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Ken Borland



Meyer makes popular selections for UK tour 0

Posted on September 04, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer has previously said that bowing to public opinion would be akin to having fans voting for the national team, but the Springbok coach has made what will be some popular selections in the squad announced on Sunday to tour Great Britain and Ireland.

While it’s a perfectly logical squad, featuring all the players who appeared for the Springboks this year and are fit, there will be some debate, as ever, round the flyhalf position.

Meyer has predictably named all three contenders – Elton Jantjies, Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie – in the squad, and it would perhaps be best for the long-term growth of the Springboks if he spread the flyhalf duties between the trio for the three Tests against Ireland, Scotland and England.

There are five uncapped players in the 31-man squad, with lock Franco van der Merwe and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak having been round the block a few times, while outside backs Lionel Mapoe and 19-year-old Raymond Rhule have the flair and skills to be exciting additions to the Springbok backline in years to come.

Speaking of flair and skills, Meyer has decided to bring hooker-cum-part-time flank Schalk Brits in from the cold, the 31-year-old Saracens player having not represented the Springboks since 2008. The other overseas-based players in the squad are Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, Bath flank Francois Louw and mountainous Toulouse loosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp.

The other uncapped player in the touring group is loose forward Arno Botha, who has been part of the Springbok squad this year.

Meyer explained his reasoning by saying: “We’ve got a settled core of players that did the job during the England series and the Rugby Championship and we decided to stick with them.

“Gurthrö and Schalk are experienced front-rankers who have played for South Africa before and know the conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. This tour provides a good opportunity to assess them as we plan ahead. Arno, Lionel, Franco and Jano have all been part of our squad earlier in the season.

“Raymond put up his hand for the Junior Boks and the Cheetahs and I’m very excited to see what he can do. It’s also great to have JP Pietersen and Chiliboy Ralepelle back from injury as they bring a lot of experience to the squad.”

Meyer will also name a 32nd squad member before the team departs for the United Kingdom on Saturday, with loose forward and outside back being the two areas where the Springboks probably currently have holes.

Captain Jean de Villiers, who missed Western Province’s run-in to the Currie Cup title with a hamstring strain, will also have to prove his fitness before departure.

The Springboks have already been hard-hit by injuries with prop Coenie Oosthuizen, hookers Bismarck du Plessis and Tiaan Liebenberg, lock Andries Bekker, loose forwards Siya Kolisi, Jacques Potgieter and Pierre Spies, flyhalf Johan Goosen, centre Frans Steyn and wing Bryan Habana all being wounded in action this year.

Flanks Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow were all ruled out before the Springboks even stepped on to a field this year.

The injury curse got her dirty little hands into Habana over the weekend, the in-form winger leaving the field with a knee injury in the 14th minute of the Currie Cup final after Beast Mtawarira hurled him to the ground at a ruck.

On the plus side, though, Pietersen is back in the Springbok squad and will be hoping Lady Luck only has her best in store for him after he missed the entire Rugby Championship with a hand injury.

While Springbok fans have had to endure a diet of uninspired rugby and regular defeats this year, the team began to show real promise in the second half of the Rugby Championship before the brilliant All Blacks taught them a lesson in Soweto.

Weather conditions overseas may favour Meyer’s preferred conservative game plan, but there are enough exciting youngsters in the squad for more glimmers of hope to be seen. 

Springbok squad – Zane Kirchner (Bulls), Pat Lambie (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Juan de Jongh (WP), Jaco Taute (Lions), Jean de Villiers (WP), Lionel Mapoe (Lions), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Raymond Rhule (FS), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Morne Steyn (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Jano Vermaak (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (WP), Willem Alberts (Sharks), Arno Botha (Bulls), Francois Louw (Bath), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Juandre Kruger (Bulls), Franco van der Merwe (Lions), Eben Etzebeth (WP), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Pat Cilliers (Lions), CJ van der Linde (Lions), Adriaan Strauss (FS), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse).

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-29-back-in-action-crowd-pleasers-in-the-latest-bok-squad/#.Wa08tbIjHIU

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 biggest need for the Proteas is stability 0

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Ken

 

Whoever the new coach of the Standard Bank Proteas will be, the team’s biggest need at present is for stability after all the disruptions of the England tour that ended with South Africa being heavily beaten in four days in the fourth and final Test, losing the rubber 3-1, their first series loss in England since 1998 and their heaviest defeat since losing 3-0 to Colin Cowdrey’s team in 1960.

The frontrunner to replace Russell Domingo, judging by media reports, is Ottis Gibson, the current England bowling coach and the former West Indies head coach who won the World T20 in 2012. The 48-year-old Barbadian has both the international experience – having been involved at that level for 11 years – and the local knowledge, having played in South Africa for the better part of the 1990s for Border, Griqualand West and Gauteng.

The list of disruptions the Proteas suffered on their tour of England, with the Tests following their defeats in both limited-overs series and the disappointment of an early exit in the Champions Trophy, starts with Domingo. The coach was not only in the awkward position of not knowing whether the tour would be his last in charge, but then had the awful heartbreak of his mother being involved in a car accident and eventually tragically passing away, forcing Domingo to leave the squad on two occasions and fly back home.

The Proteas were not only without their coach but they also went into the series without their galvanising skipper Faf du Plessis, who missed the first Test at Lord’s having stayed in South Africa for the difficult birth of his first child; a hard call but a totally understandable one.

Du Plessis returned for the second Test at Trent Bridge, with the Proteas winning by a whopping 340 runs. But they were brought back down to earth, hitting the ground hard, in the last two Tests, losing by 239 and 177 runs respectively.

The combination of Vernon Philander and Chris Morris as bowling all-rounders worked a treat in the second Test, but not in the third as Philander suffered an untimely, debilitating illness having made the ball talk in spectacular fashion as he did great work on the first day at the Oval.

The stalwart of the attack then pulled out of the fourth Test with a sore back, prompting Du Plessis to snipe that Philander needed to work harder on his fitness.

The captain shows refreshing candour in press conferences and he basically also confirmed that AB de Villiers’ Test career is dead and the team need to move on as quickly as possible.

At the moment it seems as though they have been left hanging by De Villiers, with three different batsmen being used in the crucial number four spot against England.

For me, Du Plessis should step up, take responsibility and bat in the number four position. He can bat both time and aggressively, and as captain he also needs to set the tone.

Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock, as good as they are, are better suited to coming in lower down the order.

Bavuma has the technique and tenacity to be a middle-order fighter much like Jonty Rhodes was, and his value is often worth more than simply the sum of his runs; he should be batting five or six and can also handle the second new ball and marshal the tail.

De Kock has been touted as the new Adam Gilchrist and needs to be used in the same role as the great Australian wicketkeeper/batsman. De Kock has all the shots and likes to use them, and needs to come in at six or seven where he can play his own, counter-attacking game. Having to rebuild at 40 for two does not suit him and he is the sort of batsman who can shift momentum batting lower down or really take the game away from tired bowlers.

Everything depends on a solid start, however, and South Africa had an average opening stand of just 13.62 against England and nothing higher than 21 between Dean Elgar and Heino Kuhn.

Elgar had a good series in tough conditions, scoring a century and two half-centuries as he made the second most runs (291) for the Proteas, behind Hashim Amla (329), but Kuhn’s place must be under serious threat after he made just 113 runs in eight innings.

Stephen Cook, the man Kuhn replaced, must still be in the mix judging by his century last weekend for the SA A side, while those who believe players of the future must be given as much opportunity as possible will be clamouring for Aiden Markram to make his Test debut against Bangladesh at the end of next month.

But whatever the final selection, there must be far more stability over the coaching situation – who Gibson’s assistants will be is shaping as an interesting discussion – and the captaincy. Surely everyone would feel a lot more settled if Du Plessis was just given the captaincy for all three formats?

The selectors and management also need to make up their minds about batting positions and stick to them, players floating up and down the order is doing nobody any good.

A couple of Tests against Bangladesh should be a good opportunity for the Proteas to regather their balance and get back on the winning trail.

There will be the distraction of the Global T20 League after that, but the South Africans need to get quickly back up to speed because world number one India and Australia, itching for revenge, will be considerable opposition when they arrive on these shores later in the summer.

Proteas’ future muddied by a lot of disruption 0

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Ken

 

The Proteas have just returned from a sorry tour of England and there has understandably been plenty of speculation over what the future holds for South African cricket.

Coach Russell Domingo seems to have accepted his fate, but Cricket South Africa have been absolutely stum over the whole coaching situation, having only too happily made it clear they were looking elsewhere in the middle of the home series against Sri Lanka in January.

Ottis Gibson is clearly the man CSA have earmarked to take over from Domingo, and he has considerable international experience, having been head coach of the West Indies as well as spending a lot of time with England as their bowling coach. The 48-year-old also played in South Africa for a decade, representing Border, Griqualand West and Gauteng.

The uncertainty over the coaching situation, made worse by Domingo having to return home twice due to the tragic death of his mother, clearly unsettled the Proteas, but there were a lot of other disruptions on their tour as well. Faf du Plessis missing the first Test and Vernon Philander’s health problems did them no favours either.

The most crucial thing that CSA need to do for the national team is to provide stability.

AB de Villiers is still leaving the team hanging as to when and what he wants to play and those in the know are quite clear about the fact that his presence has now become at best a distraction and, at worst, a disruption. In terms of talent and reputation, De Villiers is like a supernova, but we all know that a supernova also tends to produce explosive shockwaves that destroy everything in their path.

South Africa’s recent limited-overs form suggests the team is overshadowed when De Villiers plays, so unused to his presence they have become.

So there needs to be complete clarity over De Villiers’ availability and, if he is not available for everything, then he should also not be allowed to captain the limited-overs teams.

Test captain Du Plessis clearly believes De Villiers will retire completely from the longest format, and the question of who should fill AB’s number four berth has not been answered, with three different batsmen filling the spot in the series against England.

It is Du Plessis himself who should take responsibility and step up into the number four berth. He has the all-round game, being able to both attack and defend, that is needed in that position and as captain he also needs to set the tone.

Temba Bavuma is the incumbent number four, but he seems to be more of a gritty middle-order batsman, coming in at five or six. His displays thus far in Test cricket suggest he will inherit the Jonty Rhodes mantle of his value being far greater than just the sum of the runs he scores.

To me, it was an especially poor decision to move Quinton de Kock up to number four, it betrayed a management that was pandering to the views of those outside the camp. The man touted as the new Adam Gilchrist must have the same role as the great Australian wicketkeeper/batsman; De Kock will have much more impact coming in at six or seven where he can play his own game. He does not want to have to rebuild an innings coming in at 40 for two the whole time, he’s the type of batsman to take the game away from the bowlers.

Which brings us to the openers. It is Heino Kuhn’s misfortune that he waited so long for a chance and it came against one of the greatest new-ball pairings in conditions that were always difficult for batsmen; Dean Elgar fared best of all the openers with an average of just 36.37.

But by jettisoning Stephen Cook after four unsuccessful Test matches, the selectors have created a precedent and it would be only fair to give Aiden Markram a go against Bangladesh at the end of next month. He is unlikely to be tested by their gentle pace bowlers, but at least he is a player for the future who needs a chance sooner rather than later.

There is only one round of Sunfoil Series matches before that, so it seems Kuhn will not even have much opportunity to save himself by scoring a whole lot of runs back on home soil. Even Cook will have a better chance as he will play two four-day games for SA A.



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