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Ken Borland



Currie Cup the big prize Bulls are after at end of the day – Jake 0

Posted on January 26, 2021 by Ken

The Bulls have already broken their 10-year trophy-drought this season by winning the SuperRugby Unlocked title, but at the end of the day, the Currie Cup is the big prize they are after according to coach Jake White.

The Bulls won the SuperRugby Unlocked competition by four points and those points were then carried over to the Currie Cup. White’s charges have subsequently finished top of the log in the Currie Cup as well, but this time they have to get through two knockout matches to claim the silverware, starting with their semi-final against the Lions at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.

“We’re not trying to be arrogant, but we said at the start of the season that we wanted to play in the final and win the Currie Cup. So we’ve now got two weeks left to play, whether you look at this season as one or two competitions or two competitions in one, at the end of the day we are in the playoffs. Now we want to get to the last round and win the trophy.

“We’ve done the hard work to get into the final, we’ve put the hard yards in to justify home advantage. The reality is we’ve got a lotto ticket for the last two rounds, hopefully we stay alive after this weekend. There won’t be any crowds but I still think it’s a massive bonus for the guys to sleep in their own beds, be in their own changeroom, all the little things,” White said this week.

While the 2007 World Cup winning coach acknowledged that it was far from a fait accompli that the Bulls would achieve their goal, White did make their journey in 2020/21 sound somewhat miraculous.

“I’ve coached in competitions before where the first and second team on the log don’t play in the quarterfinals, they go straight to the semis and get a week off. But sometimes the team that finished first on the log doesn’t win, there are still no guarantees even if you finish first. But this team really want to win the Currie Cup, they want to be part of history and write their own script.

“No-one expected us to do so well. I’ve had seven months to work with this group and in the last 10 years the Bulls had not won a senior trophy, we lost five of our six SuperRugby games last year and finished sixth in the Currie Cup in 2019, losing to Griquas at Loftus. So other teams were far ahead of us and I’m very satisfied with how things have gone. But we haven’t really won anything yet,” White said.

Jake demands a lot from his players – Matfield 0

Posted on November 25, 2020 by Ken

Springbok great Victor Matfield knows better than most that Jake White is a coach who demands a lot from his players, but South Africa’s most-capped player says the fruits of his approach can be seen in the Bulls’ triumph in lifting the Super Rugby Unlocked trophy at the weekend.

Matfield ended with a record 127 Test caps to his name, but it was during White’s tenure as coach from 2004 to 2007 that the Polokwane-born player became a kingpin for the Springboks and the best lineout forward in the world, culminating in him being the player of the final in the 2007 World Cup win.

“Jake White has never been happy with average and you can see that he is demanding a lot from the Bulls players, but it’s getting the best from them, the standards are lifting at Loftus. A lot of us former players thought that the Bulls needed change and then Jake came in and brought quite a bit of change. It’s a pity that there was no real Super Rugby this year because that’s the real test, but they did very well,” Matfield told The Citizen.

While brute physical strength once again seems hip in South African rugby and the Bulls’ pack was certainly the most physical in the competition, Matfield said the team’s success went well beyond simple forward-based rugby. When the ball did get to the backs, it pinged around in impressively incisive fashion.

“When the Bulls were physically up for it, like in the games against the Sharks and Stormers, then they were just ruthless. They had a very strong tight five and their loose forwards were great at the breakdown – in fact nobody in South Africa could compete with them at the breakdown. And then they had a No.9 [Ivan van Zyl] and No.10 [Morne Steyn] who controlled the game very well.

“I must admit before the season I was worried about their centre combination and I was very surprised by Cornal Hendricks at inside centre, he was outstanding, especially against the Stormers. David Kriel also did really well at fullback and the wings played well too,” Matfield said.

Bulls only fire on all cylinders in 1st 25, but enough to clinch silverware 0

Posted on November 24, 2020 by Ken

The Bulls fired on all cylinders for probably just the first 25 minutes, but it was enough for them to beat the Pumas 21-5 and clinch some more, long-awaited silverware for their Loftus Versfeld trophy cabinet as they won the Super Rugby Unlocked competition by four points over the Stormers and Sharks.

In what is probably the last ever Super Rugby tournament, it was perhaps fitting that the Bulls, as the only South African winners of the competition, signed off as the winners of this strictly local event. But it is also the first senior trophy to find a home at Loftus Versfeld since their 2010 Super Rugby triumph, so there will be great relief in Pretoria and a sense of justification that the appointment of Jake White as director of rugby has indeed borne immediate fruit.

The Bulls raced into a 21-0 lead inside those first 25 minutes, playing clinical rugby. Their superb pack was once again utterly dominant, they squeezed the Pumas in all the set-pieces, their driving maul was well-used and their ball-in-hand play was direct and incisive. And the Bulls’ breakdown work was hugely impressive, with flank Marco van Staden absolutely rampant and eighthman Duane Vermelen not far behind.

Wing Kurt-Lee Arendse opened the scoring in the 11th minute from close range after one of numerous penalties had been kicked to touch five metres out; six minutes later flyhalf Chris Smith rounded off a period of very direct running by the Bulls as he forced his way through three tackles to score; and scrum Ivan van Zyl then sniped through a gap to score after a big scrum by the Bulls had earned a penalty against the Pumas on their own ball.

The marvellous rugby of the first half gave way to a scrappier, but more intensely competitive second half as the Pumas showed pleasing improvement. They stopped conceding a flood of penalties, they were better in the set-pieces, made fewer mistakes and, were it not for some lapses in decision-making at crucial times, they could have pushed hard for the win given how they turned around the territory and possession stats.

They showed their intent from the start of the second half, hooker HP van Schoor muscling over for a try from a lineout drive.

Given how brave the Pumas have been in fronting up for this game after 11 of their squad have been in quarantine for the last week, it was pleasing that they ended this phase of the season with their heads held high.

Also coming out of the math with great credit was referee Aimee Barrett-Theron, who became the first woman to referee at senior professional level in South Africa, and officiated with confidence, certainly being the mistress in charge out on the field.

Scorers

Bulls: Tries – Kurt-Lee Arendse, Chris Smith, Ivan van Zyl. Conversions – Smith (3).

Pumas: Try – HP van Schoor.

Sharks will be fortunate to lick the rim of the trophy on this form 0

Posted on November 10, 2020 by Ken

Judging by their error-strewn performance in beating the Free State Cheetahs 19-13 at Kings Park on Friday night, the Sharks will be fortunate to lick the rim of the Super Rugby Unlocked trophy let alone drink from the cup.

There victory had much to do with how dire the Cheetahs also were, and the boot of flyhalf Curwin Bosch, who slotted all five of his kicks at goal and also provided the pinpoint crosskick for the matchwinning try by replacement wing Madosh Tambwe.

While the Cheetahs at least had the excuse of not having played for a couple of weeks, the Men in Black will be very disappointed with their performance and relieved to have won. Never mind the fancy stuff, the Sharks battled with the basics of scrumming and passing, which meant their game was seriously lacking in continuity.

The Sharks were not direct enough and also failed to build an innings. There was also some odd decision-making as they turned down four shots at goal to kick for the corner, messed up those chances, but then finally went for poles in the 33rd minute, Bosch putting them 3-0 up.

Then, with the Cheetahs missing a lock thanks to Carl Wegner’s yellow card, they went for goal again after the halftime hooter, Bosch succeeding from 45 metres. But with the opposition missing a tight forward, it might have been the right time to try and set the maul.

The Sharks’ kicking game has long been their strength, and Bosch’s towering up-and-unders did cause serious problems for the Cheetahs. Centre Jeremy Ward did cross the line in the 52nd minute, but the TMO ruled that fullback Manie Libbok had interfered illegally with centre Chris Smit’s attempt to catch the ball, so the try was disallowed. It was typical of the ill-discipline that plagued the Sharks on Friday night.

The Sharks scrum, especially without Thomas du Toit at tighthead, has been cause for concern and the Cheetahs definitely had the edge in that set-piece. Another solid scrum in the 71st minute put them on the front foot, from where flyhalf Tian Schoeman sent wing William Small-Smith slicing through to score the opening try. Replays showed the pass was forward, however, but it’s not the first time the use of the TMO has been ignored.

Fortunately it did not cost the Sharks the match though, as Free State wing Rosko Specman was yellow-carded for a deliberate knock-on three minutes later. After kicking into the corner, Bosch then produced the field kick that overturned the 13-9 deficit, before adding a phenomenal 59-mtre penalty to seal the win.

Scorers

Sharks: Try – Madosh Tambwe. Conversion – Curwin Bosch. Penalties –Bosch (4).

Free State Cheetahs: Try – William Small-Smith. Conversion – Tian Schoeman. Penalty – Schoeman (2).

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