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Ken Borland



The Lions & the Springboks are totally different environments 0

Posted on August 15, 2016 by Ken

 

So it didn’t quite end in jubilation, but the Lions’ SuperRugby campaign still brought enormous pride and good feeling over their rags-to-riches story, and the public will carry many of those emotions into the Rugby Championship that starts next weekend.

But it is vital to realise that the Springboks and the Test arena are entirely different environments to the Lions and SuperRugby, and comments calling for the whole of Johan Ackermann’s team to be promoted to the national side or for coach Allister Coetzee to simply copy the game plan are ill-informed, ill-judged and have the potential to be divisive.

The health of any rugby team has a lot to do with its unity of purpose and their togetherness as people, and one could sense some frustration this week when the Springbok management and some of the players were constantly asked questions that referred back to the Lions.

Hopefully Lions captain Warren Whiteley, whose hard work on the field and wise words off it are nothing short of inspirational, put that all to bed this week when he highlighted in no uncertain terms that the Springboks are different.

“There’s no debate about using the same playing style, these are two different sides and we are not talking about unions any more. You’re talking about a team at provincial level against a national side. Sure, we as Lions players can bring confidence to the Springboks and there are similarities in the way we are trying to play. But there’s a step up when you come to the Springboks and the intensity and speed with which we’ve been training is at another level to the Lions,” Whiteley said this week.

Last weekend’s column bemoaned the parlous state of the Currie Cup, South Africa’s flagship rugby competition, but the performance of the Lions is one of the reasons for optimism when it comes to South African rugby.

Amidst the ritz and glitz of the Olympics there was another reason for cheer, even if the Blitzbokke flattered to deceive and had to settle for a bronze medal (still a notable achievement and more than New Zealand or Australia could manage). I’m talking about Rasta Rashivenge being given the honour of refereeing the Sevens final, an appointment that continues a long line of excellence when it comes to South African officials.

They receive way more criticism than plaudits simply because of human nature, but our referees and the high standards they maintain is one of the best stories in South African rugby.

Some of the media were privileged this week to be able to sit down with leading referee Jaco Peyper for an information session just to help us scribes better understand why certain decisions are made on the field and how the officials are interpreting the details of the laws these days.

Peyper said a referee makes about 400 decisions in every game and there will always be little mistakes, but the important thing is to ensure these do not have a major impact on the game.

He also said it is important to note that the key focus areas that referees are blowing these days have been decided in consultation with the coaches and other stakeholders, notably medical staff. They have had their say on what the shape of the game should look like and how to make it safer, and the referee’s job is to facilitate that.

Interestingly, there are some well-known phrases in our rugby lexicon, like “downward pressure”, “the direction of the hands when passing” and “bringing the catcher of the ball down safely” that don’t appear anywhere in the laws of the game.

This has led to some confusion amongst the public when watching games and the referees and TMOs don’t take any of those polluting myths into account, most often leading to filthy language in the lounge. For a clear and thorough view of the laws, including the opportunity to discuss issues with leading referees, I would recommend going to http://www.sareferees.com/

 

 

No silver lining for Bulls as emotions run high at Loftus Versfeld 0

Posted on June 01, 2016 by Ken

 

The emotions were running high at Loftus Versfeld after the Bulls were mauled by the Lions last weekend, so much so that coach Nollis Marais could not see the silver lining which their conquerors’ own recent experiences provides them.

The Lions suffered a similarly dispiriting defeat at home a month ago when they were hammered 50-17 by the Hurricanes; they rebounded spectacularly though and now top the South Africa Conference and are second on the overall log.

All is not lost either for the Bulls, who are four points behind the faltering Stormers and three behind the Sharks in the hunt for the other two local qualification places.

“It’s best not to say anything to the players straight after the game because emotions are still running high and there’s no silver lining. There was a good crowd behind us but we did not put in a good performance, so now we have to bounce back.

“We’re now working on permutations, which is always bad, but we have to get back on the right track. There’s still a lot to play for, we are down but not out … The Hurricanes also gave the Lions a beating a few weeks ago,” the dejected Marais said.

In a way, the fortnight’s break that the Bulls will now have has come at a good time, preventing them from harping on about one of their worst displays of the season and a humiliating defeat at their home fortress.

The Bulls have to hop on a plane to Argentina when the competition resumes at the beginning of July to take on the Jaguares, before hosting the Sunwolves and then finishing their campaign with a potentially tricky visit to the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein.

“We were short against the Lions, but sometimes it’s good to have setbacks, you learn from them. Not getting it too easy maybe makes the players work harder,” Marais said.

Titans working their emotions out after parlous start v Warriors 0

Posted on October 15, 2015 by Ken

 

The Titans have spent the week “working the emotions out” from their parlous Momentum One-Day Cup opening match against the Warriors, according to coach Rob Walter, and they have been boosted by the returns of Albie Morkel and Marchant de Lange from international duty.

Grant Thomson, however, must be pondering Lady Luck and her capricious side as he has been ruled out of Friday’s match against the Cape Cobras at Newlands with a hamstring strain. Thomson, having fought so hard to get into the side, made his franchise 50-over debut against the Warriors and top-scored with a wonderful 98 not out off just 71 balls, and now he’s unfortunately on the sidelines again.

“We’ve been working the emotions out and clearing the heads because the guys were visibly hurt by that performance. They invested a lot in that opening game, they worked flippen hard for four months and then they deliver that. We trained our best, we spoke specifically about starting well, getting the basics right in the field, extras …

“But it was game one and it’s about what happens next. On the positive side, we dominated about 70% of that game, we had an outstanding middle 20 overs and a very good last five. So it was just the opening overs and 40-45 that cost us,” Walter said on Tuesday at SuperSport Park.

Walter is too young to wear spectacles, but if he did there would be a few areas he would be giving special focus to before the defending champions travel to Cape Town for a repeat of last season’s final.

“There were basics errors in the field, we couldn’t even get the regulation stuff right, and the extras will get specific attention. It’s becoming a bit of a trend for us but it’s hard to put a finger on why. You never see us training without cones in front of the line to stop no-balls and the wides are of course disappointing as well.

“Strike-rate is also key up front with the bat and we had 48 dot balls in the first 60, while scoring 28 runs, so it was mostly fours and not much rotation. Henry Davids is a seasoned campaigner, but for Mangi Mosehle it was his first time out opening and his 49 ensured a nice foundation was set. He’s been working on tightening his defence and that shone through, and he will learn to be more assertive,” Walter said.

 



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