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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.

Back to school for Saru, who look set to fail again 0

Posted on February 13, 2017 by Ken

 

If the South African Rugby Union were a kid, based on their 2016 performance they would be the one who failed to pass their grade and has to repeat the year, hopefully being shamed into harder work and improvement by the embarrassment of sitting in a class with a bunch of people a year younger than you.

Unfortunately, if I was their teacher in that school, I would be forced to conclude already at this early stage of the year that Saru are doomed to fail again because they are simply repeating the same mistakes.

We are two weeks away from the start of Super Rugby and we still don’t know yet whether Allister Coetzee will continue in his post as Springbok coach. If he does – and that looks likely given how tardy Saru have once again been in sorting out their most important appointment (apart from arguably the CEO, who has done another of his disappearing tricks) – then Coetzee will once again find his planning set back by an administration that seems intent on tying one hand behind his back.

The contracts are apparently in place and the official announcement is supposed to be made in the next week, but we’ve heard that line before.

There is another vital appointment that Saru is also dragging its feet over and one that just creates enormous uncertainty amongst the best junior talent in this country and their parents, many of whom are probably sitting on offers from overseas.

Dawie Theron finished his tenure as national U20 coach in June and a replacement has still not been named. There is a great candidate – both in terms of the success he has achieved with young rugby players and the tremendous transformation message it would send – sitting in Potchefstroom by the name of Jonathan Mokuena, previously a manager of the Junior Springboks side, a winner of the Varsity Cup and a successful coach of the Leopards senior team.

But instead there are strong suggestions Abe Davids, the brother of Saru vice-president Francois Davids, is being lined up for the job.

Former traffic cop Francois Davids is also the president of Boland rugby, the union which suspended Abe Davids in 2014 for faking his coaching qualifications, and has been accused of such nepotism by the clubs in the area that the administration was called the “House of Davids”.

The only good news coming out of Saru lately  is that they have invested in getting Brendan Venter back involved with the Springboks. With him and Franco Smith, working with Matt Proudfoot and Johann van Graan, Coetzee will finally have back-up staff worthy of the Springboks.

Of course the name of Rassie Erasmus still pops up from time to time and the former Springbok and director of rugby has put in a lot of time and effort in plotting his coaching career-path. A leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper seems be the PR company for his ambitions.

While the dithering and politicking carries on in the Saru boardroom, the All Blacks have already held their first camp together and the gap just widens. One would hope the news that the Springboks could be ranked as low as seventh after the next round of Six Nations matches would shock Saru into decisive action, but the wheels of their bureaucracy turn with the speed of a sloth.

 

Lions have earned universal respect despite failing to make playoffs 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions may have failed to make the SuperRugby playoffs after their dramatic weekend draw against the Stormers, but the Johannesburg-based franchise has certainly earned the respect of all their opponents this season.

Just two years after they were controversially relegated from SuperRugby, the Lions have clinched second place in the South African Conference and boast an almost identical record to the Brumbies, who have snuck into the playoffs ahead of them because of bonus points.

They have maintained their positive style of play with ball in hand, but where they have improved most is defensively, boasting the best tackling success rate in the competition. The Lions play at the highest tempo of all the South African sides as they swarm around in defence and always have great intensity on the ball. Their powerful scrum has provided a solid platform and their lineout has also been efficient.

“It’s all about playing with intensity and hunger, and we have to up our performance every week. There are plans in place, but I also allow the guys to be free spirits and you have to live with the small mistakes that come from that,” coach Johan Ackermann says. “Obviously I’m very proud of the team, it must be one of our best years and it shows that hard work is worth it.”

The Lions have certainly deserved all the praise that has come their way, beating the qualified Waratahs and Highlanders in the last five weeks and showing all season that they are never out of the contest with some superb second-half comebacks.

“There’s great belief within this side, a real hunger. We want to close down the opposition’s space and put them under pressure. We’ve built our physicality in defence, we want to be in their faces and not stand back,” captain Warren Whiteley says.

Their impressive performances have seen several of their players grow into Springbok contenders. The most likely Lions player to feature in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok World Cup squad is flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who dares to take the ball flat and attack the opposition line, has superb hands and is a strong defender, as well as kicking well this season.

Eighthman Whiteley is competing with Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger for a place at the World Cup, but he gets through a mound of work and is the only player in SuperRugby this year to have made more than 200 tackles, while also being highly effective in a linking role, possessing great skill and vision as befits a Springbok Sevens player who helped win the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year.

He is also adept at interfering with the opposition lineout, where Franco Mostert has also been a key performer for the Lions, as well as in the loose.

Warwick Tecklenburg has been outstanding in doing all the Lions’ dirty work, being second only to Whiteley in terms of tackles made, but fellow flank Jaco Kriel has been the most impressive forward.

A constant nuisance at the breakdown, he oozes raw talent in offence, having phenomenal pace, strength and hands, and has more often than not been able to spark the most sensational counter-attacks by the Lions.

Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe have proved to be two powerful centres, while scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Ruan Combrinck are two other backs who have announced themselves as future Springboks this year.

Despite their success over the last two years, Ackermann says at the moment they are just playing pretty rugby and haven’t won anything yet, there is more growing to do.

“We can look back on a good season regardless of missing the playoffs. The players know where they stand with me and they know my expectation on deserving the jersey. As long as they do that, I can’t ask for more. The growth from last year is definitely there, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“Nobody has achieved anything yet. We are not in the playoffs, we haven’t won the Currie Cup yet, we haven’t won any trophies yet. But if you ask me if there is a lot of growth, both for me as coach and for the team, then definitely if you look where we started in January 2014 until where we are now,” Ackermann says.

 

Africa Open overseas player profiles 0

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Ken

 

ANDY SULLIVAN

 

The former Walker Cup representative first sprang to prominence in 2014 with five top-10 finishes to end 33rd in the Race to Dubai. His successful year included a hole-in-one at the KLM Open, which won him a trip to space.

2015 has been a glorious year for him, beating home favourite Charl Schwartzel in a playoff, thanks to a superb approach shot from the Glendower rough, to win the SA Open, and then triumphing in the Joburg Open at Royal Johannesburg & Kensington on a tense final day.

 

BORN – 19 May 1986

COUNTRY – England

TURNED PRO – 2011

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 7th

2015 RESULTS – 2 wins in Johannesburg at the SA Open & Joburg Open; T4 at Dubai Desert Classic

CAREER WINS –  2015 SA Open; 2015 Joburg Open

 

 

ALEX NOREN

 

His career has been hampered by injuries and he is currently on a medical extension having missed all but two events of the 2014 season due to tendonitis in both wrists. He won twice in 2011 and had seven top-10s in 2012.

He has a degree in Business Marketing from Oklahoma State University.

 

BORN – 12 July 1982

COUNTRY – Sweden

TURNED PRO – 2005

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 10th

2015 RESULTS – 2nd at Dubai Desert Classic, 9th at Qatar Masters & T11 at Thailand Classic

CAREER WINS – 2009 European Masters; 2011 Wales Open; 2011 Nordea Masters

 

 

ANDREW DODT

 

The winner of the inaugural Thailand Classic and the 2010 Avantha Masters in New Delhi, he is obviously comfortable in Asia having played there throughout 2014.

A native of Brisbane in north-eastern Australia, he started playing golf when he was four, at the local Gatton Golf Club.

 

BORN – 26 January 1986

COUNTRY – Australia

TURNED PRO – 2007

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 14th

2015 RESULTS – 1st at Thailand Classic; T36 at Malaysian Open

CAREER WINS – 2010 Avantha Masters; 2015 Thailand Classic

 

 

GREGORY BOURDY

 

Coming from a golf-loving family, he started played the game when he was four.

His Hong Kong Open triumph came when held off a charging Rory McIlroy and he also won the Wales Open with a hat-trick of birdies.

A keen visitor to South Africa.

 

BORN – 25 April 1982

COUNTRY – France

TURNED PRO – 2003

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 22nd

2015 RESULTS – T5 at Qatar Masters & Malaysian Open; T13 at Dubai Desert Classic

CAREER WINS – 2007 Mallorca Classic; 2008 Portugal Open; 2009 Hong Kong Open; 2013 Wales Open

 

 

THOMAS PIETERS

 

There are lofty expectations for the lanky Belgian after he won the NCAA Golf Championship while at college in the United States.

Lost to Miguel Angel Jimenez in a playoff at the Spanish Open in his rookie season last year, finishing 83rd in the Race to Dubai. Since then his ranking has risen into the top 25 on the order of merit.

Took up golf along with his whole family when they played when on holiday in South Africa in 1997.

 

BORN – 27 January 1992

COUNTRY – Belgium

TURNED PRO – 2013

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 24th

2015 RESULTS – T4 at Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship; T8 at Alfred Dunhill Championship; T16 Malaysian Open

CAREER WINS – 0

 

 

BYEONG-HUN AN

 

The son of two Olympic table tennis medalists, Jiao Zhimin and Ahn Jae-Hyung (she represented China and his father South Korea), An has been based in the United States for more than six years.

The youngest winner of the U.S. Amateur Championship when he triumphed in 2009, he followed another winner into Europe in Peter Uihlein.

 

BORN – 17 September 1991

COUNTRY – South Korea

TURNED PRO – 2011

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 27th

2015 RESULTS – T5 at Qatar Masters; T7 at Joburg Open; T12 at Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship; T13 at Dubai Desert Classic

CAREER WINS – 0

 

 

MORTEN ORUM MADSEN

 

Told the media after his memorable SA Open triumph at Glendower that his maiden win had given him more hunger but also greater calmness and no fear on the golf course.

Had seven top-20 finishes in his rookie season on tour, including a T4 finish at the Nelson Mandela Championship.

He comes from the same club, Silkeborg GK, as Thomas Bjorn, who he considers a role-model. Wanted to be a footballer, but his father finally managed to win him over to golf when he was 12.

 

BORN – 9 April 1988

COUNTRY – Denmark

TURNED PRO – 2011

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 29th

2015 RESULTS – T4 at Dubai Desert Classic; T12 at Abu Dhabi HSBC Golf Championship; T16 at Alfred Dunhill Championship

CAREER WINS – 2014 South African Open

 

 

ANDREW JOHNSTON

 

Finished on top of the Challenge Tour rankings in 2014 and began this season on a high with a third-placed finish at Leopard Creek.

Known as “Beef”, he is a powerful driver of the ball.

 

BORN – 18 February 1989

COUNTRY – England

TURNED PRO – 2009

RACE TO DUBAI RANKING – 33rd

2015 RESULTS – 3rd at Alfred Dunhill Championship; T35 at Dubai Desert Classic

CAREER WINS – 0

 



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