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Ken Borland



A single miss costs the Sharks 0

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Ken

 

A single miss in an otherwise top-class kicking display by Pat Lambie cost the Sharks victory as they went down 26-28 to the Reds in their opening SuperRugby match in Brisbane on Friday.

Lambie missed a penalty three minutes from full-time that would have snatched a fortuitous victory, given that a Reds team that played with 14 men for 20 minutes outscored them by four tries to two.

With Lambie earlier kicking six-from-six, the Sharks enjoyed a 26-18 lead with 16 minutes remaining, but a poor finish to the game saw them concede two tries.

The Sharks made a great start with a try in the second minute when the Reds were throwing passes around and flyhalf Quade Cooper dropped the ball, outside centre Lukhanyo Am pounced and a quick interchange with wing Kobus van Wyk then put flank Jean-Luc du Preez away to storm over the tryline.

Lambie’s conversion made it 7-0, but the Sharks were unable to threaten the Reds’ tryline again in the first half, largely because they had to make do with a tiny proportion of possession, their failure to hang on to the ball for long periods meaning they had to do most of the defending.

Cooper and Lambie traded two penalties each to make the score 13-6 at the half-hour, but Van Wyk then turned village idiot and tried to take a quick lineout inside his own 22, an isolated Curwin Bosch conceding a scrum. The Reds forwards drove strongly and eighthman Scott Higginbotham dotted down through the pile of bodies for the home side’s opening try, Cooper’s conversion levelling the scores at 13-13.

Lambie snuck a penalty in the last-minute of the first half, thanks to lock Ruan Botha twice putting great pressure on Reds scrumhalf Nick Frisby, for the Sharks to lead 16-13 at the break, and the visitors showed hitherto unseen control in the opening exchanges of the second half, dominating territory and hanging on to the ball much better.

Lambie succeeded with a 43rd-minute penalty to stretch the lead to 19-13, but Queensland centre Samu Kerevi struck back with the first of his two tries six minutes later.

Running with great power and awareness, he burst through a gap between scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and Am, to score after the Reds chose a scrum under the shadow of the poles instead of a kick at goal. Cooper failed with an easy conversion attempt, which allowed the Sharks to hang on to a slender one-point lead.

With referee Nick Briant suddenly remembering that there is no tolerance for neck-tackles this season, Reds lock Kane Douglas was yellow-carded for pulling at Beast Mtawarira’s neck in the 57th minute.

With a lot of the Reds muscle gone, the Sharks understandably went for rolling mauls when awarded penalties, but there was no accuracy in their first couple of attempts, but eventually eighthman Tera Mtembu rumbled over in the 61st minute after the Queenslanders disintegrated.

Lambie converted for a 26-18 lead, but they were to score no further points as they seemed to lack a clear plan in the final quarter.

Kerevi is a particular threat in this Reds side and he muscled over from close range again in the 64th minute, but the killer blow was landed by his midfield partner Duncan Paia’aua, who ran an excellent line back inside, cutting straight through before replacement scrumhalf James Tuttle finished strongly.

The result was a sharp reminder to the Sharks of the accuracy that is required to win overseas – they simply made too many errors in discipline and decision-making, although a losing bonus point was some reward for the competitiveness they showed.

Mtawarira was full of energy in the front row, Du Preez was a force with ball-in-hand and Am was exciting at times in the backline, but the overall Sharks performance was not good enough to earn victory.

Scorers

RedsTries: Scott Higginbotham, Samu Kerevi (2), James Tuttle. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Cooper (2).

SharksTries: Jean-Luc du Preez, Tera Mtembu. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (4).

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1438777/clumsy-sharks-fluff-their-lines-at-vital-moments/

Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland on the Brisbane disappointment 0

Posted on September 13, 2016 by Ken

 

I must say I find it quite disturbing sitting here in Japan and reading about the Springboks being in chaos … and that’s coming from a lot of people who have never coached a game of rugby in their lives!

I thought the Springboks gave it a full go in Brisbane against the Wallabies and there was far more intensity than there was in Argentina. People must remember that we lost by only six points, it was not a 49-0 result after all!

The Springboks were right in it until the last minute, so it was a similar story to the last few years when it comes to matches against the Wallabies – the Springboks built a lead and then Australia clawed it back.

I thought the Springboks finished strongly, but there were too many mistakes in the attacking red zone: too many knock-ons, fumbles and the carriers would lose the ball on their way down to the ground just when we had built up some momentum.

To those who are suggesting the team is not being coached, this is plainly unfair. I know Allister Coezee and Johann van Graan well and from working with Johann  for four years I know they would have looked at Australia in detail.

Game planning is now a collaborative exercise between the players and coaches. As attack coach, Johann would meet with the senior players and the key decision-makers, show them clips which he felt were relevant and then they would agree on the way forward after bouncing ideas around. Johann meets with small groups like the breakdown, attack leaders and lineout groups and the different units within the team to discuss with them what they need to do. To say there is no planning in place and chaos in the team is far from the truth.

So it’s always clear what the plan is for the forwards competing and the attack or the kicking game or whatever, and certainly for the defence when I was there. The plan is always clear on attack and defence, but clearly you then have to execute. I don’t know how Mzwandile Stick and Chean Roux work, but I imagine it would be the same.

And then there’s a 45-minute meeting with all the players and leadership group where feedback is given on different areas, so the game plan is always clear to everyone who is involved.

So the game plan will be a collaboration and it’s always a very busy week for the players and coaches because not only do they have all their on-field training, but they also do a helluva lot of video work and planning.

An international coach only has 12 games per year, but it’s like playing 12 finals because for every game he has to prepare like he would for a final.

I think there certainly was an improvement by the Springboks in Brisbane. The defence was better but there were still far too many cardinal errors.

They should have set the blindside defence from the breakdown better after the lineout maul and you could see from Bryan Habana’s reaction that he got sucked in because we clearly didn’t have enough numbers there on the blindside.

On the second try, the defenders overtracked on Foley. You should be coming forward and be square that close to the line, otherwise you will be stepped.

But the defence did set much better and it was more organised, but that was predicted because Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel are better communicators and more vocal.

It was also really obvious though that the Springboks should have been kicking more on to Quade Cooper when he was on the wing. It’s hard to do it from the left side because Elton Jantjies is a left-footer, but it would have been easy for him to swap around with Johan Goosen.

They should have managed that better, they were just set up all the time for the maul and box-kick. It was also disappointing that they then allowed Australia to play from there, they should not really be able to attack from there because the chase should be much wider and into position quicker. The Wallabies have had to run back to get behind the catcher, so it’s really just a question of work-rate when it comes to the Springbok chase.

You generally have a plan beforehand, but Test rugby is so high-paced and frantic that it’s very difficult to change things during the game. You have to have clear plans before the game and you have to have practised it if you’re going to make a change. By putting Johan Goosen at flyhalf on the left-hand side they would have opened up the middle of the field and allowed the Springboks to kick away from Israel Folau. If you kick long and then they kick it back, you must reply with a short running bomb, which is always fielded by scrumhalf Will Genia, and surely we can win aerial battles with him!

The Springboks are also generally not generating broken-field ball with their kicks, which is strange because we do have right-footed and left-footed combinations.

The Lions have won in New Zealand this year, so I hope the things that served them well will come in. I think it could be quite close against the All Blacks in Christchurch, I don’t think the Springboks are going to get beaten by 40 or 50 points.

In the last four years our away games against the All Blacks have been relatively close. In Dunedin in 2012, the Springboks missed a lot of penalties – we only kicked at 33% – and lost 21-11, while 2013 in Auckland was when referee Roman Poite reduced us to 14 men for most of the game when he yellow-carded and then red-carded Bismarck du Plessis, which was subsequently proven to be unfair. Then in 2014 in Wellington they won 14-10 thanks to Kieran Read batting back a crosskick to Richie McCaw to score, and that game became very close at the end. Last year the Springboks lost 20-18 in London in the World Cup semifinal.

It’s essentially a very similar group playing again this weekend and it’s always the biggest clash of the year for both teams, the Boks certainly approach it like that and, as All Blacks assistant coach Ian Foster has alluded to this week, they view the Springboks as their greatest competitors and rivals so I fully expect it to be a much closer game than some of our fortune-tellers in the media have predicted.

I know this group of players will always stand up and be counted and it’s always the same with the Springboks: when you back them into a hole they perform at their best, they need that extreme pressure, under that their real character is shown and this group does have character.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

 

Former Bok defence coach John McFarland on why the bench will be crucial in Brisbane 0

Posted on September 08, 2016 by Ken

 

The impact of the Springboks’ 6-2 bench is going to be of the utmost importance in their Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, because of a combination of who the referee is and who they are playing against.

Nigel Owens is a fantastic referee and there tends to be a very high ball-in-play figure whenever he’s in charge. Australia have also always had a very attacking mindset in all the games against the Springboks and with their two flyhalves, they will also want to keep the ball in play.

So the ball-in-play figure could be 40-45 minutes, which is the norm against Australia when Owens is the referee but about 20% more than average, which is the reason why Allister Coetzee has gone for six forwards on the bench.

If you look at our recent Test matches against Australia, the Springboks have been comfortably in front for 60-65 minutes but have not finished the job because of a lack of bench impact.

So it’s obvious that having impact players on the bench will be vital and the bench this year has definitely added value– guys like Jaco Kriel, the two props and Pieter-Steph du Toit have provided real grunt up front.

The key for the Springboks is to have 23 players to play for the full 90 minutes. Three forwards will possibly play the full 90 minutes – Strauss, Whiteley and Etzebeth, for whom it is a tremendous achievement to reach 50 caps so young.

Victor Matfield made a very relevant point on SuperSport when he said that the Springboks didn’t have a single driving maul in Salta. Their lineout is so dominant that they must use their maul. Even the Lions do – they have a strong set-piece and maul, it’s a very solid part of their game.

Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel will make quite an exciting centre pairing. It’s a bit harsh though on Damien de Allende and Lionel Mapoe because they’ve seen very little ball on the front foot, but obviously Allister has decided that it’s time for a shake-up. It’s especially difficult at outside centre if the midfield is not operating and you get the ball up against a defensive wall, you’re very influenced by what happens on your inside.

The advantage of Juan and Jesse is that they are better communicators in defence and attack, and both have amazing sidestepping ability and run hard reverse lines against the defence. Jesse scored two wonderful tries stepping from centre in last year’s Rugby Championship and they will pose a different attacking threat against Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley.

Allister has obviously also gone for this pairing because Australia don’t have the same size in the midfield as other teams like New Zealand do. Australia will have a very small midfield, which provides the Springboks with the opportunity to run at them and expose their defensive weaknesses.

Australia mix their backs around defensively, they are not always in the channel you’d expect them to be, for example Cooper does find himself at fullback or blind wing sometimes on defence, so then you can use the high-ball kicking game on him from lineouts.

The obvious reason for Australia to go with two flyhalves is that it puts a lot more width on their passing game and they can use a lot more second-man plays from wide channels. The other advantage is they can split their backs on a middle ruck and have two sides to attack.

The other big selection issue has been Adriaan Strauss. Allister obviously wanted his experience and wisdom  and Adriaan is a quality Test performer. His accuracy at the lineout is second to none as is his scrummaging, so his set-pieces are always at a high level and he contributed around the park.

I guess the results haven’t been as he would have expected and it’s been a difficult year. But he cares deeply about the game. He’s not a tub-thumping sort of captain, but he speaks intelligently and demands high standards.

The Springboks have just not been able to get their all-round game going but the set-pieces have been really solid, so he has done his job.

For Saturday, the defence of the Springboks really has to improve. The work-rate has to be a lot higher to set the breakdown pillars properly before the attack gets in place. The ability of the defence to force turnovers will be crucial because Australia will take the ball at the Boks in hand. The side they have picked is very attack-minded.

The other really huge battle of the game will be the lineout.  New Zealand really exposed flaws in the Australian lineout in the two Bledisloe Cup Tests and the Springboks definitely have an advantage having picked four lineout jumpers to combat three.

I would expect us to continue to produce good ball on our own throw and hopefully disrupt their lineout to give them poor set-piece ball to attack from.

In 2013, the Springboks broke the Brisbane hoodoo, scoring four tries to zero. Hopefully on Saturday they can do the same again.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

 

Bok scrum fade had much to do with captaincy issues 0

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Ken

 

Much of the blame for South Africa’s late defeat in Brisbane has been laid on the scrum, but what hasn’t been mentioned is the effect losing captain Victor Matfield had on the set-piece. And now the Springboks are set to name an interim captain on Tuesday afternoon, with Schalk Burger also injured, leaving Francois Louw as the likely new leader.

The Springbok scrum had been dominant for the first hour against the Wallabies, the Sharks front-row of Jannie du Plessis, Beast Mtawarira and Bismarck du Plessis producing a much-improved display, but with the whole front row controversially replaced, the home side ended the match in charge of that set-piece, providing them with a priceless platform for their late charge.

Captain Matfield had of course left the field in the first half with a hamstring strain and, although the lanky lock does not contribute a huge amount in terms of scrummaging, his absence from the tight five was nevertheless keenly felt as the Wallabies stole control in that facet.

That’s because the Australians were allowed to close the gap at set-up and engage early, something an experienced member of the tight five like Matfield would no doubt have brought to the attention of referee Nigel Owens. Instead, Burger was leading the side from the back of the scrum and the Wallabies got away with their clever tactic.

“The Australians changed their set-up, they came a bit closer which gave them more shoulder contact before the engagement. It disrupted us and we found it very difficult to set the scrum. Sometimes it is difficult to adapt and they were able to come at us early in the scrums in the second half,” scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said on Monday.

Much has been written about Louw’s leadership qualities, the 30-year-old having done a marvellous job as captain of Bath. He was another experienced old head who was sorely missed in the final quarter in Brisbane, not least of all because of his work at the breakdown, especially since the Wallabies brought on David Pocock to partner Michael Hooper and turn the tide in another area of previous Springbok dominance.

Louw left the field because of a bad gash to his cheek, but doctor Craig Roberts said on Monday that he will be fine to play against the All Blacks this weekend.

A less-obvious facial blow was suffered by Burger, whose cheekbone apparently popped out when he blew his nose after the game. The veteran loose forward went for a scan on Monday and the news is apparently not good, given the hurried announcement from the Springbok camp on Monday night that an interim captain will be announced on Tuesday afternoon.

If Burger is ruled out, then it seems Louw, his former Western Province team-mate, will beat him to become the Springboks’ 55th Test captain.

Amidst all the injury negativity, one of the most positive aspects of the Rugby Championship opener was the return to top form of the two Du Plessis brothers and Mtawarira. Hard, experienced men such as them will be needed at the World Cup.

“We’re very happy with the way the scrums started off. Heyneke had faith in the Sharks front row and we’re very happy they came through because they were under pressure.

“Jannie had a very good game, his work-rate was good and in the previous game too. He scrummed very well, so we’re very happy with that. No player is ever in top shape for the whole year.

“Beast also scrummed very well and I thought Heinke van der Merwe, for someone who hasn’t played for the Springboks for a long time, did very well too,” De Villiers said.

The match against Australia provided the opportunity for some fringe players to stake their claim for the World Cup squad and nobody took their chance better than Lood de Jager, who replaced Matfield after 20 minutes.

“We wanted to use the match for rotation, for guys to get game time. Some players got a bit of experience and that will be great for the World Cup.

“The plan was always to rotate guys up front because it’s in the best interests of the team for players to get game time and enough match fitness.

“Lood gave a great little performance, he was strong in the scrum and great overall, making several tackles. He had a very high work-rate,” De Villiers said.

Doctor Roberts also announced that flank Marcell Coetzee is likely to miss Saturday’s game due to a big contusion to the muscles around the knee, while he confirmed that Jean de Villiers, who came through 60 minutes for Western Province at the weekend “fairly well”, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Frans Steyn and Pieter-Steph du Toit will all continue their rehab with the Springbok squad but are not ready to play yet.



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