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Ken Borland



Sadness as two players leave the Springbok family 0

Posted on January 19, 2018 by Ken

 

Coach Heyneke Meyer likes to talk about the Springbok team as being a family, and there was sadness in camp on Monday when two players left the squad ahead of the Rugby Championship finale against the All Blacks at Soccer City on Saturday.

While Jacques Potgieter, who has an abdominal strain, was a fringe player, Francois Steyn is a key figure in the team, having played 53 Tests despite being just 25 years old, and a senior player.

But his departure from the squad to have ankle surgery is undoubtedly in the long-term interests of both the team and the player.

“Frans has quite a few loose pieces of bone in his ankle and every now and then one of them gets lodged in the joint, causing him excruciating pain. As a long-term solution, we’re sending him for surgery to have it cleaned out on Wednesday. Unfortunately that means he will be out for three months and he will miss the end-of-year tour,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.

Steyn might be missing out now, but the positive side is that he will be able to have a proper rest and pre-season conditioning before starting next year’s SuperRugby competition with the Sharks, hopefully in prime physical and mental state.

Sometimes an enforced break like this one can end up adding years to a player’s career and, as Roberts pointed out, the Springboks are looking for another 60 Tests from the utility back and he will be a vital figure in the 2015 World Cup in England.

A third player could well leave the squad on Tuesday, with prop Coenie Oosthuizen going to see a specialist in Durban about his neck injury. Meyer rushed the versatile Oosthuizen back into the team, naming him on the bench for the Test against Australia despite the 23-year-old having played just 35 minutes for the Free State Cheetahs since injuring his neck during his Springbok debut against England in June.

Sometimes players are rushed back into action too soon and it is a credit to Roberts that he managed to convince Meyer to pull Oosthuizen from last weekend’s game; the team doctor clearly has doubts that the prop has fully recovered.

“Again, we want to ensure we make the right long-term decision and I’m not happy with his neck; he still has some quite significant symptoms, especially stiffness,” Roberts said.

Both the Springboks and All Blacks are coming off impressive weekend victories, setting up another titanic clash between the two great rivals at the iconic stadium in Soweto. New Zealand may have already clinched the inaugural Rugby Championship title, but there is no doubt they will be up for the game against the old enemy.

Apart from notching another victory on South African soil, they would also love to complete the year unbeaten and stretch their winning run to 16 matches dating back to the start of their triumphant World Cup campaign.

“We’ve won the Rugby Championship, but we’ve parked that and we’re now focused on winning in South Africa. If you talk to the older guys, they’ll tell you it’s more rewarding winning here than beating the Springboks at home. The guys that have been around a while really love testing themselves against the best here; it’s one of the toughest places to win,” loose forward Sam Cane said on Monday.

Lock Sam Whitelock also stressed the importance of Saturday’s game.

“It’s really nice that we’ve put the trophy away, but this weekend will be a massive challenge. It would be great to start off a new competition with a clean sweep.

“Last year didn’t go so well for us in Port Elizabeth and South Africa is always hard to beat at home. But that’s the beauty of international rugby; you have to perform week in and week out. All you need is one game to not go well and everything can unravel very quickly,” Whitelock said.

The great rivalry between the two sides will be exemplified in the tremendous physicality of Saturday’s Test, with the Dunedin match two weekends ago being widely proclaimed as a coming-of-age performance by the youthful Springbok pack.

“The Dunedin game was a typical All Blacks/Springboks Test, with massive body collisions. It was quite tight and it took a while for either side to win any dominance. I’m sure it will be the case again this week and the body will take a bit of a hammering,” Whitelock said.

The Springboks are obviously not going to make the same mistake that Argentina did in trying to match the expansive, fast-paced game of the All Blacks.

“Playing at home, there’s always more pressure to run the ball, but that’s what New Zealand likes because it gives them turnovers and they punish you. You will never beat New Zealand at their own game, you’ll never out-run them. You have to put pressure on them, especially at the breakdown, in defence and with your kicking game,” Meyer said.

The Springboks are well positioned to do this if they can produce a repeat performance of their Loftus Versfeld heroics against the Wallabies.

For all the elation of the five tries scored, it was a top-class defensive effort in the trenches that set up a morale-boosting win.

“It was a good performance, definitely the most satisfying of the year, and our defence was also the best it’s been the whole year. We made 178 tackles compared to their 109, and we had a 96% completion rate, we only missed seven tackles. Plus we only had 45% possession,” Meyer said.

A win over the in-form world champions would ensure Meyer gets a positive review after his first year in charge.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-02-rugby-tough-calls-for-the-springboks/#.WmHcfK6WbIU

 

Bonus point left in Bloem, but Du Preez happy with attacking work 0

Posted on March 28, 2017 by Ken

 

The Sharks left a potential bonus point behind in Bloemfontein, but coach Robert du Preez was nevertheless delighted with their 38-30 win over the Cheetahs at the weekend, and especially that they managed to score four tries.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get the bonus point, but it’s always very tough to come here and win, the Cheetahs are a very good, talented side and Franco Smith is a very good coach, so you’re always up against it here. So we’ll take the win any day!

“We want to score tries and we scored four, which is much better than last week when we only managed two against the Kings. I’m also very happy that the wings scored three of those tries, that’s always good. And Kobus van Wyk scored two of those on the left, coming from the right-hand side, so that shows that the boys are working really hard,” Du Preez said.

While 19-year-old flyhalf Curwin Bosch stole the limelight with a stellar display, Du Preez still swears by Pat Lambie, who is set to return to action in six weeks after fracturing a vertebra.

“Curwin’s now ready to play flyhalf, but Pat is in a class of his own. We’ll be in a good position when Pat comes back because then Curwin can go back to fullback. The fact that he can also play there gives him more space, and he gets confidence from that. At flyhalf he’s under pressure to call all the plays on attack, it’s a big responsibility and it’s not the same at fullback,” Du Preez said.

“Curwin has definitely got BMT and pedigree, but we must all be very careful with how we handle him because he is young. But he’s definitely one for the future for South African rugby.”

Du Preez also backed tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen, whose all-round game caught the eye, for a return to the Springboks.

“The work that Coenie has done on his conditioning has played a big role and he’s a fantastic team man. I think he’s really enjoying his time with the Sharks and he should definitely be in the mix again for the Springboks,” the former international scrumhalf said.

 

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170328/281973197487081

Titans eager to maintain momentum after bruising start 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

 

 

The Titans took a bruise to their pride in their opening RamSlam T20 Challenge loss to the Dolphins, but successive victories have lifted the mood and left them eager to maintain their momentum as they head into a vital weekend.

The Titans travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Knights on Friday night, before returning home to face the Warriors on Sunday at Centurion in a double-header that also features the Dolphins playing the Cape Cobras.

“We weren’t happy with our performance in that first game against the Dolphins, we just didn’t adapt to conditions, we weren’t smart enough. So we’re very happy with our progression through the last two matches, but we’re still playing at only 70% of our capability. We’re executing better game plans and we’re very happy that the workload is being shared in terms of both batting and bowling,” senior batsman Farhaan Behardien said at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

The inclusion of players like Graeme van Buuren and Lungi Ngidi has helped the change in fortunes, but there is likely to be another shake-up of the team this weekend with the return of all-rounder David Wiese after recovering from a hand injury.

While other captains are stumbling around in the fog when the pressure is on, Albie Morkel can chuckle and consider the luxury of fielding eight batsmen and nine bowlers – five pacemen, a dibbly-dobbler in Behardien, wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, a slow left-armer in Van Buuren and offie Henry Davids.

“We’re seeing in T20 now that you need eight batsmen, you need that depth if you go five or six down. The last two games, we’ve had enough batting to win and that takes the pressure off Albie and myself, everyone is chipping in. It’s where the game is going and we’ve taken a leaf out of Australia’s book – they have guys like James Faulkner, Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Johnson; Chris Morris, Albie and David are a wonderful addition to our team. We have three frontline bowlers and three all-rounders with a wealth of experience internationally,” Behardien said.

“There are so many different combinations and it’s a quality 15-man squad. Anyone on their day can perform, we probably have more variety with our bowling than any other team and a lot of guys who love batting under pressure,” Van Buuren said.

 



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