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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – The intent is obviously there 0

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the quality of the games last weekend, I am really looking forward to this weekend’s SuperRugby action, with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions looking like South Africa’s three major contenders.

Last weekend we saw very different South African derbies to what we normally see and the will to attack was clearly there. The intent was obviously there to play with ball in hand and the teams played with real speed in terms of tempo, and pace, which made a heck of an impact.

An example of this was when the Stormers took a quick tap and scored seven points against the Bulls; they, in particular, showed more intent than they have in the past.

The effects of the new tackle law, meaning players now have to go lower with their hits, were also evident in that there were more offloads. Attacks can now continue through the tackle because the arms are free and the tall guys can get the ball above the tackle. It keeps the ball alive and it has led to a lot more continuity.

What was really impressive to me was how lean some of the leading Springboks looked. Guys like Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi looked in great shape and the speed they played at was a direct consequence of their fitness levels.

There’s definitely been a huge emphasis on conditioning through the franchises and it could mean the end of the New Zealand and Australian sides feeling that a high ball-in-play figure is their secret to success because the South African teams will tire.

While the Stormers were fantastic, what was encouraging about the Bulls was that they never gave up, which is huge. They denied the Stormers a bonus point, which at the end of the day could be vital; from 24-0 up at halftime, the Stormers really needed to get that bonus point. The second half would have provided a huge swing in confidence for the Bulls.

In the Cheetahs versus Lions game in Bloemfontein, the visitors really got out of jail, but if you can score three tries away from home then you deserve your victory.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg showed his finishing power and speed, while the Lions’ try down the short side to win the match showed again that rugby is about defending the full width of the field, even if you only have two or three metres to touch.

The penalty try given off a driving maul was a game-changer; most referees would have copped out and just given a penalty, but if the maul is set and moving forward then it deserves that decision, so credit to referee Quinton Immelman for his brave call.

The Southern Kings looked better and scored some really good tries, but again conceded turnovers at crucial times. During the first half they were in control for long periods, but a yellow card really cost them and prop Ross Geldenhuys was lucky not to get a red card, which a knee to the back should be penalised with.

The major talking point of the last week in the rugby world, however, was Italy and their decision not to contest rucks against England.

I had lunch with Brendan Venter last week and he mentioned that they were going to do it. Any tactic that is new and innovative has to be applauded and it certainly took England a long time to cope with it, so credit to Brendan and the rest of the Italian coaching staff and players for that.

But I believe World Rugby do need to look at the law. As defence coaches, we encourage players to get back on their feet and in the defensive line, but now teams might just try to herd the attacking team into a small radius of the ruck, which would not be good for the game.

It would take a full week of coaching to get a game plan against Italy’s tactic. It was  a real shock-and-awe strategy and difficult to adapt to on your feet. In fact, England played into Italy’s hands with their counter to it, so it clearly worked as a tactic.

 

 

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.

Contrasting wins leave Lions & Dolphins as only realistic contenders 0

Posted on January 04, 2016 by Ken

The bizhub Highveld Lions and the Dolphins will enter the last two rounds of the Sunfoil Series as the only realistic title contenders after they gained contrasting victories in the eighth round of fixtures that ended on Sunday.

The Dolphins won their virtual eliminator against the Unlimited Titans at SuperSport Park by three wickets, but not before an inspired attack had given them a major scare.

The Lions were always in control of their match against the Chevrolet Knights in Bloemfontein, although the home side made them work hard for victory as they batted for 98.4 overs in their second innings, eventually being dismissed for 289. That left the Lions with a target of just 97 for victory, and openers Stephen Cook and Rassie van der Dussen knocked off the runs at a canter, winning by 10 wickets in just 14.3 overs.

The Dolphins began their second innings on the final day in Centurion, needing just 177 runs for victory, but the Titans attack were certainly up for the challenge and the inconsistent bounce of the pitch certainly made the target a testing one.

The Dolphins openers, Divan van Wyk (2) and Imraan Khan (8) were both dismissed inside the first five overs as the visitors crashed to 10 for two.

Khaya Zondo and Cody Chetty briefly steadied the ship as they took the total to 55 before Chetty (20) let his side down with an awful waft outside off stump as Marchant de Lange returned for a fiery second spell and was definitely threatening life and limb.

Left-armer Rowan Richards was merrily swinging the ball from the Hennops River End and added to the chaos with the wickets of Zondo (15), Daryn Smit (2) and Andile Phehlukwayo (0), and suddenly the Dolphins were 58 for six.

But captain Morne van Wyk and Calvin Savage then produced the key partnership as they added 116 in 146 minutes, off 238 balls.

It was a stand of enormous skill and character on a tricky pitch. While such heroics can be expected from the veteran Van Wyk, whose 59 not out was his 28th Sunfoil Series half-century, Savage’s 53 was an exceptional effort by a 22-year-old playing in just his ninth four-day game.

Savage first of all blocked up his end, scoring just 15 runs from his first 77 balls, before defiantly striking five fours and a six as he and Van Wyk all but sealed victory.

Savage fell with just three more runs needed for victory, dismissed by De Lange, who finished with three for 66 in 18 overs, to go with the four for 68 he took in the first innings.

Richards was the pick of the Titans attack, with three for 35 in 17.3 overs.

The victory lifts the Dolphins to 98.26 points, while the Lions are at the top of the log with 115.84. Defeat has left the Titans clutching at straws on 84.90 points.

In Bloemfontein, the Johannesburg-based franchise claimed two Knights wickets in the opening hour as the home side went from 76 without loss overnight to 95 for two with the dismissal of Gihahn Cloete (37) and Tumelo Bodibe (4).

But Reeza Hendricks showed that he is ready for more international cricket as he grafted his way to 61, Rudi Second was similarly determined in scoring 67, and Patrick Botha motored to 42 to take the Knights to 218 for three before the wheels fell off.

The Lions were once again able to show what a tight bowling unit they are as Kagiso Rabada took three for 52, Chris Morris and Hardus Viljoen claimed a couple of wickets each and Dwaine Pretorius wrapped up the tail, the last seven wickets falling for 71 runs.

Having finished just short of an almost identical target last week against the Warriors, this time the Lions did not allow rain or bad light to have any chance of denying them as Cook powered to 49 not out off 34 balls and Van der Dussen struck 46 not out off 55 deliveries.

The third match of the weekend, between the Nashua Cape Cobras and the Chevrolet Warriors, ended in the dullest of draws at Newlands in Cape Town.

The Warriors deserve credit, however, for batting through most of the final day and scoring 256 for three to all but clear the first-innings deficit of 257.

The visitors were 88 without loss overnight and the opening stand grew to 155 as David White scored 57 and Michael Price 94. Colin Ackermann then came in and continued the good work with 53 not out.

Robin Peterson was the only successful Cobras bowler on the final day, the left-arm spinner taking three for 65 in 32.1 overs.

http://citizen.co.za/344463/lions-and-dolphins-enter-last-two-rounds/

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 …

 

 

 

All agree Glendower will be stern SA Open test 0

Posted on March 09, 2015 by Ken

The leading contenders used various terms to describe the rough at Glendower Golf Club, but one thing they all agreed on was that this year’s South African Open starting on Thursday in Edenvale will be a stern test.

Anything offline and away from the fairway will be punished, with chipping out of the rough often the only option.

Ernie Els, recently announced as the tournament’s ambassador and searching for his sixth SA Open title, is pleased that the Glendower set-up is tough.

“If you stray just off the fairway, you can really get a very tough lie. I hit one at 18 yesterday where I was a metre off the fairway and I could only advance it maybe 100 yards. But it’s what Opens are all about it, isn’t it? I think for a tournament of this stature it needs to be tough.

“Kikuyu is obviously a very thickly-laid grass and they’ve obviously let it go when there’s been a lot of rain, so it’s as thick and as tough as I’ve ever seen rough. But we want to find the best player this week and that’s what we’re going to get. You’re not going to get a guy who’s hitting it offline and getting lucky lies in the rough winning. You’re going to have to play proper golf and that’s what I think a national Open should be like,” Els said on Wednesday.

Charl Schwartzel thought the rough should have been even longer, while Branden Grace hoped it would be cut a bit, and George Coetzee described the course as “a real challenge”.

“If you miss a fairway, there is an 80% chance that you’ll have to chip out and I hit an eight-iron about 15 yards on one hole,” the Joburg Open champion said.

The greens, however, are soft and receptive, so conditions will favour the most accurate golfer rather than the most powerful.

“If there’s no rough then it’s usually a big hitter that wins, but this week is about hitting fairways and greens, which changes things a bit,” Danie van Tonder, the leader of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, said. “I won’t be stupid and hit driver everywhere. I’ll take three-wood or four-iron and lay-up before going for the green. To the pins I’ll be aggressive, but not on the tee shots.”

That doesn’t suit a guy like Coetzee, who likes to bomb it off the tee, but the 28-year-old said he will apply himself and look to adapt.

“I prefer tricky greens to tricky rough, but you’ve got to make your game suit the course. Hopefully I’ll hit it straight and make a few putts. You’ve got to hit a lot of fairways, because I don’t think the best putter will win it this week,” Coetzee said.

What is certain is that the leading South Africans – Schwartzel, Els, Coetzee, Grace, Richard Sterne and Hennie Otto – are all extremely hungry to claim their national Open and return the imposing trophy to home soil for the first time since Otto’s triumph in 2011.

Victory would be especially sweet for Ekurhuleni products like Els, Otto, Van Tonder and J’be Kruger.

“It’s wonderful to be back at the SA Open, especially here at Glendower in Ekurhuleni, the city where I’m from,” Els said. “I’ve played a lot of golf at Glendower, I grew up 12km from here and we’ve got a great venue this week. I feel very motivated to win as many as I can before I’m done,” the 45-year-old said.

 

 

 

 



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