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Ken Borland



Stormers bring attitude in spades to overwhelm Bulls 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Attitude goes a long way on the rugby field and the Stormers brought it in spades against the Bulls at Newlands as they overwhelmed the South African Conference winners with a phenomenal display of focused aggression, unstinting defence and sparkling attack.

The Bulls’ 13-30 defeat means they go into the Vodacom SuperRugby playoffs in second position on the final log, meaning they will host a semi-final, but will have to travel to Hamilton if the defending champion Chiefs make it through to the final.

The Stormers’ top-class performance gave a hint of what potential there is in the side, and there was no escaping a bittersweet feeling at Newlands despite a rousing end to their campaign.

“It’s nice to end the season with a win, but it would have been nicer if we had performed like this throughout the year. We find ourselves in this position of not being in the play-offs because when the pressure was on us, we did not react the way we should have,” Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said after the match.

It was a victory based on a massive effort at the breakdowns, where the Stormers not only turned over the ball several times – mostly through the brilliant Deon Fourie and Bryan Habana – but also harried and hassled the Bulls, getting in the scrumhalf’s face to ensure the visitors’ possession was mostly messy and slow.

A team cannot hope to prosper against a side with a defence as watertight as the Stormers’ if they don’t have good, quick ball and forward momentum, and the Bulls’ chaotic display at the breakdowns meant they were seldom an attacking threat.

Heading into the semi-final, the Bulls’ performance at the breakdowns is now a major concern. They struggled there against the Sharks last weekend as well, but that was put down to the lack of control exercised by referee Jason Jaftha.

With the peerless Craig Joubert in charge at Newlands, the breakdowns were firmly and fairly policed, so it seems the Bulls have serious questions to ask themselves about their cleaning out and the way they protect their scrumhalf.

The sheer power of men like Eben Etzebeth, Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr ensured the Stormers also seldom took a backwards step in the collisions and their transition from a struggling, flat-looking side to one that ended the season with five wins in a row has much to do with their return to Newlands.

On Saturday a capacity crowd certainly lifted them and they were inspired, playing like men possessed.

Coach Allister Coetzee will also be especially pleased with players like flyhalf Gary van Aswegen, lock De Kock Steenkamp and hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who are standing in for players of Springbok level but were all outstanding against the Bulls.

“We had a great season with nine wins in a row, but tonight we were given a reminder that we can lose focus,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said. “We cannot play like this if it is a knockout match like a play-off. It is more important what we take out of this match and we now know that the lineout is one area we’ll need to work on before the play-offs.”

Ludeke should also pay attention to the continuing scrum woes of the Bulls, where props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger are continuing to disappoint. The Stormers front row are hardly world beaters and if the Bulls are to win the competition, they are going to have to take a big step up in that particular set-piece.

With so much front-foot ball, the Stormers showed that they are quite capable of playing dazzling attacking rugby. With De Villiers back in the side after a rib injury picked up in the June internationals, the backline had a general and the veteran Springbok put young opposite number Francois Venter and the up-and-coming JJ Engelbrecht firmly back in their place as he shredded the defensive line several times.

De Villiers and Habana combined superbly for the winger to score a try that left a memorable mark on his farewell appearance for the Stormers before heading to France.

In Durban, the Sharks hammered the Southern Kings 58-13 to also farewell the John Plumtree era in fine fashion.

The Eastern Cape team sent a second-string outfit to King’s Park in order to freshen up their key players for the vital promotion/relegation games against the Lions, and they were overwhelmed physically, really battling to get across the advantage line.

The physical dominance of the Sharks was epitomised by the Kings’ failure to once bring Bismarck du Plessis to ground in a tackle and if Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is seeking more powerful ball-carriers, he need look no further than Jean Deysel, who was immense for the second week in succession.

The injured pride of the Sharks players was soothed by the 10 tries they scored, with Riaan Viljoen fitting in seamlessly in the flyhalf position, JP Pietersen producing an energetic display on the wing as he came back into the team after injury, and Odwa Ndungane being nothing short of inspirational in the fullback position.

The Sharks also ruled supreme in the lineouts, with little Keegan Daniel taking six balls on their own throw and stealing three off the Kings. The Sharks captain and eighthman had his best game in a long while, while loosehead prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira was prominent in the loose and scored a memorable try early in the second half to put the home side in front by 25 points.

The Kings had been competitive in the first half, keeping the Sharks’ lead to just 19-13 in the first half-hour. But the KwaZulu-Natalians took firm control of the game thereafter.

The vexed question over whether the rolling maul should be legal dominated the first half as four of the six tries scored came from what many pundits consider “legalised obstruction”. The defending team seem to be unfairly discriminated against at the moment and it is an aspect of the game the International Rugby Board will probably have on the agenda soon.

The other weekend matches settled the final playoff positions as the Crusaders saw off a determined challenge from the Hurricanes to finish fourth and the Reds edged out the Waratahs to claim fifth.

The Brumbies were upset by the Western Force in Perth and so stayed third, meaning they will now host the sixth-placed Cheetahs next weekend.

The other qualifier will be between the Crusaders and the Reds in Christchurch.

Final Combined Log

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Chiefs (NZ winner) 16 12 0 4 458 364 94 50 38 2 10 66
2 Vodacom Bulls (SA winner) 16 12 0 4 448 330 118 41 34 2 7 63
3 Brumbies (Aus winner) 16 10 2 4 430 295 135 43 31 2 8 60
4 Crusaders (Qualifier) 16 11 0 5 446 307 139 44 31 2 8 60
5 Reds (Qualifier) 16 10 2 4 321 296 25 31 23 2 6 58
6 Toyota Cheetahs (Qualifier) 16 10 0 6 382 358 24 38 32 2 6 54
7 DHL Stormers 16 9 0 7 346 292 54 30 18 2 6 50
8 The Sharks 16 8 0 8 384 305 79 40 31 2 8 48
9 Waratahs 16 8 0 8 411 371 40 45 34 2 5 45
10 Blues 16 6 0 10 347 364 -17 40 36 2 12 44
11 Hurricanes 16 6 0 10 386 457 -71 41 49 2 9 41
12 Rebels 16 5 0 11 382 515 -133 44 65 2 9 37
13 Force 16 4 1 11 267 366 -99 26 34 2 5 31
14 Highlanders 16 3 0 13 374 496 -122 40 55 2 9 29
15 Southern Kings 16 3 1 12 298 564 -266 27 69 2 2 24

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-15-superrugby-stormers-attitude-in-spades/#.V1Vhofl97IU

Stormers rely on emotion & pride to stop Bulls going top 0

Posted on May 30, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls will finish on top of the Vodacom SuperRugby log if they can beat the Stormers in the final round at Newlands on Saturday, but the home side will be relying on emotion and pride as star wing Bryan Habana pulls on the blue and white jersey for the last time.

Finishing on top of the log would bring with it enormous reward for the Bulls because it means they advance directly to the semi-finals, without having to expend any extra energy on a playoff match and they would play their remaining matches in this year’s competition on the hallowed turf of Loftus Versfeld.

And we can banish any thoughts of rugby in South Africa being played along the lines of what’s best for the country and other democratic notions; the Stormers are not going to hold back on their fiercest rivals just because they are the country’s best hope of winning the competition.

For one, the Stormers will be out to ensure a winning send-off for France-bound Habana, the greatest Springbok winger since The Prince of Wings, Carel du Plessis, and, secondly, they will also want to satisfy their demanding supporters, who have sold out Newlands to come and see another epic north/south derby.

Captain Jean de Villiers, who returns to the team at inside centre, has been speaking of playing for pride in the build-up to the game.

“The focus is on our pride and playing for the jersey,” said De Villiers. “We are professional rugby players and we have a job to do, and that is to go out and do our best to win. We have disappointed ourselves this season and we’ve also disappointed our coaches and supporters and we are busy trying to make up for that by finishing the season well. We’ve won four in a row and we would like to make it five against the Bulls.

“Clashes between the Stormers and the Bulls are always huge and the ticket sales for this game have summed that up. The focus is on our pride as a team and playing for the jersey, which means we will do our best to win the game.”

Stormers supporters did not see too much pride from their team when they last played the Bulls – they meekly succumbed to a 25-17 defeat at Loftus in the opening round of South African action.

Bulls flyhalf Morne Steyn killed the Stormers’ chances that day with his kicking, both tactically and at goal, and coach Allister Coetzee has responded by dropping his flyhalf Elton Jantjies and replacing him with the inexperienced Gary van Aswegen. To be fair, though, regular fullback Joe Pietersen, the Stormers’ best kicker, is out injured and choosing Van Aswegen gives them a right and left-footed kicker with Gio Aplon moving into the number 15 jersey.

Rynhardt Elstadt has returned to the starting loose trio and will help beef up a Stormers pack that will have to face up to the physicality of the Bulls far better than they did in their previous meeting.

The Bulls also have important changes, with Springboks Jan Serfontein and Francois Hougaard both out injured and replaced by Francois Venter and Jano Vermaak respectively.

The 22-year-old Venter is another bright midfield prospect and he started all but one game for the Bulls at inside centre in last year’s Currie Cup and also made eight SuperRugby appearances.

Vermaak is arguably the form scrumhalf in South Africa this year and made his return from the bench last weekend after a hamstring injury that cut short his Springbok campaign. He and Steyn form a formidable half-back combination and that is one area where the Bulls seem to have a clear advantage over the youthful Stormers partnership of Van Aswegen and Louis Schreuder.

There will possibly be even more emotion at King’s Park on Saturday as the end of a Sharks era is reached, while the Southern Kings will be desperately hoping they are not playing their last SuperRugby match.

There have been few more dedicated servants of KwaZulu-Natal rugby over the past 30 years than Hugh Reece-Edwards, but he and his co-coach Grant Bashford, both standing in after the unceremonious firing of their boss, John Plumtree, will be in charge for the last time before John Smit’s regime change takes effect in Durban.

The Sharks players, understandably ill-at-ease over the way Plumtree was dispensed with even though he had been promised a two-year contract extension, probably have more to gain from the game than their Kings opponents, who are a second-string outfit anyway.

At this stage, nothing is more important for the Kings than the promotion/relegation games against the Lions in a fortnight’s time, so they have rested all their regular starters who have injury niggles.

That means no more than three players who started last weekend against the Stormers – lock David Bulbring, terrific eighthman Jacques Engelbrecht and wing Marcello Sampson – are in the run-on XV for King’s Park.

No team has had more selection challenges than the Sharks in this year’s competition and this week the complications were Butch James’s four-week suspension for his wild tackle against the Bulls and a concurrent injury to Pat Lambie.

That means Riaan Viljoen, who showed in last year’s Currie Cup that he is more than comfortable in the number 10 jersey, shifts from fullback to flyhalf.

And while Habana is saying goodbye in Cape Town, fellow Springbok wing JP Pietersen returns to action this weekend in Durban.

The stadium may have been called King’s Park since 1891, but it has also been dubbed The Shark Tank. The second-string Kings are more likely to feel that they’ve been dropped inside the latter than feeling at home on Saturday.

Teams

The Sharks (v Southern Kings, Saturday 17:05): Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Louis Ludik, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Riaan Viljoen, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Jean Deysel, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Edwin Hewitt, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Kyle Cooper, Wiehahn Herbst, Jandré Marais, Willem Alberts, Jacques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Fred Zeilinga.

Southern Kings (v The Sharks, Saturday 17:05): Siviwe Soyizwapi, Hadleigh Parkes, Waylon Murray, Shane Gates, Marcello Sampson, George Whitehead, Nicolas Vergallo, Jacques Engelbrecht, Mpho Mbiyozo, Devin Oosthuizen, David Bulbring, Steven Sykes, Kevin Buys, Hannes Franklin, Charl du Plessis. Replacements – Grant Kemp, Bandise Maku, Darron Nell, Thabo Mamojele, Aidon Davis, Shaun Venter, Michael Killian.

Stormers (v Bulls, Saturday 19:15): Gio Aplon, Gerhard van den Heever, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Gary van Aswegen, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Rynhardt Elstadt, Deon Fourie, De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements – Martin Bezuidenhout, Pat Cilliers, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Nic Groom, Elton Jantjies, Damian de Allende.

Bulls (v Stormers, Saturday 19:15): Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Francois Venter, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements – Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Jacques du Plessis, Jono Ross, Rudy Paige, Jürgen Visser, Morné Mellett.

Other fixtures: Crusaders v Hurricanes (Friday 9:35); Melbourne Rebels v Highlanders (Friday 11:40); Blues v Chiefs (Saturday 9:35); Waratahs v Reds (Saturday 11:40); Force v Brumbies (Saturday 13:45). Bye – Cheetahs (who will climb from 6th to 5th if the Reds lose to the Waratahs).

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-12-superrugby-preview-bulls-should-expect-no-patriotism-from-stormers/#.V017ufl97IU

Cheetahs go down in flames, but can still rise from the ashes 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cheetahs went down in flames against the Stormers at Newlands, but their playoff hopes are still alive thanks to the Sharks rising from the ashes to snatch victory from the Blues in Durban.

Meanwhile, the Bulls maintained their hot form by hammering the Southern Kings in Pretoria with a bonus point, thereby ensuring that they will be the South African conference winners.

The Cheetahs seemed to have the greater motivation heading into their match at Newlands, with an historic first playoff place beckoning, but it was the realistically out-of-contention Stormers who brought the fire as they registered a thumping 28-3 win.

That fire was lit by their forwards, who fronted up impressively, producing a brick wall in defence, dominating the collisions and the set pieces and closing down the space and time the Cheetahs had on the ball.

The Stormers could be accused of stopping the Cheetahs from playing in a dreary first half, which ended with the hosts 10-3 up thanks to a try by flank Deon Fourie from a rolling maul shortly before the break.

But they counter-attacked well in the second half, squeezing the Cheetahs and then pouncing on the mistakes as they picked up two more tries by the indefatigable Siya Kolisi and Bryan Habana.

Kolisi’s 66th-minute try stretched the lead to 23-3 and it came after yet another messy Cheetahs lineout led to the loose ball being kicked through into the 22 by the Stormers. Fourie was then up quickly to force Raymond Rhule to concede the five-metre scrum, a solid platform allowing flyhalf Elton Jantjies to produce a lovely inside step, scrumhalf Louis Schreuder then ran crossfield to fix the defence and the in-form new Springbok flank came crashing through on a tremendous angle.

Poorly directed kicks and handling errors – many of them by Rhule – were central to the Cheetahs’s demise and Habana’s try came after the visitors were enjoying some rare front-foot ball and were hard on attack before the Ghanaian-born wing again dropped the ball and centre Juan de Jongh and eighth man Nizaam Carr broke clear. From the resulting ruck, inside centre Damian de Allende drew the last two defenders before sending Habana diving over in the corner.

One can forgive the Cheetahs for having an off-day after all their heroics this season and captain Adriaan Strauss described it as “our shocker of the year”. But what was perplexing was why the Cheetahs suddenly decided to kick so much – and poorly at that.

Fullback Willie le Roux kicked 10 times and ran the ball on just eight occasions, which must have killed his many fans who see him as the saviour of South African backline play.

In contrast, Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen was lethal whenever he kicked and the ubiquitous efforts of the loose trio of Kolisi, Fourie and Carr epitomised the never-say-die spirit of the home side, who really are playing for pride.

The Sharks, despite being a camp in turmoil after the sacking of coach John Plumtree as incoming CEO John Smit’s first act, were in firm control of their match against the Blues in the first half in Durban.

They were 14-0 up on the half-hour and 17-5 ahead at the break, but their lead should have been even greater given the absolute dominance their forwards enjoyed in the set pieces, especially the scrums.

That lack of finishing – in particular Pat Lambie’s errant goal-kicking that cost them 14 points – came back to haunt them in the second half as the Blues fought back strongly.

The Aucklanders actually led 20-17 going into the final minute, but the Sharks summoned the energy, composure and skill to score on the hooter through fullback Riaan Viljoen and snatch a 22-20 victory.

Stand-in coach Grant Bashford, who is also probably on his way out, revealed that the Sharks team had committed themselves to winning at any cost in protest against the treatment of Plumtree, who was rapidly purged over the June international break.

The forward effort by the Sharks was spectacular as they overwhelmed the Blues in the scrums, earning half-a-dozen penalties from that set-piece alone, won all 17 of their lineouts and consistently carried the ball over the advantage line through the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Willem Alberts and Tendai Mtawarira.

The Sharks did sometimes battle to create enough space for lively Transkei-born wings Odwa Ndungane and Lwazi Mvovo, but considering seven centres are out injured and Butch James and Louis Ludik were teaming up in midfield for the first time this year, that is understandable.

While the Sharks front row were the destroyers of the Blues, it was the improvement shown by the Bulls front row that was perhaps the most impressive feature of their 48-18, bonus point win over the Southern Kings in Pretoria.

Loftus Versfeld has been a church of strong forward play, especially scrummaging, throughout the union’s 75 years and the flaky performances of the Bulls front row this year has no doubt been a cause of great concern for all those Northern Transvaal stalwarts in the stands.

But apart from the third quarter, the Bulls dominated the scrums, which allowed their bullocking ball-carriers to commit even more violence against the battered Kings defence.

The Kings never threatened the South African SuperRugby pace-setters and director of rugby Alan Solomons confirmed that they were badly off their game after the June break.

“The set piece, defence and conditioning are the three pillars of our game and two of those were very poor tonight. The error rate was also through the roof and some of that was due to not playing for a month. A break that long for a team of this inexperience is massive,” Solomons said.

But the Kings did give full credit to the Bulls, describing them as a team “very capable of winning the tournament” and the home side’s ability to get quick ball from the breakdowns and to pounce on the slightest errors in defence was most impressive.

The Kings, who have officially now been consigned to the promotion/relegation games, contrived to make it easier for the Bulls with some uncharacteristically poor defence around the rucks and, when the Bulls scored three tries in five minutes around the half-hour mark to take control of the game, two of those were through Chiliboy Ralepelle and Francois Hougaard simply picking up the ball at a ruck and strolling straight through a gaping hole on the fringes.

But when you throw in the combative midfield running of centres Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht to the impetus created by the forwards – Jacques Potgieter and Ralepelle shining in this regard on Saturday night – then it’s little wonder defences start fracturing.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-01-superrugby-bulls-marching-on/#.Vz2myfl97IU

No secret that Bulls are vulnerable in scrum, but still disappointing for Strauss 0

Posted on March 01, 2016 by Ken

 

It was hardly confidential that the Bulls were vulnerable in the scrums when they opened their SuperRugby campaign against the Stormers at Newlands, but captain Adriaan Strauss was nevertheless disappointed that his team gave their hosts so much opportunity to dominate that set-piece as they romped to an impressive 33-9 victory.

“The Stormers scrummed well in the second half and we also struggled against the Lions in the latter part of that warm-up game. There are technical things we need to work on and improve, but the coach said before the game that scrummaging would be our challenge and that’s precisely where the Stormers took us on and they won that battle.

“But we didn’t give them that opportunity in the first half, it was a tactical game, there wasn’t much space, a typical, hard South African derby. The Stormers took their opportunities in the second half but we gave them some of those. It’s frustrating because I know the side has got potential, like we showed in the first half, but then we didn’t play to our ability in the second half. Credit to the Stormers for playing very well, but we made silly mistakes at the lineouts and we didn’t apply pressure, giving them easy exits,” hooker Strauss said after the game.

Bulls coach Nollis Marais hinted that the true valuation of his side will only come further down the line, perhaps not even during this year’s SuperRugby competition.

“The match showed how young and inexperienced we are in certain positions. But we need to play these youngsters, they’ll get better every week and will be ready down the line. Otherwise two years from now we will have the same problem. It’s not nice, but we have to stick with it and the guys have to learn. A match like that is not fun, but it’s a good way to learn and the team will grow every week,” Marais said.

“The big question mark was always going to be whether we were under pressure in the set-pieces and the Stormers did that to us in the second half. Eben Etzebeth and Pieter-Steph du Toit showed their class in the lineouts and they had very good substitutions in the scrum. If you don’t win your set-pieces, you can have thousands of plans, but without good scrum or lineout ball, you can’t attack,” the coach added.



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