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Ken Borland

Knights triumph about a unit playing for a higher purpose – De Bruyn 0

Posted on February 15, 2017 by Ken


VKB Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn said on Saturday that his team’s Sunfoil Series triumph was all about a unit playing for a higher purpose.

The Knights wrapped up their first four-day title since 2007/8 on the third day of the final round of fixtures, their innings-and-121-runs win over the bizhub Highveld Lions at the BidVest Wanderers Stadium giving them an insurmountable lead at the top of the table.

Having reached a tremendous 443 in their first innings, the Knights then bundled the Lions out for just 87 on the second day to set up their victory. The Lions were 193 for five in their follow-on innings when play resumed on Saturday morning, and the Knights needed just 100 minutes to dismiss the home side for 235.

Duanne Olivier was once again the leading wicket-taker, with four for 59 in 20 overs, taking his season’s tally to a phenomenal 52 wickets in eight matches at an average of just 18.13. As has been the case throughout the season, South Africa’s newest Test cricketer was superbly supported by Marchant de Lange (22.1-5-75-3) and Shadley van Schalkwyk (20-5-41-3).

“This team plays for the man upstairs and his purpose for us, and that’s why we have been blessed. In cricket, you cannot control the outcomes, but we have managed to get a unit that believes we are playing for a bigger purpose. We’ve set high standards and, although we didn’t do well in the T20, we backed ourselves in this competition,” De Bruyn said after winning the most prestigious domestic title in his first season as captain, for the franchise he joined from the Titans, who were the defending champions and closest challengers.

“It’s been a rollercoaster season, but I believe we truly deserve to win the trophy. We’ve lost the least games – only two – and we bowled as a unit. Duanne took over 50 wickets and Marchant had 34, and then you add in Shadley’s 29 and Mbulelo Budaza also chipped in. The bowling was relentless from both sides and when the attack was switched on, they were really able to dominate all opposition batting line-ups.

“The batsmen also put the runs on the board for the bowlers to bowl at, Rudi Second worked on technical aspects of his game, he’s a wicketkeeper but as a batsman he’s dominated at four or five, while someone like Pite van Biljon only played four matches but played a couple of brilliant innings, like his hundred here. Luthando Mnyanda gave us our best starts all season in the last two games and Diego Rosier came in and scored runs as well,” De Bruyn said.

The 24-year-old did not mention his own considerable contribution to the triumph, De Bruyn scoring 751 runs at an average of 57.76. Second was second in the Knights averages with 684 runs at 52.61.

Knights coach Nicky Boje’ said winning the Sunfoil Series was up there with the best moments of his long and decorated career in cricket.

“It’s definitely right up there because we see the four-day tournament as the main competition and it got to a tough stage for us after we were outplayed in Paarl. But we managed to produce an almost-perfect performance in this ‘final’ after all the sides were still in the mix for the trophy. We played good cricket and set ourselves high standards,” Boje’ said.

The former international spinner is in his first season as the full-time Knights coach, making the fledgling Boje’/De Bruyn partnership and achievement even more impressive.

“As a new coach, you’ve got to get the players to trust what you are trying to do and I had to make a couple of changes and bring a couple of new guys in. But Theunis as captain, Marchant and Duanne with the new ball and David Miller bringing his international experience have all been massive,” Boje said.

It’s been more than six years since the Knights won a trophy, but Boje’ is adamant this team are still in the early stages of their journey.

“The Knights were in a building phase and didn’t win trophies for the last couple of years, but it’s a process. We want to leave a legacy for young guys coming in so they know how to be a Knight. We are still busy getting everything in place and we have to make sure we keep building. Today was just the first step,” Boje’ said.

It may sound silly, but in a tournament that was defined by small margins, De Bruyn described a last-wicket stand of just 10 between Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli during last weekend’s heavy defeat at the hands of the Cape Cobras as being crucial to their title success.

“In Paarl, we may have lost badly but the two spinners at the end of the first innings took us from 143 for nine to 153 to get us one batting point [150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point]. That extra point turned out to be a massive moment because it meant this week we only needed 120 more runs than the Titans rather than 170 more. It just allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said.

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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