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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Springboks still heading for a very good year 0

Posted on September 28, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s a very important Test for the Springboks against Australia in Bloemfontein on Saturday because victory will take them to six wins out of eight matches and that obviously means they are heading for a very good year.

Heading into the last two home Tests of the year, the good news is that the Springboks have a good chance to finish second in the Rugby Championship. If they win their last two games, then they are heading for a very good year indeed!

But first they need to get through Australia, but they are playing one of the top four teams, so it’s a chance to go up the rankings.

Traditionally the Wallabies have always struggled at altitude – South Africa have won 14 of the last 15 games on the Highveld – but there’s obviously more to it than that. The Springbok forwards were really in control at the back end of the game in Perth, they scored a really good lineout drive try and their scrum was dominant, so those are real positives.

I expect the scrum to go well again and garner penalties like they did at Loftus Versfeld last year and in Perth, and I expect the lineout maul to dominate when in good field positions. Hooker Malcolm Marx remains a helluva talent and the Springboks will definitely produce a better lineout performance. New Zealand have one heck of a competing lineout and it wasn’t the first time they’ve dismantled an opposition lineout and it won’t be the last.

So the Springboks should have different quality ball for the halfbacks and having Ross Cronje back and fit will definitely be a big help for Elton Jantjies.

In terms of any scarring from the 57-0 hammering in Albany, after a big loss the hardest thing is that the confidence takes a knock. It wasn’t the best day for the players or the coaches and they’ve got to regain trust in the system. It’s a good thing that they had a week off to clear the mind and Allister Coetzee needs to look at people who can bounce back and deliver a great performance.

The stakes are so high and there’s such immense pressure to perform at national level that the players will have real feelings of shame. They know how great the support is and how high the expectations are because the Springboks are one of the country’s flagship sporting teams.

It was obviously a great disappointment, but that all goes when they step back on to the training field and they’re back to normality. But there will still be that little bit of doubt in the back of their minds, which is why they need a good performance to erase that.

At altitude, it’s not so important to start well as we saw with the Lions in the SuperRugby semi-final. From 30 minutes onwards, the altitude starts to kick in and take the sting out of the opposition legs.

Test matches are like playing 12 Currie Cup finals in a year, such is their importance that they are live or die, every one of them.

Which is why I feel sorry for Raymond Rhule, who took full responsibility for his performance, but there’s no need to throw him away as a Springbok. In my time on the Springboks staff, we had a player who missed five tackles on the wing and weeks later he was still deeply upset and disappointed. You could see the hurt in his eyes a month later. But he went on to play stellar rugby for South Africa for the next three years, he recovered and became a regular throughout my tenure with the national team.

The players need to know they have the backing of their coaches and sometimes you get players who are immense talents on attack but their defence is not so strong. Then you have to ask: Is he coachable? Does he listen? Does he make the right decisions under pressure? Is his positional play such that he will be in the right place to execute the tackle?

Social media can be quite brutal, everyone has an opinion, but now it can be stated and broadcast far and wide. In the old days the players didn’t have to bother with any of that.

The Handre Pollard situation has also raised plenty of debate and it’s non-negotiable for me. A returning Springbok has to come back into the franchise 23 because the national interest comes first, sometimes coaches have to see the bigger picture.

He is an elite player for the Bulls and has been with them since he was 18, six years, and he has shown great loyalty and produced many good performances. A player of Pollard’s class should slot in seamlessly.

In 2004, I can remember Jake White released Victor Matfield from the Springbok squad and we were in the middle of our Currie Cup campaign at the Bulls, but we accommodated him on the flank against the Lions.

He was man of the match the next weekend against the All Blacks and that was the season South Africa won the Tri-Nations.

It is vitally important that if a Springbok needs game time, then you give it to him, even if it’s off the bench. We always used to play them at the Bulls and the Western Province, Sharks and Free State national squad players were all welcomed straight back into their teams.

John Mitchell has stated how important the Currie Cup is to build towards SuperRugby. Surely the chance to integrate a world-class player in a match situation is very much a bonus for the Bulls?

So for a week he gets to use his key tactical decision-maker in the Currie Cup while preparing for SuperRugby 2018. Surely you would take that any day?

 

 


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.

 

Why Quinton de Kock must go 0

Posted on December 15, 2015 by Ken

 

South Africa are safely through the pool stages of the World Cup and now the crunch end of the tournament arrives with the knockout games. For the Proteas, that means a quarterfinal most probably against Sri Lanka at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Wednesday.

There is a possibility, however, that South Africa might have to play Australia in the quarterfinals, in Adelaide. If Australia’s match against Scotland in Hobart today is washed out, then the hosts will finish third in Pool A because Sri Lanka will have four wins as opposed to three for Australia.

South Africa are 99.9% certain of finishing second in Pool B because if Pakistan beat Ireland in Adelaide tomorrow for their fourth win of the group stage, then they will have do it by more than 500 runs or chase down their target in less than 10 overs to give themselves a better net run-rate than the Proteas.

So, working on the assumption that it will be Sri Lanka standing in the way of South Africa, how do the Proteas go about winning a knockout game at the World Cup for the first time?

Firstly, selection will be crucial and, for me, it comes down to either Vernon Philander or Farhaan Behardien at number seven.

Whoever coach Russell Domingo includes out of those two, Rilee Rossouw has to play and should open with Hashim Amla.

AB de Villiers may have backed Quinton de Kock publically – it’s another display of saying it until you believe it by the captain following him once again saying “South Africa are the best team in the tournament” – but our patience has run out after just 53 runs in six innings by the wicketkeeper. For the good of the team in a do-or-die game, De Villiers needs to keep however reluctant he is.

Most tellingly, De Kock has been out to the same delivery in all six innings – length outside off stump – and his dismissals have all been caught: at mid-off, mid-off, cover and three-in-a-row caught behind. So Sri Lanka know exactly where to bowl to continue the left-hander’s poor run of form.

The rugga buggers, who have two World Cup crowns to boast about, will tell you that when it comes to the pinnacle of international sport, any weak link is immediately targeted. You can’t have a dodgy prop or a defensively poor flyhalf if you’re going to be world champions.

Similarly, South Africa can’t have JP Duminy as a fifth bowler, delivering 10 overs. The off-spinner has only bowled 21 overs in four matches, conceding 6.19 runs-per-over, so he needs someone to help him share the load.

Against a strong batting side like Sri Lanka, on an SCG pitch where they scored 312 against Australia, and South Africa made 408 for five against the West Indies, I would go with five frontline bowlers and play Philander and Kyle Abbott.

One of those five is bound to be targeted and have an off-day, leaving Duminy to pick up the remainder of his overs.

To pull the rug out from under Sri Lanka’s feet, the Proteas are clearly going to have to dismiss Kumar Sangakkara and Tillekeratne Dilshan cheaply. The only problem is they average 45.89 and 47.09 respectively against South Africa.

The only drawback from playing five frontline bowlers is that it leaves South Africa with only six specialist batsmen and their supporters know only too well how vulnerable they are when chasing in World Cups.

That may favour Behardien playing ahead of Abbott. I am a fan of the Titans batsman having seen his finishing ability numerous times at franchise level; but I fear Sangakkara, Dilshan, Mahela Jayawardene and Angelo Mathews hitting him and Duminy out the park and the Proteas having to chase over 300 as a result.

 

Foreigner coach idea not discounted by Saru, but Coetzee still favourite 0

Posted on December 05, 2015 by Ken

 

The idea that a foreigner could succeed Heyneke Meyer as the coach of the Springboks was not discounted by South African Rugby Union (Saru) president Oregan Hoskins on Friday, but a strengthened emphasis on transformation means Allister Coetzee surely remains the hot favourite to take over the poisoned chalice.

Meyer’s dignified exit from the role means Saru have a week in which to hunt down his successor and, with former Stormers coach Coetzee and current Lions mastermind Johan Ackermann the only realistic local candidates, speculation has been rife that the Springboks might have their first overseas coach.

“Yes, a foreigner is an option. We shouldn’t rule out anyone because we want best for South Africa, so we have to consider all the possibilities. There were 13 foreign coaches in charge at the 2015 Rugby World Cup, that’s the way things are going in rugby,” Hoskins said at Saru House in Cape Town on Friday as he addressed media about the Springbok coaching position.

John Plumtree and John Mitchell are the leading candidates in terms of overseas-born coaches, with both of them having led South African franchises in SuperRugby.

But Mitchell is likely to have a long list of demands – such as a four-year contract and being able to choose his own support team – which has been a sticking point in his negotiations to take over the Stormers coaching role.

Plumtree coached the Sharks for four years from 2008, winning two Currie Cup titles but generally under-performing in SuperRugby. Following his dismissal by the Sharks, the New Zealander became the Ireland forwards coach, before joining the successful Hurricanes side as an assistant in this year’s SuperRugby competition.

Former All Black Wayne Smith, a visonary attack coach for New Zealand’s 2011 and 2015 World Cup triumphs, has also been mentioned as a candidate but, like Mitchell and Plumtree, he would appear to be more likely to be involved as an assistant.

Coetzee, the backline coach in the Springboks’ 2007 World Cup win, has always been the favourite to succeed Meyer, having controversially lost out in 2008 when Peter de Villiers was appointed, but what has certainly caused his stock to rise were Hoskins’ comments that transformation would be a priority for the next coach of the national team.

“For the next four years, transformation will be key for us – we signed an agreement with Sascoc and the government. It has been Saru’s policy that the leadership doesn’t interfere in team selection, but we might have to look at that. It’s very difficult to have Saru interfering in team selection, but if policy is not implemented, then we would address that discreetly and find solutions. Anybody applying for Bok coach needs to know transformation is at the top of the agenda – otherwise don’t apply,” Hoskins said.

An overseas coach would probably struggle with the implementation of such transformation policy, while it is an area in which Coetzee, a former scrumhalf star in non-racial rugby, excelled during his time in Cape Town, while still guiding them to four appearances in the SuperRugby knockout phase as well as two Currie Cup titles.

Other favourites of the South African rugby public are Nick Mallett, who has however said he does not want to return to coaching, Robbie Deans, who, like Coetzee is currently coaching in Japan, and Ackermann.

The viewpoint of those involved in making the decision, however, would seem to be that Ackermann needs to gain more experience and win trophies with the Lions over the next four years.

Coetzee as head coach with a high-profile overseas assistant, and the involvement of Saru rugby general manager Rassie Erasmus, would appear to be what the governing body are currently angling for ahead of the expected announcement of the new Springbok management next Friday.

 

 

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