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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Great for Boks to play NZ at Newlands 0

Posted on October 05, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s going to be great to see the Springboks back at Newlands on Saturday, especially against the All Blacks.

We always wanted to play them at sea level because we used to think then we had far more chance against them, at altitude the game is just so much faster. It always used to come down to the last 20 minutes of conditioning, and even if we were in front, those lost 20 minutes would always cost us.

But still at sea level we lost by just two points in the World Cup semi-final in London, by four points in Wellington the year before and by 10 points in Dunedin in 2012.

Any team goes on to the pitch looking to win and, apart from last year, the last couple of Tests against New Zealand in South Africa have been decided by less than seven points.

But for the Springboks to beat the All Blacks on Saturday, the lineouts, which were better last weekend (you’re always going to lose a couple at that level) and scrums need to function; if your set-pieces are not stable then you have no chance and the scrums, especially, have to be penalty free.

You have to give Ruan Dreyer time to learn at that level, but the Springboks also need to have their best scrummager on first, you start with your more secure scrummaging option. Impact props are specialists in their own right.

Fortunately the All Blacks tend to not go for the opposition scrum so much, they prefer ball-in and ball-out and to attack through their backs. So our scrums have generally not been a problem against them.

Tendai Mtawarira is in the form of his life, he has been exceptional, and there is obviously such deep respect for him in the team and in world rugby in general. But on the other side of the scrum, if there is any technical deficiency, the opposition will definitely be highlighting that in the referee’s meeting … and that’s where the seeds are planted in the referee’s mind.

And the Springboks will also need to win the battle of the gain-line against the All Blacks, deny them momentum and make sure they get over the gain-line with their attacks. They need to disrupt the All Blacks attack, but they will still score three or four tries, so the Springboks also have to score tries.

It’s hard to do that against the All Blacks because their defensive system is totally reliant on having players on their feet, they’ll have 13 or 14 players on their feet and nobody in the ruck, and that makes it quite hard to engage defenders. So the Springboks really need to get over the advantage line and, if they get given turnover ball, then they must have the positive mindset to make it count, especially from broken field.

The Springboks played some incredibly adventurous rugby against Australia in Bloemfontein, but they just could not finish. There were some really good things in that display and some of the handling and line-running was superb, for example Siya Kolisi’s run from deep that led to Jan Serfontein’s try.

It’s obviously the style Franco Smith and Allister Coetzee have decided to go with and even though I’m not sure it would work in a wet-weather game at Twickenham, it was a very positive way of playing in great conditions in Bloemfontein. And if Elton Jantjies had kicked that last penalty, the Springbok would have won.

At the end of the day, the Springboks played very high-tempo rugby with ball in hand, they didn’t just set up and kick. They tried to play a bit, to bring the wings up and create space, even if they were a bit side-to-side at times. But some of the handling, the offloads and the way they were able to keep the ball alive was really quite special.

It was a cracking Test and I fail to understand why the country was all so disappointed with the national team. Rugby seems to have come full circle: In 2015, people were highly critical of the way we played against New Zealand, and now everyone wants us to play that way against them!

The defence was also really good, except for when Bernard Foley got around Kolisi, but if Courtnall Skosan had just adjusted and turned in to help Siya, then the whole attack would have been nullified because numbers were up on the outside.

They did have problems covering the short kick-offs, but Australia have real height in their backline and Israel Folau is a total nuisance. There will always be space somewhere, which allows him to have a good jump against someone.

The Springboks are trying to get the rush defence right, but if you’re numbers down and very deep, then you have to drift. In midfield you tend to be softer to try and get the opposition towards the touchline and you can’t go rushing off on the short side either.

The rush defence works best when you’re on the edge of the field and a clever team doesn’t really go there either.

The players have also got to be used to a rush defence but none of our unions have really gone down that route; the Bulls are maybe trying it the most.

Every defence coach wants line-speed, but if you’re not winning the collisions then you can’t have it. If you’re making dominant tackles, then you can push the opposition line back.

 

 


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.

 

 

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



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