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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column – Not enough emphasis on defence 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

To see so many tries scored against the South African teams in SuperRugby last weekend – 26 in all – was disappointing and it’s not great when your top franchises are conceding so many tries in particular, but the problem is that there has just not been enough emphasis on defence.

Look at the value SA Rugby put on defence after Jacques Nienaber left halfway through 2016: they appointed Chean Roux in his position and he will freely admit that he was an absolute rookie defence coach at that stage. What does that say about how they rate defence and defence coaches?

We’ve now had the national indaba and the Springboks are on to their fourth defence coach under Allister Coetzee, but I’m sure Brendan Venter will do a really good job because he has the experience and the skills, and was the architect of the Saracens defensive system that has taken them to the European Champions Cup final.

But there was no national defence coach when the indaba was convened, so I wonder if there was input on defence at that gathering? After conceding a record score against New Zealand, defence was an obvious area that needed fixing.

It’s not Allister’s fault of course because he was handed his staff; now he has been given the staff he wants and I expect to see a massive improvement in the Springboks this year.

There are problems, but the people who coach defence in the franchises will, of course, care deeply about the defensive performances. In 2013, I remember when the Springboks conceded five tries against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but we needed the bonus point to win the Rugby Championship and we played a high-tempo game, which a lot of people said was one of the best Test matches ever played. But I stewed over those five tries for a month; but then at least we only conceded one try, to France, on the whole European tour thereafter.

So our defence in general is not in a great situation at present and whether it is due to conditioning problems or the speed of the modern game is open to debate. But you can never win a rugby match if you are conceding that many tries.

There’s obviously currently an emphasis on attacking skills but I’m certain the defence coaches are still being given sufficient time with their teams, and they would have done a lot of work on certain aspects of how the opposition attack. Like the Australian middle ruck attack, for instance, where the flyhalf goes hard for the line with a wing or centre like Israel Folau hard on their shoulder.

It’s no surprise when the New Zealand teams employ the kick-pass, especially the Hurricanes.

They employ the rush defence, therefore their wings have to be high and so there is always space behind them. Beauden Barrett would have had a lot of practice doing the kick-pass in training because he would see and have a high understanding of that space all the time.

The Stormers left too much of the field free, nearly 20 metres of space, and with players set in the wide channels, that’s not the smartest move.

In order to make sure you cover the width of the field, you need your tight five to work really hard close to the ruck, to set the breakdown correctly with good placing between the three pillars, and then the outside backs go wider.

The Bulls obviously had problems with their defence and if you said it started with their conditioning then you would not be far off. They also have folding problems, they’re just not setting the breakdown around the corner and so they end up with insufficient numbers.

They were also caught out by grubbers and so one has to ask questions about the back three’s positional play. They need to co-ordinate better to cover those and they need a much higher work-rate.

The Southern Kings have also had defensive problems and so it is only really the Lions and Sharks, who are defending in the same fashion as always, who can be satisfied with their defence.

The Lions have shown a great defensive improvement and one must credit JP Ferreira for improving their consistency in this regard.

The Lions are rolling through nicely and it will be a phenomenal tour if they can beat the Brumbies, which will make it probably the first unbeaten tour by a South African team – a tremendous achievement, and they’ve been winning with bonus points!

We know Australian rugby is at an all-time low and they have even more defensive problems, but their forwards are really their soft underbelly and the Lions have exposed that to great effect.

And the quality of finishing this weekend by Courtnall Skosan and Sylvian Mahuza was top-class. As we get closer to the Springbok selection, it’s a good time for players to remind the national coach that they are out there by scoring skilful tries like that.

In South Africa, skills development seems to be more coach-driven, but in New Zealand, the players take personal responsibility for it. An example at the Kubota Spears is Patrick Osborne, who has played at the top level as a wing, but he works hard on his kicking. He’s playing as a right-footer on the left wing, so he’s constantly working on his left-footed grubbers and other kicks, he does that consistently.

To see a top New Zealand SuperRugby player take individual responsibility like that was quite an eye-opener.

 

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.

Elgar stars but not enough to prevent Dolphins being favourites 0

Posted on January 01, 2016 by Ken

Dean Elgar was the star of the third day of the Sunfoil Series match between the Unlimited Titans and the Dolphins at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Saturday, but his heroic century was not enough to prevent the visitors going into the final day as favourites.

Elgar scored a defiant 122 that carried the Titans to 261 all out in their second innings, but that leaves the Dolphins with just 177 to score on the final day for a win that would keep their title hopes alive but will all but eliminate the North-Eastern Gauteng side from contention.

The national opener and fellow left-hander Qaasim Adams added 138 for the fifth wicket and seemed to have given the Titans a good chance of setting the Dolphins a daunting target on a pitch that is offering both steep bounce from a length and some deliveries keeping low.

But the lanky Calvin Savage ended Adams’ brilliant counter-attacking 72 when he had him caught behind in the eighth over after tea and then added the important scalp of David Wiese, also caught by wicketkeeper Morne van Wyk, for a duck.

Mangaliso Mosehle also failed to score, Mathew Pillans bowling him fourth ball, and left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj trapped Marchant de Lange lbw for six.

The Dolphins pacemen are all tall, strong lads who hit the deck hard, which is ideal for a pitch with inconsistent bounce, but it was leg-spinner Daryn Smit who eventually removed Elgar, trapping him lbw after a 343-minute stay that just proved the mental strength of the 27-year-old.

*The bizhub Highveld Lions, who lead the competition by 17.24 points with two rounds left after this weekend, are in a strong position heading into the final day of their match against the Chevrolet Knights in Bloemfontein.

The Knights are 76 without loss in their second innings, but they still trail by 117 runs after the Lions scored 441 in their first innings.

The Lions were unable to separate openers Gihahn Cloete (33*) and Reeza Hendricks (38*) in the 27 overs before stumps, but the Knights will nevertheless be up against it in trying to survive against the attack that has earned the most bowling bonus points this season.

The Lions total was built around a punchy century by Neil McKenzie (108), with Thami Tsolekile scoring 48 as they took their fifth-wicket partnership to 85, before off-spinner Werner Coetsee (five for 78) and paceman Duanne Olivier (four for 94) counter-punched for the Knights.

*In Cape Town, Omphile Ramela celebrated his 27th birthday by batting for 403 minutes and posting his first Sunfoil Series century, his monumental 129 leading the Nashua Cape Cobras to 545 all out against the Chevrolet Warriors.

The visitors are in serious trouble with a first-innings deficit of 257, but openers David White (20*) and Michael Price (58*) played with a gravitas suiting the situation as they took the Warriors to 88 without loss at stumps.

Justin Ontong (82) and Justin Kemp (73) were the other main run-getters for the Cobras on the third day.

http://citizen.co.za/344169/elgar-star-of-3rd-day/

Wiese & Behardien heroics not enough for Titans 0

Posted on September 04, 2014 by Ken

David Wiese and Farhaan Behardien showed that they are in the right mental space to play for their country again, but their efforts were not enough as the Unlimited Titans lost by four runs in a thrilling Momentum eKasi Challenge against the bizhub Highveld Lions at Dobsonville Oval yesterday.

Both players have tasted life in the green and gold in the last 12 months and will have their eyes on making the World Cup squad early next year, so they will be delighted with the positive way in which they started their season.

The Titans were chasing a testing 259 for victory and the pair were brought together after the Lions had gobbled up three wickets for just 28 runs.

Behardien scored a well-judged 60 off 76 balls as he added 113 off 131 deliveries with Wiese for the fourth wicket to set the Titans up for a late charge to victory.

The captain fell in the 32nd over when he mis-hit a lofted drive off Dwaine Pretorius to wide mid-on, but Wiese continued to feast on the bowling as he stroked 94 off 102 balls, helping himself to eight fours.

The Titans went into the last 10 overs on 197 for four, needing just 62 runs, but they suffered a mortal blow in the 41st over as Wiese was run out, the all-rounder misjudging a second run to Eddie Leie at deep backward point.

Heinrich Klaasen (43*) produced a commendable effort to try and see his team through to victory on his franchise debut, but he didn’t have the experience to deal with the tricky mixture of slower balls dished up by Pretorius at the death or the aggressive fast bowling of Hardus Viljoen.

The result could have gone either way with the Titans needing 22 off the last three overs, but Viljoen and Pretorius sent the crowd – comprising largely school children from surrounding schools – away happy as they sealed a hard-fought victory.

Viljoen had tormented the Titans top-order and was a handful throughout, finishing with one for 29 in his 10 overs.

The Titans also had the misfortune to lose Heino Kuhn, retired hurt for just two, after he was struck on the hand by Viljoen, having gone into the game with stitches.

The Lions total was set up by Devon Conway, the left-hander scoring freely while most other batsmen struggled on the two-paced pitch.

The introduction of Eden Links saw the Lions slump from 80 for one after 19 overs to 123 for five, the off-spinner turning the ball sharply and varying his pace well as he took four for 35.
Felllow spinner Roelof van der Merwe produced the delivery of the day to bowl the in-form Temba Bavuma, the darling of Soweto, for just three, the ball pitching outside leg and hitting the off stump.

But the Lions’ resurgence started with Conway and Pretorius (32) as they added 51 off 64 balls for the sixth wicket and the innings was given a tremendous late surge as Conway finished on 78 not out off just 73 balls.

The unfortunate Vincent Moore went for 20 runs in the final over as Conway hammered him for three fours and a six.

 

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