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Ken Borland

A few options when locating the source of the Bulls’ motivation, but the past is not their focus 0

Posted on June 22, 2023 by Ken

There are a few options when it comes to locating the source of the Bulls’ motivation for their United Rugby Championship match against the Stormers in Cape Town on Friday night, but captain Ruan Nortje said on Wednesday that their focus is not on the past.

Nevertheless, losing their last three matches against their great rivals, including the inaugural URC final, will certainly rankle. But there is also fresh motivation in the sense that beating the Stormers will maintain the Bulls’ ascendancy in the race to this season’s South African Shield. Defeat would allow the Stormers to leapfrog the Bulls into second place on the overall log, with a game in hand.

If all that fails, then the fact that it is the classic North/South derby, in the tradition of Northern Transvaal versus Western Province, should suffice for motivation.

“Last season’s final was obviously difficult for us, but that’s rugby – you win some and you lose some,” Nortje said. “The Stormers are a very good side and deserved champions and we respect them a lot.

“But this is a new season and a very important game on Friday night. We have put the past behind us and we’re just focused on the road going forward.

“The North/South derby week is always massive for our coach, Jake White. He’s a very good coach and he knows what he is doing. He’s definitely working on us mentally in a good way and he will definitely have us prepared.

“The past is behind us, it was tough to lose in the final, but it was a special game to be part of and this is a new and exciting week,” Nortje said.

The Bulls lock expects the Stormers to attack them again at scrum time, while the visitors could target a sometimes flaky lineout that will be without injured Springbok second-rower Salmaan Moerat.

“Last season we struggled in the scrums so we worked a lot on that in the off-season. The Stormers have if not the best scrum, then one of the best,” Nortje said.

“Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe are world-class and the scrums will be a big test to build momentum. It’s going to be a massive challenge, but we are very excited about it.

“I think scrum time will play a big role, we must not give away penalties there. It’s also always a big tussle in the lineout and I look forward to that too.

“I’m very sorry for Salmaan, he’s a brilliant player and it’s always lekker to test yourself against the best. But the Stormers have quality in depth, Marvin Orie is still there and he will take whatever young lock they choose under his wing,” Nortje said.

Seeing personnel options and getting players into peak form the focus for Boucher 0

Posted on November 07, 2022 by Ken

Seeing how a couple of personnel options go and getting the players into peak form ahead of the T20 World Cup are the focus points for Proteas coach Mark Boucher as he leads the team to India for a T20 and ODI series that starts next Wednesday and ends on October 11.

It will be Boucher’s penultimate mission with the national team, after he decided to end his stint with the Proteas after the T20 World Cup that follows the India tour. Boucher will be becoming the Mumbai Indians head coach, but he did not want to talk about that, rather disingenuously saying contractual obligations to both CSA and his new IPL franchise prevented him from speaking about his move.

“It’s a massive tour for us, the tour before the big event, which is the World Cup. It will be very easy to keep the focus on that massive prize and I know the players are very focused too,” Boucher said.

“My personal decisions won’t hamper the players, I’m in this job for them and I will give 100% to them. I want to look at combinations, keep them in touch in terms of form and try get the confidence going.

“We hope to see a couple of options and give opportunities to players, albeit in Indian conditions. We know we will have to play a different brand in Australia, but I know we’ve got the players to push for a great outcome.

“We also don’t want to give away too many of our cards because India are in our World Cup pool as well. So don’t expect us to go at them with our full-frontal team,” Boucher said.

While the 45-year-old often comes across as a stern older brother type rather than a kind, gentle uncle, there is no doubt he backs his players. Whether that be “backing Temba Bavuma 100%” after his shock omission from the SA20 or pumping the tyres of a T20 squad that many see as dark horses for the World Cup title.

“We’ve been the most successful T20 side over the last 25-30 games and we have a lot of special players. I have full confidence that we have lots of ammunition, now it’s about getting the guys to go out and play and be world-beaters.

“We’ll try and get everyone involved and ready in India, there are three T20s and three ODIs to get the guys in form and fit. It’s a massive blow not having Rassie van der Dussen and his whole aura around the team.

“But we are fortunate to have lots of guys pushing for selection, the competition for places is massive. And we can compete in any conditions.

“The nice thing about being together for a long time is that we have continuity, but also some exciting new talent that doesn’t have the scars of the past,” Boucher said.

No oriental climes for Gelant as he wants to become a better player 0

Posted on September 19, 2022 by Ken

For current members of the Springbok squad, the decision to join an overseas club provides a couple of options: They can either earn a big pay packet but play less demanding rugby in oriental climes, or they can go to Europe, still earn plenty and compete in arguably the most competitive leagues in the world.

Warrick Gelant is forthright about his decision to join Racing 92 in France being all about becoming a better player; he is adamant playing for the Springboks is his ultimate and he wants a regular starting berth.

Last season was so special for him at the Stormers, being a key figure as they claimed a sensational United Rugby Championship crown, but Gelant is not one to stay in a comfort zone.

“Anytime you go to a top club it is an opportunity, and I believe the Top 14 is the best competition in the world. It’s really tough because there are 14 different teams in it, compared to just four franchises in South Africa,” Gelant says.

“You also play in such different conditions: You play indoors in a closed stadium at Racing, but then you’ll be in the rain and maybe even snow in your away matches.

“Every part of my game will be tested. I certainly don’t know it all yet, and it will be a great test to measure myself. And Racing have amazing management and they are a great club,” Gelant says.

“I feel I can still take my game up a notch, I can still get better now that my body has no issues. And I haven’t given up on the Springboks either.

“Being exposed to quality, world-class players in France every week will give me the best chance of getting back into the Springbok starting XV. If they do select me, they will be getting a better player than I was,” Gelant states.

There were times in last season’s United Rugby Championship that Gelant reminded one of South Africa’s Rolls Royce of fullbacks, 1995 World Cup hero Andre Joubert.

This year has been a triumph for the man known as “Boogie” – probably for both his threat as the boogie-man for defences and also his fast feet.

Gelant dazzled in counter-attack for the Stormers and was arguably the best fullback in the URC as the team that started the competition in disarray due to off-field problems ended up winning the trophy.

Gelant loved the season, not only because of the success, but also because of the style of rugby the Stormers played under coach John Dobson.

“We had to get accustomed to a new style of rugby and rules are blown differently in the UK. So we struggled initially, but at least we were together all the time overseas and we could sort things out,” Gelant says.

“Belief started to creep in when we saved the game against Edinburgh and then we beat the Dragons. Things started to work for us and we really started to believe we were getting somewhere.

“There was buy-in from everyone in terms of how we wanted to play and we really played for each other. So we ended up winning our last 11 games on the trot.

“The Irish and Welsh teams really stick to their systems, they are very tight and very driven by that, they rarely go out of their system. And that can really break you down.

“So we needed to disrupt their structure and we did that by not making our play too structured. We needed to find a way to handle chaos better than they did.

“We needed to understand what sort of game we wanted to play and if we wanted to kick. It was about how to handle territory and space and understand the opportunities that are there when play gets loose and making sure you can capitalise. It’s about the way everyone reacts and plays off each other,” Gelant said.

The Knysna-born player returned to the Cape in 2020, having made his name at the Bulls. But before this year, for much of Gelant’s time with the Stormers he seemed like a broken-down car languishing in the garage, rather than a Rolls Royce.

After the frustrations of Covid causing all rugby to be shelved, Gelant then suffered an ACL knee injury when play resumed. But that is when he really showed his mettle.

Gelant has fought back from double knee surgery at the end of 2020, which speaks volumes for his motivation and professionalism.

In order to ensure he would return to being the player he was, Gelant sacrificed playing against the British and Irish Lions last year in order to have both knees sorted out at the same time.

“I already had a hole in my one cartilage when I tore my ACL and I had been playing in severe pain. I had the opportunity to get the other knee fixed too, but that meant turning my back on the Lions tour,” Gelant explains.

“But I made a really mature decision to sacrifice in the short-term and fix both knees at the same time. It was not easy, but I believe I have a lot of rugby still in me. There were tough times in rehab, but I imagined myself coming back as a better player, moving better and being more mature.

“When I did come back for the Stormers, it felt amazing and I know I made the right decision. I quickly refound my old form. I was so grateful just to be playing again after double knee surgery. It can be taken away from you so easily,” the 27-year-old says.

Europe the new proving ground where SA boys are transformed into men 0

Posted on May 17, 2021 by Ken

Europe seems to be the new proving ground where several South African rugby players go to be transformed from boys to men and the squad lists for the four teams that will contest the Champions Cup and Challenge Cup finals later this month shows Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus has plenty of overseas-based options to consider ahead of the British and Irish Lions tour.

The Champions Cup final at Twickenham on May 22 will be an all-French affair after Toulouse beat Bourdeaux-Begles 21-9 and La Rochelle overcame Leinster 32-23 in the semi-finals at the weekend. The Challenge Cup final will be like a curtain-raiser as it will also be played at Twickenham, on May 21, with Leicester, who beat Ulster 33-24, taking on Montpellier, who were 19-10 victors over Bath.

Amongst the players to have shown their readiness to make the step up are Jasper Wiese, the former Free State player, who has put in numerous storming displays from eighthman for Leicester and the 25-year-old is strongly tipped to be part of the Springbok squad.

There are two other loose forwards who have featured prominently in Europe this season in the shape of Hanro Liebenberg, the former Bulls captain who has also starred for Leicester, and his older brother Wiaan, who has been an effective ball-carrier for La Rochelle.

Nico Janse van Rensburg usually plays lock for Montpellier, but he turned out in the No.6 jersey in their semi-final and is making the most of his chances with the French club.

But it is the players who are already Springboks who will be most keenly watched come finals weekend.

Top of that list will be flyhalf Handre Pollard, who played for the first time in eight months when he came off the bench in the final quarter for Montpellier, and kicked a penalty to ensure victory.

Hooker Bismarck du Plessis, who won a couple of trademark turnovers, and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach also came off the bench for the French club, while Johan Goosen, who is heading for the Bulls at the end of the season, started at outside centre.

Cheslin Kolbe, whose hot-stepping feet dazzled once again in the semi-final, and utility forward Rynhardt Elstadt are the Springboks who have helped Toulouse to the final, while Dillyn Leyds and Raymond Rhule are two almost forgotten Springboks who have been key players in the La Rochelle backline.

South Africans in the European finalists’ squads

Leicester – Jasper Wiese, Cyle Brink, Luan de Bruin, Hanro Liebenberg, Jaco Taute, Kobus van Wyk.

Montpellier – Bismarck du Plessis, Johan Goosen, Henry Immelman, Nico Janse van Rensburg, Handre Pollard, Cobus Reinach, Jan Serfontein.

Toulouse – Cheslin Kolbe, Rynhardt Elstadt.

La Rochelle – Dllyn Leyds, Raymond Rhule, Wiaan Liebenberg.

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    John 15:16 – “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide, so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

    Our Christian experience begins when the Holy Spirit starts working in our imperfect lives. An inexplicable restlessness and a feeling that nothing can give you the satisfaction you yearn for, could be the Spirit working in you.

    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

    But this inner struggle is part of spiritual life … Commit yourself to God and open yourself to the inflowing of the Holy Spirit.

    It is by great grace that you were chosen by God to serve him and to live to the honour and glory of his name. Surrender unconditionally to the Lord and you will discover that your life gains new meaning and purpose.

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