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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Planning for the French Tests 0

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will not find it too difficult to prepare for the three Tests against France and there is always great excitement when the players get together in the national team environment.

Due to WorldRugby regulations, he will have to wait for the overseas players until the week of the first Test match, but these days the information they need to know is easy to disseminate and the players have access to apps, for example, with which they can watch the training sessions. He will have communicated the game plans, moves and patterns to them, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to assimilate.

This week saw Allister have his third camp this year, which is obviously what he missed last year. His program of camps has been very much extended this year, but you still don’t do a lot of hard, physical work at these get-togethers.

As Springbok management, you have to be very careful because the players are in the middle of SuperRugby and will be coming off a very tough game. But the camps are certainly invaluable for laying down the plans for the structure and principles, making sure all the players get on the same page.

There will be on-field training, but basically it will just be walk-throughs or practising with the contact levels right down. We used to use the Lions U19 players as defenders, which puts much less pressure on the Springboks in terms of physicality.

After all, some unions used to send their players to camp with GPSs so they could check the amount of running they did!

Generally the three Tests in June are against the same opposition, so it’s easier to prepare for it, but it’s the same for every international team, they are all in the same boat.

In November, the Southern Hemisphere teams have an advantage because it’s after the end of their season, all their game plans are in place and they’ve just come off a month’s rest. In June, the Northern Hemisphere sides are tired at the end of their long season, but due to the Six Nations, they are further along in their game plans.

The key for Allister will be to not make it too complicated, stick to simple principles and make it clear what he wants the team to do to win that first Test.

I know international football sides only get their players for a week from all over the world, but soccer is quite an individual game, there are a lot more dynamics in rugby such as the set-pieces and the defensive and attacking game plans.

As far as last weekend’s SuperRugby goes, the Stormers did really well to come back from their overseas tour woes with a win. They defended very well in the final quarter and from half-time onwards they were very sound and physical in the collisions. They got their just rewards for quick-taps with some game-changing moments.

I was quite sceptical, however, about the TMO decision on Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s try, but there are always highs and lows in terms of officiating through a Super Rugby season and it evens out in the end.

The Southern Kings were a bit unlucky against the Brumbies, but they were very vulnerable to the grubber in behind. Their defensive system relies on the fullback getting up in the line very early, the Brumbies obviously saw that and took advantage.

In the game in Singapore, the 38-17 scoreline flattered the Sharks a bit because they had an intercept and two breakaway tries in the last few minutes against the Sunwolves. Before that, the Sharks just could not finish and the amount of mistakes they made, especially when it came to the final pass, didn’t help either. But they will be happy to get back to winning ways and get the bonus point, although it looks likely they’ll have to get through a playoff in New Zealand.

If the Lions, however, have aspirations of playing at home all the way through to the final, then they need to win their big game against the Sharks after the international break.

No side in SuperRugby would have lived with the Lions in the first half of their match against the Bulls and they are showing great decision-making at the moment.

Having been away for three weeks, there was definitely a feeling of the Lions being back at home and they were full of confidence.

Obviously they will lose a bit of momentum over the break, quite a few of their players will be in the national squads, so it will be a tough month for them. They will have guys who will play all three Tests against France, so that will be disruptive to their rhythm.

And coach Johan Ackermann won’t have a break either because he will be coaching the SA A side, which will be quite taxing too. And then one week after the end of SuperRugby, he’ll be off to Gloucester, so he has a very busy program over the next few months.

Sometimes you get very good SuperRugby players who are just not able to adapt to the higher environment and believe you me, international rugby is a higher level and just so much quicker, because it’s the best of the best playing. In SuperRugby, you get guys who are in the same system all their life, at the Bulls there were guys who were coached in defence by me since they were 19, but they can’t adapt to the different pace of the game at the next step up.

Certain other players prove to be consistently excellent players at Test level. There’s such a mental side to it because there is real pressure representing your country at international level, some players just cope better.

Those are the sort of players Allister Coetzee will want to be working with.

 

 

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.

 

A weekend in August the most important in SA cricket’s turnaround 0

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Ken

 

It was the year of the remarkable turnaround in South African cricket and perhaps the most important weekend of 2016 was the one the national team spent at a “culture camp” in Johannesburg in August.

South African cricket was seemingly in freefall before that, the number one ranking in Tests lost due to a series defeat at home to England, yet another disappointment in a major ICC tournament as the Proteas were eliminated in the first round of World T20 in India and their ODI form was also ropey as they failed to make the final of a triangular series in the West Indies.

There was an atmosphere of doom and gloom, as transformation became an easy scapegoat, and national coach Russell Domingo was not expected to survive the year. An independent review was instituted and then scrapped.

Far more importantly, the greater squad got together and pledged that they had to be better, that ProteaFire was being extinguished and the flame needed to be rekindled. The players themselves took the responsibility to challenge each other and be better.

After flirting with the captaincy of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis taking the reins of both the Test and ODI side was also crucial and, being a more natural captain drawn to the job, he got the team going in ways that have not been seen in the last couple of years.

The Proteas were glorious in the second half of the year, winning their Test series against New Zealand and then becoming the first team to ever whitewash Australia in a five-match ODI series, before going across the Indian Ocean to their great rivals and winning the first two Tests to claim the series and become the first side since the great West Indies outfits of the 1980s/1990s to win three successive rubbers on Australian soil. You have to go back to the early days of Test cricket between 1884 and 1888 to find the only other team to achieve that feat – England.

If the year itself was memorable for the amazing turnaround in their fortunes, then the one match that epitomised the unity of purpose in the Proteas was the first Test against Australia in Perth.

After choosing to bat first, South Africa batted poorly, only reaching 242 thanks to Quinton de Kock’s 84 and a half-century from Temba Bavuma. Australia had raced away to 158 without loss in reply, before Dale Steyn dismissed David Warner but injured himself in the process, a fractured shoulder bone ruling him out of the rest of the season.

But with just two fit pacemen and debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj weighing in with three wickets, they managed to dismiss Australia for just 244. Du Plessis spoke later about the opposition being “shocked” by the comeback and the resolve shown by the Proteas, who dominated the rest of the game and won the second Test in Hobart by an innings.

De Kock was the Proteas’ outstanding player of 2016, scoring 695 Test runs at 63.18, second only to Amla’s 729 at 48.60, and continuing to plunder ODI runs such that he was named the ICC’s player of the year in the 50-over format.

On the bowling front, Kagiso Rabada continues to grow and ended as the Proteas’ leading wicket-taker and amongst the top six globally, while the excellent form of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott suggests that the end of Steyn’s great career, whenever it may come, will not necessarily leave a vacuum.

The Springboks still believe – Kriel 0

Posted on December 02, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok utility back Jesse Kriel has implored the South African public to still believe in the national team because the squad themselves are still positive, despite their dreadful results on a torrid European tour.

“The mood is still good in the squad, I know people have been really hurt by the results, but the team has always been positive. They’re still putting their bodies on the line and there are just small things in terms of the game-plan and individual errors that we need to get right,” Kriel said at the Bulls player awards evening, having returned early from the Springbok tour due to a leg injury.

“No-one accepts losing but there have just been small things, little errors, that have led to the Springboks being up against it. For us, winning matches is our pride and joy, our bread and butter, so it’s been difficult for us. We’ve learnt a lot out of this, but there comes a point when you can’t learn anymore, you have to actually start winning.

“Allister has chosen a new-look side for this weekend and it’s a great opportunity for the younger guys who are really hungry, a great opportunity for them to go out and prove they belong there. And having the overseas players back was a massive positive as well, they bring experience and calm heads,” Kriel said.

And captain and Bulls team-mate Adriaan Strauss, who will be playing in his 66th and final Test against Wales, was singled out for special praise by the 22-year-old.

“I just wish people could see behind the scenes because Adriaan has done so much and he never wants any credit or recognition. He’s very humble and full of selflessness and always puts his body on the line, even though I know he has a very sore back at the moment. I can assure people he’s not just selected because he’s captain. I know it would be the last thing Adriaan wants for the team to make this weekend’s game about him, but everyone has so much respect for him that the guys will want to,” Kriel said.

Kriel has now played 16 Tests and 31 Super Rugby matches and is eager to play more of a leadership role himself next year.

“I spoke to Nollis Marais [Bulls coach] and I told him I want to be a big part of the team, I want to contribute a lot to the team. So I want to start the year with no niggles and be in top condition. I still have to chat to the coach about where he wants to play me, but I think it will be fullback, where I started two years ago. I don’t mind that and there’s a lot of competition in the backline, so I have to prove my worth.

“When I started playing for the Bulls, a guy like Victor Matfield was still around and there was a lot of experience in the side, guys you could look up to when things were not going well. I’ve got to be one of those players now when things don’t go well because I’ve got a bit of experience now.

“But it all comes down to performance, we’ve been building a good team and it’s time to get back the glory years. We all get sick of hearing the word ‘building’, we must get results now and trophies, that is what we all want. Talk is cheap and money buys the whiskey.”

 

Is everyone there on merit? One wonders … 0

Posted on November 17, 2016 by Ken

 

Cricket South Africa (CSA) has assured their stakeholders that selection for the national team will only be on merit and this week signed a new transformation agreement with Sascoc and the Department of Sports and Recreation in which they are apparently the only sporting code that has not agreed to quotas at the highest level.

CSA’s attitude is that the system must provide the national team with black players on merit, which is why they are aggressively pursuing quotas at domestic level.

It is also believed that CSA have met with the Proteas and have clarified with them that there was no interference in selection at the World Cup and that there won’t be targets in future.

But the squads announced for the tour of Bangladesh in July do make one wonder.

Reeza Hendricks and Aaron Phangiso have been picked for the Test squad, while Kagiso Rabada has leapfrogged Kyle Abbott in the fast-bowling pecking order.

I have the utmost respect as cricketers for them, but logic suggests the selectors were not looking at purely on-field performance in making these decisions.

Hendricks is undoubtedly a bright talent and I fully support him being involved in the limited-overs squads. But the figures show that Hendricks is not yet ready to be a Test opener. His first-class franchise batting average is just 34.55 with three centuries in 20 matches. Last season he averaged just 31.76, half what Highveld Lions opener Stephen Cook managed.

Cook has scored 10 centuries in the last two seasons, while Cobras opener Andrew Puttick has averaged 49.27 and 40.23 in the last two Sunfoil Series season. The fact that these two prolific batsman can’t make the side when an opening batsman is required and yet someone whose performances in the same competition are far inferior only adds fuel to the fire that is raging around selection for the national team.

The cynic in me believes that Phangiso’s selection for the Test squad is to make up for the appalling manner in which he was treated at the World Cup that saw him not play a single game.

Both Phangiso and Highveld Lions coach Geoff Toyana have gone on record as saying that the 31-year-old still needs a lot of work in the longer format and five wickets at an average of 67 in the Sunfoil Series shows that is the case.

Convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson said that they wanted a left-arm spinner for the squad and there is a ready-made, experienced, proven option in Robin Peterson.

As far as Rabada goes, I am certain that he will be a great fast bowler for South Africa in all formats, but what has Abbott done wrong?

Lady Luck always has her say when it comes to cricket, but Abbott has been one of the most unfortunate players in the country for a while now.

As a unit, the Proteas have been exceptionally strong in the Test arena, but the pain of the World Cup loss was all too obvious and whether CSA’s clearing-the-air session with the players was enough remains to be seen. They maintain that the only affirmative action when it comes to selection is if there is a 50/50 choice between two players, then the player of colour will get the benefit.

Was Hendricks being preferred to Cook really a 50/50 call? Phangiso over Peterson and Rabada ahead of Abbott?

A Bangladesh tour was never exactly looked forward to and this time the challenges will be even greater on the field. The Proteas will be asked tougher questions than ever before by Bangladesh on their home turf, while questions still swirl around their selection.

 

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    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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