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Ken Borland



Bulls score 56 & concede 35, except this time they remain in firm control as they hammer Benetton 0

Posted on May 18, 2024 by Ken

Kurt-Lee Arendse (right) had a superb game, highlighting not just his speed and stepping ability, but also his strength. Photo: Backpage Pix

Bulls coach Jake White was delighted by his team’s attacking expertise and once again perplexed by why they allowed the opposition to score so many points, except this time his side remained in firm control of the match as they hammered Benetton Treviso 56-35 in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls were often sublime with ball-in-hand, scoring nine tries, but they did concede five tries to Benetton, with the Italian side not hiding their happiness with what could be an important point for their playoff qualification hopes.

An exceptional first half-hour saw the Bulls thunder to a 26-0 lead, a precise kicking game, powerful scrum, mauling, dominance on the gainline and a slick backline all combining seamlessly. They were then 31-7 up as halftime beckoned, but they allowed Benetton to score on the hooter and then also conceded the first try of the second half as the Italians threatened to replicate what Glasgow Warriors did last week by getting back into the game at 21-31 down.

But this time the Bulls kept scoring points in the second half, crossing for four more tries while Benetton tried everything to get the four-try bonus point. Although they succeeded, the Bulls made it hard enough for them that they never looked in danger of losing.

“I’m very happy with the five points and at times we looked like the best team in the competition. But I guess the question is how did we leak five tries? I don’t think it was because of a lack of work-rate, not a system error and not due to game-understanding. I think we just do things that help the opposition into places they want to be. We almost think we can score from anywhere, maybe we should talk more about game-management or turnover-control at training,” White mused after the emphatic victory that temporarily lifted his team into second on the log.

“You need to defend well if you’re going to win championships, but you need to score points too. One constant about rugby is that the team that scores the most points always finishes near the top of the log. If we keep scoring lots of points, it means to beat us the opposition must score 50 and that creates pressure.

“But I still want us to be a tougher defensive side and not allow the opposition to score easily due to our mistakes or the situations we put ourselves in. The shape of our attack was very good, but the one thing we lack is that edge on defence, that ruthlessness that does not allow the other team to score. But I will take the opposition having to score more than 30 points to win every week of the season.

“Last week we were like deer in the headlights, there was almost panic, but this week we continued to score points. Last week it was almost as if we tried to defend the 37-10 score and it almost came back to bite us. But today we had much more control and we showed much more understanding that we needed to tighten up.

“I’m also looking for the ‘why?’. Maybe it’s because we try so hard to score great tries that maybe we create pressure for ourselves. I also think that for two weeks in a row we’ve played against teams that really wanted to score four tries. There’s no doubt Benetton needed to get something out of the game and it would have been much more difficult for them to get a bonus point by keeping us to less than an eight-point winning margin.

“So I’m not worried and there is no reason for us to go away from what is working. Hopefully the mental attitude will be there and there will be more grunt when it is a do-or-die defensive set in a knockout game. The captain [Elrigh Louw] gave his word that they will do it and I don’t doubt that they will,” White said.

The Bulls began the game with a show of force that a Chinese military display would have battled to match in terms of precision and shock-awe value. A bang-on-target kick and chase forced a knock-on inside the Benetton 22, the Bulls dominated the scrum and then won a ruck penalty. The lineout was set and then the maul, and then the ball went out to wing Canan Moodie, who snaked through the defence to score the opening try after three minutes.

The Bulls’ other wing, Kurt-Lee Arendse is diminutive and has the face of an angel, but the Springbok star showed his hard, ruthless edge as he then set up the second try and scored the third. A quick lineout taken on the halfway line was followed by Arendse making a great run down the left and then passing inside for centre David Kriel to score in the 17th minute.

Three minutes later, Arendse brilliantly won an up-and-under and, quick as a flash, scrumhalf Embrose Papier kicked over the ruck to win a marvellous 50/22. The Bulls quickly went wide from the lineout and Arendse then fought this way through four tackles to score, showing he is not just a stepper and dasher, but also a finisher of great strength.

Willie le Roux has come to Loftus Versfeld for more than a few rand, and the Springbok legend showed why as his break and mazy run, followed by a super inside-pass, sent lock Ruan Nortje galloping over for the Bulls’ fourth try.

At 26-0 down, Benetton had a mountain to climb. They had been terrible in terms of defence and discipline in the opening quarter, but they showed admirable tenacity in fighting their way back into the game through tries by wing Onisi Ratave, hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and scrumhalf Andy Uren.

The Bulls touched the heights one more time in the first half, however, as loose forward Louw’s lovely pop-pass backwards out of contact found inside centre Harold Vorster, who knifed through the defensive line and set up the easiest of run-ins for Moodie, scoring his second try.

The way the Bulls repelled the Benetton comeback in the second half suggested a breakthrough in terms of game-management. They focused on continuing to keep the opposition in their territory with their kicking game, forcing Benetton to attack from deep.

Another good up-and-under from Papier earned a penalty for obstruction and hooker Akker van der Merwe scored from the lineout maul. Four minutes later, a long pass inside their own half went to ground in the Benetton backline, and Kriel pounced, powering away for his second try as he continues to impress in what may be a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old.

Another atypical moment of defensive softness by Benetton, one of the best defensive sides in the competition, then allowed Bulls flyhalf Johan Goosen to just run at them from a scrum, bursting through and then offloading to Kriel, who then fed Moodie out wide for a an easy run-in for his hat-trick of tries.

At 48-28 up, the Bulls made the iconoclastic decision to kick a penalty for poles and replacement flyhalf Chris Smith succeeded from long range, and although Benetton grabbed their fifth try, the Bulls had the final say. Louw surged forward from quick ball off the top of a lineout, getting into the five-metre zone; from there the Bulls just recycled the ball across the field until the opposition ran out of numbers and replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar reached over to score.

With their electrifying backline and a pack that just swarms over the contact points, White has reason to be encouraged by the progress his team has made.

“Last season we finished seventh and now the worst we can finish this time is fourth, so we have a home quarterfinal. So there’s no doubt there’s been improvement, we still have a ticket in the knockouts so there is still hope. The challenge now is to get it right on four successive weekends,” White said.

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Canan Moodie (3), David Kriel (2), Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions – Johan Goosen (4). Penalty – Chris Smith.

Benetton Treviso: Tries – Onisi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Marco Zanon. Conversions – Rhyno Smith (5).

JSK in tatters, bowled out in 15.2 overs, SEC in qualifiers 0

Posted on January 31, 2024 by Ken

Daniel Worrall was the chief destroyer for the Sunrisers Eastern Cape at the Wanderers.
Photo: Arjun Singh

The Joburg Super Kings were bundled out in just 15.2 overs for 78 – the second-lowest total in SA20 history – as they were thrashed by the Sunrisers Eastern Cape at the Wanderers on Wednesday evening, coach Stephen Fleming once again expressing his disappointment over the pitch.

Sent in to bat, the Super Kings lost both Faf du Plessis and Reeza Hendricks to the outstanding Daniel Worrall (4-0-20-3) for ducks in the second over. Moeen Ali also made a duck and Leus du Plooy (18), Wayne Madsen (32 off 23) and new Kiwi recruit Doug Bracewell (12) were the only batsmen to reach double figures against an attack that was not necessarily inspired, but certainly very disciplined and controlled.

The Sunrisers then knocked off their target in just 11 overs to earn a bonus point win, Dawid Malan scoring 40 not out off 32 balls and Tom Abell an undefeated 26 off 20 deliveries, assuring the defending champions of a place in the qualifiers.

“I love this competition, it is outstanding. Short and intense, although that does make the travel tough, and the support is tremendous. But the pitches have dropped off a bit from last year. We are in the entertainment business, I don’t mind the ball dominating every now and then, but we have to make sure there is a balance,” Fleming said after the Super Kings’ third loss in four matches at home.

“Today in particular was not great for the product, which is a pity because this is a great place to play. We’re struggling to read the pitch and there is an advantage to bowling first. The ball sits up and creates problems.

“Each surface here we have struggled to understand. The pitch seems to be transforming, it was slowish last year but now it is somewhere in between that and the traditional Wanderers wicket that flies through.

“We bought tall fast bowlers in the auction and it’s been disappointing because the real character of this pitch is being lost. We need to pivot quickly, but today was one of those days we nicked everything, on both sides of the wicket. And then you see how many times we go past the bat and you just have to shake your head,” Fleming said.

The Joburg Super Kings are in the fourth and final qualification place on 13 points at the moment and have one match remaining – against the high-flying Durban Super Giants at the Wanderers on Saturday. With the Pretoria Capitals and MI Cape Town three and four points in arrears respectively, and playing each other twice before the end of the round-robin, JSK have to beat the top-of-the-log KwaZulu-Natalians on Saturday to have any chance of progressing.

“It’s thanks to the nature of this year’s tournament that we are still alive and the scenarios are right in front of us, but unfortunately our fate is out of our control. We will be doing lots of mental work over the next few days.

“Luck wasn’t with us today, but some people will say maybe we should have been more defensive, but then you can become too cautious. Sometimes you just have to bluff confidence and step forward. You can’t over-analyse days like this,” the highly-lauded former New Zealand captain said.

Madsen, Moeen and Donovan Ferreira (8) were all caught down the leg-side, the sort of thing that happens to a batting line-up low on confidence and perhaps wishing they didn’t have to play at home.

Jake bemoans bare Bok cupboard, but confident team will ‘play some rugby’ 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

Bulls director of rugby Jake White once again bemoaned how bare his cupboard is when it comes to Springboks, but he seemed still fairly confident on Friday that his team will be able to “play some rugby” and see off the Ospreys in their United Rugby Championship clash at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls will still field half-a-dozen Springboks in their starting XV and Morne Steyn on the bench, and White hinted that there will be no lack of ambition from his side on Saturday from 3pm.

“Ospreys drew with last season’s champions, the Stormers, which means they can play,” White said. “I know a couple of their main guys are not here, but Wales rugby is under pressure and their players could see this as an opportunity to put their hands up for national honours.

“They were tough to beat last year and I don’t foresee an easy game, but we would like to play through our centres and Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe can tick that box.

“They played three Super Rugby finals together, so imagine the hours they have spent practising and playing together, they’re probably the most experienced centre pairing in South Africa.

“And then Nizaam Carr is unbelievable on attack, he will add something running between and linking off the backline players. WJ Steenkamp as well,” White said.

With both the URC challenge and the European Rugby Champions Cup on his immediate radar, White said the Bulls had entered something of a new phase with a new generation of core players. He pointed out that when he arrived at Loftus Versfeld in 2020, his leadership group was Ivan van Zyl, Steyn, Gio Aplon, Duane Vermeulen and Arno Botha, all Springboks.

Now they have a new captain in lock Ruan Nortje, and fellow leaders in Johan Grobbelaar, Elrigh Louw, Chris Smith, Johan Goosen and Vorster.

“The whole dynamic has changed and I would like this group to have their own personality,” White said. “Ruan is quieter and doesn’t talk as much as Marcell Coetzee, but all my captains are totally and utterly driven to do well.

“But I am excited to see him stay the same Ruan Nortje, I would encourage him to bring his own personality and captaincy style.

“But South African rugby needs to find a new model post the next World Cup, we have to make sure our regions are strong, we keep our best players and keep our teams together.

“Why would we want to play in the Champions Cup if we don’t have a realistic chance of winning it? My salary cap of R70 million compared to the R180 million of Leinster or Munster, and even more for the French teams, is what I have to worry about,” White said.

Bulls:Wandisile Simelane, David Kriel, Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster, Stravino Jacobs, Chris Smith, Embrose Papier, Elrigh Louw, WJ Steenkamp, Nizaam Carr, Ruan Nortje (c), Janko Swanepoel, Francois Klopper, Bismarck du Plessis, Gerhard Steenekamp. Bench – Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Simphiwe Matanzima, Mornay Smith, Ruan Vermaak, Cyle Brink, Zak Burger, Morne Steyn, Marco Jansen van Vuren.

Focus once again on South African batting 0

Posted on October 27, 2022 by Ken

The Proteas batting has once again found itself under the spotlight as it was the obvious weak link in the 2-1 series loss to England.

The stats don’t lie when it comes to how poorly South Africa’s batsmen responded to the testing conditions in England: A bowling all-rounder, Marco Jansen, topped their averages at just 27.33, while their leading run-scorer was opener Sarel Erwee, who managed just 127 runs in five innings, and also scored their only half-century of the series.

Keegan Petersen and Dean Elgar were the only other batsmen to score more than a hundred runs in the series, but both of them had poor campaigns, averaging less than 25.

The figures, combined with the low output of runs in Test cricket in general over the last three years, once again casts a bad light on domestic cricket and the pipeline’s ability to deliver batsmen who are ready for the international game.

Most alarmingly, there are players in the national team who are trying to take on world-class bowlers, in bowling-friendly conditions, with techniques and mindsets that are not sturdy enough to handle the challenge.

Cricket South Africa needs to realise that the more teams they give a seat to at the top table and access to more rands, the more diluted the strength of their premier domestic competitions become.

Instead of the top 24 bowlers being spread around six teams in the top division, there are now eight teams and therefore weaker bowling attacks, leaving batsmen with a mountain to climb when they try to bridge the gap in terms of intensity and skill at international level.

The situation is made worse by how few domestic first-class matches the Proteas bowlers play, and the effect of quotas in also weakening bowling attacks is another elephant in the room that should be considered.

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.



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