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Ken Borland

Nienaber finds haven in many of the Boks who won World Cup final 0

Posted on August 17, 2021 by Ken

The British media have been gleefully pointing out how little rugby the Springboks have had against top-tier opposition since winning the World Cup in November 2019, but coach Jacques Nienaber has found haven in being able to select so many of the players who won that final for the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday.

Nienaber announced a Springbok team on Tuesday in which only six of the 23 players were not on the field on that heady evening in Yokohama. Starting loosehead Ox Nche and replacement flank Rynhardt Elstadt are the only players who were not part of the triumphant World Cup squad.

“Without any Test rugby in 2020 and limited preparation games now, obviously selecting players who have been in the system is quite important. That experience, to have over 500 Test caps in the starting team and more than 700 in the squad of 23, is what we’re looking for. These are guys who have been here before, they understand the pressure they will be under.

“And there will be immense pressure, so it’s great to have players who have experienced it before. This is the real thing and we are going to need calm, steady heads. I think we are going to have new pictures thrown our way by the Lions and will be forced to make solutions on the field. One of the big challenges is that the Lions have a very versatile squad that can play in multiple styles,” Nienaber said on Tuesday.

Amongst the backs, there have been fitness question marks over Handre Pollard, Makazole Mapimpi and Damian de Allende, so Nieneaber has decided not to field the Bomb Squad 6-2 split on the bench. He understandably has confidence the forward replacements – Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager and Elstadt – will be able to man up to whatever the Lions pack throws at them.

“Handre has not played a lot of rugby and he’s just come back from Covid, Makazole is the same. If we were fully confident about them then we could have gone with a 6-2 split. It’s probably just not the right time to only have two backs on the bench. We are comfortable with a 6-2 split, we will go with it again, but there just wasn’t the opportunity for this specific game.

“We’re not 100% sure everyone will last the whole 80 minutes because, due to Covid, some of them have not been exposed to much rugby for quite some time. The bench might only come on for 20 minutes, but it will happen the moment a player on the field is not producing his required role due to tiredness. We look to the subs when the performance starts to drop off,” Nienaber explained.

As selections go, it is a vote of confidence in the tried and tested, even if that means a gamble on recent returnees like captain Siya Kolisi, De Jager and Mapimpi. Given the opposition and the question marks over their preparation, it would be silly for the Springboks not to look at their World Cup winners.

Springbok team: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard (vice-captain), Faf de Klerk, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nché. Replacements – Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

Am confident but it will be a tough day in the office for the Sharks if they don’t match WP up front 0

Posted on January 25, 2021 by Ken

The Sharks have had their share of difficult times in the forward battle and it will be a tough day at the office for them if they don’t match Western Province up front in their Currie Cup semi-final at Newlands on Saturday, but skipper Lukhanyo Am says they are confident they will have put in the work required for at least parity come the weekend.

The Sharks pack showed their ability when they enjoyed the upper hand up front when ending the Bulls’ unbeaten run in mid-December, but they have also been beaten at forward by the Lions and the Free State Cheetahs. Importantly, that was when tighthead prop Thomas du Toit was not in action, and the World Cup winner is shaping to be a key player on Saturday as he takes on South Africa’s No.1 loosehead prop in Steven Kitshoff.

“We know what Western Province’s strengths are, their set-piece has been dominant and they’ve proven it right through the competition. But we are working on us mainly, to strengthen the parts of our game where we feel we are lacking. But if we can get our own set-piece and challenge them on their’s, then it’s going to be an exciting game to watch,” Am said on Tuesday.

Lock Ruben van Heerden was also painting a picture of how determined the Sharks are to match Western Province, and their all-Springbok front row, up front.

“Western Province have a very strong lineout, scrum and maul, we know what they will bring, but we are very well prepared and up to the challenge. At this level, everyone is strong and shows up on the day really wanting to play, so it comes down to technique to nullify what gives them their strength – momentum in the lineout, scrums and mauls. But we are very confident we can nullify that,” Van Heerden said.

And if the Sharks pack can gain parity up front, then they have the backline to take advantage and a general at flyhalf in Curwin Bosch who can move them around the park most efficiently. While the 23-year-old Springbok is indisputably KwaZulu-Natal’s No.1 flyhalf, Western Province have shuffled from Damian Willemse to Tim Swiel as their pivot this season.

“Curwin is incredibly influential for us, he’s our playmaker and crucial to the way we want to play. As a forward, it makes your job so much easier when you have a flyhalf who can put you on the front foot and put the ball in the right areas. I’m not sure about Western Province’s situation at flyhalf, but that’s not our problem,” Van Heerden said.

Captain Am also knows he can rely on his flyhalf.

“Curwin is a key player, our golden boot and he really puts us in the right areas. We back his kicking abilities whether in-hand or off the tee and he really gives us confidence. Our approach probably won’t be as flashy in the semi-final as it is in other games, we’ll definitely be trying to put the ball in the right areas, and knowing he can slot whatever penalties we get means we are in a good place,” Am said.

Learning from all the experience around him 1st & foremost in Sipamla’s mind 0

Posted on June 24, 2020 by Ken

The fact that almost all of them have international playing experience was first and foremost in fast bowler Lutho Sipamla’s mind this week when he spoke about the effect the Proteas coaching staff have had on his own fledgling career for South Africa.

Since making his Proteas debut in a T20 against Pakistan at the Wanderers in February last year, the 22-year-old Sipamla has played four ODIs and five T20 Internationals. For all his inexperience, he has been quick to recognise the value of all the experience around him.

“Guys like Charl Langeveldt, Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis and Justin Ontong have walked the talk, they know what it takes to be a good international cricketer. It’s awesome to have them as coaches because they have been in our shoes and they have done it all before. So they can relate to what we are going through because they’ve experienced it themselves.

“Someone like Charl, when it comes to bowling at the death, he’s had to defend six or seven runs to win the game and done that. So he knows the processes involved, he’s been successful and he passes that on to the bowlers,” Sipamla said.

Bowling coach Langeveldt played 72 ODIs, but the respect he is held in by local cricketers suggests he should have played many more; head coach Boucher played 147 Tests and 295 ODIs, batting consultant Kallis is South Africa’s most-capped player ever with 166 Test and 328 ODI appearances, and fielding coach Ontong was unfortunate to play just two Tests, 14 ODIs and 28 T20 Internationals.

Last year was a pretty terrible one for the Proteas, but there were signs of the tide starting to turn when they whitewashed a powerful Australian side 3-0 in the ODI series in February/March.

“It was a great experience making my debut in the limited-overs format and it was a really good win over Australia, a wonderful experience and a great time for me. We had a very young squad but we all worked together towards our goal and gelled nicely. We all knew what we had to do, everyone knew their roles and we were able to execute.

“In that campaign we all grew as individuals and players, and it was something special to be part of it. And now we’ve had a long wait to play again and I’m really excited just to get back to practice and crafting my skills again. As my Dad always tells me when I’m having a tough time, I must just make sure I keep working hard and make sure I’m still doing all the right things,” Sipamla said.

Even schedule from hell can’t keep Sharks from playoff mix 0

Posted on May 24, 2016 by Ken


Even though the Sharks have had the schedule from hell, they will go into the June international break still very much in the playoff mix following their 53-0 romp over the Southern Kings in Durban at the weekend, much to the delight of coach Gary Gold.

The Sharks are second in Africa Conference 2, just two points behind the Lions, and third in the Group, three points ahead of the Stormers, although they have played one more game than the three other top local sides and have a bye this coming weekend.

“I’m very satisfied and particularly pleased tonight that we got the bonus point and kept the opposition to zero. We knew the last six weeks would be tough, playing on three different continents in three weeks, but I’m really happy with the attitude of the players and how they’ve dealt with all the travel. It has been tough and it’s taken its toll, but to be as competitive as we have been, especially against the New Zealand sides, is very pleasing.

“The guys have shown a lot of character and now they have a bit of downtime. We can fix the guys that are broken and hopefully get some big names back. It’s good that we can try and keep our noses ahead rather than play catch-up,” Gold said.

The Sharks played some tremendous rugby in the first half against the Kings, getting the ball wide and scoring six tries, including three in a dazzling five-minute spell midway through the half. But they went off the boil in the second half and Gold said one of the things that still concern him is the team’s tendency to waste chances.

“We had a very specific plan at the start, you never want to get into an arm-wrestle against a side as courageous as the Kings, and we controlled things nicely in the first half and took our chances. Not so much in the second half, maybe there were too many changes, but it was a bit disappointing. The Kings are a never-say-die side, especially in the contact situations, and we lost a lot of ball.

“We didn’t take our chances as clinically and the lineout didn’t function as well. We need to step up, we are not the finished product, there are simple options not being taken. We tend to over-complicate things, if we take the simple options we will score more tries,” Gold said.


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