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Ken Borland

Failure to pitch a recipe for disaster for Boks 0

Posted on February 01, 2017 by Ken


Meeting a fired-up Argentina team on their home turf is never an easy prospect, regardless of what happened the previous week, so when the Springboks decided not to “pitch” physically for their Rugby Championship Test in Mendoza at the weekend, it was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

For whatever reason, the Springboks failed to match the intensity and physicality of the Pumas and for long periods it just looked as if they weren’t “up” for the game.

With Argentina attacking the collisions and breakdowns with tremendous ferocity, it meant the Springboks were always on the back foot and had little decent ball to actually launch the attacking side of their game, which had been so impressive the weekend before back in Johannesburg.

The Springboks eventually won the Test 22-17 with two late penalties by Morne Steyn, but it was hardly an authoritative performance. The massive physicality that had blown the Pumas away at the FNB Stadium and set up the record 73-13 victory a week earlier was as absent this weekend as the president of the South African Rugby Union.

The home side pressed forward from the outset and, after robbing scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar of possession at a ruck – he endured a torrid day as he was hassled throughout at the breakdowns – they scored the opening try through flank Juan Manuel Leguizamon after just two minutes.

It meant the Pumas’ prayers were answered in terms of getting their passionate crowd behind them and they enjoyed a 10-3 lead after 10 minutes as Felipe Contepomi and Steyn traded penalties.

Centre Contepomi was then partly to blame for the Springboks’ only try, in the 14th minute, as he failed with a clearance kick, gifting the ball to the Springbok backs. Willie le Roux – he didn’t have the best of games overall – then showed tremendous hands to put wing Bjorn Basson away for the try.

But the Springboks’ hopes were severely dented just before half-time when centre Marcelo Bosch crashed through to score Argentina’s second try.

The Pumas had generally tried to avoid lineouts – a Springbok strength – in the first half, but eventually they had one inside the 22, only the third of the match. From there, another direct attack with short pop passes led to Bosch powering over.

The Argentine loose forwards continued to rob and spoil the Springboks’ ball in the second half and their more direct approach with ball-in-hand also hurt the South Africans. But there is something almost naive about this Springbok side in that they sometimes give the impression that they expect the opposition to be placid, to allow them an easy stroll through a game. And so not enough numbers were committed to the breakdowns or the defence close-in and the Pumas were adept at exploiting the gap in the first channel from the ruck.

The Springboks were, frankly, being bullied and they even sought referee Steve Walsh’s attention, alleging eye-gouging and biting. Two Argentinean loose forwards, Leonardo Senatore and Pablo Matera, would later be cited for foul play, but the whistleman’s focus during the match seemed to be on all sorts of peripheral things rather than keeping the breakdown contest tidy and enforcing offsides lines.

The Pumas’ ill-discipline was eventually punished by Walsh, allowing Steyn to kick four second-half penalties that won the game.

Questions, though, will be asked over some of coach Heyneke Meyer’s decisions, such as leaving the struggling Pienaar on for the entire game or not giving the more physical Flip van der Merwe a longer run in the second row.

But it’s the failure of the Springboks to lift themselves – having spoken all week about how they expect the Pumas to bounce back ferociously – that is perhaps of most concern.

They will now travel to Australasia next weekend for their two Tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks and they are not going to win those unless their pack rediscovers the fire they showed at the FNB Stadium.

The Springbok backline are not going to be able to win those Tests on their own; the forwards are going to have to do the gruntwork and lay the foundation.

Now for the Springboks to lay the same platform in Mendoza 0

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Ken


The Springboks touched the heights of greatness in the emotional, inspirational atmosphere of the FNB Stadium last weekend; the challenge will be for them to repeat that sort of performance in the hostile, unfamiliar surrounds of Mendoza in the return fixture against Argentina on Saturday night.

The 73-13 victory over the Pumas as the country celebrated the Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day was the biggest win ever in the Rugby Championship or the Tri-Nations that preceded it, and the Springboks were rightly lauded for the record nine tries they scored in producing some dazzling attacking play.

But the foundation for that win was laid up front by the massive ball-carrying efforts of Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts, and the set-piece excellence of the tight five.

Given the time and space, and the platform to shine, the backline then showed what they are capable of.

It is little surprise that coach Heyneke Meyer has chosen the same starting XV to take on Argentina this weekend, with the only change to the squad being the promotion of Jano Vermaak to reserve scrumhalf in the absence of Fourie du Preez, who will not be part of any of South Africa’s away games, as per the wishes of his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath.

The continuity that Meyer has engendered through his selections has allowed the confidence in the side to grow markedly through seven consecutive wins. It is still early days in the Rugby Championship, but at the moment the two sides on an upward trajectory are the Springboks and their arch-rivals, the All Blacks.

But to ensure that they keep tracking the world’s number one side, the South Africans are going to have to bend their backs and put in another big effort in Mendoza.

A year ago, almost to the day, that hunger was missing as South Africa scraped a fortuitous draw against Argentina at the same venue.

As the actress may well have said to the bishop, “it’s what you put in that counts”, and the Springboks will have to put in an even bigger effort amongst the forwards to soften the Pumas in front of their most passionate supporters.

The Springboks have obviously adjusted better than expected to the requirements of the new scrum laws but the return of the bajada, which seems tailor-made to the new engagement sequence, cannot be far off.

The loss of the injured Patricio Albacete will place the Pumas lineout under even more pressure, following the dominance of Juandre Kruger and Etzebeth last weekend, and the effectiveness of the rolling maul – there seemed to be a total lack of a defensive plan against it from Argentina – means that set-piece should once again provide a great attacking platform for the Springboks.

The improvement shown at the breakdown will be under even more scrutiny this weekend as the Springboks will have to adapt to the vagaries of referee Steve Walsh, who will have a vocal crowd on his back in the most intimate of venues. The hostile atmosphere in the sunken stadium is epitomised by its name – the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas – which literally means Argentina’s Falklands Islands Stadium, a defiant show of the country’s claim on that territory.

If the Springboks do get the same sort of front-foot ball they enjoyed last weekend, then they can be expected to canter to victory once again. The arrival of Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht, and the continued spark shown by Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers, has allowed the Springboks to bury suggestions they are dour and one-dimensional on attack.

And one of the most encouraging features of the opening round win was the crisp, snappy service provided by scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar – Meyer said it was the best game the Ulster-based veteran had produced under his coaching.

Adding Le Roux to the mix at fullback has certainly brought an extra dimension with the Cheetahs star’s vision and ability to put others in space reminiscent of the great Andre Joubert.

The form of Morne Steyn at flyhalf has also been superb in all departments all year.

The only player who didn’t shine last weekend was wing Bjorn Basson, although it’s fair to say the run of play didn’t go his way. The Bulls player will need to make himself more involved, however, if the temptation to move Le Roux to wing and play Pat Lambie at fullback is not to take seed in Meyer’s mind.

Lambie came off the bench last weekend and set up the seventh try with a superb break, epitomising the tremendous impact that the bench had. Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Vermaak, Lambie and Jan Serfontein could all easily distinguish themselves in the starting line-up and the softening-up process the Springboks employ – their subdue and penetrate style – is hugely boosted by having such a powerful bench.

The Springboks have the ideal chance on Saturday to make up for the dismal showing on the previous trip to Argentina. The confidence is there, the game plan is in place; all that’s needed now is the hunger to quell what will be a fiery Pumas response to the humiliation they suffered at the FNB Stadium.

Meyer blames Springboks’ inexperience 0

Posted on August 27, 2012 by Ken

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer on Monday blamed the lack of experience in the Springbok side for their shock 16-16 Rugby Championship draw with Argentina in Mendoza at the weekend.

South Africa trailed Argentina, playing in the southern hemisphere tournament which was previously known as the Tri-Nations for the first time this year, for three-quarters of the test before a charge-down try by centre Francois Steyn allowed them to draw level.

“It was not good enough, it was unacceptable and I was very disappointed. But I always knew it would be very tough in the first year because of the inexperience of the side, a lot of them were playing their first test away from home.

“If we’re realistic, then there were only a couple of members of the pack who played in the World Cup. People underestimate Argentina, but their whole starting line-up plays in Europe and they are very experienced,” Meyer told reporters at Johannesburg International Airport on his arrival back from Argentina on Monday.

Meyer is missing a quartet of players who would have been in the starting line-up in veteran flank Schalk Burger, explosive hooker Bismarck du Plessis, loose forward Pierre Spies and experienced wing JP Pietersen, while stalwarts such as John Smit, Victor Matfield and Jaque Fourie have retired and Fourie du Preez, Bakkies Botha, Danie Rossouw and Gurtho Steenkamp are not playing rugby in South Africa.

The Springbok coach will announce his squad for their Australasian leg of the Rugby Championship on Tuesday, but Meyer said there would not be a raft of changes.

“It’s easy to say throw people out and pick new ones, but that’s not coaching, that’s picking. I’ve been in this position a few times as a coach and the easiest thing is just to cut players, but that won’t move you forward. We’ve already lost a lot of leadership and then you’d be throwing out what little experience you’ve got.”

Meyer admitted that taking on Australia in Perth and New Zealand in Dunedin in their next two Rugby Championship fixtures would be a more daunting prospect requiring a much improved performance from the Springboks.

“The next two games will be even tougher and we have to improve. I know we can do it, but the only way the side will improve is by coaching them, improving their technique and mental strength,” Meyer said.

South Africa suffered from a distinct lack of continuity against the Pumas, who dominated the breakdowns, but Meyer said the make-up of the loose-trio – three big, physical players in Willem Alberts, Jacques Potgieter and Marcell Coetzee – was not the problem. The Springboks have a top-class fetcher flank in Heinrich Brussow, but he has not been selected by Meyer and is currently out injured.

“Argentina are also very physical and it’s not just about the loose trio. It’s the whole pack and also the backs who have to contest the ball, and the Pumas flooded the breakdown. It’s more about numbers and technique,” Meyer said.

The Springbok coach suggested some of Argentina’s ball-stealing was illegal.

“I coached a few of their players while I was at Leicester, so I knew how tough it would be. Argentina have finished third in the World Cup and New Zealand could only score two tries against them in Auckland last year. They’re especially hard to play against if they slow down your ball and they don’t play like teams in SuperRugby.

“It was a different interpretation and Argentina competed a lot, threw numbers at the breakdown and got their hands on the ball to slow it down. Our guys were used to SuperRugby for 16 weeks and now players were flying into the rucks from all areas. But we should have done better with our clearing.”

Meyer admitted that it had been a case of the Springboks’ discipline also letting them down.

“Argentina had a lot of PR and emotion behind them, but I was very disappointed with our discipline because we knew they would come hard at us and get the crowd behind them early on. Because of our discipline, we’d concede a penalty and they would start mauling, which makes life very difficult. Away from home, your discipline needs to be impeccable, but we got very frustrated, which is part of the inexperience. It was a very hostile environment and there was off-the-ball stuff, especially at the breakdown. But there’s no excuse, this team needs to grow up,” Meyer said.

Boks choose five uncapped players 0

Posted on August 07, 2012 by Ken

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer on Saturday announced five uncapped players in the 30-man Springbok squad for the two Rugby Championship Tests against Argentina in Cape Town and Mendoza.

Wing JJ Engelbrecht, flyhalf Elton Jantjies and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak were members of the extended squad for the series against England in June, but did not feature in any of the three Tests, while flank Siya Kolisi and prop Pat Cilliers have been brought into the team for the first time after strong showings in the SuperRugby competition.

Eighthman Ryan Kankowski and centre Wynand Olivier, who have both signed contracts to play in Japan, have been dropped, allowing the experienced Pierre Spies to retain his place, while Francois Steyn returns after missing the last Test against England to get married.

Fullback Bjorn Basson, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, flyhalf Johan Goosen and loose forwards Schalk Burger, Heinrich Brussow and Duane Vermuelen were not considered due to injury.

Lock Andries Bekker, the tallest Springbok ever at 2.08m, has been recalled to the squad after missing the England series due to injury, and will join youngsters Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth and Flip van der Merwe in the second row.

“The Rugby Championship is going to be very tough and a few youngsters are going to need to put their hands up because we’re playing against the best teams in the world. We’ll need to improve every game and we’d like to keep some continuity in the squad,” Meyer told a news conference in Worcester on Saturday.

Meyer named seven front-row players, including the complete front row of the Sharks team that reached the SuperRugby final – burly loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira, hooker Bismarck du Plessis and his brother, tighthead Jannie.

Lions prop Cilliers’ ability to play both tighthead and loosehead has seen him selected for the first time.

The 21-year-old Kolisi enjoyed a top-class SuperRugby campaign for the Stormers, proving himself as a ferocious tackler and strong ball-carrier.

The squad will assemble in Cape Town on Sunday for a training camp.

“It’s a big challenge, playing six Tests against the best teams in the world in eight weeks and we now have to ensure we improve on how we played against England. It’s still early days for this team, but we are excited about what lies ahead in a brand-new competition that promises to be very testing,” Meyer said.

South Africa are playing Argentina, who are making their debut in the southern hemisphere competition that also includes World Cup winners New Zealand and defending champions Australia, in Cape Town on August 18, before travelling to South America to play the same team in Mendoza on August 25.

The Springboks are coming off a disappointing 14-14 draw with England in their last Test, in Port Elizabeth on June 23 and Meyer said the make-up of the squad would be reconsidered after the two Tests against Argentina. This will be followed by Tests against Australia in Perth (September 8) and the All Blacks in Dunedin (September 15), followed by the home matches against those two sides, in Pretoria (September 29) and Soweto (October 6).

Squad – Zane Kirchner, Pat Lambie, JP Pietersen, Bryan Habana, Lwazi Mvovo, Francois Hougaard, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Francois Steyn, Morne Steyn, Elton Jantjies, Ruan Pienaar, Jano Vermaak, Keegan Daniel, Pierre Spies, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Jacques Potgieter, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, Juandre Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Tendai Mtawarira, Dean Greyling, Pat Cilliers.


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