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Ken Borland

Coetzee has been through the mill as he seeks 1st win over Leinster 0

Posted on July 20, 2022 by Ken

Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee has been put through the mill a few times by Leinster in his marvellous career and he is still seeking his first victory against the Irish giants.

And to do that with his team on Friday night in Dublin in the United Rugby Championship semi-finals would cap what Coetzee says has been a magnificent year with his new club.

Given how integral the 31-year-old has become to the Bulls set-up, it is hard to believe the former Sharks and Ulster star has only been at Loftus Versfeld since April 2021.

Playing for Ulster for five years from 2016 has given Coetzee a first-hand view of Leinster’s rise to the top of European rugby, and the Springbok ruefully admitted that although his Irish club were the Dublin side’s archrivals, he never managed to be on the winning side against them.

“The key to Leinster’s strength is the amount of players they have representing their country and their strong leadership. And they have continuously grown,” Coetzee said.

“I have personally never won against them, which just shows the success of their system. It’s going to be a tough battle and Leinster are a side you always measure yourself against.

“They are the juggernauts of European rugby and we are all trying to catch-up to them. But our system at the Bulls is also pretty good, which is why we are in playoffs for both the URC and the Currie Cup.

“I call it a system, but basically the Bulls are a family. In fact, sometimes you see your team-mates and coaches more than you see your wife! But it has been one of the best years of my life,” Coetzee said.

Apart from being the king of offloads in the URC, Coetzee has also been a tower of strength in terms of carrying and defending, but it is his smuts-work at the breakdown that could be most valuable against Leinster.

“Leinster have great poachers and not just Josh van der Flier. Our whole pack has the mindset that we have to stop them because it’s a key area. Both teams like to play with tempo,” Coetzee said.

Although coach Jake White specifically mentioned the height of his back three, with Canan Moodie retaining his place at fullback and Kurt-Lee Arendse on the bench, as being important because he expects a lot of kicking from Leinster, he also singled out their tempo of play as being a key strength.

“Leinster can really punish you, they do the little things really well and they play at such a high tempo. They have incredible talent around the park, so all 23 of our players have to play well.

“Generally Leinster don’t have anything to target, they are well-balanced with no real weaknesses. But all our players believe we have a chance,” White said.

Bulls crave Leinster pedigree; it’s crucial they absorb the early blows 0

Posted on July 18, 2022 by Ken

There is no doubt the Bulls players and management crave the sort of pedigree and success in European rugby that Leinster enjoy, and coach Jake White is hoping upsetting the Irish giants in their United Rugby Championship semi-final in Dublin on Friday is the first step on that path.

Leinster have won the European Champions Cup four times, second only to Toulouse (5), and the Pro14 competition (the URC’s predecessor) eight times including the last four tournaments in a row. They also topped the final URC log by six points.

But while it’s obvious how much White respects Leinster, it’s also one of the great joys of sport that hot favourites are sometimes upset by the underdogs in knockout matches. It’s those games the fans live for, and the former World Cup winning coach is hoping Friday night is one of those days for the Bulls.

“Leinster are an incredible team, to put it in perspective, Sean Cronin, their reserve hooker, has played 206 games for them and Jonny Sexton has played 183. Together they have probably played more matches than our entire squad and they are both on the bench.

“We all want to become like Leinster in terms of our structures and we have massive respect for them. Who else has players like Cronin, Sexton, Cian Healy and Ciaran Frawley on the bench?

“Leinster used 60 players in this season’s URC, which is 16 more than us. Those learnings mean you will be so much better next year and after that. For us it’s about building a team over the next couple of years so we can be one of the strongest clubs in world rugby.

“But people follow sport because there’s always a chance, the players believe they can do it and I want them to give it a real crack. We’ve got confidence that on our day we can win,” White said.

For the upset to happen though, it’s going to be crucial for the Bulls to absorb the early blows Leinster, at their formidable RDS Arena, are going to rain down on them.

“We have to start well, Leinster score most of their points in the first 25 minutes,” White said. “It’s very difficult to play catch-up against them, especially at their home ground.

“La Rochelle stayed in the game well in the Champions Cup final a fortnight ago, but the last time we were here, we looked again and we were 15 points down.

“But it will be different this time because we won’t be overawed, we are more controlled now and we have more settled combinations.”

Having bished-and-bashed their way into the last four, there is no pressure on the Bulls, and whatever they get out of Friday night’s game will be a bonus.

“I think we have surpassed everything we were meant to do already,” White said after naming an unchanged starting XV on Thursday. “Now we see if we can live with the best standard of European clubs.”

Bulls: Canan Moodie, David Kriel, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Madosh Tambwe, Chris Smith, Zak Burger; Elrigh Louw, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee, Ruan Nortje, Walt Steenkamp, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Gerhard Steenekamp. Replacements -Bismarck du Plessis, Simphiwe Matanzima, Robert Hunt, Janko Swanepoel, WJ Steenkamp; Embrose Papier, Morne Steyn, Kurt-Lee Arendse.

Bavuma can have righteous indignation over injury misfortune but can have no complaints over T20 prep 0

Posted on July 09, 2021 by Ken

Temba Bavuma can complain with righteous indignation over the misfortune that saw him miss the entire Test series against the West Indies, but he can have no complaints over the quality of preparation his T20 side will be getting against a home team packed with giants of the shortened version of the game.

The five-match T20 series starts at St George’s in Grenada on Saturday and the West Indies have T20 legends Kieron Pollard, Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Dwayne Bravo in their squad. It will be a daunting challenge for Bavuma, who will actually lead his team out on to the field for the first time in a T20, having missed the series against Pakistan due to injury.

That bad luck with injuries followed him to the Caribbean, where he was on the sidelines of the memorable Test triumph due to first a hip problem and then a dislocated finger while training for the second Test. So Bavuma will certainly be eager for the contest.

“As a team we’ve had various discussions on the type of cricket we want to play and now we have a chance to test that against a very strong outfit, the West Indies obviously being one of the favourites for the World Cup later this year. We get the chance to test our skills against their’s and that should give us a clearer picture of what needs to be done.

“It’s going to be a good measure, it will show us where our standard is in our game. We don’t have confirmation yet of where the World Cup will be played, so we are just looking at the challenge against the West Indies now. We want to play our best cricket in these conditions and they might just happen to be similar to what is found on the subcontinent,” Bavuma said on Friday.

Half-a-dozen of the players who no doubt quaffed some celebratory drinks following their leading roles in the Test series triumph are likely to play in the first T20, while Bavuma and spinners Tabraiz Shamsi and George Linde were also part of the Test squad. So there is plenty of feel-good continuity in the Proteas camp.

“The Tests went exceptionally well and the outcome of that was momentum and confidence. Although this is a different format, quite a few of the players were involved in the Tests. It’s only natural that we want to continue as is, carrying the same language through, with most of the guys being the same. The discussions Dean Elgar and I have had about how to take the team forward obviously bore fruit.

“We’ll only finalise our plans after practice today because it has been raining and the weather is a bit of a concern. We haven’t had an opportunity yet to look at the pitch, but it’s fantastic we’ve got options when it comes down to spin, all-rounders or bolstering the batting,” Bavuma said.

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