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Ken Borland

Kwagga says the Sevens graduates have a great skills base 0

Posted on July 05, 2021 by Ken

There have been a large number of players who have graduated from the Springbok Sevens side into the national 15-a-side team, but only three in the current squad preparing for the British and Irish Lions series. But loose forward Kwagga Smith and backline coach Mzwandile Stick both believe the shortened version of the game provides a great skills foundation for the major format of rugby.

Smith, Cheslin Kolbe and uncapped wing Rosko Specman are the Blitzbokke in the current squad, but there have been 60 players in total who have played for both national rugby teams. That total includes 13 World Cup winners.

“Sevens is a really good basis but you do need to learn quickly when you get to the Springboks. It’s so good to have that base when you are younger and I believe it’s a big advantage. You see someone like Rosko Specman has performed really well in XVs and now he’s doing well here in camp. He has a good mindset and is training hard. We also have Cheslin Kolbe, who is now one of the best wings in the world,” Smith said.

Stick, who has a major focus on the skills and vision of the Springbok team, played 37 events for the Blitzbokke between 2003 and 2010, and is understandably a fan of what those players can bring to the party.

“I’ve got a soft spot when it comes to Sevens players. It’s very good to see the connection between the XVs and Sevens game. You look at someone like Cheslin Kolbe coming through that system and he’s now one of the best rugby players in the world. You look at Rosko Specman and how good he was in Super Rugby.

“It’s actually good to see that the guys from the Sevens system are making it. In the past, it was always a matter of size being the reason they’re sidelined. Gone are those days now and guys are playing with a big heart. You can see how well the likes of Kolbe are really playing the game and it shows that size doesn’t matter,” Stick said recently.

Heinrich Brussow is another of those who progressed from international Sevens rugby to stardom with the Springboks and the way he pounced and swarmed all over the ball the last time the British and Irish Lions were here in 2009, it is no surprise that under the Chinese Zodiac, he was born in the Year of the Tiger (July 1986).

Smith, who played 32 events for the Blitzbokke, is hopeful of doing a similar job.

“I was watching that series in high school in Middelburg and I remember Heinrich did so well, he was one of my role-models, he performed really well in that series. I am going to try and get up to his standards, but remembering that I am my own player and have my own assets,” Smith said.

Blitzbokke who have become 15-a-side Springboks (*= World Cup winner)

Gio Aplon, Chris Badenhorst, Selborne Boome, Gerrie Britz, Warren Britz, Heinrich Brussow, Tonderai Chavhanga, Vlok Cilliers, Jannie Claassens, Bolla Conradie, Juan de Jongh, *Jean de Villiers, Gaffie du Toit, Grant Esterhuizen, Kabamba Floors, *Warrick Gelant, Hendrik Gerber, Joe Gillingham, *Bryan Habana, Cornal Hendricks, Henry Honiball, Francois Hougaard, Adrian Jacobs, Conrad Jantjes, *Andre Joubert, Ryan Kankowski, Deon Kayser, *Cheslin Kolbe, *Ruben Kruger, Ricardo Loubscher, Lionel Mapoe, Jorrie Muller, *Akona Ndungane, Dick Muir, Jongi Nokwe, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Jacques Olivier, Deon Oosthuyzen, Breyton Paulse, *Andre Pretorius, Jaco Pretorius, Kevin Putt, *Adriaan Richter, Earl Rose, Pieter Rossouw, Brent Russell, *Bob Skinstad, *Kwagga Smith, Phillip Smit, Andre Snyman, Jamba Ulengo, *Joost van der Westhuizen, Joe van Niekerk, Andre Venter, AJ Venter, Jano Vermaak, Luke Watson, Warren Whiteley, *Ashwin Willemse, *Chester Williams.

Coetzee checks in, Agaba checks out 0

Posted on May 03, 2021 by Ken

Loftus Versfeld has been a busy check-in, check out counter this week as Springbok flank Marcell Coetzee arrived for duty with the Bulls, on the same day that the departure of loose forward Tim Agaba, the former Springbok Sevens representative, was confirmed.

Coetzee has been a phenomenal performer for Ulster, when fit, over the last five years and was recently named the Pro14 Players’ Player of the Season. The 29-year-old is currently recovering from a hamstring injury but will certainly have his eye on a return to the Springbok loose trio for the series against the British and Irish Lions.

The fact that the owner of 30 Springbok caps is considered one of the star signings amongst a host of big names being lured to Loftus Versfeld was shown by the brand new Bulls bakkie that was waiting for Coetzee upon his arrival at his new home.

The 31-year-old Agaba will be playing in the black-and-yellow of the French Second Division side U.S. Carcassonne. He will join the South African contingent of locks – Claude Dry, Rynard ‘Ligtoring’ Landman and Christiaan van der Merwe – at the 122-year-old club that is languishing in the lower reaches of the Pro D2 division in France.

Disappointment for Gans as Bulls are going into final with just 1 change 0

Posted on February 01, 2021 by Ken

The Bulls are going into the Currie Cup final with just one change to their team for the semi-final – Johan Grobbelaar starting at hooker and Schalk Erasmus going to the bench – which means disappointment for Sevens Springbok Stedman Gans.

The outside centre has been one of the stars of the season for the Bulls, but was a late withdrawal from last weekend’s semifinal against the Lions with a hamstring strain. Coach Jake White said on Thursday that Gans has not recovered enough for him to be willing to gamble on selecting him.

“I don’t think Stedman is ready, it would be a helluva risk to play him, especially since there’s often extra time in finals. So he’s not available, it was a tough call for him and I’m sure he’s very disappointed. But I’ve been very happy with Marco Jansen van Vuren as well, he’s defended well, especially against the Lions, who will really stretch and test you. So he has massive confidence at the moment,” White explained.

White chose to deflect a question over what the Bulls had learnt from their loss to the Sharks in their previous meeting, a 32-29 defeat in Durban last month, by saying if one learns more from defeats than from victory, then the Bulls are the “masters of learning” given their failure to win the Currie Cup since 2009.

“We should be the masters of learning then. The Bulls are tired of losing, tired of not playing in finals, so it’s a massive game on Saturday. We’re playing at home, so it’s a great opportunity and there is a tremendous hunger in the side. It’s an incredible achievement to host the final and now the cherry on top would be to win. Remembering that guys like Jean de Villiers and Schalk Burger, two of the best players I ever coached, never won the Currie Cup,” White said.

The 2007 World Cup winning coach acknowledged that winning the Currie Cup would be a highlight of his career, while adding that an international star like Duane Vermeulen had never lifted the famous old trophy as a captain.

“It would mean a lot to me to win because I have great respect for the Currie Cup. And you can see the players’ desire, which is giving them energy and an unbelievable drive to get it right on Saturday. Sometimes it’s great not to have won it before. It’s a great honour to win the Currie Cup, you think about the great players who have drunk out of the trophy …

“It’s a long time since the Bulls last won the Currie Cup and then you look at someone like Duane, who has won the Currie Cup twice and a World Cup, but he’s never won as captain. And the players can see what that means to him, so they are lifting their game. When your captain is a legend like that and he wants it so badly, you’re going to do whatever you have to do,” White said.

Bulls team – David Kriel, Kurt-Lee Arendse, Marco Jansen van Vuren, Cornal Hendricks, Stravino Jacobs, Morné Steyn, Ivan van Zyl, Duane Vermeulen (captain), Elrigh Louw, Marco van Staden, Ruan Nortje, Sintu Manjezi, Trevor Nyakane, Johan Grobbelaar, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench: Schalk Erasmus, Jacques van Rooyen, Mornay Smith, Jan Uys, Arno Botha, Embrose Papier, Chris Smith, Marnus Potgieter.

Given opportunity by Jake, Gans has become a Bulls star 0

Posted on January 21, 2021 by Ken

Given an opportunity at outside centre by coach Jake White, Springbok Sevens stalwart Stedman Gans has become one of the Bulls’ star players in their successful 2020/21 campaign and while he achieves some goals, he says there are more boxes he wants to tick in the future.

The 23-year-old Gans, born in Vredenburg on the Cape West Coast but educated at Waterkloof and Tuks, played three Currie Cup games off the bench for the Blue Bulls in 2019, but it was a major surprise when White entrusted him in SuperRugby Unlocked with the No.13 jersey. And it was a masterstroke as Gans has brought considerable flair, skill and defensive nous to the midfield alongside another former Sevens star in Cornal Hendricks.

“The plan was always to come back to XVs and I’ve really enjoyed the last year with the Bulls, I’m definitely happy with the way things have gone. I’m not surprised that us Sevens guys have done so well because the way XVs is going, it definitely suits the Sevens guys more these days. More speed and skill are coming in, power still plays a big role but skill has a big influence now.

“Because I play at No.13, a big motivation for moving to Sevens was to sharpen my defence, my tracking ability, and that’s a big focus in Sevens. I think we’ve shown that Sevens players can come in and make a big difference in the 15-man game. A guy like Cornal is a Springbok, he has played for a long time, at a few places, and you get a lot from the experience and calmness that he brings,” Gans, who represented the Blitzbokke from 2016 to 2019, said.

Looking ahead to the Currie Cup semi-final against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld next weekend, Gans said the do-or-die nature of the Sevens circuit will certainly help him prepare for the nerves and the pressure of knockout rugby.

“There are certain things I’ve learned from Sevens for if you’re in these situations, these pressure positions, I’m fortunate to have been in those a few times. So I will just focus on the processes and not the outcome, and there are certain mental triggers and I will use those in the next week.

“We are very aware that the Lions will bring their A-game in the semi-final, so we must prepare well and be at our best as well. We expect their best game of the season from the Lions, they’re definitely going to bring their A-game so we have to too if we are going to play in the final,” Gans said.

As for the rest of 2021, it is an Olympic year and Gans would like to be in the mix for a return to the Springbok Sevens squad.

“The Olympic Games are a definite goal, but closer to the time those details will be tightened up. But I have spoken to coach Jake White and it is his intention and mine to give me the opportunity to go to Japan if the Blitzbokke want me. It will be a very difficult decision if the Springboks want me at the same time, I will have to make that if we get there,” Gans said.

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