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Ken Borland

Bulls score 56 & concede 35, except this time they remain in firm control as they hammer Benetton 0

Posted on May 18, 2024 by Ken

Kurt-Lee Arendse (right) had a superb game, highlighting not just his speed and stepping ability, but also his strength. Photo: Backpage Pix

Bulls coach Jake White was delighted by his team’s attacking expertise and once again perplexed by why they allowed the opposition to score so many points, except this time his side remained in firm control of the match as they hammered Benetton Treviso 56-35 in their United Rugby Championship match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

The Bulls were often sublime with ball-in-hand, scoring nine tries, but they did concede five tries to Benetton, with the Italian side not hiding their happiness with what could be an important point for their playoff qualification hopes.

An exceptional first half-hour saw the Bulls thunder to a 26-0 lead, a precise kicking game, powerful scrum, mauling, dominance on the gainline and a slick backline all combining seamlessly. They were then 31-7 up as halftime beckoned, but they allowed Benetton to score on the hooter and then also conceded the first try of the second half as the Italians threatened to replicate what Glasgow Warriors did last week by getting back into the game at 21-31 down.

But this time the Bulls kept scoring points in the second half, crossing for four more tries while Benetton tried everything to get the four-try bonus point. Although they succeeded, the Bulls made it hard enough for them that they never looked in danger of losing.

“I’m very happy with the five points and at times we looked like the best team in the competition. But I guess the question is how did we leak five tries? I don’t think it was because of a lack of work-rate, not a system error and not due to game-understanding. I think we just do things that help the opposition into places they want to be. We almost think we can score from anywhere, maybe we should talk more about game-management or turnover-control at training,” White mused after the emphatic victory that temporarily lifted his team into second on the log.

“You need to defend well if you’re going to win championships, but you need to score points too. One constant about rugby is that the team that scores the most points always finishes near the top of the log. If we keep scoring lots of points, it means to beat us the opposition must score 50 and that creates pressure.

“But I still want us to be a tougher defensive side and not allow the opposition to score easily due to our mistakes or the situations we put ourselves in. The shape of our attack was very good, but the one thing we lack is that edge on defence, that ruthlessness that does not allow the other team to score. But I will take the opposition having to score more than 30 points to win every week of the season.

“Last week we were like deer in the headlights, there was almost panic, but this week we continued to score points. Last week it was almost as if we tried to defend the 37-10 score and it almost came back to bite us. But today we had much more control and we showed much more understanding that we needed to tighten up.

“I’m also looking for the ‘why?’. Maybe it’s because we try so hard to score great tries that maybe we create pressure for ourselves. I also think that for two weeks in a row we’ve played against teams that really wanted to score four tries. There’s no doubt Benetton needed to get something out of the game and it would have been much more difficult for them to get a bonus point by keeping us to less than an eight-point winning margin.

“So I’m not worried and there is no reason for us to go away from what is working. Hopefully the mental attitude will be there and there will be more grunt when it is a do-or-die defensive set in a knockout game. The captain [Elrigh Louw] gave his word that they will do it and I don’t doubt that they will,” White said.

The Bulls began the game with a show of force that a Chinese military display would have battled to match in terms of precision and shock-awe value. A bang-on-target kick and chase forced a knock-on inside the Benetton 22, the Bulls dominated the scrum and then won a ruck penalty. The lineout was set and then the maul, and then the ball went out to wing Canan Moodie, who snaked through the defence to score the opening try after three minutes.

The Bulls’ other wing, Kurt-Lee Arendse is diminutive and has the face of an angel, but the Springbok star showed his hard, ruthless edge as he then set up the second try and scored the third. A quick lineout taken on the halfway line was followed by Arendse making a great run down the left and then passing inside for centre David Kriel to score in the 17th minute.

Three minutes later, Arendse brilliantly won an up-and-under and, quick as a flash, scrumhalf Embrose Papier kicked over the ruck to win a marvellous 50/22. The Bulls quickly went wide from the lineout and Arendse then fought this way through four tackles to score, showing he is not just a stepper and dasher, but also a finisher of great strength.

Willie le Roux has come to Loftus Versfeld for more than a few rand, and the Springbok legend showed why as his break and mazy run, followed by a super inside-pass, sent lock Ruan Nortje galloping over for the Bulls’ fourth try.

At 26-0 down, Benetton had a mountain to climb. They had been terrible in terms of defence and discipline in the opening quarter, but they showed admirable tenacity in fighting their way back into the game through tries by wing Onisi Ratave, hooker Gianmarco Lucchesi and scrumhalf Andy Uren.

The Bulls touched the heights one more time in the first half, however, as loose forward Louw’s lovely pop-pass backwards out of contact found inside centre Harold Vorster, who knifed through the defensive line and set up the easiest of run-ins for Moodie, scoring his second try.

The way the Bulls repelled the Benetton comeback in the second half suggested a breakthrough in terms of game-management. They focused on continuing to keep the opposition in their territory with their kicking game, forcing Benetton to attack from deep.

Another good up-and-under from Papier earned a penalty for obstruction and hooker Akker van der Merwe scored from the lineout maul. Four minutes later, a long pass inside their own half went to ground in the Benetton backline, and Kriel pounced, powering away for his second try as he continues to impress in what may be a breakthrough season for the 25-year-old.

Another atypical moment of defensive softness by Benetton, one of the best defensive sides in the competition, then allowed Bulls flyhalf Johan Goosen to just run at them from a scrum, bursting through and then offloading to Kriel, who then fed Moodie out wide for a an easy run-in for his hat-trick of tries.

At 48-28 up, the Bulls made the iconoclastic decision to kick a penalty for poles and replacement flyhalf Chris Smith succeeded from long range, and although Benetton grabbed their fifth try, the Bulls had the final say. Louw surged forward from quick ball off the top of a lineout, getting into the five-metre zone; from there the Bulls just recycled the ball across the field until the opposition ran out of numbers and replacement hooker Johan Grobbelaar reached over to score.

With their electrifying backline and a pack that just swarms over the contact points, White has reason to be encouraged by the progress his team has made.

“Last season we finished seventh and now the worst we can finish this time is fourth, so we have a home quarterfinal. So there’s no doubt there’s been improvement, we still have a ticket in the knockouts so there is still hope. The challenge now is to get it right on four successive weekends,” White said.


Bulls: Tries – Canan Moodie (3), David Kriel (2), Kurt-Lee Arendse, Ruan Nortje, Akker van der Merwe, Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions – Johan Goosen (4). Penalty – Chris Smith.

Benetton Treviso: Tries – Onisi Ratave, Gianmarco Lucchesi, Andy Uren, Toa Halafihi, Marco Zanon. Conversions – Rhyno Smith (5).

Times of heartache enable composed Lions to turn final around – Hendricks 0

Posted on May 07, 2024 by Ken

The DP World Lions men’s team have had their times of heartache this season, which is why when the CSA 4-Day Series final looked like being a grave disappointment for them, they had the desire, composure and ability to turn things around, according to captain Dominic Hendricks.

Having been 35 for five on the first morning and 113 for six in their second innings, leading by just 26, it was an absolutely remarkable effort for our #PrideOfJozi to beat Western Province by 99 runs and claim their first four-day title since 2019/20.

“Talk about a game turning 180 degrees,” Hendricks said, “We had to dig in super-deep and really fight. Our backs were against the wall for 80% of that game, so I’m massively proud of the team for winning.

“But there have been numerous times this season when we’ve had to really dig in, there’ve been lots of difficult situations we’ve been put in: Like having to bowl for 225 overs against the Rocks, going to Newlands and losing the toss and having to bat first on a spicy pitch against Western Province, and going to St George’s Park and having to play on a very tricky wicket.

“It’s testament to what we’ve created as a team. We get stuck in and if it’s your day, then you must make it spectacular,” the ecstatic Hendricks said.

The Lions skipper praised head coach Russell Domingo for the wonderful environment he has forged for our Pride to prosper. The former Proteas and Bangladesh coach never throws his toys out of the cot, but there is immense respect for him and the rest of the star-studded coaching line-up.

“Russell has a phenomenal approach. The game is so high-pressured anyway, so he always tries to take the pressure off us. He cracks jokes in the changeroom, but when he speaks we really do listen and he is the first to point out any nonsense and put us back in line.

“Hashim Amla has a very calm aura, he also always speaks to us in a good tone and with understanding. If a player makes a mistake, then the coaches never give you an uitkak, but they talk about what we ought to have done to execute better,” Hendricks said.

The opening batsman also highlighted the top-class batting of Delano Potgieter in setting up the heady triumph with phenomenal rearguard innings of 81 and 155 not out.

“Delano’s innings and all the lower-order chipping in, particularly Codi Yusuf (46), took the sting out of Western Province, you could see how frustrated they were and they fielded for each of the first four days.

“It says a lot about Delano that he was super-nervous before the final, he’s an anxious guy before matches. But once he settled, he looked right at home. We were in a world of trouble, but he dug in and batted and batted and batted,” Hendricks said.

Winning the prestige four-day title was a tremendous team effort by everyone at the DP World Wanderers Stadium though, a fact highlighted by a delighted Domingo.

“Hashim, Allan Donald and myself are all experienced enough to know that it’s not just the coaches that win trophies. We are just a small part of the puzzle; you need great players, a great CEO and support staff; the selectors, groundsmen, directors – everyone plays an important tole,” Domingo said.

‘We are not a 1-man show’, Mulder says after he & Klaasen destroy JSK 0

Posted on February 08, 2024 by Ken

MAGNIFICENT – Heinrich Klaasen in full flow at the Wanderers.
Photo: Richard Huggard (Sportzpics)

“We are not a one-man show,” Wiaan Mulder said when asked why the Durban Super Giants have made it all the way to the SA20 final following their 69-run demolition of the Joburg Super Kings in the last Qualifier at the Wanderers on Thursday evening.

But if truth be told, their emphatic victory was at most a two-man show as a scintillating partnership between Mulder and Heinrich Klaasen carried the game well out of the Super Kings’ reach.

Klaasen and Mulder added 101 for the fifth wicket off just 38 balls, transforming a match in which Joburg seemed to have the upper hand for the first dozen overs. They lashed 112 runs in the last seven overs, including 29 runs being plundered off both the 15th over bowled by Imran Tahir and the 18th bowled by Sam Cook.

The incredible onslaught carried the Super Giants to 211 for six after they had been sent in to bat. The stand between Klaasen and Mulder was the best ever for Durban’s fifth wicket, beating the unbeaten 84 Klaasen and Matthew Breetzke put on against the Pretoria Capitals at SuperSport Park last season.

The Super Giants then kept chipping away with the ball, dismissing Joburg Super Kings for 142 in the 18th over.

The Durbanites did not have a great start, being 52 for three after seven overs, but Sri Lankan Bhanuka Rajapaksa, making his SA20 debut, helped Klaasen stabilise matters with his composed 35 off 23 balls as 43 was added for the fourth wicket. They then had the breathing space to launch the most stunning assault in the closing overs.

“We kinda knew the pitch had something in it and it was important to have a partnership,” Mulder said. “It’s not like we said we were going to pull the trigger, but we had a couple of match-ups, one thing led to the next and it just happened.

“A couple of soft balls got me going, then Klaasie got going and we all know how devastating he is when he’s firing. He’s arguably the best T20 batsman in the world at the moment. He’s a superstar and to score 74 off 30 on that pitch is a joke.

“I don’t think over 200 was par, maybe 180. It was really hard to score when they bowled into the pitch, but we had a couple of opportunities when they went full. And the way Klaasie was striking it, he turned 180 into more than 200. If the bowlers missed by a foot, they were in the stands, and maybe there were a few execution errors,” Mulder said.

The all-rounder will surely have changed some perceptions about him as a T20 player as his superb, vital 50 not out off just 23 balls continued his strong form this season.

While Klaasen will undoubtedly be the key man when DSG take on the Sunrisers at Newlands on Saturday, the defending champions will know their opponents have in-form, contributing players right through their line-up.

Breetzke and Jon-Jon Smuts have both made consistent runs and five DSG bowlers have taken more than 10 wickets.

“We are very similar to the Sunrisers in that we’ve had consistent performances from different people and that’s what wins competitions,” Mulder said. “To win competitions doesn’t take one person, it’s about how the players and management look after each other. In any successful team, the people play for the team.

“The most important thing is the environment and trying to create a good culture. There’s no unnecessary pressure put on us and there’s no nitpicking from anyone. That’s a big part of why we will be playing in the final,” Mulder said.

CSA seek more clarity on why Bavuma & Phehlukwayo missed out 0

Posted on November 16, 2022 by Ken

It may just amount to papering over the cracks, but Cricket South Africa are looking to meet the six SA20 franchises to discuss the fall-out from last week’s auction and get more clarity on why Proteas regulars Temba Bavuma and Andile Phehlukwayo were not bought by any of the teams.

Their omission, especially that of national T20 captain Bavuma, dominated South African cricket news, detracting from one of the most important events in the establishment of the new league as hopefully something that will enthral local fans.

Franchises like Sunrisers Eastern Cape, who are owned by the Sun Group who operate numerous Indian newspapers, TV and radio stations and so should understand the media fall-out, and Durban Super Giants chose top-order batsmen with inferior domestic records rather than Bavuma.

“It’s quite difficult because we agreed with the franchises that we would allow the bidding process to run independently,” CSA chief executive Pholetsi Moseki told The Citizen.

“But we were hugely disappointed, especially by the omission of Temba and Andile, that was quite a shock. We need to have a post-mortem to see how we can avoid this happening in the future.

“I am part of the SA20 board and I will be proposing a post-mortem with the franchises. It will be a discussion, not an interrogation. We can’t control how they go about picking their teams, but we just want to understand better why it happened.

“We will have earnest discussions with them and inform the public as well. We want the public’s buy-in for this tournament, so they need to be able to read and hear why certain players weren’t chosen,” Moseki said.

The first sign that things were heading south at the auction came when Sunrisers Eastern Cape bought Marques Ackerman in the 12th round of bidding. The KZN Dolphins batsman has a strike-rate of 123.68 and an average of 24.25 in 39 domestic T20s, compared to Bavuma’s strike-rate of 124.67 and an average of 30.52 over 100 matches.

Ackerman’s base price was admittedly just R175 000, while Bavuma’s was R850 000, which was clearly set too high, either by himself or whoever advised him poorly. Moseki confirmed that “the Proteas players could choose their own reserve price, initially they were told to go at R850 000, but if they wanted to go lower then they could do that. It was not possible to lower their price during the auction though”.

“We will ask the franchises whether there was enough local input in their selections. We need a long-term plan to ensure this does not happen again, specifically when it comes to contracted Black players.

“It will be very sad if it happens again next year and we obviously need to plan better,” Moseki said.

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