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Ken Borland



Ex-national coaches the finished article: Heyneke 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer returned to Loftus Versfeld on Thursday and bemoaned the irony that former Springbok coaches, who can be considered close to the finished article, are excluded from the local game at a time when South African rugby is in crisis and needs as much experienced help as it can get.

Meyer was at his former stamping ground to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s to be played in Mauritius next month, but his passion for top-level rugby is still there.

“Ex national coaches learn so much, they’re at their best, and then they get moved sideways. The perception here is that I’m in the rugby wilderness, but I’m getting offers from all over the world. But I want to be in South Africa, I believe I can make a difference, even though I’m currently very happy working for Carinat.

“You look at Eddie Jones, who lost eight-in-a-row with Australia and was fired, but then he helped the Springboks and now with England you can see how much he has learnt. Most South African coaches are just gone, though; Rassie Erasmus and Jake White have been really successful overseas and someone like John Plumtree was not seen as a great coach here, but I always rated him, and now he’s won SuperRugby in New Zealand. So it’s not the lack of coaches that is our problem, it’s the system,” Meyer said.

The coach of the first South African team to win Super Rugby, back in 2007, said local franchises were severely hampered by the overseas exodus, fitness issues and the push to play like New Zealand teams.

“You know we’re in trouble when we want to follow New Zealand, if you do that then you’ll never be the best in the world. There’s an over-fixation to play like the All Blacks, it will take us 10 years to get there and then they’ll be another 10 years ahead! We have to find out what we stand for and play the South African way.

“It’s very concerning all the players going to Japan because they can’t play for 12 months and players need to be uninjured and fresh in order to do proper fitness work. And if you’re tired you can’t execute your skills, you can’t press in defence, or scrum or drive. Teams win because of superior fitness and with guys going overseas it’s very difficult.

“Plus it’s impossible to keep the same side together for five years, you just start building and guys leave by the time they’re 25. We’ve got the right coaches and players but we need a better system to keep the players,” Meyer said.

 

Picture looks rosy for Northerns women’s hockey 0

Posted on May 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The picture looks rosy for Northerns women’s hockey as their young side triumphed in the Senior Interprovincial Nationals at the weekend, showing impressive self-belief as they beat a star-studded, more experienced Southern Gauteng team in a shootout at the Randburg Hockey Stadium.

“We were definitely underdogs if you looked at the names on paper, Southern Gauteng are a powerhouse who have won many IPTs. But we took each game as it comes and we played very good hockey to get through the semi-finals. To beat North-West 4-0 was a very good performance and I was a bit concerned that we wouldn’t be able to reach that peak again.

“We were very nervous in the first half of the final, we showed our inexperience, but I knew if we could just keep them out then we could claw our way back. The players began to believe in themselves and put more pressure on. It was actually a blessing that we went 1-0 down because I told them ‘now we have to chase the game’.

“You can’t do all that work to get to the final and then just not play, so we began to pass the ball, be positive, and it felt like we shifted the momentum. We were winning more 50/50s, winning those one-on-one battles and we had more shots at goal,” coach Lindsay Wright told The Citizen.

“It’s very exciting and I believe it was some of the best hockey Northerns have ever played, the girls really stood up, which was wonderful. Northerns have tended to not play good hockey in the right moments, they tended to not get through semi-finals, although they were always recognised for their doggedness, their never-say-die attitude.

“We’re basically a university-based team, 90% of our players come through Tuks, so they’re all inexperienced and youthful and we rely heavily on the more experienced players. Tuks will attract more players and we have good schools, but we need to produce more locally-based players and keep them in the province, and then we will potentially build a powerhouse team,” Wright added.

Northerns are likely to lose KZN product Jacinta Jubb, their leading goalscorer, but it is certainly not doom and gloom for them. Player of the Tournament Celia Evans, in particular, is a phenomenal talent.

“Celia is one of the best players in the country right now and she is a real all-rounder, not just in terms of her hockey talent but in terms of what she gives to the team and her fellow players. She’s like Nicolene Terblanche and Kim Hubach, who have been there and done that and who constantly give to those who have less experience, which is the true sign of a very talented player,” Wright said.

Any champion side learns from their mistakes and Wright admitted that their failure to defend their title last year, when Southern Gauteng won the IPT, had been taken on board and thoroughly analysed.

Northens hockey is on the rise and the traditional powerhouses have been warned.

“The girls never gave up and their energy was fantastic. We took the lessons from last year and changed things round,” Wright said.

In Allister the Springboks have the right man 0

Posted on April 18, 2016 by Ken

 

Although I would have liked to have seen some big-name overseas input in the management team, in Allister Coetzee the Springboks have a coach who is vastly experienced, has excellent man-management skills and will avoid the transformation pitfalls that plagued his predecessor, which is vital in this country.

Coetzee was a strong contender for the post way back in 2008, but those were the days when Cheeky Watson held powerful sway in South African rugby and the disgraced Eastern Province president was firmly in the Peter de Villiers camp.

In a way, I’m actually quite pleased now that Coetzee did not get the job straight after he had been part of Jake White’s management team that won the World Cup in 2007. The former scrumhalf star has spent the last eight years gaining more and more experience, to the extent that of all the Springbok coaches appointed since 1992, he has the most experience of them all.

Early coaches like John Williams, Ian McIntosh and Kitch Christie had no international background, while Andre Markgraaff and Carel du Plessis had not coached at SuperRugby level. Nick Mallett, Harry Viljoen and Rudolf Straeuli had experience in that competition, but were not part of successful Springbok management teams before their promotion.

White and De Villiers both won the junior world cup but had never been head coach of a SuperRugby franchise, while Heyneke Meyer had success with the Bulls but only a little involvement with Springbok teams.

Critics of Coetzee point to the dour style of rugby he played in making four SuperRugby playoffs, winning the South African Conference three times and claiming two Currie Cup titles, but it’s important to look at that in context.

When he took over an ailing Stormers in 2010, the then laws of the game favoured teams that played territory and could defend well, at times the less ball you had the better. Think of how well the Springboks did around that time and what sort of rugby they played, beating the All Blacks five times between 2008 and 2011.

Of course, as the laws changed, Coetzee said he tried to make sure the Stormers’ play evolved as well, but it was not as easy as just applying a new lick of paint.

Players who have worked with Coetzee – and not just with the Stormers, Fourie du Preez for instance – have the utmost respect for his ability as a coach. The 52-year-old will have the attacking and skills input of Mzwandile Stick, one of the best Sevens players this country has ever produced and obviously a talented coach in his own right given that he steered Eastern Province to the U19 Currie Cup title.

In terms of an overseas appointment, Saru probably don’t have the money and the top overseas names probably don’t have the inclination or the inside knowledge to get involved in the murky politics of our rugby, so local will have to be lekker for now. CEO Jurie Roux said Coetzee is welcome to call in any short-term consultants he requires.

Much has been made of Saru’s goal of making the Springbok team 50% representative by the next World Cup and Coetzee said it shouldn’t be an issue for him. He managed to field a transformed Stormers side and keep winning at the same time.

The talent is there to fulfil any quotas, but if Coetzee does run into problems now and then in terms of balancing his side, at least nobody is going to call him a racist as Watson once tried to imply.

The Springbok coaching reins have undoubtedly been handed to the right man, although an efficient organisation would have given Coetzee much more time to prepare for a tough debut when Ireland come to these shores in June.

Sharks travel to Loftus Versfeld without robust Du Preez 0

Posted on March 17, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks will be without arguably the most robust loose forward in the country this year for their Vodacom SuperRugby clash with the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Friday, but Jean-Luc du Preez will be replaced by the under-rated and experienced Philip van der Walt for the crunch local derby in Pretoria.

Du Preez suffered what has been described as a “minor” foot injury in the Sharks’ gripping win over the Stormers last weekend in Cape Town, but Van der Walt, who has made a different, more dynamic if less physical impact off the bench during the Sharks’ three-match unbeaten run, is a more-than-capable replacement.

The 26-year-old former Cheetahs star is one of five changes to the Sharks starting line-up coach Gary Gold announced on Wednesday, a short week encouraging some rotation amongst the players.

Lwazi Mvovo returns to the left wing, with JP Pietersen shifting to the right and Odwa Ndungane moving down to the bench; Michael Claassens swops with Cobus Reinach at scrumhalf; and two of the replacement front-rowers, tighthead Lourens Adriaanse and hooker Kyle Cooper, will get their first starts of the campaign as Coenie Oosthuizen and Franco Marais shift to the bench.

Of course, making five changes to the most in-form team in the country does bring certain risks, but Gold is confident that the introduction of fresher legs will actually aid their momentum rather than harm it.

“We are really keen to keep the momentum going now and, as a result, our confidence will keep growing. It’s the reason we’ve rotated a few guys this week, we want to improve each week and keep on building as a team and we have a huge amount of confidence in the guys that have come off the bench. They have made a significant difference to our games at critical stages.

“There were a few sore bodies after the Stormers match, so it made sense to make a few changes.  These changes are not disruptive and it does mean that other guys that have put their hands up have an opportunity to start this week, rather than come off the bench,” Gold said.

Van der Walt agreed that the changes would not weaken the Sharks for what they believe will be another demanding away derby.

“We have a big group and the two different teams that played in France played just as well as each other, as well as allowing us to get used to playing with each other. So there’s no big difference or harm to the momentum we’ve created. The core of the team is the same, the coach hasn’t changed too much, it’s just subtle changes.

“It’s been tough sitting on the bench, but all the other loose forwards have played well. The team is my main focus and how I can improve the team, so I could give everything for 20 minutes and continue contributing. I’ve just been trying to do the best I can, luckily I’ve had good form.

“The competition for places is a good thing, it pushes you to new levels. It’s lovely to have, especially for the coaches. As players, you always want to start, but we have this added incentive now. Fortunately us loosies all get along well and we push each other too,” Van der Walt said.

The space on the bench created by Van der Walt’s elevation will be filled by Keegan Daniel, back in the country after a stint in Japan and poised to play his first match in South Africa since 2014.

The Sharks have tasted bitter defeat in their last four SuperRugby visits to Loftus Versfeld, dating back to June 2011, and have lost three in a row to the Bulls home and away, so they are right to be wary despite their highly impressive performance last weekend and the lofty heights they are currently enjoying as the only unbeaten team alongside the Brumbies.

“We’re not expecting anything different to the Stormers game, the Bulls back three is just as capable and they also always pride themselves on big forwards and big drives. And they’re coming off a good win and a good rest, so they’re definitely going to come out firing.

“We worked hard last week because we knew the Stormers have a good set-piece, especially the scrums, and we were able to stand our ground and even get one or two of their balls. If the opposition have a good scrum then that’s something you focus on, and we know it’s most important that we carry that same effort into the next game,” Van der Walt said.

The Bulls scrum has endured some bitter experiences in recent times, but they will certainly be working hard on that facet of their game, and the Sharks will need to be at their best in that department.

Sharks team: Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Paul Jordaan, Andre Esterhuizen, Lwazi Mvovo, Joe Pietersen, Michael Claassens, Daniel du Preez, Philip van der Walt, Marcell Coetzee, Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Lourens Adriaanse, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira (C). Bench – Franco Marais, Juan Schoeman, Coenie Oosthuizen, Hyron Andrews, Keegan Daniel, Cobus Reinach, Garth April, Odwa Ndungane.



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