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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – What made the difference for the Lions? 0

Posted on April 21, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions’ win over the Stormers in the weekend’s big game in Cape Town was a fantastic effort.

I predicted last week that whichever side defended better would win the game and that was the case. The key difference was the Lions defence dominated the collisions and were also able to force vital turnovers against the home side.

The Stormers’ defensive policy meant they stayed out of the rucks because the Lions have such width to their game; but that resulted in uncontested, free ball for the Lions and allowed them to build control of the game, and in defence Jaco Kriel and Malcolm Marx were vociferous over the loose ball.

If a team keeps more numbers on their feet in defence then they can build greater width in their defensive line and it is a tactic used by a lot of teams, mainly at wide rucks. With this you should be able to get greater line speed and come harder off the line because of the players on their feet. The Stormers have used this tactic since the Jacques Nienaber era, with the defence outnumbering the attack, and it requires great discipline for players to stay out of the ruck, and so your penalty count will be lower.

If you do defend that way, then you need line-speed and the Stormers didn’t really have that. You need to put pressure on the halfbacks because they are the decision-makers, cut down their space and options, and that was lacking. Elton Jantjies had his best game of the season.

This is completely different to the approach of a team like the Hurricanes, who put pressure on the ball and push the attack backwards, forcing turnovers, which is the hardest ball to defend against.

First prize in defence is to get good tackle contact, maybe a double-hit, and then get over and steal the ball, like Kriel does. The Stormers are lacking a specialist openside flank which means this form of defence suits them, but obviously they need to revisit their recruitment policy and develop or find an openside.

The Stormers were keen on making offloads, getting their hands above the tackle, which means you have to stay up in contact, leaving you vulnerable to the choke-tackle. The Lions were very effective at keeping square and hitting the carrier so that the offload opportunity was nullified or could only be made under extreme pressure. This also resulted in turnovers through the choke-tackle, just like Ireland used in the 2011 World Cup win over Australia.

The Stormers will be disappointed with the blindside try they allowed Sylvian Mahuza to score because the wing should always be up on the short side, Cheslin Kolbe was hanging back which gave space and Harold Vorster ran a wonderful line, through pillar three and four, who were watching the ruck and not him, allowing him to slice through.

It takes a special talent to see the hole in the defence and then to hit it, and Vorster shows how blessed South African rugby is in terms of backline depth. The two leading centres favoured by Allister Coetzee – Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh – are both injured, so the performances of Vorster have been very encouraging.

The Cheetahs were really on fire for the first 30 minutes of their game against the Chiefs and some of the rugby they played, and the courage they showed to run from deep, was a joy to watch. It just shows that the decision to go with only four South African franchises is going to have the terrible consequence of a lot of people, fine rugby players, losing their livelihoods and jobs, or taking the road overseas.

Francois Venter was very influential with his reverse runs and clever lines, and the Cheetahs still use the strength of their maul well and that caused the Chiefs many problems. They run their exits off the restarts, they take you on first and then look for a short kick. They got good reward from chips during that opening period.

There probably should have been more yellow cards in the first half-hour because the Chiefs were really under the pump and they started to concede penalties rather than tries. They knew that even two penalties against one try was a good deal.

The deliberate conceding of penalties really stops the attacking momentum and after a penalty the offending side then gets territory because they kick deep from the restart! It certainly calls for captains to speak to the referees, the captain needs to put the right sort of pressure on the referee.

Some captains are better at this than others – eg one Richie McCaw! – but it’s a vital thing to get that influence. There are never a lot of yellow cards given because referees don’t want to have an overbearing influence on the game, but there’s normally at least one and it’s important teams find the right time to go to the referee by the captain.

For example, Jan Serfontein’s yellow card last weekend for the Bulls against the Sunwolves was for something not much different to what the Chiefs were doing. But the scoreline influences the decision. In that first half-hour in Bloemfontein, the high tackle when it was a one-on-one by Damian McKenzie was a prime example. He was at the last line of defence and such fouls raise the question of a penalty try.

The Chiefs knew they would score tries at the back end of the match and the Cheetahs’ conditioning was off so the game followed the traditional pattern of South African teams versus New Zealand sides and they ran out of steam in the last 20 minutes.

I was pleased to see the Bulls get back on track and to see CEO Barend van Graan so publicly back the coaching staff. The reward was a quite convincing win and the best result against the Jaguares by a South African team this season.

Congratulations too to all the schools who took part in Easter festivals in South Africa. These are a wonderful showpiece for the game and a very special part of our rugby itinerary. Long may these traditions continue, it’s just wonderful to see the number of games of such quality over the course of a day and that so many come out to support these festivals.

With SA Rugby’s plan for four Super Rugby sides and eight professional Currie Cup sides, you wonder where these highly promising young players are going to get opportunities to play. Obviously the Varsity Cup will be an entry point, hopefully these players will show patience and remain in South Africa.

 

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.

 

 

‘Knights fully deserve their triumph’ – Boucher 0

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Ken

 

Titans coach Mark Boucher said his team has not played to the best of their ability and that the Knights fully deserve their narrow triumph in the Sunfoil Series.

The Knights beat the Highveld Lions by an innings and 121 runs in the final round of fixtures, but they only topped the log by 1.78 points and it could have been so different for the Titans had they just batted better in the first innings of their last game, against the Warriors, when they were bowled out for just 227 and only earned 2.54 batting points; just 90 more runs and the Titans would have won the title.

“We knew what we had to get, we knew we had to bat well, but we haven’t played the way we can the whole season and we didn’t deserve to win the title. The Knights threw their all into their game against the Lions, their gamble worked and they played unbelievable cricket to score 443 and then bowl the Lions out for just 87.

“Our batting in general has to improve, particularly in terms of partnerships, centuries win you trophies. We only played to within 60-70% of our capabilities and were within a point or so of winning the title, but I don’t blame the last game, there were other matches where we didn’t bat well enough and we tended to lose sessions badly. There were some great individual performances, but we didn’t quite gel as a unit, we played good cricket but not great cricket,” Boucher said.

Two of those great individual performances came in the final game against the Warriors as Shaun von Berg became the first player to score a century and take 10 wickets in the match in a franchise game, and Heino Kuhn steered the Titans to a record target of 315 with an exceptional 165 not out.

“Every time Shaun comes into the team, he produces the goods and does the business. Last week he and Heinrich Klaasen won the game for us and he’s a street-fighter, I really enjoy having him in the team. He’s one of those guys that it would do the Proteas no harm to have a look at – his leg-spin has come on leaps and bounds, he consistently hits good areas, and he could do a good job as a second spinner on the subcontinent.

“Heino showed what a great player he is and showed his character by toughing it out when he said he didn’t feel great. That innings answered everything when it comes to questions over him playing for the Proteas, he carried his bat and won the game,” Boucher said.

The coach danced around the issue, however, of whether the Titans had unsuccessfully gambled with a Willowmoore Park pitch that had inconsistent bounce from the first day, making it very difficult for them to keep up with the Knights’ haul of 6.70 batting points.

“The pitch was strange, it was up-and-down on the first two days but then it flattened out. It was a bit of a mystery and when the ball is keeping low it will be in the back of the batsman’s mind, but we should still have somehow got to 320. There were some indifferent shots so we can’t blame the pitch, we didn’t apply ourselves in the first innings and it was only an unbelievable knock from Shaun that got us in front of the Warriors. The first hour of the second day was a train smash,” Boucher said.

 

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170214/282089161522672

Warriors once again show chasing ability v Titans 0

Posted on October 15, 2015 by Ken

 

The Warriors once again showed their ability to chase down almost anything as they beat the defending champion Titans by two wickets with a ball to spare in a thrilling start to the season in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at Centurion on Friday night.

Having chased down a record 354 in the corresponding fixture last season, the Warriors needed 328 on Friday night and were set on their way by a blazing 101 off just 74 balls by opener Jon-Jon Smuts, who shared a commanding second-wicket stand of 133 off 126 balls with young Yaseen Vallie, who scored 52.

After a horror start in the field, the Titans regrouped and seemed on course for victory when they reduced the Warriors to 230 for six in the 41st over.

But Simon Harmer and Andrew Birch showed that they have serious pretensions as batsmen as they lashed 89 off the next 50 balls.

Harmer was trapped lbw for 42 by Junior Dala in an excellent penultimate over, umpire Shaun George perhaps being alone in believing the batsman did not get anything on a suspiciously leg-side delivery, and Rowan Richards made a good fist of defending eight in the last over.

The left-armer got it down to three needed off the last two balls when Basheer Walters lashed him powerfully through extra cover for the winning boundary. Birch finished on 55 not out off just 28 balls, a great contribution by the diminutive seamer.

The Titans were indebted to some late heroics themselves after they were sent in to bat, their total being boosted by a phenomenal unbroken fifth-wicket stand of 119 off just 71 balls between Grant Thomson and Qaasim Adams.

Thomson, who was not expected to play a role for the Titans this season but was included for his Momentum One-Day Cup debut because of the unavailability of all-rounders David Wiese, Chris Morris and Albie Morkel, hammered a wonderful 98 not out off 71 balls, while Adams, who has really grown as a finisher for the Titans, produced a fine hand of 65 not out off 39 balls.

The Titans’ decision to promote Mangaliso Mosehle to the opening berth was a partial success, with the wicketkeeper/batsman scoring 49, but needing 81 deliveries to do it. Dean Elgar, who moved down to number four, scored a fluent half-century.

But the Titans failed dismally to produce the basics in the field, Smuts being dropped twice, ground fielding errors costing crucial runs at the death and the bowlers too often being wayward or bowling the wrong lengths.

 

No chance for someone to bale Proteas out 0

Posted on January 06, 2015 by Ken

It’s been the saddest of weeks for the cricketing world with the tragic passing of Phil Hughes in what can only be described as the freakiest of accidents dominating all discussions.

So many batsmen are hit on the head these days (I’m of the school of thought that says helmets encourage them to take their eye off the ball), but Hughes had the awful misfortune of being struck on the side of the neck, just below his helmet’s grille, flush on the vertebral artery, which split and caused the fatal brain haemorrhage.

South Africans have also been mourning the 25-year-old Australian, not least of all because he greatly impressed everyone on these shores with his grit and unorthodox talent as he averaged 53 against the Proteas in five Tests, scoring two centuries and two half-centuries.

The national team has, of course, just returned from Australia, where their 4-1 ODI series hammering caused much soul-searching and anguish amongst their fans, before being overshadowed by the real tragedy that unfolded in Sydney.

Whatever AB de Villiers so brashly said upon his return home about being the better side and South Africa’s World Cup plans being on track, serious questions have been raised about the Proteas’ ability to seriously contend at the global showpiece tournament starting in 11 weeks’ time.

Most worryingly, there is no further ODI cricket scheduled for them before they have to announce their final 15-man squad for the World Cup on January 7. So the five-match series against the West Indies will not provide the selectors with the opportunity to find someone who can bale them out of their current problems in terms of balance and form, because it starts on January 16. Neither is there any franchise 50-over cricket before then.

The squad that plays against the West Indies will be the World Cup squad and those 15 players will have dress rehearsals on five days in which they have to regain form and convince their fans that they are the strong contenders they perceive themselves to be.

South Africa’s most pressing need would seem to be to fill the number seven position with someone who can genuinely contribute with bat and ball. Ryan McLaren, with his mediocre bowling and his weakness against the short ball when batting, has done little lately to suggest he could be a match-winner in that vital position. Sadly, the schedule has dictated that the selectors are not going to be able to see what David Wiese can do.

I would back the Titans all-rounder because he brings power-hitting and a proven ability at the death, as well as the sort of bowling skills the South African attack desperately needs to master on what should be good batting pitches in Australasia.

In terms of cover, the 15-man squad will need to include two extra pace bowlers – perhaps one containing and one more attacking – an extra batsman who can bowl a bit and either an extra spinner or a top-order batsman.

This means Kyle Abbott must surely have secured his ticket, while I would choose Lonwabo Tsotsobe, in great form since returning from injury, ahead of Wayne Parnell. This would also reduce the pressure on the selectors in terms of Black African representation; although Aaron Phangiso deserves to go to the World Cup, his ill-timed injury and the need for top-order batting cover could count against him.

The selection of both Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien would facilitate cover for both the top three and the middle-order, with Behardien able to fulfil the crucial role of a sixth bowler that was vital in JP Duminy’s absence.

The presence of a genuine all-rounder like Wiese at seven would enable the Proteas to avoid the problem of either having to go into games a batsman or a bowler short, but the other issue they need to solve is not one of personnel but one of skills.

The bowling in the death overs was generally poor and the failure to consistently execute yorkers, slower-ball bouncers and changes of pace means the South Africans lack the weapons the other top teams enjoy.

My World Cup squad: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, David Wiese, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Farhaan Behardien, Rilee Rossouw.

 

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