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Ken Borland

Time to panic as full-scale crisis has developed for Boks 0

Posted on September 22, 2015 by Ken


The time to panic has arrived and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is going to have to shed his fear of losing because the struggles of 2015 have now developed into a full-scale crisis after the shock loss to Japan in their opening World Cup match.

As magnificently as Japan played, what makes the loss even harder to swallow is that Eddie Jones telegraphed their game plan during the week; everybody knew they would go low in the tackle, bring pressure on the breakdown and move the ball away quickly from the collisions, and yet Meyer and the Springboks were unable to develop or execute a strategy to counter this.

All those tired old, injured bodies were not able to physically dominate the smallest team in international rugby, so what chance do they have against the massive Samoans? And if anyone says “no, but the Springboks will be ‘up’ for that game”, then I’d like to know what the hell was wrong with them that they couldn’t get properly motivated for the World Cup opening game?!

A defeat to Samoa will, in all probability, mean a flight home after the pool stages for the Springboks, so Meyer is now in a position where he has to go for broke.

A second-row of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager will bring a more physical edge, which will be a prerequisite against Samoa. Francois Louw was anonymous against Japan after his injury woes and a second flank playing to the ball in Siya Kolisi could be useful. Frans Malherbe must come in for the unfit Coenie Oosthuizen.

Schalk Burger was a busy contributor, but what did he actually achieve? He is no longer a dominant force in the collisions, turning over ball far too often in contact, and constantly popping up at flyhalf or inside centre made him a disruptive force in the backline. Duane Vermeulen has to return, as captain, and maybe even Willem Alberts, if the medical team can actually get him on to a rugby field.

Zane Kirchner, after a bright opening 10 minutes, disappeared and is a total non-contributor on attack; Willie le Roux has to return at fullback to add a creative edge to a Springbok team that is a blunt weapon offensively.

Jean de Villiers has been a tremendous captain and a great player, but the emotion of a tenacious comeback should not be allowed to cloud the reality that the best centre pairing available for the Springboks right now is Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

It’s a great sadness that the legacy of top-class players like Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez and De Villiers is being tarnished as they stumble on for a tournament too far. Du Preez should start at scrumhalf against Samoa and have a last chance to show that he still has a role to play for the Springboks.



How Dolphins adapt to volatile Willowmoore Park pitch the key 0

Posted on January 02, 2015 by Ken

The improvement shown by the Unlimited Titans bowlers and the recent struggles of the Sunfoil Dolphins batsmen suggests that how the visitors cope with batting on the often volatile Willowmoore Park pitch will be key to the outcome of their RamSlam T20 Challenge match in Benoni tonight.

By securing a comfortable 27-run win over the table-topping Highveld Lions in their last match at Willowmoore Park, the Titans attack showed that they are able to put the best batsmen under pressure.

Ethy Mbhalati ensured that the Lions were always on the back foot by removing openers Alviro Petersen and Chris Gayle in his first two overs and he was also excellent in his two overs at the death.

Junior Dala, David Wiese and Darren Sammy have each brought their own special strengths to the attack over the last couple of games and the Dolphins batsmen should find the going a lot tougher than when they plundered 194 for five in Durban two weeks ago.

“Junior has come in and bowled really well, and he’s quick too. He’s worked relentlessly on his skills and I’m very happy he’s had the opportunity and he’s taken it. Ethy was outstanding at Willowmoore Park. He has very clear plans now, specifically at the death, and his skill level is very good now after plenty of work in the off-season. When skill and strategy meet, that’s when you get success.

“David Wiese is our banker, he puts it together most games. I think we’ve bowled pretty well in the competition, barring just a couple of games,” Titans coach Rob Walter told The Citizen yesterday.

While the Titans have tightened up considerably in the field, their batting is still a work in progress. The decision to relieve Henry Davids of the captaincy has paid off, with the opener the leading run-scorer in the competition with 280 at an average of 40 and a strike-rate of 142.

Dean Elgar, who has scored 213 runs but is more of a worker than a blaster of the ball, has been rested and Davids will be looking for more support from fellow top-order batsmen Theunis de Bruyn and Qaasim Adams, before the big hitters like Wiese and Sammy, who is yet to show his prowess with the bat, are unleashed down the order.

Walter mentioned in the interview that while the Dolphins will be equally desperate in Benoni, they may lack confidence after a horror run that has seen them lose two in a row, while a third match was rained off after they had been bundled out for just 82 by the Knights.

The Dolphins can look forward to the return of Cody Chetty, their best batsman in this campaign, from a hamstring injury but whether they can give their attack enough runs to defend remains to be seen.

Cameron Delport, their quickest-scoring batsman, has been dropped and captain Morne van Wyk will be acutely aware that he needs to step up now after scoring just 79 runs in seven innings.

Fast bowler Craig Alexander will be the chief attacking threat for the Dolphins, while seamers Robbie Frylinck and Dwayne Bravo and spinner Prenelan Subrayen will be their other key bowlers.


Titans: Henry Davids, Theunis de Bruyn, Qaasim Adams, Graeme van Buuren, David Wiese, Darren Sammy, Heinrich Klaasen, Shaun von Berg, Eden Links, Junior Dala, Ethy Mbhalati, Cobus Pienaar.

Dolphins: Morné van Wyk, Jonathan Vandiar, Cody Chetty, Vaughn van Jaarsveld, Dwayne Bravo, Khaya Zondo, Robbie Frylinck, Andile Phehlukwayo, Prenelan Subrayen, Keshav Maharaj, Craig Alexander, Chad Bowes, Brandon Scullard, Mbasa Gqadushe.


Bok front row is top-class – Matfield 0

Posted on August 29, 2014 by Ken

Victor Matfield said on Friday that the Sharks front row of Tendai Mtawarira, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis is a top-class unit and their struggles in the Springbok scrums against Argentina last weekend was just a case of a bad day at the office.

The Springboks were given a torrid time in the scrums by a fearsome Argentinian unit and, although that set-piece has been a focus of the team this week, Matfield said he expected a much-improved performance next weekend against Australia in Perth.

“It’s just one game that our scrum wasn’t good enough. But they are all fantastic players, the Sharks have had the best front row and they were all brilliant for the Springboks last year. I’m sure they will bounce back.

“The set-piece is a very important part of the game and the only way to fix it is out on the training field. We’ve looked at the video and we’ve been scrumming yesterday and today and will also be scrumming tomorrow,” Matfield said on Friday after the Springboks returned from a lengthy training session that went on for half-an-hour longer than expected.

“The guys there were outstanding the whole of last year so we know what they can do. It’s just one or two technical things that need to get sorted. I think there’s been an uproar because we’re so proud of our scrums and we’re certainly not happy with the way we scrummed last weekend. But I’m sure it will be fine next weekend.”

There is a tendency in rugby for teams to work incredibly hard on where their weaknesses have been exposed the previous week, to the detriment of what have been strengths before and sides are often surprised in another department, having fixed a problem area.

Fortunately the Springboks know that their lineout was no great shakes last weekend either, and the return of the masterful Matfield has seen them also put in a lot of work in that department.

“Our set-piece must work, that’s the bottom line, we have to secure our own ball and put pressure on their’s. We’ll have to wait and see who the coach picks and whether we’ll have five jumpers or four, but we also have to wait and see who Australia pick.

“James Horwill is a very experienced lock but he hasn’t been playing, while Rob Simmons has been there for a while. We also have to see which loose forwards they choose … ” Matfield said.

If there was a university of rugby, Matfield would have several Masters degrees and the veteran lock pointed out that the Springboks must not be distracted by all the rave reviews the All Blacks are receiving for upping the tempo of their game another notch in thrashing Australia 51-20 at Eden Park.

“First of all we have to focus on Australia and people musn’t forget that the same team that played in Auckland drew with the Mighty All Blacks two weeks ago on home soil. Plus the Waratahs won SuperRugby, so they’ll still be pretty confident and very competitive.

“We have to play to our strengths and control the pace of the game. We must make it quicker when we want it faster but also be able to slow it down and make it more of a set-piece battle. Rugby is all about who controls the pace of the game,” Matfield said.

Matfield’s long-time Bulls team-mate Morne Steyn has a crucial role in this regard and is expected to be back in the number 10 jersey for the match against the Wallabies in Perth.

“I don’t think the number 10 jersey is necessarily mine, every day I have to work hard and I can’t relax with the young guys coming through, but as the link between the backs and forwards, it’s mostly up to the scrumhalf and me to control the pace of the game. We want to set the pace,” Steyn said.

The Stade Francais player said he felt Handre Pollard had had two solid outings in the flyhalf position.

“It’s not always nice being on the bench, but I thought Handre did great. I do sit down and talk to him about small things, obviously I’m not coaching him but a young guy like that can always learn little things and wherever I can help, I do,” Steyn said.

Even a player of Steyn’s experience – the 30-year-old earned his 58th cap against Argentina – found it a daunting experience to twice be thrown into the deep end off the bench and steer the Springboks to victory against the rampant Pumas and he admitted he was looking forward to the pack getting into gear.

“I think the forwards will scrum better and go forward next weekend,” Steyn said while casting a knowing smile in Matfield’s direction. “In Salta we needed more momentum and we needed to get back on the front foot, which makes it much easier for the backline. I hope it will be much better in Australia, but we saw last year what we can do overseas and we have the confidence to do well over there.”

Lest we forget, the last time the Springboks were in Australia, they pounded the Wallabies 38-12 in Brisbane and that was with a weaker backline and no Matfield.

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