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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 John McFarland Column – Not enough emphasis on defence 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

To see so many tries scored against the South African teams in SuperRugby last weekend – 26 in all – was disappointing and it’s not great when your top franchises are conceding so many tries in particular, but the problem is that there has just not been enough emphasis on defence.

Look at the value SA Rugby put on defence after Jacques Nienaber left halfway through 2016: they appointed Chean Roux in his position and he will freely admit that he was an absolute rookie defence coach at that stage. What does that say about how they rate defence and defence coaches?

We’ve now had the national indaba and the Springboks are on to their fourth defence coach under Allister Coetzee, but I’m sure Brendan Venter will do a really good job because he has the experience and the skills, and was the architect of the Saracens defensive system that has taken them to the European Champions Cup final.

But there was no national defence coach when the indaba was convened, so I wonder if there was input on defence at that gathering? After conceding a record score against New Zealand, defence was an obvious area that needed fixing.

It’s not Allister’s fault of course because he was handed his staff; now he has been given the staff he wants and I expect to see a massive improvement in the Springboks this year.

There are problems, but the people who coach defence in the franchises will, of course, care deeply about the defensive performances. In 2013, I remember when the Springboks conceded five tries against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but we needed the bonus point to win the Rugby Championship and we played a high-tempo game, which a lot of people said was one of the best Test matches ever played. But I stewed over those five tries for a month; but then at least we only conceded one try, to France, on the whole European tour thereafter.

So our defence in general is not in a great situation at present and whether it is due to conditioning problems or the speed of the modern game is open to debate. But you can never win a rugby match if you are conceding that many tries.

There’s obviously currently an emphasis on attacking skills but I’m certain the defence coaches are still being given sufficient time with their teams, and they would have done a lot of work on certain aspects of how the opposition attack. Like the Australian middle ruck attack, for instance, where the flyhalf goes hard for the line with a wing or centre like Israel Folau hard on their shoulder.

It’s no surprise when the New Zealand teams employ the kick-pass, especially the Hurricanes.

They employ the rush defence, therefore their wings have to be high and so there is always space behind them. Beauden Barrett would have had a lot of practice doing the kick-pass in training because he would see and have a high understanding of that space all the time.

The Stormers left too much of the field free, nearly 20 metres of space, and with players set in the wide channels, that’s not the smartest move.

In order to make sure you cover the width of the field, you need your tight five to work really hard close to the ruck, to set the breakdown correctly with good placing between the three pillars, and then the outside backs go wider.

The Bulls obviously had problems with their defence and if you said it started with their conditioning then you would not be far off. They also have folding problems, they’re just not setting the breakdown around the corner and so they end up with insufficient numbers.

They were also caught out by grubbers and so one has to ask questions about the back three’s positional play. They need to co-ordinate better to cover those and they need a much higher work-rate.

The Southern Kings have also had defensive problems and so it is only really the Lions and Sharks, who are defending in the same fashion as always, who can be satisfied with their defence.

The Lions have shown a great defensive improvement and one must credit JP Ferreira for improving their consistency in this regard.

The Lions are rolling through nicely and it will be a phenomenal tour if they can beat the Brumbies, which will make it probably the first unbeaten tour by a South African team – a tremendous achievement, and they’ve been winning with bonus points!

We know Australian rugby is at an all-time low and they have even more defensive problems, but their forwards are really their soft underbelly and the Lions have exposed that to great effect.

And the quality of finishing this weekend by Courtnall Skosan and Sylvian Mahuza was top-class. As we get closer to the Springbok selection, it’s a good time for players to remind the national coach that they are out there by scoring skilful tries like that.

In South Africa, skills development seems to be more coach-driven, but in New Zealand, the players take personal responsibility for it. An example at the Kubota Spears is Patrick Osborne, who has played at the top level as a wing, but he works hard on his kicking. He’s playing as a right-footer on the left wing, so he’s constantly working on his left-footed grubbers and other kicks, he does that consistently.

To see a top New Zealand SuperRugby player take individual responsibility like that was quite an eye-opener.

 

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.

Cavemen give warning to other PHL hopefuls 0

Posted on September 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The other men’s teams in the Premier Hockey League have been warned that they will have to fight very hard to take the inaugural title ahead of the Milo Maropeng Cavemen as Rassie Pieterse’s side went to the top of the standings with a gripping 3-2 win over the Schick Garden Route Gazelles in a thrilling match at the Randburg Astro on Sunday.

The top-of-the-log clash dazzled from the outset with the dangerous Lance Louw showing the intent of the Cavemen as he pounced on the ball in the seventh minute, robbing an attacker and then racing forward before finding Cameron McKay with a super reverse-sticks ball which the in-form striker deflected into goal from the penalty-spot.

Lloyd Norris-Jones hit the post after a tremendous run from the halfway line in an attack that was a foretaste of what was to come from the international player in the second and third quarters.

The Cavemen went 2-0 up in the 23rd minute when Jarryd Patrick slotted the ball home to make sure that some lovely skill by Michael Abrahams did not go to waste, but the Gazelles made sure that they were on the scoreboard on the stroke of halftime as Gertjie Lamprecht got on the end of Norris-Jones’ reverse-sticks cross.

The Gazelles pressed hard for the equaliser in the third quarter, a great run by Keenan Horne leading to a string of five short-corners in quick succession, with goalkeeper and captain Pieterse making a couple of great saves.

It did eventually come in the 43rd minute though as Norris-Jones produced another tremendous run and Jason MacLachlan deflected the ball into the goal at the far post.

The Cavemen claimed their third goal – the winner – in the 54th minute as the excellent Louw fired home a penalty stroke. It was a tough call against the Gazelles after Satchi Reddy had lost composure in the circle, swung wildly at the ball and missed, and then brought down Patrick, although it was well to the right of the goal.

But the gutsy Gazelles fought back and another fine run by Horne, keeping the ball through a couple of tackles, finished with MacLachlan flicking home. But the equaliser was referred to the TV umpire and it was a hammer blow when he ruled that there had been a back-sticks play by the Gazelles, although it was not particularly obvious.

The result left the Gazelles a point behind the Cavemen, who have a game in hand, and the pressure is now on Steve Evans’ side as both the Tsogo Sun Drakensberg Dragons and the Private Property Golden Gate Gladiators are just two points behind them, both with a game in hand.

DRAGONS DOWN ELEPHANTS

The Dragons outfit is full of dangerous, skillful players and their short-corner is a particular threat, as they showed on Sunday by beating the Every Sun Addo Elephants 2-0 thanks to two brilliant drag-flicks from the set-piece by Dave Agar.

The national under-21 side is playing under the guise of the Gladiators and is also a skillful, pacy side, with Ryan Crowe a particularly key offensive force, as he showed by being involved in all three goals as they beat the Mapungubwe Mambas 3-2.

The Gladiators were not able to beat marvellous Mambas goalkeeper Hendrik Kriek and his seasoned defence until the 43rd minute, by which time the opposition had taken a 1-0 lead through a short-corner goal by Lyall Meyer.

But the Gladiators equalised as Steven McManus rounded off a Crowe attack. Not to be outdone, Crowe then gave the Gladiators a 2-1 lead showing great skill and producing a superb finish.

But the under-21s were not able to clear their lines in defence soon afterwards, conceding a short-corner. Goalkeeper Robert McKinley made a superb save from the initial flick, but the rebound was popped in by Meyer.

There were just seconds remaining though when Crowe produced a great ball to captain Alex Stewart, who fed Walter Pfaff, the Southern Gautenger flicking into the side-netting for the winner.

In the women’s tournament, the Nestle Pure Life Blyde River Bunters just never accept that they are beaten as they scored their second shootout win of the event, this time in sudden death, to see off the Ezee Tile Madikwe Rangers.

They had to come from behind just three minutes before the end of normal time to level the scores at 1-1, Izelle Verster driving into the circle after picking up a ball deflected out of defence, and passing to Lauren Nina, who made one touch and then produced a great finish inside the near post.

The Rangers had scored the opening goal in the 36th minute as Bernadette Coston intercepted a pass and set off on a pacy run, before Charne Martell won a short-corner. Lisa-Marie Deetlef’s first attempt was well-blocked but led to another short-corner, from which her strong slap headed straight for Jessica de Bruyn-Smith, who could only turn the ball into her own goal.

The Rangers took a 2-0 lead in the shootout through Deetlefs and Coston, goalkeeper Anelle van Deventer producing excellent saves to deny the first two attempts of the Bunters from Charne Hill and Elmien Marais.

But the next three Rangers – Sinalo Jafta, Sylvia van Jaarsveldt and Toni Marks – all could not find the goal. The inspirational Nicolene Terblanche got the Bunters on the board in the shootout and Anel Luus’s well-taken shot took the shootout into sudden death.

Deetlefs, the heart of the Rangers defence and still every bit the player she was at the 2012 Olympics, unfortunately lost control of the ball as she went first in sudden death. Terblanche, showing the composure befitting the national women’s captain, took her time and found the target, to leave the Bunters five points clear of the Rangers at the top of the log.

The other women’s game on Sunday saw the Young Solutions St Lucia Lakers outlast the Clinix Orange River Rafters 2-0 in the midday sun.

Rafters goalkeeper Sanani Mangisa was usually in the middle of the action, but she could not stop Kaz Bowyer from slapping in at the near-post, having initially saved Jacinta Jubb’s short-corner shot.

It was another tough old day at the office for the Rafters as the Lakers made it 2-0 in the 17th minute, Kelly Madsen making a strong run into the circle and Kate Koenig putting away her ball across the goal.

http://www.supersport.com/xtra/xtra/news/160911/Cavemen_give_warning_to_other_hopefuls

Bulls top of conference after wild night at Loftus 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The Vodacom Bulls went top of the South African SuperRugby conference as they pipped the Emirates Lions 35-33 in a wild, thrilling evening at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday.

After the scintillating match between the Hurricanes and the Crusaders earlier in the day, the Bulls and Lions showed that here in Africa there is also skill and running rugby.

It was the Bulls who stampeded out of the blocks first, racing to an 18-7 lead and they were comfortably ahead 25-13 at the break. Both sides played with pace and intensity and were not afraid to spread the ball wide, but there was also plenty of uncompromising forward play, defence and fiercely-contested rucks.

Bulls scrumhalf Piet van Zyl scored the first two tries in a dazzling three minutes and it was a pity he had to leave the field injured in the 36th minute because it robbed the Bulls attack of some fluency and also penetration out wide because Francois Hougaard had to move in and play halfback.

Van Zyl’s first try came after a superb counter-attack by the Bulls, who ran from deep and used long passes as flank Arno Botha was eventually stopped in the left corner, the scrumhalf then dummying at the ruck and diving over to dot down.

Three minutes later the Bulls again went wide and it didn’t matter that it was the big men there – locks Victor Matfield and Flip van der Merwe both handled with aplomb to send Botha charging down the left again, before he passed inside to centre Jan Serfontein, who then found Van Zyl, who battled through two tackles to score.

Van Zyl’s opposite number, Faf de Klerk, then lit up Loftus as he provided a brilliant finish to a break by right wing Ruan Combrinck and the conversion by flyhalf Elton Jantjies cut the Bulls’ lead to 12-7.

Pollard kicked two penalties to stretch the gap to 18-7, before Jantjies kicked his second penalty.

But the Bulls ensured they maintained a healthy cushion when JJ Engelbrecht teared off through the middle of the field after Serfontein had popped the ball up in the tackle, the outside centre racing clear and then sprinting around the cover defence for an extraordinary try, converted by Pollard.

Jantjies is staking a strong claim for a World Cup place behind Pollard and Pat Lambie, and he maintained his good goalkicking form with his second penalty of the first half.

This Lions team is a never-say-die outfit and the Bulls’ weakness is the scrum, which they managed to largely avoid in the first half. But with the second half starting with several scrums, the Lions were able to squeeze penalties out of the Bulls, denying them possession for long periods and dominating territory as well.

Referee Marius van der Westhuizen is clearly no scrum expert, but there was no denying the clear change in momentum as Jantjies kicked two penalties to close the gap to 19-25 and then the Lions took the lead for the first time in the 54th minute.

Replacement Courtnall Skosan provided an injection of pace down the left and with impressive flank Jaco Kriel making an incisive run, the Lions swept into the Bulls’ 22, from where their forwards began driving and loosehead prop Jacques van Rooyen was able to go over for an easy try, converted by Jantjies.

Bulls captain Victor Matfield was getting increasingly frustrated with the referee, the Bulls being denied a crucial advantage at one stage, but it was regular captain, Pierre Spies, coming off the bench, who took control of affairs.

The eighthman leapt high to control a chip-kick and then sparked a counter-attack with Hougaard that ended with a ruck penalty inside the Lions’ 22. Spies immediately tapped the ball and powered his way through several tackles, scoring the crucial try that regained the lead for the Bulls with 12 minutes remaining. The Springbok has certainly been playing with tremendous authority in recent weeks.

The momentum also shifted in the scrums, with a massive shove earning the Bulls a penalty in the 76th minute, Pollard slotting a 50m effort to stretch the lead to 35-26.

The smart money would then have been on the Bulls, but the Lions have a well-earned reputation for earning their pay over the full 80 minutes and the home side still have fresh scars from their last-minute loss a month ago at Ellis Park.

And sure enough, the Lions ensured a grandstand finish as they scored a 78th-minute try to narrow the Bulls’ lead to 35-33. Coach Johan Ackermann had called on the services of Ross Cronje off the bench at scrumhalf and he sparked a counter that saw wave-after-wave of Lions attacks. Eventually the Bulls simply ran out of defenders and Kriel, one of the Lions’ consistent stars, had an easy run-in for the try.

But the Bulls were particularly effective in the rucks on Saturday night and they were able to claim a turnover from the kickoff and ended the match with a scrum five metres from the opposition tryline.

Scorers

Bulls – Tries: Piet van Zyl (2), JJ Engelbrecht, Pierre Spies. Conversions: Handre Pollard (3). Penalties: Pollard (3).

Lions – Tries: Faf de Klerk, Jacques van Rooyen, Jaco Kriel. Conversions: Elton Jantjies (3). Penalties: Jantjies (4).

http://citizen.co.za/374533/bonus-point-35-33-win-for-bulls-in-loftus-thriller/



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