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Super Rugby 2014 SA Conference Preview

January 12, 2014 in Uncategorized

We’re into the final month of Super Rugby pre-season preparations and the team squads are slowly taking shape although no team has announced its final squad yet and the teams still have to play their warm up matches.

When one look at the provisional squad lists and taking what one know about the teams it is possible to do a provisional preview of the season. However, we know that pre-season previews tend to be fairly useless as injuries and form take a hand in during the season but it still is fun.

Sharks:

On paper the Sharks have the best squad, loaded with Springboks and experience and with only a few rookies looking likely to get much game time. The one position where the Sharks might be vulnerable is at lock where, apart from PSDT they don’t have any locks of real quality.

The internal battle for the flyhalf spot between Pat Lambie and Fred Zeilinga will be interesting to watch. Zeilinga was impressive during the Currie Cup while Lambie had a largely forgetable year last year.

Overall they have a solid and experienced forward pack but the depth at the back looks a bit brittle. However, they have enough talent available to finish top of the SA Conference in 2014.

Players to watch: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Frederik Zeilinga, Heimar Williams, SP Marais

Predicted Positions:
SA Conference: 1
Overall: 3

Prop: Tendai Mtawarira, Jannie du Plessis, Lourens Adriaanse, Dale Chadwick,
Hooker: Kyle Cooper, Bismarck du Plessis,
Lock: Pieter-Steph du Toit, Peet Marais, Etienne Oosthuizen, Edwin Hewitt, Anton Bressler
Loose forward: Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Jean Deysel, Ryan Kankowski, Jacques Botes, Keegan Daniel, Tera Mtembu
Scrumhalf: Charl McLeod, Cobus Reinach, Tyler Fisher,
Flyhalf: Pat Lambie, Frederik Zeilinga
Centre: Frans Steyn, Heimar Williams,
Utility back: Paul Jordaan, Tim Swiel, Jaco van Tonder, Adriaan Esterhuizen,
Wing: Lwazi Mvovo, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen,
Fullback: SP Marais

Head coach: Jake White

Cheetahs:

After a good 2013 Super Rugby season but a poor Currie Cup for both partners, the Free State and Griquas, the Cheetahs will be able to field a settled and experienced squad of players. Once again their lock/loosies open play will be crucial to their campaign and to provide their potentially dangerous backs with quality ball.

In 2013 they played a much more balanced game than in the past and it will be interesting to see whether they can do it again this year. The presence of Robert Ebersohn in the midfield will be missed, both for his fetching and for his organisation of the backline defence.

The biggest issue for me as that their second choice players are distinctly inferior to their first choice players in most positions and they will hope that they have another year of limited injuries.

Players to watch: Lood de Jager, Shaun Venter, Johan Goosen, Howard Mnisi

Predicted Positions:
SA Conference: 2
Overall: 6

Prop: Coenie Oosthuizen, Trevor Nyakane, Caylib Oosthuizen, Rossouw de Klerk
Hooker: Adriaan Strauss, Hercú Liebenberg, Ryno Barnes
Lock: Lood de Jager, Waltie Vermeulen, Ligtoring Landman, Francois Uys
Loose Forwards: Heinrich Brüssow, Lappies Labuschagné, Boom Prinsloo, Philip van der Walt, Jean Cook
Scrumhalf: Sarel Pretorius, Shaun Venter, Kevin Luiters
Flyhalf: Johan Goosen, Elgar Watts, Francois Brummer
Centre: Johann Sadie, Francois Venter, Howard Mnisi,
Wing: Raymond Ruhle, Rayno Benjamin, Rocco Jansen, Cornal Hendricks
Fullback: Willie le Roux, Hennie Daniller, Riaan Smit

Head coach: Naka Drotske

Stormers:

The Stormers lost a few experienced players and gained very little. With Eben Etzebeth out for most of the season they look thin at lock and will depend on their two penalty machines, Rynhardt Elstadt and Michael Rhodes, to fill the gap while hoping they won’t get carded too often.

The Stormers’ forward strength is in the quality of their loose forwards.

At the back they are thin on quality scrumhalves and flyhalves, solid in the midfield while the lack of size on the wing could cost them on defence.

Unfortunately the Stormers will once again look to defend their way to the top and that’s not the way to win trophies. While Catrakilis is a quality flyhalf their biggest game breakers are out wide and unless Aplon and Kolbe get enough ball to play with they will merely be defensive liabilities.

I don’t see the Stormers having a better year than last year as overall the squad just looks unimpressive and they will probably fight it out with the Cheetahs for the #2 SA Conference spot.

Players to watch: Ruan Botha, Schalk Burger, Demetri Catrakilis, Cheslin Kolbe

Predicted Positions:
SA Conference: 3
Overall: 8

Prop: Pat Cilliers, Brok Harris, Oli Kebble, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Alistair Vermaak.
Hooker: Tiaan Liebenberg, Scarra Ntubeni
Hooker/flank: Deon Fourie
Lock: Ruan Botha, Manuel Carizza, Tazz Fuzani, Jean Kleyn, De Kock Steenkamp
Lock/flank: Rynhardt Elstadt, Michael Rhodes
Loose forward: Schalk Burger, Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi, Sikhumbuzo Notshe, Duane Vermeulen
Scrumhalf: Nic Groom, Godlen Masimla, Louis Schreuder
Flyhalf: Demetri Catrakilis, Kurt Coleman, Ryno Eksteen, Gary van Aswegen
Centre: Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Michael van der Spuy, Kobus van Wyk
Centre/Wing: Damian de Allende, Pat Howard
Fullback/Wing: Gio Aplon, Scott van Breda, Cheslin Kolbe
Fullback/Centre: Jaco Taute

Head coach: Allister Coetzee

Bulls:

Having lost a number of experienced players during 2013 the Bulls are a bit thin on experience and it’s only in the front row that they can field a set of experienced players, albeit mainly journeymen. Every other postion will feature rookies or near rookies and while their rookies were quality juniors they will have to make the step up to Super Rugby.

The biggest problem area for the Bulls is at flyhalf where they have no real quality with Louis Fouchè and Handrè Pollard as their first choice flyhalves and Tony Jantjies as a back up. The Bulls has some talented youngsters in the midfield and out wide but it remains to be seen whether their flyhalves can create enough opportunities for these players.

The Bulls have a tough year ahead of them and they will be hard-pressed not to finish bottom of the SA Conference. However, one can expect some of their youngsters to make the step up and this might just save them the embarrassment of finishing below the Lions.

Players to watch: Paul Willemse, Jacques du Plessis, Jan Serfontein, Clayton Blommetjies

Predicted Positions:
SA Conference: 4
Overall: 10

Props: Mornè Mellett, Dean Greyling, Frik Kirsten, Werner Kruger, Marcel van der Merwe
Hookers: Callie Visagie, Bandise Maku, Bongi Mbonambi
Locks: Flip van der Merwe, Paul Willemse, Grant Hattingh, David Bulbring
Loose Forwards: Deon Stegman, Wiaan Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Jacques Engelbrecht, Jacques du Plessis, Pierre Spies, Jono Ross
Scrumhalves: Francois Hougaard, Piet van Zyl, Rudy Paige
Flyhalves: Louis Fouchè, Handrè Pollard
Midfield: Jan Serfontein, Waylon Murray, JJ Engelbrecht, William Small-Smith
Outside backs: Bjorn Basson, Akona Ndungane, Sampie Mastriet, Travis Ismaiel, Jurgen Visser, Jesse Kriel, Clayton Blommetjies
Utility Backs: Ryan Nell, Ulrich Beyers

Head coach: Frans Ludeke

Lions:

Coming out of the rugby wilderness of 2013 with only 12 players having played more than 10 Super Rugby games the Lions are in for a tough campaign, a campaign where their rookies and near-rookies have to step up and they will hope that injuries don’t derail them again as it did in 2012.

The Lions play an exciting brand of rugby but it is a brand where they tend to leak tries at crucial times and a lot will depend on whether they can limit the damage and pull off the wins when they get the opportunity rather than close losses.

The Lions will be in a battle with the Bulls for the bottom SA Conference spot and it will depend on which team’s rookies step up the best. Overall the Bulls rookies have a better pedigree and I expect the Bulls the pip the Lions to the post.

Players to watch: Ruan Dreyer, Franco Mostert, Jaco Kriel, Stokkies Hanekom

Predicted Positions:
SA Conference: 5
Overall: 12

Prop: Ruan Dreyer, Julian Redelinghuys, Bees Roux, Schalk van der Merwe, Jacques van Rooyen
Hooker: Willie Wepener, Robbie Coetzee, Francois van Wyk, Malcolm Marx
Lock: Franco van der Merwe, Franco Mostert, Chris van Zyl, Hugo Kloppers, Ruan Venter, Martin Muller
Loose Forwards: Derick Minnie, Jaco Kriel, Willie Britz, Warren Whiteley, Warwick Tecklenburg, Lambert Groenewald
Scrumhalf: Michael Bondesio, Ross Cronje, Guy Cronje, Faf de Klerk
Flyhalf: Elton Jantjies, Marnitz Boshoff, Willie du Plessis
Centre: Alwyn Hollenbach, Stokkies Hanekom, Dylan Des Fountain, Robert de Bruyn, Lionel Mapoe
Wing: Anthony Volmink, Deon Helberg, Deon van Rensburg, Chrysander Botha,
Fullback: Andries Coetzee, Ruan Combrink

Head coach: Johan Ackermann

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Lions vs Cheetahs: Close but no cigar

August 11, 2013 in Uncategorized

How does one review a match which nobody really expected you to win but then came close to winning, had your chances of closing it out but lost by a single point? Does one look at how well the team did considering where they’re coming from or does one focus on the loss that could have been a win?

In my post on Lions Pride, The Lions have a mountain to climb, earlier in the week I compared the experience levels of the Lions players with that of the Cheetahs players to show how tough the road ahead is and based on that the Lions shouldn’t even have been in the game.

Did you know that Stokkies Hanekom, at the age of 24, played his first Currie Cup Premier Division game on Saturday and only has a total of 16 first class games to his credit? In total the Lions fielded seven Currie Cup Premier Division rookies and, apart from Martin Bezuidenhout, Derick Minnie and Dylan Des Fountain, the rest of the starting XV have only played 58 Currie Cup Premier Division and 14 Super Rugby games.

It is in the light of this inexperience that I then look at the game and say “well done boys!” And I don’t say this to excuse the mistakes that were made on the day but to put the performance in perspective considering they played a side that, for the most part, fielded players who had helped them to a sixth position on the Super Rugby log this year.

Through the year we’ve talked about the Lions allowing opponents to cross the advantage line too easily, creating good front foot attacking ball and the first half on Saturday was no different. The Cheetahs enjoy the bulk of possession but the Lions gave away territory far too easily with a passive defence only to stop them deep in our own half. The Lions’ defence was good, for the most part, but if you allow your opponent to attack at will the gaps and the mistakes will come and it did.

Robert Ebersohn’s try came from a chip into space with no Lions players covering while Hennie Daniller came close to copying Ebersohn’s try. Boom Prinsloo’s try came from a poorly defended driving maul with too many players hanging off and not getting stuck in trying to stop it or at least slow it down.

Whenever the Lions had possession and strung a few phases together they looked dangerous and that kept them in the game through penalty points and lead to Stokkies’s try in the first half.

The second half started the same way, with the Lions conceding territory too easily until the got their act together and starting controlling possession and territory, unfortunately not before conceding two tries which made me question the TMO and ref. The TMO obviously didn’t think the Cheetahs player knocked the ball back illegally and can someone please explain to me how gaining 15 metres in your opponent’s 22 isn’t enough advantage for a knock-on. But enough of that, in the end the Lions still had the opportunity to win the match and didn’t.

Two storming tries, one by MOTM Wille Britz and one by Ruan Dreyer brought the Lions close to victory. Unfortunately coach Ackers’s decision to replace Marnitz Boshoff became crucial to the Lions’ loss with Elton Jantjies missing a penalty and a conversion.

I have a problem when coaches make replacements by the clock rather than by the state of the game although I might be doing the coach an injustice. At that point the Cheetahs were starting to close out the game, leading by eight points, and he might have felt the Lions needing a different dimension on attack, which Jantjies definitely brought playing closer to the advantage line and giving the Lions more front foot ball, but unfortunately his confidence in his goal kicking seems to be shot, quite evident with him trying to punch a low straight kick for the conversion.

It isn’t easy to single out players when the team performed well as a unit but I feel that Willie “Maanhaar” Britz deserves special mention. Especially in the second half his lineout work created problems for the Cheetahs and his play around the park was uncompromising. He fully deserved not only his try but also the MOTM award.

In the end the loss leaves a bitter-sweet taste in the mouth.

This inexperienced Lions side showed they have the heart to compete and to grow through the competition and, having looked at the other games, they don’t have to stand back for any of the other teams.

But ai, a win would have been so much better.

Originally posted on Lions Pride

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2013 Currie Cup Preview – Round 1

August 7, 2013 in Uncategorized

Super Rugby is over and the Currie Cup Premier Division kicks off this weekend with the various teams looking at the Currie Cup to achieve different objectives. The Sharks have a good mix of experience and youth while the Blue Bulls and WP are looking to develop more of their youngsters, the Blue Bulls especially considering their investment in recent years in build a base with wome of the most ta;ented youngsters from around the country. The Golden Lions will look to build their squad for 2014 and the Cheetahs will want to consolidate on their successful Super Rugby campaign with the Griquas the odd one out, they want to beat the better teams and be in contension for the cup.

Fri, 09 August: Sharks v Griquas – SAST: 19h10

The Sharks will be missing a number of key players from their Super Rugby team when they take on Griquas in Durban but they will still be able to push a good side on the field. Griquas have some of their Super Rugby players back from the Cheetahs and their tight five looks solid but it’s at the back where they don’t offer too much to scare the Sharks.

The Sharks will miss their Bok front row and will have a new lock combination with Marco Wentzel joining them but their loosies are tried and trusted so too their scrumhalves but it’s at the back where there is a new and exciting look with Louis Ludik having shown he’s a good #13 in the making and Tim Whitehead back and the big issue will be whether they can get their new backline going.

Sharks by 9

The Sharks: 15. Odwa Ndungane, 14. Sizo Maseko, 13. Louis Ludik, 12. Tim Whitehead, 11. Lwazi Mvovo, 10. Butch James, 9. Charl McLeod, 8. Keegan Daniel (Captain) , 7. Jean Deysel, 6. Brynard Stander, 5. Marco Wentzel, 4. Edwin Hewitt, 3. Wiehahn Herbst, 2. Kyle Cooper, 1. Dale Chadwick
Replacements: 16. Craig Burden, 17. Rayno Gerber, 18. Peet Marais, 19. Tera Mtembu, 20. Cobus Reinach, 21. Fred Zeilinga, 22. Jaco van Tonder

Griquas: 15 Gouws Prinsloo, 14 Nico Scheepers, 13 JP Nel, 12 Howard Mnisi, 11 PJ Vermeulen, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Jacques Coetzee, 8 Burger Schoeman, 7 Jaco Nepgen, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Ligtoring Landman, 4 Hilton Lobberts, 3 Lourens Adriaanse, 2 Ryno Barnes (captain), 1 Steph Roberts
Replacements: 16 Matt Dobson, 17 Nick Schonert, 18 Jonathan Adendorf, 19 Carel Greeff, 20 Marnus Hugo, 21 Du Randt Gerber, 22 Rocco Jansen

Sat, 10 August: Golden Lions v FS Cheetahs – SAST: 15h00

With their Super Rugby status back in the bag the Golden Lions face their first hurdle in their effort to rebuild a team for next year when they face the Cheetahs at home. The Cheetahs may be without their Boks and without the Griquas Super Rugby players but they still have enough experienced players to make it very tough for the Lions.

The Lions will be without a number of players who played the Kings the last two weeks and especially the forwards have been affected. JC Janse van Rensburg (France), Hendrik Roodt (France), Franco van der Merwe (Boks, Warren Whiteley (finger), Robbie Coetzee (ribs), Julian Redelinghuys (thumb), Ross Cronje (hamstring) and Deon van Rensburg (leg) are all missing from their last game and they are down to their #4 scrumhalf, the converted flyhalf Guy Cronje, and short on props while the bulk of the Cheetahs starting 15 are coming from a successful Super Rugby campaign and they should not stumble against a depleted Lions team.

Cheetahs by 10
(Went for the Lions by 5 on Superbru but that was an illconsidered mistake)

Golden Lions: 15.Chrysander Botha, 14.Deon Helberg, 13.Stokkies Hanekom, 12.Dylan des Fountain, 11.Anthony Volmink, 10.Marnitz Boshoff, 9.Guy Cronje, 8.Willie Britz, 7.Warwick Tecklenburg, 6.Derick Minnie (c), 5.Hugo Kloppers, 4.Stephan Greeff, 3.Ruan Dreyer, 2.Martin Bezuidenhout, 1.Jacques van Rooyen.
Replacements: 16.Francois du Toit, 17.CJ van der Linde, 18.Lambert Groenewald, 19.Jaco Kriel, 20.Tian Meyer, 21.Elton Jantjies, 22.Lionel Cronje/Robert de Bruyn

Free State Cheetahs – 15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Riaan Smit, 13 Johann Sadie, 12 Robert Ebersohn, 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Elgar Watts, 9 Sarel Pretorius, 8 Philip van der Walt, 7 Lappies Labuschagne, 6 Boom Prinsloo (c), 5 Waltie Vermeulen, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 John-Roy Jenkinson, 2 Hercu Liebenberg, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen.
Subs: 16 Ethienne Reynecke, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Teboho Mohoje, 19 Davon Raubenheimer, 20 Piet van Zyl, 21 Joubert Engelbrecht, 22 Piet Lindeque.

Sat, 10 August: Western Province v Blue Bulls – SAST: 17h05

Giving only Eben Etzebeth to the Boks in the forwards the WP forward pack should be close to their Super Rugby pack but their backline outside Gary van Aswegen, as well as on the bench, will be new and it will be interesting to see how Bok u/20 and Blitsbok Cheslin Kolbe steps up to real senior rugby.

The Blue Bulls have problems. They lost a number of players to the Boks as well as to foreign shores and their forwards have been below par during Super Rugby. WP may not have the strongest pack but they have all played together for a while now and I do not think the Blue Bulls will have enough up front to bother them while at the back the battle between two rookie lineups may be up for grabs and the WP halfback pair’s superior experience should take the game away from the Bulls.

WP by 6

WP: 15. Gio Aplon, 14. Gerhard van den Heever, 13. Pat Howard, 12. Damian de Allende, 11. Cheslin Kolbe, 10. Gary van Aswegen, 9. Louis Schreuder (vice-captain), 8. Nizaam Carr, 7. Rynhardt Elstadt, 6. Deon Fourie (captain), 5. De Kock Steenkamp, 4. Gerbrandt Grobler, 3. Brok Harris, 2. Scarra Ntubeni, 1. Steven Kitshoff
Replacements: 16. Alistair Vermaak, 17. Pat Cilliers, 18. Michael Rhodes, 19. Ruan Kitshoff, 20. Nic Groom, 21. Kurt Coleman, 22. Berton Klaasen

Blue Bulls: 15. Jürgen Visser , 14. Sampie Mastriet , 13. Ulrich Beyers , 12. Francois Venter , 11. Travis Ismaiel, 10. Tony Jantjies, 9. Rudy Paige , 8. Jono Ross(c), 7. Jacques du Plessis, 6. Wiaan Liebenberg, 5. Grant Hattingh, 4. Paul Willemse, 3. Frik Kirsten , 2. Willie Wepener, 1. Morné Mellet
Replacements: 16. Callie Visagie , 17. Marcell van der Merwe , 18. Wilhelm Steenkamp, 19. Jean Cook , 20. Ruan Snyman , 21. Waylon Murray , 22. Clayton Blommetjies.

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The secret to the Cheetahs’ success

May 31, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Cheetahs’ 2013 Super Rugby campaign has been their most successful to date and it all comes down to one factor – their defence. This year the Cheetahs have managed to add a defensive element to their game that was missing in previous years and have played a much more balanced game.

However, it’s not as if they’ve tried to copy the Stormers uber-defensive strategy, they’ve not. In fact, they are still fairly poor tacklers but the difference is that they are putting in so many tackles and cover tackles that, in the bigger scheme of things, the slipped tackles don’t really matter.

Unlike the Stormers’ passive defensive structure the Cheetahs have been very aggressive on defence and rather than waiting for the opposition to run at them they have tackled them behind the advantage line, not giving them the opportunity and space to attack. And not only did that prevent opposition attacks, it gave the Cheetahs front foot ball when they effected turnovers allowing them to counter attack.

Against Attempted Made Made % Ineffective Ineffective % Missed Missed %
Sharks 142 113 80% 11 7.75% 18 12.68%
Chiefs 143 97 68% 13 9.09% 33 23.08%
Highlanders 273 220 81% 12 4.40% 41 15.02%
Force 213 175 82% 13 6.10% 25 11.74%
Force 193 155 80% 14 7.25% 24 12.44%
Rebels 124 108 87% 6 4.84% 10 8.06%
Stormers 158 131 83% 6 3.80% 21 13.29%
Bulls 159 124 78% 7 4.40% 28 17.61%
Sharks 174 146 84% 10 5.75% 18 10.34%
Kings 188 165 88% 5 2.66% 18 9.57%
Hurricanes 139 103 74% 16 11.51% 20 14.39%
Reds 228 178 78% 18 7.89% 32 14.04%
Kings 176 138 78% 13 7.39% 25 14.20%
2310 1853 80.22% 144 6.23% 313 13.55%
177.69 142.54 80.22% 11.08 6.23% 24.08 13.55%

 

Looking at their tackle stats it is clear, for the most part, that they lost games (marked in bold) where they were more passive on defence, especially at the start of the season, and their last loss against the Hurricanes clearly shows a drop in intensity in their defence.

Where the Stormers have been unable to effectively add an attack dimension to their passive defensive system, the Cheetahs have been able to reinvent their game by adding a good defensive strategy without blunting their attack too much. While it’s not a perfect defence, having conceded 25 tries (9 more than the Stormers), they have improved dramatically over last year when then they had let in 36 tries at the same stage of the competition.

The Cheetahs have a good chance of beating the Bulls this weekend if they don’t revert to a passive defence like they did the previous time they played the Bulls.

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Saffers Down Under

March 12, 2013 in Uncategorized

The Cheetahs and the Bulls recorded good victories against Kiwi opposition over the weekend and this could translate to good tours down under.

The Cheetahs, often their own worst enemies, put together a massive defensive display to beat the Highlanders and when one look at the tackle stats it becomes clear just how great an effort it was. They attempted a total of 273 tackles, compared to only 80 by the Clan, and although many tackles were missed (41) they still made a massive 220 tackles.

The Cheetahs will go into their remaining games against the Waratahs and the Force with confidence and, unless they shoot themselves in the foot, could come away from tour with three wins and their best result ever.

The Waratahs are in deep trouble. Not only are they plagued by injuries there is also an air of uncertainty to their game, possibly aggravated by the fact that 29 of their players will be off contract by the end of the season, and they are struggling to put a good game together. For the Cheetahs they are ripe for the picking.

And the Force, well, they lost to the Kings – enough said.

The Bulls, on the other hand, face a tougher task with three games of their tour remaining, against the Crusaders, the Reds and the Brumbies.

Coming off an unexpected win over the Blues, unexpected by most people anyway, after playing an unfamiliar brand of rugby, a running came that was totally unexpected by the Kiwis they next face the Crusaders.

Don’t be fooled by the Crusaders oh from two results so far. In their game against the Canes they scored four tries to two and only indiscipline and Beauden Barrett’s boot prevented a win. And the Bulls and the Crusaders are old foes so one can expect a tough and brutal game but the Bulls definitely have a good chance to come away with the spoils.

The Reds haven’t really convinced so far scraping through wins but, apart from their game against the Brumbies, they have been winning and the little genius, Will Genia, will get his first run against the Force this weekend, a week before they face the Bulls, and it has been obvious so far the Quade Cooper and the Reds just aren’t the same without him.

The Bulls’ last match on tour is against the Brumbies and they have looked clinical and polished in their performances so far but they have only played against Aussie opposition and we’ll only know this weekend how good they are when they play the Sharks. It is t the Bulls advantage that they take on the Brumbies a week after they return from their trip to South Africa when they will have the same jetlag problems the Saffer teams have first game up.

The Bulls can come away from the tour with a clean sweep but that’s unlikely although I wouldn’t bet against three from four.

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It only gets tougher

January 27, 2013 in Uncategorized

With a combined Golden Lions cap count of only 231 between them (69 if you exclude the 173 caps of the four Lions stalwarts JC Janse van Rensburg, Derick Minnie, Alwyn Hollenbach and Michael Bondesio) the young and inexperienced Golden Lions team shook off a shaky first half to run in four tries during the second half to beat a Cheetahs Super Rugby “B” side 33-17.

In a game of two halves where the goal kickers of both sides struggled to find the target, the Lions struggled to gel in the first half while the Cheetahs reverted to their, now familiar, no-defence strategy in the second.

For the Lions, their scrums worked well and in the second half, once Michael Bondesio and Lionel Cronje came on, their backline started to strike. However, the Lions continue to struggle in the lineouts although it didn’t help that they played with rookie locks and hookers after losing the more experienced Martin Bezuidenhout on a short term loan to the Stormers.

The Cronje twins didn’t quite work out for the Lions in the first half and maybe it is time to give young Vian van der Watt, last year’s u/20 Bok scrumhalf, a go as backup scrummie. With the loss of Bezuidenhout at hooker one of the Lions juniors, either 2012 u/20 Bok hooker Mark Pretorius or 2012 SA Schools hooker Malcolm Marx, might get a chance to step up to the the senior squad.

For the Cheetahs, although this was a practice match, it must be worry that their defence is still not good enough for top level competition. Another area of concern must be the quality of their scrums although that should improve once Adriaan Strauss takes his place in the team.

And although this was a practice match for the Cheetahs it cannot sit well that their Super Rugby “B” side lost so comprehensively to what is essentially a Vodacom Cup level Lions team and the Cheetahs coaching staff has some serious work ahead before the Super Rugby competition starts in earnest on 22 February.

Lions coach, Johan Ackermann, will have a tough task this week to decide on a team to face the Bulls in the Gauteng Challenge Cup at Orlando Stadium on Saturday. The Lions “first team” comfortably dispatched the Russians in their first match to established their credentials but when the Lions “second team” ran in five tries to beat the Cheetahs on Saturday these players made sure that they remain in contention.

On Saturday the Lions take on the Bulls at Orlando Stadium in a Gauteng Rugby Cup match in what is the 75th anniversary of the first match played by the Northern Transvaal as an independent union when they played Transvaal in 1938. But more about that later in the week.

Lions best match 22?:

15 Andries Coetzee, 14 Deon Helberg, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Lionel Cronje, 9 Michael Bondesio, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Franco Mostert , 4 Hendrik Roodt, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).

Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 Jacques Kotze, 19 Hugo Kloppers, 20 Warwick Tecklenburg, 21 Ross Cronje, 22 Marnitz Boshoff, 23 Ruhan Nel

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The Lions vs Cheetahs cat fight on Saturday

January 23, 2013 in Uncategorized

The fact that the GLRU and the FSRU have buried the hatchet doesn’t mean that the match between these traditional enemies won’t be a tough one, practice match or not. During the last few years Super Rugby seasons the regular season matches between the Lions and the Cheetahs tended to go to the home side.

For the Cheetahs this is clearly a pre-season “trial” match. With Naka Drotske resting some key players and others still out injured he not only wants to find his best back up players in certain positions but also his best replacements for the injured players.

Up front the Cheetahs will be missing Boks Coenie Oosthuizen and Heinrich Brussow, along with Andries Ferreira, Martin Muller, Phillip van der Walt and Pieter Labuschagne while amongst the backs Bok Johan Goosen, new recruit Johan Sadie, utility Willie Roux and Sevens Bok Rayno Benjamin will also sit out.

Although the Cheetahs are missing a number of key players they have still announced a formidable side to take on Johan Ackermann’s Golden Lions, who themselves are still testing combinations and giving new recruits the opportunity to show what they have.

Ackers has made noises in the media that indicate some large scale chances from the team that beat Russia last week and with centre Alwyn Hollenbach and flank Jaco Kriel back from injury they also should get a run. The Lions team will only be announced on Friday.

The match should be a close affair but I think the Cheetahs scrums are going to struggle against a Lions pack that has continued where they left off last year, even with all the new faces, and that was impressive against a strong Russian forward pack.

At the back the Lions will have to contain the youngster, Raymond Rhule, who made a great debut to senior rugby last year and will be looking at gaining higher honours this year.

Looking at the two teams I get the feeling that my SuperBru projection of the Cheetahs winning by 18 was too pessimistic and that the game will be a much closer match, even if it is just a practice match.

Whatever the match result it will give some indication of the competitive level of the current Lions squad.

Cheetahs:

15 Hennie Daniller, 14 Jannie Boshoff, 13 JP Nel, 12 Robert Ebersohn (k), 11 Raymond Rhule, 10 Francois Brummer, 9 Pieter van Zyl, 8 Boom Prinsloo, 7 Tertius Daniller, 6 Marnus Schoeman, 5 Francois Uys, 4 Lodewyk de Jager, 3 Rossouw de Klerk, 2 Torsten van Jaarsveld, 1 Caylib Oosthuizen

Subs: 16 Hercu Liebenberg, 17 Trevor Nyakane, 18 Ligtoring Landman, 19 Waltie Vermeulen, 20 Tewis de Bruyn, 21 Barry Geel, 22 Hansie Graaff

Golden Lions:

15 Marnitz Boshoff,  14 Ruhan Nel, 13 Stokkies Hanekom, 12 Alwyn Hollenbach, 11 Anthony Volmink, 10 Guy Cronje, 9 Ross Cronje, 8 Willie Britz, 7 Derick Minnie, 6 Jaco Kriel, 5 Hugo Kloppers, 4 Gavin Annandale, 3 Ruan Dreyer, 2 Francois du Toit, 1 JC Janse van Rensburg(c).
Replacements: 16 Robbie Coetzee, 17 Jacques van Rooyen, 18 JJ Breet, 19 Claude Tshibidi, 20 Michael Bondesio, 21 Lionel Cronje, 22 Andries Coetzee

 

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by Baylion

Lions skinned the Bears

January 20, 2013 in Uncategorized

Za vashe zdorovie!

A small crowd of about 4500 hard-core Lions supporters braved the wet and cold of a Joburg night to see the Lions beat the Russian Bears by 51-13. Even though the rain probably kept some supporters away the attendance, even with the wet conditions, was disappointing.

While a win was always expected it was more important for the young and inexperienced Lions squad to settle down as a team and for the new combinations to gel.

Shaking off the wet weather and off-season rustiness the Lions had ample opportunity to express themselves and to run the ball while the 11 newscomers to team contributed handsomely to the scoreline with tries by Warwick Tecklenburg, Marnitz Boshoff, Ruan Nel and Lionel Cronje and Marnitz Boshoff converting most of their kicks.

If the Russians expected the “traditional South African rugby” as played by the Boks they were quickly disabused. While they focused on trying to play a forwards based game the Russians had no answer for the running rugby of the Lions, which the Lions rookies took to like ducks to water (sic). The Lions continued their scrummaging prowess of last year and dominated the set pieces.

The detractors are already making noises about the fact that it was “only the Russians” but it was important for the Lions to get their Wooden Spoon Knock Outs Preparation Programme (aka the Lions Challenge) off to a good start before tackling more serious competition. The Lions have a long season ahead to build and develop a team in preparation for the knock out matches at the end of July. One can focus on the negatives (small crowd, only Russia) or one can focus on the positives and look to the future – new & young players blooded, combinations that worked, etc.

While it was probably not quite PC for the Russians to present the Lions with a post-match bear skin gift we thank the Russians for coming to Joburg. Hopefully the matches they played here will help them in their Nations Cup campaign and help them to qualify for the next RWC.

Spasibo and Udachi!

The next few games (26-Jan-13 vs Cheetahs @ Ellis Park, 2-Feb-13 vs Bulls @ Orlando Stadium, 9-Feb-13 vs Kings @ Ellis Park) will probably have better crowds but I hope that the numbers for the other matches will grow. Unfortunately Ellis Park is always going to look empty, even with crowds of 15-20k, which are what I would hope for in future games.

Talking about future games, I see the Lions vs Bulls game on 2 February at Orlando Stadium is being promoted as the Gauteng Sports Challenge.

The programme starts off the a game between Pretoria Police and Pirates. No, it’s not the Bucs following Amakhosi into rugby, as I thought at first, but the Pirates Rugby Club.

This is followed by a dance off between the Felions and the Bulls Babes before the Golden Lions tackle the Bulls, but more about that at a later date.

Next up is the game against the Cheetahs on Saturday, 26 January, at Ellis Park.

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by Baylion

Currie Cup Crunch Time

October 12, 2012 in Uncategorized

There are no dead rubbers this weekend and even though the Sharks and the Lions are assured of home semi finals their game results will have an impact on all the other teams. Only two points separate the other four teams and losses would not only end their semi final hopes but also put them in a possible promotion/relegation play-off against the EP Kings.

While no-one really expects any of these teams to really lose against the Kings in a two match play-off series, although anything is possible, it is the ignomy of finishing last that will grate, especially for the full strength Super Rugby teams, the Blue Bulls and Western Province.

Sharks vs Griquas:

With the Lions accepting a Sharks win and selecting a weakened side for their game there is even less pressure on the Sharks where any result might just be good enough. The Sharks used there returning Boks sparingly but even so, a win by Griquas is only a remote possibility.

Sharks by 12

Western Province vs Cheetahs:

This is  a real crunch match with the winner probably in the semis and the loser probably in the bottom end play-offs so, at the risk of losing team cohesion, both sides pulled in all their Boks, more so WP as they have quite a few. The risk for WP is that the returning Boks may try to revert to the Stormers game while the rest of the team has been on another wavelength altogether. The Cheetahs will give it a good college try but will fall short in the end as their defences lets them down – again, but it will be a close match.

WP by 7

Lions vs Blue Bulls:

Even though the Lions are sitting comfortably in second spot this match will determine the fate of some of the other teams. It’s really simple: if the Bulls win, they will probably move into the semis with one of the other match losers dropping into the bottom spot to face the Kings, if the Bulls lose they will finish last. The danger for the Bulls is that they cannot afford to just rock up thinking the game is won against a young Lions side (only four of the starting 15 is over 25) as these youngsters would like nothing better than prove they are good enough. However, if all goes according to expectations the Bulls should win comfortably.

Bulls by 15

And all this sets up the semi finals:

Sharks vs Bulls – Durban
Lions vs WP – Johannesburg

First Division:

EP Kings vs Pumas:

Down in PE the EP Kings face the Pumas in the First Division finals. Neither of these sides could get the better of the other during the league stages playing to a draw twice so one can expect a tight match. The Pumas had a very inconsistent campaign while the Kings were unbeaten through the league phases but have lost their captain to injury making this a tough call.

However, home ground advantage and all, the Kings should pull it off to finally win a trophy but that’s really irrelevant as they will be playing for promotion to the Premier Division anyway.

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by Baylion

Johan Goosen broken – again

October 8, 2012 in Uncategorized

Goosen pulled up injured after about 20 minutes into the test against the All Blacks. The initial reports on his knee injury is that he may need surgery and will probably be out of rugby for the rest of the year. It took just 150 minutes of test rugby for Johan Goosen to break down (140 minutes if you consider that he was kept on the field, limping, for 10 minutes).

The powers that be will have to make a serious decision about this youngster’s future if they want to see him still play rugby in two or three year’s time.

In my post When will Johan Goosen break? I mentioned that in his short senior rugby career has has been subbed for injury in 37% of his matches, i.e. every third match on average. This just cannot continue.

But what to do?

The logical solution would be to allow him to only play u/21 rugby next year but this kid has tasted rugby at the highest level, how will he react to such a restriction?

Between the Bok management and the Cheetahs management they will have to look for a solution because if the Cheetahs continue to play him fulltime in Super Rugby and the Boks in tests his career isn’t going to last very long.

It will be a pity to see such a talent go to waste because of injury and mismanagement.