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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – SuperRugby format definitely needs to change 0

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Ken

 

There has been some real conjecture and speculation about how SuperRugby is going to change in 2018, but the one thing that is clear is that it definitely needs to change – declining viewing figures and attendance at the games proves it.

While the administrators took the wrong direction when they changed the format back in 2015, the move to expand was the right decision. Promises had obviously been made to the Southern Kings and a Japanese team is vital if they are going to maintain the improvement they have shown and grow the sport in that country.

Argentina also now have a great development program and they’re no longer losing as many top players to Europe, so it’s vital they stay in as well.

The problem is I don’t think the administrators knew what they let themselves in for travel-wise. The Sunwolves are 10 hours from Australia so they should be in that conference and then they would travel a lot less.

The Southern Kings are probably going to be judged on the basis of their results, bankruptcy and as money-makers, but they did really well initially in terms of getting numbers to games. They have performed better this year, so credit must go to the coaching staff for that improvement, but they still have not really moved forward, there is still a big difference between them and the other teams.

Normally during the time of SuperRugby negotiations, there are people saying that South Africa will go play in Europe but that hasn’t happened that much this time around so we are obviously committed to SuperRugby and the three conferences.

It will be very disappointing if we lose the Cheetahs, but I expect to see a deal in our favour, especially since last time we managed to get two home semi-finals. The SA Rugby Union negotiators must stand up for what they believe in and push for what they want.

I don’t think the players are averse to travel, but being away for five weeks in Australia and New Zealand as the Bulls were in the past is a heck of a trip and that’s why it was virtually impossible for a South African team to win SuperRugby, having to play five matches overseas.

This weekend we have our first Friday night SuperRugby game when the Bulls host the Sunwolves, which is hard to believe considering the six hours of rugby we’ve had to sit through on Saturdays. People want to watch rugby when they come home on Friday evening around a barbecue, but unfortunately the TV schedules have not allowed it.

On a happier note, I was fortunate to attend the Springbok Sevens training for a couple of weeks and was able to see first-hand what good coaching, spirit and attention to detail there is in that set-up. The Blitzboks’ culture is second to none, the way they back each other, encourage one another and work in the training sessions is outstanding.

That’s their strength as well as continuity. Someone like conditioning coach Allan Temple-Jones has been there forever and does a superb job – the Springbok Sevens are the best-conditioned team on the circuit and they are reaping the benefits of that.

What is most encouraging is that people are talking about Sevens and what the Blitzboks have done, and watching the games.

They are also never scared to use specialists – Richie Gray was brought in to work on the breakdowns before the Olympics and Dawie Snyman, the former Western Province coach, is doing a lot of work on their footwork and coaching them in sidestepping. You can see that coming through in the way they are beating people, so credit to him.

Neil Powell is overseeing it all and is handling the job with great dignity, so I really hope they come through and win the series. England are the only team with the continuity to push them and will be their biggest competition.

Continuity breeds confidence in any high-performance sport.

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.

 

 

Yesterday was a great day for the Proteas, what about 2020? 2

Posted on November 07, 2016 by Ken

 

Friday was a great day for the Proteas in Australia, neatly silencing all the negativity that was flying about just a day earlier, but it proved yet again just how quickly fortunes can change in top-level cricket.

It was four years ago in Perth that South Africa clinched their most recent series win over Australia, in a match that started in similar fashion with the Proteas bowled out cheaply on the first day, but by the end of an astonishing second day, they led by 292 runs with eight second-innings wickets intact.

Hashim Amla (he was dismissed for just a single on Friday following a duck on the first day) scored a magnificent 196 in 2012/13 and AB de Villiers scored a great 169 as South Africa went on to win by 309 runs.

Our cricket was in good shape back then as we were ranked number one in the world, and we’re not looking bad now either, but it got me thinking about how South Africa’s Test team would look in another four years time, in November 2020 through to January 2021 when a four-Test series is scheduled in Australia.

The fifth round of the Sunfoil Series was also entering its second day on Friday and the four-day domestic competition is obviously where one looks for an idea of what our Test side could look like when we next play the premier form of the game in Australia.

The naysayers and prophets of doom, who are mostly just anti-transformation, will try and con you into thinking the well of talent is being siphoned off overseas, but the first half of the Sunfoil Series has been full of memorable individual performances that are very exciting for the future.

It’s always fun during sleepy moments in play to pick fantasy XIs and this week I chose my Proteas Test squad for that 2020/21 trip to Australia.

Aiden Markram has steadily progressed from playing for a smaller cricketing school (Cornwall Hill College) to Pretoria Boys’ High, SA U19 captain, Northerns and is now plundering runs for the Titans in the Sunfoil Series, and I expect his progression will continue through into the Proteas team.

Opening the batting with him will either be the senior pro Dean Elgar, who will be 33, or Reeza Hendricks, who has come from Kimberley through the Knights to the big city of Joburg and the Highveld Lions.

Theunis de Bruyn was a University of Pretoria team-mate of Markram’s but is now playing for the Knights and accumulating runs with the sort of unflustered calm that makes it look like he’s playing village cricket; I would bet on him being the Proteas number three by 2020.

Temba Bavuma has just added more lustre to his reputation with his dogged half-century on the first day in Perth and, by the next Test series Down Under, I expect him to have even more responsibility as South Africa’s number four and the fulcrum of their batting.

Quinton de Kock was similarly brilliant and whether he goes all the way up the order to open in Tests will depend on whether another wicketkeeper/batsman comes through (Heinrich Klaasen/Clyde Fortuin?), but I’m sure he’s going to be batting in the top six by 2020 and scoring mountains of runs.

It’s going to be interesting to see whether Rilee Rossouw builds on his start in international cricket and becomes a Test regular, while David Miller is potentially going to push him hard judging by his form in this season’s Sunfoil Series.

Jacques Kallis was a massive part of the Proteas being number one in the world with his all-round ability and a position that was a problem once he retired should be well-stocked by 2020.

Was there ever a better start to a first-class career by someone so young as Wiaan Mulder made for the Lions? At just 18 years old he has already scored a century and taken seven wickets in an innings in A Section cricket. Clive Rice was a great Transvaal and Nottinghamshire all-rounder but he had to wait six years for his maiden first-class century and seven before he first took seven in an innings.

Andile Phehlukwayo was a revelation in the ODI series against Australia and will surely be waving for attention as well; Jason Smith has caught the eye for the Cape Cobras as their season goes down the tubes, while the likes of Chris Morris and Dwaine Pretorius might not be ready to say goodbye to international cricket just yet either.

Kagiso Rabada will surely be the spearhead of the South African attack, while Keshav Maharaj fronted up well enough on Test debut to suggest he will certainly be in the picture in 2020, along with fellow spinners Tabraiz Shamsi, Dane Piedt and Eddie Leie.

Who of Marchant de Lange, Hardus Viljoen, Duanne Olivier or Wayne Parnell will share the new ball with Rabada, while Lungi Ngidi has impressed with his bounce and accuracy in his first campaign with the Titans.

 

Sharks need new captain and hooker after Bismarck ban 0

Posted on May 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The Sharks will have to make a change at hooker and appoint a new captain for the next month after Bismarck du Plessis was suspended for four weeks by Sanzar on Sunday for petulantly kicking out at the head of an opponent during the match against the Chiefs at Kings Park.

Du Plessis’ act of gross unsportsmanship came just three minutes after the Chiefs had had their hooker, Hika Elliott, red-carded, and subsequently suspended for one week, for charging into the back of Tendai Mtawarira’s head with his shoulder at a ruck, almost immediately transferring all the pressure back on to the home side.

Matters became even worse for the Sharks when Frans Steyn was red-carded for a dangerous tip-tackle before the half-hour mark and his hearing is set for Monday.

While those two senior players let the side down so badly, the other 13 players on the field rallied magnificently to sneak a 12-11 victory over the Chiefs.

Kyle Cooper and Monde Hadebe are able replacements for Du Plessis in the front row, but the issue of who takes over the captaincy is less clearcut.

Flyhalf Pat Lambie or eighthman Ryan Kankowski would appear to be the frontrunners.

Director of rugby Gary Gold also faces a tough decision once Du Plessis returns to action on April 19 as this is the Springbok’s second incident of foul play at a crucial time this season, following his assault on Victor Matfield in the Sharks’ loss to the Bulls in Pretoria three weeks ago. Does Gold trust that the fiery hooker can mend his ways and remain disciplined under pressure for the sake of his team or does he take firm action against a repeat offender?

The matches that Du Plessis will miss are at home to the Western Force and Crusaders, the visit to Ellis Park to play the Lions and the return fixture against the Bulls in Durban.

Stormers will provide early measure of Bulls’ reinvention 0

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Ken

 

It was the four successive defeats that the Bulls suffered against the Stormers and Western Province last year that were one of the major reasons for the change in approach of the Loftus Versfeld side and the Bulls will get an early indication of how well they have reinvented themselves when they take on the Cape side on Saturday in their Vodacom SuperRugby opener in Pretoria.

The pattern of those four defeats was similar: the Bulls forwards would dominate, they would bash away against the solid Stormers/WP defence or the ball would be kicked into the opposition 22, only for the ball to be lost and Allister Coetzee’s men would roar away for a turnover try.

Bulls captain Victor Matfield said the focus during their preparations was on raising the intensity and pace of their play, making try-scoring the goal after Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has previously admitted getting penalties was the desired outcome. The Stormers almost bring Sevens skills to their attacking play and the Bulls want to follow suit.

“We’ve put in a huge effort in the pre-season and the big difference has been in our conditioning because we have to reload quicker in defence and organise our attack. We want to go out and score tries because that’s almost always how you win and most times, the team that scores the most tries wins the competition,” Matfield said.

The veteran lock acknowledged that their opponents on Saturday have given them a torrid time recently on the counter-attack, but he hoped the tables would be turned on Saturday.

“They usually have a very quick back three and Juan de Jongh is a good stepper, so they’re dangerous off turnover ball. We mustn’t give them any of that, but we hope to turn over some free ball ourselves, because that’s where the tries lie,” Matfield said.

Publicly, Coetzee has acknowledged that his inexperienced team are the underdogs at Loftus Versfeld, but there is enough class and firepower in the Stormers side for the Bulls to be wary.

They won’t lack for inspiration with Duane Vermeulen leading from the front at eighthman, a comforting presence for the five players getting their first taste of SuperRugby – wings Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds, replacement back Huw Jones and front-rowers Vincent Koch and Wilco Louw.

The scrums will be the main area of concern for the Bulls on Saturday, as Ludeke admitted.

“The scrums on Saturday are going to be a test, but the game against Saracens was a blessing in disguise because it alerted us to where we need to improve. It will be a huge battle because the scrums give you field position from penalties. We get rhythm and confidence from the scrum, but every one is a new contest,” Ludeke said.

The words “field position” are a hint that the Bulls are perhaps not quite ready to go all the way down the same road as the Stormers and the danger of being caught in between game-plans certainly exists for the home side.

Teams

Bulls: 15-Jurgen Visser, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Arno Botha, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Werner Kruger, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Trevor Nyakane. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morne Mellet, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Pierre Spies, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jesse Kriel, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche.

Stormers: 15-Cheslin Kolbe, 14-Johnny Kotze, 13-Juan de Jongh, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Dillyn Leyds, 10-Demetri Catrakilis, 9-Nic Groom, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Michael Rhodes, 6-Rynhardt Elstadt, 5-Ruan Botha, 4-Jean Kleyn, 3-Vincent Koch, 2-Scarra Ntubeni, 1-Steven Kitshoff. Reserves – 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Oli Kebble, 18-Wilco Louw, 19-Jurie van Vuuren, 20-Nizaam Carr, 21-Louis Schreuder, 22-Kurt Coleman, 23-Huw Jones.

 

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