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Ken Borland

Willemse gives Boks no reason to rue binning Steyn 0

Posted on September 17, 2021 by Ken

It must have been a big call for coach Jacques Nienaber to bin Francois Steyn from his match-day 23, given the utility back’s tremendous experience and vital role off the bench in the World Cup triumph. But young Damian Willemse has given no reason for the Springbok management to rue that decision.

The 23-year-old has featured in the last five Tests, four of them as a replacement, while he started at fullback in the opening Rugby Championship match against Argentina. Willemse himself on Friday acknowledged how lucky he felt to be preferred over the more experienced options available to Nienaber, and he also praised Steyn for being so helpful to him.

“There are a lot of quality players who are missing out on the 23 – guys like Frans Steyn, Jesse Kriel and Morne Steyn, who all have more than 40 caps. So I feel very fortunate to make the playing squad. I’ll be happy to continue my run of playing and I’m looking forward to the next four weeks in Australia. The coaches’ trust in me is a big thing for me.

“I’ve been training with Frans and he’s always so calm and communicates well, I’m really enjoying it. He helps the youngsters a lot, Morne and Jesse too. Aphelele Fassi [wing/fullback] and I are always learning from them,” Willemse said from the Gold Coast on Friday.

Although Willemse has also been earmarked as a back-up inside centre, Damian de Allende has been so commanding in that position that the Stormers star has almost entirely featured at fullback in the Green and Gold this season. That is one of the decision-making positions for the Springboks and Willemse said although he is working hard on his game-management skills, it has not been a case of him having to temper his normally adventurous approach.

“We have a specific plan, the way Willie le Roux manages play. We want to force pressure on the opposition and turn the ball over to get our wings in the game and scoring their brilliant tries. It’s about playing smart rugby and not making as many errors, especially the decision-makers. I had a conversation with Aphelele today about how small the margins are at this level.

“The smallest mistake can cost you five or seven points, and we know Australia and New Zealand have a lot of skilful backs in their armoury. I’ve been working very hard with Mzwandile Stick [backline coach] on the high balls and my game-management at fullback. I’m enjoying the challenge,” Willemse said.

Hawies believes both Steyn and Specman should be in the Bok squad … and now’s their chance to show why 0

Posted on June 07, 2021 by Ken

Free State Cheetahs coach Hawies Fourie believes both Francois Steyn and Rosko Specman should be in the Springbok squad to play against the British and Irish Lions, and Saturday’s match against the Toyota Invitation XV will pretty much be their only chance to show the wider public why.

Both the powerhouse Steyn and the hot-stepping Specman will feature in the Cheetahs starting backline on Saturday in a match that, from a team perspective, provides important preparation time for the Currie Cup. But all eyes will be on the players wearing the No.12 and No.11 jerseys.

“I’m pretty sure Frans will be playing for the Springboks this year so this might be his last game for us until November/December. But Rosko deserves to be in the Springbok alignment camps as well and I’m pretty sure he’ll make the final squad. He’s made the choice to concentrate on XVs because the Lions tour is so special, only happening every 12 years.

“Rosko is one of our hardest workers, he’s always doing extras and is on top of his game. I can see his confidence in training and he’s doing everything at 100% pace. This game is an opportunity for Frans and him to get match-sharp because there’s going to be a lot of competition for places in that Springbok squad. Other players have had four weeks to impress, so this chance is very important for those two,” Fourie said on Thursday.

Oom Frans and Uncle Rosko are not the only Springboks in the Free State team Fourie announced on Thursday, with Oupa Mohoje eager to remind everyone of why he has won 19 Test caps for South Africa as well, and veteran scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar leading the Cheetahs into battle on Saturday.

“We all know Ruan is also definitely still good enough to play at Springbok level and I wouldn’t be surprised if they press his button if they get injuries,” Fourie said.

Free State Cheetahs team: Clayton Blommetjies, Craig Barry, Dries Swanepoel, Frans Steyn, Rosko Specman, Brandon Thomson, Ruan Pienaar, Jeandre Rudolph, Oupa Mohoje, Andisa Ntsila, Rynier Bernardo, Victor Sekekete, Aranos Coetzee, Wilmar Arnoldi, Cameron Dawson. Bench – Louis van der Westhuizen, Schalk Ferreira, Conraad van Vuuren, Jacques Potgieter, Aidon Davis, Tian Meyer, Howard Mnisi, Duncan Saal, Chris Massyn, Alulutho Tsakweni.

Apprehensive start for Sharks & fightback not quite enough in the end 0

Posted on March 18, 2021 by Ken

Sharks coach Sean Everitt would have been apprehensive when his team went 7-28 down late in the first half against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein on Wednesday night, but in the end the KwaZulu-Natalians fought back superbly and it took a 40-metre penalty by Frans Steyn in the 80th minute to scrape a 39-38 win for the Free Staters.

The Sharks had actually played decent rugby in the first half, but mistakes and turnovers allowed the Cheetahs to show their attacking brilliance as they ran in four tries to lead 28-12 at the break.

But in the second half the Sharks showed their attacking abilities, giving the Cheetahs defence a torrid time. The Sharks replacement front row of Michael Kumbirai, Ntuthuko Mchunu and Fez Mbatha showed they can perform at this level as they earned scrum penalties that helped pile on the pressure on the home side in the second half, while Manie Libbok came on at flyhalf and showed he will be a fine back-up to Curwin Bosch when serious competition resumes.

His linking and passing game constantly had the defence guessing and it was his brilliant individual play in slipping through a gap, regathering his own grubber and then kicking ahead again before passing to substitute flank Celimpilo Gumede for the try that gave the Sharks the lead with 13 minutes remaining.

The Cheetahs certainly played their part in a match that featured 11 tries and seemed to be played at a billion miles an hour at times, but eventually ensured they secured the win rather than risking whatever rewards would come from a more expansive approach.

Steyn was a pillar of strength at inside centre and once again showed why he is considered rugby royalty and he was bang on the money with the final kick at goal after a high tackle by the Sharks.

Bulls bring in pace & battering rams to counter Frans Steyn 0

Posted on October 15, 2020 by Ken

Embrose Papier and Jade Stighling have been brought into the Bulls team to counter the pace of the Free State Cheetahs in Friday night’s Super Rugby Unlocked match in Bloemfontein, with Duane Vermeulen returning and Clinton Swart called up for his debut in an effort to negate the battering ram play of Francois Steyn at inside centre.

Johan Grobbelaar, starting at hooker, is the other player brought into the starting line-up which was announced on Wednesday afternoon. Coach Jake White has also shifted Cornal Hendricks from inside to outside centre and shuffled his bench with U21 star Joe van Zyl called up to cover hooker, Gerhard Steenekamp replacing injured loosehead prop Lizo Gqoboka, and Nizaam Carr coming in as the replacement loose forward instead of Elrigh Louw.

Here’s why the changes fit in specifically with the Cheetahs in mind:

Jade Stighling – White called winger Stighling “one of the quickest players in the squad” and his selection in the number 11 jersey, with the lanky and elusive David Kriel moving to right wing and Travis Ismaiel left out, is aimed to counter the Cheetahs getting too much space and time out wide.

“The Cheetahs make quite a few line-breaks and Jade has massive pace, he’s one of the quickest players in the squad. But they also concede quite a lot of line-breaks, so if we can make some then we will have the pace to get up in support and create a few nice opportunities,” White said.

Embrose Papier – While White has committed himself to rotating his two Springbok scrumhalves, he admitted Papier’s game is better suited to the pace and expansiveness of the Cheetahs.

“I always said Embrose would get game time, it’s not like he’s our No.2 scrumhalf, and he’s also one of our quickest players, which comes back to those line-breaks the Cheetahs both make and concede. I’m looking forward to seeing how he combines with that backline and Free State rely on lots of pace, so we need to see if we can counter that,” White said.

Duane Vermeulen – The looming figure of the Springbok eighthman and colossus is likely to spend plenty of time in the inside centre channel to make sure Francois Steyn’s forays end before the gain-line. Captain Vermeulen, for his part, said the swelling on his knee has gone down and he is looking forward to ensuring that the Bulls execute their plans better than they did last weekend against Griquas.

Clinton Swart – The 1.84m, 105kg Swart played under White at Toyota Verblitz and may not be a flashy centre in the mould of Cornal Hendricks, but he is very direct and ideally suited to countering the sort of game Steyn plays. He also has a very handy boot and there’s little doubt one of White’s major tactics against the Cheetahs will be to pin them in their own half and make them run from deep and he now has three accomplished kickers in Morne Steyn, Gio Aplon and Swart to achieve this.

“I know what Frans Steyn can offer and if you give him lots of gain-line then the Cheetahs will play around him, so his presence was a big influence in our selection. Clinton came from Free State so he knows them well. We’re not going to be able to get away with playing Hendricks and Gans in midfield every week and I would also like to see Cornal at outside centre – that might also be a stroke of genius and he has been running well with Clinton,” White said.

Nizaam Carr – While Elrigh Louw enjoyed himself with hall-in-hand when he came off the bench against Griquas, that role can now be fulfilled by Vermeulen. Against a team as pacy as the Cheetahs, the Bulls are going to need a more openside type flank and Carr fits the bill perfectly to come off the bench and lift the tempo.

Bulls team: Gio Aplon, David Kriel, Cornal Hendricks, Clinton Swart, Jade Stighling, Morné Steyn, Embrose Papier, Duane Vermeulen (C), Arno Botha, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Jason Jenkins, Trevor Nyakane, Johan Grobbelaar, Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements – Joe van Zyl, Gerhard Steenekamp, Mornay Smith, Sintu Manjezi, Nizaam Carr, Ivan van Zyl, Chris Smith, Stedman Gans.

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