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Ken Borland



Chapter & verse from Coetzee, and then what? 0

Posted on December 10, 2017 by Ken

 

In the next week, national coach Allister Coetzee will have to give chapter and verse on what happened to the Springboks this year to the SA Rugby executive council and if he stays true to his public pronouncements after the loss to Wales, then he will describe his charges as “a side that is on the up” and having “a really healthy team environment”.

Which is nothing but a sop for a South African public that rightly expects top-class performances from their national rugby team. Instead, the Springboks have endured a decidedly mediocre year, without a single rousing victory for Coetzee to rave about at his performance review. Victories over France, Argentina and Italy are not results we would expect the Springboks to boast about, and neither were two draws against a very average Australian side.

The results have been disappointing enough but to add insult to injury, the Springboks are playing such uninspired rugby that it feels like we are back to the most conservative days early on in Heyneke Meyer’s tenure as national coach.

Simply put, the Springboks are not making any progress under Coetzee. In fact, we have seen two more unwanted milestones set this year in record defeats to New Zealand and Ireland.

To put an end to this continued slide into mediocrity, SA Rugby simply have to hold Coetzee accountable and relieve him of his duties as Springbok coach. I had sympathy for him this time last year because he was coaching with one hand tied behind his back, perhaps even being set up to fail, but this year he has been given everything he wanted and even said at the start of the campaign that there were no excuses this year.

In the general public, Rassie Erasmus, freshly back in the post of director of rugby, is seen as the obvious candidate to replace Coetzee and try and rescue South Africa’s hopes for the 2019 World Cup.

But Erasmus has shown little desire to emerge from the shadows, from which he has been strategising, and there seems little doubt that the rumours that Deon Davids of the Southern Kings will be the new Springbok coach have emanated from his office via his usual journalistic channels.

Davids has done wonders with the Kings considering the lack of resources, both in terms of players and finance, and time he has had to deal with, and is highly-rated as a coach. But other players and coaches tell me he would be out of his depth at international level.

I do have a fundamental problem, though, if Davids is appointed to merely be the face of the Springboks with Erasmus making all the big decisions.

The Springbok coach needs to be accountable to the fans and he needs to be regularly available to the media to explain his decisions; something Coetzee and those before him have never shirked. Erasmus cannot be allowed to be pulling the strings and not seen to be answerable for the national team’s performance.

As Springbok coach, Coetzee has made some stupid selections (such as neutralising Eben Etzebeth as an enforcer by making him captain) and has rightly been called to task for them; Erasmus cannot be allowed to operate as a dictatorial figure whose instructions are not open to scrutiny.

The time has come for change, but as in Zimbabwean politics, there are concerns that the change won’t necessarily be for the better. The smooth-talking Erasmus has been able to con a lot of people in recent years, but perhaps now is the time for him to display his rugby acumen in the frontline, under the glare of the television cameras and the beady eye of the fourth estate.

 

The John McFarland Column: Planning for the French Tests 0

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will not find it too difficult to prepare for the three Tests against France and there is always great excitement when the players get together in the national team environment.

Due to WorldRugby regulations, he will have to wait for the overseas players until the week of the first Test match, but these days the information they need to know is easy to disseminate and the players have access to apps, for example, with which they can watch the training sessions. He will have communicated the game plans, moves and patterns to them, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to assimilate.

This week saw Allister have his third camp this year, which is obviously what he missed last year. His program of camps has been very much extended this year, but you still don’t do a lot of hard, physical work at these get-togethers.

As Springbok management, you have to be very careful because the players are in the middle of SuperRugby and will be coming off a very tough game. But the camps are certainly invaluable for laying down the plans for the structure and principles, making sure all the players get on the same page.

There will be on-field training, but basically it will just be walk-throughs or practising with the contact levels right down. We used to use the Lions U19 players as defenders, which puts much less pressure on the Springboks in terms of physicality.

After all, some unions used to send their players to camp with GPSs so they could check the amount of running they did!

Generally the three Tests in June are against the same opposition, so it’s easier to prepare for it, but it’s the same for every international team, they are all in the same boat.

In November, the Southern Hemisphere teams have an advantage because it’s after the end of their season, all their game plans are in place and they’ve just come off a month’s rest. In June, the Northern Hemisphere sides are tired at the end of their long season, but due to the Six Nations, they are further along in their game plans.

The key for Allister will be to not make it too complicated, stick to simple principles and make it clear what he wants the team to do to win that first Test.

I know international football sides only get their players for a week from all over the world, but soccer is quite an individual game, there are a lot more dynamics in rugby such as the set-pieces and the defensive and attacking game plans.

As far as last weekend’s SuperRugby goes, the Stormers did really well to come back from their overseas tour woes with a win. They defended very well in the final quarter and from half-time onwards they were very sound and physical in the collisions. They got their just rewards for quick-taps with some game-changing moments.

I was quite sceptical, however, about the TMO decision on Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s try, but there are always highs and lows in terms of officiating through a Super Rugby season and it evens out in the end.

The Southern Kings were a bit unlucky against the Brumbies, but they were very vulnerable to the grubber in behind. Their defensive system relies on the fullback getting up in the line very early, the Brumbies obviously saw that and took advantage.

In the game in Singapore, the 38-17 scoreline flattered the Sharks a bit because they had an intercept and two breakaway tries in the last few minutes against the Sunwolves. Before that, the Sharks just could not finish and the amount of mistakes they made, especially when it came to the final pass, didn’t help either. But they will be happy to get back to winning ways and get the bonus point, although it looks likely they’ll have to get through a playoff in New Zealand.

If the Lions, however, have aspirations of playing at home all the way through to the final, then they need to win their big game against the Sharks after the international break.

No side in SuperRugby would have lived with the Lions in the first half of their match against the Bulls and they are showing great decision-making at the moment.

Having been away for three weeks, there was definitely a feeling of the Lions being back at home and they were full of confidence.

Obviously they will lose a bit of momentum over the break, quite a few of their players will be in the national squads, so it will be a tough month for them. They will have guys who will play all three Tests against France, so that will be disruptive to their rhythm.

And coach Johan Ackermann won’t have a break either because he will be coaching the SA A side, which will be quite taxing too. And then one week after the end of SuperRugby, he’ll be off to Gloucester, so he has a very busy program over the next few months.

Sometimes you get very good SuperRugby players who are just not able to adapt to the higher environment and believe you me, international rugby is a higher level and just so much quicker, because it’s the best of the best playing. In SuperRugby, you get guys who are in the same system all their life, at the Bulls there were guys who were coached in defence by me since they were 19, but they can’t adapt to the different pace of the game at the next step up.

Certain other players prove to be consistently excellent players at Test level. There’s such a mental side to it because there is real pressure representing your country at international level, some players just cope better.

Those are the sort of players Allister Coetzee will want to be working with.

 

 

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.

 

Cape Town hides many things … 0

Posted on February 01, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Cape Town, the Mother City, is renowned for her tranquility and the purity of her environment, but beneath the veneer there is probably as much devious wheeler-dealing as anywhere else in the country.

I say this because of the politics and individual agendas that have been going on in Western Cape sport for some time, proving that although Cape Town may feel like it is on another continent, the other side of Table Mountain experiences similar problems to the rest of the country.

The sport’s body that is putting out the most fires at the moment is probably the South African Rugby Union, based in Plattekloof, and it all starts at the top with the CEO, Jurie Roux.

Saru president Oregan Hoskins had to issue a statement on Friday stating that Roux wasn’t appointed back in 2010 with any cloud hanging over him. The Stellenbosch University allegations of financial impropriety against Roux are, in my opinion, opportunistic and stem from a long-running feud within Maties rugby itself.

I have been assured by other leading rugby administrators that Roux certainly wasn’t the only university administrator to allegedly divert funds in order to obtain top players. I am sure, based on the ugly power struggle raging behind the scenes in Stellenbosch rugby circles, that there are two sides to this particular story and perhaps those accusing the Saru CEO of all sorts of things should allow him to defend himself in a court of law.

But the battle to defend their CEO, and at the same trying to make sure that the Southern Kings are not a complete disaster in Super Rugby, is certainly distracting them from what should be their most pressing commitment at the moment and that is finding the new Springbok coach.

Rassie Erasmus is now the favourite but while I am sure the former Springbok loose forward has the technical and strategic skills for the job, the national coach’s position is about so much more than just the on-field training and preparation.

It’s also about handling the media and the voracious television demands, as well as meeting the expectations when it comes to the key area of transformation.

Erasmus has had a cocoon around him in the Saru offices, quietly and efficiently getting on with his work as a director of rugby type figure, and there have been suggestions that whoever will be assisting him with the Springbogs (Johan van Graan is one probability) will front up for the media and PR duties.

This would be totally unacceptable. Only a little less unacceptable is the suggestion that Saru will only make an interim appointment.

The Springbok coach has a position of enormous responsibility and, unlike so many leadership positions in this country, there needs to be accountability to the public. Heyneke Meyer may have failed to bring home the World Cup and perhaps struggled to grasp transformation imperatives, but kudos to him, one could never accuse him of not fronting up and trying to explain himself.

Cape Town is a beautiful place, but she hides many things and Erasmus will not be able to hide away if he wants to be Springbok coach.

Otherwise the fairest Cape has another coach she has watched grow and who has handled often antagonistic media in a mature and effective way and that is Allister Coetzee.

 

Fear-free changeroom all-important for Morkel 0

Posted on July 15, 2015 by Ken

For Albie Morkel, taking over the captaincy of the Titans’ limited-overs teams is a chance for him to provide the sort of encouraging, fear-free environment that he himself missed out on in so many changerooms during a career that has seen the all-rounder play for a dozen different sides.

The 34-year-old has played the second most T20 cricket out of anyone in the world with 271 matches (West Indian Kieron Pollard leads the way with 290 games), but apart from bringing plenty of tactical knowledge out on the field, Morkel also believes it is vital to make a difference in the changeroom.

“Captaincy is a new challenge and something I haven’t done since school, but I feel I’m ready. I’ve seen most things in cricket and I have lots of experience to fall back on, but I want to add my own flavour to the job as well. It’s about what happens off the field as well, as captain having an open-door policy. It’s about how to get the best out of the players, knowing them outside cricket, what makes them tick.

“There’s a lot of talk at the moment about the New Zealand way – being more aggressive, taking wickets – and with the squad we have we can play that sort of cricket. But the big challenge is to get the player buy-in. They can’t be scared that they’re playing for their place, they need to play with freedom and I will encourage them to do that,” Morkel told The Citizen.

Bitter experience has been  a good teacher for the hard-hitting seam bowler in this regard.

“I always felt when I was with the national team, rightly or wrongly, that I was playing under pressure and I didn’t necessarily have the backing, except when Mickey Arthur was coach and that’s when I played my best cricket for South Africa. I wrote a lot of thoughts down about what I didn’t like as a cricketer and I believe 90% of it applies to all players, we have the same worries and fears. I want to make them comfortable, eradicate the problems.

“Things like announcing the starting team two days before. Not knowing an hour before the game whether you’re playing or not just breaks you. I want to bring clarity, build trust with the players and be honest. In our environment, that’s the only way to get respect,” Morkel said.

The major benefit for the Titans is that it ensures Morkel, their match-winner in the Momentum One-Day Cup final last season, will be at the centre of the limited-overs campaigns next season, rather than on the periphery as he has been for various reasons in recent seasons.

“I don’t see myself playing international cricket anymore, so I want to put everything back into the Titans for the next couple of years,” Morkel said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 



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