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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Boks nicely set up after job well done 0

Posted on August 30, 2017 by Ken

The Tests against Argentina were a job well done by the Springboks and it’s great to see them at the top of the Rugby Championship log, with things set up nicely for their tour of Australasia.

It’s great to see the Springboks play so convincingly and win five Tests on the bounce, including coach Allister Coetzee’s first away win.

It was a really good win last weekend in Salta and what was most impressive was the all-round game they played.

To win by five tries to two, maintaining their high rate of try-scoring this year, shows that their attacking game is completely on track. Their ability to convert turnover ball into seven points was also superb, as in the crucial second try by Siya Kolisi just after halftime.

It’s never easy in Salta because of the extreme heat and a very passionate crowd, and there was a lot of talk about the effects of travel, but the performance proved that the Springboks used the right schedule. To have two good days of training in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg before they left for Argentina was a masterstroke and you have to give credit to the coaching staff for their wise planning.

They also did not rush back from Salta, instead having a good day of recovery around the pool, and they will hopefully reap good rewards for that on their trip to Perth. It is, however, a more tricky flight from Perth on the far western side of Australia to Auckland, much longer than flying from the eastern shore. It means the Springboks will probably lose Monday as a training day and will only have Tuesday and Thursday before the All Blacks Test in Albany, which is perhaps a day light in terms of preparation.

The next two weeks are going to be big pressure games for the Springboks. Australia have recovered well, as expected, and the fact they nearly beat the All Blacks in Dunedin proves the margins are so small at the top international level of the game. The Wallabies will be aggrieved they did not win, but they have certainly regained their pride and confidence.

Both New Zealand and Australia are leaking tries at the moment though, nine and 13 respectively in their first two matches, which is a big thing for the Springboks to target.

The Springboks have only conceded four tries and their defence has been vastly improved.

There is not much a defence coach can do about a kickoff that bounces in no-man’s land and subsequently leads to a try, but someone would have called for it and then misjudged the flight of the ball. The players will take responsibility for it and it will be sorted out in the review of the game. The misunderstanding will all be cleared up quickly, especially with the great culture in the team at the moment.

Speaking of great, I thought Elton Jantjies had such a good game.

He knows he’s the number one flyhalf and he’s feeling backed, and his goalkicking has been phenomenal at 89%, which is the most important box for him to tick. But the quality of his all-round play has been excellent – his exits, his awareness of space and the way he has been able to take the ball to the line. He’s attacking with real confidence.

Our wingers are also coping well in the Rugby Championship and the game has moved on from just being about size and kick-and-chase.

That said, the Springboks’ kicking game has also been working well.

The set-pieces have also been brilliant and the scrum has functioned really well. Who would have thought that our scrum would be so dominant in two Tests against Argentina.

The Pumas came out ultra-aggressive and fired up and maybe it was too much because it led to ill-discipline and cards, something that was an issue for the Jaguares all through SuperRugby as well.

There just seems to be one remaining issue with the Springboks and that is the back-up flyhalf situation. Handre Pollard has been named in the touring squad but it is a concern that he has not played any actual rugby.

Obviously he must have been training well and the intensity of the Springbok practices is good, but to be really ready to play, everyone needs some match time behind them. Pat Lambie is in the same boat and they both need game time, but unfortunately their Springbok contracts mean they cannot play any Currie Cup rugby.

It is something that SA Rugby needs to revisit.

 

 

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 finish strong in dramatic win over Bulls 0

Posted on June 02, 2016 by Ken

 

The Emirates Lions shrugged off any suggestions that they might fade after returning from their epic tour of Australasia as they snatched a last-minute 22-18 win over the Vodacom Bulls in a dramatic SuperRugby match at Ellis Park on Saturday.

For 79 minutes there weren’t any tries, but there was no shortage of intensity nor excitement as the two neighbours went at each other tooth, claw and horns, flyhalves Elton Jantjies and Jacques-Louis Potgieter trading the penalties that came from hard-earned, narrow advantages.

There also cannot be any doubts about the belief within this Lions side either as, having controversially seen Jaco Kriel called up for a marginal late tackle by the TMO, the penalty being advanced into range for Potgieter to give the Bulls an 18-15 lead with less than a minute to play, they came storming up in defence to set themselves up for the dramatic winning try.

Hooker Armand van der Merwe is the sort of employee any union would want – he sits long hours on the bench but never fails to make an impact when he comes on and is a constant source of inspiration for his team-mates. The stocky 23-year-old merely added to his growing legend at Ellis Park as he barged over for the winning try after the Lions had tapped the penalty they earned after counter-rucking the Bulls off the ball from the restart.

For most of the first half, it looked as if the slow poison of the Bulls would get the better of the Lions. The visitors had dominated territory and possession, and although the attacking play of the Lions had looked sharp, they simply never had enough of the ball.

The effects of the strangulation took a while to be reflected on the scoreboard, however, as Potgieter missed an early drop-goal attempt and two long-range penalties, while Jantjies took six points from the Lions’ two forays into Bulls’ territory.

But the ferocious work of the Bulls at the breakdowns and in defence eventually took its toll.

The scrums were a terrific contest throughout and the Bulls gained an early confidence boost with a massive effort that shoved the Lions back 15 metres, earning Potgieter’s first successful kick at goals in the 26th minute.

The powerful driving play of Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Spies and Deon Stegmann earned another three points eight minutes later and then the power of the rolling maul allowed Potgieter to put the Bulls 9-6 ahead at the break.

The Lions started the second half with all the verve they are famous for, lifting the tempo and stretching the Bulls. But eventually the stout defence forced the error and the Bulls swept upfield. They looked set to score the opening try in the left corner, but the ball went astray and they could not add to their lead.

It was obviously a crucial moment as the game then “regressed” into a tremendous arm-wrestle, with penalties the only concessions either side was willing to give.

The scrum took centre stage and the penalties went this way and that as the reserve front rows came on.

Jantjies first levelled the scores at 9-9 in the 57th minute and then claimed a 12-9 lead after Morne Mellet lost his bind  and scrummed in on the loosehead side.

But the Lions were then penalised for hands in the ruck (12-12) and then the Bulls scrum won another penalty for Potgieter in the 70th minute.

The Bulls’ 15-12 lead only lasted four minutes, however, as the Lions’ maul then steamrolled their way to another penalty, kicked by Jantjies.

But the controversial Kriel penalty in the 79th minute seemed to have decided the outcome, before the Lions showed the spirit and belief that characterised the matches overseas to claim the spoils from the most dramatic of matches.

Scorers

Lions – Try: Armand van der Merwe. Conversion: Elton Jantjies. Penalties: Jantjies (5).

Bulls – Penalties: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (6).

http://citizen.co.za/356733/lions-finish-strong-in-dramatic-win-against-bulls/



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