for quality writing

Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column – Not enough emphasis on defence 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

To see so many tries scored against the South African teams in SuperRugby last weekend – 26 in all – was disappointing and it’s not great when your top franchises are conceding so many tries in particular, but the problem is that there has just not been enough emphasis on defence.

Look at the value SA Rugby put on defence after Jacques Nienaber left halfway through 2016: they appointed Chean Roux in his position and he will freely admit that he was an absolute rookie defence coach at that stage. What does that say about how they rate defence and defence coaches?

We’ve now had the national indaba and the Springboks are on to their fourth defence coach under Allister Coetzee, but I’m sure Brendan Venter will do a really good job because he has the experience and the skills, and was the architect of the Saracens defensive system that has taken them to the European Champions Cup final.

But there was no national defence coach when the indaba was convened, so I wonder if there was input on defence at that gathering? After conceding a record score against New Zealand, defence was an obvious area that needed fixing.

It’s not Allister’s fault of course because he was handed his staff; now he has been given the staff he wants and I expect to see a massive improvement in the Springboks this year.

There are problems, but the people who coach defence in the franchises will, of course, care deeply about the defensive performances. In 2013, I remember when the Springboks conceded five tries against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but we needed the bonus point to win the Rugby Championship and we played a high-tempo game, which a lot of people said was one of the best Test matches ever played. But I stewed over those five tries for a month; but then at least we only conceded one try, to France, on the whole European tour thereafter.

So our defence in general is not in a great situation at present and whether it is due to conditioning problems or the speed of the modern game is open to debate. But you can never win a rugby match if you are conceding that many tries.

There’s obviously currently an emphasis on attacking skills but I’m certain the defence coaches are still being given sufficient time with their teams, and they would have done a lot of work on certain aspects of how the opposition attack. Like the Australian middle ruck attack, for instance, where the flyhalf goes hard for the line with a wing or centre like Israel Folau hard on their shoulder.

It’s no surprise when the New Zealand teams employ the kick-pass, especially the Hurricanes.

They employ the rush defence, therefore their wings have to be high and so there is always space behind them. Beauden Barrett would have had a lot of practice doing the kick-pass in training because he would see and have a high understanding of that space all the time.

The Stormers left too much of the field free, nearly 20 metres of space, and with players set in the wide channels, that’s not the smartest move.

In order to make sure you cover the width of the field, you need your tight five to work really hard close to the ruck, to set the breakdown correctly with good placing between the three pillars, and then the outside backs go wider.

The Bulls obviously had problems with their defence and if you said it started with their conditioning then you would not be far off. They also have folding problems, they’re just not setting the breakdown around the corner and so they end up with insufficient numbers.

They were also caught out by grubbers and so one has to ask questions about the back three’s positional play. They need to co-ordinate better to cover those and they need a much higher work-rate.

The Southern Kings have also had defensive problems and so it is only really the Lions and Sharks, who are defending in the same fashion as always, who can be satisfied with their defence.

The Lions have shown a great defensive improvement and one must credit JP Ferreira for improving their consistency in this regard.

The Lions are rolling through nicely and it will be a phenomenal tour if they can beat the Brumbies, which will make it probably the first unbeaten tour by a South African team – a tremendous achievement, and they’ve been winning with bonus points!

We know Australian rugby is at an all-time low and they have even more defensive problems, but their forwards are really their soft underbelly and the Lions have exposed that to great effect.

And the quality of finishing this weekend by Courtnall Skosan and Sylvian Mahuza was top-class. As we get closer to the Springbok selection, it’s a good time for players to remind the national coach that they are out there by scoring skilful tries like that.

In South Africa, skills development seems to be more coach-driven, but in New Zealand, the players take personal responsibility for it. An example at the Kubota Spears is Patrick Osborne, who has played at the top level as a wing, but he works hard on his kicking. He’s playing as a right-footer on the left wing, so he’s constantly working on his left-footed grubbers and other kicks, he does that consistently.

To see a top New Zealand SuperRugby player take individual responsibility like that was quite an eye-opener.

 

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 give Reds another Loftus hiding 0

Posted on June 08, 2016 by Ken

The Reds must be heartily sick of the view from behind the Loftus Versfeld goalposts as they succumbed to another heavy defeat there at the hands of the Vodacom Bulls on Saturday night, conceding six tries in a 43-22 defeat.

It was the Reds’ sixth successive loss in Pretoria and they have now conceded exactly 300 points in those games.

The Bulls are now top of the SuperRugby South African Conference, two points ahead of the Stormers, three points ahead of the Lions and four in front of the Sharks, with a game in hand over both of those last two sides, so they must be heading towards their overseas tour with confidence building.

Fullback Jesse Kriel must be in contention as a World Cup bolter later this year, featuring strongly in the tournament rankings for defenders beaten, carries and metres gained, and he was outstanding in all facets of his game on Saturday night, attacking with vigour from the back, kicking well and defending stoutly.

It was Kriel who set the Bulls on their way in the eighth minute as, following a Jacques-Louis Potgieter penalty four minutes earlier, he sped away from his own 22 after gathering an attempted grubber that had been deflected by wing Francois Hougaard.

Kriel ran all the way to the Reds’ 22 before passing inside to Hougaard, who had enough strength to carry a tackler over the line for the opening try.

The first half was dominated by the Bulls’ successful tactic of bombarding the Reds with high kicks, but it was nevertheless exciting viewing and the second half opened up into a try bonanza.

The Reds deserve to be included in any praise for the spectacle as they played with plenty of ambition, especially in the second half, and they showed their intent with their fine opening try in the 16th minute.

Flyhalf Nick Frisby attacked the line, chipped over and then re-gathered, before sending a long pass out to wing Lachie Turner to race away and score.

But aerial warfare was the name of the game for the Bulls in the first half and they quickly replied with their second try, eighthman Pierre Spies storming on to the ball after Turner had failed to gather a Kriel kick, the Bulls captain roaring over from 30 metres out.

The Reds actually had more possession than the Bulls in the first half, but the home side put in some tremendous hits as their aggressive defence continually pushed the Queenslanders back. Five minutes before the break, Hougaard stole the ball from prop James Slipper and was off for a 60-metre try that gave the Bulls a commanding 24-5 halftime lead.

The home side went into their shells a bit at the start of the second half and the Reds never hid their belief they could get back into the contest. And they did just that with two tries in three minutes closing the gap to 24-17.

Scrumhalf Will Genia was the spark as he scampered over from 20 metres out with a lovely run off a scrum and then placed a lovely dab through with the boot for Frisby to dash on to and score. The Reds had been put on attack by a powerful run by outside centre Samu Kerevi, and the 21-year-old Fijian then set up the visitors’ bonus-point try in the 59th minute with a breathtaking burst from his own 10-metre line. He powered on to a pop pass and then through half-a-dozen defenders before being stopped by Kriel just short of the line, replacement lock Marco Kotze being on hand to pick up and score.

But by then the Bulls had secured their own bonus-point try, replacement prop Marcel van der Merwe driving strongly off a rolling maul to score, eighthman Adam Thomson having just been yellow-carded for collapsing the previous maul.

It was a telling moment and, despite Kerevi’s magic, the Reds faded away at the end and conceded two more tries.

First Burger Odendaal produced an exceptional run from 30 metres out to power over the line and then another exciting run by Hougaard was stopped just short of the line, replacement scrumhalf Piet van Zyl then throwing a dummy and ducking over to score.

If Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has a natter with Frans Ludeke over the phone on Sunday then the Bulls coach can report back on a strong showing by Hougaard on the wing, another fine performance from tighthead prop Trevor Nyakane, and the continued growth of an exciting talent in Kriel.

But it was also pleasing to see loosehead prop Dean Greyling put in a number of massive hits and Spies did numerous good things around the park.

Scorers

Bulls – Tries: Francois Hougaard (2), Pierre Spies, Marcel van der Merwe, Burger Odendaal, Piet van Zyl. Conversions: Jacques-Louis Potgieter (3), Tian Schoeman (2). Penalty: Potgieter.

Reds – Tries: Lachie Turner, Will Genia, Nick Frisby, Marco Kotze. Conversion: Turner.

http://citizen.co.za/361081/bulls-give-reds-another-loftus-hiding/

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    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



↑ Top