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Ken Borland



Sadness as two players leave the Springbok family 0

Posted on January 19, 2018 by Ken

 

Coach Heyneke Meyer likes to talk about the Springbok team as being a family, and there was sadness in camp on Monday when two players left the squad ahead of the Rugby Championship finale against the All Blacks at Soccer City on Saturday.

While Jacques Potgieter, who has an abdominal strain, was a fringe player, Francois Steyn is a key figure in the team, having played 53 Tests despite being just 25 years old, and a senior player.

But his departure from the squad to have ankle surgery is undoubtedly in the long-term interests of both the team and the player.

“Frans has quite a few loose pieces of bone in his ankle and every now and then one of them gets lodged in the joint, causing him excruciating pain. As a long-term solution, we’re sending him for surgery to have it cleaned out on Wednesday. Unfortunately that means he will be out for three months and he will miss the end-of-year tour,” team doctor Craig Roberts said.

Steyn might be missing out now, but the positive side is that he will be able to have a proper rest and pre-season conditioning before starting next year’s SuperRugby competition with the Sharks, hopefully in prime physical and mental state.

Sometimes an enforced break like this one can end up adding years to a player’s career and, as Roberts pointed out, the Springboks are looking for another 60 Tests from the utility back and he will be a vital figure in the 2015 World Cup in England.

A third player could well leave the squad on Tuesday, with prop Coenie Oosthuizen going to see a specialist in Durban about his neck injury. Meyer rushed the versatile Oosthuizen back into the team, naming him on the bench for the Test against Australia despite the 23-year-old having played just 35 minutes for the Free State Cheetahs since injuring his neck during his Springbok debut against England in June.

Sometimes players are rushed back into action too soon and it is a credit to Roberts that he managed to convince Meyer to pull Oosthuizen from last weekend’s game; the team doctor clearly has doubts that the prop has fully recovered.

“Again, we want to ensure we make the right long-term decision and I’m not happy with his neck; he still has some quite significant symptoms, especially stiffness,” Roberts said.

Both the Springboks and All Blacks are coming off impressive weekend victories, setting up another titanic clash between the two great rivals at the iconic stadium in Soweto. New Zealand may have already clinched the inaugural Rugby Championship title, but there is no doubt they will be up for the game against the old enemy.

Apart from notching another victory on South African soil, they would also love to complete the year unbeaten and stretch their winning run to 16 matches dating back to the start of their triumphant World Cup campaign.

“We’ve won the Rugby Championship, but we’ve parked that and we’re now focused on winning in South Africa. If you talk to the older guys, they’ll tell you it’s more rewarding winning here than beating the Springboks at home. The guys that have been around a while really love testing themselves against the best here; it’s one of the toughest places to win,” loose forward Sam Cane said on Monday.

Lock Sam Whitelock also stressed the importance of Saturday’s game.

“It’s really nice that we’ve put the trophy away, but this weekend will be a massive challenge. It would be great to start off a new competition with a clean sweep.

“Last year didn’t go so well for us in Port Elizabeth and South Africa is always hard to beat at home. But that’s the beauty of international rugby; you have to perform week in and week out. All you need is one game to not go well and everything can unravel very quickly,” Whitelock said.

The great rivalry between the two sides will be exemplified in the tremendous physicality of Saturday’s Test, with the Dunedin match two weekends ago being widely proclaimed as a coming-of-age performance by the youthful Springbok pack.

“The Dunedin game was a typical All Blacks/Springboks Test, with massive body collisions. It was quite tight and it took a while for either side to win any dominance. I’m sure it will be the case again this week and the body will take a bit of a hammering,” Whitelock said.

The Springboks are obviously not going to make the same mistake that Argentina did in trying to match the expansive, fast-paced game of the All Blacks.

“Playing at home, there’s always more pressure to run the ball, but that’s what New Zealand likes because it gives them turnovers and they punish you. You will never beat New Zealand at their own game, you’ll never out-run them. You have to put pressure on them, especially at the breakdown, in defence and with your kicking game,” Meyer said.

The Springboks are well positioned to do this if they can produce a repeat performance of their Loftus Versfeld heroics against the Wallabies.

For all the elation of the five tries scored, it was a top-class defensive effort in the trenches that set up a morale-boosting win.

“It was a good performance, definitely the most satisfying of the year, and our defence was also the best it’s been the whole year. We made 178 tackles compared to their 109, and we had a 96% completion rate, we only missed seven tackles. Plus we only had 45% possession,” Meyer said.

A win over the in-form world champions would ensure Meyer gets a positive review after his first year in charge.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-02-rugby-tough-calls-for-the-springboks/#.WmHcfK6WbIU

 

Meyer makes popular selections for UK tour 0

Posted on September 04, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer has previously said that bowing to public opinion would be akin to having fans voting for the national team, but the Springbok coach has made what will be some popular selections in the squad announced on Sunday to tour Great Britain and Ireland.

While it’s a perfectly logical squad, featuring all the players who appeared for the Springboks this year and are fit, there will be some debate, as ever, round the flyhalf position.

Meyer has predictably named all three contenders – Elton Jantjies, Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie – in the squad, and it would perhaps be best for the long-term growth of the Springboks if he spread the flyhalf duties between the trio for the three Tests against Ireland, Scotland and England.

There are five uncapped players in the 31-man squad, with lock Franco van der Merwe and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak having been round the block a few times, while outside backs Lionel Mapoe and 19-year-old Raymond Rhule have the flair and skills to be exciting additions to the Springbok backline in years to come.

Speaking of flair and skills, Meyer has decided to bring hooker-cum-part-time flank Schalk Brits in from the cold, the 31-year-old Saracens player having not represented the Springboks since 2008. The other overseas-based players in the squad are Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, Bath flank Francois Louw and mountainous Toulouse loosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp.

The other uncapped player in the touring group is loose forward Arno Botha, who has been part of the Springbok squad this year.

Meyer explained his reasoning by saying: “We’ve got a settled core of players that did the job during the England series and the Rugby Championship and we decided to stick with them.

“Gurthrö and Schalk are experienced front-rankers who have played for South Africa before and know the conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. This tour provides a good opportunity to assess them as we plan ahead. Arno, Lionel, Franco and Jano have all been part of our squad earlier in the season.

“Raymond put up his hand for the Junior Boks and the Cheetahs and I’m very excited to see what he can do. It’s also great to have JP Pietersen and Chiliboy Ralepelle back from injury as they bring a lot of experience to the squad.”

Meyer will also name a 32nd squad member before the team departs for the United Kingdom on Saturday, with loose forward and outside back being the two areas where the Springboks probably currently have holes.

Captain Jean de Villiers, who missed Western Province’s run-in to the Currie Cup title with a hamstring strain, will also have to prove his fitness before departure.

The Springboks have already been hard-hit by injuries with prop Coenie Oosthuizen, hookers Bismarck du Plessis and Tiaan Liebenberg, lock Andries Bekker, loose forwards Siya Kolisi, Jacques Potgieter and Pierre Spies, flyhalf Johan Goosen, centre Frans Steyn and wing Bryan Habana all being wounded in action this year.

Flanks Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow were all ruled out before the Springboks even stepped on to a field this year.

The injury curse got her dirty little hands into Habana over the weekend, the in-form winger leaving the field with a knee injury in the 14th minute of the Currie Cup final after Beast Mtawarira hurled him to the ground at a ruck.

On the plus side, though, Pietersen is back in the Springbok squad and will be hoping Lady Luck only has her best in store for him after he missed the entire Rugby Championship with a hand injury.

While Springbok fans have had to endure a diet of uninspired rugby and regular defeats this year, the team began to show real promise in the second half of the Rugby Championship before the brilliant All Blacks taught them a lesson in Soweto.

Weather conditions overseas may favour Meyer’s preferred conservative game plan, but there are enough exciting youngsters in the squad for more glimmers of hope to be seen. 

Springbok squad – Zane Kirchner (Bulls), Pat Lambie (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Juan de Jongh (WP), Jaco Taute (Lions), Jean de Villiers (WP), Lionel Mapoe (Lions), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Raymond Rhule (FS), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Morne Steyn (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Jano Vermaak (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (WP), Willem Alberts (Sharks), Arno Botha (Bulls), Francois Louw (Bath), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Juandre Kruger (Bulls), Franco van der Merwe (Lions), Eben Etzebeth (WP), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Pat Cilliers (Lions), CJ van der Linde (Lions), Adriaan Strauss (FS), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse).

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-29-back-in-action-crowd-pleasers-in-the-latest-bok-squad/#.Wa08tbIjHIU

A passionate, top-class SA coach without a job 0

Posted on May 24, 2017 by Ken

 

Despite a poor final year in charge of the Springboks, there is little doubt Heyneke Meyer remains a top-class coach and it is a symptom of a sick South African rugby system that the 49-year-old is without a full-time coaching job despite making it clear that he still wants to make a difference to the game in this country.

Meyer was back at Loftus Versfeld a couple of days ago to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s, a unique tournament for professional teams in a social environment, that will be held in Mauritius next month, but there is no doubt he still harbours a burning desire to be involved in the cauldron of top quality rugby again judging by the passion with which he answered a range of questions on South African rugby.

Although a great admirer of New Zealand rugby and a personal friend of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, Meyer makes a good point when he says a drive to play like the Kiwis do is a case of chasing the wind for South African rugby.

He reckons it will take us 10 years to catch up to their style of play, by which time their game will have evolved and they will still be 10 years ahead of South Africa. It is perhaps a symptom of our insecurity as a nation that we are always trying to copy other teams – in the early 2000s it was Australian rugby that was the flavour of the month.

Meyer, who has been working with plenty of New Zealanders and Fijians in his part-time role as coach of the Asia Pacific Dragons team, points to a higher innate skills level as one of the main reasons South Africans will find it very difficult to emulate the free-flowing, expansive style of the Kiwis.

“South Africans don’t have the same natural understanding of space that they do, but I truly believe any of our teams can still beat a New Zealand team, especially at home. But if we try and follow them then we’ll never be the best in the world. We have to rediscover what we stand for and play South African rugby – brilliant set-pieces, driving, strong defence. We must do what we’re good at and kick intelligently, not just kick the ball away,” Meyer said.

The national coach from 2012 to 2015 made the point that ex-Springbok coaches are practically driven out of the country and pointed to Eddie Jones travelling from Australia to South Africa and now to England as an example of the value of experience, even if it comes from losing a few games.

“Eddie lost eight games in a row with Australia and was fired, he then helped the Springboks and learnt a lot there. In fact England are now playing like the Boks used to – they have great set-pieces, a great defence and kicking game, they still score tries and they’re on a winning run. It would be 50/50 right now between them and the All Blacks.”

Many observers have pointed to the speed at which New Zealand teams play the game and Meyer said this difference was most marked towards the end of matches, due to the superior fitness of the Kiwis.

“The All Blacks have always been superior in terms of fitness. We have big, strong guys, but it’s harder to get them fit. New Zealand have smaller but more mobile players and they run you ragged in the last 10-15 minutes. Central contracting means Steve Hansen knows the fitness of all his players and whether they need to rest or work harder.

“But you can’t do major fitness work if your players are tired or injured and our guys going overseas makes it very difficult, I’m very concerned about all the guys in Japan because you can’t play for 12 months. Before the last World Cup, I did not see the players for eight months so I asked for fitness reports from the franchises and nobody sent them in.

“So when I got the players I knew we were in trouble and the guys were not fit for the first game against Japan. But the All Blacks get to rest for three months after SuperRugby, so they’re super-fit for the next year, but we’re playing Currie Cup or in Japan. It’s very difficult for the South African coaches,” Meyer said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170513/282578787965088

Ex-national coaches the finished article: Heyneke 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer returned to Loftus Versfeld on Thursday and bemoaned the irony that former Springbok coaches, who can be considered close to the finished article, are excluded from the local game at a time when South African rugby is in crisis and needs as much experienced help as it can get.

Meyer was at his former stamping ground to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s to be played in Mauritius next month, but his passion for top-level rugby is still there.

“Ex national coaches learn so much, they’re at their best, and then they get moved sideways. The perception here is that I’m in the rugby wilderness, but I’m getting offers from all over the world. But I want to be in South Africa, I believe I can make a difference, even though I’m currently very happy working for Carinat.

“You look at Eddie Jones, who lost eight-in-a-row with Australia and was fired, but then he helped the Springboks and now with England you can see how much he has learnt. Most South African coaches are just gone, though; Rassie Erasmus and Jake White have been really successful overseas and someone like John Plumtree was not seen as a great coach here, but I always rated him, and now he’s won SuperRugby in New Zealand. So it’s not the lack of coaches that is our problem, it’s the system,” Meyer said.

The coach of the first South African team to win Super Rugby, back in 2007, said local franchises were severely hampered by the overseas exodus, fitness issues and the push to play like New Zealand teams.

“You know we’re in trouble when we want to follow New Zealand, if you do that then you’ll never be the best in the world. There’s an over-fixation to play like the All Blacks, it will take us 10 years to get there and then they’ll be another 10 years ahead! We have to find out what we stand for and play the South African way.

“It’s very concerning all the players going to Japan because they can’t play for 12 months and players need to be uninjured and fresh in order to do proper fitness work. And if you’re tired you can’t execute your skills, you can’t press in defence, or scrum or drive. Teams win because of superior fitness and with guys going overseas it’s very difficult.

“Plus it’s impossible to keep the same side together for five years, you just start building and guys leave by the time they’re 25. We’ve got the right coaches and players but we need a better system to keep the players,” Meyer said.

 



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