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Ken Borland



Sharks have become hot property in dramatic turnaround 0

Posted on September 26, 2023 by Ken

One of the great characteristics of rugby is how quickly a team’s fortunes can turn around and the Sharks have gone, in the space of a month, from being a beleaguered team on the defensive to hot property that looks capable of challenging for silverware.

At the beginning of December, the Sharks had just axed coach Sean Everitt and were retreating into a laager as director of rugby Neil Powell tried to fend off questions about the decision and even refused to talk about Siya Kolisi apparently being injured.

But they have started January with a thumping over the Bulls, their nemeses for the last couple of years, and they have charged up into the top five of the United Rugby Championship log, with games in hand on everyone above them, as well as winning their opening two Champions Cup matches.

The strong run has coincided with Kolisi finding the sort of rampaging form that he regularly brings to the Springboks, and Eben Etzebeth, Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi have also lived up to their billing as world-class internationals.

The amount of power the Sharks have when at full-strength is enough to make electricians beam with joy and Bulls coach Jake White pinpointed this as the key factor when his side was overwhelmed at Kings Park at the weekend.

But the Sharks’ biggest challenge might well be coming up. Because of the hectic schedule involving two European competitions, Powell is going to have to unplug and recharge some of those Springboks due to their workloads. Can the Sharks still maintain a push for at least one title after shedding their star players?

They have two crucial matches coming up against the Stormers in February and March, and those thrilling encounters will go a long way to deciding who wins the South African Shield in the URC.

It has also been wonderful to see the reception the Sharks’ resurgence has received from their supporters, with especially large crowds at Kings Park over the last two weekends, with around 50 000 spectators in total over the two matches against the Lions and Bulls over the festive season.

SA rugby forever bonded with Kitch’s ‘high or low road’, but Jake says it’s too early for that 0

Posted on September 05, 2023 by Ken

South African rugby will forever be bonded with Kitch Christie’s famous ‘high road or the low road’ scenario before the 1995 World Cup triumph, but Bulls coach Jake White says it is still too early to consider his team as being at a similar crossroads ahead of their crunch United Rugby Championship match against the Sharks in Durban on Saturday.

Coach Christie said it was crucial that the Springboks beat defending champions and favourites Australia in the opening match of the 1995 World Cup and take the “high road” through the tournament; defeat would mean the “low road” requiring victories over England and New Zealand before the final. South Africa pulled off a sensational 28-18 win, setting them up for an unbeaten run through the tournament they hosted.

The Bulls, having lost last weekend to the Stormers in Cape Town, are now five points behind the defending champions in the South African Shield, having played an extra game. If the Sharks beat the Bulls with a bonus point at Kings Park, then they could be within another bonus-point win of the Pretoria side, with a game in hand.

But White, who has called the late Christie his mentor, is not stressing about the log at this stage.

“We’re not at the high road or low road point yet and it’s not a do-or-die game,” White said on Friday. “It’s still so open, although we do know Leinster are the pace-setters, they always have been.

“We beat the Sharks with a bonus point at Loftus, and if the Sharks beat the Stormers twice and we win this weekend, then we would be favourites again to win the conference.

“There are still a lot of permutations between now and the end of the tournament, and not every team will win every game at home. Winning a couple of matches away is the premium.

“But we will be up against one of the strongest provincial sides, although one thing I enjoy about the URC is that a team can beat anyone on any given Saturday. That’s exciting,” White said.

Nine current Springboks is what the Bulls, who will field Johan Goosen at fullback and Chris Smith at flyhalf, are up against. The combination of Smith and Goosen played in the pivotal game-management positions when the Bulls beat the Sharks 40-27 at Loftus Versfeld at the end of October, which is why White has made that selection again.

“The last time we played the Sharks we did that and it worked well, and we didn’t have Kurt-Lee Arendse and Canan Moodie then,” White said. “It means we have two kickers and two passers and can move the ball away from flyhalf.

“I’ve heard it might rain in Durban too and the Sharks don’t play much in their own half, they have a good kicking game and Makazole Mapimpi is very good in the air.

“But it’s not just a reaction to them, it worked for us at home and it gives us two guys who understand how we want to play. It’s important that Bernard van der Linde can also kick with both feet at scrumhalf,” White said.

Bulls:Johan Goosen, Canan Moodie, Cornal Hendricks, Harold Vorster, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Bernard van der Linde, Elrigh Louw, Cyle Brink, Marco Van Staden, Ruan Nortje (c), Ruan Vermaak, Mornay Smith, Johan Grobbelaar, Simphiwe Matanzima. Bench -Jan-Hendrik Wessels, Gerhard Steenekamp, Sebastian Lombard, Janko Swanepoel, Nizaam Carr, Embrose Papier, Lionel Mapoe, David Kriel.

Rapid recycles & direct rugby sees Sharks motor into early lead, before splutter & then running rampant again 0

Posted on July 17, 2023 by Ken

The Sharks motored into a 12-0 lead after just 16 minutes, thanks to rapid recycles of the ball and tremendous direct rugby, but they then spluttered and allowed the Lions back into the game before eventually running rampant from the hour mark to win 37-10 in their United Rugby Championship match at Kings Park on Friday evening.

It was all smooth sailing for the Sharks at the start of the derby and, in the ninth minute, they kept possession through nine phases, after a strong carry by eighthman Phepsi Buthelezi, going right and then left before inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg broke the defensive line and passed inside for wing Makazole Mapimpi to score.

With 67% possession in the first half, the Sharks were soon back on attack and, after bashing away on the line against the stout Lions defence, they went wide, two short loop passes being followed by fullback Boeta Chamberlain knifing through for the try.

But the shift in momentum perhaps came straight afterwards as flank Jeandre Labuschagne misjudged the restart, dropping the ball, and Lions wing Edwill van der Merwe was on hand to kick through and score the try.

The Lions gained belief to go with their tireless efforts on defence, and despite making just 35 tackles to the visitors’ 105 in the first half, the Sharks went into halftime just 12-7 up.

Flyhalves Curwin Bosch and Jordan Hendrikse traded scrum penalties in the first six minutes of the second half, but the Sharks eventually showed why they were top of the log in southern hemisphere competition when SuperRugby was killed by Covid and remain one of the most highly-rated teams in Europe.

The turnaround came out of the blue as Chamberlain charged down a clearance by Lions fullback Andries Coetzee, centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg gathered and his pop pass found just the right player in scrumhalf Grant Williams, whose sheer speed from just outside the 22 made his try impossible to stop.

Having defended so much, perhaps fatigue set in for the Lions in the final quarter and they began to make basic errors. Centre Marius Louw strayed in front of the kicker, Jaden Hendrikse took a quick tap for the Sharks, Sikhumbuzo Notshe burst clear and Siya Kolisi rounded off the try.

The ever-busy Mapimpi then kicked through a dropped ball in the Lions backline, his second kick being a touch of Messi-like class, as he grabbed his second try at the death.

Scorers

SharksTries: Makazole Mapimpi (2), Boeta Chamberlain, Grant Williams, Siya Kolisi. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Jaden Hendrikse. Penalties: Bosch, Lionel Cronje.

LionsTry: Edwill van der Merwe. Conversion: Jordan Hendrikse. Penalty: Hendrikse.

Sharks have put SuperRugby epoch behind them, fully ready to embrace European competition 0

Posted on May 02, 2023 by Ken

South African rugby teams have put the SuperRugby epoch behind them and, now that they have tasted the Champions Cup tournament, are ready to fully embrace European competition, even when it takes a team like the Sharks from the subtropical summer heat of Durban one week into the icy winter of the hilly Bordeaux region the next.

The Sharks, having marked their Champions Cup debut with an impressive 39-31 win over Harlequins at Kings Park, now take on Bordeaux Begles at the Chaban Delmas Stadium on Friday night.

“It definitely met expectations and all the hype playing against Harlequins and we made a good start, even though there was a lot for us to improve on,” hooker Bongi Mbonambi said on Tuesday from France.

“And now we take on top French players at home in front of their own crowd. The big difference is we just came from 31° in Durban to 2° at the moment and it might be zero on Friday night.

“It’s a totally different kind of cold, but we are here to make memories and make sure we are totally prepared. We’re looking forward to the challenge.

“The massive learning from the Quins game was that we can never relax, these are very good teams in this competition. They’ve been playing European Cup for longer than us, and we still have a lot to learn.

“We have to embrace it, you can’t always have home advantage. But even in tough conditions and with a hostile crowd, some of us enjoy it, it’s like what we face in international rugby. Hopefully we can teach the other players to embrace it too,” Mbonambi said.

Bordeaux lost their opening Champions Cup match away to Gloucester 22-17 in a photo finish, but the fact they were 17-5 up in the final quarter will have them extra motivated to inflict some real damage on the Sharks this weekend at home.

Bordeaux have a powerful pack and a punchy backline, and the fact that their halfbacks, scrummie Maxime Lucu and pivot Matthieu Jalibert, both played off the bench against the Springboks last month, steering France to victory, is a graphic illustration of the sort of quality the Sharks are up against.

“The French teams always hurt after losing in the Champions Cup and Bordeaux have a really good squad,” Mbonambi acknowledged. “They slipped up last weekend, so this Friday will be really tough.

“They have great loose forwards and their halfbacks played in the Test, they are really good at running the whole place, they control things.

“Their pack will definitely put our attacking breakdown under pressure and we can’t let their big forwards run at us,” Mbonambi said.

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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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