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Ken Borland

Bulls don’t have to worry about permutations against Griquas 0

Posted on November 11, 2014 by Ken

The Vodacom Blue Bulls go into the final round-robin match of the Absa Currie Cup Premier Division, against the GWK Griquas at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, without having to worry about all the permutations that so often confuse the issue at this stage of the season.

Thanks to collecting nine points in the last two weeks, against their main rivals for fourth place on the log – the Free State Cheetahs and the Pumas, the Bulls now just need to beat Griquas to assure themselves of a place in the semi-finals.

The clarity of the situation has also allowed coach Frans Ludeke to make six changes to the team, most of them rotational as they eye out the semi-finals.

Handre Pollard, the newest Springbok flyhalf sensation, will start off the bench on Saturday, a wise move giving the youngster the chance to catch his breath after a dizzying last week and reintegrate himself with the Bulls ahead of the knockout games. Ludeke said there is still a 5% chance that a niggling ankle problem will keep Pollard out, in which case Tian Schoeman will be the reserve flyhalf.

The scrum is one area where the Bulls have really shone in the latter stages of the Currie Cup, but Ludeke will nevertheless field an entirely new front row, with Springbok Marcel van der Merwe starting at tighthead, Bongi Mbonambi at hooker and Morne Mellet in the number one jersey. Callie Visagie and Springbok Werner Kruger will be on the bench.

The rotation continues at scrumhalf with Piet van Zyl starting ahead of Rudy Paige, but as the Bulls surely transit towards the semi-finals, there is one backline position where Ludeke is perhaps still unsure of who the first-choice should be.

Springbok Bjorn Basson starts on the left wing on Saturday in what will probably be his last chance to supplant Sampie Mastriet, who has made great strides in his game this season.

William Small-Smith will return in the number 13 jersey instead of JJ Engelbrecht, who has been stood down as a contracted Springbok – a ridiculous decision by SA Rugby that will not benefit anyone.

Engelbrecht has missed large swathes of the season due to injury and desperately needs to string some games together to rediscover his old form. Instead, he will be forced to sit on the sidelines until next year and will not be able to push for a place on the end-of-year tour.

“The presence of Marcel and Handre will give the team a big boost, they are quality players who produced a high standard in the Rugby Championship. The players working for each other will make us a dangerous team and you can see the team-work, the players complementing each other, and we’re getting momentum, playing off the front foot and scoring tries. But that will only happen if there’s work off the ball,” Ludeke said at Loftus Versfeld yesterday.

The coach will be hoping for a repeat of the display against the Pumas last weekend in Nelspruit, when the Bulls romped to a 37-6 victory.

“Last week against the Pumas was our most clinical performance and I feel like we will be peaking at the right time, which is vital. We need to be quick to spot the big moments because they swing momentum your way,” Ludeke said.

Bulls team – 15-Ulrich Beyers, 14-Akona Ndungane, 13-William Small-Smith, 12-Burger Odendaal, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Jono Ross, 7-Jacques du Plessis, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Grant Hattingh, 4-Paul Willemse, 3-Marcel van der Merwe, 2-Bongi Mbonambi, 1-Morne Mellet. Reserves: 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Werner Kruger, 18-Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 19-Wiaan Liebenberg, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Handre Pollard, 22-Jesse Kriel.


Ackermann loads bench with forwards as onslaught from Bulls pack expected 0

Posted on September 10, 2014 by Ken

Xerox Golden Lions coach Johan Ackermann said on Thursday that his team are likely to face a tremendous onslaught from the Vodacom Blue Bulls pack in their Absa Currie Cup Premier Division match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday which is why he has chosen a five-two split between forwards and backs on the bench.

Springbok Sevens cap and former Natal Sharks wing Mark Richards could make his Lions debut off the bench, while centre Howard Mnisi, a recent signing from Griquas, is the only other back on the replacements bench.

Ackermann on Thursday named hooker Armand van der Merwe, prop Jacques van Rooyen, lock Martin Muller, utility forward Willie Britz and loose forward Kwagga Smith as the other five substitutes for Saturday’s local derby.

“The Bulls will obviously bring a big onslaught up front and being able to bring on fresh legs will be in our favour. We’ve got a lot of versatile players in the backs – Andries Coetzee can play scrumhalf and between Mark Richards and Kwagga Smith, because of their time as Sevens Springboks, they can cover from scrumhalf to wing.

“So we’ve been able to choose a specialist lock and Willie Britz covers both lock and flank, so it’s a really good mix. It’s going to be very hard at forward, so we’ve gone with five forwards on the bench to bring fresh legs on. We expect a big physical onslaught, we’re ready for it and if the game becomes loose then Willie can do some damage, he’s shown how he can turn games in the second half,” Ackermann said on Thursday.

The Lions coach said he had also decided to hand the captaincy of the team to Derick Minnie, who returns to the starting line-up at eighthman, because last week’s skipper in the victory over the EP Kings, Lionel Mapoe, is too removed from the action on the wing.

“We saw last week Lionel gets caught out wide and can’t get messages to the referee in time, I explained it to him that he’s too far from the action. That’s why so many captains are up front.

“I rely a lot on the captain to set the tone and Derick has done that before. The one with the armband speaks to the referee and to us [the coaching staff], but I want leadership from the players in general, which is why we have unit leaders for the scrums, lineouts and backs,” Ackermann explained.

Minnie has replaced Britz at eighthman, while the other change sees experienced former Bulls hooker Willie Wepener come into the front row in place of Van der Merwe.

Ackermann said he was pleased to welcome Jaco van der Walt back into the flyhalf position.

“I’m pleased to have Jaco back, we saw a lot of potential in him and it’s good to have him back so we can continue our development of him. He’s a specialist flyhalf so hopefully we’ll have more flow, and he’s kicked well in training.

“There are definitely areas and times when you need to relieve the pressure with a kick and Jaco has a long boot. That’s in our favour and will definitely be a factor if things are not going for us,” Ackermann said.

The other change to the Lions team sees Ruan Combrinck moving from fullback to replace Courtnall Skosan on the wing, with Coetzee moving from flyhalf to fullback.

Team: 15-Andries Coetzee, 14-Lionel Mapoe, 13-Stokkies Hanekom, 12-Alwyn Hollenbach, 11-Ruan Combrinck, 10-Jaco van der Walt, 9-Ross Cronje, 8-Derick Minnie, 7-Warwick Tecklenburg, 6-Jaco Kriel, 5-Franco Mostert, 4-MB Lusaseni, 3-Ruan Dreyer, 2-Willie Wepener, 1-Schalk van der Merwe. Bench – 16-Armand van der Merwe, 17-Jacques van Rooyen, 18-Martin Muller, 19-Willie Britz, 20-Kwagga Smith, 21-Mark Richards, 22-Howard Mnisi.

Stonehouse praises returning Pumas’ intensity 0

Posted on August 28, 2014 by Ken

Mpumalanga Pumas coach Jimmy Stonehouse has praised his team’s intensity in their surprise 28-21 victory over the Free State Cheetahs at the Mbombela Stadium after a long time out of the Currie Cup Premier Division.

The Pumas were playing their first game in the top flight since 2011, but they out-scored the Cheetahs by three tries to two and were worthy winners on the opening weekend of Currie Cup action.

“It was our first game up in the Premier Division and the players were obviously a bit tense, but the intensity was brilliant and the guys refused to lay down,” Stonehouse said.

“We were under pressure in the first 10 minutes and it was great to come back the way that we did.”

The Pumas coach is undaunted by the scale of the task ahead of them in the Premier Division and said he expects his team to win at home.

“Playing at home is a great advantage for us, but if we want to make the semi-finals then winning at home is a must, we have to win away from home too. It’s obviously good to start with a win like that at home, but at least getting bonus points away from home is what we’re aiming for,” Stonehouse said.

There has been an outpouring of angst in the Free State recently after the Cheetahs’ dismal SuperRugby performance and new coach Rory Duncan was fielding a largely new-look side in Nelspruit.

“The majority of the side only came together two or three weeks ago, so mistakes were understandable. But we made too many simple mistakes, knocking-on four or five times in the Pumas’ 22. It’s early season though, there’s obviously still a lot of work to do and I wasn’t too disappointed by the effort,” Duncan said.

The Free State coach was heartened by his team’s ability to hang on to possession for long periods, but admitted his side had been dominated by the Pumas in the scrums.

“We battled in the scrums, but we still managed to hang on to possession through numerous phases, a few times we took the ball from our own 10m line to their 22. We had opportunities to win, but mistakes cost us.

“But you have to give credit as well to the Pumas and Jimmy for the way the guys came out, they were fired up. They’re a good side and if you don’t bring your A-game to Nelspruit, you will get caught out,” Duncan said.

“Our scrums obviously went well and we also set up our mauls brilliantly, but we made life difficult for ourselves by losing a couple of lineouts. We also need to play into space a bit more,” Stonehouse said.

Pumas make triumphant return to top-class rugby 0

Posted on August 27, 2014 by Ken

The Mpumalanga Pumas made a triumphant return to top-class domestic rugby with a determined 28-21 (half-time 15-16) victory over the Free State Cheetahs in their Currie Cup Premier Division match at the Mbombela Stadium on Saturday.

Even though Bothma, who was a rampaging ball-carrier throughout, was clearly in touch, the laws state that “a player in touch may kick or knock the ball, but not hold it, provided the ball has not crossed the plane of the touchline”.

The Cheetahs had only themselves to blame for their loss, however, as they failed to gain a platform up front and made a host of unforced errors.

The Pumas kept sustained pressure on the visitors through an excellent scrum and their abrasive defence.

The Free Staters opened the scoring in the fifth minute through a sustained attack started and ended by wing Rayno Benjamin, but the Pumas’ forwards quickly began to make their presence felt, dominating the scrums and harrying the Cheetahs at the breakdown.

Their first try came in the 20th minute as fullback JW Bell tapped a ruck penalty and darted through a gap left by lock Francois Uys, who was busy scuffling with another player.

Flyhalf Justin van Staden added the conversion to his earlier penalty and the Pumas were 10-7 up.

The Pumas scored their second try in the 32nd minute as flank Corne Steenkamp, the captain celebrating his 150th game, went over from a maul, but Free State flyhalf Willie du Plessis ensured the visitors were 16-15 up at the break with three penalties.

It could have been an even greater lead, were it not for the Pumas laying their bodies on the line in defence in the closing minutes of the first half.

The frustrated Cheetahs began to lose their discipline in the second half, with Van Staden punishing them for being offsides with a penalty and scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius joining the Pumas flyhalf, in the first half, in being yellow-carded for kicking the ball away after the whistle had blown.

A high tackle by lock Carl Wegner allowed Van Staden to kick another penalty and stretch the Pumas’ lead to 21-16 in the 62nd minute and the hard-working home side were then rewarded for their 100% effort with a third try four minutes later.

Jonker’s try was awarded with the confirmation of the TMO and the vagaries of the law were then further exposed shortly afterwards when Cheetahs wing Raymond Rhule had a try disallowed for his foot landing on the touchline while he was carrying the ball.

The Free Staters were awarded a scrum under the poles instead, from which Benjamin scored his second try, but the steeliness of the Pumas won out in the end as they ended the match by holding on to the ball for 15 phases.

The team promoted from the First Division were obviously worthy winners.


Mpumalanga Pumas – Tries: JW Bell, Corne Steenkamp, JW Jonker. Conversions: Justin van Staden (2). Penalties: Van Staden (3).

Free State Cheetahs – Tries: Rayno Benjamin (2). Conversion: Willie du Plessis. Penalties: Du Plessis (3).

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