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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: How do the Springboks beat Ireland? 0

Posted on November 08, 2017 by Ken

 

The first priority for the Springboks when they meet Ireland in Dublin on Saturday will be to defuse the Irish kicking game.

Ireland have very strong halfbacks with a very good aerial game, especially the pinpoint accuracy of Conor Murray’s box-kicks, which he is able to launch from behind the maul.

Which is why Allister Coetzee will choose such a big pack, with Pieter-Steph du Toit in the back row it means they have an extra jumper at the tail and three big lineout forwards. It is vital that the Springbok forwards get on top and make sure that the Ireland halfbacks get back-foot ball. Ross Cronje can then get after flyhalf Jonathan Sexton and the locks can look after Murray on his box-kicks.

It was interesting to see in New Zealand during the Lions tour how there was a clear plan to unsettle Murray by attacking him on the blindside and rushing on to his non-kicking foot. I don’t think the Springboks will do the same thing – the legality of the tactic is a bit dubious, but it shows that he can be unsettled.

In terms of receiving those Irish kicks, Allister Coetzee has gone for continuity all year and Dillyn Leyds and Courtnall Skosan are both good under the high ball. It’s similar to how the All Blacks go behind Aaron Smith’s kicks, but it’s not just about the way you catch those balls, it’s also about getting escorts back and making it difficult for the opposition to get a clear jump, and getting numbers around the first ruck.

It’s also an advantage having Andries Coetzee at fullback because Sexton is a bit different to every other international kicker in that he is prepared to launch lots of torpedo kicks. They are quite hard to take because they move quicker through the air and gain more distance.

The torpedo is a more high-risk kick, it requires a higher skill level and it depends on having time on the ball. The punt is safer and more accurate, which is why most kicking coaches favour it. But Sexton’s kicking coach is Dave Alred, who worked with the Springboks in 2014 for two weeks, and he is a big advocate of the torpedo kick.

But because Coetzee is left-footed and both Irish halfbacks are right-footed, they will be kicking into his strength and he can also do the torpedo kick.

Otherwise the Springboks should just continue in the same vein as they ended the Rugby Championship: a good set-piece, a strong maul, good defence, getting their ball-carriers over the gain-line and dominating the collisions.

The other key for South Africa is to defuse Ireland’s ball-carriers on the gain-line. It will be interesting to see CJ Stander starting in his adopted country against the Springboks and whether they are able to put him on the back foot because Ireland get a lot of momentum and base a lot of attacking play off his carries. I’m sure he will be very motivated to right the wrong of the Cape Town Test last year when he got a red card. Francois Louw and Siya Kolisi against Stander is going to be a revealing battle.

In 2012, Heyneke Meyer picked a lot of apprentice Springboks in his first Test squad and Stander and Kolisi were both in that wider group. They are both world-class performers and it will be a great contest.

Allister Coetzee will maybe start Handre Pollard at flyhalf, but there is a little problem in that position because neither he nor Elton Jantjies have played a live, competitive game since the All Blacks match a month ago in Cape Town, which is a small disadvantage.

Even though Pollard has been training a lot, he hasn’t started a game for a long time. But if they feel he is the right guy going forward, and you do get different things from him, then they should choose him sooner rather than later.

Pollard is a lot faster to the gain-line, he’s a threat with ball-in-hand and has a great show-and-go. He has the ability to beat defenders off front-foot ball, whereas Jantjies is more of a distributor.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Damian de Allende get a start at inside centre. He has been picked in front of Francois Venter, who has been playing more at outside centre, all year, he has size and good feet and is a fantastic distributor. De Allende had a stellar year in 2015 but has not quite hit the same levels since then, so hopefully he will now get a good run of Tests. The Springboks generally favour having a ball-carrying, gain-line dominator at 12.

Otherwise Allister Coetzee will probably reward the guys who played quite well against New Zealand in the last Test, you have to show faith as a coach; Heyneke Meyer always said loyalty to performance was important.

It will be interesting to see how Malcolm Marx does starting a Test overseas after his world-class performance at Newlands, can he maintain that consistency?

That applies to Steven Kitshoff too and with Wilco Louw coming through, the props can rotate. The stronger scrummagers should start and establish dominance, and then the more mobile props can come on and ram home the advantage.

Matt Proudfoot has done a great job establishing six good front row forwards and in the World Cup year, Vincent Koch will come into the mix as well. Plus there’s Frans Malherbe and Trevor Nyakane, so there should be plenty of props going into 2019. It will be a nice selection headache to have.

Ireland have a strong front row, though, with Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath, so the scrum battle will obviously be worth watching.

The Springboks need a good start in this European tour, winning the first two games is important.

 

 

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.

Standard Bank jump in at grassroots level to ensure decent opportunities for all 0

Posted on October 31, 2017 by Ken

 

That there is enormous cricketing potential in this country is generally accepted, but due to a variety of reasons, it is tough for Cricket South Africa (CSA) to ensure all our communities get decent opportunities to play the game.

CSA’s development programmes are one thing, but what happens next? How do those talented young cricketers in the outlying areas then get to play enough decent matches, how are they transported to matches, what facilities do they have with which to hone their game? Are they given the love of cricket and then just left to their own devices?

CSA identified these problems and came up with the idea of hubs and regional performance centres (RPCs).

The RPCs have been a heck of a success in ensuring it is no longer the case that talented young cricketers from disadvantaged areas are lost to the system due to socio-economic circumstances. And, in tremendous news for South African cricket, it has been announced on Thursday that Standard Bank, the headline sponsors of the Proteas, will no longer be focused on just the pinnacle of the pipeline, but are now making a major contribution at grassroots level with their sponsorship of the RPC programme.

The implementation of the RPC programme means CSA are now making great headway in terms of building relationships with communities and local municipalities. And now this progress will be accelerated thanks to the support of Standard Bank, who have added this vital development initiative to their naming rights sponsorship of the national team.

“Standard Bank has been a key supporter and sponsor of the Proteas for many years and by sponsoring the RPCs we hope to develop the immense cricketing talent we have in our country.

Budding young cricketers in many outlying areas are still in desperate need of facilities and coaching, and this RPC in Soweto will assist in helping these players fulfil their true potential and turn their dreams into reality,” Vuyo Masinda from Standard Bank said at the launch of the new deal at the Dobsonville RPC in Soweto on Thursday.

There are RPCs in all nine provinces, with each having several hubs in their stable acting as feeders. Having a centralised venue dedicated to nurturing the disadvantaged talent in the vicinity allows CSA to pour resources into it, ensuring there is adequate infrastructure with which to develop quality cricketers.

Girls and women’s cricket is also included in this programme.

The quality of coaching is also of the greatest importance and each RPC must have a head coach who is Level III certified and an assistant coach who is Level II certified. The Hubs must have a head coach who is Level II certified and an assistant coach who is Level I certified.

The feeder system for the Hubs starts with the KFC Mini-Cricket programme and, thanks to the Momentum Friendship Games, the Hubs and RPCs get to play against the leading schools in their area.

Some of the franchise players who will be acting as mentors for the programme include Omphile Ramela, Malusi Siboto, Khaya Zondo, Mangaliso Mosehle and Temba Bavuma.

The John McFarland Column: Looking back at the fantastic Newlands Test 0

Posted on October 13, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic game of rugby it was at Newlands, with the incredible atmosphere, the pace, intensity and physicality making it real Test match rugby.

Unfortunately the Springboks lost, but they gave a huge performance and the All Blacks will know they were lucky to win. It was so pleasing to see the Springboks go from 57-0 to losing by just a point, but they should have won.

Of course the game could have been different had Nehe Milner-Skudder’s break been finished off or Rieko Ioane had not been tackled over the goal-line by Jesse Kriel, those 14 points could have deflated the Springboks. But it was also the home side’s own mistakes that gave the All Blacks the points they needed.

Even the last-minute controversy was avoidable because it’s always a risk rushing for the charge down; you need to come at an angle so you don’t hit the kicker head-on. It’s to protect the kicker and Damian was too square-on. He did manage to put Lima Sopoaga off his drop kick, but he also would have known he was late and risked sanction, and conceded the penalty anyway. It wasn’t the best moment in Damian de Allende’s rugby life and it changed the complexion of the game because the All Blacks were then two scores clear and with just 14 men on the field, it was an uphill task for the Springboks.

The breakdown turnovers were the key and you could see the reaction of the team after Malcolm Marx and Francois Louw stole the ball. The mix of the back row Allister Coetzee chose came in for a lot of criticism but it was done for a reason.

Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw were the two breakdown players, which you need to disrupt the All Blacks’ attacking pattern, and Pieter-Steph du Toit provided physicality and bolstered the lineout.

In terms of the Springbok kicking game, they kicked a bit more than previously, although I find it strange that the crowd boos our own scrumhalf for kicking box-kicks, while the New Zealand scrumhalf is applauded for doing it. The plan was clearly to have contestable kicks to test the All Blacks back three. In the last World Cup semi-final, Milner-Skudder dropped a few high balls and was eventually moved away from the wing, so that was clearly part of the Springboks’ plan at Newlands.

You can’t just run willy-nilly from your own half, sometimes you’ve got to kick. It must either be long into the 22, which gives you time to build a chase line or force the catcher to kick out and give you a lineout; or he will kick long which gives you the chance to put the running bomb up; or it must be contestable. If you’re accurate enough then you have a 50/50 chance of winning the ball back, or you can put in a dominant tackle, get a turnover or just slow their ball down.

That did not happen in Ross Cronje’s box-kick that led to Damian McKenzie’s spectacular try, but to be fair, David Havili was allowed too much space and time to run across the field. The Springboks have struggled with guys running across their defensive line, it raises doubts as to whether the outside defender should turn in or trust the player on the inside. It’s something the Springboks have got to tighten up.

What was probably most pleasing of all – and credit must go to their conditioning for this – was that the Springboks were much stronger at the end of the game, both physically and mentally. Playing at sea level, as predicted, was also important because it makes it a level playing field.

The performance of the pack was magnificent, they were bristling on the gain-line, they won the collisions and they really gained confidence from the lineout. The Springboks went for four-man lineouts and then the short ball, which ensured they were able to win quality possession. The maul try they scored was also really pleasing.

The forwards seem to be in that special zone right now where they are full of confidence and intensity and they are really playing for each other.

We should also not underestimate Francois Louw’s calmness and experience and just his assurance, which definitely has an impact on his fellow forwards on and off the field.

Elton Jantjies’ kick at goal that he didn’t put over was also important and at international level you’ve got to convert those chances.

The main problem with the backline was that they were a little too deep and too lateral. Everyone wishes they can have a flat attack, because that’s what causes the defence the most problems, and it was better when Handre Pollard came on. Then again, there has to be quick ruck ball for the number 10 to take the ball into the jaws of the defence.

Ironically, the shorter lineouts do actually cause a problem for the backs because then there’s not much chance for them to have a one-on one. It’s good that Allister Coetzee is backing combinations because that induces trust, but he needs to be aware if, over a period of time, players aren’t really performing.

With the backs being a bit too lateral and too deep at Newlands, it allowed the All Blacks to pick off the carriers in the backline. It was interesting when Pollard came on that he played much flatter to the gain-line, which brought his forwards more into play, for example when Malcolm Marx hit the hole and set up the try for Jean-Luc du Preez.

For the end-of-year tour it will obviously be different conditions to South Africa, especially compared to on the highveld.

Both the matches against Ireland and Wales will be played in stadia with roofs, which makes a difference. Hopefully the Springboks have now found the formula that works for them.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The ICC: Growing and promoting cricket and making all the wrong decisions 0

Posted on July 26, 2017 by Ken

 

On their own website, the International Cricket Council state their vision as custodians and administrators of the game.

They say it is to “lead the continued drive towards more competitive, entertaining and meaningful cricket for players and fans. We will grow the sport by creating more opportunities for more people and nations to enjoy it and increase the competitiveness of international cricket at all levels. We will promote cricket by delivering exciting and engaging global events, attracting new and diverse fans and building long-term successful commercial partnerships. And finally, we will continue to make considerable efforts to protect the integrity of the sport.”

It’s all good and well that that is their vision, but unfortunately the ICC have a notorious history of almost inevitably making the wrong decision when it comes to the good of cricket.

The citing and subsequent suspension of Proteas fast bowler Kagiso Rabada for the second Test against England, which started in Nottingham on Friday, is a case in point.

Yes, Rabada was a naughty boy for swearing on the field. Thank heavens the ICC are stamping down on such behaviour that clearly poses a major threat to the game. I look forward to the day when they have undercover agents patrolling the stands, banning spectators who swear. I am sure, too, that the ICC will be putting pressure on their beloved broadcast partners to ensure they do not show movies with any of that vile language on their channels. Standards are standards after all.

Rabada was not suspended for swearing per se, of course, but rather because the one demerit point he was given took him to the threshold of four points that brings with it a one-match ban. The majority of those four points came from an incident in January when he shoved Sri Lankan batsman Niroshan Dickwella.

It is important, of course, to ensure decent standards of player behaviour, but there are better remedies than removing a star player from a crucial game in a high-profile series. Cricket is ultimately the loser this week as those watching the Trent Bridge clash are denied the joy of watching a great fast bowler locking horns with some fine batsmen. Rabada versus the combative Ben Stokes is always compelling viewing, and a fast bowler with fire has always been one of the best sights in cricket.

Instead of devaluing their own product, which is in desperate need of proper marketing, why does the ICC not rather fine players for their misdemeanours? I know some people will say the cricketers earn so much they don’t care about paying thousands of Rands in fines, but my experience of contract negotiations and the general behaviour of players shows they care just as much about money as the rest of us do.

The ICC have far more important things to worry about than a swear word uttered in the heat of combat.

Justice has been swift in Rabada’s case, but when are the ICC going to put in place a proper structure and context for international cricket? Their incompetence in this regard is putting their premier product – Test cricket – at risk. They have put their heads together innumerable times to discuss this issue and yet they have still come up with nothing. It’s enough to make a puritan want to swear.

In England, at this time of year, the sun stays up right into what we (except for those living in Cape Town, which is part of Europe anyway) would consider night – at 8pm it is still quite bright enough to play cricket. But in the first Test at Lord’s, those in the paying seats and those watching in their lounges did not see the prescribed 90 overs of play on any of the four days of play.

I get a little tired of some of the obsession about over-rates, because, if it’s a gripping contest, nobody cares if a team is bowling 12 overs per hour or 14. But if the conditions allow it, then play should continue for as long as necessary to get the prescribed overs in.

What brought the game of cricket more into disrepute – Rabada’s outburst or the actions of the match officials in Durban in 2016 when a Test against New Zealand was abandoned in bright sunshine with both teams keen to play?

The ICC, in their ivory tower, are firmly in the corner of their officials even when they are ensuring there is no cricket.



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