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Ken Borland



Lions battling against victims of own success sporting law 0

Posted on June 07, 2017 by Ken

 

It is almost a law of sport that teams can become victims of their own success in terms of competitors trying to lure a franchise’s star performers away, and the Highveld Lions are currently going through an unsettled period marked by the departures of key internationals Temba Bavuma and Eddie Leie, as well as their general manager, Heinrich Strydom.

But it could have been a lot worse because CEO Greg Fredericks reportedly tendered his resignation as well, but the board did not accept it and managed to convince the popular former MP to continue in his role, thus avoiding another major blow to a union that also lost several experienced players to matchfixing bans at the start of last season.

Fredericks did not want to comment on his alleged resignation, but told The Citizen, “I had an offer which I turned down. My job here is not done.”

Strydom, who was also the CEO of North-West Cricket, has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Dolphins franchise and the Lions have been forced into a time of change, which they are trying to manage as best they can.

There has also been speculation that Cricket South Africa want to groom Lions coach Geoff Toyana for greater things by appointing him as one of the Proteas’ assistant coaches, which would be another blow to the franchise.

“Geoff has just renewed his contract with us for another three years. But if anything happens, we obviously do have succession plans and one or two individuals in mind. We are also advertising for a batting coach at the moment,” Fredericks said.

“The board has expressed concern, however, over the performances of the Highveld Lions and the Gauteng Strikers over the last season, and a committee led by David Terbrugge will investigate and come up with proposals. But the team lost Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie, and that experience you can’t replace overnight. People might not also know the important roles of players like Kagiso Rabada, Thami Tsolekile, Pumi Matshikwe and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

“Heinrich was also a huge asset for us, but we are very happy for him. He’s a very hard-working person and we will miss him. But if our pipeline is strong, then we should be able to replicate our previous successes, it’s about ensuring our character and culture stay strong,” Fredericks said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170525/282119226487652

John McFarland Column – Defence and touring are the talking points 0

Posted on March 30, 2017 by Ken

 

Two of the main talking points among South African SuperRugby followers at the moment are the apparent slackening in the defence of the local franchises and the resting of players for the away matches against the Jaguares and Sunwolves.

Questions have been raised about the defence of the South African franchises, especially after the Bulls leaked six tries against the Blues in Auckland last weekend. But it’s not just the Bulls – there are a lot more tries being scored this year in general.

The reason is that over the last year the attack has gone a lot wider and there are more players behind the ball. Sure, the rules have changed a bit, like the tackle law favouring more offloads, but the game has changed over the last year with people more willing now to leave forwards in the wide channels.

Most teams now play 2-4-2 or 1-3-3-1 with their forwards spread out across the field, and we are seeing more loose forwards standing in the backline.

In terms of the tries the Blues scored against the Bulls, we often saw two forwards in the outer extremities running against backs. When you have a big man on a smaller man, you’re more likely to be able to get an offload away. The Blues were able to score either because the Bulls simply ran out of numbers or they were able to effect excellent offloads by having support players behind the ball.

Three or four years ago, teams would have their forwards in two pods of four, but now they leave them in channels across the field and you will often see a hooker or back-row forward in the 15-metres-from-touch zone. The All Blacks have been doing this for the last five years and England did it between 2000 and 2003.

The reason it’s being done is because it’s now been proved, thanks to every player being fitted with a GPS that measures how many metres they have run and at what speed, that a lot less energy is used if the forwards are spread across the field than if they follow the ball. That’s how this new trend has evolved.

I actually thought the quality of the Bulls defence was very good in the first half, but they were found out in the second half when they just ran out of steam, too much juice had been taken out of their legs. That meant the Bulls’ backs and wings were always in a numbers situation, they could not get their width back and get back into line, so they were always under pressure.

To be fair though, the try from the restart was because at the kickoff you usually leave players back – the three outside backs and the scrumhalf on the chip-kick – and with four players out of the defensive line you will be vulnerable. But it was a good try and the Blues’ first try also featured fantastic offloads.

It’s difficult to stop offloads in the wide channels because you’re also dealing with footwork because of all the space available out there.

We always faced these same difficulties against New Zealand sides and some days we were more successful dealing with them than on others. The keys are a high level of conditioning, especially amongst the forwards, and to work hard at the breakdown. If you can’t get tacklers over the ball to slow it down, then the opposition just gets quick ball and quicker ball, and momentum, and then it’s difficult to set a defensive line. That’s what happened to the Bulls and it put Jamba Ulengo under real pressure on the wing.

But Pine Pienaar is an experienced defensive coach, now in his fourth year in the job, and he will be very aware of all this and will know how to fix it. After all, the Blue Bulls made the Currie Cup final last year and you don’t get there without having a good defence.

Handre Pollard had a better game and I’m looking forward to him coming through, he’s going a level up every week.

But it’s an horrendous draw for the Bulls to have all those away games up front, it’s the hardest draw in Super Rugby because you can never get on the front foot. Even a brilliant coach like John Plumtree was let go by the Sharks in 2013 after that sort of draw, and Allister Coetzee also had a season starting with numerous away games with the Stormers.

So it can happen that you get on a downward spiral. Super Rugby is such a tough competition that you always go through crises, but it’s how you deal with them that counts.

There have been suggestions that South African teams are concentrating more on attack to the detriment of their defence, but they will always get enough time during the week to work on their defence, that will never change. Generally teams train for 50 minutes on the Monday, then Tuesday is virtually a full session, the major day for defence, with contact. Then on Thursday attack will be the focus, but it’s not true that teams are concentrating too much on attack!

Each coach will have equal time to work within that on their area, teams split their time evenly between attack and defence.

In terms of weakened teams going to play the Jaguares in Argentina, that would have been pre-planned. Teams have to rest their frontline players in accordance with the Saru guidelines and it’s a helluva trip. You leave on the Sunday morning, flying 10-11 hours to Sao Paulo, where you have a three-hour wait before flying for four hours to Buenos Aires, only arriving on Monday afternoon, so you can’t train then. Teams will have a light practice on the Tuesday, with just one major session on the Thursday.

And coming back from Argentina is even worse!

What coaches like Johan Ackermann and Franco Smith have done is look at their next games and those have been vital, the problem with travelling to Argentina is always the game after that one, but that’s just the nature of the competition.

Singapore is also 10 hours away and it’s very humid and hot there. The Stormers took it as a chance to get some fringe guys some rugby.

Teams are merely following medical advice on how to keep their players fresh and get their best rugby out of them, plus players are more susceptible to ailments on these long trips.

The Lions proved last year that you need home advantage to win SuperRugby, but they needed to be at their best in the knockout games, hence their decision to rest players for their last round-robin game in Argentina.

 

 

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 lack of interest in the Olympic golf competition is palpable 0

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Ken

 

The announcement of South Africa’s team for the golf component of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is now a month away and the lack of major interest is palpable for a sport that should give the country a chance of a precious medal.

The legendary Gary Player is the captain of South Africa’s team but the two-man outfit will be chosen purely on the basis of the world rankings on July 11. Because Branden Grace is the only available South African in the top-15, we will only be able to send two players.

The great pity is that Louis Oosthuizen, currently 14th, has withdrawn from Olympic contention, so the prospect of sending a third player in Charl Schwartzel and maybe even a fourth in Jaco van Zyl, falls away. Only countries with more than two players in the top-15 are allowed to send bigger teams.

Schwartzel has also made himself unavailable, joining the Australian Adam Scott in snubbing the Olympics.

Golf was always going to be a tough fit for an event based on such classical ideals as amateurism. Today’s top golfers care mostly about the paycheque and winning Majors, that’s what really counts for them.

But instead of harping on about why the sport shouldn’t be at the Olympic Games, here are a couple of suggestions that could make a gold medal more attractive to golfers.

Firstly, it’s going to take time.

Tennis only returned to the Olympics in 1988 and initially there seemed to be similar problems to what golf is experiencing. But now Novak Djokovic is going all out to win that gold medal and a small thing like the Zika Virus is not going to keep him away.

Roger Federer is going to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles for Switzerland, while Rafael Nadal has been given the honour of carrying Spain’s flag into the Maracana Stadium.

Secondly, to make it more enticing for golfers, why not make it into a team competition, rather than an individual strokeplay? We’ve seen what the Ryder Cup does to them, it’s one of the highlights of any European or American golfer’s career.

How about bringing an amateur component into the competition, teaming a country’s top two amateurs with their top two pros?

Or what about making the golf a mixed team competition?

One gets the feeling that the Olympic Games might be struggling to remain as one of the most important sporting events, hence their decision to extend invitations to global sports like golf and rugby, but they have to get the format right if these events are going to add to the spectacle and not detract from it.

Amla can really appreciate the value of a single run, ask Stiaan 0

Posted on February 27, 2015 by Ken

By the end of his career, there will probably be anthologies written about all the elegant runs Hashim Amla has scored, but from 22 yards away he could really appreciate the value of just a single run.

It was the single that began Stiaan van Zyl’s Test career and the left-hander returned to the changeroom exactly a hundred runs later having joined the select band of batsmen who have scored a century on debut.

The single came as he flicked left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn through short-leg and Amla met Van Zyl in the middle of the pitch and said “I know it’s only just one run, but very well done!”

Van Zyl smiled in relief and went about knocking up an impressive 129-ball century in the first Test against the West Indies at Centurion on Thursday.

It was not without its troubles, however, particularly at the start when he almost edged his first ball to leg-gully off Benn and was dropped in the same position off the giant left-arm spinner on two.

“I was very nervous, before the first ball my gloves were wet. Benn is a bit taller than your normal spinner [Amla pointed out that he releases the ball from about three metres high!] and there was a bit of bounce and turn. It was a rough start but it became a bit easier.

“It’s obviously a big stage, but I told myself that it’s just the same old cricket ball coming at you. I just wanted to get past 10, to feel my way in, and once I got 50 I thought a hundred might be possible. Fortunately they gave me enough bad balls for me to get there,” Van Zyl said.

The left-hander added that the experience gained over the course of his 96 first-class games also helped, as did the foundation laid by playing for the all-conquering Cape Cobras side.

Although he was given the ideal platform by Amla and De Villiers’ record fourth-wicket stand of 308, it did not make his task any easier that he had to wait for over five hours with his pads on.

“We lost three quick wickets and my pads were on, and then every ball could be the one that brings you in. So it was quite mentally draining and I had to walk around and try and focus on other stuff. It’s a different ball game coming in at 365 for four compared to 50 for three, so the platform took the pressure off and I was able to just play freely,” Van Zyl said.

The 27-year-old’s brisk innings was also important as it appertains to the match situation, allowing South Africa to declare on 552 for five half-an-hour before the scheduled tea break. That should have given the hosts 38 overs in which to knock over the West Indian top-order, but a typical summer thunderstorm washed out that possibility, with no more play possible on the second day.

“We were looking to score runs, with rain around, and I wanted to declare earlier rather than later, plus there was always going to be bad light. We wanted to score quickly to give us as much time as possible to bowl at them. Now we have three days to get 20 wickets and hopefully the pitch sweating under the covers a bit might work in our favour,” captain Amla said.

Although the pitch has flattened out a bit, South Africa’s total is surely insuperable for a West Indies batting line-up that has averaged just 262 runs per innings in South Africa.

“The team is in position, we were in trouble but AB and I had a crucial partnership when the pitch still had a bit in it. I’m really happy to get some runs [208!] and the pitch still has a bit in it up front if you bowl in the right area. There are a few divots because it was quite soft on the first day and we have a good score on the board for what I consider the best attack in the world to bowl at,” Amla said.

 http://citizen.co.za/296037/just-wanted-get-past-10-stiaan-van-zyl/



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