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Ken Borland



Sharks sink to new lows 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

The Sharks will be contemplating the rest of their SuperRugby overseas tour with sheer terror after they were put to the sword, 48-15, by the Highlanders in their opening match in Dunedin on Friday.

While the Highlanders obviously deserve credit for their superb display – highlighted by their dazzling skill and vision on attack – the miserable defence of the Sharks, the number of basic mistakes they made and their own lacklustre attack made this one of their most dismal performances, almost as bad as the rout they suffered at the hands of the Crusaders at Kings Park a month ago.

The brilliance of Highlanders flyhalf Lima Sopoaga, running at the line and invariably choosing the right option, had the Sharks’ defence at sixes and sevens and the pace and power of Patrick Osborne saw the wing create numerous gaps.

The support play of the home side was also outstanding and their skill in offloading meant they strolled to seven tries.

The first visit of the Highlanders to the Sharks’ 22 brought a try as fullback Odwa Ndungane rushed out of the defensive line to give flank Gareth Evans an easy run-in after wings Osborne and Waisake Naholo had crashed through on mini-breaks. It was a portent of the defensive failures that were to dog the Sharks all night, while Ndungane was also caught out of position on numerous occasions by the clever kicking games of half-backs Sopoaga and Aaron Smith.

The lead was extended to 10-0 in the 21st minute when Sopoaga, impressive with the boot as well, kicked a penalty after Osborne and skilful eighthman Nasi Manu went over the gain-line before a super offload to hooker Liam Coltman drew a stupid ruck infringement from flank Etienne Oosthuizen, the late replacement for Renaldo Bothma.

The Sharks did well, though, to level the scores by the 32nd minute.

The kicking game of the Sharks was generally poor, but one good up-and-under by flyhalf Fred Zeilinga led to a penalty for offsides which he kicked, before the powerful ball-carrying of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis, Willem Alberts and Stephan Lewies allowed The Beast to plough his way over from a ruck close to the line.

The response from the Highlanders was swift and brutal, however, as they scored two quick tries to go into the break with a healthy 24-10 lead.

Sopoaga really bloomed in those four minutes before half-time, his brilliant little chip-kick to Naholo, after Smith’s quick tap-penalty and break, setting up the winger’s try and then his run across the face of the defence creating space out wide for Osborne, who was found with a great, long pass.

But instead of regrouping at half-time, the Sharks came out and produced one of the worst 40 minutes in their history as they utterly failed to corral the rampant Highlanders attack.

The lack of urgency and general malaise was epitomised by replacement scrumhalf Conrad Hoffman being in lala land as Marco Wentzel’s lineout steal was tapped past him and his tardiness in dotting down in the in-goal area saw lock Mark Reddish sneak in for the bonus point try.

Two minutes later, Smith made it 36-10 as he ranged up in support of centre Richard Buckman’s half-break, but the Sharks were on attack when they conceded the sixth try.

Protecting the ball and the basic skills of passing and catching are variables that are in a team’s own control and the Sharks were dreadful in those departments, losing possession inside the Highlanders’ 22 in the 67th minute and, with a variety of players getting through the half-gap and offloading, the home side scored a great team try, rounded off by replacement prop Brendon Edmonds.

The Sharks managed to show enough interest in the contest for hooker Du Plessis to score off a lineout drive in the 71st minute, but the Highlanders gained sweet revenge when their own pack drove their way to a 79th-minute try, replacement flank Elliot Dixon dotting down.

This must rate as one of the weakest Sharks teams to ever play Super Rugby, with too many players out of their depth at this level.

Scorers

Highlanders: Tries – Gareth Evans, Waisake Naholo, Patrick Osborne, Mark Reddish, Aaron Smith, Brendon Edmonds, Elliot Dixon. Conversions – Lima Sopoaga (5). Penalty – Sopoaga.

Sharks: Tries – Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck du Plessis. Conversion – Fred Zeilinga. Penalty –Zeilinga.

http://citizen.co.za/373695/sharks-sink-to-new-lows/

Bulls bench three more Springboks for Kings match 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls are already without the services of Springboks due to injury, but such is their confidence at the top of the South African Conference that they have put another three on the bench for their Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Southern Kings at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Chief among the three on the bench is flyhalf Morne Steyn, the provider of most of their points, tactical direction and territorial dominance, who finally gets a break.

Louis Fouche will start at flyhalf, while lock Juandre Kruger and centre JJ Engelbrecht are also on the bench. Former Lions star Grant Hattingh will start in the number five jersey, while resting Engelbrecht has allowed coach Frans Ludeke to try Jan Serfontein at outside centre, which could also have interesting implications for the Springboks as well.

The Bulls will be grateful for the seven-match winning streak that has given them an eight-point lead in the South African Conference and, even with Jano Vermaak, Arno Botha and captain Pierre Spies being ruled out due to injury during the June internationals, they still have 13 Springboks in their starting line-up and nobody really expects them to lose to the Kings at their Loftus Versfeld fortress. And even if they do, they will still be sitting pretty.

Their chief rivals, the Cheetahs, have no such liberties and they simply have to win to keep their playoff hopes alive when they travel to Cape Town to take on a Stormers side that will have been given licence to express themselves with their competition hopes all but over.

The Cheetahs have rushed all their Springbok squad members back into action, but the good news for them is that Robert Ebersohn, Lappies Labuschagne and Lourens Adriaanse saw no actual on-field action and will therefore be rested and refreshed, while Piet van Zyl, Coenie Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane had little game time.

Even without Springbok captain Jean de Villiers, who has finally succumbed to injury, the Stormers still boast high-profile players such as Bryan Habana, Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi and there is nothing they would like more than to cut the Cheetahs down to size.

The Cheetahs snatched victory over the Stormers in Bloemfontein back in April with an 82nd-minute penalty by Burton Francis and since then the Stormers’ fortunes have nosedived to the extent that they are eleventh on the overall log.

But the Cheetahs have only won once before at Newlands and have won just three of their 10 SuperRugby meetings with the Stormers overall, so the home side has plenty of pride to play for.

On the theme of being cut down to size, the Sharks return to SuperRugby action this weekend with a new coach after their incoming CEO wielded the axe in dramatic fashion.

How the players respond to all the uncertainty stemming from John Smit’s arrival and the unceremonious departure of former CEO Brian van Zyl and coach John Plumtree remains to be seen as they tackle the Blues, who are still fighting for a playoff place.

Former assistant coach Grant Bashford has temporarily taken the reins of the Sharks.

For all the teams, however, there is the question of how the three-week break has affected them. Will their motors splutter back to life in clouds of smoke and not much acceleration, or will they return smoothly to the track and quickly find fifth gear?

For the Bulls and Cheetahs, there is crucial momentum to be maintained, but for the Sharks and Stormers, there is the possibility of a fresh start and a much better finish to the competition than the way they began.

The Southern Kings, meanwhile, are almost guaranteed to finish last in the South African Conference despite all their effort and determination and they need to make important decisions about the balance between resting key players and having them ready for the playoff / relegation series against the Lions.

There is bound to be more drama before the end of the tournament, with the Allister Coetzee household no doubt in a state of some trepidation as many Stormers fans have been calling for his head. And the board might just have been emboldened by the Sharks’ move to change coach.

Coetzee’s best insurance of course is to win and Newlands will host the pick of the weekend’s fixtures as a quality side looking for redemption faces the new contenders, desperate for victory and with in-form future stars in their ranks.

Teams

The Sharks (v Blues, Saturday 14:50): Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, Louis Ludik, Butch James, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Edwin Hewitt, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements – Bismarck du Plessis, Danie Mienie/Wiehahn Herbst, Jandré Marais, Jean Deysel, Jacques Botes, Cobus Reinach, Jaco van Tonder.

Bulls (v Southern Kings, Saturday 17:05): Zane Kirchner, Akona Ndungane, Jan Serfontein, Wynand Olivier, Bjorn Basson, Louis Fouché, Francois Hougaard, Dewald Potgieter, Jacques Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements – Willie Wepener, Frik Kirsten, Juandré Kruger, Jono Ross, Rudy Paige, Morné Steyn, JJ Engelbrecht.

Southern Kings (v Bulls, Saturday 17:05): SP Marais, Michael Killian, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss, Marcello Sampson, Demetri Catrakilis, Shaun Venter, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, Darron Nell, David Bulbring, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – Grant Kemp, Hannes Franklin, Rynier Bernardo, Devin Oosthuizen, Nicolas Vergallo, George Whitehead, Shane Gates.

Stormers (v Cheetahs, Saturday 19:15): Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi, De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements – Scarra Ntubeni, Ross Geldenhuys, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Dewaldt Duvenage, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.

Cheetahs (v Stormers, Saturday 19:15): Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Riaan Smit, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagné, Heinrich Brüssow, Ligtoring Landman, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements – Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Waltie Vermeulen, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Elgar Watts, Howard Mnisi.

Other fixtures: Chiefs v Hurricanes (Friday 9:35); Highlanders v Crusaders (Saturday 9:35).

 

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-28-superrugby-confident-bulls-to-rest-three-more-against-southern-kings/#.Vw-E6_l97IU

Good times to be a gambler 0

Posted on February 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Judging by South Africa’s performance in the World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka this week, these are good times to be a gambler and, seeing as though I am at Sun City for the Chase to the Investec Cup final, I’m going to put R1000 each on three, four and eight at the roulette table tonight, in honour of JP Duminy’s three wickets in three balls, which meant the Proteas got away with only having four specialist bowlers, and Quinton de Kock coming good after previously averaging just eight in the tournament.

Okay, the bit about me gambling tonight is a joke because times are still tough for journos and instead I may treat myself to a lager and ponder over how good it felt to get my predictions for the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka so utterly wrong.

Coach Russell Domingo has never struck me as the gambling type, although he does have a profound love for figures, which is not to say he’s not willing to make tough decisions. He’s done that before and was even willing to leave the great Jacques Kallis out of limited-overs teams when he didn’t fit into the game-plan.

But as far as gambles go, taking on the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up on a flat Sydney Cricket Ground pitch with Duminy as the fifth bowler and AB de Villiers as the back-up ranks up there with the biggest in World Cup history, and, were it not for the brilliance of the pace bowlers and Imran Tahir in taking early wickets, it was a move that could have gone stupidly wrong.

But it worked, as did the faith shown in De Kock. As the confidence seeped back into the young left-hander, emboldened by the support of his management and team-mates, his talent and class was plain to see.

You would rightly expect South Africa to keep the same XI for Tuesday’s semi-final against the winner of today’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies, which means the pressure will once again be on the bowlers to reach the same heights they did in Sydney.

Apart from the pleasure of watching such a complete performance and celebrating South Africa’s first win in a World Cup knockout game, I really liked the send-off given to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Those two great batsmen have given South African bowlers a terrible time over the years but their strength of character, charm and integrity means they will be remembered as so much more than just prolific employees of Sri Lanka Cricket.

In my opinion, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, in the same exalted realms of excellence as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Kallis.

The Proteas obviously hold him and Jayawardene in similarly high esteem judging by the genuine warmth they showed in farewelling them, and Sangakkara’s response when asked how he would like to be remembered speaks to the very essence of sport:

“If anyone can say they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Cricket South Africa sent out a special tribute statement when Tendulkar retired; Sangakkara is surely deserving of the same honour?

 

Schwartzel puts two frustrating years behind him at Leopard Creek 0

Posted on December 01, 2015 by Ken

 

Charl Schwartzel put two years of brutally hard work, frustration and demoralisation behind him as he won the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek on Sunday, cruising to victory by four strokes in the co-sanctioned European/Sunshine Tour event outside Malelane.

It is Schwartzel’s first win since he completed a hat-trick of titles at Leopard Creek in the last week of November 2013; since then his swing disintegrated and he even discovered that his putting had major flaws.

“It feels fantastic to win again because the last two years have been the biggest slump my golf has ever been in, sometimes I would think ‘am I ever going to win again?’ I’ve worked really hard in that time, your expectations get higher and then it’s frustrating when one or two bad rounds mean you just can’t get to the top,” Schwartzel said after his final-round 70 left him on 15-under-par for the tournament.

“There are 13 years of demons running around in my head and that’s a lot of demons to fight. It gets harder, but I feel that I’m a better player. I don’t think I can improve much on what happens on the range – where my game feels flawless – and I just need to bring that game to the golf course more often, I need to make that gap between the two smaller.”

What made the 31-year-old’s 10th European Tour victory even more special was that he did not play anywhere near his best over the weekend but was still able to do what was necessary to win.

“It was a struggle over the weekend, I was way off my best game, but to get it done, to manage my way around, keep the ball in play and grind it out, means I’d give my effort an A+, that’s a big achievement. Jack Nicklaus said he won many tournaments with his B or C game, and that’s what makes this win even more satisfying,” Schwartzel said.

Frenchmen Sebastien Gros and Benjamin Hebert were Schwartzel‘s closest challengers at the start of the final round, but they both fell back, Hebert only managing a level-par 72 to finish third on 10-under and Gros being derailed by successive double-bogeys on the third and fourth holes on his way to a 73 and fourth place on nine-under.

Instead it was the old boy, Gregory Bourdy, who flew the Tricolour highest as he surged into second place on 11-under-par with a 68. Things could have been very different if the 33-year-old hadn’t found the dreaded bunker left of the seventh green, from where he chipped into the water and ended with a six on the par-three.

Another Frenchman, Thomas Linard (70), finished in a tie for fifth on eight-under-par alongside Englishman Matt Ford (70) and Joost Luiten (71) of the Netherlands.

Jaco van Zyl, who fired a 64 for the lowest round of the day, and defending champion Branden Grace (71) were the next best South Africans, in a tie for eighth place on seven-under with Englishman Eddie Pepperell (68).

 

 

 



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