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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – The intent is obviously there 0

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the quality of the games last weekend, I am really looking forward to this weekend’s SuperRugby action, with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions looking like South Africa’s three major contenders.

Last weekend we saw very different South African derbies to what we normally see and the will to attack was clearly there. The intent was obviously there to play with ball in hand and the teams played with real speed in terms of tempo, and pace, which made a heck of an impact.

An example of this was when the Stormers took a quick tap and scored seven points against the Bulls; they, in particular, showed more intent than they have in the past.

The effects of the new tackle law, meaning players now have to go lower with their hits, were also evident in that there were more offloads. Attacks can now continue through the tackle because the arms are free and the tall guys can get the ball above the tackle. It keeps the ball alive and it has led to a lot more continuity.

What was really impressive to me was how lean some of the leading Springboks looked. Guys like Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi looked in great shape and the speed they played at was a direct consequence of their fitness levels.

There’s definitely been a huge emphasis on conditioning through the franchises and it could mean the end of the New Zealand and Australian sides feeling that a high ball-in-play figure is their secret to success because the South African teams will tire.

While the Stormers were fantastic, what was encouraging about the Bulls was that they never gave up, which is huge. They denied the Stormers a bonus point, which at the end of the day could be vital; from 24-0 up at halftime, the Stormers really needed to get that bonus point. The second half would have provided a huge swing in confidence for the Bulls.

In the Cheetahs versus Lions game in Bloemfontein, the visitors really got out of jail, but if you can score three tries away from home then you deserve your victory.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg showed his finishing power and speed, while the Lions’ try down the short side to win the match showed again that rugby is about defending the full width of the field, even if you only have two or three metres to touch.

The penalty try given off a driving maul was a game-changer; most referees would have copped out and just given a penalty, but if the maul is set and moving forward then it deserves that decision, so credit to referee Quinton Immelman for his brave call.

The Southern Kings looked better and scored some really good tries, but again conceded turnovers at crucial times. During the first half they were in control for long periods, but a yellow card really cost them and prop Ross Geldenhuys was lucky not to get a red card, which a knee to the back should be penalised with.

The major talking point of the last week in the rugby world, however, was Italy and their decision not to contest rucks against England.

I had lunch with Brendan Venter last week and he mentioned that they were going to do it. Any tactic that is new and innovative has to be applauded and it certainly took England a long time to cope with it, so credit to Brendan and the rest of the Italian coaching staff and players for that.

But I believe World Rugby do need to look at the law. As defence coaches, we encourage players to get back on their feet and in the defensive line, but now teams might just try to herd the attacking team into a small radius of the ruck, which would not be good for the game.

It would take a full week of coaching to get a game plan against Italy’s tactic. It was  a real shock-and-awe strategy and difficult to adapt to on your feet. In fact, England played into Italy’s hands with their counter to it, so it clearly worked as a tactic.

 

 

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.

What to do with our bunch of U19 losers? 0

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula will no doubt call them “a bunch of losers”, while many cricket followers, judging by the comments I’ve seen, would want even harsher punishment meted out to the South African U19 team after their dismal display in the ICC junior world cup.

I would normally feel sorry for a group of young men with such expectation heaped on their shoulders to go and perform in a strange land like Bangladesh, especially since their predecessors, the special team led by Ray Jennings, Aiden Markram and Kagiso Rabada, claimed the title in the last tournament two years ago.

But when any South African team loses to Namibia and someone close to the squad slams them for their arrogance and lack of discipline and accuses some of them of just wanting to bolster their CVs before heading overseas, then I begin to wonder whether being charitable is the right response or should they face the music?

Coach Lawrence Mahatlane has come in for brutal criticism, but then he is an easy target. Being Black African, his appointment was immediately greeted with a chorus of “quota appointment”; having not played first-class cricket also counted against him.

I have had many private discussions about cricket with Mahatlane and, in fact, I have played in teams coached by him. Although the level of play and the pressures were obviously vastly different, I can assure sceptics that Mahatlane is as passionate about the game as anyone, including Jennings, and is immensely knowledgeable.

From what I have heard in private from people surrounding the squad, Mahatlane may have been on a hiding to nothing. The health of our U19 cricket always fluctuates, there has been a cycle of great sides and more mediocre ones for decades.

But while one can forgive players for maybe not having as much talent as some of their predecessors, there is absolutely no excuse for a lack of work ethic nor for an attitude that suggests “we have already made it”.

I would describe Mahatlane as someone who cares for his players, but perhaps, behind the scenes, they did not have the necessary respect for their coach, for whatever reason, be it his skin colour or his lack of a playing record.

Jennings was a master of getting such destructive attitudes out in the open and removing them from the set-up, but he also boasted healthy experience as a coach.

With the shocking results of the U19 team coming at the same time as the senior side were struggling against England, alarming questions bordering on panic were asked about the health of the game in South Africa in general.

We should take care not to lose sight of the bigger picture and the context in which these results have occurred. There is an awful amount of negativity feeding into cricket at the moment and this was undoubtedly partly to blame for the disaster in Bangladesh. If players already have it in their heads to emigrate and play for another country, how is the team going to perform, no matter how inspiring the management was?

For those blaming quotas, there was only a pair of Black African players in the loss to Namibia.

To counter-balance that, Namibia played in the CocaCola Khaya Majola Week – the U19 interprovincial – and their performance was underwhelming. They beat Limpopo and North-West on first innings, but lost to Western Province and Northern Cape and were thrashed by 192 runs by Easterns.

Those results perhaps show that there was something seriously wrong with the selection of the national U19 team.

Mahatlane’s position is probably untenable but I hope a place is found for him somewhere else in the pipeline because he has a lot to offer. In the meantime, South Africa have lost a top-class coach in Pierre de Bruyn, who would have been an ideal fit for the Junior Proteas, but is off to take up a lucrative contract in county cricket.

As Mahatlane pointed out, though, one of the key facets of U19 cricket is learning and improving as players, and hopefully the current South African squad has learnt some brutal lessons.

 

 

 

 

 

Good times to be a gambler 0

Posted on February 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Judging by South Africa’s performance in the World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka this week, these are good times to be a gambler and, seeing as though I am at Sun City for the Chase to the Investec Cup final, I’m going to put R1000 each on three, four and eight at the roulette table tonight, in honour of JP Duminy’s three wickets in three balls, which meant the Proteas got away with only having four specialist bowlers, and Quinton de Kock coming good after previously averaging just eight in the tournament.

Okay, the bit about me gambling tonight is a joke because times are still tough for journos and instead I may treat myself to a lager and ponder over how good it felt to get my predictions for the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka so utterly wrong.

Coach Russell Domingo has never struck me as the gambling type, although he does have a profound love for figures, which is not to say he’s not willing to make tough decisions. He’s done that before and was even willing to leave the great Jacques Kallis out of limited-overs teams when he didn’t fit into the game-plan.

But as far as gambles go, taking on the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up on a flat Sydney Cricket Ground pitch with Duminy as the fifth bowler and AB de Villiers as the back-up ranks up there with the biggest in World Cup history, and, were it not for the brilliance of the pace bowlers and Imran Tahir in taking early wickets, it was a move that could have gone stupidly wrong.

But it worked, as did the faith shown in De Kock. As the confidence seeped back into the young left-hander, emboldened by the support of his management and team-mates, his talent and class was plain to see.

You would rightly expect South Africa to keep the same XI for Tuesday’s semi-final against the winner of today’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies, which means the pressure will once again be on the bowlers to reach the same heights they did in Sydney.

Apart from the pleasure of watching such a complete performance and celebrating South Africa’s first win in a World Cup knockout game, I really liked the send-off given to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Those two great batsmen have given South African bowlers a terrible time over the years but their strength of character, charm and integrity means they will be remembered as so much more than just prolific employees of Sri Lanka Cricket.

In my opinion, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, in the same exalted realms of excellence as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Kallis.

The Proteas obviously hold him and Jayawardene in similarly high esteem judging by the genuine warmth they showed in farewelling them, and Sangakkara’s response when asked how he would like to be remembered speaks to the very essence of sport:

“If anyone can say they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Cricket South Africa sent out a special tribute statement when Tendulkar retired; Sangakkara is surely deserving of the same honour?

 

Despite talk, Sharks put faith in tight five 0

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Ken

 

Despite all the talk about scoring tries, the Cell C Sharks will be putting their faith in the expertise of their tight five, judging by the team announced yesterday for their opening Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.

Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Mouritz Botha and Pieter-Steph du Toit will all be bringing international experience to the field and coach Gary Gold will be hoping they will be laying the most solid of foundations.

Marcell Coetzee is the senior loose forward, with Pumas import Renaldo Bothma getting a SuperRugby debut and Tera Mtembu slotting in at eighthman. Willem Alberts and lock Stephan Lewies are still out with injury.

Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach form an outstanding halfback pairing, but Gold has a less settled combination at centre. Waylon Murray was born in Durban and schooled at Westville, but has played most of his recent rugby outside the province and he returns to the outside centre berth, with young Heimar Williams alongside him, preferred to exciting young powerhouse Andre Esterhuizen.

SP Marais will be at fullback, but perhaps the Sharks’ greatest attacking threat will be from wings Lwazi Mvovo and S’bura Sithole.

Jean Deysel is on the bench and is the only one of the Japanese-based players to make the match-day squad, with the return of Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen keenly awaited as they will give the backline the experience that is currently lacking in comparison to the tight five.

Matt Stevens, the former British Lions prop, is also on the bench, as is the veteran wing Odwa Ndungane.

The match will be refereed by the Australian, Andrew Lees, and the kick-off is at 5.05pm.

 

 

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  • Thought of the Day

    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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