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Ken Borland

SA rugby forever bonded with Kitch’s ‘high or low road’, but Jake says it’s too early for that 0

Posted on September 05, 2023 by Ken

South African rugby will forever be bonded with Kitch Christie’s famous ‘high road or the low road’ scenario before the 1995 World Cup triumph, but Bulls coach Jake White says it is still too early to consider his team as being at a similar crossroads ahead of their crunch United Rugby Championship match against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Coach Christie said it was crucial that the Springboks beat defending champions and favourites Australia in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup and take the “high road” through the tournament; defeat would mean the “low road” requiring victories over England and New Zealand before the final. South Africa pulled off a sensational 28-18 win, setting them up for an unbeaten run through the tournament they hosted.

The Bulls, having lost last weekend to the Stormers in Cape Town, are now five points behind the defending champions in the South African Shield, having played an extra game. If the Sharks beat the Bulls with a bonus point at Kings Park, then they could be within another bonus-point win of the Pretoria side, with a game in hand.

But White, who has called the late Christie his mentor, is not stressing about the log at this stage.

“We’re not at the high road or low road point yet and it’s not a do-or-die game,” White said on Friday. “It’s still so open, although we do know Leinster are the pace-setters, they always have been.

“We beat the Sharks with a bonus point at Loftus, and if the Sharks beat the Stormers twice and we win this weekend, then we would be favourites again to win the conference.

“There are still a lot of permutations between now and the end of the tournament, and not every team will win every game at home. Winning a couple of matches away is the premium.

“But we will be up against one of the strongest provincial sides, although one thing I enjoy about the URC is that a team can beat anyone on any given Saturday. That’s exciting,” White said.

Nine current Springboks is what the Bulls, who will field Johan Goosen at fullback and Chris Smith at flyhalf, are up against. The combination of Smith and Goosen played in the pivotal game-management positions when the Bulls beat the Sharks 40-27 at Loftus Versfeld at the end of October, which is why White has made that selection again.

“The last time we played the Sharks we did that and it worked well, and we didn’t have Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie then,” White said. “It means we have two kickers and two passers and can move the ball away from flyhalf.

“I’ve heard it might rain in Durban too and the Sharks don’t play much in their own half, they have a good kicking game and Makazole Mapimpi is very good in the air.

“But it’s not just a reaction to them, it worked for us at home and it gives us two guys who understand how we want to play. It’s important that Bernard van der Linde can also kick with both feet at scrumhalf,” White said.

Bulls:Johan Goosen, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Bernard van der Linde, Elrigh Louw, Cyle Brink, Marco Van Staden, Ruan Nortje (c), Ruan Vermaak, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima. Bench -Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Gerhard Steenekamp, Sebastian Lombard, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Lionel Mapoe, David Kriel.

Miller knows Pakistan at most dangerous, but says Proteas have learned how to win under pressure 0

Posted on January 27, 2023 by Ken

David Miller knows that Pakistan will be at their most dangerous in South Africa’s crunch T20 World Cup game against them in Sydney on Thursday, but he feels he and the Proteas team have learned how to win in various pressure situations.

Pakistan have only won one of their three matches so far in the tournament, and if they lose on Thursday they are officially out of contention for semi-final qualification.

If South Africa win, they are guaranteed a semifinal place following Zimbabwe’s defeat on Wednesday. Either India or Bangladesh will join them in the last four.

“Pakistan are definitely more dangerous because it is a must-win game for them. They have some serious matchwinners and they are going to come in charging against us,” Miller said on Wednesday.

“So we’ll have to make sure we’re on our A-game, we stick to our processes and what has worked in the past. We are finding lots of different ways to win and have been doing that for the last year.

“In tricky situations we’ve managed to get over the line, thanks to the continuity of the squad. We’ve all found our roles and if one player doesn’t do well then others pick up the slack.

“For me personally it’s been a good ride over the last couple of years and being able to draw on past experience has been really valuable. I’ve been in a lot of different situations and I understand what’s required,” Miller, who averages 55.46 at a strike-rate of 158.81 since the start of 2021, said.

The Sydney Cricket Ground usually offers some purchase for the spinners and, as always when South Africa take on a subcontinental side, questions over their playing of spin have been asked. Miller feels it is an examination they have passed several times in recent history.

“We’ve played quite a lot in Indian conditions, we went to Pakistan not that long ago, and we have competed very well. Our focus in the last couple of years has been on playing spin.

“We have prepared well and we have lots of options against the turning ball now. We’ve definitely got the skills to perform against the Pakistan spin team.

“Then again, the conditions might not provide spin. Especially in Australian conditions, our pace attack has come into its own, they’ve brought a lot of energy and pace.

“We’re in a good space, we’re definitely in a good position in the tournament, but we know there is still lots to do. Playing as a team has allowed us to do well,” Miller said.

Ngidi left out of previous game at SCG, but man-of-the-match in Perth, so who misses out v Pakistan? 0

Posted on January 27, 2023 by Ken

Lungi Ngidi was left out of the Proteas XI for their previous game at the Sydney Cricket Ground, but he is coming off a man-of-the-match performance against India in Perth, so South Africa’s selection team face something of a quandary for their crunch T20 World Cup meeting with Pakistan on Thursday.

The pitch for the comprehensive win over Bangladesh in Sydney was certainly slower than the one in Perth, where Ngidi absolutely revelled with figures of 4/29. But pace was still effective against Bangladesh, with Anrich Nortje taking 4/10. But spinner Tabraiz Shamsi also shone with 3/20, so conditions on the day could be the decider.

Ngidi admitted after his demolition job on India that he was by no means certain he would even be playing the match.

“I was a bit surprised, I’ve not played much in this World Cup, so to come in on the day and perform against India … I couldn’t have asked for a better day,” Ngidi said.

“I’m very happy and it is probably one of my best performances. You could see there was pace in the pitch. The plan was to not give any width and try to keep it as tight as possible. Dig it into the wicket.”

South Africa will also be very happy with the way all-rounder Wayne Parnell is performing, and he also enjoyed himself against India with 3/15 in his four overs.

“It was about hitting good areas. Sometimes you can get carried away with bowling short. Personally, it was just trying to hit the top of the stumps and keep things simple.

“We have a group of bowlers who are all capable of winning games. Each of us believes that and we know someone can step up on any given day,” Parnell said.

South Africa also know that if they beat Pakistan, then their semifinal place is almost certainly secure because they will have seven points and only one of India or Bangladesh, who play each other on Wednesday, can get to eight points if they win both their remaining matches. Zimbabwe would have to beat both the Netherlands and India, and substantially improve their nett run-rate, to finish on seven points and edge out the Proteas.

After his dozen years of All Blacks rugby, Whitelock knows his job 0

Posted on September 23, 2022 by Ken

Veteran lock Sam Whitelock has been a member of some great All Blacks teams during his dozen years of international rugby, and while New Zealand’s current slump may be confusing for many, the 33-year-old knows his job is to make sure his game is in the best possible condition in Saturday’s crunch Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

Whitelock is a totem for an All Blacks side coach Ian Foster says is still in development, and not just because of his 6’8 stature or his 135 caps. The Crusaders legend has also provided much of the smarts for the 2011 and 2015 World Cup winners, and is a proven leader.

“I’m not used to having this many losses in an All Blacks jersey, but as a senior player, the main thing is to sort myself out first. I go back to what I can control and that is my own game. I look at what I can do better. I make sure I train well so that I can play well,” Whitelock said on Friday.

“There are always things you can improve on, whether that be in terms of skills, discipline or mentality. I’ve played under some great leaders and they all sort themselves out first when things are tough.

“We’ve got to be better, there were some improvements last weekend, but also things we did not nail. There are things we have to nail down as a forward pack.

“Test rugby is all about not getting sick of nailing the basics and there were basics we did not quite get right,” Whitelock said.

Playing in Johannesburg has been kind to Whitelock, who has won four out of five Tests there as well as a Super Rugby quarterfinal and final against the Lions at Ellis Park.

“The atmosphere is electric, it’s an amazing place to play. Both teams have had some great games there, and some really tough ones too,” Whitelock said.

“I immediately think back to 2013 when the Springboks scored a couple of quick tries, but we managed to come back and win 38-27.

“There’s massive history at Ellis Park, you go back to 1995, and we understand as All Blacks what it means for South Africa to play there. But it’s also one of the places we love to play at. “Driving in, it is very loud with fans of both sides banging on the bus and saying a few things. It’s an amazing place and you want to go out there and put your best foot forward,” Whitelock said.

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