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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – Stormers’ turn to show they can bounce back 0

Posted on April 25, 2017 by Ken

 

SuperRugby is such a tough competition that every team at some stage will experience a crisis and it’s now the Stormers’ turn to face a test of character as to how they bounce back from their heavy defeat at the hands of the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Stormers were fortunate to get out of jail a bit in their previous games with things like intercept tries from their own goal-line, but their luck ran out in Christchurch. Things they got away with in the first few weeks were punished by the Crusaders, who have a much more accurate passing game than most teams, and that exposed the Stormers. They struggled to deal with the width of the Crusaders’ game, they were up against a two-four-two set-up and the likes of Codie Taylor and Kieran Read in the tramlines proved too much for them.

The Stormers’ wings were continually being pressured by the poor defensive spacing on the inside; the main Stormers problem was their spacing around the ruck, there were too many players close to the breakdown inside their own 22. They need to get more players out wide, they were much too compressed in defence at the ruck. They were caught cold by the width of the Crusaders attack.

But for a lot of the Stormers players it was their first time in New Zealand and it takes some time to adjust. Plus the Crusaders are obviously on fire at the moment under new coach Scott Robertson and they were just too good for the Stormers.

I spent time with the Stormers in pre-season and coach Robbie Fleck is determined to play a hugely exciting brand of rugby, which has been successful, but now they’ve just hit a blip.

But the Stormers played quite well in the second half, with two of the Crusaders’ tries coming from intercepts, and they will draw some positivity from that. They obviously need to regroup against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday and having the roof closed will suit their game.

It was encouraging the way they came back against the Crusaders and now they are in Queenstown in a very pleasant part of the world where they can walk to training, so hopefully they will be in a better frame of mind come Friday.

It was a weekend of contrasting emotions with the excitement coming from the Southern Kings. For them to come through the way they did, for their forwards to play so well as they came back from 17-0 down after half-an-hour, and to win so convincingly really takes some doing. Plus any away win is super, so it really was a sensational result in Sydney, to win there without any Springboks (Waylon Murray being injured) was truly remarkable.

The Kings forwards certainly outmauled the Waratahs and the visitors took their chances, a charge-down try getting them back into the game. It was certainly a comprehensive win with the Waratahs scoring on the final hooter and one of their tries was also from an intercept.

The win shows that South Africa still has forwards that are well-drilled and marshalled and you have to credit coach Deon Davids. Sometimes on the third game on tour the players are thinking of going home, especially since you have to leave Sydney very early the next morning so you’re packing and getting ready for the game all at the same time!

You could tell how much it meant to the Kings players at the end of the game and it was the sort of win to resurrect some careers. Someone like Lionel Cronje has played at practically every union and although there is respect for his play, he hasn’t really fulfilled the promise of his SA U20 days. But time out of the game forced him to re-evaluate his priorities and he has come back a renewed guy.

The Lions against the Jaguares was a good game with Harold Vorster once again shining, the try he scored, running the same line as he did against the Stormers, got the home side back in the game.

The variety of plays the Lions have from five metres away from the tryline is impressive and it shows they want seven-pointers instead of three – they have front-peels, back-peels, shift-drives and normal drives.

It was also pleasing to see Elton Jantjies kicking a pressure goal. He’s certainly in the running to be the Springboks’ starting flyhalf, especially with both Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie injured at the moment, and it’s good to see him so composed.

Lionel Mapoe is also hitting some form and his dummy-and-go and finish for his try was first-class and he also put away Andries Coetzee for the final try.

So it will please Allister Coetzee to see those two coming back into form.

Two of the Tests against France will be on the Highveld so they will be quick games, with the Springboks also surely trying to up the pace because the matches are at the end of the French season and there will obviously be some tiredness. For that Allister should choose quick, Lions-type players – those Tests should really suit guys like Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel.

At the end of the day, the Lions are our flagship franchise and that should be reflected in selection.

The SuperRugby quarterfinals will probably be contested by four New Zealand teams, three from South Africa and one from Australia, so the likelihood is that the Lions will play a New Zealand side in the quarterfinal. So it’s important that they keep winning and now that they are overseas, they need to get on a roll. So it was good for them to come through the Jaguares game with a win.

The Hurricanes have still got to tour and the Crusaders are now in South Africa, so let’s hope the Cheetahs and Bulls can do something against them.

 

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.

Camaraderie is the root of it all for rugby 0

Posted on July 29, 2015 by Ken

 

SuperRugby has made a much-awaited return to our TV screens and consciousness with no-hopers the Melbourne Rebels sensationally beating the Crusaders in Christchurch, while the Varsity Cup has also enjoyed a thrilling opening round of action.

But the last week also saw the launch of an equally-important competition for those outside that pair of high-profile tournaments – the Cell C Community Cup. Those who denigrate this competition as being merely amateur club rugby should perhaps watch some of the high-quality fare on offer while also remembering the wise words of rugby doyen Hugh Bladen, who pointed out that the very roots of the game are in tournaments such as the Community Cup.

In his excellent address at the launch at Wanderers Club, Bladen reminded the audience that clubs are the backbone of world rugby, it was through them that the game spread, while the sport began as mass inter-town events that would see a pig-bladder wrestled from one side of a village to another.

How much focus is put on schoolboy rugby (and the awful use of steroids that leads to) and whether the Vodacom Cup should actually exist are two bones of contention of mine and I wish there was more attention paid to club rugby instead. Unfortunately, the vested interests of 14 provincial unions, all with bloated payrolls to look after, means this is unlikely to happen any time soon.

Bladen told some wonderful stories about the spirit or gees that is typical of club rugby and this is what even those players who have reached the greatest heights of the game miss most once they have retired.

The Absa Cape Epic mountain bike race also had their launch this week and a number of former rugby stars have registered for this gruelling event that comprises eight stages from Table Mountain through the unique landscapes of the Western Cape, over mountains and through valleys to the finish in the Winelands. They are all taking part because the event provides them with the team spirit they miss from their rugby days.

“This is the closest sport to what I was able to get out of my rugby career – the adrenaline and the camaraderie are addictive and it feeds the competitive monster in me,” World Cup-winning Springbok captain John Smit said.

“Every person tells you you’re crazy to do it, you expect to die, but the race has got the spirit and camaraderie to get you through. That’s what you look forward to and a week after the race you miss everything about it,” fellow 2007 World Cup-winner Butch James said.

“Mountain biking has become my passion, I absolutely love what I do now. It’s about courage and commitment, and rugby players have that,” 1995 World Cup hero Joel Stransky said.

Apart from the wonderful scenery they get to enjoy when they’re not head-down staring at their front wheels, the rugby legends also make significant contributions to charity.

“I get so many requests from charities, that I formed my own – Barney’s Army. So I’m riding for them and there are three beneficiaries, the Chris Burger/Petro Jackson Fund for rugby players who suffer spinal injuries, the LIV Village for orphaned and vulnerable children and Operation Bobbi Bear which provides a safehouse for abused children between the abuse and the courthouse,” Smit explained.

Several of the rugby legends are riding for Barney’s Army, while Marius Hurter and Colin Charvis are riding for Sparks for Children’s Health, which raises funds for medical research, and Stransky is competing for the LumoHawk Foundation he started four years ago to raise funds for the education and sporting needs of underprivileged children.

The rugby legends will all probably feel as battered and bruised on March 22 as they did after taking on the All Blacks, but their competitive spirit will be quenched, they would have contributed greatly to charity and the further exposure of our beautiful country, and they will all have a tremendous jol as they once again #ConquerAsOne.

 

 

 

Tsotsobe’s omission only mistake by selectors 0

Posted on March 16, 2015 by Ken

The national selectors have done their job in choosing the 15-man squad for the Cricket World Cup and on Monday, February 9, we will get an idea of what team management considers their best XI when South Africa play a warm-up match against Sri Lanka in Christchurch.

The announcement this week of the 15 players who will travel to New Zealand and Australia for the World Cup was a fairly mundane affair because the majority of the squad were considered certainties beforehand, which must be good heading into such an important tournament.

The World Cup chosen by the selectors – and that’s the one that matters! – differed from mine (published here on November 29) in just a couple of places. While I believe David Wiese’s day as an international all-rounder will still come, I am pleased that left-arm spinner Aaron Phangiso, who was growing into his role well before the most ill-timed of injuries, will be on the plane to Australasia.

I do believe the selectors have erred, however, in not selecting Lonwabo Tsotsobe, who I would have picked ahead of the inconsistent Wayne Parnell.

The former number one-ranked bowler in ODIs (as recently as May 2013) has had injury problems since then, but underwent ankle surgery in the winter and has been playing limited-overs cricket for the Highveld Lions since October.

In the Momentum One-Day Cup, he has knocked over 12 batsmen in six matches (making him the leading wicket-taker), averaging 18.08 and conceding just 4.42 runs per over – excellent figures that show he is close to his best form once again.

In the RamSlam T20 Challenge, although his economy rate was a little high at 8.14 runs-per-over, he claimed 14 wickets in 11 games – joint second-best in the competition.

For me, Tsotsobe is perfectly capable of performing a couple of roles at the World Cup: He has the ability to take wickets with the new ball, especially in swing-friendly conditions, and has skills with the old ball that allow him to be used in the middle overs as well.

There have admittedly been instances when Tsotsobe has not had the perfect work ethic but if the whispers are true that the team did not want the left-arm seamer in the squad then that would be a most disappointing example of the tail wagging the dog.

Things like ProteaFire and team culture and spirit are all good, but when they become the over-riding factor, the end rather than the means, then there will be problems, just as England’s stifled team have discovered in their descent down the world rankings. Tsotsobe may not be the perfect team-mate, but one hopes the selectors decided to exclude him based on on-field performance rather than what the players wanted.

Coach Russell Domingo has obviously had a major hand in taking Parnell with the Proteas on their intercontinental travels, having worked extensively with him at the Warriors.

The left-arm paceman and lower-order batsman does have the X-factor coaches are often so fond of, but the 25-year-old has not displayed the consistency needed at international level for me to have faith in him being a match-winner at the World Cup. The crucial death overs are a key weakness for him as well.

The omission of a genuine all-rounder like Ryan McLaren, who suffered the most ill-timed loss of form, or Wiese means the Proteas will have to bat Vernon Philander at number seven to ensure they have five frontline bowlers, which I believe will be necessary on the generally good batting pitches in Australia.

 



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