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Ken Borland



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.

Held together by bandages & gauze, but Jannie still relishes the challenge 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The tight five is characteristically the place where the players are held together by bandages and gauze, such is the high-impact workload they have to shoulder in rugby seasons that are just getting longer and harder. But there’s one man in the Springbok pack who has been particularly burdened with a massive workload, and that is tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

The 30-year-old played in every SuperRugby match last year and in all 16 games for the Sharks this year, as well as every Test in 2012 and all three in 2013 thus far. But Du Plessis, a qualified medical doctor, says he’s relishing the challenge.

“I hope I become like leather: you know, the more you use it, the tougher and better it becomes. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’m playing so much that I’m going to break down. I want to play 40 games a year for the next five years,” Du Plessis said after the Springboks’ training session in Fourways on Wednesday.

While the scrummaging skills and experience of the Bethlehem-born Du Plessis are invaluable in the crucial tighthead position – many ex-forwards say it’s the first position that should be chosen in a team – the other reason for why the Grey College-product is hogging the number three jersey is the lack of depth in his position in the country.

The current Springbok squad has five props in it and Du Plessis is the only one who can be regarded as a specialist tighthead, the foundation of a solid scrum.

The Springbok brains trust have identified Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead, as the next best tighthead in the land and coach Heyneke Meyer said the lack of depth has left him little choice but to develop the 24-year-old as the next choice number three for the 2015 World Cup.

“I truly believe we are in trouble with tightheads in South Africa,” Meyer said. “If you look at it, most of the guys are injured and at one stage we had the best tightheads in the world, but now there are a lot of inexperienced guys playing there.

“We feel Coenie is the second tighthead in the squad and we need to give him some game time. A tighthead is like great wine, it only gets better with time. Coenie is only 24 and we need someone who is the next tighthead who has time to develop and will be there for a long time.

“If Coenie doesn’t play there in Test match rugby, he won’t be right for the next World Cup. With Gurthro Steenkamp and Trevor Nyakane, they are great impact players, and we have a lot of looseheads with Beast as well. But we’re under pressure on the tighthead side,” Meyer said.

But there is also a lot of anti-Coenie-at-tighthead feeling around rugby circles, with many wondering why Cheetahs number three Lourens Adriaanse, an unused member of the Springbok squad in June, or impressive Sharks youngster Wiehahn Herbst aren’t given a chance.

Tighthead prop is a specialist position, like hooker or scrumhalf, and what Meyer is doing is a bit like trying to convert your second-choice outside centre into a scrumhalf just because he’s a great player. Coaches have to make tough decisions and, however brilliant Oosthuizen is and however much depth there is at loosehead, you can only have two in a match-day squad. Trying to turn a loosehead into a tighthead is fraught with danger, as we saw with previous coach Peter de Villiers’ unsuccessful attempts with John Smit.

Although Oosthuizen is an ox of a man – weighing 125kg and standing 1.83m – tighthead is a highly technical position where size and strength are not enough on their own.

Ask Jannie du Plessis himself.

“It is really flipping difficult to change from loosehead to tighthead, ask the looseheads who’ve tried. It’s a completely different position with a different set of skills. But I hope Coenie does well in the position, he’s done well enough when he has come on at tighthead, so then everyone won’t make such a big thing about it and me playing every game,” Du Plessis said.

The other problem with Oosthuizen playing tighthead is that he will be stuck in the scrum for longer and the Springboks stand to dilute two of his major weapons – his exceptional ability in carrying the ball and the pressure he brings to the breakdown.

And Oosthuizen’s switch is happening at a time of great uncertainty amongst front-rankers with the new scrum rules coming into effect for the Rugby Championship.

After protests over the number of collapsed scrums, the International Rugby Board [IRB] have introduced new calls governing the engagement. The new sequence is “crouch, bind, set”, requiring the props to bind before the scrum sets.

But the IRB, in their wisdom, have introduced the new protocol at Test level as well, without trialling it first in SuperRugby. So the top players in the Southern Hemisphere are all going into a crucial part of the game, for which match-swinging penalties are often given, blind, without any competitive experience of the changes.

“The scrums are an uncertainty for us. You have to play the cards that are dealt you, but the situation is that this is the first time in a Test series where we play the new rules. This year we are going straight into the new rules and we don’t know what to expect,” Meyer admitted.

Du Plessis, who has seen most things in the dark and dingy world of scrums, thinks even these new rules might not last.

“Normally you have a few games to get used to new laws, like they did with the ELVs. But the challenge now is to adapt right away. It might be a shambles and then they change it again.

“Since I started playing, this will be the sixth or seventh change to the scrum laws, so they are definitely chopping and changing and maybe they are scratching a place where it’s not itching… ” Du Plessis said.

The major difference that front-rankers will experience, with the “hit” taken out of the equation, is that scrums are going to last much longer now, according to Du Plessis.

“It’s going to be a big change. In the past you relied on speed because the gap between the front rows was big. Now because you’re binding first, you are much closer together and you can’t rely on speed.

“Scrums are going to be about generating more power and they will last much longer, so we’ll have to work harder. It won’t be so much about power and speed and more about endurance.

“They’ve said the scrum has to be steady now and they’re going to force scrumhalves to put the ball in straight, but it sounds like election promises to me: we hear that every year,” Du Plessis said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-08-rugby-tightheads-at-a-loose-end/#.WCxJxvl97IU

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.

AB relieved to get 1st Test win under the belt 0

Posted on January 27, 2016 by Ken

 

 

AB de Villiers was understandably relieved after getting his first victory under the belt as the new Proteas Test captain after South Africa rode Kagiso Rabada’s record-breaking 13-wicket haul to hammer England by 280 runs in the fourth Test at Centurion on Tuesday.

Although the win was not enough to prevent England from winning the series 2-1, it did bring to an end a run of nine Tests without victory for South Africa, their worst streak since nine draws and a loss between February 1964 and July 1965 against New Zealand and England.

“Teams go through phases and I never felt it was panic stations. In this game we managed to apply pressure for longer and did the basics better, and because of that we got it right in terms of the result, it’s not that complicated. If you do the small things right, more often than not you’ll win.

“It feels a bit like a new beginning, although it’s dangerous to say that. We’re doing the same things we’ve done for the last few years and we haven’t changed our thought processes. Our attitude was always good, but this is definitely a step in the right direction. There are a lot of reasons to feel that,” De Villiers said.

The 31-year-old said his own form with the bat – he made the first pair of his Test career and his third duck in a row – did not taken any shine off the triumph.

“I’ve always said I love it when we win, I honestly don’t care how many ducks I get as long as we win. I’m a very happy man,” De Villiers smiled.

Rabada was an obvious man of the match after his phenomenal performance, beating out brilliant showings by Hashim Amla, Stephen Cook, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma, with De Villiers saying he was impressed by the 20-year-old’s maturity.

“Every time I asked him to perform he did. He’s shown the maturity of someone who’s played more than a hundred Tests, while he’s got the pace of someone who’s just played one or two!

“KG has impressed us all, we need to look after him very well and make sure that he’s always fresh when he walks on to the field. A guy like him is always hugely exciting,” De Villiers said.

Rabada ensured that it was all over in a rush on the final morning, South Africa needing just 68 minutes to take the last seven England wickets for a paltry 49 runs. After Morne Morkel (three for 36) and spinner Dane Piedt made early strikes, Rabada rushed through the rest to finish with six for 32.

It gave him match figures of 13 for 144, which are unprecedented for a fast bowler of his age.

In the history of Test cricket, only one bowler, Indian spinner Narendra Hirwani, has had a better return at a younger age, taking 16 for 136 for India against the West Indies in Chennai when he was just 19 years and 85 days old.

Rabada’s figures are also the best ever for South Africa against England, and the second-best against all opposition, bettered only by Makhaya Ntini’s 13 for 132 against the West Indies at Port-of-Spain in 2004/5.

 

 

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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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