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Ken Borland



Whatever they say, Lions prove travel is hard & territory is vital 0

Posted on July 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Whatever anyone may say, there are still two inviolable truths that apply in rugby – travel is hard and territory is vital – as the Lions proved in their remarkable 44-29 win over the Hurricanes in their SuperRugby semifinal at Ellis Park on Saturday.

It was an incredible victory because the Lions were trailing 22-3 after half-an-hour. Whatever mistakes they made, under the immense pressure of a Hurricanes side that was in their faces, were punished by the visitors, whose every touch turned to gold.

But a try just before halftime, prop Jacques van Rooyen carrying a hapless defender with him as he barged powerfully over the line, gave the Lions hope and, more importantly, showed them how to play in the second half.

The try had come after a penalty was kicked to touch and a couple of lineout drives had the Hurricanes back-pedalling. It was noticeable that flyhalf Elton Jantjies was twice pushed back from over the line when he tried to go it alone, but give the ball to a big, strong forward to carry and it was a totally different story.

The Lions had tried to beat the Hurricanes at their own game in the first half, taking quick tap penalties and spreading the ball wide, and they were being destroyed.

But, to their immense credit, those plans changed in the second half.

There was a much greater emphasis on territory, with the big boots of wing Ruan Combrinck and fullback Andries Coetzee playing a key role, they drove from the lineout and used the set-pieces to get the Hurricanes on the back foot.

As the altitude and travel kicked in, the Hurricanes wilted and they barely fired a shot in the second half, all the momentum going the Lions’ way.

The Hurricanes are absolutely ruthless on turnover or openfield ball and, after Jantjies had kicked an early penalty set up by the forwards, the visitors quickly reminded the Lions of that fact.

A pass from Jantjies missed scrumhalf Ross Cronje on a wraparound move and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara twice kicked the ball through before winning the race for the touchdown.

But the Hurricanes are also extremely efficient at creating tries and a turnover from impressive eighthman Brad Shields enabled them to do just that in the 11th minute.

It was a disappointing defensive read from the Lions after the lineout, with too many defenders bunched in midfield, allowing flyhalf Beauden Barrett to come roaring through a big hole on the wraparound, and then freeing wing Wes Goosen on the outside for the try.

On the half-hour, there was a particularly poor moment of bad decision-making by the Lions as they were awarded a penalty inside their own half, but instead of kicking to the corner and squeezing the Hurricanes, they played into their hands by taking a quick tap and trying to run.

There was a hint of Cronje being played at the ruck as lock Sam Lousi knocked the ball out of his hands, but there was no doubt about flank Ardie Savea’s finishing ability as he pounced on the loose ball and roared away.

There was an early chance in the second half for the Lions to make amends, as they won a penalty. This time they set the lineout and then a midfield ruck, which created some space on the left. Cronje, who handled with aplomb the obvious pressure there was focused on him at the breakdowns, dived over from a ruck close to the tryline.

Jantjies, who put the disappointment of his poor goalkicking against the Sharks in last weekend’s quarterfinal behind him by nailing a solid six-from-eight against the Hurricanes, added the conversion and suddenly the Lions were just 17-22 behind and one could sense the momentum shift.

If there is one criticism of the Hurricanes side, it would be that they are not the most patient side and, with the Lions bossing territory through the boots of Combrinck and Coetzee, the frustrated visitors tried a dinky little chip kick from their own territory.

It was gathered by Combrinck, who burst into the Hurricanes’ 22 and forced a penalty for offsides. The Springboks are surely going to have to recall the powerful wing now that he is back to his best after injury.

The Lions once again set the lineout and hooker Malcolm Marx carried strongly to force his way over for the try, Jantjies’ conversion coming off the post to leave the scores level at 22-22.

But the kickoffs and exits are such vital parts of the game these days and, when the Lions dilly-dallied after receiving the kickoff, a well-timed counter-ruck by the Hurricanes turned over possession, which was then simply shipped down the backline until there were no more defenders left and outside centre Ngani Laumape was able to cross for the try.

Fullback Jordy Barrett converted, but they would be the last points the Hurricanes scored as the last 20 minutes were one big hiding for the defending champions.

Combrinck again broke clear but was tackled deep inside the Hurricanes’ 22, with flyhalf Beauden Barrett then playing the ball on the ground and being yellow-carded by referee Jaco Peyper. It was such a cynical foul in the red zone that there could be no buts about it, and Jantjies kicked the penalty to close the gap to 25-29.

The Lions then roared back on to attack; their efforts looked a little aimless at times, but at least they kept the ball alive and Cronje eventually found centre Harold Vorster coming through on a good line for the try that gave the Lions the lead for the first time since the fifth minute.

When flank Kwagga Smith misread a ruck for a collapsed maul and was penalised for hands-in, it meant Jordy Barrett would have his fifth and final shot at goal, but crucially he missed and the Lions’ momentum was not broken.

The Lions have one of the best scrums in the competition and they used it in the 73rd minute to destroy the Hurricanes set-piece and provide fantastic front-foot ball for the backs, which Jantjies used to go sniping over for another try, his conversion stretching the lead to 39-29.

It meant the Hurricanes would have to play from their own territory and a long pass from Perenara was duly intercepted by replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe, who was pleased to have Smith roaring up in support just as the attack seemed to be dying, the flank crossing for the final try.

This time there was no conversion from Jantjies, but there was no denying the Lions as they completed their remarkable triumph.

They showed once again that once the tide is with them, when they have the bit between their teeth, there is no stopping them.

Scorers

LionsTries – Jacques van Rooyen, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith. Conversions – Jantjies (4). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

HurricanesTries – TJ Perenara. Wes Goosen, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape. Conversions – Jordy Barrett (3). Penalty – Barrett.

Gold keeps faith with ‘special group of players’ 0

Posted on June 09, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold has largely kept faith with the same team that lost to the Lions last weekend for Saturday’s vital SuperRugby clash with the Bulls at Kings Park, calling them a special group of players.

Although the Sharks desperately need a change in fortunes to resuscitate their season, the only changes Gold has made are the returns of Springbok veterans Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira to the front row.

“It’s nice to be able to strengthen our front row because it will be a very tough game up front, but I’m really happy with this team and I’m massively optimistic that if we replicate the effort of last week and rectify a couple of system errors, then we can get the result because this is a special group of players and they are hurting as much as we are,” Gold said after announcing his team in Durban on Thursday.

Gold acknowledged that the defence, which has enjoyed a strong heritage in recent Sharks teams, has been woefully lacking this season.

“We should be proud of our defence, but I’m not happy with it at all, it’s not nearly been good enough and it didn’t improve at all against the Lions. There were system errors, which was very disappointing, and, as the coaching staff, we all take responsibility for that.

“We neglected spending time on that out in the middle, the players didn’t do it over and over again enough, because they were a great defensive unit last year. I guess we have to be like the golfer who hits thousands of seven-irons in practice even though that’s his strength. But I have a lot of faith in this special group of players and I believe we can fix it,” Gold said.

Team: Odwa Ndungane, S’bura Sithole, Waylon Murray, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Fred Zeilinga, Cobus Reinach, Renaldo Bothma, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Marco Wentzel, Mouritz Botha, Jannie du Plessis, Franco Marais, Tendai Mtawarira. Bench – Monde Hadebe, Thomas du Toit, Lourens Adriaanse, Lubabalo Mtyanda, Etienne Oosthuizen, Conrad Hoffmann, Lionel Cronje, SP Marais.

In Allister the Springboks have the right man 0

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Ken

 

Although I would have liked to have seen some big-name overseas input in the management team, in Allister Coetzee the Springboks have a coach who is vastly experienced, has excellent man-management skills and will avoid the transformation pitfalls that plagued his predecessor, which is vital in this country.

Coetzee was a strong contender for the post way back in 2008, but those were the days when Cheeky Watson held powerful sway in South African rugby and the disgraced Eastern Province president was firmly in the Peter de Villiers camp.

In a way, I’m actually quite pleased now that Coetzee did not get the job straight after he had been part of Jake White’s management team that won the World Cup in 2007. The former scrumhalf star has spent the last eight years gaining more and more experience, to the extent that of all the Springbok coaches appointed since 1992, he has the most experience of them all.

Early coaches like John Williams, Ian McIntosh and Kitch Christie had no international background, while Andre Markgraaff and Carel du Plessis had not coached at SuperRugby level. Nick Mallett, Harry Viljoen and Rudolf Straeuli had experience in that competition, but were not part of successful Springbok management teams before their promotion.

White and De Villiers both won the junior world cup but had never been head coach of a SuperRugby franchise, while Heyneke Meyer had success with the Bulls but only a little involvement with Springbok teams.

Critics of Coetzee point to the dour style of rugby he played in making four SuperRugby playoffs, winning the South African Conference three times and claiming two Currie Cup titles, but it’s important to look at that in context.

When he took over an ailing Stormers in 2010, the then laws of the game favoured teams that played territory and could defend well, at times the less ball you had the better. Think of how well the Springboks did around that time and what sort of rugby they played, beating the All Blacks five times between 2008 and 2011.

Of course, as the laws changed, Coetzee said he tried to make sure the Stormers’ play evolved as well, but it was not as easy as just applying a new lick of paint.

Players who have worked with Coetzee – and not just with the Stormers, Fourie du Preez for instance – have the utmost respect for his ability as a coach. The 52-year-old will have the attacking and skills input of Mzwandile Stick, one of the best Sevens players this country has ever produced and obviously a talented coach in his own right given that he steered Eastern Province to the U19 Currie Cup title.

In terms of an overseas appointment, Saru probably don’t have the money and the top overseas names probably don’t have the inclination or the inside knowledge to get involved in the murky politics of our rugby, so local will have to be lekker for now. CEO Jurie Roux said Coetzee is welcome to call in any short-term consultants he requires.

Much has been made of Saru’s goal of making the Springbok team 50% representative by the next World Cup and Coetzee said it shouldn’t be an issue for him. He managed to field a transformed Stormers side and keep winning at the same time.

The talent is there to fulfil any quotas, but if Coetzee does run into problems now and then in terms of balancing his side, at least nobody is going to call him a racist as Watson once tried to imply.

The Springbok coaching reins have undoubtedly been handed to the right man, although an efficient organisation would have given Coetzee much more time to prepare for a tough debut when Ireland come to these shores in June.

Dolphins in strong position v Titans after first day 0

Posted on December 11, 2015 by Ken

The Dolphins will enter the second day of their vital Sunfoil Series match against the Unlimited Titans at SuperSport Park in Centurion in a strong position after they dismissed the home side for just 267 and then reached 51 without loss at the close of play on the first day on Thursday.

 

The Titans had elected to bat first, but national opener Dean Elgar made only a brief visit to the crease, surviving one delivery and then being bowled second ball by Mathew Pillans.

The highly-promising Theunis de Bruyn and Henry Davids, the Titans captain, then added 95 for the second wicket as the Titans went into the lunch break on 95 for one.

The runs flowed freely straight after the interval, with De Bruyn scoring 52 and Davids 79, the partnership being extended to 137, before the persevering Pillans made the breakthrough.

De Bruyn’s concentration deserted him as he prodded outside off stump and was caught behind by Morne van Wyk off Pillans.

Daryn Dupavillon then struck two major blows against the Titans when he dismissed Davids, well-caught at second slip by Daryn Smit, and Roelof van der Merwe, who had the gross misfortune of being caught down the leg side for a duck, in the space of three deliveries.

Graeme van Buuren (34) and Qaasim Adams (24) restored order to the zoo with a fifth-wicket stand of 58, but left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, who was the Dolphins’ other key bowler alongside pacemen Dupavillon and Pillans, made the crucial breakthrough by having Adams caught at slip by Smit.

From 209 for four, the Titans tumbled to 267 all out, with wicketkeeper Mangaliso Mosehle the only batsman to stand firm with a bright 41.

The pacy Dupavillon (19-4-67-3) and Pillans (21.1-4-80-3) spearheaded the Dolphins attack and were always at the batsmen on what looked a good batting track, while Maharaj, who at one stage had bowled six overs for four runs, returned outstanding figures of three for 51 in 28 overs.

Divan van Wyk and Imraan Khan, the Dolphins openers, made merry in the 40 minutes before the close, reducing the deficit to 216 runs.

The in-form Khan stroked six boundaries in the 31 balls he faced, breezing to 32 not out, while Van Wyk, the younger brother of captain Morne, was on 17 not out.

Khan was particularly severe on Ethy Mbhalati, taking the veteran seamer for three boundaries in the second over he bowled.

http://citizen.co.za/343089/titans-vs-dolphins-first-day/

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