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Ken Borland



Bulls kneel in submission to Crusaders at Loftus 0

Posted on May 06, 2017 by Ken

 

The hapless Bulls were forced to kneel in submission to the might of the Crusaders as they were thrashed 62-24, suffering their biggest ever defeat at their Loftus Versfeld fortress, in their SuperRugby match on Saturday night.

It is both the most points the Bulls have conceded at home and the biggest losing margin, worse than their 56-28 defeat at the hands of the Blues in 2003.

As brilliant as the Crusaders were, the Bulls were utterly supine, their defence passive and lacking any of the fire they had spoken of in the week leading up to the match. Their attacks invariably started from so deep that they were seldom any real threat to a Crusaders side that is playing magnificent rugby at present.

There weren’t many lineouts in the game, but scrummaging was once again the bane of the Bulls’ lives, with that set-piece being destroyed with regularity by a Crusaders tight five led by stalwart Wyatt Crockett. Aimless kicking, poor defensive alignment and bad basic skills were some of the other failings to bedevil the Bulls.

As dismal as the Bulls were, the Crusaders deserve huge credit because they are playing proper rugby at the moment – strong in the set-pieces, direct with plenty of pace and power out wide, their execution is immaculate and coach Scott Robertson is clearly getting a new-look side to play with confidence while thoroughly enjoying themselves.

Outside centre Jack Goodhue, a former All Blacks Sevens player and Junior World Cup winner, was the central figure in the Crusaders’ enforcement of their huge dominance of the advantage line. His decision-making was outstanding, knowing exactly when to carry the ball, which he did with pace and great footwork, and when to put through clever grubbers which ripped the Bulls apart. Two tries were just reward for a powerful display.

The soft defence of the Bulls was obvious in the opening minutes when flank Pete Samu, bursting from a scrappy lineout, was tackled but then just let go inside the 22, allowing the Australian to regather the ball and storm over the line for the opening try. The heart of the Bulls has to be called into question because everyone expected them to come out breathing fire, playing with great physicality to at least make the Crusaders’ expected win tough to achieve.

The scrums were a disaster area for the Bulls with the Crusaders employing the tactic of shifting to the left immediately after the hit. Bulls captain Adriaan Strauss admitted after the game that it was a clever strategy and entirely within the law, the home side just not coping with it.

The Bulls attack is running from deep so often that it is always going to be a huge uphill battle for them to get over the advantage line. The Bulls’ backline is certainly a threat on turnover ball but the lack of vision and skill is also so apparent. A key moment in the game came in the 19th minute when the Bulls created space out wide for fullback Warrick Gelant, who raced down the touchline and then fed the ball inside to Piet van Zyl. The scrumhalf had a man on his inside and outside, but held on to the ball too long and the move broke down. Tian Schoeman then missed the resulting penalty. It was the sort of chance that is a certain try for every New Zealand team and it would have made the score 10-14 to the Crusaders.

The bench did at least make some impact for the Bulls, with Jan Serfontein and replacement flyhalf Francois Brummer, in particular, showing that the way forward may well include them in the starting line-up.

 

Points scorers

Bulls – Tries: Jesse Kriel, Jamba Ulengo, Jan Serfontein. Conversions: Francois Brummer (3). Penalty: Tian Schoeman.

Crusaders – Tries: Pete Samu, Tim Bateman, Scott Barrett, Jack Goodhue (2), Seta Tamanivalu, David Havili, Richie Mo’unga, Andrew Makalio, Mitchell Hunt. Conversions: Mo’unga (5), Hunt.

 

Abbott & Phangiso, victims of CSA’s transformation failures 0

Posted on May 31, 2016 by Ken

 

The tears and recriminations are flowing after yet another premature World Cup exit for South Africa’s cricketers, but spare a thought for Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbott and Aaron Phangiso, who all have good reason to feel angry on top of the brutal disappointment they must be suffering after the semi-final loss to New Zealand.

Nobody selects himself to play for the Proteas, and while it was undeniably a poor decision to play Philander ahead of Abbott, the Cape Cobras man has been a wonderful bowler for South Africa, even if his ODI skills on flat pitches don’t match his Test brilliance, and he certainly deserves way better than to be scornfully dismissed as a “quota” selection.

There were so many good cricketing reasons to play Abbott – his superb form in the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka, the doubts over Philander’s fitness (made worse by Dale Steyn’s own niggles and the ridiculously arrogant decision to only play four frontline bowlers), and the fact that the strategy against Brendon McCullum and some of the other NZ batsmen revolved around digging the ball in short and targeting the ribcage, for which Abbott is suited and Philander, who bowls at a very hittable pace if there is no movement, is not.

There has been speculation that Abbott was left out in order to play another player of colour, with rumours coming from people close to the camp that the Dolphins fast bowler was extremely angry ahead of the semi-final.

Which begs the question – when will Cricket South Africa get transformation right?

For me, it is just as much of a disgrace that Phangiso did not play a single game at the World Cup as it is if Abbott was left out for political reasons.

Will young Black Africans believe CSA when they say the Proteas are for everyone or will they look at Phangiso’s treatment and say his selection in the squad was all just window-dressing of the worst kind?

Instead of bowing to political demands before a semi-final that will now leave fresh scars on the South African psyche, why did CSA not insist Phangiso play at least against the UAE?

South Africa have not bowled skilfully enough in limited-overs cricket for a while now and this is ultimately where the World Cup campaign was lost; the only good all-round bowling performance they produced was against Sri Lanka. And to think they thought going into a semi-final with just five bowlers was a wise move.

All AB de Villiers’ statements about the Proteas being “the best team in the tournament” now sounds like empty chest-beating, designed to cover their own doubts.

If Russell Domingo did not have any misgivings about his side, why did he say they could not play Phangiso against the UAE because it was vital they finish second in their pool? An SA A side should have no trouble beating the UAE!

Yes, the Proteas have given their all and played with tremendous courage in the semi-final. But they also seem to have had an over-inflated opinion of how good they were throughout the World Cup, only for the doubts that have so blighted them in previous tournaments to come back once that bubble was burst.



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