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Ken Borland



Cook amongst the runs again as SA pile up massive lead 0

Posted on December 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Stephen Cook hit his second successive Test century as South Africa piled up a massive lead on the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

South Africa finished the day on 351 for five in their second innings and it was enough for them to lead by 432 with two days and five wickets remaining.

Cook was the mainstay of the innings with his 117 off 178 balls and it was an effort that put him in the record books alongside opening partner Dean Elgar, who scored 52 in a first-wicket stand of 116.

It was just the 10th time in Test history that the same opening pair have posted a hundred partnership in both innings of the same match and it is the first time since the famous Timeless Test against England in Durban in 1938/39 that South Africa had a century stand for the first wicket in both innings.

“It was great to bat with Dean for a period of time and nice to dovetail that we both got runs for the first time. If we can get a partnership going up front then it helps the team a lot and opening the batting is always about forging that partnership and the only way to do that is by spending time out in the middle.

“Australia was very tough and I went through some hardships there, but the hundred in Adelaide made me a bit more relaxed. Coming off a century you feel better about the way things are going and I was able to make a few little adjustments to my technique over the last three weeks and bed them down,” Cook said.

It was a wonderful day from beginning to end for the Proteas, with Vernon Philander striking with the first ball of the day as he had Sri Lankan top-scorer Dhananjaya de Silva (43) caught behind with a peach of a delivery, the first of two wickets in the opening over as the tourists were bowled out for 205, a first-innings deficit of 81.

Philander finished with five for 45 in 20 excellent overs, his 11th five-wicket haul in 38 Tests, while Kyle Abbott provided great support with three for 63 in 21.5 overs.

After Cook and Elgar’s 137-minute opening stand, interrupted twice by rain, Hashim Amla struck a fluent 48 off 53 balls, before he was trapped leg-before by Nuwan Pradeep, the 10 000th lbw dismissal in Test history.

JP Duminy (25) and Temba Bavuma (8) were both dismissed by off-spinner De Silva, but the finishing touches to a thoroughly dominant day for South Africa were applied by captain Faf du Plessis (41*) and Quinton de Kock (42*), who had added a brisk 74 in less than an hour by stumps.

Held together by bandages & gauze, but Jannie still relishes the challenge 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The tight five is characteristically the place where the players are held together by bandages and gauze, such is the high-impact workload they have to shoulder in rugby seasons that are just getting longer and harder. But there’s one man in the Springbok pack who has been particularly burdened with a massive workload, and that is tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

The 30-year-old played in every SuperRugby match last year and in all 16 games for the Sharks this year, as well as every Test in 2012 and all three in 2013 thus far. But Du Plessis, a qualified medical doctor, says he’s relishing the challenge.

“I hope I become like leather: you know, the more you use it, the tougher and better it becomes. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’m playing so much that I’m going to break down. I want to play 40 games a year for the next five years,” Du Plessis said after the Springboks’ training session in Fourways on Wednesday.

While the scrummaging skills and experience of the Bethlehem-born Du Plessis are invaluable in the crucial tighthead position – many ex-forwards say it’s the first position that should be chosen in a team – the other reason for why the Grey College-product is hogging the number three jersey is the lack of depth in his position in the country.

The current Springbok squad has five props in it and Du Plessis is the only one who can be regarded as a specialist tighthead, the foundation of a solid scrum.

The Springbok brains trust have identified Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead, as the next best tighthead in the land and coach Heyneke Meyer said the lack of depth has left him little choice but to develop the 24-year-old as the next choice number three for the 2015 World Cup.

“I truly believe we are in trouble with tightheads in South Africa,” Meyer said. “If you look at it, most of the guys are injured and at one stage we had the best tightheads in the world, but now there are a lot of inexperienced guys playing there.

“We feel Coenie is the second tighthead in the squad and we need to give him some game time. A tighthead is like great wine, it only gets better with time. Coenie is only 24 and we need someone who is the next tighthead who has time to develop and will be there for a long time.

“If Coenie doesn’t play there in Test match rugby, he won’t be right for the next World Cup. With Gurthro Steenkamp and Trevor Nyakane, they are great impact players, and we have a lot of looseheads with Beast as well. But we’re under pressure on the tighthead side,” Meyer said.

But there is also a lot of anti-Coenie-at-tighthead feeling around rugby circles, with many wondering why Cheetahs number three Lourens Adriaanse, an unused member of the Springbok squad in June, or impressive Sharks youngster Wiehahn Herbst aren’t given a chance.

Tighthead prop is a specialist position, like hooker or scrumhalf, and what Meyer is doing is a bit like trying to convert your second-choice outside centre into a scrumhalf just because he’s a great player. Coaches have to make tough decisions and, however brilliant Oosthuizen is and however much depth there is at loosehead, you can only have two in a match-day squad. Trying to turn a loosehead into a tighthead is fraught with danger, as we saw with previous coach Peter de Villiers’ unsuccessful attempts with John Smit.

Although Oosthuizen is an ox of a man – weighing 125kg and standing 1.83m – tighthead is a highly technical position where size and strength are not enough on their own.

Ask Jannie du Plessis himself.

“It is really flipping difficult to change from loosehead to tighthead, ask the looseheads who’ve tried. It’s a completely different position with a different set of skills. But I hope Coenie does well in the position, he’s done well enough when he has come on at tighthead, so then everyone won’t make such a big thing about it and me playing every game,” Du Plessis said.

The other problem with Oosthuizen playing tighthead is that he will be stuck in the scrum for longer and the Springboks stand to dilute two of his major weapons – his exceptional ability in carrying the ball and the pressure he brings to the breakdown.

And Oosthuizen’s switch is happening at a time of great uncertainty amongst front-rankers with the new scrum rules coming into effect for the Rugby Championship.

After protests over the number of collapsed scrums, the International Rugby Board [IRB] have introduced new calls governing the engagement. The new sequence is “crouch, bind, set”, requiring the props to bind before the scrum sets.

But the IRB, in their wisdom, have introduced the new protocol at Test level as well, without trialling it first in SuperRugby. So the top players in the Southern Hemisphere are all going into a crucial part of the game, for which match-swinging penalties are often given, blind, without any competitive experience of the changes.

“The scrums are an uncertainty for us. You have to play the cards that are dealt you, but the situation is that this is the first time in a Test series where we play the new rules. This year we are going straight into the new rules and we don’t know what to expect,” Meyer admitted.

Du Plessis, who has seen most things in the dark and dingy world of scrums, thinks even these new rules might not last.

“Normally you have a few games to get used to new laws, like they did with the ELVs. But the challenge now is to adapt right away. It might be a shambles and then they change it again.

“Since I started playing, this will be the sixth or seventh change to the scrum laws, so they are definitely chopping and changing and maybe they are scratching a place where it’s not itching… ” Du Plessis said.

The major difference that front-rankers will experience, with the “hit” taken out of the equation, is that scrums are going to last much longer now, according to Du Plessis.

“It’s going to be a big change. In the past you relied on speed because the gap between the front rows was big. Now because you’re binding first, you are much closer together and you can’t rely on speed.

“Scrums are going to be about generating more power and they will last much longer, so we’ll have to work harder. It won’t be so much about power and speed and more about endurance.

“They’ve said the scrum has to be steady now and they’re going to force scrumhalves to put the ball in straight, but it sounds like election promises to me: we hear that every year,” Du Plessis said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-08-rugby-tightheads-at-a-loose-end/#.WCxJxvl97IU

Pieter-Steph du Toit & Warren Whiteley Q&As 0

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit

 

Q: How did it feel for the Springboks to be booed off the field at halftime?

PSdT: Well the first half was quite a shocker and being booed, well we fully deserved it. But we were 100% better in the second half and we showed what we can do. It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you get booed like that, but it made me a bit angry, I wanted to show that we are not that bad. If you play good rugby, then the crowd gets behind you.

 

Q: What went wrong in the first half?

PSdT: Us players were all on the field, but we just weren’t playing, we had no energy, we all just seemed a bit tired. I do not know why that happened in the first half, I have no explanation at the moment, except that our game plan was to work around the corner and we didn’t do that as the forwards.

 

Q: How did the Springboks manage to pull off such an amazing comeback?

PSdT: Eben Etzebeth and I spoke about it and we never doubted that we could win, and if you believe it then you can do it. There was a mindshift – we knew we had to win, so we had to lift our game to a different level and the changes helped too, a guy like Ruan Combrinck was man of the match after playing just 40 minutes, so that’s quite an effort. We stuck to the game plan more, the forwards came into the game and we cut out the mistakes. We made a lot of errors in the first half, we didn’t keep the ball, and Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss spoke to us about that and said if this was our last Test for South Africa, how would we play? Of course they were upset.

 

 

Warren Whiteley

 

Q: How satisfying was that second-half comeback and how did you pull it off?

WW: We’re delighted with the win and the character we showed. We definitely felt the momentum swing early in the second half and that gave us a chance. We got quick ball and we were hitting the advantage line and so creating space out wide. We managed to keep that width, make holes in the middle and earn the right to go wide. It means a lot because we were extremely disappointed after the first half, but we showed our character in the second half, which is definitely going to be a massive confidence boost.

 

Q: Did you feel extra pressure coming on straight after halftime in front of your home crowd with the Springboks in a hole, and do you think you’ve secured a starting place now?

WW: Every time I step on to the field it’s a privilege and I try to make sure I use every opportunity. I didn’t feel any extra pressure, but I was highly motivated to make a difference. No, I don’t think I can talk about starting places because there are a lot of very talented loose forwards in the squad – Jaco Kriel hasn’t even played a game yet and there’s a guy like Sikhumbuzo Notshe also waiting in the wings.

 

Q: There’s been plenty of talk already about the win being down to all the members of the Lions team you captain who were on the field in the second half … is that why the Springboks won the game?

WW: There’s no way it was the Lions team who won the game, collectively we worked together on the game plan and the style of rugby we wanted to play. The first week together was tough, we did lots of work but lost, and this week was tough too. But slowly and surely we’re getting into our rhythm, we’re still reading and learning about each other. This was only my fifth Test, I’ve never had to link with Damian de Allende before, I’ve never scrummed behind Pieter-Steph du Toit before, so I’m still learning how to play with them.

 

Varsity Cup once again in troubled waters 0

Posted on April 21, 2016 by Ken

 

The Varsity Cup once again finds itself in troubled waters with claims that champions Pukke fielded an ineligible player, breaking the same complex rule that led to the University of KwaZulu-Natal being docked a massive 12 points, scuppering their chances of being promoted from the Varsity Shield into the big league.

Pukke won the tournament, which was disrupted by unrest at universities across the country, by beating Maties 7-6 a week ago in Stellenbosch, with front-ranker Bart le Roux excelling.

Unfortunately for the Potchefstroom university, Le Roux played previously for the UKZN Impi in 2014 and, due to the arcane regulations for the tournament, had to sit out a certain period of time before representing another university side.

UKZN were found guilty of fielding an ineligible player when a former University of Johannesburg and Lions U-19 player appeared for them in six matches this season, Varsity Cup organisers saying they were deducted two points per game. But tournament auditors KPMG cleared both Le Roux and the UKZN player as being eligible, leaving Varsity Cup organisers in a quandary.

Having set a harsh precedent in punishing UKZN, Varsity Cup is faced with the embarrassing decision to strip Pukke of their title, more than a week after the final.

The situation has led many of the competing teams to question the efficiency of KPMG, whose advice was taken in fielding the ineligible players, and whether it is fair for them to be punished for mistakes by the tournament’s auditors.

The lack of a centralised database comprising all participating players’ tournament histories and educational background so they can be checked before the tournament starts has also been criticised.

UKZN management have also queried the timing with opposition teams seemingly waiting until the final stages of the season, when there is no time for a team to recover from losing points, before making their accusations.

Varsity Cup organisers did not return messages asking for comment yesterday.

– http://www.citizen.co.za/1081261/dark-cloud-hangs-over-nwu-pukke/



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