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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.

 

 

Confident Bulls knock stuffing out of WP in first hour 0

Posted on August 09, 2016 by Ken

 

The Blue Bulls knocked the stuffing out of Western Province in the first hour as they beat last year’s Currie Cup runners-up 45-26 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, giving the ball plenty of air as they ran in six tries to start their campaign on a confident – almost arrogant – note.

After a bad start in which flyhalf Tian Schoeman had his clearance from the kickoff charged down, forcing the Bulls to defend five metres from their line, the home side played some breathtaking rugby as they scorched into a 24-0 lead at halftime, which they extended to 38-0 after 54 minutes.

The try-feast began with a high-class try in the 19th-minute as loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman, who was one of the Bulls’ standout forwards, made a great steal and then scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, who gave quality service throughout, made a tremendous pass out wide to eighthman Arno Botha, the captain going on a storming run before passing back inside for Van Zyl to score.

The Bulls’ second try, 13 minutes later, came from a textbook up-and-under from Van Zyl and a wonderful chase by wing Jamba Ulengo, opposite number Khanyo Ngcukana being counter-rucked off the ball. A swift backline attack led to a Bulls lineout and centre Dries Swanepoel took it quickly, his smart play leading to a ruck, from which impressive lock Jason Jenkins burst through to score.

Another slick backline move created space out wide from the kickoff and lock Marvin Orie galloped over to complete a classy first half for the Blue Bulls.

Pierre Schoeman was again in the thick of things in the loose in the 47th minute, his tackle winning a scrum for the Bulls, from which debutant wing Jade Stiglingh showed his pace to slice through for the try on a wraparound move with Tian Schoeman.

The home side again found space out wide in the 54th minute, fullback Bjorn Basson chipping infield for Ulengo to score.

The quality of the game suffered in the last 10 minutes as the Bulls went through the motions and Western Province finally hung on to the ball for long enough to score four tries and earn themselves a bonus point, Basson scoring a late try for the Bulls to have the final say.

Tian Schoeman was excellent with the boot, succeeding with all seven of his kicks at goal.

Scorers

Blue BullsTries: Piet van Zyl, Jason Jenkins, Marvin Orie, Jade Stiglingh, Jamba Ulengo, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (6). Penalty: Schoeman.

Western ProvinceTries: Johnny Kotze, Leolin Zas, Huw Jones, Scott van Breda. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (3).

 

 

Lions show they can win well without the ball 0

Posted on July 23, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions had to show they are able to win without the ball and they did that to impressive effect at Ellis Park on Saturday night as they beat the Crusaders 42-25 in their SuperRugby quarterfinal.

The Lions probably only enjoyed about 40% of possession and territory, but their defence was superb and they showed a ruthless streak when they did have the ball, clinical finishing giving them five tries.

It was one-way traffic in the first 10 minutes though as the Lions scored two tries to settle their nerves and give them a 12-0 lead which the Crusaders chipped away at, but could never entirely eliminate.

After flank Warwick Tecklenburg had barged over the advantage line, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk made a good decision to go left and wing Courtnall Skosan showed lovely footwork to step past a couple of defenders and then race away from the halfway line for a superb second-minute try.

De Klerk was once again prominent in the Lions’ second try five minutes later as he intercepted a pass and led a breakaway from their own territory, Skosan loomed up in support and was stopped just short of the tryline, illegally, leading to a penalty.

Sensing blood, the Lions kicked to touch and got the rolling maul going and this time there was no avoiding a yellow card for the Crusaders when they sacked it illegally, lock Luke Romano being sent off the field by referee Craig Joubert.

That penalty was also kicked to touch and, a couple of phases after the lineout, bulldozer centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg went over for the try.

Elton Jantjies converted and seven minutes later he added a penalty after De Klerk had linked well with his forwards and backs and decoy runners had caused some confusion in the Crusaders defence.

The Lions were 15-0 up but they spent most of the second quarter pinned in their own territory and having to defend courageously, making tackle-after-tackle, to keep the Crusaders out.

While the visitors showed excellent ball-retention, most of the Lions’ problems were related to their poor tactical kicking and not getting enough distance on their clearing kicks.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga kicked a 19th-minute penalty and the Crusaders eventually made their territorial dominance count in terms of tries when another telling dart by wing Johnny McNicholl, who had been a handful on attack, led to outside centre Ryan Crotty dotting the ball down on the side of the post.

Mo’unga’s conversion closed the gap to 15-10 and the momentum was certainly with the Crusaders.

But the Lions brushed aside the difficulties of the last half-hour, a power scrum winning a penalty, which was again used to set the rolling maul, from which hooker Malcolm Marx scored.

Jantjies converted and the Lions were far more comfortable on the scoreboard – 22-10 up – than they were in reality at halftime.

But the Crusaders are a skilful side good at building pressure and they kept the ball through multiple phases at the start of the second half, trapping the Lions offsides and earning Mo’unga another penalty (13-22).

The Lions are perhaps too reliant on De Klerk using clearing kicks from the base, which are inevitably going to be more like an up-and-under than a long, raking touchfinder, but when Jantjies did manage to kick long and force the Crusaders back for a 22 drop out, it led to a penalty advantage and the flyhalf slotted a neat drop goal for the Lions to rebuild their lead.

The Crusaders were disappointed with the penalty count against them and they gave Jantjies another shot at goal in the 61st minute, the Lions getting front-foot ball as Janse van Rensburg crashed through the advantage line yet again.

The kicking game of the Crusaders was much better than the Lions’ and it earned them their second try when fullback Israel Dagg put pressure on the home side trying to field an up-and-under, the ball went loose and was tidied up by Mo’unga. He made it inside the Lions’ 22 before feeding replacement scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond for an easy run-in.

Mo’unga’s conversion made it 20-28 and the result was obviously back in the balance with 17 minutes remaining.

But the surprise substitution of the outstanding Janse van Rensburg brought immediate rewards. His replacement Howard Mnisi put outside centre Lionel Mapoe away with a sublime first touch, the Springbok incumbent racing through and then showing good composure to wait for the arrival of wing Ruan Combrinck in support. The power finish of the new international completed probably the try of the match.

On a special evening for the Lions, it was fantastic that some of their unsung heroes like Mnisi, Skosan and Tecklenburg produced some of the biggest plays.

Mnisi was in the thick of things again just five minutes later as his big tackle on McNicholl led to a turnover, which was sent wide, Mapoe chipping infield and replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje getting to the ball first and then fighting his way over the line.

Unfortunately, he injured himself in the process and his fitness is a concern for next weekend’s semi-final at Ellis Park.

With Jantjies’ conversion making it 42-20, the Lions no longer had to worry and an attempt to run the ball in their own 22 instead gave the Crusaders a consolation try through replacement flyhalf Ben Volavola.

But the Lions were convincing winners and by beating the seven-time champions and playoff experts, they have marked themselves as strong contenders for the title.

If they are as clinical on attack and as determined in defence as they were against the Crusaders, it would be silly to bet against them in their home semifinal next weekend.

 

 

SA A bowlers can finally celebrate victory 0

Posted on July 02, 2015 by Ken

The South Africa A bowlers still occasionally sprayed the ball around like confetti, but their overall performance was much better as they bowled the England Lions out for 209 to clinch a 78-run victory in the final limited-overs international at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Thursday night.

After Reeza Hendricks’ century had carried SA A to 287 for six, just two English batsmen really troubled the home bowlers, with Jonny Bairstow scoring 64 and Samit Patel 55 as they added 76 for the fifth wicket.

Kagiso Rabada was the most successful SA A bowler with four for 51 (and one just had to love the way he kept bouncing back from being belted for a boundary by invariably dismissing his tormentor), but Chris Morris was the best of the attack with an outstanding two for 23 in eight overs.

SA A captain Dean Elgar called on him to bowl the first batting powerplay over with the England Lions still very much in contention on 180 for five, needing 108 runs off 90 balls to complete a 4-0 series triumph, and Morris delivered a superb spell, conceding just four runs in three overs and claiming the wickets of Adil Rashid (8) and Tim Bresnan (1).

It was a super evening all round for him as he had earlier made a vital contribution with the bat, lashing 35 not out off 20 balls to boost SA A after a middle-order collapse saw them lose four wickets for 37 runs.

The start of the England Lions run-chase was delayed for 35 minutes because the floodlights were not working to full capacity and they were quickly under pressure as Marchant de Lange and Beuran Hendricks each took a wicket with the new ball.

Captain James Vince looked threatening as he scored 23 before Rabada had him caught at cover-point, but it was Elgar who showed he’s an under-rated bowler when he claimed the key scalp of Bairstow, trapped lbw with a straight, full delivery, as he delivered an excellent spell of one for 16 in five overs just before the powerplay.

Hendricks stamped himself as a new contender for the national team’s opening berth as his splendid century carried South Africa A to 287 for six.

Hendricks and Elgar formed a wonderful partnership up front as they added 149 for the first wicket in 28 overs after SA A were sent in to bat.

What was most impressive about their stand was the way they married watchfulness with an ability to work the ball around and keep the scoreboard ticking over.

While Elgar fell for a determined 66 off 74 balls, Hendricks went on to score 107 off 128 deliveries, with 10 fours and a six, before being bowled by Bresnan with the total on 210 in the 39th over.

The England Lions were on top from that moment on, claiming three more wickets and it was only thanks to a fiery late burst from Morris that SA A were able to post 287, when something over 300 was certainly on the cards.

Hendricks went to his half-century first – his third of the year – off just 59 balls with seven fours.

Elgar reached his half-century six overs later, although he took two fewer deliveries, but his demise came when he tried to slog-sweep leg-spinner Rashid, but could only top-edge a catch to deep midwicket.

Hendricks brought up his second century of the series in the batting powerplay with a beautifully balanced and controlled flick off his pads off left-arm seamer Harry Gurney for his 11th four, but an over later, SA A lost their second wicket.

Theunis de Bruyn had breezed to 29 off 25 balls, as he and Hendricks added a run-a-ball 53, but then chanced his arm once too often against the impressive Jack Brooks and was bowled.

Brooks was the golden arm for the England Lions on Thursday as he also bowled Stiaan van Zyl for 21 and then claimed a return catch off Khaya Zondo (7) as the SA A innings just faded away.

Bresnan claimed the wicket of Hendricks in the 39th over, hitting the middle stump as the 25-year-old tried to drive through the on-side.

Gurney added the soft wicket of Dane Vilas (8), cutting to point, and it was only the bighitting Morris, smiting three fours and clearing the boundary twice, that lifted SA A in the last handful of overs.

Brooks was the best of the touring bowlers, finishing with three for 55, including two for 18 in his last three overs at the death.

http://citizen.co.za/321616/south-african-clinch-victory/

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