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Ken Borland



All eyes on FNB Stadium as football, rugby & music share the stage 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken

 

Notwithstanding the awful events in Cairo, the eyes of much of the sporting world will be on South Africa on Saturday as a football international and a rugby Test are played at the same stadium on the same day.

Bafana Bafana will take on Burkina Faso in a friendly at FNB Stadium from 1.30pm, to be followed by the Springboks’ Rugby Championship opener against Argentina from 5pm, and it’s all to celebrate the birthday of Nelson Mandela, the Messiah from the Transkei, as the Parlotones call Madiba.

With a music concert to come after the rugby match, there is plenty of scope for things to get messy as a soccer field has to be turned into an international rugby pitch.

For the sake of the ailing former president’s good name, let’s hope everything works smoothly.

But the Springboks have a different kind of mess to try and avoid on Saturday.

Their last meeting with Argentina ended in a 16-16 draw in Mendoza last August as the Pumas turned the breakdowns, now the most important facet of rugby, into a messy scramble for possession. The naïve Springboks failed to protect their ball in the rucks, the cleaners weren’t there to hold off a horde of spoilers, and South Africa could never get their game plan going and were fortunate to escape with a draw thanks to a charge-down try by Frans Steyn.

This year, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has tried to ensure the breakdowns are an area of strength for his team. Not only has he hired a Scot – Richie Gray – as a specialist consultant for that key area, but he has also chosen a back row that features two players renown for their ability in the rucks in eighthman Duane Vermeulen and openside flank Francois Louw.

With Siya Kolisi, another loose forward who plays to the ball, on the bench it is clear Meyer has placed new emphasis on the breakdowns.

Of course, quick ball still has to be used wisely and much will depend on how sharp scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and subsititute Fourie du Preez, a hero of yesterday making an international comeback a la George Smith, are when it comes to controlling the game and distributing to the backline.

It’s easy to picture Saturday’s groundbreaking Test becoming a dour battle for territory.

Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn spoke this week about righting the wrongs of that Mendoza shocker and using a kicking game to pin Argentina in their own half, while not spending too much time in their own territory.

Meyer sometimes errs on the side of caution in selection and strategy, but it is encouraging that he has chosen the likes of Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht and Bjorn Basson in the backline.

All of them have formidable attacking strengths but they have also all made defensive blunders this year that would have been enough to send them to church on Sunday for forgiveness. But there’s no doubt fullback Le Roux has added vision and spark to the backline, Engelbrecht has the pace and strength to cut defences to shreds and Basson has brilliant ability in the air and tremendous pace on the counter-attack.

Forward play has traditionally been the strength of the Pumas and Meyer has identified that it is amongst the backs, where veterans Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers are playing as well as they ever have, where the Springboks could have a clear edge.

The Argentina team has been rocked by the absence of star loose forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and highly-rated prop Marcos Ayerza, but it is still crucial that the Springboks have done their homework on the new scrum laws, that seem tailor-made to the famous bajada scrum employed by the Pumas.

A weak scrum has done irreparable damage to several team’s chances already this year, but Meyer is a great believer in laying a platform up front in the set-pieces.

A great deal of work has also been done on the Springbok lineout, where the rapidly-maturing Juandre Kruger has returned in the number five jersey.

Providing everyone does their job clinically, the Springboks should have too much firepower for Argentina, who lost 27-6 to the Springboks in Cape Town in their Rugby Championship debut last year.

Speaking of debuts, Ewen McKenzie will make his first appearance as the new Australian coach when they take on the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.

McKenzie, the Queensland Reds coach until last month, has put his trust mostly in a bunch of players who led the Brumbies into the SuperRugby final.

Chief among those is Matt Toomua, the debutant who has been put in the crucial flyhalf position, ahead of Reds pivot Quade Cooper, who is back in the Wallabies squad after falling out with previous coach Robbie Deans.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-16-preview-boks-and-bafana-have-their-work-cut-out-at-fnb-stadium/#.WFkjr1N97IU

Coetzee calls for all-encompassing review, including of him 0

Posted on December 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee returned to Johannesburg on Monday and said he would accept it if the South African Rugby Union decided to remove him from his post as long as it was part of an all-encompassing review of South African rugby.

Coetzee and the team returned from what the coach termed a “disastrous” tour of Europe without a win, leaving them with just four victories in 12 Tests this year, the worst record since the Springboks lost seven of their eight Tests in 1965.

“In one word, the tour was disastrous. But on the other hand, sometimes you have to go as low as you can go in order to get back up again and I still see a massive opportunity for this team. But we cannot plaster over the cracks, there has to be a proper clean-out of the wounds. There will have to be changes.

“I will be the first to put my hand up and take responsibility, and the players have owned up too, but finger-pointing doesn’t help. We need a good, proper review that addresses all the key areas. My vision and the players’ vision and the franchises’ visions all have to be aligned so that Springbok rugby is of number one importance.

“I am contracted until 2019, and my performance will be discussed in my review. Of course I am disappointed in my performance too. But every coach goes through a tough year and I would rather take it at the beginning. We might not see it now, but this is best for Springbok rugby, I see it as a turning point and if the time is not right for me to be coach, then I will accept that,” Coetzee said at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

While Coetzee said he did not want to single out the players, he said poor skill levels and conditioning were the major problems in terms of on-field performance.

The 53-year-old coach also said the pipeline leading to the Springboks, which has previously been the envy of other countries, needed to be streamlined.

“From the schools, through the U21s, all the way to the Springboks, we need to have a hard look at the pipeline. Does it all benefit Springbok rugby? We need to work together as South Africans, doing well in just the Currie Cup or Super Rugby is not good enough.

“The northern hemisphere are doing very well now, it’s no longer the case that we are better than them because they have immense collaboration. It’s the same with the franchises in New Zealand and that’s indicative of where they are now. Collaboration is most important.

“Everyone involved in rugby needs to start working on the 10 most important things to get the Springbok team to perform and put those in place. I have a good idea of what I want to put in place and I’d like to make sure when I leave the post that there is a clear and tangible blueprint for collaboration with the franchise coaches on how we contract players and what we expect from them in terms of conditioning,” Coetzee said.

Retiring captain Adriaan Strauss was similarly apologetic, but said he felt positive that the Springboks would rise again.

“There’s a lot of talent and good players even though it has been a disappointing, challenging year. We’re not in a good space at the moment, and there have been a lot of causes over some time, but I believe it is a good time to address those now. There are a lot of things that have not been spoken openly about before and it has to be a joint effort now to sort those out.

“There are a lot of good decisions and discussions to be made and I believe some good will come out of this. We need to construct a way forward and everyone is accountable from the players up all through the ladder. Everyone has to work together, we need to realise where we are now and make the right decisions now so we can build for the future. I’m very hopeful of the future, there’s lots to be excited about,” Strauss said.

“The year hurts in the way that we feel we have let people down and the supporters have every right to feel let down. But every guy who wears this blazer does their all, they do everything in their power. The Springboks are supposed to be up there with the best, the fans are fully within their rights to demand that, and we haven’t produced that excellence.

“I accepted responsibility when I said yes to the captaincy and it was not the best of years, in fact the records will show it was the worst. I made a lot of mistakes and I apologise for that, it was a learning curve for me. But I’m also proud of a lot of things I did, I always put the Springboks first and in tough times I feel I stood up,” an emotional Strauss said.

“The players must also take responsibility and the coaches as well, we’re all in this together, and SA Rugby as well. I can openly and honestly say that everyone must step up, everyone has made mistakes. We are all responsible and we must all face up together. We can’t be having a pity party.”

While the torment is over for Strauss, coach Coetzee will pray he never has another year like 2016.

“It does test everything as a person, even my faith. But I am still alive and kicking through the grace of God. You do have doubts when things don’t go right, but I believed in my plan and then you feel better when the players and captain give you buy-in every Monday when we start training again,” Coetzee said.

“I can understand the supporters are disappointed, so are we. Many people feel I should stay on and I am confident that I can turn the team around. I’m not the sort of guy to just walk away.”

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1359769/coetzee-calls-encompassing-review-including/

Australia’s unexpected collapse a warning to SA cricket 0

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Australia’s rapid implosion as a Test team, going from the number one ranked side in August to their current shambles, was unexpected but there have been warning signs in their cricket for a while and they are similar to the problems South African rugby is experiencing at the moment.

A focus on chasing money and the commercial aspects of the game has been allowed to mar the systems and structures that were in place to ensure that Australia’s Test team – as well as, at times, the Springboks – were always at the pinnacle of the game.

The Big Bash T20 league is obviously a wonderful, exciting occasion in the Australian sporting calendar, but it seems it has become the most important part of the cricket season, Cricket Australia’s priority and something that is pushing everything else on to the periphery.

There was a time that the four-day Sheffield Shield competition was Australia’s premier domestic tournament and the envy of the world; nowadays it seems almost an afterthought and pace bowlers are pulled out of games midway through by national team management using medical protocols that have little basis in actual cricketing wisdom.

The most amazing example of T20 taking over to the detriment of everything else Down Under will come in February. Six days before Australia play the first Test against India in Pune, starting what is an incredibly daunting tour for a struggling team, a three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka starts in Melbourne.

International cricket was always about the best from each country playing against each other, but either Australia send a second-string team to India or their reserves will be playing in the T20 series. The last T20 will be played the night before the first Test starts!

Some of the Australian media were understandably outraged by the scheduling and, in the wake of the series loss to the magnificent Proteas, they have given their team and administrators both barrels and deservedly so.

Other Australian media have, however, resorted to blame-shifting and a video focusing on South African captain Faf du Plessis doing two perfectly legal things – eating a sweet on the field and using his saliva to shine the ball – albeit at the same time, was always going to go viral and attract the interest of the International Cricket Council.

But if they do punish Du Plessis, what are they going to do about players using sunscreen and then wiping their sweat on the ball? How about the ubiquitous Australian practice of chewing gum on the field, that is also like steroids for saliva.

South African cricket is currently basking in a glorious, phenomenal third successive series win in Australia that is going to be remembered for a long time because of the resilience and team unity they have shown, especially in the absence of big guns AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.

But we also need to be wary that our administrators aren’t going to go down the same route as their Australian counterparts; there have been enough instances of South African sporting administrators chasing the bucks instead of what is going to be best for the game for us to be cautious.

Which is why, when I see the Proteas and Sri Lanka will be playing the third Test in Johannesburg from January 12-15, and the two Gauteng teams, the Titans and the Lions, will be playing a potentially crucial Sunfoil Series game at exactly the same time, I wonder if our four-day cricket is also going to be neglected, leading to the demise of our wonderful Test side?

Surely it can’t be too hard for the schedulers to say: “There’s going to be a Test in Johannesburg that week, let’s make sure that both Gauteng teams are playing away from home?”

Let the Australian malaise be a warning to us, no matter how smug and happy we are currently feeling.

Held together by bandages & gauze, but Jannie still relishes the challenge 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The tight five is characteristically the place where the players are held together by bandages and gauze, such is the high-impact workload they have to shoulder in rugby seasons that are just getting longer and harder. But there’s one man in the Springbok pack who has been particularly burdened with a massive workload, and that is tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

The 30-year-old played in every SuperRugby match last year and in all 16 games for the Sharks this year, as well as every Test in 2012 and all three in 2013 thus far. But Du Plessis, a qualified medical doctor, says he’s relishing the challenge.

“I hope I become like leather: you know, the more you use it, the tougher and better it becomes. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’m playing so much that I’m going to break down. I want to play 40 games a year for the next five years,” Du Plessis said after the Springboks’ training session in Fourways on Wednesday.

While the scrummaging skills and experience of the Bethlehem-born Du Plessis are invaluable in the crucial tighthead position – many ex-forwards say it’s the first position that should be chosen in a team – the other reason for why the Grey College-product is hogging the number three jersey is the lack of depth in his position in the country.

The current Springbok squad has five props in it and Du Plessis is the only one who can be regarded as a specialist tighthead, the foundation of a solid scrum.

The Springbok brains trust have identified Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead, as the next best tighthead in the land and coach Heyneke Meyer said the lack of depth has left him little choice but to develop the 24-year-old as the next choice number three for the 2015 World Cup.

“I truly believe we are in trouble with tightheads in South Africa,” Meyer said. “If you look at it, most of the guys are injured and at one stage we had the best tightheads in the world, but now there are a lot of inexperienced guys playing there.

“We feel Coenie is the second tighthead in the squad and we need to give him some game time. A tighthead is like great wine, it only gets better with time. Coenie is only 24 and we need someone who is the next tighthead who has time to develop and will be there for a long time.

“If Coenie doesn’t play there in Test match rugby, he won’t be right for the next World Cup. With Gurthro Steenkamp and Trevor Nyakane, they are great impact players, and we have a lot of looseheads with Beast as well. But we’re under pressure on the tighthead side,” Meyer said.

But there is also a lot of anti-Coenie-at-tighthead feeling around rugby circles, with many wondering why Cheetahs number three Lourens Adriaanse, an unused member of the Springbok squad in June, or impressive Sharks youngster Wiehahn Herbst aren’t given a chance.

Tighthead prop is a specialist position, like hooker or scrumhalf, and what Meyer is doing is a bit like trying to convert your second-choice outside centre into a scrumhalf just because he’s a great player. Coaches have to make tough decisions and, however brilliant Oosthuizen is and however much depth there is at loosehead, you can only have two in a match-day squad. Trying to turn a loosehead into a tighthead is fraught with danger, as we saw with previous coach Peter de Villiers’ unsuccessful attempts with John Smit.

Although Oosthuizen is an ox of a man – weighing 125kg and standing 1.83m – tighthead is a highly technical position where size and strength are not enough on their own.

Ask Jannie du Plessis himself.

“It is really flipping difficult to change from loosehead to tighthead, ask the looseheads who’ve tried. It’s a completely different position with a different set of skills. But I hope Coenie does well in the position, he’s done well enough when he has come on at tighthead, so then everyone won’t make such a big thing about it and me playing every game,” Du Plessis said.

The other problem with Oosthuizen playing tighthead is that he will be stuck in the scrum for longer and the Springboks stand to dilute two of his major weapons – his exceptional ability in carrying the ball and the pressure he brings to the breakdown.

And Oosthuizen’s switch is happening at a time of great uncertainty amongst front-rankers with the new scrum rules coming into effect for the Rugby Championship.

After protests over the number of collapsed scrums, the International Rugby Board [IRB] have introduced new calls governing the engagement. The new sequence is “crouch, bind, set”, requiring the props to bind before the scrum sets.

But the IRB, in their wisdom, have introduced the new protocol at Test level as well, without trialling it first in SuperRugby. So the top players in the Southern Hemisphere are all going into a crucial part of the game, for which match-swinging penalties are often given, blind, without any competitive experience of the changes.

“The scrums are an uncertainty for us. You have to play the cards that are dealt you, but the situation is that this is the first time in a Test series where we play the new rules. This year we are going straight into the new rules and we don’t know what to expect,” Meyer admitted.

Du Plessis, who has seen most things in the dark and dingy world of scrums, thinks even these new rules might not last.

“Normally you have a few games to get used to new laws, like they did with the ELVs. But the challenge now is to adapt right away. It might be a shambles and then they change it again.

“Since I started playing, this will be the sixth or seventh change to the scrum laws, so they are definitely chopping and changing and maybe they are scratching a place where it’s not itching… ” Du Plessis said.

The major difference that front-rankers will experience, with the “hit” taken out of the equation, is that scrums are going to last much longer now, according to Du Plessis.

“It’s going to be a big change. In the past you relied on speed because the gap between the front rows was big. Now because you’re binding first, you are much closer together and you can’t rely on speed.

“Scrums are going to be about generating more power and they will last much longer, so we’ll have to work harder. It won’t be so much about power and speed and more about endurance.

“They’ve said the scrum has to be steady now and they’re going to force scrumhalves to put the ball in straight, but it sounds like election promises to me: we hear that every year,” Du Plessis said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-08-rugby-tightheads-at-a-loose-end/#.WCxJxvl97IU

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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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