True to his promise of “direct football” during his first engagement with the media a week ago, Riverio’s word was matched by what Bucs players showcased yesterday – the rotation of the ball was pleasing to the eye, while the substitutes that were brought in also understood the memo by maintaining the momentum.
The narrow margin, however, was not the true reflection of a Pirates side that created more scoring chances than Swallows who were defending too deep for most of the game.
Most the opportunities fell for Bucs’ new striker Eva Nga who should have added to the solitary strike that he dunked in, in the opening 10 minutes of the fixture.
Swallows, on the other hand, came into the match with a virtually new team, starting with their goalkeeper Thakasani Mbanjwa, who they signed from University of Pretoria during the off-season.
READ: Who is this little-known Pirates coach José Riveiro?
The Birds’ bench also had former player Musa Nyatama (now assistant coach) standing in for head coach Dylan Kerr.Briton Kerr watched from the grandstands as he’s still awaiting his work permit.
After all, no one could have figured out this from a team that also only launched their new playing kit on match day. Despite Pirates’ domination, Swallows were not entirely intimidated as they too threatened from the sporadic counterattacks but the Bucs backline – marshalled by the new central defence pairing of Tapelo [CORR] Xoki and Nkosinathi Sibisi – stood their ground. In one instance, Pentjie Zulu forced a good safe out of Bucs goalkeeper Richard Ofori midway into the second half.
A few moments later, Tshediso Patjie went down inside the goal area following a tussle with Sibisi, but Swallows’ appeal for a penalty was rejected by referee Jelly Chavani. Pirates handled the threats well and did not drop the tempo in the second. To maintain the momentum, Riveiro rang in multiple changes with the introduction of Olisah Ndah in central defence, Ben Motshwari and Fortune Makaringe in midfield, while Zakhele Lepasa offered fresh pair of legs in the attack. After all, it was the new beginning for both sides and experiments by the technical teams were inevitable.
The turnout was also pleasing, with the bottom rung of the Soweto arena almost filled. The PSL clubs could only hope this to be a positive sign after they played the past two seasons behind closed doors due to Covid-19 restrictions.
READ: Makashule Gana | Attacks on new Bucs coach Riveiro are harsh, biased and unfair
The Cape Town City versus Mamelodi Sundowns opening league fixture on Friday night attracted 15 000 spectators. Sundowns won 2-0 courtesy of Aubrey Modiba and Themba Zwane goals. Meanwhile, Pirates will next face Stellenbosch in Cape Town on Wednesday, while Swallows will host Cape Town City in Dobsonville on Tuesday.
Nienaber’s men send rugby giant into meltdown
The Springboks opened this year’s Rugby Championship by subduing New Zealand with a typically physical performance at Mbombela Stadium last night.
Going into the first of two back-to-back games against the All Blacks, the Boks – who finished the game with 14 men after heroic winger Kurt-Lee Arendse was sent off for a dangerous tackle with five minutes remaining – were desperate to add to the visitors’ woes regarding form, which saw them take four defeats from their previous five matches.
Jacques Nienaber’s men added another defeat to the ledger to send rugby’s most successful nation into meltdown with a 16-point margin, the biggest between the two since New Zealand’s 23-13 win in the World Cup opener in 2019.Fly half Handré Pollard scored all but 10 of the hosts’ points via three penalties, two conversions and a drop goal.
It didn’t take long for the hosts’ carefully laid plans – like fielding as many of their big-game players as possible – to be tested as experienced scrum half Faf de Klerk was withdrawn from the field less than a minute into the game after knocking himself out trying to tackle giant winger (1.89m, 107kg) Caleb Clarke. However, that didn’t prove to be a disruption, as the introduction of Jaden Hendrikse did little to upset the rhythm among the Boks. Playing in front of a 42 300-strong crowd, which was feral, electric and festive in equal measure, the Boks started with the kind of intent that suggested they wanted to dispel the notion that they hate being the favourites.
Practically all areas of the Boks’ play were up for it, with the scrum – which boasted 153 front-row caps to the New Zealanders’ 47 – setting the tone by making the experience discrepancy tell in its favour by fetching the penalties in the first half alone.
While the visitors shaded the line-out, the hosts were not exactly incompetent at seven out of eight.
But they were on top in the collisions and at the breakdowns, with hooker Malcolm Marx (50th cap).
Leading the way with no less than three first-half steals. Even the kicking game, which can be a game by game thing, paid off the moment fly half Pollard tried his first up and under, and it led to the game’s first try by winger Arendse.
Brought in as a like-for-like replacement for the injured Cheslin Kolbe, the former Blitzbok mirrored the man he was replacing by being as lionhearted in defence, scoring his first international try in his
second test – also against the All Blacks – after the visitors failed to diffuse Pollard’s high bomb, only for centre Lukhanyo Am to pick up the loose ball and offload to the winger to canter to the line.
The Bok defence was so quick off the line that it positively suffocated the All Blacks, chasing each ball carrier as if he was making off with its valuables.
Yet for all that dominance, one could not help but feel that way too many opportunities were being left on the table for a team with 67% territory.
An assortment of unforced errors and injudicious decisions – such as centre Damian de Allende’s call to grubber instead of go through hands with an overlap – meant that, for all the effort, there was not a mountain of points on the scoreboard at half-time.
Reduced to trying to build a bakery from the crumbs of possession they were getting, the All Blacks looked a potential threat on the counter-attack.
This was the case when fly half Beauden Barrett went on a mazy run from behind his try line, but the hosts’ scramble defence proved equal to it until his younger brother Jordie recorded their first points via penalty in the 36th minute.
Thankfully for the Boks, the sheer amount of pressure they were putting on the All Blacks meant penalties frequently came their way for Pollard to pop them over, with the fly half also taking the odd drop goal to keep the visitors at arm’s length.