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Ken Borland

The John McFarland Column: The Springboks’ best performance under Allister Coetzee 0

Posted on June 22, 2017 by Ken


It’s self-evident that the Springboks really played well to beat France 37-15 in the second Test in Durban, but I would say it was the best performance of Allister Coetzee’s tenure as national coach by a long way.

It has been so pleasing to see the Springboks put together two quality wins, in which they have scored eight tries, and it is obvious they have found the right balance between attack and defence.

I must say that I am a little concerned by the silence from the Saru executive because after two excellent performances with Allister Coetzee under pressure, he clearly deserves the mandate going forward.

Nobody did to France in the Six Nations or the home series last year what the Springboks have done to them over the last fortnight and real credit must go to Allister for the team culture he has instilled and the way it is working – that was a sensational victory at Kings Park.

The defence has been the biggest thing that has changed and the Springboks all work incredibly hard off the ball; they sprint on the kick-chase and they get off the floor so quickly. These are the trademarks of a Brendan Venter-coached team – work-rate and physicality.

Siya Kolisi was obviously the standout player with his intercept try and his ability to win ball off the floor, but the whole team excelled.

When they were on their own line for 25 phases and kept repelling the French side, that showed the culture and relationships between the players; attitude and how players feel about the environment always come out in how a team defends, and that was the best defensive performance by a South African side this season.

In terms of attack, it was pleasing to see some very clever plays, guys running short lines off scrumhalf or off the inside backs. When Raymond Rhule broke through off a lineout, the Springboks were clearly targeting the inside defence. We kept finding props with our wingers or hard-running backs.

It is also clear that a tremendous amount of work has been done on the passing and timing of the runs from first receiver; to be able to do this in the face of a rush defence, for example when Pieter-Steph du Toit passed to Coenie Oosthuizen for a sublime try, shows that the attacking play has definitely gone a level up. So hats off to everybody for a great performance.

The SA A team was a bit of a concern though and their defence was not so good against a scratch French Barbarians side, and they allowed Freddie Michalak to roll back the years at flyhalf.

What’s worrying about the  SA A side is that they have so many players over the age of 30 in key positions. There should be a clear national pathway from the U20s to the A side and then on to the Springboks, but the current selection shows no real growth or development for the future. The SA A side must use guys who have come through from the U20 level, so we can see how they cope outside of their natural SuperRugby environment.

Guys who have impressed at SA U20 level should be chosen because we know what Lwazi Mvovo, Lionel Cronje, who is also going to Japan now, and Jano Vermaaak can do. They need guys like Ivan van Zyl, Curwin Bosch, Burger Odendaal and Louis Schreuder to play – 22 and 23 year-olds with big futures. The SA A team should be about future Springboks and not Springboks of old. They must give young players a go, guys who have big futures and they must be in their 20s. They’ve basically selected this team as a Springboks B side and they must show more foresight.

The SA A side should also give coaches experience and it was pleasing to see JP Ferreira involved with their defence.

The SA U20s finished well, but to lose to an England side shorn of six players and others with the senior side in the semi-final was unacceptable. Then New Zealand klapped England by a long way in the semi-final, which showed South African rugby still has a long way to go to make up the gap.

The SA U20s need more tours against national schoolboy sides, to experience different environments. They will probably have played all the Northern Hemisphere sides in South Africa, where the hosts should win. The boys need to experience different conditions and a crowd that is not behind you. They need to step up and improve and a tour somewhere in November/December would be good.

Finally, it was a great privilege for Kubota to be able to play in the Mauritius 10s last weekend. The Bulls and Cheetahs sent their full SuperRugby sides and it was brilliant for a Japanese side to be involved in that.

The Beachcomber World Club Tens as a format was an eye-opener and I really enjoyed seeing everyone again. I hope the excellent organisation of the tournament can now be brought to South Africa, in either pre or post season, that would be fantastic. Mauritius was really enjoyable for everyone who was involved

Well done to the Blue Bulls for winning the tournament, although it’s fair to say they do need a few cups.




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.


Le Roux & Vermaak could start the spark for Springboks 0

Posted on April 20, 2016 by Ken


Coach Heyneke Meyer knows that he needs to add more attacking spark in year two of his tenure with the national team, and the two new caps chosen for the Test against Italy in Durban on Saturday could be the first steps in that process.

Cheetahs wizard Willie le Roux will start at fullback and Bulls scrumhalf Jano Vermaak in the number nine jersey, with three other uncapped players on the bench in prop Trevor Nyakane, loose forward Arno Botha and centre Jan Serfontein.

By the end of this quadrangular series also featuring Scotland and Samoa, we should know whether Le Roux’s roaming style of play and his dazzling trickery with ball in hand can be successful at Test level. It has certainly sparked something special for the Cheetahs and the 35 tries they have scored so far this season in SuperRugby is the best in the South African Conference and only the Chiefs, Waratahs and Rebels have scored more overall.

It is the Bulls, however, who are leading the South African Conference and it is in no small way thanks to Vermaak’s snappy clearing of the rucks and his speed off the mark on attack that they have 32 tries themselves and have impressed with the balance of their game between penetrative forward runners and a backline that is growing in confidence.

Replacement Ruan Pienaar may have been a star for Ulster again this year, but the 29-year-old has not been part of any of the Springbok training camps and Meyer said he had also gone for the established Morné Steyn/Vermaak combination at halfback.

This means there is no place for Francois Hougaard, even on the bench, with Pat Lambie and Serfontein the other backline reserves. Hougaard would appear to have paid the price for his scrappy service during a slow return from injury, although he was much-improved in the Bulls’ impressive win over the Cheetahs last weekend.

The 20-year-old Serfontein could even be in line for a start, coming in for Jean de Villiers at inside centre if the captain does not recover sufficiently from a hamstring niggle.

Meyer is well-known for his fondness for a big, strong ball-carrier at inside centre, but he has ignored, for the moment anyway, the exciting possibility of having the robust Serfontein at 12 and De Villiers at outside centre.

Instead, JJ Engelbrecht, who the jury is still out on (is he a better centre than a wing?) will wear the number 13 jersey having only played 10 previous minutes of Test rugby as a replacement on the wing against Argentina last year.

Bjorn Basson, so brilliant in the air, makes a return on the left wing to play his first Test since 2011, with the rest of the team pretty much as predicted.

Lourens Adriaanse, Gio Aplon, Marcell Coetzee, Robert Ebersohn, Bismarck du Plessis, Zane Kirchner, Siya Kolisi, Lappies Labuschagné, Lwazi Mvovo and Franco van der Merwe will be twiddling their thumbs next to Hougaard on the side of the field as Meyer goes for some continuity with 10 of the players who appeared in the last Test of 2012, the 16-15 win over England at Twickenham, featuring again this weekend.

The likes of Adriaanse, Aplon, Coetzee, Ebersohn, Kolisi, Labuschagné, Mvovo and Van der Merwe are likely to be given the opportunity of picking up some valuable experience later in the series, but for now Meyer wants to get his 2013 campaign up-and-running with a win over the tricky Italians.

Italian rugby is certainly on the up, as shown by a fourth-place finish in the Six Nations, and their physical pack has the ability to front up to the Springbok forwards.

But how pleasing it would be if it were the attacking skills of a Le Roux-inspired backline that proved the difference at King’s Park.

Team: Willie le Roux, Bryan Habana, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Willem Alberts, Francois Louw, Juandré Kruger, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Chiliboy Ralepelle, Trevor Nyakane, Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe, Arno Botha, Ruan Pienaar, Pat Lambie, Jan Serfontein.

Going into World Cup with confidence is crucial – Domingo 0

Posted on May 14, 2014 by Ken

Jacques Kallis in full ODI flow - what SA coach Russell Domingo will want to see

Going into the tournament with confidence is one of the laws of success in the World Cup, according to South Africa coach Russell Domingo, and he has already mapped out his plans for a summer that could be the making of his tenure in charge of the Proteas.

“Confidence going into the World Cup is always vital. Playing well throughout the year leading up to the tournament is probably more important than anything else.

“If you’re losing a lot beforehand, then you have to make changes in personnel or strategy just before the tournament, which is never ideal. The players need to feel comfortable in the strategy you’re going to use,” Domingo said after his presentation to the country’s leading coaches at the CSA Level IV Coaching Conference at the High Performance Centre yesterday.

One of the strategies which Domingo believes will be highly applicable in the World Cup in Australia and New Zealand from next February is the use of bouncers, while he defended the Proteas’ scarce use of yorkers.

“How many bouncers you use depends on the opposition and the pitches, but it’s a very useful weapon. Someone like Kumar Sangakkara ducks just about every bouncer so those are dot-balls.

“The stats show that a wide yorker is very hittable if you just miss your length. Very few people bowl six yorkers an over at the death, even Lasith Malinga, who has the best yorker of anyone, doesn’t bowl it  every time.

“Predictability is very dangerous at the end of the innings, you can’t just bowl yorkers, you have to mix up your deliveries. The short ball is very important in this regard because it causes doubt and fear in the minds of batsmen, and cause them to get into strange positions sometimes as well,” Domingo said.

South Africa coach Russell Domingo

Although Jacques Kallis has halved his cricketing commitments, Domingo said the great all-rounder was still an integral part of their plans for the World Cup. There is no doubt that, used in the top-order to set up the innings, Kallis can be a batting kingpin for South Africa, while he is also still good for a few overs as well.

But in order for the team’s planning to be complete by the time they begin their World Cup challenge against Zimbabwe in Hamilton on February 15, Kallis is going to have to play most of South Africa’s ODIs in the next nine months.

“We have 24 ODIs before the World Cup, but to ask Jacques to play in all of those is unrealistic. But he’ll definitely be needed to play in the vast majority of those because we have to develop a strategy for playing with Jacques Kallis. We have to incorporate him back into the team and it effects the balance – we could play seven batsmen instead of six batsmen and an all-rounder. It’s a different dynamic because we’ve developed a strategy for playing without Jacques Kallis in recent times,” Domingo said.

AB de Villiers was just an eight-year-old child when the World Cup was last held in Australasia in 1992, the wonder of South Africa’s return to the international fold turning to dismay when poor rain rules ended their dream run at the semi-final stage and started a seeming curse for the team in that tournament that they have yet to shake off.

De Villiers will almost certainly be the captain of South Africa’s World Cup squad this time around, and he is also the favourite to inherit Graeme Smith’s Test captaincy.

“The captaincy is not cut-and-dried and there are some really good options. It would be a tough ask for AB to be captain, keep wicket and be a key batsman, and the selectors will take that into cognisance. I have input with the selectors and then their recommendation goes to the board, who make the final decision,” Domingo said while trying to throw journalists off the scent.

But he possibly let slip his feelings on the matter when he said: “It’s going to be a big challenge for the new leader to step up and fill the massive void that Graeme has left. But the maturity of the Test side will enable him to do it and senior guys like Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, JP Duminy, Faf du Plessis and Hashim Amla know that a new leader is coming in and will bring different ideas to the team.”

South Africa have been offenders before when it comes to going into World Cups without covering all their bases, but with the domestic competitions arranged to help their planning and a limited-overs tour to New Zealand and Australia in October/November, they should not want for preparation.

“I’ll be looking for consistency in selection and strategies, and hopefully we’ll have settled on our combination and the style we want to play. The last 10 ODIs before the World Cup, I’ll look to play the best XI as much as possible.

“We have a pretty good idea of the 15 we want, but it would be naïve to think all 15 of those will make the World Cup because of injuries, loss of form or a domestic player shooting the lights out and putting his name in the hat,” Domingo said.



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