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Ken Borland



The future is doubtful but the SA Rugby Annual has the past in glorious detail 0

Posted on May 05, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s been another troubling week in South African rugby with the news of more players going overseas and there have been the usual dire predictions of the game in this country having no future.

In situations like these, looking back into the past sometimes provides solace and the 2017 edition of the South African Rugby Annual, which is available now at all leading retailers nationwide and on certain online platforms, is as comprehensive a collection of all the past glories and sorrows of the game in this country as you could hope to find.

It is a statistical and trivia treasure trove. Did you know for instance that Bulls and Springbok centre Jan Serfontein (2011) and his father, Jan ‘Boelie’ Serfontein (1976-78), the former Eastern Province eighthman, were the first father and son combination to play for the SA Schools team?

Serfontein junior is of course the player who dropped the bombshell this week that he is leaving South African rugby, thus joining the four pages of South Africans playing abroad compiled by Stuart Farmer, a section of the Annual that is growing at a daunting pace.

The Annual obviously provides a comprehensive wrap of the Springboks in 2016, including a report on their draw against the Barbarians at Wembley last November, when Francois Venter first played for the national side. The Cheetahs centre will perhaps gain the most from Serfontein’s exit and many would say ‘what’s all the fuss about’ given how good a player Venter is.

Why I believe there should be a fuss made about Serfontein’s move is because his agent belongs to the same Essentially sports management company behind the controversial departures of South African cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott as well as numerous other rugby players now playing abroad.

I have it on good authority that Essentially only earn commission when they land their players an overseas deal, so it is obvious they have a massive vested interest in pushing players to go the foreign route. What they have been doing to South African sport recently amounts to strip-mining its assets.

It is difficult to know where SA Rugby can go to stop the plunder – Serfontein was offered what he himself described as a “generous” national contract – but perhaps it’s time they became strict on players not being allowed to negotiate with other clubs while still under contract.

It was reported in France as far back as January that Serfontein had signed a three-year deal with Montpellier, so his subsequent ‘negotiations’ with SA Rugby and the Bulls were undoubtedly in bad faith, much like the poor form Rossouw showed in his dealings with Cricket South Africa.

There was, of course, no guarantee that Serfontein would have been in the Springbok midfield when they line up against France next month – the Annual will tell you that South Africa’s last Test against Les Bleus was, astonishingly, the 19-10 win in Paris back in November 2013 – and, to be fair, the 25-year-old has not always done full justice to his talents when he has pulled on the Green and Gold.

It’s all part of the change though that is inevitable in rugby, like the rise of Argentina – in the Springbok section of the Annual you can find the results of the eight Tests they played against the whole South American continent (and latterly ‘boosted’ by Spain) between 1980 and 1984 and now we struggle to beat just the one country!

Anyway, for those of you who want to blame the Bulls for letting Serfontein go, you can find the franchise’s phone number and address, and those of all the SuperRugby teams, inside the Annual to make your protest action easier.

The Annual also provides full SuperRugby coverage, including that the Lions used 44 players in the competition, while the Currie Cup section will show you that Border used 40. If you are interested in Valke players, there is a complete list of them too, as well as all of their 2016 results. The Varsity Cup is also covered.

If global rugby is your thing, you can find out the score when Rwanda played Burundi in Kigali last May or who the leading try-scorers in world rugby are.

Other intriguing lists provided by editors Duane Heath and Eddie Grieb are of all the top schoolboy players and their schools, all SA Schools caps since 1974 and all players who have appeared in Currie Cup finals. And there are photographs too – including a classic of gigantic Waratahs lock Will Skelton engulfing some unfortunate opponent much like the euro/pound/yen are overwhelming the rand.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170422/282462823807677

John McFarland Column – SuperRugby format definitely needs to change 0

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Ken

 

There has been some real conjecture and speculation about how SuperRugby is going to change in 2018, but the one thing that is clear is that it definitely needs to change – declining viewing figures and attendance at the games proves it.

While the administrators took the wrong direction when they changed the format back in 2015, the move to expand was the right decision. Promises had obviously been made to the Southern Kings and a Japanese team is vital if they are going to maintain the improvement they have shown and grow the sport in that country.

Argentina also now have a great development program and they’re no longer losing as many top players to Europe, so it’s vital they stay in as well.

The problem is I don’t think the administrators knew what they let themselves in for travel-wise. The Sunwolves are 10 hours from Australia so they should be in that conference and then they would travel a lot less.

The Southern Kings are probably going to be judged on the basis of their results, bankruptcy and as money-makers, but they did really well initially in terms of getting numbers to games. They have performed better this year, so credit must go to the coaching staff for that improvement, but they still have not really moved forward, there is still a big difference between them and the other teams.

Normally during the time of SuperRugby negotiations, there are people saying that South Africa will go play in Europe but that hasn’t happened that much this time around so we are obviously committed to SuperRugby and the three conferences.

It will be very disappointing if we lose the Cheetahs, but I expect to see a deal in our favour, especially since last time we managed to get two home semi-finals. The SA Rugby Union negotiators must stand up for what they believe in and push for what they want.

I don’t think the players are averse to travel, but being away for five weeks in Australia and New Zealand as the Bulls were in the past is a heck of a trip and that’s why it was virtually impossible for a South African team to win SuperRugby, having to play five matches overseas.

This weekend we have our first Friday night SuperRugby game when the Bulls host the Sunwolves, which is hard to believe considering the six hours of rugby we’ve had to sit through on Saturdays. People want to watch rugby when they come home on Friday evening around a barbecue, but unfortunately the TV schedules have not allowed it.

On a happier note, I was fortunate to attend the Springbok Sevens training for a couple of weeks and was able to see first-hand what good coaching, spirit and attention to detail there is in that set-up. The Blitzboks’ culture is second to none, the way they back each other, encourage one another and work in the training sessions is outstanding.

That’s their strength as well as continuity. Someone like conditioning coach Allan Temple-Jones has been there forever and does a superb job – the Springbok Sevens are the best-conditioned team on the circuit and they are reaping the benefits of that.

What is most encouraging is that people are talking about Sevens and what the Blitzboks have done, and watching the games.

They are also never scared to use specialists – Richie Gray was brought in to work on the breakdowns before the Olympics and Dawie Snyman, the former Western Province coach, is doing a lot of work on their footwork and coaching them in sidestepping. You can see that coming through in the way they are beating people, so credit to him.

Neil Powell is overseeing it all and is handling the job with great dignity, so I really hope they come through and win the series. England are the only team with the continuity to push them and will be their biggest competition.

Continuity breeds confidence in any high-performance sport.

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.

 

 

Failure to pitch a recipe for disaster for Boks 0

Posted on February 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Meeting a fired-up Argentina team on their home turf is never an easy prospect, regardless of what happened the previous week, so when the Springboks decided not to “pitch” physically for their Rugby Championship Test in Mendoza at the weekend, it was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

For whatever reason, the Springboks failed to match the intensity and physicality of the Pumas and for long periods it just looked as if they weren’t “up” for the game.

With Argentina attacking the collisions and breakdowns with tremendous ferocity, it meant the Springboks were always on the back foot and had little decent ball to actually launch the attacking side of their game, which had been so impressive the weekend before back in Johannesburg.

The Springboks eventually won the Test 22-17 with two late penalties by Morne Steyn, but it was hardly an authoritative performance. The massive physicality that had blown the Pumas away at the FNB Stadium and set up the record 73-13 victory a week earlier was as absent this weekend as the president of the South African Rugby Union.

The home side pressed forward from the outset and, after robbing scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar of possession at a ruck – he endured a torrid day as he was hassled throughout at the breakdowns – they scored the opening try through flank Juan Manuel Leguizamon after just two minutes.

It meant the Pumas’ prayers were answered in terms of getting their passionate crowd behind them and they enjoyed a 10-3 lead after 10 minutes as Felipe Contepomi and Steyn traded penalties.

Centre Contepomi was then partly to blame for the Springboks’ only try, in the 14th minute, as he failed with a clearance kick, gifting the ball to the Springbok backs. Willie le Roux – he didn’t have the best of games overall – then showed tremendous hands to put wing Bjorn Basson away for the try.

But the Springboks’ hopes were severely dented just before half-time when centre Marcelo Bosch crashed through to score Argentina’s second try.

The Pumas had generally tried to avoid lineouts – a Springbok strength – in the first half, but eventually they had one inside the 22, only the third of the match. From there, another direct attack with short pop passes led to Bosch powering over.

The Argentine loose forwards continued to rob and spoil the Springboks’ ball in the second half and their more direct approach with ball-in-hand also hurt the South Africans. But there is something almost naive about this Springbok side in that they sometimes give the impression that they expect the opposition to be placid, to allow them an easy stroll through a game. And so not enough numbers were committed to the breakdowns or the defence close-in and the Pumas were adept at exploiting the gap in the first channel from the ruck.

The Springboks were, frankly, being bullied and they even sought referee Steve Walsh’s attention, alleging eye-gouging and biting. Two Argentinean loose forwards, Leonardo Senatore and Pablo Matera, would later be cited for foul play, but the whistleman’s focus during the match seemed to be on all sorts of peripheral things rather than keeping the breakdown contest tidy and enforcing offsides lines.

The Pumas’ ill-discipline was eventually punished by Walsh, allowing Steyn to kick four second-half penalties that won the game.

Questions, though, will be asked over some of coach Heyneke Meyer’s decisions, such as leaving the struggling Pienaar on for the entire game or not giving the more physical Flip van der Merwe a longer run in the second row.

But it’s the failure of the Springboks to lift themselves – having spoken all week about how they expect the Pumas to bounce back ferociously – that is perhaps of most concern.

They will now travel to Australasia next weekend for their two Tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks and they are not going to win those unless their pack rediscovers the fire they showed at the FNB Stadium.

The Springbok backline are not going to be able to win those Tests on their own; the forwards are going to have to do the gruntwork and lay the foundation.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-26-rugby-boks-win-but-without-conviction/#.WJHMPVN97IU

Saru have enough money to throw at the Springbok problem 0

Posted on December 08, 2016 by Ken

 

That the South African Rugby Union have a major problem with their flagship product – the Springboks – is undeniable, and it’s going to take all their wisdom and sound judgement to make the right decisions to fix the mess. One thing in their favour though is that they have enough money to throw at the problem.

Their latest financial statements, for the year ending 2015, show that Saru had revenue of close to a billion rand, with R249 million spent on the rugby department, under which all the national teams and their management fall.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has made his fair share of blunders and his ability to inspire his current group of players is debatable, but there is no doubt that he was given the job with one hand tied behind his back by not being able to choose his coaching staff.

Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot was the one exception, while he inherited Johann van Graan from the previous era of Heyneke Meyer, so at least he had experience of working at international level. But for all their promise, the likes of Mzwandile Stick, Chean Roux and Louis Koen have only coached at much lower levels. Apart from Proudfoot, and Franco Smith, a belated addition to the squad after just one season of Super Rugby, who amongst his assistants has experience of running a top franchise?

Compare that to the All Blacks’ situation, where assistant coaches Ian Foster, who spent eight years in charge of the Chiefs and three with the New Zealand juniors, and Wayne Smith, who guided the Crusaders to two Super 12 titles and is a former All Blacks head coach, are vastly experienced.

Perhaps the primary problem affecting the Springboks is the lack of attention Saru have given them; can they truly say the wellbeing of their national team has been their priority?

So many incidents suggest not: from Meyer having to go begging to Gavin Varejes to pay the salary of breakdown specialist Richie Gray up until the parlous decision to appoint, on the cheap, the majority of Coetzee’s backroom staff, Saru are not backing the Springboks as they should.

Are the Springboks not CEO Jurie Roux’s new sweetheart? Before he joined Saru, Roux was able to source R35 million to beef up the Stellenbosch University rugby team. Why is he not willing to put big money towards finding the best assistant coaches possible or keeping more players on these shores?

I also wonder what Rassie Erasmus, still the flavour of the month in many quarters, actually achieved in terms of boosting the Springboks during his four-year tenure as Saru’s high performance general manager before ducking to Munster?

While mapping out new structures for SA rugby and running the Mobi-Unit of specialist coaches, Erasmus’s detractors, some of whom were and are intimately involved with the Springboks, say everything he did was geared towards making himself the next national coach.

But when it became clear that Saru would have to speed up transformation within the Springboks in order to get the government out of their hair, Erasmus suddenly turned his attention overseas. His about-turn led directly to Coetzee’s appointment being made very late, just a couple of months before the first Test.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe transformation is the foe of Springbok rugby, in fact it’s the game’s best long-term survival plan.

According to reports this week, Coetzee will remain as national coach next year, but will now be able to choose his own support staff as Saru have belatedly realised the error of their ways.

Well duh.

It reminds me of Kim Kardashian suddenly deciding she wants to withdraw herself and her children from the spotlight after they were robbed in Paris in early October; she decided to flaunt her lifestyle, bling and children on reality TV, why is she surprised it attracted nefarious attention?

The hapless Springboks are the way they are at the moment for many reasons, but it all comes down to haphazard decision-making by Saru.

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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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