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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – Stormers’ turn to show they can bounce back 0

Posted on April 25, 2017 by Ken

 

SuperRugby is such a tough competition that every team at some stage will experience a crisis and it’s now the Stormers’ turn to face a test of character as to how they bounce back from their heavy defeat at the hands of the Crusaders in Christchurch.

The Stormers were fortunate to get out of jail a bit in their previous games with things like intercept tries from their own goal-line, but their luck ran out in Christchurch. Things they got away with in the first few weeks were punished by the Crusaders, who have a much more accurate passing game than most teams, and that exposed the Stormers. They struggled to deal with the width of the Crusaders’ game, they were up against a two-four-two set-up and the likes of Codie Taylor and Kieran Read in the tramlines proved too much for them.

The Stormers’ wings were continually being pressured by the poor defensive spacing on the inside; the main Stormers problem was their spacing around the ruck, there were too many players close to the breakdown inside their own 22. They need to get more players out wide, they were much too compressed in defence at the ruck. They were caught cold by the width of the Crusaders attack.

But for a lot of the Stormers players it was their first time in New Zealand and it takes some time to adjust. Plus the Crusaders are obviously on fire at the moment under new coach Scott Robertson and they were just too good for the Stormers.

I spent time with the Stormers in pre-season and coach Robbie Fleck is determined to play a hugely exciting brand of rugby, which has been successful, but now they’ve just hit a blip.

But the Stormers played quite well in the second half, with two of the Crusaders’ tries coming from intercepts, and they will draw some positivity from that. They obviously need to regroup against the Highlanders in Dunedin on Friday and having the roof closed will suit their game.

It was encouraging the way they came back against the Crusaders and now they are in Queenstown in a very pleasant part of the world where they can walk to training, so hopefully they will be in a better frame of mind come Friday.

It was a weekend of contrasting emotions with the excitement coming from the Southern Kings. For them to come through the way they did, for their forwards to play so well as they came back from 17-0 down after half-an-hour, and to win so convincingly really takes some doing. Plus any away win is super, so it really was a sensational result in Sydney, to win there without any Springboks (Waylon Murray being injured) was truly remarkable.

The Kings forwards certainly outmauled the Waratahs and the visitors took their chances, a charge-down try getting them back into the game. It was certainly a comprehensive win with the Waratahs scoring on the final hooter and one of their tries was also from an intercept.

The win shows that South Africa still has forwards that are well-drilled and marshalled and you have to credit coach Deon Davids. Sometimes on the third game on tour the players are thinking of going home, especially since you have to leave Sydney very early the next morning so you’re packing and getting ready for the game all at the same time!

You could tell how much it meant to the Kings players at the end of the game and it was the sort of win to resurrect some careers. Someone like Lionel Cronje has played at practically every union and although there is respect for his play, he hasn’t really fulfilled the promise of his SA U20 days. But time out of the game forced him to re-evaluate his priorities and he has come back a renewed guy.

The Lions against the Jaguares was a good game with Harold Vorster once again shining, the try he scored, running the same line as he did against the Stormers, got the home side back in the game.

The variety of plays the Lions have from five metres away from the tryline is impressive and it shows they want seven-pointers instead of three – they have front-peels, back-peels, shift-drives and normal drives.

It was also pleasing to see Elton Jantjies kicking a pressure goal. He’s certainly in the running to be the Springboks’ starting flyhalf, especially with both Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie injured at the moment, and it’s good to see him so composed.

Lionel Mapoe is also hitting some form and his dummy-and-go and finish for his try was first-class and he also put away Andries Coetzee for the final try.

So it will please Allister Coetzee to see those two coming back into form.

Two of the Tests against France will be on the Highveld so they will be quick games, with the Springboks also surely trying to up the pace because the matches are at the end of the French season and there will obviously be some tiredness. For that Allister should choose quick, Lions-type players – those Tests should really suit guys like Faf de Klerk, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe, Warren Whiteley and Jaco Kriel.

At the end of the day, the Lions are our flagship franchise and that should be reflected in selection.

The SuperRugby quarterfinals will probably be contested by four New Zealand teams, three from South Africa and one from Australia, so the likelihood is that the Lions will play a New Zealand side in the quarterfinal. So it’s important that they keep winning and now that they are overseas, they need to get on a roll. So it was good for them to come through the Jaguares game with a win.

The Hurricanes have still got to tour and the Crusaders are now in South Africa, so let’s hope the Cheetahs and Bulls can do something against them.

 

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.

Mark Boucher the coach 0

Posted on August 19, 2016 by Ken

 

Mark Boucher, the heartbeat of the South African team from the late 1990s to 2012, is hoping the experience and wisdom gained from all those years of playing and inspiring the changeroom will rub off on the new career of coach that he has chosen for himself, with the 39-year-old set to land the job as the new Titans mentor.

Boucher’s stellar career, in which he played 147 Tests and 295 ODIs and took the most dismissals in Test history, was ended on the 2012 tour of England when he suffered a serious eye injury after being hit by a bail in a warm-up game.

Since then Boucher has become a leading figure in rhino conservation and is with the Proteas squad in Durban at the moment, working as a consultant for the Test series against New Zealand. The Titans coaching job is the best-paid franchise post in the country and the Centurion-based team won two of the three domestic trophies on offer last season, so the famously nuggety cricketer has landed a high-profile role at the start of his coaching career.

‘I always said I would take five or six years off from the game and it’s been five years now so I’m ready to get involved again. I’m not sure where it’s going to take me, but I’ve always enjoyed imparting knowledge,” Boucher said this week when asked about his invitation to join the Proteas coaching staff.

“I’ve been through quite a few coaches and teams and cultures in my career, and also eras, I was part of the old Proteas team as well as the new. So the lessons I’ve learnt I’d be stupid not to use. I don’t really like the term ‘coach’, I’d like to be more of a man-manager. The game has changed and you see specialist coaches come in more these days,” Boucher said.

Although Boucher’s tenacity and competitiveness were his most famous attributes, he said he was also a student of the technical side of the game and would certainly bring that into his coaching.

“Even though people think of me more on the mental side, you pick up a few things behind the stumps, it provides a very good view. But I always used to sit behind the computer a lot too and look at opposing batsmen, I got a lot of knowledge that way, looking at head and hip positions because you’re trying to get these batsmen out.

“Being brought up in Border, where we didn’t have the best sides, you just had to make it work. Not every player in a team is going to have the technique of a Kallis or De Villiers, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good player. You have to make do with what you’ve got, you can be technically sound but be lacking mentally, while someone like Graeme Smith didn’t have the greatest technique, but he had a very strong head,” Boucher pointed out.

Titans CEO Jacques Faul was unable to confirm Boucher’s appointment.

“The process has been completed and we have appointed a candidate that we feel can take the team forward and we will announce his name on Monday. Unfortunately we cannot speculate before that,” Faul said.

A year of SuperRugby experience a major positive – Nollis 0

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Ken

 

Bulls coach Nollis Marais said the experience gained from a year of SuperRugby was the major positive of a campaign that ended at the weekend with his team just missing out on a playoffs spot.

The Bulls ended on a high with a 43-17 romp over the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein, their ninth win from 15 games leaving them on 42 points, in ninth place overall and just one point behind the Sharks, who took the last quarterfinal place as the third South African qualifiers.

“At the end of the day, the Sharks finished with more points than us, but we had 14 players make their SuperRugby debuts this year and 12 of them went on their first tour to Australia. They all came through and guys like Jason Jenkins, RG Snyman and Warrick Gelant are 20/21. The guys now have one Super Rugby season behind them, but we can’t use inexperience as an excuse again next year, we will have to be much better especially since we’ll be playing against the New Zealand teams,” Marais said.

The lack of bonus points picked up by the Bulls was a key factor in their failure to make the playoffs, as they collected only four, all of them from the try-scoring bonus. Home games against the Reds – where they led 27-8 but won 41-22 – and the Rebels – where they led 42-3 but conceded four tries in the final quarter, have come back to haunt the Bulls.

“It actually makes me quite emotional because I remember after the Reds game saying that I hope missing the bonus point doesn’t come back to bite us. And every time we lost a game, we couldn’t get a bonus point either, which is very disappointing, especially when you finish just two points off the playoffs.

“I still believe our best wins were against the Stormers and the Western Force away, although a lot of guys played well against the Cheetahs, the guys pitched because a lot of them are leaving,” Marais said.

It was announced on Monday that Marais will now take the reins of the Currie Cup side, which will basically be the SuperRugby outfit minus Jesse Kriel, who once again showed how good he can be at fullback without his space being cramped like it is in midfield, Rudy Paige, Lappies Labuschagne, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh and Francois Brummer.

The qualifying campaign under Hendré Marnitz has been messy with seven defeats fouling their seven wins, but CEO Barend van Graan said the change was more to do with continuity seeing as though most of the SuperRugby side will be involved.

“With almost the whole Bulls squad now available for the Currie Cup competition that is starting soon, the call was made to extend the mandate of Marais, so he will now be coaching the Blue Bulls as well. It just makes sense for him to continue with the group of players that are developing so nicely under his guidance. The call to continue with Nollis in the Currie Cup was made for rugby reasons and is not a reflection on Hendré’s abilities. The progress and growth shown by the team under Nollis is something we want to expand and grow, hence the decision,” Van Graan said.

Coetzee’s appointment means learning experience all round for SA rugby 0

Posted on April 15, 2016 by Ken

 

It will be a learning experience all round for South African rugby as Allister Coetzee was confirmed as the new Springbok coach on Tuesday.

Even though Coetzee is probably the most experienced coach to have been given the Springbok job, the 52-year-old said it will still be a time for growth for him, while the players will need to adapt to the many changes in the game, and South African rugby as a whole will have to undergo a mindset change in terms of transformation.

Coetzee, an outstanding scrumhalf, was the captain of the South African non-racial team before unity and played Currie Cup and SuperRugby for Eastern Province from 1992-1996, as well as representing the Junior Springboks.

He then turned his hand to coaching, first as an assistant coach for Eastern Province and then the Sharks. Coetzee coached the Emerging Springboks in 1998 and the SA U23 and SA A sides in 2000, before becoming one of the assistant coaches under Harry Viljoen.

He was Eastern Province head coach from 2001 to 2003, before joining the World Cup-winning management team of Jake White in 2004, alongside Gert Smal. From 2008 he was the head coach of Western Province and then the Stormers from 2010, winning three South African SuperRugby conference titles and two Currie Cups.

“Who is ever ready for this sort of job? I will continue to grow, as I always have, we all grow into something like this. My strength is aligning people, get them working in the same direction. Unity is a massive thing and it’s about how I instil that in the team, in the management and with Saru, as well as giving the country ownership of the team.

“Is Test rugby about entertaining? The big challenge initially will be winning Tests, getting all the boxes ticked before June, we need to get the best 23 players. The game has evolved and so have coaches and it would be really naïve to ignore that. When we embarked on our winning culture with the Stormers, we put teams under pressure through our defence and kicking game, but there’s more than one way of putting teams under pressure, you need attack too.

“It’s about the integration of a balanced game and it took time with the Stormers to not just defend a lead. But it’s great to see the awareness of all the SuperRugby coaches that we need to brush up on attack, it’s about speed of hand, ball and decision-making, and communication skills are vital as well. You can see the SuperRugby coaches are already busy with that,” Coetzee said.

“Transformation is also a reality; it’s not about numbers, it’s about how you think. It wasn’t an issue for me at the Stormers, I didn’t put asterisks down on the team-sheet when I chose the side saying this guy is a player of colour. Rugby has been played in all communities for more than a hundred years, so they all have hopes and it’s about making sure those pathways are open.”

Alongside Coetzee in the chairs at the front of the team photo will be former Springbok Sevens star Mzwandile Stick, who has been appointed as an assistant coach.

“Sticks is a rugby man, the picture of professionalism. He’s a confident guy, he was head coach of the champion Eastern Province U19 team, he’s coached at Currie Cup level and now at Super Rugby as well. He’s got great potential and it’s part of my duty to bring him through,” Coetzee said.

Although the new Springbok coach said he is looking at around 60 players at the moment, he said he would be including about 40 in his planning closer to the three Tests against Ireland in June.



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