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Ken Borland



De Bruyn unfazed by chilling start to his Test career 0

Posted on June 12, 2017 by Ken

 

Hamilton is by no means as far down south as you can get in New Zealand, but it is still a rather cold, desolate place to make your Test debut, especially when you’re batting out of position and have to come out and open on the first morning in the typically damp, swing-friendly conditions found in that country.

There are many who believe Theunis de Bruyn was not given the best chance to succeed in his first Test back in March, scoring a three-ball duck in the first innings and then being run out for 12 in the second after a horrible mix-up with Hashim Amla, but the elegant right-hander says he was unfazed by it all and grateful that the chance came at all.

“The message I was sent was that the selectors wanted me to play, although obviously it was out of position. But I started my franchise career as an opener and as a number three batsman you face the new ball sometimes anyway. Obviously I was disappointed with how it went, but when I get to England, which is a big series, at least I have already played Test cricket.

“So I think it was worth it. Any debut is difficult with all the emotions of your dream coming true, singing the anthems, and then immediately going in on a green pitch. So it will only get easier in terms of emotion, if I play again hopefully I can just focus on watching the ball and making runs,” De Bruyn said.

“I’ll bat anywhere for the Proteas and I truly believe I can be a good opener. People chat about me being a middle-order batsman, but in my opinion, three or four is part of the top-order and you have to adapt your game to batting at 150 for one or 30 for three. It’s about switching your mind on.

‘So I’m not fazed about my debut, you never really start where you want to in Test cricket, you have to earn that right. So I’ll play where they need me,” the successful Knights captain added.

The whole brouhaha over the 24-year-old De Bruyn’s first Test threatens to obscure the positive news that he enjoyed a tremendous season, averaging 57.76 as he led the Knights to the Sunfoil Series title.

“All this focus on my debut suggests I had an horrendous season and I know with the media here that you’re a hero one day and zero the next, it’s part of professional sport. But I left my family behind in Pretoria to play for a new franchise, I won a trophy and made runs, and in two out of three formats I made my debut for South Africa, so it was a wonderful season. And it was just my third as a professional, I’m still young,” De Bruyn, who likes nothing better than to get out into the bush, pointed out.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170603/282286730229932

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

60% Sharks stutter into playoffs 0

Posted on July 18, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks operated at about 60 percent of what will be required from next week as they stuttered to a 40-29 win over the Sunwolves at Growthpoint Kings Park in Durban on Friday night to seal their place in the Vodacom SuperRugby playoffs.

They were far from the well-oiled machine coach Gary Gold wanted them to be in their last league game before the knockouts and, for much of the match the bottom-placed Sunwolves actually had the scent of a massive upset win in their nostrils.

The Sharks only led 21-19 at halftime and the advantage was only 28-22 going into the last 10 minutes, before flyhalf Garth April finally made an impact by scoring himself and setting up a first SuperRugby try for replacement fullback Curwin Bosch.

While the Sharks held on to the ball and used their forwards to lay the platform, they looked good and two tries in the first seven minutes came after the pack had driven well.

Tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen barrelled over for the opening try and then scrumhalf Stefan Ungerer ran off the base of a maul, centre Andre Esterhuizen stepped outside his marker and went straight through the gap, allowing wing Lwazi Mvovo to have an easy run-in for the second try.

But the Sunwolves then began dominating possession as the Sharks became loose and error-prone. Although they initially struggled to breach the staunch Sharks defence, with nearly 70% of the ball the visitors were able to bend and stretch it with clever play and eventually break through.

Their first try came from a nifty set-piece move as flank Liaki Moli soared high at the back of a split lineout and then passed the ball straight to scrumhalf Kaito Shigeno, who ran straight through the gap to score untouched.

Flyhalf Yu Tamura converted and then, in the 21st minute, he put a clever chip over the defensive line. It was a tricky bouncing ball for fullback Rhyno Smith, but he gathered well and had seen the space, launching a great counter-attack, good hands by forwards and backs getting the ball to captain JP Pietersen, who beat the last man to score the Sharks’ third try.

But battering ram centre Mifiposeti Paea then barged his way over for a try and completed a top-class individual first-half performance by making a fantastic break from his own 22, lock Faatiga Lemalu dotting down from close range after several phases to ensure the Sharks only took a two-point lead into the interval.

The Sharks started the second half like a team with a renewed purpose as Oosthuizen produced a bullocking run and a fabulous offload, hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle providing a slick ball out wide and Esterhuizen a determined finish.

April continued a great run of successful kicks at goal with the conversion to give the Sharks a 28-19 lead, but a Tamura penalty cut that to 28-22 on the hour.

The Sharks made life hard for themselves by not looking after the ball at the breakdown and an anxious last 10 minutes awaited the Kings Park faithful before April made up for all his defensive failings with two moments of magic.

Outside centre Pietersen played a big role in April’s try with a lovely run after the flyhalf’s initial dart before a superb offload back to April, who rode a tackle to get over the line.

April’s precise chip over the top set up Bosch for his try, which would have secured a bonus point for the Sharks were it not for the reaction from the Sunwolves.

April had a kick charged down, leading to a loose ball which went to replacement scrumhalf Yuki Yatomi, who put the Sunwolves on attack with a lovely break, Paea finishing off to take the bonus point away.

But a Sharks team that lacked spark and accuracy scarcely deserved anything more than a scrappy victory.

Scorers

Sharks: Tries – Coenie Oosthuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, JP Pietersen, Andre Esterhuizen, Garth April, Curwin Bosch. Conversions –April (5).

Sunwolves: Tries – Kaito Shigeno, Mifiposeti Paea (2), Faatiga Lemalu. Conversions – Yu Tamura (3). Penalty – Tamura.

http://citizen.co.za/1206785/60-sharks-stutter-into-playoffs/

Rehabilitated Hawken soaring at Titans & national academy 0

Posted on June 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Up-and-coming Titans fast bowler Eldred Hawken had his promising first season of franchise cricket interrupted by a back injury, but he has managed to rehabilitate himself in time to take up a place at the prestigious national academy at Cricket South Africa’s Centre of Excellence, an indication of what a talent he is.

Hawken only played four of the champion Titans’ Sunfoil Series games, but showed enough in taking nine wickets at an average of 30.44 to suggest he has a bright future. He may be 27 already, but there is something reminiscent of Dale Steyn in him in the way he is able to swing the ball at high pace and in his physique.

“I’m pretty excited moving forward. My back seized up during last season so I was helluva surprised to be called up for the academy. I thought maybe I was past it in terms of age, but it’s nice to know my good work paid off,” Hawken told The Citizen.

“The Titans side made me feel very comfortable, even though my first over went for 14 runs! But I felt comfortable after that [a change of ends helped!] and I got settled in for cricket at that level, although I still have a lot of work to do, especially on my conditioning. I can bowl 20 overs in a day in amateur cricket, but it’s harder to bowl 15 in franchise cricket because there’s more intensity.”

The similarities with Steyn don’t end with just the physical, however, as Hawken is from Tzaneen and also attended Merensky High School. The lithe Titans prospect admits that the great fast bowler was his role-model growing up as a cricketer in the Limpopo province.

“Dale was my hero. My dad, who was president of Limpopo Cricket, coached both of us at the Hornbills club in Tzaneen and when I was 12 or 13 I would go and watch them play. I would bring my whites just in case and often I would be standing at mid-off watching Dale bowl or watching clips of him on TV.

“I was actually an off-spinner until I was 16 and then when I changed, I envisaged in my mind his action as the basis for what I was trying to do. Those days were a big influence for me, I had the structures to flourish. The area has produced quite a few fast bowlers including Dale, Ethy Mbhalati and Marchant de Lange,” Hawken said.

The expert attention Hawken gets at the national academy means he has a good chance of following in the footsteps of those bowlers and becoming the leader of the Titans attack.

 

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