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Ken Borland

Critics staring at ill-looking scrum stats but Winter adamant that Bulls are making progress there 0

Posted on April 13, 2022 by Ken

Sitting 16th and last in one of the United Rugby Championship’s statistical categories means the critics are always going to stare at that facet of the game, but forwards coach Russell Winter is adamant that the Bulls are really making progress in the scrums.

The Bulls have won 87% of their scrums, which is 1% less than the Ospreys and only 2% worse than the Stormers, who are generally considered to have a strong set-piece anchored by Steven Kitshoff.

“The margins are very small, one or two percent. We have really good players here and they work really hard,” Winter said on Tuesday. “Set-piece gives you control of a game and we are definitely getting better in the scrums.

“We lost a very good player in Trevor Nyakane and we’ve had some injuries. So we need to make sure we get some depth, particularly in the front row. We need to look at signing props to get depth.

“We don’t have any new signings there at the moment, but we are looking. But props are really hard to come by and no-one has really been open to negotiation.

“We do have two scrum coaches in Werner Kruger and Edgar Marutlulle and things have definitely progressed. And we’re very happy to have Mornay Smith back, he’s playing Currie Cup in midweek,” Winter said.

The Bulls did, however, announce the signing on Tuesday of the versatile Ruan Vermaak, the former Lions and Red Hurricanes lock who can also play back row.

The Bulls face the Dragons in Pretoria on Saturday and even though the Welshmen have struggled this season having lost their most-capped player, stalwart captain and loose forward Lewis Evans, to retirement at the end of last year, Winter is expecting their pack to come out wanting to move heaven and earth.

“We’re not too sure yet of their travelling squad but Welsh internationals coming back will obviously strengthen their pack and they will want to play well after Wales lost to Italy.

“Their coach Dean Ryan was at Newcastle where I played and he is a tough man, so I imagine he is a tough coach too. So the Dragons will have a hard pack and they will definitely come at us.

“It will be a big pack too, so we gave our guys a couple of days off to make sure we are ready for what’s coming. It’s going to be a good battle up front,” Winter said.

Sharks will miss Am, their provider of beautiful magic on the field 0

Posted on April 11, 2022 by Ken

Springbok centre Lukhanyo Am is not only the Sharks’ captain but he has been the provider of numerous moments of beautiful magic on the field, so wing Sbu Nkosi acknowledges the team are certainly going to miss him against Scarlets in Durban on Friday night, but they have confidence the large hole he leaves will be adequately filled.

Am has left for Japan for a lucrative two-month stint with Kobe Steelers, meaning he will miss the Sharks’ next seven United Rugby Championship matches, returning in time for the last game of the round-robin phase, away to Ulster on May 21.

“It would be very difficult for any team in the world to lose Lukhanyo,” Nkosi said on Tuesday. “But we have very capable replacements and they are learning quickly.

“But it’s a huge loss for any team, Lukhanyo has exceptional quality and the ability to produce some great moments on the field when they are really needed.

“We will take time to adjust, but if each player brings 10% extra then that will more than make up for Lukhanyo’s loss.

“In terms of the captaincy, Siya Kolisi has played a leadership role since he arrived, he’s been very influential and involved. He’ll bring the same energy now, he’s just got the authority of the captain’s title now,” Nkosi said.

The Scarlets have travelled from the rain and temperatures of less than 10° of Llanelli to Durban perhaps expecting the weather to be a bit milder on the coast than it is currently in a place like Limpopo. But the temperature will be pushing 30° in Durban this week with humidity of 85%.

“It’s not gonna happen!” Nkosi laughed when asked about the potential for cooler weather now that summer has entered its last month. “It’s still very hot and humid and the ball is very slippery.

“That’s just how it is and I expect that on Friday night as well. We’ve been training in that, we are moulded in heat and our coaches have us training when the sun is at its highest.

“We want to use the humidity and heat to our advantage. Scarlets are flying from the cold to extremely hot weather.

“But it does not matter where they are placed on the log [12th], that does not always reflect the quality of a side. We ourselves were in a totally different place on the log three weeks ago, so we will approach them with respect,” Nkosi said.

Steyn’s red card was always going to cause tears for the Bulls, but their poor finishing cost them in the end 0

Posted on March 24, 2022 by Ken

Morne Steyn’s red card in the 11th minute of the game was always going to cause some bitter tears for the Bulls, but their own poor finishing ability cost them in the end as a storming comeback saw them fall just short, losing 29-22 to the Sharks in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The veteran Springbok flyhalf was sent off permanently for a late, high swinging arm on Lukhanyo Am, which definitely made contact with the centre’s neck area. But the Sharks did not dominate the flow of the game thereafter as much as they would have liked.

Flank Henco Venter bustled over for the opening try from the resulting penalty, and the Sharks went 14-0 up as hooker Bongi Mbonambi bolted over from a maul. It was an unfortunate blow for the Bulls as the Sharks were given a lineout just outside their 22 when fullback David Kriel’s massive relieving kick just landed on the line inside the Sharks’ 22.

But the Bulls settled into life with only 14 men and dominated territory for the rest of the half. Players worth their salt would have converted a couple of chances that came their way, but reward finally came in the 39th minute when Venter was yellow-carded and then Cornal Hendricks went over in the corner.

But Am scored a sensational try from the restart to make sure the Sharks went into the break 19-5 up. Two Bulls players thought the restart was going directly into touch, but Am snuck in, jumping to catch the ball and then darting down the touchline, regathering his own deft grubber to score a crucial try.

The Bulls scored first in the second half though, superb build-up play, keeping ball-in-hand, taking them into Sharks territory. The maul was again defended well by the visitors, but the Bulls kept bashing away and flank Marcell Coetzee forced his way over for the try.

The Sharks responded though in the 58th minute as they finally made use of the extra man with replacement scrumhalf Grant Williams producing a wonderful long, flat pass out wide to Makazole Mapimpi, who was able to stroll over for the try (26-12).

But just four minutes later, it was Williams who was crying big briney tears as he was red-carded for going in high on Bulls replacement flyhalf Chris Smith, smashing head-first into his cheekbone. Smith had to be stretchered off and it left the Bulls without a regular goalkicker, Kriel being forced to take over.

The Sharks’ defensive resolve did not dissolve though when they were down to 14 men, but the Bulls still scored two more tries but also wasted another couple of opportunities.

Several short passes close to the line went down and there was a three-man overlap wasted by Coetzee when he threw an awful, massive forward pass which myopic referee AJ Jacobs somehow missed, but the TMO did not.

Replacement prop Simphiwe Matanzima dived over to score with five minutes remaining, but Kriel missed the crucial conversion.

Three minutes later, replacement scrumhalf Embrose Papier made a searing break and wing Madosh Tambwe produced a stunning finish through two defenders. Kriel could not make the touchline conversion, so the Bulls, 22-26 down, had to try and score again with just two minutes left.

They won the restart and ran from deep, but the ever-alert Am produced the crucial turnover, replacement flyhalf Curwin Bosch kicking the resulting penalty.


Sharks – Tries: Henco Venter, Bongi Mbonambi, Lukhanyo Am, Makazole Mapimpi. Conversions: Tito Bonilla (2), Curwin Bosch. Penalty: Bosch.

Bulls – Tries: Cornal Hendricks, Marcell Coetzee, Simphiwe Matanzima, Madosh Tambwe. Conversion: Chris Smith.

We have seen the last of De Kock in Test cricket 0

Posted on February 02, 2022 by Ken

He was always going to miss the next two Tests against India on paternity leave, but it was confirmed on Thursday night that we have seen the last of Quinton de Kock in Test cricket as the wicketkeeper/batsman announced his retirement from the format.

The 29-year-old made relatively minor contributions with the bat – scoring 34 and 21 – in his final Test as South Africa lost by 113 runs at Centurion on Thursday. It leaves De Kock with a Test record of 3300 runs in 54 matches at an average of 38.82, with six centuries and 22 fifties.

As designated wicketkeeper, that average goes up to 40.12 and of all the glovemen in Test history who have scored more than 2000 runs, only countryman AB de Villiers (57.41), Zimbabwe’s Andy Flower (53.70), Australia’s Adam Gilchrist (47.60), Englishmen Les Ames (43.40) and Matt Prior (40.18), and Sri Lanka’s Kumar Sangakkara (40.48) have averaged more.

De Kock’s reason for retirement is his family, with he and his wife Sasha expecting their first child in the New Year.

“This is not a decision that I have come to very easily,” De Kock said in a statement. “I have taken a lot of time to think about what my future looks like and what needs to take priority in my life now that Sasha and I are about to welcome our first child into this world and look to grow our family beyond that.

“My family is everything to me and I want to have the time and space to be able to be with them during this new and exciting chapter of our lives.

“I love Test cricket and I love representing my country and all that it comes with. I’ve enjoyed the ups and the downs, the celebrations and even the disappointments, but now I’ve found something that I love even more.

“In life, you can buy almost everything except for time, and right now, it’s time to do right by the people that mean the most to me,” De Kock said.

De Kock had the sort of batting x-factor you just can’t buy and was certainly one of the most feared South African batsmen.

But De Kock seemed to be getting worn down by the grind of Test cricket, especially the new normal of bio-secure bubbles, not helped by a fairly disastrous time when he had the captaincy thrust upon him.

If this decision buys De Kock more time in limited-overs cricket – he says he remains fully-committed to the white-ball game – then it will be worth it for the Proteas.

Kyle Verreynne, who has already played two Tests, is the likely successor behind the stumps for the Test team, with Ryan Rickelton waiting in the wings and Heinrich Klaasen another gloveman who has had a taste of Test cricket in the last couple of years.

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    “Attempting to serve the Lord without the strength of the Holy Spirit results in frustration and ultimate disaster.

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