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Ken Borland

Sharks run out of steam in the final quarter 0

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Ken


The Cell C Sharks ran out of steam in the last quarter as they let slip the opportunity to get their New Zealand tour off to a winning start as they went down 23-18 to the Blues in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Eden Park in Auckland on Saturday.

The Sharks led 11-10 at the break, despite the Blues thoroughly dominating the first-half possession and territory stats, and the brilliance of Willie le Roux and Paul Jordaan created a try shortly after the restart, giving the visitors an 18-10 lead.

But the home side struck back, claiming a 20-18 lead with a brilliant try by wing Rieko Ioane, although the Sharks had the chances to erase the deficit thereafter. But the lineout imploded, three throws being lost inside the Blues’ 22 and lock Etienne Oosthuizen conceded a crucial ruck penalty in front of the opposition poles as well.

The opening stages of the match were marked by the Sharks’ lack of ball-retention skills: The Blues would hang on to the ball for phase after phase and, although they were sometimes way too lateral, their attacks were dangerous and they looked the much more likely team to score first.

A penalty by flyhalf Ihaia West was early reward for the Blues but, astonishingly, it was the Sharks who scored the opening try, on their first visit to the opposition 22.

It started with a fine turnover by flank Jean-Luc du Preez, but it was the appreciation-of-space skill of fullback Willie le Roux that made the try, his chip finding the Blues defence in disarray. Flyhalf Joe Pietersen gathered the bouncing ball and, from the resulting ruck, the power of Tendai Mtawarira was enough for him to barrel over the line.

Six minutes later, the scrummaging prowess of Mtawarira was to the fore as the Sharks won a set-piece penalty, which Pietersen slotted to give them an 8-3 lead.

Pietersen kicked a second penalty in the 33rd minute, after scrumhalf Cobus Reinach had pounced on a loose ball inside his own 22, hacked ahead and was taken out in the chase, but it was obvious that the Sharks defence was under pressure just given the sheer number of tackles they had to make.

Four minutes before the break, the Blues attacked from a lineout on the Sharks’ 22 and West twice just failed to find the tryline before centre George Moala, who came on when the dangerous and experienced Rene Ranger limped off with a knee injury, dotted down from a ruck a metre short.

West landed the conversion to make it a one-point game (10-11) at halftime.

Even though his kicking game is still in need of plenty of work, Le Roux is a potent threat with ball in hand as he showed in the 42nd minute. Getting the ball at first-receiver, he burst through a half-gap and outside centre Jordaan was perfectly-placed on his shoulder to take the pass and show great pace to finish the try.

Pietersen converted and the Sharks were 18-10 up. But this is a young Sharks side and, unfortunately, their composure faltered badly in the final quarter.

West, who is an enigmatic general for the Blues, sliced one penalty wide but then succeeded with his 56th-minute effort to close the gap to 13-18.

There are some top-class runners of the ball in the Blues backline and, when West anticipated well to field a clearing kick by wing Lwazi Mvovo, those players were brought into the game.

Wing Ioane managed to get around a tiring Mtawarira in the first line of defence and roared away for a superb individual try, West’s conversion giving the Blues a two-point lead.

The Sharks went straight into the Blues’ 22 from the kickoff, but Oosthuizen gave away a soft penalty at the ruck and a total meltdown in the lineout followed. A penalty by West just before the final whistle, referee Jaco Peyper making a harsh offsides call on Oosthuizen when he went for the halfback, sealed the Sharks’ fate.

There were many bright moments for the Sharks – the scrums were good and lock Stephan Lewies gave a fine all-round performance, the poor throwing by the hookers being the major problem with the lineout in the closing stages.

The loose trio of the two Du Preez brothers and Philip van der Walt was outstanding, while Le Roux and Jordaan showed that there is attacking skill in this Sharks side, given the right platform.

But with their winless streak now stretching to four matches and games against the Highlanders, Chiefs and Hurricanes (back at home) to come, even the most optimistic of Sharks supporters will now be stum.


BluesTries: George Moala, Rieko Ioane. Conversions: Ihaia West (2). Penalties: West (3).

SharksTries: Tendai Mtawarira, Paul Jordaan. Conversion: Joe Pietersen. Penalties: Pietersen (2).

Meyer in the mood for a big victory 0

Posted on December 15, 2015 by Ken


Although the Springboks trounced Italy convincingly, Scotland has traditionally not been an easy opponent to destroy. Heyneke Meyer’s reluctance to add to the 852 players in the index of South Africa’s capped internationals for Saturday’s Test against a depleted Scottish side has many people baffled, but the Springbok coach perhaps let slip his motivation with a throwaway line during the team announcement.

“Our past results against Scotland are nothing to be proud of,” he said in midweek.

He obviously meant results in the recent past because Meyer would have grown up hearing stories of how the Springboks set the world record score against Scotland in Edinburgh in 1951 when they walloped them 44-0. Tries were only worth three points back then, so South Africa’s tally of nine, plus seven conversions from Okey Geffin and a drop goal from Hannes Brewis would have been equivalent to a 62-0 drubbing in today’s terms.

But since 2002, the Springboks have struggled to really put the Scots away. They lost 21-6 that year in Edinburgh and again 21-17 in 2010, but even their victories, with a couple of exceptions, have not been by much – 29-25 (Durban, 2003); 28-19 (Johannesburg, 2003); 45-10 (Edinburgh 2004); 36-16 (Durban, 2006); 29-15 (Port Elizabeth, 2006); 27-3 (Edinburgh, 2007); 14-10 (Edinburgh, 2008) and 21-10 (Edinburgh 2012).

So Meyer is clearly hoping for something more along the lines of 62-0 as he calls into service the bulk of the team that put Italy away in impressive fashion last weekend.

With South Africa set to play Scotland in a potential pool decider in their own conditions in the 2015 Rugby World Cup, Meyer will also be keen on scoring some psychological points through a big victory.

With another week of training together hopefully providing even more continuity, and those first Test nerves a thing of the past for a handful of players, Meyer is confident that the Springboks will build on their King’s Park performance when they play the first Test to be hosted by the Mbombela Stadium in Nelspruit.

And the home side certainly has numerous weapons with which to really hurt the Scots.

Bryan Habana won the Man of the Match award for his dazzling display of pacy counter-attacking and new Scotland flyhalf Ruaridh Jackson and debutant fullback Peter Murchie are warned that aimless kicking will be punished.

Saturday also provides another opportunity for Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht to shine, while if left wing Bjorn Basson continues to look for work, he could well add to his maiden Test try last weekend.

Scotland suffered a terrible injury toll after their loss to the physical Samoans. Coach Scott Johnson said he was “hard-pressed to remember so many injuries from the one Test match” – and unfortunately for them they can expect more of the same from the Springboks.

The loose trio of Pierre Spies, Arno Botha and Marcell Coetzee are renowned for their physicality, as is lock Eben Etzebeth, while Meyer can turn to the likes of Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe and, of course, Bismarck du Plessis, for even more punching power off the bench.

The ferocious Du Plessis is likely to only be on the field for a short period, but Scotland could well learn the meaning of vasbyt in that time.

“I’ve never been out this long before, I’ve missed six Sharks games in eight years before the knee operation, so frustration doesn’t even come close to describing the feeling. Even if you miss one game, you can never get it back again and even if I just get one minute on Saturday, I’m going to try and fit 80 minutes of rugby into it,” Du Plessis vowed this week.

Siya Kolisi, who at 1.86m is shorter than the loose forwards Meyer usually favours, is another who should get a stint off the bench and the debutant will want to make his presence count at the breakdowns.

Meyer has identified the breakdowns as one of the key areas he is looking to improve in the second year of his term and, with Francois Louw the first-choice open-side flank, Kolisi will want to make the most of his chance while the Bath man is away getting married this weekend.

The scrums are another area where the Springboks can improve, but in the unlikely event of Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira struggling, Meyer does have the insurance of in-form Cheetahs props Oosthuizen and Trevor Nyakane on the bench.

Scotland will have an experienced tighthead in British Lions tourist Euan Murray to test the Springbok scrum, but the visitors will be hard-pressed to match the lineout skills of the hosts.

The fact that an already depleted Scotland team have now been battered and bruised to such an extent that coach Johnson had to make seven more changes, does not inspire much confidence that they can upset a Springbok team that has their coach calling for blood.

“We still have to put in the hard work against Scotland. It’s like SuperRugby, any team can beat you on their day. We played some great rugby last weekend, but we’re still far from our best. We still need to improve and for us it’s about putting in 100%, 100% of the time,” Meyer said.

For the Springboks to slacken now would totally expose their coach’s about-turn on using this quadrangular series to try a bunch of players.

With a Nelspruit crowd eager to see the Springboks in action for the first time in their city, we can surely expect the Springboks to improve further on their start to the season in Durban by putting Scotland to the sword.


South Africa – Willie le Roux; Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson; Morne Steyn, Ruan Pienaar; Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Marcell Coetzee; Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth; Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Bismarck du Plessis, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Piet van Zyl, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Scotland – Peter Murchie; Tommy Seymour, Alex Dunbar, Matt Scott, Sean Lamont; Ruaridh Jackson, Greig Laidlaw; Johnnie Beattie, Ryan Wilson, Alasdair Strokosch; Jim Hamilton, Tim Swinson; Euan Murray, Scott Lawson, Alasdair Dickinson. Replacements: Steven Lawrie, Jon Welsh, Moray Low, Alastair Kellock, David Denton, Henry Pyrgos, Peter Horne, Duncan Taylor.

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