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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: In praise of the Crusaders, SuperRugby champions 0

Posted on August 10, 2017 by Ken

 

Congratulations to the Crusaders for winning the SuperRugby final and one can only give them credit for an unbelievable season.

They lost just one game, against the Hurricanes in Wellington, and they are the first team to win the final after flying across the Indian Ocean.

Keeping the Lions to just two tries – even with just 14 men – was a heck of a defensive effort, especially with all the flying they had to do.

But the Crusaders are a very experienced group built on a tremendous forward pack. Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and Israel Dagg, in the backline, are four world-class players and guys like Matt Todd and Ryan Crotty are really solid players too.

The Crusaders’ set-pieces were very strong and, as predicted, it was a different kettle of fish in the lineouts for the Lions, with Whitelock making some crucial steals, and they negated the lineout drive.

The Lions’ strength is built on forward dominance, at the lineout and scrum, but with four international front-rowers in their squad, the Crusaders stood up very well. They have an international-class tight five, plus Luke Romano off the bench and Kieran Read is one of the best lineout forwards in the world.

You could see how much it meant for the Lions – they really wanted to send off Johan Ackermann on a high – but the red card obviously had a huge effect.

It was the right decision by the officials, there’s no two ways about it.

The decision by Elton Jantjies to send up the high kick would have been because their ball was a bit slow, but then the chaser (flank Kwagga Smith) was sprinting and not even looking at the ball. The rule is quite clear that if you land up under the guy catching the ball – who is now in a very vulnerable position – it’s a red card.

In the Varsity Cup, there is already the rule that if the defending team catches an up-and-under and calls for the mark, then it’s a free kick, which makes teams less prone to try the high kick.

In a lot of situations, you’re dealing with specialists (the wings) doing the chasing and catching, but the problem comes when someone not used to it, it’s not their role, ends up doing the chasing or catching.

But rugby must never lose the contest for the high ball, it’s been part of the game since the 1930s in Ireland when the Garryowen was used in the rain.

If it’s a fair contest and both sets of eyes are on the ball, then all good, but Kwagga probably needed to wait until David Havili had come down before trying to tackle him.

The Crusaders were well in control at that stage, but the Lions are known for their finishing at altitude and it was 14-10 with 14 men in the second half and they were pushing hard.

Defensively, Kieran Read’s brilliant tackle on Elton Jantjies forced the turnover and a 70-metre try as the Lions ran out of width and Ross Cronje had to try and chase the wing; while Read’s own try came when Ruan Combrinck was the last defender at the goalposts, so the Lions were obviously in trouble there.

The Crusaders built up a big enough lead to force Jantjies not to kick for poles, but the Lions need to realise the importance of taking your points in finals rugby. It reminds me of 2012 with the Bulls in New Zealand when we lost 28-13 to the Crusaders in Christchurch. We outscored them two tries to one, but Dan Carter kicked six penalties and a drop goal. That’s always the right mindset in playoffs, especially at altitude because the game can change very quickly.

As the Crusaders coach back then, Todd Blackadder, used to say: “You must take every point,” and the New Zealand side certainly did that in this year’s final.

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.

A new maturity behind De Kock’s top-class season 0

Posted on May 26, 2017 by Ken

 

A top-class season resulted in a handful of trophies for Quinton de Kock at the Cricket South Africa Awards over the weekend, and the wicketkeeper/batsman said he is approaching his game with a new maturity that befits his evolution into one of the senior players.

“I think I’ve slowly grown up and I’m being more mature about the game now, being more clever in the way I do things and prepare. I’m going to keep trying to learn and hopefully become even better. I don’t know as much as guys like AB and Hash, they are true geniuses and they teach me.

“I’m really focusing on my batting because in the next couple of years we’re going to have to start replacing some senior batsmen and I will have a more senior role. Sometimes you just need to do things yourself and I think I’m a fairly fast learner. Sometimes it’s all about trying to read what the bowler is trying to do or reading the situation,” De Kock said after he was named the overall Cricketer of the Year.

“To get all these individual accolades is nice, it feels good, but being able to just change the momentum or do something to keep the momentum for your team is the ultimate.”

The ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year is now off to England to try and help the Proteas to Champions Trophy glory. Although South Africa go into the tournament as the number one ranked side, suggesting they have the inside lane to success, De Kock downplayed expectations.

“We have a lot of backing at every ICC tournament, it seems whenever we go into a big tournament we’re always the favourites, but we don’t want to say too much about that. We don’t want to be the favourites, we just want to go and do our best, take it game-by-game,” De Kock said.

In addition to the main award, De Kock was also named Test Cricketer of the Year and ODI Cricketer of the Year, was honoured by his peers by being named SA Players’ Player of the Year and by the fans as the SA Fans Player of the Year.

De Kock scored 761 Test runs last season at an average of 54.35 and 805 ODI runs at an average of 50.31 and a strike-rate of 115.

 

Why such negativity in the season of hope? 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

This is the season of hope and our cricketers have certainly given cause for much optimism for the rest of the summer, and yet there are still people spreading negativity about the game in this country.

It started up again when Keaton Jennings, son of former Transvaal Mean Machine great Ray, made a century on debut for England against India last week. The South African-born expat is 24 years old and has been playing for Durham since 2012.

Following his brilliant 112 in the first innings in Mumbai, the nonsense talk started about Jennings being ignored by the South African system, without honour in his own land, if you like, with “quotas” receiving their normal share of the blame.

Just to set the record straight, young Jennings was the captain of the SA U19 team in 2011 and made his first-class debut for Gauteng later that same year. So Jennings was in the system, playing in the same side as Quinton de Kock at that stage, but to expect him just to waltz into the Highveld Lions team ahead of players like Alviro Petersen, Neil McKenzie, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook and Zander de Bruyn would have been naïve.

So Jennings was not denied fair opportunity, he merely made a personal decision, good luck to him, and it in no way reflects badly on Cricket South Africa.

The other bizarre negativity at the moment surrounds AB de Villiers’ selfless decision to give up the Test captaincy.

From being the blue-eyed boy of South African cricket, suddenly certain people are reading all sorts of sinister motives and reasons into De Villiers’ decision. It’s disgraceful that aspersions are now being cast on the honourable Faf du Plessis and his long-time friendship with De Villiers.

The person crying foul the most has been Fanie de Villiers, but then he has had an axe to grind with South African cricket for some time, and is persona non grata around the Proteas so he doesn’t really know what is going on inside that camp.

Sit down Fanie and follow the wise advice that says: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, rather don’t say anything!”

Titans hard at work in midwinter to find a new coach 0

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Ken

 

It may be midwinter but the Titans are hard at work for the cricket season ahead, announcing Multiply, Momentum’s lifestyle and wellness program, as their new team sponsor for 50-over and four-day cricket on Tuesday, but their major focus is on finding a new coach to replace Rob Walter.

Walter is heading to New Zealand to coach Otago from September 1 and, although the Titans were in negotiations with a former South African international based in England, they were frozen out due to the problems with trying to match a pounds salary with rands.

“We’ll be advertising the post from today, so the process starts. We did look at a few candidates initially, we made approaches, but it’s not always possible to get the people you want. It’s difficult to attract guys because of the currency weakness and not all the guys are available. But we hope to complete the search in two or three weeks,” Titans chief executive Jacques Faul said on Tuesday.

“Looking at the squad we have, we need someone who can keep winning trophies. We need to fit the coach with the squad because the players have just come off a helluva season. Obviously the coach must bring something new to the table, but he must be able to work with the squad we’ve got. Rob did so well, winning trophies, but there’s also the bigger picture of producing Proteas, and that’s what the new coach needs to duplicate.”

Although Walter has joined HD Ackerman and Pierre de Bruyn as high-profile coaches leaving South Africa this year, Faul said he believes there is still more than enough talent available when it comes to coaching.

“I’m very positive. There are a lot of young coaches coming through, a guy like Malibongwe Maketa energised the Warriors and they are playing an exciting brand of cricket, and I think we have good systems, I think there is a lot of talent around the country. If one or two guys leave, it doesn’t mean that the system is in trouble.

“A guy like Geoff Toyana is a very good coach, but he had to get the opportunity first and somebody had to leave. We’re part of a global village that attracts good coaches, and I think we’ll get a lot of overseas applications. We’re not hitting any panic buttons,” Faul said.



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