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Ken Borland

New scrum laws will boost Argentina’s bajada 0

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Ken


Argentina is a rising power in world rugby and they are set to be boosted even further by the new scrummaging laws, which are tailor-made for their famous bajada scrum technique.

 The Springboks will be the first to tackle the Pumas since the introduction of the “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement when they meet at the FNB Stadium on Saturday and they could be in for a shock.

Argentina was introduced into the Rugby Championship last year and made an impressive entry into the big league, proving plucky opponents as they even managed a draw against the Springboks in Mendoza.

After a largely disappointing third-place finish in last year’s competition, the Springboks will want to get into their stride far quicker this season, but the Pumas’ strength is in the pack and the new scrum laws will only magnify that.

The emphasis at scrum-time will now change from being on the “hit” to technique, something the Argentineans have been famous for and many rugby fans in the South American country are looking forward to the return of the bajada as the potent weapon it used to be.

The bajada is all about the entire pack working as a unit and channelling their power through the hooker, with the speed with which a front row can get the “hit” no longer a factor because they have to pre-bind before the engagement.

The co-ordinated, cohesive nature of the bajada scrum is exactly what the new scrum laws will favour, judging by what Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a learning process for players worldwide who have practised their trade over the last 10 years with the ‘hit’ scrum and it’s a big change. Speed won’t be as important and the frustration over grey areas in decisions, especially when binds slip, often because of tricks of the trade, has been dealt with.

“It’s now very important for the scrum to stand together and have endurance and it’s become a much tougher battle. It’s more about sound technique and endurance now and it’s more important for your whole pack to work together. The pack operating as a unit is vital,” De Villiers said.

The Springbok scrum has not always lived up to its reputation in recent years and those dastardly Australians who seem to spend their life trying to avoid proper scrums have even taken a couple of pot shots at the South Africans, saying the new laws will expose them more than anyone else.

The new engagement places a higher premium on scrummaging technique rather than skill in winning the “hit” and it is the Springboks’ lack of depth at tighthead prop, the most technical position in the pack, that suggests Saturday night could be a tough time for them.

De Villiers, having played 69 times for France, is well aware that the Pumas are masters of the dark arts of scrummaging.

“Their passion for scrummaging will always be there. They’re short, stocky guys and difficult to move and we expect them to have a strong, stable base at scrum time,” De Villiers said.

Jannie du Plessis is right up there with the best tightheads in world rugby but he has played so much over the last two years that a serious injury seems almost inevitable and there are no other specialist number threes in the Springbok squad. Coach Heyneke Meyer believes the sky is the limit for young Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead he is converting into a tighthead.

De Villiers expressed confidence in Oosthuizen’s ability to make the change, if not with the same enthusiasm as Meyer has done.

“Coenie is progressing very well. You must remember everyone is starting with a clean slate now because of the new laws and it’s important to see how Coenie adapts. But even the top tightheads in world rugby have to start afresh,” De Villiers said.

Meanwhile, Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher stressed that despite all the attention focused on the scrums, the Argentines’ backline strengths are not being ignored.

“Most of their backs play in Europe and they are world-class. Given the opportunity, they can finish, their outside backs are quick and have had plenty of exposure to sevens rugby. So we need to prepare well against them too,” Loubscher warned.

Another area where South African has not looked too clever in terms of depth has been scrumhalf and the new lenient approach to choosing overseas-based players made it inevitable that Meyer would call on Fourie du Preez, one of the players he built the champion Bulls team around.

The Springbok coach has made it clear he is relying on Du Preez’s experience and game management abilities to lift their performance and Loubscher said those strengths were already evident on the training field.

“He’s a world-class player, there’s no need to elaborate on his credentials. He just slotted right back in, I was impressed, I thought he did really well in training. He brings great experience to the team, you can see the way he talks with players like JJ Engelbrecht and Willie le Roux, who haven’t played in the Rugby Championship before, and he makes it much easier for me as the backline coach,” Loubscher said.

Sharks come badly undone against superb Lions 0

Posted on July 02, 2016 by Ken


The Lions played with superb fluency and confidence, pace and power, to ensure the Sharks would come badly undone on their visit to Johannesburg, the hosts winning their SuperRugby match 37-10 at Ellis Park on Saturday.

After weathering an impressive first five minutes from the Sharks, the Lions were quick to communicate their intention to pick up where they left off before the June international break, their previous result being a similarly superb 56-20 demolition of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

The Sharks’ bright start withered in the face of some ferocious defending from the Lions and they simply pushed the visitors ever further from the advantage line, bossing the collisions and producing the quick ball that they flourished on, displaying wonderful skills and intensity in the process.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies put the first points on the board with a seventh-minute penalty and the woes began for the Sharks as Paul Jordaan limped off with a knee injury. They had already been forced to make a midfield change when Andre Esterhuizen failed to recover in time from the hamstring strain he picked up during the week, which meant Jordaan was playing inside centre and JP Pietersen shifted to number 13 and S’bura Sithole came on to the wing.

Heimar Williams then came on to replace Jordaan and, with Garth April appearing flustered at flyhalf, the Sharks had a severely disrupted backline, the Esterhuizen/Jordaan combination being one of their strong points this season.

But what was unforgivable was the number of basic mistakes the Sharks made in the first half, starting with scrumhalf Michael Claassens basically bailing out of taking an up-and-under, giving the Lions prime attacking position. Lionel Mapoe produced an incisive run, Jaco Kriel, as ever, was up in support and made the final pass for wing Ruan Combrinck to score the opening try in the 15th minute.

The Sharks were also poor at relieving pressure in their own territory, allowing the Lions to mount relentless attacks because their kicks were often up-and-unders instead of touchfinders, and too often they did not find touch or grass.

The second try came after an up-and-under from the base rather than a lengthy kick to clear the lines, followed by Odwa Ndungane dithering and not claiming a mark that could also have relieved the pressure. Instead the Lions piled on to attack, lock Franco Mostert powered through close to the line and eventually centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg grabbed the ball out of a maul and swiveled over the line.

On the half-hour, the jittery April kicked straight to fullback Andries Coetzee, who launched the attack and Combrinck’s little chip behind the defensive line bounced wickedly for Lwazi Mvovo, again in the north-east corner of Ellis Park, with eighthman Ruan Ackermann gathering and passing to hooker Malcolm Marx to storm over for the third try.

The Sharks were 20-0 down and then butchered the best chance they had to get on the scoreboard when Mvovo’s pace took him clear, but his pass inside to Ndungane was a bit behind the fullback and the veteran dropped the ball with the line clear ahead of him.

While the dazzling attacking play of the Lions backline gets most of the plaudits, their pack is also brilliant and they deserve the credit for the fourth try, scored on the stroke of halftime, as the forwards went on the charge, battering through the advantage line until Ackermann, one of the stars of the show as he stood in for the injured Warren Whiteley, powered over the line with two of his colleagues behind him.

Jantjies’ conversion meant the Lions would go into the break with a commanding 27-0 lead and the problems that bedevilled the Sharks did not go away in the third quarter either.

April produced an awful kick from his own 22 that did not go anywhere but straight up, leading to a penalty slotted by Jantjies, and the ball-hungry Kriel then crashed over the line in a move that again highlighted the pace and power of the Lions forwards.

At 37-0 down with 22 minutes to play, the Sharks were really just chasing pride and their replacements, especially lock Ruan Botha, added some much-needed energy.

The visitors were finally on the board in the 63rd minute, Sithole cutting through the Lions defences and some clean hands by April and replacement fullback Rhyno Smith delivered the ball to Mvovo, who stepped inside and dotted down.

Six minutes later, Botha, who announced his return from long-term injury with a compelling performance in the Ellis Park fortress, soared high to take a lineout and set up the rolling maul, from which another Sharks import, replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, scored.

That made it five tries to two and, if the Sharks had managed to score once more in the last 11 minutes it would have robbed the Lions of a well-deserved bonus point, but Johannesburg’s pride held out to ensure they will top their conference and host the city’s first SuperRugby knockout game since 2001.

Bulls display precision & power to beat Cheetahs 0

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Ken


The Bulls produced a display of precision and power to beat the Cheetahs 30-25 in Bloemfontein and put themselves on the brink of claiming the Vodacom SuperRugby South African Conference title and a home playoff match.

The Bulls, thanks to their combative forwards, who dominated the gain line and the lineouts, were in control for most of the crunch encounter and led 30-13 going into the last 10 minutes.

Tries by flyhalf Riaan Smit, after magical hands by inside centre Robert Ebersohn, and prop Trevor Nyakane then claimed a bonus point for the Cheetahs and kept them above the Crusaders in fifth place on the overall standings.

But for the other 70 minutes, they seldom threatened the Bulls line. The Cheetahs seemed to be drowning in a sea of blue defenders, every collision seemingly another metre gained by the Bulls, and the Thick Blue Line was no laughing matter for an increasingly desperate home side.

The one area where the Cheetahs did dominate, however, was in the scrums and Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Lourens Adriaanse and Trevor Nyakane were all rewarded with Springbok call-ups shortly after the game.

It’s clearly an area of concern for the Bulls as it will allow whoever they face in the playoffs to target a specific area of weakness, and coach Frans Ludeke hauled loosehead prop Dean Greyling off the field as early as the 44th minute.

But while Greyling and Werner Kruger are struggling in the scrums, it doesn’t seem to be costing the Bulls games … yet. And besides, Greyling and Kruger are at the forefront of the massive hits the Bulls tight forwards put in on the gain line and one can understand Ludeke’s reluctance to jettison them completely.

Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is also not renowned for his scrummaging, but his open play is outstanding and it was his charge through the defence that allowed the Bulls to make the breakthrough in the eighth minute, as Kruger barged over the tryline.

The only time the Bulls defence looked as if it might be breached was when the Cheetahs’ roaming wing Willie le Roux had the ball in hand. He scored from a typical piece of individual brilliance in the 13th minute when, with nothing much on, he chipped over the defence and gathered to score under the poles.

But the next five minutes were dominated by the Bulls’ direct runners, so strong with ball in hand (lock Flip van der Merwe in particular), and the inevitable ruck penalty saw Morné Steyn kick for the corner, the rolling maul put in place and flank Deon Stegmann scoring.

The Cheetahs were still in touch at 10-17 down at half-time, but with the hugely talented Jan Serfontein in white-hot form at inside centre, the shell-shocked home side soon found themselves 30-13 down after two penalties by Steyn and a try by Jano Vermaak that had its roots in the 20-year-old crashing through the home line. There was also great interplay between replacement forwards Grant Hattingh and Dewald Potgieter, who were both able to come on and make a major impact, with the latter throwing a precision pass for the scrumhalf to complete the try.

The Stormers emerged victorious (19-11) from their arm-wrestle with the Southern Kings at a sodden Newlands, fullback Joe Pietersen kicking 14 points in blustery conditions and ensuring the visitors were kept in their own half for much of the game.

Flank Deon Fourie also scored a try, but the Stormers were victorious because they won the kicking battle, their set-pieces were better and they shaded the collisions.

The Kings were determined and skilful, and can point to two gross misfortunes having a material impact on the outcome.

Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, part of the Springbok training camp and very close to selection for the final squad according to Heyneke Meyer, had a recurrence of his calf injury and pulled out just before the game and left the Kings without a major weapon for the kicking and territorial battle.

And Fourie’s try came from a rolling maul after the Stormers had been given a lineout throw five metres from the line when replacement scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage’s chip deflected off a Kings defender and rolled into the corner.

The Kings had the Stormers under pressure in the closing minutes, scoring through flank Wimpie van der Walt after a lineout drive, but flyhalf George Whitehead missed the crucial conversion and the visitors had the chance to kick a penalty for the losing bonus point but went for the try instead and lost the ball.

Jean de Villiers had another inspirational game for the Stormers at outside centre, although clearly no one had much fun in the awful conditions.

The Kings can now concentrate all their resources on the almost-inevitable promotion/relegation matches they will have to play against the Lions at the end of July.

And it looks like they will need them after the Lions demolished Samoa 74-14 at Ellis Park.

While one can never read too much into such a one-sided game, the fact that the Samoans were all at sea in the set-pieces and defending out wide suggests the Lions have weapons that can really hurt the Kings.

Super Rugby Logs – after Round 16:

Combined Log

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Chiefs (NZ) 13 10 0 3 383 283 100 40 29 2 8 56
2 Bulls (SA) 13 10 0 3 367 263 104 32 27 2 6 54
3 Brumbies (AUS) 14 9 2 3 376 257 119 35 26 2 6 54
4 Reds (Q) 15 9 2 4 307 284 23 30 21 1 6 50
5 Cheetahs (Q) 14 9 0 5 345 317 28 35 28 1 6 46
6 Crusaders (Q) 13 8 0 5 338 263 75 32 24 2 6 46
7 Blues 13 6 0 7 298 282 16 35 26 2 11 43
8 Waratahs 14 7 0 7 371 344 27 40 31 2 4 40
9 Hurricanes 13 6 0 7 303 349 -46 30 36 2 7 39
10 Sharks 13 6 0 7 285 252 33 25 24 2 6 38
11 Stormers 13 6 0 7 264 264 0 22 17 2 6 38
12 Rebels 14 4 0 10 327 439 -112 36 55 2 8 32
13 Force 14 3 1 10 233 323 -90 21 29 2 5 27
14 Southern Kings 13 3 1 9 255 434 -179 23 51 2 2 24
15 Highlanders 13 2 0 11 276 374 -98 28 40 2 6 22

South African Conference

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Bulls 13 10 0 3 367 263 104 32 27 2 6 54
2 Cheetahs 14 9 0 5 345 317 28 35 28 1 6 46
3 Sharks 13 6 0 7 285 252 33 25 24 2 6 38
4 Stormers 13 6 0 7 264 264 0 22 17 2 6 38
5 Southern Kings 13 3 1 9 255 434 -179 23 51 2 2 24

Grace surges to victory with addictive blend of power & precision 0

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Ken

Branden Grace produced an addictive blend of power off the tee and precise, risk-free golf as he surged to a seven-stroke victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek in Malelane on Sunday.

Grace has now led a European Tour event going into the final round on five occasions and has won every time; whatever it is that courses through his veins in those pressure situations, the sports medicine industry would no doubt love to turn it into a drug.

Without detracting from the quality of golf he produced on Sunday in shooting a four-under-par 68, Grace’s task was made easier by his nearest challengers, Lucas Bjerregaard and Danny Willett, both playing the back nine as if they were in a stupor, plummeting down the leaderboard.

Grace dared to take driver off the tee on a course that has plenty of punishing bush to catch the offline shot.

“I was great off the tee, on a course where you really need to be. I felt so comfortable with my driver and the par-fives were the big turnaround today, I played them in one-over yesterday [Saturday], but today I was four-under,” Grace said.

The 26-year-old started well with birdies at the second and fourth holes and even though he bogeyed the par-three seventh after finding the matted grass left of the green, he was out in 34 and was two ahead of Willett.

Bjerregaard had been knocked to the canvas by a triple-bogey six at the seventh. His tee shot was even further left than Grace’s, in thicker grass, but his chip looked like a good one. Unfortunately for the Dane, it just kept rolling on the hard and fast green, past the hole and into the water.

He was probably still upset about his bad luck when he bogeyed the eighth, but then everything fell apart on the back nine as Bjerregaard came home in an astonishing 50 comprising five bogeys, two double-bogeys and a quadruple-bogey on the par-four 11th. His final round of 89 is surely the worst by a player in the leading group on the last day of a tournament.

Willett was two-under for his round through 15 holes, but his cheeky smile turned into a scowl on 16 when his tee-shot was short of the green and in the water on the par-three. He then bogeyed 17 and was thoroughly disheartened by the time he carded an eight on the 18th to finish in a tie for fourth on 10-under after a 76.

Their ham-fisted efforts at catching him brought some sympathy from Grace.

“This course does that to you, as soon as you start to push it bites you. Lucas was a bit unlucky on the seventh and after that nothing went his way. But to win so convincingly is nice, it’s a great start to the new season after a hard year,” Grace said.

Just to add to the local flavour of celebration, Louis Oosthuizen shot a fine three-under-par 69 and climbed into second place on 13-under and was waiting to spray his good friend Grace with champagne on the 18th green.

It was a win to savour for Grace, beating a quality field and returning to the European Tour’s winners’ circle after two years.

“It’s something special being the first player to win wire-to-wire here because this is one of the tournaments every South African golfer wants to win, especially because of what Mr and Mrs Rupert do for golf. My game was spot-on today, there weren’t a lot of misses, maybe two bad shots all day,” Grace said.

Englishman Andrew Johnston, who finished on top of the Challenge Tour rankings, shot a one-over-par 73 on Sunday, but it was enough for him to jump up to third, while South African Trevor Fisher Jnr was on fire on the back nine, carding five birdies to finish with a 69 and tied with Willett in fourth place.

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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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