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Ken Borland



Jurassic World at Loftus every Saturday 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Jurassic World opened in cinemas across South Africa last night to much excitement but there are many who would say dinosaurs could be seen running around every Saturday at Loftus Versfeld for Bulls fans’ viewing displeasure.

The Bulls are probably the most conservative of all the franchises in South Africa (their daily programme even tells the players and management what clothes to wear!) and innovations such as the offload are still frowned upon there.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a force on the playing field. In fact, things were looking good this season when they sat in second place on the log just before their overseas tour, only for the wheels to come off in Australasia, not for the first time.

There can be no denying that a winning culture is absent from Loftus Versfeld; you can have as much discipline as you want, but unless the players, management and administrators are tightly knit with a single purpose, cracks will grow ever wider and the team will fall apart at the seams.

Where the Bulls have erred most obviously is in the appointment of a High Performance Manager in Xander Janse van Rensburg whose sole achievement so far at the union has been to rip at those seams and drive not one, nor two but three major player exoduses from Loftus Versfeld.

Since Janse van Rensburg’s arrival – apparently he was appointed to replace Ian Schwartz because he was a much cheaper option – hardly a day goes by without talk of a player who wants to leave or a player who is unhappy with broken promises or upset with his team-mates, such is the climate of fear and self-interest at Loftus.

To treat players as dispensable goods creates the sort of selfishness and attitude of self-preservation that destroys team spirit; the Bulls’ decision to send Janse van Rensburg on tour, while scrum coach Wessel Roux remained at home, coincided with the dramatic reversal in fortunes that killed their Super Rugby hopes.

But to lay the blame purely at the doors of the administrators would be wrong and several players are going to have to face their own consciences in the mirror when coach Frans Ludeke pays the price for their failure to step up when needed.

Ludeke’s willingness to shoulder all of the responsibility speaks to the character of the man. While his decision to take on all the media duties himself was well-intentioned, it merely increased the pressure on him. To allow different voices to be heard does not weaken his authority and his failure to spread the load is not going to improve his stress levels or general health.

 

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South African cricket provided reason to celebrate in the last week via the comments of newly-appointed bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, who said yorkers were something the Proteas bowlers needed to embrace.

Speaking on the SuperSport cricket magazine show Inside Edge, Langeveldt said the yorker was a skill the national team’s bowlers needed to be able to produce three or four times an over if they are to improve the standard of the bowling in limited-overs cricket.

The lack of such skills in the Proteas’ attack was the glaring difference between them and the champion Australian team and the appointment of Langeveldt, one of the most skilful bowlers South Africa have ever produced, is a step in the right direction.

Langeveldt’s story is the epitome of hard work paying off and hopefully he will get the necessary buy-in from the Proteas and the graft required for the up-skilling will take place.

 

All eyes on FNB Stadium as football, rugby & music share the stage 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken

 

Notwithstanding the awful events in Cairo, the eyes of much of the sporting world will be on South Africa on Saturday as a football international and a rugby Test are played at the same stadium on the same day.

Bafana Bafana will take on Burkina Faso in a friendly at FNB Stadium from 1.30pm, to be followed by the Springboks’ Rugby Championship opener against Argentina from 5pm, and it’s all to celebrate the birthday of Nelson Mandela, the Messiah from the Transkei, as the Parlotones call Madiba.

With a music concert to come after the rugby match, there is plenty of scope for things to get messy as a soccer field has to be turned into an international rugby pitch.

For the sake of the ailing former president’s good name, let’s hope everything works smoothly.

But the Springboks have a different kind of mess to try and avoid on Saturday.

Their last meeting with Argentina ended in a 16-16 draw in Mendoza last August as the Pumas turned the breakdowns, now the most important facet of rugby, into a messy scramble for possession. The naïve Springboks failed to protect their ball in the rucks, the cleaners weren’t there to hold off a horde of spoilers, and South Africa could never get their game plan going and were fortunate to escape with a draw thanks to a charge-down try by Frans Steyn.

This year, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has tried to ensure the breakdowns are an area of strength for his team. Not only has he hired a Scot – Richie Gray – as a specialist consultant for that key area, but he has also chosen a back row that features two players renown for their ability in the rucks in eighthman Duane Vermeulen and openside flank Francois Louw.

With Siya Kolisi, another loose forward who plays to the ball, on the bench it is clear Meyer has placed new emphasis on the breakdowns.

Of course, quick ball still has to be used wisely and much will depend on how sharp scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and subsititute Fourie du Preez, a hero of yesterday making an international comeback a la George Smith, are when it comes to controlling the game and distributing to the backline.

It’s easy to picture Saturday’s groundbreaking Test becoming a dour battle for territory.

Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn spoke this week about righting the wrongs of that Mendoza shocker and using a kicking game to pin Argentina in their own half, while not spending too much time in their own territory.

Meyer sometimes errs on the side of caution in selection and strategy, but it is encouraging that he has chosen the likes of Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht and Bjorn Basson in the backline.

All of them have formidable attacking strengths but they have also all made defensive blunders this year that would have been enough to send them to church on Sunday for forgiveness. But there’s no doubt fullback Le Roux has added vision and spark to the backline, Engelbrecht has the pace and strength to cut defences to shreds and Basson has brilliant ability in the air and tremendous pace on the counter-attack.

Forward play has traditionally been the strength of the Pumas and Meyer has identified that it is amongst the backs, where veterans Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers are playing as well as they ever have, where the Springboks could have a clear edge.

The Argentina team has been rocked by the absence of star loose forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and highly-rated prop Marcos Ayerza, but it is still crucial that the Springboks have done their homework on the new scrum laws, that seem tailor-made to the famous bajada scrum employed by the Pumas.

A weak scrum has done irreparable damage to several team’s chances already this year, but Meyer is a great believer in laying a platform up front in the set-pieces.

A great deal of work has also been done on the Springbok lineout, where the rapidly-maturing Juandre Kruger has returned in the number five jersey.

Providing everyone does their job clinically, the Springboks should have too much firepower for Argentina, who lost 27-6 to the Springboks in Cape Town in their Rugby Championship debut last year.

Speaking of debuts, Ewen McKenzie will make his first appearance as the new Australian coach when they take on the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.

McKenzie, the Queensland Reds coach until last month, has put his trust mostly in a bunch of players who led the Brumbies into the SuperRugby final.

Chief among those is Matt Toomua, the debutant who has been put in the crucial flyhalf position, ahead of Reds pivot Quade Cooper, who is back in the Wallabies squad after falling out with previous coach Robbie Deans.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-16-preview-boks-and-bafana-have-their-work-cut-out-at-fnb-stadium/#.WFkjr1N97IU

SuperRugby ended negatively so Blue Bulls look to set early marker in Currie Cup 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

SuperRugby may have ended negatively for the team from Loftus Versfeld, but much the same group of players will be eager to lay down an early marker for the Currie Cup trophy when the Blue Bulls open that campaign against Western Province at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Coach Nollis Marais named a team on Tuesday that features just two debutants and only three players on the bench (lock Eli Snyman, scrumhalf Andre Warner and flyhalf Tony Jantjies) who did not feature in the SuperRugby campaign which ended with the Bulls just two points off the playoffs.

With Travis Ismaiel still recovering from a niggling injury, 23-year-old Jade Stighling comes in on the wing, while former Western Province prop Entienne Swanepoel will make his senior debut as the starting tighthead.

Springbok Bjorn Basson starting at fullback is the only other change to the regular backline that played in Super Rugby, the move forced due to the absence of Jesse Kriel on national duty and SP Marais coming to the end of his short-term contract.

“There are only two changes to the Super Rugby backline and just two debutants in the team overall. Bjorn was always an option at fullback, where we also have Manie Libbok. But Bjorn is a bit more experienced and is good in the air, and it’s just about getting the best players on the field. He was good for his Japanese team [Honda Heat] at fullback.

“Jade was very good in the Currie Cup qualifiers and has been waiting for a chance. Travis is not quite ready yet, but I’m happy that we will still have a good attacking back three. It’s a young team overall, but they have more Super Rugby experience, guys like Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten and Pierre Schoeman up front are all a lot better players now,” Marais said on Tuesday at Loftus Versfeld.

Eighthman Arno Botha has been named as the new Currie Cup captain and the Springbok loose forward said he would be impacting more through actions than by words.

“The coach kept the announcement till the end, which is good because it keeps us on our toes. But it’s not a competition to be captain, it’s not about me as an individual, it’s about the team and I want to get the guys together and playing for each other. I won’t speak too much, most of the time I will let my actions do the work. Most of leadership is in what you do,” Botha said.

Team: Bjorn Basson, Jade Stighling, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha (c), Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Entienne Swanepoel, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Bench – Bandise Maku, Nqoba Mxoli, Eli Snyman, Hanro Liebenberg, Andre Warner, Tony Jantjies, Dan Kriel.

Even schedule from hell can’t keep Sharks from playoff mix 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

Even though the Sharks have had the schedule from hell, they will go into the June international break still very much in the playoff mix following their 53-0 romp over the Southern Kings in Durban at the weekend, much to the delight of coach Gary Gold.

The Sharks are second in Africa Conference 2, just two points behind the Lions, and third in the Group, three points ahead of the Stormers, although they have played one more game than the three other top local sides and have a bye this coming weekend.

“I’m very satisfied and particularly pleased tonight that we got the bonus point and kept the opposition to zero. We knew the last six weeks would be tough, playing on three different continents in three weeks, but I’m really happy with the attitude of the players and how they’ve dealt with all the travel. It has been tough and it’s taken its toll, but to be as competitive as we have been, especially against the New Zealand sides, is very pleasing.

“The guys have shown a lot of character and now they have a bit of downtime. We can fix the guys that are broken and hopefully get some big names back. It’s good that we can try and keep our noses ahead rather than play catch-up,” Gold said.

The Sharks played some tremendous rugby in the first half against the Kings, getting the ball wide and scoring six tries, including three in a dazzling five-minute spell midway through the half. But they went off the boil in the second half and Gold said one of the things that still concern him is the team’s tendency to waste chances.

“We had a very specific plan at the start, you never want to get into an arm-wrestle against a side as courageous as the Kings, and we controlled things nicely in the first half and took our chances. Not so much in the second half, maybe there were too many changes, but it was a bit disappointing. The Kings are a never-say-die side, especially in the contact situations, and we lost a lot of ball.

“We didn’t take our chances as clinically and the lineout didn’t function as well. We need to step up, we are not the finished product, there are simple options not being taken. We tend to over-complicate things, if we take the simple options we will score more tries,” Gold said.

 



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