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Ken Borland

A passionate, top-class SA coach without a job 0

Posted on May 24, 2017 by Ken


Despite a poor final year in charge of the Springboks, there is little doubt Heyneke Meyer remains a top-class coach and it is a symptom of a sick South African rugby system that the 49-year-old is without a full-time coaching job despite making it clear that he still wants to make a difference to the game in this country.

Meyer was back at Loftus Versfeld a couple of days ago to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s, a unique tournament for professional teams in a social environment, that will be held in Mauritius next month, but there is no doubt he still harbours a burning desire to be involved in the cauldron of top quality rugby again judging by the passion with which he answered a range of questions on South African rugby.

Although a great admirer of New Zealand rugby and a personal friend of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, Meyer makes a good point when he says a drive to play like the Kiwis do is a case of chasing the wind for South African rugby.

He reckons it will take us 10 years to catch up to their style of play, by which time their game will have evolved and they will still be 10 years ahead of South Africa. It is perhaps a symptom of our insecurity as a nation that we are always trying to copy other teams – in the early 2000s it was Australian rugby that was the flavour of the month.

Meyer, who has been working with plenty of New Zealanders and Fijians in his part-time role as coach of the Asia Pacific Dragons team, points to a higher innate skills level as one of the main reasons South Africans will find it very difficult to emulate the free-flowing, expansive style of the Kiwis.

“South Africans don’t have the same natural understanding of space that they do, but I truly believe any of our teams can still beat a New Zealand team, especially at home. But if we try and follow them then we’ll never be the best in the world. We have to rediscover what we stand for and play South African rugby – brilliant set-pieces, driving, strong defence. We must do what we’re good at and kick intelligently, not just kick the ball away,” Meyer said.

The national coach from 2012 to 2015 made the point that ex-Springbok coaches are practically driven out of the country and pointed to Eddie Jones travelling from Australia to South Africa and now to England as an example of the value of experience, even if it comes from losing a few games.

“Eddie lost eight games in a row with Australia and was fired, he then helped the Springboks and learnt a lot there. In fact England are now playing like the Boks used to – they have great set-pieces, a great defence and kicking game, they still score tries and they’re on a winning run. It would be 50/50 right now between them and the All Blacks.”

Many observers have pointed to the speed at which New Zealand teams play the game and Meyer said this difference was most marked towards the end of matches, due to the superior fitness of the Kiwis.

“The All Blacks have always been superior in terms of fitness. We have big, strong guys, but it’s harder to get them fit. New Zealand have smaller but more mobile players and they run you ragged in the last 10-15 minutes. Central contracting means Steve Hansen knows the fitness of all his players and whether they need to rest or work harder.

“But you can’t do major fitness work if your players are tired or injured and our guys going overseas makes it very difficult, I’m very concerned about all the guys in Japan because you can’t play for 12 months. Before the last World Cup, I did not see the players for eight months so I asked for fitness reports from the franchises and nobody sent them in.

“So when I got the players I knew we were in trouble and the guys were not fit for the first game against Japan. But the All Blacks get to rest for three months after SuperRugby, so they’re super-fit for the next year, but we’re playing Currie Cup or in Japan. It’s very difficult for the South African coaches,” Meyer said.

Ludeke on his way out of Loftus 0

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Ken

It is not yet clear whether Frans Ludeke will be catching the next train out of Loftus Versfeld for a permanent exit, but the Bulls coach has stood down from his SuperRugby and Currie Cup duties with immediate effect after eight years in charge.

Nollis Marais, the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup and U21 coach, will pick up the pieces of the failed SuperRugby campaign and guide the team through this year’s Currie Cup, franchise CEO Barend van Graan announced on Saturday night after the first defeat to the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld in the history of the Sanzar competition.

The 43-year-old Marais has steadily risen up the ranks at Loftus Versfeld, coaching the U21s since 2011 and the Vodacom Cup team since 2013, while also winning the Varsity Cup with Tuks in 2012 and 2013.

Who will coach the Bulls in next year’s SuperRugby competition is still up in the air, however, with Van Graan describing the decision as “an ongoing process”.

Ludeke still has a shade more than a year left on his contract with the Bulls and there is speculation that the two-time Super Rugby winner will move upstairs to take up a director of rugby post.

“It is a big privilege for me, a tough competition lies ahead and I look forward to taking that on. I heard today about my appointment, I’ve been busy preparing for the U21 leagues, so it’s been a very quick five hours in a man’s life.

“As far as my coaching philosophy goes, for me, if you are being paid R1 to play, then you must really play, for the jersey before anything else, but also for the union and the people who come to watch. I will try very hard to bring that attitude to the team,” Marais said on Saturday night.

The Bulls’ reluctance to come out and reveal their long-term plans is mostly because there are still too many variables that haven’t been decided yet. There has been speculation that if Heyneke Meyer does not get an extension to his Springbok contract then the Bulls would be willing to shell out on him as a director of rugby.

His Springbok support team – Johann van Graan, John McFarland and Ricardo Loubscher – could then join him at Loftus Versfeld.

No conversation about the Bulls’ future coaching structure is complete without Victor Matfield joining the debate. The Springbok lock is already part of the coaching set-up and has indicated his desire to succeed Ludeke.

Nobody can stop sublime Donald’s charge into the lead 0

Posted on January 14, 2015 by Ken

Former world number one Luke Donald was in sublime form at Sun City on Friday and nobody was able to interfere with his charge into the lead of the Nedbank Golf Challenge after the second round at the Gary Player Country Club.

With precision driving and his usual brilliant iron play, Donald went shopping for birdies and one of the best putters in the game collected nine of them in all. Not dropping a shot completed a dazzling round for the Englishman, his 63 lifting him to 10-under-par, two shots ahead of overnight leader Ross Fisher.

UPDATE: Nedbank Golf Challenge: Round 3 results

It’s hard to believe based on Friday’s evidence that all has not been right with Donald’s game recently; the first man to win both the European and PGA Tour moneylists in the same year (2011) has not won a tournament since November 2013 and Ryder Cup captain Paul McGinley took the difficult decision to leave him off the triumphant Ryder Cup team this year.

“I think everything starts for me when I feel like I can drive it in the fairway and then give myself some opportunities, and then I’m not scrounging around trying to make pars and get up‑and‑down.

“So I gave myself a lot of good opportunities today, I didn’t put myself into too much trouble, and obviously when the putter is warm, it’s always one of my best weapons in the bag. So it was nice to roll in a few today,” Donald said after one of the best rounds ever seen at the Nedbank Golf Challenge.

Fisher actually regained the lead from his compatriot after a wonderful eagle-birdie combo on the 10thand 11th holes, but an offline tee-shot on the par-three 12th drifted on to the mound next to the green and then bounced deep into the bushes, forcing him to drop and the resulting double-bogey checked his progress.

A wayward drive on 14 led to another bogey and Fisher probably did well to stop the bleeding and par the remaining four holes for a 70 and eight-under-par overall.

“It’s a tough golf course and I don’t feel like I played probably as solid as yesterday. I didn’t hit it as good off the tee. But I still felt like I played pretty solid. I hit one poor tee shot on 14 which cost me a six and had to take a penalty drop there. I got it to five‑under after 11, so I was hoping to kick on and reproduce 66 from yesterday or even a little bit better. But unfortunately it wasn’t meant to be, so I still shot under par, even with a couple of those loose shots coming in.

“Today it just seemed like every putt we over‑borrowed. I hit at least half-a-dozen, if not seven or eight putts, that I hit exactly where I wanted to hit it, and just unfortunately was over-reading the greens today,” Fisher said.

Crucial errors on the back nine were also the feature of the two other golfers in the final three-ball – Marcel Siem and George Coetzee.

Siem lost ground with a level-par 72 leaving him on four-under-par, the German suffering successive bogeys on the 14th and 15th holes thanks to wayward tee shots.

“It was a strange day, the total opposite from yesterday. It started really nicely, but all of us had problems on the golf course today. It was not like yesterday where we fed from each other. I felt like we were never going to finish, and on 16, we felt the whole tournament was over already. We played five hours, two minutes, just had a really long round and we didn’t play as well as we did yesterday.  Unfortunately the few chances we had on the back nine didn’t drop,” Siem lamented.

Coetzee plummeted even further down the leaderboard after a 74 left him on two-under, the South African dropping three shots on the back nine, including one on the infamous par-five 14th, where he found the dreaded love-grass.

Another Englishman, Tommy Fleetwood, had the next best round of the day after Donald, a five-under-par 67 that included a rare eagle on the 14th, as he swiftly recovered from being in the wars on the par-four 13th.

That lifted Fleetwood to three-under-par overall and in the five-man group tied for sixth. Brendon Todd, Thongchai Jaidee, Charl Schwartzel and Tim Clark are the other golfers on 141.

Ahead of them are Siem, Englishman Danny Willett, who shot a 68 to jump to five-under, and Frenchman Alexander Levy, who posted a solid 70.

“It was a good 70, I’m happy because it’s not my best golf but I managed the golf course well. It’s always good to play 70 on this golf course, it’s very difficult and it’s hot,” Levy said.

Although the English dominance, with four golfers in the top six, will be galling for the home fans, it would be boorish for anybody to begrudge the brilliant Donald his success.

“Obviously nine birdies around this place is a great round and something I was very pleased with. It’s been a while since I played such a solid round,” Donald said.

The man may never have won a Major, but he can certainly produce championship golf as he showed on Friday.

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