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Ken Borland



In praise of the Lions: The John McFarland Column 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic achievement by the Lions to win all three of their SuperRugby games overseas, for any rugby team to do that is an unbelievable effort and they continue to do really well in terms of the competition standings.

I think this is the first time a South African team have been unbeaten on their overseas tour and the bonus points they gained, to score the tries they did and to defend so securely was superb, and credit must go to the coaching staff as a whole.

Not that long ago, it was virtually impossible for a South African team to win against the Brumbies in Canberra and that could be the result that gives the Lions a great shout of hosting a home final. They can now top the log and go all the way, playing New Zealand sides at 3pm on the Highveld in the knockouts.

It was certainly a memorable moment when they managed to steal the ball for a turnover and what pace Kwagga Smith showed to finish!

For those criticising the way the Lions have been playing, you never play your best away from home, you just have to make sure you win. And you can’t be at your best every week in SuperRugby, it’s impossible, and it’s important to win when you’re playing badly.

This weekend the Lions will look forward to hosting a Bulls team low on confidence and belief at Ellis Park.

The Bulls were certainly better last weekend against the Highlanders. Although the conditions were a great leveller, they showed fight and character and it was a good turnaround which showed what they can achieve when they put their minds to it. There was also a huge improvement in their defence.

The Bulls have so many good players and they will see a chance to play against the Lions as a great opportunity; there is always a bit more passion and intensity in the local derbies. It is a very young Bulls side though, and they will need to match the Lions in the set-pieces. Obviously the scrums are crucial because the Lions will certainly attack them there, and the Bulls will also need to stop the lineout drive. Then they need to deal with the Lions’ game-breaking backs, although the Bulls also have a dangerous backline.

I fully expect the Stormers to beat the Blues back in Cape Town after their rest. The start will be key for the Stormers because they don’t have so much confidence now, but if they can get back to how they were playing before going overseas, then there’s no reason why they can’t beat the Blues. Their biggest challenge is going to be that they have to defend a lot better.

You’ve also got to take your hats off to the Southern Kings, who have no budget but are certainly playing with high confidence at the moment, and it was a really good performance to beat the Sharks with four tries to two. It was encouraging to see they’ve got the reward of four guys being named in the last Springbok training squad.

But the only South African team that has really performed to their potential has been the Lions, so you would think they will form the bulk of the final Springbok squad to be announced next week. The Sharks have recently lost to the Kings and drawn with the Rebels, the Stormers have lost four successive matches and the Bulls and Cheetahs are also on big losing streaks, so there is not a lot of confidence amongst the other players in South Africa.

But we’ve been like this before – in 2015 we struggled in SuperRugby but ended up losing by just two points to the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final. The players get excited about being in a different environment and representing their country.

The Stormers locks are world-class and proven Test players need to play, plus there are special considerations around making the squad representative, so there are a lot of variables, one can’t just choose all the Lions players.

The positive, though, is that two of the Tests against France will be played on the Highveld, so it’s an opportunity to pick more Gauteng players who are used to the conditions and the quick tempo of play.

France will bring a gigantic pack and big midfield backs, they certainly like to play ball-in-hand and they have an offload game centred around Louis Picamoles. So Allister Coetzee needs to pick the right combinations to stop that, which is always the challenge in selection – it’s like putting together a fine potjie, making sure the blend is right is most important and you’re always going to use some tried and tested frontline Test players.

It will be interesting to see who Coetzee picks from overseas, some of them have had a very long, hard, arduous season in the French playoffs or the English Premiership. You need continuity and if guys are based overseas it makes it difficult because you have so little time together as a team anyway. For me, I would only use guys who qualify to play after the 30-caps criterion comes into force after July 1.

As far as Jan Serfontein goes, if there’s an emergency then obviously Allister will use him, and the Springboks definitely need size and experience in midfield.

With all the injuries, it looks like Elton Jantjies will get an extended run at flyhalf, and it will be a make-or-break series for him.

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

Cavemen give warning to other PHL hopefuls 0

Posted on September 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The other men’s teams in the Premier Hockey League have been warned that they will have to fight very hard to take the inaugural title ahead of the Milo Maropeng Cavemen as Rassie Pieterse’s side went to the top of the standings with a gripping 3-2 win over the Schick Garden Route Gazelles in a thrilling match at the Randburg Astro on Sunday.

The top-of-the-log clash dazzled from the outset with the dangerous Lance Louw showing the intent of the Cavemen as he pounced on the ball in the seventh minute, robbing an attacker and then racing forward before finding Cameron McKay with a super reverse-sticks ball which the in-form striker deflected into goal from the penalty-spot.

Lloyd Norris-Jones hit the post after a tremendous run from the halfway line in an attack that was a foretaste of what was to come from the international player in the second and third quarters.

The Cavemen went 2-0 up in the 23rd minute when Jarryd Patrick slotted the ball home to make sure that some lovely skill by Michael Abrahams did not go to waste, but the Gazelles made sure that they were on the scoreboard on the stroke of halftime as Gertjie Lamprecht got on the end of Norris-Jones’ reverse-sticks cross.

The Gazelles pressed hard for the equaliser in the third quarter, a great run by Keenan Horne leading to a string of five short-corners in quick succession, with goalkeeper and captain Pieterse making a couple of great saves.

It did eventually come in the 43rd minute though as Norris-Jones produced another tremendous run and Jason MacLachlan deflected the ball into the goal at the far post.

The Cavemen claimed their third goal – the winner – in the 54th minute as the excellent Louw fired home a penalty stroke. It was a tough call against the Gazelles after Satchi Reddy had lost composure in the circle, swung wildly at the ball and missed, and then brought down Patrick, although it was well to the right of the goal.

But the gutsy Gazelles fought back and another fine run by Horne, keeping the ball through a couple of tackles, finished with MacLachlan flicking home. But the equaliser was referred to the TV umpire and it was a hammer blow when he ruled that there had been a back-sticks play by the Gazelles, although it was not particularly obvious.

The result left the Gazelles a point behind the Cavemen, who have a game in hand, and the pressure is now on Steve Evans’ side as both the Tsogo Sun Drakensberg Dragons and the Private Property Golden Gate Gladiators are just two points behind them, both with a game in hand.

DRAGONS DOWN ELEPHANTS

The Dragons outfit is full of dangerous, skillful players and their short-corner is a particular threat, as they showed on Sunday by beating the Every Sun Addo Elephants 2-0 thanks to two brilliant drag-flicks from the set-piece by Dave Agar.

The national under-21 side is playing under the guise of the Gladiators and is also a skillful, pacy side, with Ryan Crowe a particularly key offensive force, as he showed by being involved in all three goals as they beat the Mapungubwe Mambas 3-2.

The Gladiators were not able to beat marvellous Mambas goalkeeper Hendrik Kriek and his seasoned defence until the 43rd minute, by which time the opposition had taken a 1-0 lead through a short-corner goal by Lyall Meyer.

But the Gladiators equalised as Steven McManus rounded off a Crowe attack. Not to be outdone, Crowe then gave the Gladiators a 2-1 lead showing great skill and producing a superb finish.

But the under-21s were not able to clear their lines in defence soon afterwards, conceding a short-corner. Goalkeeper Robert McKinley made a superb save from the initial flick, but the rebound was popped in by Meyer.

There were just seconds remaining though when Crowe produced a great ball to captain Alex Stewart, who fed Walter Pfaff, the Southern Gautenger flicking into the side-netting for the winner.

In the women’s tournament, the Nestle Pure Life Blyde River Bunters just never accept that they are beaten as they scored their second shootout win of the event, this time in sudden death, to see off the Ezee Tile Madikwe Rangers.

They had to come from behind just three minutes before the end of normal time to level the scores at 1-1, Izelle Verster driving into the circle after picking up a ball deflected out of defence, and passing to Lauren Nina, who made one touch and then produced a great finish inside the near post.

The Rangers had scored the opening goal in the 36th minute as Bernadette Coston intercepted a pass and set off on a pacy run, before Charne Martell won a short-corner. Lisa-Marie Deetlef’s first attempt was well-blocked but led to another short-corner, from which her strong slap headed straight for Jessica de Bruyn-Smith, who could only turn the ball into her own goal.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the shootout through Deetlefs and Coston, goalkeeper Anelle van Deventer producing excellent saves to deny the first two attempts of the Bunters from Charne Hill and Elmien Marais.

But the next three Rangers – Sinalo Jafta, Sylvia van Jaarsveldt and Toni Marks – all could not find the goal. The inspirational Nicolene Terblanche got the Bunters on the board in the shootout and Anel Luus’s well-taken shot took the shootout into sudden death.

Deetlefs, the heart of the Rangers defence and still every bit the player she was at the 2012 Olympics, unfortunately lost control of the ball as she went first in sudden death. Terblanche, showing the composure befitting the national women’s captain, took her time and found the target, to leave the Bunters five points clear of the Rangers at the top of the log.

The other women’s game on Sunday saw the Young Solutions St Lucia Lakers outlast the Clinix Orange River Rafters 2-0 in the midday sun.

Rafters goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa was usually in the middle of the action, but she could not stop Kaz Bowyer from slapping in at the near-post, having initially saved Jacinta Jubb’s short-corner shot.

It was another tough old day at the office for the Rafters as the Lakers made it 2-0 in the 17th minute, Kelly Madsen making a strong run into the circle and Kate Koenig putting away her ball across the goal.

http://www.supersport.com/xtra/xtra/news/160911/Cavemen_give_warning_to_other_hopefuls

Cobras looking to avoid last place after disrupted season 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken

 

While the bizhub Highveld Lions have secured their position at the top of the Sunfoil Series standings, there will be a fiercely-fought contest at the other end of the log as the defending champion Nashua Cape Cobras look to avoid the wooden spoon in the final round of matches starting on Thursday.

The Cobras, with so many representatives of both the national and SA A sides coming in and out of the team, have endured a disrupted season, but they would dearly like to beat the Sunfoil Dolphins, who are looking to hang on to second place behind the Lions, to ensure they don’t finish last.

Although their hopes of winning the four-day title for the fifth time in six seasons are long gone, the progress of players like Dane Paterson and Omphile Ramela has been a major positive.

“Obviously we’ve spoken about not finishing last, but we’ve gained some things this season in the form of people like Dane and Omphi, and they would like to finish near the top of the leading wicket-takers and run-scorers lists,” Cobras coach Paul Adams told The Citizen on Wednesday.

The depth of the Cobras has always been one of the major reasons for their dominance of franchise cricket in recent years, and Adams will use the match against the Dolphins at the Oval in Pietermaritzburg to give exposure to other players coming through like Matthew Kleinveldt, left-arm swing bowler Mpilo Njoloza and wrist-spinner George Linde.

Stiaan van Zyl is out of action with a thigh strain, but the inclusion of Dane Piedt means the Cobras have one new international returning for another.

“It’s another chance to look at a couple of players, someone like Matthew has done nicely in the three-day competition, with guys like Rory Kleinveldt, Robin Peterson and Mthokozisi Shezi having a break after the long season.

“Players like Paterson and Ramela understand their games better now and hopefully we’ll be back in the running in four-day cricket next season. Despite the results, we’ve had some consistent players who are moving on in the game,” Adams said.

For the Dolphins, the disappointment of losing to the Lions last weekend and therefore ending the title chase leaves them vulnerable against a quality, hungry outfit like the Cobras and coach Lance Klusener has intimated that he might well freshen up the squad by making a few changes.

The Chevrolet Warriors are the other team in danger of ‘winning’ the wooden spoon and they take on the champion Lions at the Wanderers with a slender lead of just 1.22 points over the Cobras.

The Eastern Cape side are also looking to the 2015/16 season according to coach Malibongwe Maketa and the same squad that were beaten in East London by the Chevrolet Knights last weekend will do duty in Johannesburg.

The pressure will be on the Warriors batsmen to score runs in the first innings against the best attack in the competition and Maketa said the inconsistent batting has been the biggest issue for his side this season.

“We haven’t been consistent enough, we haven’t batted well in the first innings and, although we’ve managed to save some games in the second innings, last weekend’s defeat was always coming. But we’re working hard on our young batsmen, we want to test them against the Lions, where they’ll have to score runs under pressure.

“But this is our best side and we have them for the next two or three seasons, so we want to keep playing them and building. We’re not going to be giving away free Warriors caps,” Maketa said.

The Lions will want to complete their superb campaign by beating the Warriors and are likely to name their strongest XI even though nobody can catch them at the top of the standings.

Dominic Hendricks will replace wicketkeeper/batsman Thami Tsolekile, who is being troubled by a finger injury, while the batting will be further strengthened by the return of Alviro Petersen.

The battle for second place also involves the Unlimited Titans, who are 12.16 points behind the Dolphins, and they host the Knights at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

The Titans will be without opening batsman Dean Elgar, who was the star of their draw against the Cobras last weekend with an unbeaten double-century, before being struck on the head by Paterson and suffering a mild concussion.

But Qaasim Adams, who has scored a century for the Titans in both the Sunfoil Series and the Momentum One-Day Cup and was named as the franchise’s Most Improved Player at their awards function this week, returns from injury, and with Albie Morkel and Shaun von Berg both in the squad, the home side could bat down to number nine.

Knights coach Sarel Cilliers is expecting a pitch that will become up-and-down as the Titans need to win the game to overtake the Dolphins and finish second. But victory for the visitors could see them swop positions with the Titans and finish third.

“I definitely think their plan is to use inconsistent bounce and the pitch looks as if it will go up-and-down quite early. So far in this competition we’ve had three losses, three draws and three wins, so I’d really like to tilt the balance in favour of wins by the end of the season,” Cilliers said.

Quinton Friend, who many judges of fast bowling rate as a quality paceman, is back for the Knights and so is Malusi Siboto, an accurate back-up seamer.

Unfortunately Corne Dry and Duanne Olivier are both out injured and Cilliers said they are the sort of bang-it-in bowlers who could have thrived on the SuperSport Park pitch.

“They’ve really struck their straps in the last couple of weeks and their injuries are unfortunate because those youngsters do hit the deck hard. We’ve been capable of containing sides, but wickets have been a bit short and we had three games where we bowled for 140 overs, not being able to bowl sides out in the first innings, and that’s a long time in the field.

“But it was a good turnaround in East London, where we managed to bowl the Warriors out in both the first and second innings, and that was a good performance, especially by the bowlers,” Cilliers said.

 

Ahlers wins as 3rd visit to water not redeemable for Van Zyl 0

Posted on May 05, 2016 by Ken

A third visit to the water on the 18th hole in the playoff was not redeemable for Jaco van Zyl as Jaco Ahlers clinched the Chase to the Investec Cup final and won the lucrative R3.5 million bonus pool for the overall standings leader as well.

Van Zyl and Ahlers both shot brilliant 66s on the final day to finish on nine-under-par, one stroke ahead of Justin Harding and overnight leader George Coetzee, and had to go down the 18th three more times in the playoff before Ahlers sank a six-foot putt for par to take the biggest win of his career.

On the second playoff hole, Van Zyl staged a remarkable recovery to make par after his drive went in the water and his third shot, after dropping, found the hazard in front of the green. But an excellent chip enabled him to save par, which Ahlers could not beat as he sent his drive way left into a waste bunker and he had to lay up.

But Van Zyl astonishingly sent his third playoff drive into the same watery grave and this time his third also landed up in the water in front of the green.

Ahlers had also found the water off the tee but, hitting his third after Van Zyl’s errant approach, he took the conservative route and laid up in front of the green, before chipping on and leaving himself with a testing little six-footer for the win.

The R3.5 million bonus pool prize, plus R163 400 for winning the final, is by far the biggest paycheque ever for Ahlers, but the 32-year-old who plays out of Koro Creek Golf Estate, said he was more motivated for his third Sunshine Tour title than for the money.

“It’s amazing to win but I really haven’t had much time to think about it. I just wanted to win, I wasn’t thinking about the money, but we have just bought a house so it will come in handy,” Ahlers, a father of two, said.

It’s been a life-changing four months for Ahlers as his victory in the Cape Town Open in November earned him a place in the Nedbank Golf Challenge, where he finished in a tie for 21st and took home R1.3 million. That win in the Mother City also came in a playoff.

“I was pretty calm today. Four months ago I won a four-hole playoff to win the Cape Town Open and my first win in 2009 also came in a playoff, so that gave me confidence,” Ahlers said.

The soon-to-be George resident started the day four strokes behind Coetzee, but cashed in on a hot putter, with birdies on the third, fifth and seventh holes, as well as chipping in for eagle from the bunker on the par-five fourth.

Coetzee, meanwhile, was having an average day, having dropped a shot on the par-three fourth when he found the bunker, but birdies on the two par-fives on the front nine (4th & 7th) and another on the par-four 14th meant he was still hanging on to a share of the lead as he reached the penultimate hole.

But his drive on the tricky 450-metre par-four 17th, the toughest hole on the final day, was awful, so far left that it appeared to be heading into the Pilanesberg Game Reserve.

Coetzee miraculously found his ball in the thick bushveld, but it was totally unplayable, so he had to reload and play three off the tee, leading to a double-bogey.

The 28-year-old did make a remarkable birdie on the last, after hitting a wood out of the waste bunker just too far and running out of green, into the water behind, but it was not enough to keep his title hopes alive.

Van Zyl, meanwhile, birdied four of the last five holes to post nine-under as the clubhouse lead and, once Ahlers found the bunker off the tee on 17 to drop a shot and then could only par 18 after his approach went into the bunker behind the green, it was all about the two Jacos as they went into the playoff.

It was not all smooth sailing for Ahlers, but he made the clutch putts that mattered.

*In the Investec Cup for Ladies, Lee-Anne Pace continued her all-conquering run through the series, winning the final by eight strokes.

http://citizen.co.za/349066/ahlers-wins-as-van-zyl-perishes-in-the-water/



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