for quality writing

Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – The intent is obviously there 0

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the quality of the games last weekend, I am really looking forward to this weekend’s SuperRugby action, with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions looking like South Africa’s three major contenders.

Last weekend we saw very different South African derbies to what we normally see and the will to attack was clearly there. The intent was obviously there to play with ball in hand and the teams played with real speed in terms of tempo, and pace, which made a heck of an impact.

An example of this was when the Stormers took a quick tap and scored seven points against the Bulls; they, in particular, showed more intent than they have in the past.

The effects of the new tackle law, meaning players now have to go lower with their hits, were also evident in that there were more offloads. Attacks can now continue through the tackle because the arms are free and the tall guys can get the ball above the tackle. It keeps the ball alive and it has led to a lot more continuity.

What was really impressive to me was how lean some of the leading Springboks looked. Guys like Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi looked in great shape and the speed they played at was a direct consequence of their fitness levels.

There’s definitely been a huge emphasis on conditioning through the franchises and it could mean the end of the New Zealand and Australian sides feeling that a high ball-in-play figure is their secret to success because the South African teams will tire.

While the Stormers were fantastic, what was encouraging about the Bulls was that they never gave up, which is huge. They denied the Stormers a bonus point, which at the end of the day could be vital; from 24-0 up at halftime, the Stormers really needed to get that bonus point. The second half would have provided a huge swing in confidence for the Bulls.

In the Cheetahs versus Lions game in Bloemfontein, the visitors really got out of jail, but if you can score three tries away from home then you deserve your victory.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg showed his finishing power and speed, while the Lions’ try down the short side to win the match showed again that rugby is about defending the full width of the field, even if you only have two or three metres to touch.

The penalty try given off a driving maul was a game-changer; most referees would have copped out and just given a penalty, but if the maul is set and moving forward then it deserves that decision, so credit to referee Quinton Immelman for his brave call.

The Southern Kings looked better and scored some really good tries, but again conceded turnovers at crucial times. During the first half they were in control for long periods, but a yellow card really cost them and prop Ross Geldenhuys was lucky not to get a red card, which a knee to the back should be penalised with.

The major talking point of the last week in the rugby world, however, was Italy and their decision not to contest rucks against England.

I had lunch with Brendan Venter last week and he mentioned that they were going to do it. Any tactic that is new and innovative has to be applauded and it certainly took England a long time to cope with it, so credit to Brendan and the rest of the Italian coaching staff and players for that.

But I believe World Rugby do need to look at the law. As defence coaches, we encourage players to get back on their feet and in the defensive line, but now teams might just try to herd the attacking team into a small radius of the ruck, which would not be good for the game.

It would take a full week of coaching to get a game plan against Italy’s tactic. It was  a real shock-and-awe strategy and difficult to adapt to on your feet. In fact, England played into Italy’s hands with their counter to it, so it clearly worked as a tactic.

 

 

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.

John McFarland Column: Boks are in a dark space & I know how that feels 0

Posted on November 23, 2016 by Ken

 

It was obviously a big shock for the Springboks to have lost to Italy at the weekend and everybody involved will feel that they have let the country down. But it’s now about going forward and getting things right for this weekend’s game against Wales.

The key is the coach, the wolf pack follows the pace of the leader and if he’s energised and shows how hard he wants to fight, then the rest will follow.

The nice thing about sport is that you get the chance to turn things around the next week and a good win against Wales will maybe show that the players have settled in better into the new game-plan.

In any coach’s life, they will go through a crisis, they will have a bad loss, because nobody wins 100% of the time. Every coach has their time under pressure, even the best coaches – for example Jose’ Mourinho at Chelsea or Eddie Jones at the Reds.

They’ve got to know what to do and how to put it right the following week.

In my time with the Springboks, I was part of the squad that lost to Japan at the World Cup. That was also a big blow to all our careers and I remember the day itself very well.

During the week everyone was filled with euphoria, we had landed in London, had the World Cup welcome, and we were really over-confident.

Japan certainly deserved their win, as did Italy last weekend.

On that Saturday evening in Brighton, it felt like being in a dark hole, certainly the players were feeling that. We had a very short meeting, some of the senior guys stood up and said it wasn’t good enough and we had to make sure we came back. We were still in the World Cup, so we were lucky that we had the chance to turn it around.

When you lose like that, everyone goes in different directions, especially when it’s the national team. Nobody looks anyone in the eyes, everyone feels a huge responsibility for their role in the disaster.

As part of the coaching staff, you pore through the video, looking at what was good and what was bad, preparing yourself for a really critical review of exactly what went wrong and how to better it. You deal with the team and also individuals in one-on-one situations.

After that game we had a long trip to Birmingham, five hours on a bus, and not one word was spoken. We stopped for lunch and there was still very little chat.

We kept the physical routine the same that week, but we made some key changes in other areas of our schedule.

On the Monday morning the players had their usual gym and recovery sessions, but then instead of a review of the game, we had an inquest. Every player got up and took responsibility for their part in the defeat, and said what they were going to get right and bring to the table for the next weekend.

Believe me, tears were shed because it’s pretty galling that the game you played with such joy as a child can put you in such a dark space.

Responsibility was taken by the whole group. Heyneke Meyer stood at the front and said this is the way we are going to do it from now on.

With all that cleaned out of the way, I remember there was a new focus from the players, everyone made a tremendous shift. Jean de Villiers led from the front, he said we will fix this, we will put it right, as did all the senior players. Training was very physical and intense that week as you’d expect from a wounded Springbok team.

Then they put on a real performance of pride and passion in beating Samoa 46-6, allowing them zero tries as we absolutely smashed them backwards. Duane Vermeulen was only meant to play about 50 minutes, but he played the full 80 and put in a real shift at the coalface.

Unfortunately Jean de Villiers was injured in that match and had to return home, but we won all our games after losing to Japan and pushed the All Blacks to within two points in the World Cup semifinal, the difference being a Dan Carter drop goal and an overturned penalty.

We were all really proud at the fact that we had come back and pushed New Zealand really close, putting on a far better performance against them than Australia did in the final, and then we took the bronze medal from Argentina in convincing fashion.

Heyneke Meyer pulled the team together with his staff and senior players, the core group pushed the boat in the right direction. From the Monday after the Japan loss, we were one team and we knew that one more defeat would put us out of the World Cup.

Some of the squad have been involved in both defeats to Japan and Italy and hopefully they can turn it around now like they did in the World Cup.

It’s always a battle of the gainline against Wales, with Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Biggar, and the Springboks will need to be really defensively solid in the backs … and obviously take their opportunities much better than they did against Italy.

 

 

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.

Aussies looking for plenty of intel in ODI series 0

Posted on September 25, 2016 by Ken

 

The Australian cricket team have arrived in South Africa and are looking forward to getting plenty of knowledge from their five-match ODI series against the Proteas that starts at Centurion next Friday.

That the Australians have at least one eye on the Test series they will host against South Africa in November is borne out by their selection for the ODI matches, with three uncapped pace bowlers included in Daniel WorrallJoe Mennie and Chris Tremain, leaving John Hastings (23 ODIs) and Scott Boland (10 caps) to lead the attack. Leggie Adam Zampa, who has played just a dozen ODIs, is the frontline spinner.

South Africa, under pressure to arrest their slide to fourth in the ODI rankings, by way of contrast have chosen what is expected to be their Test attack in Australia, minus Vernon Philander.

“We do have quite a turnover of players in our ODI side but that’s because we want to give the Test players a break. The guys handle it very well, they’ve been fantastic, and it allows us to give players chances at this level, we chop and change the bowlers so Steve Smith knows he has a lot of depth in that department.

“We want to make sure everyone gets game time, we’re looking ahead to major championships and players must adapt. There are good reasons for Mitchell Starc and Josh Hazlewood not being here – we have a Test series coming up and we want to give them a break.

“So this ODI series will be a challenge for some good young players and hopefully our fast bowlers can step up. We have pace and swing from the three debutants, John Hastings has done very well for us in the past and Scotty Boland did very well last year,” Australia coach Darren Lehmann said at their Sandton hotel on Wednesday.

“A few of South Africa’s bowling attack are also part of the Test squad so it’s a chance to play against them and hopefully get into rhythm against them. Their batsmen are also generally the same in Tests, so we can learn from bowling at them too,” captain Smith said.

Australia are fresh off a 4-1 ODI series win in Sri Lanka with George Bailey enjoying a prolific series, and with Smith and David Warner the obvious other threats in a strong batting line-up.

Both the captain and coach said South Africa were a top-class side in their own conditions.

“These conditions are probably the most similar to Australia, so it’s not so foreign, generally there’s good pace and bounce. It should be exciting one-day cricket with good scores, I’m sure it will be different to Sri Lanka,” Smith said.

Piedt amongst the spinners flourishing in SA cricket’s ‘po’ phase 0

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Ken

 

Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking, created the term “po” to describe an idea which moves thinking forward to a new place from where new ideas or solutions may be found. It’s probably not stretching things too far to suggest South African cricket is having a few po moments of its own, especially when it comes to spinners.

Omar Henry has had a long and successful journey through South African cricket: first as a player of colour he broke down barriers during Apartheid, as a fine left-arm spinner and a dangerous lower-order batsman he was highly respected both here and overseas, where he famously played for Scotland. He was already 40 when official international cricket returned, but he was still good enough to become the first non-white to play for South Africa.

After he retired in 1994, Henry turned to coaching and then became the convenor of the national selectors before entering the boardroom as the CEO of Boland cricket.

He has now returned to coaching and was helping out on Tuesday at the national academy at the centre of excellence at the University Of Pretoria, and he told The Citizen that the sight of three frontline spinners playing for South Africa in the West Indies triangular had been thrilling if scarcely believable.

Henry was keeping a beady eye on the spinners at the national academy nets and he had an interesting assistant in current Test spinner Dane Piedt, who was also bowling a few overs.

Piedt is one of the South African spinners who is not involved in limited-overs cricket or T20 competitions (perhaps he should be?), and with Test cricket starting again in August with two home games against New Zealand, he is needing practice, especially since the Cape weather is really not conducive to any sort of outdoor activity at the moment.

“It’s the end of the world in Cape Town at the moment! The weather channel says there’s an 85% chance of rain but it’s more like 105%. So I needed to come up here and get some work in before the SA A side goes to Zimbabwe and Australia,” the 26-year-old said after taking a break from the serious stuff.

The idea of a current player coaching up-and-coming stars who could be competing with him for places in teams is another example of forward-thinking, and it was wonderful to see the many different generations that academy head Shukri Conrad has roped in to help at the academy. Vincent Barnes was a prolific bowler of the 1980s, while Henry and Jimmy Cook were there from South Africa’s early years back in international cricket, as were Shaun Pollock and Gary Kirsten from the next era, more recent players like Andre Nel and Greg Smith, and then current stars Piedt and Stephen Cook.

For Piedt, doing some coaching was an eye-opening experience.

“I told Shukri that I actually learn a lot about my own game watching these youngsters. I remember the things that I used to do, what my weaknesses are, so it helps a lot just to focus on your own game. Guys like Robin Peterson, Claude Henderson and Paul Adams passed on to me what they knew about bowling and now I’m passing on the little I’ve learnt to these guys, which is exciting,” Piedt said.

Much of the off-season talk in South African cricket has been around playing pink ball day/nighters in Australia and how our players are going to prepare for a totally new challenge. De Bono would be proud of the positive attitude with which the Proteas are tackling this leap into the unknown.

“I’ve never played with a pink ball before, so it’s unknown territory, but the game is changing so rapidly these days and we need to keep up. When the SA A side meets up on July 2 we’re going to try and get a couple of pink balls into the nets to work out how they are different, devise strategies for it.

“I watched that Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide and Nathan Lyon and Mark Craig were getting quite a bit of spin, even with the ball swinging all over the place. Apparently there are a lot of differences and you tend to see it, lose it and then pick it up again in the field,” Piedt said.

Piedt has taken 22 wickets in his five Tests in a career that was interrupted for over a year by a serious shoulder injury after his eight-wicket debut against Zimbabwe in Harare. He is the incumbent spinner after playing in three of the four Tests against England last summer and he feels he ticked the box when it came to consistency.

“The big thing for me was getting that consistency, being able to land the ball in the same place and build pressure. Taking three for 38 in 18 overs in the second innings in Cape Town really helped my confidence and then I felt I came into my own in the last Test at Centurion. And then the Tests just stopped!

“But England have a very strong batting line-up and I felt I was expensive early on. I want to put the two together, go for two/2.5 runs-per-over and also take wickets. I want to implement the parts of my game where I feel strong, like being aggressive. I was pleased with 10 wickets in the series on good surfaces,” Piedt said.

For the moment, the South African selectors are only seeing Piedt as a long-format player, but who knows what might happen in the future.

Few would have predicted the current success of Tabraiz Shamsi, who has proven an able deputy for the unstoppable Imran Tahir, while Aaron Phangiso also fulfils a valuable role and the likes of Eddie Leie and Simon Harmer are also waiting in the wings.

http://citizen.co.za/1172155/piedt-among-the-spinners-flourishing-in-sa-crickets-po-phase/



↑ Top