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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Looking back at the fantastic Newlands Test 0

Posted on October 13, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic game of rugby it was at Newlands, with the incredible atmosphere, the pace, intensity and physicality making it real Test match rugby.

Unfortunately the Springboks lost, but they gave a huge performance and the All Blacks will know they were lucky to win. It was so pleasing to see the Springboks go from 57-0 to losing by just a point, but they should have won.

Of course the game could have been different had Nehe Milner-Skudder’s break been finished off or Rieko Ioane had not been tackled over the goal-line by Jesse Kriel, those 14 points could have deflated the Springboks. But it was also the home side’s own mistakes that gave the All Blacks the points they needed.

Even the last-minute controversy was avoidable because it’s always a risk rushing for the charge down; you need to come at an angle so you don’t hit the kicker head-on. It’s to protect the kicker and Damian was too square-on. He did manage to put Lima Sopoaga off his drop kick, but he also would have known he was late and risked sanction, and conceded the penalty anyway. It wasn’t the best moment in Damian de Allende’s rugby life and it changed the complexion of the game because the All Blacks were then two scores clear and with just 14 men on the field, it was an uphill task for the Springboks.

The breakdown turnovers were the key and you could see the reaction of the team after Malcolm Marx and Francois Louw stole the ball. The mix of the back row Allister Coetzee chose came in for a lot of criticism but it was done for a reason.

Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw were the two breakdown players, which you need to disrupt the All Blacks’ attacking pattern, and Pieter-Steph du Toit provided physicality and bolstered the lineout.

In terms of the Springbok kicking game, they kicked a bit more than previously, although I find it strange that the crowd boos our own scrumhalf for kicking box-kicks, while the New Zealand scrumhalf is applauded for doing it. The plan was clearly to have contestable kicks to test the All Blacks back three. In the last World Cup semi-final, Milner-Skudder dropped a few high balls and was eventually moved away from the wing, so that was clearly part of the Springboks’ plan at Newlands.

You can’t just run willy-nilly from your own half, sometimes you’ve got to kick. It must either be long into the 22, which gives you time to build a chase line or force the catcher to kick out and give you a lineout; or he will kick long which gives you the chance to put the running bomb up; or it must be contestable. If you’re accurate enough then you have a 50/50 chance of winning the ball back, or you can put in a dominant tackle, get a turnover or just slow their ball down.

That did not happen in Ross Cronje’s box-kick that led to Damian McKenzie’s spectacular try, but to be fair, David Havili was allowed too much space and time to run across the field. The Springboks have struggled with guys running across their defensive line, it raises doubts as to whether the outside defender should turn in or trust the player on the inside. It’s something the Springboks have got to tighten up.

What was probably most pleasing of all – and credit must go to their conditioning for this – was that the Springboks were much stronger at the end of the game, both physically and mentally. Playing at sea level, as predicted, was also important because it makes it a level playing field.

The performance of the pack was magnificent, they were bristling on the gain-line, they won the collisions and they really gained confidence from the lineout. The Springboks went for four-man lineouts and then the short ball, which ensured they were able to win quality possession. The maul try they scored was also really pleasing.

The forwards seem to be in that special zone right now where they are full of confidence and intensity and they are really playing for each other.

We should also not underestimate Francois Louw’s calmness and experience and just his assurance, which definitely has an impact on his fellow forwards on and off the field.

Elton Jantjies’ kick at goal that he didn’t put over was also important and at international level you’ve got to convert those chances.

The main problem with the backline was that they were a little too deep and too lateral. Everyone wishes they can have a flat attack, because that’s what causes the defence the most problems, and it was better when Handre Pollard came on. Then again, there has to be quick ruck ball for the number 10 to take the ball into the jaws of the defence.

Ironically, the shorter lineouts do actually cause a problem for the backs because then there’s not much chance for them to have a one-on one. It’s good that Allister Coetzee is backing combinations because that induces trust, but he needs to be aware if, over a period of time, players aren’t really performing.

With the backs being a bit too lateral and too deep at Newlands, it allowed the All Blacks to pick off the carriers in the backline. It was interesting when Pollard came on that he played much flatter to the gain-line, which brought his forwards more into play, for example when Malcolm Marx hit the hole and set up the try for Jean-Luc du Preez.

For the end-of-year tour it will obviously be different conditions to South Africa, especially compared to on the highveld.

Both the matches against Ireland and Wales will be played in stadia with roofs, which makes a difference. Hopefully the Springboks have now found the formula that works for them.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

The John McFarland Column: Great for Boks to play NZ at Newlands 0

Posted on October 05, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s going to be great to see the Springboks back at Newlands on Saturday, especially against the All Blacks.

We always wanted to play them at sea level because we used to think then we had far more chance against them, at altitude the game is just so much faster. It always used to come down to the last 20 minutes of conditioning, and even if we were in front, those lost 20 minutes would always cost us.

But still at sea level we lost by just two points in the World Cup semi-final in London, by four points in Wellington the year before and by 10 points in Dunedin in 2012.

Any team goes on to the pitch looking to win and, apart from last year, the last couple of Tests against New Zealand in South Africa have been decided by less than seven points.

But for the Springboks to beat the All Blacks on Saturday, the lineouts, which were better last weekend (you’re always going to lose a couple at that level) and scrums need to function; if your set-pieces are not stable then you have no chance and the scrums, especially, have to be penalty free.

You have to give Ruan Dreyer time to learn at that level, but the Springboks also need to have their best scrummager on first, you start with your more secure scrummaging option. Impact props are specialists in their own right.

Fortunately the All Blacks tend to not go for the opposition scrum so much, they prefer ball-in and ball-out and to attack through their backs. So our scrums have generally not been a problem against them.

Tendai Mtawarira is in the form of his life, he has been exceptional, and there is obviously such deep respect for him in the team and in world rugby in general. But on the other side of the scrum, if there is any technical deficiency, the opposition will definitely be highlighting that in the referee’s meeting … and that’s where the seeds are planted in the referee’s mind.

And the Springboks will also need to win the battle of the gain-line against the All Blacks, deny them momentum and make sure they get over the gain-line with their attacks. They need to disrupt the All Blacks attack, but they will still score three or four tries, so the Springboks also have to score tries.

It’s hard to do that against the All Blacks because their defensive system is totally reliant on having players on their feet, they’ll have 13 or 14 players on their feet and nobody in the ruck, and that makes it quite hard to engage defenders. So the Springboks really need to get over the advantage line and, if they get given turnover ball, then they must have the positive mindset to make it count, especially from broken field.

The Springboks played some incredibly adventurous rugby against Australia in Bloemfontein, but they just could not finish. There were some really good things in that display and some of the handling and line-running was superb, for example Siya Kolisi’s run from deep that led to Jan Serfontein’s try.

It’s obviously the style Franco Smith and Allister Coetzee have decided to go with and even though I’m not sure it would work in a wet-weather game at Twickenham, it was a very positive way of playing in great conditions in Bloemfontein. And if Elton Jantjies had kicked that last penalty, the Springbok would have won.

At the end of the day, the Springboks played very high-tempo rugby with ball in hand, they didn’t just set up and kick. They tried to play a bit, to bring the wings up and create space, even if they were a bit side-to-side at times. But some of the handling, the offloads and the way they were able to keep the ball alive was really quite special.

It was a cracking Test and I fail to understand why the country was all so disappointed with the national team. Rugby seems to have come full circle: In 2015, people were highly critical of the way we played against New Zealand, and now everyone wants us to play that way against them!

The defence was also really good, except for when Bernard Foley got around Kolisi, but if Courtnall Skosan had just adjusted and turned in to help Siya, then the whole attack would have been nullified because numbers were up on the outside.

They did have problems covering the short kick-offs, but Australia have real height in their backline and Israel Folau is a total nuisance. There will always be space somewhere, which allows him to have a good jump against someone.

The Springboks are trying to get the rush defence right, but if you’re numbers down and very deep, then you have to drift. In midfield you tend to be softer to try and get the opposition towards the touchline and you can’t go rushing off on the short side either.

The rush defence works best when you’re on the edge of the field and a clever team doesn’t really go there either.

The players have also got to be used to a rush defence but none of our unions have really gone down that route; the Bulls are maybe trying it the most.

Every defence coach wants line-speed, but if you’re not winning the collisions then you can’t have it. If you’re making dominant tackles, then you can push the opposition line back.

 

 


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.

 

 

WP beat Blue Bulls because of 1st-half lead 0

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Ken

 

Western Province held on to beat the Blue Bulls 45-34 in their Currie Cup match at Newlands on Saturday, largely because they had built up such a formidable first-half lead that they only needed to add one penalty in the second half to clinch victory.

Western Province produced a superb first half against a Bulls side that simply did not pitch for the first 40 minutes, playing ponderous rugby marked by their inability to hang on to the ball and some extremely soft defence, with the home side racing to a 42-13 lead at the break.

The Blue Bulls came storming back in the second half, largely because they managed to hold on to the ball far better and built pressure. But with such a massive lead, the sting had been taken out of the game for Western Province and they went through the motions for much of the second 40.

The roots of the victory lay up front for Western Province, being based on the wonderful efforts of their pack. They enjoyed obvious dominance in the scrums and even managed to pick off a couple of Blue Bulls lineouts.

While flyhalf Damian Willemse was the choice of the official judges for man of the match, lock JD Schickerling looked a different class in being the focal point of the Western Province forward effort.

Apart from his set-piece prowess, he was constantly in the thick of the action as a ball-carrier and worked hard in defence and at the rucks.

Willemse also had a fine game, highlighted by his 11th-minute try when he ripped apart some flatfooted, ball-watching defence by the Bulls with some amazing stepping. The 19-year-old loves to attack the gain-line and, while one hates to heap the pressure of expectation on one so young, he does ooze class and has ‘future Springbok’ written all over him.

Willemse’s effort will no doubt be a contender for try of the season, but a long-range try by Blue Bulls wing Kefentse Mahlo could also be in the running. It will certainly be one of the most unlikeliest tries of the season.

Blitzbok Seabelo Senatla was racing for the Bulls line in the 57th minute and looked certain to score when he was caught from behind by eighthman Nic de Jager, who has been the object of much derision in the horror season for the Pretoria team.

De Jager kept working hard after bringing down the Stormers wing, counter-rucking superbly. Fullback Duncan Matthews then picked up the ball and counter-attacked, freeing Mahlo for a 75-metre dash to the line.

But the defeat, their second in succession, sees the Blue Bulls, the early pacesetters, falling to fourth on the log, behind the Free State Cheetahs, Sharks and Griquas.

Points scorers

Western ProvinceTries: Nizaam Carr, Damian Willemse, SP Marais, Seabelo Senatla (2), Scarra Ntubeni. Conversions: Marais (6). Penalty: Marais.

Blue BullsTries: Piet van Zyl, Kefentse Mahlo (2), Johan Grobbelaar. Conversions: Tony Jantjies (4). Penalties: Jantjies (2).

 

http://citizen.co.za/sport/south-africa-sport/sa-rugby-sport/1609524/currie-cup-first-half-blitzkrieg-enough-for-western-province/

Burger, Kitshoff & Catrakilis the heroes as Stormers fight back 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

Schalk Burger, Steven Kitshoff and Demetri Catrakilis were the heroes as the DHL Stormers overcame a niggly Brumbies side 25-24 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at Newlands on Saturday night.

The indefatigable Burger spent most of the evening cleaning up after his team-mates had spilt the ball and he scored the Stormers’ only try to finally put them ahead on the hour mark.

Loosehead prop Kitshoff anchored a Stormers scrum that provided an invaluable platform in their efforts to shake off a Brumbies side that did everything they could to spoil and disrupt, playing precious little rugby themselves. Kitshoff was also huge in defence and when carrying the ball, and was often used at the front of the lineout as well.

Ultimately it was the boot of Catrakilis that kept the scoreboard moving for the Stormers, the flyhalf kicking five penalties, a conversion and a drop goal as he missed just one shot at goal.

The Brumbies had a golden chance to snatch victory at the death after fullback Jesse Mogg had raced out of his own half in an acre of space, forcing the Stormers to concede a five-metre lineout. If that defensive breakdown wasn’t bad enough, flank David Pocock was then able to stroll over through a gaping hole for a try from the lineout.

The conversion was from in front of the posts, but flyhalf Christian Lealiifano somehow managed to hit the upright, and what should have been a one-point victory for the Brumbies remained a single-point win for the Stormers.

It was a gutsy fightback from the Stormers, who at one stage trailed 3-16, and they had to overcome a horrid first half in which they looked at sixes and sevens with a ridiculously high unforced error-rate.

It started from the kickoff when the Stormers failed to exit due to poor communication and were then penalised at the scrum, Lealiifano putting the Brumbies 3-0 up.

Three minutes later, eighthman Duane Vermuelen was charging up on attack off a commanding Stormers scrum and the Brumbies went off their feet at the ruck, allowing Catrakilis to level the scores with his first penalty.

Damian de Allende’s troubles typified the Stormers’ first-half battle and the centre seemed to be bewitched as he knocked on twice in the opening minutes, gave away a penalty to Lealiifano and then scuffed a grubber attempt straight into the hands of Joe Tomane, allowing the Brumbies wing to race away for the opening try in the 14th minute.

It looked like being a magical evening in Cape Town for the Brumbies when Jesse Mogg kicked a 52-metre penalty to put them 16-3 ahead on the half-hour.

But the Stormers have a mighty scrum and the penalties they earned there gave them a foothold back in the match, starting in the 38th minute when Catrakilis made it 6-16.

As the Stormers forwards took control, the Brumbies were not willing to play along and there were constant flare-ups as their off-the-ball niggle and spoiling tactics went unpunished by weak referee Stuart Berry. Three more Catrakilis penalties either side of halftime pulled the Stormers back to within a single point (15-16) and then eventually the visitors were given a yellow card when replacement lock Jordan Smiler tried to bury Burger at a ruck by upending him.

Six minutes later, Burger, who had an awful brush with the cemetery last year, forced his way over for the Stormers’ only try, to cap another mighty performance on his amazing comeback from serious illness.

The restart meant that, for the first time in ages, the Brumbies were able to attack after being camped in their own half for most of the second half and Lealiifano slotted a penalty after Catrakilis was adjudged to have his hands in a ruck.

Catrakilis made up straight away with a brilliant 40m drop goal, but Mogg’s breakaway and Pocock’s try should have put the Brumbies in front with 10 minutes left were it not for Lealiifano’s inexplicable miss.

The victory, achieved in the most trying circumstances, means the Stormers are back in first position in the South African Conference, although the Bulls have the same number of points and a game in hand.

Scorers

Stormers – Try: Schalk Burger. Conversion: Demetri Catrakilis. Penalties: Catrakilis (5). Drop goal: Catrakilis.

Brumbies – Tries: Joe Tomane, David Pocock. Conversion: Christian Lealiifano. Penalties: Lealiifano (3), Jesse Mogg.

http://citizen.co.za/379572/burger-kitshoff-and-catrakilis-heroes-as-stormers-fight-back/



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