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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).

Bulls pack have to produce another mighty display – Strauss 0

Posted on May 05, 2016 by Ken


Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss says his pack are going to have to produce another mighty display if they are to beat the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday in the second game of their SuperRugby tour.

The Brumbies will have their all-Wallaby front row of Stephen Moore, Ben Alexander and Scott Sio back, while they possess two tremendous loose forwards in David Pocock and Scott Fardy.

“Their pack is definitely one of their strengths so it’s going to be a massive challenge for us,” Strauss agreed. “The Brumbies have got an excellent lineout and scrum, they have a very strong maul and their first-phase play is exceptional.

“It will be tough for us, but I’m very proud of our pack, they’ve really put up their hands and we have to do it again against the Brumbies.”

Strauss, as captain, can’t just focus on the forward battle though and, in terms of tactics, he hopes the Bulls can get the balance right between attack and defence, territory and possession, as they did last weekend against the Force.

“At stages we’ve played some great rugby and we want to play an all-round game and do it for 80 minutes. We want more artillery than just being a one-dimensional team, we want to be great at counter-attack and in the set-pieces, it’s all about playing decision-making rugby,” Strauss said.

The Brumbies will be desperate to get back on the winning trail after losing four of their last six games, including two in a row against the Crusaders and Highlanders. They are currently sixth in the Australasian Conference, two points behind the Rebels.

The Waratahs are level with the Brumbies on 21 points, but have a game in hand and are getting some good momentum after two successive wins.

Leonard to help Bulls pack go from bonsai to mighty oaks 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken


The current Bulls squad seems to have the potential to grow into mighty oaks, but at the moment their young, inexperienced pack could be likened to a bonsai, which is probably why coach Nollis Marais on Monday announced former Springbok eighthman Anton Leonard as one of his assistant coaches.

Leonard, who captained the Bulls at the beginning of the century as they began their climb out of the mire, will be the forwards coach having impressed Marais with his work with the South-Western Districts pack.

“I’ve been speaking to Anton for a while and he’s done excellent work with South-Western Districts, they almost beat the Lions in the Vodacom Cup to make the semi-finals. He’s the best forwards coach currently available and he’s very experienced. How many Super Rugby games has he played, he knows the Bulls’ tradition, he knows about the travel and our culture.

“He told me he wants to make the Bulls proud again and get the old values back. The players look up to him and he agrees with me that rugby has changed and we have to change our style of play. But to do that we have to have a platform up front, and Western Province showed where we need to improve by putting us under pressure in the set-pieces,” Marais told The Citizen.

David Manual, who has done brilliant work with this year’s Currie Cup squad, will be the backline coach, while Gary Botha (scrums & breakdowns) and Pine Pienaar (defence) will work with all Bulls teams as specialist coaches.

Hendre’ Marnitz, who replaced Marais as Blue Bulls U21 coach when he was promoted to the senior team, has also been confirmed as next year’s Currie Cup coach.

After eight years of service, Org Strauss has resigned as the team doctor and will be replaced by Herman Rossouw.


Chance for Stormers to re-establish themselves as strong contenders 0

Posted on November 10, 2014 by Ken

The Stormers have the chance to re-establish themselves as strong SuperRugby contenders on Saturday when they take on the mighty Crusaders at Newlands.

The Stormers made a poor start to the competition when they lost to the Bulls and the Sharks on successive weekends, leaving them with plenty of ground to catch up in the all-important South African Conference.
And they did that by beating last year’s champions, the Chiefs, and this year’s pace-setters, the Brumbies.

They now come up against the most successful side in SuperRugby history, the seven-time champion Crusaders and they will want to build on the momentum gained by their superb showing against the Brumbies by beating one of the New Zealand kingpins and really laying down a marker for the rest of the competition.

The Crusaders will also want to build on recent momentum as they too lost their two opening games before returning to form over the last fortnight with crunching wins over the Bulls and Southern Kings.
There is no doubt the Stormers are going to have to be on top of their game again this weekend.

The suspension of Steven Kitshoff for a dangerous tackle and the injury to hooker Tiaan Liebenberg means Pat Cilliers and Deon Fourie will have to team up with the impressive Frans Malherbe in matching a formidable Crusaders scrum.

The Crusaders will look to their mighty pack to provide the front-foot ball that allows such impressive athletes as Israel Dagg, Robbie Fruean, Zac Guildford, Tom Marshall and Ryan Crotty to run wild.

But the New Zealand powerhouses are also under pressure to find capable cover for injured loose forward stars Richie McCaw and Kieran Read, while ace flyhalf Dan Carter is also not on tour, having stayed in Christchurch for the birth of his first child.

For the Stormers, it’s bad enough that they’ve lost two-thirds of their front row, but it could have been even worse, with Gio Aplon, arguably their greatest attacking force, doubtful for the game after the terrible blow to the head he received in trying to tackle Brumbies man-mountain Fotu Auelua.

Aplon has been named in the starting line-up, a credit to the Hawston dynamo’s toughness, but it remains to be seen whether he will actually run out on to the field on Saturday.

The Stormers were up to the physical challenge last weekend, but the Crusaders are likely to ask different defensive questions and Allister Coetzee’s men will be looking to raise their game by another notch.

The vanquished Brumbies will have to pick themselves up from their Newlands let-down, as well as cope with the long-haul flight back to Australia, as they come up against the Bulls in Canberra on Saturday.

The Bulls, after successive losses to the Crusaders and Reds, have made a significant change in midfield with last year’s IRB Junior Player of the Year, Jan Serfontein, getting his first start having proven his ability to make the step up with two impressive cameos off the bench.

The selection of Francois Venter, who had just flown over from South Africa, ahead of Serfontein for last weekend’s match against the Reds raised eyebrows and Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has made more changes to a backline that is obviously misfiring.

Morné Steyn returns at flyhalf after the one-match experiment of playing young Louis Fouché there, while Jurgen Visser replaces Bjorn Basson on the left wing.

The selection of Lionel Mapoe on the right wing and JJ Engelbrecht at outside centre, and not the other way around, is also baffling the minds of many Bulls supporters.

Even more extraordinary is the selection of flank Deon Stegmann after team doctor Org Strauss stated earlier in the week that the openside flank would be out for between five to 10 days with a sprained ankle.
Coming after the messy Francois Hougaard situation – the scrumhalf being chosen on the bench with an injury and being unable to play – it all points to the Bulls being in a state of some disrepair.

The Southern Kings are the other South African team playing abroad this weekend and information from Wellington suggests they will face a Hurricanes side strengthened by the return of fullback André Taylor, flank Ardie Savea, hooker Dane Coles and prop Jeffery Toomaga-Allen.

The Hurricanes are certainly not the Crusaders, however, and the Kings’ second tour match could be billed as one they might target for their first away victory.

But to do that, the Kings will have to be much more intense in defence. They gave the Crusaders way too much space and too much latitude at the breakdowns, and the Hurricanes backline is one of the most dangerous in the competition.

The Hurricanes’ halfback pairing of TJ Perenara and Beauden Barrett is among the most highly-rated in the competition, while there is the tremendous danger of Julian Savea lurking on the wing and the steady, skilful hand of Conrad Smith in midfield.

The high-flying Cheetahs have completed the overseas portion of their campaign and the mood will be buoyant in Bloemfontein as they take on the Rebels on the back of an unprecedented three successive wins on tour.

Coach Naka Drotske is hoping his team will show the same composure and tenacity at home as they did in Invercargill, Sydney and Perth.

There certainly seems to be a new maturity in the side because this season their response to being under pressure has been to tighten up in defence and not give the game away, unlike in previous years when they became the most prolific gatherers of losing bonus points the competition has ever seen.

The Rebels have to bounce back from an awful mauling at the hands of the Sharks in Durban and coach Damian Hill’s decision to send both Kurtley Beale and Cooper Vuna home after their fist-fight on the team bus.

Hill also has to find a way to fix the problems in his team that caused 19 turnovers and 31 missed tackles in the 64-7 hammering at Kings Park.

Drotske will be looking to a resurgent Heinrich Brüssow to keep the pressure on the Rebels at the breakdowns, while the other rangy loose forwards, Phillip van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne, and backline stars Willie le Roux, Raymond Rhule and Sarel Pretorius will be looking to stretch the Rebels defence in the same fashion as the Sharks did.

The three weekend fixtures not involving South African teams see the embattled Highlanders hosting the Reds, the Blues looking to regain their form as they visit the high-flying Chiefs and an Australian derby between the Waratahs and the Force.


Bulls (v Brumbies, 10:40): Zane Kirchner, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Jurgen Visser, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Paul Willemse, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morné Mellett. Replacements: Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Wilhelm Steenkamp, Arno Botha, Ruan Snyman, Louis Fouché, Francois Venter.

Cheetahs (v Rebels, 17:05): Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Riaan Smit, Sarel Pretorius, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Coenie Oosthuisen, Rynhard Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Piet van Zyl, Burton Francis, Ryno Benjamin.

Stormers (v Crusaders, 19:10): Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Gerhard van den Heever, Elton Jantjies, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Rynhardt Elstadt, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Pat Cilliers. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Brok Harris, Don Armand, Nizaam Carr, Nic Groom, Damian de Allende, Jaco Taute.
* The Southern Kings team to play the Hurricanes at 5:35 was not available by deadline.

*Congratulations to Cyprus, who beat Bulgaria 79-10 to notch their 18th successive win and thus break the world record. Rennos Ioannides scored four tries as the Moufflons went past the previous mark of 17 wins set by New Zealand (1965-69), South Africa (1997-98) and Lithuania (2006-10). Lithuania recently had two other wins removed because they were in friendly matches.

Cyprus is also rumoured to be engaging the services of former Ireland and US Eagles coach Eddie O’Sullivan as a consultant.

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