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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Planning for the French Tests 0

Posted on May 23, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee will not find it too difficult to prepare for the three Tests against France and there is always great excitement when the players get together in the national team environment.

Due to WorldRugby regulations, he will have to wait for the overseas players until the week of the first Test match, but these days the information they need to know is easy to disseminate and the players have access to apps, for example, with which they can watch the training sessions. He will have communicated the game plans, moves and patterns to them, so it shouldn’t be too difficult for them to assimilate.

This week saw Allister have his third camp this year, which is obviously what he missed last year. His program of camps has been very much extended this year, but you still don’t do a lot of hard, physical work at these get-togethers.

As Springbok management, you have to be very careful because the players are in the middle of SuperRugby and will be coming off a very tough game. But the camps are certainly invaluable for laying down the plans for the structure and principles, making sure all the players get on the same page.

There will be on-field training, but basically it will just be walk-throughs or practising with the contact levels right down. We used to use the Lions U19 players as defenders, which puts much less pressure on the Springboks in terms of physicality.

After all, some unions used to send their players to camp with GPSs so they could check the amount of running they did!

Generally the three Tests in June are against the same opposition, so it’s easier to prepare for it, but it’s the same for every international team, they are all in the same boat.

In November, the Southern Hemisphere teams have an advantage because it’s after the end of their season, all their game plans are in place and they’ve just come off a month’s rest. In June, the Northern Hemisphere sides are tired at the end of their long season, but due to the Six Nations, they are further along in their game plans.

The key for Allister will be to not make it too complicated, stick to simple principles and make it clear what he wants the team to do to win that first Test.

I know international football sides only get their players for a week from all over the world, but soccer is quite an individual game, there are a lot more dynamics in rugby such as the set-pieces and the defensive and attacking game plans.

As far as last weekend’s SuperRugby goes, the Stormers did really well to come back from their overseas tour woes with a win. They defended very well in the final quarter and from half-time onwards they were very sound and physical in the collisions. They got their just rewards for quick-taps with some game-changing moments.

I was quite sceptical, however, about the TMO decision on Sikhumbuzo Notshe’s try, but there are always highs and lows in terms of officiating through a Super Rugby season and it evens out in the end.

The Southern Kings were a bit unlucky against the Brumbies, but they were very vulnerable to the grubber in behind. Their defensive system relies on the fullback getting up in the line very early, the Brumbies obviously saw that and took advantage.

In the game in Singapore, the 38-17 scoreline flattered the Sharks a bit because they had an intercept and two breakaway tries in the last few minutes against the Sunwolves. Before that, the Sharks just could not finish and the amount of mistakes they made, especially when it came to the final pass, didn’t help either. But they will be happy to get back to winning ways and get the bonus point, although it looks likely they’ll have to get through a playoff in New Zealand.

If the Lions, however, have aspirations of playing at home all the way through to the final, then they need to win their big game against the Sharks after the international break.

No side in SuperRugby would have lived with the Lions in the first half of their match against the Bulls and they are showing great decision-making at the moment.

Having been away for three weeks, there was definitely a feeling of the Lions being back at home and they were full of confidence.

Obviously they will lose a bit of momentum over the break, quite a few of their players will be in the national squads, so it will be a tough month for them. They will have guys who will play all three Tests against France, so that will be disruptive to their rhythm.

And coach Johan Ackermann won’t have a break either because he will be coaching the SA A side, which will be quite taxing too. And then one week after the end of SuperRugby, he’ll be off to Gloucester, so he has a very busy program over the next few months.

Sometimes you get very good SuperRugby players who are just not able to adapt to the higher environment and believe you me, international rugby is a higher level and just so much quicker, because it’s the best of the best playing. In SuperRugby, you get guys who are in the same system all their life, at the Bulls there were guys who were coached in defence by me since they were 19, but they can’t adapt to the different pace of the game at the next step up.

Certain other players prove to be consistently excellent players at Test level. There’s such a mental side to it because there is real pressure representing your country at international level, some players just cope better.

Those are the sort of players Allister Coetzee will want to be working with.

 

 

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.

 

Held together by bandages & gauze, but Jannie still relishes the challenge 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The tight five is characteristically the place where the players are held together by bandages and gauze, such is the high-impact workload they have to shoulder in rugby seasons that are just getting longer and harder. But there’s one man in the Springbok pack who has been particularly burdened with a massive workload, and that is tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

The 30-year-old played in every SuperRugby match last year and in all 16 games for the Sharks this year, as well as every Test in 2012 and all three in 2013 thus far. But Du Plessis, a qualified medical doctor, says he’s relishing the challenge.

“I hope I become like leather: you know, the more you use it, the tougher and better it becomes. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’m playing so much that I’m going to break down. I want to play 40 games a year for the next five years,” Du Plessis said after the Springboks’ training session in Fourways on Wednesday.

While the scrummaging skills and experience of the Bethlehem-born Du Plessis are invaluable in the crucial tighthead position – many ex-forwards say it’s the first position that should be chosen in a team – the other reason for why the Grey College-product is hogging the number three jersey is the lack of depth in his position in the country.

The current Springbok squad has five props in it and Du Plessis is the only one who can be regarded as a specialist tighthead, the foundation of a solid scrum.

The Springbok brains trust have identified Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead, as the next best tighthead in the land and coach Heyneke Meyer said the lack of depth has left him little choice but to develop the 24-year-old as the next choice number three for the 2015 World Cup.

“I truly believe we are in trouble with tightheads in South Africa,” Meyer said. “If you look at it, most of the guys are injured and at one stage we had the best tightheads in the world, but now there are a lot of inexperienced guys playing there.

“We feel Coenie is the second tighthead in the squad and we need to give him some game time. A tighthead is like great wine, it only gets better with time. Coenie is only 24 and we need someone who is the next tighthead who has time to develop and will be there for a long time.

“If Coenie doesn’t play there in Test match rugby, he won’t be right for the next World Cup. With Gurthro Steenkamp and Trevor Nyakane, they are great impact players, and we have a lot of looseheads with Beast as well. But we’re under pressure on the tighthead side,” Meyer said.

But there is also a lot of anti-Coenie-at-tighthead feeling around rugby circles, with many wondering why Cheetahs number three Lourens Adriaanse, an unused member of the Springbok squad in June, or impressive Sharks youngster Wiehahn Herbst aren’t given a chance.

Tighthead prop is a specialist position, like hooker or scrumhalf, and what Meyer is doing is a bit like trying to convert your second-choice outside centre into a scrumhalf just because he’s a great player. Coaches have to make tough decisions and, however brilliant Oosthuizen is and however much depth there is at loosehead, you can only have two in a match-day squad. Trying to turn a loosehead into a tighthead is fraught with danger, as we saw with previous coach Peter de Villiers’ unsuccessful attempts with John Smit.

Although Oosthuizen is an ox of a man – weighing 125kg and standing 1.83m – tighthead is a highly technical position where size and strength are not enough on their own.

Ask Jannie du Plessis himself.

“It is really flipping difficult to change from loosehead to tighthead, ask the looseheads who’ve tried. It’s a completely different position with a different set of skills. But I hope Coenie does well in the position, he’s done well enough when he has come on at tighthead, so then everyone won’t make such a big thing about it and me playing every game,” Du Plessis said.

The other problem with Oosthuizen playing tighthead is that he will be stuck in the scrum for longer and the Springboks stand to dilute two of his major weapons – his exceptional ability in carrying the ball and the pressure he brings to the breakdown.

And Oosthuizen’s switch is happening at a time of great uncertainty amongst front-rankers with the new scrum rules coming into effect for the Rugby Championship.

After protests over the number of collapsed scrums, the International Rugby Board [IRB] have introduced new calls governing the engagement. The new sequence is “crouch, bind, set”, requiring the props to bind before the scrum sets.

But the IRB, in their wisdom, have introduced the new protocol at Test level as well, without trialling it first in SuperRugby. So the top players in the Southern Hemisphere are all going into a crucial part of the game, for which match-swinging penalties are often given, blind, without any competitive experience of the changes.

“The scrums are an uncertainty for us. You have to play the cards that are dealt you, but the situation is that this is the first time in a Test series where we play the new rules. This year we are going straight into the new rules and we don’t know what to expect,” Meyer admitted.

Du Plessis, who has seen most things in the dark and dingy world of scrums, thinks even these new rules might not last.

“Normally you have a few games to get used to new laws, like they did with the ELVs. But the challenge now is to adapt right away. It might be a shambles and then they change it again.

“Since I started playing, this will be the sixth or seventh change to the scrum laws, so they are definitely chopping and changing and maybe they are scratching a place where it’s not itching… ” Du Plessis said.

The major difference that front-rankers will experience, with the “hit” taken out of the equation, is that scrums are going to last much longer now, according to Du Plessis.

“It’s going to be a big change. In the past you relied on speed because the gap between the front rows was big. Now because you’re binding first, you are much closer together and you can’t rely on speed.

“Scrums are going to be about generating more power and they will last much longer, so we’ll have to work harder. It won’t be so much about power and speed and more about endurance.

“They’ve said the scrum has to be steady now and they’re going to force scrumhalves to put the ball in straight, but it sounds like election promises to me: we hear that every year,” Du Plessis said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-08-rugby-tightheads-at-a-loose-end/#.WCxJxvl97IU

Marabastad & Laudium cricket: a community surviving the shameful past 0

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Ken

The forced removals that destroyed the culturally-diverse Marabastad community count amongst the most shameful incidents in Pretoria history, separating the Black, Indian and Coloured communities that lived in the area.  They all played cricket together in an association presided over by the famous Mr Sooboo and in the mid-1930s there were numerous teams playing like Azads, Old Boys, Navyugas, Sheffield, Rangers, Foresters, Burma Lads, Districts, Olympians Kismet and Clydes.

 

But these teams were largely mono-cultural, with Azads comprising mainly Gujaratis, Rangers being a Coloured team, Burma Lads made up of Tamils and Districts largely comprising Surtees. However race never played a part in sport as competitions were mixed.  Black cricket played at Bantulie was curtailed with the forced removal of Blacks to Atteridgeville.  But by then the Group Areas Act had further condemned Indians to Laudium and Coloureds to Eersterust.

 

Facilities in Marabastad comprised only two fields which were used for soccer and cricket. One had a grass pitch and the other a matting wicket which was known as the Razor’s Edge because of the rough sand and stones that cut up anyone foolhardy enough to leave his feet. The uneven pitch was bouncy and dangerous and Dhiraj Soma (Sapa), perhaps the Father of Sport in Marabastad, once had his front teeth knocked out batting on it.Teams from the Marabastad region, including Bantulie (the current site of the Tech grounds), where Black cricket was centred, were selected to play against sides from Johannesburg and the Western Transvaal, as well as Brits.  Even the great Basil d’Oliveira turned out to represent Northern Transvaal in an interprovincial game.

 

By then Marabastad had all but closed down and Laudium had become its successor for cricket.  The complex history of Marabastad cricket included a mass folding of clubs in the early 1970s, with the survivors, Foresters, Sheffield and Burma Lads, going to play in the SACBOC leagues, which was not a simple task as it meant travelling to places like Bosmont, Newclare, Lenasia, Ermelo, Potchefstroom and Germiston.

 

Rashid Varachia’s attempt at unifying cricket in 1976 also failed as Foresters and Rangers initially joined the White leagues but pulled out after a couple of years, with various on-field incidents reflecting racial undertones. It was clear true integration was still far off.  In 1975, Foresters were allowed to use the ground in Laudium as their home base, but in 1978 they pulled out of the league and the venue became derelict. Burma Lads and Shefield continued playing in the SACBOC league.

 

It wasn’t until 1984 when an attempt to rekindle cricket was made. Cricket resurfaced after a few years in the doldrums. Although the area was given a turf sports ground, the facilities remained ill-prepared with long grass and cooking flour used to mark the pitch and stones for boundaries!.  New teams were formed: Cavaliers, Delfos, Trishul, and Kent. Brits, Rangers, Districts and Sheffield re-surfaced. But that only lasted a couple of years before fizzling out again as facilities were non-existent.

 

After the SA tour to India during 1991 interest in cricket was renewed.  A further attempt was made in 1991 to rekindle cricket in Laudium, by Nilesh Mistry and Harry Karsen, with Delfos, Foresters, Leeds (ex-Sheffield), Kent, Brits Al-Amien and Districts all playing a part in what was to become the Sunday League.

In 1998, unity talks with the Northerns Cricket Union, saw Laudium, one of the previously disadvantaged teams, nominated to play in the Northerns Premier League.  That was always going to be a huge challenge and someone needed to guide them through these turbulent waters. That someone was Aniel Soma and by 1999 he had masterminded the participation at the highest level by deserving players as well as development of the new Oval in Laudium and the upgrading of the derelict building to a clubhouse to meet the demands of cricket.

 

When Soma was a young player, techniques were learnt mainly by listening to radio commentary, But professional coaches were brought into Laudium to assist, like Anton Ferreira and Gerhard Maree. The township south-west of the CBD can now be considered a cricketing stronghold, having hosted matches in the ICC Women’s World Cup in 2005 and India A tour matches, but it has taken a lot of effort and determination to achieve that.

 

The current team, evenly split between Black and Indian players, will continue to honour the tradition of great Marabastad and Laudium figures like the disciplined Arthur Karodia, the deft Eddie Naidoo, the brute Dhiraj Soma (Sapa), the fearless Viggie Naidoo, the guile of Jerry Makan, the stylish touches of  Rashid Bhikha, the cunningness of G Pillay, the power of Solly May, the all-round capability of Julian Weideman and the pace of Ameen Nagdee.  How can we ever forget the likes of Chandoo Ramjee, Mohamed Mia, Dhanraj Soma, Ramesh Nathoo, Hira Soma, Nithia Pillay,  Ebrahim Ebrahim, Ragie Moodley, Gopal Chetty, Deenen Padiachy, Hama Ahmed or Yusuf Ismail, Deshi Bhaktawer, Yogendra Naran, Gaffar Ahmed and their contribution to our cricket.

 

We pay tribute to those who paved the way.

 



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