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Ken Borland



Held together by bandages & gauze, but Jannie still relishes the challenge 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The tight five is characteristically the place where the players are held together by bandages and gauze, such is the high-impact workload they have to shoulder in rugby seasons that are just getting longer and harder. But there’s one man in the Springbok pack who has been particularly burdened with a massive workload, and that is tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

The 30-year-old played in every SuperRugby match last year and in all 16 games for the Sharks this year, as well as every Test in 2012 and all three in 2013 thus far. But Du Plessis, a qualified medical doctor, says he’s relishing the challenge.

“I hope I become like leather: you know, the more you use it, the tougher and better it becomes. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’m playing so much that I’m going to break down. I want to play 40 games a year for the next five years,” Du Plessis said after the Springboks’ training session in Fourways on Wednesday.

While the scrummaging skills and experience of the Bethlehem-born Du Plessis are invaluable in the crucial tighthead position – many ex-forwards say it’s the first position that should be chosen in a team – the other reason for why the Grey College-product is hogging the number three jersey is the lack of depth in his position in the country.

The current Springbok squad has five props in it and Du Plessis is the only one who can be regarded as a specialist tighthead, the foundation of a solid scrum.

The Springbok brains trust have identified Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead, as the next best tighthead in the land and coach Heyneke Meyer said the lack of depth has left him little choice but to develop the 24-year-old as the next choice number three for the 2015 World Cup.

“I truly believe we are in trouble with tightheads in South Africa,” Meyer said. “If you look at it, most of the guys are injured and at one stage we had the best tightheads in the world, but now there are a lot of inexperienced guys playing there.

“We feel Coenie is the second tighthead in the squad and we need to give him some game time. A tighthead is like great wine, it only gets better with time. Coenie is only 24 and we need someone who is the next tighthead who has time to develop and will be there for a long time.

“If Coenie doesn’t play there in Test match rugby, he won’t be right for the next World Cup. With Gurthro Steenkamp and Trevor Nyakane, they are great impact players, and we have a lot of looseheads with Beast as well. But we’re under pressure on the tighthead side,” Meyer said.

But there is also a lot of anti-Coenie-at-tighthead feeling around rugby circles, with many wondering why Cheetahs number three Lourens Adriaanse, an unused member of the Springbok squad in June, or impressive Sharks youngster Wiehahn Herbst aren’t given a chance.

Tighthead prop is a specialist position, like hooker or scrumhalf, and what Meyer is doing is a bit like trying to convert your second-choice outside centre into a scrumhalf just because he’s a great player. Coaches have to make tough decisions and, however brilliant Oosthuizen is and however much depth there is at loosehead, you can only have two in a match-day squad. Trying to turn a loosehead into a tighthead is fraught with danger, as we saw with previous coach Peter de Villiers’ unsuccessful attempts with John Smit.

Although Oosthuizen is an ox of a man – weighing 125kg and standing 1.83m – tighthead is a highly technical position where size and strength are not enough on their own.

Ask Jannie du Plessis himself.

“It is really flipping difficult to change from loosehead to tighthead, ask the looseheads who’ve tried. It’s a completely different position with a different set of skills. But I hope Coenie does well in the position, he’s done well enough when he has come on at tighthead, so then everyone won’t make such a big thing about it and me playing every game,” Du Plessis said.

The other problem with Oosthuizen playing tighthead is that he will be stuck in the scrum for longer and the Springboks stand to dilute two of his major weapons – his exceptional ability in carrying the ball and the pressure he brings to the breakdown.

And Oosthuizen’s switch is happening at a time of great uncertainty amongst front-rankers with the new scrum rules coming into effect for the Rugby Championship.

After protests over the number of collapsed scrums, the International Rugby Board [IRB] have introduced new calls governing the engagement. The new sequence is “crouch, bind, set”, requiring the props to bind before the scrum sets.

But the IRB, in their wisdom, have introduced the new protocol at Test level as well, without trialling it first in SuperRugby. So the top players in the Southern Hemisphere are all going into a crucial part of the game, for which match-swinging penalties are often given, blind, without any competitive experience of the changes.

“The scrums are an uncertainty for us. You have to play the cards that are dealt you, but the situation is that this is the first time in a Test series where we play the new rules. This year we are going straight into the new rules and we don’t know what to expect,” Meyer admitted.

Du Plessis, who has seen most things in the dark and dingy world of scrums, thinks even these new rules might not last.

“Normally you have a few games to get used to new laws, like they did with the ELVs. But the challenge now is to adapt right away. It might be a shambles and then they change it again.

“Since I started playing, this will be the sixth or seventh change to the scrum laws, so they are definitely chopping and changing and maybe they are scratching a place where it’s not itching… ” Du Plessis said.

The major difference that front-rankers will experience, with the “hit” taken out of the equation, is that scrums are going to last much longer now, according to Du Plessis.

“It’s going to be a big change. In the past you relied on speed because the gap between the front rows was big. Now because you’re binding first, you are much closer together and you can’t rely on speed.

“Scrums are going to be about generating more power and they will last much longer, so we’ll have to work harder. It won’t be so much about power and speed and more about endurance.

“They’ve said the scrum has to be steady now and they’re going to force scrumhalves to put the ball in straight, but it sounds like election promises to me: we hear that every year,” Du Plessis said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-08-rugby-tightheads-at-a-loose-end/#.WCxJxvl97IU

Bulls are more mature & more confident – flyhalf Schoeman 0

Posted on October 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Blue Bulls flyhalf Tian Schoeman says he is going into Saturday’s Currie Cup semi-final against Western Province way more confident than last year, especially since he has a more mature pack in front of him now.

Last year the young Bulls side were beaten 23-18 by underdogs Western Province, who used a more experienced pack to exert pressure in the set-pieces and forward exchanges and won the territory battle, but this weekend the home side are a more accomplished side with a big pack that has excelled in the scrums and lineouts in recent matches.

“I’ve got two Currie Cups behind me now and a bit of Super Rugby, so I’m more confident. I was quite stressed out this time last year and we didn’t know what to expect, especially in a semi-final. So I’m definitely a bit calmer now although there are of course still some nerves,” Schoeman told The Citizen on Wednesday.

“I’m also a lot more relaxed because it’s lekker to play with a dominant pack in front of you. Our forwards have really stepped up and in the last few games the set-pieces have been very good. We’ve been getting a lot of results from the scrums with pushover tries and the lineouts have been very good as well. That’s going to be very important for the semi-final because you need the set-piece to attack from.”

The Bulls scored four more tries than Western Province during the league phase of the competition and have focused on a more ball-in-hand, high-intensity approach than in previous years. Nobody is more important than the flyhalf in driving the game plan and Schoeman said they will stick to what has served them well in the competition thus far.

“We’ve decided not to change anything, we’re going to stick to what we’ve been trying to do. It’s a bit more running rugby and maybe a bit more risky, but we don’t want to give Western Province the opportunity to play. So we’re only going to kick when in trouble, but those exits need to be accurate because you don’t want to give the other team opportunities,” Schoeman said.

 

Jannes Kirsten Q&A 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

Q: Jannes, today you were up against a Stormers pack that featured six Springboks, guys like Schalk Burger, who was probably a hero for you growing up. And yet you were a major factor on the gainline, smashing all of those guys back, how did that feel?

JK: In my first game of SuperRugby I had big eyes, playing against all those Springboks in the Stormers team, all those guys with so many caps. But when you’re under all that pressure, you just have to lift your performance. It definitely motivates me playing against guys like that, against our arch-rivals, so you lift your game as much as possible. I’m a born-and-bred Blue Bull, I’m sure if you cut me blue blood will come out, so the Stormers are not my favourite team, it’s why they are such a big team to play against. My brother Frik once got an offer from Western Province, but he said to my Dad – “How am I ever going to pull that jersey over my head?”!

 

Q: Putting your body on the line like you did, is it just because you were playing the Stormers, or was there other motivation?

JK: The coach has been hard on us this week and we knew we would have to perform to win. It’s like a sin to lose at Loftus Versfeld, so we really didn’t want to disappoint our fans or the coach either. I think I’ll be moving a bit slower on Sunday, get up later. I’ll ask the coach on Monday if maybe I can have a swimming session or a massage …

 

Q: Your brother Frik actually had to give up rugby last year due to a neck injury. Does that also motivate you to give absolutely everything while playing for the Bulls?

JK: Ja, Frik was a prop and then he hurt his neck in 2014, when he was just 26. The year before he had been a member of the Springbok touring squad at the end of the year. I think regularly about how nice it would have been to play together. So I really want to build on the name that he put out there, to make him and my Dad, who played flank for Eastern Transvaal, proud.

 

Q: How do you feel after the game, you must feel immensely proud?

JK: I’m very proud, it was a massive defensive effort. We needed to act as a collective and we did that, it was good to be a part of that effort. It was a great day and a great win, we’ll keep our feet on the ground but enjoy the win.

 

Bulls pack come of age in win over Stormers 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls pack may well have come of age in their 17-13 victory over the Stormers in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend, with coach Nollis Marais rating it as their best performance of the season.

The Bulls dominated the scrums, constantly hassled the Stormers’ lineout and were absolutely immense in defending the gainline, all this against a pack with half-a-dozen Springboks including Pieter-Steph du Toit and Eben Etzebeth in the engine room.

“I think it was our best performance, especially after our big defeat to them in the first round. We are so young up front, but the guys manned up well. Jannes Kirsten has been good all season – sometimes I think he’s confused as to just how good he is, RG Snyman and Jason Jenkins were playing against guys that are going to the Springbok squad and they really kept them on their toes. They showcased how good they are tonight and all credit to them because they came out and played in a high-pressure match against a team that was very hard off the line,” Marais said.

Having lost the gainline battle in their two previous games against the Brumbies and Waratahs, Marais said his team had learnt how quickly one needs to come off the line in SuperRugby.

“The big thing against the Brumbies and the Waratahs was that we gave them the gainline. They came hard off the line at us and we learnt and showed better speed in defence today. You need a good attack and defence to win and all credit to coach Pine Pienaar for the defence tonight,” Marais said.

Stormers coach Robbie Fleck also praised the redoubled efforts of the Bulls’ defensive line.

“You have to give credit to the Bulls’ defence, they worked incredibly hard. We were retaining possession so they were under pressure, but they did incredibly well, slowing us down at the ruck so we never had any quick ball and we couldn’t raise the tempo.

“They brought us down to their pace, which didn’t suit us, it became a set-piece battle, which we didn’t want. We wanted a quick, open game. But you also have to credit the Bulls’ set-pieces – they contested and had our lineout under pressure, so we couldn’t launch from there, and they won penalties at scrum-time. You need to dominate the set-piece in a tight game,” Fleck said.

 

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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