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Ken Borland



Tricky selection for Ludeke as star players wait in the aisles 0

Posted on June 09, 2016 by Ken

 

Coach Frans Ludeke faces a tricky selection this week as several star players are waiting in the aisles as the Vodacom Bulls look to back up their impressive win over the Reds with a crucial triumph over the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Springboks Adriaan Strauss, Jan Serfontein, Handre Pollard and Akona Ndungane are all available for selection again, while flank Lappies Labuschagne, one of the Bulls’ best players in the opening weeks of the competition, has recovered from a shoulder injury that saw him miss the last three matches.

Hooker Strauss and flyhalf Pollard should certainly start against the Sharks, but the fine form of Burger Odendaal at inside centre means Ludeke should perhaps consider playing Serfontein in the number 13 jersey he wears for the Springboks.

Labuschagne will probably return off the bench, with the highly-talented Arno Botha match-fit and ready to continue in the number seven jersey.

With the back three of Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard and Bjorn Basson performing so well in recent weeks, Ndungane is unlikely to break into the starting XV after recovering from a broken hand. He will even struggle to get on to the bench because Jurgen Visser pretty much provides specialist fullback cover for Kriel, unless Ludeke creates a space by leaving out Piet van Zyl and uses Hougaard as the reserve scrumhalf.

The Sharks are currently in a hole but the possible return of Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Co could continue the revival in spirit that was seen against the Lions at Ellis Park at the weekend, but in terms of confidence, the Bulls are probably going to Durban at the best time.

Ludeke’s men are leading the chase for the South African SuperRugby Conference title and victory over the Sharks could eliminate the KwaZulu-Natalians from contention, with the Bulls at least six points ahead with a game in hand.

The following weekend the Bulls travel to Cape Town to take on the Stormers followed by a crunch local derby against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld and then their overseas tour. So the next three weeks are absolutely vital for the three-time champions as they look to gather as many points as possible.

 

 

 

Cobras looking to avoid last place after disrupted season 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken

 

While the bizhub Highveld Lions have secured their position at the top of the Sunfoil Series standings, there will be a fiercely-fought contest at the other end of the log as the defending champion Nashua Cape Cobras look to avoid the wooden spoon in the final round of matches starting on Thursday.

The Cobras, with so many representatives of both the national and SA A sides coming in and out of the team, have endured a disrupted season, but they would dearly like to beat the Sunfoil Dolphins, who are looking to hang on to second place behind the Lions, to ensure they don’t finish last.

Although their hopes of winning the four-day title for the fifth time in six seasons are long gone, the progress of players like Dane Paterson and Omphile Ramela has been a major positive.

“Obviously we’ve spoken about not finishing last, but we’ve gained some things this season in the form of people like Dane and Omphi, and they would like to finish near the top of the leading wicket-takers and run-scorers lists,” Cobras coach Paul Adams told The Citizen on Wednesday.

The depth of the Cobras has always been one of the major reasons for their dominance of franchise cricket in recent years, and Adams will use the match against the Dolphins at the Oval in Pietermaritzburg to give exposure to other players coming through like Matthew Kleinveldt, left-arm swing bowler Mpilo Njoloza and wrist-spinner George Linde.

Stiaan van Zyl is out of action with a thigh strain, but the inclusion of Dane Piedt means the Cobras have one new international returning for another.

“It’s another chance to look at a couple of players, someone like Matthew has done nicely in the three-day competition, with guys like Rory Kleinveldt, Robin Peterson and Mthokozisi Shezi having a break after the long season.

“Players like Paterson and Ramela understand their games better now and hopefully we’ll be back in the running in four-day cricket next season. Despite the results, we’ve had some consistent players who are moving on in the game,” Adams said.

For the Dolphins, the disappointment of losing to the Lions last weekend and therefore ending the title chase leaves them vulnerable against a quality, hungry outfit like the Cobras and coach Lance Klusener has intimated that he might well freshen up the squad by making a few changes.

The Chevrolet Warriors are the other team in danger of ‘winning’ the wooden spoon and they take on the champion Lions at the Wanderers with a slender lead of just 1.22 points over the Cobras.

The Eastern Cape side are also looking to the 2015/16 season according to coach Malibongwe Maketa and the same squad that were beaten in East London by the Chevrolet Knights last weekend will do duty in Johannesburg.

The pressure will be on the Warriors batsmen to score runs in the first innings against the best attack in the competition and Maketa said the inconsistent batting has been the biggest issue for his side this season.

“We haven’t been consistent enough, we haven’t batted well in the first innings and, although we’ve managed to save some games in the second innings, last weekend’s defeat was always coming. But we’re working hard on our young batsmen, we want to test them against the Lions, where they’ll have to score runs under pressure.

“But this is our best side and we have them for the next two or three seasons, so we want to keep playing them and building. We’re not going to be giving away free Warriors caps,” Maketa said.

The Lions will want to complete their superb campaign by beating the Warriors and are likely to name their strongest XI even though nobody can catch them at the top of the standings.

Dominic Hendricks will replace wicketkeeper/batsman Thami Tsolekile, who is being troubled by a finger injury, while the batting will be further strengthened by the return of Alviro Petersen.

The battle for second place also involves the Unlimited Titans, who are 12.16 points behind the Dolphins, and they host the Knights at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

The Titans will be without opening batsman Dean Elgar, who was the star of their draw against the Cobras last weekend with an unbeaten double-century, before being struck on the head by Paterson and suffering a mild concussion.

But Qaasim Adams, who has scored a century for the Titans in both the Sunfoil Series and the Momentum One-Day Cup and was named as the franchise’s Most Improved Player at their awards function this week, returns from injury, and with Albie Morkel and Shaun von Berg both in the squad, the home side could bat down to number nine.

Knights coach Sarel Cilliers is expecting a pitch that will become up-and-down as the Titans need to win the game to overtake the Dolphins and finish second. But victory for the visitors could see them swop positions with the Titans and finish third.

“I definitely think their plan is to use inconsistent bounce and the pitch looks as if it will go up-and-down quite early. So far in this competition we’ve had three losses, three draws and three wins, so I’d really like to tilt the balance in favour of wins by the end of the season,” Cilliers said.

Quinton Friend, who many judges of fast bowling rate as a quality paceman, is back for the Knights and so is Malusi Siboto, an accurate back-up seamer.

Unfortunately Corne Dry and Duanne Olivier are both out injured and Cilliers said they are the sort of bang-it-in bowlers who could have thrived on the SuperSport Park pitch.

“They’ve really struck their straps in the last couple of weeks and their injuries are unfortunate because those youngsters do hit the deck hard. We’ve been capable of containing sides, but wickets have been a bit short and we had three games where we bowled for 140 overs, not being able to bowl sides out in the first innings, and that’s a long time in the field.

“But it was a good turnaround in East London, where we managed to bowl the Warriors out in both the first and second innings, and that was a good performance, especially by the bowlers,” Cilliers said.

 

Bulls have renewed energy to maintain momentum 0

Posted on February 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls will look to the renewed energy levels in the camp after the bye week to help maintain the momentum they gained before the break when they take on the Western Force in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls started the campaign with two losses at home in Pretoria but then beat the Sharks and the Cheetahs over the next fortnight to put themselves in the top eight on the log and six points behind the Conference-leading Stormers, with a game in hand.

The Force are the last Australian team to win in the capital, and even though that was way back in 2007, the Perth-based side have traditionally been the toughest of foes for the Bulls to see off, with the average score being 25-22.

“We always seem to be in tight matches against each other. The trick for us will be to play the big moments better and to execute whenever we create scoring opportunities.

“We’ve been quite lucky with our draw, I think the bye came at the right time for us, the week off was very good and the guys have come back energised,” captain Pierre Spies said this week.

The Force come to South Africa in not the best frame of mind, the epic bonus-point win over the defending champion Waratahs in the opening round being followed by four successive defeats, and the coach, Michael Foley, has shuffled the backline, with former Free Stater Sias Ebersohn starting at flyhalf.

The match also marks the return of reserve lock Wilhelm Steenkamp to the place where it all began for the 30-year-old, back in 2005.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has called for more accuracy in implementing the basic but effective game plan he sponsors.

“The accuracy suddenly changed, then the belief came, and with that the momentum came as well. We would like to continue with what made us a dangerous side before the break, getting into the right areas, converting that opportunity, accuracy on defence and squeezing opportunities, and hopefully winning that field-position battle,” Ludeke said.

Teams

Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Rudy Paige, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Grant Hattingh, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Marcel van der Merwe, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Dean Greyling. Replacements – 16-Jaco Visagie, 17-Morne Mellett, 18-Trevor Nyakane, 19-Victor Matfield, 20-Arno Botha, 21-Tian Schoeman, 22-Piet van Zyl, 23-Jurgen Visser.
Western Force: 15-Luke Morahan, 14-Marcel Brache, 13-Kyle Godwin, 12-Luke Burton, 11-Nick Cummins, 10-Sias Ebersohn, 9-Alby Mathewson, 8-Ben McCalman, 7-Kane Koteka, 6-Steve Mafi, 5-Adam Coleman, 4-Sam Wykes, 3-Tetera Faulkner, 2-Nathan Charles, 1-Pek Cowan. Replacements – 16-Heath Tessmann, 17-Chris Heiberg, 18-Oli Hoskins, 19-Wilhelm Steenkamp, 20-Angus Cottrell, 21-Ian Prior, 22-Zack Holmes, 23-Junior Rasolea.

 

 

 

 

Our archrivals aren’t scared of age, why should we be? 0

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Ken

It’s always been a very South African thing, especially in rugby and cricket, for us to look over the Indian Ocean at our archrivals New Zealand and Australia, and try and copy what they are doing.

Notwithstanding the fact that Australian cricket teams and New Zealand rugby sides have generally been the best in the world during the last two decades, it is a habit that is not always beneficial for our national teams. Mostly because we have different strengths and therefore what works best for them won’t necessarily be the best approach for us.

But there is one current debate in Springbok rugby which I believe can be neatly resolved by taking a leaf out of the All Blacks’ book.

Amongst the many unfair criticisms that are being hurled at Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, one of the least intelligent ones is that he is going to take a geriatric team to the World Cup. In this regard, I have to say, like our venerable Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu did recently in supporting HelpAge International, that “I am for people of all ages”.

Looking back at the previous seven World Cups, it is clear that nobody is going to win the Webb Ellis Cup without experience. Meyer is certainly not alone in wanting to include some cool older heads in his side – we need only look at the team New Zealand coach Steve Hansen put on the field yesterday to open their Rugby Championship campaign.

With only a handful of matches left before they begin the defence of their 2011 title, Hansen is not going to be messing around with players that aren’t going to be in contention for the World Cup.

The All Blacks team that belted Argentina in Christchurch yesterday contained half-a-dozen players who are over 30 – Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock. Add in 29-year-olds Kieran Read and Luke Romano, and the average age of yesterday’s starting XV was 29.13 years.

The likes of Ben Smith (29) and Conrad Smith (33) are almost certainly going to be World Cup starters and other players who should return and will push up the average age are Julian Savea (24 compared to Charles Piutau 23), Aaron Smith (26, while TJ Perenara is 23) and Liam Messam (31).

The likely All Blacks team for a World Cup final would have an average age of 29.60 years.

Meyer’s probable first-choice team – Le Roux, Pietersen, De Villiers, De Allende, Habana, Pollard, Du Preez, Vermeulen, Alberts, Louw, Matfield, Etzebeth, Du Plessis x2 and Mtawarira – is actually younger than that – 29.33 years.

There are nine players over 30, but there are also three key players who are 23 or younger – 23-year-old centre Damian de Allende (Jan Serfontein is 22), 21-year-old flyhalf Handre Pollard and 23-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth. That seems to me to be a good balance between experience and youthful energy.

And there’s even a chance that the Springboks will have some outrageous young talent like Marcell Coetzee (24), Pieter-Steph du Toit (22), Frans Malherbe (24) and Steven Kitshoff (23) dancing around the UK fields, which would make South Africa’s team even younger.

So the next time an ill-informed someone moans about the geriatric Springbok team at the World Cup, those are the facts to dispel that argument; New Zealand, the outright favourites and world number ones, have an even older side!

In the pressure-cooker environment of a do-or-die knockout game at the World Cup, you need players who have been there and done it, who have proven their mettle when the stakes are highest.

 



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