for quality writing

Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column – Bok defence gives them hope v All Blacks 0

Posted on September 14, 2017 by Ken

 

All in all, even though people were disappointed with the result, there was a lot to be pleased about in the Springboks’ draw with the Wallabies in Perth last weekend.

To put it into perspective, historically South Africa’s record in Australia is not that good with just 12 wins in 37 matches and only five out of 26 games since 1992, so to get two away points is a good result.

The Springboks will be disappointed, however, that they did not win because they were so dominant in the second half and they had some really clearcut opportunities that they needed to finish.

This Saturday against New Zealand at the North Harbour Stadium will be a real test, but then it always is against the All Blacks. What will really encourage the Springboks leading into that match is their defensive system that meant Australia could only score one try against them in open play, having scored five and then four tries in their two matches against New Zealand.

The Wallabies’ other try in Perth came from a driving maul and the main reason for that was that the Springboks competed at the front of the lineout. It was a high risk/high reward tactic, but with Eben Etzebeth in the air it meant they lost three players to defend on the drive, which is a particularly high-risk strategy five metres from your tryline.

The Springboks were really good in the tackle in Perth and made lots of double hits. They mixed up their defence well: at times they came very hard off the line, for example in the two turnovers Siya Kolisi forced through sheer linespeed; sometimes they were softer in their defensive line, especially on the blindside, where the attack is usually very flat and basically off the scrumhalf, so you just try to shepherd them out towards the touchline.

Once Kolisi managed to jolt the ball loose and that gave Jan Serfontein a clear run for the line but he was held up two metres short, and the other major turnover by the blindside flank came when he forced the error that led to the end of the game.

The Springboks were very good at the breakdown in Perth, and Jaco Kriel and Pieter-Steph du Toit made some really important steals as well.

The Springboks really struggled though with Australia’s obstruction, especially on the kick-chase. When you kick long it is vitally important that your line gets ahead, and stays ahead, of the retreating defenders. The Springboks do generally chase well, but if the opposition can get players in-between the chasers then it allows their back-three player a clear gap and a hole to hit in the line. It’s like obstruction and completely illegal, but someone like Richie McCaw made it an art-form for the All Blacks.

Every bit of momentum the Wallabies had in Perth really came through this. You cannot rush in defence if the attack has momentum, you have to go softer to recover; you try to get them on to the edge of the field and then you can push hard again.

It’s interesting that under Chean Roux last year, South Africa tried to implement the rush-defence, but we all know the problems they had with that system. But I feel their defensive system is very secure this year, you can see the players really back it and believe in it.

The South Africans could have been better organised on the restarts though. They tended to have their wings forward and their pods deeper, but against someone as lethal as Israel Folau, you need the pods to come further forward. But when Folau won the one aerial ball against Courtnall Skosan that led to a try, there was a huge obstruction. If you watch it from behind, Sekope Kepu actually points to Kurtley Beale and tells him where to go, he clearly blocked Etzebeth from making the hit.

Eben obviously has the respect of his team-mates and is leading well, but he is still an inexperienced captain, especially at Test level. That try needed to be reviewed and I’m sure the TMO would have made the right decision; the captain just needed to whisper in the referee’s ear …

I thought the Springbok kicking game was quite good and Elton Jantjies managed to convert a few zones and pin Australia in their 22. The Springboks were quite clever at times by moving the ball wide to Andries Coetzee, which brought Folau up and then they were able to put the ball in behind, which gave the blind wing quite a few problems.

I was really impressed again with Coenie Oosthuizen. Besides anchoring a dominant scrum, he also hasn’t missed a tackle all Championship and he also made three tackles with a broken arm when he came back on to the field!

It just shows the commitment and attitude in the team at the moment, they are really working hard for each other.

I was curious to know how the Springboks would respond to being 10 points down in a Test and the fact that they were able to get back into the game and so nearly won it at the end is a real positive going forward. As is the fact that for long periods their forwards were very dominant at the set-pieces.

We must remember that this is not a team full of 50-Test Springboks – in fact only three players in the starting XV in Perth had more than 30 caps, with two more on the bench – it is a growing team. In the decision-making positions, there is tremendous inexperience and in the spine of the team – hooker, eighthman, scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback – there was a total of just 34 caps.

So critics of the Perth performance need to take a rain-check and be positive; they must realise that this is a Springbok team that is growing in stature and is unbeaten this year so far.

The All Blacks are probably favourites on Saturday, but in 2012 and 2014 both Tests over there were very close and 2013 was the famous Romain Poite Test with Bismarck, so you can’t really count that. Apart from last year, all our games with New Zealand have been relatively close.

This is a Springbok team in such a good mental space and the All Blacks have alluded to how they can see a brilliant culture in the team and the difference in their defence, as well as the clever bits of play they are producing. They have the deepest respect for this South African team.

The absence of Jaco Kriel will, however, be a big loss for the Springboks, especially against the All Blacks. His pace, dynamism and the way he puts his body on the line without any fear is a huge positive for the team. But it’s a chance for Jean-Luc du Preez to step up and for Siya Kolisi to play at six and for someone new to come on to the bench. Siya is already really forcing a lot of turnovers on the ground.

You have to give credit to the South African coaches, staff and players for how well the Springboks have performed and hopefully they can get a good result on Saturday.

The winner will win the Rugby Championship – it probably is that simple really.

 

 

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.

John McFarland Column: Why I think the Boks will win in Perth 0

Posted on September 07, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks have so many guys playing well at the moment that I see us getting the result against Australia in Perth on Saturday, even though the Wallabies have been very competitive against the All Blacks for the last 120 minutes – it’s just the first 40 minutes of the first Test in which they were hammered.

Australian rugby is not at its strongest state at the moment and there has been a losing culture around the players from SuperRugby and a two-game loss to New Zealand, which has been their traditional start to the Rugby Championship.

They did come very close to winning in Dunedin and they probably should have won that match, but they haven’t been convincing, whereas the Springboks are full of confidence, belief in their systems and they have momentum. You can just see the positivity in the camp.

On the back of two losses, the Wallabies will be in a motivated and desperate state, but the confidence is not quite there.

Australia don’t have the same weapons as the Springboks do and they don’t have much of a kicking game. In fact they don’t want to kick, everything is about ball-in-hand for them, so obviously if the Springbok defence stands up well, opportunities could be created by the Wallabies trying to play under pressure.

There has been an exceptional improvement in the Springbok defence and the players are working so hard for each other, they’re getting off the line and smashing the opposition. It just shows that defence can be a weapon as well.

Australia will want to carry the ball a lot, they want to outscore teams, but the Springbok defence has proven quite lethal in stopping attacks and forcing turnovers, and then finishing those off.

Australia have a few good ball-carriers at centre, but the Springbok defence has been very good from first phase and they coped well against France, who had big wings and midfielders.

The Wallabies will try to beat you through phase play, which means they can become very vulnerable themselves later on in the movement, around phases five to 10, when the attack is not as structured and there’s a chance for turnovers.

Australia also don’t have the best scrum and Stephen Moore being out will affect that even more. Their back row is also a lot younger than it was previously.

Centre Tevita Kuridrani is the big threat in their team with the way he runs inwards at the lineout vacuum – that area between the last player in the lineout and the first backline defender. He can be a handful running hard and headlong into that hole.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley is definitely a threat as well, especially around middle rucks, because he has good feet and gets quite flat so he is able to go at the inside pillars.

We just don’t know from week-to-week though what team Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will pick, which is the difference between the teams because we virtually know the Springbok team from one to 23. It’s settled, which is a big advantage, and they’ve had combinations now for five Tests and they’ve performed really well. The biggest positive for the Springboks is that consistency of selection, which means the players are confident in the people around them.

The Perth crowd can also be 50/50 when it comes to who they support between South Africa and the Wallabies, but the pitch is very removed from the stands, so the crowd is quite a long way back. It also makes it a bit difficult for the kickers because the stadium is just different to most others.

The other unknown is that the Boks have not been in a losing position in any Test so far this year, they’ve been in control after the first 20-30 minutes of every game. So that is the only box unticked – if they are 10-15 points down after the first half-hour or 40 minutes, can they come back? That is the only question mark against them, but I’m sure they can do that if necessary as well.

There’s real hope that we can win in Perth for the first time since 2009. Elton Jantjies is in such a rich vein of form, the defence is so strong and the attack has been lethal – scoring at least four tries in every Test this year has been phenomenal.

 

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.

Proteas in much better mental space – Boucher 0

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Ken

 

Former Proteas legend Mark Boucher believes it is the South African team which is in a vastly better mental space than the Australians following their wonderful victory in the first Test in Perth.

“It was sensational and it will have left Australia scratching their heads about which is their right side. I don’t think Mitchell Marsh is right at number six because he’s not the sort of guy to score you hundreds there, you compare him to someone like Mike Hussey and it’s chalk and cheese. So the Proteas are in a really good position if it’s the Australians asking questions after the first Test.

“The Proteas are in a much better space than Australia and their only real headache is selection for Hobart, which is a nice position to be in. Do they play Morne Morkel or Dwaine Pretorius, who has been in good form locally and can add extra with the bat.

“I believe we should be moving away from ‘horses for courses’ because we have guys who can perform in different conditions. I’m not too sure what Hobart will be like, they might give us a greentop and then maybe JP Duminy can do the spinner’s job.

“But thankfully we played the spinner in Perth, with the Fremantle Doctor that was a fantastic call, a spinner can bowl a lot of overs and Keshav Maharaj did a wonderful job. Australia don’t play spin too well, they don’t really rotate the strike, they just try to be aggressive. In the past, Paul Harris did a fabulous job for us when we won the series Down Under and they might decide to unleash Tabraiz Shamsi because they might feel the Australians don’t read him too well,” Boucher said.

The record-holder for most dismissals by a Test wicketkeeper paid special tribute to Kagiso Rabada, the 21-year-old fast bowler who had to shoulder so much responsibility after Dale Steyn broke down. Instead of buckling, Rabada flourished with five wickets in the final innings.

“We’ve seen in the past that KG really thrives on leading the bowling attack, when Dale and Vernon Philander were injured he really led from the front. When you put KG in that space, he seems to really enjoy the challenge, which is a big positive,” Boucher said.

 

 

Bulls retain starting XV that did the job in Perth 0

Posted on May 04, 2016 by Ken

 

Bulls coach Nollis Marais has unsurprisingly chosen the same starting XV that did the job so well in Perth for their SuperRugby match against the Brumbies in Canberra on Friday.

The only change to the 23 that hammered the Western Force 42-20 is on the bench, where Dan Kriel replaces Dries Swanepoel as the reserve centre.

“We’ve gained good momentum from our last time out so I’ve made just the one change, Dan and Dries swopping around because I’ve been rotating them every week and they can both play 12, 13 and wing.

“There are certain things that we will try and improve on, but we’re getting better every game, small things are getting better every week, but it’s really just about winning,” Marais said on Tuesday from Sydney, where they are based for their preparations.

The bonus point win over the Force means the Bulls are not only sitting pretty in Africa Conference 1, just one point behind the Stormers with a game in hand, but it also highlighted the tremendous depth that Marais now has as he negotiates their playoff push with the competition just over the halfway mark.

The loose trio of Lappies Labuschagne, Arno Botha and Hanro Liebenberg, with Jannes Kirsten coming off the bench, dovetailed superbly against the Force; Marvin Orie’s performance at lock was highly encouraging given that the Bulls also have the outstanding RG Snyman playing superbly, as well as rising star Jason Jenkins and the reliable Grant Hattingh in reserve; while Francois Brummer has settled in well at flyhalf, with Piet van Zyl and Rudy Paige being two accomplished scrumhalves who are good enough to have played for the Springboks.

“At the beginning of the season, we only had three loose forwards, so it’s great that there’s now healthy competition. I’ve backed Hanro because I believe in his future, Arno was brilliant at seven and Jannes had one of the highest work-rates we’ve ever recorded when he came off the bench. So to keep your place in the loose trio, you have to play to your potential.

“Marvin has great talent and led the lineout calls last year in the Currie Cup. Although it didn’t go so well for him at the start of this season, Jason’s injury gave him an opportunity and he took his chance.

“In terms of the half-backs, we want to play a fast game and be tactical, and they struggled with that a bit at the start. But Piet gets us quickly over the advantage line and Francois is kicking at 90% and his commitment in making that corner-flag tackle was outstanding,” Marais said.

Bulls team – SP Marais, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brummer, Piet van Zyl, Hanro Liebenberg, Arno Botha, Lappies Labuschagne, Marvin Orie, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss (c), Trevor Nyakane. Bench: Bandise Maku, Lizo Gqoboka, Werner Kruger, Jannes Kirsten, Roelof Smit, Rudy Paige, Tian Schoeman, Dan Kriel.



↑ Top