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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.

That’s awful, Bulls! 0

Posted on March 27, 2017 by Ken

 

The Bulls started their overseas tour with a parlous 38-14 defeat at the hands of the Blues in Albany on Saturday, a loss and awful performance that’s going to cause questions to be asked about the team’s coaching and management.

The Bulls were level 7-7 at halftime, having already conceded seven penalties, made numerous handling errors and looked out-of-sync on attack, but that’s as good as it got for the tourists as the second half saw them totally disintegrate as the Blues added five more tries to earn a bonus point.

Replacement scrumhalf Rudy Paige was given a consolation try after the final hooter, having not grounded the ball but probably deserving a penalty try anyway, but the Bulls had been goners long before that.

The Bulls started brightly enough with a promising attack in the Blues’ 22, but referee Nic Berry ended it with a harsh obstruction call. The home side’s backline was gone in a flash, roaring up the left side of the field and some superb handling and offloads by fullback Michael Collins and wing Melani Nanai saw scrumhalf Augustine Pulu scooting over the line for the opening try, in the third minute.

The Bulls would be back on level terms after 17 minutes as they earned a ruck penalty, flyhalf Handre Pollard’s super kick set up a lineout in the corner and prop Lizo Gqoboka burrowed over for a try after the driving maul.

There would be further opportunities for the Bulls in the first half, but they were ponderous with turnover ball and their dire handling meant errors interrupted just about every attack after a few phases.

The second half would be the same story, only worse, as the Blues quickly seized control of the game.

An early attack by the Bulls came to nothing as nobody seemed to know who was meant to clean, be a pillar or play halfback at a ruck, and Pollard then missed a tackle on Collins, allowing a lovely offload to wing Matt Duffie, who went through a poor tackle by opposite number Jamba Ulengo to score the second try, also converted by flyhalf Piers Francis.

The most astonishing example of clueless play by the Bulls came in the 56th minute. Lock Lood de Jager did well to steal the ball at a five-metre lineout, but at the resulting ruck, scrumhalf Piet van Zyl went to play pillar and replacement flank Jannes Kirsten cleared the ball, making the awful decision to feed a pod inside his own in-goal area. That conceded a five-metre scrum, from which Francis’s pinpoint kick-pass across the field was claimed by Duffie for his second try.

It didn’t even help the Bulls when Blues flank Jimmy Tupou was temporarily sent from the field for a neck roll. Pollard was replaced on the hour mark in what was apparently a scheduled change, but new flyhalf Tian Schoeman was unable to find touch from a scrum penalty the Bulls earned.

Soon thereafter, Ulengo burst out of defensive alignment like a crazed shopper going after Black Friday sales, and the Blues’ replacement flyhalf, Ihaia West, knifed through to score.

The Blues were 24-7 up and continued to boss the game as one was left with the nagging impression that the Bulls ran out of legs.

The home side were able to hang on to the ball through numerous phases because of their impressive handling skills, with outside centre Rieko Ioane making his presence felt with a couple of great runs, going from one side of the field to the other before replacement hooker Matt Moulds ended the attack by going over in the corner.

West had barely kicked the conversion for a 31-7 lead when he was bursting through the line again, with the Bulls defence far too narrow, creating acres of space out wide for Nanai to go roaring through for a dazzling try.

The Bulls did get the final points as they earned a free kick at a scrum under the poles and Paige, who should have come on earlier for a hesitant Van Zyl, went on his own to score their second try.

While most pundits expected the Bulls to lose, nobody expected such a dismal display from them and they have a lot of introspection ahead of them this week before facing the mighty Chiefs.

Scorers

BluesTries: Augustine Pulu, Matt Duffie (2), Ihaia West, Matt Moulds, Melani Nanai. Conversions: Piers Francis (2), West (2).

BullsTries: Lizo Gqoboka, Rudy Paige. Conversions: Handre Pollard, Tian Schoeman.

 

 

Knights triumph about a unit playing for a higher purpose – De Bruyn 0

Posted on February 15, 2017 by Ken

 

VKB Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn said on Saturday that his team’s Sunfoil Series triumph was all about a unit playing for a higher purpose.

The Knights wrapped up their first four-day title since 2007/8 on the third day of the final round of fixtures, their innings-and-121-runs win over the bizhub Highveld Lions at the BidVest Wanderers Stadium giving them an insurmountable lead at the top of the table.

Having reached a tremendous 443 in their first innings, the Knights then bundled the Lions out for just 87 on the second day to set up their victory. The Lions were 193 for five in their follow-on innings when play resumed on Saturday morning, and the Knights needed just 100 minutes to dismiss the home side for 235.

Duanne Olivier was once again the leading wicket-taker, with four for 59 in 20 overs, taking his season’s tally to a phenomenal 52 wickets in eight matches at an average of just 18.13. As has been the case throughout the season, South Africa’s newest Test cricketer was superbly supported by Marchant de Lange (22.1-5-75-3) and Shadley van Schalkwyk (20-5-41-3).

“This team plays for the man upstairs and his purpose for us, and that’s why we have been blessed. In cricket, you cannot control the outcomes, but we have managed to get a unit that believes we are playing for a bigger purpose. We’ve set high standards and, although we didn’t do well in the T20, we backed ourselves in this competition,” De Bruyn said after winning the most prestigious domestic title in his first season as captain, for the franchise he joined from the Titans, who were the defending champions and closest challengers.

“It’s been a rollercoaster season, but I believe we truly deserve to win the trophy. We’ve lost the least games – only two – and we bowled as a unit. Duanne took over 50 wickets and Marchant had 34, and then you add in Shadley’s 29 and Mbulelo Budaza also chipped in. The bowling was relentless from both sides and when the attack was switched on, they were really able to dominate all opposition batting line-ups.

“The batsmen also put the runs on the board for the bowlers to bowl at, Rudi Second worked on technical aspects of his game, he’s a wicketkeeper but as a batsman he’s dominated at four or five, while someone like Pite van Biljon only played four matches but played a couple of brilliant innings, like his hundred here. Luthando Mnyanda gave us our best starts all season in the last two games and Diego Rosier came in and scored runs as well,” De Bruyn said.

The 24-year-old did not mention his own considerable contribution to the triumph, De Bruyn scoring 751 runs at an average of 57.76. Second was second in the Knights averages with 684 runs at 52.61.

Knights coach Nicky Boje’ said winning the Sunfoil Series was up there with the best moments of his long and decorated career in cricket.

“It’s definitely right up there because we see the four-day tournament as the main competition and it got to a tough stage for us after we were outplayed in Paarl. But we managed to produce an almost-perfect performance in this ‘final’ after all the sides were still in the mix for the trophy. We played good cricket and set ourselves high standards,” Boje’ said.

The former international spinner is in his first season as the full-time Knights coach, making the fledgling Boje’/De Bruyn partnership and achievement even more impressive.

“As a new coach, you’ve got to get the players to trust what you are trying to do and I had to make a couple of changes and bring a couple of new guys in. But Theunis as captain, Marchant and Duanne with the new ball and David Miller bringing his international experience have all been massive,” Boje said.

It’s been more than six years since the Knights won a trophy, but Boje’ is adamant this team are still in the early stages of their journey.

“The Knights were in a building phase and didn’t win trophies for the last couple of years, but it’s a process. We want to leave a legacy for young guys coming in so they know how to be a Knight. We are still busy getting everything in place and we have to make sure we keep building. Today was just the first step,” Boje’ said.

It may sound silly, but in a tournament that was defined by small margins, De Bruyn described a last-wicket stand of just 10 between Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli during last weekend’s heavy defeat at the hands of the Cape Cobras as being crucial to their title success.

“In Paarl, we may have lost badly but the two spinners at the end of the first innings took us from 143 for nine to 153 to get us one batting point [150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point]. That extra point turned out to be a massive moment because it meant this week we only needed 120 more runs than the Titans rather than 170 more. It just allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1424613/at-least-one-drought-in-the-free-state-is-broken/

Cavemen give warning to other PHL hopefuls 0

Posted on September 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The other men’s teams in the Premier Hockey League have been warned that they will have to fight very hard to take the inaugural title ahead of the Milo Maropeng Cavemen as Rassie Pieterse’s side went to the top of the standings with a gripping 3-2 win over the Schick Garden Route Gazelles in a thrilling match at the Randburg Astro on Sunday.

The top-of-the-log clash dazzled from the outset with the dangerous Lance Louw showing the intent of the Cavemen as he pounced on the ball in the seventh minute, robbing an attacker and then racing forward before finding Cameron McKay with a super reverse-sticks ball which the in-form striker deflected into goal from the penalty-spot.

Lloyd Norris-Jones hit the post after a tremendous run from the halfway line in an attack that was a foretaste of what was to come from the international player in the second and third quarters.

The Cavemen went 2-0 up in the 23rd minute when Jarryd Patrick slotted the ball home to make sure that some lovely skill by Michael Abrahams did not go to waste, but the Gazelles made sure that they were on the scoreboard on the stroke of halftime as Gertjie Lamprecht got on the end of Norris-Jones’ reverse-sticks cross.

The Gazelles pressed hard for the equaliser in the third quarter, a great run by Keenan Horne leading to a string of five short-corners in quick succession, with goalkeeper and captain Pieterse making a couple of great saves.

It did eventually come in the 43rd minute though as Norris-Jones produced another tremendous run and Jason MacLachlan deflected the ball into the goal at the far post.

The Cavemen claimed their third goal – the winner – in the 54th minute as the excellent Louw fired home a penalty stroke. It was a tough call against the Gazelles after Satchi Reddy had lost composure in the circle, swung wildly at the ball and missed, and then brought down Patrick, although it was well to the right of the goal.

But the gutsy Gazelles fought back and another fine run by Horne, keeping the ball through a couple of tackles, finished with MacLachlan flicking home. But the equaliser was referred to the TV umpire and it was a hammer blow when he ruled that there had been a back-sticks play by the Gazelles, although it was not particularly obvious.

The result left the Gazelles a point behind the Cavemen, who have a game in hand, and the pressure is now on Steve Evans’ side as both the Tsogo Sun Drakensberg Dragons and the Private Property Golden Gate Gladiators are just two points behind them, both with a game in hand.

DRAGONS DOWN ELEPHANTS

The Dragons outfit is full of dangerous, skillful players and their short-corner is a particular threat, as they showed on Sunday by beating the Every Sun Addo Elephants 2-0 thanks to two brilliant drag-flicks from the set-piece by Dave Agar.

The national under-21 side is playing under the guise of the Gladiators and is also a skillful, pacy side, with Ryan Crowe a particularly key offensive force, as he showed by being involved in all three goals as they beat the Mapungubwe Mambas 3-2.

The Gladiators were not able to beat marvellous Mambas goalkeeper Hendrik Kriek and his seasoned defence until the 43rd minute, by which time the opposition had taken a 1-0 lead through a short-corner goal by Lyall Meyer.

But the Gladiators equalised as Steven McManus rounded off a Crowe attack. Not to be outdone, Crowe then gave the Gladiators a 2-1 lead showing great skill and producing a superb finish.

But the under-21s were not able to clear their lines in defence soon afterwards, conceding a short-corner. Goalkeeper Robert McKinley made a superb save from the initial flick, but the rebound was popped in by Meyer.

There were just seconds remaining though when Crowe produced a great ball to captain Alex Stewart, who fed Walter Pfaff, the Southern Gautenger flicking into the side-netting for the winner.

In the women’s tournament, the Nestle Pure Life Blyde River Bunters just never accept that they are beaten as they scored their second shootout win of the event, this time in sudden death, to see off the Ezee Tile Madikwe Rangers.

They had to come from behind just three minutes before the end of normal time to level the scores at 1-1, Izelle Verster driving into the circle after picking up a ball deflected out of defence, and passing to Lauren Nina, who made one touch and then produced a great finish inside the near post.

The Rangers had scored the opening goal in the 36th minute as Bernadette Coston intercepted a pass and set off on a pacy run, before Charne Martell won a short-corner. Lisa-Marie Deetlef’s first attempt was well-blocked but led to another short-corner, from which her strong slap headed straight for Jessica de Bruyn-Smith, who could only turn the ball into her own goal.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the shootout through Deetlefs and Coston, goalkeeper Anelle van Deventer producing excellent saves to deny the first two attempts of the Bunters from Charne Hill and Elmien Marais.

But the next three Rangers – Sinalo Jafta, Sylvia van Jaarsveldt and Toni Marks – all could not find the goal. The inspirational Nicolene Terblanche got the Bunters on the board in the shootout and Anel Luus’s well-taken shot took the shootout into sudden death.

Deetlefs, the heart of the Rangers defence and still every bit the player she was at the 2012 Olympics, unfortunately lost control of the ball as she went first in sudden death. Terblanche, showing the composure befitting the national women’s captain, took her time and found the target, to leave the Bunters five points clear of the Rangers at the top of the log.

The other women’s game on Sunday saw the Young Solutions St Lucia Lakers outlast the Clinix Orange River Rafters 2-0 in the midday sun.

Rafters goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa was usually in the middle of the action, but she could not stop Kaz Bowyer from slapping in at the near-post, having initially saved Jacinta Jubb’s short-corner shot.

It was another tough old day at the office for the Rafters as the Lakers made it 2-0 in the 17th minute, Kelly Madsen making a strong run into the circle and Kate Koenig putting away her ball across the goal.

http://www.supersport.com/xtra/xtra/news/160911/Cavemen_give_warning_to_other_hopefuls

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