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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – The intent is obviously there 0

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the quality of the games last weekend, I am really looking forward to this weekend’s SuperRugby action, with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions looking like South Africa’s three major contenders.

Last weekend we saw very different South African derbies to what we normally see and the will to attack was clearly there. The intent was obviously there to play with ball in hand and the teams played with real speed in terms of tempo, and pace, which made a heck of an impact.

An example of this was when the Stormers took a quick tap and scored seven points against the Bulls; they, in particular, showed more intent than they have in the past.

The effects of the new tackle law, meaning players now have to go lower with their hits, were also evident in that there were more offloads. Attacks can now continue through the tackle because the arms are free and the tall guys can get the ball above the tackle. It keeps the ball alive and it has led to a lot more continuity.

What was really impressive to me was how lean some of the leading Springboks looked. Guys like Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi looked in great shape and the speed they played at was a direct consequence of their fitness levels.

There’s definitely been a huge emphasis on conditioning through the franchises and it could mean the end of the New Zealand and Australian sides feeling that a high ball-in-play figure is their secret to success because the South African teams will tire.

While the Stormers were fantastic, what was encouraging about the Bulls was that they never gave up, which is huge. They denied the Stormers a bonus point, which at the end of the day could be vital; from 24-0 up at halftime, the Stormers really needed to get that bonus point. The second half would have provided a huge swing in confidence for the Bulls.

In the Cheetahs versus Lions game in Bloemfontein, the visitors really got out of jail, but if you can score three tries away from home then you deserve your victory.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg showed his finishing power and speed, while the Lions’ try down the short side to win the match showed again that rugby is about defending the full width of the field, even if you only have two or three metres to touch.

The penalty try given off a driving maul was a game-changer; most referees would have copped out and just given a penalty, but if the maul is set and moving forward then it deserves that decision, so credit to referee Quinton Immelman for his brave call.

The Southern Kings looked better and scored some really good tries, but again conceded turnovers at crucial times. During the first half they were in control for long periods, but a yellow card really cost them and prop Ross Geldenhuys was lucky not to get a red card, which a knee to the back should be penalised with.

The major talking point of the last week in the rugby world, however, was Italy and their decision not to contest rucks against England.

I had lunch with Brendan Venter last week and he mentioned that they were going to do it. Any tactic that is new and innovative has to be applauded and it certainly took England a long time to cope with it, so credit to Brendan and the rest of the Italian coaching staff and players for that.

But I believe World Rugby do need to look at the law. As defence coaches, we encourage players to get back on their feet and in the defensive line, but now teams might just try to herd the attacking team into a small radius of the ruck, which would not be good for the game.

It would take a full week of coaching to get a game plan against Italy’s tactic. It was  a real shock-and-awe strategy and difficult to adapt to on your feet. In fact, England played into Italy’s hands with their counter to it, so it clearly worked as a tactic.

 

 

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.

The Chiefs are the champions; the Lions will join them in SuperRugby 0

Posted on November 07, 2016 by Ken

 

The Chiefs are the SuperRugby champions once again and the Lions will be joining them in the competition next year after the dramatic final weekend of action in the toughest tournament in rugby.

The Chiefs made up a 12-22 deficit in the final quarter to beat the Brumbies 27-22 in the final in Hamilton and the Waikato men are clearly deserved champions. The defence of a title is almost always harder than winning it in the first place and the Chiefs’ back-to-back crowns were achieved the hard way, by topping the log, beating the Crusaders and then changing the momentum of the final in dramatic fashion.

The Lions were beaten 23-18 by the Southern Kings in the second leg of the promotion/relegation clash at Ellis Park, but the seven-point winning margin they claimed in Port Elizabeth was enough for them to win the series on aggregate. The Kings also mounted a stirring comeback in the final quarter, taking advantage of the yellow card to centre Stokkies Hanekom to overturn the 9-18 deficit that seemed to have settled the relegation contest. But in the end they were just one score short of returning to a competition in which they achieved the most wins by a side in their first season.

The Lions were roared on by 50 000 fans on a chilly night in Johannesburg and one wonders where all the people came from, judging by how sparse the crowds have been at Ellis Park for the last couple of years. Hopefully they don’t disappear into the night as quickly as they came and they have a responsibility to match the support the Kings enjoyed in Port Elizabeth – their attendance average was the third best in the competition – when the Lions face another daunting SuperRugby challenge next year.

Perhaps the Lions’ union bosses should take a hint from the fact that the Kings were based at the modern, superb Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Would the Lions not attract more consistent support if they played at the FNB or even Orlando Stadium?

 The Kings, bringing tremendous passion and fiery commitment, as expected with their survival as a team hanging in the balance, dominated the opening exchanges and really squeezed the Lions with their kicking game. Scott van Breda also kicked two penalties to give the Kings a 6-0 lead.

The Lions were really struggling to get out of their own half, the Kings enjoying 83% territory in the opening quarter, and some outstanding defence was also suffocating them.

But the one thing the Lions did prove during their otherwise rather meaningless series of challenge matches was that they have a pack that is up to the rigours of SuperRugby.

A top-class scrum, anchored by loosehead prop and captain JC Janse van Rensburg, and a formidable rolling maul are valuable weapons and partly a result of having Johan Ackermann and Balie Swart on the coaching staff.

Using their scrum and also driving effectively off the lineout, the Lions enjoyed a resurgence in the last 10 minutes of the first half, Elton Jantjies kicking a penalty and Derick Minnie being driven over the tryline, and they took a firm grip on the game after half-time.

The Kings scrum could probably be heard creaking in the nicely-paved plaza outside the stadium and Jantjies was able to give the Lions an 11-9 lead early in the second half after loosehead Schalk Ferreira had been penalised for losing his bind.

Flank Jaco Kriel then surged over for a try that was converted by Jantjies (18-9), enjoying the acres of space that a Kings defence that was far too bunched afforded him out wide.

The seven-point deficit from the first game meant that the Kings had to score 17 points in the last 20 minutes to avoid relegation and the Lions ensured that they had a sniff by making some crucial mistakes.

Jantjies missed an easy penalty after a powerful scrum had turned over possession and wings Chrysander Botha and Anthonie Volmink counter-attacked superbly – the Springbok flyhalf was poor with the boot in general – and Hanekom was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. The decision was fair according to the letter of the law because he lifted an opposition player and then just dropped him.

The response by the Kings was immediate as they kicked the Hanekom penalty to touch and set the rolling maul, which was defended well by the Lions. After a couple of pick-and-goes by the forwards and a sniping run by scrumhalf Shaun Venter that was stopped just short of the line, Ferreira, with Engelbrecht behind him, charged through replacement scrumhalf Guy Cronje to score.

Wing Van Breda, who was impressive with the boot as he came in for the injured Demetri Catrakilis, converted and then scored the Kings’ second try with just six minutes remaining.

The Lions were in possession deep inside the Kings’ half but Kriel was stripped of the ball by the abrasive Jacques Engelbrecht. The focus of the Lions flank seemed to be on equipment failure, however, as Kriel was fiddling with his headgear, which seemed to be slipping down the forehead, just before he went into contact.

The ball was quickly shipped to the backline by the Kings and Shane Gates, the replacement centre, made a searing break down the middle of the field. From there the Kings just needed to draw-and-pass and Van Breda was over in the corner.

The tricky conversion was nailed and the Kings, 23-18 ahead, needed just one more score to deny promotion for the Lions.

By now the crowd was frantic and George Whitehead must have felt like he was the epicentre of all that pressure as he failed to kick a penalty to touch that would have given the Kings a prime opportunity to attack inside the Lions’ half.

The future of rugby in the Eastern Cape is now once again in doubt. This Kings team, the most determined of new boys on the block, will be dismantled with director of rugby Alan Solomons already heading to Edinburgh and most of their better players already linked to the likes of the Bulls.

It is obviously not ideal for South African rugby to have one of their biggest areas not represented by a professional team, never mind that the Eastern Cape is the historical home of black rugby.

The future of the Lions is not exactly rosy either. The quality of their play suggests they will themselves be involved in the rigours of avoiding relegation next year, unless they are able to substantially bolster their squad, reserve depth being vital as well in such a gruelling tournament.

But how are they going to be able to attract players to Ellis Park with the guarantee of just one year of SuperRugby? Providing they can put aside the whole arch-rivals tag that led to some spicy, niggly moments in the first half of the match, several of the Kings players might well be moving to the Lions in the next few months.

But in the meantime we should allow the Lions to enjoy their return to the top-flight – and give great credit to Ackermann and his coaching staff for ensuring their team was up to speed – and mourn with the Kings as what looked a promising crop has been cut back to grassroots in the Eastern Cape.

At the other end of the SuperRugby spectrum, the Brumbies began the final playing with military precision to another canny Jake White game plan.

A ferocious presence at the breakdowns, getting up quickly (or being offsides) and in the faces of the Chiefs on defence and the faultless boot of Christian Lealiifano were the main vehicles for their success as they racked up a 22-12 lead by the hour mark.

Having a top-class openside in George Smith – and lock Scott Fardy was also a prominent player at the breakdowns – was obviously a major support for the game plan and the Chiefs looked a hassled and flustered side as half-time approached.

A defence that rushed inwards from the wings cramped the Chiefs’ preferred expansive style and they conceded a crucial try in the 40th minute when scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow threw a wild pass right into where the defence was concentrated and Lealiifano pouched a brilliant pick-up and sped away for a 47-metre intercept try.

A tally of 10 turnovers in the first half indicated where the Chiefs’ problems lay and they conceded a penalty at the breakdown early in the second half when Fardy and Smith made a great team in catching Kerr-Barlow in possession.

A fifth penalty by Lealiifano, stemming from another Smith turnover, put the Brumbies 22-12 ahead after 59 minutes and they were perhaps already booking an open-top bus in Canberra for a ticker-tape parade.

And that is when the Chiefs showed their champion quality. An alteration to their breakdown strategy – committing an extra man to protect the ball – and deciding to be more direct with ball in hand turned the tide.

And with referee Craig Joubert starting to lose patience with the Brumbies’ spoiling tactics, the final quarter belonged to the Chiefs.

Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White produced a terrible kick to touch off a penalty, leading to a five-metre scrum for the Chiefs and then followed Kerr-Barlow as he went wide, opening up a lovely gap for flank Liam Messam to power through and cut the deficit to 17-22.

Flyhalf Aaron Cruden missed the conversion – and kicked poorly throughout, missing two penalties as well – but it didn’t matter as the Chiefs scored again just four minutes later.

Centres Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Bundee Aki broke out of their own territory and Robbie Robinson then cruised through the defence after one little sidestep.

Cruden then put aside his bum kicking form to kick a late penalty and the Chiefs had the title in the bag.

So the Chiefs win the overall title and the Lions will be benefiting from several million rand more than they had this year, but the other big winner over the weekend was scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

Du Preez, one of the heroes of the 2007 World Cup triumph, has been recalled to the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship. His Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, have however insisted he only play in the Tests in South Africa.

People may well be asking questions as to why Du Preez has been selected when he’s only available on a part-time basis and whether he will be sharp enough after playing for the last two years in the less intense Japanese league.

But one can hardly blame Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer for wanting to have a look at Du Preez, one of the all-time great scrumhalves, given South Africa’s stocks in that position at the moment and the fact that his contract in Japan is coming to an end and he will be available for the 2015 World Cup.

The inexperienced Jano Vermaak and the solid but unspectacular Ruan Pienaar are the other scrumhalves in the squad, while the young Piet van Zyl will replace Du Preez in the squad when they travel overseas. Francois Hougaard is out for the rest of the season after surgery on the ankle that has hampered him all year.

The success of George Smith with the Brumbies is a sign that using Japan-based players might not be on the wrong side of reason, and Meyer has also chosen seven other overseas-based players, the most ever, in both Vermaak and Pienaar, Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw and Gurthro Steenkamp.

Du Preez, experienced Toulouse prop Steenkamp and fit-again eighthman Duane Vermeulen are the three recalled players who did not feature in the incoming quadrangular series in June.

The main criticism of the squad will be the composition of the front row where Meyer has chosen just a single specialist tighthead in the over-worked Jannie du Plessis and four looseheads, although the Springbok coach hopes to convert Coenie Oosthuizen into a number three.

The Cheetahs hero is however definitely more comfortable at loosehead and Meyer really needs to develop the tighthead talent that is there in Oosthuizen’s team-mate Lourens Adriaanse and Wiehahn Herbst of the Sharks. Frans Malherbe of the Stormers is also a candidate but is currently out injured.

Springbok squad – Willie le Roux, Zane Kirchner, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana, Bjorn Basson, Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie, Fourie du Preez, Jano Vermaak, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi, Juandre Kruger, Franco van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Tendai Mtawarira, Gurthro Steenkamp, Trevor Nyakane.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-05-superrugby-chiefs-are-champs/#.WCBoV_l97IU

John McFarland on Springboks v Barbarians & the European Tests 0

Posted on November 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks’ European tour-opener against the Barbarians this weekend is the perfect game to see some of the up-and-coming players in action before three tough Tests coming up against England, Italy and Wales.

Obviously the Barbarians fixture was put in place some time ago, probably by Heyneke Meyer, who would have wanted a warm-up game before taking on England. So the Barbarians team is not that strong, in matches before they have sometimes been like a World XV and players like Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have appeared for them against the Springboks.

Normally the game against the BaaBaas is at the end of the tour when they are far stronger, it’s a bit of an anomaly but I think it’s a blessing to have the match at the start of the trip.

Saturday’s outing gives a chance to some of the leading lights of the Currie Cup and SuperRugby, and it could be a completely different Springbok team next weekend against England – I think Allister Coetzee will choose a very experienced side, but the Barbarians match allows him a good couple of weeks to work with the fringe players. In preparing for the BaaBaas, they’ve been given a taste of Springbok rugby and it has also given Allister a chance to work more closely with these players and see how they fit in with his plans.

So it’s basically three weeks preparation for the England match and a chance for the staff to bed down as well. The Springboks are on to their third defence coach this year in JP Ferreira and he will obviously bring new ideas and skills, plus Franco Smith has joined the management. You normally don’t have that long to assimilate new ideas, but this time they can sort out their roles and responsibilities and Allister can see how they all gel together.

Choosing nine uncapped players in his squad to play the Barbarians has basically been forced on the Springboks, but Allister Coetzee understands the situation and he and Matt Proudfoot are both enlightened coaches when it comes to the benefits of having players in Japan.

There is a large amount of South African players spending their off-season in Japan, with the full blessing of their SuperRugby unions because they have signed dual contracts. It’s a win-win situation and, for example, someone like Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, with all his experience and wisdom, has a lot of his players on dual contracts. He knows it’s the best way to keep them in South Africa and not lose them to Europe.

For example, Franco Mostert was on his way to Olympique Lyon, but has now renewed his contract with the Lions and has signed to play in Japan as well. Louis Schreuder, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe and Patrick Osborne all spend their off-season with Kubota before going back to SuperRugby.

In fact, they actually spend very little time on the field because a team can only have three overseas players on the park at any given time. So all the main teams have a rotation policy such that the players don’t play too much but have sufficient time in action. For example, Jaco Kriel came off the bench for us last weekend to play the last 30 minutes, when he got injured, while Lionel Mapoe has only played in two of our four games since he came over.

The Japanese teams are all company-based with a mix of amateur and professional players. Our amateur guys are in their companies’ offices from 8am to 1pm and then they travel out to Funabashi where we are based. They are all totally committed to the cause and their work ethic and work rate are second to none – they’re always doing extra time after training working on things, it really is quite a thing to see.

Frans Ludeke and myself are part of a three-strong foreign coaching group, while we also have three Japanese coaches, who serve as translators.

Most of the teams also have links to SuperRugby franchises – for example while Allister Coetzee was here his Kobe team had links to Dave Rennie and his Chiefs side, while for us it’s with the Hurricanes. So there’s an exchange of ideas and the professional development of coaches.

Anyway, back to the Springboks and they actually have a really good record in Europe lately, having won 16 of their last 21 end-of-year Tests.

Under Heyneke, we had an 80% win record and in 2012 and 2013 we were highly successful, with wins over first Ireland, Scotland and England, and then the next year good triumphs against Wales, Scotland and France. We only lost in 2014 against Ireland and Wales, also when we didn’t have overseas-based players and Wales actually paid for their players to be released.

So in the last four seasons the Springboks have a tremendous record in the Northern Hemisphere and they only conceded half-a-dozen tries in that time, so the defence has been good.

This year the Barbarians will just have a basic framework to play within, but a Brendan Venter-coached Italy are waiting in the middle and it certainly won’t be easy against England and Wales.

To beat them, there are some key areas to get right, like the lineout maul.

England scored twice against us in 2014 with the drive, one of them being from 50 metres out, so the Springboks need to both stop the maul and execute it well themselves. I would like to see one of South Africa’s traditional strengths back in play.

In that same 2014 game we scored against England with a pre-planned move against the rush defence that had Pat Lambie kicking out to Willie le Roux, and playing in that weather means you have to kick well and win the territory battle.

The ability to dominate the collisions in secondary defence is another key thing the Springboks need to get back so they can produce front-foot ball on attack. Jean-Luc du Preez is a strong ball-carrier and tackler and the sort of blindside flank we need, plus he’s tall enough to be a lineout option.

I also know Roelof Smit very well because he waited a long time at the Bulls for a chance, he was very patient behind Deon Stegmann. He can certainly get over the ball and is very hard to shift, while he also has carrying ability and is very good at controlling the maul at the back. He’s a traditional openside flank and he has the physical attributes.

I hope the Springboks emerge with four good wins and then everything will be alright again in South African rugby.

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

 

Smit hopes for Sanzar action following abysmal officiating 0

Posted on November 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks CEO John Smit said at the weekend that while he could not publically share his views on the abysmal officiating in the match against the Waratahs in Sydney, he hoped Sanzar would take action following some of the most one-sided decision-making ever seen in SuperRugby.

“I’m sure Sanzar leadership is strong enough 2 do something before we need 2 enquire ,I hope!”, Smit said on social media after being asked if the Sharks would make an official complaint after referee Paul Hoffman, TMO George Ayoub and the assistant referees blew the visitors off the park in a 33-18 defeat.

While coach Gary Gold described the outcome as “a cruel result”, he was restraint personified after a match in which even New South Wales legend Phil Kearns said the Sharks had been “stiffed”. The post-game press conference was dominated by Australian journalists asking how the visitors felt about the refereeing.

“It seemed that some calls didn’t go our way, but that’s the way it goes, I’m afraid. A desperate Waratahs side played well and asked questions of us, but I felt that we answered them. S’Bura Sithole was a bit unlucky not to get his try,” Gold said.

Although Hoffman blew the Sharks out of the water with all the efficiency of an Uzi machine gun, Gold said he was not bothered by the referee being an Australian.

“I don’t mind where the referee comes from, every coach just wants a competent referee. I like to believe there is too much at stake for them not to be impartial, for them it’s about going to the World Cup, so it shouldn’t matter where they come from,” Gold said.

The director of rugby said he had sympathy for Sanzar referee head Lyndon Bray, who was bearing a heavy burden in trying to improve the standard of officiating.

“I know Lyndon is working unbelievably hard to improve the refereeing and it’s a huge responsibility. I have a lot of faith in him, but it’s a difficult vision and the game needs us to give him all the support we can.”

The controversial defeat merely exacerbated a horror year for the Sharks, their ninth defeat in 13 games leaving them 11th on the log.

Gold said they had to ensure they did not unravel like a cheap hem in their remaining three games.

“We need to show our supporters how much it means to us. We’re in a bad place on the log, but we need to take the punches and man up and we will be better for it. Some second or third-choice players are getting an unbelievable opportunity to play in SuperRugby – guys like Stefan Ungerer, Lionel Cronje, Etienne Oosthuizen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole and Stephan Lewies – and they’ll be better for it,” Gold said.

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  • Thought of the Day

    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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