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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – A great weekend of SA SuperRugby 1

Posted on April 04, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions v Sharks SuperRugby match at Ellis Park was a great game of rugby, so full of intensity, big hits and drama.

Maybe it did not have the accuracy you’d expect, but it was certainly exciting.

You have to credit the Sharks’ improvement, but the way the Lions just always stay in the fight shows they have the squad to win SuperRugby. It will be tough though, especially with the news that coach Johan Ackermann is leaving at the end of the campaign to join Gloucester.

The Lions have become an exciting counter-attacking team but they also set such high standards at maul and scrum time, which is why Johan’s departure is going to be such a massive loss. He’ll be missed not just as a head coach and person, but especially as an expert in the lineout and set-piece.

Nobody stays forever at a union though, whether you’re a player or a coach, and you just try and leave a legacy. Ackers has really done that at the Lions, what more can you say about the man?

Normally coaches appointed in England are allowed to take a trusted assistant with them, but in leaving Swys de Bruin behind, Johan has shown he obviously has a strong belief in the Gloucester structures and coaches.

Swys has been a head coach before at Griquas and is a brilliant man, so passionate about rugby, and I’m sure if he’s given the opportunity to succeed Ackers, he will carry that legacy through seamlessly.

But as an assistant coach, you’re focused on your area only and you make suggestions; as head coach you have to make the final decisions. You’re paid to make the right calls and how you recruit, manage people and set up systems in the union is also a big part of the job.

The Sharks were unfortunate to have a couple of TMO decisions go against them and that yellow card just before halftime was crucial. The try that resulted from it brought the Lions back into the game, otherwise the Sharks, if the disallowed try had stood as well, would have had a big enough lead at altitude to hang on, because you will suffer in the last 20 minutes at altitude, as the Sharks did.

Jaco Kriel is in the form of his life, making a nonsense of suggestions that playing in Japan is having a negative influence on his play, while Curwin Bosch was phenomenal, what a performance from the 19-year-old.

His confidence and ability to attempt some of the things he does is really pleasing to see and if you’re good enough then you’re old enough. Mike Tyson was at his best when he was 20 and Curwin sure has stuck his hand up.

If the Springboks want him to play at the 2019 World Cup then they have to get him into their structures now, sooner rather than later. He ticks all the boxes with his nerveless kicking and the range he gets with that right boot of his. And other teams won’t want to kick long on to him because he showed that he can drop-kick from deep as well.

It was a very special display from him and it was also encouraging how physical he was, while he has also proven that he’s a real factor with ball in hand. Curwin is the sort of player who provides game-breaking moments.

I know there has been talk about his defence at flyhalf, but Aaron Cruden and Beauden Barrett have had the same problems and there’s no way the All Blacks are not going to pick them!

The fact that Curwin can also play fullback is a massive bonus and I hope they get him in the Springbok mix as soon as possible.

The Stormers were magnificent at the weekend, to see the quality of their offloads and their willingness to try things from anywhere was a breath of fresh air. Compared to their mindset before, this was really exciting and you have to give credit to coach Robbie Fleck for giving them the confidence to play that way.

SP Marais is in the form of his life as well, and his ability to take the outside gap and get his nose and hands through the defensive line, putting away guys on his outside, is very pleasing. He didn’t have a contract at the start of the year, so it just shows what a player can achieve with a coach who backs and believes in you.

The Stormers are without three international centres in Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh and Huw Jones, which would knock any team for six, but they have still scored 29 tries in five matches and have been really good to watch.

The Cheetahs were in many ways the authors of their own demise and their defence was really poor. It has been in vogue for teams to hide certain defenders away from where the ball-carries are going to be, but this tactic bit the Cheetahs badly.

Cheslin Kolbe’s chase back on Henco Venter was brilliant to see, at that stage of the game it’s easy just to give up, but Cheslin really showed the spirit and will of the Stormers to play for each other.

I’m very excited for the Stormers game against the Chiefs this weekend and I expect their forwards to cause a lot more damage.

The Chiefs took a while to hit their straps against the Bulls, who were definitely better and forced them into errors. You have to give credit to the Bulls defence and they were very physical.

But like all New Zealand sides, the Chiefs like to keep the ball in play, they play high-risk, high-reward rugby and look to wear you out. They can keep ball in hand and play from all over the field, and they’re definitely one of the better Kiwi teams.

The Bulls were very good for 50 minutes but they just needed some tries from all that pressure. But it was a better performance and it was just a lineout error and then two grubbers when the winger did not come across on defence that cost them.

It’s going to be exciting to see them in Tokyo this week playing against the Sunwolves.

It’s a measure how global SuperRugby is that the Bulls can go from playing in Auckland last weekend to now playing in Japan. It was just a year ago that SuperRugby went to 18 teams, and now just a year later, it seems it will revert to 15 or 16 teams, nobody knows.

So what has happened in one year to necessitate this change and has anybody taken responsibility for what obviously must have been a mistake?

 

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.

A buzzing that killed the Wanderers buzz … until Pierre arrived 0

Posted on February 07, 2017 by Ken

 

The buzzing atmosphere of a full Wanderers Bullring has always been one of the standout features of South African cricket, but there was also a buzzing of a kind less conducive to cricket on Saturday as the third one-day international between the Proteas and Sri Lanka was interrupted for an hour by a swarm of bees.

Midway through the Sri Lankan innings, the players were forced to lie flat on the ground by the swarm, which also colonised wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock’s helmet left behind him on the field. Play resumed for a short while but then the umpires took the players off the field.

The groundstaff tried to cajole the hive into a wheelie-bin and also sprayed a couple of fire extinguishers on them, which just temporarily dispersed them and presumably made them more angry.

Enter one Pierre Hefer, who has obviously been taught the parable of the Good Samaritan.

Hefer, who describes himself as a hobbyist beekeeper, said he was sitting at home in Emmarentia watching the cricket and the delay as none of the plans against the bees worked, when he realised he could help.

Amazingly, and fortuitously, security allowed him to park outside the stadium and gain entry without a ticket nor accreditation. Being dressed in white overalls, with long boots and gloves and carrying trays containing honey and wax, obviously helped him convince the authorities that he was supplying an emergency service.

Hefer said the honey and wax were the key ingredients in attracting the bees into a container. The trick, according to the silver-haired hero of the day, is to keep the bees congregated on whatever they have settled on, making them far easier to move.

The Wanderers has seen many heroes during the 61 years it has been in use, but few have been as unlikely as Pierre Hefer, the beekeeper who was sitting at home and came over to help. It was certainly the biggest crowd he has ever performed in front of and the gratitude of the masses who had gathered for the Pink ODI in order to raise awareness and funds for the fight against breast cancer was obvious.

 

Nollis rightly gives full credit to the Lions 0

Posted on May 30, 2016 by Ken

 

Few would have disagreed with Bulls coach Nollis Marais when he gave the Lions full credit for their dazzling 56-20 victory in their SuperRugby derby at Loftus Versfeld at the weekend.

“The Lions were excellent, they played for the whole 80 minutes and showed us how far behind we are, the score reflects that. The Lions showed why they are a top-class side, they are all excellent rugby players and definite title contenders. We learnt a lot tonight because they are similar to the New Zealand sides,” Marais said.

Although the Lions backs scored some spectacular tries, it was up front where they first got their hooks into the Bulls, with a mighty display from their pack.

“We stole a couple of their lineouts early on, but then we lost two or three and the lineout became messy. The first scrum was a penalty against us and the next one was fed on to the prop’s leg and bounced out, plus we were penalised a lot at the breakdown. We couldn’t get our set-pieces going, so we were just hanging on, we couldn’t play,” Marais said.

The Bulls coach said he was gutted, not so much at the loss – because the Lions are a brilliant side – but at the performance which was nowhere near the levels they reached the previous weekend against the Stormers.

Lions coach Johan Ackermann agreed that the display was one of the best his team have produced this season.

“Obviously we’re very pleased, we played for the whole 80 and it was probably one of the better performances we’ve had. The credit must go to the players because they’ve worked on some of the lessons from the Hurricanes game and worked really hard on the contact area which is so important to our game.

“The Bulls are definitely a good team, big and physical with a strong defence, so I would have taken any win. Credit to the whole pack, who put in a lot of hard work, and the exceptional finishing of the backs,” Ackermann said.

Meyer shows flexibility & daring despite dark injury cloud 0

Posted on November 06, 2015 by Ken

 

For all the talk of a dark injury cloud hanging over South African rugby, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has still been able to name a squad full of exciting young talent for the quadrangular series that starts next weekend against Italy, Scotland and Samoa.

Saturday night might be all right for fighting, but Meyer’s announcement of his new 34-man squad at Newlands was met with far less criticism than much of what he did last year.

Perhaps it’s because Meyer has shown a flexibility and daring that did not seem to be part of his character during his safety-first initial year in charge.

The most obvious sign of this is the selection of Willie le Roux, the ultimate anti-structure player, someone who wears an 11 on his back for the Cheetahs but roams all over the field.

Le Roux is the epitome of the rugby gambler, he’s always looking first for the opportunity to try something attacking, and kicking, although a skill of his, is definitely a last-ditch option.

While Meyer has grasped the nettle and chosen the man who is the Cheetahs’ creative force, he seems a little nervous about what he might have unleashed upon his carefully structured team and admitted that he has had discussions with Le Roux about playing the percentages better.

“I had a great chat with Willie at the training camp. He brings the X-factor that you need at times, but there’s a fine line in Test rugby. You can bring the X-factor but you mustn’t give up tries because there’s an average difference of one try per game in Tests,” Meyer said.

The uncapped Le Roux is likely to be used at fullback, where Meyer’s resources have been plundered by injuries to JP Pietersen, Frans Steyn, Jaco Taute and Zane Kirchner, who is in the squad but unlikely to play until the final match.

“I’m going to look at playing Willie at 15, I love it when a fullback comes in behind the flyhalf like he does for the Cheetahs. We want to improve on attack and score more tries.

“I was very worried about fullback, but now we have options and I will definitely consider Pat Lambie and Gio Aplon there as well,” Meyer said.

Le Roux has skills that are normally seen only once in a blue moon on a rugby field, so even if Meyer involves him off the bench, he is going to bring a different dimension, and most notably more vision, to the Springbok backline.

It is pleasing as well to see some fresh blood introduced into the loose forward stocks in the form of Lappies Labuschagne and Siya Kolisi, both of whom have had major impacts in SuperRugby, for the Cheetahs and Stormers respectively.

While it is highly likely Francois Louw, Willem Alberts and Pierre Spies will form the starting loose trio, it is also probable that one of the uncapped trio of Labuschagne, Kolisi or Arno Botha will win a place on the bench alongside Marcell Coetzee.

The presence of utility backs such as Ruan Pienaar, Le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht, Lambie and Francois Hougaard in the squad means Meyer should be able to use a 6-2 split on the bench, with an entire front row now required due to the new IRB regulations.

It will be a daunting task for any team to front up to the big hits that Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Eben Etzebeth, Alberts, Spies, Tendai Mtawarira, Flip van der Merwe, Coetzee, Labuschagne, Kolisi and Botha routinely dish up. It is also what the Bulls have based their game plan on, and they are the in-form team in SuperRugby at the moment.

Saturday night’s squad announcement also tees up centre Jan Serfontein, loosehead prop Trevor Nyakane, scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, lock Pieter-Steph du Toit and tighthead prop Lourens Adriaanse for a Test debut over the next three weeks.

Jean de Villiers has been confirmed as the captain so he will either play at number 12 or number 13. If he plays at 13 – and the only other options are Engelbrecht and Juan de Jongh, who is still recovering from injury – then Serfontein is a shoe-in at inside centre.

He may only be 20 years old, but Serfontein has already stamped his presence in the Bulls’ midfield and he is a powerful, as well as dynamic, attacking force.

Meyer said he was delighted to be able to pick such talented youngsters.

“A lot of great, experienced Springboks are not in the squad, but I’m very happy to be able to pick these youngsters after very good SuperRugby form. We have to give players chances so that we prepare for the Rugby Championship, but still pick our best side for every Test. It’s about winning and being humble and not underestimating the opposition. But a couple of these youngsters deserve a start,” Meyer said.

Meyer said he had chosen an expanded squad of 34 players in order to prepare for the Rugby Championship against Southern Hemisphere rivals New Zealand, Australia and Argentina, which explains the presence of Bismarck du Plessis, De Jongh and Kirchner, all of whom have played next to no rugby in recent weeks and can’t realistically be expected to come straight back at Test level.
The Springbok coach said he aimed to back experience while still giving youth its head.

“This series is part of our preparation for the Rugby Championship, so I won’t be picking a different side every week. There will be new caps and it is a very young squad. But I also need to give players lots of Tests so they can reach 30 or 40 by the World Cup, so it’s a catch-22.

“I’ll probably go with experience to start, but with youngsters coming off the bench. I am loyal to performance and we’re going to have some great players in future,” Meyer said.

And he can say that again.

Squad: Willie le Roux, Gio Aplon, Zane Kirchner, Bryan Habana, Jean de Villiers, JJ Engelbrecht, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Lwazi Mvovo, Morné Steyn, Pat Lambie, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Willem Alberts, Lappies Labuschagné, Francois Louw, Marcell Coetzee, Siya Kolisi, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Bismarck du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Tendai Mtawarira, Trevor Nyakane.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-03-springbok-squad-safety-first-meyer-shows-flexibility-daring/#.VkCHoLcrLIU

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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.
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    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

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    "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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