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Ken Borland

Sharks contribute superbly to dazzling game, but sadly defence found wanting 0

Posted on December 19, 2022 by Ken

The Sharks scored five tries and contributed superbly to a dazzling game of rugby, but sadly their defence was found wanting and was nowhere near the quality of their attacking play, as Leinster thumped them 54-34 in their United Rugby Championship match in Dublin on Saturday evening.

A brilliant first half saw Leinster and the Sharks trade tries as the home side went into the break just 21-20 up. They were still just one point ahead as the hour mark loomed, a magnificent solo try by wing Thaakir Abrahams lifting the visitors back to 27-28.

But the Sharks unfortunately lost the plot in the final quarter as Leinster scored five tries to one in those 20 minutes. A game that had produced so much brilliant rugby sadly ended on a sour note as Sharks centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg was correctly red-carded for a wild tackle that saw his swinging arm hit opposite number Robbie Henshaw in the chin, sparking off a melee.

While the Sharks showed fantastic skill and imagination in attack, cutting Leinster open off lineout drives and scrums, their defence was consistently found wanting out wide, where Leinster found space through brilliant kicks or great handling.

Leinster flyhalf Jonny Sexton, or Sir Jonny as he is known in Dublin, pulled the strings superbly, his kicking being brilliant. He kicked seven out of eight conversions, which kept the hosts ahead on the leaderboard in the early stages, and his crosskicks were a real thorn in the Sharks’ flesh, with centres Henshaw and Charlie Ngatai also setting up tries from precise kick-passes.

The Sharks’ defence was again caught too narrow too often, and coach Sean Everitt will need to sort that out.

But he will be delighted with their wonderful attacking play, highlighted by the brace of tries scored by Abrahams. His second try, in the 55th minute, was outrageous. He did well to claim a tricky, pressure high-ball, and then scampered away from a crowd of defenders, kicked ahead and then beat replacement wing Garry Ringrose to the touchdown.

Fullback Aphelele Fassi scored two tries as well, but had a mixed evening as he was a revolving door in defence at times.

Flank Dylan Richardson bossed the breakdowns, and the Sharks seemed to have the edge at scrum time, although there were precious few of those, which speaks to the quality of the game and how few handling errors there were.

Leinster’s forwards also carried superbly, and it was the attention they demanded from the Sharks defence which also contributed to the space out wide.


Leinster: Tries – Jason Jenkins, Garry Ringrose (2), Andrew Porter, Robbie Henshaw, Rob Russell, Jonny Sexton, John McKee. Conversions – Sexton (7).

Sharks: Tries – Aphelele Fassi (2), Werner Kok, Thaakir Abrahams (2). Conversions – Boeta Chamberlain (2), Nevaldo Fleurs. Penalty – Chamberlain.

England playing brave and bold cricket, but can they handle pace and bounce and 2 quality spinners of Proteas? 0

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Ken

Proteas captain Dean Elgar acknowledges that England are currently playing “brave and bold” Test cricket, but he is eager to see whether they can maintain that against the pace and bounce, and two quality spinners, of the South African attack when their Test series gets underway next month.

In a delirious month of four Test matches against New Zealand (3) and India (1), England’s powerful batting line-up has chased down four successive targets of more than 250 in the fourth innings with tremendous gung-ho and aggression, scoring at run-rates of 4.93 chasing 378 against the powerful India attack, and 3.53, 5.98 and 5.44 against the Black Caps.

“England have certainly been quite brave and bold, it’s been exciting and brought extra energy to Test cricket,” Elgar told Saturday Citizen. “I’m sure world cricket has been hit by surprise, especially in the way they chase.

“But it’s been on relatively batting-friendly pitches and conditions have been in their favour. There hasn’t been too much sideways movement and they’ve been allowed to play that game.

“Our seamers will also bring a lot more pace and bounce against them and we have quite a few options to exploit any pitches that do go up-and-down.

“It will be interesting to see the pitches they prepare, knowing the fast bowling arsenal we have, backed up by two quality spinners if need be. I know I would not like to face our attack,” Elgar said.

The left-handed opening batsman has brought a hard edge to the Proteas during his captaincy tenure; the more pressure Elgar is under, the more dogged he becomes. That character is reflected in his team: The current Proteas are hard-working, stubborn and they refuse to let anyone dominate them.

It is typical of Elgar’s personality that he is loving the prospect of England going all-out-attack on them and he is backing the Proteas to be able to handle the onslaught.

“It’s going to be exciting and luckily we have quite a few pace bowlers,” Elgar says. “The basics are still fundamental to Test cricket and patience is one of our strengths. We really enjoy taking it to the last day and strangling teams.

“We have done a lot of graft on our game-plan because there could be a false sense of needing to be drawn into the way England want to play. That would be a massive error and would take our strengths out of the equation. We’ve had a lot of brilliant fast bowlers going to the UK and dominating, so I’m excited about that.

“When one talks about an aggressive or positive style of play, one needs to define exactly what you mean by that. You can still be aggressive but savvy in the way you go about things. There will be times when we need to counter and times we need to absorb, that’s just the nature of Test cricket.

“Whether the way England are playing now has any longevity, I’m not sure. It has paid off for now. It’s certainly going to be a very exciting series,” Elgar said.

KZN sign Smuts … and call for system to give more credit to teams who provide several Proteas 0

Posted on June 02, 2022 by Ken

Veteran Proteas all-rounder Jon-Jon Smuts will give the Dolphins much experience and quality next season as they push to steer clear of relegation from Division I, but KZN Cricket Union chief executive Heinrich Strydom on Wednesday criticised the structure of domestic cricket, saying it did not give enough credit to those teams that provide several players to the national teams.

The 33-year-old Smuts, who can bat in the top-order and bowls very useful left-arm spin (especially in white-ball cricket), will be joining the Dolphins from the Eastern Province Warriors, having been based in the Eastern Cape since his first-class debut in 2007.

Smuts has played six ODIs, averaging 45 with the bat, and 13 T20 Internationals, but his last appearance for South Africa was in April 2021, so his days of Proteas call-ups would appear to be over.

Losing players to the national team – nine Dolphins featured in Proteas squads last season – is what Strydom said played a key role in their disappointing 2021/22 campaign, which left them tied in second-last position with the North-West Dragons, six points ahead of the Free State Knights, in the promotion/relegation standings. The bottom team at the end of next season automatically goes down to Division II.

“With the amount of national players we have, never mind the SA A team, we needed another senior guy because we were just left with a few 26/27-year-olds,” Strydom told The Citizen on Wednesday.

“It was a weird season for us, we were the only unbeaten side in four-day cricket but we had three away matches washed out, and the consistency was not there in limited-overs cricket.

“With the new structure, we have players all over the country now, guys like Sibonelo Makhanya and Senuran Muthusamy even captaining their new teams.

“But it doesn’t make sense for a team to be relegated when they provide so many players to South Africa. We even had our coach and strength & conditioning coach with the Proteas for a while, and providing so many people to the national squad puts you at risk.

“The Central Gauteng Lions are in the same position with as many players involved with the Proteas. Imagine not having a Division I team playing at the Wanderers or Kingsmead?” Strydom said.

There is no doubt that, at full strength, both the Lions, who were in danger of being drawn into the relegation battle before their surprising triumph in the One-Day Cup at the end of the season, and the Dolphins are top-class teams that should not be relegated, especially when the side replacing them will almost certainly be of a lesser standard.

Strydom said he is hopeful discussions with the new CSA Board will see a change of heart.

“The basic agreement is done, but will common sense prevail? It’s not an authentic system of developing talent in this country when teams are not playing their own players.

“A lot of the provinces are not a representation of their specific area, and it’s not a level playing field when teams like the Lions and Dolphins provide a much higher percentage of national players.”

Phepsi delivering on a weekly basis; Teichmann rates the 8th man 0

Posted on May 19, 2022 by Ken

Eighthman Phepsi Buthelezi is just 22 years old and has been playing in the shadow of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, but with the Springbok missing much of the season due to long-term injury, the youngster has been delivering quality performances on an almost weekly basis for the Sharks.

“I feel really good about my game, I’m really happy,” Buthelezi said on Tuesday. “It’s awesome for me that Sikhumbuzo is now back and I have to give credit to the whole squad because it’s easy to play well when the whole team is performing.

“So credit to our game-drivers and I’m really grateful to have such experienced Springboks with us. I feel very fortunate to be in a place where I’ve got a few games under my belt now.

“I’m now used to how things are done at this level, thanks to Sikhumbuzo’s injury. I am a student of the game and I will continue to be one, but I have taken a lot of confidence from my exposure in the No.8 jersey.

“Every time I pull that on, I just want to give it my all and I aim to deliver every game,” Buthelezi said.

But what has Buthelezi done to earn all those starts and to overtake Notshe, who has cutting-edge skills of his own?

Former Natal Sharks and Springboks eighthman Gary Teichmann spoke to The Citizen about Buthelezi’s strengths –

Who he is

“I had a bit to do with Phepsi as a person when I was at the Sharks as CEO, and he is very well-rounded and grounded for someone so young. He also has leadership ability and his style of leadership is very good. He is really committed to the Sharks, he came straight out of school and into the system, and he really pushes the team culture.”

What he brings on the field

“As a player, I initially thought he was more of a flank, but the way he has performed at eighthman has been wonderful. He’s really come through in leaps and bounds.

“His work-rate cannot be questioned, he’s dynamic, with pace and explosiveness, which always helps. And there’s nothing wrong with his ball-skills.

“This year he has really come into his own due to Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s wretched luck with injury. Phepsi has been really impressive and he certainly has a bright future,” Teichmann said.

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