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Ken Borland



Former Bok defence coach John McFarland on why the bench will be crucial in Brisbane 0

Posted on September 08, 2016 by Ken

 

The impact of the Springboks’ 6-2 bench is going to be of the utmost importance in their Rugby Championship Test against Australia in Brisbane on Saturday, because of a combination of who the referee is and who they are playing against.

Nigel Owens is a fantastic referee and there tends to be a very high ball-in-play figure whenever he’s in charge. Australia have also always had a very attacking mindset in all the games against the Springboks and with their two flyhalves, they will also want to keep the ball in play.

So the ball-in-play figure could be 40-45 minutes, which is the norm against Australia when Owens is the referee but about 20% more than average, which is the reason why Allister Coetzee has gone for six forwards on the bench.

If you look at our recent Test matches against Australia, the Springboks have been comfortably in front for 60-65 minutes but have not finished the job because of a lack of bench impact.

So it’s obvious that having impact players on the bench will be vital and the bench this year has definitely added value– guys like Jaco Kriel, the two props and Pieter-Steph du Toit have provided real grunt up front.

The key for the Springboks is to have 23 players to play for the full 90 minutes. Three forwards will possibly play the full 90 minutes – Strauss, Whiteley and Etzebeth, for whom it is a tremendous achievement to reach 50 caps so young.

Victor Matfield made a very relevant point on SuperSport when he said that the Springboks didn’t have a single driving maul in Salta. Their lineout is so dominant that they must use their maul. Even the Lions do – they have a strong set-piece and maul, it’s a very solid part of their game.

Juan de Jongh and Jesse Kriel will make quite an exciting centre pairing. It’s a bit harsh though on Damien de Allende and Lionel Mapoe because they’ve seen very little ball on the front foot, but obviously Allister has decided that it’s time for a shake-up. It’s especially difficult at outside centre if the midfield is not operating and you get the ball up against a defensive wall, you’re very influenced by what happens on your inside.

The advantage of Juan and Jesse is that they are better communicators in defence and attack, and both have amazing sidestepping ability and run hard reverse lines against the defence. Jesse scored two wonderful tries stepping from centre in last year’s Rugby Championship and they will pose a different attacking threat against Quade Cooper and Bernard Foley.

Allister has obviously also gone for this pairing because Australia don’t have the same size in the midfield as other teams like New Zealand do. Australia will have a very small midfield, which provides the Springboks with the opportunity to run at them and expose their defensive weaknesses.

Australia mix their backs around defensively, they are not always in the channel you’d expect them to be, for example Cooper does find himself at fullback or blind wing sometimes on defence, so then you can use the high-ball kicking game on him from lineouts.

The obvious reason for Australia to go with two flyhalves is that it puts a lot more width on their passing game and they can use a lot more second-man plays from wide channels. The other advantage is they can split their backs on a middle ruck and have two sides to attack.

The other big selection issue has been Adriaan Strauss. Allister obviously wanted his experience and wisdom  and Adriaan is a quality Test performer. His accuracy at the lineout is second to none as is his scrummaging, so his set-pieces are always at a high level and he contributed around the park.

I guess the results haven’t been as he would have expected and it’s been a difficult year. But he cares deeply about the game. He’s not a tub-thumping sort of captain, but he speaks intelligently and demands high standards.

The Springboks have just not been able to get their all-round game going but the set-pieces have been really solid, so he has done his job.

For Saturday, the defence of the Springboks really has to improve. The work-rate has to be a lot higher to set the breakdown pillars properly before the attack gets in place. The ability of the defence to force turnovers will be crucial because Australia will take the ball at the Boks in hand. The side they have picked is very attack-minded.

The other really huge battle of the game will be the lineout.  New Zealand really exposed flaws in the Australian lineout in the two Bledisloe Cup Tests and the Springboks definitely have an advantage having picked four lineout jumpers to combat three.

I would expect us to continue to produce good ball on our own throw and hopefully disrupt their lineout to give them poor set-piece ball to attack from.

In 2013, the Springboks broke the Brisbane hoodoo, scoring four tries to zero. Hopefully on Saturday they can do the same again.

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.

 

Bulls hold off ferocious Sharks to go top of SuperRugby 0

Posted on May 25, 2016 by Ken

 

The Bulls held off ferocious mobs of Sharks players and an unsympathetic referee to claim top spot on the Vodacom SuperRugby log with a thrilling 20-19 victory at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night.

The Bulls were trailing 13-19 with just seven minutes remaining, but managed to put an evening of immense frustration and testing behind them and snatch victory through a try by replacement scrumhalf Jano Vermaak, converted by sharpshooting flyhalf Morne Steyn.

The embattled Sharks produced an epic performance and pushed the form team in SuperRugby to the limit, but poor goal-kicking and a moment of madness that saw captain Butch James yellow-carded were behind their defeat.

For intensity and drama, it was a top-class game of rugby, with both teams fighting relentlessly for every centimetre on the gain-line, but also using their backs to strike when a chance to spread the ball presented itself.

The Sharks, with a team ravaged by injury and a stand-in coaching team, will be heartened that they managed to give the Bulls, on a phenomenal eight-match winning streak, a real run for their money at their home fortress, where they have not lost a game since June last year.

But they will be gutted that a wayward kicking display by Pat Lambie cost them 10 points, while Riaan Viljoen also missed two penalties, including a last-minute effort that would have reversed the result.

James, a surprise choice as captain as the Sharks pulled a typical late shuffle with regular captain Keegan Daniel shifted to the bench to make way for another battering ram in Jean Deysel, was a commanding presence at flyhalf (his swop with Lambie being another late change) until the last 10 minutes when he lost the plot and then almost decapitated Bulls replacement back Jurgen Visser with a flying head-high tackle.

The Bulls not only had to overcome a feisty Sharks team but also a spate of penalties awarded against them by referee Jason Jaftha. The visitors had already been given a dozen penalties by the time the Bulls received their second, and the breakdowns were the most obvious area of difficulty for them when it came to deciphering the bizarre rulings of Jaftha.

The official line of Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter was that “the odds were a bit against us and there were a lot of technical decisions at the breakdown, we need to adapt to the way the referee is blowing” – but the obvious feeling in the Bulls camp was that Jaftha was only watching them at the rucks.

But the character and composure of the Bulls remained intact, although there were times in the third quarter when they looked rattled and were thrown off their game-plan. But it was the ideal sort of test for their young side ahead of the pressure of sudden-death play in the playoffs.

“The way we kept our cool and grinded it out and the way we pulled it back were very pleasing. These local derbies get the best out of the teams and we always invite competition, there were areas where they really tested us and it’s good that that happened and we were still able to get the result.

“In the second half, there were a few opportunities when the corners were open and field position was vital. We made mistakes then, but the players were probably feeling that they wanted momentum and ball-in-hand, trying to win the gain-line battles. You don’t want to win that way, but we’ll take it and hope to take great things from it,” coach Frans Ludeke said.

With the help of a seemingly anti-Bulls referee, the Sharks dominated the breakdowns for the first hour and were able to up the pace of the game and stretch the Bulls, before they resurrected their home playoff hopes in miraculous fashion at the death, moving them into first place on the log, two points ahead of the Chiefs and four ahead of the Brumbies going into the final round of regular-season play.

There were also celebrations in Bloemfontein as the Cheetahs confirmed they will advance to the playoffs for the first time as they beat the Blues 34-13.

The Cheetahs dominated at forward to set up their victory, but took a long time to seal the deal as they wasted several try-scoring chances in a nervy second half.

A fifth-minute try to Blues scrumhalf Jamison Gibson-Park served as a timely warning to the Cheetahs of the perils of giving the visitors turnover ball, but the home side’s scrum then went to work where it really mattered – inside the opposition 22 – to earn a penalty and then a tighthead that led to eighthman Phillip van der Walt’s try and a 13-7 lead at the end of the first quarter.

Impressive flyhalf Riaan Smit kicked two more penalties to give the Cheetahs a 19-10 half-time lead, but Willie le Roux wasted two great opportunities to get the second try early in the second half, before Baden Kerr kicked a 58th-minute penalty to give the Blues the first points after the break and close the gap to 13-19.

But the Cheetahs, dominating the rucks thanks to their brilliant loose trio of Brussow, Van der Walt and Labuschagne, were able to build multiple phases in the last 10 minutes and it was almost inevitable that nippy replacement scrumhalf Sarel Pretorius would find a gap and score.

He did so in the 75th minute and replacement flank Boom Prinsloo added a third try three minutes later to put the cherry on top.

It was a top-class forward effort by the Cheetahs, with lock Rynard “Ligtoring” Landman also a stand-out player along with a front row that is also a phenomenal unit.

The backline made a plethora of handling errors, but Le Roux was so often a lethal threat with ball in hand, while outside centre Johann Sadie also had a fine game.

The Southern Kings went into their derby against the Stormers with a simple and brutal mode of attack that sought to disrupt the opposition as much as possible at source.

With the Stormers not exactly being the most dazzling attacking side themselves these days, it led to an ugly war of attrition at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium, which the visitors won 24-12.

Due to earlier happenings at the Free State Stadium, it meant little because the Cheetahs’ win had already knocked the Stormers – and the Sharks for that matter – out of contention for the playoffs.

While the Kings are rightfully lauded for their magnificent defence, they probably show the least attacking intent of all the SuperRugby sides and they seemed content to just spend the 80 minutes snapping at the ankles of the Stormers, in other words being a nuisance rather than going out and trying to win the game.

Stormers captain and flank Deon Fourie scored two tries to add to the joint goalkicking efforts of Elton Jantjies and Joe Pietersen in a game that was a poor spectacle.

Referee Lourens van der Merwe must foot much of the blame for that as cynical play in the breakdowns continuously went unpunished.

Just like last weekend in their rousing victory over the Cheetahs, it was the Stormers’ forwards who did the legwork for the win, none more so than Fourie.

People are constantly bringing up Heinrich Brussow’s name when it comes to traditional openside flanks, but for all-round impact, Fourie also punches way above his weight and his livewire performances have been integral to the Stormers’ recent improvement in form.

Lock Eben Etzebeth – apart from being involved in several off-the-ball incidents – and prop Steven Kitshoff were also prominent in giving the Stormers a physical edge in the forward battle.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-08-throwing-the-bulls-sharks-fight-hard-but-come-off-second-best/#.V0TNl_l97IU

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