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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: The Springboks’ best performance under Allister Coetzee 0

Posted on June 22, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s self-evident that the Springboks really played well to beat France 37-15 in the second Test in Durban, but I would say it was the best performance of Allister Coetzee’s tenure as national coach by a long way.

It has been so pleasing to see the Springboks put together two quality wins, in which they have scored eight tries, and it is obvious they have found the right balance between attack and defence.

I must say that I am a little concerned by the silence from the Saru executive because after two excellent performances with Allister Coetzee under pressure, he clearly deserves the mandate going forward.

Nobody did to France in the Six Nations or the home series last year what the Springboks have done to them over the last fortnight and real credit must go to Allister for the team culture he has instilled and the way it is working – that was a sensational victory at Kings Park.

The defence has been the biggest thing that has changed and the Springboks all work incredibly hard off the ball; they sprint on the kick-chase and they get off the floor so quickly. These are the trademarks of a Brendan Venter-coached team – work-rate and physicality.

Siya Kolisi was obviously the standout player with his intercept try and his ability to win ball off the floor, but the whole team excelled.

When they were on their own line for 25 phases and kept repelling the French side, that showed the culture and relationships between the players; attitude and how players feel about the environment always come out in how a team defends, and that was the best defensive performance by a South African side this season.

In terms of attack, it was pleasing to see some very clever plays, guys running short lines off scrumhalf or off the inside backs. When Raymond Rhule broke through off a lineout, the Springboks were clearly targeting the inside defence. We kept finding props with our wingers or hard-running backs.

It is also clear that a tremendous amount of work has been done on the passing and timing of the runs from first receiver; to be able to do this in the face of a rush defence, for example when Pieter-Steph du Toit passed to Coenie Oosthuizen for a sublime try, shows that the attacking play has definitely gone a level up. So hats off to everybody for a great performance.

The SA A team was a bit of a concern though and their defence was not so good against a scratch French Barbarians side, and they allowed Freddie Michalak to roll back the years at flyhalf.

What’s worrying about the  SA A side is that they have so many players over the age of 30 in key positions. There should be a clear national pathway from the U20s to the A side and then on to the Springboks, but the current selection shows no real growth or development for the future. The SA A side must use guys who have come through from the U20 level, so we can see how they cope outside of their natural SuperRugby environment.

Guys who have impressed at SA U20 level should be chosen because we know what Lwazi Mvovo, Lionel Cronje, who is also going to Japan now, and Jano Vermaaak can do. They need guys like Ivan van Zyl, Curwin Bosch, Burger Odendaal and Louis Schreuder to play – 22 and 23 year-olds with big futures. The SA A team should be about future Springboks and not Springboks of old. They must give young players a go, guys who have big futures and they must be in their 20s. They’ve basically selected this team as a Springboks B side and they must show more foresight.

The SA A side should also give coaches experience and it was pleasing to see JP Ferreira involved with their defence.

The SA U20s finished well, but to lose to an England side shorn of six players and others with the senior side in the semi-final was unacceptable. Then New Zealand klapped England by a long way in the semi-final, which showed South African rugby still has a long way to go to make up the gap.

The SA U20s need more tours against national schoolboy sides, to experience different environments. They will probably have played all the Northern Hemisphere sides in South Africa, where the hosts should win. The boys need to experience different conditions and a crowd that is not behind you. They need to step up and improve and a tour somewhere in November/December would be good.

Finally, it was a great privilege for Kubota to be able to play in the Mauritius 10s last weekend. The Bulls and Cheetahs sent their full SuperRugby sides and it was brilliant for a Japanese side to be involved in that.

The Beachcomber World Club Tens as a format was an eye-opener and I really enjoyed seeing everyone again. I hope the excellent organisation of the tournament can now be brought to South Africa, in either pre or post season, that would be fantastic. Mauritius was really enjoyable for everyone who was involved

Well done to the Blue Bulls for winning the tournament, although it’s fair to say they do need a few cups.

 

 

 


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.

 

That’s awful, Bulls! 0

Posted on March 27, 2017 by Ken

 

The Bulls started their overseas tour with a parlous 38-14 defeat at the hands of the Blues in Albany on Saturday, a loss and awful performance that’s going to cause questions to be asked about the team’s coaching and management.

The Bulls were level 7-7 at halftime, having already conceded seven penalties, made numerous handling errors and looked out-of-sync on attack, but that’s as good as it got for the tourists as the second half saw them totally disintegrate as the Blues added five more tries to earn a bonus point.

Replacement scrumhalf Rudy Paige was given a consolation try after the final hooter, having not grounded the ball but probably deserving a penalty try anyway, but the Bulls had been goners long before that.

The Bulls started brightly enough with a promising attack in the Blues’ 22, but referee Nic Berry ended it with a harsh obstruction call. The home side’s backline was gone in a flash, roaring up the left side of the field and some superb handling and offloads by fullback Michael Collins and wing Melani Nanai saw scrumhalf Augustine Pulu scooting over the line for the opening try, in the third minute.

The Bulls would be back on level terms after 17 minutes as they earned a ruck penalty, flyhalf Handre Pollard’s super kick set up a lineout in the corner and prop Lizo Gqoboka burrowed over for a try after the driving maul.

There would be further opportunities for the Bulls in the first half, but they were ponderous with turnover ball and their dire handling meant errors interrupted just about every attack after a few phases.

The second half would be the same story, only worse, as the Blues quickly seized control of the game.

An early attack by the Bulls came to nothing as nobody seemed to know who was meant to clean, be a pillar or play halfback at a ruck, and Pollard then missed a tackle on Collins, allowing a lovely offload to wing Matt Duffie, who went through a poor tackle by opposite number Jamba Ulengo to score the second try, also converted by flyhalf Piers Francis.

The most astonishing example of clueless play by the Bulls came in the 56th minute. Lock Lood de Jager did well to steal the ball at a five-metre lineout, but at the resulting ruck, scrumhalf Piet van Zyl went to play pillar and replacement flank Jannes Kirsten cleared the ball, making the awful decision to feed a pod inside his own in-goal area. That conceded a five-metre scrum, from which Francis’s pinpoint kick-pass across the field was claimed by Duffie for his second try.

It didn’t even help the Bulls when Blues flank Jimmy Tupou was temporarily sent from the field for a neck roll. Pollard was replaced on the hour mark in what was apparently a scheduled change, but new flyhalf Tian Schoeman was unable to find touch from a scrum penalty the Bulls earned.

Soon thereafter, Ulengo burst out of defensive alignment like a crazed shopper going after Black Friday sales, and the Blues’ replacement flyhalf, Ihaia West, knifed through to score.

The Blues were 24-7 up and continued to boss the game as one was left with the nagging impression that the Bulls ran out of legs.

The home side were able to hang on to the ball through numerous phases because of their impressive handling skills, with outside centre Rieko Ioane making his presence felt with a couple of great runs, going from one side of the field to the other before replacement hooker Matt Moulds ended the attack by going over in the corner.

West had barely kicked the conversion for a 31-7 lead when he was bursting through the line again, with the Bulls defence far too narrow, creating acres of space out wide for Nanai to go roaring through for a dazzling try.

The Bulls did get the final points as they earned a free kick at a scrum under the poles and Paige, who should have come on earlier for a hesitant Van Zyl, went on his own to score their second try.

While most pundits expected the Bulls to lose, nobody expected such a dismal display from them and they have a lot of introspection ahead of them this week before facing the mighty Chiefs.

Scorers

BluesTries: Augustine Pulu, Matt Duffie (2), Ihaia West, Matt Moulds, Melani Nanai. Conversions: Piers Francis (2), West (2).

BullsTries: Lizo Gqoboka, Rudy Paige. Conversions: Handre Pollard, Tian Schoeman.

 

 

Back to school for Saru, who look set to fail again 0

Posted on February 13, 2017 by Ken

 

If the South African Rugby Union were a kid, based on their 2016 performance they would be the one who failed to pass their grade and has to repeat the year, hopefully being shamed into harder work and improvement by the embarrassment of sitting in a class with a bunch of people a year younger than you.

Unfortunately, if I was their teacher in that school, I would be forced to conclude already at this early stage of the year that Saru are doomed to fail again because they are simply repeating the same mistakes.

We are two weeks away from the start of Super Rugby and we still don’t know yet whether Allister Coetzee will continue in his post as Springbok coach. If he does – and that looks likely given how tardy Saru have once again been in sorting out their most important appointment (apart from arguably the CEO, who has done another of his disappearing tricks) – then Coetzee will once again find his planning set back by an administration that seems intent on tying one hand behind his back.

The contracts are apparently in place and the official announcement is supposed to be made in the next week, but we’ve heard that line before.

There is another vital appointment that Saru is also dragging its feet over and one that just creates enormous uncertainty amongst the best junior talent in this country and their parents, many of whom are probably sitting on offers from overseas.

Dawie Theron finished his tenure as national U20 coach in June and a replacement has still not been named. There is a great candidate – both in terms of the success he has achieved with young rugby players and the tremendous transformation message it would send – sitting in Potchefstroom by the name of Jonathan Mokuena, previously a manager of the Junior Springboks side, a winner of the Varsity Cup and a successful coach of the Leopards senior team.

But instead there are strong suggestions Abe Davids, the brother of Saru vice-president Francois Davids, is being lined up for the job.

Former traffic cop Francois Davids is also the president of Boland rugby, the union which suspended Abe Davids in 2014 for faking his coaching qualifications, and has been accused of such nepotism by the clubs in the area that the administration was called the “House of Davids”.

The only good news coming out of Saru lately  is that they have invested in getting Brendan Venter back involved with the Springboks. With him and Franco Smith, working with Matt Proudfoot and Johann van Graan, Coetzee will finally have back-up staff worthy of the Springboks.

Of course the name of Rassie Erasmus still pops up from time to time and the former Springbok and director of rugby has put in a lot of time and effort in plotting his coaching career-path. A leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper seems be the PR company for his ambitions.

While the dithering and politicking carries on in the Saru boardroom, the All Blacks have already held their first camp together and the gap just widens. One would hope the news that the Springboks could be ranked as low as seventh after the next round of Six Nations matches would shock Saru into decisive action, but the wheels of their bureaucracy turn with the speed of a sloth.

 

Now for the Springboks to lay the same platform in Mendoza 0

Posted on January 23, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks touched the heights of greatness in the emotional, inspirational atmosphere of the FNB Stadium last weekend; the challenge will be for them to repeat that sort of performance in the hostile, unfamiliar surrounds of Mendoza in the return fixture against Argentina on Saturday night.

The 73-13 victory over the Pumas as the country celebrated the Nelson Mandela Sports and Culture Day was the biggest win ever in the Rugby Championship or the Tri-Nations that preceded it, and the Springboks were rightly lauded for the record nine tries they scored in producing some dazzling attacking play.

But the foundation for that win was laid up front by the massive ball-carrying efforts of Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts, and the set-piece excellence of the tight five.

Given the time and space, and the platform to shine, the backline then showed what they are capable of.

It is little surprise that coach Heyneke Meyer has chosen the same starting XV to take on Argentina this weekend, with the only change to the squad being the promotion of Jano Vermaak to reserve scrumhalf in the absence of Fourie du Preez, who will not be part of any of South Africa’s away games, as per the wishes of his Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath.

The continuity that Meyer has engendered through his selections has allowed the confidence in the side to grow markedly through seven consecutive wins. It is still early days in the Rugby Championship, but at the moment the two sides on an upward trajectory are the Springboks and their arch-rivals, the All Blacks.

But to ensure that they keep tracking the world’s number one side, the South Africans are going to have to bend their backs and put in another big effort in Mendoza.

A year ago, almost to the day, that hunger was missing as South Africa scraped a fortuitous draw against Argentina at the same venue.

As the actress may well have said to the bishop, “it’s what you put in that counts”, and the Springboks will have to put in an even bigger effort amongst the forwards to soften the Pumas in front of their most passionate supporters.

The Springboks have obviously adjusted better than expected to the requirements of the new scrum laws but the return of the bajada, which seems tailor-made to the new engagement sequence, cannot be far off.

The loss of the injured Patricio Albacete will place the Pumas lineout under even more pressure, following the dominance of Juandre Kruger and Etzebeth last weekend, and the effectiveness of the rolling maul – there seemed to be a total lack of a defensive plan against it from Argentina – means that set-piece should once again provide a great attacking platform for the Springboks.

The improvement shown at the breakdown will be under even more scrutiny this weekend as the Springboks will have to adapt to the vagaries of referee Steve Walsh, who will have a vocal crowd on his back in the most intimate of venues. The hostile atmosphere in the sunken stadium is epitomised by its name – the Estadio Malvinas Argentinas – which literally means Argentina’s Falklands Islands Stadium, a defiant show of the country’s claim on that territory.

If the Springboks do get the same sort of front-foot ball they enjoyed last weekend, then they can be expected to canter to victory once again. The arrival of Willie le Roux and JJ Engelbrecht, and the continued spark shown by Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers, has allowed the Springboks to bury suggestions they are dour and one-dimensional on attack.

And one of the most encouraging features of the opening round win was the crisp, snappy service provided by scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar – Meyer said it was the best game the Ulster-based veteran had produced under his coaching.

Adding Le Roux to the mix at fullback has certainly brought an extra dimension with the Cheetahs star’s vision and ability to put others in space reminiscent of the great Andre Joubert.

The form of Morne Steyn at flyhalf has also been superb in all departments all year.

The only player who didn’t shine last weekend was wing Bjorn Basson, although it’s fair to say the run of play didn’t go his way. The Bulls player will need to make himself more involved, however, if the temptation to move Le Roux to wing and play Pat Lambie at fullback is not to take seed in Meyer’s mind.

Lambie came off the bench last weekend and set up the seventh try with a superb break, epitomising the tremendous impact that the bench had. Bismarck du Plessis, Gurthro Steenkamp, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Siya Kolisi, Vermaak, Lambie and Jan Serfontein could all easily distinguish themselves in the starting line-up and the softening-up process the Springboks employ – their subdue and penetrate style – is hugely boosted by having such a powerful bench.

The Springboks have the ideal chance on Saturday to make up for the dismal showing on the previous trip to Argentina. The confidence is there, the game plan is in place; all that’s needed now is the hunger to quell what will be a fiery Pumas response to the humiliation they suffered at the FNB Stadium.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-23-boks-vs-argentina-bring-it-home-at-hostile-mendoza/#.WIdV01N97IU



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