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Ken Borland



New scrum laws will boost Argentina’s bajada 0

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Ken

 

Argentina is a rising power in world rugby and they are set to be boosted even further by the new scrummaging laws, which are tailor-made for their famous bajada scrum technique.

 The Springboks will be the first to tackle the Pumas since the introduction of the “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement when they meet at the FNB Stadium on Saturday and they could be in for a shock.

Argentina was introduced into the Rugby Championship last year and made an impressive entry into the big league, proving plucky opponents as they even managed a draw against the Springboks in Mendoza.

After a largely disappointing third-place finish in last year’s competition, the Springboks will want to get into their stride far quicker this season, but the Pumas’ strength is in the pack and the new scrum laws will only magnify that.

The emphasis at scrum-time will now change from being on the “hit” to technique, something the Argentineans have been famous for and many rugby fans in the South American country are looking forward to the return of the bajada as the potent weapon it used to be.

The bajada is all about the entire pack working as a unit and channelling their power through the hooker, with the speed with which a front row can get the “hit” no longer a factor because they have to pre-bind before the engagement.

The co-ordinated, cohesive nature of the bajada scrum is exactly what the new scrum laws will favour, judging by what Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a learning process for players worldwide who have practised their trade over the last 10 years with the ‘hit’ scrum and it’s a big change. Speed won’t be as important and the frustration over grey areas in decisions, especially when binds slip, often because of tricks of the trade, has been dealt with.

“It’s now very important for the scrum to stand together and have endurance and it’s become a much tougher battle. It’s more about sound technique and endurance now and it’s more important for your whole pack to work together. The pack operating as a unit is vital,” De Villiers said.

The Springbok scrum has not always lived up to its reputation in recent years and those dastardly Australians who seem to spend their life trying to avoid proper scrums have even taken a couple of pot shots at the South Africans, saying the new laws will expose them more than anyone else.

The new engagement places a higher premium on scrummaging technique rather than skill in winning the “hit” and it is the Springboks’ lack of depth at tighthead prop, the most technical position in the pack, that suggests Saturday night could be a tough time for them.

De Villiers, having played 69 times for France, is well aware that the Pumas are masters of the dark arts of scrummaging.

“Their passion for scrummaging will always be there. They’re short, stocky guys and difficult to move and we expect them to have a strong, stable base at scrum time,” De Villiers said.

Jannie du Plessis is right up there with the best tightheads in world rugby but he has played so much over the last two years that a serious injury seems almost inevitable and there are no other specialist number threes in the Springbok squad. Coach Heyneke Meyer believes the sky is the limit for young Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead he is converting into a tighthead.

De Villiers expressed confidence in Oosthuizen’s ability to make the change, if not with the same enthusiasm as Meyer has done.

“Coenie is progressing very well. You must remember everyone is starting with a clean slate now because of the new laws and it’s important to see how Coenie adapts. But even the top tightheads in world rugby have to start afresh,” De Villiers said.

Meanwhile, Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher stressed that despite all the attention focused on the scrums, the Argentines’ backline strengths are not being ignored.

“Most of their backs play in Europe and they are world-class. Given the opportunity, they can finish, their outside backs are quick and have had plenty of exposure to sevens rugby. So we need to prepare well against them too,” Loubscher warned.

Another area where South African has not looked too clever in terms of depth has been scrumhalf and the new lenient approach to choosing overseas-based players made it inevitable that Meyer would call on Fourie du Preez, one of the players he built the champion Bulls team around.

The Springbok coach has made it clear he is relying on Du Preez’s experience and game management abilities to lift their performance and Loubscher said those strengths were already evident on the training field.

“He’s a world-class player, there’s no need to elaborate on his credentials. He just slotted right back in, I was impressed, I thought he did really well in training. He brings great experience to the team, you can see the way he talks with players like JJ Engelbrecht and Willie le Roux, who haven’t played in the Rugby Championship before, and he makes it much easier for me as the backline coach,” Loubscher said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-14-rugby-dont-cry-for-argentina/#.WDQ6FrJ97IU

Weird & wonderful brings the crucial variety to sport 0

Posted on January 13, 2015 by Ken

I have seen many weird, wonderful and not so wonderful things at the Harlequins bar in the Sun City main hotel and this was one of them – the German Interlausen Boogie with Left Arm Dominant Dance Club whirling and whirring around as the cocktail bar singer enjoyed her best audience ever and thanked her lucky stars no drunk men were trying to pick her up.

What was initially a captivating sight soon turned into a repetitive affair though as the dozen dancers all just did the same move,  over and over again, in identical fashion.

It reminded me that what makes sport special is the variety – the many different ways there are to be successful and the many different techniques that are employed.

Sun City is of course hosting the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the moment; golf being a game that revolves around myriad statistics and in which technique is absolutely key. Being a centimetre offline with your swing can result in disaster.

And yet there are all sorts of different swings out there. Jim Furyk, a two-time winner at Gary Player Country Club, is famous for his unorthodox swing but has enjoyed consistent success at the highest level for 15 years.

Danie van Tonder is having his unusual swing – which is more like a brutal punch at the ball than anything flowing and graceful – scrutinised on global television for the first time but, as fellow South African Tim Clark said, it works.

“He can obviously play. That’s the beauty of golf, you don’t have to have a cookie-cutter swing, and I’ve always admired those who go out and do it their own way,” said Clark, who has made a highly successful career for himself in the United States through sheer determination as much as talent.

Cricketer Phillip Hughes, so movingly laid to rest this week, chased his dream all the way to the top with an unorthodox technique that certainly frustrated South African bowlers. As recently as July 29 he smashed a brilliant 202 from 151 balls to lead Australia A to a massive win over South Africa A in a one-day game in Darwin.

It’s those that bring something different to sport that give such pleasure.

But there is one part of sport that I am desperate to see more uniformity in and that is in the refereeing of rugby Tests.

The governors of the game have to act urgently because I am convinced the winner of next year’s Rugby World Cup will be decided by a refereeing decision, given that almost every Test this year has been marred by some controversy over officiating or gross inconsistencies.

The yellow-carding of Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks for chasing an up-and-under last weekend against Wales was sickening. The number of times this year that players have jumped into each other contesting a high ball would need a proper census to count; there were even similar incidents in the same game that referee John Lacey was happy to let go.

Sure, intemperate efforts to compete in the air need to be policed but Lacey’s decision was ridiculous and I hope just an example of sheer incompetence.

But it would be reckless in the extreme for World Rugby to naively ignore the possibility that their game is infected by darker elements.

Match-fixers have afflicted cricket, who have at least taken steps to deal with the problem, but rugby doesn’t seem to think their game could possibly also be affected. Or they don’t care.

But like an asp striking at the breast, officiating controversies do far more damage to the image of the game than most of the things the administrators seem concerned about.

 

 



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