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Ken Borland



Lions hit Bulls early & hard 0

Posted on May 20, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions hit the Bulls with a ferocious first-half onslaught from which they could never recover as they notched a mighty 51-14 victory in their SuperRugby local derby at Ellis Park last night.

For periods in the first half, it was like men against boys as the Lions toyed with the Bulls, scoring four tries in the second quarter to open up a commanding 39-14 lead at the break.

And it was not as if the Bulls weren’t trying, either. They had their moments, but the Lions were just so much better at spotting and making space, and the pace and accuracy of their play was at another level.

The warning lights were flashing for the Bulls as early as the second minute as the Lions began their dissection. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies is almost as skilled as a Beauden Barrett, and he gave a masterful display of pulling the strings throughout, his direct play and ability to commit defenders on the gain-line opening up space out wide, which the Lions clinically exploited.

Ruan Combrinck’s rugby story is one of the more heartwarming ones and the 2016 Springbok debutant scored with his first touch upon his return to SuperRugby, having been out of the game since August when he fractured his fibula. A lovely midfield move saw Jantjies feed wing Courtnall Skosan on an inside run, the flyhalf then getting the ball out wide to fullback Andries Coetzee, who passed to Combrinck, who finished clinically with a deft chip and regather.

For all the criticism, it is apparent that there is ability in this Bulls team and there are moments when it is clear that they are well-coached.

Such a moment came in the sixth minute when they scored a wonderful set-piece try, certainly the equal of the Lions’ opening score.

From a lineout, a lovely interchange of passes between fullback Jesse Kriel and Sibahle Maxwane sent the debutant wing racing through the defensive line before centre Jan Serfontein stormed over for the try.

The Bulls were doing well in the first quarter, holding the Lions to just two penalties kicked by Jantjies, the first from a scrum, the second from a prolonged build-up which showed that the visitors were at least causing some frustration, the home side having earlier kicked goalable penalties to touch.

But the Bulls’ well would quickly run dry.

Blindside flank Jannes Kirsten is known for being a strong ball-carrier, an abrasive player who is difficult to stop. But when he came charging from deep at the much smaller Kwagga Smith, the Lions’ openside did not surrender an inch on the gain-line, instead holding Kirsten up for long enough for his fellow forwards to support him and force the turnover.

From the resulting scrum, Jantjies spotted that Kriel was standing too deep at fullback and his lovely chip into that space was claimed by Skosan, who raced into the Bulls’ 22 before passing out wide for Smith to score.

That was followed by lock Franco Mostert bursting clear in midfield from the kickoff and his good offload over the top went to up-in-support Ruan Dreyer, the tighthead prop showing that he has the mobility to go with his undoubted scrummaging prowess, for the Lions’ third try, all of them converted by Jantjies.

Kriel showed that he was up for the contest, however, when he burst through the weak tackles of Smith and Skosan to score the Bulls’ second try, in the 28th minute, when there really wasn’t much on for the visitors.

Brummer converted to make it 14-27, but that would be the last time they scored in the match.

To make matters worse, two stupid mistakes would gift the Lions two more tries before halftime.

It had been one-way traffic for a while, but for an international scrumhalf, it was exceptionally poor of Rudy Paige to telegraph his box-kick so blatantly by the way he was standing. Eighthman Warren Whiteley, who once again led from the front in inspirational fashion, charged down the kick and did well to dot down as the ball threatened to squirm out of his grasp on the tryline.

In contrast to Jantjies’ game-management, opposite number Brummer was a non-entity, although he did not have front-foot ball to play with. But his failure to find touch from a penalty kick on the Lions’ 22, which would have provided a wonderful attacking platform, was inexcusable.

Instead the Lions took a scrum on their 22, won a penalty and set up a lineout in Bulls’ territory. From there Jantjies’ direct run drew two defenders and then it just took two passes out wide for Combrinck to be racing over in the corner again, ending the first half as he had begun it.

The Bulls were staring a horror movie in the face, 39-14 down at the break, but instead of being disembowelled by the ravenous Lions, they did manage to claw back some pride with a better second half.

There were no further gains on the scoreboard, but limiting the Lions to just two more tries, in the 43rd and 80th minutes, was something of a success.

Jantjies manufactured the first one with a lovely little chip-pass to Skosan, hooker Malcolm Marx, never far from the action, came storming up in support and Mostert went over from the next ruck.

The final try came after outside centre Lionel Mapoe went into a half-gap and an interchange of passes with replacement centre Jacques Nel saw the Springbok split the tired defence and race away for the try, Jantjies converting to seal the Lions’ biggest winning margin against the Bulls.

While the Bulls did fight back in the second half, it was still a poor display and they were utterly humbled by their neighbours. As a corporation as a whole, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Most galling is the fact that the core of the Lions side comes from players rejected by the Bulls. Coach Nollis Marais is likely to get the sack this week, but there are poorer performers above him in the Bulls hierarchy who should not be immune to the blame.

Points scorers

Lions: Tries – Ruan Combrinck (2), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions – Elton Jantjies (5). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

Bulls: Tries – Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel. Conversions – Francois Brummer (2).

Ludeke has big fat grin, with good reason 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke sat with a big fat grin in the post-match press conference and with good reason as his team had produced one of their best performances this season in beating the Sharks 17-10 in a hard-fought local derby at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

The Bulls have struggled to win away from home in recent years, with the win over the Cheetahs in the first week of March their first victory on the road in two seasons, so the triumph over the Sharks could be a watershed.

“It’s a great feeling, we haven’t had a lot of wins here over the last few years and it’s always a tough assignment. You have to be at your best, and we played well and we played for the full 80 minutes, closing the game well by squeezing penalties,” Ludeke said.

The Bulls certainly did play well, enjoying the bulk of possession and territory, as their big ball-carriers dominated the attacking rucks and their pack, as a unit, exerted huge pressure at the defensive breakdown.

“We had all the possession and field position, especially in the first half, because we worked hard. We knew they would be competitive at the breakdown, so we put in an extra effort there in terms of ball-security, which all starts with the ball-carrier,” the coach said.

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said his team were in the contest throughout and said there was a very narrow line between winning and losing.

“There was no lack of effort, in fact it was a massive effort against such a big, physical team and we were in the game for a large part of it. But if you don’t take literally two or three opportunities and they do, then you’re going to lose,” Gold said.

The defeat has seriously trimmed the Sharks’ chances of winning the South African Conference as they are now seven points behind the Bulls, who have a game in hand, but Gold said their hopes have not been killed yet.

“There is still hope, even though there is unbelievable disappointment and it’s a very sombre dressing room.”

 

Potgieter assumes flyhalf duties after Pollard injury 0

Posted on June 02, 2016 by Ken

Potgieter has been out of action for three weeks with a hamstring strain, but Ludeke is confident he will be able to slot straight back into piloting the Bulls ship in a crunch encounter in which game-management will be crucial, pointing to the superb performance delivered on debut in the number 12 jersey last weekend by Burger Odendaal, in his first week back after a knee injury.

“Handre is not very confident about his knee, it’s been giving him trouble, so it’s not worth the risk playing him if he’s not 100% fit. Burger Odendaal showed last week that the system works, the way he came through after a long break and played a very solid 80 minutes, and we back Jacques-Louis to do the same,” Ludeke said at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.

Having showed that he certainly won’t be a liability at this level, Odendaal retains his place at inside centre, allowing the Bulls to give Springbok Jan Serfontein an extra week’s rest after a hip flexor injury.

In fact, the only other changes to the Bulls side come in the pack, with Grant Hattingh once again standing in for Victor Matfield at number five lock and Dean Greyling starting for Morne Mellet at loosehead.

There is a place for Mellet on the bench, but Matfield is out of the match-day 23 as Ludeke admitted that the veteran Springbok is, in fact, suffering from a knee injury and his absence is not part of his resting duties for the national side.

“Player health is very important for us and we want to be transparent, so we are declaring today that Victor also got injured and his rest will be next week,” Ludeke said.

There is also a return to the squad for reserve hooker Callie Visagie, who has recovered from a back injury.

If there were any doubts that the Bulls are expecting the Lions to play a high-tempo game and to target their breakdown, those will have been dismissed by the selection of Roelof Smit, a second specialist openside flank alongside Deon Stegmann, on the bench.

“Jacques du Plessis and Grant Hattingh can both cover seven and eight, but number six is a specialist position for us, he needs to control the maul at the back and make 20 tackles. Roelof has a high work-rate and we’ve seen he’s been playing well in the Vodacom Cup,” Ludeke said.

Bulls: 15 Jesse Kriel, 14 Francois Hougaard, 13 JJ Engelbrecht, 12 Burger Odendaal, 11 Bjorn Basson, 10 Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9 Rudy Paige, 8 Pierre Spies (captain), 7 Hanro Liebenberg, 6 Deon Stegmann, 5 Grant Hattingh, 4 Jacques du Plessis, 3 Trevor Nyakane, 2 Adriaan Strauss, 1 Dean Greyling.
Replacements: 16 Callie Visagie, 17 Morné Mellet, 18 Marcel van der Merwe, 19 Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20 Roelof Smit, 21 Piet van Zyl, 22 Tian Schoeman, 23 Jurgen Visser.

http://citizen.co.za/356225/potgieter-assumes-flyhalf-duties-after-pollard-injury/

Sharks travel to Loftus Versfeld without robust Du Preez 0

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks will be without arguably the most robust loose forward in the country this year for their Vodacom SuperRugby clash with the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, but Jean-Luc du Preez will be replaced by the under-rated and experienced Philip van der Walt for the crunch local derby in Pretoria.

Du Preez suffered what has been described as a “minor” foot injury in the Sharks’ gripping win over the Stormers last weekend in Cape Town, but Van der Walt, who has made a different, more dynamic if less physical impact off the bench during the Sharks’ three-match unbeaten run, is a more-than-capable replacement.

The 26-year-old former Cheetahs star is one of five changes to the Sharks starting line-up coach Gary Gold announced on Wednesday, a short week encouraging some rotation amongst the players.

Lwazi Mvovo returns to the left wing, with JP Pietersen shifting to the right and Odwa Ndungane moving down to the bench; Michael Claassens swops with Cobus Reinach at scrumhalf; and two of the replacement front-rowers, tighthead Lourens Adriaanse and hooker Kyle Cooper, will get their first starts of the campaign as Coenie Oosthuizen and Franco Marais shift to the bench.

Of course, making five changes to the most in-form team in the country does bring certain risks, but Gold is confident that the introduction of fresher legs will actually aid their momentum rather than harm it.

“We are really keen to keep the momentum going now and, as a result, our confidence will keep growing. It’s the reason we’ve rotated a few guys this week, we want to improve each week and keep on building as a team and we have a huge amount of confidence in the guys that have come off the bench. They have made a significant difference to our games at critical stages.

“There were a few sore bodies after the Stormers match, so it made sense to make a few changes.  These changes are not disruptive and it does mean that other guys that have put their hands up have an opportunity to start this week, rather than come off the bench,” Gold said.

Van der Walt agreed that the changes would not weaken the Sharks for what they believe will be another demanding away derby.

“We have a big group and the two different teams that played in France played just as well as each other, as well as allowing us to get used to playing with each other. So there’s no big difference or harm to the momentum we’ve created. The core of the team is the same, the coach hasn’t changed too much, it’s just subtle changes.

“It’s been tough sitting on the bench, but all the other loose forwards have played well. The team is my main focus and how I can improve the team, so I could give everything for 20 minutes and continue contributing. I’ve just been trying to do the best I can, luckily I’ve had good form.

“The competition for places is a good thing, it pushes you to new levels. It’s lovely to have, especially for the coaches. As players, you always want to start, but we have this added incentive now. Fortunately us loosies all get along well and we push each other too,” Van der Walt said.

The space on the bench created by Van der Walt’s elevation will be filled by Keegan Daniel, back in the country after a stint in Japan and poised to play his first match in South Africa since 2014.

The Sharks have tasted bitter defeat in their last four SuperRugby visits to Loftus Versfeld, dating back to June 2011, and have lost three in a row to the Bulls home and away, so they are right to be wary despite their highly impressive performance last weekend and the lofty heights they are currently enjoying as the only unbeaten team alongside the Brumbies.

“We’re not expecting anything different to the Stormers game, the Bulls back three is just as capable and they also always pride themselves on big forwards and big drives. And they’re coming off a good win and a good rest, so they’re definitely going to come out firing.

“We worked hard last week because we knew the Stormers have a good set-piece, especially the scrums, and we were able to stand our ground and even get one or two of their balls. If the opposition have a good scrum then that’s something you focus on, and we know it’s most important that we carry that same effort into the next game,” Van der Walt said.

The Bulls scrum has endured some bitter experiences in recent times, but they will certainly be working hard on that facet of their game, and the Sharks will need to be at their best in that department.

Sharks team: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Joe Pietersen, Michael Claassens, Daniel du Preez, Philip van der Walt, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Lourens Adriaanse, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira (C). Bench – Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman, Coenie Oosthuizen, Hyron Andrews, Keegan Daniel, Cobus Reinach, Garth April, Odwa Ndungane.



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