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Ken Borland



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.

‘Lack of bonus points has hurt us’ – Nollis 0

Posted on June 29, 2016 by Ken

 

“The lack of bonus points is what has hurt us,” Bulls coach Nollis Marais said on Tuesday as he contemplated the three-point gap between them and the Sharks and the four extra points the Stormers have, deficits they now have three weeks to make up, starting with this weekend’s awkward trip to Buenos Aires to play the Jaguares .

The Bulls, Sharks and Stormers all won seven of their dozen matches in the first segment of SuperRugby, so Marais is spot on with his analysis.

“Not getting bonus points when we beat the Reds and Rebels is now a problem for us and we have to make sure we win our next three games, just to control our destiny a bit. But it doesn’t help if we now just allow ourselves to stagnate, we must definitely move forward in our intensity and in the way we want to play.

“We want to show our fight and we must go out and play an attacking brand of rugby. We definitely have that mindset. We can’t just maul sides, that’s not the way we want to play. We want to play more with the ball in certain areas, play a high-intensity game. The maul and set-pieces still play a big part, but we can’t just have that, we must also break the line,” Marais said.

The Bulls squad that will leave for Argentina on Wednesday has been rocked by injuries.

Flank Deon Stegmann, lock Grant Hattingh and wing Bjorn Basson have injured themselves in training, to add to the injuries picked up on international duty by prop Trevor Nyakane and lock RG Snyman.

The Bulls will also be led by Lappies Labuschagne because Springbok captain Adriaan Strauss is being given a rest as per the agreement with Saru.

“Nothing needs to be said by me, everyone knows what needs to be done and we’re all working towards the same goal. We’re in a good space, it’s a big game and one we really want to win. The past is in the past, but we can rectify the mistakes we made and we’re really fired up for the rest of the season. We’re really positive for what lies ahead,” Labuschagne said.

Just how good are the Sharks? We’ll know this weekend v Stormers … 0

Posted on March 10, 2016 by Ken

 

For anyone who wonders just how good the new-look Sharks team is under Gary Gold and Robert du Preez, the answer could well be forthcoming this weekend as they take on the high-flying Stormers in Cape Town on Saturday.

Assistant coach Du Preez certainly believes the Stormers will pose the toughest test yet for the team who are one of only four unbeaten sides after the first two rounds of SuperRugby.

“We’ve had four out of four in terms of wins if you include the two friendlies in France, so that’s good and we take a lot of confidence from that. But the Stormers are going to pose a very different challenge in Cape Town. They’re quite similar to us in terms of how we both want to play, and they have a very respected pack. We’re under no illusions as to what is lying in wait for us, but we’re confident and we’ll give it our best shot,” Du Preez said.

The attacking play of the Sharks has certainly showed enormous promise, although there were obviously way too many handling errors in last weekend’s win over the Jaguares. The humidity of the Durban summer does provide some explanation.

“It was very difficult conditions and the ball was very slippery, but that’s what you get this time of year in Durban. The intent was there, but we obviously coughed up too many balls. We created quite a few opportunities, but we should have converted quite a few more.

“But we are a work in progress, we’re getting better as we go along and there’s still a long season ahead of us. There’s a good balance between youth and some really experienced players in the set-up and it’s quite special what Gary and the rest of the coaching staff have created at this stage, it’s a nice vibe from the camp,” Du Preez said.

There will be different Titans for Benoni & East London … 0

Posted on January 29, 2016 by Ken

 

There will be practically two different Titans teams in action this weekend as the defending champions look to get their Momentum One-Day Cup campaign back on track with matches against the Knights in Benoni on Friday and versus the Warriors in East London on Sunday.

While the Titans are currently in fourth place on the log, there are only five points – the equivalent of a bonus point win – between them and the competition-leading Cape Cobras. The Warriors are second with the same number of points as the Cobras, while the Highveld Lions are third, two points ahead of the Titans. The Dolphins are, like the Titans, on nine points and the bottom-placed Knights are on eight, so there is a real logjam in the 50-over standings.

While current Proteas Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, Farhaan Behardien and Chris Morris will all be playing in Benoni, getting some valuable white-ball cricket in before the series against England starts on Wednesday, SA A players Dean Elgar, Qaasim Adams, Theunis de Bruyn, David Wiese and Marchant de Lange (called up on Friday) won’t be there for the Titans at all this weekend as they are playing a day/night match against the tourists in Kimberley on Saturday.

Coach Rob Walter said on Thursday that the Titans were inconsistent in the first five games of the competition, which won’t be helped by the raft of changes he will have to make between their sixth and eighth games, by when the SA A quintet should be back.

“It’s not going to be easy, we’re losing a lot of players so it will test our squad strength, but it provides opportunities for some quality cricketers. We’re under a bit of pressure to get the job done this weekend, we need points if we’re going to push for a home final.

“Of course we’ve been down this road before and we just have to make sure we get on a roll. We’ve been a bit inconsistent with both bat and ball and have struggled to put both facets together in the same game. But we have a strong side to play the Knights, who are always tough and offer very strong resistance,” Walter said.

The likes of Grant Thomson, Graeme van Buuren, Heinrich Klaasen and Rowan Richards, who were all successful in the first half of the competition, should be in contention to fill in on Sunday in East London.

Titans squad v Knights – Henry Davids, Quinton de Kock, Heino Kuhn, Faf du Plessis, Farhaan Behardien, Grant Mokoena, Mangaliso Mosehle, Albie Morkel, Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi, Junior Dala, Grant Thomson, Ethy Mbhalati.

 

 



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