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Ken Borland



Lions winners of a pulsating epic 0

Posted on April 01, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions were the winners of a pulsating, high-quality SuperRugby derby against the Sharks at Ellis Park on Saturday night, edging the visitors 34-29 in a gripping encounter that had all the intensity of some of the famous Test matches the Springboks have played at the venue.

The Lions were obviously not at their best, perhaps rattled by the tremendous physical onslaught brought by the Sharks, and they made numerous handling errors. But the sign of a champion side is their ability to win the games when things aren’t going their way, and they did that through a 77th-minute Jaco Kriel try.

The Sharks were superb – none more so than Curwin Bosch, the precocious flyhalf who later shifted to fullback, and produced one of the most incredible kicks seen at the famous stadium when he slotted an angled penalty from 65 metres that put the KwaZulu-Natalians 29-26 ahead in the 71st minute.

The Sharks were undone largely by a string of penalties against them by referee Jaco van Heerden, particularly for high tackles, an offence that saw Etienne Oosthuizen yellow-carded just before halftime. The lock, a perennial liability when it comes to discipline, had earlier caused a try to be disallowed by targeting the neck, and when he was carded, the Lions immediately scored so his indiscretions cost the Sharks at least 12 points.

The visitors will not be happy though with the performance of the TMO Johan Greeff, who was happy to point out every time the Sharks went above the shoulder, but turned the blindest of eyes to clear instances when the Lions committed the same offence.

The Sharks have history with Greeff and coach Robert du Preez made his displeasure over the inconsistencies clear after the game.

That the Sharks were intent on upping the intensity of the contest, especially in terms of physicality, was clear from the start and the Lions conceded a first-minute penalty at the ruck, which Bosch slotted (3-0).

In the eighth minute they fired a real warning shot at the Lions by scoring the opening try. Outside centre Lukhanyo Am managed to make ground through Rohan Janse van Rensburg as the newest Springbok centre was unsuccessful in stripping him of the ball. Kobus van Wyk, coming from the opposite wing, was then barking for the ball as he ran a great line, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach delivering, and prop Coenie Oosthuizen then stormed for the tryline, having just enough in the legs to dot down in Warren Whiteley’s tackle.

Bosch converted and the Sharks were 10-0 up.

But the set-piece lays much of the platform for the Lions’ success and the home side began to exert pressure on the Sharks, especially at the lineout. A scrappy 14th-minute effort saw Lions lock Andries Ferreira pounce on the tap-down, leading to a penalty and Elton Jantjies was able to give last year’s SuperRugby runners-up their first points (3-10).

Bosch, meanwhile, was grouping together 50-60 metre touchfinders and he showed tremendous accuracy to go with length off the tee as well as he nailed a 57m penalty to stretch the lead to 13-3 in the 19th minute.

A 25th-minute penalty then rebounded off the post, with the Sharks regathering possession and scoring in the corner. But Van Heerden and Greeff had a whole bunch of questions about the try and eventually it was disallowed and the Lions given a penalty under their poles for Etienne Oosthuizen’s high tackle in the build-up.

It only further opened up the can of worms when an innocuous high tackle was again penalised and Jantjies kicked a penalty to close the gap to 6-13.

Bosch opened up a 10-point lead again with a superb 34th-minute drop goal as the Sharks were making little headway against a Lions team that had stepped up their intensity, and when Oosthuizen was yellow-carded for the same offence just before halftime it was an enormous moment.

The penalty allowed the Lions to set up an attacking position close to the tryline, hooker Malcolm Marx proving an unstoppable force after the lineout drive.

Jantjies converted and the Lions were just 13-16 down after a first half in which they had been bossed for long periods, setting the scene for an epic second half.

And it took the Lions just four minutes after the break to take the lead, an incisive finish by wing Courtnall Skosan completing their second try after scrumhalf Faf de Klerk had broken away on the short side after an impressive scrum.

Jantjies converted (20-16) and then fullback Andries Coetzee emulated Bosch with an excellent long-range drop goal, which came after Skosan, fielding a missed touchfinder from centre Andre Esterhuizen, had run headlong into the huge abs of Coenie Oosthuizen, but managed to survive and recycle the ball.

Bosch had pretty much been a bystander for the previous 20 minutes, but a move to fullback as Innocent Radebe slotted in at flyhalf and Michael Claassens came on at scrumhalf, saw the Sharks regain the initiative.

The top-class distribution skills of Claassens and Radebe certainly seemed to help them, and a long pass out wide to Van Wyk from Radebe, after he had taken the ball to the line, led to a much-needed try for the Sharks in the 55th minute.

Bosch converted to level the scores at 23-23 and then kicked a penalty.

The Lions’ championship credentials were certainly being refined by fire and they managed to draw level again in the 67th minute through a Jantjies penalty after Van Heerden penalised the Sharks at a scrum although they were dominant.

But Bosch replied with his incredible 65m angled penalty after a Lions infringement, but it would only be enough for the silver medal on the day.

Another high tackle call against the Sharks allowed Jantjies to level the scores again and then, with three minutes remaining, the counter-attacking skills of Coetzee and replacement flank Kwagga Smith were like gold for the Lions.

Bosch could not kick directly into touch because the ball had been carried back into the 22 and Coetzee ran the ball back, before a great run by Smith, and then flanker Kriel came roaring through for the matchwinning try.

Jantjies did not convert, but the Sharks were unable to hang on to the ball in the closing stages of the match in Lions territory, and the home side had survived to post an invaluable victory.

Scorers

Lions – Tries: Malcolm Marx, Courtnall Skosan, Jaco Kriel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (2). Penalties: Jantjies (4). Drop goal: Andries Coetzee.

Sharks – Tries: Coenie Oosthuizen, Kobus van Wyk. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2). Penalties: Bosch (4). Drop goal: Bosch.

 

Sharks were winners over Hurricanes in May to give them hope 0

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions’ implosion will send the Sharks to New Zealand for a daunting SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes in Wellington, but the KwaZulu-Natalians were convincing 32-15 winners over them in their league match in Durban in May.

The Hurricanes were full of confidence after putting 50 past the Lions the previous weekend at Ellis Park, but the Sharks cramped their space and fed ruthlessly off their many errors under the resulting pressure to thoroughly outplay them, giving them hope for this weekend’s rematch.

“It’s a good thing in terms of knowledge and confidence – we know how to beat them and we know that if we play well then we can beat them. But it will be a completely different kettle of fish this weekend because the Hurricanes are playing very well, I thought they were outstanding against the Crusaders, and Wellington is a very difficult place to go.

“They have some serious strengths that we have to negate first, their broken-field runners and offloads means that you have to be very good defensively and you have to play in the right areas. But we were good with ball in hand against them as well and you need to ask questions of the New Zealand sides. They have a drift defence so there are opportunities with that, and game-management is also important, you have to stick to your principles,” coach Gary Gold said on Monday.

Even though the stakes are higher this weekend, Gold said there was less pressure on his side in terms of not being distracted by getting bonus points to win their playoff race with the Bulls.

“There will be a little bit less pressure on us to score tries, to chase bonus points, which meant sometimes the team was trying to jog before they could walk. Now we’ve just got to win. We have to take our opportunities, that includes shots at goal, and build the scoreboard.

“But if you go into your shells and don’t have a go against the New Zealand sides then it can be a really bad day for you. So we have to go into the game with a positive mindset and ask questions of them,” Gold said.

 

Stormers bring attitude in spades to overwhelm Bulls 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Attitude goes a long way on the rugby field and the Stormers brought it in spades against the Bulls at Newlands as they overwhelmed the South African Conference winners with a phenomenal display of focused aggression, unstinting defence and sparkling attack.

The Bulls’ 13-30 defeat means they go into the Vodacom SuperRugby playoffs in second position on the final log, meaning they will host a semi-final, but will have to travel to Hamilton if the defending champion Chiefs make it through to the final.

The Stormers’ top-class performance gave a hint of what potential there is in the side, and there was no escaping a bittersweet feeling at Newlands despite a rousing end to their campaign.

“It’s nice to end the season with a win, but it would have been nicer if we had performed like this throughout the year. We find ourselves in this position of not being in the play-offs because when the pressure was on us, we did not react the way we should have,” Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said after the match.

It was a victory based on a massive effort at the breakdowns, where the Stormers not only turned over the ball several times – mostly through the brilliant Deon Fourie and Bryan Habana – but also harried and hassled the Bulls, getting in the scrumhalf’s face to ensure the visitors’ possession was mostly messy and slow.

A team cannot hope to prosper against a side with a defence as watertight as the Stormers’ if they don’t have good, quick ball and forward momentum, and the Bulls’ chaotic display at the breakdowns meant they were seldom an attacking threat.

Heading into the semi-final, the Bulls’ performance at the breakdowns is now a major concern. They struggled there against the Sharks last weekend as well, but that was put down to the lack of control exercised by referee Jason Jaftha.

With the peerless Craig Joubert in charge at Newlands, the breakdowns were firmly and fairly policed, so it seems the Bulls have serious questions to ask themselves about their cleaning out and the way they protect their scrumhalf.

The sheer power of men like Eben Etzebeth, Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr ensured the Stormers also seldom took a backwards step in the collisions and their transition from a struggling, flat-looking side to one that ended the season with five wins in a row has much to do with their return to Newlands.

On Saturday a capacity crowd certainly lifted them and they were inspired, playing like men possessed.

Coach Allister Coetzee will also be especially pleased with players like flyhalf Gary van Aswegen, lock De Kock Steenkamp and hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who are standing in for players of Springbok level but were all outstanding against the Bulls.

“We had a great season with nine wins in a row, but tonight we were given a reminder that we can lose focus,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said. “We cannot play like this if it is a knockout match like a play-off. It is more important what we take out of this match and we now know that the lineout is one area we’ll need to work on before the play-offs.”

Ludeke should also pay attention to the continuing scrum woes of the Bulls, where props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger are continuing to disappoint. The Stormers front row are hardly world beaters and if the Bulls are to win the competition, they are going to have to take a big step up in that particular set-piece.

With so much front-foot ball, the Stormers showed that they are quite capable of playing dazzling attacking rugby. With De Villiers back in the side after a rib injury picked up in the June internationals, the backline had a general and the veteran Springbok put young opposite number Francois Venter and the up-and-coming JJ Engelbrecht firmly back in their place as he shredded the defensive line several times.

De Villiers and Habana combined superbly for the winger to score a try that left a memorable mark on his farewell appearance for the Stormers before heading to France.

In Durban, the Sharks hammered the Southern Kings 58-13 to also farewell the John Plumtree era in fine fashion.

The Eastern Cape team sent a second-string outfit to King’s Park in order to freshen up their key players for the vital promotion/relegation games against the Lions, and they were overwhelmed physically, really battling to get across the advantage line.

The physical dominance of the Sharks was epitomised by the Kings’ failure to once bring Bismarck du Plessis to ground in a tackle and if Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is seeking more powerful ball-carriers, he need look no further than Jean Deysel, who was immense for the second week in succession.

The injured pride of the Sharks players was soothed by the 10 tries they scored, with Riaan Viljoen fitting in seamlessly in the flyhalf position, JP Pietersen producing an energetic display on the wing as he came back into the team after injury, and Odwa Ndungane being nothing short of inspirational in the fullback position.

The Sharks also ruled supreme in the lineouts, with little Keegan Daniel taking six balls on their own throw and stealing three off the Kings. The Sharks captain and eighthman had his best game in a long while, while loosehead prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira was prominent in the loose and scored a memorable try early in the second half to put the home side in front by 25 points.

The Kings had been competitive in the first half, keeping the Sharks’ lead to just 19-13 in the first half-hour. But the KwaZulu-Natalians took firm control of the game thereafter.

The vexed question over whether the rolling maul should be legal dominated the first half as four of the six tries scored came from what many pundits consider “legalised obstruction”. The defending team seem to be unfairly discriminated against at the moment and it is an aspect of the game the International Rugby Board will probably have on the agenda soon.

The other weekend matches settled the final playoff positions as the Crusaders saw off a determined challenge from the Hurricanes to finish fourth and the Reds edged out the Waratahs to claim fifth.

The Brumbies were upset by the Western Force in Perth and so stayed third, meaning they will now host the sixth-placed Cheetahs next weekend.

The other qualifier will be between the Crusaders and the Reds in Christchurch.

Final Combined Log

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Chiefs (NZ winner) 16 12 0 4 458 364 94 50 38 2 10 66
2 Vodacom Bulls (SA winner) 16 12 0 4 448 330 118 41 34 2 7 63
3 Brumbies (Aus winner) 16 10 2 4 430 295 135 43 31 2 8 60
4 Crusaders (Qualifier) 16 11 0 5 446 307 139 44 31 2 8 60
5 Reds (Qualifier) 16 10 2 4 321 296 25 31 23 2 6 58
6 Toyota Cheetahs (Qualifier) 16 10 0 6 382 358 24 38 32 2 6 54
7 DHL Stormers 16 9 0 7 346 292 54 30 18 2 6 50
8 The Sharks 16 8 0 8 384 305 79 40 31 2 8 48
9 Waratahs 16 8 0 8 411 371 40 45 34 2 5 45
10 Blues 16 6 0 10 347 364 -17 40 36 2 12 44
11 Hurricanes 16 6 0 10 386 457 -71 41 49 2 9 41
12 Rebels 16 5 0 11 382 515 -133 44 65 2 9 37
13 Force 16 4 1 11 267 366 -99 26 34 2 5 31
14 Highlanders 16 3 0 13 374 496 -122 40 55 2 9 29
15 Southern Kings 16 3 1 12 298 564 -266 27 69 2 2 24

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-15-superrugby-stormers-attitude-in-spades/#.V1Vhofl97IU

Gauteng’s treasures mirror what SA cricket could look like 0

Posted on May 16, 2016 by Ken

 

It may take a long time for the whole procession of winners to come up for their trophies and certificates, but they are like precious treasure for them,  and the fact that awards dinners usually focus on the club levels that are so crucial to any sport means I like them.

One of my favourites is the Gauteng Cricket Board awards banquet, which was held this week at the Wanderers Club, because, for me, it mirrors what I imagine transformed cricket in South Africa should look like.

This is a union that, a few years ago, was suffering from such internal strife and mistrust that the different clubs across the colour divides could barely sit in the same room together. And yet, there they all were, clubs from Soweto, Greenside, Lenasia, Riverlea, Jeppe, Azaadville, Thokoza and Florida, all enjoying a festive, celebratory evening together, all driven by MC Joey Rasdien’s wonderful mix of wicked humour and stern admonitions to keep focused on the prizegiving.

The current leadership of the GCB, from president Thabang Moroe, to the board, CEO Greg Fredericks and the staff, deserve credit for how they have dug Gauteng cricket out of their off-field hole.

Their professional teams, the Gauteng Strikers and the Highveld Lions, continue to win trophies on the field, and the Lions’ victory in the Momentum One-Day Cup means they have now won all the domestic trophies (four in total) in the four seasons that Geoff Toyana has been coach.

I would like to pay special tribute to Toyana (and senior players like Stephen Cook and Neil McKenzie) because it would have been easy for the Lions to find themselves in a hole on the playing field.

Toyana has managed to keep an often fractious dressing room – the outer veneer of a happy team is misleading because there are some difficult personalities that rub each other up in the changeroom – focused and winning, which is no mean feat and speaks volumes for his man-management.

The awful cloud of matchfixing has also hung heavily over the team and seeing a handful of his players being investigated for corruption has been like a kick in the solar plexus for Toyana.

National call-ups and SA A duties have also taken key players in and out of the team, but Toyana has handled this as well and the Lions have remained a force to be reckoned with.

In roughly the same time period Russell Domingo has taken the Proteas from the top two in all three formats to sixth in Tests, third in ODIs and fourth in T20s.

Steps have to be taken to arrest this slide. I certainly believe South Africa has the players to return to the heights of 2012, so the issue has to be related to the leadership and management of the side.

Cricket South Africa could do worse than to think seriously about elevating Toyana to the national coaching job. I believe he is one of those rare coaches able to both groom young talent – think of how Temba Bavuma, Aaron Phangiso, Eddie Leie, Hardus Viljoen, Chris Morris and Kagiso Rabada have all made it into the national squad – and also to get the best out of wise old experienced players such as Cook, who is batting better and better, Alviro Petersen and McKenzie before he retired.

A player like Dwaine Pretorius has also blossomed under Toyana and the all-rounder, named the most valuable domestic player of last season by the SA Cricketers’ Association, is going to be knocking on the door for national honours as well.

A promotion for Toyana would allow Gauteng cricket to reflect on great success at both the upper and lower levels of the game, and they are certainly going to continue pushing the Titans hard for the honour of being South Africa’s premier franchise.

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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