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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.

 

 

Bulls scrum faces another crucial examination 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls scrum was toyed with by the Stormers in last weekend’s loss in Cape Town and now they face another crucial examination by the Lions in the SuperRugby Jukskei derby at Loftus Versfeld this evening.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann has recalled powerful scrummagers in Julian Redelinghuys and Robbie Coetzee and his Bulls counterpart Frans Ludeke is under no illusions that the result of the game could lie in how well Springboks Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe cope at scrum time.

“The scrum can be the decider, it will have a huge impact like last week, we’re well aware of that. At times we haven’t been accurate enough and if we’re going to be successful on Saturday then the scrum needs to function. In our previous match against the Lions, it was a great contest there,” Ludeke said.

There was only a small iota of difference between the two sides at Ellis Park a month ago with the Lions winning with a last-minute try, but the visitors ought to go into tonight’s game with enormous confidence on the back of five successive wins.

“They’re a great side, they’re playing fantastic rugby and they’ll have a lot of confidence, plus they’re winning the close games. We know it won’t be easy, but we are playing at Loftus and we’re all confident we can beat them here,” captain Victor Matfield said.

The match will have massive repercussions on whoever loses because it could leave them two wins behind the conference-leading Stormers, who should be victorious in Bloemfontein.

Ludeke suggested the Lions like to gamble back on the Highveld and a measured approach from his side could bring home the spoils.

“On tour the Lions played a more tactical game and backed their defence, but in South Africa they play like a New Zealand side, with width and from broken-field. But it’s going to be all about our ability to make good decisions and we are also dangerous with ball-in-hand. Their style means they can also cough up broken-field ball,” Ludeke said.

Ball-carriers, but chiefly attitude the Springboks’ major problem – Coetzee 0

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Ken

 

Apart from the lack of effectiveness of the ball-carriers, which was chiefly a technical issue, coach Allister Coetzee intimated on Monday that attitude was a major factor in the Springboks’ first ever home loss to Ireland in Cape Town at the weekend.

Coetzee said the team had got carried away, perhaps trying to replicate the flavour-of-the-month style of the Lions in SuperRugby, without attending to the necessary basics first.

“We shouldn’t have got sucked into the SuperRugby vibe, all the feel-good stuff about keeping ball in hand. Test rugby is different, a lot of the time it looks on out wide but it isn’t.

“All credit to Ireland because they scrambled well and worked exceptionally hard with 14 players, but we allowed them to look good by running laterally and unnecessarily forcing offloads. We needed a bit more composure and trust in the system,” Coetzee said on Monday in Johannesburg, where the Springboks play the decisive second Test on Saturday.

Although the shocker at Newlands was meant to be the start of an exciting new era of more positive rugby from the Springboks, the home side got totally carried away, just shovelling the ball wide most of the time and totally failing to capitalise on the one-man advantage they had for an hour after CJ Stander’s red card.

Coetzee said there had been some harsh words about making sure the basics are adhered to first.

“We’ve been brutally honest with each other that that performance was definitely not up to Springbok standard. Some of the lessons are internal things that are definitely only for the camp to know, but Test rugby is definitely built around territory, physicality is crucial and scoreboard pressure as well, because three points in a Test is like a try in SuperRugby. Those are non-negotiables,” Coetzee said.

“Tactically we were off-colour, it was a pressure test and that forced old habits to come out, they played like they do in SuperRugby – have a crack, have a go. But you have to respect certain areas of the field and you can’t force things because that’s what leads to turnovers and sloppy handling.

“The Northern Hemisphere sides are playing much closer to Test rugby than we are in SuperRugby. We’re all talking about ball-in-hand, but there’s still a place for kicking. All Ireland had to do was make it as difficult as possible for us to exit, we got bogged down in our 22. They were very clever tactics and we did not handle them well.”

The Springboks not only found themselves hemmed in when they favoured hands over kicking, but also struggled to get over the advantage line, which Coetzee put down to poor technique.

“We also let ourselves down with our contact skills, to get stripped of the ball so often just shows a lack of awareness in the collisions. It’s about our body height in contact, all about the shoulder battle. Ireland carry the ball very low so they are difficult to stop on the gain-line, they get that extra yard and their cleaners are going forward.

“We need effective ball-carriers, our physicality and intensity were a bit off, not where they should be in Test rugby. It’s about the height of the ball-carriers and how effectively they attack space,” Coetzee said.

In some ways, the red card shown to Stander for his reckless and extremely dangerous “tackle” on Pat Lambie was a blessing in disguise for Ireland; it lifted them to greater heights while there was an unmistakable sense that the Springboks just expected to steamroller them after that.

“I’ve seen many teams win with 14 men. Psychologically, the team with 15 tends to think it will just happen for them and the team with 14 know they have to put in extra effort. How hard Ireland worked was shown by how they managed to tackle JP Pietersen out in the corner at the end of the game. In those situations you have to make sure you go back to basics and do those things right,” Coetzee said.

The coach said the majority of the team that played in the first Test would get the chance to play in the second game at Ellis Park, which they have to win to ensure they don’t lose a series at home to a Northern Hemisphere side for the first time since the 1997 loss to the British Lions.

“We’re between a rock and a hard place because the team as a collective did not play well, but you need to look to give them a second opportunity to rectify that. If you make changes then it looks like panic, but first and foremost, I will be choosing the best team for Saturday.

“I always see the glass as half-full and you will lose rugby Tests, you’re not going to win all your games, whether it be your first Test or your last. The most important thing is how the team responds and I look forward to seeing that. We have to make sure we improve,” Coetzee said.

That means Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk, whose game management earned mixed reviews at Newlands, are bound to start at halfback, although Morne Steyn is likely to provide a reassuring presence on the bench, having been called up on Monday.

Steyn may not be the media’s favourite flyhalf for the future, but there is no doubt that the experience, calm and tactical kicking ability he will bring to Ellis Park was badly missed in the first Test.

 

Sharks make 5 changes for a site of little success in recent years … 0

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Ken

 

Loftus Versfeld is a site where the Sharks have not seen much success in the last few years, so it may cause some surprise that coach Gary Gold has made five changes to the starting line-up that secured an impressive victory over the Stormers in Cape Town for Friday night’s SuperRugby derby against the Bulls.

But it is a short week for the Sharks – the Bulls are coming off a bye – and there are so many sore bodies after the titanic effort against the Stormers that a few fresher legs will be good for the visitors and, because they are all players promoted from the bench, there is not that much disruption.

One change has been injury-enforced with powerhouse flank Jean-Luc du Preez struggling with a foot injury and he is replaced by former Cheetahs star Philip van der Walt.

Lwazi Mvovo returns on the left wing, with JP Pietersen shifting to the right and Odwa Ndungane moving down to the bench; Michael Claassens swops with Cobus Reinach at scrumhalf; and two of the replacement front-rowers, tighthead Lourens Adriaanse and hooker Kyle Cooper, will get their first starts of the campaign as Coenie Oosthuizen and Franco Marais shift to the bench.

“When we do our planning, there are loads of factors we take into consideration and you can’t plan for injuries, which force you to rotate. It’s not that we’re resting players now, but we want to stop the rot for three or four guys and then there’ll be other guys rotated in three or four weeks time, so that by Week 12, when the tournament has become really rigorous, the players aren’t overloaded,” Gold explained on Wednesday.

“Every guy coming into the starting line-up has come off the bench every week so there’s no disruption. The same team that finished against the Stormers and the Jaguares is starting this week, we want to keep disruption to a minimum. There’s no question that 15 guys can’t win week in and week out, for any franchise. It has to be a group of 20 to 25 and you pray for a group of 30.”

Despite both teams having committed themselves to a new era in terms of the way they play, it will still be a huge physical battle in Pretoria and, even though they have chosen two second-choice front-rowers, the Sharks know they will be hit hard up front first. They will have to absorb those blows and it will also be useful having the accomplished boot of Claassens at a place like Loftus Versfeld where the ball travels for miles thanks to altitude, and territory is crucial.

“The Bulls are quite fresh and they will bring massive physicality. It’s always a set-piece battle at Loftus and the Bulls are very strong there with Adriaan Strauss leading from the front. Our record’s not all that great there and we want to make amends for the past, we’ve had a very disappointing run against them,” captain Tendai Mtawarira said of a streak of four successive defeats in Pretoria and three in a row to the Bulls home and away.

Sharks team: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Joe Pietersen, Michael Claassens, Daniel du Preez, Philip van der Walt, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Lourens Adriaanse, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira (C). Bench – Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman, Coenie Oosthuizen, Hyron Andrews, Keegan Daniel, Cobus Reinach, Garth April, Odwa Ndungane.

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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