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Ken Borland



Former Bok defence coach John McFarland on why the bench will be crucial in Brisbane 0

Posted on September 08, 2016 by Ken

 

The impact of the Springboks’ 6-2 bench is going to be of the utmost importance in their Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, because of a combination of who the referee is and who they are playing against.

Nigel Owens is a fantastic referee and there tends to be a very high ball-in-play figure whenever he’s in charge. Australia have also always had a very attacking mindset in all the games against the Springboks and with their two flyhalves, they will also want to keep the ball in play.

So the ball-in-play figure could be 40-45 minutes, which is the norm against Australia when Owens is the referee but about 20% more than average, which is the reason why Allister Coetzee has gone for six forwards on the bench.

If you look at our recent Test matches against Australia, the Springboks have been comfortably in front for 60-65 minutes but have not finished the job because of a lack of bench impact.

So it’s obvious that having impact players on the bench will be vital and the bench this year has definitely added value– guys like Jaco Kriel, the two props and Pieter-Steph du Toit have provided real grunt up front.

The key for the Springboks is to have 23 players to play for the full 90 minutes. Three forwards will possibly play the full 90 minutes – Strauss, Whiteley and Etzebeth, for whom it is a tremendous achievement to reach 50 caps so young.

Victor Matfield made a very relevant point on SuperSport when he said that the Springboks didn’t have a single driving maul in Salta. Their lineout is so dominant that they must use their maul. Even the Lions do – they have a strong set-piece and maul, it’s a very solid part of their game.

Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel will make quite an exciting centre pairing. It’s a bit harsh though on Damien de Allende and Lionel Mapoe because they’ve seen very little ball on the front foot, but obviously Allister has decided that it’s time for a shake-up. It’s especially difficult at outside centre if the midfield is not operating and you get the ball up against a defensive wall, you’re very influenced by what happens on your inside.

The advantage of Juan and Jesse is that they are better communicators in defence and attack, and both have amazing sidestepping ability and run hard reverse lines against the defence. Jesse scored two wonderful tries stepping from centre in last year’s Rugby Championship and they will pose a different attacking threat against Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley.

Allister has obviously also gone for this pairing because Australia don’t have the same size in the midfield as other teams like New Zealand do. Australia will have a very small midfield, which provides the Springboks with the opportunity to run at them and expose their defensive weaknesses.

Australia mix their backs around defensively, they are not always in the channel you’d expect them to be, for example Cooper does find himself at fullback or blind wing sometimes on defence, so then you can use the high-ball kicking game on him from lineouts.

The obvious reason for Australia to go with two flyhalves is that it puts a lot more width on their passing game and they can use a lot more second-man plays from wide channels. The other advantage is they can split their backs on a middle ruck and have two sides to attack.

The other big selection issue has been Adriaan Strauss. Allister obviously wanted his experience and wisdom  and Adriaan is a quality Test performer. His accuracy at the lineout is second to none as is his scrummaging, so his set-pieces are always at a high level and he contributed around the park.

I guess the results haven’t been as he would have expected and it’s been a difficult year. But he cares deeply about the game. He’s not a tub-thumping sort of captain, but he speaks intelligently and demands high standards.

The Springboks have just not been able to get their all-round game going but the set-pieces have been really solid, so he has done his job.

For Saturday, the defence of the Springboks really has to improve. The work-rate has to be a lot higher to set the breakdown pillars properly before the attack gets in place. The ability of the defence to force turnovers will be crucial because Australia will take the ball at the Boks in hand. The side they have picked is very attack-minded.

The other really huge battle of the game will be the lineout.  New Zealand really exposed flaws in the Australian lineout in the two Bledisloe Cup Tests and the Springboks definitely have an advantage having picked four lineout jumpers to combat three.

I would expect us to continue to produce good ball on our own throw and hopefully disrupt their lineout to give them poor set-piece ball to attack from.

In 2013, the Springboks broke the Brisbane hoodoo, scoring four tries to zero. Hopefully on Saturday they can do the same again.

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.

 

Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland’s post-mortem of the SuperRugby final & looking ahead to the Rugby Championship 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

 

The SuperRugby final has come and gone and basically the Hurricanes were just too good on the day for the Lions, and Test rugby is now going to be another level above that, but I do believe the Springboks have reason for optimism.

It’s brilliant that we had a SuperRugby finalist, and the Lions gave 110% against the Hurricanes and did South Africa proud, as they have done all season, and their players will be in a strong space going into the Rugby Championship.

It’s easy to say the Springboks must just play like the Lions, but hard to coach. Although, in 2013 we scored a mountain of tries and Johan van Graan is still the attack coach with the Springboks and he’s clever enough to use all the best bits from all the franchises.

You put the game plan in place according to the players you have and Test rugby is a step above SuperRugby, you need guys who can get on the front foot on the gain-line, in the heat of battle. Players like Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss have done it, they’ve proved it at that level, they can gain metres whether in attack or defence.

Damian de Allende was outstanding in 2015 so I can understand why Allister Coetzee has gone with him again, as was Jesse Kriel. I can remember the New Zealand coaches telling us last year that with those young midfield backs they were expecting a real battle against us in the next three or four years.

I believe we should do well in the Rugby Championship, I look forward to it with optimism.

The All Blacks side has changed a lot from the World Cup semifinal which we lost by just two points, they’ve lost a mountain of caps and experience in Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks and Richie McCaw.

The big thing for the Springboks will be to manage the three away games on the trot, which is very hard. They go from Salta to Brisbane to Christchurch and to win the Rugby Championship they’re going to have to win those away games, which is flippen tough. And their hardest game will be at the end of that tour, against New Zealand in Christchurch.

But the squad is in good health, as Allister himself has said Heyneke Meyer left him with a good legacy, and we came very close to winning in Wellington in 2014, losing by four points, in Auckland in 2013 we had Bismarck du Plessis sent off which was cruel, and in 2012 in Dunedin it was close until Dean Greyling got a yellow card, plus Morne Steyn only kicked at 33%. So we have been competitive in New Zealand in recent years.

But the All Blacks and Australia only really play two away games in the Rugby Championship every year, that’s why they can waltz through and why it’s so tough for us.

To win in New Zealand, you have to be 100% on your game and they have to be at 90%, as the Lions discovered too in the Super Rugby final in Wellington against the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes were just too strong and too smart on the day, they were at full-bore from the first minute.

Conditions also played a huge role, it was very rainy and cold and you could see the Lions players shivering at every stoppage, so it was obviously a factor and a disadvantage for them because they played most of their games on the Highveld where it’s sunny and dry.

The Cake Tin has a swirling wind and it’s not easy kicking in that wind, but Beauden Barrett does it week in and week out and you could see the difference in the kicking games.

Against the Highlanders, the Lions were able to move the ball in the red zone with their backs and they made some wonderful exits, but that was just not on in Wellington last weekend. The Hurricanes monstered them in that first channel, with their line speed and aggressive defence, and I felt sorry for Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk because nobody likes playing with back-foot ball.

The Lions’ two big weapons are their scrum and lineout, but the Hurricanes stood up to them and Dane Coles was inspirational. I think the Lions wanted to use the scrum to gather penalties and points, but the Hurricanes scrummed so well, especially that important one in their own 22 when they were only 10-3 ahead.

In the lineouts, I thought Malcolm Marx did exceptionally well with his throwing in those conditions and Franco Mostert made good calls, but their drives could neither get distance nor momentum.

In fact, the Hurricanes defended so well that the Lions couldn’t get momentum the whole game. Faf de Klerk tried to probe with runners but they got smashed back. Rohan Janse van Rensburg did well to get over the advantage line at times, but Elton was always on the back foot, which meant the backline was static and they just couldn’t get going.

And the tries the Lions conceded were as a consequence of finals pressure, although Corey Jane provided a special moment with that catch.

It’s funny, at the Bulls we used to have a theory that you needed five world-class players and 10 internationals to win SuperRugby, but neither the Hurricanes nor the Lions have that. But they are real workaholics and both have such a good culture on and off the field.

The back-row clash between Warwick Tecklenburg and Brad Shields, the two unsung heroes, was tremendous, they went toe-to-toe all game. Jaco Kriel and Ardie Savea tried to make game-breaking plays, but the space and time just weren’t there.

The Hurricanes’ tactical kicking was also so good, they would just stab the ball in behind the wings and put the pressure on, making the Lions try to exit.

It was a foretaste of the challenges ahead in Test rugby but none of our other teams exactly covered themselves in glory against the New Zealand sides, so they definitely have the upper hand. But it’s Test rugby and you can’t write off Australia either, they’ll be a different kettle of fish with Matt Giteau and Will Genia back, they’ll have more rhythm to their game.

Finally, let’s wish the Blitzbokke good luck. Neil Powell and his staff have assembled a great squad, they’re very hard-working, they have a fantastic culture and they work hard for each other. They thoroughly deserve whatever accolades come their way.

 

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.

England cricket spluttering after first week of CWC 0

Posted on August 19, 2015 by Ken

 

They’re going to be spluttering into their gin and tonics at the Marylebone Cricket Club after England’s humiliating start to the World Cup, but it’s no more than they deserve after all the boardroom shenanigans that have been going on in the so-called home of the game.

It’s amazing how English cricket has managed to marry such smugness and superiority with such abysmal performances on the field of play, but it makes every hiding they receive in the World Cup even more pleasurable.

I generally don’t enjoy seeing sportsmen humiliated on the field of play, but I’ll make an exception in this case because of the thoroughly distasteful manner in which the England and Wales Cricket Board went to the dodgy lair of Narayanaswami Srinivasan and ingratiated themselves into the so-called “Big Three” that have hijacked the game.

My biggest bone of contention with the Big Three is that they seek to monopolise the game for their own benefit and are actively trying to halt the progress of the up-and-coming Associate nations by removing them from future World Cups. As veteran Ireland opener Ed Joyce pointed out, cricket is the only sport which is trying to contract its World Cup, while every other sport on the planet (yes, even American Football) is trying to expand its reach.

As the ANC, and the National Party before them, are showing so clearly, concentrating all the riches in the hands of an elite minority can only put a country or a sport on the road to destruction.

England will be the venue for the next World Cup, in 2019, and it is set to be a 10-team tournament. There’s little doubt that English cricket, having plundered talent from this country for so long, stand to benefit if the likes of Ireland and Scotland are barred from the highest echelon of the game; their top players will surely be tempted to play for England, just like their current captain, Eoin Morgan. England clearly need some reinforcements.

That the Associates and minnow nations like Zimbabwe and Bangladesh are adding value to the game’s global showpiece cannot be doubted. Zimbabwe did themselves proud against South Africa, Ireland have already beaten the West Indies and Scotland did substantially better against New Zealand than England.

The plucky United Arab Emirates have some elegant batsmen and a genuine quick bowler in Mohammad Naveed, Bangladesh’s Shakib al-Hasan is a world-class all-rounder, while Afghanistan’s mere presence is a tremendous story of sportsmen rising above incredible challenges.

Sadly, there is a South African man at the centre of these efforts to push back the Associates – former wicketkeeper/batsman Dave Richardson, although he is probably just taking orders from those who pay his salary as ICC chief executive.

I say this because Richardson has been quoted as saying having Associate teams in the World Cup leads to too many one-sided matches and has also been quoted as praising the unpredictability and charm that these same teams bring to the tournament!

There are, of course, places nine and ten open for qualifiers at the next World Cup, but Zimbabwe and Bangladesh, who vote in favour of the Big Three and receive financial rewards and more exposure for their teams as a result, will be heavily favoured to take those spots as the system is in their favour.

Apart from England’s dreadful performances, the other key features of the first week of the Cricket World Cup have been New Zealand’s invincibility at home, a new benchmark of 300 runs per innings being set by the powerful batting sides and the importance of taking wickets in the middle overs otherwise set batsmen in the death overs will run amok.

 

 

 

De Villiers’ record century the death of the West Indies 0

Posted on April 06, 2015 by Ken

AB de Villiers’ extraordinary innings as he lashed the fastest century in ODI history was always going to be the death of the West Indies and South Africa duly won the second Momentum One-Day International at the Wanderers by 148 runs on Sunday.

De Villiers flayed the West Indies for 149 runs off just 44 balls to take the Proteas to 439 for two,South Africa’s highest ever ODI total, improving on their famous 438 to beat Australia at the same venue in 2005/06, but they missed a golden opportunity to reclaim the world record, falling just four runs short of Sri Lanka’s 443 for nine against the Netherlands in Amstelveen in 2006.

The West Indies could only muster 291 for seven in their 50 overs, thanks to half-centuries from Dwayne Smith (64) and Denesh Ramdin (57) and a pair of 40s from Marlon Samuels and Jonathan Carter.

Although the visitors were often ahead of the South African total at a comparative stage of their innings, reaching 148 in 25 overs compared to the Proteas’ 142, they lost wickets at regular intervals.

And Dale Steyn was their biggest obstacle, just 19 runs coming from his first eight overs as the run-rate grew out of reach in the second half of the innings.

Steyn received good support from Morne Morkel, with two for 43 from his 10 overs.

Opener Smith was the biggest threat to the South Africans – and the biggest contributor amongst the West Indian batsmen towards the fundraising for the fight against cancer – with nine fours and a six in his run-a-ball 64, and Samuels was also looking promising before he did not quite get enough elevation on a lofted drive off Vernon Philander and a leaping Farhaan Behardien took the catch at extra cover.

Ramdin and Carter added 83 off 73 balls for the fifth wicket before Steyn, bowling with tremendous pace and accuracy had Carter caught at mid-on.

Carter impressed in just his second ODI innings with three fours and a six.

Morkel made a messy start to the innings, opening with a leg-side delivery that was helped to the fine leg boundary by Smith, followed by a wide way outside the off stump.

The tall fast bowler then induced a catch at third man by Smith, but a television replay showed that Morkel had bowled a no-ball, with Chris Gayle pulling a four off the free hit.

Gayle rushed to 19 off 13 balls, whacking two fours and a six, before sending a pull off Morkel steepling towards the midwicket boundary, Behardien running in and taking a great catch.

Leon Johnson has struggled in this ODI series, making a six-ball duck in Durban and battling to one run off 15 deliveries at the Wanderers before being trapped lbw by Philander.

Smith has flattered to deceive on tour, but on Sunday he was really starting to look threatening before lofting Behardien straight back over his head, but failing to clear JP Duminy, who ran from long-off to take a good catch.

Philander claimed two wickets but was expensive, conceding 69 runs in his 10 overs.

South Africa’s massive innings had been set up by a record opening stand of 247 between Hashim Amla and Rilee Rossouw, but that was overshadowed in scarcely believable fashion by De Villiers, who blazed to 50 in 16 balls (also a world record) and to his hundred off just 31 deliveries. That smashed New Zealander Corey Anderson’s previous record of 36 balls, also against the West Indies, in Queenstown a year ago.

De Villiers fell in the final over for 149 off just 44 balls, showcasing his enormous natural ability with nine fours and 16 sixes – equalling the world record of Rohit Sharma for India against Australia in Bangalore in 2013. Having produced the most outrageous innings in ODI history, it would have been most apt if De Villiers had taken South Africa to the world record score, but he drove the fourth ball of Andre Russell’s excellent final over to deep cover to end the carnage, with Amla missing the last two deliveries of the innings.

Through the years since his international debut in 2004, De Villiers has honed his natural talent, become the master of his game and at reading match situations. At the Wanderers on Sunday he just came out and had fun, toying with the West Indian bowlers. Most of his strokes were seemingly premeditated and sent all over the ground, no matter where the ball was delivered. The South African captain had a particular fondness for the scoop back over his shoulder, but also hit the ball sweetly down the ground, finding or going over the boundary off 25 of the 44 deliveries he faced.

After winning the toss and sending the Proteas in to bat in cloudy, breezy, cool conditions, the West Indians had no idea of the furnace that was about to envelop them.

Amla was quickly away but Rossouw, after making his fifth duck in 10 innings in the previous ODI in Durban, started scratchily, often miscuing his attacking strokes.

But he put his lean times and early struggles behind him, grinding his way back into form and then enjoying rich pickings as he notched his first international century off just 102 balls, collecting eight fours and a six along the way.

Amla cruised to his century two deliveries later, off 103 balls, and the West Indies were already in a daze as the opening duo added 247 off 235 balls, the sixth highest first-wicket partnership in ODI history and South Africa’s best.

Rossouw began the 39th over with two brilliant boundaries off Jerome Taylor, over midwicket and straight back over the bowler’s head, but then chipped the third delivery to mid-off to fall for a brilliant 128 off 115 balls that will go a long way to ensuring he feels at home in international cricket.

But Amla batted on through the innings, sensibly feeding De Villiers the strike, as he finished with a splendid 153 not out off 142 balls, with 14 fours.

It became the first time three centuries have been scored in an ODI innings, as De Villiers rained down blows on the West Indian bowlers and hapless fielders. He and Amla added a magnificent 192 for the second wicket off an incredible 68 balls, beating that memorable partnership of 187 between Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs in the 438 game as the ground record.

It became embarrassing and it all seemed just too easy for international sport.

But that is what genius can do and De Villiers can certainly be placed at the top of that list.

 – http://citizen.co.za/309061/ab-de-villiers-impresses-momentum-odi/

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