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Ken Borland



John McFarland on Springboks v Barbarians & the European Tests 0

Posted on November 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks’ European tour-opener against the Barbarians this weekend is the perfect game to see some of the up-and-coming players in action before three tough Tests coming up against England, Italy and Wales.

Obviously the Barbarians fixture was put in place some time ago, probably by Heyneke Meyer, who would have wanted a warm-up game before taking on England. So the Barbarians team is not that strong, in matches before they have sometimes been like a World XV and players like Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have appeared for them against the Springboks.

Normally the game against the BaaBaas is at the end of the tour when they are far stronger, it’s a bit of an anomaly but I think it’s a blessing to have the match at the start of the trip.

Saturday’s outing gives a chance to some of the leading lights of the Currie Cup and SuperRugby, and it could be a completely different Springbok team next weekend against England – I think Allister Coetzee will choose a very experienced side, but the Barbarians match allows him a good couple of weeks to work with the fringe players. In preparing for the BaaBaas, they’ve been given a taste of Springbok rugby and it has also given Allister a chance to work more closely with these players and see how they fit in with his plans.

So it’s basically three weeks preparation for the England match and a chance for the staff to bed down as well. The Springboks are on to their third defence coach this year in JP Ferreira and he will obviously bring new ideas and skills, plus Franco Smith has joined the management. You normally don’t have that long to assimilate new ideas, but this time they can sort out their roles and responsibilities and Allister can see how they all gel together.

Choosing nine uncapped players in his squad to play the Barbarians has basically been forced on the Springboks, but Allister Coetzee understands the situation and he and Matt Proudfoot are both enlightened coaches when it comes to the benefits of having players in Japan.

There is a large amount of South African players spending their off-season in Japan, with the full blessing of their SuperRugby unions because they have signed dual contracts. It’s a win-win situation and, for example, someone like Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, with all his experience and wisdom, has a lot of his players on dual contracts. He knows it’s the best way to keep them in South Africa and not lose them to Europe.

For example, Franco Mostert was on his way to Olympique Lyon, but has now renewed his contract with the Lions and has signed to play in Japan as well. Louis Schreuder, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe and Patrick Osborne all spend their off-season with Kubota before going back to SuperRugby.

In fact, they actually spend very little time on the field because a team can only have three overseas players on the park at any given time. So all the main teams have a rotation policy such that the players don’t play too much but have sufficient time in action. For example, Jaco Kriel came off the bench for us last weekend to play the last 30 minutes, when he got injured, while Lionel Mapoe has only played in two of our four games since he came over.

The Japanese teams are all company-based with a mix of amateur and professional players. Our amateur guys are in their companies’ offices from 8am to 1pm and then they travel out to Funabashi where we are based. They are all totally committed to the cause and their work ethic and work rate are second to none – they’re always doing extra time after training working on things, it really is quite a thing to see.

Frans Ludeke and myself are part of a three-strong foreign coaching group, while we also have three Japanese coaches, who serve as translators.

Most of the teams also have links to SuperRugby franchises – for example while Allister Coetzee was here his Kobe team had links to Dave Rennie and his Chiefs side, while for us it’s with the Hurricanes. So there’s an exchange of ideas and the professional development of coaches.

Anyway, back to the Springboks and they actually have a really good record in Europe lately, having won 16 of their last 21 end-of-year Tests.

Under Heyneke, we had an 80% win record and in 2012 and 2013 we were highly successful, with wins over first Ireland, Scotland and England, and then the next year good triumphs against Wales, Scotland and France. We only lost in 2014 against Ireland and Wales, also when we didn’t have overseas-based players and Wales actually paid for their players to be released.

So in the last four seasons the Springboks have a tremendous record in the Northern Hemisphere and they only conceded half-a-dozen tries in that time, so the defence has been good.

This year the Barbarians will just have a basic framework to play within, but a Brendan Venter-coached Italy are waiting in the middle and it certainly won’t be easy against England and Wales.

To beat them, there are some key areas to get right, like the lineout maul.

England scored twice against us in 2014 with the drive, one of them being from 50 metres out, so the Springboks need to both stop the maul and execute it well themselves. I would like to see one of South Africa’s traditional strengths back in play.

In that same 2014 game we scored against England with a pre-planned move against the rush defence that had Pat Lambie kicking out to Willie le Roux, and playing in that weather means you have to kick well and win the territory battle.

The ability to dominate the collisions in secondary defence is another key thing the Springboks need to get back so they can produce front-foot ball on attack. Jean-Luc du Preez is a strong ball-carrier and tackler and the sort of blindside flank we need, plus he’s tall enough to be a lineout option.

I also know Roelof Smit very well because he waited a long time at the Bulls for a chance, he was very patient behind Deon Stegmann. He can certainly get over the ball and is very hard to shift, while he also has carrying ability and is very good at controlling the maul at the back. He’s a traditional openside flank and he has the physical attributes.

I hope the Springboks emerge with four good wins and then everything will be alright again in South African rugby.

 

 

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.

 

Smit hopes for Sanzar action following abysmal officiating 0

Posted on November 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks CEO John Smit said at the weekend that while he could not publically share his views on the abysmal officiating in the match against the Waratahs in Sydney, he hoped Sanzar would take action following some of the most one-sided decision-making ever seen in SuperRugby.

“I’m sure Sanzar leadership is strong enough 2 do something before we need 2 enquire ,I hope!”, Smit said on social media after being asked if the Sharks would make an official complaint after referee Paul Hoffman, TMO George Ayoub and the assistant referees blew the visitors off the park in a 33-18 defeat.

While coach Gary Gold described the outcome as “a cruel result”, he was restraint personified after a match in which even New South Wales legend Phil Kearns said the Sharks had been “stiffed”. The post-game press conference was dominated by Australian journalists asking how the visitors felt about the refereeing.

“It seemed that some calls didn’t go our way, but that’s the way it goes, I’m afraid. A desperate Waratahs side played well and asked questions of us, but I felt that we answered them. S’Bura Sithole was a bit unlucky not to get his try,” Gold said.

Although Hoffman blew the Sharks out of the water with all the efficiency of an Uzi machine gun, Gold said he was not bothered by the referee being an Australian.

“I don’t mind where the referee comes from, every coach just wants a competent referee. I like to believe there is too much at stake for them not to be impartial, for them it’s about going to the World Cup, so it shouldn’t matter where they come from,” Gold said.

The director of rugby said he had sympathy for Sanzar referee head Lyndon Bray, who was bearing a heavy burden in trying to improve the standard of officiating.

“I know Lyndon is working unbelievably hard to improve the refereeing and it’s a huge responsibility. I have a lot of faith in him, but it’s a difficult vision and the game needs us to give him all the support we can.”

The controversial defeat merely exacerbated a horror year for the Sharks, their ninth defeat in 13 games leaving them 11th on the log.

Gold said they had to ensure they did not unravel like a cheap hem in their remaining three games.

“We need to show our supporters how much it means to us. We’re in a bad place on the log, but we need to take the punches and man up and we will be better for it. Some second or third-choice players are getting an unbelievable opportunity to play in SuperRugby – guys like Stefan Ungerer, Lionel Cronje, Etienne Oosthuizen, Andre Esterhuizen, S’bura Sithole and Stephan Lewies – and they’ll be better for it,” Gold said.

Former Bok defence coach John McFarland on Springboks v Argentina 0

Posted on August 25, 2016 by Ken

 

There were some real positives to come out of the Springboks’ win over Argentina in Nelspruit, even though they did not get a bonus point, such as the attacking intent they showed and indications of some very good coaching by Allister Coetzee.

The Springboks showed plenty of attacking intent, like after their first full lineout they got the ball wide after just two passes, whereas before, Allister Coetzee teams would maul from there, so that was quite good. Ruan Combrinck’s try came from a brilliant second-line attack and Elton Jantjies’ timing of the pass and his break were superb, that was similar to the tries the All Blacks are scoring.

Allister is certainly doing some good work because if Lionel Mapoe hadn’t dropped the ball over the tryline, that would have been an excellent try from first phase, and Johan Goosen’s try set up by Faf de Klerk was either from brilliant analysis work and coaching or, if it was instinctive, then it was a very good read by Goosen. Although as a defence coach I would have been quite upset with the Pumas eighthman because he kept scrumming way after it was necessary!

The other impressive thing was how the Springboks changed their kicking plan at halftime. In the first half they had kicked long, booted the ball downfield to try and get territory, but against Argentina, if they have numbers at the back, then they can come back with a running-bomb.

So you have to give credit to Allister for going for more contestable kicks in the second half, for far greater reward. You always need to have contestable kicks against Argentina because their back three are good under the high ball, they’re tall players. So you need to kick from nine and get the chase going.

You also don’t want to expose our back three to the high ball after we have kicked, because then it’s guys like Elton Jantjies and Faf de Klerk at the back, Johan Goosen even, and they are all smaller guys.

The Springboks’ final try exposed the Pumas’ blindside defence and looked a preplanned move to me. They always try to get their outside backs on the Pumas’ tight forwards and that was some really good coaching, along with the kicking game being changed when the original plan wasn’t working and exposing the blindside.

In defence, however, there are work-ons for the Springboks that I’m sure they will put right.

Argentina scored a try from a kickoff restart and you have to give credit to them for that, because they were playing with 14 men at the time. Martin Landajo exposed our pillar defence, they should never move, and because it was a kickoff our players were deep and once the break was made, the Pumas could get into space.

Another try came from a chip. Because you have to cover the crosskick when you’re inside your 22, all 15 players are in the line, but someone has to move and turn, that chip defence needs to be in place.

I thought Faf was outstanding with his kicking game, the energy he generates and especially the number of defensive turnovers he makes. For someone who is just 1.73m tall, he makes some big plays through defence and really makes a difference. He was on our radar last year, but he’s obviously gained confidence and he’s so good at spotting any sort of gap and exploiting it. He really backs himself.

The Springboks really wanted to come away with a win and winning ugly is often a good thing. You need to build confidence and have a good mindset when you go to a foreign country, and if they’d lost it would not have been there.

It’s become the norm in the Rugby Championship to play back-to-back games against the same opposition but there’ll be very little chance for preparation this week because it’s a marathon trip to Salta, including a three-hour flight on the Friday, and the players have to have time to recover and get fresh.

When we played in Salta in 2014 we had to come back again, winning 33-31, and we changed to contestable kicks. Plus it was so hot, even though we played at 5pm, and it’s at altitude on a small pitch, so it’s tough conditions.

The key for the Springboks will be the scrum and their set-pieces need to be good, and they need to kick contestables and attack the Pumas tight forwards on the blindside. Fortunately the scrum was good in Nelspruit and the driving maul broke them down as well.

Hopefully the Springboks will be able to show more of that attacking intent and it’s been interesting to see in the Currie Cup that there have been a lot of tries, which is an indication of attacking intent at that level as well. There are a lot of new, different coaches in the Currie Cup and it’s great to see a real mindset of scoring tries.

 

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.

Gold hopes Sharks’ courage will bring some respite from critics 0

Posted on June 09, 2016 by Ken

 

Sharks coach Gary Gold said he hoped his team’s courageous effort against the Lions in Johannesburg at the weekend would give them some respite from their critics.

Although the Sharks went down 23-21 to the Lions to suffer their fifth defeat in nine matches, they pushed the in-form home side all the way and, had flyhalf Fred Zeilinga succeeded with an angled, long-range penalty after the hooter, they would have claimed a morale-boosting victory.

“Even our biggest critics want to know that there is some fight in this team and, after the week we’ve had, the guys really put their hands up, stuck in it for the full duration and were in a position to win it at the end. They showed huge character to keep out wave after wave of attack on our own line and it showed that we’re not just going to roll over and think our season is over,” Gold said.

On top of all the disruptions in the last week, the Sharks then had to contend with the late withdrawal of eighthman Ryan Kankowski with a knee injury and yet another yellow card, centre Andre Esterhuizen being sent to the sin bin for a late tackle, which Gold felt was a contentious call.

“The yellow card was unbelievably frustrating and the wrong call. Every decision should be taken on its own merits and I’m still wondering if the tackle was even late, so it definitely shouldn’t have been a yellow card. The sanction for a late tackle is a penalty and there was no malice involved, it wasn’t around the neck or anything,” Gold fumed.

The key period of the game was the 10 minutes either side of half-time when the Lions scored three times to turn a 14-6 deficit into a 25-14 lead, and Gold was at a loss to explain how it happened.

“We’ll have to have a look at that, we let it slip a bit there. We took a knock in confidence with that try just before halftime, but we had a constructive chat in the break, the talk was all positive and intelligent,” Gold said.

“But look at where we are in the competition, we’re just over halfway and we’re just four points behind the conference leaders, and I’m excited that this bunch of players can still get things right. The South African pool is very tight and just four points separates the top four teams.”

With several second-string choices playing their guts out against the Lions, it will be interesting to see who Gold recalls from the contingent of Springbok players that were left out, because this weekend’s game is against the conference-leading Bulls in Durban.

 

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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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