for quality writing

Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Coaching changes aplenty as SuperRugby returns 0

Posted on February 15, 2018 by Ken

 

It is really exciting to have rugby starting again in the Southern Hemisphere this weekend and what I’m really looking forward to is having a traditional South African Saturday afternoon braai here while watching the rugby, something I won’t be getting in freezing Japan when I return there.

SuperRugby is a ‘new’ competition this year with 18 teams having been cut to 15, supposedly to ensure more closer contests and greater competitiveness. But I do have my reservations because SuperRugby must be the only competition in the world where over 50% of the competing teams make the playoffs, apart from the Currie Cup of course!

Despite eight teams making it through to the quarterfinals, there are clearly only a few places up for grabs, and you can pretty much see already the teams that aren’t going to make it – the Melbourne Rebels, Queensland Reds, Sunwolves, Jaguares and one New Zealand side.

I would say the Kiwi team to miss out will probably be the Chiefs because they are under new management and have lost some massive names – Tawera Kerr-Barlow, Liam Messam, Michael Leitch and most importantly coach Dave Rennie.

And then there will be two South African sides that miss out. I’m pessimistic about our chances because of our SuperRugby record in New Zealand over the last six years, which is nothing to brag about. We can beat New Zealand teams in South Africa, but it is a whole different kettle of fish doing it away from home – and those are the points you have to get in order to succeed in SuperRugby.

The other thing about the rule that eight out of 15 teams qualify for the knockout rounds is that it makes bonus points very necessary for teams to pick up, so it has been pleasing to see the stated attacking intent of our franchises. But because you only get a bonus point by finishing three clear tries ahead of your opponents, that means teams have to defend as well.

In terms of the South African teams, there have been many changes in coaching set-up.

The Bulls have a fresh coaching team and I know they have been working hard and it will be interesting to see how they go. Having been to training at Loftus Versfeld, they certainly look in good shape, for which you have to credit the conditioning staff and John Mitchell.

The Bulls do have certain strengths, especially at hooker and their lock pairings, and the spine of their team is quite strong – hooker, the locks, eighthman, scrumhalf, flyhalf and fullback all look good. I suppose we can be not entirely sure about scrumhalf because Ivan van Zyl and Embrose Papier have got just two SuperRugby appearances between them. How those two cope with the step up to SuperRugby will be crucial; they are both certainly talented and this is now their chance and their time. These days scrumhalf is a young man’s position because it’s all about energy and work-rate.

The Bulls have a very tough start to the competition and how they get through that will be key. They play three New Zealand teams and the Lions in their first five games and if they can come through that with a positive ledger then they will really be contenders.

The Stormers have obviously lost a lot of quality centres and the injuries around their locks is also a concern. It’s interesting to see the changing roles of their coaching staff  and how that works out.

The Stormers were certainly a real handful in Cape Town last year with their offloading game and the way they scored tries. They will now have even more danger on the wings with the players they’ve added, but the big question mark will be how they defend away from home.

They obviously have problems at flyhalf after losing their lynchpin from last year in Robert du Preez, who really made a difference in the Currie Cup final with his control and ability to dictate field position, as well as his immaculate goal-kicking.

Unfortunately the Stormers have a real draw from hell after being in relatively easy Super 18 pools, but if they get a good start then they obviously can be playoff contenders.

The Sharks have also made changes to their coaching set-up. Dick Muir has come back to Durban and they are obviously not going to die wondering in terms of attack.

They have also made some astute signings like Du Preez and Makazole Mapimpi, and with Japanese players like Philip van der Walt and Andre Esterhuizen coming back, they should certainly be a handful. It’s also going to be interesting to watch Thomas du Toit’s move to tighthead after the Sharks scrum was demolished by Western Province in the Currie Cup final.

The Sharks do have a quality, big forward pack and if they keep them all fit and start well (they have a couple of nice games at home early on), that should bear them in good stead.

The Lions have also undergone a change in coaching staff, making appointments from within the franchise and giving guys their first chance at SuperRugby level, although Swys de Bruin has been there through all their recent success. It will be interesting to see how he steps up to being head coach and how well the Lions ride the loss of the Ackermanns, father and son.

The Lions’ strength is in their centres, with Lionel Mapoe, Harold Vorster and Rohan Janse van Rensburg certainly a quality trio. How the Lions accommodate all three of them through the season will be interesting.

The key for the Lions is that the spine of their team are now all seasoned Test players – Andries Coetzee, Elton Jantjies, Ross Cronje, Warren Whiteley and Malcolm Marx – so their core is still very strong.

It’s vital that they make a good start and they have always had strong set-pieces, so it will also be interesting to see how that evolves under new forwards coach Phillip Lemmer because the Lions have always scored a lot of tries through driving mauls and lineout special plays. Will that strength still be there?

The Sunwolves will be in action next week and they will certainly be stronger this year, they have a whole host of foreign players and the rest are basically the Japan national squad working towards the next World Cup. They are also under the former Highlanders pairing of Jamie Joseph and Tony Brown, who are very experienced SuperRugby coaches.

Once again the Kiwi franchises are the ones to beat, but obviously the British Lions’ success in New Zealand in June gave a little blueprint to teams in terms of how to succeed over there. You need a strong pack of forwards, good set-pieces to put them under pressure, a rush-defence to deny their playmakers time on the ball and extremely accurate box-kicking from scrumhalf because that is the hardest kick to counter-attack from because of the chase.

 

 

 

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.

T

 

Run of defeats against Wallabies rankles De Villiers 0

Posted on February 02, 2018 by Ken

 

It is a run of defeats that South African captain Jean de Villiers has admitted rankles him, the veteran of 79 Tests having played against far better Wallabies teams since making his debut in 2002.

Australia’s five straight wins against South Africa is a record for them, but they have also won seven of the last eight meetings.

De Villiers said Friday that that record is “simply not good enough. That can never be acceptable and this team has now inherited that record, so it’s our job to rectify that.”

De Villiers also added that the 2012 Springbok class is a distinct team to last year’s, pointing out that they were responsible for six of those seven defeats. But there was more than just a hint of mental block when South Africa thoroughly dominated the Wallabies in the first half in Perth but failed to put them away.

Full preview – https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-09-28-rugby-championship-test-sprinkboks-hungry-for-wallaby-meat/#.WnhFva6WbIU

Proteas end high up in rankings but hardly inspired in 2017 0

Posted on January 12, 2018 by Ken

 

South Africa ended last year ranked second in Tests and first in one-day internationals in the International Cricket Council rankings, but they were hardly inspired in 2017.

In fact, the Proteas were more like the bully in the schoolyard, bolstering their self-esteem, and rankings, by picking on easy-beats like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at home. But when they were up against the big boys, most notably in the Champions Trophy and in the four-Test series in England, they folded in a heap.

Although they won in New Zealand, the ODIs were tightly-contested and they had good fortune in the Tests, rain washing out the final game when the Black Caps were in an excellent position to level the series.

In terms of individual performances, Hashim Amla and Kagiso Rabada continued to deliver world-class performances on a consistent basis, with the batting of AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis helping to make the ODI batting unit a dominant force.

Imran Tahir was their best white-ball bowler but it was the Test spinner, Keshav Maharaj, who perhaps made the greatest strides in 2017 and, at the age of 27, he is clearly a future star for the Proteas.

The arrival of Aiden Markram as a technically solid opening partner for Dean Elgar, who was the mainstay of the Test batting with 1128 runs, behind only India’s Cheteshwar Pujara and Aussie maestro Steve Smith in the year’s tally, helped bolster a batting line-up that was exposed in England, especially during De Villiers’ hiatus from Test cricket.

Markram will obviously face far sterner challenges than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in 2018, but he couldn’t have been expected to do much better than 380 runs in his first four innings, including two centuries.

But that there were more question marks than answers over the Proteas’ performance was borne out by the departure of Russell Domingo as coach before the start of the summer and the arrival of former West Indies head coach and England assistant Ottis Gibson.

After a gentle introduction into the job, his charges feasting on minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Gibson faces his first real test in the new year as world number ones India arrive.

He will need to keep De Villiers available for Tests just to settle the batting line-up, while the bowlers are certainly there to challenge for the number one ranking, the only problem being keeping them fit and getting the right balance in selection due to the transformation targets.

Most importantly, Gibson will be focused on the creation of a steely edge in the team, and has already created expectation for the 2019 World Cup by declaring that winning that elusive trophy is his goal.

When put under proper pressure by the likes of England, and by Pakistan and India in the Champions Trophy, the old signs of muddled thinking and near-panic were once again there. Gibson will want to make the Proteas a side that plays the big moments well and seizes every opportunity that comes their way.

The South African women’s team provided some of the highlights of the year and captured the imagination of cricket fans back home by narrowly missing out on a place in the Women’s World Cup final, hosts and eventual champions England just sneaking through in a pulsating semi-final.

Players such as Marizanne Kapp, the number one ODI bowler in the world, and Dane van Niekerk became global stars.

 

Free-thinking Frittelli zooming up the rankings 0

Posted on December 11, 2017 by Ken

 

Dylan Frittelli is South Africa’s fastest rising golf star and a stellar 2017 has seen him zoom up the world golf rankings from number 152 at the start of the year to 55th when he teed it up at the Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club this week.

The 27-year-old can certainly hit a little white dimpled ball as cleanly and powerfully as anyone else in the country, courtesy of the natural ball skills that saw him earn junior provincial colours in baseball, soccer, hockey and golf, but Frittelli clearly has another great strength, one that is as priceless as a ming vase when it comes to a sport as mentally taxing as golf.

Frittelli is clearly a deep thinker on the game and much of that thinking can be classified as lateral judging by the unusual decisions he has made.

Golf started as a Sunday driving range occupation with his provincial hockey-playing father, with a few rounds with friends over the holidays, but at the age of 11, Frittelli went to a World of Golf camp where his considerable talent was first spotted by a coach.

“From then I took things seriously, but I still played a bunch of sports until I was 15,” Frittelli said.

It was when the Johannesburg-born youngster went to St Albans boarding school in Pretoria that he made his first eccentric decision that worked out wonderfully.

“At St Albans, I asked the headmaster if I could just play golf and he said no, because they needed me in the cricket and hockey teams. So I did home-schooling instead, it was a bit of a mad scientist idea and I just said ‘let’s see what happens’. I started matric in Grade 10 and was done a year earlier than if I’d stayed in school,” Frittelli explained.

The tall, dark-haired Frittelli continues to do things differently to this day, foregoing time-consuming and often energy-draining practice rounds on courses he has played before, and even taking a compass on to the tee with him to ensure he gets his angles dead right.

The extra year he gained through home-schooling allowed Frittelli to not only play more golf but also seriously consider trying to get into the American college golf programme.

“I had it in mind that I really wanted to go to the United States and when I won the Junior World Championships in San Diego when I was 17, that opened doors for me. It was between the University of Texas and Arkansas, and Texas offered me a full scholarship,” he said.

And, by a quirk of fate, a young Jordan Spieth soon also arrived at the University of Texas and he and Frittelli would earn the Longhorns their first national championship title in 40 years in 2012, the South African sinking a 30-foot putt on the 18th to claim the win.

“Jordan was still a junior then, but I stayed in the same dorm as him at the Spirit International and helped persuade him to come to Texas. We were pretty much playing at the same level back then and to make the putt to win Nationals was huge, especially since we hadn’t won for so long,” Frittelli said.

Frittelli has won twice on the European Tour this year and, although his chances of adding to that tally at the Joburg Open are slim as he ended his second round 10 shots off the pace, he looks set to break into the top-50 in the world rankings in the near future.

And then he will be going to the majors, from which he hopes to get into the U.S. PGA Tour, especially since he still has a house in Austin, Texas.

He also badly wants to win in South Africa, to show local fans, who have not had much chance to get to know him, what he’s made of.

“I’ve only gained spots through qualifying school on the European and Sunshine tours but I would love to play in the U.S. as well. I also haven’t had any big victories in South Africa, which I would love to do because that would definitely cement my standing here.

“But I pride myself on being able to play well away from home and I won in Canada, the U.S. and Puerto Rico as an amateur, and now in Europe and Mauritius as a pro. Every good result you get breeds confidence and I felt really calm winning in Mauritius last week, which is how you want to be. No stress,” the laid-back surfing fan said.

https://citizen.co.za/sport/1753864/sas-fastest-rising-golf-star/



↑ Top