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Ken Borland



Inconsistency of the batting the story of the Lions’ T20 campaign – Toyana 0

Posted on December 15, 2016 by Ken

 

The inconsistency of the Highveld Lions batting was once again to the fore as they bowed out of the CSA T20 Challenge in the playoff against the Warriors, and was the story of their campaign according to coach Geoff Toyana.

The Lions could only muster 136 for seven in their 20 overs against the Eastern Cape side, everyone in the top six reaching double figures but nobody scoring more than Reeza Hendricks’ run-a-ball 32, as the trio of Warriors spinners dominated the middle overs.

“It was disappointing and not good batting, we didn’t push through. The whole season we’ve been falling apart in the middle overs and losing wickets. The absence of Alviro Petersen’s experience was a big loss,” Toyana told The Citizen on Wednesday.

Opener Rassie van der Dussen was the only consistent Lions batsman through the tournament, scoring 345 runs, including three half-centuries – exactly half of the total amount scored by the team.

While the bowling of Bjorn Fortuin, Hardus Viljoen, Aaron Phangiso and Eddie Leie was excellent throughout, Viljoen lacked the support of another reliable pace bowler, with Dwaine Pretorius unable to match his form for the Proteas in the six games he played.

But Toyana pointed to the character showed by a young side and the occasional performances of inexperienced players like Fortuin (more often than not), Hendricks, Nicky van den Bergh and Wiaan Mulder as indications of a bright future.

“There have been lessons learnt and I’m quite happy with the whole competition, for a young side to come through to the playoffs. The bowlers were the highlight, they were superb, with the spinners choking the batsmen in the middle overs.

“It’s been good to give youngsters that opportunity and they will play better for it in the future. To lose the first two games with bonus points and then win three on the bounce to give ourselves a chance again showed their character, especially beating a quality Cobras side in Paarl. We fell short in the end, but I’m happy with the team,” Toyana said.

 

Gold not hiding his disappointment even after Sharks win 0

Posted on July 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Despite the Sharks keeping their SuperRugby playoff hopes alive with their 26-10 win over the Cheetahs in Durban, coach Gary Gold did not try to hide his disappointment with the quality of their performance, with many feeling it was a fortuitous escape for the home side.

“I was disappointed in the performance, especially in two areas – the number of errors and our discipline. We kept the Cheetahs in the game by doing things like dropping the kick-off or kicking straight into touch, and we also wasted a couple of try-scoring opportunities.

“We didn’t get our territory game going, our set-piece struggled, our maul was penalised and our kicking game wasn’t good enough. We also conceded quite a soft try from our perspective. We said before the match that we didn’t want to get into a game of touch rugby with them, but that’s what happened,” Gold said after the win, which leaves the Sharks with a two-point lead over the Bulls as the hunt for the third South African qualifying place enters its final weekend.

Gold did, however, praise the character of his team, especially during the middle of the first half when captain Tendai Mtawarira was yellow-carded for slapping an opponent and they conceded three scrum penalties in a row on their own line.

“It was a test of character today and it was critically important the way we defended, especially during that period when we were already 7-3 down. If the Cheetahs had gone to 14, we would have had a real dog-fight on our hands. It’s not the glamorous part of rugby, but we had to really dig deep in the face of a potential penalty try. We defended really nicely then and I thought Andre Esterhuizen did particularly well. It would have been very difficult to have come back from conceding another try then,” Gold conceded.

While the Sharks, who play the lowly Sunwolves in Durban next weekend, are the favourites to claim the third SA qualifying berth, Gold said they really needed to up their game and produce a carbon-copy of the efficient performances they produced in New Zealand.

“We’ve been stuttering since the break and we need a properly good performance just to get our confidence going. To just win against the Sunwolves won’t be good enough, we need a clinical performance, like we had in New Zealand, and to really put them to the sword.”

Gold said the team was disregarding what the Bulls did and were focusing on their own game.

“We thought the Bulls would win, but we were focusing on this game because it was a potential banana skin. If we’d lost, everything we’d done in the last 13 weeks would have been in tatters. The fan would have been really dirty … ”

Crusaders are inspired but no miracle comeback for Cheetahs 0

Posted on June 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Riaan Smit almost nailed a touchline conversion to complete a miraculous Cheetahs comeback against the Brumbies, but that Vodacom SuperRugby qualifying playoff was dwarfed in quality and importance by the inspired performance dished up by the Crusaders in hammering the Reds.

The only team probably celebrating the Cheetahs’ loss in Canberra more than the Brumbies will be the Bulls, because it means they will now host the Australians this weekend in Pretoria, instead of facing the Crusaders, whose current form suggests it would take a miracle to beat them.

They dismantled the Reds, the 2011 champions, 38-9 in Christchurch, scoring four tries to none, with ace flyhalf Dan Carter contributing 20 points.

“We were just outclassed. The Crusaders were exceptional and I am sure they will be very hard to beat in the finals,” Reds scrumhalf Will Genia admitted.

Carter showed that he was back to his best ahead of the Rugby Championship, controlling the Crusaders game plan superbly and constantly probing the Reds defence as he took the ball to the line.

In contrast, much-hyped Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was anonymous. Although he was impaired by the back-foot ball his forwards gave him, the fancy tricks his fans are so fond of look great but unless they’re produced on the gain-line and actually put other players into space, they are irrelevant. His critics will be able to point to what influence he actually has on the game.

An impressive start to the match saw the Crusaders take the ball through 15 phases and win an early penalty, and the display of precision led to an understandable nervousness amongst the Reds. That led to an abundance of basic errors by the visitors and then to a definite sense of panic.

An amazing exhibition of running lines and support play by the Crusaders – both forwards and backs – then exploited the holes in a retreating, disorganised defence.

The Crusaders pack was like an armoured vehicle ploughing through the Reds, such was their cohesion and the sheer ferocity they brought to the collisions and breakdowns.

The Crusaders also had the security of knowing that the Reds were really struggling to make any inroads against a steely defence that conceded just four line-breaks, allowed just four offloads and had a 92% tackling success rate.

In contrast, the Crusaders enjoyed making 15 line-breaks and 22 offloads.

If the Crusaders were an armoured vehicle, then the Cheetahs and Brumbies looked like milk delivery vans instead.

The Brumbies eventually won a messy, scrappy encounter 15-13 but the game never rose to any great heights.

The Cheetahs, playing in their first SuperRugby knockout game, seemed to freeze in a chilly Canberra and a host of errors meant they did not obtain any attacking momentum until the final quarter, by when they had left it too late.

Dropping the kickoff and then seeing star eighthman Philip van der Walt go down with a knee injury (he stayed on but was clearly hampered by it) and conceding a penalty all in the first minute made for a nervous start for the Cheetahs.

The game was there for the seizing by the Brumbies, but they were also unimpressive, wasting the possession and territorial advantage they had and only managing to score two penalties in the first half, with Christian Lealiifano missing another two shots badly.

There was one bright moment for the Cheetahs, however, with outside centre Johann Sadie crossing for a try after wing Raymond Rhule had burst through in midfield. There had been a forward pass from Willie le Roux in the build-up, but it was still a try of vision and clinical finishing.

There was little else in terms of attacking spark though from the Cheetahs. Scrumhalf Piet van Zyl was having an off-day and flyhalf Riaan Smit was not able to stamp his presence on the game either.

But then the platform given to the half-backs was not great either. The scrum was not the area of dominance for the Cheetahs it was expected to be and the apparent lack of homework done on the Brumbies scrum was disappointing.

Loosehead prop Coenie Oosthuizen was a pale shadow of the man who has buckled tightheads, carried the ball strongly and put in crunching tackles this season and there was no one in the starting line-up able to ignite the Cheetahs on the biggest day of their history as a franchise.

Until Van Zyl, having had no impact for an hour, was eventually replaced by Sarel Pretorius and no sooner had the livewire substitute scrumhalf come on than the Cheetahs suddenly roared into life.

They finally backed themselves with ball in hand and scored their second try when the inspired Pretorius threw a great pass out wide to replacement wing Rayno Benjamin, who knifed over in the corner.

Smit’s conversion attempt from the touchline to send the game into extra time looked a beauty, but it kept swinging until it passed outside the left upright by no more than a foot.

It was an agonising ending to the game for the Cheetahs, but the result was no more than they deserved after producing one of their worst performances of an otherwise wonderful season.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-22-superrugby-what-the-heck-happened-to-the-cheetahs/#.V2fZhvl97IU

Tight players could make the difference for Cheetahs in playoff 0

Posted on June 08, 2016 by Ken

 

All eyes will be on the Cheetahs this Sunday in their Vodacom SuperRugby qualifying playoff against the Brumbies in Canberra. Poor weather notwithstanding, the Cheetahs may have to rely on other team members to win this game.

The likes of Willie le Roux and Piet van Zyl have stolen the limelight as far as the Cheetahs go this season. But front-rankers like Coenie Oosthuizen and Lourens Adriaanse and new Springbok Trevor Nyakane, and locks Lood de Jager and Ligtoring Landman could have more impact on their Vodacom SuperRugby qualifying playoff against the Brumbies.

Much has been made of the Cheetahs supposedly being the most flamboyant of sides and playing the most running rugby of the South African sides, but coach Naka Drotské has put their best season ever down to improved defence and greater experience.

Brumbies coach Jake White is not buying the popular view of the South African side either.

“There’s this perception, it is funny how it works, that certain teams score a lot of tries and they run from everywhere,” said White.

“It’s not the case at all. I think the Cheetahs are probably one of the most conservative teams in the competition. They kick a lot, they let you play in your own half, and if you make a mistake then they pounce.”

White’s strategy to nullify the Cheetahs will be simple: he will be searching for momentum and front-foot ball and will want to dominate the collisions. But for that to happen, the Brumbies will have to secure good ball from the set-pieces and this is where a window of opportunity presents itself for the Cheetahs.

Oosthuizen and Nyakane both played for the Springboks this year and Adriaanse was an unused squad member, so the Cheetahs scrum should provide a stern test for the Brumbies. They will rely heavily on the experience of their tighthead, Ben Alexander, and hooker Stephen Moore, who have played 51 and 79 times respectively for the Wallabies.

The lineouts also provide a key area for the teams to launch from and De Jager, one of the finds of the season, and Landman, the admirable journeyman, will back themselves against Scott Fardy and Sam Carter.

The Cheetahs hid away at Coogee Beach outside Sydney for the build-up to the game and the ice-cold weather in Canberra, with even the possibility of snow being mentioned in the Australian capital, would have been something of a shock for them.

But they are expecting a hot reception on Sunday morning and the violence of the collisions will not be for the faint-hearted.

Since the start of the season, their loose trio of Lappies Labuschagne, Philip van der Walt and Heinrich Brüssow have been outstanding and they will also be key figures in Sunday’s knockout match.

The Brumbies have not made the SuperRugby playoffs since winning the competition in 2004, but the presence of George Smith in their line-up provides a link to their glory days.

The fetcher flank has not always been a favourite of White, the coach who took the Springboks to World Cup glory in 2007, but the clash between Smith and Brüssow will be one of the features of the game.

The openside flanks do also, however, rely on their fellow forwards providing front-foot ball or stopping opponents on the gain-line, as do the backs.

The pace and power of the Brumbies back three of Henry Speight, Joe Tomane and Jesse Mogg will seriously test the Cheetahs defence if they are allowed the space to run free, while the centre pairing of Christian Lealiifano and Tevita Kuridrani is the perfect mix of guile and brute force.

But the Cheetahs also have the backline players to hurt the Brumbies … whether the SuperRugby surprise packets will get to enjoy a successful uprising in the Australian capital will all come back to their forwards though.

If the Cheetahs manage to upset the Brumbies, it will ensure that the Bulls will host the winner of the Crusaders/Reds playoff next weekend.

The Reds will be hoping that the return of Will Genia and James Horwill will lift them after their poor performance last weekend that saw them just scrape by the Waratahs 14-12 in a game that they really should have lost.

But the Reds have beaten all other New Zealand opposition this season and coach Ewen McKenzie, who has been appointed as the new Wallabies coach for mostly that reason, will want to ensure that he bags the biggest scalp of them all in Christchurch on Saturday.

The Crusaders, however, are probably the form team of the competition and the four-match winning streak they are on includes the phenomenal 43-15 dismantling of the defending champion Chiefs a fortnight ago.

The Reds will not only have to overcome the seven-time champions at their home fortress, but also see off the talents of Dan Carter and Richie McCaw.

The All Blacks flyhalf has, typically, peaked at the business end of the competition, while the New Zealand captain has been named on the bench.

The Reds have not been as dazzling this year as their reputation suggests – and the absence of star wings Rod Davies and Digby Ioane on Saturday will hurt them further in this regard.

The 2011 champions have scored just 31 tries, which puts them in the bottom four, while the Crusaders have scored 44 tries, which puts them in the top three.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-19-superrugby-chilly-weather-could-put-cheetahs-on-the-back-foot/#.V1lZwbt97IU



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