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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: No hiding from Boks’ biggest loss ever, but it was a perfect storm 0

Posted on September 21, 2017 by Ken

 

I obviously did not foresee South Africa losing 57-0 in Albany and there’s no hiding from the fact that it was a record for the Springboks’ biggest loss ever.

But I think it’s also fair to say that it was the perfect storm and everything went right for New Zealand and everything went wrong for the Springboks. The All Blacks were obviously very good on the day and executed every small chance they got, they ruthlessly punished little things.

It started when the Springboks were playing well but gave away a penalty, with the fullback in the line because they were in their attacking shape. Aaron Smith put the chip in with his weaker left foot and it bounced perfectly for Rieko Ioane.

That’s just the first example.

Then came the intercept try when there needed to be better decision-making under pressure by Jean-Luc du Preez.

The third try came after a penalty and the All Blacks bashed the ball up before the cross-kick, which I hear Beauden Barrett practises 50 times every Friday at the captain’s run. The Springboks had cover with Francois Hougaard there, but unfortunately the ball bounced out of his hands.

The fourth try came after Elton Jantjies produced a nothing kick, it was neither contestable nor deep enough, allowing the counter-attack, and with the hooker defending in the wide channel, the wing did not know whether to come in or stay out.

So it was 31-0 at halftime and in the second half two more tries were scored from five-metre lineouts. You need a back-row forward to stand at the back of the lineout, but Siya Kolisi was in the middle. The golden rule when defending lineouts close to your line is that you don’t give the opposition ball at the back because it basically takes out seven of your players and once they get over the advantage line it becomes a difficult fight.

On the direct one-on-one try scored through the flyhalf, you want your inside centre a bit closer to help and it should be a double-hit.

Allister Coetzee is now in a difficult position when it comes to who to bring into the team. The players had done relatively well before last weekend, but it’s obvious that he will have to make changes. Test rugby magnifies everything and one weakness will be exposed in glaring fashion.

Under Heyneke Meyer, the scores were always close against the All Blacks – an average of less than seven points per game – and one of the reasons was that we often played two fetchers as well as Duane Vermeulen and Bismarck du Plessis. That meant we had four forwards who were very good over the ball.

This is vital because you need to disrupt New Zealand’s attacking shape, you need to force more of them into the rucks and not just let them play. The Springboks certainly missed Jaco Kriel in this regard, but his pace was also missed in defence. The openside flank is normally pillar number three and he leads the line-speed from just inside the flyhalf. Francois Louw has been recalled and it would be quite good if we could play two flanks that play towards the ball against New Zealand.

The Springboks scrummed well at the start, but like in the World Cup semi-final in 2015, we lost five lineouts. That’s a huge factor and it’s why they could not get any attack going. It’s something they have to sort out otherwise the backs are not able to function. It also leaves you very vulnerable because your backs are in attack formation on your own ball and not in their defensive formation, making it easy for the opposition to get over the advantage line on the turnover ball.

I watched the game with Frans Ludeke and he made a good point when he said it is not a lost cause now in the last two games of the Rugby Championship at home. He pointed out that our SuperRugby teams conceded big scores in New Zealand, but won against the Kiwi sides in South Africa. So we should not write off the Springboks just yet, we can only really judge them at the end of the Rugby Championship, but they are obviously playing for second place now.

It’s very hard playing three matches on the trot away from home, especially with the best side in the world being the last game, which is one of the reasons that in the last six years of the Rugby Championship the title race has been over before the final round.

One encouraging thing is that they did not fall away in the last 15 minutes and the All Blacks really had to work hard for their tries in the final quarter.

Before contemplating changes, we must remember that South Africa were the only unbeaten side in world rugby this year going into the game.

But there may have been a case for someone like Ruan Combrinck to come in. He has operated within the Lions’ exit system, he will be a right-footed option to back up the left feet of Andries Coetzee, who has been solid, kicked well and been good with ball in hand, and Elton Jantjies and he also brings a certain magic. He’s currently playing inside centre in Japan for Kotetsu, but he should obviously have been an option because he played well last year for the Springboks and showed he can make a difference in Tests.

Reasons for optimism for the Springboks for their next game against the All Blacks are that Australia have also managed to play better since they were 40-6 down at halftime against New Zealand and both the Stormers and Lions won against Kiwi teams in South Africa.

The Lions beat the Hurricanes convincingly and pushed the Crusaders all the way, so it is very difficult for the New Zealand players playing in South Africa as well. Plus they will be up against a very passionate crowd at Newlands and a Springbok team that will be on a mission.

 

 

 

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.

 

 

Griquas’ previous wins in Durban mean Sharks in no doubt about challenge 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

 

If the Sharks were in any doubt about Griquas presenting them with a tough challenge in their Currie Cup match at Kings Park on Friday night, then the fact that the Northern Cape side have won their last two matches in Durban should dispel any notions of a stroll in the park.

Although the KwaZulu-Natalians beat Griquas 45-20 in Kimberley last year, Griquas won 21-18 at Kings Park in 2014, repeating their 32-30 triumph there in 2013, and Sharks coach Robert du Preez is in no mood for complacency this week.

“Griquas are a very tough side, they’ll be very physical, and we have to bring our A game to beat them,” Du Preez said.

While the Sharks at their best are able to keep ball in hand and stretch most defences, it will be up front in the trenches where Friday night’s game will be won or lost.

“We’re looking to keep ball-in-hand for longer and play more rugby, but the forwards need to create the space on the outside, they need to be direct and dominate contact. You have to earn the right to go wide.

“Griquas are always gutsy, they did well in the qualifiers and I think we’re up for a hard game. They’ll come out and play good rugby, with a lot of energy running on to the ball. They enjoy playing with the ball, they’re unpredictable and they also have their maul and their direct forward play,” loose forward Philip van der Walt said.

Griquas were the leading qualifiers from the preliminary stage, with 11 wins in 14 games, but the whole EP Kings saga has hampered the momentum they would have wanted to take into the Premier Division.

They were originally going to play the Kings in last weekend’s opening round of fixtues, but then it was going to be the Leopards and then they ended up eventually having a bye.

“It has been an unbelievably frustrating couple of weeks, it’s been difficult. We have been doing analysis on three different teams, focused training with a team picked to play the Leopards and then we did not even have a game last week. Some key players were rested for the last game of the qualifiers and the result is some players have not played for over four weeks!

“Mentally it has been difficult and after finishing as the first qualifiers we did not expect this, but we have been training hard, we refocused and will ensure we give everything to make our supporters proud of Griquas,” Peter Engledow, the coach of Griquas, told the side’s website.

 

Kuhn has hope and inspiration from Cook’s selection 0

Posted on April 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The fact that the national selectors were willing to choose a 33-year-old new cap for Test cricket in Stephen Cook this summer has provided hope and no little inspiration to Heino Kuhn, who is the leading run-scorer in the Sunfoil Series this season.

The 31-year-old Titans batsman also averaged 60 in the Momentum One-Day Cup and a golden summer has pushed Kuhn right back into the picture for national honours after playing five T20 internationals for South Africa as a wicketkeeper/batsman between 2009 and 2011.

Kuhn is now strictly an opening batsman (and a quality fielder too) and regularly goes big, with six centuries in the last two seasons. His tally of 18 first-class hundreds includes three doubles and a 191 for South Africa A against Bangladesh A.

“It was nice to see Stephen Cook get an opportunity with the Proteas, I was happy for him because for years he’s been flippen good for the Lions. It was great that he took his chance and it’s great to see that South African cricket is now like Australian cricket where, if you’re a good enough batsman, you’re never too old.

“As long as my body holds, I’ll always believe that I can play for South Africa again and my fiancé Trudie probably believes even more than me! But I’m playing the best cricket of my career and luckily enough I have another two years on my contract with the Titans, so I hope I can continue this run because it’s the best I’ve ever batted,” Kuhn says.

The Titans stalwart – he has been granted a benefit season by the franchise – says his purple patch is not down to anything new in his technique but rather a better focus on the basics of top-order batting.

“I just try to bat time and play straight. I know I have the square shots, but if I just try and play straight and face a lot of balls then I know I’ll get runs. I know that if I face 200 balls then I’ll be close to a hundred. It’s about sticking to the basics and Rob Walter [Titans coach] is big on us just worrying about our own things and not the opposition,” Kuhn says.

It’s amazing to think of all the different jobs Kuhn has fulfilled on a cricket field since his days at Affies in the early 2000s, playing alongside AB de Villiers and Faf du Plessis. He was actually a middle-order batsman who dabbled in leg-spin.

“I batted four at Coke Week for Northerns, behind AB and Faf, and I batted twice, scoring 40 not out and four not out, the winning runs. And at club level, Roelof van der Merwe kept wicket and I bowled leg-spin, and then one day I said we should swop. I made a stumping off Roela and our ways were set!

“I was very fortunate to keep to guys like Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Alfonso Thomas, Paul Harris and Imran Tahir in my early days at the Titans. But if opening the batting is the only way I can play in a team, I’ll definitely take it. Not many people enjoy opening, but I put up my hand, I like the challenge. It’s like I prefer a green pitch because then you have to work for your runs and you know you deserve them. It’s lovely to get runs in those tough conditions,” Kuhn says.

The likeable man from Piet Retief certainly deserves a successful benefit and another look-in at international cricket, and there have been few more loyal servants of the Titans.

“At the beginning of my career I was fortunate to have traditional team-mates like Martin van Jaarsveld and Pierre de Bruyn, so that was the way I grew up. My family are all here in Pretoria and the Titans are the best franchise in the land. I can’t see myself playing in another country and, if I don’t play any more cricket for South Africa, then I won’t play international cricket for anybody else,” Kuhn says.

The matchfixing spotlight falls on disgruntled Bodi 0

Posted on January 17, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Amidst all the anger and despondency at the news that Gulam Bodi has been charged with contriving to corrupt domestic T20 matches, we should not lose sight of the fact that Cricket South Africa and their anti-corruption officials have pounced on the former international so decisively.

In the wake of former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns’ astonishing acquittal, cricket administrators have realised that they have to tread methodically and precisely because the standards of evidence required to secure a criminal conviction are higher than they imagined.

CSA announced on November 6, just five days into the RamSlam T20 Challenge, that they had started an investigation into an international syndicate seeking to corrupt domestic games and then, on December 15, they revealed an “intermediary” had been charged.

That was after the conclusion of the T20 competition and much attention has fallen on the Cape Cobras’ bizarre loss to the Dolphins in the semi-final playoff in Durban. The visitors were on 154 for three in the 16th over, chasing 179, and somehow managed to lose by five runs.

It is known that there was considerable concern amongst the Cobras management in the wake of the defeat, but given the fact that all domestic players were by then aware that CSA was on to something, the finger of suspicion maybe should not rest on a team that perhaps merely suffered one of those inexplicable implosions that make cricket such a fascinating game.

The RamSlam T20 Challenge was apparently not the only competition to have been improperly interfered with: The season-opening Africa T20 Cup was allegedly where the nonsense started. It was a televised event, without much at stake, featuring some of the younger, and therefore more naïve, players on the domestic circuit – the perfect breeding ground for matchfixers.

And now Bodi has been named as the South African at the centre of it all.

The former KwaZulu-Natal, Titans, Highveld Lions and Delhi Daredevils cricketer, whose international appearances were restricted to three limited-overs games in 2007, was the type of player that calamity just seemed to follow around – his career was dotted with comical run outs, extraordinary ways of getting out and even off the field he would do things like rolling his cart on team golf days.

Now one wonders whether the bizarre luck was just that or something else, something more deliberate?

And that is the biggest damage done by the disease of matchfixing – the doubts over whether all the weird and wonderful things you have seen on the cricket field are real or contrived?

A batsman who swings so freely from the crease like Bodi did is likely to get out in “soft” fashion from time to time, but the player born in Hathuran, India, always struck me as being a little disgruntled.

He was forever talking up his own performances and complaining about not getting fair opportunities. This from one of the players who was chosen ahead of Kevin Pietersen in KZN – in the days when they were both considered spin-bowling prospects – thanks to efforts to give players of colour more opportunity.

But the three international caps were well-deserved because Bodi was once one of the most free-scoring, dangerous top-order batsmen in domestic cricket.

However, the danger will always exist that players who feel hard done by, who believe they are not getting their due, could turn to the “dark side”. Judging by the rumours of white players going on strike, there is currently a large group of dissatisfied franchise cricketers and that should be a grave concern for CSA.

 



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