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Ken Borland



Top of the log speaks volumes for Dragons’ clinical edge 0

Posted on November 30, 2017 by Ken

 

It speaks volumes for the new clinical edge in Sihle Ntuli’s Drakensburg Dragons side that last year’s Premier Hockey League wooden-spoonists overcame vastly different challenges to win both their games and top the men’s log after the opening weekend of the 2017 competition at the Randburg Astro.

In their opening game, the Dragons hammered last year’s runners-up, the Addo Elephants, 4-0, defending stoutly and being ruthless in finishing their chances at the other end.

The next day, they had to survive the anxiety of a shootout to beat the Golden Gate Gladiators 3-1, after the match ended 2-2 after full time.

“The biggest disappointment last year was that if we look at all our games, we actually outplayed our opponents. The stats were in our favour but we just didn’t convert, so for us to come away with four goals was a really good start to our tournament.  A big thing for us was to not concede – that’s a very good sign for us. The Elephants team have some good players up front so it was a great defensive effort,” coach Ntuli said.

In the women’s tournament, the defending champion Blyde River Bunters ensured that they finished the first weekend on top of the standings as they beat the Namaqualand Daisies SA U21 side in a washed out match that had to be decided by a shootout, and then beat the St Lucia Lakers 3-1 thanks to a brace from Thati Segaole.

“The conditions were difficult to play flowing hockey. There were a couple of concepts that we did very well though. We’ve just got to do a few tweaks and I’m happy that we can do that. So I have all the confidence in the world that we will get better as the tournament progresses,” coach Lindsey Wright said.

 

Bok backline dazzles but credit to pack for quick ball 0

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springbok backline dazzled with their clinical finishing as Samoa were thumped 56-23 in an eight-try romp at Loftus Versfeld, but quick ball was why they were able to shine and for that credit must go to the forwards for a superb display.

The pack stepped up magnificently and physically dominated the bulky Samoans so the Springboks had front-foot ball and could show their ability to get the ball quickly wide and convert possession into tries.

There have been many critics of the Springboks saying they are one-dimensional and boring on attack, but they looked a polished, exciting offensive force on Saturday night, especially when fullback Willie le Roux joined the line. JJ Engelbrecht also scored a brilliant individual try and is rapidly growing into a fine attacking outside centre.

Like any team, if their forwards get on top, then the backs can play.

“We really are building on something special, this is a well-balanced side. We mauled well, the defence was excellent and there were some brilliant small touches,” said coach Heyneke Meyer after the game.

“It is one of the things we’ve been working on, getting turnover ball quickly wide, and we scored some awesome tries. But we did the basics well, Francois Louw and Willem Alberts brought a lot of physicality. But one guy can’t make all the difference because he can’t be at every ruck. The guys were all very focused and it was one of the best forward efforts I’ve seen.”

Bryan Habana, as ever, led the way when it came to clinical finishing, his two tries taking him to 50 in 86 Tests, with only five other players in world rugby having achieved that milestone.

“We showed that when we get quick ball and we get over the gain-line, our backs can be dangerous,” Habana said. “Most tries come from turnovers or broken field play and you’ve got to see those opportunities and execute. This weekend we were really clinical and it was pretty important that we made decisions quickly. But the guys who do all the hard work don’t always get the credit and our forwards were fantastic, as were the guys on the inside.”

Many rugby followers think an openside flank should be measured by the number of balls he steals in the ruck. This is a very simplistic view though, as former Springbok forwards coach Gary Gold so aptly explains here.

By that measure, Francois Louw was ineffective at Loftus Versfeld because he did not effect a single turnover against Samoa. But the freshly married Bath star was magnificent and was all over the field, carrying the ball strongly, slowing down ball at the rucks and defending stoutly.

Although he is not one of the bigger Springbok forwards, many of Louw’s ball-carries bashed through the Samoan defence, as epitomised by his 76th-minute charge through three tacklers and over the tryline, as well as by the fact he gained 32 metres with ball in hand during the match, with only Le Roux (82) and Habana (36) being more successful in that department.

“The guys were looking for me at the breakdown and it was a tough day at the office there, but that’s the kind of rugby I like,” Louw said. “It separates the men from the boys. But we want to play running rugby and there’s nothing better than having ball in hand, nothing beats that. We want to play positive, good strong, hard rugby.”

There aren’t many stronger or harder rugby players than Willem Alberts and the returning Sharks player was also immense on the gain-line. Not only did he carry the ball like a bullocking rhinoceros, he was an adamantium wall in defence, making 16 tackles.

The uninitiated might not fully comprehend the effort that it takes against a team like Samoa, but if you consider that 16 of their 23-man squad weighed over 100kg and that they generally like running into people, then one can begin to understand the enormity of the task. Alberts and Louw led the way, but the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi and Jean de Villiers in the backline were also outstanding defensively.

“I asked for a big performance and that was a big step up physically. I believe it was a forward performance, but it was typical Springbok rugby,” Meyer cooed.

The Springboks were also excellent in the set pieces, dominating a powerful Samoan scrum and winning all 18 of their lineouts, from which they often mauled to great effect.

They varied their game intelligently, however, Louw scoring his first try from the rolling maul, but scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar then cleverly breaking blind from one in the second half to set up Habana’s second, historic try.

The Samoans are famous for their physicality, but they are also notorious for crossing the line in terms of foul play.

It was a great disappointment that, once it was clear they were losing the collisions, they resorted to dirty play.

James So’oialo’s testicle-grabbing was the talk of Pretoria afterwards, while Alesana Tuilagi was red-carded for an awful stiff-arm high tackle on De Villiers. But there was also scrumhalf Jeremy Su’a’s stamp on Louw’s head at a ruck, causing him to leave the field for stitches, and Census Johnston kicking out at Coenie Oosthuizen after the burly prop had put him on his backside with a totally legitimate tackle.

Samoa are consistently trying to portray themselves as the victims of discriminatory refereeing. “There have historically been harsh calls against us and some of the calls tonight were a wee-bit hard. The things they were referring upstairs, they looked quite soft,” captain Paul Williams said.

But coach Stephen Betham was closer to the truth when he said: “The ill discipline came down to frustration, but there’s no excuse. We’ve worked hard to get it out of our game but we were intimidated and we faltered.”

But it is also clear that the International Rugby Board are more concerned with tip tackles than thuggish acts of violence on the field. To his dishonour, Judge Jeff Blackett cleared So’oialo of any deliberate malfeasance for his indecent assault on livewire hooker Adriaan Strauss, while Su’a and Johnston weren’t even cited by commissioner Peter Larter, despite the ugly stamp being clearly visible on a television replay.

Tuilagi received a two-week ban, but it’s meaningless because the Japan-based player is on holiday now anyway.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-24-springboks-smash-samoans-a-promise-of-things-to-come/#.VuqZUuJ97IU

Springboks are genuine contenders … with genuine problems 0

Posted on August 04, 2015 by Ken

 

Last weekend’s thrilling Test against the All Blacks showed that the Springboks are genuine contenders for the World Cup, but they have to be able to produce their best play for 80+ minutes and they also have to be clinical in taking points from whatever opportunities are presented to them.

A team has seldom dominated the All Blacks in almost every facet of play as much as the Springboks did at Ellis Park last weekend, but the Kiwis showed why they are the undisputed number one side and the favourites for the World Cup by somehow still engineering a victory. They did this by being ruthlessly clinical – the few chances they had to score, they took.

You know a coach is feeling the pressure when he makes 25 excuses in a dozen minutes at his post-match press conference, but there’s no doubt the last fortnight has been hugely frustrating for Heyneke Meyer as his Springbok team have shown such potential before faltering at the final hurdle in successive Tests against Australia and New Zealand.

The Springboks are injury-hit and they are not getting the crucial 50/50 decisions at the moment, but the bottom line is that they have shown a disappointing lack of composure when matches reach the critical final quarter.

In fact, the abiding feature of the Heyneke Meyer era has been the infuriating tendency of his team to play both sublime and mediocre rugby in the same match.

Solving this problem before the World Cup is obviously critical and I hope Meyer will be looking at a very interesting book which was launched this week – Creative Rugby by Dr Kobus Neethling and former Springbok captain Naas Botha.

Neethling is very well qualified in the field of brain skills and creativity and he says the book may answer the question why South Africa does not win the Rugby Championship way more often than three times in 20 years given that we have more players than New Zealand and Australia put together and wonderful talent to choose from.

As Botha pointed out at the launch, it’s very clear in this professional age that what makes the All Blacks better than the rest is what they have between their ears given that the science is there to make all international players as strong and as fast as each other.

The great flyhalf’s main gripe about South African rugby in general is that we go very overboard on game plans. He told horror stories of players who have come to him and said their coach, even at franchise level, came and told them that if they don’t put the ball under their arm and drive at the first channel then they will find someone else who will. Botha blamed the devolution of Morne Steyn from a creative, all-round flyhalf into someone considered now to just be a kicker on the strictures of game plans.

The authors added that teams need to have game plans, but that these are just a springboard because matches are fluid and sides that are stuck in their plan and can’t think on their feet don’t win.

Neethling said the work he did with Paul Treu when he was the Springboks Sevens coach proved very quickly how effective using creative thinking and knowing the brain profiles of your players can be.

The fear of losing is a very strong force in South African rugby, mostly caused by impatient fans and administrators, and it causes coaches to stick to what they know best.

When the Springboks were very close to the All Blacks’ line last weekend, against 14 men, why did they keep trying to bash through with the forwards and not try Damian de Allende, who had been bumping off defenders all game, charging through on an angled run?

The difference between the New Zealand and South African mindsets becomes very clear when you consider the local reaction to Richie McCaw’s match-winning try: instead of applauding the creativity and skill behind a clever piece of rugby, excuses were quickly sought in the law-book, trying to label the move as illegal.

I am happy, however, that Meyer is trying to innovate and is desperately trying to get his players to play what is in front of them. He drums in the importance of decision-making at every opportunity, but at times he must wonder if he has inherited from the pipeline the rugby equivalent of the Scarecrow and the Tin Woodman from the Wizard of Oz …

 

 

 

Kallis typically asked himself the tough questions 0

Posted on August 05, 2014 by Ken

It was typical of the methodical, clinical way in which he approached his record-breaking career that Jacques Kallis asked himself the difficult questions about his future in international cricket and came up with the tough, honest and correct answers that pointed to the full retirement he announced yesterday.

Having announced his retirement from the Test arena in December, Kallis had continued to make himself available for the Proteas’ one-day international team, his sights set on playing in the World Cup – a tournament in which he has suffered much anguish – early next year.

But a poor time in Sri Lanka this month made him question whether he still had it in him, in his 39th year and 19th season of international cricket, to maintain the high standards required to earn a place in the side.

The runs have not been as prolific in recent times, he was unable to bowl in Sri Lanka due to niggling injuries, and perhaps the intense mental focus needed to excel in international cricket was no longer there either.

The end of a career as amazing as that of Jacques Kallis is always a sad occasion, but the right decision has been made. The World Cup was increasingly looking a bridge too far and the legacy of statistically the greatest all-round record the game has known will remain intact.

The South African team is now well and truly entering the new era with the leading figures of the last decade – Kallis, Graeme Smith, Mark Boucher, Shaun Pollock and Makhaya Ntini – all retired. But the team culture, strength of character and technical excellence that Kallis so hugely contributed to during his 166 Tests and 328 ODIs will live on in the exploits of such world-class successors as Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel and Vernon Philander.

Kallis might not be there at the MCG on March 29 if South Africa finally lift the World Cup, but the team will no doubt ascribe plenty of the credit to his immense influence that went far beyond the phenomenal number of runs, wickets and catches he provided.

 

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    James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

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