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Ken Borland



Whatever they say, Lions prove travel is hard & territory is vital 0

Posted on July 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Whatever anyone may say, there are still two inviolable truths that apply in rugby – travel is hard and territory is vital – as the Lions proved in their remarkable 44-29 win over the Hurricanes in their SuperRugby semifinal at Ellis Park on Saturday.

It was an incredible victory because the Lions were trailing 22-3 after half-an-hour. Whatever mistakes they made, under the immense pressure of a Hurricanes side that was in their faces, were punished by the visitors, whose every touch turned to gold.

But a try just before halftime, prop Jacques van Rooyen carrying a hapless defender with him as he barged powerfully over the line, gave the Lions hope and, more importantly, showed them how to play in the second half.

The try had come after a penalty was kicked to touch and a couple of lineout drives had the Hurricanes back-pedalling. It was noticeable that flyhalf Elton Jantjies was twice pushed back from over the line when he tried to go it alone, but give the ball to a big, strong forward to carry and it was a totally different story.

The Lions had tried to beat the Hurricanes at their own game in the first half, taking quick tap penalties and spreading the ball wide, and they were being destroyed.

But, to their immense credit, those plans changed in the second half.

There was a much greater emphasis on territory, with the big boots of wing Ruan Combrinck and fullback Andries Coetzee playing a key role, they drove from the lineout and used the set-pieces to get the Hurricanes on the back foot.

As the altitude and travel kicked in, the Hurricanes wilted and they barely fired a shot in the second half, all the momentum going the Lions’ way.

The Hurricanes are absolutely ruthless on turnover or openfield ball and, after Jantjies had kicked an early penalty set up by the forwards, the visitors quickly reminded the Lions of that fact.

A pass from Jantjies missed scrumhalf Ross Cronje on a wraparound move and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara twice kicked the ball through before winning the race for the touchdown.

But the Hurricanes are also extremely efficient at creating tries and a turnover from impressive eighthman Brad Shields enabled them to do just that in the 11th minute.

It was a disappointing defensive read from the Lions after the lineout, with too many defenders bunched in midfield, allowing flyhalf Beauden Barrett to come roaring through a big hole on the wraparound, and then freeing wing Wes Goosen on the outside for the try.

On the half-hour, there was a particularly poor moment of bad decision-making by the Lions as they were awarded a penalty inside their own half, but instead of kicking to the corner and squeezing the Hurricanes, they played into their hands by taking a quick tap and trying to run.

There was a hint of Cronje being played at the ruck as lock Sam Lousi knocked the ball out of his hands, but there was no doubt about flank Ardie Savea’s finishing ability as he pounced on the loose ball and roared away.

There was an early chance in the second half for the Lions to make amends, as they won a penalty. This time they set the lineout and then a midfield ruck, which created some space on the left. Cronje, who handled with aplomb the obvious pressure there was focused on him at the breakdowns, dived over from a ruck close to the tryline.

Jantjies, who put the disappointment of his poor goalkicking against the Sharks in last weekend’s quarterfinal behind him by nailing a solid six-from-eight against the Hurricanes, added the conversion and suddenly the Lions were just 17-22 behind and one could sense the momentum shift.

If there is one criticism of the Hurricanes side, it would be that they are not the most patient side and, with the Lions bossing territory through the boots of Combrinck and Coetzee, the frustrated visitors tried a dinky little chip kick from their own territory.

It was gathered by Combrinck, who burst into the Hurricanes’ 22 and forced a penalty for offsides. The Springboks are surely going to have to recall the powerful wing now that he is back to his best after injury.

The Lions once again set the lineout and hooker Malcolm Marx carried strongly to force his way over for the try, Jantjies’ conversion coming off the post to leave the scores level at 22-22.

But the kickoffs and exits are such vital parts of the game these days and, when the Lions dilly-dallied after receiving the kickoff, a well-timed counter-ruck by the Hurricanes turned over possession, which was then simply shipped down the backline until there were no more defenders left and outside centre Ngani Laumape was able to cross for the try.

Fullback Jordy Barrett converted, but they would be the last points the Hurricanes scored as the last 20 minutes were one big hiding for the defending champions.

Combrinck again broke clear but was tackled deep inside the Hurricanes’ 22, with flyhalf Beauden Barrett then playing the ball on the ground and being yellow-carded by referee Jaco Peyper. It was such a cynical foul in the red zone that there could be no buts about it, and Jantjies kicked the penalty to close the gap to 25-29.

The Lions then roared back on to attack; their efforts looked a little aimless at times, but at least they kept the ball alive and Cronje eventually found centre Harold Vorster coming through on a good line for the try that gave the Lions the lead for the first time since the fifth minute.

When flank Kwagga Smith misread a ruck for a collapsed maul and was penalised for hands-in, it meant Jordy Barrett would have his fifth and final shot at goal, but crucially he missed and the Lions’ momentum was not broken.

The Lions have one of the best scrums in the competition and they used it in the 73rd minute to destroy the Hurricanes set-piece and provide fantastic front-foot ball for the backs, which Jantjies used to go sniping over for another try, his conversion stretching the lead to 39-29.

It meant the Hurricanes would have to play from their own territory and a long pass from Perenara was duly intercepted by replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe, who was pleased to have Smith roaring up in support just as the attack seemed to be dying, the flank crossing for the final try.

This time there was no conversion from Jantjies, but there was no denying the Lions as they completed their remarkable triumph.

They showed once again that once the tide is with them, when they have the bit between their teeth, there is no stopping them.

Scorers

LionsTries – Jacques van Rooyen, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith. Conversions – Jantjies (4). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

HurricanesTries – TJ Perenara. Wes Goosen, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape. Conversions – Jordy Barrett (3). Penalty – Barrett.

Siboto holds his nerve for Titans to win low-scoring T20 final thriller 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Low-scoring games often make for the most exciting finals and so it proved again at Centurion on Friday night as Malusi Siboto held his nerve in the final over for the Titans against the Warriors and bowled them to the CSA T20 Challenge trophy for the second season in succession.

Siboto, who had earlier dropped a sitter of a catch in the field, was defending 12 runs in the final over and consistently went for the blockhole of batsmen Lesiba Ngoepe and Sisanda Magala, conceding just six runs for the Titans to win by six runs and become the first team to defend their T20 title.

The Warriors were chasing 156 for victory and looked on course for their second title as Colin Ackermann (34) and Christiaan Jonker (33) added 48 for the fourth wicket and then Qaasim Adams (17), playing for his loan team against his actual employers, took the visitors to 125 for four after 16 overs.

But Adams, trapped lbw trying to sweep wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, and Ackermann, caught on the boundary off Lungi Ngidi, fell in successive overs, and Ngoepe and Magala were unable to score the required 31 off 22 balls.

David Wiese, who took one for 31 and claimed the key wicket of Jon-Jon Smuts, caught behind for 16; Ngidi, who took two for 27 including the vital scalp of Colin Ingram caught behind for 12; and Junior Dala (4-0-25-0) were also outstanding with the ball for the Titans.

Albie Morkel bowled the first over, having Clyde Fortuin brilliantly caught at backward point by Aiden Markram, who was superb in the field, and then left the action, never to return, with a hamstring injury.

The home side had been sent in to bat by the Warriors and they struggled to 155 for six, having numerous difficulties on a pitch that made strokeplaying difficult.

Markram opened the batting and scored 33 off 25 balls, before the Warriors’ slow bowlers had their usual suffocating effect in the middle overs. Morkel made 21 off 20 balls, but nobody was able to score at much more than a run-a-ball, with the Warriors producing an excellent display in the field that included two run outs.

Kyle Abbott (4-0-27-1), Basheer Walters (3-0-15-1) and Colin Ingram (4-0-24-1) did a great job with the ball for the Warriors.

But Wiese provided a big finish with his 24 not out off 15 balls, taking 19 runs off the last over bowled by Magala.

The unfortunate 25-year-old will be having nightmares over his two final-over failures.

Yesterday was a great day for the Proteas, what about 2020? 2

Posted on November 07, 2016 by Ken

 

Friday was a great day for the Proteas in Australia, neatly silencing all the negativity that was flying about just a day earlier, but it proved yet again just how quickly fortunes can change in top-level cricket.

It was four years ago in Perth that South Africa clinched their most recent series win over Australia, in a match that started in similar fashion with the Proteas bowled out cheaply on the first day, but by the end of an astonishing second day, they led by 292 runs with eight second-innings wickets intact.

Hashim Amla (he was dismissed for just a single on Friday following a duck on the first day) scored a magnificent 196 in 2012/13 and AB de Villiers scored a great 169 as South Africa went on to win by 309 runs.

Our cricket was in good shape back then as we were ranked number one in the world, and we’re not looking bad now either, but it got me thinking about how South Africa’s Test team would look in another four years time, in November 2020 through to January 2021 when a four-Test series is scheduled in Australia.

The fifth round of the Sunfoil Series was also entering its second day on Friday and the four-day domestic competition is obviously where one looks for an idea of what our Test side could look like when we next play the premier form of the game in Australia.

The naysayers and prophets of doom, who are mostly just anti-transformation, will try and con you into thinking the well of talent is being siphoned off overseas, but the first half of the Sunfoil Series has been full of memorable individual performances that are very exciting for the future.

It’s always fun during sleepy moments in play to pick fantasy XIs and this week I chose my Proteas Test squad for that 2020/21 trip to Australia.

Aiden Markram has steadily progressed from playing for a smaller cricketing school (Cornwall Hill College) to Pretoria Boys’ High, SA U19 captain, Northerns and is now plundering runs for the Titans in the Sunfoil Series, and I expect his progression will continue through into the Proteas team.

Opening the batting with him will either be the senior pro Dean Elgar, who will be 33, or Reeza Hendricks, who has come from Kimberley through the Knights to the big city of Joburg and the Highveld Lions.

Theunis de Bruyn was a University of Pretoria team-mate of Markram’s but is now playing for the Knights and accumulating runs with the sort of unflustered calm that makes it look like he’s playing village cricket; I would bet on him being the Proteas number three by 2020.

Temba Bavuma has just added more lustre to his reputation with his dogged half-century on the first day in Perth and, by the next Test series Down Under, I expect him to have even more responsibility as South Africa’s number four and the fulcrum of their batting.

Quinton de Kock was similarly brilliant and whether he goes all the way up the order to open in Tests will depend on whether another wicketkeeper/batsman comes through (Heinrich Klaasen/Clyde Fortuin?), but I’m sure he’s going to be batting in the top six by 2020 and scoring mountains of runs.

It’s going to be interesting to see whether Rilee Rossouw builds on his start in international cricket and becomes a Test regular, while David Miller is potentially going to push him hard judging by his form in this season’s Sunfoil Series.

Jacques Kallis was a massive part of the Proteas being number one in the world with his all-round ability and a position that was a problem once he retired should be well-stocked by 2020.

Was there ever a better start to a first-class career by someone so young as Wiaan Mulder made for the Lions? At just 18 years old he has already scored a century and taken seven wickets in an innings in A Section cricket. Clive Rice was a great Transvaal and Nottinghamshire all-rounder but he had to wait six years for his maiden first-class century and seven before he first took seven in an innings.

Andile Phehlukwayo was a revelation in the ODI series against Australia and will surely be waving for attention as well; Jason Smith has caught the eye for the Cape Cobras as their season goes down the tubes, while the likes of Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius might not be ready to say goodbye to international cricket just yet either.

Kagiso Rabada will surely be the spearhead of the South African attack, while Keshav Maharaj fronted up well enough on Test debut to suggest he will certainly be in the picture in 2020, along with fellow spinners Tabraiz Shamsi, Dane Piedt and Eddie Leie.

Who of Marchant de Lange, Hardus Viljoen, Duanne Olivier or Wayne Parnell will share the new ball with Rabada, while Lungi Ngidi has impressed with his bounce and accuracy in his first campaign with the Titans.

 

Bulls prove their composure to pip WP 0

Posted on October 17, 2016 by Ken

 

Vodacom Blue Bulls coach Nollis Marais promised that his team were a different side from the one that lost at the same stage, against the same opponents, in last year’s Currie Cup, and they eventually proved that as they pipped DHL Western Province 36-30 in their thrilling semi-final at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The Bulls were probably worthy winners as they played most of the rugby, but whenever they looked like putting the squeeze on Western Province, they would make mistakes and the visitors were brilliant at scavenging opportunities and using them to the full.

It looked like the Bulls would falter at the same hurdle when Western Province went ahead 27-22 in the 58th minute and then again, 30-29, with just seven minutes remaining.

But the 2016 Blue Bulls showed their development in terms of composure and mental strength as they played pragmatic rugby in the closing stages to eventually edge home thanks to replacement scrumhalf Ivan van Zyl’s try with just 90 seconds remaining.

A try by wing Travis Ismaiel, after 10 minutes, with centre Burger Odendaal making a great run off the ball and then the final pass, made sure that the Bulls made a good start to settle the nerves.

But Western Province scored nine minutes later to make it 7-7 with a try that showed their pack was not about to be bossed around at Loftus Versfeld, the forwards marching a lineout drive for 20 metres and eighthman Nizaam Carr dotting down.

That seemed to fire up the Bulls though and they began to squeeze Western Province in the second quarter. Schoeman kicked another penalty (10-7) and then a huge scrum in front of their own bench that had their subs on their feet earned another penalty (13-7).

Western Province were clearly feeling the pressure as Juan de Jongh tried to carry the ball out of his 22 but was met by a firm head-on tackle by Schoeman and flank Roelof Smit, who enjoyed an outstanding first half, pounced on the turnover, winning another penalty as the Bulls stretched their lead to 16-7.

But the lapses that kept the visitors in the game, the little momentum-killers, then reared their ugly heads.

Smit fell foul of referee Marius van der Westhuizen at the first ruck from the kickoff, allowing Western Province flyhalf Robert du Preez to cut the deficit to 16-10 as the hooter went for the break.

The lead was then cut to just three points from the kickoff for the second half as flank Jannes Kirsten carried strongly as ever, but outside centre Dries Swanepoel went straight off his feet and sealed off the ball at the ruck, allowing Du Preez an easy kick to make 13-16.

The mercurial Schoeman pushed the lead back up to 19-13 after his lovely break had forced Western Province to go offsides to prevent a try, but the 25-year-old’s ability to deliver the sublime and the ridiculous within moments of each other was then shown as he provided the intercept that was snaffled up by lock Chris van Zyl, leading to wing Werner Kok roaring away for the try.

From that point onwards, control was slipping away from the Bulls. Schoeman, to his credit, would keep knocking over the vital kicks at goal, succeeding with all eight of his shots, but he also dropped the kickoff after his own 55th-minute long-range penalty to give Western Province prime position.

The Bulls conceded a penalty, which the visitors ran and lock Jan de Klerk stepped inside before barrelling over for the try.

Du Preez’s conversion put Western Province 27-22 up and the Bulls seemed to be on their way to another semi-final heartache when they lost their own lineout throw just outside the opposition 22. But they would get another chance as the clearing kick was taken by wing Jamba Ulengo, who raced off on a great run, Odendaal carrying the move on down the right as the Bulls roared back into the red zone. Several pick-and-goes later and replacement lock Jason Jenkins was over for the try, converted by Schoeman as the Bulls regained a 29-27 lead.

A crowd of nearly 18 000 roared the home team on – and was thanked profusely by the team management and CEO Barend van Graan after the game – and the Bulls produced an inspired period of defence on their own line.

But after their scramble defence won them the put-in at a scrum, they went down at the most inopportune moment, giving Du Preez a terrifying penalty which he nailed, giving him a 100% goalkicking record of 6/6.

Western Province were 30-29 ahead going into the last two minutes, but to the enormous credit of this young Bulls side, they kept their heads.

Van Zyl has just turned 21 and it was his smart break which put the Bulls on attack, only for some willing defence from Western Province to keep them out. The visitors did give them a lineout inside their own 22 though, and the Bulls were willing to show patience as they built the phases until the opposition just weren’t able to get enough defenders across to the next ruck, allowing Van Zyl to dart over for the matchwinning try.

It means the Blue Bulls are going to play in the Currie Cup final for the first time since 2009, and will travel down to Bloemfontein to take on the rampant Free State Cheetahs.

They are going to need all their new-found composure then as well.

Scorers

Vodacom Blue BullsTries: Travis Ismaiel, Jason Jenkins, Ivan van Zyl. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (3). Penalties: Schoeman (5).

DHL Western ProvinceTries: Nizaam Carr, Werner Kok, Jan de Klerk. Conversions: Robert du Preez (3). Penalties: Du Preez (3).

http://citizen.co.za/1315860/bulls-prove-composure-pip-wp/



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