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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Lions’ efforts deserve Test selection 0

Posted on June 01, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks are back in camp and it will be interesting to see the team for the French Tests, two of which will be played at altitude, so it will definitely be an advantage to pick players that are full of confidence and successful on the Highveld.

There’s only one team that has been playing with real conviction and confidence, though, and that is the Lions, so I expect a few debutants from them over the course of the series. It will be a well-deserved honour and credit to their coaches, Johan Ackermann, Swys de Bruin and JP Ferreira.

The Lions’ 54-10 win over the Southern Kings showed that the difference in strength is vast between them and the other South African teams and they now have a great run-in towards the SuperRugby playoffs. They deserve it after winning three games overseas and they are reaping the rewards in confidence and the way they are playing.

It’s sad for SuperRugby that the playoff places are mostly already sorted out, especially in South Africa. It always used to go down to the last weekend and a very exciting final day of round-robin play. Anyway, it’s a huge advantage to finish first on the log and the Crusaders are three points clear of the Lions as our pacesetters go into the international break.

The Crusaders have some tough New Zealand derbies coming up though, including having to travel to the Hurricanes.

So I believe Rudolf Straeuli, the Lions CEO, can’t wait to pencil in 3pm playoff games on the Highveld. If you speak to the Highlanders players they will tell you that their legs felt like jelly during their semi-final at Ellis Park last year, they just could not get going, and that’s a side packed with All Blacks that lost 30-42.

The Lions will definitely have earned that advantage via their performances, especially their tremendous run of 15 unbeaten games against South African opposition.

Most of the Lions players have been let go by other franchises or picked up from other unions, so you have to credit their hard work and improvement. Guys like Andries Coetzee and Courtnall Skosan were playing for Tuks in 2012/13, while Franco Mostert was also part of that side and nobody has worked harder for their Springbok opportunity, so I’m sure he’ll take it with both hands.

A guy like Ross Cronje has worked really hard on his game, he’s been the second-choice at the Lions a lot of the time, but he kept his belief and keeps producing the goods, so his selection is also fully deserved.

It was really pleasing to see Warren Whiteley appointed as the new Springbok captain, he’s a really honest player and always totally committed on the field. You can never accuse Warren of shirking anything, whether that be in terms of workload or skill.

He was with the Sharks as a junior and was a very explosive, impact player who could really cause damage in the wide channels in the last 20 minutes. He has become a dominant captain who epitomises all that his Lions team stands for in terms of culture.

Warren is a superb lineout option and also has safe hands at the back, which is important because it’s vital these days for eighthmen to be able to counter-attack. He brings his Sevens skills to bear.

His journey to the Springbok captaincy has not been easy, he has worked so hard to get there and thoroughly deserves the honour.

The Springboks are heading into a phase of more inclusive leadership, Warren will take notice of the opinions around him and has great empathy. But he showed when he first came into the Springbok group in 2014 that he is strong enough to have his own ideas, he knows the path forward and will not just follow the party line, he will make sure he drives his own opinions. He’s also a great communicator, with the coaches and the playing group.

I wish him all the success he deserves and wouldn’t it be nice for him to have the Rugby Championship trophy in his hands in October?

And Duane Vermeulen playing at seven will definitely work, in terms of their defensive system, they want a blindside flank who can do a lot more when it comes to work-rate. I think the eighthman will stay at a lot of the set-pieces and save his energy for attack and ball-in-hand play.

Duane of course will be in France for the Top 14 final with Toulon and will only have a couple of days training with the Springboks after flying back to South Africa, which is why Jean-Luc du Preez has been called up.

The Sharks v Stormers game showed the difference in strength between the two conferences. The Stormers just could not get that final pass or offload away, which, given their style of play, is essential for them.

Under new coach Robbie Fleck, they’re always going to be involved in high-scoring games, but they need to convert their chances. One has to credit the Sharks for their defence holding firm, which bodes well for the Springboks.

I felt there was some improvement from the Bulls, they were far more physical at the gain-line. There’s obviously been a change in the coaching staff there, which possibly produced the improved display, but unfortunately it was not enough against a clever team like the Hurricanes.

The Bulls will regret those soft moments in defence when the Hurricanes were able to slice through them like a knife through butter.

The positives for the Bulls were Duncan Matthews, the young wing, who really took his opportunity well, and the way the forwards and inside backs competed on the gain-line against one of the most physical sides in SuperRugby (How we wish for the days when the Bulls were the most physical side in the competition!).

I was fortunate enough to be at the Cheetahs game against the Sunwolves and it’s always nice when the South African teams come to Tokyo – because of our relationships in the past, I get to catch up and spend some time with them. The smattering of survival Japanese I have helps them in the shops and with the very complicated subway system!

I thought the Cheetahs ran a very smart week in terms of preparation. Often when a team is coming off a massive losing run (nine games), the temptation is to go harder at the players in training. But the Cheetahs did not do much in Tokyo and Franco Smith ensured the players were very fresh, and they reaped the reward.

The match was quite tight until just before halftime when the Cheetahs scored a killer try to leave the Sunwolves 14-0 down.

I was impressed by the way the Cheetahs played, they kept their shape and Raymond Rhule and Sergeal Petersen were always a big danger on the wings.

It was a big event in Tokyo, because they only get to host a handful of games every season. It’s a huge thing for Japan to have a SuperRugby team.

We need a global game and we should get teams from the USA and Canada involved as well, it has to happen eventually. Look at the improvement in the Argentina team from having the Jaguares involved in SuperRugby – they have been exposed to a higher level of rugby and it has paid dividends.

The biggest drawback is the travel for the Sunwolves and Jaguares, they do nearly twice as much travel as anyone else. It’s always a great feeling going to a new country when you win, but the worst thing is then losing.

So I hope they change the conferences, but who knows because there has still been no clarity from Sanzaar.

 

 

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.

 

Sharks come badly undone against superb Lions 0

Posted on July 02, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions played with superb fluency and confidence, pace and power, to ensure the Sharks would come badly undone on their visit to Johannesburg, the hosts winning their SuperRugby match 37-10 at Ellis Park on Saturday.

After weathering an impressive first five minutes from the Sharks, the Lions were quick to communicate their intention to pick up where they left off before the June international break, their previous result being a similarly superb 56-20 demolition of the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld.

The Sharks’ bright start withered in the face of some ferocious defending from the Lions and they simply pushed the visitors ever further from the advantage line, bossing the collisions and producing the quick ball that they flourished on, displaying wonderful skills and intensity in the process.

Flyhalf Elton Jantjies put the first points on the board with a seventh-minute penalty and the woes began for the Sharks as Paul Jordaan limped off with a knee injury. They had already been forced to make a midfield change when Andre Esterhuizen failed to recover in time from the hamstring strain he picked up during the week, which meant Jordaan was playing inside centre and JP Pietersen shifted to number 13 and S’bura Sithole came on to the wing.

Heimar Williams then came on to replace Jordaan and, with Garth April appearing flustered at flyhalf, the Sharks had a severely disrupted backline, the Esterhuizen/Jordaan combination being one of their strong points this season.

But what was unforgivable was the number of basic mistakes the Sharks made in the first half, starting with scrumhalf Michael Claassens basically bailing out of taking an up-and-under, giving the Lions prime attacking position. Lionel Mapoe produced an incisive run, Jaco Kriel, as ever, was up in support and made the final pass for wing Ruan Combrinck to score the opening try in the 15th minute.

The Sharks were also poor at relieving pressure in their own territory, allowing the Lions to mount relentless attacks because their kicks were often up-and-unders instead of touchfinders, and too often they did not find touch or grass.

The second try came after an up-and-under from the base rather than a lengthy kick to clear the lines, followed by Odwa Ndungane dithering and not claiming a mark that could also have relieved the pressure. Instead the Lions piled on to attack, lock Franco Mostert powered through close to the line and eventually centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg grabbed the ball out of a maul and swiveled over the line.

On the half-hour, the jittery April kicked straight to fullback Andries Coetzee, who launched the attack and Combrinck’s little chip behind the defensive line bounced wickedly for Lwazi Mvovo, again in the north-east corner of Ellis Park, with eighthman Ruan Ackermann gathering and passing to hooker Malcolm Marx to storm over for the third try.

The Sharks were 20-0 down and then butchered the best chance they had to get on the scoreboard when Mvovo’s pace took him clear, but his pass inside to Ndungane was a bit behind the fullback and the veteran dropped the ball with the line clear ahead of him.

While the dazzling attacking play of the Lions backline gets most of the plaudits, their pack is also brilliant and they deserve the credit for the fourth try, scored on the stroke of halftime, as the forwards went on the charge, battering through the advantage line until Ackermann, one of the stars of the show as he stood in for the injured Warren Whiteley, powered over the line with two of his colleagues behind him.

Jantjies’ conversion meant the Lions would go into the break with a commanding 27-0 lead and the problems that bedevilled the Sharks did not go away in the third quarter either.

April produced an awful kick from his own 22 that did not go anywhere but straight up, leading to a penalty slotted by Jantjies, and the ball-hungry Kriel then crashed over the line in a move that again highlighted the pace and power of the Lions forwards.

At 37-0 down with 22 minutes to play, the Sharks were really just chasing pride and their replacements, especially lock Ruan Botha, added some much-needed energy.

The visitors were finally on the board in the 63rd minute, Sithole cutting through the Lions defences and some clean hands by April and replacement fullback Rhyno Smith delivered the ball to Mvovo, who stepped inside and dotted down.

Six minutes later, Botha, who announced his return from long-term injury with a compelling performance in the Ellis Park fortress, soared high to take a lineout and set up the rolling maul, from which another Sharks import, replacement hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle, scored.

That made it five tries to two and, if the Sharks had managed to score once more in the last 11 minutes it would have robbed the Lions of a well-deserved bonus point, but Johannesburg’s pride held out to ensure they will top their conference and host the city’s first SuperRugby knockout game since 2001.

Sensational Lions ensure they stay in pole position 0

Posted on May 30, 2016 by Ken

 

The Emirates Lions hammered the Vodacom Bulls 56-20 in their SuperRugby derby at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday to ensure that they will return to action after the international break in pole position for the playoffs and with their confidence sky-high.

It was a sensational display by the Lions and it was their sheer intensity, pace, power and vision that blew the Bulls away, the visitors running in seven tries in delivering the sort of hiding that has rarely been inflicted on the home side at their Pretoria fortress.

The Bulls knew from the start that they were going to be in for a tough evening as the Lions earned a penalty from the kickoff, the home side not releasing in the tackle and Marnitz Boshoff slotting the kick. That was not the only time the Bulls erred at the breakdown.

Another Boshoff penalty stretched the lead to 6-0 and the opening try came in the 19th minute. The Lions were put on attack by scrumhalf Faf de Klerk’s searing break and the power of inside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg then carried him over for the try, although the Bulls pleaded in vain for the visitors to be penalised for obstruction as there was crossing in the midfield.

The Bulls struck back from the kickoff though when the Lions misjudged the flight of the ball, which then bounced over the head of fullback Sylvan Mahuza, who had come rushing up to cover. Outside centre Jesse Kriel gathered the ball and stormed over for the try to cut the deficit to 5-13.

The Lions scrum then made their presence felt in the 27th minute, a big shove seeing the ball bounce out – was it out the tunnel or through the legs? – into De Klerk’s hands and the deserved Man of the Match launched a rapid counter-attack, finished by the pace and power of outside centre Lionel Mapoe, who would not look out of place in the New Zealand backline.

The Bulls, to their credit, did not harp on about all the 50/50 decisions that went against them, but it would have been churlish considering how comprehensively they were outplayed.

The Bulls did pull the gap back to 8-18 with a Francois Brummer penalty, but the Lions were firmly in charge at the break as another try took them out to 25-8.

De Klerk may have been the director of all the attacking brilliance, but this try saw the fabulous pack take control. Hooker Malcolm Marx, who was immense, ripped the ball off the Bulls to set up a series of drives and the home side eventually ran out of defenders, allowing powerhouse tighthead prop Julian Redelinghuys to stroll over the line.

The Bulls defence is one of the best in the competition – before the match they had missed the least tackles – but the Lions continued to cut them open with astonishing ease, thanks to the high tempo with which they moved the ball, and their wonderful vision and skills.

Flank Warwick Tecklenburg is one of the unsung heroes of the Lions and his inside ball to Boshoff saw the flyhalf break clear, earning a penalty for a high tackle, which he slotted to ensure the visitors continued the momentum in the second half.

De Klerk showed again just how dangerous he is with ball-in-hand in the 54th minute when he took a quick tap-penalty and was away in the blink of an eye; he had Jaco Kriel inside him and the brilliant flanker is one of the paciest loose forwards around, roaring over the line for the Lions’ fourth try.

The Bulls were 33-8 down but they did restore some pride with their second try, protecting the ball long enough to get a driving maul going, skipper Adriaan Strauss dotting down.

But there was little respite from the dazzling onslaught from the Lions: wing Courtnall Skosan ran a great line and received the scoring pass from captain Warren Whiteley, in a moment of superb play that showcased the eighthman’s wonderful appreciation of space and time.

Boshoff added his fourth conversion to put the Lions 42-13 up and things got worse for the Bulls when replacement flyhalf Tian Schoeman received a yellow card from referee Craig Joubert for a ruck offence after a team warning.

Shortly thereafter, the scrum once again got their shove on and the nefarious De Klerk was able to dart over for a well-deserved try of his own. Boshoff converted to put the Lions on the brink of the half-century mark and the hell was not over yet for the Bulls as a magnificent breakout by the Lions saw Skosan put clear on a switch move. He showed the pace that has seen him rightly rewarded with an SA A place, and he passed outside to Janse van Rensburg, who showed that he has speed to go with his power as he stormed over for the try.

Replacement flank Deon Stegmann scored under the posts for the Bulls in the final minute, but it was scant consolation for a side that were nowhere near their best and played off the park as a result.

Scorers

Vodacom BullsTries: Jesse Kriel, Adriaan Strauss, Deon Stegmann. Conversion: Tian Schoeman. Penalty: Francois Brummer.

Emirates LionsTries: Rohan Janse van Rensburg (2), Lionel Mapoe, Julian Redelinghuys, Jaco Kriel, Courtnall Skosan, Faf de Klerk. Conversions: Marnitz Boshoff (6). Penalties: Boshoff (3).

http://www.citizen.co.za/1136419/sensational-lions-thrash-bulls/

Financial powerhouse’s backing a big vote of confidence for CSA 0

Posted on May 23, 2016 by Ken

 

It can only be a vote of confidence when one of South Africa’s financial powerhouses agrees to become your national team sponsor – across all three formats – particularly when they parted ways with you just six years previously because of misgovernance and the way they were treated, so Cricket South Africa had reason to celebrate this week and reflect on how far they have come in terms of corporate governance.

It’s the first time one sponsor has been found for all three teams, the Test, ODI and T20 outfits, and the four-year deal will allow just one name on all the replica shirts CSA sells. The fact that it is no longer an alcoholic brand on the shirt also allows huge numbers of people to now buy them whereas in the past their religious beliefs precluded them from wearing that logo, so there will be a sizeable financial benefit there as well.

It’s some much-needed good news for the Proteas in what has been a tough year for them. CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat optimistically said at the sponsorship announcement that he believes the slide down the international rankings is only temporary.

“These have been tough times but I’m sure the team will provide the desired returns for Standard Bank. I believe they are still a world-class team despite the poor recent results. I think it’s just a blip for a team that is still in transition.

“We believe the system will still provide great players, especially after the three reviews we are currently running – into the domestic structure, a relaunched T20 league and the national team set-up, especially why the Proteas keep falling short at the final hurdle in major global tournaments,” Lorgat said.

Transformation is still a major issue for CSA – some of my sources tell me that the reason for the sudden postponement of the initial Standard Bank announcement was that the sponsor wanted a transformation clause inserted into the contract, others have denied this – and the dissatisfaction of sports minister Fikile Mbalula, however obxnoxious he is being, is a threat to their future plans.

There is a meeting on Saturday between CSA and Mbalula, and this is going to be a crucial sit-down to see if they can iron out the differences that were exposed by the minister’s shock announcement on April 25 that he was implementing punitive measures against the union.

“The unparalelled support that we enjoy – as Temba Bavuma approached his debut Test century at Newlands there were 10 million TV viewers for the first time – shows that we can be very proud of our transformation initiatives that are bearing fruit. We know the minister of sport is not satisfied with certain areas, but we will engage him. We strongly believe that transformation has to happen from the bottom up and we firmly believe that we need it for strategic reasons.

“It’s fair to say that we were caught by surprise by what the minister had to say, but we will meet this Saturday and I’m confident we will come to an understanding. Transformation is about more than targets, it covers our entire business. We are clear that it must be from the bottom up, but we need resources and support from government, in particular the departments of sport and recreation and basic education. It will be the only way to sustain our business into the future, never mind our moral obligations,” Lorgat said.

Apart from the poor corporate governance of the previous CSA administration, Standard Bank were also chased away in 2010 by the frustrating fashion in which they were treated by certain CSA staff, who did not seem to care that these were the people investing in their sport and paying a large proportion of their salaries at the end of the day. Fortunately that culture is long gone at CSA.

From the media’s perspective, we had some rip-roaring times with Standard Bank and it is with delight that we welcome them back into the pressboxes around the country.

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    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



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