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Ken Borland



Powell stays at Kings Park base but optimistic Sharks stand-ins will return from Galway with the points 0

Posted on November 08, 2023 by Ken

Sharks head coach Neil Powell has stayed behind at the team’s Kings Park base but is optimistic that his stand-in, Currie Cup mentor Joey Mongalo, will be able to return from Galway with the points although they are taking on tricky Connacht with a second-string side.

While Powell and most of the first-choice stars in the Sharks squad are focusing on the crucial Champions Cup match against Bordeaux-Begles next week, just three Springboks are in the squad to play Connacht, with three potential URC debutants on the bench.

Ntuthuko Mchunu will anchor the scrum (with Carlu Sadie), Rohan Janse van Rensburg will bring plenty of punch to the midfield, and scrumhalf Grant Williams is a potentially lethal substitute.

Former Free State Cheetahs lock Ockie Barnard, Currie Cup utility forward Corne Rahl and former Westville Boys High centre Ethan Hooker could be thrown into the deep end, with The Sports Ground being a daunting venue to play, especially in midwinter. Young Nevaldo Fleurs is the starting flyhalf, with Lionel Cronje on the bench.

“We see this as an all-round opportunity to develop and Joey has the chance to show what he is capable of. He’s been at that level before as the Bulls’ defence coach,” director of rugby Powell said on Friday.

“Joey is a great person and coach, he’s full of energy and I know he will definitely motivate and fire up the guys. We have tasked them with coming back with the points.

“It’s important for us to manage our squad well, this selection is part of our rotation policy. If I look at our travel schedule over the next few weeks then I cannot imagine one team playing all those games.

“We want as much as energy as possible when we get to games 10 and 11 of this block, this is number seven, so we’re in the middle of it. We also want to create squad depth,” Powell said.

Before the Sharks eventually disband on February 4 for a one-week break, they host Bordeaux in the Champions Cup in Durban next weekend, and then travel to Harlequins. They return to URC action against Edinburgh on January 28, before returning home for a vital home derby against the Stormers on February 3.

Connacht are up first though and they are a difficult team to break down, especially at home.

“It’s a tough place to play, a lot of teams go there with strong teams, hoping for a win, but they don’t get it,” Powell said. “You have to battle it out for the full 80 minutes against Connacht.

“In a lot of games they have come back to win in the last 20 minutes, so we have to make sure we don’t tap out before the final whistle.

“They are very physical and really direct and they don’t go away. They manage the game well, especially with their kicking, and they are familiar with their own conditions and play towards that.”

Sharks: Anthony Volmink, Yaw Penxe, Murray Koster, Rohan Janse Van Rensburg, Marnus Pogieter, Nevaldo Fleurs, Cameron Wright, Celimpilo Gumede, Henco Venter, James Venter, Reniel Hugo (c), Thembelani Bholi, Carlu Sadie, Fez Mbatha, Ntuthuko Mchunu. Bench – Kerron van Vuuren, Dian Bleuler, Khutha Mchunu, Ockie Barnard, Corne Rahl, Grant Williams, Lionel Cronje, Ethan Hooker.

Beaten Bulls show the spirit that ensures they won’t be temps but contenders in Currie Cup semis 0

Posted on June 12, 2023 by Ken

Cornal Hendricks scored two tries for the Bulls against the Free State Cheetahs.

The Bulls may have scraped into the Currie Cup semi-finals, but the passion and desire they showed in going down 27-31 to the Free State Cheetahs in a match of high drama at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, securing two vital bonus points despite suffering a red card in a moment of temporary madness, means they cannot be considered temps in this competition but genuine contenders.

The Bulls nearly won the match, the final whistle going with their maul four metres from the Cheetahs’ tryline. But by scoring four tries and finishing within seven points of the Free Staters, they earned two invaluable log points that left them on 38 points, two ahead of the Lions and out of reach of Western Province (37pts), despite their thrashing of the Sharks.

Considering they played the entire second half with 14 men after eighthman Elrigh Louw was red-carded in the 38th minute, it was the stoutest of efforts, showing that the Bulls do have that never-say-die quality that will make them very dangerous semi-final opponents. They will play the Cheetahs again this weekend in Bloemfontein, but if the Free Staters underestimate the Bulls based on how they reached the last four, they will tempt fate most foolishly.

Louw was sent from the field after his shoulder made contact with the head of Cheetahs flank Siba Qoma, as he rushed into a ruck and made a clumsy attempt to clean.

By that stage, the Cheetahs had already turned around the momentum after the Bulls made a flying start, rushing into a 19-0 lead in the first quarter. With halftime beckoning, the visitors had closed to 14-19 and had lifted themselves from a lethargic start, really making their presence felt in defence and at the breakdown.

Although flyhalf Morne Steyn, in his farewell game at Loftus Versfeld, kicked a 42nd-minute penalty to stretch the lead to 22-14, the Cheetahs took control of the match as they scored two tries in five minutes to open up a 28-22 lead.

Excellent flyhalf Siya Masuku, who will be in Sharks’ colours next season, seemed to be clothing himself in either a cloak of invisibility or the most slippery substance known to man as he weaved his way through the heart of the Bulls team to score an exceptional try. Masuku succeeded with the conversion too, as he did with all four of his other kicks at goal.

In the 49th minute, hooker Marnus van der Merwe, who was like a bull in a china shop, produced another storming run that left him just short of the line, but scrumhalf Rewan Kruger picked up the ball and dived over to score.

It was not as if the Cheetahs closed up shop then either, but the Bulls just upped their game with sheer desperation. They too scrambled in defence against a team that is always so dangerous with ball-in-hand.

Masuku had the final say with a 71st-minute penalty won at a ruck, but the Bulls were up close in their rearview mirrors throughout the final quarter.

Replacement flyhalf Chris Smith was brought into action in the 54th minute as Steyn departed his home ground for the last time. The Springbok flyhalf had been more inspirational in his running of the backline than with the boot, missing three of his six kicks at goal.

It was Smith’s boot that ultimately put the Bulls into the semi-finals as, with the ferocious Cheetahs defence in his face and cutting him off from his centres, he put the deftest of crosskicks into the corner for wing Cornal Hendricks to score his second try. It was also the fourth for his team, bringing the first bonus point, and it dragged the home side back to within one point of the Free Staters, setting up a second log point.

The other legend being farewelled, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, came off the bench and had a big impact in the closing stages, both in the set-pieces and in bringing some added presence at the rucks.

The Bulls had begun the match in inspired fashion with three tries in the first 14 minutes.

Fullback Johan Goosen’s prowess in the air allowed the Bulls to attack the blindside and, with the Cheetahs defence slow to react, outside centre Stedman Gans was able to put Hendricks away for the opening try.

Two minutes later, Free State dropped the ball in their backline and wing David Kriel pounced, swivelling out of a tackle and then passing to centre Harold Vorster, who was quickly up in support and raced away for the second try.

The third try went to scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who is in such great form at the moment, but it is doubtful whether he will be able to play in the semi-final due to a hamstring injury. He sidestepped a defender and streaked away for a try after Ruan Vermaak’s super offload, the lock having burst clear after Steyn put him in a hole with a skip-pass.

The Cheetahs were very competitive in the scrums and they opened their account after getting a penalty there and going for a lineout deep in Bulls’ territory. Van der Merwe burst clear from the maul and then the similarly-built centre David Brits muscled over for the try.

Their second try also came off a lineout, but this time with a slick backline move, fullback Tapiwa Mafura dummying and then breaking the line, wing Daniel Kasende then providing a strong finish.

Given the quality the Cheetahs showed, the 14-man Bulls were just relieved to still be in the running for the Currie Cup crown.

“The team showed a lot of character and desire because the game could really have got away from us,” assistant coach Hugo van As said after the game. “We still had two or three opportunities to win right at the end, a great chance with our maul.

“But you’ve got to give the Cheetahs great credit for the way they stopped our maul and the breakdown was a big concern for us as well. We were beaten there, they came really hard at us and disrupted a lot of our plays.

“We’ve got to adapt on the day and make sure we look after our ball better. We saw in the first 20 minutes that when we get it right then we can score tries, it was a huge positive to see the interplay between forwards and backs.

“The team desperately want to send Morne and Bismarck off with a win and there is still a lot to play for. The hunger and desire is there to go further, we just need to be more clinical and make better decisions,” Van As said.

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Cornal Hendricks (2), Harold Vorster, Embrose Papier. Conversions – Morne Steyn (2). Penalty – Steyn.

Free State Cheetahs: Tries – David Brits, Daniel Kasende, Siya Masuku, Rewan Kruger. Conversions – Masuku (4). Penalty – Masuku.

Bulls dominate the battle of sibling rivals … but change has to come at Loftus 0

Posted on May 15, 2023 by Ken

Eighthman Elrigh Louw was prominent as the Bulls rebounded with a convincing victory over the tough Griquas team in Kimberley.

Given that many of the Griquas players have come through the junior ranks at Loftus Versfeld, last weekend’s Currie Cup clash against the Bulls in Kimberley had all the hallmarks of a sibling rivalry – the big brother from Pretoria trying to quell the upstart youngsters.

Except that the Bulls have been a meek facsimile of their former fearsome selves this season and the quarterfinal exit, via another heavy defeat at the hands of the Stormers, caused much soul-searching at Loftus Versfeld.

The Currie Cup is now their last chance to pull together and try and get something meaningful out of their troubled season. Which makes them dangerous, desperate adversaries, and Griquas had their hands full against a near URC-strength team, going down 40-20. That Bulls side, when on-song, was good enough to finish sixth in the URC and make the last 16 of the Champions Cup.

The fact that the Bulls churn out so many talented youngsters year-after-year, and have dominated recent age-group rugby in South Africa, has caused speculation that director of rugby and head coach Jake White should ditch the players that have misfired this year and embark on a youth policy.

White himself almost bristled at the suggestion, saying the inevitable change that was needed at Loftus was a tricky balancing act between utilising exciting new talent but also ensuring that an experienced core is there to complement them.

“There needs to be change, that’s inevitable, and we also need some fresh energy,” White said. “Some guys have fallen behind and some players are finishing their contracts anyway. Some have said they might want to move elsewhere in South Africa or overseas.

“We are still negotiating with SAREO [South African Rugby Employers’ Organisation] and SA Rugby as to how many contracts we can have. This year we have used nearly sixty players, but we are limited to 55 contracts.

“So it’s a work in progress, it’s very fluid. And you can’t give guys one-year deals because they need stability. There are spaces available in our squad, but then you also need the right players to complement the guys you bring in.

“I would love to keep everyone coming through our system. In the last three years we have had the strongest junior age-groups in the country. But we need 55 players to leave to put all of them into the senior squad and that’s not possible. Not every guy in the junior ranks at Loftus is going to make it in professional rugby. There are only 23 places in the senior team.

“Which is why probably 60% of the Griquas and Pumas teams have come through the Bulls junior system. And those two teams were the Currie Cup finalists last year, which shows the talent we produce.

“We don’t need more juniors in the team and it’s impossible to win anything big when two-thirds of your team are under 24-years-old. We’ve already gone through that at the Bulls.

“Just using players from the junior system is not the solution to the problem, we need to complement them with players from outside. We need to be proactive, not reactive; we need to look for good players with speed and skill and the ability to change the game whatever their position, and more coaches to make the Bulls stronger. As Director of Rugby, I’m very lucky that the Board, the CEO and our owners say we need to compete with the top sides in Europe,” White said.

While there will clearly be changes in playing personnel for the Bulls, White was bullish in terms of his own management, although he did admit that they probably should have planned differently for the Currie Cup. The 59-year-old is confident that with a productive off-season in terms of structural work, the Bulls will return to their efficient selves and meet the ambitious goals of his bosses and the fans.

“Things have been working, I don’t know why some people think I would walk away. We have not done as well as we could, but it has not been a failure of a season and it has not been all bad. No-one from South Africa was able to get through the playoffs of the Champions Cup and we finished sixth in the URC. If that’s a bad year, then we are in a very good position at the Bulls because things will change drastically next season.

“We could have structured the Currie Cup campaign differently, but we take the Currie Cup very seriously and that’s not going to change,” White said.

Sporting success is never an exact science otherwise everyone would have the same winning formula. But something about the mix at Loftus Versfeld, which produced such potent rugby in the last couple of years, is now off. Plus good old-fashioned bad luck and things beyond their control have gone against them.

With all his experience and rugby wisdom, it would be foolish to bet against White ensuring the Bulls make full use of their resources next season to return to a position of dominance in South African rugby.

Man behind Bulls’ defensive steel in recent years brought in by Sharks for Currie Cup 0

Posted on August 16, 2022 by Ken

Joey Mongalo, the man behind the Bulls’ defensive steel in recent years, will take over as the Sharks’ Currie Cup head coach next season, the union confirmed on Monday.

Sean Everitt will continue to be the senior coach steering the Sharks’ United Rugby Championship campaign, while Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell will oversee all the coaches in his position of Director of Rugby, and will arrive at Kings Park in time for the start of the new European campaign in September.

Mongalo, a University of Pretoria Masters graduate, will get the chance to be a head coach again having won the U19 Currie Cup with the Lions in 2016 and 2017. His work as the Bulls defence coach from June 2020 was highly rated, with the franchise dominating local rugby with back-to-back Currie Cup titles as well as making the final of this year’s URC.

Etienne Fynn, who oversaw a disappointing Sharks Currie Cup campaign this year, will work under Mongalo as a scrum/forwards coach. Former Springbok wings JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo, along with former Sharks U20 head coach Mike Vowles and former utility forward Luvuyiso Lusaseni, will make up the rest of Mongalo’s coaching staff.

The URC team has been boosted by the signing of former French international and Bayonne head coach Yannick Bru, who will fulfil the role of breakdown coach. Bru won the Champions Cup twice as a player with Toulouse, whom he also served as an assistant coach for five years, before becoming the French national team’s forwards coach.

Bru’s extensive knowledge of European rugby will obviously be of great value for the Sharks as they negotiate the challenges of taking on English and French clubs for the first time next season. He will be joined by Warren Whiteley, Phiwe Nomlomo, Noel McNamara and Aksventi Giorgadze as the URC assistant coaches.

Powell’s arrival after the Sevens World Cup in September will complete the new dawn of coaching at Kings Park.

“Neil will be at the helm, to develop and oversee all rugby structures within the Sharks and to ensure that our teams are aligned in terms of the identified coaching DNA,” Sharks CEO Eduard Coetzee said.

“He will implement and manage an effective plan to achieve the franchise’s objectives, which is ultimately to win trophies. He will oversee the United Rugby Championship, as well as our first foray in the Champions Cup.

“As a globally respected and admired coach, we are confident that he will get the best out of the players and bring a winning mindset to The Sharks. We look forward to him joining us before the start of the URC season in September.
“Although we made the playoffs of the URC and qualified for the Champions Cup, we want to be even more competitive. A strong foundation has been laid, and the time has come for us to build from this,” Coetzee said.

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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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