Thursday, August 31, 2006
BATTLE OF THE BREAKDOWN
The Lions, coached by Eugene Eloff- captained by their inspirational leader Wikus van Heerden is hosting the free state Cheetahs – in what might just be a very important matchup in the domestiCctiff 2006 competition.
The Cheetahs are the current log leaders and while these two teams play each other in Jozi- the big annual north vs south derby is being settled in cape town with the Province boys hosting the Tswanepoele.
Now pundit RW poster Il Postino has expressed the view that the two crunch positions is 5 and 10- seeing that if Barend Pieterse do his normal – My ball is my ball and all your balls is also mine- act in the lineout and Meyer Bosman gets aggresively over the game line- its curtains for the Jozi Jollers.
Myself is a bit more pessimistic ( at least online- hehehe)- Although I am of the opinion that the Cheetah pack will dominate the tight stuff- the Lions Backrow has had the measure of the Cheetahs on two occasions last year- and they must be brimming with confidence- as I rate them the most effective unit in the competion.
The Cheetahs had made the mistake by keeping the ball static too long on the deck against WP and then King Carmisarb and his men contested heavily- with the resulting pressure on De Waal. But then Meyer is playing- and the other Meyer as well. against the Bulls- it was again the brilliant play of the Bulls loosies-with Tiger Tim Dlulane and Kuun at the front- who had undone a very gingerly looking Cheetah team.
The Lions backline is also a very effective unit and the red and white speedsters must relish the opportunity of playing against Eddie Fredericks- normally a very good defender- but lacking match sharpness and a bit of pace after a long injury induced layoff.
The various time delays in the Cheetah midfield- that haunted them in the games against WP and the Bulls( incidentally the only games in which they scored less tries than the opposition and consequently lost) had been removed- so expect some kind of FestRugby by the Cheetahs. It may not be flashcard induced instructions from the sideline that will spark this- but if the ball are being provided at a regular basis by the pack- the backs will do the natural oranje thing and swing it fast and wide.
It is my opinion that the Cheetahs will be able to win this game- but it will not be as easy as the first game in Bloem. ( Me saying it was easy is maybe a bit rich). The Lions tight 5 have played with commitment-for the last couple of games- their backrow is an excellent weapon and their backline has the ability to rip even the most organised defence to shreds. On this issue- the Cheetah defence had been the most miserly in the competition- but one has to ask whether good defence( pattern and individual tackling) or absolute possesion starvation by the Cheetah pack had been the underlying reason.
For me the most intense matchup will be the battle of the two backrows- in order to dominate the proceedings at the breakdown- fast ball there- and both backlines have the ability to score from 70 meters.
Will Ollie do the Leeuloop on Friday night- yes I believe so- to be joined by the Meyer twins,Hollenbach,Kabamba and all the other usual suspects.
Because the 2006 Cheetahs are not too shabby either.
Lions confident in cat fight
Thursday 31 August 2006
The Lions’ Absa Currie Cup clash with the Cheetahs at Ellis Park tomorrow night is shaping up as a must-win for both teams.
While the Cheetahs could probably afford to drop points, it doesn’t get much bigger for the Lions. “We are playing the defending champions and log leaders. We are using that as motivation. What more could you ask for,” Lions captain Wikus van Heerden told keo.co.za.
Victory tomorrow night will put the seal on a remarkable turnaround in fortunes for the Johannesburg-based outfit. “It is going to be huge,” Van Heerden explained. “We have been speaking about it this week and I think tomorrow’s match is going to be vital to our chances of making the semi-finals.”
A defeat tomorrow night will virtually signal the end of the Lions already slim chances, while the Cheetahs need the victory to stay ahead of the chasing pack in the race for a home play-off.
“The guys are full of confidence and we are going for magic (win) No 4. It has been incredible the change in the guys after they realised what we were saying was actually true. Now they know we are capable of beating the best.”
And also at the back of the Lions minds will be the 59-5 thrashing dished out at Vodacom Park in the first round. “That was probably the low point of our season and to think we are still in with a chance is incredible. We simply have to believe we can still make the semis.”
The Lions completed training today and everyone came through without any problems. Consistency in selection has been key to the Lions comeback and tomorrow night they will be relying on the same starting XV to lay the foundation for a win.
Two weeks ago, 22 000 fans turned up at Ellis Park and Van Heerden is hoping for more tomorrow. “I know it is a Friday, but finally we have given our fans something to shout about. I hope they come out and we can treat them to something special again.”
By Andrew Hollely
Lions v Cheetahs 7pm Friday Night - Johannesburg
This is where it starts to get tricky, and my R5 bet isn’t all that safe. The Lions are enjoying something of a resurgence, and having beaten the Sharks two weeks ago, and the Bulls a week prior, they are riding the crest of a wave.
But the Cheetahs aren’t log leaders, or Currie Cup champs, for nothing and they are enjoying good form this season once more in the Currie Cup. Although it will be a tough battle, the Cheetahs forwards will shade the Lions upfront, but their backs will be the difference, and this team know how to score tries.
Prediction: Cheetahs by 7
Friday, September 1:
Lions v Cheetahs
Ellis Park, Johannesburg, 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
It is the Lions' youthful exuberance against the Cheetahs' structured approach. It is the debonair approach of Lions coach Eugene Eloff against the colour-coded sideline instructions of Rassie Erasmus. The one is a team that play to entertain and enjoy, the other one that plays with the sole purpose of victory.
Not that the Lions are not trying to win, but their approach - the road they travel - is far less pre-determined than the planned and unyielding gameplan of the Cheetahs.
But more importantly this is a game between the table-topping and defending champions, the Cheetahs, against a team that is hoping to continue the upward curve they had shown in the last month after a horrid start of five defeats in six games.
The Cheetahs' structured approach, in which coach Rassie Erasmus often sends his instructions to the players through a series of colour-coded cards from the sideline, has worked so far for them.
They wouldn't be in first place on the standings if it didn't work.
And Erasmus is generally recognised as one of the most astute coaches in the country, a man who carefully analyse every opponent and plan accordingly.
The Lions will hope that their revival will continue. If they can beat the Cheetahs it will not only keep the backdoor to the play-offs open for them, it will confirm that their victories over the Blue Bulls and Sharks in their last two rounds were no fluke.
The key to victory for the Lions is how they will cope with the very efficient Cheetahs pack, a set of forwards that is close to being the best in the competition.
And then there is the home team's loose forwards - captain Wikus van Heerden, fellow flank Cobus Grobbelaar and No.8 Ernst Joubert. In the absence of Cheetahs fetcher Hendro Scholtz (out for the season with an injury) this is one crucial aspect of the game they can dominate.
And a very interesting head-to-head battle will be at fly-half - where Sevens Springbok Jaco van Schalkwyk will measure himself against 15-a-side Bok Meyer Bosman.
Prediction: The Lions will go close, in fact the game is almost too close to call. But we are going for an upset win. The Lions by less than 10 points.
Cheetahs wary of 'improved' Lions
Wednesday August 30 2006
Erasmus changes five for Ellis Park trip
Cheetahs captain Ollie le Roux said it is vital for his team to "maintain momentum" when they face the ever-improving Lions in a Round 10 Currie Cup match at Ellis Park in Johannesburg on Friday night.
After going back to the top of the standings, with a 78-8 rout against Falcons last Saturday, the defending champions are well aware of the pitfalls awaiting them in Johannesburg.
"The Lions are a far better side than the one we hammers [59-5] in the first round," Le Roux said. "They are a far more settled team and now play a far more physical game. They will be a huge challenge to us," the Cheetahs captain added.
But for his own team it is vital to keep their winning momentum - they have won their last two matches, against Griquas and the Falcons, after losing to the Blue Bulls in Round Seven.
"That loss [against the Bulls] was a timely wake-up call. In fact any loss is good if you can learn from it and grow.
"We are now far more focussed as a team and worked on the shortcomings in our game. But rugby remains a game played with an oval-shaped ball, which can bounce anyway. All it takes is one bounce and the game is gone."
But the Cheetahs captain is happy that all the right systems are in place and that they have the players to again go all the way this year - not just to the play-offs, but also the Final and try to retain their title.
Cheetahs coach Rassie Erasmus made five changes the Free State side that smashed the Falcons last week.
Bevin Fortuin is back at fullback for discarded Springbok Gaffie du Toit, JW Jonker comes back at outside centre for Chris Kruger and Michael Claassens is at scrum-half in the place of Falie Oelschig.
Erasmus opted to keep new signing Hendrik Meyer at inside centre, after his hat-trick against the Falcons, while another discarded Bok, Meyer Bosman, is retained at fly-half ahead of Willem de Waal.
The two changes up front see Barend Pieterse back at lock in place of Corniel van Zyl, while Kabamba Floors gets a rare start on the flank at the expense of young Heinrich Brussouw.
Vodacom Cheetahs: 15 Bevin Fortuin, 14 Eddie Fredericks, 13 JW Jonker, 12 Hendrik Meyer, 11 Alwyn Hollenbach, 10 Meyer Bosman, 9 Michael Claassens, 8 Ryno van der Merwe, 7 Darron Nel, 6 Kabamba Floors, 5 Barend Pieterse, 4 Rory Duncan, 3 Jannie du Plessis, 2 Jaco du Toit, 1 Ollie le Roux (captain).
Replacements: 16 Richardt Strauss, 17 Wian du Preez, 18 Corniel van Zyl, 19 Bian Vermaak, 20 Noel Oelschig, 21 Willem de Waal, 22 Phillip Burger
Kick-off: 19.00 (17.00 GMT)
Eloff 'raised the bar' for Lions
Tuesday August 29 2006
Veteran Boks, Hurter and Von Hoesslin, return
Lions coach Eugene Eloff said he has "raised the bar" for his team as they return from a mid-week season to prepare for a crucial showdown against the Currie Cup champions, the Cheetahs, at Ellis Park on Friday night.
After a very ordinary start - five defeats in six starts, including a 59-5 hammering against the Cheetahs - it appeared as if the Lions would be in the running for the competition's wooden spoon. In fact Eloff was widely criticised for his youth policy.
But then they hit a purple pact, which included victories over the Blue Bulls (at Loftus Versfeld) and the Sharks, and suddenly they were spoken of as play-off candidate again.
While the semi-finals remain a long shot, the sudden revival of the Ellis Park-based outfit means Eloff had to have a rethink - since his team had moved beyond the early goals he had set for them.
And he also had to deal with the "expectations", now that his team is no longer spoken of as also-rans, but rather seen as real contenders.
Eloff said his team won't change anything in their approach because of the increased expectation. In fact they are going to stick with what has worked for them so far.
But the goals have certainly changed.
"I have reevaluated our situation and did some strategic planning," Eloff told rugby365.com. "I have raised the bar ... I have changed my own goals," he added, without revealing what the "new" goals are.
The Lions coach have been able to name an unchanged starting XV to face the Cheetahs on Friday night, but he might be forced into a late change.
He is waiting to hear from the Springbok camp, where Fourie du Preez has fallen ill, which means the Lions' Bok scrum-half Enrico Januarie might receive a call-up to the national team.
The big selection news is the inclusion of veteran Springboks Marius Hurter and Dave von Hoesslin on the replacement bench.
Eloff said with Lawrence Sephaka having been recalled to the national team, he had to bring Hurter onto the bench as cover.
The inclusion of Von Hoesslin is the result of Nick Eyre, who has a severe case of the flu, has been ruled out and Jano Vermaak has still not fully recovered from his injury. If Januarie is called up, Von Hoesslin is likely to start against the Cheetahs.
Even though the Lions have improved beyond recognition in the last month, Eloff is fully aware of the enormity of the challenge in taking on the Cheetahs.
Not only are they the defending champions, but they have showed they are determined to retain the title with some impressive performances this season.
"They have very good structures," Eloff said of the Cheetahs' calculated approach to each game.
"They can play a tight, forward-orientated, game and they can play out wide with their backs. They drive well with the forward when they need to, but if they want they can play it wide."
However, Eloff feels the key to beating the Cheetahs is in containing their impressive pack of forwards.
"It is all about possession. You are only as good as the [quality] of the ball you have ... you need quality possession," he added.
Lions: 15 Earl Rose, 14 Wylie Human, 13 Jaco Pretorius, 12 Doppies la Grange, 11 Louis Ludik, 10 Jaco van Schalkwyk, 9 Enrico Januarie, 8 Ernst Joubert, 7 Cobus Grobbelaar, 6 Wikus van Heerden (captain), 5 Anton van Zyl, 4 Cobus Grobler, 3 Bertus Smit, 2 Etthienne Reynecke, 1 Heinke van der Merwe.
Replacements: 16 James van der Walt, 17 Marius Hurter, 18 Franco van der Merwe, 19 Roland Bernard, 20 Dave von Hoesslin, 21 Grant Esterhuizen, 22 Mark Harris
Bosman fights for No 10 spot
Thursday 31 August 2006
After leading the destruction of Valke in Bloemfontein last week, Meyer Bosman is grateful to be given another run in his favourite flyhalf position.
The Lions at home will provide a far greater contest for the Vodacom Cheetahs, and yet coach Rassie Erasmus has only recalled five of the eight Free State players that were left out of last week’s starting line-up.
“We have a big squad with a lot of talent, so it make sense to utilise all we have,” Bosman told keo.co.za. “I can’t claim to know exactly what Rassie’s planning, but I’m sure it is along these lines.”
Bosman has been given a second game at No 10 with Willem de Waal providing cover on the bench. In the later stages of the competition, it is expected that the two men will play side by side, with Bosman shifting to first centre. But for now, he has another opportunity to show what he can do at first receiver.
“Obviously I’m going to go out there and try to play to the best of my ability. It’s a good bit of competition between myself and Willem, as we are such good friends off the field. It can only have a positive influence on both of our games.”
Picking up the bonus point last week is one thing, but putting 78 points past a side is quite another. Bosman admits that he never expected things to click to such an extensive degree.
“We were focusing on picking up the four tries at the beginning of the game, and things just started to go right for us. The more we played, the more confident we felt and it showed on the scoreboard.”
Bosman is hungry for another big win tomorrow at Ellis Park; a victory which will consolidate their position as frontrunners for a home semi-final. The Lions’ Jaco van Schalkwyk has been impressive since being moved to flyhalf, but is still relatively new to this level of rugby. Because of this, the Cheetahs may target him to disrupt the Lions’ momentum.
“We do need to keep an eye out for him as well as a few of their other gamebreakers,” said Bosman. “But we will stick to our structures that have served us well all season. Our defence is going to have to be outstanding.”
In spite of the repeated change in personnel, the selection in the front row of Ollie le Roux, Jaco du Toit and Jannie du Plessis has remained consistent, and according to Bosman is responsible for much of the Cheetahs’ attacking successes in recent games.
“We have maintained the same front row so as to build some continuity. With all the changes you still need some consistency, and good first-phase ball [which our pack usually provides] is of the utmost importance.”
By Jon Cardinelli
A bit afraid of the Bulls clash on Loftus with the backs firing as they are currently.
The Lions though have got to win this one to be in contention for the semi's. They will be hellbent - no pun intended - to win this one. Pity the game is not aired. Only one cc game for the weekend.
Just vokken windgat
And his defence had not really been tested that much either
Determining who’ll be Top Cat
Friday 1 September 2006
The catfight at Ellis Park tonight should be a far closer contest than the previous fixture at Bloemfontein. Keo.co.za analyses the two team’s respective strengths.
The Vodacom Cheetahs will have arrived in Johannesburg full of confidence, having disposed of the Valke 78-8 last week with what could be described as their ‘B’ team. The Lions are equally buoyant, having resurrected their playoff hopes in the past few weeks with three consecutive victories, which include the scalps of the Sharks and the Vodacom Blue Bulls.
Confidence aside, there is still plenty of work to be done in taking the points from this fixture. Here’s a look at a few key battles that should shape the outcome of this year’s scrap for the title of Top Cat.
This will be the most significant contest tonight, as the Cheetahs rely heavily on their front row to supply them with quality first-phase possession. If the Lions scrum can disrupt the likes of Ollie le Roux and Jannie du Plessis, then the Cheetahs may lose their fluidity in the back line.
In the face of this development, it will be interesting to see which counter-methods coach Rassie Erasmus chooses to employ. If the Lions dominate the Cheetahs forwards, then he may well bring Willem de Waal on to kick for territory so that the pressure can be re-applied in the lineouts. However, Le Roux, Du Plessis and hooker Jaco du Toit have performed solidly as a unit over the past few weeks, and shouldn’t in theory be upset by the Lions scrum tonight.
The Cheetahs lineout has been their best platform for attack, and returning lock Barend Pieterse will be their key man in this regard. The Lions should compete well through Anton van Zyl and Cobus Grobler who like the Cheetahs locks have been utilised effectively in setting up the maul from the lineout. The mauling in general has been exemplary from Lions (as the Sharks witnessed two weeks ago where their forwards were dominated for much of the game) and this particular strength may see them gaining some ascendancy over their Free State counterparts.
With the Springboks lacking a quality fetcher in their ranks, there has been a lot of speculation as to which current domestic player can fill the void. Despite playing off the bench for much of the season, Kabamba Floors’s name must be pretty high on that list of opensiders, as his impact in the loose has been instrumental to the Cheetahs success this season. In the absence of injured Free State captain Hendro Scholtz, he now has the opportunity to deploy his impressive fetching skills to full effect, and should play for the majority of eighty minutes.
Securing turnovers will be Floors’s aim, but opposite number Cobus Grobbelaar and flanking partner Wikus van Heerden have also been in fantastic form at the breakdown. What Floors has in his favour is his speed between the rucks and in a loose game, he could be devasting around the fringes as a ball carrier. But, if the Lions are able to slow the tempo and keep the game a little tighter, the two big Lions loose forwards may yet prevail. Van Heerden was named Man of the Match when the Lions beat the Sharks due to his magnificent work rate, and when he has an outstanding game, the rest of the forwards usually follow suit.
THE BACK THREE
Both teams have some very exciting runners at the back, and if the game breaks open their could be a lot of tries scored at Ellis Park. The Cheetahs’s Alwyn Hollenbach has won a second start for his three-try effort against the Valke last week, while Bevin Fortuin remains one of the most underrated attacking fullbacks in the South African game.
Louis Ludik has been a great find for the Lions, and has scored some exhilirating tries in this year’s Currie Cup. Earl Rose will also supply some great attacking options from the back, and will be closely monitored by the Cheetahs defence.
Tactically speaking, Cheetahs flyhalf Meyer Bosman may test Rose with a few high ones at the start, with the formidable 100kg bulk of centre Hendrik Meyer chasing through and placing the far smaller fullback under pressure. Both teams are not afraid to counter-attack, but in a such an important game the more experienced players may opt for the conservative approach and play the percentages. As previously stated, the nature of this game and the instance of free flowing rugby will greatly depend on the tussle in the forwards.
Kicking the extra points is always going to be important in derby games such as these. If Meyer Bosman is going to stake any further claim for the Free State flyhalf jersey he will need to kick well tonight, both out of hand and for poles. Rose was wayward for the Lions in his last outing against the Sharks, and it was left to youngster Mark Harris to knock over the winning penalty from the touchline. Young Jaco van Schalkwyk has only recently been shifted to flyhalf and despite having enjoyed some success, still has some way to go in the kicking department as well.
The Lions need to win this game to stay alive while the Cheetahs will try to secure the four points and maintain their position at the top. Apart from this year’s previous result, history indicates that these games are rarely one sided, and often produce plenty of tries.
PAST 10 RESULTS:
2006: Cheetahs won 59-5 in Bloemfontein
2005: Lions won 37-36 in Johannesburg
Lions won 31-20 in Bloemfontein
2004: Cheetahs won 40-27 in Johannesburg
Cheetahs won 38-19 in Bloemfontein
2003: Cheetahs won 34-30 in Johannesburg
Lions won 40-22 in Bloemfontein
2002: Lions won 43-29 in Bloemfontein
Cheetahs won 29-22 in Bloemfontein
2001: Lions won 23-19 in Johannesburg
By Jon Cardinelli
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