for quality writing

Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column – Not enough emphasis on defence 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

To see so many tries scored against the South African teams in SuperRugby last weekend – 26 in all – was disappointing and it’s not great when your top franchises are conceding so many tries in particular, but the problem is that there has just not been enough emphasis on defence.

Look at the value SA Rugby put on defence after Jacques Nienaber left halfway through 2016: they appointed Chean Roux in his position and he will freely admit that he was an absolute rookie defence coach at that stage. What does that say about how they rate defence and defence coaches?

We’ve now had the national indaba and the Springboks are on to their fourth defence coach under Allister Coetzee, but I’m sure Brendan Venter will do a really good job because he has the experience and the skills, and was the architect of the Saracens defensive system that has taken them to the European Champions Cup final.

But there was no national defence coach when the indaba was convened, so I wonder if there was input on defence at that gathering? After conceding a record score against New Zealand, defence was an obvious area that needed fixing.

It’s not Allister’s fault of course because he was handed his staff; now he has been given the staff he wants and I expect to see a massive improvement in the Springboks this year.

There are problems, but the people who coach defence in the franchises will, of course, care deeply about the defensive performances. In 2013, I remember when the Springboks conceded five tries against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but we needed the bonus point to win the Rugby Championship and we played a high-tempo game, which a lot of people said was one of the best Test matches ever played. But I stewed over those five tries for a month; but then at least we only conceded one try, to France, on the whole European tour thereafter.

So our defence in general is not in a great situation at present and whether it is due to conditioning problems or the speed of the modern game is open to debate. But you can never win a rugby match if you are conceding that many tries.

There’s obviously currently an emphasis on attacking skills but I’m certain the defence coaches are still being given sufficient time with their teams, and they would have done a lot of work on certain aspects of how the opposition attack. Like the Australian middle ruck attack, for instance, where the flyhalf goes hard for the line with a wing or centre like Israel Folau hard on their shoulder.

It’s no surprise when the New Zealand teams employ the kick-pass, especially the Hurricanes.

They employ the rush defence, therefore their wings have to be high and so there is always space behind them. Beauden Barrett would have had a lot of practice doing the kick-pass in training because he would see and have a high understanding of that space all the time.

The Stormers left too much of the field free, nearly 20 metres of space, and with players set in the wide channels, that’s not the smartest move.

In order to make sure you cover the width of the field, you need your tight five to work really hard close to the ruck, to set the breakdown correctly with good placing between the three pillars, and then the outside backs go wider.

The Bulls obviously had problems with their defence and if you said it started with their conditioning then you would not be far off. They also have folding problems, they’re just not setting the breakdown around the corner and so they end up with insufficient numbers.

They were also caught out by grubbers and so one has to ask questions about the back three’s positional play. They need to co-ordinate better to cover those and they need a much higher work-rate.

The Southern Kings have also had defensive problems and so it is only really the Lions and Sharks, who are defending in the same fashion as always, who can be satisfied with their defence.

The Lions have shown a great defensive improvement and one must credit JP Ferreira for improving their consistency in this regard.

The Lions are rolling through nicely and it will be a phenomenal tour if they can beat the Brumbies, which will make it probably the first unbeaten tour by a South African team – a tremendous achievement, and they’ve been winning with bonus points!

We know Australian rugby is at an all-time low and they have even more defensive problems, but their forwards are really their soft underbelly and the Lions have exposed that to great effect.

And the quality of finishing this weekend by Courtnall Skosan and Sylvian Mahuza was top-class. As we get closer to the Springbok selection, it’s a good time for players to remind the national coach that they are out there by scoring skilful tries like that.

In South Africa, skills development seems to be more coach-driven, but in New Zealand, the players take personal responsibility for it. An example at the Kubota Spears is Patrick Osborne, who has played at the top level as a wing, but he works hard on his kicking. He’s playing as a right-footer on the left wing, so he’s constantly working on his left-footed grubbers and other kicks, he does that consistently.

To see a top New Zealand SuperRugby player take individual responsibility like that was quite an eye-opener.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland 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.

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.

 

Amla can really appreciate the value of a single run, ask Stiaan 0

Posted on February 27, 2015 by Ken

By the end of his career, there will probably be anthologies written about all the elegant runs Hashim Amla has scored, but from 22 yards away he could really appreciate the value of just a single run.

It was the single that began Stiaan van Zyl’s Test career and the left-hander returned to the changeroom exactly a hundred runs later having joined the select band of batsmen who have scored a century on debut.

The single came as he flicked left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn through short-leg and Amla met Van Zyl in the middle of the pitch and said “I know it’s only just one run, but very well done!”

Van Zyl smiled in relief and went about knocking up an impressive 129-ball century in the first Test against the West Indies at Centurion on Thursday.

It was not without its troubles, however, particularly at the start when he almost edged his first ball to leg-gully off Benn and was dropped in the same position off the giant left-arm spinner on two.

“I was very nervous, before the first ball my gloves were wet. Benn is a bit taller than your normal spinner [Amla pointed out that he releases the ball from about three metres high!] and there was a bit of bounce and turn. It was a rough start but it became a bit easier.

“It’s obviously a big stage, but I told myself that it’s just the same old cricket ball coming at you. I just wanted to get past 10, to feel my way in, and once I got 50 I thought a hundred might be possible. Fortunately they gave me enough bad balls for me to get there,” Van Zyl said.

The left-hander added that the experience gained over the course of his 96 first-class games also helped, as did the foundation laid by playing for the all-conquering Cape Cobras side.

Although he was given the ideal platform by Amla and De Villiers’ record fourth-wicket stand of 308, it did not make his task any easier that he had to wait for over five hours with his pads on.

“We lost three quick wickets and my pads were on, and then every ball could be the one that brings you in. So it was quite mentally draining and I had to walk around and try and focus on other stuff. It’s a different ball game coming in at 365 for four compared to 50 for three, so the platform took the pressure off and I was able to just play freely,” Van Zyl said.

The 27-year-old’s brisk innings was also important as it appertains to the match situation, allowing South Africa to declare on 552 for five half-an-hour before the scheduled tea break. That should have given the hosts 38 overs in which to knock over the West Indian top-order, but a typical summer thunderstorm washed out that possibility, with no more play possible on the second day.

“We were looking to score runs, with rain around, and I wanted to declare earlier rather than later, plus there was always going to be bad light. We wanted to score quickly to give us as much time as possible to bowl at them. Now we have three days to get 20 wickets and hopefully the pitch sweating under the covers a bit might work in our favour,” captain Amla said.

Although the pitch has flattened out a bit, South Africa’s total is surely insuperable for a West Indies batting line-up that has averaged just 262 runs per innings in South Africa.

“The team is in position, we were in trouble but AB and I had a crucial partnership when the pitch still had a bit in it. I’m really happy to get some runs [208!] and the pitch still has a bit in it up front if you bowl in the right area. There are a few divots because it was quite soft on the first day and we have a good score on the board for what I consider the best attack in the world to bowl at,” Amla said.

 http://citizen.co.za/296037/just-wanted-get-past-10-stiaan-van-zyl/

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    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



↑ Top