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Ken Borland



Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland on what will be key for the Lions in their semifinal 0

Posted on July 28, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions’ scrum was superlative against the Crusaders in their SuperRugby quarterfinal and I think it will be one of the key things they will use against the Highlanders in their semifinal this weekend.

They really put the Crusaders under pressure in the scrums and that’s against an All Blacks tight five, so that’s very encouraging for the Lions’ championship hopes.

Their scrum is a destructive weapon and it will be one of the keys against the Highlanders, as well as mauling well.

The Highlanders don’t have the same quality forwards as the Crusaders do, but they do have explosive backs and if the Lions don’t kick for distance then there will be problems for them, they will find themselves under a lot of pressure around their own 22.

Ben Smith is so good at counter-attacking, he’s the best in the world at it for me, ahead of Israel Folau. He will run the ball back and he has a tremendous ability to step, find gaps and beat people.

The one negative about the Lions team is the distance they get on their relieving kicks and that’s at altitude, they might have to take that to sea level if the final is in Wellington. You compare their kicking against the Crusaders to the quality of Beauden Barrett’s tactical kicking in a gale in Wellington and you can see that will be a concern in an away final. Every South African will be praying the Chiefs win that semifinal against the Hurricanes.

The Highlanders are a very different New Zealand team in that they have a very strong kicking game thanks to Lima Sopoaga and Aaron Smith.

Sopoaga is very clever with his little chips which always seem to find space, while Aaron is a superb tactical kicker and takes responsibility for it. Having a kicker at scrumhalf means the chase line is right on top of you, so the kicks are normally contestable. Aaron always kicks off at the restarts and the Highlanders have two big wings who are very good in the air, when Patrick Osborne and Waisake Naholo are running at you, you know you’re going to go backwards!

So field position still has a huge influence and top teams turn that into points. The Lions got away with not having much territory against the Crusaders because they were very disciplined, they didn’t give a lot away, and they built a score early on so the Crusaders were under pressure. Those two early tries took the wind out of the Crusaders and they had to chase the game from the start.

It’s typical of that Lions team, they have come through such adversity. It’s a tremendous story, most of their players were rejected somewhere else, they weren’t the first choices when they were 19 or 20 years old.

Franco Mostert was at the Bulls for four or five years and didn’t get the opportunity, and now he’s a player the Lions rally around. Warwick Tecklenburg also didn’t make it at the Bulls and he’s really matured as a player.

A lot of them have also spent seasons overseas, Elton Jantjies, Lionel Mapoe and Tecklenburg have all played in Japan. So a guy like Elton gets coaching from Swys de Bruin but also from someone like Rob Penney at NTT Shining Arcs, who used to coach Canterbury.

The way Malcolm Marx has progressed is very pleasing for me because I worked with him before. He used to drive for an hour to Pretoria to come throw for an hour and then drive back on his off day, because there was a perception in his junior days that his lineout throwing wasn’t good. He’s worked so hard and that’s what people don’t appreciate about this Lions team.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg is tearing up trees now but he also played Vodacom Cup for the Blue Bulls and look at how he is playing now. Andries Coetzee was also at the Bulls as a junior and was released, even though he had that big left foot even then.

The Lions have played together consistently, they’re very grounded as a group. Most of them actually live in Pretoria and are up at 5.30 every morning so they can be at the Lions by 6.30. Johan Ackermann and JP Ferreira get up at 4.30am! So they are a very hard-working bunch.

But the keys this weekend will be for them to use their scrum and to maul well, and to kick more contestable balls. They can’t give the Highlanders time on the ball, the defence must be on top of them, and the Lions have been defending very well, plus their back row are all stealers of the ball and Malcolm Marx is like a fourth loose forward. The Lions need to raise the tempo, like they did when they carved up the Crusaders midfield.

In terms of the other quarterfinals, the Stormers were such a disappointment and they have lost so many playoff games now, and convincingly at that and at home! So they have to look at their preparation. Their generals against the Chiefs, Robert du Preez and Jaco Taute, just haven’t played enough rugby this year.

To say they were taken by surprise by the extra intensity of the New Zealand sides is a weak excuse. The Stormers should have had that intensity and enthusiasm playing at home in a playoff game and it was Schalk Burger’s last appearance at Newlands.

The Chiefs did play really well, you have to give them credit, but I don’t think not playing a New Zealand side before was that relevant for the Stormers.

The wheels have really come off the Sharks since the June Tests, they’re not the same side they were before that. What was most disappointing about their loss to the Hurricanes was that they showed so little ambition. They just had the maul, pick-and-go and kick, they never used their Springboks back three.

The Hurricanes played well, Beauden Barrett kicked superbly, but the Sharks never fired a shot, that’s what was really concerning.

For the South African teams to concede 17 tries in their three playoff games is a big worry.

I would say the Hurricanes/Chiefs semifinal is a 50/50 game, although the Hurricanes are without Dane Coles, who is their talisman as captain, he’s full of energy and he rallies the team. The Hurricanes lineout will be under intense pressure from Brodie Retallick and Dominic Bird and they don’t have their first-choice hooker. So that game could go either way.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

 

 

Lions show they can win well without the ball 0

Posted on July 23, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions had to show they are able to win without the ball and they did that to impressive effect at Ellis Park on Saturday night as they beat the Crusaders 42-25 in their SuperRugby quarterfinal.

The Lions probably only enjoyed about 40% of possession and territory, but their defence was superb and they showed a ruthless streak when they did have the ball, clinical finishing giving them five tries.

It was one-way traffic in the first 10 minutes though as the Lions scored two tries to settle their nerves and give them a 12-0 lead which the Crusaders chipped away at, but could never entirely eliminate.

After flank Warwick Tecklenburg had barged over the advantage line, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk made a good decision to go left and wing Courtnall Skosan showed lovely footwork to step past a couple of defenders and then race away from the halfway line for a superb second-minute try.

De Klerk was once again prominent in the Lions’ second try five minutes later as he intercepted a pass and led a breakaway from their own territory, Skosan loomed up in support and was stopped just short of the tryline, illegally, leading to a penalty.

Sensing blood, the Lions kicked to touch and got the rolling maul going and this time there was no avoiding a yellow card for the Crusaders when they sacked it illegally, lock Luke Romano being sent off the field by referee Craig Joubert.

That penalty was also kicked to touch and, a couple of phases after the lineout, bulldozer centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg went over for the try.

Elton Jantjies converted and seven minutes later he added a penalty after De Klerk had linked well with his forwards and backs and decoy runners had caused some confusion in the Crusaders defence.

The Lions were 15-0 up but they spent most of the second quarter pinned in their own territory and having to defend courageously, making tackle-after-tackle, to keep the Crusaders out.

While the visitors showed excellent ball-retention, most of the Lions’ problems were related to their poor tactical kicking and not getting enough distance on their clearing kicks.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga kicked a 19th-minute penalty and the Crusaders eventually made their territorial dominance count in terms of tries when another telling dart by wing Johnny McNicholl, who had been a handful on attack, led to outside centre Ryan Crotty dotting the ball down on the side of the post.

Mo’unga’s conversion closed the gap to 15-10 and the momentum was certainly with the Crusaders.

But the Lions brushed aside the difficulties of the last half-hour, a power scrum winning a penalty, which was again used to set the rolling maul, from which hooker Malcolm Marx scored.

Jantjies converted and the Lions were far more comfortable on the scoreboard – 22-10 up – than they were in reality at halftime.

But the Crusaders are a skilful side good at building pressure and they kept the ball through multiple phases at the start of the second half, trapping the Lions offsides and earning Mo’unga another penalty (13-22).

The Lions are perhaps too reliant on De Klerk using clearing kicks from the base, which are inevitably going to be more like an up-and-under than a long, raking touchfinder, but when Jantjies did manage to kick long and force the Crusaders back for a 22 drop out, it led to a penalty advantage and the flyhalf slotted a neat drop goal for the Lions to rebuild their lead.

The Crusaders were disappointed with the penalty count against them and they gave Jantjies another shot at goal in the 61st minute, the Lions getting front-foot ball as Janse van Rensburg crashed through the advantage line yet again.

The kicking game of the Crusaders was much better than the Lions’ and it earned them their second try when fullback Israel Dagg put pressure on the home side trying to field an up-and-under, the ball went loose and was tidied up by Mo’unga. He made it inside the Lions’ 22 before feeding replacement scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond for an easy run-in.

Mo’unga’s conversion made it 20-28 and the result was obviously back in the balance with 17 minutes remaining.

But the surprise substitution of the outstanding Janse van Rensburg brought immediate rewards. His replacement Howard Mnisi put outside centre Lionel Mapoe away with a sublime first touch, the Springbok incumbent racing through and then showing good composure to wait for the arrival of wing Ruan Combrinck in support. The power finish of the new international completed probably the try of the match.

On a special evening for the Lions, it was fantastic that some of their unsung heroes like Mnisi, Skosan and Tecklenburg produced some of the biggest plays.

Mnisi was in the thick of things again just five minutes later as his big tackle on McNicholl led to a turnover, which was sent wide, Mapoe chipping infield and replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje getting to the ball first and then fighting his way over the line.

Unfortunately, he injured himself in the process and his fitness is a concern for next weekend’s semi-final at Ellis Park.

With Jantjies’ conversion making it 42-20, the Lions no longer had to worry and an attempt to run the ball in their own 22 instead gave the Crusaders a consolation try through replacement flyhalf Ben Volavola.

But the Lions were convincing winners and by beating the seven-time champions and playoff experts, they have marked themselves as strong contenders for the title.

If they are as clinical on attack and as determined in defence as they were against the Crusaders, it would be silly to bet against them in their home semifinal next weekend.

 

 

Sharks were winners over Hurricanes in May to give them hope 0

Posted on July 19, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions’ implosion will send the Sharks to New Zealand for a daunting SuperRugby quarterfinal against the Hurricanes in Wellington, but the KwaZulu-Natalians were convincing 32-15 winners over them in their league match in Durban in May.

The Hurricanes were full of confidence after putting 50 past the Lions the previous weekend at Ellis Park, but the Sharks cramped their space and fed ruthlessly off their many errors under the resulting pressure to thoroughly outplay them, giving them hope for this weekend’s rematch.

“It’s a good thing in terms of knowledge and confidence – we know how to beat them and we know that if we play well then we can beat them. But it will be a completely different kettle of fish this weekend because the Hurricanes are playing very well, I thought they were outstanding against the Crusaders, and Wellington is a very difficult place to go.

“They have some serious strengths that we have to negate first, their broken-field runners and offloads means that you have to be very good defensively and you have to play in the right areas. But we were good with ball in hand against them as well and you need to ask questions of the New Zealand sides. They have a drift defence so there are opportunities with that, and game-management is also important, you have to stick to your principles,” coach Gary Gold said on Monday.

Even though the stakes are higher this weekend, Gold said there was less pressure on his side in terms of not being distracted by getting bonus points to win their playoff race with the Bulls.

“There will be a little bit less pressure on us to score tries, to chase bonus points, which meant sometimes the team was trying to jog before they could walk. Now we’ve just got to win. We have to take our opportunities, that includes shots at goal, and build the scoreboard.

“But if you go into your shells and don’t have a go against the New Zealand sides then it can be a really bad day for you. So we have to go into the game with a positive mindset and ask questions of them,” Gold said.

 

Good times to be a gambler 0

Posted on February 14, 2016 by Ken

 

Judging by South Africa’s performance in the World Cup quarterfinal against Sri Lanka this week, these are good times to be a gambler and, seeing as though I am at Sun City for the Chase to the Investec Cup final, I’m going to put R1000 each on three, four and eight at the roulette table tonight, in honour of JP Duminy’s three wickets in three balls, which meant the Proteas got away with only having four specialist bowlers, and Quinton de Kock coming good after previously averaging just eight in the tournament.

Okay, the bit about me gambling tonight is a joke because times are still tough for journos and instead I may treat myself to a lager and ponder over how good it felt to get my predictions for the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka so utterly wrong.

Coach Russell Domingo has never struck me as the gambling type, although he does have a profound love for figures, which is not to say he’s not willing to make tough decisions. He’s done that before and was even willing to leave the great Jacques Kallis out of limited-overs teams when he didn’t fit into the game-plan.

But as far as gambles go, taking on the strong Sri Lankan batting line-up on a flat Sydney Cricket Ground pitch with Duminy as the fifth bowler and AB de Villiers as the back-up ranks up there with the biggest in World Cup history, and, were it not for the brilliance of the pace bowlers and Imran Tahir in taking early wickets, it was a move that could have gone stupidly wrong.

But it worked, as did the faith shown in De Kock. As the confidence seeped back into the young left-hander, emboldened by the support of his management and team-mates, his talent and class was plain to see.

You would rightly expect South Africa to keep the same XI for Tuesday’s semi-final against the winner of today’s match between New Zealand and the West Indies, which means the pressure will once again be on the bowlers to reach the same heights they did in Sydney.

Apart from the pleasure of watching such a complete performance and celebrating South Africa’s first win in a World Cup knockout game, I really liked the send-off given to Kumar Sangakkara and Mahela Jayawardene.

Those two great batsmen have given South African bowlers a terrible time over the years but their strength of character, charm and integrity means they will be remembered as so much more than just prolific employees of Sri Lanka Cricket.

In my opinion, Sangakkara is one of the greatest batsmen to have played the game, in the same exalted realms of excellence as Sachin Tendulkar, Ricky Ponting, Brian Lara and Kallis.

The Proteas obviously hold him and Jayawardene in similarly high esteem judging by the genuine warmth they showed in farewelling them, and Sangakkara’s response when asked how he would like to be remembered speaks to the very essence of sport:

“If anyone can say they’ve enjoyed playing against me and playing with me, I’ll be more than happy.”

Cricket South Africa sent out a special tribute statement when Tendulkar retired; Sangakkara is surely deserving of the same honour?

 

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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