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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: How to beat the All Blacks 0

Posted on July 12, 2017 by Ken

 

It was an enthralling final Test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions, and a tremendous achievement for the visitors to draw a series in New Zealand. Every international coach will have looked at the three Tests and will take something from them – it has shown it is possible to beat the All Blacks.

So how did the Lions achieve this?

Firstly, their defence over the three Tests was superb, so hats off to the Farrell family.

It’s no coincidence that most of New Zealand’s losses over the last few years have been caused by a rush defence and a high line speed, so Lions, England and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell should really take a bow – he has now enjoyed three wins and a draw against the All Blacks since 2013.

And then there was his son Owen’s kicking. None of his kicks at goal in the last Test were gimmes and it was very interesting to see that even with Jonny Sexton, who has such a high success rate in his kicking record, at flyhalf, the Lions went with Farrell for goalkicking and that’s what made the difference in the end.

The All Blacks were disciplined in their own 22, but were prepared to give away penalties further away from their line, and Farrell kept the Lions in the game.

It was the defence that was able to disrupt the New Zealand attacking structure, they weren’t really able to go forward or get the ball wide, because the Lions totally dominated the gain-line and the rush-defence took time and space away from Beauden Barrett. But it didn’t operate from a tight base, the wings were on the second-last runners and would not always engage, sometimes they would back off on to the last runner, therefore there was no kicking space behind them.

The Lions also chose two openside flanks who were a real nuisance at the breakdown.

The biggest thing about the rush-defence is that it means you are so square in the tackle, you line up your man and come forward, there’s no shifting. The Lions tackling was very confrontational, they didn’t really hit the legs but tended to be just under the ball. This forced more errors and led to dominance in the tackle; a softer defence relies on leg-tackles and a confrontational rush-defence on chest tackles. You can see it unnerved the All Blacks and with the quality of defenders the Lions had – players like Jonathan Davies, Maro Itoje, Sam Warburton and Sean O’Brien – the system totally suited them.

The shift put in by the Lions forwards at the coalface was also amazing and New Zealand could not get any offloads or tip-passes going at all. The Lions cleverly took out the support players, so the ball was wide open at the breakdowns. The quality of the tackles and the athletes involved meant that on the tip-ons, they frequently took the passer out of play, which exposed the ball-carrier and then the turnover could happen.

What was especially interesting to me was that New Zealand just could not get the ball to the outside channels in space, and even if they tried, Barrett was frequently standing still and then it was easy for the Lions to pick off the carriers.

The way to break down the rush-defence is through the kick-pass and offloading from contact and it’s no coincidence that the All Blacks scored from this.

The Lions also relied tremendously on Conor Murray’s box-kicking. There was no messing around here – they would maul or box-kick immediately from the restart and that put pressure on the New Zealand wings, thanks to the quality of Murray’s kicking and exits.

For me, Murray was the real star of the series, his tactical control was superb; him kicking contestables meant the All Blacks never had a chance to counter-attack or get the ball back from the Lions back three with running bombs.

The New Zealand attack was very static. They wanted a two-sided attack against the rush-defence, but they played a lot of one-pass rugby, which made it quite easy to defend.

One of the key moments of the final Test was the chase back of Davies on Ngani Laumape after Barrett’s intercept, it was just superb. It was a series-turning moment and the other players get really excited when they see that sort of attitude and commitment from a team-mate.

It was an enthralling finish to the series, but it’s a pity to see such a great Test end with all the focus on Mr Roman Poite.

His eccentricities have been exposed even before Eden Park last weekend: there was the red card he gave Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park in 2013, his performance in the World Cup and against Argentina in 2014 when there were seven water-carriers on the field during a stoppage and he allowed the Pumas to take a quick tap, which resulted in a try just before halftime. The last defender in the Springbok backline was our physio, Rene Naylor!

It was good, though, that Poite reviewed the incident at the end of last weekend’s game and I think Craig Joubert will be wishing he had done the same in 2015 in the Scotland v Australia game at the World Cup. That’s what the TMO is there for and at least Poite used it. But rugby has to eliminate these grey areas because referees have to make hard decisions in a very short time.

I thought Poite was also really poor in the lineouts, there was taking out of jumpers left, right and centre, it was like a free-for-all. New Zealand also seemed to have some dominance in that final scrum and there could have been a penalty to them, but again he opted out.

The All Blacks ended up playing a lot of guys with just a handful of caps, which is not what you want in high-pressured Tests. Injuries and Sonny Bill Williams’ self-inflicted absence obviously affected them and you want more caps for the big games like last weekend. They ended with Laumape at 12 and Anton Lienert-Brown at 13 and they are actually both inside centres, both confrontational and direct. The Lions started with a similar sort of player in Ben Te’o, but then switched to Sexton and Farrell and had far more ball-playing ability to stretch the All Blacks.

One has to credit coach Warren Gatland for wearing his red nose with pride. He might just hang around and is probably very excited about a third tour with the Lions, against the Springboks in 2021.

It will be interesting to see whether the Springboks pick Cheetahs or Kings players for that tour because it will be the end of their season in Europe!

 

 

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.

Titans field youngsters but best possible team – Walter 0

Posted on October 31, 2015 by Ken

 

Titans coach Rob Walter has followed the same route as several other franchise coaches and included some young new faces in his squad for the opening weekend of RamSlam T20 Challenge action, but he says this is purely incidental because he is looking to put his best possible team out on the park for their match against the Dolphins in Centurion on Sunday afternoon.

Off-spinner Ruben Claassen and seamers Sammy Mofokeng and Lungi Ngidi have been called up to the squad, which also includes returning internationals Quinton de Kock, Farhaan Behardien and Chris Morris.

“This is the best team we can choose at the moment and the guys coming in have certainly showed that they have something to offer. The fact that they are young is just incidental. It was very clear in the Momentum One-Day Cup that if we get our skills together in all three disciplines, like we did in the successive bonus-point wins, then it’s difficult to compete with us. But in the rest of the games, some of our skills were only at 30%,” Walter told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

De Kock and Behardien are in fine form right now and will certainly boost the Titans against a star-studded Dolphins team in which David Miller and Kevin Pietersen pose a clear and present danger.

“It’s great to have those guys back, especially after such a successful series. They’re individuals who have done well, they’re in good form and they’ll bring energy and experience to the team.

“We don’t have any special plans for KP … he hasn’t hit many balls in the last couple of months. But the Dolphins are a good all-round team, their batting is probably their strong suit, but Kyle Abbott and Craig Alexander have been bowling pretty well,” Walter added.

Squads

Titans: Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Grant Mokoena, Mangaliso Mosehle, Farhaan Behardien, Qaasim Adams, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Marchant de Lange, Tabraiz Shamsi, Junior Dala, Heino Kuhn, Ruben Claassen, Lungi Ngidi, Sammy Mofokeng.

Dolphins: Morne van Wyk (captain), Cameron Delport, Cody Chetty, Kevin Pietersen, David Miller, Khaya Zondo, Andile Phehlukwayo, Keshav Maharaj, Kyle Abbott, Ayavuya Myoli, Craig Alexander, Rabian Engelbrecht, Prenelan Subrayen.

 

 

 

Dangerous pitch gives decent Benoni crowd only 90 minutes of action 0

Posted on November 19, 2014 by Ken

Only 90 minutes of action for a decent-sized crowd was possible at Willowmoore Park in Benoni on Sunday as the Momentum One-Day Cup match between the Unlimited Titans and the Chevrolet Knights was abandoned due to a dangerous pitch.

The Titans had lost the toss and been sent in to bat and they had struggled to 45 for three in 19 overs when umpires Dennis Smith and Gerrie Pienaar, in consultation with match referee Barry Lambson, called the game off.

“The match has been called off in consultation with me because the umpires feel the pitch is too dangerous. They have to consider the safety of the players and several batsmen were hit on the hand, quite a few deliveries jumped off the pitch and at times balls kept low as well. It was getting more uneven,” Lambson said.

The Titans batsmen to be dismissed were Heino Kuhn (5), Henry Davids (25) and Theunis de Bruyn (8), and they all had to contend with deliveries rearing up off a good length, taking blows to the hands practically every over.

Lambson will now submit a report, including photographs and a pitch sample, to Cricket South Africa, who will decide what further action to take.

The Titans, who lost their first two matches in the One-Day Cup, will be hoping points are not deducted from them as the host franchise.

“It’s not as if we requested the pitch and we’re as badly impacted as the opposition, so if points are deducted I don’t think that will be fair. We had nothing to do with it,” Titans coach Rob Walter said.

“It’s sad for cricket and the brand because it’s hard enough to get people into the grounds. It’s the last thing they need and it’s very sad. I can understand if they don’t want to come back next time.”

The strange thing about the pitch debacle is that the strip for Sunday’s game was the one next to the track used for the four-day game against the Warriors, on which batsmen had their fill, Roelof van der Merwe scoring an unbeaten double century.

“I’m not sure what to think because the four-day wicket was a ripper and in just 10 days this has happened, which I don’t quite understand because I know groundsman Brendon Frost works bloody hard,” Walter said.

De Bruyn’s dismissal in the 17th over, gloving a catch behind to wicketkeeper Rudi Second off Dillon du Preez was indicative of the problems with the pitch. The previous delivery had only bounced ankle high and the wicket-taking ball, pitching in the same spot, reared up viciously and almost hit the batsman in the head.

The prospect of Marchant de Lange bowling at more than 140km/h on the pitch was the deciding factor for the umpires.

“Marchant is a lot quicker than the bowlers used by the Knights and nobody would like to face him on this pitch,” Lambson said.

 

 



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