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Ken Borland

Welsh may paint themselves as paupers, but Scarlets push Stormers all the way 0

Posted on June 24, 2022 by Ken

Welsh rugby may be painting themselves as the paupers of the United Rugby Championship, but the Scarlets pushed the Stormers all the way in their match in Llanelli on Saturday night, the visitors scoring a last-minute try to win 26-21.

Winning the match at the death meant the Stormers have won the South African Shield and will have a home quarterfinal.

A poor start by the Stormers saw them trailing 10-0 inside seven minutes as Scarlets flyhalf Sam Costelow kicked a penalty and the home side then fashioned a superb try. Scrumhalf Gareth Davies’ lovely little chip over the defensive line was taken by centre Jonathan Davies, who then passed inside for midfield partner Johnny Williams to score.

The Stormers did reply in the 14th minute with a fine try, eighthman Evan Roos storming off a scrum and centre Damian Willemse making further ground before the visitors switched to the left. Flank Hacjivah Dayimani put in a great run out wide and then wing Leolin Zas just had way too elusive feet for the last defender.

But Scarlets still led 16-7 as the first half was coming to a close. The Stormers, for all their razzle-dazzle at the back, dominant scrum and Roos’s bossing of the gain-line, had little to show for it.

But the impressive Roos once again put them on the front foot in the 38th minute, and after the Stormers had bashed away on the line for quite some time, the Springbok hopeful then got the ball again and crossed over with ease for the try.

It meant the Stormers only trailed 16-14 at the break and they started the second half brilliantly by taking the lead for the first time in the 42nd minute. Slick hands by flyhalf Manie Libbok and Willemse saw outside centre Ruhan Nel take advantage of a dreadful defensive miscalculation by Scarlets, roaring through a big gap and powering over the tryline.

Leading 21-16, it all seemed set for the Stormers, chasing a second-place finish on the log, to pull away.

But instead they delivered a poor second half.

Some poor decision-making loosened their grip on the game and then flank Deon Fourie received a controversial yellow card in the 59th minute, for a high tackle. He was unfortunate because contact was initially with the chest/shoulder region but he then slid up to hit the chin, as prop Frans Malherbe completed the tackle.

Scarlets piled on the pressure in the final quarter, but determined defence by the Stormers managed to keep them out while they were reduced to 14 men. But another ruck penalty awarded to the home side put Scarlets back on attack and, after concerted pressure on the line, they went wide for wing Ryan Conbeer to score and level the scores. Liam Williams was not able to convert from near to the touchline, though, meaning Ospreys won the Welsh Shield and qualified for the European Champions Cup.

The Stormers rallied though and spent the closing minutes in the Scarlets 22. In the final minute, fullback Warrick Gelant joined the line and threw a long pass out wide to Nel, who is such a powerful runner and he cut inside, through Liam Williams’ tackle, to score the matchwinning try.

The bonus point win means mission accomplished for the Stormers, but coach John Dobson has much to mull.


ScarletsTries: Johnny Williams, Liam Williams. Conversion: Sam Costelow. Penalties: Costelow (3).

StormersTries: Leolin Zas, Evan Roos, Ruhan Nel (2). Conversions: Manie Libbok (3).

Sharks ensure their unbeaten record is not broken 0

Posted on April 08, 2022 by Ken

The Sharks ensured their unbeaten record in the Currie Cup was not broken on Friday night but it required a mighty effort from last year’s finalists as a physical, combative Pumas side pushed them for the whole 82 minutes in Nelspruit.

The Sharks eventually prevailed 24-10 for their fourth successive win and their triumph, on the scoreboard at least, was entirely thanks to flyhalf Boeta Chamberlain, who succeeded with all eight of his penalty kicks at goal.

Although the Sharks shaded the territory battle and their scrum started to give the Pumas a really hard time in the second half, the visitors’ attack was disconnected and just lacking in the polish required to break down a manful Pumas defence.

The Pumas in fact scored the only try and a brilliant try it was, worthy of being try of the match even if half-a-dozen had been scored. It began deep inside their own 22 and was sparked by inside centre Eddie Fouche’s chip and regather. The end-to-end try saw 10 Pumas players handle, but scrumhalf Lucky Dlepu was prominent, before flank Anele Lungisa, who was a prominent figure with his huge work-rate throughout the match, went over for the try.

In a tough encounter in which any soft characters would have had to leave the field crying for mom, the Sharks were more clinical in terms of hanging on to the ball, although their failure to convert pressure into tries will be distressing for coach Etienne Fynn.

They kept their composure though and did not get blown off course by a Pumas side that was typically ferocious on their home turf.

Apart from Chamberlain, the likes of scrumhalf Sanele Nohamba, wing Yaw Penxe and flank Thembelani Bholi all advanced their cause in terms of getting into the Sharks’ URC side.

SA keep structure & push India hard in 1st half, lose focus in 2nd 0

Posted on March 24, 2022 by Ken

South Africa kept their structure and pushed India all the way in the first half of their FIH Hockey Pro League match in Potchefstroom on Sunday, but really lost focus in the second half and ended up being hammered 10-2.

India had been beaten 5-2 by France the previous evening, so they were certainly keen to rebound and they scored some cracking goals, as well as being ruthless at short-corner time, Harmanpreet Singh scoring four goals.

But South Africa had taken the early lead through Dan Bell’s low penalty corner flick in the 12th minute, although Surender Kumar equalised three minutes later with a real rocket into the top of the net.

South Africa defended really well in the first half and it took another excellent strike, a fierce lofted hit by Shilaland Lakra, for India to score three minutes from halftime.

But the home side were hard on attack at the end of the half and they should have equalised, but the ball was given away and India’s rapid counter-attack saw a 2-on-1 with the goalkeeper, Mandeep Singh putting them 3-1 up.

The second half saw South Africa pay a heavy price for once again giving possession away too often and failing to capitalise on their own chances. India were brilliant on the counter-attack, going 5-1 up at the end of the third quarter and then scoring five more goals in the last 15 minutes as the home side really fell apart.

In terms of their finishing, South Africa had 53% of possession and more short corners than India, but only converted two of their 17 shots at goal. That included a penalty stroke, which would have closed the gap to 2-3, being wasted.

South Africa did grab a second goal when Connor Beauchamp’s excellent penalty corner flick gave him his first international goal in the 53rd minute.

The match was almost a repeat though of South Africa’s 6-2 loss to the Netherlands the previous night when they were 2-1 down but a penalty stroke was again not converted, the Dutch scoring soon after to go 3-1 up at the halftime break. They did not look back.

Boks finally home, while franchises learn some home truths in Europe 0

Posted on November 04, 2021 by Ken

The Springboks are finally home after spending 14 weeks in a bio-secure bubble, having restored their pride with their epic win over the All Blacks in the last Rugby Championship Test, having pushed them to the brink in the previous match.

The world champions are also back at number one in the WorldRugby rankings, a quite remarkable achievement when one considers that, having not played since winning the World Cup in November 2019, they had to play the might of the British and Irish Lions and four Tests away from home against top three sides New Zealand and Australia.

The Springboks certainly deserve their rest now, until the end-of-year tour to the United Kingdom at the end of the month. Of course, half the team that beat New Zealand last weekend will already be heading off to the Northern Hemisphere, because they play for overseas clubs.

There are also, of course, four South African teams currently in Wales and Scotland, playing in the United Rugby Championship. Starting that tough new challenge away from home has been a bridge too far for the South African franchises with just one win from eight matches so far.

The struggles in the URC have further justified Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’s decision to look to the Northern Hemisphere for the bulk of the national squad, due to the poor state of the local game. For those who have been involved in South African rugby for a while, there are definite parallels with when we returned from isolation in 1992.

It took a while for the Springboks to adapt to where the game had moved on to, and the input of two overseas-educated coaches in Ian McIntosh and Kitch Christie.

We can blame Covid for the recent isolation that meant no international competition for our domestic teams for nearly 20 months.

This has been exacerbated by the talent-drain from these shores to those self-same European teams that has been going on for several years now. This means we are currently trying to find our feet in a new competition, overseas, against some of the leading clubs in the world, with weakened teams who have been denied international competition for more than a year-and-a-half.

The damage done by the talent-drain and Covid to our game seems to have been underestimated in many quarters, and this is reason enough to be a little patient when it comes to expecting our four franchises to contend with the top URC teams.

The size of the fight in the dog is going to have to come to the fore over the next fortnight, because matching the skills that the European teams are executing at high tempo is not just going to happen overnight.

Tempo and skill-set are two factors that have dogged our local rugby players for a while, which explains why the Springboks choose so many overseas-based players, and even then use something of a dumbed-down game-plan to ensure success.

This is not to say we don’t have skilful players. Just think of Lukhanyo Am and his ridiculous behind-the-back, reverse-flip pass to set up the first try last weekend, or Cheslin Kolbe and how we missed his dazzling feet. Elton Jantjies stamped his mark on the final minutes against the All Blacks by showcasing his excellent skills as well, and Lood de Jager is a lineout practitioner of great expertise.

But they are the outliers and one can only praise Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber for his pragmatism in recognising not just the strengths of his team, but also their weaknesses, and building his strategy around that.

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