for quality writing

Ken Borland



More tough roads for SA hockey 2

Posted on July 14, 2017 by Ken

 

South African hockey has travelled some tough roads in the last 20 years, but few defeats have been more dismaying than the one their women’s team suffered at the hands of Chile in their Hockey World League Semifinal at the Wits Astro on Friday.

South Africa are ranked seven places higher than Chile in the world rankings and, given how well they played in their previous game, pushing South American giants Argentina all the way, there was plenty of expectation that the home side would beat Chile and seal their place in the quarterfinals.

Alas, the only goal was scored by Chile and the 1-0 defeat now means South Africa have to beat the USA, ranked sixth in the world, on Sunday to qualify for the knockout round.

South Africa began the game by doing some nice things on attack, but too many moves broke down due to basic errors and they struggled to get sufficient numbers through the circle, all their entries into the D only bringing one short-corner the whole match.

Chile were strong in midfield through the skilful duo of Agustina Venegas and Manuela Urroz, and they earned several short-corners. Goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande was forced to make a couple of good saves and Lisa-Marie Deetlefs also blocked and cleared a dangerous penalty corner.

A fine tackle by Quanita Bobbs and a good run by Candice Manuel set up South Africa’s short-corner just before the end of the first quarter, but the variation to the pusher was not accurate enough and the chance went begging.

At halftime the match was still goalless, a flat South African team seemingly not having the drive to outwork a committed Chile side.

Given all the short-corners Chile were getting, it was always likely they were going to score and it was Urroz who slid in and managed to get her stick to the ball to deflect in what turned out to be the winning goal just two minutes into the second half.

The sluggish home side continued to labour until just before the end of the third quarter, when Tarryn Glasby found a bit of space and fired in a strong shot, but Chile goalkeeper Claudia Schuler managed to get some equipment in the way.

South Africa belatedly raised their tempo in the final chukka, but it was too late by then. It summed up their match when, five minutes from time, the ball bobbled in front of the open goalmouth to Bernie Coston, but the seasoned striker could not scramble it home.

“At the end of the game we saw some movement and passes going forward, but it was too late by then to start playing combination hockey,” coach Sheldon Rostron complained.

“We didn’t have enough go-forward ability, you can’t just keep defending. We weren’t potent enough on attack. The approach of the team has to be better, sometimes it’s easier against the bigger teams because there’s not as much expectation. But against the teams ranked below you, you have to make sure you go out and perform, it’s about consistency. It’s about execution and we have to make sure it all comes together against the USA,” Rostron said.

The most alarming aspect of the South African performance was the lack of movement off the ball. The ball-carrier had far too few passing options and this stunted the attack, allowing the Chile defence to swarm around the circle and make it very hard for the home side to find a way through.

Titanic clash as Bulls search for revenge for opening-weekend hammering 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls and the Stormers are the two leading sides in the South African SuperRugby Conference and are age-old rivals, so it will be a titanic clash when they meet at Newlands on Saturday, with the Bulls expecting a ferocious contest up front as they go in search of revenge for the 29-17 hammering they suffered at the hands of the Capetonians at Loftus Versfeld on the opening weekend of the season.

“It’s going to be another tough South African derby and it’s nice that it’s such an important game. They came here and won and hopefully we can do the same down there. It’s important that we play for the full 80 minutes, we have to be consistent and use our opportunities well,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said in Pretoria this week.

“The Stormers are very direct, they work hard on the gain-line and the game is going to be decided up front, whoever can get a solid base up there will be on the front foot. The gain-line is going to be crucial because that’s where the penalties and the line-breaks happen. And the team that keeps their discipline best normally comes out on top,” coach Frans Ludeke added.

Apart from the SA Conference lead being up for grabs, what makes the match so mouthwatering are the head-to-head clashes in this World Cup year – Marcel van der Merwe v Steven Kitshoff, Flip van der Merwe v Eben Etzebeth, Spies v Duane Vermeulen, Jan Serfontein v Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel v Cheslin Kolbe.

“Those will definitely spice up the game, even though we’re not thinking about the World Cup now. It’s always there though in the background and this might be the last time we play each other before then. We don’t try to get involved in personal battles, but the media sets the table for us, it’s always there,” Spies said.

The Bulls and the Stormers are also like peas in a pod in the way they have evolved since that opening encounter on Valentine’s Day.

As Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee pointed out this week, Jesse Kriel has started in place of Jurgen Visser at fullback since then and has changed the shape of the Bulls’ attack.

The Bulls’ scrum is also likely to be a harder nut to crack than it was that day at Loftus Versfeld, with the two Van der Merwe’s back and Trevor Nyakane full of confidence and ready to come off the bench and make an impact.

“We lost Werner Kruger in the first three minutes of that game and Trevor was thrown into the deep end at tighthead. But I felt we finished the scrums well, we battled through. But that game is in the past, we’ve improved a lot and we are definitely a different side compared to then. A lot of players have come back from injury and we definitely have a more all-round game,” Ludeke said.

The Stormers have switched to a more pragmatic approach after three successive losses to New Zealand teams, being more patient in terms and when and where to attack and it has borne fruit with victories over the Waratahs and the Force on tour.

But for all the backline brilliance both teams will bring to Newlands, the real battle will be underground in the trenches up front.

 

More injury woe for Bulls coach Nollis Marais 0

Posted on February 11, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Nollis Marais could be forgiven for shouting “Woe is me!” from the top of the Loftus Versfeld grandstand given the way injuries have hampered his pre-season preparation and the Bulls coach suffered another blow on Wednesday when highly-rated prop Lizo Gqoboka went down with a groin injury.

Following hot on the heels of the devastating news that flyhalf playmaker Handre Pollard has been ruled out for the season with ruptured knee ligaments, Gqoboka pulled out of this weekend’s warm-up match against the Lions in Polokwane with a groin strain an hour after being named in the squad.

Gqoboka will be out of action for a couple of weeks, joining senior loose forwards Lappies Labuschagne and Deon Stegmann, as well as youthful flank Roelof Smit, on the sidelines.

“You nurse Handre Pollard for weeks with his shoulder injury and then in a normal passing drill he hurts his leg. He was obviously a huge part of our plans, and Lizo too, plus Lappies and Steggies are out too. But the other guys must now step up. It’s a mind switch and the other guys must just get on with it,” Marais said at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.

Marais announced his best available team for Saturday’s match against the Lions with Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss, named as the Super Rugby captain, set to lead the franchise for the first time.

“It’s a great privilege for me and I seem to play better when responsibility is on my shoulders. We’ve lost Handre and Deon, who are both great leaders, but Rudi Paige has made a massive step up in terms of leadership. The team has a lot of respect for him, he has a lot of authority and he makes great calls,” Strauss said.

Jesse Kriel, who played fullback when he announced himself to the world stage in last year’s Super Rugby competition, has been named at outside centre by Marais, with the exciting Warrick Gelant in the number 15 jersey.

“I see Jesse as a number 13, he played there when I coached the U21s, and he is the Springbok outside centre, so that was the easiest position to slot in, he understands what we’re trying to do. I’m not too keen on him at fullback. Bjorn Basson is also an option at 15, and Jamba Ulengo could move into 11. Maybe we’ll do that for the last 15 minutes on Saturday,” Marais said.

When Francois Brummer returned to Loftus Versfeld in November for the first time since 2010 on loan from the Pumas, the 26-year-old could not have foreseen how vital he would be for the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans. But the former Waterkloof High School star is now the starting flyhalf with Tian Schoeman on the bench.

Team – Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brummer, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha, Hanro Liebenberg, Nic de Jager, Grant Hattingh, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Burger Odendaal, Werner Kruger, Pierre Schoeman, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling.

 

Stormers will provide early measure of Bulls’ reinvention 0

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Ken

 

It was the four successive defeats that the Bulls suffered against the Stormers and Western Province last year that were one of the major reasons for the change in approach of the Loftus Versfeld side and the Bulls will get an early indication of how well they have reinvented themselves when they take on the Cape side on Saturday in their Vodacom SuperRugby opener in Pretoria.

The pattern of those four defeats was similar: the Bulls forwards would dominate, they would bash away against the solid Stormers/WP defence or the ball would be kicked into the opposition 22, only for the ball to be lost and Allister Coetzee’s men would roar away for a turnover try.

Bulls captain Victor Matfield said the focus during their preparations was on raising the intensity and pace of their play, making try-scoring the goal after Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has previously admitted getting penalties was the desired outcome. The Stormers almost bring Sevens skills to their attacking play and the Bulls want to follow suit.

“We’ve put in a huge effort in the pre-season and the big difference has been in our conditioning because we have to reload quicker in defence and organise our attack. We want to go out and score tries because that’s almost always how you win and most times, the team that scores the most tries wins the competition,” Matfield said.

The veteran lock acknowledged that their opponents on Saturday have given them a torrid time recently on the counter-attack, but he hoped the tables would be turned on Saturday.

“They usually have a very quick back three and Juan de Jongh is a good stepper, so they’re dangerous off turnover ball. We mustn’t give them any of that, but we hope to turn over some free ball ourselves, because that’s where the tries lie,” Matfield said.

Publicly, Coetzee has acknowledged that his inexperienced team are the underdogs at Loftus Versfeld, but there is enough class and firepower in the Stormers side for the Bulls to be wary.

They won’t lack for inspiration with Duane Vermeulen leading from the front at eighthman, a comforting presence for the five players getting their first taste of SuperRugby – wings Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds, replacement back Huw Jones and front-rowers Vincent Koch and Wilco Louw.

The scrums will be the main area of concern for the Bulls on Saturday, as Ludeke admitted.

“The scrums on Saturday are going to be a test, but the game against Saracens was a blessing in disguise because it alerted us to where we need to improve. It will be a huge battle because the scrums give you field position from penalties. We get rhythm and confidence from the scrum, but every one is a new contest,” Ludeke said.

The words “field position” are a hint that the Bulls are perhaps not quite ready to go all the way down the same road as the Stormers and the danger of being caught in between game-plans certainly exists for the home side.

Teams

Bulls: 15-Jurgen Visser, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Arno Botha, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Werner Kruger, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Trevor Nyakane. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morne Mellet, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Pierre Spies, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jesse Kriel, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche.

Stormers: 15-Cheslin Kolbe, 14-Johnny Kotze, 13-Juan de Jongh, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Dillyn Leyds, 10-Demetri Catrakilis, 9-Nic Groom, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Michael Rhodes, 6-Rynhardt Elstadt, 5-Ruan Botha, 4-Jean Kleyn, 3-Vincent Koch, 2-Scarra Ntubeni, 1-Steven Kitshoff. Reserves – 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Oli Kebble, 18-Wilco Louw, 19-Jurie van Vuuren, 20-Nizaam Carr, 21-Louis Schreuder, 22-Kurt Coleman, 23-Huw Jones.

 



↑ Top