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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: How do the Springboks beat Ireland? 0

Posted on November 08, 2017 by Ken

 

The first priority for the Springboks when they meet Ireland in Dublin on Saturday will be to defuse the Irish kicking game.

Ireland have very strong halfbacks with a very good aerial game, especially the pinpoint accuracy of Conor Murray’s box-kicks, which he is able to launch from behind the maul.

Which is why Allister Coetzee will choose such a big pack, with Pieter-Steph du Toit in the back row it means they have an extra jumper at the tail and three big lineout forwards. It is vital that the Springbok forwards get on top and make sure that the Ireland halfbacks get back-foot ball. Ross Cronje can then get after flyhalf Jonathan Sexton and the locks can look after Murray on his box-kicks.

It was interesting to see in New Zealand during the Lions tour how there was a clear plan to unsettle Murray by attacking him on the blindside and rushing on to his non-kicking foot. I don’t think the Springboks will do the same thing – the legality of the tactic is a bit dubious, but it shows that he can be unsettled.

In terms of receiving those Irish kicks, Allister Coetzee has gone for continuity all year and Dillyn Leyds and Courtnall Skosan are both good under the high ball. It’s similar to how the All Blacks go behind Aaron Smith’s kicks, but it’s not just about the way you catch those balls, it’s also about getting escorts back and making it difficult for the opposition to get a clear jump, and getting numbers around the first ruck.

It’s also an advantage having Andries Coetzee at fullback because Sexton is a bit different to every other international kicker in that he is prepared to launch lots of torpedo kicks. They are quite hard to take because they move quicker through the air and gain more distance.

The torpedo is a more high-risk kick, it requires a higher skill level and it depends on having time on the ball. The punt is safer and more accurate, which is why most kicking coaches favour it. But Sexton’s kicking coach is Dave Alred, who worked with the Springboks in 2014 for two weeks, and he is a big advocate of the torpedo kick.

But because Coetzee is left-footed and both Irish halfbacks are right-footed, they will be kicking into his strength and he can also do the torpedo kick.

Otherwise the Springboks should just continue in the same vein as they ended the Rugby Championship: a good set-piece, a strong maul, good defence, getting their ball-carriers over the gain-line and dominating the collisions.

The other key for South Africa is to defuse Ireland’s ball-carriers on the gain-line. It will be interesting to see CJ Stander starting in his adopted country against the Springboks and whether they are able to put him on the back foot because Ireland get a lot of momentum and base a lot of attacking play off his carries. I’m sure he will be very motivated to right the wrong of the Cape Town Test last year when he got a red card. Francois Louw and Siya Kolisi against Stander is going to be a revealing battle.

In 2012, Heyneke Meyer picked a lot of apprentice Springboks in his first Test squad and Stander and Kolisi were both in that wider group. They are both world-class performers and it will be a great contest.

Allister Coetzee will maybe start Handre Pollard at flyhalf, but there is a little problem in that position because neither he nor Elton Jantjies have played a live, competitive game since the All Blacks match a month ago in Cape Town, which is a small disadvantage.

Even though Pollard has been training a lot, he hasn’t started a game for a long time. But if they feel he is the right guy going forward, and you do get different things from him, then they should choose him sooner rather than later.

Pollard is a lot faster to the gain-line, he’s a threat with ball-in-hand and has a great show-and-go. He has the ability to beat defenders off front-foot ball, whereas Jantjies is more of a distributor.

I’m also looking forward to seeing Damian de Allende get a start at inside centre. He has been picked in front of Francois Venter, who has been playing more at outside centre, all year, he has size and good feet and is a fantastic distributor. De Allende had a stellar year in 2015 but has not quite hit the same levels since then, so hopefully he will now get a good run of Tests. The Springboks generally favour having a ball-carrying, gain-line dominator at 12.

Otherwise Allister Coetzee will probably reward the guys who played quite well against New Zealand in the last Test, you have to show faith as a coach; Heyneke Meyer always said loyalty to performance was important.

It will be interesting to see how Malcolm Marx does starting a Test overseas after his world-class performance at Newlands, can he maintain that consistency?

That applies to Steven Kitshoff too and with Wilco Louw coming through, the props can rotate. The stronger scrummagers should start and establish dominance, and then the more mobile props can come on and ram home the advantage.

Matt Proudfoot has done a great job establishing six good front row forwards and in the World Cup year, Vincent Koch will come into the mix as well. Plus there’s Frans Malherbe and Trevor Nyakane, so there should be plenty of props going into 2019. It will be a nice selection headache to have.

Ireland have a strong front row, though, with Rory Best, Tadhg Furlong and Jack McGrath, so the scrum battle will obviously be worth watching.

The Springboks need a good start in this European tour, winning the first two games is important.

 

 

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.

Titanic clash as Bulls search for revenge for opening-weekend hammering 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls and the Stormers are the two leading sides in the South African SuperRugby Conference and are age-old rivals, so it will be a titanic clash when they meet at Newlands on Saturday, with the Bulls expecting a ferocious contest up front as they go in search of revenge for the 29-17 hammering they suffered at the hands of the Capetonians at Loftus Versfeld on the opening weekend of the season.

“It’s going to be another tough South African derby and it’s nice that it’s such an important game. They came here and won and hopefully we can do the same down there. It’s important that we play for the full 80 minutes, we have to be consistent and use our opportunities well,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies said in Pretoria this week.

“The Stormers are very direct, they work hard on the gain-line and the game is going to be decided up front, whoever can get a solid base up there will be on the front foot. The gain-line is going to be crucial because that’s where the penalties and the line-breaks happen. And the team that keeps their discipline best normally comes out on top,” coach Frans Ludeke added.

Apart from the SA Conference lead being up for grabs, what makes the match so mouthwatering are the head-to-head clashes in this World Cup year – Marcel van der Merwe v Steven Kitshoff, Flip van der Merwe v Eben Etzebeth, Spies v Duane Vermeulen, Jan Serfontein v Damian de Allende and Jesse Kriel v Cheslin Kolbe.

“Those will definitely spice up the game, even though we’re not thinking about the World Cup now. It’s always there though in the background and this might be the last time we play each other before then. We don’t try to get involved in personal battles, but the media sets the table for us, it’s always there,” Spies said.

The Bulls and the Stormers are also like peas in a pod in the way they have evolved since that opening encounter on Valentine’s Day.

As Stormers’ coach Allister Coetzee pointed out this week, Jesse Kriel has started in place of Jurgen Visser at fullback since then and has changed the shape of the Bulls’ attack.

The Bulls’ scrum is also likely to be a harder nut to crack than it was that day at Loftus Versfeld, with the two Van der Merwe’s back and Trevor Nyakane full of confidence and ready to come off the bench and make an impact.

“We lost Werner Kruger in the first three minutes of that game and Trevor was thrown into the deep end at tighthead. But I felt we finished the scrums well, we battled through. But that game is in the past, we’ve improved a lot and we are definitely a different side compared to then. A lot of players have come back from injury and we definitely have a more all-round game,” Ludeke said.

The Stormers have switched to a more pragmatic approach after three successive losses to New Zealand teams, being more patient in terms and when and where to attack and it has borne fruit with victories over the Waratahs and the Force on tour.

But for all the backline brilliance both teams will bring to Newlands, the real battle will be underground in the trenches up front.

 

Lions & Titans meet with questions over their balance 0

Posted on November 06, 2015 by Ken

 

 

Both the Highveld Lions and the Titans have questions over the balance of their teams as they meet in a RamSlam T20 Challenge match in Potchefstroom on Friday night.

Both sides were unable to counteract the top-order power of the Dolphins in their previous encounters, with David Miller once again hurting the Titans and Kevin Pietersen’s spectacular century edging out the Lions in midweek.

The Titans have added Graeme van Buuren, a batsman who can bowl effective limited-overs left-arm spin, to their squad, with Qaasim Adams, unfortunate not to be in the starting XI, now not even in the squad.

“Selection is tricky, but it’s a nice tricky to have. We just need to find the right balance for the day and we need to be flexible. There are probably four guys who are in great form but are not playing,” Titans coach Rob Walter said.

While the Lions had not yet announced their squad at the time of going to press, they have used the same XI in both their matches. With Neil McKenzie out of favour and Temba Bavuma away with the Proteas, their batting line-up depends heavily on the experience of Alviro Petersen and Rassie van der Dussen, while they have used just five bowlers in both matches.

“Their middle-order has yet to be tested and if we can get a few early wickets then maybe we can put some pressure on the young, inexperienced players. Their experienced players have done well for them, guys like Van der Dussen and Pietersen with the bat and Aaron Phangiso and Lonwabo Tsotsobe with the ball are in key positions,” Walter said.

The Titans coach said minor surgery rather than dramatic changes was needed after their opening loss to the Dolphins.

“It’s just small portions of the game that weren’t up to standard and losing by six runs showed that we got just a few things wrong. The Dolphins should never have got that amount of runs on that pitch, but Albie Morkel produced an unbelievable innings to get us close.

“It was a very different pitch to what we’re used to at home, but we didn’t adapt as we should have and played some shots that weren’t on in those conditions. Potch should be a really good pitch, a decent surface, although it could potentially be slow due to the lack of rain,” Walter said.

Titans squad: Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Graeme van Buuren, Heino Kuhn, Farhaan Behardien, Albie Morkel, Mangaliso Mosehle, Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi, Lungi Ngidi, Junior Dala, Grant Mokoena, Ruben Claassen, Marchant de Lange.

 



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