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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Looking back at the fantastic Newlands Test 0

Posted on October 13, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic game of rugby it was at Newlands, with the incredible atmosphere, the pace, intensity and physicality making it real Test match rugby.

Unfortunately the Springboks lost, but they gave a huge performance and the All Blacks will know they were lucky to win. It was so pleasing to see the Springboks go from 57-0 to losing by just a point, but they should have won.

Of course the game could have been different had Nehe Milner-Skudder’s break been finished off or Rieko Ioane had not been tackled over the goal-line by Jesse Kriel, those 14 points could have deflated the Springboks. But it was also the home side’s own mistakes that gave the All Blacks the points they needed.

Even the last-minute controversy was avoidable because it’s always a risk rushing for the charge down; you need to come at an angle so you don’t hit the kicker head-on. It’s to protect the kicker and Damian was too square-on. He did manage to put Lima Sopoaga off his drop kick, but he also would have known he was late and risked sanction, and conceded the penalty anyway. It wasn’t the best moment in Damian de Allende’s rugby life and it changed the complexion of the game because the All Blacks were then two scores clear and with just 14 men on the field, it was an uphill task for the Springboks.

The breakdown turnovers were the key and you could see the reaction of the team after Malcolm Marx and Francois Louw stole the ball. The mix of the back row Allister Coetzee chose came in for a lot of criticism but it was done for a reason.

Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw were the two breakdown players, which you need to disrupt the All Blacks’ attacking pattern, and Pieter-Steph du Toit provided physicality and bolstered the lineout.

In terms of the Springbok kicking game, they kicked a bit more than previously, although I find it strange that the crowd boos our own scrumhalf for kicking box-kicks, while the New Zealand scrumhalf is applauded for doing it. The plan was clearly to have contestable kicks to test the All Blacks back three. In the last World Cup semi-final, Milner-Skudder dropped a few high balls and was eventually moved away from the wing, so that was clearly part of the Springboks’ plan at Newlands.

You can’t just run willy-nilly from your own half, sometimes you’ve got to kick. It must either be long into the 22, which gives you time to build a chase line or force the catcher to kick out and give you a lineout; or he will kick long which gives you the chance to put the running bomb up; or it must be contestable. If you’re accurate enough then you have a 50/50 chance of winning the ball back, or you can put in a dominant tackle, get a turnover or just slow their ball down.

That did not happen in Ross Cronje’s box-kick that led to Damian McKenzie’s spectacular try, but to be fair, David Havili was allowed too much space and time to run across the field. The Springboks have struggled with guys running across their defensive line, it raises doubts as to whether the outside defender should turn in or trust the player on the inside. It’s something the Springboks have got to tighten up.

What was probably most pleasing of all – and credit must go to their conditioning for this – was that the Springboks were much stronger at the end of the game, both physically and mentally. Playing at sea level, as predicted, was also important because it makes it a level playing field.

The performance of the pack was magnificent, they were bristling on the gain-line, they won the collisions and they really gained confidence from the lineout. The Springboks went for four-man lineouts and then the short ball, which ensured they were able to win quality possession. The maul try they scored was also really pleasing.

The forwards seem to be in that special zone right now where they are full of confidence and intensity and they are really playing for each other.

We should also not underestimate Francois Louw’s calmness and experience and just his assurance, which definitely has an impact on his fellow forwards on and off the field.

Elton Jantjies’ kick at goal that he didn’t put over was also important and at international level you’ve got to convert those chances.

The main problem with the backline was that they were a little too deep and too lateral. Everyone wishes they can have a flat attack, because that’s what causes the defence the most problems, and it was better when Handre Pollard came on. Then again, there has to be quick ruck ball for the number 10 to take the ball into the jaws of the defence.

Ironically, the shorter lineouts do actually cause a problem for the backs because then there’s not much chance for them to have a one-on one. It’s good that Allister Coetzee is backing combinations because that induces trust, but he needs to be aware if, over a period of time, players aren’t really performing.

With the backs being a bit too lateral and too deep at Newlands, it allowed the All Blacks to pick off the carriers in the backline. It was interesting when Pollard came on that he played much flatter to the gain-line, which brought his forwards more into play, for example when Malcolm Marx hit the hole and set up the try for Jean-Luc du Preez.

For the end-of-year tour it will obviously be different conditions to South Africa, especially compared to on the highveld.

Both the matches against Ireland and Wales will be played in stadia with roofs, which makes a difference. Hopefully the Springboks have now found the formula that works for them.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Sharks expect & train for physicality & high tempo from Jaguares 0

Posted on March 02, 2016 by Ken

 

Physicality and a high tempo from the Jaguares is what the Sharks are expecting and have trained for ahead of their SuperRugby clash against the tournament newcomers at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, according to veteran wing Odwa Ndungane.

After the Sharks hammered the Kings in Port Elizabeth and the Jaguares staged a dramatic comeback to pip the Cheetahs in the opening round of matches, the KwaZulu-Natal franchise are one point ahead of the Argentinians in their conference and intend to stay ahead of their dangerous opponents.

“Watching the Jaguares in the World Cup and the Rugby Championship, and then again against the Cheetahs, it’s definitely going to be a tough game, they are physical and play at a fast tempo, they showed they like to throw the ball around last weekend.

“But that’s what we’ve been exposed to in SuperRugby. Although we beat Toulon and Toulouse on our pre-season tour and they were a good test, we knew that it wasn’t really SuperRugby level. We always knew we would have to make a step up and it will be no different this weekend. We’ll have to be really tight and not give them a sniff,” Ndungane said on Tuesday.

When they managed to get quick ball against the tenacious Kings, the Sharks were able to play some daring rugby, with Ndungane scoring twice in a typically busy-bee performance by the evergreen 35-year-old.

“To score six tries in Port Elizabeth is not easy to achieve, but it’s what we set out to do and it’s wonderful to achieve that in the first game. So there were a lot of good things we take out of that performance, but there’s still a lot of room for improvement and we’ll work hard again this week to get those things right,” Ndungane said.

Defence coach Omar Mouneimne said he was pleased the team had been tested by the hard-hitting Kings as warm-up games don’t quite have the same buzz and intensity.

“We hadn’t had physical contact for two weeks, so we needed a physical hit-out in a real game and get the nerves bled out, to feel like we’re really in the tournament. We needed real bullets fired under real pressure after two warm-up games. We were a bit messy and could have been a little more accurate. But in saying that, I think it was down to nerves. You’re not going to do things perfectly in the first game and, at half-time, the talk was about lifting the intensity, about playing at another level and to outpace and outmuscle them, and there were signs of that,” Mouneimne said.

Coetzee delighted that Stormers answer physicality barbs 0

Posted on August 13, 2015 by Ken

 

DHL Stormers coach Allister Coetzee said the way his pack had answered barbs about their physicality was what pleased him the most about their impressive 29-17 upset win over the Vodacom Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The Stormers’ tight five was particularly youthful with an average age of 22 years and 10 months – while their replacements averaged 21-and-a-half years – but they managed to dominate a powerhouse Bulls pack laden with Springboks, especially in the scrums, while they never gave an inch in the collisions as the big men ran at them.

“There were big question marks about our physicality, but I’m really proud of the way the players put their bodies on the line, they got stuck into the Bulls and I’m really proud of the way we defended.

“It all starts in the scrums, they were a massive focus for us, and there’s been a big improvement. I’m really pleased for our young props, Vincent Koch [on loan from the Pumas] has slotted in very well and so have Bongi Mbonambi and Wilco Louw,” Coetzee said after the game.

Despite trailing 17-5 at halftime, the Bulls managed to burrow their way back into the game and had closed the gap to 17-20 on the hour mark, but Coetzee said he was delighted with the way his team had managed to close out their first SuperRugby win at Loftus Versfeld since 2012.

“I haven’t seen a Stormers team be so clinical in the last 15 minutes, we had to turn up and really perform, especially the youngsters and the leadership. Our indiscipline early in the second half allowed the Bulls back into the game and we have to make sure we brush up on that,” Coetzee said.

Despite all the talk about a new style of play for the Bulls, it was back to the bad old days for Frans Ludeke’s team as they made numerous basic errors when in possession and struggled to find a way through or around the ferocious Stormers defence.

Ludeke admitted the performance “was not good enough” and blamed “silly penalties” for the Bulls being under pressure, a batch of them conceded at the scrum.

Captain Victor Matfield accused his team of being “out-worked” by the Stormers in the final quarter.

“Everything went so well in the pre-season, but I hope the guys see that only one thing counts, and that’s the 80 minutes on the park. You have to win the big moments,” Matfield barked.

Both Ludeke and Coetzee praised Stormers captain Duane Vermeulen for two of those big moments, when the eighthman effected critical turnovers under his own poles and replacement hooker Mbonambi also made a crucial steal against his former team in the final quarter.

Vermeulen also had praise for his tight five and the composure of his side.

“The tight five definitely put us on the front foot, but the Bulls came back and if you’re not composed and playing in the right areas, then you’re going to be back on your goal-line and conceding points. It was nice to see us execute that well,” Vermeulen said.

 



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