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Ken Borland

Hard words spoken, but now Bulls need to do their talking on the field 0

Posted on August 18, 2015 by Ken


Vodacom Bulls captain Pierre Spies disclosed this week that there were “hard words” spoken amongst the team after their lacklustre opening loss to the Stormers, but they are definitely going to have to do their talking on the field tonight if they are to beat a star-studded Hurricanes side in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld.

The details of the defeat to the Stormers will show that the Bulls were dominated at scrum time, failed to trouble the opposition lineout, missed 18 tackles and conceded eight linebreaks as they lost the gain-line battle, but the single biggest factor in the loss was attitude.

“We’ve had hard words for each other this week, we know that we’re a much better team than that. We made way too many mistakes, which means you can’t build pressure. Against the Hurricanes we have to execute what we do well, we have to take care of the ball and be clinical,” Spies said.

The Hurricanes will field a lethal backline featuring TJ Perenara, Beauden Barrett, Julian Savea, the returning Ma’a Nonu, Conrad Smith and Cory Jane, hence the Bulls stressing the importance of not allowing them turnover ball.

“Broken field is what they want, turnover ball, and like all New Zealand teams if they get front-foot ball and get their offloads going, then they are lethal,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said. “But they also have a strong defence, they’ve definitely improved there, their work-rate is good, they get numbers up in defence, and they’re very competitive at the collisions.”

Judging by the performance against the Stormers, Ludeke’s new game plan seems to be going down with his team like oil with water, but the coach said he can live with the mistakes as long as the decision-making of his players is correct.

“You win games from broken field these days because if you just carry the ball all the time you will eventually lose it. It comes down to decision-making, it’s about space and numbers and not trying to create something that’s not there. Passes not going to hand can happen and sometimes the contact skills of the players let them down, but as long as the attacking mindset is there,” Ludeke said.

The Hurricanes, who beat the Lions last weekend at Ellis Park, don’t have a great record on tour here and the last time they won two games in South Africa was way back in 2006. But they certainly made a statement against the Lions and if the Bulls also make numerous mistakes, then the Wellington-based side has more than enough firepower to punish them.

The Bulls need to up their intensity up front so they don’t look like carthorses again against a mobile Hurricanes pack, while the scrum needs a drastic improvement in the absence of tighthead Marcel van der Merwe with a knee injury.

The Bulls have plenty of talent, but one can’t expect the younger players to do everything; the Bulls’ senior players really need to step up tonight.


Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Trevor Nyakane, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Morne Mellet. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Dean Greyling, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Hanro Liebenberg, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jurgen Visser, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen.

Hurricanes: 15-Jason Woodward, 14-Cory Jane, 13-Conrad Smith, 12-Ma’a Nonu, 11-Julian Savea, 10-Beauden Barrett, 9-TJ Perenara, 8-Blade Thomson, 7-Callum Gibbins, 6-Brad Shields, 5-James Broadhurst, 4-Mark Abbott, 3-Ben Franks, 2-Dane Coles, 1-Reggie Goodes. Reserves – 16-Brayden Mitchell, 17-Jeffery Toomaga-Allen, 18-Chris Eves, 19-Ardie Savea, 20-Victor Vito, 21-Chris Smylie, 22-James Marshall, 23-Matt Proctor.


Defensive Springboks need to shut down Aussies 0

Posted on September 10, 2012 by Ken


The Springboks opened their Rugby Championship campaign with two lacklustre attacking showings, but now their defensive prowess will be under the spotlight when they take on Australia in Perth on Saturday.

Even though the Wallabies failed to open their account in their last outing, losing 22-0 to New Zealand, they are a side known for their brilliant backline play and they have regularly carved up the Springboks en route to a record-equalling four successive wins over the South Africans.

This is one game where the Springboks’ preoccupation with the gain-line battle could be a good thing.

The Wallabies rely on quick, front-foot ball and the disorganised defences that come with it but, as the All Blacks showed, the skills of their backs are nullified when they’re going backwards.

The Springboks will start the undermining of the Australian platform in the set-pieces.

While both sides have in-form scrums, with Australia boasting one of the best looseheads in world rugby in Benn Robinson as well as the experienced Ben Alexander at tighthead, a strong Springbok lineout, boosted by the presence of Duane Vermeulen at the back, will hopefully work in concert with a much-improved tactical kicking game to ensure the Wallabies have to try all their fancy stuff from inside their own territory. Australia’s kickers – Berrick Barnes, Quade Cooper, Will Genia and Kurtley Beale – cannot match the distance Morne and Francois Steyn, Ruan Pienaar and Zane Kirchner are capable of getting.

In fact, they often prefer the little grubber through under pressure and it’s a pity Pat Lambie won’t be at fullback to counter-attack off such opportunities.

Vermeulen, his previous international hopes ravaged by injury, makes his long-awaited Test debut on Saturday and the Western Province man is a frightening prospect at boiling point. He will have to spearhead a much more physical display from the pack if South Africa are to have any hope of claiming the inaugural Rugby Championship trophy.

But it’s all very well being physical; however, the ball-carriers have to be smart as well. Too much hard-earned front-foot ball was wasted against Argentina because the carrier just blindly ran into a gang-tackle, was put on the ground and then robbed of the ball.

While the Cape’s demand to throw every ball to the wings can only lead to trouble at international level, the offload seems to be a forgotten skill amongst the Springboks. It stands to reason that if three people are trying to gang-tackle the ball-carrier, there must be two gaps somewhere – and that’s where the ball should go, post-haste!

A titanic clash between two of the most exciting scrumhalves in Francois Hougaard and Genia has been dashed by Hougaard’s move to the wing, but hopefully the 24-year-old will still get the chance to go flying down the left.
Genia is the Wallabies’ attacking general and it will be a disaster for the Springboks if they give him and elusive flyhalf Cooper space to attack with front-foot ball.

Cooper is barely a factor with slow ball but South Africa also has to be vigilant that its team does not supply potent counter-attackers such as Beale, Digby Ioane, Dominic Shipperley and Adam Ashley-Cooper with poorly-directed or badly chased kicks.

Australia also has to cope with a raft of injuries. Captains have had a particularly bad run with both lock James Horwill and loose forward David Pocock ruled out.

Nathan Sharpe, playing his 108th Test, brings a wealth of experience and plenty of grunt to the second row, while Pocock’s replacement, Michael Hooper, is a top-class prospect and also a major factor at the breakdown.
Other key players out injured are late withdrawal Stephen Moore, James O’Connor, Pat McCabe and Wycliff Palu.

It all just increases the pressure on the Wallabies, who will be expected to win at home, and let’s not forget that there has been even more of a song and dance about their coach, Robbie Deans, than the discontent Heyneke Meyer has had to face.

Winning in Australia may be too much to expect from this new-look Springbok team – South Africa has only won four Tests since 1993 Down Under (three of them in Perth though) – but fans will hope to see a much more clinical performance from the side, as well as much better use of its own ball.And, vitally, stopping Australia from playing (much like Argentina did to them in Mendoza) will increase that pressure and might lead to crucial mistakes from the hosts.

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