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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Attitude makes all the difference for B&I Lions 0

Posted on July 06, 2017 by Ken

 

One has to credit the British and Irish Lions for their win over the All Blacks in the second Test, especially after losing the first Test the way they did.

They just brought a harder attitude in Wellington, a desperation to get the win. To keep the All Blacks tryless, even though they only had 14 men for most of the game, takes some doing, and the attitude they showed on the day was top-class.

It was definitely a red card for Sonny Bill Williams, he made no effort to raise his hand or grip Anthony Watson in the tackle, and his shoulder made contact with the head.

The last penalty – for the Charlie Faumuina tackle on Kyle Sinckler while he was airborne – was a little bit harsh though. When a player jumps to catch a pass above his head and it’s a gain-line tackle, the tackler is already committed and in motion, so it is very difficult for there to be any other outcome.

Jumping into a tackle is also a penalisable offence, but sometimes when the pass goes upwards, the player has to take it airborne. So it’s an anomaly that the lawmakers have to look at going forward.

The All Blacks had to play with 14 men for so long, that it was quite heroic of them to stay in the game; they did not manage to score a try, but they kept the scoreboard ticking over with penalties.

If a team fields two openside flanks like the Lions did with Sean O’Brien and Sam Warburton, then the penalty count will be high because they go hard on the ball on the floor and to make tackle attempts to get the All Blacks to bring more players to the ruck. It brings a different philosophy at ruck time, they were trying to disrupt the All Blacks’ attacking pattern by bringing more players to the ruck and then the attacking shape won’t be what it should be.

The British Lions’ set-piece was of a high standard and their forward effort was built on the success at Saracens, the pack had a very high work-rate.

But whether the Lions can back up that performance with another one at Eden Park in Auckland this weekend will be a hard task. They will need the same desperation and, at the end of a long season, will they be able to produce that again? They will need extra effort on the gain-line once again.

In SuperRugby, the Gauteng Lions basically had a game of touch rugby, but I thought the Bulls played well against the Sharks.

I’m a little worried by the inconsistency of the Sharks, they have been poor at home in too many games and I can’t see them winning on the road in New Zealand, so it’s definitely a problem. For Robert du Preez to so publicly take on his players shows that something is not right.

But the Bulls have clearly gained confidence in the break, they won the Mauritius 10s with their SuperRugby team and played some good rugby.

I’ve been quite impressed with how they have blooded youngsters and someone like Duncan Matthews has really come through.

It’s also very encouraging to see Jan Serfontein and Jesse Kriel play so well, and they have obviously gained confidence through their time together with the Springboks for the June Tests and they are both starting to show leadership.

Jesse is such a strong character and his enthusiasm rubs off on the players around him, and he is a big part of the new era at the Bulls.

When Jan decided to leave the Bulls, he was recovering from a long-term injury. But he’s been on the Springboks’ radar since 2012 and has never let them down. He has gained experience since being named World Junior Player of the Year in 2012 and the Test series against France saw him fulfil his potential.

One needs to look at Brendan Venter’s influence on him and you can just see the confidence and belief is there right now. Jan was backed at the start of the series and knew he would play all three Tests.

It always takes five or six weeks after long-term injury for a player to rediscover their form and then they really hit their straps in weeks eight to 10. It’s unfortunate that Jan is leaving, but I really hope he stays fit and can get to the 30-Test cut-off mark in the Rugby Championship.

It begs the question whether SA Rugby have made the right decision when it comes to the 30-Test cut-off for overseas eligibility, especially if a player gets injured (e.g. Marcell Coetzee, who is short of 30 caps because of injury), and how will it work going forward with Jan, who has signed to play in France but currently only has 29 caps?

The Springboks cannot ignore Jan’s form nor talent, or the impact he had on the series against France.

That being said, the success of the series was Allister Coetzee’s decision to pick mostly home-based players, which led to a great series win.

 

 

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.

Cook amongst the runs again as SA pile up massive lead 0

Posted on December 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Stephen Cook hit his second successive Test century as South Africa piled up a massive lead on the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

South Africa finished the day on 351 for five in their second innings and it was enough for them to lead by 432 with two days and five wickets remaining.

Cook was the mainstay of the innings with his 117 off 178 balls and it was an effort that put him in the record books alongside opening partner Dean Elgar, who scored 52 in a first-wicket stand of 116.

It was just the 10th time in Test history that the same opening pair have posted a hundred partnership in both innings of the same match and it is the first time since the famous Timeless Test against England in Durban in 1938/39 that South Africa had a century stand for the first wicket in both innings.

“It was great to bat with Dean for a period of time and nice to dovetail that we both got runs for the first time. If we can get a partnership going up front then it helps the team a lot and opening the batting is always about forging that partnership and the only way to do that is by spending time out in the middle.

“Australia was very tough and I went through some hardships there, but the hundred in Adelaide made me a bit more relaxed. Coming off a century you feel better about the way things are going and I was able to make a few little adjustments to my technique over the last three weeks and bed them down,” Cook said.

It was a wonderful day from beginning to end for the Proteas, with Vernon Philander striking with the first ball of the day as he had Sri Lankan top-scorer Dhananjaya de Silva (43) caught behind with a peach of a delivery, the first of two wickets in the opening over as the tourists were bowled out for 205, a first-innings deficit of 81.

Philander finished with five for 45 in 20 excellent overs, his 11th five-wicket haul in 38 Tests, while Kyle Abbott provided great support with three for 63 in 21.5 overs.

After Cook and Elgar’s 137-minute opening stand, interrupted twice by rain, Hashim Amla struck a fluent 48 off 53 balls, before he was trapped leg-before by Nuwan Pradeep, the 10 000th lbw dismissal in Test history.

JP Duminy (25) and Temba Bavuma (8) were both dismissed by off-spinner De Silva, but the finishing touches to a thoroughly dominant day for South Africa were applied by captain Faf du Plessis (41*) and Quinton de Kock (42*), who had added a brisk 74 in less than an hour by stumps.

Proteas in much better mental space – Boucher 0

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Ken

 

Former Proteas legend Mark Boucher believes it is the South African team which is in a vastly better mental space than the Australians following their wonderful victory in the first Test in Perth.

“It was sensational and it will have left Australia scratching their heads about which is their right side. I don’t think Mitchell Marsh is right at number six because he’s not the sort of guy to score you hundreds there, you compare him to someone like Mike Hussey and it’s chalk and cheese. So the Proteas are in a really good position if it’s the Australians asking questions after the first Test.

“The Proteas are in a much better space than Australia and their only real headache is selection for Hobart, which is a nice position to be in. Do they play Morne Morkel or Dwaine Pretorius, who has been in good form locally and can add extra with the bat.

“I believe we should be moving away from ‘horses for courses’ because we have guys who can perform in different conditions. I’m not too sure what Hobart will be like, they might give us a greentop and then maybe JP Duminy can do the spinner’s job.

“But thankfully we played the spinner in Perth, with the Fremantle Doctor that was a fantastic call, a spinner can bowl a lot of overs and Keshav Maharaj did a wonderful job. Australia don’t play spin too well, they don’t really rotate the strike, they just try to be aggressive. In the past, Paul Harris did a fabulous job for us when we won the series Down Under and they might decide to unleash Tabraiz Shamsi because they might feel the Australians don’t read him too well,” Boucher said.

The record-holder for most dismissals by a Test wicketkeeper paid special tribute to Kagiso Rabada, the 21-year-old fast bowler who had to shoulder so much responsibility after Dale Steyn broke down. Instead of buckling, Rabada flourished with five wickets in the final innings.

“We’ve seen in the past that KG really thrives on leading the bowling attack, when Dale and Vernon Philander were injured he really led from the front. When you put KG in that space, he seems to really enjoy the challenge, which is a big positive,” Boucher said.

 

 

Cricket is a strange game but Kingsmead was just stupid 0

Posted on August 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Cricket is, in many ways, a strange game but there is nothing as infuriating than play not taking place when blue skies and bright sunshine are overhead. That was the case in Durban last weekend as the first Test between South Africa and New Zealand was allowed to just die with only 99.4 overs being bowled in the match.

As an endangered species, Test cricket needs to be given utmost support and attention and I firmly believe that where there is a will, there is a way.

Notwithstanding the foolishness of Cricket South Africa digging up the Kingsmead outfield in order to soften it two weeks later than they should have, meaning it struggled to cope with unseasonal heavy rain in Durban, the villains of the peace for me were English umpires Ian Gould and Richard Illingworth, who showed little interest in actually getting play underway, so fixated were they on a few damp patches on the outfield.

The umpires are the final arbiters of what is fair and safe in terms of conditions, but lines have to be drawn somewhere. Both teams were eager to play – in fact the Proteas were gathered on the side of the field shortly after play was finally abandoned on the fifth day eager to have a run-around and get some fitness in, but they were prevented from going on to the field because that would have made the umpires look bad.

I am certain that if it had been an ODI or a T20 match with similar soft areas of outfield, a plan would have been made and the umpires would have done everything in their power to get a game underway.

As usual, the accountability has been shifted to Kingsmead, who never wanted the outfield to be dug up in the first place. The International Cricket Council, as usual, passed the buck. There was absolutely no communication from the match referee, Andy Pycroft, to explain why play was not possible, and he declined to speak to the media. What’s the point of having a match referee if that is their attitude?

To make matter worse, the umpires were so apathetic when it came to making an effort that they actually banned the groundstaff from the field when groundsman Wilson Ngobese and his staff wanted to proceed with mopping up operations, saying they preferred to allow natural processes like sun and wind to run their course.

Week in and week out rugby players are busy making crunching tackles and sidestepping such collisions in often wet conditions, but how often do one of them turn an ankle? With both teams happy to play, the only conclusion is that Gould and Illingworth were being overly precious.

The future of Test cricket may not bother them or Pycroft, but what happened at Kingsmead under their watch was a fiasco and just another small nail in the coffin of the original format of the game.

Proteas captain Faf du Plessis spoke earnestly on Friday about how, for them, Test cricket was still the ultimate and it needed better treatment from the ICC.

“Test cricket is still number one for the players and a Test Championship is a step in the right direction. You ask any of the international players and they will tell you that Test cricket is still the best thing to play and we need to play as many Tests as possible.

“You want to be able to say you’ve given everything on the field and that feeling of winning a Test can’t be copied, especially not by T20. I hope the ICC is looking at that,” Du Plessis said.

Sadly, the ICC are more interested in red tape and bureaucracy, and are way more likely to jump up and down about over-rates, sponsors’ logos being too big or a player saying something even mildly controversial in a press conference.

As usual, the administrators seem to think cricket fans are more interested in what they are up to than in the actual game they are meant to be serving.



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