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Ken Borland



A single miss costs the Sharks 0

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Ken

 

A single miss in an otherwise top-class kicking display by Pat Lambie cost the Sharks victory as they went down 26-28 to the Reds in their opening SuperRugby match in Brisbane on Friday.

Lambie missed a penalty three minutes from full-time that would have snatched a fortuitous victory, given that a Reds team that played with 14 men for 20 minutes outscored them by four tries to two.

With Lambie earlier kicking six-from-six, the Sharks enjoyed a 26-18 lead with 16 minutes remaining, but a poor finish to the game saw them concede two tries.

The Sharks made a great start with a try in the second minute when the Reds were throwing passes around and flyhalf Quade Cooper dropped the ball, outside centre Lukhanyo Am pounced and a quick interchange with wing Kobus van Wyk then put flank Jean-Luc du Preez away to storm over the tryline.

Lambie’s conversion made it 7-0, but the Sharks were unable to threaten the Reds’ tryline again in the first half, largely because they had to make do with a tiny proportion of possession, their failure to hang on to the ball for long periods meaning they had to do most of the defending.

Cooper and Lambie traded two penalties each to make the score 13-6 at the half-hour, but Van Wyk then turned village idiot and tried to take a quick lineout inside his own 22, an isolated Curwin Bosch conceding a scrum. The Reds forwards drove strongly and eighthman Scott Higginbotham dotted down through the pile of bodies for the home side’s opening try, Cooper’s conversion levelling the scores at 13-13.

Lambie snuck a penalty in the last-minute of the first half, thanks to lock Ruan Botha twice putting great pressure on Reds scrumhalf Nick Frisby, for the Sharks to lead 16-13 at the break, and the visitors showed hitherto unseen control in the opening exchanges of the second half, dominating territory and hanging on to the ball much better.

Lambie succeeded with a 43rd-minute penalty to stretch the lead to 19-13, but Queensland centre Samu Kerevi struck back with the first of his two tries six minutes later.

Running with great power and awareness, he burst through a gap between scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and Am, to score after the Reds chose a scrum under the shadow of the poles instead of a kick at goal. Cooper failed with an easy conversion attempt, which allowed the Sharks to hang on to a slender one-point lead.

With referee Nick Briant suddenly remembering that there is no tolerance for neck-tackles this season, Reds lock Kane Douglas was yellow-carded for pulling at Beast Mtawarira’s neck in the 57th minute.

With a lot of the Reds muscle gone, the Sharks understandably went for rolling mauls when awarded penalties, but there was no accuracy in their first couple of attempts, but eventually eighthman Tera Mtembu rumbled over in the 61st minute after the Queenslanders disintegrated.

Lambie converted for a 26-18 lead, but they were to score no further points as they seemed to lack a clear plan in the final quarter.

Kerevi is a particular threat in this Reds side and he muscled over from close range again in the 64th minute, but the killer blow was landed by his midfield partner Duncan Paia’aua, who ran an excellent line back inside, cutting straight through before replacement scrumhalf James Tuttle finished strongly.

The result was a sharp reminder to the Sharks of the accuracy that is required to win overseas – they simply made too many errors in discipline and decision-making, although a losing bonus point was some reward for the competitiveness they showed.

Mtawarira was full of energy in the front row, Du Preez was a force with ball-in-hand and Am was exciting at times in the backline, but the overall Sharks performance was not good enough to earn victory.

Scorers

RedsTries: Scott Higginbotham, Samu Kerevi (2), James Tuttle. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Cooper (2).

SharksTries: Jean-Luc du Preez, Tera Mtembu. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (4).

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1438777/clumsy-sharks-fluff-their-lines-at-vital-moments/

Boks honour Madiba with inspired rout of Argentina 0

Posted on January 20, 2017 by Ken

 

Captain Jean de Villiers praised “Madiba Magic” for once again inspiring the Springboks as they registered a record-breaking 73-13 annihilation of Argentina in their opening Rugby Championship game at FNB Stadium on Saturday.

The Springboks returned to Soweto to be part of Nelson Mandela Sport and Culture Day to honour the unwell Father of the Nation. The tremendous atmosphere undoubtedly inspired them as they played in front of an audience that was far more representative of the demographics of the country than usual, thanks to Bafana Bafana playing before them in a 2-0 victory over Burkina Faso.

“The atmosphere was fantastic and we definitely enjoyed it. Today was about more than just rugby and sport, it was about the whole of South Africa, uniting the nation and celebrating someone who did that so well. The Madiba Magic worked for us again,” De Villiers said.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer also tapped into the occasion in motivating his team.

“The team talk was simple: I told them it was a special occasion and they should produce a big performance to make Madiba proud, and also to show a lot of soccer supporters who haven’t seen us play before what we can do,” Meyer said after the game. “It was one of those days when everything went right, what stood out was how clinical we were and we built an innings well.”

But the biggest victory in the history of the Tri-Nations/Rugby Championship didn’t just happen thanks to everything coming together magically day-of. Meyer is renowned as a tactician and strategist and plenty of homework has gone into this year’s Sanzar tournament, with the coach pointing out how much more time he has had to prepare this time around.

The attention to detail was most obvious in the scrum laws, where a new engagement sequence was being used for the first time. Far from the new laws hurting the Springbok forwards, as some quarters in Australia have suggested, it seems South Africa, under the astute guidance of former French prop Pieter de Villiers, might well be pioneers in this new era of scrummaging. The highly respected Pumas scrum was dominated throughout and they even conceded a try from a tighthead late in the second half.

As Meyer pointed out, the entire coaching team deserved credit for the impressive performance. Meyer has made it his mission to fix the Springboks’ breakdown woes, the main cause of the controversial quarterfinal exit from the 2011 World Cup, and the acquisition of Scottish breakdown expert Richie Gray has clearly paid dividends as South Africa were far more efficient in the rucks than when they last played Argentina and were held to a messy 16-16 draw. Four of the nine Springbok tries came from rolling mauls, the speciality of forward coach Johan van Graan, while the lineout was imperious and the defence excellent under John McFarland. The backs, under the guidance of Ricardo Loubscher, played with an air of adventure and intent that has not always been apparent.

Meyer is a strong proponent of laying a solid platform in a Test, building pressure, and the Springboks eased into Saturday’s match with three penalties in the first quarter from Morne Steyn, all from a long way out. The in-form flyhalf would go on to miss just one of his 13 kicks at goal as he netted 28 points – the third most in a Sanzar Test – and he also distributed slickly, a lovely inside pass for Duane Vermeulen’s try and the counter-attack he sparked that led to JJ Engelbrecht’s touchdown shortly before half-time being the highlights.

It was Vermeulen’s break on the half-hour that led to the Springboks’ opening try, the eighthman making an impressive return to top-flight rugby after a knee injury. After several penalties, and seeing several rolling mauls pulled down, referee Chris Pollock, in conjunction with the TMO, had little choice but to award a penalty try and a yellow card after Pumas hooker Eusebio Guinazu deliberately slapped down a pass to prevent Ruan Pienaar from scoring a try in an overlap.

Engelbrecht’s try, after Steyn’s counter-attack and a deft chip by Willie le Roux, was the Springboks’ second, but they proceeded to run riot in the second half as seven further tries were scored to break the previous Sanzar record of eight (scored by South Africa against Australia at Loftus Versfeld in 1997).

The massive victory had its foundation in the ability of ferocious ball-carriers like Eben Etzebeth, Willem Alberts, Vermeulen and Adriaan Strauss to smash their way over the advantage line from the steady supply of front-foot balls they were allowed to enjoy by the Springboks’ dominance in the scrums and lineouts.

Apart from the magnificent performance of the pack, Meyer will also have to mull over selection because alongside as the starting XV played, there were some performances off the bench that were equally compelling.

What wonderful depth the Springbok coach has at his disposal when Strauss – named man of the match – can be replaced by the best hooker in the world in Bismarck du Plessis, while the two substitute props, Gurthro Steenkamp and Coenie Oosthuizen, seamlessly continued the great work of Tendai Mtawarira and Jannie du Plessis.

While Etzebeth stole the show with his rampaging display, Juandre Kruger was superb in the lineouts and the Springboks don’t lose much when Flip van der Merwe enters the fray. Siya Kolisi was all energy when he came on in the 65th minute, while Pat Lambie and Jan Serfontein both made telling runs that led to tries in their short cameos.

But it was the 25-minute display by substitute scrumhalf Fourie du Preez that had most tongues wagging. It’s a great pity that his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, will only allow him to play in the Springboks’ home fixtures, because the 2007 World Cup hero oozed class and he also seems to get the best out of starting halfback Pienaar.

“I’m very happy with both the scrumhalves. That was Ruan’s best performance since I started coaching him, while Fourie showed he still has a lot of speed, he was brilliant and he still managed to pick up the tempo even more. I think he brought out the best in Ruan, and Jano Vermaak and Piet van Zyl must step up now too.

“One of our really strong points was our unbelievable bench. Usually things become loose when you bring on a lot of replacements, but the subs were awesome today. I was even able to take my captain off with 25 minutes left,” Meyer said.

While 52,000 people at the FNB Stadium were treated to a wonderful main show on a great day, the scary thing is the Springboks could well have won by more. In the first half especially, their backs fluffed chances due to poor handling and a lack of cohesion.

“We still didn’t use all our opportunities, we created a couple that we didn’t capitalise on. And to put everything in perspective, we were playing against a team that had two yellow cards and we scored an intercept try,” De Villiers admitted.

“We expect a totally different beast in Mendoza, they’ll be hurting. But we need to enjoy this win, days like this don’t come along very often, and we have some confidence to build on.”

We will have to wait until the Springboks have played a couple more games in this tournament before we have enough evidence for a final verdict on their ability to unseat the world champion All Blacks, who ensured a torrid debut for Ewen McKenzie as Wallabies coach as they thumped Australia 47-29 in Sydney.

It was a very poor night for the Pumas, who were also disrupted by losing two key players in lock Patricio Albacete and fullback Juan Martin Hernandez in the first half. How much of that was down to the Springboks’ brilliance is difficult to quantify. But the portents are good for a much stronger South African challenge in this year’s Rugby Championship.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-19-springboks-pummel-pumas/#.WIH421N97IU

Southern Kings not to be underestimated after Rassie consulting – Gold 0

Posted on February 25, 2016 by Ken

 

The Sharks may have enjoyed an impressive pre-season tour to France while the Southern Kings, their opening opponents in SuperRugby this weekend, endured shambolic preparation, but the KwaZulu-Natal side’s director of rugby, Gary Gold, has warned that the Eastern Cape team should not be taken for granted, especially with Rassie Erasmus consulting for them.

Erasmus and his mobi-unit of top specialists were in Port Elizabeth in January to help Kings coach Deon Davids fast-track their preparations and the word from their camp is that they feel ready to compete. The Sharks will be the first team to test that readiness and Gold said they would be cautious.

“It’s exactly the same situation we had with the Cheetahs last year in our first game, so we do not take the Southern Kings lightly as a team. Deon Davids is a good coach and he would have got great help from Rassie and the mobi-unit. And they’ll be desperate to prove their detractors wrong.

“We have to make sure we don’t slip up like we did against the Cheetahs last year. We’re just trying to stay away from expectations and focus on what we do well. The two games in France have shown us how far we’ve come in certain areas. We had a very clear strategy in our pre-season in terms of how we prepared: We really put time and energy into four or five areas which we hope will have the most effect on the game,” Gold told The Citizen.

The Sharks beat Toulon 29-21 and Toulouse 31-17, but Gold said the results were only of secondary importance to how they played and he was very satisfied with their performance. With the time now available before their first SuperRugby game on Saturday, they will brush up on the areas that have not received as much attention.

“It’s not about the results but the performance and I was very satisfied with the things we worked on, we got reward for those, we’ll bank those, but now it’s time to sharpen the pencil. It’s now time to focus on other areas and we know that if we don’t put time and energy into those then we’ll come a cropper, so those areas will develop.

“We scored five tries and three tries in the two games, so I’m happy with that. Toulon could only score through driving mauls against us, three times, but we hadn’t worked on that yet.

“People ask how we want to play, well, first and foremost we want to win and the foundation for winning is a solid defence. That’s one of the areas where I feel we’ve made good progress, it was a helluva lot more consistent. Defence is where a team shows its camaraderie, whether they’re willing to fight for each other. As a coaching staff, we’re very excited because we’ve put our faith in this young group and they’ve repaid us,” Gold said.

 

 

Titans eager to maintain momentum after bruising start 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

 

 

The Titans took a bruise to their pride in their opening RamSlam T20 Challenge loss to the Dolphins, but successive victories have lifted the mood and left them eager to maintain their momentum as they head into a vital weekend.

The Titans travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Knights on Friday night, before returning home to face the Warriors on Sunday at Centurion in a double-header that also features the Dolphins playing the Cape Cobras.

“We weren’t happy with our performance in that first game against the Dolphins, we just didn’t adapt to conditions, we weren’t smart enough. So we’re very happy with our progression through the last two matches, but we’re still playing at only 70% of our capability. We’re executing better game plans and we’re very happy that the workload is being shared in terms of both batting and bowling,” senior batsman Farhaan Behardien said at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

The inclusion of players like Graeme van Buuren and Lungi Ngidi has helped the change in fortunes, but there is likely to be another shake-up of the team this weekend with the return of all-rounder David Wiese after recovering from a hand injury.

While other captains are stumbling around in the fog when the pressure is on, Albie Morkel can chuckle and consider the luxury of fielding eight batsmen and nine bowlers – five pacemen, a dibbly-dobbler in Behardien, wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, a slow left-armer in Van Buuren and offie Henry Davids.

“We’re seeing in T20 now that you need eight batsmen, you need that depth if you go five or six down. The last two games, we’ve had enough batting to win and that takes the pressure off Albie and myself, everyone is chipping in. It’s where the game is going and we’ve taken a leaf out of Australia’s book – they have guys like James Faulkner, Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Johnson; Chris Morris, Albie and David are a wonderful addition to our team. We have three frontline bowlers and three all-rounders with a wealth of experience internationally,” Behardien said.

“There are so many different combinations and it’s a quality 15-man squad. Anyone on their day can perform, we probably have more variety with our bowling than any other team and a lot of guys who love batting under pressure,” Van Buuren said.

 



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