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Ken Borland

Proteas in much better mental space – Boucher 0

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Ken


Former Proteas legend Mark Boucher believes it is the South African team which is in a vastly better mental space than the Australians following their wonderful victory in the first Test in Perth.

“It was sensational and it will have left Australia scratching their heads about which is their right side. I don’t think Mitchell Marsh is right at number six because he’s not the sort of guy to score you hundreds there, you compare him to someone like Mike Hussey and it’s chalk and cheese. So the Proteas are in a really good position if it’s the Australians asking questions after the first Test.

“The Proteas are in a much better space than Australia and their only real headache is selection for Hobart, which is a nice position to be in. Do they play Morne Morkel or Dwaine Pretorius, who has been in good form locally and can add extra with the bat.

“I believe we should be moving away from ‘horses for courses’ because we have guys who can perform in different conditions. I’m not too sure what Hobart will be like, they might give us a greentop and then maybe JP Duminy can do the spinner’s job.

“But thankfully we played the spinner in Perth, with the Fremantle Doctor that was a fantastic call, a spinner can bowl a lot of overs and Keshav Maharaj did a wonderful job. Australia don’t play spin too well, they don’t really rotate the strike, they just try to be aggressive. In the past, Paul Harris did a fabulous job for us when we won the series Down Under and they might decide to unleash Tabraiz Shamsi because they might feel the Australians don’t read him too well,” Boucher said.

The record-holder for most dismissals by a Test wicketkeeper paid special tribute to Kagiso Rabada, the 21-year-old fast bowler who had to shoulder so much responsibility after Dale Steyn broke down. Instead of buckling, Rabada flourished with five wickets in the final innings.

“We’ve seen in the past that KG really thrives on leading the bowling attack, when Dale and Vernon Philander were injured he really led from the front. When you put KG in that space, he seems to really enjoy the challenge, which is a big positive,” Boucher said.



Bulls retain starting XV that did the job in Perth 0

Posted on May 04, 2016 by Ken


Bulls coach Nollis Marais has unsurprisingly chosen the same starting XV that did the job so well in Perth for their SuperRugby match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.

The only change to the 23 that hammered the Western Force 42-20 is on the bench, where Dan Kriel replaces Dries Swanepoel as the reserve centre.

“We’ve gained good momentum from our last time out so I’ve made just the one change, Dan and Dries swopping around because I’ve been rotating them every week and they can both play 12, 13 and wing.

“There are certain things that we will try and improve on, but we’re getting better every game, small things are getting better every week, but it’s really just about winning,” Marais said on Tuesday from Sydney, where they are based for their preparations.

The bonus point win over the Force means the Bulls are not only sitting pretty in Africa Conference 1, just one point behind the Stormers with a game in hand, but it also highlighted the tremendous depth that Marais now has as he negotiates their playoff push with the competition just over the halfway mark.

The loose trio of Lappies Labuschagne, Arno Botha and Hanro Liebenberg, with Jannes Kirsten coming off the bench, dovetailed superbly against the Force; Marvin Orie’s performance at lock was highly encouraging given that the Bulls also have the outstanding RG Snyman playing superbly, as well as rising star Jason Jenkins and the reliable Grant Hattingh in reserve; while Francois Brummer has settled in well at flyhalf, with Piet van Zyl and Rudy Paige being two accomplished scrumhalves who are good enough to have played for the Springboks.

“At the beginning of the season, we only had three loose forwards, so it’s great that there’s now healthy competition. I’ve backed Hanro because I believe in his future, Arno was brilliant at seven and Jannes had one of the highest work-rates we’ve ever recorded when he came off the bench. So to keep your place in the loose trio, you have to play to your potential.

“Marvin has great talent and led the lineout calls last year in the Currie Cup. Although it didn’t go so well for him at the start of this season, Jason’s injury gave him an opportunity and he took his chance.

“In terms of the half-backs, we want to play a fast game and be tactical, and they struggled with that a bit at the start. But Piet gets us quickly over the advantage line and Francois is kicking at 90% and his commitment in making that corner-flag tackle was outstanding,” Marais said.

Bulls team – SP Marais, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brummer, Piet van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Lappies Labuschagne, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (c), Trevor Nyakane. Bench: Bandise Maku, Lizo Gqoboka, Werner Kruger, Jannes Kirsten, Roelof Smit, Rudy Paige, Tian Schoeman, Dan Kriel.

SA SuperRugby conference title heading to Tshwane 0

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Ken


South Africa’s Vodacom SuperRugby Conference title still looks set to return to Tshwane as the Bulls won their fifth successive game to keep ahead of the Cheetahs, who claimed an impressive victory over the Reds. The Sharks, meanwhile, silenced allegations of cultural divisions within their team by sealing a spirited win over the Western Force in Perth.

While there has rightly been a storm of protest over a diabolical penalty try decision against the Stormers by the TMO, the less said about the team’s actual performance in their defeat to the Rebels in Melbourne, the better.

The Bulls weren’t anywhere near their best on attack against the Highlanders at Loftus Versfeld, but where they impressed was in their suffocating defence, their ferocity at the breakdown and their ability to capitalise on opposition mistakes.

The margin of victory – 35-18 – was comfortable enough, but the Bulls struggled for much of the second half to get any continuity with ball in hand, and the bonus-point try only came in the 78th minute courtesy of some individual brilliance from replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, who capitalised on the Highlanders’ defence worrying about substitute wing Bjorn Basson lurking out wide on the blindside.

And it was a crucial bonus point too as it lifted the Bulls into second on the overall log, above the Brumbies, from where they would qualify for a home semi-final if they remain in that position.

The Bulls’ first try came in just the third minute as they turned over possession from the kick-off and then bashed away at the Highlanders for 13 phases and created the overlap on the left. Francois Hougaard’s terrible pass – the returning scrumhalf’s service was scrappy in general – didn’t matter as outside centre JJ Engelbrecht gathered the ball off the ground and went over for the opening points.

The reliable boot of Morne Steyn added the next 11 points through the conversion and three penalties before what Bulls coach Frans Ludeke afterwards admitted was “the turning point of the game” came just two minutes before half-time.

The Highlanders, trailing 6-16, were pushing hard on the Bulls’ tryline but excellent defence saw the ball turned over. Flank Dewald Potgieter pounced and sparked a counter-attack, before feeding Engelbrecht, whose pass under pressure to wing Akona Ndungane, who then ran 80 metres to score, was referred to the TMO.

The television pictures seemed clear enough, but the TMO ruled there was insufficient evidence that Engelbrecht’s pass had been forward, and the try was allowed.

Pierre Spies, the Bulls captain celebrating his 100th SuperRugby game, then charged over for a try six minutes into the second half to decide the contest, but the vagaries of the referral system were once again in the spotlight after the controversy in Melbourne the previous day.

Matt Goddard’s decision to award a penalty try against the Stormers – who were leading 21-20 at the time – was based on hooker Martin Bezuidenhout pulling replacement scrumhalf Nick Phipps back as he chased his grubber over the tryline – but the Australian ignored Scott Higginbotham’s clear knock-on moments before and the fact that Bryan Habana, probably the fastest player on the field, was also racing towards the ball.

While it was a shocking call, the Stormers once again really had only themselves to blame for the defeat. In the minutes leading up to the Rebels’ comeback, they had turned down three kicks at goal to set the lineout and get their rolling maul going. The Rebels defended superbly close to their line, but poor decision-making by the Stormers saw them turn over the ball. They then contrived to lose their own lineout throw and conceded a soft penalty for offsides, which allowed the Rebels back on to attack.

The decision by coach Allister Coetzee to substitute halfbacks Elton Jantjies and Louis Schreuder also needs to be questioned as the Stormers, playing off flyhalf more than in previous weeks, had scored three tries with them on the field.

But while the Stormers improved on attack, their defence was softer than it has been practically all season and the Rebels were able to make ground far too easily with ball in hand. The physicality of Duane Vermeulen and Rynhardt Elstadt was obviously missed, but the Stormers are going to have to show more adaptability in tough circumstances if they are ever to win the SuperRugby trophy.

Captain Jean de Villiers also continues to elect to kick for touch and go for tries rather than build the scoreboard – and the pressure that creates try-scoring opportunities – as the Bulls do so successfully.

With the Waratahs scoring a stunning victory over the log-leading Brumbies a few hours earlier, the Reds had the opportunity to take first place when they took on the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

But a sloppy performance by the 2011 champions, and a clinical performance by the Cheetahs, who were magnificent in defence and ruthless on attack, saw the Reds slide to a 27-13 defeat.

Never mind his refusal to toe the line on matters of team discipline, Quade Cooper provided plenty of justification for Wallabies coach Robbie Deans’ decision not to include him in his initial Australia squad to face the British and Irish Lions with an error-strewn performance.

But scrumhalf Will Genia also made several mistakes in a similarly unfocused display and it is difficult to know whether it was the 40 hours of disrupted travel the Reds had to endure to get to South Africa or the Wallaby squad announcement that distracted them so much.

The Cheetahs deserve immense credit though because of their ability to get themselves out of trouble despite teetering on the ledge of the precipice on numerous occasions.

The Reds enjoyed 64% of possession and the Cheetahs had to make 125 tackles compared to the 57 of the visitors. But it was that uncompromising defence, right up in the faces of a team that likes to throw the ball around flat on the gain-line, that also led to 13 turnovers.

And the Cheetahs were clinical in turning their few opportunities, especially from turnover ball, into points.

Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl scored two brilliant individual tries in a superb performance that suggested the 23-year-old could be the answer to the worrying lack of depth for the Springboks’ number nine jersey.

The Cheetahs’ loose trio, especially Lappies Labuschagne and Philip van der Walt, were immense, and new flyhalf Elgar Watts was practically unerring with the boot, keeping the scoreboard ticking over with five penalties and a conversion.

The selection of Watts had been trumpeted by the Cheetahs’ management in the build-up to the game as an indication that they wanted to use their backline to run at the Reds, but that turned out to be a red herring.

Instead of trying to match the Reds at their own game, the Cheetahs chose to attack from the set-pieces and use the powerful ball-carrying abilities of their forwards.

The Sharks, having lost their previous five matches, desperately needed someone to spark them against the Force, even though laughable newspaper reports during the week that skipper Keegan Daniel was “anti-Afrikaners” undoubtedly added fire to their bellies.

It was loose forward Marcell Coetzee, who had been quiet in previous weeks, who provided the inspiration as he defended like a Trojan, leading the Sharks’ stats with 21 tackles, winning turnovers and carrying the ball strongly.

He made the tackle and then claimed the turnover as the Force inexplicably took a short tap on their own 22 in the 64th minute, with the scores level at 13-13, that led to Riaan Viljoen’s brilliant match-winning try.

Fullback Viljoen broke the line and then he handed off one would-be tackler before breaking through another to score the Sharks’ second try.

Fellow flank Willem Alberts also enjoyed a powerful game as he returned to the starting line-up. He also no doubt made Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer smile at the thought of having one of his favourite weapons available for the internationals next month.

Lock Franco van der Merwe was also impressive as he once again dominated the lineouts and he contributed significantly at the collisions and breakdowns.

Daniel expressed his relief after the game that the Sharks had managed to end their torrid tour on a winning note.

“We were under a lot of pressure this week,” he said. “That was guts and effort. We knew we have been strong in the second half of games and that’s what happened tonight.”

What will be a concern for coach John Plumtree is that the Sharks once again made a slow start, conceding 65% of first-half possession to the Force and giving away much of their own ball. They were fortunate to just be trailing by three points at the break, which was a credit to their defence.

That same defence came to the fore in the closing minutes with the Force pushing hard at their line. Hooker Heath Tessmann and replacement scrumhalf Brett Sheehan both had a go at diving over, but the TMO correctly ruled that Tessmann’s initial attempt had led to a little knock-on at the base of the ruck.

The Sharks’ set-pieces were also a key factor in the triumph and the pack remains a formidable outfit despite the raft of injuries.

Bok fans dying of embarrassment after turgid display 0

Posted on September 10, 2012 by Ken


Springbok fans will be dying of embarrassment as one of the weakest Australian teams in recent memory won a record fifth successive Test against South Africa, 26-19 in Perth on Saturday.

This is an Australian team that has only one or two players that would be considered for a World XV, had lost their opening two Rugby Championship games, blanked by the All Blacks last time out, and were under immense pressure leading into the game.

That pressure only intensified in the first half as the Springboks strangled them, pinning them in their own territory for lengthy periods. Possession may have been 50/50, but South Africa spent 66% of the first half in Australian territory.

The Wallabies, on the verge of disarray, should have been put away in that first half, but these Springboks totally lack a ruthless touch, especially on attack.

Australia went into the shed relieved to be just 6-13 down and were a much-improved outfit in the second half.

But the Springboks still enjoyed 50% possession and 61% territory in the second half, yet they could score just six points. Frustratingly, good ball was kicked away when they were inside the Wallabies half, Morne Steyn missed a crucial penalty in the 50th minute and a lineout throw was lost inside the 22 in the dying moments.

South Africa’s much-maligned kicking game worked a treat in the first half, creating the platform for victory as Australia’s weak kickers simply could not get them out of their territory, resorting to disastrous grubbers.

But the Springboks were once again limp on attack. Apart from Bryan Habana, who popped up everywhere before he left the field with a leg injury in the 53rd minute, there was no spark. The backline looked pedestrian and simply did not gel, failing to seize on a number of opportunities when they created holes in the Wallabies defence.

While flyhalf Morne Steyn is the obvious target as scapegoat, there is another issue which coach Heyneke Meyer may have to wrestle with, and that is his captain, Jean de Villiers, at 13.

A fine captain and person, a great Springbok and a highly-respected inside centre De Villiers may be, but the 31-year-old didn’t threaten once on attack and, the one time he did find himself in space on the outside, he and replacement wing Lwazi Mvovo managed to get in each other’s way and the turnover ball and overlap yielded nothing.

That was in the 58th minute and, just two minutes earlier, De Villiers also missed the midfield tackle on Dom Shipperley that led to Scott Higginbotham’s try. South Africa have some right to feel hard done by, however, as the move started from a scrum penalty against them that even the Australian commentators agreed was unjust.

But the Springboks clearly also still have problems with their pillar defence around the fringes as Higginbotham burst between Willem Alberts and Steyn at a ruck in the shadow of the poles, while Australia’s second try, by prop Ben Alexander, also came after gaps were left close to the breakdown.

South Africa have a ready-made replacement captain when Schalk Burger is fit, although Meyer might prefer to move De Villiers to his favoured position at inside centre. The coach will then, however, have to sacrifice the physical presence and direct running of Francois Steyn that he loves so much at 12.

Meyer belatedly introduced Pat Lambie into Rugby Championship action in the last 10 minutes, but it was the debut of the 20-year-old Johan Goosen in place of Morne Steyn at flyhalf that perhaps shows the coach the way to go in future.

Goosen, in his brief cameo, showed a willingness to take the ball to the defence, beat tackles and generally just looked a better attacking option. Plus we all know there is nothing wrong with his boot, and he can tackle.

There are arguments, of course, that Meyer should wait before thrusting Goosen into a starting role against the All Blacks. But the longer he waits, the more the Springboks will frustrate on attack. What everyone agrees on, however, is that Goosen is bound to have a long international career.

Whether Meyer enjoys the same remains to be seen. He will plead that it is very difficult to turn naturally conservative players into attacking dynamos overnight. But to dominate a poor Wallaby team for so long and still not manage to put them away means he has to add something more adventurous, more incisive to the current mix.

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