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Ken Borland

Ease with which Bulls killed Sharks’ momentum will weigh heavily on Everitt 0

Posted on September 30, 2020 by Ken

The effectiveness with which the Bulls were able to kill the Sharks’ momentum in last weekend’s SuperFan Saturday match at Loftus Versfeld will weigh heavily on coach Sean Everitt’s mind as he prepares for the tough SuperRugby Unlocked challenges that lie ahead.

While the Sharks set the tone in SuperRugby earlier this year with the brisk tempo of their play and the efficient finishing of their backline, the Bulls showed that both those factors can be taken out of the equation if the KwaZulu-Natalians are beaten at source and don’t get enough quick ball, with the home side romping to a 49-28 win in Pretoria.

The loss of Andre Esterhuizen, Tyler Paul, Juan Schoeman and Le Roux Roets has robbed the Sharks of much go-forward grunt and they will have some other big packs to contend with when Super Rugby Unlocked starts on October 9 when they host the Lions in Durban.

“I thought the Bulls’ breakdown work was outstanding and we battled to get quick ball. Momentum comes from what type of ball you get at the breakdown and it was difficult for us to get any momentum, difficult to get on the front foot. In terms of physicality, the Bulls handled us well. It’s always difficult when you’re under the pump and don’t get over the gain-line.

“You end up making mistakes under pressure and turnovers, which means you’re always on the back foot. So it was obviously not the scoreline we wanted. We wanted to play off turnovers but they negated that and then three missed balls in the air cost us three tries. We will have to reorganise in that area, although we were also a bit unfortunate on attack,” Everitt said.

Given that the Sharks play a high-risk, high-reward type of rugby and that they now have a young side, it was understandable that there were costly moments when sound judgement was not always apparent.

“We certainly took a lot of learnings from the game. We came in with an enlarged squad and a lot of really good youngsters, and in the second half they did exceptionally well, playing the style of rugby we wanted. When you play risky rugby, sometimes things are not going to go well and missing some balls in the air cost us, the Bulls did well in the set-pieces and their breakdown work was outstanding.

“When we were deep inside their 22, maybe we didn’t always take the right options and we’ll now have to refocus. Injuries will happen, that’s part of the game, and we were fortunate not to have many in SuperRugby. But now a perfect scenario would be being able to rotate the squad, but we are still getting contact fit. The good news is James Venter, Henco Venter and Madosh Tambwe should all be available for the Lions game,” Everitt said.

Like a throwabout in the park – rugby returns 0

Posted on September 29, 2020 by Ken

Coming to Loftus Versfeld is normally a daunting experience for Stormers teams, but captain Siya Kolisi said the build-up to their SuperFan Saturday match in Pretoria was more like a throwabout in the park. Until the actual rugby started, of course.

Rugby returned in South Africa after six months, with the Stormers beating the Lions and the Bulls thumping the Sharks behind closed doors at Loftus Versfeld. No spectators meant little atmosphere, but the players made up for it, not only through their obvious enthusiasm to be back playing again, but also in surprisingly good skill levels after all that time without contact.

The Bulls were especially impressive, running in seven tries in a dazzling 49-28 win over the Sharks, while the Stormers’ powerful first-choice pack set up a 34-21 win over the Lions, whose young second-stringers actually pulled the three-time Super Rugby finalists back into contention.

“I actually told the guys during the warm-up before the game started that it doesn’t feel like we are at Loftus, but it rather felt like just another training exercise until the actual match started. Previously playing at Loftus for the Stormers there was always interaction and chats with the fans, which added to the atmosphere, but this time there was no real banter there.

“Even sitting on the bench one could feel there is no crowd noise and it showed us we should never take anything for granted. It showed us once again how special our supporters are and how much we miss them, but it was also good to start playing again after being out of the game for six months, which wasn’t easy,” Kolisi, who finished clinically for a try while standing on the wing, said.

Bulls captain Duane Vermeulen said the lack of spectators meant he had to generate his own ardour, but the Springbok eighthman was soon back in business smashing opposition ball-carriers away from the gain-line.

“We wanted to just focus on what we have to do, but it was certainly a different feeling walking out on to Loftus and not hearing any noise. You would have heard a penny drop if someone had actually been there to drop one. The atmosphere is what charges you up, it gives you more energy, so it is so much nicer to play with a crowd.

“The one thing is you can actually hear the coaches shouting from the box so you know exactly where to go and what to do … ”, a smiling Vermeulen said.

Before both games, SA Rugby broadcast a statement recommitting themselves to their Rugby Against Discrimination And Racism campaign they launched last July in collaboration with the South African Human Rights Commission, stating they are “committed to an environment where all are welcome, irrespective of race, colour, creed or gender.”

The Sharks took to the field before the start of their game wearing T-Shirts that said “We say not to racism” and some Lions players took a knee in solidarity with Black Lives Matter before their match.

Many of the players who locked horns at the weekend will now be team-mates this coming weekend as two Springbok ‘trials’ teams, Green and Gold, will clash in a farewell game for the famous old Newlands stadium in Cape Town.

Jake wants to use Bulls’ traditional strengths but play in a different way 0

Posted on September 29, 2020 by Ken

Coach Jake White said he wants to use the Bulls’ traditional strengths but play in a different way after his tenure in Pretoria began in superb fashion with a 49-28 win over the Sharks in their SuperFan Saturday match at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

The first half display was particularly impressive as the Bulls raced into a 35-0 lead in the first half-hour, blowing away the shellshocked Sharks with five tries. Only the first was from a driving maul and the Bulls backline dazzled as the likes of Kurt-Lee Arendse, Stedman Gans, Cornal Hendricks and Gio Aplon were able to use turnover ball with ruthless efficiency.

While the backline steppers and speedsters stole the show, it was up front, however, where the Bulls’ dominance began. Their scrum was a solid platform and their lineout provided good ball, while the brutal physical power of the pack repeatedly stopped the Sharks from gaining any momentum. The visitors’ ball was also slow from phase play thanks to the effective efforts of the Bulls at the breakdown.

“The scrum was fantastic and the driving maul was strong, the physical dominance was what we wanted. Those things are a massive part of the Bulls’ DNA and we wanted to go back to the things that we know – like Real Madrid or Barcelona, they play the same type of football from academy level. I can wax lyrical, but it was just a wonderful start as a team.

“So obviously I’m very happy with those things that are part of the DNA, but there were a lot of reasons to be happy. We started really physically and accurately, which is what we wanted. We’re trying to play in a different way and we showed good tempo and finished nicely. From a defensive point of view we didn’t allow the Sharks into our 22 for long periods,” White said after his winning start.

The highlight of the game was wing Arendse racing away to score from 80 metres out after the Sharks, hard on attack, had knocked-on in a rolling maul, and White, who had warned of their danger ahead of the match, was full of praise for the Sevens speedsters who tore the Sharks apart.

“It’s the first time that backline has played together and we saw what they can do with Kurt-Lee’s fantastic try. For a first hit-out I was very impressed there were so few mistakes and we kept the ball well. Coming from coaching in Japan, the whole game is about tempo and I was surprised how quickly the guys picked that up. Practically the whole backline comes from Sevens and even Duane Vermeulen [eighthman] played it in Nelspruit.

“It’s the first time I’ve worked with Cornal Hendricks and the fact that the ball went wide so often shows moving him to inside centre worked. He’s not just a basher, he made a couple of line-breaks and was excellent in defence too. It looked like he’s played there for years. I think all the Blitzbokke have such good basics and their coach Neil Powell has done an outstanding job with them,” White said.

Bulls needed only half-an-hour to dash off to the west & into the sunset 0

Posted on September 29, 2020 by Ken

It took no more than half-an-hour of their SuperFan Saturday game against the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld for the Bulls to head off into the west and disappear into the sunset, such was their dominance in terms of power and pace on their way to a 49-28 victory.

In that opening half-hour, the Bulls were simply dazzling as they raced into a 35-0 lead with five wonderful tries. The Sharks struck back with a try after the halftime hooter, and went into the break 7-35 down. The Bulls replaced almost their entire 1st XV after 52 minutes, and the visitors were able to make the scoreline less embarrassing.

But there was no doubting they had been blown off the park in the first half by the Bulls’ dazzling combination of immense forward power and extreme pace and elusiveness in the backline, with veteran flyhalf Morne Steyn running the show with aplomb and thoroughly enjoying all the front-foot ball he was given.

The Bulls opened the scoring in the sixth minute with a fairly typical driving maul try scored by hooker Schalk Erasmus, but thereafter it was the guys with the fast feet and rocket-pace at the back who stole the show. Coach Jake White had said during the week that we should watch out for the likes of Gio Aplon, Stedman Gans and Kurt-Lee Arendse and they did not disappoint, while former Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks shone as he moved into the inside centre position.

Outside centre Gans stepped brilliantly and raced away after the Sharks had failed to handle a bomb from Steyn, wing Arendse then scored the try of the game as he outpaced everyone from 80 metres out after the Sharks, hard on attack, had knocked on in the maul, and lovely work by Hendricks then sent Arendse over for his second try 10 minutes later. Gans also turned provider as he set up wing Travis Ismaiel for the fifth try.

As sparkling as the running of the backs was, it was obviously the tremendous graft of the pack that made it possible. The sheer physicality of prop Jacques van Rooyen, locks Ruan Nortje and Jason Jenkins, and loose forwards Duane Vermeulen and Arno Botha meant the Bulls won the battle of the gain-line, while Marco van Staden was the terror of the breakdowns.

There was no doubting the character of the Sharks though, and the defence of the Bulls was also given a good workout and generally stood up well.

The Sharks dominated the latter stages of the second half, scoring four tries in all. But the loss of momentum, both on the field on Saturday and in terms of where they left off in Super Rugby, will be of great concern for coach Sean Everitt.

Points scorers

BullsTries: Schalk Erasmus, Stedman Gans, Kurt-Lee Arendse (2), Travis Ismaiel, David Kriel (2). Conversions: Morne Steyn (5), Chris Smith (2).

Sharks – Tries: Grant Williams, Marius Louw, Daniel Jooste, Jaden Hendrickse. Conversions: Curwin Bosch (2), Jordan Chait (2).

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