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Ken Borland



Concerns through the team for Meyer ahead of quadrangular 0

Posted on May 04, 2016 by Ken

 

Fullback and flyhalf are the positions the public is talking about the most, but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will be equally concerned about lock, scrumhalf, centre and wing when he announces his squad on Saturday for the quadrangular series with Italy, Scotland and Samoa next month.

Flyhalf is actually one of the positions Meyer can rest easy over, with Morné Steyn making himself a certainty in the number 10 jersey with his great run for the in-form Bulls team.

South Africa are fortunate to have someone as talented as Pat Lambie as back-up, but a host of injuries have robbed Meyer of some key backline players. JP Pietersen, Jaco Taute and Frans Steyn are definitely out for at least the next month, while Juan de Jongh and Zane Kirchner have not played SuperRugby for some time.

That leaves some conundrums when it comes to the midfield combination and who will play fullback.

When Meyer first took over as Springbok coach, he chose Jean de Villiers as an outside centre and, given his polished display in the number 13 jersey in the Stormers’ return to winning ways last weekend, the national captain is likely to play there in the quadrangular series.

The Springbok management have given a big hint that 20-year-old Jan Serfontein is being lined up to make his Test debut inside the skipper as he has been withdrawn from the SA U20 team leaving today for the Junior World Championship in France. Robert Ebersohn has done much to make the Cheetahs serious SuperRugby contenders this year and is also an option but, despite his propensity to tackle way above his weight, he has still missed 31 tackles this season, the joint worst with Blues flyhalf Chris Noakes, according to rugbystats.com.au.

The other option is for De Villiers to play in the number 12 jersey he wore in the second half of 2012 and for JJ Engelbrecht to play 13. The Bulls youngster is almost certain to be in the squad, however, as he can also cover wing.

The back three is also a big problem for Meyer given the injuries to Pietersen, Taute, Frans Steyn and Kirchner. Bryan Habana, whose work rate and pace continue to impress, is the only certainty, while the coach might decide to move Francois Hougaard back to wing, given that the Bulls man has only recently returned from injury and has looked messy and off the pace at scrumhalf.

The other candidates for wing are Bjorn Basson, who could be favoured because of his tremendous ability in the air, Raymond Rhule, Lwazi Mvovo, Gio Aplon and Willie le Roux.

The latter two are also in the mix to be fullback. Meyer would be foolish to risk playing his regular number 15, Kirchner, given that he has not played any rugby in 10 weeks since having a finger operation.

But he could still pick an experienced international there by moving Lambie from flyhalf to fullback. Hopefully Meyer will also have the courage to consider playing Cheetahs magician Willie le Roux there, even if it is off the bench.

The Ulster-based Ruan Pienaar is likely to be the starting scrumhalf, with the pace on attack provided by Jano Vermaak a useful complementary attribute on the bench.

The second row is also going to be an interesting dilemma for Meyer. The great Bakkies Botha will be available, but the coach has already hinted that Pienaar and flank Francois Louw will be the only overseas-based players he will be calling on for the quadrangular.

The inconsistent Andries Bekker is not willing to play for the Springboks once he leaves for Japan – and is injured anyway – but Juandré Kruger will be available and is the obvious choice in the number five jersey, providing he is over the niggling injury that kept him from the field in the Springboks’ training camp this week.

Eben Etzebeth showed in his outstanding display for the Stormers last weekend that he will be able to fulfil the lineout general’s role as well, but if Bakkies is not going to be called up, the team might be stronger with Etzebeth at four.

Franco van der Merwe, so reliable for the Sharks this year, will then be the back-up number five.

The loose forward selection will inevitably be coloured by Meyer’s decision to once again ignore Heinrich Brüssow.

The Cheetahs openside flank has managed to con many critics that he is still as potent a fetcher as he was in 2009, but all the stats providers involved in SuperRugby show otherwise. He isn’t in the top 20 for pilfers on any of the stats sites, but where he does feature is in the top 10 for tackles made.

Meyer is right to be wary of unleashing Brüssow with northern hemisphere referees officiating and the rules of his trade much stricter these days, but contesting rucks is not the honey badger’s only skill. Brüssow is exceptionally strong for his size, has a great work rate and good ball skills and is hopefully not entirely out of Meyer’s plans, if even as an impact player.

It seems inevitable that the starting loose trio on June 8 against Italy in Durban will be Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts and Louw, with the bench spots contested between Marcell Coetzee, Arno Botha and new star Lappies Labuschagne.

Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss and Coenie Oosthuizen are bound to be the starting front row and Wiehahn Herbst is in line for his Test debut as reserve tighthead, with Chiliboy Ralepelle and Tendai Mtawarira the other reserves now that teams are compelled to have two props on the bench.

Bismarck du Plessis is in a similar position to Kirchner and should not be risked as he has not played a SuperRugby match the entire season. A run of three games for the Sharks after the June international window and Du Plessis should be ready to explode into Rugby Championship action having recovered properly from a serious knee injury.

Ralepelle will certainly not let the side down in the meantime, having shown accuracy at the lineout, great work rate and presence at the breakdowns for the Bulls this season.

What Meyer is not going to be conned into doing is playing flavours-of-the-month that may not be contenders for the next World Cup that is just 840 days away, no matter how vigorously their brilliance is debated in your local bar.

No more than a pair of new caps in Serfontein and Le Roux are worth betting on, but it should make fans happy that the Springbok coach can afford not to choose some of the other great talent laying around.

Probable squad – Pat Lambie, Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Robert Ebersohn, Francois Hougaard, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Ruan Pienaar, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Willem Alberts, Lappies Labuschagne, Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Juandré Kruger, Franco van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Wiehahn Herbst, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Coenie Oosthuizen, Tendai Mtawarira.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-05-30-springbok-squad-preview-a-few-headaches-but-no-migraine-for-meyer#.Vys00IR97IU

Flip van der Merwe inexplicably withdraws from Springbok selection scramble 0

Posted on May 05, 2015 by Ken

 

South African rugby players are normally like crayfish scrambling to get out of a bucket when it comes to fighting for a place in the Springbok squad in a World Cup year, which makes lock Flip van der Merwe’s decision to not make himself available for international rugby this year all the more inexplicable.

It’s unusual for South African rugby to be short of locks but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer admitted on Monday that the second row is one of the areas he is most concerned about, Van der Merwe’s unavailability only making the situation worse.

Although Meyer revealed the Bulls lock’s shock decision, he was not at liberty to reveal the reasons for it, save that they are personal.

“Locks are a worry because you need specialists. If I had to pick the World Cup squad today we’d be in trouble – Eben Etzebeth has just recovered from injury and Pieter-Steph du Toit, Victor Matfield and Lood de Jager have all been injured recently as well,” Meyer said.

Having announced his decision to join French club Clermont at the end of this season, Van der Merwe has lost his Springbok contract, which could place him in the same awkward position as Francois Steyn when it comes to image rights.

Four of the six locks who attended the Springbok camp session at St Peter’s College on Monday have injury problems – Ruan Botha, De Jager, Du Toit and Matfield – and they largely sat out training.

While Meyer said centre (due to injuries) was also a worrying position, he said the toughest decisions he would have to make revolved around which loose forwards to take to the World Cup.

“The main difficulty is the loose forwards. We can only choose a 31-man squad and nine of those players have to be front-row forwards. So that means you either choose four locks and five loose-forwards, which most teams do, or three locks and six loose forwards.

“So I have to pick five players from 12-15 world-class loose forwards, which is going to be very difficult. Pierre Spies is a great player who’s been injured for two years so it’s been tough for him and he could still play better. There’s Jaco Kriel, who was brilliant against the Bulls, and Heinrich Brussow, so there’s a lot of competition. Willem Alberts has played two great games for the Sharks … “ Meyer explained.

The Springbok coach confirmed that he is likely to stick with the cadres he has been using for the last three years for the World Cup, although there is always room for the odd bolter to force his way into his plans this year.

“We’ve done a lot of research and spoken to the different coaches who have won the World Cup and the one thing they all say is to stick to what has worked for you. You don’t want to be too predictable though because the game changes every six months so you have to try new things, but you don’t want to change too much.

“Current form is important, but there are guys who have performed over several years, I’ve had three years to see how they perform under pressure. Test rugby is totally different to Super Rugby, especially in the Northern Hemisphere at the breakdowns and with the referees.

“I have some sort of idea of my first XV, but there are always guys who come in late, someone like Jesse Kriel is very close to selection. But it’s very difficult for players to peak from February to October, there are just too many games, and quality players don’t become bad overnight. There’s still time to get guys right, world-class players who have proven themselves …” Meyer said.

One of those players who will be given every opportunity to prove his fitness for the World Cup is captain Jean de Villiers, who has been laid low since November with a serious knee injury.

Team doctor Craig Roberts said De Villiers is “running very hard” at the moment and they are very happy with his progress.

Roberts added, however, that they are looking to provide some games for the centre to play before the World Cup in order to find his form and confidence.

 

Matfield & Botha – the legendary combination restored 0

Posted on June 13, 2014 by Ken

Bakkies Botha & Victor Matfield - reunited with the Springboks

Having Bakkies Botha sitting next to him on the bus to Newlands last week was a scarcely believable moment for Victor Matfield as the former Toulon lock headed to his return to international rugby with the Springboks against the World XV.

Matfield, who had retired from rugby after the 2011 World Cup, was not only having his first taste of international rugby for nearly three years, but coach Heyneke Meyer had handed him the captaincy in the absence of the injured Jean de Villiers.

Botha, his “blood brother”, had already announced himself as ready to return to the highest stage when he brought all his old physicality and presence to the Springboks’ 19-10 victory over France in Paris last November.

“Bakkies and I looked at each other on the bus and we both said we just couldn’t believe that here we were, sitting together again on our way to playing for South Africa again. It was very special, such a proud moment and it was fantastic to play for the Springboks next to Bakkies again,” Matfield said.

Following their impressive performances against the World XV, Matfield and Botha will once again lock the Springbok scrum in the Test against Wales in Durban on Saturday. Matfield will captain the team for the 18th time as he equals John Smit’s record of 111 Tests for South Africa, last week’s game being a non-cap international. They will extend their world record of matches together in the second row to 63 Tests.

Matfield will no doubt think back to Wellington 2011 when he thought he had shared his last Springbok changeroom with Bakkies as the current Toulon lock left the World Cup early with an achilles tendon injury.

“I knew my old lock partner was in a bad state and he broke the news to us during our Bible study session that he had asked to be sent back to South Africa to have an operation. I was shattered because old Bakke and I had a fantastic partnership in the scrums and his withdrawal meant that he wouldn’t be there when I played the last Test of my career. I had a lump in my throat,” Matfield said in his autobiography.

But Matfield returned to SuperRugby this year to help out a Bulls side badly in need of experience and had enough of an impact for Meyer, the coach with whom he has had the best relationship through his career, to choose him again for the Springboks.

And Matfield had a fine game against the World XV, controlling a slick lineout just like in the old days and impressing with his work-rate around the field. Botha, fresh from winning the European Cup and Top 14 with Toulon after three-and-a-half months out with a broken arm, had a massive game in the tight-loose and was named man of the match.

“Last November when I was first recalled to the side there were a lot of new faces, but now this second time it was great to see some of the old faces again and it remains a massive honour to play for the Springboks,” said Botha.

“It is always nice to play alongside Vic, he brings that calmness and confidence with him. I just have to look at his body language to know exactly what he is going to do.

“And now that he has lost a few kilos it will be easier to lift him,” joked Botha.

Rugby is clearly like a drug for these two great locks, both veterans of South Africa’s 2007 World Cup triumph, but their partnership and friendship is also among the most enduring in sport.

Their weddings were a day apart and they shared their Bulls benefit season together, running the Blood Brothers fundraising campaign for various charities.

And old age – Matfield is 37 and Botha 34 – does not seem to be slowing them down on the field either.

 

 

 

Quins’ Robson to captain midweek England 0

Posted on June 12, 2012 by Ken

England coach Stuart Lancaster on Monday named Harlequins lock George Robson as the captain for the midweek match against the Southern Barbarians in Kimberley on Wednesday.

Robson follows in the footsteps of club-mate Chris Robshaw, who led England in the first test against South Africa last weekend in Durban.

“George has had a tremendous season for Harlequins, has made a great contribution to this tour already, both in training and as part of the leadership group, and I know he will captain the team well,” Lancaster said.

The team to play the Southern Barbarians is a completely new one, with the whole England squad, save for wing Ugo Monye and prop Alex Corbisiero, getting game time in the first two matches of the tour.

England lost the first test 17-22 to the Springboks and Lancaster said he hoped the midweek team would help the squad to bounce back from that disappointment.

“Every one of the 22 is desperate to play. They have trained superbly and their attitude while waiting for their chance has been first-class. There is a lot of competition for places across the board and Wednesday gives these players a chance to lay down a marker and for the whole squad to build some momentum towards Saturday’s test. We need to make sure we get back on track,” Lancaster said.

The England coach admitted, however, that it was unlikely anyone playing in Wednesday’s match would come through and make the starting XV for the second test in Johannesburg on Saturday.

“We’re close to being finalised for the team for Saturday, but we are still looking at one or two players, although they are more likely to be on the bench for Saturday,” Lancaster told a news conference in Johannesburg on Monday.

With experienced players such as halfbacks Charlie Hodgson (38 test caps) and Danny Care (32 caps) and flank James Haskell (42 caps) in the midweek team, Lancaster said he was excited by the match.

“I’m really looking forward to the game. From the players’ point of view, obviously they’re just desperate to get out on the park, but for me it’s an opportunity to build a squad and work with the players. There’s nothing better for a coach than to coach players in a game situation,” Lancaster said.

The former England Saxons head coach said he was playing two inside centres – Anthony Allen and Jordan Turner-Hall – in midfield on Wednesday because he wanted to develop England’s depth at outside centre.

“I’m playing what would be regarded as two specialist 12s because I want to look at Anthony Allen at 13. I want options for England there and Anthony played outside Brad Barritt in the Churchill Cup.

“The plan is that he will move to 12 in the second half and George Lowe will come on at outside centre. It’s about creating opportunities for everyone and not pigeonholing them,” Lancaster said.

The midweek team’s starting line-up includes seven players who have not yet played test rugby for England – fullback Alex Goode, wing Christian Wade, hooker Joe Gray, locks Graham Kitchener and Robson, flank Carl Fearns and New Zealand-born eighthman Thomas Waldrom.

Team – 15-Alex Goode, 14-David Strettle, 13-Anthony Allen, 12-Jordan Turner-Hall, 11-Christian Wade, 10-Charlie Hodgson, 9-Danny Care. 8-Thomas Waldrom, 7-Carl Fearns, 6-James Haskell, 5-George Robson, 4-Graham Kitchener, 3-Paul Doran-Jones, 2-Joe Gray, 1-Mutt Mullan. Replacements: 16-Tom Youngs, 17-Rupert Harden, 18-Tom Palmer, 19-Jamie Gibson, 20-Lee Dickson, 21-George Lowe, 22-Nick Abendanon.

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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