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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: SA’s SuperRugby downgrade hard to understand 0

Posted on April 12, 2017 by Ken

 

Sanzaar obviously had to make changes to SuperRugby because the crowds were not reflecting the status of the competition, but I struggle to understand why South Africa have to give up two teams.

Our previous wins at the Sanzaar negotiating table have been because we could always use the threat of going to Europe and our TV figures to get our own way.

So why do New Zealand keep five franchises and South Africa have just four, but we’re a much bigger nation! I know the argument based on the performance of the teams, but in 2013 we had four teams in the top eight and in 2012 three sides in the top six. So we have had the strength, and the Bulls were a dominant force in SuperRugby from 2005-2010, which is not so long ago!

So I struggle to comprehend how a team like the Cheetahs, who are such a strong rugby region, can be facing the axe. Everyone understands that the Kings will have to go due to their financial woes and because they are propped up by Saru, but it will be very disappointing to lose the Cheetahs after they have been in SuperRugby for so long. And the Free State and Griqualand West region has provided a heck of a lot of players who have gone on to greater things.

What really concerns me is that the Springboks will miss out on an extra 30 players to choose from, while New Zealand will have a pool of 150 SuperRugby players, a 20% bigger selection pool.

And it’s easy to say we will retain more players because we will now have more money, but as Faf de Klerk’s offer from Sale shows, guys can still earn more than triple what they’ll get in South Africa by going overseas. I believe we’ll actually retain fewer players because there will be less opportunity with only four franchises. Our coaching ranks will also be diminished with less opportunity for them too.

The funny thing is, a year ago Sanzaar said everything was fine and a big fuss was made about how the new format would mean much less travel for South African sides – a maximum of two flights overseas.

The tournament did need expansion and Argentina have now been able to keep their best players, they haven’t gone to Europe, because there’s a clear pathway for them to develop and express themselves at the highest level. We’ve seen that with the Sunwolves too.

People say it’s not our job to develop rugby in South America and Asia, but that’s shortsighted. Rugby has to be a global game, if it just stayed within the Commonwealth and Argentina, it would die.

Exposing a team from Japan to higher levels of rugby has certainly brought an improvement to their play. There were 22 000 people at the Bulls game in Tokyo and the excitement was incredible, especially considering that the last game in Tokyo saw the Sunwolves lose 83-17 to the Hurricanes!

But there was a great atmosphere and huge interest in the Bulls game, but more on that shock result later on.

In my view, the SuperRugby format should be a 16-team competition – so five New Zealand and South African franchises, four from Australia and the Sunwolves and Jaguares – with everyone playing everyone else once. You would have two three-week tours as part of that.

Six teams would then progress to the playoffs, with the top two sides initially having a bye straight into their home semis against the winners of the quarterfinals, which would be third versus sixth and fourth against fifth.

This weekend I am really looking forward to the match between the Lions and the Stormers, which should be a high-tempo, all out attacking game, but the side that defends best will win it. For the main Easter weekend game to be between the two conference leaders is going to provide a great spectacle.

The quality and skill level of the Stormers last weekend against the Chiefs shows that they have reached a new dimension and you have to credit Robbie Fleck and his staff, and the players, for their willingness to play like that. It’s really high-risk, high-reward rugby and, believe me, it has to be coached!

What was especially pleasing was the way they really matched a New Zealand team at the back end of the game, when it’s normally been a huge struggle for South African teams.

The Sharks also had a good win, even though they are not scoring a lot of tries. They are playing off the other side’s mistakes, like their spectacular intercept try against the Jaguares.

They hung on in there against the Argentinians and it was an important win for their conference, although they will be a bit disappointed they gave the Jaguares a point. But it’s good that they were able to grind it out, hopefully they can get on a roll and get their confidence going.

The humidity in Durban made the ball very slippery and there were similar conditions for the Bulls in Tokyo, a match I was fortunate enough to attend. It was very wet and the Sunwolves managed the conditions better. The Bulls are not far off but they were simply not good enough last weekend.

They took time to get into their stride, they struggled to get control of the game. But then they had control when they were nine points ahead, they were in the pound seats, but the yellow card obviously had a huge influence.

After that the Sunwolves took a scrum with 10 minutes to go and scored the matchwinning try. The lesson for the Bulls is that when a backline player like Jan Serfontein gets a yellow card, then you must replace him. It’s better to have a full backline because you need that speed on defence. It was standard procedure when I was with the Springboks that if a backline player got a yellow card late in the game then we would take a forward off and replace him. Otherwise you’re defending with six versus seven, which is why the Sunwolves were able to break out so easily.

The Sunwolves were also able to keep the ball in play and did a good job of nullifying the Bulls’ lineout maul threat by standing off. That meant the Bulls had to mostly play from static ball. The home side were also very good with their kicks and chips, while the Bulls could have done much better with their chips, especially the one from their own 22 that led to a try.

The Bulls will be really hurting, but they now have a lot of games at home. No other team in the competition has had such a tough start away from home, and the Bulls will now hope they can get some form and a winning run at Loftus Versfeld.

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.

Tenacious Highveld Lions’ colours not lowered yet 0

Posted on February 08, 2017 by Ken

 

The Highveld Lions may be languishing in fifth place on the Sunfoil Series log, but it’s been a topsy-turvy competition and their colours have not been lowered yet as they go into the final weekend of fixtures in South Africa’s premier domestic tournament.

The Lions are 11.28 points behind the log-leading Titans and 8.90 points behind their opponents at the Wanderers from Thursday – the Knights.

So they simply have to beat the Knights and hope that the Warriors manage to prevent the Titans from winning their match in Benoni. They could also do with the Dolphins and Cape Cobras drawing in Durban.

That the Lions are still in the running is thanks to their remarkable, last-ditch 14-run victory over the Warriors last weekend in East London, set up by a couple of bold declarations.

“We’re happy that we’re still alive and the key now is to win this weekend. We’ve played well at home over the last four years and it’s simple, we just have to control our own game and not concentrate on the others. We can’t have one eye on the other games because we’re up against a quality side in the Knights. But we will keep fighting like we did when we finished in the dark with just two or three overs left against the Warriors,” coach Geoff Toyana told The Citizen on Tuesday.

It was a special effort by the Lions attack to dismiss the Warriors for just 243 in 68 overs on a rainy final day and Toyana praised his bowlers after the weather had forced captain Stephen Cook to declare earlier than he would have liked.

“It was a great result and the character shown, the belief and fight, was very good. Aya Myoli (3-58) really came through for us by striking up front and kept running in, while Beuran Hendricks (3-70) and Bjorn Fortuin (3-39) were also very good on the last day.”

Keith Dudgeon and Nono Pongolo, who did not play against the Warriors, have been retained in the squad to meet the Knights and one of them could play if the Lions decide to go with an all-pace attack.

The Knights will come to Johannesburg with Theunis de Bruyn and Rudi Second amongst the most successful batsmen in the competition, while fast bowlers Duanne Olivier and Marchant de Lange have spearheaded their attack.

 

 

Nella says he won’t be roaring off the field as new Easterns coach 0

Posted on February 02, 2017 by Ken

 

Former Proteas pace bowler Andre Nel is the new coach of the Easterns team and says you’re not nearly as likely to hear him roaring from off the field as you were likely to hear him on the field during his playing days.

“It’s hard not being as fiery, but my job is to understand and manage the players, look after them well and get the best out of them. I’m pretty laid back, but discipline, respect and never giving up are things I won’t compromise on. I want them to be fiery,” Nel says.

The 37-year-old, who played 36 Tests and 79 ODIs for South Africa, has been coaching at school and academy level and sees the Easterns appointment as his breakthrough first job at senior level.

“When you’ve played with that much passion, it’s hard to just take yourself out of competition. For me it was more about passion than aggression and so once I stopped playing I started coaching at schools and the academy. My biggest advantage is that I know and understand how the players think and what their needs are. And they respect me too because they know I’ve done it myself, I know how cricket works,” Nel says.

 

Nel said his long-time mentor, Ray Jennings, would be helping him at Easterns, especially in terms of setting up structures and improving the discipline.

“The big thing at Easterns is that there’s no special schools identified, we need to pick three or four feeders and try and develop those. Plus we need tertiary institutions to keep players in the system and create an academy that works.

“It will take time, but it’s a lot more than just coaching, we’ve got to get the structures right. We’ve also already spoken about club facilities, which are poor and don’t give players the best opportunity to show what they can do. And we need to make Willowmoore Park somewhere where we can proud of too. Others hate coming there, but we must be proud of our office,” Nel says.

And, in terms of on-the-field action and his own area of expertise – bowling, Nel says for him the yorker is a much under-utilised skill.

“Batting skill has moved so far forward with guys playing reverse-sweeps and laps, but bowling skill seems to be standing still. The slower-ball bouncer and slower yorker are both old news and we need to try and figure out what we can do to bring a different dimension to bowling.

“We need to be able to nail the yorker, but nobody in South Africa seems able to bowl it on demand. We’re a bit predictable; yes, the yorker is hard to bowl, but it’s a dying art.

“The laws are all conducive to batting, so maybe in the powerplay the bowlers should be able to choose whether they want to bowl with a new or an old ball … ” Nel says.

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20150624/282029030872802/TextView

 

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.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-26-rugby-boks-win-but-without-conviction/#.WJHMPVN97IU



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