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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Boks nicely set up after job well done 0

Posted on August 30, 2017 by Ken

The Tests against Argentina were a job well done by the Springboks and it’s great to see them at the top of the Rugby Championship log, with things set up nicely for their tour of Australasia.

It’s great to see the Springboks play so convincingly and win five Tests on the bounce, including coach Allister Coetzee’s first away win.

It was a really good win last weekend in Salta and what was most impressive was the all-round game they played.

To win by five tries to two, maintaining their high rate of try-scoring this year, shows that their attacking game is completely on track. Their ability to convert turnover ball into seven points was also superb, as in the crucial second try by Siya Kolisi just after halftime.

It’s never easy in Salta because of the extreme heat and a very passionate crowd, and there was a lot of talk about the effects of travel, but the performance proved that the Springboks used the right schedule. To have two good days of training in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg before they left for Argentina was a masterstroke and you have to give credit to the coaching staff for their wise planning.

They also did not rush back from Salta, instead having a good day of recovery around the pool, and they will hopefully reap good rewards for that on their trip to Perth. It is, however, a more tricky flight from Perth on the far western side of Australia to Auckland, much longer than flying from the eastern shore. It means the Springboks will probably lose Monday as a training day and will only have Tuesday and Thursday before the All Blacks Test in Albany, which is perhaps a day light in terms of preparation.

The next two weeks are going to be big pressure games for the Springboks. Australia have recovered well, as expected, and the fact they nearly beat the All Blacks in Dunedin proves the margins are so small at the top international level of the game. The Wallabies will be aggrieved they did not win, but they have certainly regained their pride and confidence.

Both New Zealand and Australia are leaking tries at the moment though, nine and 13 respectively in their first two matches, which is a big thing for the Springboks to target.

The Springboks have only conceded four tries and their defence has been vastly improved.

There is not much a defence coach can do about a kickoff that bounces in no-man’s land and subsequently leads to a try, but someone would have called for it and then misjudged the flight of the ball. The players will take responsibility for it and it will be sorted out in the review of the game. The misunderstanding will all be cleared up quickly, especially with the great culture in the team at the moment.

Speaking of great, I thought Elton Jantjies had such a good game.

He knows he’s the number one flyhalf and he’s feeling backed, and his goalkicking has been phenomenal at 89%, which is the most important box for him to tick. But the quality of his all-round play has been excellent – his exits, his awareness of space and the way he has been able to take the ball to the line. He’s attacking with real confidence.

Our wingers are also coping well in the Rugby Championship and the game has moved on from just being about size and kick-and-chase.

That said, the Springboks’ kicking game has also been working well.

The set-pieces have also been brilliant and the scrum has functioned really well. Who would have thought that our scrum would be so dominant in two Tests against Argentina.

The Pumas came out ultra-aggressive and fired up and maybe it was too much because it led to ill-discipline and cards, something that was an issue for the Jaguares all through SuperRugby as well.

There just seems to be one remaining issue with the Springboks and that is the back-up flyhalf situation. Handre Pollard has been named in the touring squad but it is a concern that he has not played any actual rugby.

Obviously he must have been training well and the intensity of the Springbok practices is good, but to be really ready to play, everyone needs some match time behind them. Pat Lambie is in the same boat and they both need game time, but unfortunately their Springbok contracts mean they cannot play any Currie Cup rugby.

It is something that SA Rugby needs to revisit.

 

 

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.

The delights of Rory killed all cynicism 0

Posted on January 25, 2017 by Ken

 

I am a bit too cynical about these things, so I did predict gloomily that Rory McIlroy would probably miss the cut in the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club last weekend, for which the world number two was the star attraction.

But I am delighted to report that the Northen Irishman lived up to his billing both on and off the course, behaving every bit the much-loved superstar with his tremendous performance and his dealings with the large galleries that followed him around, scores of autograph seekers and the media.

No, McIlroy did not win the second oldest national open title as expected, but that had more to do with the splendid performance of Graeme Storm, who just made no mistakes, than any failings on Rory’s part.

The crowds, the largest seen at the SA Open in a decade, certainly got their money’s worth though as the thrilling McIlroy v Storm contest went all the way to three playoff holes. There is also surely no better driver of the ball in world golf than McIlroy, and those booming hits down the middle of the fairway have huge spectator value.

And, to make McIlroy’s entire performance even more impressive, he was struggling with a bad back which was later diagnosed as a stress fracture of a rib. He must have played through considerable discomfort, so kudos to the man. The seriousness of the injury is shown by his withdrawal from this weekend’s Abu Dhabi HSBC Championship, where he could have regained the number one world ranking.

The current speculation is that he will be out of action for a month but let’s hope McIlroy gets better soon.

Of course, having such a wonderful guest at the SA Open was largely due to the efforts of tournament ambassador Ernie Els. Is there a better South African sporting patriot?

The respect that Els, a member of the Hall of Fame since 2011, enjoys in international golf is clearly about far more than just his golf game and the four major titles he was won. McIlroy made it clear that his presence in South Africa was as a favour to Els.

And the Big Easy has not only been a tremendous supporter of South African golf: If the Springboks or Proteas play in London, more often than not, Els will be there and usually gives of his time to hand out the jerseys or give a motivational speech to the team.

And the good news is, it looks like you may get the chance to see McIlroy again in South Africa in the near future.

“I had a fantastic time in South Africa, it was an incredible 10 days, and my fiancée and I are already planning to return at the end of the year,” McIlroy said after the disappointment of his playoff defeat.

If McIlroy genuinely meant the end of 2017 then you would think his eye is on the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City, which is the penultimate event on the Race to Dubai and part of the lucrative Finals Series, or else he may have meant returning to the SA Open in a year’s time.

Either way, it is wonderful news for South African golf.

 

John McFarland Column: Boks are in a dark space & I know how that feels 0

Posted on November 23, 2016 by Ken

 

It was obviously a big shock for the Springboks to have lost to Italy at the weekend and everybody involved will feel that they have let the country down. But it’s now about going forward and getting things right for this weekend’s game against Wales.

The key is the coach, the wolf pack follows the pace of the leader and if he’s energised and shows how hard he wants to fight, then the rest will follow.

The nice thing about sport is that you get the chance to turn things around the next week and a good win against Wales will maybe show that the players have settled in better into the new game-plan.

In any coach’s life, they will go through a crisis, they will have a bad loss, because nobody wins 100% of the time. Every coach has their time under pressure, even the best coaches – for example Jose’ Mourinho at Chelsea or Eddie Jones at the Reds.

They’ve got to know what to do and how to put it right the following week.

In my time with the Springboks, I was part of the squad that lost to Japan at the World Cup. That was also a big blow to all our careers and I remember the day itself very well.

During the week everyone was filled with euphoria, we had landed in London, had the World Cup welcome, and we were really over-confident.

Japan certainly deserved their win, as did Italy last weekend.

On that Saturday evening in Brighton, it felt like being in a dark hole, certainly the players were feeling that. We had a very short meeting, some of the senior guys stood up and said it wasn’t good enough and we had to make sure we came back. We were still in the World Cup, so we were lucky that we had the chance to turn it around.

When you lose like that, everyone goes in different directions, especially when it’s the national team. Nobody looks anyone in the eyes, everyone feels a huge responsibility for their role in the disaster.

As part of the coaching staff, you pore through the video, looking at what was good and what was bad, preparing yourself for a really critical review of exactly what went wrong and how to better it. You deal with the team and also individuals in one-on-one situations.

After that game we had a long trip to Birmingham, five hours on a bus, and not one word was spoken. We stopped for lunch and there was still very little chat.

We kept the physical routine the same that week, but we made some key changes in other areas of our schedule.

On the Monday morning the players had their usual gym and recovery sessions, but then instead of a review of the game, we had an inquest. Every player got up and took responsibility for their part in the defeat, and said what they were going to get right and bring to the table for the next weekend.

Believe me, tears were shed because it’s pretty galling that the game you played with such joy as a child can put you in such a dark space.

Responsibility was taken by the whole group. Heyneke Meyer stood at the front and said this is the way we are going to do it from now on.

With all that cleaned out of the way, I remember there was a new focus from the players, everyone made a tremendous shift. Jean de Villiers led from the front, he said we will fix this, we will put it right, as did all the senior players. Training was very physical and intense that week as you’d expect from a wounded Springbok team.

Then they put on a real performance of pride and passion in beating Samoa 46-6, allowing them zero tries as we absolutely smashed them backwards. Duane Vermeulen was only meant to play about 50 minutes, but he played the full 80 and put in a real shift at the coalface.

Unfortunately Jean de Villiers was injured in that match and had to return home, but we won all our games after losing to Japan and pushed the All Blacks to within two points in the World Cup semifinal, the difference being a Dan Carter drop goal and an overturned penalty.

We were all really proud at the fact that we had come back and pushed New Zealand really close, putting on a far better performance against them than Australia did in the final, and then we took the bronze medal from Argentina in convincing fashion.

Heyneke Meyer pulled the team together with his staff and senior players, the core group pushed the boat in the right direction. From the Monday after the Japan loss, we were one team and we knew that one more defeat would put us out of the World Cup.

Some of the squad have been involved in both defeats to Japan and Italy and hopefully they can turn it around now like they did in the World Cup.

It’s always a battle of the gainline against Wales, with Jamie Roberts, Alex Cuthbert and Dan Biggar, and the Springboks will need to be really defensively solid in the backs … and obviously take their opportunities much better than they did against Italy.

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

Piedt amongst the spinners flourishing in SA cricket’s ‘po’ phase 0

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Ken

 

Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking, created the term “po” to describe an idea which moves thinking forward to a new place from where new ideas or solutions may be found. It’s probably not stretching things too far to suggest South African cricket is having a few po moments of its own, especially when it comes to spinners.

Omar Henry has had a long and successful journey through South African cricket: first as a player of colour he broke down barriers during Apartheid, as a fine left-arm spinner and a dangerous lower-order batsman he was highly respected both here and overseas, where he famously played for Scotland. He was already 40 when official international cricket returned, but he was still good enough to become the first non-white to play for South Africa.

After he retired in 1994, Henry turned to coaching and then became the convenor of the national selectors before entering the boardroom as the CEO of Boland cricket.

He has now returned to coaching and was helping out on Tuesday at the national academy at the centre of excellence at the University Of Pretoria, and he told The Citizen that the sight of three frontline spinners playing for South Africa in the West Indies triangular had been thrilling if scarcely believable.

Henry was keeping a beady eye on the spinners at the national academy nets and he had an interesting assistant in current Test spinner Dane Piedt, who was also bowling a few overs.

Piedt is one of the South African spinners who is not involved in limited-overs cricket or T20 competitions (perhaps he should be?), and with Test cricket starting again in August with two home games against New Zealand, he is needing practice, especially since the Cape weather is really not conducive to any sort of outdoor activity at the moment.

“It’s the end of the world in Cape Town at the moment! The weather channel says there’s an 85% chance of rain but it’s more like 105%. So I needed to come up here and get some work in before the SA A side goes to Zimbabwe and Australia,” the 26-year-old said after taking a break from the serious stuff.

The idea of a current player coaching up-and-coming stars who could be competing with him for places in teams is another example of forward-thinking, and it was wonderful to see the many different generations that academy head Shukri Conrad has roped in to help at the academy. Vincent Barnes was a prolific bowler of the 1980s, while Henry and Jimmy Cook were there from South Africa’s early years back in international cricket, as were Shaun Pollock and Gary Kirsten from the next era, more recent players like Andre Nel and Greg Smith, and then current stars Piedt and Stephen Cook.

For Piedt, doing some coaching was an eye-opening experience.

“I told Shukri that I actually learn a lot about my own game watching these youngsters. I remember the things that I used to do, what my weaknesses are, so it helps a lot just to focus on your own game. Guys like Robin Peterson, Claude Henderson and Paul Adams passed on to me what they knew about bowling and now I’m passing on the little I’ve learnt to these guys, which is exciting,” Piedt said.

Much of the off-season talk in South African cricket has been around playing pink ball day/nighters in Australia and how our players are going to prepare for a totally new challenge. De Bono would be proud of the positive attitude with which the Proteas are tackling this leap into the unknown.

“I’ve never played with a pink ball before, so it’s unknown territory, but the game is changing so rapidly these days and we need to keep up. When the SA A side meets up on July 2 we’re going to try and get a couple of pink balls into the nets to work out how they are different, devise strategies for it.

“I watched that Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide and Nathan Lyon and Mark Craig were getting quite a bit of spin, even with the ball swinging all over the place. Apparently there are a lot of differences and you tend to see it, lose it and then pick it up again in the field,” Piedt said.

Piedt has taken 22 wickets in his five Tests in a career that was interrupted for over a year by a serious shoulder injury after his eight-wicket debut against Zimbabwe in Harare. He is the incumbent spinner after playing in three of the four Tests against England last summer and he feels he ticked the box when it came to consistency.

“The big thing for me was getting that consistency, being able to land the ball in the same place and build pressure. Taking three for 38 in 18 overs in the second innings in Cape Town really helped my confidence and then I felt I came into my own in the last Test at Centurion. And then the Tests just stopped!

“But England have a very strong batting line-up and I felt I was expensive early on. I want to put the two together, go for two/2.5 runs-per-over and also take wickets. I want to implement the parts of my game where I feel strong, like being aggressive. I was pleased with 10 wickets in the series on good surfaces,” Piedt said.

For the moment, the South African selectors are only seeing Piedt as a long-format player, but who knows what might happen in the future.

Few would have predicted the current success of Tabraiz Shamsi, who has proven an able deputy for the unstoppable Imran Tahir, while Aaron Phangiso also fulfils a valuable role and the likes of Eddie Leie and Simon Harmer are also waiting in the wings.

http://citizen.co.za/1172155/piedt-among-the-spinners-flourishing-in-sa-crickets-po-phase/



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