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Ken Borland



Big Trevor & the lollipop: Meyer leaving nothing to chance 0

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Ken

Being one of the largest specimens of humanity in Pretoria, Trevor Nyakane is not exactly hard to spot. But I was nevertheless very excited to see him at Loftus Versfeld the other day, mostly because of what he was doing.

The Bulls prop was busy with Springbok assistant coach John McFarland practising lineout throwing, with the defence guru using the big metal “lollipop stick” he designed exactly for this purpose to replicate Victor Matfield’s hands soaring high above the opposition and claiming the throw that sets up the maul that sets up the try that wins South Africa the World Cup later this year.

I was intrigued because I figured this may mean Nyakane is being groomed to play hooker for the Springboks.

There has not been much for the Bulls to be happy about this season, but Nyakane has been one of the few shining lights at Loftus Versfeld, and here, at the same venue, he was showing the adaptability that has already seen him master the tighthead position, having left the Cheetahs as a loosehead at the start of the year.

I was very excited because, if Nyakane could play as a back-up No 2 it would mean Heyneke Meyer could name just two hookers in his squad, thereby freeing up a place that could help unblock the amazing loose forward log-jam he has to wrestle with.

Because the World Cup in England will be just an overnight flight away from South Africa, it means Nyakane could sit on the bench if one of the two match-day hookers went down on the eve of a game, with a replacement being flown over if the injury was more long-term.

At the moment, Meyer can only take five loose forwards to the World Cup (with Oupa Mohoje going as a lock), so Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger and Marcell Coetzee would appear to be the frontrunners. But that would mean leaving quality, in-form players such as Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr behind, so any scheme that could sneak one of those on to the plane to England should be investigated.

Unfortunately it’s turned out that this was one of the many occasions when I was getting ahead of myself and Nyakane is definitely not being groomed as a hooker and Meyer will choose three No 2s in the World Cup squad.

But it is one of the many examples of how detailed Meyer’s planning is for the World Cup because Nyakane is being trained as a back-up thrower should the on-field hooker get a yellow card. Of which Bismarck du Plessis has many.

It’s an emergency policy for 10 minutes, but it has happened a couple of times to the Springboks in the last two years, with Vermeulen notably forced to throw into the lineout against Ireland last year.

It’s another of the many one-percenters that Meyer reckons could decide the World Cup and the Springbok coach has gone into minute detail in his planning. That includes poring over the minutiae of every previous tournament and the venues where his team will play. He has even gone into the weather records and keeps an eye on the long-term forecasts.

Unfortunately there still seems to be no solution to the problem that will see the likes of Kriel, Whiteley, Kolisi and Carr staying at home!

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-columnists/408023/kb-col/

Former Springboks defence coach John McFarland on what the Lions must do to win the SuperRugby final 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions will want to just keep on doing exactly what they have been doing as they build up to the SuperRugby final against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

We want to see the Lions play with the same verve, confidence and execution because that’s what’s in their DNA, it’s what they’ve been training all season.

The biggest thing when preparing for a final is to use up all the emotional energy. The size of the occasion is constantly on the players’ minds, the consequences of winning or losing. At the Bulls when we won our three titles we would have very short sessions in finals week and not introduce anything new. The guys must just release steam at training.

You might not use anything new anyway in the final and the first 20 minutes of the game are always very frenetic and you want to be doing the things you do well, you want to be confident that you can execute them.

It’s also important this week for the Lions guys to get away from rugby, go play tenpin bowling or something, you don’t want them sitting in their rooms thinking about the game.

Then, the night before the match we would have our jersey presentation but the players would do it themselves. Each one would give a short presentation of what the final means to them and make a pledge to the team. They were the guys who worked so hard to get there and those evenings always meant a lot to the players.

We’d then play a video summary of the season we’d gone through, with music and the tries of the season – Johan van Graan was always an expert at putting those together, they were magnificent!

And then you want just a normal game day before the final.

As far as the match itself is concerned, the Lions certainly have the game plan to give the Hurricanes problems, mainly because Elton Jantjies is executing those pinpoint attacking kicks so well. He set up two tries against the Highlanders in the semifinal through a chip and a crosskick, and that sort of kicking is one way to beat the Hurricanes’ rush defence.

But Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara is also a superb sweeper and the Lions will have to make sure their kicks bounce and back into their hands!

The Lions set-piece is also very strong and their scrum and lineout maul will both be huge factors and I think they’ll want to impose themselves on the game that way. The Hurricanes could be under big pressure in those departments.

The Lions played with a complete sense of freedom and no fear against the Highlanders. Most teams don’t have the guts to run the ball from behind their own goal-line but the Lions did it twice in the semifinal and made superb exits. But that was on a dry Highveld day and to reproduce that at a wet and windy Cake Tin will be challenging.

The challenge in finals is how to release pressure and the Lions have done that in their two playoff games by attacking from deep. They get the ball in the outer channels and then kick for space. But it might be a different kettle of fish in the Cake Tin.

Neither Elton nor Faf have particularly long kicks, but the Lions like to play before kicking so they’ll carry the ball for a phase or two and then kick for space and get the chase going.

But the Hurricanes’ defence really rushed the Lions from first phase in their match at Ellis Park, which caught them off-guard. They conceded a couple of intercepts because of that man-on-man pressure, but Swys de Bruin will definitely have come up with a plan for that.

The Lions defence is also very different to all the other South African teams. From a middle ruck, the second-last man – be it Faf de Klerk or Elton Jantjies – is almost in front of the line, closing down the space, he brings the whole line forward. It’s that line speed that caught the Highlanders unawares and they couldn’t get the ball to their wings. It’s a high-risk/high-reward tactic because most teams just shadow and move across in those situations, but the Lions put the opposition under pressure at those wide rucks.

If there’s one guy who brings inspiration to the Hurricanes, it’s loose forward Ardie Savea. He has special skills and a great work-rate, and he has the ability to crack a game wide open because he has such pace. I bet the Lions wish he had gone to the Olympics to play Sevens instead!

But the Lions have to make sure that they are very physical on him and fellow flank Brad Shields to set the tone. They need to keep them quiet and make sure they have to work hard on defence rather than on attack.

The Hurricanes are a bit like the Lions were up front in that they don’t have many Test forwards in their tight five, but they are all hard-working and carry well. Dane Coles will obviously be crucial if he plays because he provides them with physical aggression and obviously his throwing is at a different level.

The Tongan Bear, Loni Uhila, always takes quick taps as well, but sometimes it’s under the poles and it can take points away from the Hurricanes!

For the Lions, a guy like Franco Mostert has a very high work-rate and it would be great if Warren Whiteley can play in the final as well. He’s been a wonderful captain, he’s been through thick and thin with the Lions and it would be fitting for him to be there. He has such a high work-rate as well and between him, Jaco Kriel and Warwick Tecklenburg, they can make the tackles if the Hurricanes carry the ball at them.

The Lions A team haven’t played at sea level since April 23 against the Kings in Port Elizabeth, but I think the final will be very close and it will come down to a moment of brilliance, like Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s try in the semifinal after that turnover tackle by Elton Jantjies.

 

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

 

Reading cricket at Tuks 0

Posted on October 19, 2015 by Ken

 

Posh universities talk about “reading” a subject at their academic institution so, because I have such great respect for what TuksSport  are doing, it is only fair to say that some of the most talented young men in this country are reading cricket at the University of Pretoria.

And they are doing it most successfully judging by the accolades that keep coming the way of the Tuks team so ably coached by Pierre de Bruyn, who has great assistants and backroom support. The Tuks cricket team have just landed in India to represent South Africa as the defending champions in the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals, a global competition for tertiary institutions that has seen more than 200 teams from eight countries try to qualify. It has been called the Student World Cup.

Tuks won the title in fine style in England last year, but this time they travel to India – a new challenge which De Bruyn and his players embrace. Much has been written about playing in the sub-continent, but having completed their usually thorough preparation, De Bruyn says success will come down to the usual factors.

“Although we have six new faces in the team, we have a very nice senior core which the youngsters can feed off. The guys must just express themselves, you can easily over-analyse the conditions and then it becomes overwhelming. It’s about getting the roles right, good discipline and decision-making,” De Bruyn said.

Tuks will surely rely a lot on players who have experienced those conditions before, like captain Aiden Markram, canny seamer Corbin Bosch and off-spinner Ruben Claassen, who is another rising star.

They won’t however, have the explosive batting talents of Heinrich Klaasen, who is on duty with the Titans team.

Franchises are probably going to be relying more and more on players from tertiary institutes, simply because they generally have the financial resources to develop cricketing talent, and there are some university administrators who believe their clubs deserve more than just a pat on the back for their great work. The idea of a “development fee” to be paid whenever a player signs a contract with a higher team, whether that be franchise or national, has been mooted.

While that is a worthy idea, there is always the danger of widening the gap between those who already have and the have-not clubs, of which there are so many in this country in these troubled economic times.

But Cricket South Africa are currently working on a plan to try and support and incentivise clubs, especially those community clubs which cannot rely on strong backing from the structures that exist in tertiary institutes.

The thinking is to replicate the Blue Chip Schools programme which will be announced in the coming weeks with the Blue Flag Cricket Clubs incentive scheme.

The idea, according to the general manager of CSA, Corrie van Zyl, is that clubs gaining a certain percentage on the Clubs Index – which will list desirables like a qualified coach, a constitution, strong membership contributions, maintenance of facilities – will be awarded a Blue Flag designation and receive money as an incentive.

The finer details still need to be worked out, but the money will go direct to the clubs, as opposed to the money CSA normally pours into club cricket which is given to the Affiliate body to distribute.

The clever people at CSA seem to have come up with a good scheme to help the club structures – one of the key foundations of the game – so I guess it’s fair to say they are reading cricket pretty well too.

 



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