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Ken Borland

John McFarland Column: How do the Springboks beat Ireland? 0

Posted on November 08, 2017 by Ken


The first priority for the Springboks when they meet Ireland in Dublin on Saturday will be to defuse the Irish kicking game.

Ireland have very strong halfbacks with a very good aerial game, especially the pinpoint accuracy of Conor Murray’s box-kicks, which he is able to launch from behind the maul.

Which is why Allister Coetzee will choose such a big pack, with Pieter-Steph du Toit in the back row it means they have an extra jumper at the tail and three big lineout forwards. It is vital that the Springbok forwards get on top and make sure that the Ireland halfbacks get back-foot ball. Ross Cronje can then get after flyhalf Jonathan Sexton and the locks can look after Murray on his box-kicks.

It was interesting to see in New Zealand during the Lions tour how there was a clear plan to unsettle Murray by attacking him on the blindside and rushing on to his non-kicking foot. I don’t think the Springboks will do the same thing – the legality of the tactic is a bit dubious, but it shows that he can be unsettled.

In terms of receiving those Irish kicks, Allister Coetzee has gone for continuity all year and Dillyn Leyds and Courtnall Skosan are both good under the high ball. It’s similar to how the All Blacks go behind Aaron Smith’s kicks, but it’s not just about the way you catch those balls, it’s also about getting escorts back and making it difficult for the opposition to get a clear jump, and getting numbers around the first ruck.

It’s also an advantage having Andries Coetzee at fullback because Sexton is a bit different to every other international kicker in that he is prepared to launch lots of torpedo kicks. They are quite hard to take because they move quicker through the air and gain more distance.

The torpedo is a more high-risk kick, it requires a higher skill level and it depends on having time on the ball. The punt is safer and more accurate, which is why most kicking coaches favour it. But Sexton’s kicking coach is Dave Alred, who worked with the Springboks in 2014 for two weeks, and he is a big advocate of the torpedo kick.

But because Coetzee is left-footed and both Irish halfbacks are right-footed, they will be kicking into his strength and he can also do the torpedo kick.

Otherwise the Springboks should just continue in the same vein as they ended the Rugby Championship: a good set-piece, a strong maul, good defence, getting their ball-carriers over the gain-line and dominating the collisions.

The other key for South Africa is to defuse Ireland’s ball-carriers on the gain-line. It will be interesting to see CJ Stander starting in his adopted country against the Springboks and whether they are able to put him on the back foot because Ireland get a lot of momentum and base a lot of attacking play off his carries. I’m sure he will be very motivated to right the wrong of the Cape Town Test last year when he got a red card. Francois Louw and Siya Kolisi against Stander is going to be a revealing battle.

In 2012, Heyneke Meyer picked a lot of apprentice Springboks in his first Test squad and Stander and Kolisi were both in that wider group. They are both world-class performers and it will be a great contest.

Allister Coetzee will maybe start Handre Pollard at flyhalf, but there is a little problem in that position because neither he nor Elton Jantjies have played a live, competitive game since the All Blacks match a month ago in Cape Town, which is a small disadvantage.

Even though Pollard has been training a lot, he hasn’t started a game for a long time. But if they feel he is the right guy going forward, and you do get different things from him, then they should choose him sooner rather than later.

Pollard is a lot faster to the gain-line, he’s a threat with ball-in-hand and has a great show-and-go. He has the ability to beat defenders off front-foot ball, whereas Jantjies is more of a distributor.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Damian de Allende get a start at inside centre. He has been picked in front of Francois Venter, who has been playing more at outside centre, all year, he has size and good feet and is a fantastic distributor. De Allende had a stellar year in 2015 but has not quite hit the same levels since then, so hopefully he will now get a good run of Tests. The Springboks generally favour having a ball-carrying, gain-line dominator at 12.

Otherwise Allister Coetzee will probably reward the guys who played quite well against New Zealand in the last Test, you have to show faith as a coach; Heyneke Meyer always said loyalty to performance was important.

It will be interesting to see how Malcolm Marx does starting a Test overseas after his world-class performance at Newlands, can he maintain that consistency?

That applies to Steven Kitshoff too and with Wilco Louw coming through, the props can rotate. The stronger scrummagers should start and establish dominance, and then the more mobile props can come on and ram home the advantage.

Matt Proudfoot has done a great job establishing six good front row forwards and in the World Cup year, Vincent Koch will come into the mix as well. Plus there’s Frans Malherbe and Trevor Nyakane, so there should be plenty of props going into 2019. It will be a nice selection headache to have.

Ireland have a strong front row, though, with Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath, so the scrum battle will obviously be worth watching.

The Springboks need a good start in this European tour, winning the first two games is important.



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.

New captain misses out but SA women producing more depth 0

Posted on July 15, 2016 by Ken


Newly-appointed South African women’s cricket captain Dane’ van Niekerk will miss her team’s first engagement since her appointment as she and three other leading players will not be making the trip to Ireland for a four-match ODI and two-match T20 series in Dublin from 1-11 August.

All-rounder Van Niekerk, fast bowler Shabnim Ismail and batters Marizanne Kapp and Lizelle Lee are the current stars of the South African team and have, deservedly, won contracts to play the England Super League T20 competition.

This is a great opportunity for the country’s top women’s players, who are way behind the men and their own counterparts from places like England, Australia and New Zealand when it comes to being able to make a decent living out of cricket, and, given that the Irish invited the Proteas after they had already been given No Objection Certificates and signed contracts with the Super League, Cricket South Africa have wisely decided to allow them to honour their commitments in England.

The absence of the four stars will also, however, boost CSA’s efforts aimed at producing more depth in the women’s national team.

“We see this as a good opportunity to give our young, up-and-coming players some vital international experience,” coach Hilton Moreeng said. “This will help us with the depth of the side and it will be a good test to see what they have to offer, especially after campaigning for a place in the side for so long. All of them have represented South Africa before and will value the opportunity to play more cricket against a good Ireland side on foreign soil.”

The South Africans will have a well-travelled replacement captain in Dinesha Devnarain, who leads the KZN side and is also a leading coach, one of only eight women in the country with a Level III certificate.

There is still plenty of top-class talent in the side with former captain Mignon du Preez, Trisha Chetty, Ayabonga Khaka, Marcia Letsoalo, Chloe Tryon, Moseline Daniels and Sune Luus all included in the touring party.

Medium-pacer Letsoalo said there is a hunger in the side to ensure they do not make the same mistakes as last season.

“We can improve, we know what we’re capable of. We let ourselves down last season, we know the mistakes we made and we’re working hard not to repeat them. It boils down to preparation and fitness, and being able to execute. You have to be wise and able to perform in the game.

“Having a strong batting department is the key thing we have been working on at the centre of excellence academy, batting long hours, rectifying the mistakes and weaknesses. The bowlers must just keep doing what we’re doing,” Letsoalo said.


Team: Dinesha Devnarain (KZN), Trisha Chetty (Gauteng), Mignon du Preez (Northerns), Lara Goodall (Boland), Ayabonga Khaka (Border), Yolani Fourie (Gauteng), Marcia Letsoalo (Northerns), Andrie Steyn (Western Province), Laura Wolvaardt (Western Province), Masabata Klaas (Northerns), Chloe Tryon (KZN), Moseline Daniels (Boland), Suné Luus (Northerns), Odine Kirsten (Northerns).


Fixtures: 1 August – 1st T20I (YMCA); 3 August – 2nd T20I (YMCA); 5 August – 1st ODI (Merrion); 7 August – 2nd ODI (YMCA); 9 August – 3rd ODI (Malahide); 11 August – 4th ODI (The Hills).


Boks need to improve to maintain feel-good factor 0

Posted on January 02, 2013 by Ken


While the Springboks’ second-half comeback against Ireland last weekend was rightly lauded, no-one enjoys seeing them play as poorly as they did in the first half and it is imperative that they hit their straps from the outset on Saturday against Scotland to avoid the feel-good factor of Dublin being totally diminished.

While there is no question the team has enormous character and are growing mentally with every outing, there are still nagging doubts eating away at many analysts that the Springboks might not be on the right path.

While the fickle public throw their rotten tomatoes over the way the Springboks play, the lack of tries they’ve scored and who is selected, there are valid concerns about South Africa’s greatest rivals, New Zealand, disappearing over the horizon in terms of how far ahead they are in terms of quality.

Many comparisons with the All Blacks have not been between apples and apples, simply because they have a far more experienced, injury-free side at the moment, but the way they dismantled a brave Scottish team last weekend with a second-string side gives the Springboks a pointer as to what they should be aiming for.

Heyneke Meyer’s team may have risen to number two in the world rankings, but there has not been much to choose between them, Australia, France, England and even Argentina this year.


Ruthless and efficient is what most fans would want to see from them this weekend in Edinburgh.


Scotland is currently ranked ninth and in danger of slipping further into the third tier of nations ahead of the 2015 World Cup draw on 3 December. Running through their team list, only a handful of players are recognisable internationals. The Springboks really should dominate them and, for a change, make sure the scoreboard reflects that as well.


Even when the admirable young Springbok pack has dominated its opposition this year – even doing it against the All Blacks in Dunedin – the team has turned that advantage into points just once, beating Australia 31-8 at Loftus Versfeld at the end of September.


There is a bright young thing at flyhalf now in Pat Lambie, but one feels he still needs to sell himself to coach Meyer and there was more than a hint of him playing within himself last weekend against Ireland.


Lambie’s strength is not the aerial route and, given that Zane Kirchner and Ruan Pienaar are still in the team and kicking for territory is still a vital part of Test rugby, he would perhaps be well-advised to leave those duties to them, while focusing on his more magical skills while the Springboks are on attack.


The Springboks have come to Murrayfield before with expectations running high that they would emulate the All Blacks, but lost their last outing there 21-17 in 2010 and struggled to a 14-10 victory in the previous match in 2008.


The major advantage South Africans have over northern hemisphere teams is the pace at which they play the game in Sanzar events, and the Scots will surely not be able to match the intensity if the Springboks up the pace, as they did in the first half of the Test against England at Ellis Park in June.


The pack obviously has a key role to play in laying the foundation and securing quick ball, but the Springboks should learn from the mistakes of the past and not only rely on forward dominance for victory.


After choosing centres that provided a steady diet of crash ball in midfield for the whole year, it is pleasing that Meyer has given Juan de Jongh a chance in the number 13 jersey. One of the heroes of the Currie Cup final has the footwork to splinter the best of defences and the possibility exists of actually seeing a few linebreaks and offloads on Saturday.


The defence, which was outstanding against Ireland, may lose a bit in physicality, but De Jongh is a tenacious tackler and the Western Province and Stormers teams he starred in had the best defensive records in their competitions.


The Springboks are overdue a complete performance that proves they are indeed the nearest challengers to the All Blacks.

Resolute Boks prove character in comeback win 0

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Ken

You can say what you want about the Springboks’ skills and style of play, but there is no doubting they are a team of excellent character, as proven by their come-from-behind 16-12 victory over Ireland in Dublin at the weekend.

Trailing 3-12 at half-time – a scoreline which flattered them, if anything – the Springboks produced a wonderful second-half display to allow coach Heyneke Meyer to claim his first away victory.

It was a victory built on magnificent defence. To keep Ireland scoreless in the second half, allowing them just one missed shot at goal, was a superb effort and testament to enormous discipline and commitment.

That defence was at its best in the last 25 minutes, when three Ireland attacks of 14, nine and 13 phases respectively foundered on the resolute green-and gold-wall.

The first half was totally different.

The locals were undoubtedly contemplating kegs of celebratory Guinness as Ireland thoroughly dominated the first half. The Springboks were ill-disciplined and were made to pay as referee Wayne Barnes seemed to have his eye on them, penalising them 11 times in the first 40 minutes.

And apart from conceding four penalties to flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, the Springboks could get nothing going themselves, having just a solitary Pat Lambie penalty to their name at the break as their moves came to naught due to handling errors or turnovers at the breakdown, where Ireland dominated in the first half.

The Springboks’ tactical kicking was also poor and on the several occasions they did try something ambitious with ball in hand, it was often from the wrong positions and without the hard work having been done first on the inside. The result was one-off runners isolated out wide and either a penalty or a turnover to Ireland.

It was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right for the Springboks. They had even lost their talismanic and hugely popular loosehead prop, Beast Mtawarira, to heart palpitations on the morning of the Test. (He has since been released from hospital and should be fine to continue with the tour).

Even JP Pietersen was harshly yellow-carded for a tackle that was a split-second too early, the refereering team undoubtedly being swayed by the howling of the capacity crowd.

It would have been so easy for this largely inexperienced team to have lost their composure and crumbled to an embarrassing defeat, but instead they came out in the second half and produced a compelling 40 minutes of rugby that were devoid of the errors that had blighted their first half.

A fiery start to the second half saw a penalty kicked to touch – credit to captain Jean de Villiers for that – and an impressive rolling maul was launched which Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip could only bring down illegally, earning himself a yellow card.

Shortly thereafter, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar sniped over under the poles for the only try of the match.

That cut the deficit to 10-12 and the Springboks played the percentages much better thereafter. The ball was kept in hand, but it was also kept tighter with short passes from the rucks, and eventually Ireland cracked under the barrage of ball-carriers, going offsides and allowing Lambie to grab the lead with his second penalty.

The Ireland offensive plan was based on the possibility of earning penalties within kickable distance rather than any obvious threat to the tryline, but the defence of the Springboks was nevertheless magnificent.

The skills of openside flank Francois Louw on the ground also helped tremendously, as did the introduction of loosehead prop Heinke van der Merwe in the 64th minute, the Ireland-based prodigal son earning crucial penalties in his first two scrums.

The return of Van der Merwe to the Springbok fold after playing just one Test against Wales in 2007 could well be one of the major success stories of the Meyer tenure. The former Lions prop was rated as one of the strongest scrummagers in the country before joining Leinster in 2010 and he can also play tighthead, a position where there is a serious lack of depth in South African rugby.

The performances of all four props who played was impressive, while hooker Adriaan Strauss was an almost manic presence all over the field as he won his family battle with cousin and Irish debutant Richardt Strauss.

Lock Eben Etzebeth’s work in the lineouts was once again of the highest quality, while the physical presence he and loose forwards Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen brought to the contest was also instrumental in the defensive steel of the Springboks.

While De Villiers received the ball almost impossibly flat in midfield and still made yards every time, the most talked-about backline player was Lambie.

The troubles of the first half aside, the 22-year-old produced a solid if unspectacular display, although he was instrumental in the impressive change of game plan in the second half that proved the mental abilities of this Springbok outfit.

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