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Ken Borland



Sharks sink to new lows 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

The Sharks will be contemplating the rest of their SuperRugby overseas tour with sheer terror after they were put to the sword, 48-15, by the Highlanders in their opening match in Dunedin on Friday.

While the Highlanders obviously deserve credit for their superb display – highlighted by their dazzling skill and vision on attack – the miserable defence of the Sharks, the number of basic mistakes they made and their own lacklustre attack made this one of their most dismal performances, almost as bad as the rout they suffered at the hands of the Crusaders at Kings Park a month ago.

The brilliance of Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, running at the line and invariably choosing the right option, had the Sharks’ defence at sixes and sevens and the pace and power of Patrick Osborne saw the wing create numerous gaps.

The support play of the home side was also outstanding and their skill in offloading meant they strolled to seven tries.

The first visit of the Highlanders to the Sharks’ 22 brought a try as fullback Odwa Ndungane rushed out of the defensive line to give flank Gareth Evans an easy run-in after wings Osborne and Waisake Naholo had crashed through on mini-breaks. It was a portent of the defensive failures that were to dog the Sharks all night, while Ndungane was also caught out of position on numerous occasions by the clever kicking games of half-backs Sopoaga and Aaron Smith.

The lead was extended to 10-0 in the 21st minute when Sopoaga, impressive with the boot as well, kicked a penalty after Osborne and skilful eighthman Nasi Manu went over the gain-line before a super offload to hooker Liam Coltman drew a stupid ruck infringement from flank Etienne Oosthuizen, the late replacement for Renaldo Bothma.

The Sharks did well, though, to level the scores by the 32nd minute.

The kicking game of the Sharks was generally poor, but one good up-and-under by flyhalf Fred Zeilinga led to a penalty for offsides which he kicked, before the powerful ball-carrying of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Stephan Lewies allowed The Beast to plough his way over from a ruck close to the line.

The response from the Highlanders was swift and brutal, however, as they scored two quick tries to go into the break with a healthy 24-10 lead.

Sopoaga really bloomed in those four minutes before half-time, his brilliant little chip-kick to Naholo, after Smith’s quick tap-penalty and break, setting up the winger’s try and then his run across the face of the defence creating space out wide for Osborne, who was found with a great, long pass.

But instead of regrouping at half-time, the Sharks came out and produced one of the worst 40 minutes in their history as they utterly failed to corral the rampant Highlanders attack.

The lack of urgency and general malaise was epitomised by replacement scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman being in lala land as Marco Wentzel’s lineout steal was tapped past him and his tardiness in dotting down in the in-goal area saw lock Mark Reddish sneak in for the bonus point try.

Two minutes later, Smith made it 36-10 as he ranged up in support of centre Richard Buckman’s half-break, but the Sharks were on attack when they conceded the sixth try.

Protecting the ball and the basic skills of passing and catching are variables that are in a team’s own control and the Sharks were dreadful in those departments, losing possession inside the Highlanders’ 22 in the 67th minute and, with a variety of players getting through the half-gap and offloading, the home side scored a great team try, rounded off by replacement prop Brendon Edmonds.

The Sharks managed to show enough interest in the contest for hooker Du Plessis to score off a lineout drive in the 71st minute, but the Highlanders gained sweet revenge when their own pack drove their way to a 79th-minute try, replacement flank Elliot Dixon dotting down.

This must rate as one of the weakest Sharks teams to ever play Super Rugby, with too many players out of their depth at this level.

Scorers

Highlanders: Tries – Gareth Evans, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Mark Reddish, Aaron Smith, Brendon Edmonds, Elliot Dixon. Conversions – Lima Sopoaga (5). Penalty – Sopoaga.

Sharks: Tries – Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversion – Fred Zeilinga. Penalty –Zeilinga.

http://citizen.co.za/373695/sharks-sink-to-new-lows/

Titans working their emotions out after parlous start v Warriors 0

Posted on October 15, 2015 by Ken

 

The Titans have spent the week “working the emotions out” from their parlous Momentum One-Day Cup opening match against the Warriors, according to coach Rob Walter, and they have been boosted by the returns of Albie Morkel and Marchant de Lange from international duty.

Grant Thomson, however, must be pondering Lady Luck and her capricious side as he has been ruled out of Friday’s match against the Cape Cobras at Newlands with a hamstring strain. Thomson, having fought so hard to get into the side, made his franchise 50-over debut against the Warriors and top-scored with a wonderful 98 not out off just 71 balls, and now he’s unfortunately on the sidelines again.

“We’ve been working the emotions out and clearing the heads because the guys were visibly hurt by that performance. They invested a lot in that opening game, they worked flippen hard for four months and then they deliver that. We trained our best, we spoke specifically about starting well, getting the basics right in the field, extras …

“But it was game one and it’s about what happens next. On the positive side, we dominated about 70% of that game, we had an outstanding middle 20 overs and a very good last five. So it was just the opening overs and 40-45 that cost us,” Walter said on Tuesday at SuperSport Park.

Walter is too young to wear spectacles, but if he did there would be a few areas he would be giving special focus to before the defending champions travel to Cape Town for a repeat of last season’s final.

“There were basics errors in the field, we couldn’t even get the regulation stuff right, and the extras will get specific attention. It’s becoming a bit of a trend for us but it’s hard to put a finger on why. You never see us training without cones in front of the line to stop no-balls and the wides are of course disappointing as well.

“Strike-rate is also key up front with the bat and we had 48 dot balls in the first 60, while scoring 28 runs, so it was mostly fours and not much rotation. Henry Davids is a seasoned campaigner, but for Mangi Mosehle it was his first time out opening and his 49 ensured a nice foundation was set. He’s been working on tightening his defence and that shone through, and he will learn to be more assertive,” Walter said.

 

Time to panic as full-scale crisis has developed for Boks 0

Posted on September 22, 2015 by Ken

 

The time to panic has arrived and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is going to have to shed his fear of losing because the struggles of 2015 have now developed into a full-scale crisis after the shock loss to Japan in their opening World Cup match.

As magnificently as Japan played, what makes the loss even harder to swallow is that Eddie Jones telegraphed their game plan during the week; everybody knew they would go low in the tackle, bring pressure on the breakdown and move the ball away quickly from the collisions, and yet Meyer and the Springboks were unable to develop or execute a strategy to counter this.

All those tired old, injured bodies were not able to physically dominate the smallest team in international rugby, so what chance do they have against the massive Samoans? And if anyone says “no, but the Springboks will be ‘up’ for that game”, then I’d like to know what the hell was wrong with them that they couldn’t get properly motivated for the World Cup opening game?!

A defeat to Samoa will, in all probability, mean a flight home after the pool stages for the Springboks, so Meyer is now in a position where he has to go for broke.

A second-row of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager will bring a more physical edge, which will be a prerequisite against Samoa. Francois Louw was anonymous against Japan after his injury woes and a second flank playing to the ball in Siya Kolisi could be useful. Frans Malherbe must come in for the unfit Coenie Oosthuizen.

Schalk Burger was a busy contributor, but what did he actually achieve? He is no longer a dominant force in the collisions, turning over ball far too often in contact, and constantly popping up at flyhalf or inside centre made him a disruptive force in the backline. Duane Vermeulen has to return, as captain, and maybe even Willem Alberts, if the medical team can actually get him on to a rugby field.

Zane Kirchner, after a bright opening 10 minutes, disappeared and is a total non-contributor on attack; Willie le Roux has to return at fullback to add a creative edge to a Springbok team that is a blunt weapon offensively.

Jean de Villiers has been a tremendous captain and a great player, but the emotion of a tenacious comeback should not be allowed to cloud the reality that the best centre pairing available for the Springboks right now is Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

It’s a great sadness that the legacy of top-class players like Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez and De Villiers is being tarnished as they stumble on for a tournament too far. Du Preez should start at scrumhalf against Samoa and have a last chance to show that he still has a role to play for the Springboks.

 

 

Batsmen and spinners interlinking for Titans 0

Posted on September 29, 2014 by Ken

The interlinking talents of batting and spin bowling will give the Unlimited Titans plenty of options in their opening Sunfoil Series match against the bizhub Highveld Lions starting at the Wanderers on Thursday.

Coach Rob Walter on Tuesday named eight frontline batsmen in his squad of 13 and four of those – Roelof van der Merwe, Henry Davids, Dean Elgar and Graeme van Buuren – are handy spinners who will be able to back up leg-spinner Shaun von Berg.

With Elgar and Heino Kuhn set to open the batting, and Farhaan Behardien and captain Henry Davids filling the middle-order, there are spots up for grab at numbers three and six. Theunis de Bruyn is one for the future at three, while Van der Merwe was the Titans’ leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series last season and probably has the inside lane for number six.

Fortunately, Walter is spoilt for choice in terms of batsmen.

“Watching the guys bat in the nets, there’s nobody who needs any extra work, everyone is looking in very good touch. Most of them have had game-time in the middle and now it’s just a case of executing and being mentally switched on,” Walter told The Citizen on Tuesday.

The Lions hammered the Titans in both their four-day matches last season and their fiery bowling attack, in particular, has troubled the batsmen.

“The Lions are really a very good four-day team, they have a great balance in terms of batting and bowling, and they should be contenders if they play to their strength. We lost twice to them last season, so we definitely have to raise our game,” Walter acknowledged.

The biggest focus for the Titans will be their batting because none of the frontline batsmen were able to get a century – Von Berg thrashing an unbeaten 105 off just 73 balls in a drawn game against the Cobras in Benoni, the fastest ton in franchise four-day history.

But their bowlers also had their inconsistencies last season and Walter is delighted that fast bowler Marchant de Lange is ready for action from the start of this campaign.

“It’s great to have a strike bowler like that available, especially after his successes with the SA A team that went to Australia, and I’m looking forward to seeing him in action,” the coach said.

In the absence of all-rounders David Wiese and Albie Morkel, both of whom are out with ankle injuries, De Lange will look to left-armer Rowan Richards and veteran Ethy Mbhalati for support with the new ball, while De Bruyn and Behardien are able to provide some medium-pace seamers as well.

Squad: Dean Elgar, Heino Kuhn, Theunis de Bruyn, Farhaan Behardien, Henry Davids, Roelof van der Merwe, Mangaliso Mosehle, Shaun von Berg, Marchant de Lange, Rowan Richards, Ethy Mbhalati, Qaasim Adams, Graeme van Buuren.

 

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