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Ken Borland



Rule-bound IRB criticised for Cyprus exclusion 0

Posted on July 03, 2017 by Ken

 

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has been accused of being more concerned with rules and regulations than actually growing the game in the wake of Cyprus’s exclusion from the European qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup.

In the last four-and-a-half years, Cyprus have stormed through the lower echelons of European rugby, winning 19 consecutive Tests – more than any other team in the history of the game – on their way to the top of Nations Cup Division 2C (effectively the sixth division).

But their ultimate dream – that of playing in the World Cup qualifiers – has been denied them due to the fact that the tiny, football-mad island does not have enough rugby teams.

Quite how the country – in the midst of a financial crisis much like Greece’s – is meant to develop more rugby teams when the IRB are closing down their opportunities is difficult to fathom.

Cyprus’s problem is that they have less than the four teams (the IRB don’t count the British Army sides based on the island, which is ridiculous) required for associate membership of the IRB. And a country has to be an associate member for at least two years before they can become full members. Only full members are allowed to participate in World Cup qualifiers.

“The IRB certainly don’t want to stand in the way of Cyprus, we will assist them and try to encourage rugby there. We have 117 members so we don’t want to exclude anyone. But the rules are to ensure quality control and they are the criteria agreed by the members,” IRB spokesman James Fitzgerald told the Daily Maverick.

“Cyprus can’t be included in World Cup qualifiers until they’ve been associates for two years and then they have to apply for full member status.

“They don’t fulfil the criteria in terms of the number of teams – for national 15s rugby you need at least four teams. They are moving towards that, but that competition won’t start until September. To be a full member, you need 10 teams.”

Critics of the IRB decision have pointed out that both Greece and the United Arab Emirates were given full membership due to “extenuating circumstances”.

“Greece fulfil the core criteria but have had financial problems, therefore they were given consideration as a special case,” Fitzgerald explained, while the UAE were fast-tracked due to the collapse of the previous Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union and the strategic importance of the region.

These rules don’t take into account the fact that Cyprus rugby is in a stronger state than in countries like Slovenia and Luxembourg, both of whom will take part in World Cup qualifying. Because Cyprus are four levels below serious potential European qualifiers like Georgia, Russia, Romania and Portugal, there is little chance of them keeping anyone out of the showpiece event, but they should at least be allowed to chance their arm at the highest level of the game.

The qualifiers start in four days’ time on May 4 so even if the IRB relent in the face of public pressure and give Cyprus membership, it is probably too late for them to take part in the 2015 tournament.

The IRB will be meeting this week and South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins, who is the vice-chairman of the IRB, believes the game’s governing body can make exceptions to their rules.

“There’s a crucial meeting and I’m certain it will be up for discussion. Cyprus form a part of Fira, the European governing body, and they do have a representative in the council, Octavian Morariu, a Romanian.

“Countries can be exempt from the regulations if there are extenuating circumstances. Every law can be bent, I like to think, if there’s a very good case for it,” Hoskins told the Daily Maverick.

“We’ve made exceptions before in South Africa, for instance with clubs that didn’t have five teams but their rugby was so good that we let them play in the premier leagues. Some clubs have so few players, but because of the quality of those players they should not be penalised.

“If countries make a good case, a compelling argument, then rugby’s attitude is pragmatic,” Hoskins said.

“The Cyprus Rugby Federation regrets that the IRB has taken this decision which we believe will have severe and detrimental effects on Cyprus rugby, especially due to the economic and continuous crisis that has affected the nation recently,” Lawrence Vasiliades, the president of the CRF, said.

Hopefully a plan can be made because rugby will certainly be the loser if one of the great fairy tales of the game’s history is allowed to wither away, denied the chance to compete on the highest stage. Cyprus in the World Cup qualifiers would be a wonderful advertisement for the IRB’s efforts to develop the sport all over the world.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-30-rule-bound-irb-tackled-over-cyprus-exclusion/#.WVo8hoSGPIU

The Springboks still believe – Kriel 0

Posted on December 02, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok utility back Jesse Kriel has implored the South African public to still believe in the national team because the squad themselves are still positive, despite their dreadful results on a torrid European tour.

“The mood is still good in the squad, I know people have been really hurt by the results, but the team has always been positive. They’re still putting their bodies on the line and there are just small things in terms of the game-plan and individual errors that we need to get right,” Kriel said at the Bulls player awards evening, having returned early from the Springbok tour due to a leg injury.

“No-one accepts losing but there have just been small things, little errors, that have led to the Springboks being up against it. For us, winning matches is our pride and joy, our bread and butter, so it’s been difficult for us. We’ve learnt a lot out of this, but there comes a point when you can’t learn anymore, you have to actually start winning.

“Allister has chosen a new-look side for this weekend and it’s a great opportunity for the younger guys who are really hungry, a great opportunity for them to go out and prove they belong there. And having the overseas players back was a massive positive as well, they bring experience and calm heads,” Kriel said.

And captain and Bulls team-mate Adriaan Strauss, who will be playing in his 66th and final Test against Wales, was singled out for special praise by the 22-year-old.

“I just wish people could see behind the scenes because Adriaan has done so much and he never wants any credit or recognition. He’s very humble and full of selflessness and always puts his body on the line, even though I know he has a very sore back at the moment. I can assure people he’s not just selected because he’s captain. I know it would be the last thing Adriaan wants for the team to make this weekend’s game about him, but everyone has so much respect for him that the guys will want to,” Kriel said.

Kriel has now played 16 Tests and 31 Super Rugby matches and is eager to play more of a leadership role himself next year.

“I spoke to Nollis Marais [Bulls coach] and I told him I want to be a big part of the team, I want to contribute a lot to the team. So I want to start the year with no niggles and be in top condition. I still have to chat to the coach about where he wants to play me, but I think it will be fullback, where I started two years ago. I don’t mind that and there’s a lot of competition in the backline, so I have to prove my worth.

“When I started playing for the Bulls, a guy like Victor Matfield was still around and there was a lot of experience in the side, guys you could look up to when things were not going well. I’ve got to be one of those players now when things don’t go well because I’ve got a bit of experience now.

“But it all comes down to performance, we’ve been building a good team and it’s time to get back the glory years. We all get sick of hearing the word ‘building’, we must get results now and trophies, that is what we all want. Talk is cheap and money buys the whiskey.”

 

John McFarland on Springboks v Barbarians & the European Tests 0

Posted on November 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks’ European tour-opener against the Barbarians this weekend is the perfect game to see some of the up-and-coming players in action before three tough Tests coming up against England, Italy and Wales.

Obviously the Barbarians fixture was put in place some time ago, probably by Heyneke Meyer, who would have wanted a warm-up game before taking on England. So the Barbarians team is not that strong, in matches before they have sometimes been like a World XV and players like Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have appeared for them against the Springboks.

Normally the game against the BaaBaas is at the end of the tour when they are far stronger, it’s a bit of an anomaly but I think it’s a blessing to have the match at the start of the trip.

Saturday’s outing gives a chance to some of the leading lights of the Currie Cup and SuperRugby, and it could be a completely different Springbok team next weekend against England – I think Allister Coetzee will choose a very experienced side, but the Barbarians match allows him a good couple of weeks to work with the fringe players. In preparing for the BaaBaas, they’ve been given a taste of Springbok rugby and it has also given Allister a chance to work more closely with these players and see how they fit in with his plans.

So it’s basically three weeks preparation for the England match and a chance for the staff to bed down as well. The Springboks are on to their third defence coach this year in JP Ferreira and he will obviously bring new ideas and skills, plus Franco Smith has joined the management. You normally don’t have that long to assimilate new ideas, but this time they can sort out their roles and responsibilities and Allister can see how they all gel together.

Choosing nine uncapped players in his squad to play the Barbarians has basically been forced on the Springboks, but Allister Coetzee understands the situation and he and Matt Proudfoot are both enlightened coaches when it comes to the benefits of having players in Japan.

There is a large amount of South African players spending their off-season in Japan, with the full blessing of their SuperRugby unions because they have signed dual contracts. It’s a win-win situation and, for example, someone like Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, with all his experience and wisdom, has a lot of his players on dual contracts. He knows it’s the best way to keep them in South Africa and not lose them to Europe.

For example, Franco Mostert was on his way to Olympique Lyon, but has now renewed his contract with the Lions and has signed to play in Japan as well. Louis Schreuder, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe and Patrick Osborne all spend their off-season with Kubota before going back to SuperRugby.

In fact, they actually spend very little time on the field because a team can only have three overseas players on the park at any given time. So all the main teams have a rotation policy such that the players don’t play too much but have sufficient time in action. For example, Jaco Kriel came off the bench for us last weekend to play the last 30 minutes, when he got injured, while Lionel Mapoe has only played in two of our four games since he came over.

The Japanese teams are all company-based with a mix of amateur and professional players. Our amateur guys are in their companies’ offices from 8am to 1pm and then they travel out to Funabashi where we are based. They are all totally committed to the cause and their work ethic and work rate are second to none – they’re always doing extra time after training working on things, it really is quite a thing to see.

Frans Ludeke and myself are part of a three-strong foreign coaching group, while we also have three Japanese coaches, who serve as translators.

Most of the teams also have links to SuperRugby franchises – for example while Allister Coetzee was here his Kobe team had links to Dave Rennie and his Chiefs side, while for us it’s with the Hurricanes. So there’s an exchange of ideas and the professional development of coaches.

Anyway, back to the Springboks and they actually have a really good record in Europe lately, having won 16 of their last 21 end-of-year Tests.

Under Heyneke, we had an 80% win record and in 2012 and 2013 we were highly successful, with wins over first Ireland, Scotland and England, and then the next year good triumphs against Wales, Scotland and France. We only lost in 2014 against Ireland and Wales, also when we didn’t have overseas-based players and Wales actually paid for their players to be released.

So in the last four seasons the Springboks have a tremendous record in the Northern Hemisphere and they only conceded half-a-dozen tries in that time, so the defence has been good.

This year the Barbarians will just have a basic framework to play within, but a Brendan Venter-coached Italy are waiting in the middle and it certainly won’t be easy against England and Wales.

To beat them, there are some key areas to get right, like the lineout maul.

England scored twice against us in 2014 with the drive, one of them being from 50 metres out, so the Springboks need to both stop the maul and execute it well themselves. I would like to see one of South Africa’s traditional strengths back in play.

In that same 2014 game we scored against England with a pre-planned move against the rush defence that had Pat Lambie kicking out to Willie le Roux, and playing in that weather means you have to kick well and win the territory battle.

The ability to dominate the collisions in secondary defence is another key thing the Springboks need to get back so they can produce front-foot ball on attack. Jean-Luc du Preez is a strong ball-carrier and tackler and the sort of blindside flank we need, plus he’s tall enough to be a lineout option.

I also know Roelof Smit very well because he waited a long time at the Bulls for a chance, he was very patient behind Deon Stegmann. He can certainly get over the ball and is very hard to shift, while he also has carrying ability and is very good at controlling the maul at the back. He’s a traditional openside flank and he has the physical attributes.

I hope the Springboks emerge with four good wins and then everything will be alright again in South African rugby.

 

 

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.

 

Overseas dominance of Sunshine Tour continues in first round of Africa Open 0

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Ken

 

The overseas dominance of this summer’s Sunshine Tour co-sanctioned events continued in the first round of the Africa Open at East London Golf Club on Thursday as European golfers filled 10 of the top 13 places on the leaderboard.

Ireland’s Kevin Phelan and Englishman Matt Ford shot five-under-par 67s to put themselves at the top of that leaderboard, one stroke ahead of five golfers on four-under-par, with another six competitors on three-under.

Phelan teed off from the ninth hole at 7.30am and managed to put an early bogey on the 11th – which was really tough into the wind on Thursday – behind him with two birdies before the turn and then a superb front nine that featured a birdie on the par-five first and then a run of three successive birdies from the fifth.

Ford managed to keep bogeys entirely off his card, which was a highly impressive feat on a blustery day on the East Coast that definitely separated the men from the boys, and the 36-year-old was accurate in all facets of his play as he collected five birdies.

Phelan missed the cut in last year’s Africa Open after rounds of 69 and 70, and the 24-year-old said he made a conscious effort on Thursday to be aggressive on the short course, despite the treacherous wind, which led to some scintillating golf.

“I played conservatively last year, which didn’t work very well, so I was more aggressive today. It led to some easy birdies and I think my longest birdie putt today was from six feet. I managed to keep the momentum going and I went for it any chance I got. It’s great to be in contention because last year I didn’t really know I could compete on the European Tour,” Phelan, who was tied for second in last week’s Joburg Open, said.

Ford has not yet enjoyed such success on tour, although he did shoot a 66 on the first day of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek. But that excellent round was the start of a pattern that has seen the son of a professional footballer post opening rounds of par or better in all six events this season but then shooting worse for the rest of all those tournaments. So Ford said he was trying to not get too excited about Thursday’s 67.

“I’ve made a few good starts to tournaments but then not taken them through all four rounds, so I’m not going to get too excited.

“I think maybe I try a bit too hard because I haven’t had huge success before. I’m trying so hard to be better, I want it so much and sometimes that just increases the pressure. So the key for me is to keep relaxed. The top guys almost play with a sort of nonchalance, they portray an image that it doesn’t really matter to them, and I find it difficult to do that,” Ford revealed.

Englishmen Richard Bland, David Howell and John Parry are all sitting on four-under-par alongside the leading South African, Neil Schietekat, and Spaniard Eduardo de la Riva.

Matthew Fitzpatrick, who is yet to celebrate his 21st birthday, and fellow Englishmen Tom Lewis and Chris Lloyd are all on three-under, tied with Frenchman Gregory Havret and South Africans Oliver Bekker and Trevor Fisher Junior.

The wind, blowing out of the south-west, was obviously a major factor on Thursday and it was fascinating to see the different approaches of the golfers. The aggression of Phelan was a successful approach, but so too was the conservative strategy taken by the likes of Howell and Bland.

“I love this place. It’s a thinker’s course, not a bomber’s course. You have to manage your way around, and that’s the type of course that I like. It takes away the main weapon of some of the guys, some of the clubs they hit into par-fives are ridiculous, but they can’t do that here this week. Everyone is playing from the same place, because that’s where you have to put the ball, so it makes it a more level playing field,” Bland said.

“It was a very decent wind out there today, it was really pumping at times, so you had to play good links golf at the end of the day. Your short game had to be tidy and there are a couple of driveable par-fours out there, but there’s also a lot of trouble around. So a lot of my game plan was staying away from mistakes,” Howell said.

Jaco van Zyl, one of the tournament favourites, produced the comeback of the day as he recovered from three bogeys on the front nine, finishing with five birdies in his last seven holes to post a two-under 70.

Darren Clarke, Andy Sullivan, Edoardo Molinari and Keith Horne were all back in the middle of the field after shooting level-par 72s.

http://www.elgc.co.za/ELGCNewsroom/tabid/41/articleType/ArticleView/articleId/107/Early-foreign-dominance-at-Africa-Open.aspx



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