for quality writing

Ken Borland



Snyman & Bulls eager to avoid repeat of last year 0

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Listening to Western Province coach John Dobson talking about the Blue Bulls having all the pressure as favourites in this weekend’s Currie Cup semi-final, it reminds one of the same stage of the competition last year when the Capetonians came to Pretoria and upset the home side.

Bulls lock RG Snyman is well aware of the history and is eager to avoid the same painful result this time around.

“We were in the same situation last year playing against Western Province at Loftus Versfeld and we’d like to change what happened in that game. The way we do that is by not changing what we’ve been doing this season, we have to stick to what we’ve been doing. But the good thing is that this semi-final feels like nothing new, it’s quite a difference playing it now when we’ve all been through another whole Currie Cup season and a season of Super Rugby,” Snyman told The Citizen on Tuesday.

The Bulls have focused on an exciting brand of rugby, but they went down 23-18 to Western Province in last year’s semi-final thanks to the visitors not allowing them any platform or space to play the type of rugby they wanted to produce.

This year they come to Pretoria with a much-less hardened pack and the Bulls youngsters are all a year older and coming into their prime, most notably Snyman, who turned 21 only this year.

“Western Province have a good pack and it will definitely be a physical battle, especially in the set-pieces. But if we can dominate at forward then we should do really well. With the break we’ve had a bit more time to prepare and the team has clicked a bit better through the competition. Hopefully we’ll see that greater experience and better cohesion come through now at the end of the tournament,” Snyman said.

Springbok reserve hooker Bongi Mbonambi will be coming to Loftus, as should prop Oli Kebble and lock JD Schickerling, and the Bulls are going to have to show some real grunt up front to ensure they make the final.

Bulls move into top two by hammering Griquas 0

Posted on September 20, 2016 by Ken

The Vodacom Blue Bulls moved into the top two of the Currie Cup on Friday night, playing some terrific rugby in a 57-20 win over Griquas at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Friday night.

With the Free State Cheetahs already four points clear with a game in hand, and the Sharks eyeing a bonus point win over the Eastern Province Kings on Saturday to join the Bulls on 25 points, the race for the second home semi-final now seems to be a two-horse race between the teams from Pretoria and Durban.

The Bulls were actually 10-0 down inside the first 10 minutes as they twice lost the ball inside the Griquas 22, allowing the visitors to counter-attack to good effect.

In the sixth minute, a strong run by centre Dries Swanepoel had put the Bulls on attack, but lock RG Snyman’s pass to scrumhalf Piet van Zyl then went astray and outside centre Jonathan Francke pounced, bursting clear before passing to flyhalf Elgar Watts, who kicked long for wing Alshaun Bock to show his considerable pace and chase down the ball for the opening try.

Inside centre Clinton Swart converted and then kicked a penalty from the halfway line after the Bulls had won a box-kick but been counter-rucked off the ball on the Griquas’ 22. The visitors were awarded a penalty and from the lineout they set up, the Bulls backline strayed offsides.

The Bulls stuck to their plan of mauls and box-kicks in setting up their first try, flank Nic de Jager bustling over in the 16th minute, flyhalf Tian Schoeman converting to cut the gap to 7-10.

But the Bulls then showed in the third quarter that they can playing different types of rugby to tremendous effect.

Their second try was a classic training ground move as hooker Jaco Visagie wrapped around at the lineout to get the ball from lock Marvin Orie, showing good pace as he then passed to Schoeman, whose inside ball went to wing Jamba Ulengo, screaming through for a dazzling try under the poles, the flyhalf’s conversion putting the Bulls four points ahead.

The lineout was a tremendous attacking base for the Bulls and, in the 25th minute, they stole a Griquas throw, Van Zyl running from his own 22 to the opposition 22, before Schoeman quickly passed the ball wide, De Jager getting over the advantage line and Snyman then bulldozing his way over for the try.

The boots of Swart and Schoeman then added penalties with the Bulls going into halftime with a 24-13 lead and obviously in the ascendancy.

The breakdown work of the Bulls was also excellent and the combined efforts of Roelof Smit and De Jager fighting for the ball won a turnover inside the first minute of the second half, Swanepoel having a dart and then providing a lovely offload for Van Zyl to race clear and score from 40 metres out.

Lock Snyman is undoubtedly one of the brightest talents in the country, but the over-exuberance of the giant 21-year-old was then shown as he made a dangerous cleanout, with a forearm to the face of Francke, which led to fullback Ulrich Beyers’ try being disallowed and a yellow card being given for his troubles.

But the Bulls scrum was ultra-efficient on the night, consistently dominating Griquas, and they won a free kick eight minutes later, allowing Beyers to make up for his earlier vile misfortune as he waltzed through a  huge gap in midfield to claim his first try since his return to Pretoria.

Five minutes later, Orie gobbled up a turnover to put the Bulls on attack and, from a penalty, Van Zyl took a quick tap and beat several defenders as he jinked his way over the tryline, Schoeman’s conversion opening a yawning 43-13 gap on Griquas.

A try to replacement lock Wandile Putuma, set free by substitute scrumhalf Renier Botha’s quick tap-and-go, was a rare ray of light for Griquas, but the Bulls were focused on more tries and they dotted down two more times before the end of the game.

Snyman cut through the defences like a death-ray on a brilliant 70-metre run, setting up a five-metre scrum for the Bulls. Another massive shove by the Bulls pack led referee Quinton Immelman, who had a good game himself, to award a penalty try. Schoeman converted and the Bulls had brought up a half-century.

Replacement fullback Bjorn Basson then scored a fine try on the final hooter, after the Bulls forwards had won a turnover, the Springbok brushing aside a couple of defenders in a strong finish. Schoeman, a composed director of affairs for the Bulls, added the conversion to finish with a record of eight from 10 kicks at goal and seal a top-class win for the home side.

Scorers

Vodacom Blue BullsTries: Nic de Jager, Jamba Ulengo, RG Snyman, Piet van Zyl (2), Ulrich Beyers, Penalty try, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (7). Penalty: Schoeman.

GriquasTries: Alshaun Bock, Wandile Putuma. Conversions: Clinton Swart (2). Penalties: Swart (2).

http://citizen.co.za/1288455/bulls-move-into-top-two-by-hammering-griquas/

Brumbies stick to game plan to snatch victory over Bulls 0

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Ken

 

It was all about sticking to game plans as the Brumbies upset the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, snatching a 26-23 victory at the death in their Vodacom SuperRugby semi-final in Pretoria.

With just a minute remaining, the Bulls looked about to win despite turning down three shots at goal in the preceding minutes as they led 23-19, but the Brumbies then scored a dramatic try as Bulls wing Bjorn Basson rushed up far too early on defence, leaving a yawning gap for flyhalf Matt Toomua to slide through and then pass inside for centre Tevita Kuridrani to break the home side’s hearts.

Much more fuss has been made over Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter’s decision to turn down shots at goal for three kickable penalties in the 67th, 69th and 72ndminutes than over Basson’s awful defensive lapse, but the loose forward fronted up for his options after the game.

Potgieter did eventually tell Morne Steyn to aim for goal after a massive scrum by the Bulls had earned them another penalty in the 76th minute, the flyhalf increasing their lead to 23-19, but the Bulls failed to successfully exit their own territory from the kick-off, allowing the Brumbies to attack within their 22.

“My feeling was that we hadn’t exited well the whole evening, we struggled to get out of our own half, so I wanted to keep the Brumbies down there. We did that for 10 minutes and my only regret is that I went for poles in the last five minutes. I should have backed my earlier decisions and kept them down there.

“I chatted to Morne Steyn every time we got a penalty and he had the same mindset as me, to keep them down there. The Brumbies aren’t the sort of team you expect to score from their own territory and even if there was a turnover, we were confident of keeping them there. I also felt that we were getting the upper hand through our forwards and that altitude was also playing a role,” Potgieter said.

There’s nothing wrong with the thinking behind Potgieter’s decisions, except that it meant a departure from the Bulls’ game plan all season. They have readily admitted that their strategy is to play for penalties and they have the most accurate goal-kicker of the competition in Steyn. Coach Frans Ludeke confirmed that building a bigger lead on the scoreboard had been the tactic he would have preferred.

“I spoke to Dewald afterwards about what happened and he had a totally different view to me. He felt like they should keep the Brumbies in their own territory, because he wanted to keep the pressure on them. To my mind, we should have been building a cushion on the scoreboard, but that’s rugby and I back him still as a brilliant leader,” Ludeke said.

The leadership skills of Potgieter are not in doubt – he led by example in a flat first half for the Bulls as well – and the courage and transparency he showed in being willing to discuss his decisions was in stark contrast to many other captains and teams. The Sharks left Loftus Versfeld a couple of weeks ago without even attending the press conference after suffering a one-point defeat.

Apart from deviating from the trusted game plan, the only other real criticism one can make of Potgieter’s strategy was that he may have been guilty of looking too far ahead, and even backwards to previous games, and not just focusing on winning the semi-final.

“I would back the same call again. When we lost against the Chiefs we were maybe too conservative. It was not just about closing out this game, but also how we wanted to walk into the next game. You need a total game to go all the way, the right attacking mindset brings reward,” Potgieter said in further revealing his thinking.

The Brumbies, in contrast, stuck to their game plan and executed with precision. From the opening kick-off to Akona Ndungane, which was chased hard and forced the wing into touch, giving the visitors a lineout from which they attacked through several phases and then won a penalty, it was clear they were playing to a plan and the plan was followed right until the 80th minute.

The shrewd hand of coach Jake White was very apparent as the Brumbies qualified for their first SuperRugby final since 2004.

“That opening was part of a specific plan and that was the way we wanted to start. We knew how nervous we were playing in front of our home crowd last week, plus the Bulls didn’t play last week, so we wanted a good start.

“It’s one of the greatest Brumbies win ever, we were down and out after 75 minutes but became the first team to win at Loftus this season. It’s a massive achievement,” White said.

The former Springbok coach, who never enjoyed the best of relationships with the Loftus Versfeld hierarchy, was also critical of Potgieter’s decision to spurn shots at goal in the last 10 minutes.

“We grew a leg when they didn’t go for poles, it helped us because it left the door open. If I had a new hooker on the field and the best goal-kicker in the competition, I’d be telling Stephen Larkham [Brumbies assistant coach] to get the kicking tee on as quickly as possible!”

While the last 10 minutes will remain fresh in most people’s memories, the truth is that the Bulls also didn’t show nearly enough intensity in the first half to stamp their dominance and make use of home-ground advantage.

“We had a very complacent first 15/20 minutes,” Potgieter admitted.

The dominance of the Brumbies in the scrums and at the breakdowns, thanks mainly to the brilliance of George Smith and the occasional leniency of referee Craig Joubert, was also obvious and the set-piece woes of the Bulls are something that must focus the minds of the management as they review the campaign.

“The Brumbies applied pressure through the set-piece and put points on the board through that. We need a solid set-piece, but it was under pressure,” Ludeke admitted.

The character of the Bulls was shown, however, by the way they fought back in the second half, gaining more parity in the scrums, pressurising the lineout and forcing penalties.

Unfortunately, those infringements by the Brumbies were neither punished nor taken advantage of.

The Brumbies will now travel to Hamilton to take on the defending champion Chiefs, who established themselves as the pre-eminent force in New Zealand rugby by beating the Crusaders 20-19 in their epic semi-final.

The Chiefs were under the cosh, the Crusaders controlling the set-pieces and the pace of the game, until the 53rdminute when the Waikato team were inspired by wing Lelia Masaga.

The Chiefs, having absorbed tremendous pressure from the Crusaders in the opening minutes of the second half, were hard on attack and Masaga received a long pass by scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow. By running straight back in the direction of the pass, Masaga surprised the Crusaders defence and, once he had built up some momentum, the 26-year-old had the pace and power to plough through the heavy traffic, going through four tackles to score.

The Chiefs had the lead for the first time (13-9) and the Crusaders were then shut out by some brilliant defence. Crotty was denied a try by a last-ditch Aaron Cruden tackle and, playing behind the advantage line thanks to crunching hits by the likes of Ben Afeaki and Tanerau Latimer, the Crusaders then conceded an intercept try. Crotty’s long pass, with his back to the Chiefs, was claimed by Cruden, who sprinted clear for the try and a 20-9 lead.

The Crusaders struck back with a brilliant individual try by Israel Dagg and a conversion and penalty by Dan Carter, but the Chiefs hung in for a brilliant victory against a team that was meant to be peaking at the right time.

Having enjoyed a lot of attacking ball in the first half, but wasting it through turnovers and set-piece failures, the Chiefs resorted to the safety of a simpler, more direct approach in the second half. The Crusaders, meanwhile, were forced to go wide too early by the aggressive defence and Carter trying an unlikely drop goal while he was on the run in the final minute epitomised how they had been shaken off their game.

“I just anticipated it and luckily he threw it for me,” Cruden said of his intercept try with some understatement. For connoisseurs of the game, watching Cruden and Carter display their magic was an absolute treat and it seems fair to say the All Blacks boast the two best flyhalves in world rugby.

While those two produced their best under pressure, there was arguably a match with even higher stakes played in Port Elizabeth, where the Southern Kings hosted the Lions in the first leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The Lions called on all their composure and an impressive display by their young flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, to beat the Kings 26-19.

Playing on their home ground, the Kings perhaps felt the weight of desperate expectation on their shoulders as their passionate home crowd willed them on to victory and a better chance of survival in SuperRugby.

Sadly, the Kings did not show as much composure under pressure as the Lions and four moments of ill-discipline in the first half allowed the on-target Jantjies to give the visitors a 12-6 lead by the half-hour.

Demetri Catrakilis then landed a cross-kick on the proverbial ticky for wing Marcello Sampson to dot down the Kings’ first try, but he made two important mistakes before half-time and then went off injured before the hour mark in a major blow for the Eastern Cape team, both in terms of the match and their prospects of overturning the deficit next weekend.

He firstly struck the post with a 37th-minute penalty after the Lions players had been in front of a chip by replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje, and then Catrakilis threw the pass that was intercepted by impressive outside centre Stokkies Hanekom for a 39th-minute try that must have felt like a real kick in the shins for the Kings as it gave the visitors a five-point lead at the break.

Hanekom – remember his name, people! – also scored the Lions’ second try after bursting through the line on the angle. The pass from Jantjies looked slightly forward and has drawn the ire of Kings supporters, but judging on the decisions made previously in SuperRugby this year, the TMO may well have ruled it was flat anyway.

The Kings were the victims, however, of losing out on many 50/50 decisions by referee Jaco Peyper, the Lions attacking the breakdowns with particular vigour, with Derick Minnie a hugely disruptive presence.

The Lions were good value for their win, however.

The pace and intensity of SuperRugby was made clear to them from the opening seconds when tighthead prop Kevin Buys, responsible for several big hits against his former team, crashed into Minnie, knocking the ball loose and leading to the first points of the match via a Catrakilis penalty. But the Lions adapted immediately and much credit must go to the new coach, Johan Ackermann, and his assistants for ensuring the Lions were ready for the battle without the same level of competition as the Kings have enjoyed.

The Kings did at least claim the bonus point for losing by seven, but the Lions are certainly the favourites for the decider next weekend at Ellis Park.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-29-superrugby-semi-finals-sometimes-off-the-game-plan-but-always-on-the-game/#.V5X7pPl97IU

Fans licking their lips for top-class running rugby, but game-management the focus 0

Posted on May 26, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions have produced some top-class running rugby this year and it is a style of play the Bulls are striving to replicate, which should have rugby fans licking their lips ahead of the big Gauteng SuperRugby derby at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

But Bulls coach Nollis Marais believes his team need to focus more on their game-management skills than on trying to match the Lions at their own game and run them off their feet.

“Sometimes we’ve been playing too much rugby in our own 22, it’s attractive to run the ball, but you can’t do it from everywhere. If you make a mistake there in your own 22, you will be penalised. Playing in the wrong areas leads to putting yourselves under pressure,” Marais said.

“We’re still having the odd soft moments, but it’s much better than before. On Saturday against the Stormers there wasn’t a big dip in our performance. It’s all about game-management and the more experienced the players become, the better they will be at that. We learnt, although it wasn’t a nice experience, on tour against the Brumbies and Waratahs. We’ve battled with decision-making and game-management in the last few minutes of matches, but we did very well with that against the Stormers,” he added.

The Bulls know that, instead of trying too hard to play a free-flowing style of rugby, if they can dry up the Lions’ front-foot ball, as they did so effectively against the Stormers, then the South African pacesetters could find themselves struggling as they did against the Hurricanes four weeks ago.

But the Lions are a couple of years ahead of the Bulls when it comes to the sort of ball-in-hand, up-tempo play that is bringing renewal to South African rugby, so if they allow the visitors momentum on Saturday, it could lead to a major setback to their playoff hopes.

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    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



↑ Top