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Ken Borland



Ex-national coaches the finished article: Heyneke 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer returned to Loftus Versfeld on Thursday and bemoaned the irony that former Springbok coaches, who can be considered close to the finished article, are excluded from the local game at a time when South African rugby is in crisis and needs as much experienced help as it can get.

Meyer was at his former stamping ground to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s to be played in Mauritius next month, but his passion for top-level rugby is still there.

“Ex national coaches learn so much, they’re at their best, and then they get moved sideways. The perception here is that I’m in the rugby wilderness, but I’m getting offers from all over the world. But I want to be in South Africa, I believe I can make a difference, even though I’m currently very happy working for Carinat.

“You look at Eddie Jones, who lost eight-in-a-row with Australia and was fired, but then he helped the Springboks and now with England you can see how much he has learnt. Most South African coaches are just gone, though; Rassie Erasmus and Jake White have been really successful overseas and someone like John Plumtree was not seen as a great coach here, but I always rated him, and now he’s won SuperRugby in New Zealand. So it’s not the lack of coaches that is our problem, it’s the system,” Meyer said.

The coach of the first South African team to win Super Rugby, back in 2007, said local franchises were severely hampered by the overseas exodus, fitness issues and the push to play like New Zealand teams.

“You know we’re in trouble when we want to follow New Zealand, if you do that then you’ll never be the best in the world. There’s an over-fixation to play like the All Blacks, it will take us 10 years to get there and then they’ll be another 10 years ahead! We have to find out what we stand for and play the South African way.

“It’s very concerning all the players going to Japan because they can’t play for 12 months and players need to be uninjured and fresh in order to do proper fitness work. And if you’re tired you can’t execute your skills, you can’t press in defence, or scrum or drive. Teams win because of superior fitness and with guys going overseas it’s very difficult.

“Plus it’s impossible to keep the same side together for five years, you just start building and guys leave by the time they’re 25. We’ve got the right coaches and players but we need a better system to keep the players,” Meyer said.

 

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.

Return of Alberts just the tonic for Sharks 0

Posted on June 07, 2016 by Ken

 

The return of powerhouse flank Willem Alberts to the Sharks team is just the tonic they need in this time of crisis, but coach Gary Gold faces a difficult decision when it comes to either starting the Springbok against the Lions at Ellis Park on Saturday or bringing him on off the bench.

Alberts has been battling hamstring injuries since last year and has played just one SuperRugby match this season, against the Stormers in Cape Town a month ago, where he re-injured the tendon.

But he’s been back at training this week and Gold will need to decide whether to start with the battering ram and see just how much time they can get out of him, or bring him off the bench and hope he can make an impact and last for 20 minutes or so.

Alberts is the sort of player who can inspire a team and the 30-year-old was positive that the Sharks can turn their fortunes around, while acknowledging that things have not gone according to plan thus far.

“It’s been another new beginning for us this season with a new coaching staff, plus injuries or suspensions making players unavailable. But we still believe that we are in contention and we are working hard for each other. It was obviously a hiccup last week, but luckily in rugby, the next week brings a new chance and we have to take it and move forward,” Alberts said.

The former Lions player is a senior figure at the Sharks and he brushed off suggestions that it was the older players to blame for the KwaZulu-Natalians’ implosion in recent weeks.

“The younger players need to raise their level of play, they have to step up and show that they are up for big rugby. But we were all young players at some stage and we support them, we try our best to help them do their best. There’s a great environment here at the Sharks, with young and old players and we just want to go forward as a team,” Alberts said.

A couple of those older players –props Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira – have played for four weeks in a row now and, in terms of the agreement with Springbok management, they will need to be rested either this weekend or the next.

Given that the Sharks face the Bulls in Durban next week, Gold may well decide to rest them this week ahead of that must-win home match.

Time to panic as full-scale crisis has developed for Boks 0

Posted on September 22, 2015 by Ken

 

The time to panic has arrived and Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is going to have to shed his fear of losing because the struggles of 2015 have now developed into a full-scale crisis after the shock loss to Japan in their opening World Cup match.

As magnificently as Japan played, what makes the loss even harder to swallow is that Eddie Jones telegraphed their game plan during the week; everybody knew they would go low in the tackle, bring pressure on the breakdown and move the ball away quickly from the collisions, and yet Meyer and the Springboks were unable to develop or execute a strategy to counter this.

All those tired old, injured bodies were not able to physically dominate the smallest team in international rugby, so what chance do they have against the massive Samoans? And if anyone says “no, but the Springboks will be ‘up’ for that game”, then I’d like to know what the hell was wrong with them that they couldn’t get properly motivated for the World Cup opening game?!

A defeat to Samoa will, in all probability, mean a flight home after the pool stages for the Springboks, so Meyer is now in a position where he has to go for broke.

A second-row of Eben Etzebeth and Lood de Jager will bring a more physical edge, which will be a prerequisite against Samoa. Francois Louw was anonymous against Japan after his injury woes and a second flank playing to the ball in Siya Kolisi could be useful. Frans Malherbe must come in for the unfit Coenie Oosthuizen.

Schalk Burger was a busy contributor, but what did he actually achieve? He is no longer a dominant force in the collisions, turning over ball far too often in contact, and constantly popping up at flyhalf or inside centre made him a disruptive force in the backline. Duane Vermeulen has to return, as captain, and maybe even Willem Alberts, if the medical team can actually get him on to a rugby field.

Zane Kirchner, after a bright opening 10 minutes, disappeared and is a total non-contributor on attack; Willie le Roux has to return at fullback to add a creative edge to a Springbok team that is a blunt weapon offensively.

Jean de Villiers has been a tremendous captain and a great player, but the emotion of a tenacious comeback should not be allowed to cloud the reality that the best centre pairing available for the Springboks right now is Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel.

It’s a great sadness that the legacy of top-class players like Victor Matfield, Schalk Burger, Fourie du Preez and De Villiers is being tarnished as they stumble on for a tournament too far. Du Preez should start at scrumhalf against Samoa and have a last chance to show that he still has a role to play for the Springboks.

 

 



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