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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – How the Lions turned around their SuperRugby semifinal 0

Posted on August 01, 2017 by Ken

 

 

In the last 45 minutes of their SuperRugby semi-final, the Lions beat the Hurricanes 41-7, which is a phenomenal achievement against the defending champions and a truly top-quality side.

Altitude was certainly a big factor and you could see the Hurricanes fading away, but the way the Lions set up their amazing comeback was highly impressive.

There were things they definitely needed to do better from the first half, starting with their first-phase defence. They were caught out with a simple second-man play from a lineout for the Wes Goosen try, when there were a couple of misreads, and the turnovers in their own half also provided the Hurricanes with position and points.

There was a lot of long kicking at the start of the game and very few contestable kicks, so there wasn’t a lot of counter-attacking either, with both teams playing safety-first rugby, and the Hurricanes generally capitalising on Lions’ mistakes exiting in their own half.

When the Lions carried the ball, they generally went close to the ruck, either in channel one or on the blindside, attacking the pillars. This did not give the Hurricanes defence the chance to rush, and even though the Lions did not get much momentum and made a few mistakes and turnovers, it kept the Hurricanes tight five making tackles, and by the end of the match they were stuffed, the wind had been taken out of their sails.

The turning point in the match came when Jaco Kriel made a steal just before halftime on halfway, when the Hurricanes had first-phase ball from a lineout. He got in over the ball, the Lions won the penalty and they went for position.

The previous time they had won a penalty in a similar position, they went for the tap-and-run which in hindsight was the wrong decision. But it came from the frustration the players on the outside would have been feeling because they weren’t in the game and someone obviously felt the space was there to attack. No player takes a tap just on their own volition, there would have been a call from someone else.

Jaco Kriel is such a warrior, he never gives up and he has a really tough streak, which influences the whole of the team. I felt that important steal totally changed the momentum of the game as it gave the Lions field position which led to the try just before halftime. The Hurricanes forwards just could not fold into position after a couple of lineout drives and in the end Jacques van Rooyen barged over to bring the Lions back into the game.

The Hurricanes had all the possession and territory in the first half, but the second half was all Lions. Their scrum was dominant enough to gain penalties to gain field position in the 22 for lineout mauls.

I felt the Hurricanes yellow card was very harsh. Beauden Barrett definitely rolled away, but the ball squirted out on his side and into his legs. It was definitely a penalty, but with their flyhalf and main general off the field, the Hurricanes fell apart and the game really opened up for the Lions.

They converted their field position into points well and were ruthless in terms of their lineout maul. It takes a fair amount of numbers to stop them setting it up and driving, so that opened up other options for them as well off the lineout.

The big thing though was that the belief was there in the Lions team and you have to also give credit to their whole coaching staff. And Cash [Ivan van Rooyen], their conditioning coach, is their real unsung hero. Against the New Zealand teams, it’s always in the last 20 minutes that they come back so strongly, but the Lions actually dominated the final quarter, which shows they are in tip-top shape.

In terms of defence, it was very difficult to go around the Lions with Andries Coetzee coming into the line very early as the extra man. That does leave them vulnerable at the back, but the Hurricanes weren’t able to get kick-passes or grubbers in behind.

And the Lions scored some really well-worked tries. Especially the one where their centres set things up and their loose forwards finished out wide. Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe have the size in midfield, and then they have the pace of Jaco Kriel and Kwagga Smith out wide to finish.

I thought Franco Mostert was immense and is really starting to look like a world-class lock, and his two consecutive lineout steals in the first half were crucial in keeping the Lions in the game.

The biggest compliment one can pay Malcolm Marx is that he did not lose anything to Dane Coles, who is possibly the best hooker in the world. A long Springbok career lies ahead of Malcolm and we are blessed to have someone of that size starting their international career so early.

In the final, however, the Crusaders will be a totally different kettle of fish to the Hurricanes. They have a number of All Blacks, especially in the tight five, and world-class back-row forwards. They have some of the best players in the world in Sam Whitelock, Kieran Read and Owen Franks, they are second to none and they all play in key areas.

So there’s going to be a lot more pressure on the Lions at the scrum and lineout. While the Hurricanes stayed down against the Lions lineout, which gave them a lot more latitude, the Crusaders will definitely compete.

I thought the Crusaders were very clinical in their semi-final against the Chiefs, even though they also don’t compete much at the breakdown (apart from Ryan Crotty), they concentrate on having numbers of defenders on their feet. That will mean a lot of free ball for the Lions, which is a big risk at altitude.

The key moment in that semi-final was the Tim Nanai-Williams grubber try and a great call by the TMO to cancel out even though Damian McKenzie was shaping for the conversion. It’s important to get those decisions right in matches like that and it was correct.

It’s great that the final will be a sell-out crowd and a great way for Johan Ackermann to finish his tenure at the Lions.

The Lions have now got a lot of belief and confidence and I think they will emerge as the 2017 SuperRugby champions. It has proven nigh-on impossible for a team to win a SuperRugby final outside their own country, never mind crossing the Indian Ocean. I think it will be done at some time, but hopefully not this weekend.

 

 

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.

 

 

Noren aimed low but ended over the moon 0

Posted on November 15, 2016 by Ken

 

Alex Noren was not aiming high at the start of the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday, but he was over the moon after a phenomenal nine-under-par round of 63 earned him a dazzling six-shot victory at Gary Player Country Club.

In the 36 editions of the Nedbank Golf Challenge, only two other golfers – Sergio Garcia (2001) and Ernie Els (2002) – have shot 63 in the final round to win and it’s fair to say the course was much easier back then.

The 34-year-old Swede started the day six strokes behind leader Jeunghun Wang, who had fired a wonderful 64 in incredibly tough conditions on the third day and seemed to already have one hand on the famous crystal trophy.

But Noren produced a magnificent front nine, that featured six birdies, and then eagled the 10th and birdied 11 to rocket into the lead, nine-under through 11 holes and playing golf that was simply out of this world.

“Honestly, I thought I had no chance at the start of the round, this is a really tricky course and the leader had shot 64 yesterday which was like 59 today.

“So I just wanted to get a good round in before the World Tour Championship in Dubai next week, to have a good positive feeling going there, work on my swing a bit. Anything under par I would have been happy,” Noren said after his fourth victory in his last 11 tournaments.

But after starting with three straight birdies he then also picked up a shot on the fifth and then sank a 30-foot putt for another birdie on the par-three seventh; two behind Wang, he started to believe.

“I was a bit nervous at the start, I didn’t feel on top of my game but something happened and after seven holes I started to realise that I must believe in myself that I can win. My putter was very hot and I got a lot more excited,” Noren said.

The 21-year-old Wang initially held things together well and was not going away as he birdied the ninth to draw level with Noren. But he could only muster one more birdie on the back nine and, with his tee-shots going ever more off-target, he was undone by four bogeys coming in, having to settle for second place.

Louis Oosthuizen, three off the lead at the start of the day, just could not get going on Sunday and double-bogeyed the par-three seventh after finding the greenside bunker to fall off the pace. He birdied the 10th and 15th holes, but there were more dropped shots on the last three holes as he finished ninth, nine behind Noren.

Andy Sullivan shot a level-par 72 on Sunday to finish on seven-under, tied for third with leading South African Branden Grace (70), Spaniard Alejandro Canizares (68), Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (68) and Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia (67).

Henrik Stenson shot a 70 to finish eighth on six-under and will be going to the Race to Dubai finale in Dubai this week on top of the order of merit, but with Danny Willett and Noren still able to catch him.

Stormers bring attitude in spades to overwhelm Bulls 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Attitude goes a long way on the rugby field and the Stormers brought it in spades against the Bulls at Newlands as they overwhelmed the South African Conference winners with a phenomenal display of focused aggression, unstinting defence and sparkling attack.

The Bulls’ 13-30 defeat means they go into the Vodacom SuperRugby playoffs in second position on the final log, meaning they will host a semi-final, but will have to travel to Hamilton if the defending champion Chiefs make it through to the final.

The Stormers’ top-class performance gave a hint of what potential there is in the side, and there was no escaping a bittersweet feeling at Newlands despite a rousing end to their campaign.

“It’s nice to end the season with a win, but it would have been nicer if we had performed like this throughout the year. We find ourselves in this position of not being in the play-offs because when the pressure was on us, we did not react the way we should have,” Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said after the match.

It was a victory based on a massive effort at the breakdowns, where the Stormers not only turned over the ball several times – mostly through the brilliant Deon Fourie and Bryan Habana – but also harried and hassled the Bulls, getting in the scrumhalf’s face to ensure the visitors’ possession was mostly messy and slow.

A team cannot hope to prosper against a side with a defence as watertight as the Stormers’ if they don’t have good, quick ball and forward momentum, and the Bulls’ chaotic display at the breakdowns meant they were seldom an attacking threat.

Heading into the semi-final, the Bulls’ performance at the breakdowns is now a major concern. They struggled there against the Sharks last weekend as well, but that was put down to the lack of control exercised by referee Jason Jaftha.

With the peerless Craig Joubert in charge at Newlands, the breakdowns were firmly and fairly policed, so it seems the Bulls have serious questions to ask themselves about their cleaning out and the way they protect their scrumhalf.

The sheer power of men like Eben Etzebeth, Rynhardt Elstadt and Nizaam Carr ensured the Stormers also seldom took a backwards step in the collisions and their transition from a struggling, flat-looking side to one that ended the season with five wins in a row has much to do with their return to Newlands.

On Saturday a capacity crowd certainly lifted them and they were inspired, playing like men possessed.

Coach Allister Coetzee will also be especially pleased with players like flyhalf Gary van Aswegen, lock De Kock Steenkamp and hooker Scarra Ntubeni, who are standing in for players of Springbok level but were all outstanding against the Bulls.

“We had a great season with nine wins in a row, but tonight we were given a reminder that we can lose focus,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke said. “We cannot play like this if it is a knockout match like a play-off. It is more important what we take out of this match and we now know that the lineout is one area we’ll need to work on before the play-offs.”

Ludeke should also pay attention to the continuing scrum woes of the Bulls, where props Dean Greyling and Werner Kruger are continuing to disappoint. The Stormers front row are hardly world beaters and if the Bulls are to win the competition, they are going to have to take a big step up in that particular set-piece.

With so much front-foot ball, the Stormers showed that they are quite capable of playing dazzling attacking rugby. With De Villiers back in the side after a rib injury picked up in the June internationals, the backline had a general and the veteran Springbok put young opposite number Francois Venter and the up-and-coming JJ Engelbrecht firmly back in their place as he shredded the defensive line several times.

De Villiers and Habana combined superbly for the winger to score a try that left a memorable mark on his farewell appearance for the Stormers before heading to France.

In Durban, the Sharks hammered the Southern Kings 58-13 to also farewell the John Plumtree era in fine fashion.

The Eastern Cape team sent a second-string outfit to King’s Park in order to freshen up their key players for the vital promotion/relegation games against the Lions, and they were overwhelmed physically, really battling to get across the advantage line.

The physical dominance of the Sharks was epitomised by the Kings’ failure to once bring Bismarck du Plessis to ground in a tackle and if Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer is seeking more powerful ball-carriers, he need look no further than Jean Deysel, who was immense for the second week in succession.

The injured pride of the Sharks players was soothed by the 10 tries they scored, with Riaan Viljoen fitting in seamlessly in the flyhalf position, JP Pietersen producing an energetic display on the wing as he came back into the team after injury, and Odwa Ndungane being nothing short of inspirational in the fullback position.

The Sharks also ruled supreme in the lineouts, with little Keegan Daniel taking six balls on their own throw and stealing three off the Kings. The Sharks captain and eighthman had his best game in a long while, while loosehead prop Tendai “Beast” Mtawarira was prominent in the loose and scored a memorable try early in the second half to put the home side in front by 25 points.

The Kings had been competitive in the first half, keeping the Sharks’ lead to just 19-13 in the first half-hour. But the KwaZulu-Natalians took firm control of the game thereafter.

The vexed question over whether the rolling maul should be legal dominated the first half as four of the six tries scored came from what many pundits consider “legalised obstruction”. The defending team seem to be unfairly discriminated against at the moment and it is an aspect of the game the International Rugby Board will probably have on the agenda soon.

The other weekend matches settled the final playoff positions as the Crusaders saw off a determined challenge from the Hurricanes to finish fourth and the Reds edged out the Waratahs to claim fifth.

The Brumbies were upset by the Western Force in Perth and so stayed third, meaning they will now host the sixth-placed Cheetahs next weekend.

The other qualifier will be between the Crusaders and the Reds in Christchurch.

Final Combined Log

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Chiefs (NZ winner) 16 12 0 4 458 364 94 50 38 2 10 66
2 Vodacom Bulls (SA winner) 16 12 0 4 448 330 118 41 34 2 7 63
3 Brumbies (Aus winner) 16 10 2 4 430 295 135 43 31 2 8 60
4 Crusaders (Qualifier) 16 11 0 5 446 307 139 44 31 2 8 60
5 Reds (Qualifier) 16 10 2 4 321 296 25 31 23 2 6 58
6 Toyota Cheetahs (Qualifier) 16 10 0 6 382 358 24 38 32 2 6 54
7 DHL Stormers 16 9 0 7 346 292 54 30 18 2 6 50
8 The Sharks 16 8 0 8 384 305 79 40 31 2 8 48
9 Waratahs 16 8 0 8 411 371 40 45 34 2 5 45
10 Blues 16 6 0 10 347 364 -17 40 36 2 12 44
11 Hurricanes 16 6 0 10 386 457 -71 41 49 2 9 41
12 Rebels 16 5 0 11 382 515 -133 44 65 2 9 37
13 Force 16 4 1 11 267 366 -99 26 34 2 5 31
14 Highlanders 16 3 0 13 374 496 -122 40 55 2 9 29
15 Southern Kings 16 3 1 12 298 564 -266 27 69 2 2 24

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-15-superrugby-stormers-attitude-in-spades/#.V1Vhofl97IU

Coach Walter praises hard work of Titans team over last 3 years 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The Titans’ phenomenal performances over the last two rounds of the Sunfoil Series caught the eye as they clinched the four-day title at the weekend, but coach Rob Walter said there has been a tremendous amount of hard work over the last three years leading up to their triumph.

The Titans first of all produced an epic batting display to save their game against the second-placed Highveld Lions, batting for 10-and-a-half hours in their second innings, and then, last weekend, defended a target of just 136 as they bowled the Cape Cobras out for only 125, left-arm paceman Rowan Richards taking seven for 40.

“Everyone loves success but it’s a great feeling when you know what went into winning the title. When I started coaching the Titans, we said we wanted to win the first-class competition and there has been systematic improvement, going from last to fourth to second last season and now first.

“And that’s thanks to the effort that was put in, for three seasons in a row, and the extra time the players spent on their games and on their preparation for matches. We have worked very, very hard and we spoke continuously about what it means to be a champion side, the kind of behaviours needed, what that looks like. It’s a bit intangible until you do it, then those performances in the last two games come along.

“The last two games have been at the opposite ends of the cricketing spectrum – against the Lions we were purely trying to save the game, and the second match was just about all-out attack to try and win. It was huge for the players and an awesome achievement,” Walter told The Citizen on Monday.

Despite having to do without their national team players for the bulk of the season, it is clear that the killer instinct remains in the Titans camp and Walter praised the heroes of their campaign.

“It’s very much down to mindset, you must be prepared to win the game in the last session of the last day, and the players were geared to go the full distance. That killer instinct is just in their nature, it runs through their veins.

“You could see Dean Elgar’s hunger ball-after-ball as he set about batting at a higher level, like a Test batsman. To score over 1100 runs, Heino Kuhn must have played well but it was high-quality batting and he didn’t put a foot wrong in scoring that century against a really decent Cobras attack – with four international-grade bowlers – and it stood out that he’s good enough to play Test cricket, if he’s not in the national selectors’ discussions then there’s a problem.

“Qaasim Adams just grows and grows, gets better and better. He had an outstanding season and was able to deliver in varying situations – when we were on top or when we were very much under pressure. Theunis de Bruyn is a high-quality young cricketer who had a really good season and Henry Davids delivered in the last two weeks when we were horribly under the pump.

“The bowling unit also had a lot to do with the success of the team. Rowan Richards is always a competitor and when he got a sniff, he was able to find that little bit extra, like all x-factor players do. He just loves bowling and his 16 overs on the trot against the Cobras – and it was hot – were quick and on the money.

“Marchant de Lange had a change in length and mindset and had instant reward, while Ethy Mbhalati did well, was always solid. Then Tabraiz Shamsi got 41 wickets, with two 12-fors, which is a huge feat for a spinner in South Africa, so he’s very exciting,” Walter said.

 

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