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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Boks nicely set up after job well done 0

Posted on August 30, 2017 by Ken

The Tests against Argentina were a job well done by the Springboks and it’s great to see them at the top of the Rugby Championship log, with things set up nicely for their tour of Australasia.

It’s great to see the Springboks play so convincingly and win five Tests on the bounce, including coach Allister Coetzee’s first away win.

It was a really good win last weekend in Salta and what was most impressive was the all-round game they played.

To win by five tries to two, maintaining their high rate of try-scoring this year, shows that their attacking game is completely on track. Their ability to convert turnover ball into seven points was also superb, as in the crucial second try by Siya Kolisi just after halftime.

It’s never easy in Salta because of the extreme heat and a very passionate crowd, and there was a lot of talk about the effects of travel, but the performance proved that the Springboks used the right schedule. To have two good days of training in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg before they left for Argentina was a masterstroke and you have to give credit to the coaching staff for their wise planning.

They also did not rush back from Salta, instead having a good day of recovery around the pool, and they will hopefully reap good rewards for that on their trip to Perth. It is, however, a more tricky flight from Perth on the far western side of Australia to Auckland, much longer than flying from the eastern shore. It means the Springboks will probably lose Monday as a training day and will only have Tuesday and Thursday before the All Blacks Test in Albany, which is perhaps a day light in terms of preparation.

The next two weeks are going to be big pressure games for the Springboks. Australia have recovered well, as expected, and the fact they nearly beat the All Blacks in Dunedin proves the margins are so small at the top international level of the game. The Wallabies will be aggrieved they did not win, but they have certainly regained their pride and confidence.

Both New Zealand and Australia are leaking tries at the moment though, nine and 13 respectively in their first two matches, which is a big thing for the Springboks to target.

The Springboks have only conceded four tries and their defence has been vastly improved.

There is not much a defence coach can do about a kickoff that bounces in no-man’s land and subsequently leads to a try, but someone would have called for it and then misjudged the flight of the ball. The players will take responsibility for it and it will be sorted out in the review of the game. The misunderstanding will all be cleared up quickly, especially with the great culture in the team at the moment.

Speaking of great, I thought Elton Jantjies had such a good game.

He knows he’s the number one flyhalf and he’s feeling backed, and his goalkicking has been phenomenal at 89%, which is the most important box for him to tick. But the quality of his all-round play has been excellent – his exits, his awareness of space and the way he has been able to take the ball to the line. He’s attacking with real confidence.

Our wingers are also coping well in the Rugby Championship and the game has moved on from just being about size and kick-and-chase.

That said, the Springboks’ kicking game has also been working well.

The set-pieces have also been brilliant and the scrum has functioned really well. Who would have thought that our scrum would be so dominant in two Tests against Argentina.

The Pumas came out ultra-aggressive and fired up and maybe it was too much because it led to ill-discipline and cards, something that was an issue for the Jaguares all through SuperRugby as well.

There just seems to be one remaining issue with the Springboks and that is the back-up flyhalf situation. Handre Pollard has been named in the touring squad but it is a concern that he has not played any actual rugby.

Obviously he must have been training well and the intensity of the Springbok practices is good, but to be really ready to play, everyone needs some match time behind them. Pat Lambie is in the same boat and they both need game time, but unfortunately their Springbok contracts mean they cannot play any Currie Cup rugby.

It is something that SA Rugby needs to revisit.

 

 

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.

‘Faf able to make the tough calls’ – Rhodes 0

Posted on July 28, 2017 by Ken

 

Jonty Rhodes says his reluctance to make tough calls and decisions cancels out any desire to be a head coach, but he adds these exact qualities are what makes Faf du Plessis a great captain.

Rhodes captained Natal for a brief period during his playing days, but always served as a trusty lieutenant to Hansie Cronje and Shaun Pollock in the national team. Although he travels the world as a consultant coach, with fielding his area of expertise, these days, he says he has no desire to become a head coach.

“As captain I used to take things too personally. You have to make the tough calls and decisions and that’s just not my personality, I prefer being more of a motivator. And that’s also why I don’t qualify as head coach material.

“But Faf is a hard guy, he’s very strong mentally and you see it in his batting, anywhere from number three to number five. He brings that tenacity, he’s an unruffled batsman, he’s not flamboyant, he works flippen hard and plays to his strengths. He can block forever and maybe the comeback by the Proteas in the second Test, the way they just built and built the pressure on England, we didn’t give them an inch, we really grinded them, was a reflection of his character,” Rhodes told The Citizen on Wednesday at the CSA Centre of Excellence, where he was putting the national academy through their paces.

Rhodes added that with Jacques Kallis out of the picture, the Proteas had to make the tough decision to change the balance of the team by bringing in the extra frontline bowler in Chris Morris.

“For a long time we had Jacques, who was a frontline batsman at three and a frontline bowler, and not many teams have that. We maybe didn’t appreciate how blessed we were because he was like having an extra player.

“So the Proteas had to make that call. It depends on what’s best for the situation and conditions, I suppose if there’s a bit of juice in the pitch and you can afford to have one bowler less, then you can play the extra batsman. And the time to move Quinton de Kock up the order was also now, while he’s still young and strong enough to do that and keep wicket.

“He can bat with the tail as well, because he hits a high percentage of boundaries, but he can fulfil both roles. He’s totally different to the other grafters in the top-order, before you know it he has 30 and it doesn’t look like he’s taken any risks. Sometimes you just have to bat and other times you need someone to take the game away,” Rhodes said.

Response of smaller wings to space the key factor – Paulse 0

Posted on July 18, 2017 by Ken

 

How a smaller wing responds when his opposite number is given space is the key factor when it comes to defence out wide, former Springbok great Breyton Paulse says.

Although the Springboks registered three convincing victories over France, questions have been raised over whether the relatively small back three of Raymond Rhule (1.87m, 83kg), Andries Coetzee (1.81m, 86kg) and Courtnall Skosan (1.83m, 92kg) will be able to handle the massive South Sea Islander wings that predominate in New Zealand and Australia.

It is a question Paulse, who stood just 1.78 metres tall and weighed 80kg during his playing days, often had to answer himself, but he was never disgraced during his 64 Tests for South Africa, despite having to play against man-mountains like Joeli Vidiri and Jonah Lomu.

“The key is to play smart and not be kamikaze. You have to anticipate very well and when you see space then you have to close that down as soon as possible. On the wing, you only have a one-on-one with the person you’re marking probably once or twice a game, so I’m not sure why people go on about it all the time.

“But you have to be aware all the time, and intelligent, like a Ben Smith. The big guys can run over you, but a smaller player has more speed so he must use it to close that space as soon as possible. But the outside centre is also key, I was fortunate to play with Jaque Fourie, who was one of the best defenders, and you get used to how each other defends,” Paulse told Saturday Citizen at a Players’ Fund and SA Rugby Legends Association training day for the Vuka development programme.

Paulse added that Coetzee, Rhule and Skosan faced all the All Blacks and Australian wingers in SuperRugby and that there had not been major problems at that level.

“I have no worries about our back three because they play against those guys in SuperRugby week in and week out. They’ve all faced massive wingers in that competition. Someone like Courtnall Skosan has proven himself to be lethal on both attack and defence and he’s very good in the air,” Paulse said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170624/282355449747840

The John McFarland Column: Planning for the French Tests 0

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will not find it too difficult to prepare for the three Tests against France and there is always great excitement when the players get together in the national team environment.

Due to WorldRugby regulations, he will have to wait for the overseas players until the week of the first Test match, but these days the information they need to know is easy to disseminate and the players have access to apps, for example, with which they can watch the training sessions. He will have communicated the game plans, moves and patterns to them, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to assimilate.

This week saw Allister have his third camp this year, which is obviously what he missed last year. His program of camps has been very much extended this year, but you still don’t do a lot of hard, physical work at these get-togethers.

As Springbok management, you have to be very careful because the players are in the middle of SuperRugby and will be coming off a very tough game. But the camps are certainly invaluable for laying down the plans for the structure and principles, making sure all the players get on the same page.

There will be on-field training, but basically it will just be walk-throughs or practising with the contact levels right down. We used to use the Lions U19 players as defenders, which puts much less pressure on the Springboks in terms of physicality.

After all, some unions used to send their players to camp with GPSs so they could check the amount of running they did!

Generally the three Tests in June are against the same opposition, so it’s easier to prepare for it, but it’s the same for every international team, they are all in the same boat.

In November, the Southern Hemisphere teams have an advantage because it’s after the end of their season, all their game plans are in place and they’ve just come off a month’s rest. In June, the Northern Hemisphere sides are tired at the end of their long season, but due to the Six Nations, they are further along in their game plans.

The key for Allister will be to not make it too complicated, stick to simple principles and make it clear what he wants the team to do to win that first Test.

I know international football sides only get their players for a week from all over the world, but soccer is quite an individual game, there are a lot more dynamics in rugby such as the set-pieces and the defensive and attacking game plans.

As far as last weekend’s SuperRugby goes, the Stormers did really well to come back from their overseas tour woes with a win. They defended very well in the final quarter and from half-time onwards they were very sound and physical in the collisions. They got their just rewards for quick-taps with some game-changing moments.

I was quite sceptical, however, about the TMO decision on Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s try, but there are always highs and lows in terms of officiating through a Super Rugby season and it evens out in the end.

The Southern Kings were a bit unlucky against the Brumbies, but they were very vulnerable to the grubber in behind. Their defensive system relies on the fullback getting up in the line very early, the Brumbies obviously saw that and took advantage.

In the game in Singapore, the 38-17 scoreline flattered the Sharks a bit because they had an intercept and two breakaway tries in the last few minutes against the Sunwolves. Before that, the Sharks just could not finish and the amount of mistakes they made, especially when it came to the final pass, didn’t help either. But they will be happy to get back to winning ways and get the bonus point, although it looks likely they’ll have to get through a playoff in New Zealand.

If the Lions, however, have aspirations of playing at home all the way through to the final, then they need to win their big game against the Sharks after the international break.

No side in SuperRugby would have lived with the Lions in the first half of their match against the Bulls and they are showing great decision-making at the moment.

Having been away for three weeks, there was definitely a feeling of the Lions being back at home and they were full of confidence.

Obviously they will lose a bit of momentum over the break, quite a few of their players will be in the national squads, so it will be a tough month for them. They will have guys who will play all three Tests against France, so that will be disruptive to their rhythm.

And coach Johan Ackermann won’t have a break either because he will be coaching the SA A side, which will be quite taxing too. And then one week after the end of SuperRugby, he’ll be off to Gloucester, so he has a very busy program over the next few months.

Sometimes you get very good SuperRugby players who are just not able to adapt to the higher environment and believe you me, international rugby is a higher level and just so much quicker, because it’s the best of the best playing. In SuperRugby, you get guys who are in the same system all their life, at the Bulls there were guys who were coached in defence by me since they were 19, but they can’t adapt to the different pace of the game at the next step up.

Certain other players prove to be consistently excellent players at Test level. There’s such a mental side to it because there is real pressure representing your country at international level, some players just cope better.

Those are the sort of players Allister Coetzee will want to be working with.

 

 

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.

 



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