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Ken Borland

Jake delighted by Carr’s man-of-the-match return to the Bulls 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

Coach Jake White was not only delighted by Nizaam Carr’s man-of-the-match return to the Bulls team because of the way it led them to a convincing 43-26 victory in their United Rugby Championship match against Ospreys, but also for the relief it brought after a very difficult time for the Springbok flanker and his wife and family.

Carr left the Bulls last year to rejoin Wasps, but the English club went into administration last month and the 31-year-old former Stormers star suffered the trauma of suddenly being without a job. But then the Bulls allowed him to be one of the dozen Wasps players who have found new clubs when they offered him a contract through to June 2024.

Carr has previously expressed his gratitude to White and Bulls CEO Edgar Rathbone for coming to his rescue, and he rewarded their faith with an outstanding display against Ospreys, linking superbly with the backline on attack.

“I’m very happy for Nizaam after what happened at Wasps. He has told us he is very thankful to be here and said he would repay us on the field, and what better way to do that by being man of the match in his first game back?” White said.

“The way Nizaam was running in the backline with Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe, linking on the outside, was great. That’s why I sign these older players, guys who’ve got experience, who have played SuperRugby before.”

Apart from some soft moments in defence that did mar the win and the way the Bulls went off the boil in the second half, after leading 31-14 at the break, White was very pleased with the display. He said some of the second-half struggles were down to him bringing on the bench early, but then he did not want to sell the replacements short in terms of game-time.

“We played really well in the first half and we should’ve scored quickly again in the second half. But instead we allowed them to get more confidence,” White said.

“We were a bit soft on defence, but then attack has been our focus, we love having the ball. But we need the same intensity, energy and excitement in defence. We need to catch them at halfway rather than five metres from our line.

“But I made some substitutions and we lost some rhythm, but I wanted to give the guys on the bench decent game-time. If you’re not going to bring guys on when you’re 31-14 up, then when are you?

“We were far ahead and it would not have been fair to not give the subs a decent run. But we lost a bit of cohesion and we didn’t gel as much as we did in the first half,” White said.

Boucher has no sorrow over difficult selection decisions ahead 0

Posted on September 19, 2022 by Ken

Despite now being faced with the toughest of selection conundrums, coach Mark Boucher feels no sorrow at all for the difficult decisions he will have to make ahead of the T20 World Cup following the Proteas adding a series win over Ireland to their heady triumph over England.

With Reeza Hendricks in rampant form at the top of the order, Aiden Markram continuing to be an explosive presence in the middle-order and Rilee Rossouw showing his class, it seems inevitable that one of stalwart Rassie van der Dussen, appointed captain Temba Bavuma or even a struggling Quinton de Kock will not be selected for the World Cup in Australia in October.

Wayne Parnell’s superb five-wicket haul in the last T20 against Ireland also complicates the all-rounder situation, where he, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo are probably competing for just two spots in a 15-man squad.

“As part of the selection panel, there are some tough choices to be made,” Boucher admitted after the 44-run win in Bristol on Friday night. “But it’s a good headache to have, especially with the World Cup around the corner.

“There’s great competition in the squad in quite a few different positions. We gave guys opportunities and they have come good. I like the brand of cricket they have played, it has been brave but smart.

“The guys coming back in have had fantastic attitudes and put in good performances, they’ve definitely added a different dimension. There’s not space for anyone to rest, guys keep challenging for selection and pushing the others to greater heights.

“It’s a very healthy place to be in for South African cricket. A year ago we would not have been having these discussions, so we have a lot more depth now,” Boucher said.

The coach said he was particularly impressed with what Hendricks has done, as he has basically reinvented himself as an aggressive opening batsman.

“Reeza has really come good, being Man of the Series twice in a row and scoring four successive fifties against very good opposition. We always knew he could play.

“But the way he has gone about it, his change in mindset to now being more aggressive, has really stood out. I know Justin Sammons [batting consultant] has done a lot of work with him.

“So credit to Justin, he’s been fantastic with the blueprints he has come up with and he’s had tremendous conversations with the players.

“As the coach, it’s up to me to come up with strategies – how we want to play in different conditions in Australia. The selection panel will then decide what characters they want to get that done,” Boucher said.

URC loans some of the predictability of SuperRugby 0

Posted on May 17, 2022 by Ken

The United Rugby Championship is the successor to SuperRugby for the four South African teams involved in it, and it loans from the southern hemisphere competition the excitement of seeing different players and styles of rugby.

It also, however, is running into the same problem that SuperRugby did in terms of how incredibly difficult it is for teams to win overseas; perhaps even more so in the URC.

Excluding the matches involving the two Italian teams, who have won just four of their 27 games combined, there have only been four wins by teams travelling overseas to play, as opposed to 26 losses and one draw, which was when the Stormers held Edinburgh 20-20 in October.

The overseas victories have been by the Sharks over the Ospreys, the Bulls beating the struggling Cardiff Blues, Stormers beating the hapless Dragons and Edinburgh surprising the Sharks at Kings Park.

The best sporting events have a large element of unpredictability about them; the excitement of a 50/50 contest, nobody being quite sure who is going to win. It is partly why a Test match between the Springboks and All Blacks is so exciting.

But so far in the URC, teams hosting an overseas side (excluding matches involving Zebre or Benetton) have won 84% of the time. So the competition has been a little too predictable.

But let’s not detract from the overall excellence of the Celtic teams playing at home or the superb manner in which the South African teams rebounded from tough starts to the competition, being thrown straight into the deep end overseas in the UK autumn.

I am optimistic that the URC will go from strength-to-strength as a thrilling, highly competitive tournament, especially with the announcement this week from CEO Martin Anayi that from next season, the schedule will pause during international weekends.

That means teams like Leinster, Edinburgh, Ospreys, the Sharks and Stormers, will not be deprived from playing their internationals at key times of the tournament. Even Cardiff, who are sitting 13th on the log, have had 10 Welsh internationals ripped from their squad for much of the tournament.

The first year of the new URC has suffered badly from the effects of Covid and the postponements it has forced. But as the pandemic dies down, so we should get a clearer picture of how good this new competition really is.

Refereeing is a constant source of controversy in all rugby these days, and the South African teams certainly struggled to adapt to not only the conditions in the UK but also how the officials interpreted the game. There was a feeling that it would be payback back at home when local referees befuddled the visiting teams.

And then the URC announced that all matches in South Africa would be controlled by neutral referees, which was no doubt a snub for our officials and bad news for those wanting to see overseas teams blown off the park.

But Bulls coach Jake White is a sly old fox, and he recognised early on that having the best referees in control of matches would lead to the best team winning more often. He backed the idea of neutral referees and it certainly seems to have helped the South African teams establish their dominance on home soil.

My feeling is that our local referees allow too much skulduggery at the ruck, which leads to slow ball and a lack of momentum for the attacking team.

Now, with confidence restored, let’s hope a couple of other South African teams can sneak into the top eight and join our Shield champion in the playoffs.

Ulster discover how difficult a place Loftus has become to visit 0

Posted on May 03, 2022 by Ken

Loftus Versfeld is becoming a very difficult place to visit in the United Rugby Championship and, with the addition of more than 19 000 spectators at the weekend, it was too much for the quality Ulster side to handle as they were blown away 34-16 by the Bulls.

Coach Jake White made a point of thanking the spectators who were right behind a Bulls side who were in a destructive mood in the second half as they turned a 9-3 deficit around with four tries.

“Thank you to the 19 000 who came to the stadium, we like to play in front of our crowd. It was new pressure for me because imagine if we’d lost, but thankfully we won with a bonus point.

“Hopefully we will see more big numbers at our games in the coming weeks. It was unbelievable and there’s no question we played better with spectators behind us.

“It was like a genuine Test match and we were never going to run away with things in the first half, but to score four tries in the second half was fantastic.

“It was not the case that our play in the first half was not good, it was just that they strangled us. We had to find a way to get out of that and the message to the players was to just play, to not stand back,” White said.

While the Bulls produced some superb attacking play in the second half, White also praised the hard work done in defence and in the set-pieces for doing the groundwork for the impressive victory.

“The cornerstone of our game is good defence and set-pieces and if you get those right then you will win more games than you lose,” White said.

“Our defence was outstanding, we defended our like with all our worth, but we also scrummed well and in the lineout we had things like Ruan Nortje turning over an Ulster throw near our line.

“Our attack was very good too, we opened them up at times and Kurt-Lee Arendse was outstanding. We’ve got a good backline now and they showed that they understand how Ulster defend.

“It was hard and physical for our forwards, but jeez, our backs played well. Guys like Harold Vorster and Madosh Tambwe are playing phenomenal rugby,” White enthused.

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