for quality writing

Ken Borland



John McFarland Column – SuperRugby format definitely needs to change 0

Posted on March 16, 2017 by Ken

 

There has been some real conjecture and speculation about how SuperRugby is going to change in 2018, but the one thing that is clear is that it definitely needs to change – declining viewing figures and attendance at the games proves it.

While the administrators took the wrong direction when they changed the format back in 2015, the move to expand was the right decision. Promises had obviously been made to the Southern Kings and a Japanese team is vital if they are going to maintain the improvement they have shown and grow the sport in that country.

Argentina also now have a great development program and they’re no longer losing as many top players to Europe, so it’s vital they stay in as well.

The problem is I don’t think the administrators knew what they let themselves in for travel-wise. The Sunwolves are 10 hours from Australia so they should be in that conference and then they would travel a lot less.

The Southern Kings are probably going to be judged on the basis of their results, bankruptcy and as money-makers, but they did really well initially in terms of getting numbers to games. They have performed better this year, so credit must go to the coaching staff for that improvement, but they still have not really moved forward, there is still a big difference between them and the other teams.

Normally during the time of SuperRugby negotiations, there are people saying that South Africa will go play in Europe but that hasn’t happened that much this time around so we are obviously committed to SuperRugby and the three conferences.

It will be very disappointing if we lose the Cheetahs, but I expect to see a deal in our favour, especially since last time we managed to get two home semi-finals. The SA Rugby Union negotiators must stand up for what they believe in and push for what they want.

I don’t think the players are averse to travel, but being away for five weeks in Australia and New Zealand as the Bulls were in the past is a heck of a trip and that’s why it was virtually impossible for a South African team to win SuperRugby, having to play five matches overseas.

This weekend we have our first Friday night SuperRugby game when the Bulls host the Sunwolves, which is hard to believe considering the six hours of rugby we’ve had to sit through on Saturdays. People want to watch rugby when they come home on Friday evening around a barbecue, but unfortunately the TV schedules have not allowed it.

On a happier note, I was fortunate to attend the Springbok Sevens training for a couple of weeks and was able to see first-hand what good coaching, spirit and attention to detail there is in that set-up. The Blitzboks’ culture is second to none, the way they back each other, encourage one another and work in the training sessions is outstanding.

That’s their strength as well as continuity. Someone like conditioning coach Allan Temple-Jones has been there forever and does a superb job – the Springbok Sevens are the best-conditioned team on the circuit and they are reaping the benefits of that.

What is most encouraging is that people are talking about Sevens and what the Blitzboks have done, and watching the games.

They are also never scared to use specialists – Richie Gray was brought in to work on the breakdowns before the Olympics and Dawie Snyman, the former Western Province coach, is doing a lot of work on their footwork and coaching them in sidestepping. You can see that coming through in the way they are beating people, so credit to him.

Neil Powell is overseeing it all and is handling the job with great dignity, so I really hope they come through and win the series. England are the only team with the continuity to push them and will be their biggest competition.

Continuity breeds confidence in any high-performance sport.

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.

 

 

John McFarland Column – The intent is obviously there 0

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the quality of the games last weekend, I am really looking forward to this weekend’s SuperRugby action, with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions looking like South Africa’s three major contenders.

Last weekend we saw very different South African derbies to what we normally see and the will to attack was clearly there. The intent was obviously there to play with ball in hand and the teams played with real speed in terms of tempo, and pace, which made a heck of an impact.

An example of this was when the Stormers took a quick tap and scored seven points against the Bulls; they, in particular, showed more intent than they have in the past.

The effects of the new tackle law, meaning players now have to go lower with their hits, were also evident in that there were more offloads. Attacks can now continue through the tackle because the arms are free and the tall guys can get the ball above the tackle. It keeps the ball alive and it has led to a lot more continuity.

What was really impressive to me was how lean some of the leading Springboks looked. Guys like Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi looked in great shape and the speed they played at was a direct consequence of their fitness levels.

There’s definitely been a huge emphasis on conditioning through the franchises and it could mean the end of the New Zealand and Australian sides feeling that a high ball-in-play figure is their secret to success because the South African teams will tire.

While the Stormers were fantastic, what was encouraging about the Bulls was that they never gave up, which is huge. They denied the Stormers a bonus point, which at the end of the day could be vital; from 24-0 up at halftime, the Stormers really needed to get that bonus point. The second half would have provided a huge swing in confidence for the Bulls.

In the Cheetahs versus Lions game in Bloemfontein, the visitors really got out of jail, but if you can score three tries away from home then you deserve your victory.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg showed his finishing power and speed, while the Lions’ try down the short side to win the match showed again that rugby is about defending the full width of the field, even if you only have two or three metres to touch.

The penalty try given off a driving maul was a game-changer; most referees would have copped out and just given a penalty, but if the maul is set and moving forward then it deserves that decision, so credit to referee Quinton Immelman for his brave call.

The Southern Kings looked better and scored some really good tries, but again conceded turnovers at crucial times. During the first half they were in control for long periods, but a yellow card really cost them and prop Ross Geldenhuys was lucky not to get a red card, which a knee to the back should be penalised with.

The major talking point of the last week in the rugby world, however, was Italy and their decision not to contest rucks against England.

I had lunch with Brendan Venter last week and he mentioned that they were going to do it. Any tactic that is new and innovative has to be applauded and it certainly took England a long time to cope with it, so credit to Brendan and the rest of the Italian coaching staff and players for that.

But I believe World Rugby do need to look at the law. As defence coaches, we encourage players to get back on their feet and in the defensive line, but now teams might just try to herd the attacking team into a small radius of the ruck, which would not be good for the game.

It would take a full week of coaching to get a game plan against Italy’s tactic. It was  a real shock-and-awe strategy and difficult to adapt to on your feet. In fact, England played into Italy’s hands with their counter to it, so it clearly worked as a tactic.

 

 

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 single miss costs the Sharks 0

Posted on February 27, 2017 by Ken

 

A single miss in an otherwise top-class kicking display by Pat Lambie cost the Sharks victory as they went down 26-28 to the Reds in their opening SuperRugby match in Brisbane on Friday.

Lambie missed a penalty three minutes from full-time that would have snatched a fortuitous victory, given that a Reds team that played with 14 men for 20 minutes outscored them by four tries to two.

With Lambie earlier kicking six-from-six, the Sharks enjoyed a 26-18 lead with 16 minutes remaining, but a poor finish to the game saw them concede two tries.

The Sharks made a great start with a try in the second minute when the Reds were throwing passes around and flyhalf Quade Cooper dropped the ball, outside centre Lukhanyo Am pounced and a quick interchange with wing Kobus van Wyk then put flank Jean-Luc du Preez away to storm over the tryline.

Lambie’s conversion made it 7-0, but the Sharks were unable to threaten the Reds’ tryline again in the first half, largely because they had to make do with a tiny proportion of possession, their failure to hang on to the ball for long periods meaning they had to do most of the defending.

Cooper and Lambie traded two penalties each to make the score 13-6 at the half-hour, but Van Wyk then turned village idiot and tried to take a quick lineout inside his own 22, an isolated Curwin Bosch conceding a scrum. The Reds forwards drove strongly and eighthman Scott Higginbotham dotted down through the pile of bodies for the home side’s opening try, Cooper’s conversion levelling the scores at 13-13.

Lambie snuck a penalty in the last-minute of the first half, thanks to lock Ruan Botha twice putting great pressure on Reds scrumhalf Nick Frisby, for the Sharks to lead 16-13 at the break, and the visitors showed hitherto unseen control in the opening exchanges of the second half, dominating territory and hanging on to the ball much better.

Lambie succeeded with a 43rd-minute penalty to stretch the lead to 19-13, but Queensland centre Samu Kerevi struck back with the first of his two tries six minutes later.

Running with great power and awareness, he burst through a gap between scrumhalf Cobus Reinach and Am, to score after the Reds chose a scrum under the shadow of the poles instead of a kick at goal. Cooper failed with an easy conversion attempt, which allowed the Sharks to hang on to a slender one-point lead.

With referee Nick Briant suddenly remembering that there is no tolerance for neck-tackles this season, Reds lock Kane Douglas was yellow-carded for pulling at Beast Mtawarira’s neck in the 57th minute.

With a lot of the Reds muscle gone, the Sharks understandably went for rolling mauls when awarded penalties, but there was no accuracy in their first couple of attempts, but eventually eighthman Tera Mtembu rumbled over in the 61st minute after the Queenslanders disintegrated.

Lambie converted for a 26-18 lead, but they were to score no further points as they seemed to lack a clear plan in the final quarter.

Kerevi is a particular threat in this Reds side and he muscled over from close range again in the 64th minute, but the killer blow was landed by his midfield partner Duncan Paia’aua, who ran an excellent line back inside, cutting straight through before replacement scrumhalf James Tuttle finished strongly.

The result was a sharp reminder to the Sharks of the accuracy that is required to win overseas – they simply made too many errors in discipline and decision-making, although a losing bonus point was some reward for the competitiveness they showed.

Mtawarira was full of energy in the front row, Du Preez was a force with ball-in-hand and Am was exciting at times in the backline, but the overall Sharks performance was not good enough to earn victory.

Scorers

RedsTries: Scott Higginbotham, Samu Kerevi (2), James Tuttle. Conversion: Quade Cooper. Penalties: Cooper (2).

SharksTries: Jean-Luc du Preez, Tera Mtembu. Conversions: Pat Lambie (2). Penalties: Lambie (4).

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1438777/clumsy-sharks-fluff-their-lines-at-vital-moments/

Top-class Sharks halfbacks hoping for a change in injury fortunes 0

Posted on February 21, 2017 by Ken

 

Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach have endured a wretched time when it comes to injury in recent SuperRugby seasons, but Sharks backline coach Sean Everitt said on Tuesday that the team are excited about being able to field a top-class halfback pair in this year’s campaign.

“That’s where we’ve fallen short in the last couple of years, losing Pat early and then Cobus being unlucky in the last few years, means they have missed a lot of SuperRugby which is never easy for a team to lose their first-choice halfbacks. And SuperRugby is not really the sort of tournament you want to breed youngsters in, that’s more for the Currie Cup, and we’ve also had no Frans Steyn.

“But the youngsters are important and they’ve been working hard, because Pat has to rest at some stage. Innocent Radebe and Benhard Janse van Rensburg have done well and Curwin Bosch can play flyhalf as well.

“Cobus will certainly provide some x-factor, he’s an opportunist, but he does the basics well and has a good boot too. He’s been here a long time, he knows the systems well and he delivers on the field,” Everitt said.

While experience at nine and 10 will obviously be cherished by the Sharks, they do have a herd of youngsters challenging for backline places and that has pleased Everitt as well.

“The youngsters have a lot of enthusiasm and since losing JP Pietersen, Willie le Roux and Odwa Ndungane last year, the Currie Cup bunch have grown considerably. They’ve certainly played themselves into contention and that’s exciting.

“We have Kobus van Wyk on the wing, although we will look at him at centre if we have problems there. But Lukhanyo Am has done well in the Currie Cup and has had good preparation, so we’ll be looking to build up his combination with Andre Esterhuizen.

“Jeremy Ward is obviously a good signing because he was one of the top age-group players in his position [centre] last year and we mustn’t forget Johan Deysel from the Leopards, who played in the 2015 World Cup for Namibia. It’s time to move on and these guys have what it takes,” Everitt said.

But there is also the presence of veteran French fullback Clement Poitrenaud and Everitt said he would play a leadership role in guiding the young backline.

“Clement is definitely in contention for selection in the match-day 23, he has a lot of experience having played 47 Tests. We have a young backline, so he will be good for us, leading and helping those guys. He’s very popular amongst his team-mates, his English is quite good and he has a good sense of humour. Most importantly, the guys admire his skill-set,” Everitt said.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1428003/sharks-holding-thumbs-their-dynamic-duo-keep-fit/

  • 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