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Ken Borland



Beaten Bulls show the spirit that ensures they won’t be temps but contenders in Currie Cup semis 0

Posted on June 12, 2023 by Ken

Cornal Hendricks scored two tries for the Bulls against the Free State Cheetahs.

The Bulls may have scraped into the Currie Cup semi-finals, but the passion and desire they showed in going down 27-31 to the Free State Cheetahs in a match of high drama at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, securing two vital bonus points despite suffering a red card in a moment of temporary madness, means they cannot be considered temps in this competition but genuine contenders.

The Bulls nearly won the match, the final whistle going with their maul four metres from the Cheetahs’ tryline. But by scoring four tries and finishing within seven points of the Free Staters, they earned two invaluable log points that left them on 38 points, two ahead of the Lions and out of reach of Western Province (37pts), despite their thrashing of the Sharks.

Considering they played the entire second half with 14 men after eighthman Elrigh Louw was red-carded in the 38th minute, it was the stoutest of efforts, showing that the Bulls do have that never-say-die quality that will make them very dangerous semi-final opponents. They will play the Cheetahs again this weekend in Bloemfontein, but if the Free Staters underestimate the Bulls based on how they reached the last four, they will tempt fate most foolishly.

Louw was sent from the field after his shoulder made contact with the head of Cheetahs flank Siba Qoma, as he rushed into a ruck and made a clumsy attempt to clean.

By that stage, the Cheetahs had already turned around the momentum after the Bulls made a flying start, rushing into a 19-0 lead in the first quarter. With halftime beckoning, the visitors had closed to 14-19 and had lifted themselves from a lethargic start, really making their presence felt in defence and at the breakdown.

Although flyhalf Morne Steyn, in his farewell game at Loftus Versfeld, kicked a 42nd-minute penalty to stretch the lead to 22-14, the Cheetahs took control of the match as they scored two tries in five minutes to open up a 28-22 lead.

Excellent flyhalf Siya Masuku, who will be in Sharks’ colours next season, seemed to be clothing himself in either a cloak of invisibility or the most slippery substance known to man as he weaved his way through the heart of the Bulls team to score an exceptional try. Masuku succeeded with the conversion too, as he did with all four of his other kicks at goal.

In the 49th minute, hooker Marnus van der Merwe, who was like a bull in a china shop, produced another storming run that left him just short of the line, but scrumhalf Rewan Kruger picked up the ball and dived over to score.

It was not as if the Cheetahs closed up shop then either, but the Bulls just upped their game with sheer desperation. They too scrambled in defence against a team that is always so dangerous with ball-in-hand.

Masuku had the final say with a 71st-minute penalty won at a ruck, but the Bulls were up close in their rearview mirrors throughout the final quarter.

Replacement flyhalf Chris Smith was brought into action in the 54th minute as Steyn departed his home ground for the last time. The Springbok flyhalf had been more inspirational in his running of the backline than with the boot, missing three of his six kicks at goal.

It was Smith’s boot that ultimately put the Bulls into the semi-finals as, with the ferocious Cheetahs defence in his face and cutting him off from his centres, he put the deftest of crosskicks into the corner for wing Cornal Hendricks to score his second try. It was also the fourth for his team, bringing the first bonus point, and it dragged the home side back to within one point of the Free Staters, setting up a second log point.

The other legend being farewelled, hooker Bismarck du Plessis, came off the bench and had a big impact in the closing stages, both in the set-pieces and in bringing some added presence at the rucks.

The Bulls had begun the match in inspired fashion with three tries in the first 14 minutes.

Fullback Johan Goosen’s prowess in the air allowed the Bulls to attack the blindside and, with the Cheetahs defence slow to react, outside centre Stedman Gans was able to put Hendricks away for the opening try.

Two minutes later, Free State dropped the ball in their backline and wing David Kriel pounced, swivelling out of a tackle and then passing to centre Harold Vorster, who was quickly up in support and raced away for the second try.

The third try went to scrumhalf Embrose Papier, who is in such great form at the moment, but it is doubtful whether he will be able to play in the semi-final due to a hamstring injury. He sidestepped a defender and streaked away for a try after Ruan Vermaak’s super offload, the lock having burst clear after Steyn put him in a hole with a skip-pass.

The Cheetahs were very competitive in the scrums and they opened their account after getting a penalty there and going for a lineout deep in Bulls’ territory. Van der Merwe burst clear from the maul and then the similarly-built centre David Brits muscled over for the try.

Their second try also came off a lineout, but this time with a slick backline move, fullback Tapiwa Mafura dummying and then breaking the line, wing Daniel Kasende then providing a strong finish.

Given the quality the Cheetahs showed, the 14-man Bulls were just relieved to still be in the running for the Currie Cup crown.

“The team showed a lot of character and desire because the game could really have got away from us,” assistant coach Hugo van As said after the game. “We still had two or three opportunities to win right at the end, a great chance with our maul.

“But you’ve got to give the Cheetahs great credit for the way they stopped our maul and the breakdown was a big concern for us as well. We were beaten there, they came really hard at us and disrupted a lot of our plays.

“We’ve got to adapt on the day and make sure we look after our ball better. We saw in the first 20 minutes that when we get it right then we can score tries, it was a huge positive to see the interplay between forwards and backs.

“The team desperately want to send Morne and Bismarck off with a win and there is still a lot to play for. The hunger and desire is there to go further, we just need to be more clinical and make better decisions,” Van As said.

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Cornal Hendricks (2), Harold Vorster, Embrose Papier. Conversions – Morne Steyn (2). Penalty – Steyn.

Free State Cheetahs: Tries – David Brits, Daniel Kasende, Siya Masuku, Rewan Kruger. Conversions – Masuku (4). Penalty – Masuku.

Finishing with two bogeys normally against the grain, but worth the risk for Ferreira 0

Posted on December 29, 2022 by Ken

SUN CITY, North-West – Finishing with two bogeys in the last three holes normally goes against the grain for golfers, but the nature of the modified Stableford scoring system means it was worth the risk for Stephen Ferreira and did not cost him the lead at the end of the second round of the Blue Label Challenge at the Gary Player Country Club on Thursday.

Ferreira still posted an excellent 13 points on Thursday, via a five-under-par 67, and he is two points clear of Jbe’ Kruger.

Up until his dropped shots on the par-three 16th and the par-five 18th, the 30-year-old Zimbabwe resident, who plays under the Portuguese flag, was unstoppable with five birdies and an eagle-three, worth five points, on the fifth hole.

“I’m very happy, I felt good today and played really solid golf and sank a few putts,” Ferreira said. “I was aggressive and smart.”

“My first bogey was because I took the wrong club on the par-three and was in the wrong place in the bunker and couldn’t get up-and-down. On the last hole, I had 230 to the flag and had a go because a bogey is only minus-one. It was a risky shot and I didn’t quite pull it off, but in this format, every now and then you have to take a risk.

“But on five I hit a good tee-shot in the middle of the fairway, had 237 to the flag and knew exactly which club to use, a nice floating five-wood to 10 feet and then I made the putt,” Ferreira said.

The runner-up three weeks ago in the SunBet Challenge Wild Coast event said he was grateful for Zambian golfer Madalitso Muthiya bailing him out of a putting problem he had.

“I’ve felt I’ve been playing really good golf but I just haven’t been getting a score, and that’s down to not making putts. We’re all good golfers out here, we all hit the ball well, all hit good irons, so putting is what makes the difference,” Ferreira said.

“My friend Madalitso helped me tweak something small with my putting and now I’m putting nicely.”

Kruger also notched 13 points, via seven birdies, on Thursday, only once landing in trouble when he bogeyed the par-four fourth hole.

First-round leader Brooklin Bailey dropped out of the leadership race as he scored minus-nine on Thursday, with three double-bogeys and just two birdies on his card.

Simelane is on a mission to gather as much proficiency in all facets of the game as he can 0

Posted on October 18, 2022 by Ken

Wandisile Simelane has a burning desire to improve his game in all facets and his time with the extended Springbok squad last year and his move to the Bulls for the 2022/23 season have been used as a means to gather as much proficiency as he can.

Simelane has long been considered as one of the country’s brightest young talents and his selection for the initial 46-man squad for the British and Irish Lions series raised hopes of him making his Springbok debut.

In the end the established and world-class pairing of Lukhanyo Am and Damian de Allende did South Africa proud, but Simelane soaked up the atmosphere and the learnings to be gained at elite level.

“I learnt a lot, and I realised I need to get better in every aspect of my game, including things like work-rate, training and just being in that environment,” Simelane told The Citizen.

“It really helped me both as an individual and as a rugby player. Just being around Lukhanyo Am, who is one of the best No.13s in the world, you put yourself at a disadvantage if you don’t learn from him.

“He is an inspiration and a role-model to me, and there were others too like Jesse Kriel, Frans Steyn and Damian de Allende, who are great centres. You take bits and pieces from everyone and add it to your own game.

“I’ve always believed every rugby player in South Africa should aspire to play for the Springboks, and hopefully I’ll be back there sooner rather than later. It’s definitely my number one goal,” Simelane said.

While the 24-year-old did not want to go into the reasons why he left the Gauteng Lions this year, there was a sense among neutral observers that his game did not grow at Ellis Park, the Lions did not make the best use of him, over the last year, and playing in an exciting Bulls backline featuring Springboks in Embrose Papier, Morne Steyn, Lionel Mapoe, Cornal Hendricks, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Sbu Nkosi, Johan Goosen and now Canan Moodie, could see Simelane fulfil his potential in the coming season.

Apart from all that star quality and wise old heads, Simelane, as a Jeppe High old boy, was also delighted to come under the wing of school legend Jake White, and also get the chance to play alongside Nkosi, Jeppe’s most recent Springbok.

“Jake winning the World Cup in 2007 was a massive achievement and knowing he’s a Jeppe old boy, he’s a great hero at the school and in South African rugby generally,” Simelane said.

“When the opportunity came to be coached by him at the Bulls, I didn’t think twice. I can gain so much knowledge from him.

“Unfortunately, when Sbu played first XV at Jeppe, I was still U16 and I missed playing with him by one year,” Simelane said.

As fate would have it, the Bulls’ opening United Rugby Championship fixture this season is against the Lions at Ellis Park on September 17, but the Johannesburg-born player will not be focusing on the unhappy memories of his previous home.

“I’m definitely excited to start the season and I’m looking at it as my first game for the Bulls and not the first match I will play against the Lions.”

The Lions tended to shift Simelane away from the midfield and play him on the wing, but he said this was not the cause of his unhappiness.

“I don’t mind at all, I don’t care if I play wing, centre or fullback, as long as I am in the team. It doesn’t bother me much. Number 13 is my main position, my number one choice, where I want to be a specialist.”

The defensive nous required to be a world-class outside centre will no doubt come with more experience, but what Simelane already possesses are the feet of a magician.

“I guess it’s just natural instinct, it’s something that gets better and better the more I play, since my school days. But the key is to keep working on it,” Simelane, who first started playing rugby in Grade V at Dalmondeor Primary in Johannesburg South, said.

He is a nightmare to defend against if he’s in space because of his ability to not only beat the man with a late sidestep, but also his passing skills. Many of his team-mates have profited from delayed ball that has put them right through the gap.

“To make the most of space, I like to use the pass also. It depends on how you analyse different players, what you want to achieve as a team and also your feel for the game.

“The more I put myself in those situations in training, the more I will make the right decisions. It’s something I’ve had to work hard on too,” Simelane said.

Simelane will be 25 when the next World Cup is played and then the Springboks will surely enter a new cycle in terms of personnel. Hopefully the selectors don’t leave it too late to introduce him to the international stage that seems to be his destiny.

Alignment camps and no bubbles means Nienaber in no rush and will name squad after URC 0

Posted on July 04, 2022 by Ken

The success of the alignment camps and the likelihood that there will not be any Covid bubbles to negotiate means Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber is in no rush to name his squad for the incoming series against Wales in July and will wait until the URC plays itself out.

Nienaber, speaking at SA Rugby’s announcement of a three-year initiative with Betway called Next Phase, which will develop the women’s game through growing coaching capacity, said his squad has not even been chosen yet. Wales announced their touring group on May 18.

“I’ll announce the squad only after the players have completed their commitments with their franchises,” Nienaber said in Rosebank on Thursday. “They don’t need to hear from the national coach now, just their franchise coaches.

“We haven’t yet had our selection meeting, although there is a certain group that we are looking at. We know who we’re looking at, we’ve had alignment camps, but we’ll let the teams play their URC playoffs first.

“The Welsh teams are already all out of the URC, so Wales can already be in camp, but it’s going to be more staggered for us, with players joining us as their teams fall out. The overseas players are in the same position.

“Last year it was very tough to plan, almost impossible, you’d have 10 different scenarios and see what pans out. This year looks like normal and hopefully there won’t be any bubbles to contend with,” Nienaber said.

While only a handful of players from the UK tour last November will be nervous about the beul’s axe hanging over their heads, Nienaber said he was heartened by the performances of the South African teams in the United Rugby Championship.

“I was encouraged by all four teams, all of them have played excellent rugby. Even the Lions did well with their comeback, they had a great winning streak here.”

Nienaber, who helped out with the coaching of the Springbok women’s team in 2014/15, said Next Phase came from an epiphany that their approach was wrong back then.

“Women’s rugby is on another development level and we probably made a mistake trying to foist a men’s programme on them back in 2014/15. The basics are not necessarily there with the girls because they start playing so late.

“You need to build the basics and then put the next layer in, which is adding the creative plans. I became a better coach through my involvement with them,” Nienaber said.

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