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Ken Borland

Titanic clash as Bulls search for revenge for opening-weekend hammering 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken


The Bulls and the Stormers are the two leading sides in the South African SuperRugby Conference and are age-old rivals, so it will be a titanic clash when they meet at Newlands on Saturday, with the Bulls expecting a ferocious contest up front as they go in search of revenge for the 29-17 hammering they suffered at the hands of the Capetonians at Loftus Versfeld on the opening weekend of the season.

“It’s going to be another tough South African derby and it’s nice that it’s such an important game. They came here and won and hopefully we can do the same down there. It’s important that we play for the full 80 minutes, we have to be consistent and use our opportunities well,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said in Pretoria this week.

“The Stormers are very direct, they work hard on the gain-line and the game is going to be decided up front, whoever can get a solid base up there will be on the front foot. The gain-line is going to be crucial because that’s where the penalties and the line-breaks happen. And the team that keeps their discipline best normally comes out on top,” coach Frans Ludeke added.

Apart from the SA Conference lead being up for grabs, what makes the match so mouthwatering are the head-to-head clashes in this World Cup year – Marcel van der Merwe v Steven Kitshoff, Flip van der Merwe v Eben Etzebeth, Spies v Duane Vermeulen, Jan Serfontein v Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel v Cheslin Kolbe.

“Those will definitely spice up the game, even though we’re not thinking about the World Cup now. It’s always there though in the background and this might be the last time we play each other before then. We don’t try to get involved in personal battles, but the media sets the table for us, it’s always there,” Spies said.

The Bulls and the Stormers are also like peas in a pod in the way they have evolved since that opening encounter on Valentine’s Day.

As Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee pointed out this week, Jesse Kriel has started in place of Jurgen Visser at fullback since then and has changed the shape of the Bulls’ attack.

The Bulls’ scrum is also likely to be a harder nut to crack than it was that day at Loftus Versfeld, with the two Van der Merwe’s back and Trevor Nyakane full of confidence and ready to come off the bench and make an impact.

“We lost Werner Kruger in the first three minutes of that game and Trevor was thrown into the deep end at tighthead. But I felt we finished the scrums well, we battled through. But that game is in the past, we’ve improved a lot and we are definitely a different side compared to then. A lot of players have come back from injury and we definitely have a more all-round game,” Ludeke said.

The Stormers have switched to a more pragmatic approach after three successive losses to New Zealand teams, being more patient in terms and when and where to attack and it has borne fruit with victories over the Waratahs and the Force on tour.

But for all the backline brilliance both teams will bring to Newlands, the real battle will be underground in the trenches up front.


Lions & Titans meet with questions over their balance 0

Posted on November 06, 2015 by Ken



Both the Highveld Lions and the Titans have questions over the balance of their teams as they meet in a RamSlam T20 Challenge match in Potchefstroom on Friday night.

Both sides were unable to counteract the top-order power of the Dolphins in their previous encounters, with David Miller once again hurting the Titans and Kevin Pietersen’s spectacular century edging out the Lions in midweek.

The Titans have added Graeme van Buuren, a batsman who can bowl effective limited-overs left-arm spin, to their squad, with Qaasim Adams, unfortunate not to be in the starting XI, now not even in the squad.

“Selection is tricky, but it’s a nice tricky to have. We just need to find the right balance for the day and we need to be flexible. There are probably four guys who are in great form but are not playing,” Titans coach Rob Walter said.

While the Lions had not yet announced their squad at the time of going to press, they have used the same XI in both their matches. With Neil McKenzie out of favour and Temba Bavuma away with the Proteas, their batting line-up depends heavily on the experience of Alviro Petersen and Rassie van der Dussen, while they have used just five bowlers in both matches.

“Their middle-order has yet to be tested and if we can get a few early wickets then maybe we can put some pressure on the young, inexperienced players. Their experienced players have done well for them, guys like Van der Dussen and Pietersen with the bat and Aaron Phangiso and Lonwabo Tsotsobe with the ball are in key positions,” Walter said.

The Titans coach said minor surgery rather than dramatic changes was needed after their opening loss to the Dolphins.

“It’s just small portions of the game that weren’t up to standard and losing by six runs showed that we got just a few things wrong. The Dolphins should never have got that amount of runs on that pitch, but Albie Morkel produced an unbelievable innings to get us close.

“It was a very different pitch to what we’re used to at home, but we didn’t adapt as we should have and played some shots that weren’t on in those conditions. Potch should be a really good pitch, a decent surface, although it could potentially be slow due to the lack of rain,” Walter said.

Titans squad: Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Graeme van Buuren, Heino Kuhn, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel, Mangaliso Mosehle, Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Junior Dala, Grant Mokoena, Ruben Claassen, Marchant de Lange.


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