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Ken Borland

Pair of effortless centuries lifts Australia to huge score 0

Posted on October 23, 2023 by Ken

A pair of effortless centuries by Usman Khawaja and Steven Smith lifted Australia to a huge 394 for three at tea on the second day of the third Test against South Africa at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Thursday.

While left-handed opener Khawaja was still there at the break on a tremendously classy 172 not out, the Proteas were at least relieved to get rid of the prolific Smith for 104 just as he was really beginning to accelerate.

Khawaja scored his third successive century at the SCG, joining English legend Wally Hammond and Australian hero Doug Walters as the only other batsmen to do that. He and Smith added 209 for the third wicket after the home side began the day on 147 for two. The partnership not only thoroughly blunted the South African attack on a placid pitch but also continued the duo’s history of great stands together.

Smith did eventually fall after collecting 11 fours and two sixes in 192 balls, giving Keshav Maharaj a return catch when the left-arm spinner produced a bit more flight.

The in-form Travis Head then came to the crease and reached 17 not out at tea.

Spinners Maharaj and Simon Harmer have borne the heaviest burden on a dry pitch, both bowling 25 overs. But Maharaj has been poor, conceding 108 runs, while Harmer has been putting more revs on the ball and asking more questions, but so far without reward. He has at least conceded less than three runs an over (73).

Fast bowler Anrich Nortje did not add to his two wickets on the first day, but he was again South Africa’s most impressive bowler. Unfortunately, his fellow pacemen could not follow his lead. Young left-armer Marco Jansen was not quite at his best, but continues to market himself as one of the brightest talents in international cricket, bowling a fine spell with the second new ball. Kagiso Rabada is out-of-sorts and has conceded 94 runs in his 24 overs.

Khawaja’s 335-ball innings, with 17 fours and a six, has been a super display of the craft of an opening batsman; he has shown great precision in both the selection and execution of his strokes and has put away the loose deliveries in elegant fashion.

Salute understaffed Internationals for doing Presidents Cup credit 0

Posted on November 16, 2022 by Ken

One can only salute Trevor Immelman’s understaffed International team for their heroic comeback in the Presidents Cup at the weekend, and even though they were eventually beaten 17½-12½, they did themselves and, perhaps most importantly, the event a huge credit.

The United States had won the last eight successive editions of the biennial tournament, so they were overwhelming favourites even before the defections to LIV Golf decimated Immelman’s team. The South African captain was forced to choose eight rookies for the event. His highest-ranked player was Japan’s Hideki Matsuyama, ranked 14th in the world; there were 10 Americans ranked higher.

And then the Internationals suffered a nightmare start as they crashed 8-2, and then 11-4, behind on the first two days.

But the Internationals stood tall on the weekend, winning 10½ of the last 20 points. At one stage on the final day singles, they had closed to within two points of the United States, with several other games in the balance.

For those who love the Presidents Cup and team golf, it was wonderful to see the Internationals fight so hard to prove their competitiveness. They may have lost the match, but they ensured this event will survive for at least a while longer.

Many seasoned observers have marvelled at the number of long-range putts the Americans sank during the event. It almost seemed like whenever they looked at the hole, even from miles away, they would sink the putt.

While one should credit the hosts for their attacking mindset, it’s probably fair to say they also enjoyed some good fortune.

South Africa’s only other member of the team, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, was unbeaten with 1½ points, although he somewhat surprisingly only played two matches.

“We showed a lot of guts to fight back,” Immelman said after the defeat. “At some point this afternoon, I thought there was still a chance.

“When you consider we were 8-2 down, this team is no joke, and I’m sick and tired of it being spoken of as a joke. We love this event, we love our team, and we cannot wait to have another shot.”

Bulls win massive not just for them but for SA rugby as a whole – Jake 0

Posted on November 08, 2021 by Ken

Jake White described his team’s 29-19 victory over the Cardiff Blues in their United Rugby Championship match at the Arms Park on Saturday night as being a huge result for not just the Bulls but for the whole of South African rugby as well as for the credibility of the new competition.

The Bulls result, achieved via a superb second-half comeback that saw them overturn a 3-16 deficit, completed a highly encouraging weekend for the previously beleaguered South African franchises.

It was the Sharks who set the ball rolling with a brilliant second-half comeback of their own against the Ospreys on Friday night, winning 27-13 after they were level 6-6 at the break. And then earlier on Saturday the Lions went down 13-9 to the Glasgow Warriors, who were awarded a try that never should have stood, while the Stormers fought back from 14-0 down after just six minutes to draw 20-20 with Edinburgh.

“It’s massive for us, for South African rugby, for everyone, it brings credibility to the competition,” White said. “We read in the media that viewership is through the roof and we certainly don’t want to lose and lose.

“It was a fantastic game for us, a great comeback after being 13-0 down and losing Johan Goosen to a knee injury. We were so resilient and I’m sure the URC are incredibly happy too because it shows there is healthy competition.

“We’re going to get massive confidence from this result and also from the way we played. I was really happy with the way we changed our attack, using forwards and backs, and we played with a lot of width at times too,” White said.

The Bulls were poor in the first half, unable to keep the ball for more than a couple of phases at a time, and this was largely due to another inept showing at the breakdowns by them.

But this all changed in the second half as they came out with some much-needed fire in the belly, started dominating the gain-line, hanging on to the ball for longer and this led to the pressure – and the wrath of the referee – shifting on to Cardiff at the breakdowns.

Veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis was prominent in a tough first half for the Bulls, and he set the ball rolling early in the second half with a big carry, winning a penalty for the Bulls. Eighthman Elrigh Louw just tapped and went and was straight over for the try with no problem.

This certainly lifted the Bulls and a fantastic break by replacement flank Arno Botha followed, Marcell Coetzee, who really came to the fore in the second half, then carrying strongly to earn a penalty. This was slotted by Chris Smith, who replaced Goosen at flyhalf with enormous aplomb.

Suddenly the Bulls were just three points behind and then wing Madosh Tambwe scored a tremendous try on the hour mark. Good defensive pressure by centre Harold Vorster led to a poor pass by Cardiff, Tambwe was quickly up to kick the ball through and then showed searing pace to get there first, and then great control to gather the bouncing ball and score.

This gave the Bulls the lead for the first time and the excellent boot of Smith, who succeeded with all seven of his kicks at goal, ensured this advantage was never surrendered.


Cardiff Blues: Try – Matthew Screech. Conversion – Rhys Priestland. Penalties – Priestland (4).

Bulls: Tries – Elrigh Louw, Madosh Tambwe. Conversions – Chris Smith (2). Penalties – Smith (5).

Jake praises Bulls for almost perfect game in CC final 0

Posted on September 29, 2021 by Ken

Bulls coach Jake White praised his team for producing almost the perfect game in their record Currie Cup final win over the Sharks on Saturday night: forwards and backs were in unison, the attack was clinical and the defence showed no weakness. And he believes their performance has given them huge confidence and cohesion as they head to Europe.

The Bulls battered the Sharks 44-10 at Loftus Versfeld, the biggest winning margin ever in a Currie Cup final, and the scoreline did not flatter them, so complete was their performance.

“Our captain, Marcell Coetzee, was saying that everything felt so composed and in synch, the backs and forwards just working slickly together. That was very close to the perfect game based on getting chances and making sure we take them, no soft moments in defence and we did not give away many penalties. That’s how you play rugby and it’s going to create massive confidence and cohesion going forward.

“When we play like we did tonight then I’m sure everyone at this incredibly proud union is very happy. To get that composure from what is a young side is very pleasing and it felt like we were in control the whole time. I’m also very happy that in the last two weeks there has been a definite progression in our game; that’s what you want to see – that at the back end of the competition you get better,” White said after the Bulls defended their title in emphatic fashion.

The value of aggressive defence was once again clearly shown as the Sharks dominated possession and territory in the first half, but foundered on the rock of the eager Bulls tackling. The Sharks trailed 19-3 at halftime and the result of the final was all but settled.

“That first set of defence, against attack after attack, and then after 12 phases we get the turnover and the penalty, kick it downfield and then score a try from first phase – it does not get better than that, taking your first chance in a final. Big moments are crucial in finals, but they don’t just happen on attack, but in defence too.

“The Sharks wanted to have a go at us, but we could counter that because we were able to defend and keep our shape, and not allow them to get around us. Altitude catches you and then when they were dead on their feet, we were able to pounce. But it was our defence that gave us the ability to counter-punch. I’m very proud for us to have won back-to-back Currie Cups now,” White said.

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