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Ken Borland



Sheer delight for SA rugby 0

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Ken

 

Following the awful disappointments of 2016, what a sheer delight the last three weeks of Springbok rugby have been, culminating in the series whitewash over France in front of more than 55 000 people at Ellis Park, as well as a wonderful game the night before at Orlando Stadium between the SA A and French Barbarians sides.

Apart from the winning, up-tempo rugby played by both the Springboks and their second-stringers, the other similarity between the two teams is that both clearly enjoy a wonderful team culture.

It cannot be understated how important a role a good team environment will play in the success of a side and we saw last year how the Proteas cricket team drastically improved their results after a “culture camp”.

At the top level, teams are very similar in terms of physicality, conditioning and skill, so the crucial extra 1% that gives sides the edge is often found on the mental side of sport – happy players committed to a cause or a “brotherhood”, to use the in-vogue expression, will give more out on the field.

Sure, Brendan Venter and Franco Smith have come along and brought considerable technical expertise to the Springboks, but I have never, in 25 years of covering South African rugby, seen a squad speak more about just how happy they were to be together and how much they loved the environment than the current group under Allister Coetzee and his fellow coaches. The captaincy of Warren Whiteley must also be mentioned because there’s no doubt he has played a big role in the team culture as well.

It is a similar culture, borne from adversity, that is seen in Whiteley’s Lions team and it is also evident in the SA A side under Johan Ackermann. It was clearly displayed at the end of the game against the French Barbarians in Orlando when scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was spontaneously, just for the sheer joy of it, lifted on to the shoulders of his team-mates after kicking the last conversion, and when the whole squad sang stirring songs together, bobbing in a tight embrace, after the trophy presentation.

The fact that Ackermann has managed to create that culture in the SA A side in just a few weeks is testament to what a fine coach he is and hopefully he will be back in South Africa soon after increasing his experience and knowledge with Gloucester in the United Kingdom.

Ackermann, a former Springbok lock, first made his name as a coach through his technical and tactical acumen in the set-pieces, but he also has the ability to inspire a team, a crucial man-management skill in any coach.

Singing along with the SA A team were a bunch of supporters in the far grandstand and I believe playing top rugby in Soweto has a great future. The SA A game was played at 8pm on a Friday night the day before a Test at Ellis Park, so the crowd was always going to be small.

But I know it is in SA Rugby’s future plan to play more games in Soweto, and to stage them at 3pm in the afternoon and not during a Test week in the same city. There’s no doubt we will then see the crowds pouring in, because there is a great love for the game in Soweto, but access remains a problem.

Orlando Stadium is also a magnificent venue, modern, spacious and with one of the best views of the field, from any vantage point, you will see.  The fact that top rugby did not return earlier to Orlando after the memorable 2010 Super Rugby final that inspired such goodwill is a great pity.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170701/282321090023086

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/

Air of inevitability as Schwartzel wins Tshwane Open 0

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Ken

 

There was an air of inevitability early in the final round that Charl Schwartzel would win the Tshwane Open, but the world number 43 impressed everybody with the sheer quality of his play to shoot a brilliant 63 and win the co-sanctioned title by a massive eight strokes at Pretoria Country Club on Sunday.

An eagle on the par-five ninth hole after a superb second shot from the semi-rough meant Schwartzel was four ahead of Zander Lombard at the turn and huge birdie putts of 40 and 35 feet respectively on the two par-threes coming in, the 14th and 16th, sealed the deal for the former Masters champion.

Young Lombard had started the day just one stroke behind Schwartzel, but wilted as the pressure of playing in the lead two-ball with one of South Africa’s best golfers began to weigh heavily on him, the wheels eventually coming off with double-bogeys on 16 and 17 as the Joburg Open runner-up crashed to a 74 and a share of seventh place.

“On the first three days I hit the ball well above standard but my putting was below standard. So it was very satisfying that the putting came right in the final round, today was a big step forward. I’ve played a lot here and it’s good to play on familiar ground, it makes your chances better. This has certainly boosted my confidence and I’m excited to get back to America,” Schwartzel said.

Schwartzel collected seven birdies and an eagle, offset by two bogeys, to finish on 16-under-par for the lowest score and biggest winning margin in the event’s four-year history. The 31-year-old once again relied on his superior ability with the long-irons to separate himself from the rest of the field to dramatic effect.

“I’ve always had the capability to hit my long-irons longer and more accurately than most golfers, which is a big advantage. It means I can hit a six-iron where others are taking a four-iron, which gives me more loft and allows me to eliminate a lot of unnecessary mistakes. From a young age I’ve been able to hit my long-irons very well,” Schwartzel said.

As Lombard tumbled down the leaderboard after his tee-shot on 16 strayed on to the edge of the moat next to the green, it allowed Denmark’s Jeff Winther to be the sole runner-up as he calmly soared up the leaderboard with a 64 to finish on eight-under-par.

Schwartzel’s other challengers were all washed away in the eddies of his brilliance, with Anthony Michael finishing third after a level-par 70 left him on six-under-par and Haydn Porteous slipped to a 73 and a share of 10th place on three-under-par with Brandon Stone (66) and Jaco van Zyl (67).

Justin Walters, Richard Sterne and Dean Burmester all climbed the leaderboard to finish in a tie for fourth on five-under-par, while Australian Brett Rumford and Scotland’s Jamie McLeary finished with Lombard in seventh on four-under-par.

 

Jean as skipper & experience will be basis of World Cup squad 0

Posted on May 11, 2015 by Ken

 

Judging by his performance at a SuperSport networking luncheon this week, Jean de Villiers definitely has a future as a comedian and television personality, such was the brilliance of his timing and the sheer sense and empathy with which he spoke.

De Villiers has made his name of course with the superb timing he displays on attack and defence in the Springbok midfield and let’s hope the 34-year-old’s next major appearance on SuperSport is as captain of the World Cup squad in England.

Coach Heyneke Meyer is certainly hoping so and, whatever the haters say about taking “old-age” players to the World Cup, experience is the common thread that runs through every winner of that tournament and Meyer would be stupid to undo the last three years of preparation in order to choose flavour-of-the-month players now that the curtain is about to go up.

The one certainty about the 31-man World Cup squad that Meyer finally announces is that there are definitely going to be some very unlucky, excellent players missing out.

Unfortunately, De Villiers’ centre position is one of the areas where the Springboks are relative paupers.

Assuming that the captain will be fit (and he certainly thinks he will be), then his midfield partner is likely to be Jan Serfontein or Damian de Allende. Meyer has already said that he will be taking 18 forwards to the World Cup, so that leaves space for just 13 backs, three of which have to be scrumhalves – Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar and Francois Hougaard as a utility back.

Three flyhalves would also seem necessary with Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies and Handre Pollard, who can also provide centre cover, the frontrunners. Someone like fullback Jesse Kriel, because he can also play in midfield, could provide additional cover and, if there is a new cap in the squad then the Bulls prospect will probably by the man. If De Villiers doesn’t make it, then Lionel Mapoe will probably be next in line, especially since he can play outside centre, where the Springboks are particularly thin.

JP Pietersen, if he can regain his best form, obviously brings the ideal combination of experience and versatility, being able to play wing, fullback or outside centre.

Lock is the other worrying position with Eben Etzebeth and Victor Matfield the only contenders who are currently fit. Meyer said he favours a split of four locks and five loose forwards in the squad, with nine front-rowers compulsory, so Pieter-Steph du Toit, who can play flank as well, is a vital selection and Lood de Jager, if fit, or Teboho Mohoje will be the other second-rower .

But injuries could mean Meyer is forced to include uncapped players like Jacques du Plessis or Ruan Botha.

The coach is going to be given sleepless nights by the conundrum facing him at loose-forward. How do you choose five from the wealth of talent that is available?

The Springboks have been well-served by Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Duane Vermuelen as a starting trio, so who backs them up?

Schalk Burger will probably be one of the two extra loosies by virtue of his experience and ability to play all three positions, which leaves the fifth back-row spot to be fought over by Marcell Coetzee, Mohoje, Warren Whiteley, Nizaam Carr, Arno Botha, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel and Pierre Spies!

The incumbent Springbok front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis is going to be given a tremendous run for their money by Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss and Frans Malherbe, while the third complete front row required should be made up of Coenie Oosthuizen, Scarra Ntubeni and either Marcel van der Merwe, Julian Redelinghuys or Vincent Koch.

Probable Springbok World Cup squad – Willie le Roux, Jesse Kriel; Cornal Hendricks, Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard; Jan Serfontein, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende; Handre Pollard, Pat Lambie, Elton Jantjies; Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar; Duane Vermuelen, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Schalk Burger, Marcell Coetzee; Victor Matfield, Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Teboho Mohoje; Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane, Marcel van der Merwe, Scarra Ntubeni, Coenie Oosthuizen.

 



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