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Ken Borland



Stormers are confident despite disappointing dress rehearsal 0

Posted on July 15, 2017 by Ken

 

The Stormers are going to go into their SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Chiefs with some winning confidence and momentum after beating the Bulls 41-33 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, but there will be aspects of their play that they will be disappointed with, most notably some of their defence.

The Stormers are certainly still a potent attacking side, especially off turnover ball, and they ran in six tries, several of them quite dazzling in quality. But they are clearly going to have to tighten up against the Chiefs because they also conceded five tries against the worst-performing South African side, who had also scored the least tries before Saturday’s game.

Skilful wing Duncan Matthews, who showed once again what a pity it is that he has been unroadworthy due to injury for most of the season, set the tone for a thrilling game in the eighth minute as he ran from the back. The big vehicles in the Bulls pack then took over, with lock RG Snyman charging forward, before hooker Adriaan Strauss provided great support and flank Abongile Nonkontwana, a late replacement for the ill Nic de Jager, then gave a neat offload as the home side stormed into the 22. From the ruck, lock Jason Jenkins forced his way over for the opening try.

It was an exciting start but the home side, perhaps overloaded with enthusiasm, then tried to run from the kickoff, lost the ball and wing Cheslin Kolbe then set off on a marvellous jinking run that took him through half the Bulls side before he completed a fine individual try.

The fairness of the grounding had to be confirmed by TMO Marius Jonker, but there were no questions about the Stormers’ second try, four minutes later. Scrumhalf Jano Vermaak spotted a gap quite a long way from the ruck but had the pace to exploit it, before impressive outside centre EW Viljoen threw a lovely dummy and then sent flank Sikhumbuzo Notshe, a late replacement for Rynhardt Elstadt, strolling over the line.

Matthews then took centre stage as he scored a try and then set up another as the Bulls claimed a 21-12 lead after 28 minutes. First he finished a fine try from deep by the Bulls, which began with them spreading the ball wide down their backline inside their own 22, before fullback Warrick Gelant darted for the gap, drawing two defenders and then releasing outside centre Jesse Kriel, who roared up on the outside before sending Matthews racing over the line.

Ten minutes later, from a lineout, scrumhalf Rudy Paige gave a superb inside ball for Matthews, speeding up on a great line, and the 23-year-old then produced a phenomenal offload in the tackle to Kriel, racing up on his shoulder to complete a great try.

But to once again show how important it is that the team that has just scored clears the kickoff efficiently, the Bulls once again fluffed their exit and, with the Stormers pressing hard in their 22, captain Strauss was penalised for a high tackle, allowing Willemse to cut the visitors’ deficit to 15-21.

The Bulls’ defence also bordered on incompetent at times and, three minutes later, wing Seabela Senatla was able to burst through. His pass went astray though, and the Bulls had the ball but made a hash of clearing their lines, turning over the ball and allowing the brilliant Dillyn Leyds to knife through and score the try that gave the Stormers a one-point lead at halftime with Willemse’s conversion (22-21).

Outside backs Leyds, the epitome of slipperiness from the back but also with an educated boot, and Senatla were the main drivers of the Stormers success in the second half.

The Bulls tightened up and used some of their heavyweights as ball-carriers, putting the Stormers under pressure, but flyhalf Tian Schoeman missed an important penalty attempt in the 50th minute.

Two minutes later, Leyds was racing up from the back again when tighthead prop Conraad van Vuuren tried to rein him in with a tackle that was more like a seatbelt restraining an F1 driver from over the shoulder. It seemed a bit harsh, but he was yellow-carded and that put the Stormers in the driver’s seat as they scored twice in the next 10 minutes.

In the 55th minute, Senatla was brought in on a run off a scrum and he linked up with Viljoen, before captain Siya Kolisi rumbled across the line.

Willemse converted and the Stormers had stretched their lead to 29-21.

Six minutes later, Leyds showed his tremendous attacking mentality as he fielded a kick from replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl and raced through a poor defensive line and then sent Willemse racing away on an angled run for a crucial try that gave the Stormers some breathing space with a 34-21 lead.

Some basic mistakes then corrupted the Stormers effort, setting up the game for a thrilling finale.

A breakdown in defence allowed Van Zyl to get the ball from a ruck, throw a dummy and then go racing for the corner flag, the Bulls cutting the deficit to 26-34 in the 65th minute.

Four minutes later, the Stormers tried a long pass off the lineout, it went to ground and Jesse Kriel pounced, scooping up the ball and running 60 metres to score an opportunistic try.

Replacement flyhalf Tony Jantjies converted and the Bulls were once again just one point behind (33-34).

The Bulls were full of fire and gave the Stormers pack just the sort of workout they need before the quarterfinals, and the tenseness of the situation was seen in Willemse taking a penalty shot at goal, and missing, in the 73rd minute.

With just a minute to go, Jantjies made a half-break and the Bulls were on attack inside the Stormers half. Replacement centre Burger Odendaal then burst clear and suddenly things looked promising for the home team.

But their lack of mobility and pace in some of their pack then came home to haunt them and there was no-one up in support when Odendaal was stopped, leading to a turnover and Leyds chipping the ball ahead for Senatla to dash on to and score the matchwinning try.

The Bulls gave as good as they got, but what they lack is the polish to their game – the small, but vital things like good exits, strong support play and accurate decision-making in both attack and defence.

The Stormers will obviously have to step up another notch to beat the Chiefs in their quarterfinal at Newlands next weekend, but the sheer muscle of their pack and the ruthlessness of their counter-attacking backs means they have reasons to be confident of banishing the memories of last year’s awful match against the same opponents at the same stage.

 

Scorers

BullsTries: Jason Jenkins, Duncan Matthews, Jesse Kriel (2), Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3), Tony Jantjies.

Stormers Tries: Cheslin Kolbe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Dillyn Leyds, Siya Kolisi, Damian Willemse, Seabelo Senatla. Conversions: Willemse (3), Kolbe. Penalty: Willemse.

The John McFarland Column: Tremendous effort by the Springboks 0

Posted on June 29, 2017 by Ken

 

For Springbok captain Warren Whiteley to be ruled out on the morning of the third Test against France would definitely have been quite upsetting for the guys, because it is difficult to lose your captain and leader when they thought that he would play.

So to score those tries and get the points they did at Ellis Park last weekend was a tremendous effort by the Springboks and Allister Coetzee will be really pleased with the defence and work-rate of his team.

There are many ways to score tries in rugby and it was great to see some inventiveness from the Springboks, for example when Jan Serfontein jumped at the front of the lineout and then sent the ball down to Eben Etzebeth, for them to maul the space defended by the scrumhalf, which is so difficult to defend. So credit to the coaching staff for the ideas they came up with.

The first try, by Jesse Kriel, just shows how hard the Springboks were working off the ball, which was one of the most impressive aspects of their performance, it shows the culture of the team. The kick-chase induced an error from the French back three, there was a wild pass and it was pounced on, giving Kriel an easy run-in for what we call a “culture try”.

You can see that the players are in such a good space and it is evident that they enjoy each other’s company. The players have all been so positive about their experiences with the Springboks this year and you can see their happiness by the way they celebrate their tries, for example the Rudy Paige effort off the back of a well-worked lineout drive.

So you have to credit Allister Coetzee and all the coaching staff for how far they have come and how they have turned things around. Warren and Allister and the assistant coaches deserve credit for the culture they’re building.

The country also got behind them and there was a steady increase in the crowd until there were 55 000 people at Ellis Park, which was great.

The Springboks ticked so many boxes in the series against France and they should be full of confidence now for the Rugby Championship. If one compares them with the way Australia and Argentina have performed, then the Springboks are definitely in with a real shout in the Rugby Championship.

The Springboks will have had even more time together before they play Argentina home and away, and they should enjoy the continuity of two-and-a-half months together in one block, which is a major positive.

The big thing for the Springboks will be the three away games in the middle of the tournament, which are always hard. But if they can get two wins on the road, then they’ll definitely be in with a shout. The Lions won all their games on tour and the Sharks won a match as well, while all our SuperRugby teams have done well in Argentina, so that’s encouraging.

The real ones to win though are the New Zealand Tests and I just hope the tournament is not over by the final game as it normally is because the draw usually really suits New Zealand. Let’s hope it all comes down to the Test in Cape Town between the Springboks and All Blacks on October 7.

Some combinations really put their hands up, such as the two locks, with Franco Mostert really announcing himself as a player at this upper level. The quality of his work-rate, tackling and cleaning out was phenomenal and he would certainly have been one of the contenders for man of the series.

As was Jan Serfontein. We’ve always known his ability but he has had a fair amount of injuries over the last few years. He’s such a quiet, down-to-earth guy, but against a player like Gael Fickou, who is a real big unit, Jan put in some massive tackles.

The balance of the back row was also very good and Siya Kolisi had the best three Tests he has managed to string together in his career. He was world-class and not just at the things we know he can do – he always carries well and we know he can stop momentum, but his work on the floor and his effort and skill to get up for that intercept in Durban were exceptional.

Malcolm Marx also really announced himself, he was outstanding in all three games, a beast with ball in hand and his basics were so good too.

Although it was a real advantage for the Springboks to play at altitude, those were three quality wins. France did not really click in the last Test, they obviously had the mindset to try and out-play the Springboks, but the home side’s defence was really, really good. One can say that the French were at the end of a long season, but they were well-beaten in each Test.

To average more than 36 points per game takes some doing at Test level and they scored tries through their defence, set play and kicking game, which was great to see.

The Springboks will be a little riled, however, that the lineout was not at its best at Ellis Park, but again, the late change due to the withdrawal of Whiteley left them with less jumping options. But the lineout did really well in the first two Tests.

Allister could have picked some of the old guard, but he was very consistent in his selection and backed the guys in South Africa, the players who had been at the camp in Plettenberg Bay, and his systems. He also backed key members of his team. For instance, Lionel Mapoe was very good in Durban, but he then rewarded Jesse Kriel for his very good display in the first Test.

Continuity and consistency in selection builds confidence amongst the players.

It was good that he was able to give Ruan Dreyer a start and some experience at international level, and what a reward he got at his first scrum! Those are the little battles that are great for a pack of forwards, like being able to control the ball at the back of a scrum and then scoring.

I still have not heard anyone from SA Rugby congratulate the players or coaching staff on a job well done, which amazes me! Why has nobody publicly congratulated them on the way they played and the manner in which they brought the public back and reinstored belief in the Springbok brand?

France have a lot of work to do, they definitely have talented players, but they need to look at their game plan and conditioning, which was not up to the level required at Test level. But it’s a very long season in France, they basically play from August to June, so they need to look at their structure and contracting of players.

The British and Irish Lions game against the All Blacks was quite a Test and at one stage the Lions had made it quite a tight battle. They had their chances, but against New Zealand you must finish, especially in Auckland.

The Lions’ try from a counter-attack was absolutely brilliant – the run from the back by Liam Williams and the way it was finished, it was one of the great British Lions tries.

But they will be seething that they conceded a very soft try from a quick tap, to allow such a compressed defensive line meant they did not have time to get any width and it was very dozy. In the biggest Test of their careers, there’s no way they can blame fatigue.

The All Blacks were deadly again off turnover and open-field ball and Rieko Ioane produced two special finishes, showing sheer speed.

The Lions also need a bit more to their play than Conor Murray box-kicking, even though that’s probably their advantage over the All Blacks. They got quite good returns from the tactic at the start, with Ben Smith dropping a few, but they did not take all their chances. New Zealand will score an average of three or four tries per game, so you must score tries to beat them.

The highlight of the first Test was the way the All Blacks played against the Lions’ rush-defence: they used the blind side a lot and played close to the ruck off Aaron Smith. They still scored four tries despite all the disruptions to their backline.

Smith also never telegraphed which side he was going to pass to, which most scrumhalves indicate by their body language or the way they stand, and he was constantly testing pillars one to three around the ruck. Because it was never clear which side he was going to play, it was very difficult for the defence to get set. So the All Blacks were constantly getting momentum and tiring out the Lions forwards, which is why they were so passive in the set-pieces.

There has been a lot of talk about Jerome Kaino preying on Murray’s non-kicking foot and it was a tactic that originated with Glasgow Warriors in the Pro12 League. Teams generally put up a wall on the right side of the maul or ruck in order to protect the kick, but the blindside was not guarded and that would also have been Murray’s blind spot.

Steve Hansen and the New Zealand media have vociferously condemned Warren Gatland’s claims of deliberate dangerous play, but there’s no doubt they wanted to make sure Conor Murray always felt the heat. If they touch him after he has kicked then it’s unfair, you are not allowed to play the kicker after the ball has gone. The All Blacks are not always whiter than white!

I hope the second Test is as good though. The Lions need a more athletic pack, with Maro Itoje at lock, and they should stick with Ben Te’o for longer in midfield, he played well. It will be exciting if the Lions can get the win and set up a series finale back in Auckland, but unfortunately I don’t really see it happening.

For South African rugby, it’s back to SuperRugby now and I hope the country will get behind our most realistic winners – the Lions. After the Test series, they are all full of confidence and they have a wonderful run-in to the final games.

I managed to bump into Rudolf Straeuli while I was in South Africa and he confirmed that he is very much looking forward to hosting the New Zealand teams at 3pm in the afternoon!

 

 


John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

 

Siboto earns the reprieve he had been hoping for 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Malusi Siboto had probably been hoping the ground could swallow him whole when he dropped a sitter of a catch in the 12th over of the CSA T20 Challenge final at SuperSport Park on Friday night; by the end of the match he was rushing off the field to embrace his gran, who was watching him play cricket for the first time and was able to see the 29-year-old deliver a superb final over to seal a thrilling six-run victory for the Titans over the Warriors.

In a gripping, low-scoring encounter, the Titans were defending just 156 and the Warriors looked well on course as they reached 91 for three in the 12th over with Colin Ackermann and Christiaan Jonker adding 48 off 37 balls.

That was when Ackermann, on 21, looped a sweep off wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi to short fine leg and Siboto, whose nickname is Lolly, dropped a dolly. Even though Jonker was out next ball for 33 off 25 balls, foolishly sweeping Shamsi to fine leg, Ackermann batted on and scored 34.

He and Qaasim Adams, trapped lbw for 17 by Shamsi, missing a sweep, were dismissed in successive overs in the midst of a superb Titans comeback. A magnificent penultimate over from Junior Dala cost just six runs, but it still left Siboto with only 11 runs to play with in the final over.

The former Knights seamer, enjoying his first season with the Titans, was brilliant, going full and straight and hitting the blockhole as he conceded just four singles and a wide.

“I dropped the wrong guy and in my mind I knew I should have taken that catch. So I told myself that when I bowl again I must make up for it … and I guess I did,” Siboto said afterwards.

“I was overwhelmed and just froze when I bowled the wide, but I knew I just had to try and make things right. Afterwards I ran off the field to my gran, who was watching me play cricket for the first time,” Siboto added.

For Titans coach Mark Boucher, the win, for his debut trophy in his first season in charge, was made even more special because the Warriors had been in a commanding position.

“It had been a bit frustrating because we put ourselves under pressure, but it became a tight match anyway and we held our nerve. It wasn’t the perfect game from us, we didn’t score enough runs, but we played pressure cricket and finals are often about who holds their bottle longest.

“I’m very proud of the guys because it was a dogfight, it wasn’t pretty. The Warriors had picked up momentum, but Junior Dala (4-0-25-0) hit his straps really well and pulled that momentum back, showing good pace and aggression. He handled the pressure very well – he even said to me that he doesn’t feel pressure! – and then Malusi, geez, he came good!

“He hadn’t had a great night, his first over went for 10 and then he dropped that catch, and other players might have gone into their shell and faded away, but he took the bull by the horns and got the ball in the right areas.

“You can’t train that sort of thing, you can practise skills and talk about tactics all day long, but the player has got to want those tough moments. The whole team really wanted that trophy, so they dealt with the pressure really well,” Boucher said.

The Titans had been sent in to bat and battled to 155 for six in their 20 overs, Aiden Markram scoring 33 and Albie Morkel 21, but nobody was able to score at much more than a run-a-ball, Boucher saying their struggles being born out of misreading the pitch.

“We got the wicket wrong and went too hard, too early; 160 was about par but scoreboard pressure played its part in the Warriors’ chase. We picked up vital wickets early on to put them on the back foot and the bowlers bowled in good areas with the pitch being a bit slow and up-and-down. It was a fantastic final, sometimes the low-scoring games are the best,” Boucher said.

That the Titans made it to 155 was thanks to David Wiese, who struck 24 not out off 15 balls and took 19 off the last over bowled by Sisanda Magala.

Wiese’s all-round performance was heroic as he then had to take over the captaincy in the first over of the Warriors’ innings after Morkel left the field with a strained hamstring after just five deliveries, and the opening wicket of Clyde Fortuin for a two-ball duck as Markram (brilliant in the field) held on to a scorcher at backward point. And Wiese then bowled four overs for just 31 runs and claimed the key wicket of Jon-Jon Smuts, caught behind for 16.

Dala and Lungi Ngidi, whose two for 27 included the vital scalps of Colin Ingram, caught behind for 12, and Ackermann, were also outstanding with the ball for the Titans.

Morkel & Titans back in Benoni & in great form 0

Posted on November 18, 2016 by Ken

 

Willowmoore Park in Benoni will play host on Friday night to the top-of-the-log CSA T20 Challenge clash between the Titans and the Knights, with Titans captain Albie Morkel leading his high-flying team at the ground where it all started for him back in 1999, and currently enjoying great individual form.

The Titans have won both their opening games with Morkel playing pivotal roles: first with the ball against the Highveld Lions when he claimed three for 12 in four outstanding overs, and then on Wednesday night with the bat when he steered his team to victory over the Cape Cobras with 34 not out off 16 balls.

“Albie sometimes plays himself down, but he’s a very valuable cricketer and the head of the side. He wants those pressure situations and he showed that again against the Cobras, winning the game for us with the bat, having done it with the ball in the previous game,” Titans coach Mark Boucher told The Citizen on Thursday.

Heinrich Klaasen, who was pushed up the order to open against the Cobras with some success as he scored 46, is likely to be partnered by Grant Mokoena on Friday as Henry Davids has strained a hamstring.

“We’ve been under pressure in both games because we lost a couple of quick wickets up front, but we still managed to get the middle-order firing. So it will be very exciting if we can get a good start,” Boucher noted.

Willowmoore Park has thrown up more than her fair share of tricky pitches for batsmen – in last season’s game in Benoni against the Knights, the Titans could only manage 136 for nine and were beaten by a spectacular all-round performance by West Indian Andre Russell (4-11 & 66*).

Russell is no longer in the Knights team but they have star quality in returning captain Theunis de Bruyn, fast bowlers Marchant de Lange and Duanne Olivier, and middle-order batting star David Miller.

“I just want a good cricket wicket for us to hopefully take advantage of, we’ve got both pace and spin covered. This is one game I’m really looking forward to because the Knights beat us in the four-day competition and they look like a side that will challenge for top spot. So we will be tested and we need good intensity,” Boucher said.

Friday night’s other game is in the fairest Cape, although there will be no love lost between the Cobras and the Warriors as they clash at Newlands.

The embattled Cobras have lost both their T20 games thus far, heaping more pressure on themselves, and they will be desperate to get their first win of the season in any format.



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