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Ken Borland



Bulls listed in last 16 of Champions Cup after good win, but made life hard for themselves 0

Posted on January 21, 2024 by Ken

Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee carried strongly and scored two tries as his team overcame Bordeaux-Begles to ensure a place in the last 16 of the Champions Cup.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze (Gallo Images)

A 46-40 victory over group winners Bordeaux-Begles has ensured the Bulls will be listed in the final 16 of the Champions Cup, and coach Jake White is delighted by that, but he did admit to being a little bemused by how hard they made life for themselves at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulls scored six tries, some of them absolutely brilliant, with flank Marcell Coetzee going over twice and wing Devon Williams, centre David Kriel, fullback Willie le Roux and scrumhalf Embrose Papier, with a superb individual effort, also getting on the try-scorers’ list. Flyhalf Johan Goosen converted five of the tries and his replacement, Jaco van der Walt, kicked two crucial late penalties.

Bordeaux-Begles also scored six tries, taking two bonus points from the match, which was enough to confirm they will finish top of the group.

The Bulls twice found themselves in a rock-solid position of dominance, leading 21-7 after 26 minutes and then 40-21 after 53 minutes, but on both occasions their concentration and game-management wobbled and they ended up letting the quality Bordeaux side back in the game.

It was the home side’s replacements who saw out the final quarter, their strong ball-carrying earning them the two penalties that enabled them to just hold off the French challenge.

“We did make it difficult for ourselves and maybe at halftime we started to think about winning by 36 points because that would have seen us top the pool if Bordeaux didn’t get any bonus points,” White admitted afterwards.

“Maybe we were seduced into that style of play, it became like a sevens game and that probably helped Bordeaux, who are a good team. This is such a big competition and there are very small margins, those are the things we need to be sharper on.

“But I can’t be cross with the team, we had four forwards under the age of 22. This is the next step to Test rugby and the only way the team is going to learn to cope with these sort of situations is by going through it. We need to be more streetwise, but that comes with time. When we have our debrief, we’ll look at what some of the best options should have been.

“But I’m obviously still very proud of the win and scoring 46 points versus Bordeaux, they don’t often concede that many and they have been dominant in France. So I’m happy and it’s nice to learn when you’ve won,” White said.

The Bulls gave the visitors, on an eight-match winning streak, a ferocious welcome as eighthman Cameron Hanekom was ruled to have just lost the ball over the line and tighthead prop Carlu Sadie was yellow-carded for a ruck offence. After seven minutes, the Bulls were finally on the board as Coetzee went over from a tap-penalty.

Bordeaux equalised six minutes later when fullback Romain Buros knifed through to score, but the Bulls then thrilled the crowd of more than 10 000 with a superbly-executed try off a lineout. Strong carries by hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels and lock Ruan Nortje were followed by a lovely pass out wide from Goosen to Williams, who scampered over for the try.

Coetzee forced his way over for a second try on 26 minutes, but in the last 10 minutes, the Bulls had to call on all their scrambling ability in defence as Bordeaux put them under severe pressure following prop Gerhard Steenekamp’s yellow card for ruck offences.

The Bulls did concede a try to lock Adam Coleman, but half-time beckoned with them still in the lead, 21-14, and then they added a vital score against the run of play. Stedman Gans sparked the counter with a half-break and lovely offload to Le Roux, who was through the gap in a flash and then threw a pinpoint pass to Kriel, who went all the way from long range.

The 26-14 lead would have pleased White, and the try that opened the second half would have delighted him even more. Goosen produced a brilliant up-and-under despite being under big pressure from two defenders, wing Sebastian de Klerk made a fine aerial win and Kriel then made the initial break before Le Roux was, as is his trademark, in the right place at the right time to score.

Papier’s try was a brilliant piece of individual play as his team presented him with untidy, backfoot ball, but the scrumhalf spotted a hole in the defence and raced through it before swerving past the cover defence to dot down.

But White would have then been po-faced as Bordeaux scored three times in the next 15 minutes. But the smile was back as his team held on for a good win.

With Saracens beating Olympique Lyon later on Saturday night, the Bulls remained second in the final group standings and will have a home match in the last 16.

Ironically, White believes finishing second and getting a home match in the last 16 could boomerang on the Bulls.

“I would love to have a home knockout game in this competition, but that means we will play Dragons and Leinster away in the URC, come back for a home last-16 Champions Cup match and then an away quarterfinal before coming back to Loftus to play Munster.

“It will be helluva tough flying back and forth like that. But the nice thing is it shows the improvement and growth we’ve had in the Champions Cup. There is belief that we can win it, but we also need to understand that the big guns are now coming.

“It will be teams where 20 of the 23 are internationals playing against youngsters who are still growing and learning the ropes. I’m a realist and this competition now goes on steroids,” White said.

Scorers

BullsTries: Marcell Coetzee (2), Devon Williams, David Kriel, Willie le Roux, Embrose Papier. Conversions: Johan Goosen (5). Penalties: Jaco van der Walt (2).

Bordeaux-BeglesTries: Romain Buros, Adam Coleman, Madosh Tambwe, Tevita Tatafu (2), Paul Adadie. Conversions: Zack Holmes (3), Mateo Garcia (2).

Powell not happy with untidy 1st quarter, but Sharks immaculate thereafter 0

Posted on September 21, 2023 by Ken

Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell was not happy with an untidy first quarter from his team, but thereafter they were immaculate as they cleaned up the Bulls 47-20 in their United Rugby Championship derby at Kings Park at the weekend.

The Sharks were trailing 6-13 after 20 minutes, but then they focused themselves, they lifted the intensity of their game and they were ruthless in punishing the Bulls’ ill-discipline. By halftime they were leading 30-13.

“We hurt ourselves in the first 20 minutes, we weren’t clinical enough in our exits and we conceded silly penalties, we did some things that were out of character,” Powell said.

“But we definitely stepped things up in the last 10 minutes of the first half, we were more clinical and played in the right areas. A lot of credit must go to our forwards for the way they scrummed and mauled them.

“We could have managed the game better in the first quarter, but in the last 10 minutes of the first half we played really well. We don’t want to be predictable and we took quick-taps and played.

“It is a big win for us, if you look at the log, we needed those five points. This will go a long way for us and it’s especially important winning your home games,” Powell said.

While such a good win would certainly not have warranted the players copping a spray from their coach, Powell pointed out that the continued challenge for the Sharks is consistency – both within the game and from match-to-match.

“As the season goes on, hopefully we will perform like we did at the end of the first half for the whole 80 minutes. We’re trying to get consistent performance right through the 80 minutes,” he said.

One thing in common with all the local URC coaches is how they are painting a picture of how tough January is going to be, and Powell stressed the importance of player-management.

“It’s going to be very important to manage the squad so they are fresh for the knockouts at the end of the season. We will have to give players opportunity and squad rotation will be crucial.

“One player cannot play the whole 11 games in this block of fixtures,” Powell said.

Meant to be close derby at Kings Park, but Sharks blow Bulls away 0

Posted on September 20, 2023 by Ken

Given that the Bulls had won their last two matches against the Sharks and were fired up after their loss to the Stormers, it was meant to be a close United Rugby Championship derby at Kings Park on Saturday night, but the KwaZulu-Natalians produced a tremendously focused and intense performance as they blew the visitors away 47-20.

The opening quarter was tightly contested with Chris Smith and Curwin Bosch trading penalties, before the Bulls grabbed the opening try in the 19th minute. Impressive hands created space out wide for wing Canan Moodie, who regained his own chip ahead, albeit with a lucky bounce.

But then the Bulls found themselves in the eye of a storm, much of it of their own making as they were terribly ill-disciplined. Following a Bosch penalty, after prop Thomas du Toit won a turnover, that closed the gap to 9-13, the Sharks took a quick tap penalty and found space out wide, but Moodie knocked the final pass out into touch, leading to a yellow card and a penalty try.

The Sharks piled on the pressure and, with two minutes to go, flank Cyle Brink was also sent to the sin-bin after repeated Bulls’ infringements. A big Sharks scrum – an area where they held a great advantage – was followed by scrumhalf Grant Williams going one way and then the other and sniping over for the try.

By the time Bosch had converted – the resurgent flyhalf succeeded with eight of his nine kicks at goal – the halftime hooter was about to go, but referee Marius van der Westhuizen warned the Bulls twice that they could not kick the restart direct into touch.

Nevertheless, that is what Smith did and the Bulls paid a heavy price. The Sharks attacked from the scrum in the centre of the field, wing Kurt-Lee Arendse conceding a penalty for a deliberate knock-on, which allowed the Sharks into the 22. From there they earned another penalty, also kicked to touch, and a patient lineout maul saw hooker Bongi Mbonambi score. Having trailed by just three points two minutes before halftime, the Bulls were suddenly 13-30 down at the break.

The Sharks, confidence rampant, were on auto-pilot in the second half and they scored a superb try in the 51st minute to open the scoring after the break. Outside centre Lukhanyo Am popped an inside ball to wing Marnus Potgieter, who broke through before inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s quick hands sent the ball wide to fullback Boeta Chamberlain, who was stopped inside the 22 but produced a super offload for Janse van Rensburg to score.

The Bulls did respond with a fine try of their own, Moodie and Johan Goosen combining very well out wide for the fullback to score.

But the result was never in doubt as a Bosch penalty stretched the Sharks lead back to 40-20.

Moodie then ended up being red-carded, for a second yellow card, when he went fractionally high on a tackle on a dipping player. It was a harsh penalty when the Bulls wing did little wrong, and the officials ought to have paid more attention to the more dangerous neck-tackle on Arendse that followed. But because it happened later on in the same passage of play as Moodie’s small mistake, it was ignored.

The shellshocked Bulls then conceded another try after the final hooter when Janse van Rensburg snatched an intercept and dotted down under the poles.

The New Year’s celebrations at Kings Park will certainly be good.

Scorers

Sharks: Tries – Penalty try, Grant Williams, Bongi Mbonambi, Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2). Conversions – Curwin Bosch (4). Penalties – Bosch (4).

Bulls: Tries – Canan Moodie, Johan Goosen. Conversions – Chris Smith (2). Penalties – Smith (2).

Springbok quartet no longer waiting in the aisles as Powell brings them all back 0

Posted on September 14, 2023 by Ken

Springboks Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi were waiting in the aisles last weekend, but Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell has brought them all back into the starting XV for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship match against the Bulls at Kings Park as he dares not allow any complacency to creep into his high-flying side.

The Sharks have won four games on the trot across the two European competitions and they face a fired up Bulls side that are coming off a fiercely-contested loss to the Stormers last weekend. Inconsistency has bedevilled the Sharks in the past, and Powell is eager to ensure there is no slip in intensity on Saturday.

“It’s always good to be able to select your best players against the Bulls, who are coming to our house and always bring a big physical challenge, but on Saturday they will bring a bit more because of that loss,” Powell said on Friday.

“They saved their players from the Champions Cup to target these games, so last weekend’s loss will definitely hurt and they will bring a lot of effort and physicality to get at least one win from these games.

“We’re obviously aware of it, and it’s a really good opportunity for us to still build momentum and cohesion. We would like to be more clinical and we know a quality team like the Bulls only gives you so many opportunities.

“It’s mid-season and we feel like we’re moving in the right direction. There’s still a lot we can do better and we want to build on last week’s performance against the Lions.

“We want to take the opportunities that weren’t taken and if we can play with that flow then that will be great. But there’s an awareness of complacency and we can’t let successive wins breed that.

“We can’t just rock up and think things will happen. We need to really get stuck in and make sure we do our various roles,” Powell said.

Nche, Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit combine as an all-Springbok front row, while Kolisi will be joined in the loose trio by Henco Venter and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

Grant Williams will continue as the starting scrumhalf, with Curwin Bosch going well at flyhalf.

“It’s good to see Curwin slowly but surely getting back to his best form. Credit to the coaches because in pre-season he was in really good form but then unfortunately got injured.

“But the coaches have all been very positive about him. There’s still room for improvement and we will keep chipping away,” Powell said.

Sharks Boeta Chamberlain, Marnus Potgieter, Lukhanyo Am, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Grant Williams, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Siya Kolisi (c), Gerbrandt Grobler, Eben Etzebeth, Thomas du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Bench: Kerron van Vuuren, Dian Bleuler, Carlu Sadie, Hyron Andrews, Phepsi Buthelezi, Jaden Hendrikse, Lionel Cronje, Yaw Penxe.

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    John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

    Our Christian experience begins when the Holy Spirit starts working in our imperfect lives. An inexplicable restlessness and a feeling that nothing can give you the satisfaction you yearn for, could be the Spirit working in you.

    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

    But this inner struggle is part of spiritual life … Commit yourself to God and open yourself to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

    It is by great grace that you were chosen by God to serve him and to live to the honour and glory of his name. Surrender unconditionally to the Lord and you will discover that your life gains new meaning and purpose.



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