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Ken Borland



Burger, Kitshoff & Catrakilis the heroes as Stormers fight back 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

Schalk Burger, Steven Kitshoff and Demetri Catrakilis were the heroes as the DHL Stormers overcame a niggly Brumbies side 25-24 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Newlands on Saturday night.

The indefatigable Burger spent most of the evening cleaning up after his team-mates had spilt the ball and he scored the Stormers’ only try to finally put them ahead on the hour mark.

Loosehead prop Kitshoff anchored a Stormers scrum that provided an invaluable platform in their efforts to shake off a Brumbies side that did everything they could to spoil and disrupt, playing precious little rugby themselves. Kitshoff was also huge in defence and when carrying the ball, and was often used at the front of the lineout as well.

Ultimately it was the boot of Catrakilis that kept the scoreboard moving for the Stormers, the flyhalf kicking five penalties, a conversion and a drop goal as he missed just one shot at goal.

The Brumbies had a golden chance to snatch victory at the death after fullback Jesse Mogg had raced out of his own half in an acre of space, forcing the Stormers to concede a five-metre lineout. If that defensive breakdown wasn’t bad enough, flank David Pocock was then able to stroll over through a gaping hole for a try from the lineout.

The conversion was from in front of the posts, but flyhalf Christian Lealiifano somehow managed to hit the upright, and what should have been a one-point victory for the Brumbies remained a single-point win for the Stormers.

It was a gutsy fightback from the Stormers, who at one stage trailed 3-16, and they had to overcome a horrid first half in which they looked at sixes and sevens with a ridiculously high unforced error-rate.

It started from the kickoff when the Stormers failed to exit due to poor communication and were then penalised at the scrum, Lealiifano putting the Brumbies 3-0 up.

Three minutes later, eighthman Duane Vermuelen was charging up on attack off a commanding Stormers scrum and the Brumbies went off their feet at the ruck, allowing Catrakilis to level the scores with his first penalty.

Damian de Allende’s troubles typified the Stormers’ first-half battle and the centre seemed to be bewitched as he knocked on twice in the opening minutes, gave away a penalty to Lealiifano and then scuffed a grubber attempt straight into the hands of Joe Tomane, allowing the Brumbies wing to race away for the opening try in the 14th minute.

It looked like being a magical evening in Cape Town for the Brumbies when Jesse Mogg kicked a 52-metre penalty to put them 16-3 ahead on the half-hour.

But the Stormers have a mighty scrum and the penalties they earned there gave them a foothold back in the match, starting in the 38th minute when Catrakilis made it 6-16.

As the Stormers forwards took control, the Brumbies were not willing to play along and there were constant flare-ups as their off-the-ball niggle and spoiling tactics went unpunished by weak referee Stuart Berry. Three more Catrakilis penalties either side of halftime pulled the Stormers back to within a single point (15-16) and then eventually the visitors were given a yellow card when replacement lock Jordan Smiler tried to bury Burger at a ruck by upending him.

Six minutes later, Burger, who had an awful brush with the cemetery last year, forced his way over for the Stormers’ only try, to cap another mighty performance on his amazing comeback from serious illness.

The restart meant that, for the first time in ages, the Brumbies were able to attack after being camped in their own half for most of the second half and Lealiifano slotted a penalty after Catrakilis was adjudged to have his hands in a ruck.

Catrakilis made up straight away with a brilliant 40m drop goal, but Mogg’s breakaway and Pocock’s try should have put the Brumbies in front with 10 minutes left were it not for Lealiifano’s inexplicable miss.

The victory, achieved in the most trying circumstances, means the Stormers are back in first position in the South African Conference, although the Bulls have the same number of points and a game in hand.

Scorers

Stormers – Try: Schalk Burger. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Catrakilis (5). Drop goal: Catrakilis.

Brumbies – Tries: Joe Tomane, David Pocock. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Lealiifano (3), Jesse Mogg.

http://citizen.co.za/379572/burger-kitshoff-and-catrakilis-heroes-as-stormers-fight-back/

Jannes Kirsten Q&A 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

Q: Jannes, today you were up against a Stormers pack that featured six Springboks, guys like Schalk Burger, who was probably a hero for you growing up. And yet you were a major factor on the gainline, smashing all of those guys back, how did that feel?

JK: In my first game of SuperRugby I had big eyes, playing against all those Springboks in the Stormers team, all those guys with so many caps. But when you’re under all that pressure, you just have to lift your performance. It definitely motivates me playing against guys like that, against our arch-rivals, so you lift your game as much as possible. I’m a born-and-bred Blue Bull, I’m sure if you cut me blue blood will come out, so the Stormers are not my favourite team, it’s why they are such a big team to play against. My brother Frik once got an offer from Western Province, but he said to my Dad – “How am I ever going to pull that jersey over my head?”!

 

Q: Putting your body on the line like you did, is it just because you were playing the Stormers, or was there other motivation?

JK: The coach has been hard on us this week and we knew we would have to perform to win. It’s like a sin to lose at Loftus Versfeld, so we really didn’t want to disappoint our fans or the coach either. I think I’ll be moving a bit slower on Sunday, get up later. I’ll ask the coach on Monday if maybe I can have a swimming session or a massage …

 

Q: Your brother Frik actually had to give up rugby last year due to a neck injury. Does that also motivate you to give absolutely everything while playing for the Bulls?

JK: Ja, Frik was a prop and then he hurt his neck in 2014, when he was just 26. The year before he had been a member of the Springbok touring squad at the end of the year. I think regularly about how nice it would have been to play together. So I really want to build on the name that he put out there, to make him and my Dad, who played flank for Eastern Transvaal, proud.

 

Q: How do you feel after the game, you must feel immensely proud?

JK: I’m very proud, it was a massive defensive effort. We needed to act as a collective and we did that, it was good to be a part of that effort. It was a great day and a great win, we’ll keep our feet on the ground but enjoy the win.

 

Schalk Burger doesn’t tell how to do it, he does it! 0

Posted on July 21, 2015 by Ken

New Springbok captain Schalk Burger is not the sort of leader who will tell his team to run through brick walls; instead, he will run through first and lead the way for his charges.

Burger, who was named as South Africa’s 55th Test captain on Tuesday for the Rugby Championship match at Ellis Park against New Zealand on Saturday, is the epitome of “leading from the front” and one could tell it was a special moment too for Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer when he announced the appointment of the 32-year-old.

“A Springbok captain needs to lead from the front and Schalk’s play speaks for itself. He’s not a big talker but he brings calmness and experience and I’m 100% certain I’ve made the right decision by appointing Schalk. He’s a warrior and a born leader and it just shows that one should never give up on your dreams; he’s an inspiration for the team, for the country and for me,” Meyer said.

Burger himself said he would not be doing too much speaking ahead of the clash against the old foe.

“I’m not going to talk too much, leading from the front is just the way I play. Obviously there’ll be a lot of emotion involved, playing in front of a full house at Ellis Park in one of the games you dream of playing in. I don’t think it will affect my game because, whether I’m captain or not, I have a leadership role in the team. And there’ll be a big group of leaders around me as well on Saturday,” Burger said.

It is actually a surprise that one of the legends of Springbok rugby, someone who has been wearing the Green and Gold since 2003, hasn’t captained the team before, but it is entirely fitting that Burger gets the honour in a match against the All Blacks, the arch-rivals and with whom there is much mutual respect.

“I don’t think the challenge can get any bigger. As a youngster, everything revolves around you playing against the All Blacks, in the wet Cape Town winter, it was always a Test against New Zealand that you were playing. It’s going to be a big responsibility, but I won’t be leading alone, there are other senior players around me. But it’s a big honour which I thought was neusie verby [an opportunity no longer available] for me,” Burger said.

As for Saturday’s Test, Burger said there was much to learn from the Springboks’ last-minute loss last weekend to Australia as well as their 79th-minute win over the All Blacks in the corresponding match at Ellis Park last year.

“You have to play at a high level for 80 minutes against the All Blacks, you have to keep playing. Last week we didn’t consciously take our feet off the pedal, it was just that we couldn’t get any field position in the last 20 minutes. We weren’t as accurate as we wanted to be in that final quarter,” the stand-in captain for Victor Matfield said.

But Burger has seen many disappointments during his career and there are not many players who are better than him at bouncing back from adversity.

There are not many current international players who finished a Test with a broken neck and have returned to the highest level as good a player if not better.

Laureus awards are highly sought-after in the world of sport and Burger richly deserved his for Comeback of the Year having recovered from a life-threatening bout of bacterial meningitis in 2013. He made his return to the Springboks last season after a three-year absence and now he is finally going to lead them out on to the field.

“Obviously when I was that ill, I was just begging to play one more Test. It probably sounds like a fairytale,” Burger said.

As last week’s bitter defeat in Brisbane showed, experienced players and leaders are vital for a successful World Cup campaign and Meyer’s planning has revolved around that.

“I was thinking what if Jean de Villiers can’t make it to the World Cup and then Victor gets injured, so I wanted to give someone a go because I don’t want to appoint a new captain at the World Cup.

“Games in the World Cup will go down to the wire and you have to go to that tournament with experience. The pressure showed in the SuperRugby playoff the Stormers lost and for us in Brisbane in the last 20 minutes.

“I never thought I’d be in this position in a World Cup year, having to use new players and there could be one or two more new caps this week. I always said I wanted everyone to have 30 Tests going into the World Cup, like Eben Etzebeth and Marcell Coetzee do. Having players with 50-60 Tests makes a huge difference and I would love to have that,” Meyer said.

As the coach said, the Springbok captain also needs to be a role-model off the field and in Burger he has one of the most popular and respected people in rugby. Whatever the result on Saturday, there’s no doubt the team would have run through walls for the veteran loose-forward.

Bok scrum fade had much to do with captaincy issues 0

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Ken

 

Much of the blame for South Africa’s late defeat in Brisbane has been laid on the scrum, but what hasn’t been mentioned is the effect losing captain Victor Matfield had on the set-piece. And now the Springboks are set to name an interim captain on Tuesday afternoon, with Schalk Burger also injured, leaving Francois Louw as the likely new leader.

The Springbok scrum had been dominant for the first hour against the Wallabies, the Sharks front-row of Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis producing a much-improved display, but with the whole front row controversially replaced, the home side ended the match in charge of that set-piece, providing them with a priceless platform for their late charge.

Captain Matfield had of course left the field in the first half with a hamstring strain and, although the lanky lock does not contribute a huge amount in terms of scrummaging, his absence from the tight five was nevertheless keenly felt as the Wallabies stole control in that facet.

That’s because the Australians were allowed to close the gap at set-up and engage early, something an experienced member of the tight five like Matfield would no doubt have brought to the attention of referee Nigel Owens. Instead, Burger was leading the side from the back of the scrum and the Wallabies got away with their clever tactic.

“The Australians changed their set-up, they came a bit closer which gave them more shoulder contact before the engagement. It disrupted us and we found it very difficult to set the scrum. Sometimes it is difficult to adapt and they were able to come at us early in the scrums in the second half,” scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said on Monday.

Much has been written about Louw’s leadership qualities, the 30-year-old having done a marvellous job as captain of Bath. He was another experienced old head who was sorely missed in the final quarter in Brisbane, not least of all because of his work at the breakdown, especially since the Wallabies brought on David Pocock to partner Michael Hooper and turn the tide in another area of previous Springbok dominance.

Louw left the field because of a bad gash to his cheek, but doctor Craig Roberts said on Monday that he will be fine to play against the All Blacks this weekend.

A less-obvious facial blow was suffered by Burger, whose cheekbone apparently popped out when he blew his nose after the game. The veteran loose forward went for a scan on Monday and the news is apparently not good, given the hurried announcement from the Springbok camp on Monday night that an interim captain will be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

If Burger is ruled out, then it seems Louw, his former Western Province team-mate, will beat him to become the Springboks’ 55th Test captain.

Amidst all the injury negativity, one of the most positive aspects of the Rugby Championship opener was the return to top form of the two Du Plessis brothers and Mtawarira. Hard, experienced men such as them will be needed at the World Cup.

“We’re very happy with the way the scrums started off. Heyneke had faith in the Sharks front row and we’re very happy they came through because they were under pressure.

“Jannie had a very good game, his work-rate was good and in the previous game too. He scrummed very well, so we’re very happy with that. No player is ever in top shape for the whole year.

“Beast also scrummed very well and I thought Heinke van der Merwe, for someone who hasn’t played for the Springboks for a long time, did very well too,” De Villiers said.

The match against Australia provided the opportunity for some fringe players to stake their claim for the World Cup squad and nobody took their chance better than Lood de Jager, who replaced Matfield after 20 minutes.

“We wanted to use the match for rotation, for guys to get game time. Some players got a bit of experience and that will be great for the World Cup.

“The plan was always to rotate guys up front because it’s in the best interests of the team for players to get game time and enough match fitness.

“Lood gave a great little performance, he was strong in the scrum and great overall, making several tackles. He had a very high work-rate,” De Villiers said.

Doctor Roberts also announced that flank Marcell Coetzee is likely to miss Saturday’s game due to a big contusion to the muscles around the knee, while he confirmed that Jean de Villiers, who came through 60 minutes for Western Province at the weekend “fairly well”, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Frans Steyn and Pieter-Steph du Toit will all continue their rehab with the Springbok squad but are not ready to play yet.



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