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Ken Borland



Sharks surprise nobody but nearly unhinge the Lions 0

Posted on July 22, 2017 by Ken

 

Not many people, least of all the Lions, will have been surprised by the Sharks bringing an intensely physical, in-your-face approach to their SuperRugby quarterfinal at Ellis Park on Saturday, but it so nearly unhinged the home side, the overwhelming favourites.

In the end, the Lions had to be bailed out by a phenomenal penalty kick by wing Ruan Combrinck, who slotted the ball over in the 78th minute from six metres inside his own half and 10 metres from touch, to make the final score 23-21.

Combrinck did not have much opportunity in the match, thanks to the Sharks’ swarming defence swallowing up practically all the space on the field, but he showed that he is a person who thrives on the big moment.

“It’s just Ruan’s character that he’s always looking for opportunities and the big moments, he’s normally the last one to leave kicking practice, even though we don’t know how many kicks he gets over!” captain Jaco Kriel joked after the nailbiting victory.

“I always look to the touchline to see if the coach is giving any advice, and both JP [Ferreira, defence coach] and Cash [Ivan van Rooyen, conditioning coach] were pointing to the line to set up the lineout, but Ruan already had his tee in his hand, even though he told me he cramped when he missed his previous kick!”

More drama was to follow in the final minute as the Lions received the kickoff and then set up a series of slow-mo pick-and-goes and rucks as they counted down time. The incensed Sharks were screaming at referee Marius van der Westhuizen, who was the epitome of indecision throughout, for holding on, but the Lions refused to concede anything, even though Kriel afterwards admitted that “we nearly lost the ball in that last ruck”.

The Lions roared into Sharks territory from the first kickoff, which lock Stephan Lewies dropped, and showed their aggressive, confident intent as they turned down two penalties at goal to rather set up lineout drives.

The Sharks were also having early problems in the scrum and the Lions’ third penalty came from that set-piece, and this time flyhalf Elton Jantjies went for poles.

The easy kick from just inside the 22 hit the post, however, and it set the tone for an awful kicking display by the incumbent Springbok flyhalf.

Lionel Mapoe was chasing the rebound, though, and for the umpteenth time, lock Etienne Oosthuizen cost his team points as he took the outside centre out off the ball, giving Jantjies an even easier shot at goal which he slotted to give the Lions a 3-0 lead.

The Lions are always intent on playing the game their way, but in the face of such an aggressive defence and the Sharks’ strategy of getting players in-between their backs, perhaps they should have played the situation more than their preconceived tactics.

A case in point came straight after they had opened the scoring as they tried to pass the ball around in their own 22 after the restart, with both Sharks prop Thomas du Toit and outside centre Lukhanyo Am getting intercepts. Am cut inside and then fed flank Jean-Luc du Preez, who freed wing Kobus van Wyk to go racing over in the corner for the first try.

The Sharks were playing the knockout rugby, building their play around the intensity of their pack and defence, and using the boot of flyhalf Curwin Bosch to good effect.

Coach Robert du Preez played in the Currie Cup-winning Northern Transvaal sides of superboot Naas Botha, so it was no surprise to see Bosch using the drop-kick, and he succeeded with one in the 17th-minute, centre Andre Esterhuizen’s powerful run at the flyhalf channel providing front-foot ball and plenty of time for him to stretch the lead to 8-3.

Jantjies then missed a penalty from in front of the poles, after another Sharks scrum infringement, and the sense of unease grew at Ellis Park as the flyhalf then lost the ball in his own half and lock Andries Ferreira knocked on, forcing the Lions to play the ball on the ground and allowing Bosch to kick a penalty (11-3).

Just before halftime, the Lions were on the wrong end of a 50/50 ruck call and another Bosch penalty put the Sharks 14-3 in front at the break, and seemingly in command.

But the Lions came out for the second half playing much more direct rugby, and with a greater focus on hanging on to the ball rather than throwing speculative passes.

Immediately, the pressure shifted on to the Sharks and a couple of offsides calls led to Lewies being yellow-carded in the 46th minute, an important development as the Lions scored two tries, both unconverted, while he was off the field.

The great work of the Lions scrum set up the first try as lock Franco Mostert plunged over the line a couple of phases after the set-piece had the Sharks forwards going backwards; and four minutes later, flank Kriel burst through the weak defence of Bosch to score.

The woeful kicking of Jantjies meant the Lions were still one point behind though (13-14), but just after the hour mark they won a penalty on their own 22 for a high tackle – although it was not the most obvious offence.

Centre Harold Vorster took a quick tap and jinked his way through the disorganised defence, making it well into the Sharks half before he freed Mapoe on his outside for the Springbok to speed over for the try. This time Jantjies converted (20-14).

But the Sharks regained the lead four minutes later.

Ferreira was blatantly offsides at a ruck and the Sharks kicked the penalty to touch to set up the drive, which was collapsed by Mostert. But the Sharks, playing with the advantage, went over the line as scrumhalf Cobus Reinach nipped over from a ruck close to the poles.

But the TMO referral showed that the ill-disciplined Oosthuizen had once again cost his team points, this time by shoving Mapoe to create the gap that Reinach went through.

The Sharks had another chance though, because Mostert was yellow-carded for his earlier offence and the visitors chose a five-metre scrum, where this time they had the edge and eighthman Daniel du Preez scored against the post.

The Bosch conversion made it 21-20 and the lead lasted all the way through until the thrilling final couple of minutes, with Combrinck missing a penalty in the 70th minute.

The Sharks nearly scored in the right corner as Van Wyk, under pressure from Courtnall Skosan, just failed to gather the bouncing ball. The Lions had the throw-in, under severe pressure, five metres from their line, and Akker van der Merwe, having replaced the excellent Malcolm Marx at hooker, threw over the top for Kriel, charging forward on a storming run.

Mapoe gave great support and the Lions were out of their territory and able to win the fateful penalty that gave Combrinck his moment of glory.

 

Amla & Rossouw overwhelm West Indies 0

Posted on April 30, 2015 by Ken

An overwhelming batting display – Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw blazing their way to centuries – carried South Africa to a comfortable 131-run victory over the West Indies in the fifth and final Momentum One-Day International at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Wednesday night.

With Amla and Rossouw slamming a record 247 runs for the third wicket off just 181 balls, South Africa charging to 361 for five after bad weather delayed the start of play by two-and-a-half hours and reduced the match to 42 overs per side, the hosts were always in control and they duly bowled the West Indies out for 230 in 37.4 overs.

Their batsmen having once again produced the goods, South Africa’s second-string bowling attack were eager to please but, Wayne Parnell apart, they showed that the Proteas cannot be complacent in the field when they get to the World Cup.

Kyle Abbott managed to dismiss dangerman Chris Gayle with the first ball of the innings, the left-hander only getting a thin edge as he flashed at an ill-directed opener short and well wide of off stump. The Proteas had to get the dismissal on review as umpire Sundaram Ravi called the delivery wide.

Abbott continued to spray the ball about, and although he claimed a second wicket with a full, straight delivery that bowled Marlon Samuels for 50, he persisted with banging the ball in halfway down the pitch and went for 59 runs in seven overs to finish a disappointing series for him.

Narsingh Deonarine (43) and Dwayne Smith (31) added 77 at a run-a-ball for the second wicket to repair the early damage, but Aaron Phangiso fooled Smith with the arm-ball to trap him lbw and Deonarine failed to get back in time as Samuels turned down a quick single and was run out in the left-arm spinner’s next over.

Samuels went on to score a quickfire half-century before being castled by what replays suggested was an Abbott no-ball, while Denesh Ramdin made a run-a-ball 40 before being undone by a sharp lifter from Parnell, gloving a catch to square-leg, where Amla moved smartly and dived to take a fine catch.

Parnell would be the best of the South African bowlers by some margin, taking four for 42 in nine overs, while fast bowler Marchant de Lange, who will not be going to the World Cup, enjoyed standing in for Vernon Philander (slight groin strain) and took one for 34 in eight tidy overs.

Although the West Indies’ batsmen never threatened to win the match, South Africa’s bowling was not precise enough for them to be happy with their performance in the field. Even Parnell tended to stick to back-of-a-length deliveries, which will be fodder for better batting line-ups at the World Cup.

Rossouw proved his credentials with the World Cup just around the corner as he lashed a great century, helping himself to a career-best 132 off just 98 balls, with nine fours and eight sixes, and Amla cruised to yet another century, scoring a fine 133 off 105 deliveries.

Rossouw and Amla added 247 for the third wicket off just 181 balls, a record third-wicket partnership for South Africa and equalling their own mark for the best stand for any wicket that they set in the second ODI at the Wanderers.

It was another top-class batting display by the South Africans, even with big gun AB de Villiers having a rest, as they laid a solid platform on a tricky pitch and then launched a spectacular late onslaught.

A couple of wickets had fallen in the first 10 overs as Quinton de Kock (4) and Faf du Plessis (16) fell to horizontal-bat strokes on a pitch that provided enough awkward bounce to make those shots difficult.

Amla once again looked in a class apart as he reached a 49-ball half-century in the 21st over, midway through the innings with South Africa on 109 for two, while Rossouw, who has endured a troubled ODI career thus far, struggled through to his 50 off 60 balls.

But those early miscues all seemed a lifetime ago as Rossouw then blossomed in spectacular fashion, needing just 23 more deliveries to register his second century of the series.

The left-hander raced past Amla and looked every bit a power-hitter as he smashed 82 runs off his last 38 balls.

Amla just kept on amassing runs as he has all series, except in this innings he was able to do it in half-dozens at a time, clearing the boundary six times to go with his 11 fours, showing that even a great batsman like him has had room to improve his game.

The West Indies were bleeding runs horrifically as the sun shone brightest on its way to the western horizon, bathing SuperSport Park in a sepia light befitting a display that was one for the ages.

The last 147 runs of the Amla and Rossouw partnership came off just 69 balls … and that by two batsmen who are not renowned for being big boundary-hitters.

Finishers David Miller (23 off 9) and JP Duminy (18* off 7) were left with only a handful of overs to bat but they collected their share of boundaries as 87 runs were hammered in the last five overs.

With the bounce providing something for the bowlers to work with – which the West Indians failed to do – South Africa’s total was certainly well over par.

 http://citizen.co.za/316681/amla-rossouw-batting-blaze/



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