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Ken Borland



Former Bok defence coach John McFarland previews the Springboks v Argentina Test 2

Posted on August 19, 2016 by Ken

 

 

It’s always exciting when the Rugby Championship starts again and I fully expect the Springboks to win and win well over Argentina in Nelspruit, and that’s because Argentina have scored an own goal against themselves.

We beat them convincingly in our last two meetings, but everyone still talks about how they beat us in Durban last year when our guys had just run too many kilometres in training. But they have often given us tough games and that’s because their strengths were Juan Imhoff on the wing and Marcos Ayerza, who made a huge difference in the scrums and always gave our tightheads a tough time, even if whether it was legal or not is another question.

But Ayerza is a very strong scrummager and Imhoff has pace to burn and he made the difference in Durban last year when they beat us 37-25, scoring a hat-trick, but they’re both not playing in Nelspruit because Argentina have decided not to choose any overseas-based players. It’s a big loss for them and their own ruling, in contrast to South Africa and Australia, who have gone down that route of choosing overseas players.

You only have to look at how the Jaguares did in SuperRugby, they were pretty poor and in fact their rugby went backwards. The vast majority of that side are now in the Argentina team, so they’re coming from a losing culture even if they’ve had a change in coaching.

They’ve travelled the world and earned a fantastic amount of air miles, but not a lot of wins. I think they didn’t expect the travelling in SuperRugby to be so hard. But they have the talent and the basis for success, and from now on it will be easier for them to keep their best players at home.

But they’ve also lost some world-class players since the World Cup like Marcelo Bosch in the backs and flank Juan-Martin Fernandez Lobbe. So they’re without Imhoff, who is their finisher, Ayerza, the core of their scrum, and Lobbe, who was their heart and soul. Those absences will have a big influence on the game.

In terms of the Springboks, it will be interesting to see what their defence will do. It was very passive in the June Tests and it will be interesting to see what system they use, what new defence coach Chean Roux’s principles are on his debut as a defence coach.

Allister Coetzee has alluded to them wanting to work harder on their line speed and if they get it right then it can be a wonderfully destructive tactic as the Hurricanes proved when they destroyed the Lions attack in the SuperRugby final. It can put the opposition on the back foot, take away their Plan A and then you see what they have for a Plan B, which is what the Lions struggled with in the final.

But it will also be interesting to see how the Springboks react to the Pumas’ line speed. If the referee is laissez-faire at the breakdown and with their penchant for leg-tackles, it could be a long afternoon for the Boks.

Argentina are clever about what they do, at the middle rucks they hold and block the defenders and pillars, and flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez and the back three then exploit the space. So the referee has to be awake to that and if the referee allows them latitude then it will be difficult for the Springboks.

But Glen Jackson was the referee in our game against Argentina last year in Buenos Aires and he did really well. He generally wants the game to flow and is not scared to make the tough calls, so that’s in their favour.

But if Sanchez is on his game then he can kick drop goals, Juan-Martin Hernandez as well. They kicked four drop goals between them when they won in 2014 against France in Paris, so that’s a major strength of theirs as well.

They’re also good when it comes to ball-movement and using their wings to create confusion.

It won’t work for the Pumas though to stay out of the breakdown because then if the Springboks get second runners off number nine, it will be difficult for them to get their line set.

In terms of the Springbok selection, you’re obliged to have some experience and even though Bryan Habana is 33 he can mentor Johan Goosen and Ruan Combrinck. Bryan’s always so passionate and committed and he will provide a really valuable example and experience for the youngsters. I hope he goes past David Campese on the try-scoring record list in this game [they are both on 64 international tries, five behind world record-holder Daisuke Ohata of Japan].

Jesse Kriel was stellar last year both in attack and defence, he cut both Australia and New Zealand apart and even in the tightest games he was secure defensively. So I’m sure his chance will come.

The other thing to note about the selection is that the Kubota Spears have more players in the Springbok team than either the Cheetahs or the Kings! We have two players – Jaco Kriel and Lionel Mapoe!!

In terms of tactics, Allister Coetzee doesn’t like to chase the game, he doesn’t want to play catch-up. Giving away soft penalties will lead to you chasing the game and Chean Roux always used to pride himself on making sure the side doesn’t give away penalties in the first 10 minutes or the first 10 minutes after halftime. Allister will want the Springboks to get in front and build up the scoreboard.

It should be a great game in Sydney first up, that always lays down a marker for the tournament, and then we get our chance in the afternoon. There will definitely be a step up from the June internationals because the coaches have now had their teams for a month and they’ll have a bit more continuity, which makes a difference.

So I expect the Springboks to win by 20 points but it’s going to be a different game for the Springboks next weekend in Salta, which is also at altitude and it can be blindingly hot. Rugby is very tough there and Jerome Garces will be the referee in Salta.

The All Blacks don’t quite have the depth they had before at centre, but Beauden Barrett is in the form of his life.

Australia have backed tried-and-tested players like Matt Giteau, Adam Ashley-Cooper and Will Genia, who are all quite fresh and have had a break. So I expect a fast and open game in Sydney but I see the All Blacks winning it.

 

 

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.

 

The Lions & the Springboks are totally different environments 0

Posted on August 15, 2016 by Ken

 

So it didn’t quite end in jubilation, but the Lions’ SuperRugby campaign still brought enormous pride and good feeling over their rags-to-riches story, and the public will carry many of those emotions into the Rugby Championship that starts next weekend.

But it is vital to realise that the Springboks and the Test arena are entirely different environments to the Lions and SuperRugby, and comments calling for the whole of Johan Ackermann’s team to be promoted to the national side or for coach Allister Coetzee to simply copy the game plan are ill-informed, ill-judged and have the potential to be divisive.

The health of any rugby team has a lot to do with its unity of purpose and their togetherness as people, and one could sense some frustration this week when the Springbok management and some of the players were constantly asked questions that referred back to the Lions.

Hopefully Lions captain Warren Whiteley, whose hard work on the field and wise words off it are nothing short of inspirational, put that all to bed this week when he highlighted in no uncertain terms that the Springboks are different.

“There’s no debate about using the same playing style, these are two different sides and we are not talking about unions any more. You’re talking about a team at provincial level against a national side. Sure, we as Lions players can bring confidence to the Springboks and there are similarities in the way we are trying to play. But there’s a step up when you come to the Springboks and the intensity and speed with which we’ve been training is at another level to the Lions,” Whiteley said this week.

Last weekend’s column bemoaned the parlous state of the Currie Cup, South Africa’s flagship rugby competition, but the performance of the Lions is one of the reasons for optimism when it comes to South African rugby.

Amidst the ritz and glitz of the Olympics there was another reason for cheer, even if the Blitzbokke flattered to deceive and had to settle for a bronze medal (still a notable achievement and more than New Zealand or Australia could manage). I’m talking about Rasta Rashivenge being given the honour of refereeing the Sevens final, an appointment that continues a long line of excellence when it comes to South African officials.

They receive way more criticism than plaudits simply because of human nature, but our referees and the high standards they maintain is one of the best stories in South African rugby.

Some of the media were privileged this week to be able to sit down with leading referee Jaco Peyper for an information session just to help us scribes better understand why certain decisions are made on the field and how the officials are interpreting the details of the laws these days.

Peyper said a referee makes about 400 decisions in every game and there will always be little mistakes, but the important thing is to ensure these do not have a major impact on the game.

He also said it is important to note that the key focus areas that referees are blowing these days have been decided in consultation with the coaches and other stakeholders, notably medical staff. They have had their say on what the shape of the game should look like and how to make it safer, and the referee’s job is to facilitate that.

Interestingly, there are some well-known phrases in our rugby lexicon, like “downward pressure”, “the direction of the hands when passing” and “bringing the catcher of the ball down safely” that don’t appear anywhere in the laws of the game.

This has led to some confusion amongst the public when watching games and the referees and TMOs don’t take any of those polluting myths into account, most often leading to filthy language in the lounge. For a clear and thorough view of the laws, including the opportunity to discuss issues with leading referees, I would recommend going to http://www.sareferees.com/

 

 

Former Springbok defence coach John McFarland’s post-mortem of the SuperRugby final & looking ahead to the Rugby Championship 0

Posted on August 11, 2016 by Ken

 

The SuperRugby final has come and gone and basically the Hurricanes were just too good on the day for the Lions, and Test rugby is now going to be another level above that, but I do believe the Springboks have reason for optimism.

It’s brilliant that we had a SuperRugby finalist, and the Lions gave 110% against the Hurricanes and did South Africa proud, as they have done all season, and their players will be in a strong space going into the Rugby Championship.

It’s easy to say the Springboks must just play like the Lions, but hard to coach. Although, in 2013 we scored a mountain of tries and Johan van Graan is still the attack coach with the Springboks and he’s clever enough to use all the best bits from all the franchises.

You put the game plan in place according to the players you have and Test rugby is a step above SuperRugby, you need guys who can get on the front foot on the gain-line, in the heat of battle. Players like Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Lood de Jager and Adriaan Strauss have done it, they’ve proved it at that level, they can gain metres whether in attack or defence.

Damian de Allende was outstanding in 2015 so I can understand why Allister Coetzee has gone with him again, as was Jesse Kriel. I can remember the New Zealand coaches telling us last year that with those young midfield backs they were expecting a real battle against us in the next three or four years.

I believe we should do well in the Rugby Championship, I look forward to it with optimism.

The All Blacks side has changed a lot from the World Cup semifinal which we lost by just two points, they’ve lost a mountain of caps and experience in Dan Carter, Ma’a Nonu, Sonny Bill Williams, Conrad Smith, Nehe Milner-Skudder, Keven Mealamu, Ben Franks and Richie McCaw.

The big thing for the Springboks will be to manage the three away games on the trot, which is very hard. They go from Salta to Brisbane to Christchurch and to win the Rugby Championship they’re going to have to win those away games, which is flippen tough. And their hardest game will be at the end of that tour, against New Zealand in Christchurch.

But the squad is in good health, as Allister himself has said Heyneke Meyer left him with a good legacy, and we came very close to winning in Wellington in 2014, losing by four points, in Auckland in 2013 we had Bismarck du Plessis sent off which was cruel, and in 2012 in Dunedin it was close until Dean Greyling got a yellow card, plus Morne Steyn only kicked at 33%. So we have been competitive in New Zealand in recent years.

But the All Blacks and Australia only really play two away games in the Rugby Championship every year, that’s why they can waltz through and why it’s so tough for us.

To win in New Zealand, you have to be 100% on your game and they have to be at 90%, as the Lions discovered too in the Super Rugby final in Wellington against the Hurricanes.

The Hurricanes were just too strong and too smart on the day, they were at full-bore from the first minute.

Conditions also played a huge role, it was very rainy and cold and you could see the Lions players shivering at every stoppage, so it was obviously a factor and a disadvantage for them because they played most of their games on the Highveld where it’s sunny and dry.

The Cake Tin has a swirling wind and it’s not easy kicking in that wind, but Beauden Barrett does it week in and week out and you could see the difference in the kicking games.

Against the Highlanders, the Lions were able to move the ball in the red zone with their backs and they made some wonderful exits, but that was just not on in Wellington last weekend. The Hurricanes monstered them in that first channel, with their line speed and aggressive defence, and I felt sorry for Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk because nobody likes playing with back-foot ball.

The Lions’ two big weapons are their scrum and lineout, but the Hurricanes stood up to them and Dane Coles was inspirational. I think the Lions wanted to use the scrum to gather penalties and points, but the Hurricanes scrummed so well, especially that important one in their own 22 when they were only 10-3 ahead.

In the lineouts, I thought Malcolm Marx did exceptionally well with his throwing in those conditions and Franco Mostert made good calls, but their drives could neither get distance nor momentum.

In fact, the Hurricanes defended so well that the Lions couldn’t get momentum the whole game. Faf de Klerk tried to probe with runners but they got smashed back. Rohan Janse van Rensburg did well to get over the advantage line at times, but Elton was always on the back foot, which meant the backline was static and they just couldn’t get going.

And the tries the Lions conceded were as a consequence of finals pressure, although Corey Jane provided a special moment with that catch.

It’s funny, at the Bulls we used to have a theory that you needed five world-class players and 10 internationals to win SuperRugby, but neither the Hurricanes nor the Lions have that. But they are real workaholics and both have such a good culture on and off the field.

The back-row clash between Warwick Tecklenburg and Brad Shields, the two unsung heroes, was tremendous, they went toe-to-toe all game. Jaco Kriel and Ardie Savea tried to make game-breaking plays, but the space and time just weren’t there.

The Hurricanes’ tactical kicking was also so good, they would just stab the ball in behind the wings and put the pressure on, making the Lions try to exit.

It was a foretaste of the challenges ahead in Test rugby but none of our other teams exactly covered themselves in glory against the New Zealand sides, so they definitely have the upper hand. But it’s Test rugby and you can’t write off Australia either, they’ll be a different kettle of fish with Matt Giteau and Will Genia back, they’ll have more rhythm to their game.

Finally, let’s wish the Blitzbokke good luck. Neil Powell and his staff have assembled a great squad, they’re very hard-working, they have a fantastic culture and they work hard for each other. They thoroughly deserve whatever accolades come their 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.

Paige not surprised by his World Cup selection 0

Posted on September 02, 2015 by Ken

 

“The coach told me from the beginning that I was in his plans and I knew where I stood, so it wasn’t a total surprise,” debutant scrumhalf Rudy Paige said of his inclusion in the Springboks’ World Cup squad despite not featuring at all in the Rugby Championship.

Paige was chosen as one of three scrumhalves along with veterans Fourie du Preez and Ruan Pienaar, and seemingly leapfrogged Cobus Reinach, who was Pienaar’s understudy throughout the Rugby Championship.

But in a dismal tournament for the Springboks, Reinach’s decision-making was often exposed, most notably against the All Blacks when he took a free kick from the wrong place and had his try disallowed, lost possession by going on a solo attack, and also spread the ball wide when the gap had opened up for him to go through.

“The Bulls had an indifferent season, but I felt my energy and consistency were still good and I wanted to take that to the Springbok squad. Obviously I had to lift it at the Springboks and I was very happy just to observe Fourie du Preez at training, how he goes about things. He’s probably still the best scrumhalf in the world and I was learning every day,” Paige said.

The 26-year-old enjoyed an outstanding Super Rugby campaign and is an efficient, quick passer of the ball as well as having an immaculate kicking game.

“Cobus Reinach was injured for a lot of Super Rugby and I tried to give him game time but he never quite recaptured his form. Rudy provides really good service and he’s more or less like Fourie du Preez as a player. He has an unbelievable kicking game in the wet and great service, and unfortunately he got injured on the end-of-year tour,” coach Heyneke Meyer said when explaining his selection.

As for allowing a situation where Paige will go to the World Cup without having played any Test rugby, Meyer defended his management of the new cap.

“I wanted to play him in Buenos Aires, but the guys who let the country down in Durban had to go and fix it. Even the Australian squad has guys who haven’t played at all and I don’t think playing one Test will make that much difference,” Meyer said.

“That end-of-year tour opened my eyes to what I’m capable of and it made me hungry to be part of the Springbok team, I saw what the blazer means to them. I want to be part of that for most of my career and I need to improve my defence and adapt to international rugby as quickly as possible. My quick service and my kicking game are the things I back myself on,” Paige, the son of a delighted Congregational Church priest in Oudtshoorn, said.

 



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