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Ken Borland



Snyman & Bulls eager to avoid repeat of last year 0

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Listening to Western Province coach John Dobson talking about the Blue Bulls having all the pressure as favourites in this weekend’s Currie Cup semi-final, it reminds one of the same stage of the competition last year when the Capetonians came to Pretoria and upset the home side.

Bulls lock RG Snyman is well aware of the history and is eager to avoid the same painful result this time around.

“We were in the same situation last year playing against Western Province at Loftus Versfeld and we’d like to change what happened in that game. The way we do that is by not changing what we’ve been doing this season, we have to stick to what we’ve been doing. But the good thing is that this semi-final feels like nothing new, it’s quite a difference playing it now when we’ve all been through another whole Currie Cup season and a season of Super Rugby,” Snyman told The Citizen on Tuesday.

The Bulls have focused on an exciting brand of rugby, but they went down 23-18 to Western Province in last year’s semi-final thanks to the visitors not allowing them any platform or space to play the type of rugby they wanted to produce.

This year they come to Pretoria with a much-less hardened pack and the Bulls youngsters are all a year older and coming into their prime, most notably Snyman, who turned 21 only this year.

“Western Province have a good pack and it will definitely be a physical battle, especially in the set-pieces. But if we can dominate at forward then we should do really well. With the break we’ve had a bit more time to prepare and the team has clicked a bit better through the competition. Hopefully we’ll see that greater experience and better cohesion come through now at the end of the tournament,” Snyman said.

Springbok reserve hooker Bongi Mbonambi will be coming to Loftus, as should prop Oli Kebble and lock JD Schickerling, and the Bulls are going to have to show some real grunt up front to ensure they make the final.

Brumbies stick to game plan to snatch victory over Bulls 0

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Ken

 

It was all about sticking to game plans as the Brumbies upset the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, snatching a 26-23 victory at the death in their Vodacom SuperRugby semi-final in Pretoria.

With just a minute remaining, the Bulls looked about to win despite turning down three shots at goal in the preceding minutes as they led 23-19, but the Brumbies then scored a dramatic try as Bulls wing Bjorn Basson rushed up far too early on defence, leaving a yawning gap for flyhalf Matt Toomua to slide through and then pass inside for centre Tevita Kuridrani to break the home side’s hearts.

Much more fuss has been made over Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter’s decision to turn down shots at goal for three kickable penalties in the 67th, 69th and 72ndminutes than over Basson’s awful defensive lapse, but the loose forward fronted up for his options after the game.

Potgieter did eventually tell Morne Steyn to aim for goal after a massive scrum by the Bulls had earned them another penalty in the 76th minute, the flyhalf increasing their lead to 23-19, but the Bulls failed to successfully exit their own territory from the kick-off, allowing the Brumbies to attack within their 22.

“My feeling was that we hadn’t exited well the whole evening, we struggled to get out of our own half, so I wanted to keep the Brumbies down there. We did that for 10 minutes and my only regret is that I went for poles in the last five minutes. I should have backed my earlier decisions and kept them down there.

“I chatted to Morne Steyn every time we got a penalty and he had the same mindset as me, to keep them down there. The Brumbies aren’t the sort of team you expect to score from their own territory and even if there was a turnover, we were confident of keeping them there. I also felt that we were getting the upper hand through our forwards and that altitude was also playing a role,” Potgieter said.

There’s nothing wrong with the thinking behind Potgieter’s decisions, except that it meant a departure from the Bulls’ game plan all season. They have readily admitted that their strategy is to play for penalties and they have the most accurate goal-kicker of the competition in Steyn. Coach Frans Ludeke confirmed that building a bigger lead on the scoreboard had been the tactic he would have preferred.

“I spoke to Dewald afterwards about what happened and he had a totally different view to me. He felt like they should keep the Brumbies in their own territory, because he wanted to keep the pressure on them. To my mind, we should have been building a cushion on the scoreboard, but that’s rugby and I back him still as a brilliant leader,” Ludeke said.

The leadership skills of Potgieter are not in doubt – he led by example in a flat first half for the Bulls as well – and the courage and transparency he showed in being willing to discuss his decisions was in stark contrast to many other captains and teams. The Sharks left Loftus Versfeld a couple of weeks ago without even attending the press conference after suffering a one-point defeat.

Apart from deviating from the trusted game plan, the only other real criticism one can make of Potgieter’s strategy was that he may have been guilty of looking too far ahead, and even backwards to previous games, and not just focusing on winning the semi-final.

“I would back the same call again. When we lost against the Chiefs we were maybe too conservative. It was not just about closing out this game, but also how we wanted to walk into the next game. You need a total game to go all the way, the right attacking mindset brings reward,” Potgieter said in further revealing his thinking.

The Brumbies, in contrast, stuck to their game plan and executed with precision. From the opening kick-off to Akona Ndungane, which was chased hard and forced the wing into touch, giving the visitors a lineout from which they attacked through several phases and then won a penalty, it was clear they were playing to a plan and the plan was followed right until the 80th minute.

The shrewd hand of coach Jake White was very apparent as the Brumbies qualified for their first SuperRugby final since 2004.

“That opening was part of a specific plan and that was the way we wanted to start. We knew how nervous we were playing in front of our home crowd last week, plus the Bulls didn’t play last week, so we wanted a good start.

“It’s one of the greatest Brumbies win ever, we were down and out after 75 minutes but became the first team to win at Loftus this season. It’s a massive achievement,” White said.

The former Springbok coach, who never enjoyed the best of relationships with the Loftus Versfeld hierarchy, was also critical of Potgieter’s decision to spurn shots at goal in the last 10 minutes.

“We grew a leg when they didn’t go for poles, it helped us because it left the door open. If I had a new hooker on the field and the best goal-kicker in the competition, I’d be telling Stephen Larkham [Brumbies assistant coach] to get the kicking tee on as quickly as possible!”

While the last 10 minutes will remain fresh in most people’s memories, the truth is that the Bulls also didn’t show nearly enough intensity in the first half to stamp their dominance and make use of home-ground advantage.

“We had a very complacent first 15/20 minutes,” Potgieter admitted.

The dominance of the Brumbies in the scrums and at the breakdowns, thanks mainly to the brilliance of George Smith and the occasional leniency of referee Craig Joubert, was also obvious and the set-piece woes of the Bulls are something that must focus the minds of the management as they review the campaign.

“The Brumbies applied pressure through the set-piece and put points on the board through that. We need a solid set-piece, but it was under pressure,” Ludeke admitted.

The character of the Bulls was shown, however, by the way they fought back in the second half, gaining more parity in the scrums, pressurising the lineout and forcing penalties.

Unfortunately, those infringements by the Brumbies were neither punished nor taken advantage of.

The Brumbies will now travel to Hamilton to take on the defending champion Chiefs, who established themselves as the pre-eminent force in New Zealand rugby by beating the Crusaders 20-19 in their epic semi-final.

The Chiefs were under the cosh, the Crusaders controlling the set-pieces and the pace of the game, until the 53rdminute when the Waikato team were inspired by wing Lelia Masaga.

The Chiefs, having absorbed tremendous pressure from the Crusaders in the opening minutes of the second half, were hard on attack and Masaga received a long pass by scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow. By running straight back in the direction of the pass, Masaga surprised the Crusaders defence and, once he had built up some momentum, the 26-year-old had the pace and power to plough through the heavy traffic, going through four tackles to score.

The Chiefs had the lead for the first time (13-9) and the Crusaders were then shut out by some brilliant defence. Crotty was denied a try by a last-ditch Aaron Cruden tackle and, playing behind the advantage line thanks to crunching hits by the likes of Ben Afeaki and Tanerau Latimer, the Crusaders then conceded an intercept try. Crotty’s long pass, with his back to the Chiefs, was claimed by Cruden, who sprinted clear for the try and a 20-9 lead.

The Crusaders struck back with a brilliant individual try by Israel Dagg and a conversion and penalty by Dan Carter, but the Chiefs hung in for a brilliant victory against a team that was meant to be peaking at the right time.

Having enjoyed a lot of attacking ball in the first half, but wasting it through turnovers and set-piece failures, the Chiefs resorted to the safety of a simpler, more direct approach in the second half. The Crusaders, meanwhile, were forced to go wide too early by the aggressive defence and Carter trying an unlikely drop goal while he was on the run in the final minute epitomised how they had been shaken off their game.

“I just anticipated it and luckily he threw it for me,” Cruden said of his intercept try with some understatement. For connoisseurs of the game, watching Cruden and Carter display their magic was an absolute treat and it seems fair to say the All Blacks boast the two best flyhalves in world rugby.

While those two produced their best under pressure, there was arguably a match with even higher stakes played in Port Elizabeth, where the Southern Kings hosted the Lions in the first leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The Lions called on all their composure and an impressive display by their young flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, to beat the Kings 26-19.

Playing on their home ground, the Kings perhaps felt the weight of desperate expectation on their shoulders as their passionate home crowd willed them on to victory and a better chance of survival in SuperRugby.

Sadly, the Kings did not show as much composure under pressure as the Lions and four moments of ill-discipline in the first half allowed the on-target Jantjies to give the visitors a 12-6 lead by the half-hour.

Demetri Catrakilis then landed a cross-kick on the proverbial ticky for wing Marcello Sampson to dot down the Kings’ first try, but he made two important mistakes before half-time and then went off injured before the hour mark in a major blow for the Eastern Cape team, both in terms of the match and their prospects of overturning the deficit next weekend.

He firstly struck the post with a 37th-minute penalty after the Lions players had been in front of a chip by replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje, and then Catrakilis threw the pass that was intercepted by impressive outside centre Stokkies Hanekom for a 39th-minute try that must have felt like a real kick in the shins for the Kings as it gave the visitors a five-point lead at the break.

Hanekom – remember his name, people! – also scored the Lions’ second try after bursting through the line on the angle. The pass from Jantjies looked slightly forward and has drawn the ire of Kings supporters, but judging on the decisions made previously in SuperRugby this year, the TMO may well have ruled it was flat anyway.

The Kings were the victims, however, of losing out on many 50/50 decisions by referee Jaco Peyper, the Lions attacking the breakdowns with particular vigour, with Derick Minnie a hugely disruptive presence.

The Lions were good value for their win, however.

The pace and intensity of SuperRugby was made clear to them from the opening seconds when tighthead prop Kevin Buys, responsible for several big hits against his former team, crashed into Minnie, knocking the ball loose and leading to the first points of the match via a Catrakilis penalty. But the Lions adapted immediately and much credit must go to the new coach, Johan Ackermann, and his assistants for ensuring the Lions were ready for the battle without the same level of competition as the Kings have enjoyed.

The Kings did at least claim the bonus point for losing by seven, but the Lions are certainly the favourites for the decider next weekend at Ellis Park.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-29-superrugby-semi-finals-sometimes-off-the-game-plan-but-always-on-the-game/#.V5X7pPl97IU

Coetzee delighted that Stormers answer physicality barbs 0

Posted on August 13, 2015 by Ken

 

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said the way his pack had answered barbs about their physicality was what pleased him the most about their impressive 29-17 upset win over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The Stormers’ tight five was particularly youthful with an average age of 22 years and 10 months – while their replacements averaged 21-and-a-half years – but they managed to dominate a powerhouse Bulls pack laden with Springboks, especially in the scrums, while they never gave an inch in the collisions as the big men ran at them.

“There were big question marks about our physicality, but I’m really proud of the way the players put their bodies on the line, they got stuck into the Bulls and I’m really proud of the way we defended.

“It all starts in the scrums, they were a massive focus for us, and there’s been a big improvement. I’m really pleased for our young props, Vincent Koch [on loan from the Pumas] has slotted in very well and so have Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw,” Coetzee said after the game.

Despite trailing 17-5 at halftime, the Bulls managed to burrow their way back into the game and had closed the gap to 17-20 on the hour mark, but Coetzee said he was delighted with the way his team had managed to close out their first SuperRugby win at Loftus Versfeld since 2012.

“I haven’t seen a Stormers team be so clinical in the last 15 minutes, we had to turn up and really perform, especially the youngsters and the leadership. Our indiscipline early in the second half allowed the Bulls back into the game and we have to make sure we brush up on that,” Coetzee said.

Despite all the talk about a new style of play for the Bulls, it was back to the bad old days for Frans Ludeke’s team as they made numerous basic errors when in possession and struggled to find a way through or around the ferocious Stormers defence.

Ludeke admitted the performance “was not good enough” and blamed “silly penalties” for the Bulls being under pressure, a batch of them conceded at the scrum.

Captain Victor Matfield accused his team of being “out-worked” by the Stormers in the final quarter.

“Everything went so well in the pre-season, but I hope the guys see that only one thing counts, and that’s the 80 minutes on the park. You have to win the big moments,” Matfield barked.

Both Ludeke and Coetzee praised Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen for two of those big moments, when the eighthman effected critical turnovers under his own poles and replacement hooker Mbonambi also made a crucial steal against his former team in the final quarter.

Vermeulen also had praise for his tight five and the composure of his side.

“The tight five definitely put us on the front foot, but the Bulls came back and if you’re not composed and playing in the right areas, then you’re going to be back on your goal-line and conceding points. It was nice to see us execute that well,” Vermeulen said.

 

Delight for Stormers as they upset Bulls at Loftus 0

Posted on August 05, 2015 by Ken

The DHL Stormers had their fans at Loftus Versfeld screaming with delight on Saturday night as they upset the Vodacom Bulls 29-17 for their first SuperRugby win in Pretoria since 2012.

While the small but noticeable group of Stormers supporters left Loftus thrilled by their underdogs pulling off a surprisingly convincing victory over the highly-rated Bulls, the home fans were left contemplating how, for all the talk of a new era, their team played much as they did last year. The Bulls were flat, did not make enough use of their possession, wasting a lot of it through basic errors, and their scrum was always under pressure.

In fact, it was even worse than last year because the Bulls were undefeated at home in the 2014 SuperRugby competition.

And it had all started so promisingly for the Bulls as wing Bjorn Basson came bursting through on a lovely switch, earning a fourth-minute penalty for offsides. The Bulls bravely kicked it to touch and their rolling maul steamrolled over the line, with flank Deon Stegmann getting the opening try.

And then fullback Jurgen Visser dropped a regulation kick ahead by Dillyn Leyds, which the Stormers wing picked up as he followed through, racing over the line for the visitors’ first try. From then on, the Bulls’ wheels began falling off.

Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis kicked a penalty and then eighthman Duane Vermeulen came storming through on an angled run to score the second try, with centre Damian de Allende shaking off several defenders to make the try-scoring pass.

By now the Stormers were winning the scrum battle hands down and were defending with tremendous ferocity, while also carrying the ball with greater intensity than the home side.

Going into the break with a 5-17 deficit, the Bulls desperately needed to lift themselves in the second half and they played with greater accuracy and urgency in the third quarter.

Flyhalf Handre Pollard, having missed his first three kicks at goal in the first half, succeeded with a 42nd-minute penalty after strong runs by eighthman Pierre Spies and lock Jacques du Plessis.

Pollard registered further penalties in the 48th (after Basson claimed a fine take in the air), 54thand 60th minutes, while Catrakilis kept his perfect record intact with a 51st-minute penalty.

But the shaky foundation at the scrum and the tremendous Stormers defence meant that the Bulls were often running up blind alleys and the visitors finished the match strongly.

De Allende, a shining light in the Stormers backline, almost scored but was forced out on the corner flag by Jan Serfontein and Pollard, but it still led to another penalty for Catrakilis (23-17).

His replacement, Kurt Coleman, slotted a penalty in the 73rd minute as another Bulls scrum came crashing down, and then a drop goal two minutes from time, widened the wound for the Bulls into a gaping gash.

For all their talk about raising the tempo of their play, there still seemed to be too many Bulls carthorses in comparison to the livewire, all-action Stormers.

The decision to sign tighthead prop Vincent Koch on a loan deal from the Pumas looks a masterstroke as he gave the Stormers scrum a tremendous foundation, as well as being a force in the loose.

Locks Ruan Botha and Jean Kleyn also looked full of promise and there are plenty of promising signs for the Stormers for the season ahead.

Scorers

Bulls: Try – Deon Stegmann. Penalties – Handre Pollard (4).

Stormers: Tries – Dillyn Leyds, Duane Vermeulen. Conversions – Demetri Catrakilis (2). Penalties – Catrakilis (3), Kurt Coleman. Drop goal – Coleman

http://citizen.co.za/327043/bulls-vs-stormers-low/



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