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Ken Borland

Faf says the ball-tampering saga showed the unity in the Proteas squad 0

Posted on December 04, 2016 by Ken


Triumphant Proteas captain Faf du Plessis returned to Johannesburg on Tuesday and described the whole ball-tampering saga as a ploy by the Australian media to disrupt the South African team, but said the farce had served as a powerful indicator of the unity within the squad.

A video of Du Plessis doing two entirely legal things at once – sucking a mint and using his saliva to shine the ball – went viral in Australia between the second and third Tests, leading to the International Cricket Council charging the captain with ball-tampering and later finding him guilty and fining him his entire match fee from the Hobart game, during which South Africa won the series.

“The Australian media used it as a ploy to derail us, they speak of themselves as the Australian team’s 12th man. The challenge was to fight back and it was remarkable the way the team fought the battle so firmly for me, it shows where we are as a team in terms of our strong culture.

“At first we didn’t think it was anything really serious, but the media made it a big issue until nobody could control it. It was very disappointing the way it turned out, but my character was tested and against all odds I was able to make a play, it showed I can withstand those tests,” Du Plessis, who made a century in the third Test, said.

Team manager Mohammed Moosajee said they will be arranging a date for the appeal hearing, at which Du Plessis will have his own legal representation from South Africa, with the ICC and it should be set by the end of this week.

Moosajee also revealed that Cricket South Africa had laid an official complaint with their Australian counterparts and broadcasters Channel 9 had apologised for the behaviour of their aggressive reporter who sparked a scuffle at Adelaide Airport.

While admitting that captaincy brought out the best in him, Du Plessis reiterated that he sees himself as the stand-in skipper for AB de Villiers, who is set to return for the Sri Lanka series next month.

“I’ve always enjoyed it, I feel it does bring out the best in me, but AB knows that I am 100% behind him. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a leader and the great thing is that the team has three guys – myself, Hashim Amla and AB – who have been captains and we are all very similar in the way we want the culture of the team to move forward,” Du Plessis said.

South Africa are still only fifth in the Test rankings, however, with Australia third.

“Going up the rankings is a goal of ours but it won’t just happen, we need to take really small steps to get back to number one. But all the signs are there that we can get back there; Sri Lanka are a good team, they’re playing well, but if we beat them then I reckon we’ll be close to number two,” Du Plessis said.

‘How Bulls pack react to pressure is crucial’ – Maku 0

Posted on October 16, 2015 by Ken


Blue Bulls hooker Bandise Maku knows that how the pack responds to the pressure the powerful Western Province forwards will put them under will go a long way to deciding who wins their Currie Cup semi-final at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Western Province will come to Pretoria with a SuperRugby-strength team featuring a powerful front row of Steven Kitshoff, Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw, and two of the best young locks in the country in Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn, while the combative Nizaam Carr, the intimidating Rynhardt Elstadt and the pacy Sikhumbuzo Notshe form a superbly well-balanced loose trio.

“As a pack, we’ve gone quite well and guys like Pierre Schoeman, Marvin Orie and RG Snyman have come through well. But Western Province have a very good set-piece and are strong on the drive as well, so we’re expecting a big clash up front. Myself, Deon Stegmann, Lappies Labuschagne and Arno Botha have the experience, we need to stay level-headed because there’s always going to be pressure in a semi-final. It’s how you react to it that’s crucial and the set-piece battle is going to be very important, lineouts and defending the drive as well,” Maku told The Citizen on Tuesday.

Western Province, with Kitshoff at the forefront, will no doubt see the Blue Bulls scrum as a potential area of weakness, but Maku said they have improved since being worked over in Cape Town a month ago when the Blue Bulls were beaten 29-14.

“It’s important to get the combinations right up front and we’ve been doing quite well in the scrums lately. It’s still a work in progress, it’s long-term, but we have improved. There’s been a change in personnel and now we want to scrum, plus we have Werner Kruger coming off the bench to add his experience,” Maku said.

The 29-year-old Springbok is one of the most experienced players in the Blue Bulls team with 74 Currie Cup and 53 SuperRugby caps, and he sees taking whatever points are on offer as being the key factor in whether they reach their first final since 2010.

“It’s all about taking your chances. If you have a lineout five metres out, then you have to make it count. You need to take your points so you create scoreboard pressure, so you also have to kick very well, kick when you have to and keep the pressure on them with the boot. We’ll also need to play with more discipline because that will put pressure on them as well,” Maku said.


Bulls out-muscle Stormers to stay in contention 0

Posted on May 11, 2014 by Ken

Flyhalf Handre Pollard kicked 20 of the Bulls' points in an accomplished display

The Bulls used their powerful, cohesive pack of forwards to out-muscle the Stormers and beat them 28-12 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, to maintain their interest in finishing in the top six and making the playoffs.

The Bulls had to fight their way back from a 12-0 deficit inside the first quarter, the Stormers using clinical counter-attacking play to punish the home side’s sloppy work at the breakdown, but were in firm control once they eliminated the mistakes from their game.

A dominant scrum allowed a tremendous platform for the Bulls to set up their favourite driving plays, and the lineout was as solid as ever, and the Stormers were left to live on scraps of quality possession, while also generally trying to play from their own territory thanks to the excellence of the Bulls’ kicking game.

To put it frankly, the Stormers had their backsides handed to them and, no matter how positive the attacking intent, you can’t do much with crap ball.

The demolition job was made even more dramatic by the spectacular change in fortunes after the first quarter. The Bulls were scrappy in the first 10 minutes and the Stormers looked in control.

Schalk Burger rolled back the years to play a typically destructive role in the first quarter, but he also showed his skill and nous in setting up the opening try. Fellow flank Nizaam Carr had just made his second breakdown steal in the first 10 minutes, the Stormers quickly shipping the ball wide, and Burger cut inside before offloading beautifully to Cheslin Kolbe on the left wing. That injected the pace required and Kolbe then found centre Juan de Jongh, who sent flyhalf Kurt Coleman racing clear for a thrilling opening try.

The second try was also a direct result of the Bulls not protecting possession well enough in the ruck, with hooker Scarra Ntubeni pouncing on an unattended ball. Carr was once again involved before the ball was sent wide and De Jongh provided a strong finish to put the Stormers 12-0 ahead in the 19th minute.

But fortunately for the Bulls, these breakdown errors were not ongoing. They tidied up their act at that crucial phase and the steady stream of possession was used to batter the abrasive Stormers defence into submission. Eighthman Grant Hattingh, flank Jacques du Plessis, lock Paul Willemse and even Jono Ross carried the ball strongly and centres Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht were also willing battering rams.

While the Stormers had produced some inspired counter-attacking play off turnovers for their points, the Bulls were clinical in their own methodical way – most times they were in the opposition 22, they came away with points.

The Bulls opened their scorecard in the 23rd minute, the incisive running of Serfontein and Engelbrecht causing the Stormers to stray offsides and flyhalf Handre Pollard, who certainly had his eye in when it came to shooting at goal, slotting the first of his five penalties.

The Bulls were back in Stormers’ territory three minutes later and Pollard, who has donned the number 10 jersey with aplomb since being elevated to the starting line-up, slotted a slickly-taken drop goal.

The home side secured front-foot ball from the scrum with ease and, in the 29th minute, they really shoved the Stormers backwards to earn a penalty, Pollard converting well from the centre-spot.

The Bulls were carrying the ball with more and more confidence by this stage and, after the flood of turnovers in the opening exchanges, the momentum had definitely shifted at the breakdown (consistently getting over the gain-line will do that) and a frustrated Burger was in referee Craig Joubert’s ear more and more.

“In the first 20 minutes, we were able to carry the ball and be influential on attack, but the tide turned and then it became difficult for us. I got a bit worked up and had a few words with Craig, but I tried to calm down and I apologised to him as we went off at half-time,” Burger admitted after the game.

It was a ruck penalty against eighthman Duane Vermeulen for not supporting his own body weight that allowed Pollard to level the scores at 12-12 on the stroke of halftime and the Bulls, having shown great character in clawing their way back to level terms, will remember the second half with much fondness as they clinically shut the Stormers out of the game.

The Stormers, jailed in their own half by the pinpoint kicking of Pollard, scrumhalf Francois Hougaard and fullback Jurgen Visser, were brave and positive, but the generally poor quality of their possession and the physicality of the Bulls meant they were up against a brick wall.

The Bulls made the ideal start to the second half when Serfontein’s lovely dart from the kick-off forced the Stormers to come in from the side of the ruck, and Pollard kicked the penalty to give the home side the lead for the first time, in the 42nd minute.

Pollard stretched the lead to 18-12 in the 55th minute when Vermeulen and Ruan Botha combined to stop a rampaging Dean Greyling, celebrating his 50th SuperRugby game, but the young lock then did not roll away after the tackle.

The Stormers enjoyed a better period of possession thereafter and spent time in the Bulls half. But, in the 66th minute, substitute flank Siya Kolisi, on for Burger, tried to burst on to a flat pass but knocked on.  The ball bounced into the hands of another replacement loose forward, Jacques Engelbrecht, and he quickly fed the ball to the backline.

The resulting try not only clinched the victory but came straight from the Stormers’ own play-book.

Hougaard read the situation brilliantly, putting the grubber through behind the Stormers defence for wing Akona Ndungane to chase. The veteran wing showed great pace as he got there first, hacking the ball further forward and then winning the race to the dot-down as it crossed the try-line.

With Pollard’s conversion, the Bulls’ lead was 25-12 and the win was secure, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee saying afterwards that it was the pivotal moment in the game.

Replacement flyhalf Jacques-Louis Potgieter added a 71st-minute penalty from the halfway line as the Stormers were sentenced to their eighth defeat in 11 matches – Burger summing up their showing when he said: “We brought quite a young and inexperienced team here and we really put the Bulls under pressure at the start. It was a big effort, but the accuracy wasn’t that good.”

Coach Coetzee is right to point out the huge injury problems that the Stormers have, and bringing two very inexperienced locks – 22-year-old Ruan Botha and 20-year-old debutant Jean Kleyn – to Loftus Versfeld meant their engine room was always going to be under pressure. To make matters worse for the visitors, experienced loosehead prop Brok Harris had to be replaced for much of the match and Springbok tourist Ntubeni went off after 55 minutes. Their replacements were rookies Alistair Vermaak, on debut, and Stephan Coetzee.

The Bulls have now climbed to eighth on the log, just two points from the playoff positions, and captain Victor Matfield warned that the same confidence that saw them win the South African Conference last year with nine successive wins is returning.

“The belief is starting to grow and I’m very happy with tonight’s performance, it felt like the Bulls of old. We just squeezed them, gave them nothing and our scrum killed them.

“We kicked long and then got our line up, we were able to get the ball in the right areas and then fight for inches. It was a great effort to come from behind and then we just built our lead. I’m very confident of the future when I look at our young players,” Matfield said.



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