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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column – Bok defence gives them hope v All Blacks 0

Posted on September 14, 2017 by Ken

 

All in all, even though people were disappointed with the result, there was a lot to be pleased about in the Springboks’ draw with the Wallabies in Perth last weekend.

To put it into perspective, historically South Africa’s record in Australia is not that good with just 12 wins in 37 matches and only five out of 26 games since 1992, so to get two away points is a good result.

The Springboks will be disappointed, however, that they did not win because they were so dominant in the second half and they had some really clearcut opportunities that they needed to finish.

This Saturday against New Zealand at the North Harbour Stadium will be a real test, but then it always is against the All Blacks. What will really encourage the Springboks leading into that match is their defensive system that meant Australia could only score one try against them in open play, having scored five and then four tries in their two matches against New Zealand.

The Wallabies’ other try in Perth came from a driving maul and the main reason for that was that the Springboks competed at the front of the lineout. It was a high risk/high reward tactic, but with Eben Etzebeth in the air it meant they lost three players to defend on the drive, which is a particularly high-risk strategy five metres from your tryline.

The Springboks were really good in the tackle in Perth and made lots of double hits. They mixed up their defence well: at times they came very hard off the line, for example in the two turnovers Siya Kolisi forced through sheer linespeed; sometimes they were softer in their defensive line, especially on the blindside, where the attack is usually very flat and basically off the scrumhalf, so you just try to shepherd them out towards the touchline.

Once Kolisi managed to jolt the ball loose and that gave Jan Serfontein a clear run for the line but he was held up two metres short, and the other major turnover by the blindside flank came when he forced the error that led to the end of the game.

The Springboks were very good at the breakdown in Perth, and Jaco Kriel and Pieter-Steph du Toit made some really important steals as well.

The Springboks really struggled though with Australia’s obstruction, especially on the kick-chase. When you kick long it is vitally important that your line gets ahead, and stays ahead, of the retreating defenders. The Springboks do generally chase well, but if the opposition can get players in-between the chasers then it allows their back-three player a clear gap and a hole to hit in the line. It’s like obstruction and completely illegal, but someone like Richie McCaw made it an art-form for the All Blacks.

Every bit of momentum the Wallabies had in Perth really came through this. You cannot rush in defence if the attack has momentum, you have to go softer to recover; you try to get them on to the edge of the field and then you can push hard again.

It’s interesting that under Chean Roux last year, South Africa tried to implement the rush-defence, but we all know the problems they had with that system. But I feel their defensive system is very secure this year, you can see the players really back it and believe in it.

The South Africans could have been better organised on the restarts though. They tended to have their wings forward and their pods deeper, but against someone as lethal as Israel Folau, you need the pods to come further forward. But when Folau won the one aerial ball against Courtnall Skosan that led to a try, there was a huge obstruction. If you watch it from behind, Sekope Kepu actually points to Kurtley Beale and tells him where to go, he clearly blocked Etzebeth from making the hit.

Eben obviously has the respect of his team-mates and is leading well, but he is still an inexperienced captain, especially at Test level. That try needed to be reviewed and I’m sure the TMO would have made the right decision; the captain just needed to whisper in the referee’s ear …

I thought the Springbok kicking game was quite good and Elton Jantjies managed to convert a few zones and pin Australia in their 22. The Springboks were quite clever at times by moving the ball wide to Andries Coetzee, which brought Folau up and then they were able to put the ball in behind, which gave the blind wing quite a few problems.

I was really impressed again with Coenie Oosthuizen. Besides anchoring a dominant scrum, he also hasn’t missed a tackle all Championship and he also made three tackles with a broken arm when he came back on to the field!

It just shows the commitment and attitude in the team at the moment, they are really working hard for each other.

I was curious to know how the Springboks would respond to being 10 points down in a Test and the fact that they were able to get back into the game and so nearly won it at the end is a real positive going forward. As is the fact that for long periods their forwards were very dominant at the set-pieces.

We must remember that this is not a team full of 50-Test Springboks – in fact only three players in the starting XV in Perth had more than 30 caps, with two more on the bench – it is a growing team. In the decision-making positions, there is tremendous inexperience and in the spine of the team – hooker, eighthman, scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback – there was a total of just 34 caps.

So critics of the Perth performance need to take a rain-check and be positive; they must realise that this is a Springbok team that is growing in stature and is unbeaten this year so far.

The All Blacks are probably favourites on Saturday, but in 2012 and 2014 both Tests over there were very close and 2013 was the famous Romain Poite Test with Bismarck, so you can’t really count that. Apart from last year, all our games with New Zealand have been relatively close.

This is a Springbok team in such a good mental space and the All Blacks have alluded to how they can see a brilliant culture in the team and the difference in their defence, as well as the clever bits of play they are producing. They have the deepest respect for this South African team.

The absence of Jaco Kriel will, however, be a big loss for the Springboks, especially against the All Blacks. His pace, dynamism and the way he puts his body on the line without any fear is a huge positive for the team. But it’s a chance for Jean-Luc du Preez to step up and for Siya Kolisi to play at six and for someone new to come on to the bench. Siya is already really forcing a lot of turnovers on the ground.

You have to give credit to the South African coaches, staff and players for how well the Springboks have performed and hopefully they can get a good result on Saturday.

The winner will win the Rugby Championship – it probably is that simple really.

 

 

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.

John McFarland Column: Why I think the Boks will win in Perth 0

Posted on September 07, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks have so many guys playing well at the moment that I see us getting the result against Australia in Perth on Saturday, even though the Wallabies have been very competitive against the All Blacks for the last 120 minutes – it’s just the first 40 minutes of the first Test in which they were hammered.

Australian rugby is not at its strongest state at the moment and there has been a losing culture around the players from SuperRugby and a two-game loss to New Zealand, which has been their traditional start to the Rugby Championship.

They did come very close to winning in Dunedin and they probably should have won that match, but they haven’t been convincing, whereas the Springboks are full of confidence, belief in their systems and they have momentum. You can just see the positivity in the camp.

On the back of two losses, the Wallabies will be in a motivated and desperate state, but the confidence is not quite there.

Australia don’t have the same weapons as the Springboks do and they don’t have much of a kicking game. In fact they don’t want to kick, everything is about ball-in-hand for them, so obviously if the Springbok defence stands up well, opportunities could be created by the Wallabies trying to play under pressure.

There has been an exceptional improvement in the Springbok defence and the players are working so hard for each other, they’re getting off the line and smashing the opposition. It just shows that defence can be a weapon as well.

Australia will want to carry the ball a lot, they want to outscore teams, but the Springbok defence has proven quite lethal in stopping attacks and forcing turnovers, and then finishing those off.

Australia have a few good ball-carriers at centre, but the Springbok defence has been very good from first phase and they coped well against France, who had big wings and midfielders.

The Wallabies will try to beat you through phase play, which means they can become very vulnerable themselves later on in the movement, around phases five to 10, when the attack is not as structured and there’s a chance for turnovers.

Australia also don’t have the best scrum and Stephen Moore being out will affect that even more. Their back row is also a lot younger than it was previously.

Centre Tevita Kuridrani is the big threat in their team with the way he runs inwards at the lineout vacuum – that area between the last player in the lineout and the first backline defender. He can be a handful running hard and headlong into that hole.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley is definitely a threat as well, especially around middle rucks, because he has good feet and gets quite flat so he is able to go at the inside pillars.

We just don’t know from week-to-week though what team Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will pick, which is the difference between the teams because we virtually know the Springbok team from one to 23. It’s settled, which is a big advantage, and they’ve had combinations now for five Tests and they’ve performed really well. The biggest positive for the Springboks is that consistency of selection, which means the players are confident in the people around them.

The Perth crowd can also be 50/50 when it comes to who they support between South Africa and the Wallabies, but the pitch is very removed from the stands, so the crowd is quite a long way back. It also makes it a bit difficult for the kickers because the stadium is just different to most others.

The other unknown is that the Boks have not been in a losing position in any Test so far this year, they’ve been in control after the first 20-30 minutes of every game. So that is the only box unticked – if they are 10-15 points down after the first half-hour or 40 minutes, can they come back? That is the only question mark against them, but I’m sure they can do that if necessary as well.

There’s real hope that we can win in Perth for the first time since 2009. Elton Jantjies is in such a rich vein of form, the defence is so strong and the attack has been lethal – scoring at least four tries in every Test this year has been phenomenal.

 

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.

Former Bok defence coach John McFarland on Springboks v Argentina 0

Posted on August 25, 2016 by Ken

 

There were some real positives to come out of the Springboks’ win over Argentina in Nelspruit, even though they did not get a bonus point, such as the attacking intent they showed and indications of some very good coaching by Allister Coetzee.

The Springboks showed plenty of attacking intent, like after their first full lineout they got the ball wide after just two passes, whereas before, Allister Coetzee teams would maul from there, so that was quite good. Ruan Combrinck’s try came from a brilliant second-line attack and Elton Jantjies’ timing of the pass and his break were superb, that was similar to the tries the All Blacks are scoring.

Allister is certainly doing some good work because if Lionel Mapoe hadn’t dropped the ball over the tryline, that would have been an excellent try from first phase, and Johan Goosen’s try set up by Faf de Klerk was either from brilliant analysis work and coaching or, if it was instinctive, then it was a very good read by Goosen. Although as a defence coach I would have been quite upset with the Pumas eighthman because he kept scrumming way after it was necessary!

The other impressive thing was how the Springboks changed their kicking plan at halftime. In the first half they had kicked long, booted the ball downfield to try and get territory, but against Argentina, if they have numbers at the back, then they can come back with a running-bomb.

So you have to give credit to Allister for going for more contestable kicks in the second half, for far greater reward. You always need to have contestable kicks against Argentina because their back three are good under the high ball, they’re tall players. So you need to kick from nine and get the chase going.

You also don’t want to expose our back three to the high ball after we have kicked, because then it’s guys like Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk at the back, Johan Goosen even, and they are all smaller guys.

The Springboks’ final try exposed the Pumas’ blindside defence and looked a preplanned move to me. They always try to get their outside backs on the Pumas’ tight forwards and that was some really good coaching, along with the kicking game being changed when the original plan wasn’t working and exposing the blindside.

In defence, however, there are work-ons for the Springboks that I’m sure they will put right.

Argentina scored a try from a kickoff restart and you have to give credit to them for that, because they were playing with 14 men at the time. Martin Landajo exposed our pillar defence, they should never move, and because it was a kickoff our players were deep and once the break was made, the Pumas could get into space.

Another try came from a chip. Because you have to cover the crosskick when you’re inside your 22, all 15 players are in the line, but someone has to move and turn, that chip defence needs to be in place.

I thought Faf was outstanding with his kicking game, the energy he generates and especially the number of defensive turnovers he makes. For someone who is just 1.73m tall, he makes some big plays through defence and really makes a difference. He was on our radar last year, but he’s obviously gained confidence and he’s so good at spotting any sort of gap and exploiting it. He really backs himself.

The Springboks really wanted to come away with a win and winning ugly is often a good thing. You need to build confidence and have a good mindset when you go to a foreign country, and if they’d lost it would not have been there.

It’s become the norm in the Rugby Championship to play back-to-back games against the same opposition but there’ll be very little chance for preparation this week because it’s a marathon trip to Salta, including a three-hour flight on the Friday, and the players have to have time to recover and get fresh.

When we played in Salta in 2014 we had to come back again, winning 33-31, and we changed to contestable kicks. Plus it was so hot, even though we played at 5pm, and it’s at altitude on a small pitch, so it’s tough conditions.

The key for the Springboks will be the scrum and their set-pieces need to be good, and they need to kick contestables and attack the Pumas tight forwards on the blindside. Fortunately the scrum was good in Nelspruit and the driving maul broke them down as well.

Hopefully the Springboks will be able to show more of that attacking intent and it’s been interesting to see in the Currie Cup that there have been a lot of tries, which is an indication of attacking intent at that level as well. There are a lot of new, different coaches in the Currie Cup and it’s great to see a real mindset of scoring tries.

 

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.

Bulls win but acknowledge bad performance 0

Posted on April 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Both Bulls coach Frans Ludeke and captain Pierre Spies acknowledged that even though they beat the Western Force 25-24 at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, it was a bad performance by the home side.

Ludeke highlighted the poor work-rate of a Bulls team that thoroughly dominated the scrums and was playing against 13 men after two yellow cards in quick succession at a crucial stage of the second half, while Spies called it a lack of intensity.

“Our work-rate wasn’t up to standard tonight, it was a stop-start game with a lot of penalties and perhaps from their side some negative play which worked for them. They conceded a lot of penalties and we could not make enough of it because we made too many mistakes ourselves,” Ludeke said after the game.

“We played against a desperate side and that is what happens, they play for 80 minutes and we could never build a score. They dominated the gain-line a few times in the game and that led to penalties and to tries. You obviously need your work-rate to be spot on, that is the thing about SuperRugby.”

Spies pointed out that a thunderstorm before the start of play accounted for an increase in handling errors, but added that this was still no excuse for their display.

“The ball was a bit wet tonight, so that makes the attack a bit difficult and also the speed of the ball at the ruck had an influence on our attack. But first we look at ourselves and the way we played tonight wasn’t good enough.

“The intensity was not there the whole game, we let them into the game with some soft moments and we actually did well to win it in the end. We were trying to build a good lead so that we can get the game going and every time they got back,” Spies said.

Force coach Michael Foley prizes positive rugby and he was pleased with the fact his side scored three tries.

“To come here and score three tries and certainly in the fashion the players got them in, to resist the pressure at different times of the game.

“You are always disappointed when you don’t get the result but if you can play rugby like that week in and week out then you are going to get some good results,” Foley said.

 



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