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Ken Borland

John McFarland on Springboks v Barbarians & the European Tests 0

Posted on November 04, 2016 by Ken


The Springboks’ European tour-opener against the Barbarians this weekend is the perfect game to see some of the up-and-coming players in action before three tough Tests coming up against England, Italy and Wales.

Obviously the Barbarians fixture was put in place some time ago, probably by Heyneke Meyer, who would have wanted a warm-up game before taking on England. So the Barbarians team is not that strong, in matches before they have sometimes been like a World XV and players like Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have appeared for them against the Springboks.

Normally the game against the BaaBaas is at the end of the tour when they are far stronger, it’s a bit of an anomaly but I think it’s a blessing to have the match at the start of the trip.

Saturday’s outing gives a chance to some of the leading lights of the Currie Cup and SuperRugby, and it could be a completely different Springbok team next weekend against England – I think Allister Coetzee will choose a very experienced side, but the Barbarians match allows him a good couple of weeks to work with the fringe players. In preparing for the BaaBaas, they’ve been given a taste of Springbok rugby and it has also given Allister a chance to work more closely with these players and see how they fit in with his plans.

So it’s basically three weeks preparation for the England match and a chance for the staff to bed down as well. The Springboks are on to their third defence coach this year in JP Ferreira and he will obviously bring new ideas and skills, plus Franco Smith has joined the management. You normally don’t have that long to assimilate new ideas, but this time they can sort out their roles and responsibilities and Allister can see how they all gel together.

Choosing nine uncapped players in his squad to play the Barbarians has basically been forced on the Springboks, but Allister Coetzee understands the situation and he and Matt Proudfoot are both enlightened coaches when it comes to the benefits of having players in Japan.

There is a large amount of South African players spending their off-season in Japan, with the full blessing of their SuperRugby unions because they have signed dual contracts. It’s a win-win situation and, for example, someone like Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, with all his experience and wisdom, has a lot of his players on dual contracts. He knows it’s the best way to keep them in South Africa and not lose them to Europe.

For example, Franco Mostert was on his way to Olympique Lyon, but has now renewed his contract with the Lions and has signed to play in Japan as well. Louis Schreuder, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe and Patrick Osborne all spend their off-season with Kubota before going back to SuperRugby.

In fact, they actually spend very little time on the field because a team can only have three overseas players on the park at any given time. So all the main teams have a rotation policy such that the players don’t play too much but have sufficient time in action. For example, Jaco Kriel came off the bench for us last weekend to play the last 30 minutes, when he got injured, while Lionel Mapoe has only played in two of our four games since he came over.

The Japanese teams are all company-based with a mix of amateur and professional players. Our amateur guys are in their companies’ offices from 8am to 1pm and then they travel out to Funabashi where we are based. They are all totally committed to the cause and their work ethic and work rate are second to none – they’re always doing extra time after training working on things, it really is quite a thing to see.

Frans Ludeke and myself are part of a three-strong foreign coaching group, while we also have three Japanese coaches, who serve as translators.

Most of the teams also have links to SuperRugby franchises – for example while Allister Coetzee was here his Kobe team had links to Dave Rennie and his Chiefs side, while for us it’s with the Hurricanes. So there’s an exchange of ideas and the professional development of coaches.

Anyway, back to the Springboks and they actually have a really good record in Europe lately, having won 16 of their last 21 end-of-year Tests.

Under Heyneke, we had an 80% win record and in 2012 and 2013 we were highly successful, with wins over first Ireland, Scotland and England, and then the next year good triumphs against Wales, Scotland and France. We only lost in 2014 against Ireland and Wales, also when we didn’t have overseas-based players and Wales actually paid for their players to be released.

So in the last four seasons the Springboks have a tremendous record in the Northern Hemisphere and they only conceded half-a-dozen tries in that time, so the defence has been good.

This year the Barbarians will just have a basic framework to play within, but a Brendan Venter-coached Italy are waiting in the middle and it certainly won’t be easy against England and Wales.

To beat them, there are some key areas to get right, like the lineout maul.

England scored twice against us in 2014 with the drive, one of them being from 50 metres out, so the Springboks need to both stop the maul and execute it well themselves. I would like to see one of South Africa’s traditional strengths back in play.

In that same 2014 game we scored against England with a pre-planned move against the rush defence that had Pat Lambie kicking out to Willie le Roux, and playing in that weather means you have to kick well and win the territory battle.

The ability to dominate the collisions in secondary defence is another key thing the Springboks need to get back so they can produce front-foot ball on attack. Jean-Luc du Preez is a strong ball-carrier and tackler and the sort of blindside flank we need, plus he’s tall enough to be a lineout option.

I also know Roelof Smit very well because he waited a long time at the Bulls for a chance, he was very patient behind Deon Stegmann. He can certainly get over the ball and is very hard to shift, while he also has carrying ability and is very good at controlling the maul at the back. He’s a traditional openside flank and he has the physical attributes.

I hope the Springboks emerge with four good wins and then everything will be alright again in South African rugby.



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.


Gold – ‘No need to panic’ after Sharks’ shock home loss 0

Posted on August 13, 2015 by Ken


Cell C Sharks coach Gary Gold said on Sunday that there was no need to panic after his team succumbed to a shock 35-29 home loss to the Toyota Cheetahs in their Vodacom SuperRugby opener at Kings Park.

It was an uncharacteristically error-ridden performance from the Sharks and the Cheetahs are the last team that will stand back and allow mistakes to go unpunished, running in four tries to claim the bonus point and put themselves second on the overall log and on top of the South African Conference.

“People have got to learn the lesson that you can’t underestimate the Cheetahs, the type of team they are, tightly-knit and able to punish any errors. So we knew what the Cheetahs were about, but we made far too many errors and we had set-piece problems.

“It was just one of those days and it depends on how you deal with it. It’s no good panicking about it, we need to feel the pain and fix what went wrong on the night. And we know what to fix, starting with the set-piece,” Gold told The Citizen on Sunday.

The new Sharks coach was, however, pleased with the character his side showed in the second half in trying to overcome a 35-22 deficit.

“We showed great character in the second half to come back and if Marcell Coetzee’s try had been allowed we would have won. That doesn’t take away from a poor performance, but the fact is that we still had an opportunity to win the game despite playing so poorly,” Gold said.

Hooker and captain Bismarck du Plessis was a late withdrawal through injury and then loosehead prop Tendai Mtawarira limped off with what looks to be a serious calf tear shortly before halftime to disrupt the Sharks pack, but Gold said they needed to adapt better to the misfortune.

The Sharks were their own worst enemies, which was no better illustrated than in the 27th minute after Pat Lambie had just scored to put the home side’s noses in front 13-10. From the kickoff, the ball went to hooker Kyle Cooper and he contrived to kick waywardly, even though fullback SP Marais was all lined up to clear with his left foot, the ball going straight to eighthman Willie Britz, who counter-attacked to set up a try for centre Francois Venter. The Sharks were never ahead again.

Cheetahs coach Naka Drotske praised experienced flyhalf and new signing Joe Pietersen and the defence for taking the underdogs to victory.

“We knew if we wanted to beat them we had to have a good kicking plan and Joe made a real difference for us. He’s really calm and brings a lot of experience. I thought tactically he and Willie le Roux really kicked well and really put them under pressure, especially in the first half.

“The big difference between us tonight and last year was the work-rate on defence. I think the intensity is something we’ve worked on and that made a big difference. The second half we lost some momentum, but the defence pulled us through,” Drotske said.


Stormers will provide early measure of Bulls’ reinvention 0

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Ken


It was the four successive defeats that the Bulls suffered against the Stormers and Western Province last year that were one of the major reasons for the change in approach of the Loftus Versfeld side and the Bulls will get an early indication of how well they have reinvented themselves when they take on the Cape side on Saturday in their Vodacom SuperRugby opener in Pretoria.

The pattern of those four defeats was similar: the Bulls forwards would dominate, they would bash away against the solid Stormers/WP defence or the ball would be kicked into the opposition 22, only for the ball to be lost and Allister Coetzee’s men would roar away for a turnover try.

Bulls captain Victor Matfield said the focus during their preparations was on raising the intensity and pace of their play, making try-scoring the goal after Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has previously admitted getting penalties was the desired outcome. The Stormers almost bring Sevens skills to their attacking play and the Bulls want to follow suit.

“We’ve put in a huge effort in the pre-season and the big difference has been in our conditioning because we have to reload quicker in defence and organise our attack. We want to go out and score tries because that’s almost always how you win and most times, the team that scores the most tries wins the competition,” Matfield said.

The veteran lock acknowledged that their opponents on Saturday have given them a torrid time recently on the counter-attack, but he hoped the tables would be turned on Saturday.

“They usually have a very quick back three and Juan de Jongh is a good stepper, so they’re dangerous off turnover ball. We mustn’t give them any of that, but we hope to turn over some free ball ourselves, because that’s where the tries lie,” Matfield said.

Publicly, Coetzee has acknowledged that his inexperienced team are the underdogs at Loftus Versfeld, but there is enough class and firepower in the Stormers side for the Bulls to be wary.

They won’t lack for inspiration with Duane Vermeulen leading from the front at eighthman, a comforting presence for the five players getting their first taste of SuperRugby – wings Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds, replacement back Huw Jones and front-rowers Vincent Koch and Wilco Louw.

The scrums will be the main area of concern for the Bulls on Saturday, as Ludeke admitted.

“The scrums on Saturday are going to be a test, but the game against Saracens was a blessing in disguise because it alerted us to where we need to improve. It will be a huge battle because the scrums give you field position from penalties. We get rhythm and confidence from the scrum, but every one is a new contest,” Ludeke said.

The words “field position” are a hint that the Bulls are perhaps not quite ready to go all the way down the same road as the Stormers and the danger of being caught in between game-plans certainly exists for the home side.


Bulls: 15-Jurgen Visser, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Arno Botha, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Werner Kruger, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Trevor Nyakane. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morne Mellet, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Pierre Spies, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jesse Kriel, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche.

Stormers: 15-Cheslin Kolbe, 14-Johnny Kotze, 13-Juan de Jongh, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Dillyn Leyds, 10-Demetri Catrakilis, 9-Nic Groom, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Michael Rhodes, 6-Rynhardt Elstadt, 5-Ruan Botha, 4-Jean Kleyn, 3-Vincent Koch, 2-Scarra Ntubeni, 1-Steven Kitshoff. Reserves – 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Oli Kebble, 18-Wilco Louw, 19-Jurie van Vuuren, 20-Nizaam Carr, 21-Louis Schreuder, 22-Kurt Coleman, 23-Huw Jones.


Spies on bench as Matfield leads in SuperRugby opener 0

Posted on July 16, 2015 by Ken

Pierre Spies, who was named as the captain for the season, will start the Vodacom Bulls’ SuperRugby campaign on the bench but someone with even more experience will be leading the team as they take on the Stormers in a crunch opener at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

Victor Matfield, starting in his beloved number five jersey, will captain the Bulls for a competition-record 83rd time, while also extending his appearance record for the franchise to 139, as he starts a 16th season of SuperRugby.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said on Wednesday that the decision had been made to ease Spies back into action off the bench, with Arno Botha starting at eighthman, after both Springbok loose forwards were asked how they preferred to manage their comebacks from lengthy injury problems.

“We want the best way for them to come back so we asked them how they felt and we believe the best option is for Pierre to be eased back into action and make a huge impact this weekend in the second half. Starting with Arno is horses-for-courses in a way, there’s no specific reason but Pierre has been out for a while and Arno had no issues in the warm-up games. We believe another week coming off the bench will be the perfect start to the season for Pierre and we’ll take it week-by-week after that,” Ludeke said at the team announcement at Loftus Versveld on Wednesday.

Matfield, who is a strong contender to captain the Springboks at the World Cup if Jean de Villiers does not recover from knee surgery, said for him the appointment was only a temporary one.

“I’m just a stand-in and hopefully Pierre will be ready next week. There’s also Adriaan Strauss who can lead the side, but it’s his first game for the Bulls since 2006, maybe that’s why the coach didn’t pick him, Deon Stegmann did an outstanding job in the warm-ups and in the backs there’s Handre Pollard,” Matfield said.

Hooker Strauss, who played eight games for the Bulls as an U21 star, will start together with fellow Cheetahs imports Trevor Nyakane and Lappies Labuschagne, while the other interesting selections see Piet van Zyl starting at scrumhalf and Francois Hougaard on the left wing. With Pollard as the starting flyhalf there are high hopes the Bulls will sparkle on attack.

“Akona Ndungane and Travis Ismaiel are both not fit and Francois played really well against Saracens on the wing, you can see he enjoys playing there, so that contributed to the decision at scrumhalf. But Piet played especially well in the warm-ups, he makes an impact on front-foot ball and his decision-making was sharp, while Rudy Paige [on the bench] has a good kicking game and game-management skills,” Ludeke explained.

Jacques du Plessis, who will no longer be calling Loftus Versfeld home after this SuperRugby season and is another player who impressed in pre-season, will partner Matfield in the second row, while Jan Serfontein and JJ Engelbrecht will be the centres in a combination that has worked very well before.

Perhaps the most crucial selection, however, is that of the experienced Werner Kruger at tighthead prop and he will have plenty of work to do in giving the Bulls a stable foundation at scrum time.

Bulls team: 15-Jurgen Visser, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Arno Botha, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Werner Kruger, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Trevor Nyakane. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morne Mellet, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Pierre Spies, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jesse Kriel, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche.




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