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Ken Borland

The John McFarland Column: A special win for the Springboks 0

Posted on June 13, 2017 by Ken


It was really a quite special win for the Springboks over France at Loftus Versfeld last weekend, against a side that definitely turned up, were hard to break down and were the best French side available on that Saturday.

The match was brutal on the gain-line, there were double-hits, they smashed the Springboks and the Springboks smashed them, so it was a great Test for the home side to come through, especially with five debutants in the 23-man squad. It’s a great start to their 2017 season.

The match was in the balance at 16-14 and then came the penalty try. Given how quickly the officials made up their minds, it must have been a clearcut decision.

The Springbok attack was definitely based around getting to the middle of the field and there were a lot of tip-on passes from the forward pods, which creates indecision in the defence, one-on-one tackles and lightning-quick ball. It’s quite an effective tactic against a rush defence.

From middle rucks, sometimes the outside back-row forward would come hard off the scrumhalf, who would either play him or go behind his back to Elton Jantjies, which makes the defence sit a bit and creates space.

There was a lot of quality passing from the Springboks, which was not in evidence last year, and there was definitely more attacking understanding and ball-in-hand play.

It was great that Jantjies looked so composed, and he and Ross Cronje, who gave very slick service and was a threat around the edges, directed play well; they always had a couple of options and it created indecision in the French defence. Because Elton is the only specialist flyhalf in the squad, he’s not looking over his shoulder and he feels he has Allister Coetzee’s total backing, he can run the show. It’s the sort of thing a key decision-maker wants.

Andries Coetzee, in his first Test, showed real pace, especially in the outside channels, he showed one or two lovely touches and was willing to run the ball back from deep, he really had a go.

The ball-carries of Malcolm Marx were exceptional and the Springboks made a lot of blindside probes, guys like Marx running a hard line close to the ruck, and he bounced off defenders at will, also creating more space. When was the last time we saw such a physically dominant performance by a South African hooker?

The scrum was very compact, it looked in good shape and form and was used as a good platform. The Springboks had two very experienced props, plus with their locks and loose forwards, there was no shortage of beef behind them.

The lineout also functioned really well, Eben Etzebeth was really good, and the Springboks won most of their pressure throws. There were not many easy balls at number two in the lineout, and it’s very difficult to attack from the front of the lineout. So they were very adventurous with their lineout tactics and Marx’s throwing was spot-on.

It was also a superbly-executed try off a throw to the back, a move which was very difficult to defend against. It’s very special to score those sort of tries at Test level, so credit to the coaches, it takes some doing.

In terms of the kicking game, South Africa cleared their lines very well and were never under pressure from kickoffs, it was just one hit up and then back to Jantjies, who kicked it to halfway. In the middle areas of the field, they would drive to suck in forwards and then Cronje would kick, and there was excellent execution of that too.

It was also a very much improved defensive display from the Springboks, credit to Brendan Venter for the best defensive performance by a South African team this year. There was brutality on the gain-line, great field-coverage and, at the end of the game, their willingness to put their bodies on the line and keep the French out was tremendous.

The defence looked organised and in the French faces for the whole game, and it will only get better as the players settle into the system. What was most impressive was how disciplined they were, so France only had one penalty shot at goal.

A small area of improvement that is needed was that they became a little compressed from wide rucks and were caught a little short on numbers in the outside channels. They came off the line quite hard and if France were able to get the ball behind their first line of attackers then they did find space.

The Springboks also closed very early at fullback, Coetzee came very early into the line, which means you then rely a lot on the scrumhalf for cover. Everyone does it these days, but sometimes perhaps the fullback should not be so quick to come up.

But it was a good start for the first Test and you can see the team is much more bonded, the leadership has set the right tone. Warren Whiteley is so selfless and empathetic, as alluded to in this column when he got the Springbok captain’s job, so he is in tune with his team.

France will obviously be a different animal in Durban, especially because they have just been physically dominated. But the whole Springbok side worked so hard, to keep a Test side pointless in the last 25 minutes at altitude is an amazing effort and it speaks to South Africa having a really strong bench.

It was a really positive start and we hope for more over the next two weeks.

And good luck too to the South African U20s for their Junior World Cup semi-final. It’s going to be a really big challenge against the England U20s, but I hope they can come through.


Jurassic World at Loftus every Saturday 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken


Jurassic World opened in cinemas across South Africa last night to much excitement but there are many who would say dinosaurs could be seen running around every Saturday at Loftus Versfeld for Bulls fans’ viewing displeasure.

The Bulls are probably the most conservative of all the franchises in South Africa (their daily programme even tells the players and management what clothes to wear!) and innovations such as the offload are still frowned upon there.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a force on the playing field. In fact, things were looking good this season when they sat in second place on the log just before their overseas tour, only for the wheels to come off in Australasia, not for the first time.

There can be no denying that a winning culture is absent from Loftus Versfeld; you can have as much discipline as you want, but unless the players, management and administrators are tightly knit with a single purpose, cracks will grow ever wider and the team will fall apart at the seams.

Where the Bulls have erred most obviously is in the appointment of a High Performance Manager in Xander Janse van Rensburg whose sole achievement so far at the union has been to rip at those seams and drive not one, nor two but three major player exoduses from Loftus Versfeld.

Since Janse van Rensburg’s arrival – apparently he was appointed to replace Ian Schwartz because he was a much cheaper option – hardly a day goes by without talk of a player who wants to leave or a player who is unhappy with broken promises or upset with his team-mates, such is the climate of fear and self-interest at Loftus.

To treat players as dispensable goods creates the sort of selfishness and attitude of self-preservation that destroys team spirit; the Bulls’ decision to send Janse van Rensburg on tour, while scrum coach Wessel Roux remained at home, coincided with the dramatic reversal in fortunes that killed their Super Rugby hopes.

But to lay the blame purely at the doors of the administrators would be wrong and several players are going to have to face their own consciences in the mirror when coach Frans Ludeke pays the price for their failure to step up when needed.

Ludeke’s willingness to shoulder all of the responsibility speaks to the character of the man. While his decision to take on all the media duties himself was well-intentioned, it merely increased the pressure on him. To allow different voices to be heard does not weaken his authority and his failure to spread the load is not going to improve his stress levels or general health.



South African cricket provided reason to celebrate in the last week via the comments of newly-appointed bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, who said yorkers were something the Proteas bowlers needed to embrace.

Speaking on the SuperSport cricket magazine show Inside Edge, Langeveldt said the yorker was a skill the national team’s bowlers needed to be able to produce three or four times an over if they are to improve the standard of the bowling in limited-overs cricket.

The lack of such skills in the Proteas’ attack was the glaring difference between them and the champion Australian team and the appointment of Langeveldt, one of the most skilful bowlers South Africa have ever produced, is a step in the right direction.

Langeveldt’s story is the epitome of hard work paying off and hopefully he will get the necessary buy-in from the Proteas and the graft required for the up-skilling will take place.


50 minutes enough for Steyn to destroy West Indies 0

Posted on March 03, 2015 by Ken

There were only 50 minutes of action for a decent Saturday crowd at SuperSport Park but it was highly pleasing fare for them as home-grown hero Dale Steyn destroyed the West Indies, bowling South Africa to victory by a massive innings and 220 runs, their second biggest win by an innings, in the first Test at Centurion.

Only their triumph over Sri Lanka at Newlands in the 2001 New Year’s Test, by an innings and 229 runs, has been bigger.

The West Indies batsmen resumed on 76-2 but were powerless to keep a rampant Steyn in check, the fast bowler taking six for 34 as the tourists were bundled out for 131, Kemar Roach again being unable to bat due to his ankle injury.

Steyn’s availability after bowling just five balls in the follow-on innings on Friday was a massive bonus for the injury-hit South Africans and even the most one-eyed West Indian supporter could not help but be impressed by a ferocious spell of fast bowling.

Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels added 11 to the overnight score before the left-handed Johnson (39) tried to play a short delivery from Steyn just outside off stump. It was unnecessary, the ball got big on him and he could not get over it, edging a regulation catch to wicketkeeper AB de Villiers.

Given Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s recent form – 270 runs in his last three innings without being dismissed – his displays in this Test have been an anomaly: 21 in the first innings and then just 4 on Saturday before a Steyn bouncer was beautifully straight and did not get up as much as the 40-year-old expected, the left-hander gloving a simple catch to De Villiers.

By now Steyn was as lethal as a basilisk, all fiery glances and poetry in motion as he hit the popping crease. Samuels (17) and Denesh Ramdin (4) were dismissed within three balls in his fifth over of the morning, the former undone by a clever cutter that gripped and bounced more than expected, and the West Indies captain dismissed in more conventional fashion, prodding from the crease at an away-swinger, De Villiers leaping nimbly to take a spectacular one-handed catch in front of slip.

The West Indies were 105 for six and their effete tail was no match for the brilliance of Steyn.

The last specialist batsman, Jermaine Blackwood, lasted for 17 balls in scoring 15 before a well-directed Morkel lifter at the body had him caught  at short-leg, replacement fielder Temba Bavuma snatching up a sharp catch.

Three overs later, it was all over, Steyn having enacted a heavy toll on the West Indies to make up for his wicket-less first innings and claiming his best figures at the ground he called home for so many years.

Seabelo Senatla’s scintillating Saturday 0

Posted on August 30, 2014 by Ken

It was a scintillating Saturday for left wing Seabelo Senatla at Loftus Versfeld as he scored a magnificent try and set up a brilliant second one as Western Province beat the Blue Bulls 23-18 in an entertaining Absa Currie Cup match.

Western Province bided their time, defending superbly as the Bulls dominated territory for long periods, and when they struck it was potent and clinical.

While the Bulls’ attack was mostly narrow, their forwards driving and mauling the ball up ad infinitum, Western Province kept their width and weren’t afraid to use it.

And the Bulls erred enough times while on attack to provide the visitors with counter-attacking opportunities. One of those was on the hour mark when wing Sampie Mastriet coughed up possession and Western Province fullback Cheslin Kolbe ran the turnover ball across the field and linked up with Senatla, who was holding position out wide on the 22m line.

Senatla had space, which is a recipe for disaster when defending against the Sevens star, and he embarked on a dazzling 80m run that saw him ignominiously burn William Small-Smith on the outside, before dancing infield and then bursting through Jesse Kriel’s tackle to score a try that will be remembered for many a day.

That brilliant try came just three minutes after Western Province had scored their first try, which was also a superb effort and possibly even more thrilling for the coaching staff because it came off a set-piece move.

From a lineout, flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis looped with eighthman Nizaam Carr and inside centre Jaco Taute then gave a super inside ball to Senatla, who came flying up from the left wing. The 21-year-old showed his wonderful feet as he danced through the gap and then fed the ball out wide to Kobus van Wyk, who had done well to keep his width, and finished with great pace himself.

Although Senatla was helped off the field soon afterwards after twisting his ankle, the injury is apparently not a major one and certainly not season-ending.

Catrakilis converted both tries and suddenly Western Province were 20-10 up when just five minutes earlier it had looked to be the Bulls’ day as they led 10-6 after a penalty by replacement flyhalf Tian Schoeman rewarded an excellent scrum by the home side.

“To play like that and to lose can make your mind go,” Bulls coach Frans Ludeke lamented after the match. “Credit to the players for a huge improvement and there were a lot of positives from that game. But we just lost momentum in the second half at crucial times, we didn’t exit well enough and there were soft moments.”

“I’m really very happy to beat a desperate Bulls side which showed a big improvement tonight, at altitude. It’s their first loss at Loftus Versfeld this year and if they’d played like that before they would have had many more points on the log. We made mistakes but it takes a tight team to pull through here,” Western Province coach Allister Coetzee said.

“Our defence is a non-negotiable, but we’ve also got the players to turn defence into attack. The outside backs were really switched on to that tonight and the half-backs also play a big role in that. We have strength, speed, guile and power in our backline and it’s a good combination.

“There’s a good balance to our play, it doesn’t depend on where we are on the field of play either, and we’re devastating at the moment from broken play,” the former Springbok assistant coach said.

The opening points of the match only came after 34 minutes of intriguing ball-in-hand action and massive defence by both sides.

A good kick by Kurt Coleman, on while Catrakilis was in the blood bin, forced the Bulls to concede a lineout just outside their 22 and the Western Province rolling maul earned the substitute flyhalf a penalty shot at goal.

Bulls flyhalf Joshua Stander  missed an easy penalty just a minute later and, after playing their best rugby of the campaign in the first half, dominating territory but hardly kicking, and pounding the advantage line, the home side would have been disappointed to have gone into the break scoreless.

Catrakilis landed a second penalty for Western Province five minutes into the second half – it came after a period of Bulls-like driving and mauling by the visitors – but it took just three more minutes for the hosts to score their first points, through a great try by storming flank Jacques du Plessis.

The Bulls were defending a lineout 30 metres from their line after a poor clearance by Kriel, but when Western Province threw over the top and eighthman Jono Ross won the ball, they again refused to just kick possession away. Instead Ross ran and found mobile lock Grant Hattingh, who burst clear into space. Mastriet then dashed down the right wing before the ball went back inside and Du Plessis charged over for an impressive try.

Stander converted and then his replacement Schoeman kicked a penalty to put the Bulls 10-6 up.

“We wanted to keep the pace and tempo of the game up, get numbers to the ball, and it was just our final passes that let us down,” Ludeke said. “We were really attacking the gainline and slowly but surely getting somewhere, but then we would give them broken field play and that’s where their tries came from. We need to look after the ball better, but I thought we had the better of them in the scrums and our lineouts were good.”

But then Senatla showed his extraordinary finishing talents to put Western Province firmly in control.

The Bulls held on to the ball well for the next 10 minutes to earn another penalty for Schoeman, but Dean Greyling’s high tackle on Kolbe gave Coleman the opportunity to restore a 10-point lead (23-13) just four minutes later.

The Bulls hammered away at close quarters in the final minutes and belatedly got quick ball out wide to Mastriet, who powered through two tackles from 20 metres out to score.

Schoeman missed the touchline conversion and the Bulls were unable to breach the phenomenal Western Province defence again before the final hooter sounded.

“We need the same effort but with more accuracy,” Ludeke concluded.

For Coetzee, Western Province’s fourth successive win not only stretches their lead at the top of the log to three points but could also be a watershed moment in their Currie Cup campaign.

“There’s a complete integration in our play and we need to keep going, be driven by our own standards and run our own race. Winning makes that easier and I must compliment the leadership for getting four points under these conditions: against a very desperate Bulls side at altitude,” Coetzee said.

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