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Ken Borland



Most daunting journey of all for well-travelled McLaren 0

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Ryan McLaren has travelled many miles in his cricket career but he is about to embark on his most daunting journey of all as the probable replacement for Jacques Kallis in South Africa’s Test side.

The 30-year-old has gone from being born into a famous Kimberley family through Grey College in Bloemfontein, stints as a Kolpak player in English county cricket for Kent and Middlesex, three IPL teams and on to play for South Africa.

Although the national selectors named a 15-man squad yesterday to take on Australia in the three-Test series next month, McLaren is the favourite to replace Kallis, coming in at number seven and providing the team with a fourth seamer.

National selection convenor Andrew Hudson spoke of “staying with the brand of cricket that has brought us such success” and that means a fourth seamer will be an integral part of South Africa’s game plan, which involves unrelenting pressure on the opposition.

But, as coach Russell Domingo pointed out, with no Kallis, having a fourth seamer means either dropping a batsman or not playing a spinner.

“We have to do away with the luxury of having seven specialist batsmen. Number seven will now probably be an all-rounder or a spinner.

“It’s very difficult to have seven batsmen, four seamers and a spinner. Something has to give, and I do like to have a spinner because it gives the team a lot more balance,” Domingo said yesterday.

It won’t of course be a Test debut for McLaren because he has appeared for South Africa in the ultimate version of the game before – against England at the Wanderers four years ago.

McLaren bowled tidily as part of a five-prong seam attack that ran rampant over England, dismissing them for just 180 and 169 as South Africa romped to victory by an innings and 74 runs to level the series. The left-handed batsman also scored 33 not out coming in at number eight.

Wayne Parnell also made his debut in that match and has also been included in the squad to play the Aussies. Although Domingo said he loved the 140km/h pace and left-arm variation that Parnell brings to the attack, McLaren’s greater consistency – he could do the holding role alongside Steyn, Morkel and Philander very well – and better ability with the bat should see him get the nod.

McLaren has the experience of already playing 40 ODIs and 10 T20s for South Africa and has become an integral part of the 50-over side in the last year. He’s a genuine all-rounder: In 103 first-class matches he has scored 3860 runs at an average of 30 and has taken 329 wickets at 25.47.

McLaren said he has no delusions of stepping into Kallis’s boots but is also confident that he can perform the role the national team requires of him.

“I’ve pretty much made peace with the fact that you can’t make comparisons between myself and Jacques. There’s only been one Jacques Kallis and there will only ever be one.

“So I’m just going to focus on the role I have to perform, which is batting seven and bowling second-change, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing most of my career.

“As an all-rounder, there’s always the physical demands of contributing in both disciplines, but it’s nothing new for me because I’ve been doing it for the Knights for many years – bowling 20 or 25 overs a day and batting.

“I will take some confidence from how I’ve performed well in ODI cricket in the last year, but Test cricket is a totally different game, it’s where every cricketer wants to be measured. And there’s no greater test than playing against Australia, so I’m excited for the challenge,” McLaren said.

The absence of Kallis will lead to another change in the batting order, with Domingo confirming that Faf du Plessis would be promoted to the number four spot, the place where greats such as Graeme Pollock, Sachin Tendulkar, Wally Hammond and Javed Miandad batted.

“It’s no state secret, Faf is the guy we have earmarked for number four. He made a big hundred at number four to save a Test recently and he bats there at franchise level. He’s a suitable replacement,” Domingo said.

Robin Peterson, the left-arm orthodox incumbent, is the only specialist spinner in the squad, but Hudson said the selection certainly did not mark the end of Imran Tahir’s Test career.

“Robbie P has put in some good performances lately and he did well in Perth at the back end of the last tour to Australia. He fits in with the style of cricket we want to play.

“But we know Imran Tahir can bowl with variety and an attacking leg-spinner on a turning pitch is still an option for us because we play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent. We certainly are not going past Imran,” Hudson said.

Domingo suggested that the pitches for the three Tests – in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – will favour the quick bowlers, setting up the most tantalising pace war between the two best fast bowling attacks in world cricket.

“We would like pitches that assist our bowlers. Our batsmen are well-versed in South African conditions, whereas in Australia the pitches are more in favour of the batsmen. In South Africa they favour the fast bowlers more and our batsmen are used to adapting to that,” the coach said.

Squad – Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Thami Tsolekile, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Rory Kleinveldt.

*Left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks and off-spinner Simon Harmer will practice with the squad for the sake of preparation against Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon. 

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2014-01-30-ryan-mclaren-his-own-man-not-stepping-into-kallis-shoes/#.WfmzAFuCzIU

The John McFarland Column: Looking back at the fantastic Newlands Test 0

Posted on October 13, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic game of rugby it was at Newlands, with the incredible atmosphere, the pace, intensity and physicality making it real Test match rugby.

Unfortunately the Springboks lost, but they gave a huge performance and the All Blacks will know they were lucky to win. It was so pleasing to see the Springboks go from 57-0 to losing by just a point, but they should have won.

Of course the game could have been different had Nehe Milner-Skudder’s break been finished off or Rieko Ioane had not been tackled over the goal-line by Jesse Kriel, those 14 points could have deflated the Springboks. But it was also the home side’s own mistakes that gave the All Blacks the points they needed.

Even the last-minute controversy was avoidable because it’s always a risk rushing for the charge down; you need to come at an angle so you don’t hit the kicker head-on. It’s to protect the kicker and Damian was too square-on. He did manage to put Lima Sopoaga off his drop kick, but he also would have known he was late and risked sanction, and conceded the penalty anyway. It wasn’t the best moment in Damian de Allende’s rugby life and it changed the complexion of the game because the All Blacks were then two scores clear and with just 14 men on the field, it was an uphill task for the Springboks.

The breakdown turnovers were the key and you could see the reaction of the team after Malcolm Marx and Francois Louw stole the ball. The mix of the back row Allister Coetzee chose came in for a lot of criticism but it was done for a reason.

Siya Kolisi and Francois Louw were the two breakdown players, which you need to disrupt the All Blacks’ attacking pattern, and Pieter-Steph du Toit provided physicality and bolstered the lineout.

In terms of the Springbok kicking game, they kicked a bit more than previously, although I find it strange that the crowd boos our own scrumhalf for kicking box-kicks, while the New Zealand scrumhalf is applauded for doing it. The plan was clearly to have contestable kicks to test the All Blacks back three. In the last World Cup semi-final, Milner-Skudder dropped a few high balls and was eventually moved away from the wing, so that was clearly part of the Springboks’ plan at Newlands.

You can’t just run willy-nilly from your own half, sometimes you’ve got to kick. It must either be long into the 22, which gives you time to build a chase line or force the catcher to kick out and give you a lineout; or he will kick long which gives you the chance to put the running bomb up; or it must be contestable. If you’re accurate enough then you have a 50/50 chance of winning the ball back, or you can put in a dominant tackle, get a turnover or just slow their ball down.

That did not happen in Ross Cronje’s box-kick that led to Damian McKenzie’s spectacular try, but to be fair, David Havili was allowed too much space and time to run across the field. The Springboks have struggled with guys running across their defensive line, it raises doubts as to whether the outside defender should turn in or trust the player on the inside. It’s something the Springboks have got to tighten up.

What was probably most pleasing of all – and credit must go to their conditioning for this – was that the Springboks were much stronger at the end of the game, both physically and mentally. Playing at sea level, as predicted, was also important because it makes it a level playing field.

The performance of the pack was magnificent, they were bristling on the gain-line, they won the collisions and they really gained confidence from the lineout. The Springboks went for four-man lineouts and then the short ball, which ensured they were able to win quality possession. The maul try they scored was also really pleasing.

The forwards seem to be in that special zone right now where they are full of confidence and intensity and they are really playing for each other.

We should also not underestimate Francois Louw’s calmness and experience and just his assurance, which definitely has an impact on his fellow forwards on and off the field.

Elton Jantjies’ kick at goal that he didn’t put over was also important and at international level you’ve got to convert those chances.

The main problem with the backline was that they were a little too deep and too lateral. Everyone wishes they can have a flat attack, because that’s what causes the defence the most problems, and it was better when Handre Pollard came on. Then again, there has to be quick ruck ball for the number 10 to take the ball into the jaws of the defence.

Ironically, the shorter lineouts do actually cause a problem for the backs because then there’s not much chance for them to have a one-on one. It’s good that Allister Coetzee is backing combinations because that induces trust, but he needs to be aware if, over a period of time, players aren’t really performing.

With the backs being a bit too lateral and too deep at Newlands, it allowed the All Blacks to pick off the carriers in the backline. It was interesting when Pollard came on that he played much flatter to the gain-line, which brought his forwards more into play, for example when Malcolm Marx hit the hole and set up the try for Jean-Luc du Preez.

For the end-of-year tour it will obviously be different conditions to South Africa, especially compared to on the highveld.

Both the matches against Ireland and Wales will be played in stadia with roofs, which makes a difference. Hopefully the Springboks have now found the formula that works for them.

 

 

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.

 

 

 

Bavuma wants to open with McCullum, not copy him 0

Posted on October 09, 2017 by Ken

 

Temba Bavuma would love to open the batting alongside Brendon McCullum in the T20 Global League for the Joburg Giants, but as far as copying the Kiwi’s swashbuckling style goes, that’s not how South Africa’s gutsy middle-order Test batsman goes about his cricket.

Big-hitting marquee players like McCullum, Chris Gayle, AB de Villiers and David Miller will be amongst the star attractions when the league gets underway on November 3, but a team’s success is often decided by how well the batsmen around those stars set up the game for them. Bavuma is able to score boundaries with ‘normal’ cricket shots and is very good at rotating the strike.

“One must understand that there are 11 positions in a cricket team and not all cricketers play the same way, they all bring their own thing to the side. You get the batsmen with x-factor who can clear the boundaries, but then you have the other guys who create the foundation for those batsmen to come in and hit the ball.

“I think that’s the role I’ll play for the Joburg Giants, not trying to emulate Brendon but do what I do, which will allow him and Colin Ingram and Chris Jonker to bat effectively as well. In terms of T20 cricket, I’ve always seen myself as a middle-order batsman and I’ve been relatively successful at that, but I’ll probably play a role up front for the Giants, looking at who we’ve signed.

“I will embrace that and welcome the opportunity because as a batsman you want to be near the top in T20 so that you can bat for the bulk of the overs. I do feel I have the necessary skills to open the batting, but I won’t change my game, I’ll just do what has served me well in the domestic game,” Bavuma said at the Wanderers on Wednesday.

Bavuma is now a Cape Cobras player, but the Joburg Giants have signed him and another local darling in Kagiso Rabada to ensure the people of Johannesburg get behind their team.

“I was born in Cape Town, but everything in terms of cricket happened for me in Johannesburg, so it has a large part of my heart. It will be a massive pleasure to once again represent the people of Johannesburg,” Bavuma said.

https://citizen.co.za/sport/south-africa-sport/sa-cricket-sport/1634361/temba-bavuma-will-stay-true-to-himself-in-t20-frenzy/

John McFarland Column: Springboks still heading for a very good year 0

Posted on September 28, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s a very important Test for the Springboks against Australia in Bloemfontein on Saturday because victory will take them to six wins out of eight matches and that obviously means they are heading for a very good year.

Heading into the last two home Tests of the year, the good news is that the Springboks have a good chance to finish second in the Rugby Championship. If they win their last two games, then they are heading for a very good year indeed!

But first they need to get through Australia, but they are playing one of the top four teams, so it’s a chance to go up the rankings.

Traditionally the Wallabies have always struggled at altitude – South Africa have won 14 of the last 15 games on the Highveld – but there’s obviously more to it than that. The Springbok forwards were really in control at the back end of the game in Perth, they scored a really good lineout drive try and their scrum was dominant, so those are real positives.

I expect the scrum to go well again and garner penalties like they did at Loftus Versfeld last year and in Perth, and I expect the lineout maul to dominate when in good field positions. Hooker Malcolm Marx remains a helluva talent and the Springboks will definitely produce a better lineout performance. New Zealand have one heck of a competing lineout and it wasn’t the first time they’ve dismantled an opposition lineout and it won’t be the last.

So the Springboks should have different quality ball for the halfbacks and having Ross Cronje back and fit will definitely be a big help for Elton Jantjies.

In terms of any scarring from the 57-0 hammering in Albany, after a big loss the hardest thing is that the confidence takes a knock. It wasn’t the best day for the players or the coaches and they’ve got to regain trust in the system. It’s a good thing that they had a week off to clear the mind and Allister Coetzee needs to look at people who can bounce back and deliver a great performance.

The stakes are so high and there’s such immense pressure to perform at national level that the players will have real feelings of shame. They know how great the support is and how high the expectations are because the Springboks are one of the country’s flagship sporting teams.

It was obviously a great disappointment, but that all goes when they step back on to the training field and they’re back to normality. But there will still be that little bit of doubt in the back of their minds, which is why they need a good performance to erase that.

At altitude, it’s not so important to start well as we saw with the Lions in the SuperRugby semi-final. From 30 minutes onwards, the altitude starts to kick in and take the sting out of the opposition legs.

Test matches are like playing 12 Currie Cup finals in a year, such is their importance that they are live or die, every one of them.

Which is why I feel sorry for Raymond Rhule, who took full responsibility for his performance, but there’s no need to throw him away as a Springbok. In my time on the Springboks staff, we had a player who missed five tackles on the wing and weeks later he was still deeply upset and disappointed. You could see the hurt in his eyes a month later. But he went on to play stellar rugby for South Africa for the next three years, he recovered and became a regular throughout my tenure with the national team.

The players need to know they have the backing of their coaches and sometimes you get players who are immense talents on attack but their defence is not so strong. Then you have to ask: Is he coachable? Does he listen? Does he make the right decisions under pressure? Is his positional play such that he will be in the right place to execute the tackle?

Social media can be quite brutal, everyone has an opinion, but now it can be stated and broadcast far and wide. In the old days the players didn’t have to bother with any of that.

The Handre Pollard situation has also raised plenty of debate and it’s non-negotiable for me. A returning Springbok has to come back into the franchise 23 because the national interest comes first, sometimes coaches have to see the bigger picture.

He is an elite player for the Bulls and has been with them since he was 18, six years, and he has shown great loyalty and produced many good performances. A player of Pollard’s class should slot in seamlessly.

In 2004, I can remember Jake White released Victor Matfield from the Springbok squad and we were in the middle of our Currie Cup campaign at the Bulls, but we accommodated him on the flank against the Lions.

He was man of the match the next weekend against the All Blacks and that was the season South Africa won the Tri-Nations.

It is vitally important that if a Springbok needs game time, then you give it to him, even if it’s off the bench. We always used to play them at the Bulls and the Western Province, Sharks and Free State national squad players were all welcomed straight back into their teams.

John Mitchell has stated how important the Currie Cup is to build towards SuperRugby. Surely the chance to integrate a world-class player in a match situation is very much a bonus for the Bulls?

So for a week he gets to use his key tactical decision-maker in the Currie Cup while preparing for SuperRugby 2018. Surely you would take that any day?

 

 


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.

 



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