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Ken Borland



Bulls score 56 & concede 35, except this time they remain in firm control as they hammer Benetton 0

Posted on May 18, 2024 by Ken

Kurt-Lee Arendse (right) had a superb game, highlighting not just his speed and stepping ability, but also his strength. Photo: Backpage Pix

Bulls coach Jake White was delighted by his team’s attacking expertise and once again perplexed by why they allowed the opposition to score so many points, except this time his side remained in firm control of the match as they hammered Benetton Treviso 56-35 in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls were often sublime with ball-in-hand, scoring nine tries, but they did concede five tries to Benetton, with the Italian side not hiding their happiness with what could be an important point for their playoff qualification hopes.

An exceptional first half-hour saw the Bulls thunder to a 26-0 lead, a precise kicking game, powerful scrum, mauling, dominance on the gainline and a slick backline all combining seamlessly. They were then 31-7 up as halftime beckoned, but they allowed Benetton to score on the hooter and then also conceded the first try of the second half as the Italians threatened to replicate what Glasgow Warriors did last week by getting back into the game at 21-31 down.

But this time the Bulls kept scoring points in the second half, crossing for four more tries while Benetton tried everything to get the four-try bonus point. Although they succeeded, the Bulls made it hard enough for them that they never looked in danger of losing.

“I’m very happy with the five points and at times we looked like the best team in the competition. But I guess the question is how did we leak five tries? I don’t think it was because of a lack of work-rate, not a system error and not due to game-understanding. I think we just do things that help the opposition into places they want to be. We almost think we can score from anywhere, maybe we should talk more about game-management or turnover-control at training,” White mused after the emphatic victory that temporarily lifted his team into second on the log.

“You need to defend well if you’re going to win championships, but you need to score points too. One constant about rugby is that the team that scores the most points always finishes near the top of the log. If we keep scoring lots of points, it means to beat us the opposition must score 50 and that creates pressure.

“But I still want us to be a tougher defensive side and not allow the opposition to score easily due to our mistakes or the situations we put ourselves in. The shape of our attack was very good, but the one thing we lack is that edge on defence, that ruthlessness that does not allow the other team to score. But I will take the opposition having to score more than 30 points to win every week of the season.

“Last week we were like deer in the headlights, there was almost panic, but this week we continued to score points. Last week it was almost as if we tried to defend the 37-10 score and it almost came back to bite us. But today we had much more control and we showed much more understanding that we needed to tighten up.

“I’m also looking for the ‘why?’. Maybe it’s because we try so hard to score great tries that maybe we create pressure for ourselves. I also think that for two weeks in a row we’ve played against teams that really wanted to score four tries. There’s no doubt Benetton needed to get something out of the game and it would have been much more difficult for them to get a bonus point by keeping us to less than an eight-point winning margin.

“So I’m not worried and there is no reason for us to go away from what is working. Hopefully the mental attitude will be there and there will be more grunt when it is a do-or-die defensive set in a knockout game. The captain [Elrigh Louw] gave his word that they will do it and I don’t doubt that they will,” White said.

The Bulls began the game with a show of force that a Chinese military display would have battled to match in terms of precision and shock-awe value. A bang-on-target kick and chase forced a knock-on inside the Benetton 22, the Bulls dominated the scrum and then won a ruck penalty. The lineout was set and then the maul, and then the ball went out to wing Canan Moodie, who snaked through the defence to score the opening try after three minutes.

The Bulls’ other wing, Kurt-Lee Arendse is diminutive and has the face of an angel, but the Springbok star showed his hard, ruthless edge as he then set up the second try and scored the third. A quick lineout taken on the halfway line was followed by Arendse making a great run down the left and then passing inside for centre David Kriel to score in the 17th minute.

Three minutes later, Arendse brilliantly won an up-and-under and, quick as a flash, scrumhalf Embrose Papier kicked over the ruck to win a marvellous 50/22. The Bulls quickly went wide from the lineout and Arendse then fought this way through four tackles to score, showing he is not just a stepper and dasher, but also a finisher of great strength.

Willie le Roux has come to Loftus Versfeld for more than a few rand, and the Springbok legend showed why as his break and mazy run, followed by a super inside-pass, sent lock Ruan Nortje galloping over for the Bulls’ fourth try.

At 26-0 down, Benetton had a mountain to climb. They had been terrible in terms of defence and discipline in the opening quarter, but they showed admirable tenacity in fighting their way back into the game through tries by wing Onisi Ratave, hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and scrumhalf Andy Uren.

The Bulls touched the heights one more time in the first half, however, as loose forward Louw’s lovely pop-pass backwards out of contact found inside centre Harold Vorster, who knifed through the defensive line and set up the easiest of run-ins for Moodie, scoring his second try.

The way the Bulls repelled the Benetton comeback in the second half suggested a breakthrough in terms of game-management. They focused on continuing to keep the opposition in their territory with their kicking game, forcing Benetton to attack from deep.

Another good up-and-under from Papier earned a penalty for obstruction and hooker Akker van der Merwe scored from the lineout maul. Four minutes later, a long pass inside their own half went to ground in the Benetton backline, and Kriel pounced, powering away for his second try as he continues to impress in what may be a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old.

Another atypical moment of defensive softness by Benetton, one of the best defensive sides in the competition, then allowed Bulls flyhalf Johan Goosen to just run at them from a scrum, bursting through and then offloading to Kriel, who then fed Moodie out wide for a an easy run-in for his hat-trick of tries.

At 48-28 up, the Bulls made the iconoclastic decision to kick a penalty for poles and replacement flyhalf Chris Smith succeeded from long range, and although Benetton grabbed their fifth try, the Bulls had the final say. Louw surged forward from quick ball off the top of a lineout, getting into the five-metre zone; from there the Bulls just recycled the ball across the field until the opposition ran out of numbers and replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar reached over to score.

With their electrifying backline and a pack that just swarms over the contact points, White has reason to be encouraged by the progress his team has made.

“Last season we finished seventh and now the worst we can finish this time is fourth, so we have a home quarterfinal. So there’s no doubt there’s been improvement, we still have a ticket in the knockouts so there is still hope. The challenge now is to get it right on four successive weekends,” White said.

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Canan Moodie (3), David Kriel (2), Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions – Johan Goosen (4). Penalty – Chris Smith.

Benetton Treviso: Tries – Onisi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Marco Zanon. Conversions – Rhyno Smith (5).

One can only salute vintage Warner 0

Posted on August 17, 2023 by Ken

David Warner has been a nemesis of South African cricket for a long time, but one could only salute the stroppy left-hander for his vintage double-century in his 100th Test which gave Australia complete control of the second Test at the MCG.

With the build-up to his landmark Test being surrounded by talk of how much longer he would feature in the longest format – his previous century was nearly three years ago – and off-field drama as he sought to overturn the leadership ban imposed on him after his scurrilous ball-tampering actions in the previous Test series against South Africa, Warner was under real pressure at the MCG.

But with Kagiso Rabada having dismissed the 36-year-old in his last five innings, Warner made the bold statement that he had perhaps been treating bowlers with too much respect and he was going to return to his old, aggressive self in the second Test.

Warner was true to his word and his innings was a high-quality display full of all the attributes that have made him a great Test batsman: he brought an almost manic intensity to the crease, he was positive and committed to every shot he played and every run he scampered, driven by an immense hunger that saw him plough on through severe cramps brought about by searing temperatures that touched 40°.

Warner produced a typically flashy statement innings on his big day at the cathedral of Australian cricket. Not only did he become the eighth Australian to score 8000 Test runs, but only the second (and 10th overall) to score a century in his 100th Test. He was not satisfied and went on to become only the second batsman, England’s Joe Root being the other, to made a double-century in his 100th Test.

The lover of sports cars – he owns a McLaren and a Lamborghini Huracan – emptied the tank on Tuesday at the MCG and whether he still has the desire to fuel his continued presence on the Test stage, with daunting tours of India and England to come, remains to be seen.

Let’s hope he continues to grace the most important stage of the game because, whatever you may think of Warner the person and his antics, he is a box-office entertainer.

Warner bats with executive authority as he puts SA to the sword 0

Posted on August 03, 2023 by Ken

David Warner, celebrating his 100th Test, batted with executive authority as he put South Africa to the sword with an unbeaten double-century as Australia took complete control of the second Test at the Melbourne Cricket Ground on Tuesday.

Warner, suffering from severe cramps, retired hurt immediately after he reached 200 with a steer wide of the slips for his 16th four to go with two sixes. He was spent physically in the sweltering Melbourne heat, but no doubt mentally as well after coming through a tumultuous period in which his Test future was in doubt.

There was no respite though for the South African bowlers, who toiled manfully without much luck in the morning session, but finally crumbled after tea as Australia added 155 runs in 28 overs in the final session to reach the close on 386 for three, already a lead of 197.

Steven Smith scored 85 but did not bat with his usual immaculate control, instead showing his powers of determination as he weathered some tough times, adding 239 for the third wicket with Warner.

The pair had accelerated after tea, lashing 83 runs in the 11 overs after the break, but Smith then steered the first ball after drinks straight to gully to give Anrich Nortje a well-deserved wicket.

But Travis Head showed he is well-equipped to also be one of the fast cars on the Australian race-track, cruising to a run-a-ball 48 not out by stumps.

About the only concern for the home side is that two of their bowlers may have broken fingers. All-rounder Cameron Green had to retire hurt on 6 after being a struck a fearful blow on the hand by Nortje, while Mitchell Starc dislocated a finger in the field on the first afternoon.

Nortje was a phenomenal mix of F1 car and tough bakkie on Tuesday, consistently sending down 150km/h thunderbolts and showing remarkable endurance to keep his speed up right until the end of a tough day, his figures of one for 50 in 16 overs not doing him justice.

He was the one bowler to really trouble Warner, finding his inside-edge several times. But South Africa’s only wicket in the crucial morning session came via a run out, Warner and Marnus Labuschagne (14) getting into a mishap over an overthrow. Nortje completed the run out of Labuschagne with good composure at the bowler’s end, Keshav Maharaj having provided the throw.

Left-armer Marco Jansen was also probing and he had Smith dropped on nine, gloving a hook down the leg-side, wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne spilling a tough, diving chance.

North-West innings spirals out of control v Northerns 0

Posted on March 12, 2023 by Ken

Aya Gqamane led a marvellous bowling display by the Northerns Titans

The North-West Dragons won the toss and elected to bat first in their CSA 4-Day Series match against the Northerns Titans at Centurion on Sunday, but their innings soon spiralled out of control and they were bowled out for just 148.

Northerns had reached 18 for one in reply when bad light stopped play.

Junior Dala set the ball rolling when his short ball outside off-stump saw a hooking Grant Mokoena (4) looping the ball to mid-on.

Aya Gqamane, curving the ball back into the right-handers, then trapped both Lesego Senokwane (14) and Shaylin Pillay (18) lbw, before Senuran Muthusamy (13), swivelling on a pull shot, hit the ball straight to midwicket as the Eastern Cape product finished with figures of three for 40 in 13 overs, doing most of the damage in a marvellous bowling display by the Titans.

Dala then returned to claim his second wicket, Khanya Cotani (0) edging a drive and being well-taken in the slips by Donovan Ferreira, as North-West crashed to 83 for six.

JP King (38) and Duan Jansen (37) provided some resistance with a seventh-wicket stand of 47, but the entire innings was all over in four hours, just 56.2 overs.

Apart from Gqamane and Dala, the Northerns production line of fast bowlers looks promising with both Merrick Brett (11-5-20-2) and Matthew Boast (14-4-41-1) impressing on their first-class debuts for the Titans. Left-arm spinner Neil Brand also collected two late wickets.

The Titans were only able to bat for six overs before play was prematurely ended by an approaching storm, but Brand reached 14 not out in that time. Jiveshan Pillay was with him on four not out, after the dismissal of Modiri Litheko for a duck.

He was undone by some fine bowling by Renaldo Meyer: a big inswinger the previous ball led to an unsuccessful lbw appeal, but the next delivery was perfectly pitched, Litheko came forward to defend, but a beautiful away-swinger found the edge of his bat to have him caught behind.

Lions v Dolphins

Conditions were all in the batsmen’s favour in Potchefstroom on Sunday as the KZN Dolphins amassed 181 for two against the Central Gauteng Lions in their match, before play was washed out in the afternoon.

The Lions did manage to make an early strike when the all-effort Codi Yusuf fired the ball into the blockhole and trapped Tshepang Dithole lbw for 3.

But Proteas batsmen Sarel Erwee and Keegan Petersen were determined and focused as they added 99 for the second wicket, before Malusi Siboto drew a slip catch from Petersen (58).

While Erwee ploughed on to 75 not out off 168 balls, Marques Ackerman was able to turn a slow start into 40 undefeated runs off just 47 balls, the Lions bowlers perhaps being guilty of giving the left-hander an excess of leg-side scoring opportunities.

Yusuf finished the day with one for 37 in 13 overs and Siboto had taken one for 35 in the same number of overs.

In order to have a chance of claiming the four-day title in this final round of fixtures, the Lions have to beat the Dolphins and also get 5.74 more bonus points than them.

At the moment, the Dolphins have collected 1.62 more points than the Lions.

WP v EP

In the match between the two other teams in contention for the title, the Eastern Province Warriors batsmen feasted on the Western Province attack as they piled up 347 for nine at Newlands.

An excellent top-order display laid the foundation, with the extremely talented Jordan Hermann setting the tone with 81 up front, Diego Rosier (59) and Matthew Breetzke (52) then both scored half-centuries, and Rudi Second chipped in with 48.

FS Knights v Boland

In the other match, the Free State Knights bowled the Boland Rocks out for 212 in Paarl, and had made 99 for three in reply.

The promising Michael Copeland led the way for Boland with 55, while veteran off-spinner Aubrey Swanepoel took five for 67 in 24.4 overs for the Knights.

Opener Matthew Kleinveldt was the mainstay of the Free State reply, with 50 not out.

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    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.



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