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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Impressive Boks now launch assault on Salta 0

Posted on August 25, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks, having won impressively last weekend in Port Elizabeth, will now travel to Salta to play Argentina on Saturday and my recollection of this north-western city is that it was blindingly hot and at altitude.

We were there in 2014 and we won right at the back end of the game in temperatures greater than 30⁰ and at more than a thousand metres above sea-level. The heat was the main thing and at kick-off it was still really hot and the guys took time to get into their stride.

But the Springboks have had a nice recovery since Port Elizabeth and are using the best travel plan, I think it works having had experience of that when we won in Argentina in 2015. With this way of travel, you basically keep the players on South African time and it really helps them.

They have had two good days of prep this week and Salta is quite remote, being nearly 1500 kilometres from Buenos Aires, and it involves a lot of flying, probably three flights, to get there, including one of about three hours from the capital.

They would have spent the whole of Wednesday flying, but it’s obviously in business class so they can sleep and relax. Doing that so close to the game means the players will have better focus on doing the right things to make sure they are 100%, like hydrating or taking sleeping pills. Then once they arrive they can have a stretch and a swim to get their bodies right for the big Test on Saturday. So they will basically arrive, have the captain’s run and play.

The biggest positive with this schedule is that they would have had quality training in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, with extra bodies available from the local unions so they could practise 15 versus 15 and put the needed miles into their legs. When you’re travelling, you generally have only 28 players so that isn’t possible.

Last weekend the Springboks just continued in a similar vein to the French series – they had similar energy and enthusiasm and were full of bounce.

The first half was obviously more of a contest, but it laid the platform for the second half because the Springboks really moved the big Argentine forwards around.

What’s really pleasing to me is that they are really developing a good all-round game. They’re scoring four tries per game and only conceding 1.5 per match; you’ll win a lot of Test matches doing that.

It was also significant that both wings scored tries. Courtnall Skosan produced a great finish from an inside ball from a set play, although maybe he was held in the tackle. That needed to be checked by the referee and it is a rule that needs to be looked at as well. Raymond Rhule then scored off a good run off Jesse Kriel.

The real strength of the Springboks, though, was their scrum.

Coenie Oosthuizen has had a rollercoaster ride for the last four years, but he is a really quality player when he is on-song because he brings so much to the game – impact carries, crashingly brutal defence and his work-rate. He is definitely an international-class tighthead and he, Beast Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx were all fantastic. The front row really destroyed the Argentine scrum, which nobody has really done for the last few years. So you have to credit the whole pack and coach Matt Proudfoot.

It is really significant to have the scrum as a weapon of mass destruction because the whole mindset of the tight five in rugby is to go forward. If your props are putting them under pressure in a primary phase then it really affects their whole game and the easy penalty and yardage gains you can get are also a primary priority for teams.

The All Blacks versus Australia game was effectively over as a contest before halftime and it’s really worrying that that happened to a Wallabies team that was ranked fourth before the game and were 54-6 down early in the second half. The All Blacks were obviously keen to send a message to the rest of the world that they are back on track after drawing with the British and Irish Lions.

But the Springboks were also able to get a good win, that lifted them into fourth in the rankings in place of Australia, and now an away bonus point would be like gold, although home bonus points are important too.

Hopefully the Springboks will get another good win in Salta that will set them up for the Australians in Perth.

 

 

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.

 

Cook amongst the runs again as SA pile up massive lead 0

Posted on December 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Stephen Cook hit his second successive Test century as South Africa piled up a massive lead on the third day of the first Test against Sri Lanka at St George’s Park in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

South Africa finished the day on 351 for five in their second innings and it was enough for them to lead by 432 with two days and five wickets remaining.

Cook was the mainstay of the innings with his 117 off 178 balls and it was an effort that put him in the record books alongside opening partner Dean Elgar, who scored 52 in a first-wicket stand of 116.

It was just the 10th time in Test history that the same opening pair have posted a hundred partnership in both innings of the same match and it is the first time since the famous Timeless Test against England in Durban in 1938/39 that South Africa had a century stand for the first wicket in both innings.

“It was great to bat with Dean for a period of time and nice to dovetail that we both got runs for the first time. If we can get a partnership going up front then it helps the team a lot and opening the batting is always about forging that partnership and the only way to do that is by spending time out in the middle.

“Australia was very tough and I went through some hardships there, but the hundred in Adelaide made me a bit more relaxed. Coming off a century you feel better about the way things are going and I was able to make a few little adjustments to my technique over the last three weeks and bed them down,” Cook said.

It was a wonderful day from beginning to end for the Proteas, with Vernon Philander striking with the first ball of the day as he had Sri Lankan top-scorer Dhananjaya de Silva (43) caught behind with a peach of a delivery, the first of two wickets in the opening over as the tourists were bowled out for 205, a first-innings deficit of 81.

Philander finished with five for 45 in 20 excellent overs, his 11th five-wicket haul in 38 Tests, while Kyle Abbott provided great support with three for 63 in 21.5 overs.

After Cook and Elgar’s 137-minute opening stand, interrupted twice by rain, Hashim Amla struck a fluent 48 off 53 balls, before he was trapped leg-before by Nuwan Pradeep, the 10 000th lbw dismissal in Test history.

JP Duminy (25) and Temba Bavuma (8) were both dismissed by off-spinner De Silva, but the finishing touches to a thoroughly dominant day for South Africa were applied by captain Faf du Plessis (41*) and Quinton de Kock (42*), who had added a brisk 74 in less than an hour by stumps.

‘A good result but not a top-class performance’ – Gold 0

Posted on March 01, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold was happy with the result but not entirely satisfied by the performance in relation to the top-class standards he has set, after his team started their SuperRugby campaign with a 43-8 bonus point win over the Southern Kings in Port Elizabeth.

The Sharks struggled in the first half against a tenacious Kings outfit, making numerous basic errors and showing lapses in discipline. They only led 15-8 at the break, with the home side spurning five points via missed kicks at goal, but the Sharks turned it on in the second half, scoring four more impressive tries as they stormed to victory.

“Obviously I’m by and large happy, to get five points on the first weekend is good, but there were a lot of opportunities we didn’t take, which we should have by the standards we set ourselves. I completely understand that you’re not going to get a perfect game first up, but there were some obvious opportunities we wasted,” Gold said.

When the Sharks were able to get quick ball, they looked dangerous, and the likes of Willie le Roux, Paul Jordaan, Joe Pietersen and wings Odwa Ndungane and Lwazi Mvovo broke free in the second half.

“We definitely asked some questions on attack and we’ll get better the longer we are together. The defence was also very good and we scrambled well, but there is definitely room for improvement, especially because we play the Jaguares next, who I thought were very good on the weekend. We’ll need a lot better set-piece,” Gold added.

Ndungane showed he is still a clinical finisher with two tries, with the others going to man of the match Jean-Luc du Preez, who produced another powerhouse performance in the loose trio, Le Roux, Jordaan, who showed very promising signs at outside centre, and Mvovo. Pietersen missed just one kick at goal as he slotted five conversions and a penalty, while also distributing the ball well from flyhalf in the second half.

Kings bounce back with only SA victory 0

Posted on September 03, 2015 by Ken

 

The Southern Kings bounced back in impressive fashion, providing South Africa’s only victory in the weekend’s Vodacom SuperRugby action, as they pulled off a hard-fought 34-27 win over the Highlanders in Port Elizabeth.

The tenacious victory lifted the gloom somewhat after a weekend in which the Sharks, Cheetahs and Stormers all lost, giving the Bulls, who had a bye, a handy five-point lead in the South African Conference.

Under the inspiring leadership of Luke Watson, the Kings were clinical and composed under pressure, scoring after the half-time hooter to reclaim the lead and then dominating the third quarter to open up a commanding 34-17 lead. They then had to rely on heroic defence to keep out sustained pressure from a defiant Highlanders team that threw everything into attack.

Tries by centre Shaun Treeby and wing Hosea Gear forced the Kings to defend with all their might to claim their third victory of the season and climb to 13th in the overall standings.

While the way the Kings managed to rebound from their 72-10 mauling at the hands of the Waratahs last weekend was highly admirable, credit too must go to their supporters, who still turned up in droves, 18,500 of them, to back their team.

“A lot of credit must go to the crowd – we got absolutely pumped last week and to see this crowd here – it’s thanks to the supporters for turning up. We really appreciate the support.

“We were able to bounce back and showed a lot of character,” Watson, who scored two tries from rolling mauls, said after the game.

Outstanding loose forward Cornell du Preez and scrumhalf Shaun Venter then scored second-half tries to earn the Kings their second try-scoring bonus point of the season.

The Sharks and Stormers both lost in Australia, to the Reds and Waratahs respectively and now have a slim chance of making the playoffs, never mind tussling for the Conference title as they were expected to at the start of the campaign.

The Sharks once again made a dreadful start, lacking focus and any steel in defence, and the Reds, who showed superb vision and efficiency on attack, punished them ruthlessly, running up a 29-3 lead in 34 minutes as they scored four beautiful tries.

The Sharks were much better in the second half and pushed the Reds when they fought back to 29-17 with 15 minutes remaining, but Quade Cooper, who orchestrated the Queenslanders’ attack with customary panache, then settled the outcome when he kicked a penalty 72 minutes into the game.

The Stormers went down 21-15 to the Waratahs in Sydney and coach Allister Coetzee said he felt the “bounce of the ball” was just not going their way as they slumped to their second consecutive defeat and their sixth in 10 games.

“The bounce of the ball really does not favour us at this point in time, but one must give credit to the Waratahs. They kept their composure and they stuck it out to the end. It was a Test-match situation, it was a physical game, but they fronted up until the end,” he said.

But he perhaps gave away what the Stormers’ problem is at the moment – they are relying on things just happening for them – trusting that their brilliant defence will force mistakes from the opposition, rather than making opportunities themselves.

The Stormers made 155 tackles to the 77 of the Waratahs and that just proves that they made far too many errors, gifting too much possession to the home side.

Although they made a strong start to the second half and still led 15-11 going into the last five minutes, they were defending with their backs to the wall in the final quarter and it was Israel Folau and Berrick Barnes who eventually made the breakthrough for Folau to score his seventh try of the season.

The Cheetahs, meanwhile, lost 39-34 to the Hurricanes in Bloemfontein and were guilty of playing the wrong game, trying to beat the visitors at their own high-tempo, ball-in-hand approach.

The ascendancy of the Cheetahs in the tight phases demanded that they squeeze the Hurricanes and play the territory game, but instead the “old” Cheetahs reappeared.

The tactical kicking was poor, the attack was more a lateral shifting of the ball from side-to-side rather than anything incisive and direct, and the defence was below the high standards the Cheetahs have set recently.

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