for quality writing

Ken Borland



Anxious times for Coetzee as his plans are undermined 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

The way his plans for his crucial second year as Springbok coach are being undermined by injuries and overseas departures, Allister Coetzee could be forgiven for starting to take Valium as his appointment with the feisty French looms ever nearer.

Coetzee was spared the axe by SA Rugby after a 2016 campaign that had most Springbok fans in need of post-traumatic stress drugs, and he has also been given more support in terms of more experienced assistants and training camps during SuperRugby.

But there is little doubt that Coetzee needs to produce a series win from the three Tests against France in Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg in June if he is to still be Springbok coach for the Rugby Championship. There are ongoing shadowy moves involving Rassie Erasmus that will have Coetzee perpetually looking over his shoulder.

But the problems Coetzee already faces in terms of selecting his squad would be enough to send someone of less tenacious character running for the hills.

A run of injuries has sidelined his two most capped local flyhalves and his first three choices for inside centre. Another midfield star has decided to pursue his career overseas as has a potential scrumhalf candidate, a position in which Coetzee has real problems.

In fact, if you run through the list of names of local players currently available for the backline, it makes gloomy reading.

And thus we come to the thorny issue of overseas players. The new 30 caps criterion of SA Rugby only comes into effect from July 1, so there are obviously going to be a bunch of foreign-based players included for the French series.

If one had to pick a backline only from the ranks of the SuperRugby franchises, it would be sorely lacking in the experience which is so important at Test level.

On current form, the uncapped Ross Cronje should probably be the starting scrumhalf, but Faf de Klerk, although suffering from the vagaries of form at the moment, must surely feature somewhere, especially since he played in 11 of the Springboks’ 12 Tests last year.

Cobus Reinach is the scrumhalf heading overseas and will be ineligible after July 1 because he only has 10 caps.

At flyhalf, Coetzee is faced with a repeat of last year’s problem when he was without Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard. The Bulls man is a non-starter for the French series, leaving the coach to gamble between a rusty Lambie or a frustrating Elton Jantjies, a man who looks top-class in SuperRugby but has been as hesitant as a vegan in a butchery at Test level.

But hopefully there will be a change in approach from the Springboks this year, a move towards the up-tempo, ball-in-hand style of the Lions, and Jantjies will surely feel more comfortable in that sort of environment.

The Springboks have a history of throwing Lambie into battle when in need of a rescue act, but it would surely not be fair on the 26-year-old to toss him back into Test action after probably just three SuperRugby games.

Curwin Bosch has burst on to the scene for the Sharks, but it would be heaping too much pressure on to the 19-year-old’s shoulders to expect him to play flyhalf for the Springboks, especially when you have Jantjies to call on.

Bosch could well be selected at fullback for the Springboks, however, with Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant only producing glimpses of form for the Bulls.

Lwazi Mvovo is likely to be on the one wing for the Springboks and Courtnall Skosan certainly looks like someone who can be relied upon if called to make the step up. The local depth at wing is not great, with Ruan Combrinck out with a long-term injury and Seabelo Senatla and Sergeal Petersen battling to get on the field.

One does not like to dwell on the defensive frailties of players, but for all their brilliance with ball in hand, Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Dillyn Leyds and Cheslin Kolbe have all shown weaknesses in defence that Test opposition will definitely focus on.

Lionel Mapoe and Francois Venter have put their hands up for the outside centre berth, but Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh, the last three players to wear the number 12 jersey for the Springboks, are all currently injured.

De Allende and De Jongh might return to action just before the June international window, but the confirmation last week that Jan Serfontein has given in to the agents flashing lots of numbers on their calculators and will head overseas is most untimely.

While Serfontein can still play against France, will Coetzee be willing to make an investment in a player who will be stranded on 29 Tests, if he plays all three internationals in June, and therefore won’t be eligible for selection for the Rugby Championship?

While I fully understand the reasons players leave to perform overseas, I have it on good authority that Serfontein is managed by an agency that only gets a commission if they land the player an overseas deal.

So obviously his agent was unlikely to recommend the improved contracts that were on the table from both the Bulls and SA Rugby. In fact, there was an unconfirmed report from France that Serfontein had already signed a three-year deal with Montpellier back in January.

Surely SA Rugby could have a case for negotiating in bad faith against the Essentially sports management company and cancel their agents’ licence? This same company hardly covered their names in glory with the way they handled the departures of SA cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott on Kolpak deals earlier this year …

That leaves someone like the uncapped Burger Odendaal as the frontrunner for the inside centre position and as tempting as it may be to pick a backline purely from SuperRugby players, their total number of caps might then amount to less than 50.

Which means there is the likelihood that the likes of Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar and Morne and Francois Steyn will be winging their way back to South Africa in an effort to make up for their undistinguished recent efforts for the Springboks.

One cannot blame desperate coaches for trying anything to save their own skins, but bringing back all those former stars would surely be a retrograde step in terms of the future of Springbok rugby.

https://www.alloutrugby.com/euro-boks-retro-injuries/

Bulls scrum faces another crucial examination 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls scrum was toyed with by the Stormers in last weekend’s loss in Cape Town and now they face another crucial examination by the Lions in the SuperRugby Jukskei derby at Loftus Versfeld this evening.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann has recalled powerful scrummagers in Julian Redelinghuys and Robbie Coetzee and his Bulls counterpart Frans Ludeke is under no illusions that the result of the game could lie in how well Springboks Trevor Nyakane, Adriaan Strauss and Marcel van der Merwe cope at scrum time.

“The scrum can be the decider, it will have a huge impact like last week, we’re well aware of that. At times we haven’t been accurate enough and if we’re going to be successful on Saturday then the scrum needs to function. In our previous match against the Lions, it was a great contest there,” Ludeke said.

There was only a small iota of difference between the two sides at Ellis Park a month ago with the Lions winning with a last-minute try, but the visitors ought to go into tonight’s game with enormous confidence on the back of five successive wins.

“They’re a great side, they’re playing fantastic rugby and they’ll have a lot of confidence, plus they’re winning the close games. We know it won’t be easy, but we are playing at Loftus and we’re all confident we can beat them here,” captain Victor Matfield said.

The match will have massive repercussions on whoever loses because it could leave them two wins behind the conference-leading Stormers, who should be victorious in Bloemfontein.

Ludeke suggested the Lions like to gamble back on the Highveld and a measured approach from his side could bring home the spoils.

“On tour the Lions played a more tactical game and backed their defence, but in South Africa they play like a New Zealand side, with width and from broken-field. But it’s going to be all about our ability to make good decisions and we are also dangerous with ball-in-hand. Their style means they can also cough up broken-field ball,” Ludeke said.

Steyn looking to impose his management on game 0

Posted on June 17, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok backline coach Mzwandile Stick said if you ever wanted to ‘cut-and-paste’ game-management into a side then Morne Steyn is as good a template as you can find, and the veteran flyhalf is hoping to bring some much-needed tactical prowess with the boot to the team for their crucial second Test against Ireland at Ellis Park on Saturday.

Steyn has completed his season with Stade Francais and was back in South Africa preparing to go on holiday when he answered the S.O.S. from the Springbok camp, with Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard both injured. The 31-year-old is likely to be named on the bench as back-up for Elton Jantjies and has every chance of adding to his 60 caps if the home side finds itself in trouble.

“Last Saturday our kicking wasn’t at the usual top standard, and what we’re trying to bring is more kicking into our game and that’s one of my strengths, so hopefully I can bring that to the team. All the teams we play against in Europe are quality, they all have good kicking games, but they’re all trying to run the ball a bit more as well. You can see the standard has improved a lot and England and Ireland were able to show it last weekend. At Stade Francais I’ve been able to gain more experience of playing in that weather, as well as relaxing and enjoying my rugby more,” Steyn said.

The former Bulls star’s international hopes seemed to have suffered a terminal blow last year when he played only 24 minutes of Test rugby, coming off the bench against the USA in the World Cup. But it’s not the first time Steyn has been discarded and returned as his mastery of the basic skills of international flyhalf play don’t go out of fashion.

“I watched a lot of SuperRugby and guys like Elton Jantjies, Pat Lambie and Garth April were all doing so well, and I knew I was a bit older than those guys … plus it’s a new era, which is good for South African rugby. So I guess I wasn’t really expecting to be called up … a guy like Handre Pollard, who is injured now, is in the picture as well so you never know what will happen.

“But rugby certainly is a strange game! Just when you think you’re out of it, you’re back in the thick of it. But I’m here now and determined to make a positive contribution. I spoke to my wife about it as well. We just said we’re going to see how it goes. It’s great to be back and I’m enjoying playing with all the new guys in the Springbok squad, only three or four guys have more than 50 caps. I had four weeks holiday planned, but it’s great to be back on the field!

“Family time is great, but I will give it my all for the Springboks. In every training session, every game I play from here I’m going to give it 100%. Maybe I can keep going for another two or three years,” Steyn said.

The space is there, Boks need to be more patient – Stick 0

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Ken

 

The space is there, but the Springboks need to be more patient when utilising it, Mzwandile Stick, the backline coach, said on Tuesday ahead of the crucial second Test against Ireland at Ellis Park on Saturday.

South Africa managed to lose the first Test against Ireland despite playing against 14 men for an hour, with the extra space available to them being wasted by one-dimensional, frenetic efforts to just fling the ball wide as quickly as possible, thereby allowing the hardworking Irish defence to merely fan across and isolate the attackers out wide.

“The problem is not creating space, the space was there, the problem was how we managed it. Everyone got too excited, everyone wanted to be in that space and sometimes guys were even a bit selfish about it. We needed to do the hard work first and punch through the middle and then take the ball wide,” Stick said after training on Tuesday.

“As a team, we failed to manage the game well, we rushed things and we need to be more patient. Sometimes we played too much rugby in our own half and then the energy levels of the players ran out.”

While the forwards at least ensured the Springboks won the possession and territory stats against Ireland (57% in both cases), Stick acknowledged that the pack also needed to do more when it came to laying the sort of dominant platform that allows the backline to flourish.

“We knew Ireland would take us on physically and I must compliment them on doing their homework and they dominated the set-pieces. We need to focus on the collisions and make sure that we are dominant in them,” Stick said.

Lwazi Mvovo was the star player on the day in the Springbok backline and Stick said the Sharks wing’s well-taken try off a deft inside ball from Elton Jantjies was one of the few positives from the game.

“Lwazi looked dangerous when he had the ball and that try put a smile on my face because it was executed very well. Damian de Allende also ran a very good line and I’m not sure about those pundits who said it was obstruction. It’s one of our strike moves and my job is to give the guys the freedom to play and create options for them.

“The key is to try and create those moments, create an environment in which the players can express themselves and plans to complement their qualities,” Stick said.

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    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."

    The lessons Christ taught were intensely spiritual, but also extremely practical. For him, everything - every thought and deed - was an expression of his relationship with his heavenly Father. All of our life must be an expression of the spiritual.

    "I wait upon God to renew my mind, to make me creative, instead of becoming the clanging cymbal that Paul spoke of." - Paul Tournier

    "The spiritual life touches the realities of every day and enables you to look, to a certain extent, at people's problems as God does." - Solly Ozrovech



↑ Top