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Ken Borland



Sharks Currie Cup coaches licking their lips 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken

 

“You must be licking your lips!” Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold told his assistant coaches, Sean Everitt and Ryan Strudwick, when he introduced the Currie Cup coaching team at a pre-tournament press conference in Durban on Wednesday.

Everitt, who has been part of the Sharks’ coaching structures for nearly a decade, will look after the backline and Gold said he was particularly excited by the quality players available in that department.

“We have such an exciting backline with Andre Esterhuizen who played so well, S’bura Sithole played very well, Odwa Ndungane I thought was very good; to name a few. We have a really good balance this year with a little bit of experience but a lot of youth. We also have the SA U20 players coming back in. It’s exciting times at the moment, Michael Claassens has been very impressive, likewise Joe Pietersen,” Gold said.

Mobility is what stood out for Gold in terms of the forward pack.

“If you take just one position, Etienne Oosthuizen will go to second row and he’s played back row in Super Rugby. You have those kinds of mobile players in the second row which can only stand you in good stead. Then there’s Philip van der Walt, Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez, Khaya Majola, Jean Deysel to pick from in the back row, we have quite a mobile team. I think it can lead to some exciting rugby.

“I’m very excited about the team, about the balance between the young players who are so enthusiastic and a couple of older guys we have, like Deysel and Marco Wentzel. Philip van der Walt has joined us now and he’s looked particularly impressive too,” Gold said.

Gold also expounded the merits of his assistant coaches.

“It made perfect sense for Ryan Strudwick to step up. His experience speaks volumes, not only did we work together in the UK at London Irish, he was our captain and we won trophies together, but he’s also been an outstanding coach in KZN for a number of years, recently winning the Varsity Shield. For me it’s a very exciting prospect to take Durban boys and be able to bring them through.

“Sean Everitt’s experience is fantastic, he was a rock in the Super Rugby competition, he’s coached at club level and been successful there, and he’s done very well with the juniors. It’s great continuity to be able to bring these guys through and I’m very excited for this Currie Cup campaign,” Gold said.

Ludeke has big fat grin, with good reason 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke sat with a big fat grin in the post-match press conference and with good reason as his team had produced one of their best performances this season in beating the Sharks 17-10 in a hard-fought local derby at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday.

The Bulls have struggled to win away from home in recent years, with the win over the Cheetahs in the first week of March their first victory on the road in two seasons, so the triumph over the Sharks could be a watershed.

“It’s a great feeling, we haven’t had a lot of wins here over the last few years and it’s always a tough assignment. You have to be at your best, and we played well and we played for the full 80 minutes, closing the game well by squeezing penalties,” Ludeke said.

The Bulls certainly did play well, enjoying the bulk of possession and territory, as their big ball-carriers dominated the attacking rucks and their pack, as a unit, exerted huge pressure at the defensive breakdown.

“We had all the possession and field position, especially in the first half, because we worked hard. We knew they would be competitive at the breakdown, so we put in an extra effort there in terms of ball-security, which all starts with the ball-carrier,” the coach said.

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold said his team were in the contest throughout and said there was a very narrow line between winning and losing.

“There was no lack of effort, in fact it was a massive effort against such a big, physical team and we were in the game for a large part of it. But if you don’t take literally two or three opportunities and they do, then you’re going to lose,” Gold said.

The defeat has seriously trimmed the Sharks’ chances of winning the South African Conference as they are now seven points behind the Bulls, who have a game in hand, but Gold said their hopes have not been killed yet.

“There is still hope, even though there is unbelievable disappointment and it’s a very sombre dressing room.”

 

Excuses flowing fast for frustrated Heyneke 0

Posted on July 27, 2015 by Ken

 

You know a coach is feeling the pressure when he makes 25 excuses in a dozen minutes at his post-match press conference, but you can forgive Heyneke Meyer for being frustrated as his Springbok team have faltered at the final hurdle in successive Tests against Australia and New Zealand.

The Springboks are injury-hit and they are not getting the crucial 50/50 decisions at the moment, but the bottom line is that they have shown a disappointing lack of composure when matches reach the critical final quarter.

They are an inconsistent side and perhaps the abiding feature of the Heyneke Meyer era has been the infuriating ability of his team to play both sublime and mediocre rugby in the same match.

There are, however, enough encouraging signs for Meyer to stop playing the victim and actually start spreading some positive vibes ahead of the World Cup.

There are players of top-class quality spread throughout the team – a seasoned front row and lock Lood de Jager have been outstanding against serious opposition in the last two weeks; there is a multitude of talent at loose forward; Handre Pollard is a gifted flyhalf; a thrilling midfield pairing has come to light; and Willie le Roux and Bryan Habana are a handful for any defence.

A team has seldom dominated the All Blacks in almost every facet of play as much as the Springboks did at Ellis Park last weekend and but for a lack of finishing, they would surely have claimed a second-successive win against the world champions.

That the Springboks are a serious contender for the World Cup is a certainty. With a few experienced players coming back to bolster the team, a semi-final against New Zealand is a mouth-watering prospect (although a final would obviously be better).

A one-off encounter against the All Blacks could certainly go either way judging by their last two meetings with the Springboks.

“South Africa were pretty good today and the game could’ve gone either way. They’ve developed a style of play that is difficult to counter, they have a lot of pace in an exciting backline and brutal forwards. They may be number two in the world, but there’s nothing between number one and number two, as we saw today,” New Zealand coach Steve Hansen said after the game at Ellis Park.

But for the Springboks to have a genuine shot at winning the World Cup, they have to be able to produce their best play for 80+ minutes. They also have to be clinical in taking points from whatever opportunities are presented to them.

Going the distance is the challenge for this Springbok team and perhaps the return of experienced campaigners like Willem Alberts, Duane Vermeulen and Jean de Villiers will add the extra few percentage points they need to get over the line.

“I really thought the plan worked against the All Blacks, we were brilliant at the breakdown and we wanted to play positive rugby.

“I thought we scrummed really well, we have experienced players there, and Francois Louw was superb at the breakdown, the two opensides played really well. But when Flo went off we lost a lot of experience and they started to get quick ball.

“The difference between winning and losing in the last two weeks has been a few millimetres, so we are very close. We’ve played some great rugby and scored some great tries. There are a lot of guys coming back and we need to work really hard and I think we’ll be ready for the World Cup. This team is on the go,” Meyer said.

To prove that, I am really hoping the Springboks can produce the same level of play for 80 minutes and blow Argentina away on August 8 and 15, rather than being dragged down to their level and struggling to beat them.

I really hope we will be seeing the same intent on playing a high-tempo game and putting width on the ball, because the Pumas put enormous pressure on the breakdown, slowing down play and spoiling possession.

By using offloads and putting pace on the ball, the Springboks can avoid the ruck-bottlenecks, stretch the Argentineans and hopefully register emphatic victories, like New Zealand and Australia have done against the Rugby Championship new boys.

 



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