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Ken Borland

Springbok quartet no longer waiting in the aisles as Powell brings them all back 0

Posted on September 14, 2023 by Ken

Springboks Ox Nche, Bongi Mbonambi, Eben Etzebeth and Siya Kolisi were waiting in the aisles last weekend, but Sharks director of rugby Neil Powell has brought them all back into the starting XV for Saturday’s United Rugby Championship match against the Bulls at Kings Park as he dares not allow any complacency to creep into his high-flying side.

The Sharks have won four games on the trot across the two European competitions and they face a fired up Bulls side that are coming off a fiercely-contested loss to the Stormers last weekend. Inconsistency has bedevilled the Sharks in the past, and Powell is eager to ensure there is no slip in intensity on Saturday.

“It’s always good to be able to select your best players against the Bulls, who are coming to our house and always bring a big physical challenge, but on Saturday they will bring a bit more because of that loss,” Powell said on Friday.

“They saved their players from the Champions Cup to target these games, so last weekend’s loss will definitely hurt and they will bring a lot of effort and physicality to get at least one win from these games.

“We’re obviously aware of it, and it’s a really good opportunity for us to still build momentum and cohesion. We would like to be more clinical and we know a quality team like the Bulls only gives you so many opportunities.

“It’s mid-season and we feel like we’re moving in the right direction. There’s still a lot we can do better and we want to build on last week’s performance against the Lions.

“We want to take the opportunities that weren’t taken and if we can play with that flow then that will be great. But there’s an awareness of complacency and we can’t let successive wins breed that.

“We can’t just rock up and think things will happen. We need to really get stuck in and make sure we do our various roles,” Powell said.

Nche, Mbonambi and Thomas du Toit combine as an all-Springbok front row, while Kolisi will be joined in the loose trio by Henco Venter and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

Grant Williams will continue as the starting scrumhalf, with Curwin Bosch going well at flyhalf.

“It’s good to see Curwin slowly but surely getting back to his best form. Credit to the coaches because in pre-season he was in really good form but then unfortunately got injured.

“But the coaches have all been very positive about him. There’s still room for improvement and we will keep chipping away,” Powell said.

Sharks Boeta Chamberlain, Marnus Potgieter, Lukhanyo Am, Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Makazole Mapimpi, Curwin Bosch, Grant Williams, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Henco Venter, Siya Kolisi (c), Gerbrandt Grobler, Eben Etzebeth, Thomas du Toit, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nche. Bench: Kerron van Vuuren, Dian Bleuler, Carlu Sadie, Hyron Andrews, Phepsi Buthelezi, Jaden Hendrikse, Lionel Cronje, Yaw Penxe.

Quins will bring entertaining rugby, but Sharks must not give them any freedom 0

Posted on April 28, 2023 by Ken

Harlequins will be the first Champions Cup team to be hosted at Kings Park, bringing an entertaining brand of rugby, but Sharks prop Ox Nche said on Tuesday that it is important they do not offer their English opponents any freedom on the field on Saturday.

Harlequins have won their last four matches and are in the top three in the English Premiership.

“Harlequins are going to be a good challenge, they have been playing well,” Nche said on Tuesday. “They are dangerous and they score most of their tries within three phases of a set-piece.

“So that’s pretty similar to the URC, relying on the set-piece to attack from, but they can also run from anywhere, they have a more attacking mindset than the teams in the URC.

“Quins are more unpredictable, they want to play with ball-in-hand and they will even run from their own five-metre line. They are willing to take much more risks.

“But they have such a successful strike-rate from set-piece that it is very important for us to put that under pressure, to disrupt their set-pieces. We have to neutralise a guy like Andre Esterhuizen, who is a big ball-carrier on the gain-line,” Nche said.

While the musical chairs that has been going on in the Sharks coaching set-up has seen the players lose a good friend in Sean Everitt, Nche said their focus is on moving on and ensuring they make their mark in the Champions Cup.

“There’s always a certain level of relationship and respect with your coach – he has confidence in you and he backed your talent – so you feel for him and his family.

“But as professionals we understand these things happen. As a player, if things don’t go well then you might not get a contract. The team is always more important, and sometimes hard things have to be done to keep getting better.

“We need to move on as quickly as possible to our next challenge and we want to show we belong in the Champions Cup. We want to put Sharks rugby on a pedestal and make our names.

“We have all our experience back and we want to see if we belong with the best in the world, and we are very positive and full of energy, we’re pretty excited,” Nche said.

Ox confident Sharks can deliver again after encouraging set-piece display 0

Posted on February 22, 2022 by Ken

Following an encouraging set-piece display in the win against the Lions at Ellis Park last weekend, Sharks prop Ox Nche is confident his team will be able to deliver the goods again when they host the Stormers in their United Rugby Championship match in Durban on Saturday.

The Sharks do seem to have settled down in terms of their scrummaging and much of the credit for that must go to their scrum coach, Akvsenti Giorgadze, the former Georgia hooker who joined the franchise at the start of the URC season. The home side will need to be at their best in the set-piece to counter a strong Stormers scrum led by powerhouse Springbok loosehead Steven Kitshoff.

“The Lions average four or five penalties a game won and at 2-2 last weekend at Ellis Park, it was fairly even,” Nche said on Tuesday. “We were pretty happy, being our first match back.

“We can only get better and there’s not much difference between the guys coming off the bench and the front row that starts, we have all worked hard and put in the same effort.

“We have a good system in place with Akvsenti, he keeps it fairly simple. It’s an all-eight effort and he is very good with the little things like our shape and technique. He brings confidence.

“And he insists on attitude as well, he expects forwards to be forwards! He tries to bring the best out of every player and he’s doing that, we have a good relationship,” Nche said.

The Sharks scored six tries in beating the Lions 47-37 and some of them were dazzling efforts showcasing the brilliant skills of their Springbok-laden backline. Nche, wearing the No.1 jersey and playing an important role in winning the time and space for the backs to flourish, knows the whole team will have to take another step up against the Stormers, who lead the way in the South African franchise, two points ahead of the Sharks.

“The Springboks really put their hands up against the Lions and kept their form, which was good to see,” Nche said. “We have some really special backs.

“But it’s going to be a good challenge this weekend against Kitshoff and the boys. We were shocked when we saw they were 18-0 up in the first half at Loftus Versfeld. We expected the Bulls to come out steaming.

“This Saturday, whoever pitches on the day and executes their plan will come out on top and it’s going to be a pretty good challenge. The Stormers will come here with big confidence.

“We have to man up and be at our best. If we can pull it off, it would be a major win for us, and especially for me because it will be the first time I’m playing with fans back at home,” Nche said.

Wiese now the man Boks turn to in the much-mourned absence of Vermeulen 0

Posted on August 23, 2021 by Ken

Jasper Wiese will now be the man the Springboks turn to to wear the No.8 jersey and try and make up for the much-mourned absence of Duane Vermeulen, while the much-criticised replacement of prop Ox Nche for the second half of the first Test against the British and Irish Lions has now officially been confirmed as being due to injury.

Nche, who held his own against highly-rated Lions tighthead Tadhg Furlong and was typically impactful in open play, will sadly miss the second Test on Saturday due to a neck injury he picked up towards the end of the first half. It has forced a rejigging of the Springboks’ front-row plans, with Steven Kitshoff and Frans Malherbe now the starting props. Trevor Nyakane, who also did well last weekend, will now cover loosehead from the bench, with Vincent Koch brought in as the tighthead reserve.

But scrummaging was not the Springboks’ major issue in the first Test defeat. In the second half they were exposed in the aerial battle and there was little explosive gainline work either. Wiese, who has been a superb offensive ball-carrier for Leicester Tigers, will hopefully be able to bring some improvement in both problem areas.

“Jasper has been part of our plans and he could form a nice combination with Kwagga Smith coming off the bench too and able to play to his strengths. His main role will be the same as Kwagga’s last week – to get and stop momentum and he was Player 24 last weekend. He’ll have another week of preparation now to get used to how we do things.

“He did very well in the Premiership, his carries were so dominant. Tactically I was probably not sharp enough last weekend to protect Kwagga on the high balls, he was hung out to dry a bit. So we have changed things around there and we want to see from Jasper what got him into the squad. We just needed to improve on how we handled the contestable kicks in the second half,” Nienaber said at the team announcement on Monday.

Smith and Marco van Staden both coming off the bench are certainly two high-energy players and the Springboks have returned to the 6/2 split on the replacements bench they used so successfully in winning the World Cup. That makes Damian Willemse the key backline substitute, fulfilling the role of the veteran Francois Steyn in Japan in 2019.

“Damian has participated in all of the warm-up games and has had time at 12, 15 and 10, similar to what Frans Steyn gave us. He’s versatile and we’ve introduced him into the various roles. We’re comfortable that he can slot into all three of centre, fullback and flyhalf. We’re comfortable the backs can now all handle a full 80 minutes, after a couple of guys had been in isolation for 10 days before the first Test.

“We knew it was going to be tough last week, which is why we didn’t go for the 6/2 split, guys had just not been exposed enough to training, someone like Handre Pollard started cramping. Now they have all been exposed to high-intensity rugby, they are topped up and the muscle memory will still be there having dropped off after isolation,” Nienaber said.

Springbok team: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard (vice-captain), Faf de Klerk, Jasper Wiese, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Bongi Mbonambi, Steven Kitshoff. Bench – Malcolm Marx, Trevor Nyakane, Vincent Koch, Lood de Jager, Marco van Staden, Kwagga Smith, Herschel Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

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