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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Positive about Bok prospects 0

Posted on August 16, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has picked the best players for the Rugby Championship based on how well they did in the French series and I am really positive about their prospects, I believe they are in the best position of all the teams.

It reminds me a bit of 2013, when we won 10 of our 12 Tests. There was also a British & Irish Lions tour that year – to Australia – and we had time to bed the players in.

The Springboks played really well against France, who were a full-strength side that came out with tremendous intent. The fact that their coach Guy Noves is now under pressure to keep his job if they don’t improve in November shows how good the Boks were, in terms of attack, defence and the way they created a new team culture.

Meanwhile, Argentina were losing 3-0 to England, Australia lost to Scotland and only just beat Italy, and the All Blacks could only draw with the British & Irish Lions.

With some of our SuperRugby teams falling out early, the Springbok coaches were given extra preparation time and I think we all see that there is definitely a new culture about this Springboks group. You can see that the positivity and confidence is back, both in terms of the public and the players, after a disastrous 2016.

This has been built on respect for each other and there is a high energy within the group on the field. Their return-to-action time and kick-chase were both very good and the improvement under the good doctor, Brendan Venter, on defence was obvious. They only conceded four tries in the three Tests against France and they got off the line quickly with intensity, intent and attitude.

Return-to-action time is one of the keys for any side to succeed in the modern game. A player is likely to have to get up off the floor after a carry or cleaning at the ruck about 40 times per game and it is very hard to do this after hard contact. The standard figure in international rugby is to be off the ground in three seconds so it offers you more numbers on attack, to get your shape, or on defence to ensure your line has width. The Springboks did incredibly well with this and it is the basis of their defensive system.

The Springboks are now employing a far more aggressive line-speed, similar to what the British Lions used and it definitely gave New Zealand problems: they weren’t able to play with their normal width and freedom because they were worried about making mistakes on attack, and turnover ball is the most lethal in the game.

The architect of that defence was Andy Farrell and he worked under Brendan Venter for a few years at Saracens, so I think there will be a lot of similarity in the defensive system the Springboks employ and I believe they will certainly give the All Blacks problems this year.

Also, due to a loss of form, neither Julian Savea nor Waisake Naholo are in the New Zealand squad, so they don’t quite have the same size out wide as before. In any case, a wing very rarely defends against his opposite wing off first-phase, he’s virtually always on the second-last man, which is the fullback. The All Blacks will have Ben Smith or Israel Dagg at fullback and I’m certain our wings will be of a similar size.

What’s important for a wing these days is his ability to score tries, defend and catch high-balls, and one would never be picked at that level if they can’t catch box-kicks off lineouts.

Coetzee has obviously picked his wings for their finishing ability, work-rate and understanding of the system, and for me, Courtnall Skosan and Raymond Rhule are the incumbents and really showed superb work-rate and an ability to pull off try-saving cover-tackles against France.

The Springboks also employ the defensive system – well, everyone does these days – of the fullback coming into the line very early, so a wing can’t just have the ability to make tackles, he also has to make line-breaks and expose the props acting as pillars round the ruck area, and has a big role in covering grubbers, he becomes the last defender. Modern-day wings will cover an enormous amount of ground in a game.

I wouldn’t rule out JP Pietersen coming back into the mix, especially in World Cup year. His decision-making is so good and he adds a calmness and maturity in the backline. He has, however, recently changed clubs from Leicester to Toulon and we all know how their owner feels about his players taking part in the Rugby Championship …

Anyway, Allister Coetzee has obviously decided to back the home-based players who really performed in the incoming series to see if they can do it as well in the Rugby Championship. Let’s not forget two of the back three played against the Hurricanes for the Lions in the SuperRugby semi-final and gave them 44 points with six tries.

So we must be positive about Allister’s wing selections until we see evidence otherwise.

Argentina showed a lot of attacking intent against England in June, but they were really playing against England B and were well-beaten. Plus the Jaguares were disappointing in SuperRugby, they blew hot and cold.

So Saturday’s Test is a really good opportunity for the Springboks to hopefully get a good win that sets them on the road for the really difficult part of the Rugby Championship – those three away games in the middle that South Africa always get and which are very difficult because of all the flying.

Our best performance in Argentina in the last few years came in 2015 when we trained in South Africa and only left on the Wednesday, arriving on the Thursday evening. We had a captain’s run and then went to Buenos Aires for a convincing 26-12 win.

Our worst display in Argentina was in Mendoza when we drew 16-16 in 2012 and we had to sit in the bus for two hours just to get to practice. I remember there was even a stray dog running faster than our coach was going!

The Springboks have the opportunity this year to play hit-and-run Tests in Perth and Salta and that makes you much more alert. They can stay on South African time and not change their body clocks, like we used to do at the Bulls when we would leave for Australasia on a Tuesday evening, arrive on Thursday morning and usually win our first game. It was definitely a winning formula.

The Springboks have a fantastic record in Port Elizabeth [17 wins & 2 draws in their last 20 Tests there] and I’m looking forward to this new-look side continuing in the same positive manner against Argentina on Saturday and hopefully gaining a really good win.

 

 

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.

Sanzaar have forgotten the importance of tournament integrity 0

Posted on July 31, 2017 by Ken

 

There is a forgotten early-1980s pop star by the name of Jona Lewie, a rather avant garde electro-pop musician who just happens to be one of my all-time favourites. Perhaps songs like Stop the Cavalry, You’ll always find me in the kitchen at parties and Louise will jog the memory because they were all big hits in South Africa.

But apart from those hits, Lewie also wrote a more classical piece entitled Rearranging the Deckchairs on the Titanic, which is all about making changes to something which are always doomed to be futile.

I was thinking about that piece when SuperRugby’s regular season came to an end last weekend and the Cheetahs and Kings played their final games, while the critically endangered Western Force made a statement of their own by hammering the Waratahs, the favourite sons of Australian rugby.

Sanzaar have not only forgotten the high standards and norms that made Super Rugby the greatest competition in rugby but have also shifted away from one of the cornerstones of any successful sporting endeavour and that is the integrity of the competition.

There is no doubt that the current iteration of SuperRugby is not a hit and it is rapidly losing value, while costs have escalated by bringing in extra teams, especially the expansion sides from Japan and Argentina.

I believe it is always a good thing to be inclusive, though, and the problem with SuperRugby is not so much the number of teams participating but the totally farcical nature of the tournament itself.

It is guaranteed to cause disdain amongst a sports’ customers – the people who watch it – when a team like the Brumbies, who won just six of their 15 conference matches, gets to host a quarterfinal, like they did on Friday against the Hurricanes. Even the people of Canberra didn’t seem enamoured by the idea, given the poor crowd that was present.

There is no integrity to the competition because lesser-performing teams are advantaged and not everyone plays each other – not having to face any New Zealand sides is clearly a massive advantage.

So cutting the number of teams but keeping the same competition format is clearly merely rearranging the deckchairs on the Titanic and is not going to stop SuperRugby from sinking into the depths of history.

And, let’s be honest, the axing of teams like the Kings, Cheetahs and possibly Force is not about their competitiveness. Sport is not only about those teams that are consistently winning, part of the romance are the wonderful stories of the underdogs causing shock upsets.

The Kings and Force, having won just as many games as the Brumbies, who made the finals, can argue that they are not even minnows, while the Cheetahs finished above the safe Bulls in the final standings.

The fact that the Kings and the Cheetahs will now ply their trade in Europe will have far-reaching consequences. With much easier travelling schedules and no country as dominant as New Zealand, I’m sure SA Rugby will discover the grass is greener in the northern hemisphere.

If South Africa pull out of SuperRugby entirely, it will definitely hurt New Zealand because it was our viewership numbers that fetched top dollar with the broadcasters, and without their share of that bigger pool, the All Blacks will find it increasingly more difficult to stop European teams from raiding their best players.

If Sanzaar are to have any hope of saving SuperRugby, they have to sort out the format and somehow come up with something that is going to ensure the integrity of the competition as well as be easier to understand for the average fan.

The current format was largely brought in to ensure bigger interest in Australia, but for how much longer will New Zealand rugby be willing to carry their neighbours across the ditch?

Maharaj & Morkel included and all four all-rounders chosen 0

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ken

 

Keshav Maharaj and Morne Morkel are the new faces in South Africa’s one-day squad for the ICC Champions Trophy and the three ODIs against England that precede it, with all-rounders Chris Morris, Wayne Parnell, Andile Phehlukwayo and Dwaine Pretorius also all named in the 15-man group announced on Wednesday.

Left-arm spinner Maharaj replaces the unorthodox Tabraiz Shamsi, while Morkel is an addition to the squad that beat New Zealand 3-2 in their recent ODI series.

“It was a tricky selection because a host of spinners have done really well, especially Aaron Phangiso and Tabraiz Shamsi. Imran Tahir is head-and-shoulders above the rest, but it’s been a challenge to play two spinners in the starting XI when both of them can’t really bat. It means KG Rabada has to come in at nine.

“But so many ODI games these days are being won with scores of 260 for seven or 280 for eight, so you need contributions from numbers seven, eight and nine. Keshav offers us more batting depth than Tabraiz and Phangi, and he also bowls with a lot of control and has done fantastically well in Tests and his domestic record is outstanding, with an economy rate of 5.07. If we’re going to play two spinners, his selection makes it easier,” coach Russell Domingo explained.

It had originally been presumed that Morris, Phehlukwayo, Pretorius and Parnell were competing for just a couple of places, but all four have been chosen for the Champions League thanks to their strong contributions to the Proteas’ amazing summer that took them back to number one in the ODI rankings.

“At stages we’ve played two all-rounders batting at seven and eight, or three at seven, eight and nine, and in Christchurch we played all four. So it depends on conditions and it’s great to have four all-rounders to choose from. If we are up against a team that has more batting strength then we can play all our fast bowlers, someone like Morne Morkel can also come back; but if conditions are more tricky for batting then we can lengthen our batting,” Domingo said.

With captain AB de Villiers’ troublesome back flaring up again, the Proteas do have the extra security of quality batsmen waiting in the wings. Farhaan Behardien is the extra specialist batsman in the Champions Trophy squad, while Khaya Zondo, Temba Bavuma and Aiden Markram are all in the SA A side which will be in England at the same time.

Champions Trophy squad: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, Chris Morris, Dwaine Pretorius, Andile Phehlukwayo, Kagiso Rabada, Imran Tahir, Wayne Parnell, Morne Morkel, Keshav Maharaj, Farhaan Behardien.

SA A 50-over squad: Aiden Markram, Jon-Jon Smuts, Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo (captain), Dwaine Pretorius, Mangaliso Mosehle, Sisanda Magala, Tabraiz Shamsi, Junior Dala, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Reeza Hendricks, Heino Kuhn, Duanne Olivier.

SA A four-day squad: Heino Kuhn, Aiden Markram (captain), Theunis de Bruyn, Temba Bavuma, Khaya Zondo, Heinrich Klaasen, Jason Smith, Dwaine Pretorius, Dane Piedt, Duanne Olivier, Lungi Ngidi, Dane Paterson, Beuran Hendricks, Rudi Second, Junior Dala, Dale Steyn.

 

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170420/282226600601952

AB returns to former glories 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken

 

AB de Villiers batted with all his former panache and authority upon his return to the domestic scene as he steered the Titans to a commanding seven-wicket win with 21.5 overs to spare over the Warriors in their Momentum One-Day Cup match at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Tuesday.

The bonus point win returns the Titans to the top of the standings, leading the Dolphins by four points ahead of the final round of fixtures.

While the Titans will host the fading Cape Cobras at Centurion on Thursday, the KwaZulu-Natalians face the daunting task of beating the Knights with a bonus point in Durban in order to claim first place and a home final. And obviously the Cobras must beat the Titans.

While de Villiers utterly dominated the Warriors attack as he stroked a sublime 75 not out off 62 balls, the Titans were only chasing 148 thanks to the brilliant work of their attack, with another returning international, Chris Morris, leading the way with three for 30 in eight overs.

Morris set the tone as his second ball of the match curved like a bow and bowled Gihahn Cloete for a first-ball duck.

With Morris conceding just nine runs in his first four overs, Lungi Ngidi then put the Warriors further back with a double-strike in the sixth over.

Colin Ingram (4) latched on to a poor, short ball down leg, but swung it in the air to fine leg, where Junior Dala made good ground around the boundary and took a super catch.

Ngidi then produced a beauty four balls later to have Colin Ackermann caught behind for a duck, getting bounce and away movement from an excellent length.

Having won the toss and elected to bat, the Warriors were 18 for three inside the first half-hour, but Jon-Jon Smuts and Yaseen Vallie then added 66 for the fourth wicket. It wasn’t hang-on-to-your-hats breathtakingly quick, coming off 87 deliveries, but it did stop the bleeding.

Smuts, coming off successive centuries, scored 39 before getting a little tickle on a Malusi Siboto delivery that was sliding down leg and being well caught by wicketkeeper Heino Kuhn, and off-spinner Aiden Markram then won a short battle with Lesiba Ngoepe, having him smartly stumped by Kuhn for two.

Morris then returned to deliver another top-class spell of fast swing bowling, Vallie, who had scrapped his way to a dogged 44 off 61 balls, being caught behind and then Kelly Smuts being bowled for a duck as he shouldered arms to a superb delivery to the left-hander from over the wicket, pitching off and then swinging enough to hit the off stump.

The Warriors were a parlous 117 for seven, but Jerry Nqolo added 26 to the total and there was 16 from Andrew Birch before the visitors ran out of luck on 147 all out, Dala claiming two wickets with short balls and Ngidi picking up a third as he finished with fine figures of three for 32 in eight overs.

Wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi was able to build on the pressure created by the pacemen as he squeezed the Warriors batsmen further by bowling his 10 overs for just 28 runs.

The star attraction De Villiers came to the crease with the Warriors still in the game, having just reduced the Titans to 47 for two, Birch striking early by having Jonathan Vandiar caught in the slips for one, and Aya Gqamane then dismissing Kuhn for a busy 23.

De Villiers was dazzling from the outset, hitting his second and third deliveries for sumptuous boundaries and, even though Aiden Markram being bowled by a grubber from Birch for 23 in the next over provided some food for thought, the global superstar just cruised through the rest of the innings.

There were seven fours and a six in his 40-ball fifty, as De Villiers covered the entire map of the Willowmoore Park outfield with strokes of extraordinary placement and timing; Farhaan Behardien but a support act as he made 24 not out in their unbeaten stand of 87 off 94 balls.

De Villiers finished with 75 not out off 62 deliveries, with 10 fours and a six, proving once again that he has more talent in his big toe than most batsmen on their best day.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1464011/ab-de-villiers-returns-to-former-glory/



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