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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: SuperRugby quarters a good wake-up call for Lions 0

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Ken

 

It was probably a good thing for the Lions that their SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Sharks was so close because it was a good wake-up call for them.

Nevertheless, the Lions extended their record to not having lost to a South African franchise to 17 matches, dating back to their loss to the Bulls on May 2, 2015, in Pretoria, which is a phenomenal record.

It’s always difficult playing against a team back-to-back and sometimes you’re just not that mentally sharp. The Sharks certainly had more desperation about them, especially in the first half, which translated into a 14-3 halftime lead.

The key in the second half was the yellow cards and the one-man advantage they created, and the Lions took advantage of their numerical superiority.

I’m sure the Lions will be far more alert against the Hurricanes in their semi-final this weekend, especially since the defending champions gave them a good touch-up at Ellis Park and in the final last year.

The pressure game of the Hurricanes, especially their rush-defence, is hard to deal with, even though they do concede a lot of line-breaks. But they also force a lot of turnovers and there’s a big risk/reward factor in their play.

It’s going to be really interesting though how long they can keep rushing at altitude; it certainly gets harder after 30 minutes of line-speed at altitude with your tongue hanging out!

The Lions have to score points and make a statement in the first 20 minutes, and when they have enjoyed success in the last two years in the playoff games against New Zealand sides, that’s what they’ve done.

The Lions certainly have the set-pieces to put big pressure on the Hurricanes, it’s going to be a fascinating battle up front. I don’t see the Hurricanes competing at the lineouts because the Lions’ mauling is so good, they’re going to prefer to stay down and compete on the ground, try and kill the drive at source.

It will be very interesting to see how the Lions deal with Elton Jantjies this week after he obviously did not have a great game against the Sharks. For the Lions to be removing a key player from the field after just more than an hour says it all.

But Elton is highly self-critical and he really thinks about the game a lot. It will be a case of going back to basics for him and the Lions coaching staff will be reminding him of how good he is, he is the starting Springbok flyhalf after all and he played every minute of the series against France, which shows how great his season has been. There will be an honest video review and feedback and the player will roll up his sleeves, but he will be supported by everyone in the Lions camp.

I’m sure the other players will be 100% behind him in every aspect, because they know how important he is to the team on attack.

The Lions will not train very much this week because they need to be super-fresh for the semi-final. By now everybody knows the game-plan and it will be all about execution and accuracy. Short, sharp sessions will hopefully bring reward on the weekend with the Lions at their best.

I think the Lions will come through against the Hurricanes, especially since last weekend’s game was just what they needed.

In the other semi-final, I think the Crusaders will beat the Chiefs, they will just be too good for them.

But everyone starts at zero again in the semi-finals, previous results and form don’t matter!

 


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.

 

The delights of Rory killed all cynicism 0

Posted on January 25, 2017 by Ken

 

I am a bit too cynical about these things, so I did predict gloomily that Rory McIlroy would probably miss the cut in the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club last weekend, for which the world number two was the star attraction.

But I am delighted to report that the Northen Irishman lived up to his billing both on and off the course, behaving every bit the much-loved superstar with his tremendous performance and his dealings with the large galleries that followed him around, scores of autograph seekers and the media.

No, McIlroy did not win the second oldest national open title as expected, but that had more to do with the splendid performance of Graeme Storm, who just made no mistakes, than any failings on Rory’s part.

The crowds, the largest seen at the SA Open in a decade, certainly got their money’s worth though as the thrilling McIlroy v Storm contest went all the way to three playoff holes. There is also surely no better driver of the ball in world golf than McIlroy, and those booming hits down the middle of the fairway have huge spectator value.

And, to make McIlroy’s entire performance even more impressive, he was struggling with a bad back which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture of a rib. He must have played through considerable discomfort, so kudos to the man. The seriousness of the injury is shown by his withdrawal from this weekend’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he could have regained the number one world ranking.

The current speculation is that he will be out of action for a month but let’s hope McIlroy gets better soon.

Of course, having such a wonderful guest at the SA Open was largely due to the efforts of tournament ambassador Ernie Els. Is there a better South African sporting patriot?

The respect that Els, a member of the Hall of Fame since 2011, enjoys in international golf is clearly about far more than just his golf game and the four major titles he was won. McIlroy made it clear that his presence in South Africa was as a favour to Els.

And the Big Easy has not only been a tremendous supporter of South African golf: If the Springboks or Proteas play in London, more often than not, Els will be there and usually gives of his time to hand out the jerseys or give a motivational speech to the team.

And the good news is, it looks like you may get the chance to see McIlroy again in South Africa in the near future.

“I had a fantastic time in South Africa, it was an incredible 10 days, and my fiancée and I are already planning to return at the end of the year,” McIlroy said after the disappointment of his playoff defeat.

If McIlroy genuinely meant the end of 2017 then you would think his eye is on the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, which is the penultimate event on the Race to Dubai and part of the lucrative Finals Series, or else he may have meant returning to the SA Open in a year’s time.

Either way, it is wonderful news for South African golf.

 

Siboto earns the reprieve he had been hoping for 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Malusi Siboto had probably been hoping the ground could swallow him whole when he dropped a sitter of a catch in the 12th over of the CSA T20 Challenge final at SuperSport Park on Friday night; by the end of the match he was rushing off the field to embrace his gran, who was watching him play cricket for the first time and was able to see the 29-year-old deliver a superb final over to seal a thrilling six-run victory for the Titans over the Warriors.

In a gripping, low-scoring encounter, the Titans were defending just 156 and the Warriors looked well on course as they reached 91 for three in the 12th over with Colin Ackermann and Christiaan Jonker adding 48 off 37 balls.

That was when Ackermann, on 21, looped a sweep off wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi to short fine leg and Siboto, whose nickname is Lolly, dropped a dolly. Even though Jonker was out next ball for 33 off 25 balls, foolishly sweeping Shamsi to fine leg, Ackermann batted on and scored 34.

He and Qaasim Adams, trapped lbw for 17 by Shamsi, missing a sweep, were dismissed in successive overs in the midst of a superb Titans comeback. A magnificent penultimate over from Junior Dala cost just six runs, but it still left Siboto with only 11 runs to play with in the final over.

The former Knights seamer, enjoying his first season with the Titans, was brilliant, going full and straight and hitting the blockhole as he conceded just four singles and a wide.

“I dropped the wrong guy and in my mind I knew I should have taken that catch. So I told myself that when I bowl again I must make up for it … and I guess I did,” Siboto said afterwards.

“I was overwhelmed and just froze when I bowled the wide, but I knew I just had to try and make things right. Afterwards I ran off the field to my gran, who was watching me play cricket for the first time,” Siboto added.

For Titans coach Mark Boucher, the win, for his debut trophy in his first season in charge, was made even more special because the Warriors had been in a commanding position.

“It had been a bit frustrating because we put ourselves under pressure, but it became a tight match anyway and we held our nerve. It wasn’t the perfect game from us, we didn’t score enough runs, but we played pressure cricket and finals are often about who holds their bottle longest.

“I’m very proud of the guys because it was a dogfight, it wasn’t pretty. The Warriors had picked up momentum, but Junior Dala (4-0-25-0) hit his straps really well and pulled that momentum back, showing good pace and aggression. He handled the pressure very well – he even said to me that he doesn’t feel pressure! – and then Malusi, geez, he came good!

“He hadn’t had a great night, his first over went for 10 and then he dropped that catch, and other players might have gone into their shell and faded away, but he took the bull by the horns and got the ball in the right areas.

“You can’t train that sort of thing, you can practise skills and talk about tactics all day long, but the player has got to want those tough moments. The whole team really wanted that trophy, so they dealt with the pressure really well,” Boucher said.

The Titans had been sent in to bat and battled to 155 for six in their 20 overs, Aiden Markram scoring 33 and Albie Morkel 21, but nobody was able to score at much more than a run-a-ball, Boucher saying their struggles being born out of misreading the pitch.

“We got the wicket wrong and went too hard, too early; 160 was about par but scoreboard pressure played its part in the Warriors’ chase. We picked up vital wickets early on to put them on the back foot and the bowlers bowled in good areas with the pitch being a bit slow and up-and-down. It was a fantastic final, sometimes the low-scoring games are the best,” Boucher said.

That the Titans made it to 155 was thanks to David Wiese, who struck 24 not out off 15 balls and took 19 off the last over bowled by Sisanda Magala.

Wiese’s all-round performance was heroic as he then had to take over the captaincy in the first over of the Warriors’ innings after Morkel left the field with a strained hamstring after just five deliveries, and the opening wicket of Clyde Fortuin for a two-ball duck as Markram (brilliant in the field) held on to a scorcher at backward point. And Wiese then bowled four overs for just 31 runs and claimed the key wicket of Jon-Jon Smuts, caught behind for 16.

Dala and Lungi Ngidi, whose two for 27 included the vital scalps of Colin Ingram, caught behind for 12, and Ackermann, were also outstanding with the ball for the Titans.

Bulls will be without unsung hero Paige 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

Scrumhalf Rudy Paige has probably been the unsung hero of the Bulls’ climb to the top of the South African SuperRugby Conference, but now they are going to have to do without the man who has become their attacking heartbeat for the crunch encounter with the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

Paige suffered a grade 1 medial ligament tear of his knee in the impressive win over the Sharks and will be out of action for at least two weeks, coach Frans Ludeke admitting that it is a major blow to his team.

“Rudy’s a very busy player and he gets a lot going for us, especially in terms of go-forward on attack. He brings a lot to our game,” Ludeke said.

The 25-year-old has not only provided a crisp, clean service from the base, but has also impressed with excellent decision-making in terms of who to pass to and when to probe gaps on his own.

Ludeke has two options when it comes to replacing Paige.

Francois Hougaard has played more rugby for the Springboks at scrumhalf than at wing, but the mercurial Paul Roos Gymnasium product has become an integral part of a Bulls back three that has produced some exceptional rugby and Ludeke could well decide not to potentially create two problems by moving him to halfback.

Piet van Zyl’s rugby has gone backwards since he moved to Pretoria, but he is likely to get a chance to shine now, at least for a couple of weeks, in the number nine jersey.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is keeping his cards very close to his chest this week, but he will be well aware of some Bulls’ weaknesses this season.

The Bulls are not a side that deals in offloads so the Stormers defence don’t need to worry about that, while, despite upstaging the Sharks last weekend at the breakdown, their record in the rucks has been far inferior to that of the Stormers’ this year.

You know what you’re going to get with the Bulls – the blunt instrument of forwards monotonously carrying the ball up – but it works for them and they have actually scored two more tries than the Stormers thus far in the campaign, even though the Capetonians boast the attacking abilities of Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh and Dillyn Leyds.

 

 



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