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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Impressive Boks now launch assault on Salta 0

Posted on August 25, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks, having won impressively last weekend in Port Elizabeth, will now travel to Salta to play Argentina on Saturday and my recollection of this north-western city is that it was blindingly hot and at altitude.

We were there in 2014 and we won right at the back end of the game in temperatures greater than 30⁰ and at more than a thousand metres above sea-level. The heat was the main thing and at kick-off it was still really hot and the guys took time to get into their stride.

But the Springboks have had a nice recovery since Port Elizabeth and are using the best travel plan, I think it works having had experience of that when we won in Argentina in 2015. With this way of travel, you basically keep the players on South African time and it really helps them.

They have had two good days of prep this week and Salta is quite remote, being nearly 1500 kilometres from Buenos Aires, and it involves a lot of flying, probably three flights, to get there, including one of about three hours from the capital.

They would have spent the whole of Wednesday flying, but it’s obviously in business class so they can sleep and relax. Doing that so close to the game means the players will have better focus on doing the right things to make sure they are 100%, like hydrating or taking sleeping pills. Then once they arrive they can have a stretch and a swim to get their bodies right for the big Test on Saturday. So they will basically arrive, have the captain’s run and play.

The biggest positive with this schedule is that they would have had quality training in Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg, with extra bodies available from the local unions so they could practise 15 versus 15 and put the needed miles into their legs. When you’re travelling, you generally have only 28 players so that isn’t possible.

Last weekend the Springboks just continued in a similar vein to the French series – they had similar energy and enthusiasm and were full of bounce.

The first half was obviously more of a contest, but it laid the platform for the second half because the Springboks really moved the big Argentine forwards around.

What’s really pleasing to me is that they are really developing a good all-round game. They’re scoring four tries per game and only conceding 1.5 per match; you’ll win a lot of Test matches doing that.

It was also significant that both wings scored tries. Courtnall Skosan produced a great finish from an inside ball from a set play, although maybe he was held in the tackle. That needed to be checked by the referee and it is a rule that needs to be looked at as well. Raymond Rhule then scored off a good run off Jesse Kriel.

The real strength of the Springboks, though, was their scrum.

Coenie Oosthuizen has had a rollercoaster ride for the last four years, but he is a really quality player when he is on-song because he brings so much to the game – impact carries, crashingly brutal defence and his work-rate. He is definitely an international-class tighthead and he, Beast Mtawarira and Malcolm Marx were all fantastic. The front row really destroyed the Argentine scrum, which nobody has really done for the last few years. So you have to credit the whole pack and coach Matt Proudfoot.

It is really significant to have the scrum as a weapon of mass destruction because the whole mindset of the tight five in rugby is to go forward. If your props are putting them under pressure in a primary phase then it really affects their whole game and the easy penalty and yardage gains you can get are also a primary priority for teams.

The All Blacks versus Australia game was effectively over as a contest before halftime and it’s really worrying that that happened to a Wallabies team that was ranked fourth before the game and were 54-6 down early in the second half. The All Blacks were obviously keen to send a message to the rest of the world that they are back on track after drawing with the British and Irish Lions.

But the Springboks were also able to get a good win, that lifted them into fourth in the rankings in place of Australia, and now an away bonus point would be like gold, although home bonus points are important too.

Hopefully the Springboks will get another good win in Salta that will set them up for the Australians in Perth.

 

 

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.

 

Whatever they say, Lions prove travel is hard & territory is vital 0

Posted on July 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Whatever anyone may say, there are still two inviolable truths that apply in rugby – travel is hard and territory is vital – as the Lions proved in their remarkable 44-29 win over the Hurricanes in their SuperRugby semifinal at Ellis Park on Saturday.

It was an incredible victory because the Lions were trailing 22-3 after half-an-hour. Whatever mistakes they made, under the immense pressure of a Hurricanes side that was in their faces, were punished by the visitors, whose every touch turned to gold.

But a try just before halftime, prop Jacques van Rooyen carrying a hapless defender with him as he barged powerfully over the line, gave the Lions hope and, more importantly, showed them how to play in the second half.

The try had come after a penalty was kicked to touch and a couple of lineout drives had the Hurricanes back-pedalling. It was noticeable that flyhalf Elton Jantjies was twice pushed back from over the line when he tried to go it alone, but give the ball to a big, strong forward to carry and it was a totally different story.

The Lions had tried to beat the Hurricanes at their own game in the first half, taking quick tap penalties and spreading the ball wide, and they were being destroyed.

But, to their immense credit, those plans changed in the second half.

There was a much greater emphasis on territory, with the big boots of wing Ruan Combrinck and fullback Andries Coetzee playing a key role, they drove from the lineout and used the set-pieces to get the Hurricanes on the back foot.

As the altitude and travel kicked in, the Hurricanes wilted and they barely fired a shot in the second half, all the momentum going the Lions’ way.

The Hurricanes are absolutely ruthless on turnover or openfield ball and, after Jantjies had kicked an early penalty set up by the forwards, the visitors quickly reminded the Lions of that fact.

A pass from Jantjies missed scrumhalf Ross Cronje on a wraparound move and Hurricanes halfback TJ Perenara twice kicked the ball through before winning the race for the touchdown.

But the Hurricanes are also extremely efficient at creating tries and a turnover from impressive eighthman Brad Shields enabled them to do just that in the 11th minute.

It was a disappointing defensive read from the Lions after the lineout, with too many defenders bunched in midfield, allowing flyhalf Beauden Barrett to come roaring through a big hole on the wraparound, and then freeing wing Wes Goosen on the outside for the try.

On the half-hour, there was a particularly poor moment of bad decision-making by the Lions as they were awarded a penalty inside their own half, but instead of kicking to the corner and squeezing the Hurricanes, they played into their hands by taking a quick tap and trying to run.

There was a hint of Cronje being played at the ruck as lock Sam Lousi knocked the ball out of his hands, but there was no doubt about flank Ardie Savea’s finishing ability as he pounced on the loose ball and roared away.

There was an early chance in the second half for the Lions to make amends, as they won a penalty. This time they set the lineout and then a midfield ruck, which created some space on the left. Cronje, who handled with aplomb the obvious pressure there was focused on him at the breakdowns, dived over from a ruck close to the tryline.

Jantjies, who put the disappointment of his poor goalkicking against the Sharks in last weekend’s quarterfinal behind him by nailing a solid six-from-eight against the Hurricanes, added the conversion and suddenly the Lions were just 17-22 behind and one could sense the momentum shift.

If there is one criticism of the Hurricanes side, it would be that they are not the most patient side and, with the Lions bossing territory through the boots of Combrinck and Coetzee, the frustrated visitors tried a dinky little chip kick from their own territory.

It was gathered by Combrinck, who burst into the Hurricanes’ 22 and forced a penalty for offsides. The Springboks are surely going to have to recall the powerful wing now that he is back to his best after injury.

The Lions once again set the lineout and hooker Malcolm Marx carried strongly to force his way over for the try, Jantjies’ conversion coming off the post to leave the scores level at 22-22.

But the kickoffs and exits are such vital parts of the game these days and, when the Lions dilly-dallied after receiving the kickoff, a well-timed counter-ruck by the Hurricanes turned over possession, which was then simply shipped down the backline until there were no more defenders left and outside centre Ngani Laumape was able to cross for the try.

Fullback Jordy Barrett converted, but they would be the last points the Hurricanes scored as the last 20 minutes were one big hiding for the defending champions.

Combrinck again broke clear but was tackled deep inside the Hurricanes’ 22, with flyhalf Beauden Barrett then playing the ball on the ground and being yellow-carded by referee Jaco Peyper. It was such a cynical foul in the red zone that there could be no buts about it, and Jantjies kicked the penalty to close the gap to 25-29.

The Lions then roared back on to attack; their efforts looked a little aimless at times, but at least they kept the ball alive and Cronje eventually found centre Harold Vorster coming through on a good line for the try that gave the Lions the lead for the first time since the fifth minute.

When flank Kwagga Smith misread a ruck for a collapsed maul and was penalised for hands-in, it meant Jordy Barrett would have his fifth and final shot at goal, but crucially he missed and the Lions’ momentum was not broken.

The Lions have one of the best scrums in the competition and they used it in the 73rd minute to destroy the Hurricanes set-piece and provide fantastic front-foot ball for the backs, which Jantjies used to go sniping over for another try, his conversion stretching the lead to 39-29.

It meant the Hurricanes would have to play from their own territory and a long pass from Perenara was duly intercepted by replacement hooker Akker van der Merwe, who was pleased to have Smith roaring up in support just as the attack seemed to be dying, the flank crossing for the final try.

This time there was no conversion from Jantjies, but there was no denying the Lions as they completed their remarkable triumph.

They showed once again that once the tide is with them, when they have the bit between their teeth, there is no stopping them.

Scorers

LionsTries – Jacques van Rooyen, Ross Cronje, Malcolm Marx, Harold Vorster, Elton Jantjies, Kwagga Smith. Conversions – Jantjies (4). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

HurricanesTries – TJ Perenara. Wes Goosen, Ardie Savea, Ngani Laumape. Conversions – Jordy Barrett (3). Penalty – Barrett.

SA women ensure they will travel to World Cup 0

Posted on July 20, 2017 by Ken

 

 

The South African women’s hockey side made sure that they will travel to London next year for the World Cup as they beat Ireland 3-0 in the Hockey World League at Wits Astro on Thursday, ensuring that they will finish either fifth or sixth in the prestigious tournament that ends on Sunday.

Normally, the top five from the Hockey World League semi-finals gain automatic qualification for the World Cup, but because England are hosting the 2018 edition of hockey’s biggest event and they finished in the top five in Johannesburg, it has opened up another spot and sixth place will be good enough for South Africa.

South Africa dominated the first half against Ireland, but took their time in transferring that on to the scoreboard.

The opening goal eventually came in the 24th minute after three successive short-corners, with a rebound falling to Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, who lashed an excellent reverse-sticks shot into goal at the near post.

But South Africa lost focus for the next 20 minutes, giving too much ball away through poor basics or ill-judged passes, and were fortunate that Ireland did not equalise.

Just a minute before halftime, Deirdre Duke’s swerving run earned Ireland a short-corner, and although goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande made a good save, the ball deflected into Nicolene Terblanche standing in front of goal. It was touch-and-go whether the ball was going into goal or missing, with Australian umpire Aleisha Neumann wisely calling for a video review of her own decision to award a penalty stroke.

The views from in front of the action and from behind seemed to contradict each other on the path of the ball and it would have been unwise for the TV umpire to over-rule the on-field official’s call.

So Roisin Upton stepped forward to take the stroke, but sent it flying into the post and a massively relieved home side went into the break still 1-0 up.

Mbande has alternated through most of the tournament with Nicole la Fleur in goal, and the University of Pretoria graduate pulled off an excellent reflex stick-save to deny Chloe Watkins early in the second half and Watkins also threatened goal from a short-corner in the 43rd minute.

But if nothing else, this South African side has shown true character and growing composure and confidence through the tournament, and, having weathered the storm, they ended the match by dominating the final quarter.

The second goal came against the run of play, in the 50th minute, with Bernie Coston just failing to latch on to the promising ball from Sulette Damons, but she never gave up, kept fighting and then robbed the defender, made sure of at least the short-corner and then fired past the goalkeeper into the right-hand corner of the goal.

The Irish threw on a kicking back for the closing stages, and Lilian du Plessis applied the finishing touches to an impressive South African win with a lovely run from outside the 23, easily beating the kicking back when she threw herself at her feet and just pushing the ball into the goal.

“We’ve done what we wanted to do by qualifying for the World Cup and now we want to make the top-five, and to do that we’ll have to come out really hard against Japan on Saturday. There were some nerves and we did not execute 100% in the third quarter, but we pulled it back well,” coach Sheldon Rostron said.

“The team definitely showed a lot of character and I’m really pleased that we’re starting to show control during the game, we’re remaining relatively composed. The uncertain moments are becoming less and further apart and it was a very good performance tonight.”

Deetlefs, the opening goal-scorer and the mainstay of South Africa’s defence, said the home side were not surprised that they had to ride out the tough times posed by the Irish.

“It’s always very tense against Ireland, the last time we played them too, and we know they will keep playing till the last minute. So we knew they would come into the second half with all guns blazing and it was a very good defensive effort for us, man-on-man we did well.

“I saw the ball and just tried to hit it as hard as I could for the goal, so that was a great start. It takes a lot of pressure off us to get the World Cup qualification, that’s the goal we set for this tournament,” Deetlefs said.

 

Later, the sixth-ranked USA team and the seventh-ranked Germans advanced to the women’s final, to be played on Sunday.

Germany beat Argentina 2-1, although the end of the match was mired in controversy as two crucial umpiring decisions went against the South Americans, while the USA pipped England in a shootout, after the match had ended 1-1 in regulation time.

Melissa Gonzalez, the captain, scored the USA goal in the first set of five shootouts that ended 1-1 and then scored the winner in sudden-death.

Results: 9th/10th – Chile 2 (Manuela Urroz, Camila Caram) Poland 1 (Marlena Rybacha). 5th-8th – Japan 2 (Kana Nomura, Naho Ichitani) India 0; South Africa 3 (Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Bernadette Coston, Lilian du Plessis) Ireland 0. Semi-finals – Germany 2 (Naomi Heyn, Charlotte Stapenhorst) Argentina 1 (Lucina von der Heyde); United States 1 (Jill Witmer) England 1 (Hannah Martin), USA won shootout 2-1 (Melissa Gonzalez 2 v Sarah Haycroft 1).

Friday’s fixtures (men): 10am South Africa v Japan (9th/10th); 12.15pm Egypt v New Zealand (5th-8th); 2.30pm Ireland v France (5th-8th); 4.45pm Spain v Germany (semi-final); 7pm Australia v Belgium (semi-final).

 

 

Week of unpropitious distractions for Sharks 0

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Ken

The Sharks travel to Cape Town this weekend for one of the crunch encounters of the SuperRugby season and, unfortunately and unpropitiously for them, it has been a week of distraction for the Conference leaders.

One of their favourite sons, former Springbok captain John Smit, has been earmarked for a return to the Sharks as CEO – something the union has not denied.

But that good news was offset by a selection controversy that makes one wonder whether the current Sharks management has got to grips at all with transformation imperatives.

Starting on the right wing against the Stormers on Saturday is one Sean Robinson, a 19-year-old originally from Waterkloof High School in Pretoria, who has played just one Vodacom Cup game off the bench, although he did score the match-winning try against the SWD Eagles last weekend.

The decision has baffled and outraged many, however, because Robinson has come from nowhere and suddenly leapfrogged Odwa Ndungane and S’bura Sithole in the queue.

Springbok Ndungane has injury issues, but is well enough to sit on the bench, while Sithole has had few opportunities to display his undoubted talent, but has never looked shy of work.

It’s a controversy that the Sharks really did not need ahead of such a vital game, at a venue as daunting as Newlands. The Stormers may be struggling at the moment, but they have been the best South African side in SuperRugby for the last two years and they will be desperate to turn things around in front of their increasingly impatient home support.

The match is a huge one for the Sharks because victory over the Stormers significantly lowers the chances of them competing for first place in the conference and a home playoff.

Lwazi Mvovo and Louis Ludik are both out injured, which complicates the backline situation, and openside flank Jacques Botes has now joined the crocked list with a broken arm.

Ryan Kankowski replaces him and will play in the number seven jersey, where his pace and attacking ability will still be highly valued. Marcell Coetzee shifts to six and Jean Deysel returns on the bench, and he could be a key factor later in the game because his physicality is exactly what is needed against the Stormers.

It is difficult to pinpoint what exactly is wrong with the Stormers, but one senses coach Allister Coetzee’s confusion as to what his best halfback pairing is does not help.

His decision to restore Dewaldt Duvenhage at scrumhalf makes one wonder what the experienced 24-year-old was doing sitting at home last weekend when the Stormers were lurching to defeat at the hands of the Cheetahs.

The Stormers were only too delighted to loan Elton Jantjies from the Lions, but they don’t seem to have complete faith in him and they haven’t utilised the Springbok to the best of his abilities.

Jantjies is now injured anyway, officially with a knee complaint, although the damage to his confidence is probably more severe, and the Stormers have chosen 23-year-old former Matie Gary van Aswegen at flyhalf.

They will be relying on him to match the kicking game and game-management skills of Pat Lambie, but for that to happen, Van Aswegen will need a solid platform from his forwards.

The Stormers got destroyed in the lineouts by the Crusaders and, last weekend, the Cheetahs were able to snatch victory thanks to their ascendant scrum which got a tighthead in the final minute.

While defensive patterns and scoring tries are important, rugby is as much about the set-pieces, where the Sharks are strong, and the Stormers need to return to basics. Once those are in place, the rest could well click and there is too much quality in their side for them to be written off just yet.

Stormers captain Jean de Villiers said this week that his team was not about to press the panic button, but if they lose to the Sharks and the Cheetahs beat the Bulls, then it might be time because the race for conference honours will then effectively have become a two-horse race.

The Cheetahs are wonderfully in-form after five straight wins, their scrum has been solid, their defence superb and their attack consistently dangerous, which is exactly the sort of confidence-boosters they need if they are to reach another milestone in this fairytale season and beat the Bulls for the first time in SuperRugby.

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has stressed that his team need to be precise on Saturday because pouncing on mistakes and turning them into points is what the Cheetahs are particularly brilliant at doing.

“They are definitely an in-form team. They have five wins on the trot and that builds confidence in itself. They are very dangerous in broken play – they’ve scored 11 tries in broken play this season. If you make a mistake, they are very accurate in punishing you and their speed to the ball-carrier is very good. That’s why I say we need to be very accurate in the way we play and very disciplined.

“We need to do the basics well. If we have the ball, we need to be accurate, to keep the ball and to create that pressure on the opposition to make sure opportunities come for us,” Ludeke said.

What emphasis the Bulls will place on a kicking game if they want to dominate possession remains to be seen, but what will count against the Cheetahs is their wobbly lineout which will allow the home side to put them under pressure in their own half.

What the Cheetahs can’t do anything about is the fact that the Bulls will be well-rested after a bye and the advantage playing at Loftus Versfeld always give them.

The other South African franchise, the Southern Kings, have already done enough to suggest they could become part of the furniture in SuperRugby and the rookies will be aiming for the second win of their dramatic first season when they take on the Melbourne Rebels in the last game of their overseas tour.

The Kings pulled off the upset of the year when they drew with the Brumbies, who were top of the log, in Canberra last weekend, and the same heroic defence and skilful finishing should see them emerge with the win against the Rebels, who are not the same stellar outfit as the men from ACT are.

The Kings are rapidly shedding the underdogs tag, the valiant losers label, and the unfamiliar weight of expectation is now on their shoulders. The Rebels are a team the Kings can – some would say should – beat and the pressures that creates are the next thing the debutants need to overcome.

The Rebels were in a state of disarray just three weeks ago when they were thrashed 64-7 by the Sharks, and two players were sent home after fighting on the team bus. But since then they showed improvement against the Cheetahs in Bloemfontein and then claimed the spoils against the Western Force in Perth last weekend.

Wimpie van der Walt, who owned the astonishing stats of making 19 tackles and missing none last weekend against the Brumbies, will once again spearhead the Kings’ defensive effort at close quarters.

The midfield of Andries Strauss and Waylon Murray was also safe as houses, which they will need to replicate against a talented Rebels backline that will now have the brilliant James O’Connor pulling the strings at flyhalf.

Teams

Southern Kings (v Rebels, Saturday 11.40am): George Whitehead, Sergeal Petersen, Waylon Murray, Andries Strauss, Ronnie Cooke, Demetri Catrakillis, Shaun Venter; Cornell du Preez, Wimpie van der Walt, Devin Oosthuizen, Rynier Bernardo, Steven Sykes, Grant Kemp, Hannes Franklin, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – Bandise Maku, Kevin Buys, David Bulbring, Jacques Engelbrecht, Nicolas Vergallo, Marcello Sampson, Siviwe Soyzwapi.

Stormers (v Sharks, Saturday 5.05pm) – Joe Pietersen, Damian de Allende, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Gio Aplon, Gary van Aswegen, Dewaldt Duvenage, Duane Vermeulen, Michael Rhodes, Siya Kolisi, Andries Bekker, De Kock Steenkamp, Frans Malherbe, Deon Fourie, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements – Martin Bezuidenhout, Pat Cilliers, Gerbrandt Grobler, Nizaam Carr, Louis Schreuder, Kurt Coleman, Cheslin Kolbe.

Sharks (v Stormers, Saturday 5.05pm) – Frans Steyn, Sean Robinson, Paul Jordaan, Meyer Bosman, JP Pietersen, Pat Lambie, Cobus Reinach, Keegan Daniel, Ryan Kankowski, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: Craig Burden, Wiehahn Herbst, Anton Bresler, Jean Deysel, Charl McLeod, Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane.

Bulls (v Cheetahs, Saturday 7.10pm) – Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Morné Steyn, Jano Vermaak, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morné Mellet. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Paul Willemse, Arno Botha, Rudy Paige, Louis Fouchè, Ulrich Beyers.

Cheetahs (v Bulls, Saturday 7.10pm) – Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Burton Francis, Piet van Zyl, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements – Ryno Barnes, Coenie Oosthuizen, Ligtoring Landman, Frans Viljoen, Tewis de Bruyn, Francois Brummer, Ryno Benjamin.

Other fixtures

Friday: Highlanders v Brumbies (9.35am).

Saturday:Chiefs v Reds (6.35am); Blues v Hurricanes (9.35am); Force v Crusaders (1.45pm).

Bye: Waratahs.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-12-superrugby-crunch-time-for-the-sharks/#.VOsS-fmUde8



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