kg, starred previously for the Bulls in 22 SuperRugby games in 2012-13, before becoming a high-profile player for the Waratahs. He joined the Sharks at the beginning of the year, but an ankle injury meant he never actually played a game for them, and John Smit, the CEO of the KwaZulu-Natal franchise, confirmed on Wednesday that they had released him from his contract. Potgieter is engaged to actress Angelique Gerber, whose career would be better served by them living in Gauteng.

“We always knew SuperRugby was going to be a battle on the gain-line, so we need good ball-carriers. We know what Jacques can do, we’ve seen how he’s played for the Bulls previously and for the Waratahs, so he’s definitely a good signing. At the beginning of the season we lost three loose forwards to injury at the same time, and Jacques also played four and seven for the Waratahs. Jannes Kirsten can do that too, and they both can really carry the ball,” coach Nollis Marais said.

High performance manager Xander Janse van Rensburg said Potgieter, who has been seen at practice this week already, will probably be ready to train in a week’s time. He will probably play in all three SuperRugby rounds after the June break.

The acquisition of Potgieter offsets the disappointment of losing hard-working flank Lappies Labuschagne to Japanese club Kubota at the end of the SuperRugby season.

Janse van Rensburg told The Citizen they are hopeful, however, that Labuschagne will be able to return to play for the Bulls in the 2017 SuperRugby campaign at the end of the Japanese season. The fact that Frans Ludeke is coach of Kubota means the Bulls obviously have a negotiating platform, but they did fire Ludeke last year.

Van Rensburg also announced the signing of Southern Kings tighthead prop Jacobie Adriaanse, who Marais described as “a very competitive scrummager who stood his ground against the Crusaders”.



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