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Ken Borland



Chiefs favourites but a sad day awaits for SA rugby 0

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Ken

 

About 80% of respondents on the country’s biggest sports website believe the Chiefs will beat the Brumbies to win back-to-back Vodacom SuperRugby titles on Saturday, and one imagines a similar proportion of fans would declare it a sad day for South African rugby when the Southern Kings or Lions are banished into the wilderness later in the day after the second leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The future of both the Lions and the Kings as professional, commercially viable franchises rests on Saturday afternoon’s match at Ellis Park. The Eastern Cape side have a deficit of seven points to make up, never mind the fact that they have to win and prevent the hosts from getting a bonus point.

It is obviously a no-win situation for South African rugby: either the tremendous growth of the game in the Eastern Cape, the Kings having performed much better than expected, or one of the traditional powerhouses will be sacrificed.

The lack of SuperRugby action in 2013 has left the Lions with their heads barely above water and the coffers of the proud union, already struggling before their relegation from the competition, could well run dry if they do not have top rugby to host next year.

The incompetence of the officials the South African Rugby Union (Saru) sent to negotiate the expanded SuperRugby format means the sport in this country will lose a leg this weekend … it’s a bit like asking someone whether they’d like to have their left leg or their right leg chopped off.

It also makes it absolutely imperative that Saru are already planning for 2016 when the next Sanzar expansion is scheduled to occur and that they have contingency plans in place to keep either the Kings or the Lions afloat until then.

The Lions edged out the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend because they kept their composure better under pressure. The ill-discipline of the Kings allowed Elton Jantjies to keep chipping away at the scoreboard. Now that the chips are down and the Kings have to beat the Lions at a sold-out Ellis Park, how will they respond?

There seems little doubt that the Kings will need to add something extra to their ultra-conservative game plan in order to beat the Lions, but is there the attacking skill to do that within their side?

Director of rugby Alan Solomons, who is leaving the Kings to coach Edinburgh whatever the outcome of Saturday’s match is, is backing a new centre pairing of the experienced duo of Waylon Murray and Ronnie Cooke.

Star flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is out with a hand injury, with George Whitehead taking the number 10 jersey, while debutant Scott van Breda, who is normally a centre, is on the left wing and is going to handle the goal kicking for the Kings.

The Kings, as the rank underdogs in SuperRugby, have honed their defensive skills to such an extent that they made the most tackles and had the best completion-rate in the competition; but Saturday’s game is calling for them to showcase attacking capabilities that have been lying dormant.

The Lions, on the other hand, have been racking up the tries in non-competitive matches and the backline is used to crossing the whitewash this year; Jantjies is a skilful distributor, they have a quality centre pairing in Stokkies Hanekom and Dylan des Fountain and dangerous finishers in the back three in Antony Volmink and Ruan Combrinck.

Up front, hard, experienced men such as Franco van der Merwe, captain JC Janse van Rensburg and flank Derick Minnie ensure that the Lions aren’t lambs to the slaughter when it comes to matching the intensity and physicality of a SuperRugby side.

But whatever the outcome, one hopes that Saru will take steps to ensure that, when we look back through the mists of time, we don’t remember the Kings, representing such a strategically important chunk of the country as the Eastern Cape, as having one season of SuperRugby as some sort of quirky experiment; or the Lions as being a once-great union, the first winners of the Super 10 competition that preceded the Sanzar tournament, that has faded into obscurity.

The Brumbies are a side that is returning from relative obscurity in SuperRugby as they contest the final for the first time since their 2004 triumph. They will be travelling to Hamilton and will need to overcome a Chiefs side that has the confidence of winning the title last year, scoring the most points and tries this season, and the prestige of beating the heavily-favoured Crusaders last weekend.

Jake White’s men will also have to overcome travelling from Pretoria to New Zealand and the distracting effects of thousands of cow bells as a 25 000 capacity crowd roars on the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Brumbies have certainly bought into the former World Cup winning coach’s philosophy and they showed at Loftus Versfeld last weekend that they are willing to risk their limbs in defence and have a steely focus on sticking to the game plan.

And the Brumbies have the kicking game and a powerful lineout that could trouble a Chiefs side that, amazingly, had the ball for the least time out of all sides in SuperRugby.

But the fact the Chiefs scored the most points and tries in regular season play shows their greatest strengths – their ability to make metres when carrying the ball and the skills of their players in beating defenders.

Locks Brodie Retallick and Craig Clarke and loose forwards Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer bring a hard edge to the pack, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden have the tactical vision and skills that have been central to the Chiefs’ success.

Those website pollsters clearly believe the Brumbies will need a miracle to beat the Chiefs at their home ground in Hamilton. But miracles do happen in rugby, as the spirited, well-coached Brumbies discovered last weekend in Pretoria.

Teams

Lions: 15-Ruan Combrink, 14-Deon Helberg, 13-Stokkies Hanekom, 12-Dylan des Fountain, 11-Antony Volmink, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Ross Cronjé, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Derick Minnie, 6-Jaco Kriel, 5-Franco van der Merwe, 4-Hendrik Roodt, 3-Julian Redelinghuys, 2-Martin Bezuidenhout, 1-JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements – 16-Robbie Coetzee, 17-Martin Dreyer, 18-Willie Britz, 19-Warwick Tecklenburg, 20-Guy Cronjé, 21-Marnitz Boshoff, 22-Chrysander Botha.

Southern Kings: 15-SP Marais, 14-Hadleigh Parkes, 13-Ronnie Cooke, 12-Waylon Murray, 11-Scott van Breda, 10-George Whitehead, 9-Shaun Venter, 8-Jacques Engelbrecht, 7-Wimpie van der Walt, 6-Cornell du Preez, 5-Darron Nell, 4-David Bulbring, 3-Kevin Buys, 2-Bandise Maku, 1-Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – 16-Charl du Plessis, 17-Hannes Franklin, 18-Steven Sykes, 19-Devin Oosthuizen, 20-Nicolas Vergallo, 21-Wesley Dunlop, 22-Shane Gates.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-02-superrugby-relegation-or-promotion-speaks-volumes-of-saru/#.V6R-8Pl97IU

Even schedule from hell can’t keep Sharks from playoff mix 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken

 

Even though the Sharks have had the schedule from hell, they will go into the June international break still very much in the playoff mix following their 53-0 romp over the Southern Kings in Durban at the weekend, much to the delight of coach Gary Gold.

The Sharks are second in Africa Conference 2, just two points behind the Lions, and third in the Group, three points ahead of the Stormers, although they have played one more game than the three other top local sides and have a bye this coming weekend.

“I’m very satisfied and particularly pleased tonight that we got the bonus point and kept the opposition to zero. We knew the last six weeks would be tough, playing on three different continents in three weeks, but I’m really happy with the attitude of the players and how they’ve dealt with all the travel. It has been tough and it’s taken its toll, but to be as competitive as we have been, especially against the New Zealand sides, is very pleasing.

“The guys have shown a lot of character and now they have a bit of downtime. We can fix the guys that are broken and hopefully get some big names back. It’s good that we can try and keep our noses ahead rather than play catch-up,” Gold said.

The Sharks played some tremendous rugby in the first half against the Kings, getting the ball wide and scoring six tries, including three in a dazzling five-minute spell midway through the half. But they went off the boil in the second half and Gold said one of the things that still concern him is the team’s tendency to waste chances.

“We had a very specific plan at the start, you never want to get into an arm-wrestle against a side as courageous as the Kings, and we controlled things nicely in the first half and took our chances. Not so much in the second half, maybe there were too many changes, but it was a bit disappointing. The Kings are a never-say-die side, especially in the contact situations, and we lost a lot of ball.

“We didn’t take our chances as clinically and the lineout didn’t function as well. We need to step up, we are not the finished product, there are simple options not being taken. We tend to over-complicate things, if we take the simple options we will score more tries,” Gold said.

 

Sharks do the job in first half as they romp to victory 0

Posted on May 23, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks did most of the job in a scintillating first half as they romped to a 53-0 win over the Southern Kings in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Growthpoint Kings Park on Saturday.

Although the Sharks produced some dazzling rugby and were ruthless in punishing Kings mistakes, the sheer lack of nous and effort on defence by the visitors did irk for those who want to see a good contest.

The Kings were much-improved in the second half, but by then, with the Sharks already 43-0 up at halftime, they were left with far too much of a mountain to climb.

The Sharks sealed the bonus point with a devastating burst of three tries in five minutes midway through the first half, and the five points they collected from the game ensures that they stay in touch with the Lions, the pacesetters from Joburg having gained a bonus point win over the Jaguares earlier in the afternoon.

The Sharks’ strategy of avoiding the physical Kings at close quarters and instead attacking them out wide paid dividends because the defence was too narrow and slow to shift across.

And the opening try came in the eighth minute as the Sharks shipped the ball wide and found outside centre Paul Jordaan in space, and then flyhalf Pat Lambie produced a great supporting run on his inside to receive the scoring pass.

Lambie and replacement flank Tera Mtembu then produced good runs to set up a 14th-minute penalty for Lambie (8-0).

Five minutes later, Kings wing Lukhanyo Am roared through the defences and was stopped just short of the line. To the utter frustration of the Kings, possession was then recycled but knocked on, with the rampant Lambie picking up the loose ball and racing away, passing to Jordaan for the pace man to finish off (15-0).

The Kings were not only battling to handle the width and pace of the Sharks game, but they were also being ousted off the ball at scrum time. One such strong scrum by the Sharks in the 22nd minute saw the home side fashion a try any skilful Australian backline would have been proud of – Willie le Roux found Jordaan out wide with a lovely pass, the outside centre then passing back inside for the fullback to storm over for the try.

From the kickoff, a very good interchange between wing JP Pietersen and flank Keegan Daniel saw the Sharks attack down the right before Jordaan was sent racing down the outside for his second try.

Some fine play by the Sharks had been rewarded on the scoreboard as they raced into a 29-0 lead in the first half-hour, but the lovely rugby was not quite over yet as the home side sealed a sumptuous first half with two more tries.

A good run by wing Lwazi Mvovo was followed by Le Roux’s acute vision putting centre Andre Esterhuizen in the gap, and although he probably should have passed, he powered over for the try himself, taking a defender over the line with him.

Lovely hands by the forwards then worked Pietersen over in the corner for the sixth try two minutes before the break, Lambie converting from the touchline to make the score 43-0.

There was no coming back from that awful first half for the Kings, but they did at least restore some pride in the second half.

The Sharks did score in the first 10 minutes after the break, Lambie getting on the end of a chip from Pietersen and running 50 metres to score, but a more sturdy defensive effort from the Kings meant the Sharks only scored again with just three minutes left in the match.

Replacement Odwa Ndungane fielded a kick and launched a superb counter-attack from the back, the kick ahead by Mvovo forcing the penalty inside the Kings’ 22. From the tap and then the ruck, replacement prop Thomas du Toit picked up and rumbled over the line for the eighth and final try.

Lambie, Jordaan and Daniel were the stars of the show for the Sharks, but the scrum laid the perfect platform and the good, clean ball from the forwards was put to fine use by the home side.

Scorers

Cell C Sharks: Tries – Pat Lambie (2), Paul Jordaan (2), Willie le Roux, Andre Esterhuizen, JP Pietersen, Thomas du Toit. Conversions – Lambie (5). Penalty – Lambie.

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



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