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Ken Borland



Four Bulls changes as Ludeke delays the inevitable 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

He may well merely be delaying the inevitable, but Bulls coach Frans Ludeke on Thursday made four changes to his starting team for their final SuperRugby match against the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Whatever happens, the Bulls cannot make the playoffs and Ludeke’s fate as coach will be decided by a board meeting at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Jan Serfontein, Deon Stegmann, Dean Greyling and Lappies Labuschagne are all unavailable due to injury, while Handre Pollard and Victor Matfield are sitting out as part of the Saru rest agreement.

Matfield is replaced in the second row by Grant Hattingh, with Arno Botha coming in for Labuschagne at flank. Greyling, who was only ruled out on Thursday morning due to a tight hamstring, will be replaced by Morne Mellet at loosehead prop, while Adriaan Strauss is back at hooker after having his Springbok rest.

Unless there is a change of heart amongst the board, Ludeke is expected to be relieved of the SuperRugby coaching duties, but is likely to stay in charge for this year’s Currie Cup before moving into a director of rugby type position.

Matfield, who is currently doubling up as the team’s attack and lineout coach, is the heavy favourite to be named as Ludeke’s successor and South Africa’s most capped SuperRugby player confirmed that the board can call on him as the new head coach.

“I’ve always said that after rugby I would like to go into coaching and we will see what is decided on Friday. I would love to be the head coach of the Bulls and it’s been fantastic coming on board the coaching team the last couple of years. Rugby is my life, I hate to lose and you can really feel the disappointment at Loftus at the moment,” Matfield said.

The board will surely have Matfield on speed dial on Friday and the 38-year-old hinted that he would lay down the law if he became the Bulls’ new head coach.

“In Super Rugby, the margins are so small and to win, everything has to be 100% right. We have to look at how we do things both on and off the field in order to get that winning culture back into the team,” Matfield said.

The irony is that Matfield must share the blame for the lame attacking displays of the Bulls that led to their demise in the competition.

Ludeke is a top-class human being, but a coach has a shelf-life with any team and his journey with this particular group of players would appear to be over. But the most experienced coach in SuperRugby was able to put a positive spin on his situation at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.

“I’ve had positive meetings with management this week, there’s been transparency and honesty. After tomorrow [Friday] we will know more. I will give the board a review of the season and prepare for any questions they have. I will be accountable and we’ll also look at the way forward.

“We take responsibility because we haven’t achieved the goals we set ourselves and there are no excuses. But we have made big strides forward, the scrums have been a huge improvement, the maul has been really good and we’re definitely playing more ball-in-hand rugby and with more width. We’ve scored some great tries from open field and a lot of youngsters have come through who will play a lot of games for South Africa in the future,” Ludeke said.

Team: Jesse Kriel, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Burger Odendaal, Travis Ismaiel, Jacques-Louis Potgieter, Rudy Paige, Pierre Spies, Jacques du Plessis, Arno Botha, Grant Hattingh, Flip van der Merwe, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Morné Mellet. Bench – Callie Visagie, Trevor Nyakane, Werner Kruger, Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, Roelof Smit, Bjorn Basson, Tian Schoeman, Jurgen Visser.

Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland’s post-mortem of the SuperRugby final & looking ahead to the Rugby Championship 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

 

The SuperRugby final has come and gone and basically the Hurricanes were just too good on the day for the Lions, and Test rugby is now going to be another level above that, but I do believe the Springboks have reason for optimism.

It’s brilliant that we had a SuperRugby finalist, and the Lions gave 110% against the Hurricanes and did South Africa proud, as they have done all season, and their players will be in a strong space going into the Rugby Championship.

It’s easy to say the Springboks must just play like the Lions, but hard to coach. Although, in 2013 we scored a mountain of tries and Johan van Graan is still the attack coach with the Springboks and he’s clever enough to use all the best bits from all the franchises.

You put the game plan in place according to the players you have and Test rugby is a step above SuperRugby, you need guys who can get on the front foot on the gain-line, in the heat of battle. Players like Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss have done it, they’ve proved it at that level, they can gain metres whether in attack or defence.

Damian de Allende was outstanding in 2015 so I can understand why Allister Coetzee has gone with him again, as was Jesse Kriel. I can remember the New Zealand coaches telling us last year that with those young midfield backs they were expecting a real battle against us in the next three or four years.

I believe we should do well in the Rugby Championship, I look forward to it with optimism.

The All Blacks side has changed a lot from the World Cup semifinal which we lost by just two points, they’ve lost a mountain of caps and experience in Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks and Richie McCaw.

The big thing for the Springboks will be to manage the three away games on the trot, which is very hard. They go from Salta to Brisbane to Christchurch and to win the Rugby Championship they’re going to have to win those away games, which is flippen tough. And their hardest game will be at the end of that tour, against New Zealand in Christchurch.

But the squad is in good health, as Allister himself has said Heyneke Meyer left him with a good legacy, and we came very close to winning in Wellington in 2014, losing by four points, in Auckland in 2013 we had Bismarck du Plessis sent off which was cruel, and in 2012 in Dunedin it was close until Dean Greyling got a yellow card, plus Morne Steyn only kicked at 33%. So we have been competitive in New Zealand in recent years.

But the All Blacks and Australia only really play two away games in the Rugby Championship every year, that’s why they can waltz through and why it’s so tough for us.

To win in New Zealand, you have to be 100% on your game and they have to be at 90%, as the Lions discovered too in the Super Rugby final in Wellington against the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes were just too strong and too smart on the day, they were at full-bore from the first minute.

Conditions also played a huge role, it was very rainy and cold and you could see the Lions players shivering at every stoppage, so it was obviously a factor and a disadvantage for them because they played most of their games on the Highveld where it’s sunny and dry.

The Cake Tin has a swirling wind and it’s not easy kicking in that wind, but Beauden Barrett does it week in and week out and you could see the difference in the kicking games.

Against the Highlanders, the Lions were able to move the ball in the red zone with their backs and they made some wonderful exits, but that was just not on in Wellington last weekend. The Hurricanes monstered them in that first channel, with their line speed and aggressive defence, and I felt sorry for Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk because nobody likes playing with back-foot ball.

The Lions’ two big weapons are their scrum and lineout, but the Hurricanes stood up to them and Dane Coles was inspirational. I think the Lions wanted to use the scrum to gather penalties and points, but the Hurricanes scrummed so well, especially that important one in their own 22 when they were only 10-3 ahead.

In the lineouts, I thought Malcolm Marx did exceptionally well with his throwing in those conditions and Franco Mostert made good calls, but their drives could neither get distance nor momentum.

In fact, the Hurricanes defended so well that the Lions couldn’t get momentum the whole game. Faf de Klerk tried to probe with runners but they got smashed back. Rohan Janse van Rensburg did well to get over the advantage line at times, but Elton was always on the back foot, which meant the backline was static and they just couldn’t get going.

And the tries the Lions conceded were as a consequence of finals pressure, although Corey Jane provided a special moment with that catch.

It’s funny, at the Bulls we used to have a theory that you needed five world-class players and 10 internationals to win SuperRugby, but neither the Hurricanes nor the Lions have that. But they are real workaholics and both have such a good culture on and off the field.

The back-row clash between Warwick Tecklenburg and Brad Shields, the two unsung heroes, was tremendous, they went toe-to-toe all game. Jaco Kriel and Ardie Savea tried to make game-breaking plays, but the space and time just weren’t there.

The Hurricanes’ tactical kicking was also so good, they would just stab the ball in behind the wings and put the pressure on, making the Lions try to exit.

It was a foretaste of the challenges ahead in Test rugby but none of our other teams exactly covered themselves in glory against the New Zealand sides, so they definitely have the upper hand. But it’s Test rugby and you can’t write off Australia either, they’ll be a different kettle of fish with Matt Giteau and Will Genia back, they’ll have more rhythm to their game.

Finally, let’s wish the Blitzbokke good luck. Neil Powell and his staff have assembled a great squad, they’re very hard-working, they have a fantastic culture and they work hard for each other. They thoroughly deserve whatever accolades come their way.

 

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.

Former Springboks defence coach John McFarland on what the Lions must do to win the SuperRugby final 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions will want to just keep on doing exactly what they have been doing as they build up to the SuperRugby final against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

We want to see the Lions play with the same verve, confidence and execution because that’s what’s in their DNA, it’s what they’ve been training all season.

The biggest thing when preparing for a final is to use up all the emotional energy. The size of the occasion is constantly on the players’ minds, the consequences of winning or losing. At the Bulls when we won our three titles we would have very short sessions in finals week and not introduce anything new. The guys must just release steam at training.

You might not use anything new anyway in the final and the first 20 minutes of the game are always very frenetic and you want to be doing the things you do well, you want to be confident that you can execute them.

It’s also important this week for the Lions guys to get away from rugby, go play tenpin bowling or something, you don’t want them sitting in their rooms thinking about the game.

Then, the night before the match we would have our jersey presentation but the players would do it themselves. Each one would give a short presentation of what the final means to them and make a pledge to the team. They were the guys who worked so hard to get there and those evenings always meant a lot to the players.

We’d then play a video summary of the season we’d gone through, with music and the tries of the season – Johan van Graan was always an expert at putting those together, they were magnificent!

And then you want just a normal game day before the final.

As far as the match itself is concerned, the Lions certainly have the game plan to give the Hurricanes problems, mainly because Elton Jantjies is executing those pinpoint attacking kicks so well. He set up two tries against the Highlanders in the semifinal through a chip and a crosskick, and that sort of kicking is one way to beat the Hurricanes’ rush defence.

But Hurricanes scrumhalf TJ Perenara is also a superb sweeper and the Lions will have to make sure their kicks bounce and back into their hands!

The Lions set-piece is also very strong and their scrum and lineout maul will both be huge factors and I think they’ll want to impose themselves on the game that way. The Hurricanes could be under big pressure in those departments.

The Lions played with a complete sense of freedom and no fear against the Highlanders. Most teams don’t have the guts to run the ball from behind their own goal-line but the Lions did it twice in the semifinal and made superb exits. But that was on a dry Highveld day and to reproduce that at a wet and windy Cake Tin will be challenging.

The challenge in finals is how to release pressure and the Lions have done that in their two playoff games by attacking from deep. They get the ball in the outer channels and then kick for space. But it might be a different kettle of fish in the Cake Tin.

Neither Elton nor Faf have particularly long kicks, but the Lions like to play before kicking so they’ll carry the ball for a phase or two and then kick for space and get the chase going.

But the Hurricanes’ defence really rushed the Lions from first phase in their match at Ellis Park, which caught them off-guard. They conceded a couple of intercepts because of that man-on-man pressure, but Swys de Bruin will definitely have come up with a plan for that.

The Lions defence is also very different to all the other South African teams. From a middle ruck, the second-last man – be it Faf de Klerk or Elton Jantjies – is almost in front of the line, closing down the space, he brings the whole line forward. It’s that line speed that caught the Highlanders unawares and they couldn’t get the ball to their wings. It’s a high-risk/high-reward tactic because most teams just shadow and move across in those situations, but the Lions put the opposition under pressure at those wide rucks.

If there’s one guy who brings inspiration to the Hurricanes, it’s loose forward Ardie Savea. He has special skills and a great work-rate, and he has the ability to crack a game wide open because he has such pace. I bet the Lions wish he had gone to the Olympics to play Sevens instead!

But the Lions have to make sure that they are very physical on him and fellow flank Brad Shields to set the tone. They need to keep them quiet and make sure they have to work hard on defence rather than on attack.

The Hurricanes are a bit like the Lions were up front in that they don’t have many Test forwards in their tight five, but they are all hard-working and carry well. Dane Coles will obviously be crucial if he plays because he provides them with physical aggression and obviously his throwing is at a different level.

The Tongan Bear, Loni Uhila, always takes quick taps as well, but sometimes it’s under the poles and it can take points away from the Hurricanes!

For the Lions, a guy like Franco Mostert has a very high work-rate and it would be great if Warren Whiteley can play in the final as well. He’s been a wonderful captain, he’s been through thick and thin with the Lions and it would be fitting for him to be there. He has such a high work-rate as well and between him, Jaco Kriel and Warwick Tecklenburg, they can make the tackles if the Hurricanes carry the ball at them.

The Lions A team haven’t played at sea level since April 23 against the Kings in Port Elizabeth, but I think the final will be very close and it will come down to a moment of brilliance, like Rohan Janse van Rensburg’s try in the semifinal after that turnover tackle by Elton Jantjies.

 

 

 

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.

 

Lions victory due in no small part to Jantjies masterclass 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions roared into the SuperRugby final with a 42-30 victory over the Highlanders at Ellis Park on Saturday due in no small part to a masterclass in flyhalf play by Elton Jantjies.

Jantjies was his usual brilliant self with ball in hand, scoring one try and setting up another for wing Courtnall Skosan with a dazzling blindside break from his own 22, while he was once again reliable kicking for poles, nailing four conversions and three penalties from his eight shots at goal. He was also strong defensively, holding his channel well and it was his hit in midfield in the 24th minute that provided the loose ball for centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg to score and increase the Lions’ lead to 17-3.

But it was his tactical kicking that was at another level in Saturday’s semifinal as the Lions consistently cleared any danger in their own 22, nullifying the strong kicking game of the Highlanders and driving them back in the territory battle, as well as turning their defensive line around very well.

Jantjies said it was due to getting the decision-making right on the day.

“It’s a privilege to play with this group of players and it just came down to making the right decisions. You look to create opportunities and you hope the gap opens up, otherwise you kick. I just play what is in front of me,” Jantjies said. “I just enjoyed it out there, we worked hard at playing at huge intensity and to go for the whole 80 minutes, which we needed to do.”

Coach Johan Ackermann was more forthcoming in praising his flyhalf general.

“It was very important that we did well at the exits, as shown by the one time we let it slip and the Highlanders scored. In general we were accurate at our exits, and decision-making goes hand-in-hand with that. The kicking and passing games were both good tonight, and now’s the right time for players like Elton to be in really good form,” Ackermann said.

Jantjies had some bad defensive misses when playing for the Springboks against Ireland in the June internationals to raise some question marks over that area of his game, but the 25-year-old was excellent in defence on Saturday and put it down to hard work during the week.

“I’ve had a few challenges, but this week I did a lot of one-on-one tackling work, I focused on that,” Jantjies said.

The Lions will now fly to Wellington on Sunday night, arriving midnight on Monday, and one of the features of the final will be the battle of the flyhalves between Hurricanes star Beauden Barrett and Jantjies, probably the two most in-form number 10s in the world right now.

But Jantjies was not going to be drawn on that match-up.

“I don’t have individual battles, it’s all about the team and just making sure I do my job for the team. The Hurricanes and Beauden Barrett are playing good rugby, and obviously they’re one-up on us after giving us 50 points at Ellis Park a few months ago. But we learnt a lot from our last game against them and we played some good stuff tonight. But we will have to reassess again on Monday,” Jantjies said.

Ackermann said he was content going to Wellington for a chance to put the cherry on top of what has already been a historic season for the Lions – their best ever in SuperRugby.

“Three years ago this week we were playing promotion/relegation and now this week we’ve made the final, which is really stunning. In finals, I believe everyone has a chance, they’re 50/50. Yes, we have to travel, but we won three out of four games last year and two out of three this year on the road, so this team loves to be together and to travel.

“It’s a once-off game and, as the Highlanders reminded us when they came into our changeroom after the game, they won there in Wellington last year. The pressure is on the Hurricanes, it’s a home game for them,” Ackermann said.

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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