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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Positive about Bok prospects 0

Posted on August 16, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has picked the best players for the Rugby Championship based on how well they did in the French series and I am really positive about their prospects, I believe they are in the best position of all the teams.

It reminds me a bit of 2013, when we won 10 of our 12 Tests. There was also a British & Irish Lions tour that year – to Australia – and we had time to bed the players in.

The Springboks played really well against France, who were a full-strength side that came out with tremendous intent. The fact that their coach Guy Noves is now under pressure to keep his job if they don’t improve in November shows how good the Boks were, in terms of attack, defence and the way they created a new team culture.

Meanwhile, Argentina were losing 3-0 to England, Australia lost to Scotland and only just beat Italy, and the All Blacks could only draw with the British & Irish Lions.

With some of our SuperRugby teams falling out early, the Springbok coaches were given extra preparation time and I think we all see that there is definitely a new culture about this Springboks group. You can see that the positivity and confidence is back, both in terms of the public and the players, after a disastrous 2016.

This has been built on respect for each other and there is a high energy within the group on the field. Their return-to-action time and kick-chase were both very good and the improvement under the good doctor, Brendan Venter, on defence was obvious. They only conceded four tries in the three Tests against France and they got off the line quickly with intensity, intent and attitude.

Return-to-action time is one of the keys for any side to succeed in the modern game. A player is likely to have to get up off the floor after a carry or cleaning at the ruck about 40 times per game and it is very hard to do this after hard contact. The standard figure in international rugby is to be off the ground in three seconds so it offers you more numbers on attack, to get your shape, or on defence to ensure your line has width. The Springboks did incredibly well with this and it is the basis of their defensive system.

The Springboks are now employing a far more aggressive line-speed, similar to what the British Lions used and it definitely gave New Zealand problems: they weren’t able to play with their normal width and freedom because they were worried about making mistakes on attack, and turnover ball is the most lethal in the game.

The architect of that defence was Andy Farrell and he worked under Brendan Venter for a few years at Saracens, so I think there will be a lot of similarity in the defensive system the Springboks employ and I believe they will certainly give the All Blacks problems this year.

Also, due to a loss of form, neither Julian Savea nor Waisake Naholo are in the New Zealand squad, so they don’t quite have the same size out wide as before. In any case, a wing very rarely defends against his opposite wing off first-phase, he’s virtually always on the second-last man, which is the fullback. The All Blacks will have Ben Smith or Israel Dagg at fullback and I’m certain our wings will be of a similar size.

What’s important for a wing these days is his ability to score tries, defend and catch high-balls, and one would never be picked at that level if they can’t catch box-kicks off lineouts.

Coetzee has obviously picked his wings for their finishing ability, work-rate and understanding of the system, and for me, Courtnall Skosan and Raymond Rhule are the incumbents and really showed superb work-rate and an ability to pull off try-saving cover-tackles against France.

The Springboks also employ the defensive system – well, everyone does these days – of the fullback coming into the line very early, so a wing can’t just have the ability to make tackles, he also has to make line-breaks and expose the props acting as pillars round the ruck area, and has a big role in covering grubbers, he becomes the last defender. Modern-day wings will cover an enormous amount of ground in a game.

I wouldn’t rule out JP Pietersen coming back into the mix, especially in World Cup year. His decision-making is so good and he adds a calmness and maturity in the backline. He has, however, recently changed clubs from Leicester to Toulon and we all know how their owner feels about his players taking part in the Rugby Championship …

Anyway, Allister Coetzee has obviously decided to back the home-based players who really performed in the incoming series to see if they can do it as well in the Rugby Championship. Let’s not forget two of the back three played against the Hurricanes for the Lions in the SuperRugby semi-final and gave them 44 points with six tries.

So we must be positive about Allister’s wing selections until we see evidence otherwise.

Argentina showed a lot of attacking intent against England in June, but they were really playing against England B and were well-beaten. Plus the Jaguares were disappointing in SuperRugby, they blew hot and cold.

So Saturday’s Test is a really good opportunity for the Springboks to hopefully get a good win that sets them on the road for the really difficult part of the Rugby Championship – those three away games in the middle that South Africa always get and which are very difficult because of all the flying.

Our best performance in Argentina in the last few years came in 2015 when we trained in South Africa and only left on the Wednesday, arriving on the Thursday evening. We had a captain’s run and then went to Buenos Aires for a convincing 26-12 win.

Our worst display in Argentina was in Mendoza when we drew 16-16 in 2012 and we had to sit in the bus for two hours just to get to practice. I remember there was even a stray dog running faster than our coach was going!

The Springboks have the opportunity this year to play hit-and-run Tests in Perth and Salta and that makes you much more alert. They can stay on South African time and not change their body clocks, like we used to do at the Bulls when we would leave for Australasia on a Tuesday evening, arrive on Thursday morning and usually win our first game. It was definitely a winning formula.

The Springboks have a fantastic record in Port Elizabeth [17 wins & 2 draws in their last 20 Tests there] and I’m looking forward to this new-look side continuing in the same positive manner against Argentina on Saturday and hopefully gaining a really good win.

 

 

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.

De Bruyn unfazed by chilling start to his Test career 0

Posted on June 12, 2017 by Ken

 

Hamilton is by no means as far down south as you can get in New Zealand, but it is still a rather cold, desolate place to make your Test debut, especially when you’re batting out of position and have to come out and open on the first morning in the typically damp, swing-friendly conditions found in that country.

There are many who believe Theunis de Bruyn was not given the best chance to succeed in his first Test back in March, scoring a three-ball duck in the first innings and then being run out for 12 in the second after a horrible mix-up with Hashim Amla, but the elegant right-hander says he was unfazed by it all and grateful that the chance came at all.

“The message I was sent was that the selectors wanted me to play, although obviously it was out of position. But I started my franchise career as an opener and as a number three batsman you face the new ball sometimes anyway. Obviously I was disappointed with how it went, but when I get to England, which is a big series, at least I have already played Test cricket.

“So I think it was worth it. Any debut is difficult with all the emotions of your dream coming true, singing the anthems, and then immediately going in on a green pitch. So it will only get easier in terms of emotion, if I play again hopefully I can just focus on watching the ball and making runs,” De Bruyn said.

“I’ll bat anywhere for the Proteas and I truly believe I can be a good opener. People chat about me being a middle-order batsman, but in my opinion, three or four is part of the top-order and you have to adapt your game to batting at 150 for one or 30 for three. It’s about switching your mind on.

‘So I’m not fazed about my debut, you never really start where you want to in Test cricket, you have to earn that right. So I’ll play where they need me,” the successful Knights captain added.

The whole brouhaha over the 24-year-old De Bruyn’s first Test threatens to obscure the positive news that he enjoyed a tremendous season, averaging 57.76 as he led the Knights to the Sunfoil Series title.

“All this focus on my debut suggests I had an horrendous season and I know with the media here that you’re a hero one day and zero the next, it’s part of professional sport. But I left my family behind in Pretoria to play for a new franchise, I won a trophy and made runs, and in two out of three formats I made my debut for South Africa, so it was a wonderful season. And it was just my third as a professional, I’m still young,” De Bruyn, who likes nothing better than to get out into the bush, pointed out.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170603/282286730229932

Competitiveness of Sharks youngsters on display after suspension of April 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The competitiveness of some of the Sharks’ youngsters will be on display early on in the Currie Cup with the suspension of Garth April for a breach of team protocol allowing 19-year-old Curwin Bosch an early chance to shine in the flyhalf position against the Pumas in Nelspruit on Friday.

The exact nature of April’s ill-discipline has not been revealed but it is obviously another blow to an exciting prospect whose game has gone dramatically backwards since his inclusion in the Springbok squad as more of an observer than anything else, culminating in a shellshocked display in the awful Wellington weather in the SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes.

Bosch, a star member of the South African team at the Junior World Cup in June, made three appearances off the bench in SuperRugby, while he will have two debutants outside him in the backline in wing Neil Maritz and outside centre Lukhanyo Am.

“There’s great competition with the youngsters, which is fantastic. Hopefully we can expose them at that level and they will learn a lot. We’re blessed to have basically the same pack as in SuperRugby, which will give us great confidence, but there are a couple of new guys in the backline. But I’m very excited and positive about what lies ahead,” coach Robert du Preez said.

The former Springbok scrumhalf said he hoped some of the attacking ambition that was unborn in SuperRugby would now come to fruition in the Currie Cup.

“We had a good SuperRugby season, the focus was on sorting out our defence and I think we did that quite successfully, although we did leak tries towards the end of the competition. But the Currie Cup is certainly about attacking rugby, that’s our focus now. Defence is obviously a major part of what a team is about, but we want to play rugby that inspires,” Du Preez said.

Sharks team – Odwa Ndungane, Neil Maritz, Lukhanyo Am, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole, Curwin Bosch, Michael Claassens, Philip van der Walt, Jean-Luc du Preez, Keegan Daniel (c), Stephan Lewies, Etienne Oosthuizen, Lourens Adriaanse, Franco Marais, Dale Chadwick. Bench: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Thomas du Toit, Ruan Botha, Tera Mtembu, Stefan Ungerer, Innocent Radebe, Heimar Williams.

Benkenstein back to SA, but not to Titans … at the moment 0

Posted on July 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Former Dolphins captain and Proteas ODI player Dale Benkenstein is returning to South Africa following his exit from the Hampshire coaching position, leading to speculation that he could be in line to take over from Rob Walter at the Titans, but the franchise confirmed on Wednesday that negotiations with the 42-year-old did not lead to anything concrete.

“We did negotiate with Dale Benkenstein but unfortunately we weren’t able to secure a contract with him,” Titans CEO Jacques Faul told The Citizen on Wednesday.

“Applications close today [Wednesday] for the position, but we reserve the right to head-hunt someone if the applicants are not of a suitable quality,” Faul added.

It would be premature, though, to dismiss Benkenstein as a candidate because the Titans’ initial talks with him happened before his departure from Hampshire was announced last weekend.

Faul said he was not sure whether Benkenstein had applied for the job as the CEO is currently on leave.

Benkenstein could not be reached for comment.

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