for quality writing

Ken Borland



I know a week is a long time in sport, but … 0

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Ken

 

I’ve always known that a week can be a long time in the world of sport, but I go away for eight nights to the bush of northern Limpopo and return to find rugby’s entire landscape changing with indecent haste compared to the months of feet-dragging that often characterise a game that has been presided over at some stages by dinosaurs or the old farts of the straw-chair brigade.

One of the changes I saw coming before my departure. I always love unintended consequences and it was former Springboks and Bulls defence coach John McFarland who pointed out to me that the rulemakers’ new emphasis on keeping tackles lower, away from the head and shoulders, was at least partly responsible for the sudden rash of offloads we have seen from the South African teams, who have traditionally preferred taking contact and winning some hard-earned, psychologically-meaningful centimetres.

So it’s not just a mindset change amongst our franchise coaches and players, but also that tacklers are now being forced down below the arms, allowing the hands to be free to keep the ball alive.

Time will tell whether that more skilful approach is carried through to the Springboks, but the national team has already had better preparation than last year with a camp and they look better resourced too in terms of coaching staff.

One of those additional resources is Cheetahs coach Franco Smith and it may be just as well that he has earned a promotion because he might be out of a decent Super Rugby job next year. If we believe what the New Zealand media tell us, then the Cheetahs as well as the Southern Kings will be axed from Super Rugby under the new, hopefully improved format for 2018 that is yet to be unveiled.

Harold Verster, the CEO of the Cheetahs, cheerfully told the world though that he keeps his “ear to the ground” and that the rumbling noise he hears is not a rampaging stampede of buffalo at all, but the sound of the Grey College-Free State-somewhere else in the country pipeline running smoothly. He says the Cheetahs are safe.

You cannot be nearly as optimistic about the Kings, however. They would seem to be sitting ducks as not only are they struggling on the field but they are a financial drain on the South African Rugby Union and money always shouts loudest when it comes to administrators, like politicians.

Speaking of politicians, you cannot escape the irony that Cheeky Watson, the self-proclaimed messiah of transformation, has now left Eastern Cape rugby and has done more damage to the nursery of Black rugby in our country than anything since a Nationalist government functionary.

If you called him a blood-sucking tick you would probably be understating his effect. The man has been a full-blown parasite on the game in that vulnerable region, more like the deadly malaria protozoans that kill half-a-million people a year in sub-Saharan Africa.

Later this year, the British and Irish Lions tour New Zealand in what should be the rugby highlight of 2017, but this type of proper tour probably won’t become more common given the news this week that a new global rugby calendar is being introduced. Coming into effect in 2020, it has reducing player workload as one of its main tenets.

Tours by northern hemisphere teams to the southern hemisphere will be pushed back to July, but this will allow Super Rugby to be completed in one fell swoop from February to June. This is a good thing and will come into effect in 2019, because that is a World Cup year.

The 2023 World Cup is another story of course, with South Africa seemingly ranged against France and Ireland for the right to host the tournament. If you can believe what came out of sports minister Fikile Mbalula’s mouth this week, then government is now backing the bid.

Then again, Mbalula might just have been trying to distract from the fiasco that was Durban’s Commonwealth Games bid. The chairman of that bid was Mark Alexander, the president of the South African Rugby Union, but that’s a story for another day.

Siboto holds his nerve for Titans to win low-scoring T20 final thriller 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Low-scoring games often make for the most exciting finals and so it proved again at Centurion on Friday night as Malusi Siboto held his nerve in the final over for the Titans against the Warriors and bowled them to the CSA T20 Challenge trophy for the second season in succession.

Siboto, who had earlier dropped a sitter of a catch in the field, was defending 12 runs in the final over and consistently went for the blockhole of batsmen Lesiba Ngoepe and Sisanda Magala, conceding just six runs for the Titans to win by six runs and become the first team to defend their T20 title.

The Warriors were chasing 156 for victory and looked on course for their second title as Colin Ackermann (34) and Christiaan Jonker (33) added 48 for the fourth wicket and then Qaasim Adams (17), playing for his loan team against his actual employers, took the visitors to 125 for four after 16 overs.

But Adams, trapped lbw trying to sweep wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, and Ackermann, caught on the boundary off Lungi Ngidi, fell in successive overs, and Ngoepe and Magala were unable to score the required 31 off 22 balls.

David Wiese, who took one for 31 and claimed the key wicket of Jon-Jon Smuts, caught behind for 16; Ngidi, who took two for 27 including the vital scalp of Colin Ingram caught behind for 12; and Junior Dala (4-0-25-0) were also outstanding with the ball for the Titans.

Albie Morkel bowled the first over, having Clyde Fortuin brilliantly caught at backward point by Aiden Markram, who was superb in the field, and then left the action, never to return, with a hamstring injury.

The home side had been sent in to bat by the Warriors and they struggled to 155 for six, having numerous difficulties on a pitch that made strokeplaying difficult.

Markram opened the batting and scored 33 off 25 balls, before the Warriors’ slow bowlers had their usual suffocating effect in the middle overs. Morkel made 21 off 20 balls, but nobody was able to score at much more than a run-a-ball, with the Warriors producing an excellent display in the field that included two run outs.

Kyle Abbott (4-0-27-1), Basheer Walters (3-0-15-1) and Colin Ingram (4-0-24-1) did a great job with the ball for the Warriors.

But Wiese provided a big finish with his 24 not out off 15 balls, taking 19 runs off the last over bowled by Magala.

The unfortunate 25-year-old will be having nightmares over his two final-over failures.

Former defence coach John McFarland’s six solutions for the Springboks 0

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Ken

 

It was very hard to watch the Springboks v All Blacks game last weekend because there were a mountain of mistakes. You could see the players were really trying, but very often that’s not good enough against a quality side like New Zealand.

There were many system and individual errors within the Springbok defence, but the good news is that they can all be fixed, they can be corrected through good coaching. So I would prefer to talk about solutions rather than showing what went wrong.

Because I was in charge of the Springboks’ defence and kicking game for four years, I obviously know the pressure the coaching staff feel and have experienced this many times myself in my coaching career. You don’t coach for 21 years at a professional level without experiencing setbacks, so you must know how to fix them, plus the players pick up on your body language, passion and intensity.

Since I left the Springboks, I’ve been lucky enough to be working in Japan at the Kubota Spears. The Springboks defence was taken over by Jacques Nienaber, who was obviously being lined up for the full-time job.

He coached the defence in the Ireland Tests as a consultant for five weeks. Chean Roux worked hand-in-hand with him at the MobiUnit and was then earmarked to carry on his structures and principles as seamlessly as possible.

As a coach in this situation, you can’t just point the finger at the players. It’s important to have solutions and you need to look at yourself as well, take responsibility for the performance and fix it. Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke always knew that I would take responsibility for the defensive performance, win or lose.

It’s very easy to point out what went wrong against the All Blacks, but it’s far more important to identify solutions. So here are six simple things that the Springboks can fix.

 

  • The passive defence system. Over a period of time it has come through that line integrity is the key. But at the moment the Springboks are not coming off the line and pressurising the attacking team, or if they are, it’s in single fashion, for example Juan de Jongh trying to cut off the outside options.
    Experience has shown that all this does against the All Blacks is pressure our own inside defence. They are very good at running reverse-lines at the shooting defender.
    A 75% tackle success rate at Test level shows that this system is not working. Too many good defenders are making errors and missing tackles because we are allowing the attack to dictate to the defence.
    On the Sam Whitelock try, it came from width and the spacing of the defensive line was really poor – there were only three defenders covering 30 metres of space, they were far too tight to the ruck, which pulled the wings in.
    If you have a passive defence, like the Springboks had, then it highlights if anyone breaks the system. With a passive defence, the whole object is to push the attackers towards the touchline, so it’s never a good idea if everyone is drifting and one player comes in on a read.

 

  • Winning the gain-line. I don’t think the Springbok backline once won the gain-line off first-phase ball, especially off the lineout. We call it ‘winning the race’ – if the defender can hit the ball-carrier behind the gain-line, it’s so much easier to set your defensive pillars in place. But if you allow the opposition to get easy yards over the gain-line as we did at the weekend, then it’s very difficult to get your pillars in place. The attack just rolls forward, gaining momentum … and confidence and belief.
    It’s quite simple: You have to close the space from the set-piece a lot quicker. You have to close the space (press) on the first receiver when he has the ball.

 

  • Blindside defence. As alluded to in earlier columns, this was the same part of our defence that was exploited by Australia from the lineout and from a scrum, and was mercilessly exploited by New Zealand on Saturday. The key is that the hooker and blindside wing have to communicate the reversing of play and the players have to look up before folding to the openside. The Springboks’ blindside defence has to be much, much better than it was against the All Blacks.

 

  • Scrumhalf channel off scrum. New Zealand also ran at this channel and since 2014 they’ve been doing the same thing against us. So as a defence coach that would have been my first port of call – making sure that the defence of the scrumhalf channel was really strong in Christchurch.
    But Aaron Smith punched through that channel so the scrumhalf and the flank have to work together. The first defender has to adjust and basically they have to play flat after that.
    The scrumhalf must defend the ball – after all nobody has ever scored a try without the ball!

 

  • High balls. Every All Blacks high ball went on Francois Hougaard, so that was obviously seen as a mismatch for Israel Dagg to exploit. To be fair, Francois dealt with it well, but the Springboks need to be able to play from the retreating ruck post-kick.

 

  • Kicking game. The kicking game is really quite simple and I believe we over-complicate it to a large degree. The key is that a kick is only as good as its chase, so the work-rate has to be much higher. If the kick is long, then the harder the chase, the easier it is to catch the opposition further back, to separate the counter-attacking wing and fullback from their cleaners/forwards. So the chase has to be a heck of a lot better and more aggressive from the Springboks.
    Tactically, the Springboks should be in a strong position because they have right-footed and left-footed options at flyhalf and fullback, because all they have to do then is get into the middle of the field and the right-footer [Johan Goosen] can go on the right side of the ruck and the left-footer [Elton Jantjies] takes the left. That will create indecision in the opposition back three as to who will exit. It will also affect the All Blacks’ pressure plan because the key guys trying to charge down the kick are always Aaron Smith or TJ Perenara and Brodie Retallick – it will be more difficult for them to pick up who is going to kick.
    Because the Boks have such a good mauling game, the box-kick from 9 is vitally important and needs to have an organised chase and contest, so they need to select wings that go up in the air.

 

These are the solutions to the defensive problems which I know I would be asking questions about if I were in the same situation as Chean Roux.

Just on Malcolm Marx and his alleged throwing woes, I think the criticism is incredibly unfair. People just look at the stats and not at what actually went on. It’s easy to say we lost four lineouts and blame the hooker, but if you look through all our games against New Zealand over the last four years, we’ve always lost four or five lineouts against them in the second half, because at halftime, whatever they talk about, they come out differently in the second half.

The World Cup semifinal last year against the All Blacks was decided because we lost five set-pieces around the halfway line. So to come out firing against a young hooker in his first Test is really not fair.

And I’ve looked at his throws – the first one was not straight, that was obvious and an error on his part because his alignment and set-up were wrong. But the two other lost throws were directly because of poor lifts by the back supporter, he was late.

And then at the lineout on the line, the triggers were not right as to when the hooker should throw in. At the top level, the hooker always has a trigger telling him when to throw, it tells him when to begin the throw. It comes from the jumper and it’s important to get it right.

The positive is that in rugby you always get another chance and I really think the Springboks will be so much better at home, they always do play better back here.

I really hope the Springboks and their coaching staff will bounce back well against Australia. I’m sure they will because there is too much hurt and as a group they know their responsibility is to give the country hope. I believe they will do that in these two home Tests.

Allister Coetzee is also a highly-experienced coach who everyone seems to forget won the World Cup in 2007. He’s been in these situations many times and he will know how to get out of it. We just need to give him and the Springboks our backing and support.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

Rugby uses its testosterone in the fight against rape 0

Posted on September 29, 2015 by Ken

 

Too much aggression and testosterone are often factors which get the blame for South Africa’s horrific rape statistics, but one brave survivor has teamed up with rugby sides to turn these integral parts of the game into something beneficial for the fight against violent sexual abuse.

The Jes Foord Cup, which is named after the founder of the Jes Foord Foundation, will be played for on Saturday in Durban between the first teams of the University of KwaZulu-Natal and Durban Collegians. But the day is about so much more than just two rugby teams slugging it out for some silverware.

The University of KZN Rugby Club and Durban Collegians, in conjunction with the Jes Foord Foundation, have formed the Rugby Against Rape charity and the annual rugby day will see eight men’s teams from both the Durban and Pietermaritzburg campuses and four women’s teams in action as not only money but also tremendous awareness is raised about the scourge of rape.

In an incident which shocked KwaZulu-Natal in March 2008, the then 21-year-old Foord was gang-raped by four men at Shongweni Dam while walking with her father, who was forced to watch the awful assault at gunpoint.

But Foord vowed not to allow the terrible incident to destroy her and decided to speak out, forming the Jes Foord Foundation.

“I formed the foundation to help restore lives after rape by way of a number of initiatives and activities designed to change rape victims into rape survivors. I want to educate people and help them realise that there is life after rape,” Foord says.

Her rapists were sentenced to life imprisonment in 2009 and since then the Jes Foord Foundation has helped hundreds of rape survivors regain their dignity and self-esteem.

A bunch of young rugger buggers might seem an odd choice of partner for such a charity, but Foord said the varsity students were the ideal fit for her efforts to increase awareness around rape.

“I wanted to activate young adults and what better target than someone big and strong. When I tell the rugby players my story, I see their faces and they are absolutely silent for the whole talk, they want to be involved and they want to know how they can stop rape.

“I tell them that during one rugby match, in the 80 minutes excluding half-time, 282 people are raped. I tell them to play for them and it breaks their hearts that while they are having fun, running around, so many people suffer rape. I tell them to direct their anger towards helping the survivors and not towards the perpetrators,” Foord told The Daily Maverick.

“At this age, many of them are starting to think of settling down with a wife, but if not, it could be their daughters, sisters or mothers who get raped. In any case, it’s always someone’s daughter, sister or mother who is raped.”

Mark Schulze, a University of KZN Rugby Club executive committee member and former scrumhalf, said the players were thrilled to get the opportunity to help such a worthy cause.

“There’s been a very good response and the guys have jumped at the opportunity to help. They are tjoepstil when Jes talks and the fact that rugby is an aggressive sport fits in perfectly with the target market and the message she is trying to get across. Rape is happening to people left and right and there are a lot of vulnerable people on our campuses. She’s removed the taboo around speaking out about rape very successfully,” Schulze said.

Efforts to help rape survivors have often been marred by the shoddy, insensitive treatment they receive immediately after the attack and ensuring they get special care is a focus of the Jes Foord Foundation.

Because their body is literally a crime scene, rape victims are told not to shower or clean themselves by police, which they are understandably desperate to do.

“After my rape, I felt so dirty. But it’s not just that you have dirt or blood on you, it’s a whole new, deeper level of dirty. You have their smell on you, their sweat. You are desperate to scrub it off.

“I received a care package from a local pharmacy with so many special products in it to help feel clean again. And I thought, what about all those survivors who don’t get this, who just have a bar of soap and a bucket of water?” Foord said.

So Foord instituted the Handbag Project which distributes bags that contain an assortment of toiletry items, a scrubbing brush, sanitary towel, clean new underwear, a personal gift and an encouraging note to let a survivor know she is not alone.

Over 2,000 handbags were distributed by the foundation last year and members of the public can help them reach their target of 10,000 this year by donating supplies, handbags or funds to support the project; volunteering for a handbag-packing day; organising a drive for supplies or a volunteer bag-packing day in your area; or volunteering to become a depot for the Handbag Project in your area.

Read more:

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-05-15-rugby-against-rape/#.VhJf-_mqqkp



↑ Top