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Ken Borland


The John McFarland Column: Planning for the French Tests 0

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will not find it too difficult to prepare for the three Tests against France and there is always great excitement when the players get together in the national team environment.

Due to WorldRugby regulations, he will have to wait for the overseas players until the week of the first Test match, but these days the information they need to know is easy to disseminate and the players have access to apps, for example, with which they can watch the training sessions. He will have communicated the game plans, moves and patterns to them, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to assimilate.

This week saw Allister have his third camp this year, which is obviously what he missed last year. His program of camps has been very much extended this year, but you still don’t do a lot of hard, physical work at these get-togethers.

As Springbok management, you have to be very careful because the players are in the middle of SuperRugby and will be coming off a very tough game. But the camps are certainly invaluable for laying down the plans for the structure and principles, making sure all the players get on the same page.

There will be on-field training, but basically it will just be walk-throughs or practising with the contact levels right down. We used to use the Lions U19 players as defenders, which puts much less pressure on the Springboks in terms of physicality.

After all, some unions used to send their players to camp with GPSs so they could check the amount of running they did!

Generally the three Tests in June are against the same opposition, so it’s easier to prepare for it, but it’s the same for every international team, they are all in the same boat.

In November, the Southern Hemisphere teams have an advantage because it’s after the end of their season, all their game plans are in place and they’ve just come off a month’s rest. In June, the Northern Hemisphere sides are tired at the end of their long season, but due to the Six Nations, they are further along in their game plans.

The key for Allister will be to not make it too complicated, stick to simple principles and make it clear what he wants the team to do to win that first Test.

I know international football sides only get their players for a week from all over the world, but soccer is quite an individual game, there are a lot more dynamics in rugby such as the set-pieces and the defensive and attacking game plans.

As far as last weekend’s SuperRugby goes, the Stormers did really well to come back from their overseas tour woes with a win. They defended very well in the final quarter and from half-time onwards they were very sound and physical in the collisions. They got their just rewards for quick-taps with some game-changing moments.

I was quite sceptical, however, about the TMO decision on Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s try, but there are always highs and lows in terms of officiating through a Super Rugby season and it evens out in the end.

The Southern Kings were a bit unlucky against the Brumbies, but they were very vulnerable to the grubber in behind. Their defensive system relies on the fullback getting up in the line very early, the Brumbies obviously saw that and took advantage.

In the game in Singapore, the 38-17 scoreline flattered the Sharks a bit because they had an intercept and two breakaway tries in the last few minutes against the Sunwolves. Before that, the Sharks just could not finish and the amount of mistakes they made, especially when it came to the final pass, didn’t help either. But they will be happy to get back to winning ways and get the bonus point, although it looks likely they’ll have to get through a playoff in New Zealand.

If the Lions, however, have aspirations of playing at home all the way through to the final, then they need to win their big game against the Sharks after the international break.

No side in SuperRugby would have lived with the Lions in the first half of their match against the Bulls and they are showing great decision-making at the moment.

Having been away for three weeks, there was definitely a feeling of the Lions being back at home and they were full of confidence.

Obviously they will lose a bit of momentum over the break, quite a few of their players will be in the national squads, so it will be a tough month for them. They will have guys who will play all three Tests against France, so that will be disruptive to their rhythm.

And coach Johan Ackermann won’t have a break either because he will be coaching the SA A side, which will be quite taxing too. And then one week after the end of SuperRugby, he’ll be off to Gloucester, so he has a very busy program over the next few months.

Sometimes you get very good SuperRugby players who are just not able to adapt to the higher environment and believe you me, international rugby is a higher level and just so much quicker, because it’s the best of the best playing. In SuperRugby, you get guys who are in the same system all their life, at the Bulls there were guys who were coached in defence by me since they were 19, but they can’t adapt to the different pace of the game at the next step up.

Certain other players prove to be consistently excellent players at Test level. There’s such a mental side to it because there is real pressure representing your country at international level, some players just cope better.

Those are the sort of players Allister Coetzee will want to be working with.

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

 

Lions hit Bulls early & hard 0

Posted on May 20, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions hit the Bulls with a ferocious first-half onslaught from which they could never recover as they notched a mighty 51-14 victory in their SuperRugby local derby at Ellis Park last night.

For periods in the first half, it was like men against boys as the Lions toyed with the Bulls, scoring four tries in the second quarter to open up a commanding 39-14 lead at the break.

And it was not as if the Bulls weren’t trying, either. They had their moments, but the Lions were just so much better at spotting and making space, and the pace and accuracy of their play was at another level.

The warning lights were flashing for the Bulls as early as the second minute as the Lions began their dissection. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies is almost as skilled as a Beauden Barrett, and he gave a masterful display of pulling the strings throughout, his direct play and ability to commit defenders on the gain-line opening up space out wide, which the Lions clinically exploited.

Ruan Combrinck’s rugby story is one of the more heartwarming ones and the 2016 Springbok debutant scored with his first touch upon his return to SuperRugby, having been out of the game since August when he fractured his fibula. A lovely midfield move saw Jantjies feed wing Courtnall Skosan on an inside run, the flyhalf then getting the ball out wide to fullback Andries Coetzee, who passed to Combrinck, who finished clinically with a deft chip and regather.

For all the criticism, it is apparent that there is ability in this Bulls team and there are moments when it is clear that they are well-coached.

Such a moment came in the sixth minute when they scored a wonderful set-piece try, certainly the equal of the Lions’ opening score.

From a lineout, a lovely interchange of passes between fullback Jesse Kriel and Sibahle Maxwane sent the debutant wing racing through the defensive line before centre Jan Serfontein stormed over for the try.

The Bulls were doing well in the first quarter, holding the Lions to just two penalties kicked by Jantjies, the first from a scrum, the second from a prolonged build-up which showed that the visitors were at least causing some frustration, the home side having earlier kicked goalable penalties to touch.

But the Bulls’ well would quickly run dry.

Blindside flank Jannes Kirsten is known for being a strong ball-carrier, an abrasive player who is difficult to stop. But when he came charging from deep at the much smaller Kwagga Smith, the Lions’ openside did not surrender an inch on the gain-line, instead holding Kirsten up for long enough for his fellow forwards to support him and force the turnover.

From the resulting scrum, Jantjies spotted that Kriel was standing too deep at fullback and his lovely chip into that space was claimed by Skosan, who raced into the Bulls’ 22 before passing out wide for Smith to score.

That was followed by lock Franco Mostert bursting clear in midfield from the kickoff and his good offload over the top went to up-in-support Ruan Dreyer, the tighthead prop showing that he has the mobility to go with his undoubted scrummaging prowess, for the Lions’ third try, all of them converted by Jantjies.

Kriel showed that he was up for the contest, however, when he burst through the weak tackles of Smith and Skosan to score the Bulls’ second try, in the 28th minute, when there really wasn’t much on for the visitors.

Brummer converted to make it 14-27, but that would be the last time they scored in the match.

To make matters worse, two stupid mistakes would gift the Lions two more tries before halftime.

It had been one-way traffic for a while, but for an international scrumhalf, it was exceptionally poor of Rudy Paige to telegraph his box-kick so blatantly by the way he was standing. Eighthman Warren Whiteley, who once again led from the front in inspirational fashion, charged down the kick and did well to dot down as the ball threatened to squirm out of his grasp on the tryline.

In contrast to Jantjies’ game-management, opposite number Brummer was a non-entity, although he did not have front-foot ball to play with. But his failure to find touch from a penalty kick on the Lions’ 22, which would have provided a wonderful attacking platform, was inexcusable.

Instead the Lions took a scrum on their 22, won a penalty and set up a lineout in Bulls’ territory. From there Jantjies’ direct run drew two defenders and then it just took two passes out wide for Combrinck to be racing over in the corner again, ending the first half as he had begun it.

The Bulls were staring a horror movie in the face, 39-14 down at the break, but instead of being disembowelled by the ravenous Lions, they did manage to claw back some pride with a better second half.

There were no further gains on the scoreboard, but limiting the Lions to just two more tries, in the 43rd and 80th minutes, was something of a success.

Jantjies manufactured the first one with a lovely little chip-pass to Skosan, hooker Malcolm Marx, never far from the action, came storming up in support and Mostert went over from the next ruck.

The final try came after outside centre Lionel Mapoe went into a half-gap and an interchange of passes with replacement centre Jacques Nel saw the Springbok split the tired defence and race away for the try, Jantjies converting to seal the Lions’ biggest winning margin against the Bulls.

While the Bulls did fight back in the second half, it was still a poor display and they were utterly humbled by their neighbours. As a corporation as a whole, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Most galling is the fact that the core of the Lions side comes from players rejected by the Bulls. Coach Nollis Marais is likely to get the sack this week, but there are poorer performers above him in the Bulls hierarchy who should not be immune to the blame.

Points scorers

Lions: Tries – Ruan Combrinck (2), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions – Elton Jantjies (5). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

Bulls: Tries – Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel. Conversions – Francois Brummer (2).

Bonamanzi Game Park 0

Posted on May 18, 2017 by Ken

 

A Nile Crocodile gives me the eye

A Nile Crocodile gives me the eye

As my birding colleagues will attest, I have a predilection for taking obscure tracks and paths in the bush – blame it on my sense of adventure coupled with acute FOMO* – but my detours have often thrown up remarkable sightings.

Any road without a clear No Entry or Private sign is fair game as far as I’m concerned and when I went off on what was an adventurous track in the central forests of Bonamanzi I was richly rewarded.

Soon I heard a loud, piercing call, so I got out of the car to investigate and there, sitting on an exposed branch, preening and calling away magnificently, was an Emerald Cuckoo.

It is a bird that I have long been searching for – the colour emerald also being one of my favourite things – and because it tends to keep to the top of the canopy, it is unobtrusive and hard to spot, except when calling. So it was my lucky day in terms of getting a long-sought-after lifer and a superb sighting of a magnificent bird.

Yellowspotted Nicator was calling further down the same little road and was kind enough to keep calling so I could also track it down on foot and the other Bonamanzi specials seen – Lemonbreasted Canary, Narina Trogon and Gorgeous Bush Shrike – were all also surprisingly obliging and easy to tick off.

The Lemonbreasted Canaries, also unobtrusive birds that were only discovered in 1960, are actually best seen on the road to Hluhluwe along the western border of Bonamanzi, where I spotted them once again on the side of the road.

Gorgeous Bush Shrike was calling loudly and comfortably sighted in the bushes on the side of the road leading out of the main camp, but Narina Trogon was amongst a host of delights that came to visit me at my campsite near the swimming pool.

The procession of lovely creatures viewed from my throne (what I call my fancy campchair) started on the first night as a pair of Thicktailed Bushbabies and a Rustyspotted Genet came to visit, followed the next day by Impala, Vervet Monkey, Emeraldspotted Wood Dove, Forest Weaver, Purplebanded Sunbird, Bearded Robin and Terrestrial Bulbul.

The day after brought a pair of Narina Trogons, then another, and altogether four pairs of this sought-after forest gem visited my camp on a single day!

The late afternoon brought a carnival of birds to the campsite thanks to a swarm of mayflies that were fluttering all over as a gentle rain fell. Southern Black Tit, Yellowbellied and Blackeyed Bulbul, Forest Weaver, Plumcoloured Starling, Yellowthroated Sparrow, Yellowbreasted and Rudd’s Apalis, the Narina Trogons and Collared Sunbird were all tucking in and then an Orangebreasted Bush Shrike took to flight and joined the feast.

Narina Trogon

Narina Trogon in the gloomy drizzle

For those who enjoy working hard for their sightings, there are plenty of skulkers at Bonamanzi, including the usual suspects – Greenbacked Camaroptera and Redchested Cuckoo.

When I eventually spotted the Bleating Warbler it was close to a Black Cuckoo and bouncing around like a cross between a wind-up toy and a jack-in-the-box!

The Piet-my-Vrou was calling insistently in camp but was equally determined not to be seen, until my patience won the day.

The main camp at Bonamanzi – Lalapanzi – is situated in sand forest around a dam and water hole, so there is plenty to see around the chalets.

Sombre Bulbuls call from the tops of the tall trees that are all around the fancy accommodation, Hadeda Ibis congregate around the big bird baths that are spread around the lawns, and walking down to the smaller pan in front of the offices is always worthwhile. On this occasion, half-a-dozen Water Dikkop were resting and hiding in the long grass, while the Fever Trees were a hive of activity, which was unsurprising because five different species of weaver were nesting there during this early summer visit.

The Yellow Weavers were the most prolific nesters, bundles of frantic activity, but there were also Thickbilled, Southern Masked, Spottedbacked and Lesser Masked Weaver nesting.

 

IMG_1930[1]

Spottedbacked Weavers fluttering in display below their nests

A Diederick Cuckoo was looking a bit sheepish as I spotted him lurking on the fringes of the weaver colony, plotting skulduggery, but a Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet was getting along well with the Ploceids as they feasted on berries together from one of the bushes around the dam.

A Malachite Kingfisher was high atop one of the Fever Trees at the second, larger dam, while a juvenile Little Bittern skulked in the papyrus reeds and had me thinking of great rarities.

The southern part of Bonamanzi has a wilderness feel to it with no accommodation, only a few tracks and hiking trails, and often throws up something interesting.

Woollynecked Stork are found in the forest and a Crowned Eagle was sitting on a telephone pole at the southern boundary. Three black Impala were on the adjoining property, as was an Ostrich. Redbilled Oxpecker were with Giraffe and Impala near the Ndulalamithi Dam.

The Crowned Eagle takes to flight

The Crowned Eagle takes to flight

There is a lovely walking trail from the main camp leading 2km to a couple of hides overlooking pans. At the Leguaan pan, a Crested Guineafowl kept collecting items of food and bringing it back to its partner to eat, while a Water Dikkop was dipping itself in the water and flapping its wings in what looked like some sort of display.

The road to Hluhluwe along the western boundary also provides good birding and, apart from the Lemonbreasted Canaries, a Tambourine Dove disappeared quickly into the very thick undergrowth of the Mzineni River, with Redbilled Firefinch and Pintailed Whydah also in the vicinity of this river which flows into the northern tip of False Bay.

Telephone lines along the road are always worth examining and even some of the Rattling Cisticolas have taken to perching on them rather than the thorn bushes below, along with other typical bushveld birds such as European Bee-Eater, European Swallow, Blackeyed Bulbul, Glossy Starling and Yellowfronted Canary.

Where is Bonamanzi?

Sightings list

Nyala

An Nyala scratches his ear

An Nyala scratches his ear

Rustyspotted Genet

Thicktailed Bushbaby

Impala

Vervet Monkey

Crowned Hornbill

Blackbellied Starling

Forktailed Drongo

Blackbacked Puffback

Southern Black Tit

Yellowbellied Bulbul

Red Duiker

Natal Robin

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Emerald Cuckoo

Plains Zebra

Yellowspotted Nicator

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Sombre Bulbul

Blackwinged Stilt

Water Dikkop

Wood Sandpiper

Yellow Weaver

Nile Crocodile

Thickbilled Weaver

Southern Masked Weaver

Lesser Striped Swallow

European Bee-Eater

Lemonbreasted Canary

European Swallow

Blackeyed Bulbul

Glossy Starling

Yellowfronted Canary

Rattling Cisticola

Tambourine Dove

Redbilled Firefinch

Pintailed Whydah

Woollynecked Stork

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove

Forest Weaver

Purplebanded Sunbird

Bearded Robin

Terrestrial Bulbul

Black Cuckoo

Greenbacked Camaroptera

Hadeda Ibis

Purplecrested Lourie

Plumcoloured Starling

Acacia Rat

Yellowthroated Sparrow

Yellowbilled Kite

Yellowbreasted Apalis

Narina Trogon

Cape White-Eye

Collared Sunbird

Redchested Cuckoo

Black Crake

Spottedbacked Weaver

African Pied Wagtail

Lesser Masked Weaver

Striped Skink

Egyptian Goose

African Jacana

Diederick Cuckoo

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Sacred Ibis

Grey Heron

Wiretailed Swallow

Warthog

Malachite Kingfisher

Little Bittern

Spurwinged Goose

Common Sandpiper

Rudd’s Apalis

African Fish Eagle

Dusky Flycatcher

Chinspot Batis

Blue Wildebeest

Crested Guineafowl

White-Eared Barbet

Leopard Tortoise

Paradise Flycatcher

Orangebreasted Bush Shrike

Red Bush Squirrel

Squaretailed Drongo

Crowned Eagle

Ostrich

Little Bee-Eater

Redeyed Dove

Gorgeous Bush Shrike

Southern Boubou

Giraffe

Redbilled Oxpecker

*FOMO = Fear of missing out

 

Ex-national coaches the finished article: Heyneke 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer returned to Loftus Versfeld on Thursday and bemoaned the irony that former Springbok coaches, who can be considered close to the finished article, are excluded from the local game at a time when South African rugby is in crisis and needs as much experienced help as it can get.

Meyer was at his former stamping ground to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s to be played in Mauritius next month, but his passion for top-level rugby is still there.

“Ex national coaches learn so much, they’re at their best, and then they get moved sideways. The perception here is that I’m in the rugby wilderness, but I’m getting offers from all over the world. But I want to be in South Africa, I believe I can make a difference, even though I’m currently very happy working for Carinat.

“You look at Eddie Jones, who lost eight-in-a-row with Australia and was fired, but then he helped the Springboks and now with England you can see how much he has learnt. Most South African coaches are just gone, though; Rassie Erasmus and Jake White have been really successful overseas and someone like John Plumtree was not seen as a great coach here, but I always rated him, and now he’s won SuperRugby in New Zealand. So it’s not the lack of coaches that is our problem, it’s the system,” Meyer said.

The coach of the first South African team to win Super Rugby, back in 2007, said local franchises were severely hampered by the overseas exodus, fitness issues and the push to play like New Zealand teams.

“You know we’re in trouble when we want to follow New Zealand, if you do that then you’ll never be the best in the world. There’s an over-fixation to play like the All Blacks, it will take us 10 years to get there and then they’ll be another 10 years ahead! We have to find out what we stand for and play the South African way.

“It’s very concerning all the players going to Japan because they can’t play for 12 months and players need to be uninjured and fresh in order to do proper fitness work. And if you’re tired you can’t execute your skills, you can’t press in defence, or scrum or drive. Teams win because of superior fitness and with guys going overseas it’s very difficult.

“Plus it’s impossible to keep the same side together for five years, you just start building and guys leave by the time they’re 25. We’ve got the right coaches and players but we need a better system to keep the players,” Meyer said.

 

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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