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Ken Borland



All Blacks will be under pressure to quickly reverse poor results 0

Posted on August 29, 2022 by Ken

With the 2022 Rugby Championship now two weeks away we take a look at the form of the four teams involved, with today’s focus on the All Blacks.

What they did in July

All Blacks coach Ian Foster will be under immense pressure to very quickly reverse the poor results that saw New Zealand set all sorts of unwanted landmarks in going down 2-1 to Ireland. They were Ireland’s first ever wins in New Zealand, it was the first time they had suffered consecutive defeats at home since 1998, and they became only the third All Blacks team to lose a three-Test series at home.

Losing four of their last five Tests has seen New Zealand drop to fourth in the world rankings, their lowest ever place since the rankings began.

The All Blacks romped to a 42-19 win in the first Test at Fortress Eden Park, but the score was inflated by their ability to take their chances better than Ireland did, and 42% possession and 40% territory were warning signs.

A determined defensive effort by Ireland enabled them to win the second Test 23-12 in Dunedin, and the speed and intricacy of their attacking play, as well as monumental defence, saw them beat the All Blacks 32-22 in the decider in Wellington.

What they did in the Champs in 2021

The All Blacks showed no hint of their waning fortunes in the 2021 Rugby Championship, winning five out of their six matches to claim the title with a seven-point lead in the final standings over Australia.

New Zealand had already clinched the crown with a game to spare as they beat the Springboks 19-17 in Townsville, the 100th Test between the two great rivals.

The All Blacks’ only defeat came in the last game as the Springboks rebounded to beat them 31-29 with the last kick of the match, the following weekend.

The campaign started on a high for New Zealand as they hammered Australia 57-22 at Eden Park, retaining the Bledisloe Cup and notching the most points they have ever scored over the Wallabies.

Australia were stiffer opponents in the next match, going down 21-38 as the All Blacks’ discipline faltered with a red card. They were also disrupted by a couple of key injuries, but two intercept tries sealed the win.

New Zealand used a lot of fringe players in their two Tests against Argentina, but saw the Pumas off comfortably – 39-0 on the Gold Coast and 36-13 in Brisbane.

Fixtures

August 6: Mbombela, v South Africa

August 13: Johannesburg, v South Africa

August 27: Christchurch, v Argentina

September 3: Hamilton, v Argentina

September 15: Melbourne, v Australia

September 24: Auckland, v Australia

With the Bulls’ chances on the wane, Jake had much on his mind … 0

Posted on July 11, 2022 by Ken

With the Sharks dominating the final quarter and the Bulls’ chances on the wane, coach Jake White had much on his mind in the last 10 minutes of the gripping United Rugby Championship quarterfinal at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

While the 58-year-old coach admitted that the tense finish had aged him, he too found it a thrilling spectacle. He had considered bringing on finisher supreme Morne Steyn, but with the scores locked at 27-27 and the final hooter having blown, that horse had bolted. But then it was starting flyhalf Chris Smith who kicked an 84th-minute drop goal to put the Bulls into the semi-finals.

Much like his team, White said he still believed they would win, although the drop goal was an unexpected conclusion.

“I didn’t think for one moment about a drop goal, I thought they’d score a try, like Cornal Hendricks did earlier,” White said after the game. “The players had the belief and the desire to keep working.

“All credit to them for summing up the situation, although Chris said to me afterwards that he was terrified. But he’s not the first Northern Transvaal flyhalf to kick a matchwinning drop goal.

“In the first half, Chris had tried a crosskick in our own 22, which just shows that sometimes you make good decisions and sometimes you don’t. I was actually thinking of bringing Morne on, but as it turned out I kept the right guy on the field.

“The game changed five times in the last nine minutes, and I’m sure both coaches’ boxes thought they deserved penalties. But it was a fantastic game of rugby, that’s why people come watch rugby,” White said.

Typical of a knockout derby match, the quarterfinal between the sides that finished fourth and fifth on the final URC log saw both teams endure up-and-down fortunes. The Bulls had to weather a poor start and a storming finish by the Sharks; and the visitors had to fight back from conceding two tries in the first 10 minutes of the second half to fall 13-27 behind.

“We did not start well and gave the Sharks 10 points through our own mistakes,” White said. “I looked at the scoreboard clock and it said nine-and-a-half minutes and we hadn’t had the ball yet.

“Hopefully when we are more experienced we will understand the importance of holding on to the ball and not giving it away so easily.

“After the first half, I told the team we hadn’t played, we were hardly in the Sharks half and we hardly had the ball. I told them to make sure we start playing, and when we did, we looked outstanding at times.

“But I always knew it was going to be tough. The Sharks have nine Springboks in their starting line-up, five World Cup winners, so it was always going to go to the wire. It was about little moments, for them as well, but you have to win those,” White said.

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