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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: How to beat the All Blacks 0

Posted on July 12, 2017 by Ken

 

It was an enthralling final Test between the All Blacks and the British & Irish Lions, and a tremendous achievement for the visitors to draw a series in New Zealand. Every international coach will have looked at the three Tests and will take something from them – it has shown it is possible to beat the All Blacks.

So how did the Lions achieve this?

Firstly, their defence over the three Tests was superb, so hats off to the Farrell family.

It’s no coincidence that most of New Zealand’s losses over the last few years have been caused by a rush defence and a high line speed, so Lions, England and Ireland defence coach Andy Farrell should really take a bow – he has now enjoyed three wins and a draw against the All Blacks since 2013.

And then there was his son Owen’s kicking. None of his kicks at goal in the last Test were gimmes and it was very interesting to see that even with Jonny Sexton, who has such a high success rate in his kicking record, at flyhalf, the Lions went with Farrell for goalkicking and that’s what made the difference in the end.

The All Blacks were disciplined in their own 22, but were prepared to give away penalties further away from their line, and Farrell kept the Lions in the game.

It was the defence that was able to disrupt the New Zealand attacking structure, they weren’t really able to go forward or get the ball wide, because the Lions totally dominated the gain-line and the rush-defence took time and space away from Beauden Barrett. But it didn’t operate from a tight base, the wings were on the second-last runners and would not always engage, sometimes they would back off on to the last runner, therefore there was no kicking space behind them.

The Lions also chose two openside flanks who were a real nuisance at the breakdown.

The biggest thing about the rush-defence is that it means you are so square in the tackle, you line up your man and come forward, there’s no shifting. The Lions tackling was very confrontational, they didn’t really hit the legs but tended to be just under the ball. This forced more errors and led to dominance in the tackle; a softer defence relies on leg-tackles and a confrontational rush-defence on chest tackles. You can see it unnerved the All Blacks and with the quality of defenders the Lions had – players like Jonathan Davies, Maro Itoje, Sam Warburton and Sean O’Brien – the system totally suited them.

The shift put in by the Lions forwards at the coalface was also amazing and New Zealand could not get any offloads or tip-passes going at all. The Lions cleverly took out the support players, so the ball was wide open at the breakdowns. The quality of the tackles and the athletes involved meant that on the tip-ons, they frequently took the passer out of play, which exposed the ball-carrier and then the turnover could happen.

What was especially interesting to me was that New Zealand just could not get the ball to the outside channels in space, and even if they tried, Barrett was frequently standing still and then it was easy for the Lions to pick off the carriers.

The way to break down the rush-defence is through the kick-pass and offloading from contact and it’s no coincidence that the All Blacks scored from this.

The Lions also relied tremendously on Conor Murray’s box-kicking. There was no messing around here – they would maul or box-kick immediately from the restart and that put pressure on the New Zealand wings, thanks to the quality of Murray’s kicking and exits.

For me, Murray was the real star of the series, his tactical control was superb; him kicking contestables meant the All Blacks never had a chance to counter-attack or get the ball back from the Lions back three with running bombs.

The New Zealand attack was very static. They wanted a two-sided attack against the rush-defence, but they played a lot of one-pass rugby, which made it quite easy to defend.

One of the key moments of the final Test was the chase back of Davies on Ngani Laumape after Barrett’s intercept, it was just superb. It was a series-turning moment and the other players get really excited when they see that sort of attitude and commitment from a team-mate.

It was an enthralling finish to the series, but it’s a pity to see such a great Test end with all the focus on Mr Roman Poite.

His eccentricities have been exposed even before Eden Park last weekend: there was the red card he gave Bismarck du Plessis at Eden Park in 2013, his performance in the World Cup and against Argentina in 2014 when there were seven water-carriers on the field during a stoppage and he allowed the Pumas to take a quick tap, which resulted in a try just before halftime. The last defender in the Springbok backline was our physio, Rene Naylor!

It was good, though, that Poite reviewed the incident at the end of last weekend’s game and I think Craig Joubert will be wishing he had done the same in 2015 in the Scotland v Australia game at the World Cup. That’s what the TMO is there for and at least Poite used it. But rugby has to eliminate these grey areas because referees have to make hard decisions in a very short time.

I thought Poite was also really poor in the lineouts, there was taking out of jumpers left, right and centre, it was like a free-for-all. New Zealand also seemed to have some dominance in that final scrum and there could have been a penalty to them, but again he opted out.

The All Blacks ended up playing a lot of guys with just a handful of caps, which is not what you want in high-pressured Tests. Injuries and Sonny Bill Williams’ self-inflicted absence obviously affected them and you want more caps for the big games like last weekend. They ended with Laumape at 12 and Anton Lienert-Brown at 13 and they are actually both inside centres, both confrontational and direct. The Lions started with a similar sort of player in Ben Te’o, but then switched to Sexton and Farrell and had far more ball-playing ability to stretch the All Blacks.

One has to credit coach Warren Gatland for wearing his red nose with pride. He might just hang around and is probably very excited about a third tour with the Lions, against the Springboks in 2021.

It will be interesting to see whether the Springboks pick Cheetahs or Kings players for that tour because it will be the end of their season in Europe!

 

 

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.

Officials bring Olympic honour to SA hockey 0

Posted on August 27, 2016 by Ken

 

The national men’s and women’s teams may not have been competing on the field, but tremendous honour and respect still came out of the Olympic Games for South African hockey thanks to the outstanding efforts of their officials.

That South African umpires are at the very top of the game was confirmed by John Wright and Michelle Joubert being appointed to handle the respective men’s and women’s finals.

For Wright, it capped a stellar career as it was the fifth Olympic Games he has officiated in and the second time he has been awarded the final, on what is likely to be his last umpiring stint at the global sporting showpiece.

“I was very pleased with the way things went, the Olympic Games has been the pinnacle of my career and it was a lovely way to end off. I’m very grateful that I have been given all the opportunity I could ever have wanted,” Wright said.

“It was a wonderful experience and I’m just so grateful for all the kind words and support from back home,” Joubert said. “It was a dream come true, just so exciting and I had a perfect time in Rio with so many happy memories.”

The experienced Wright had some kind words to say about his colleague as well.

“I believe Michelle is by far the best women’s umpire in the world and she had an exceptional tournament, even though she was battling injury. It did not hamper her in the final though, where she had a 26-year-old co-umpire, and she made a 100% correct call on the penalty stroke. Michelle has really come on leaps and bounds,” Wright said.

Joubert, the International Hockey Federation’s (FIH)’s 2015 Women’s Umpire of the Year, and Wright weren’t the only South Africans to feature in an Olympic hockey final as Deon Nel was the men’s video umpire.

Behind the scenes, Sheila Brown was the women’s tournament director and Marelize de Klerk the umpires’ manager.

A former umpire herself who was ranked number one in the world and was the first woman to officiate in 200 internationals, De Klerk blew in three Olympic Games from 2000-2008 before retiring in 2011 and becoming an umpires coach and recently a manager.

Brown is a stalwart of South African hockey and a veteran technical official and leading administrator. Her appointment was one of the highest honours in hockey and an enormous responsibility as the final authority at the event.

Brown, a colonel in crime intelligence, made her international debut as a judge in 1996 and was tournament director of the All-Africa Games in 2003. Since then she has been in charge of two World Cups. Brown was the assistant tournament director at both the Beijing and London Olympic Games.

Former national captain Marsha Cox nee Marescia may no longer be active as a player, but she was in Rio de Janeiro bringing over 300 international caps worth of experience to her new roles as a member of the appeal jury and the FIH’s athletes’ commission.

“I was really excited to be part of Rio 2016. Not only to be a part of the Olympic Games, but also to experience a country which I have never been to before. The logistics around the event itself definitely were not without their challenges, however I have no doubt that it’s these experiences which adds to the memories which will last a lifetime.

“In my personal preparations for Rio, my aim was to at least get to the semi-finals. We were told by our umpire’s managers that we would all average more or less four games in the tournament. I was appointed to the very first game of the women’s competition, and by the quarterfinals stage, I was on my fourth game already. Although I was happy with my own performances up to then, I knew that there were many other great umpires within our group and that appointments could go to anyone. I was also struggling with injuries on both my feet which left me doubting my future appointments for the last days.

“Upon receiving my appointment to the semi-finals, I was obviously delighted and happy that I was one step closer to my ‘real’ dream, which was the final. I had to get my mindset right to focus only on the semi, make sure I managed my injury and make sure I gave my best performance to at least be in the running for the final day’s appointments.

“Then the final day’s appointments came out. I had so many mixed emotions which ranged from feeling ecstatic about this achievement and also what it meant for South Africa and hockey in Africa. I felt empathy and disappointment for those who didn’t achieve their own goals and in that moment really lived their emotions as if they were my own. The feeling at that stage to me was bittersweet.

“I was also delighted for my appointed co-umpire for the final, Laurine Delforge, who has shown everyone that with talent, hard work and dedication, you do not always need years of experience in order to achieve success.

“The finals – wow, what an experience, what a game and what an atmosphere to be a part of! Both Laurine and I knew it would be a tough game, but we also understood that our game plan had to be slightly different to that of any normal game. We had to manage the game in such a way that hockey, as a top-class international sport, should be advertised and that we could be a part of its success or failure. We both enjoyed the match, the experience and obviously the actual appointment to the final of Rio 2016,” Joubert added.

http://www.sahockey.co.za/tournaments/ipt-women/253-sa-hockey-officials-at-the-olympics

Sharks’ defence not perfectly aligned but heart certainly in place 0

Posted on May 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The Cell C Sharks’ defences were not as well aligned as usual, but their hearts were certainly in the right place as they showed tremendous determination and spirit to beat the Jaguares 25-22 in their Vodacom SuperRugby match at the Velez Sarfield Stadium in Buenos Aires overnight.

The win has allowed the Sharks to leapfrog the Bulls in the Africa Group and, although they have played an extra game, they are in touching distance of the log-leading Lions and Stormers.

The Sharks started brightly and centres Andre Esterhuizen and Paul Jordaan combined well to earn a penalty which flyhalf Pat Lambie, in his first start this season, pushed wide.

But the Jaguares began dominating possession and they found cracks in a Sharks defence that was not as well organised as it usually is. And the visitors were made to pay in the eighth minute as Joaquin Tuculet slipped through some poor tackles and then passed inside for lock Tomas Lavanini to gallop over for the opening try.

Flyhalf Nicolas Sanchez converted and the Jaguares led 7-0, before Lambie made no mistake with his second kick at goal, a penalty awarded at a scrum for illegal binding, and cut the lead to 7-3 in the 11th minute.

The Sharks were struggling to create try-scoring chances, but the ill-discipline of the passionate Argentinians meant that they were able to keep the scoreboard ticking over via penalties, with Lambie kicking his second in the 16th minute to cut the lead to just one point.

That advantage was stretched again by the Jaguares in the 18th minute, but it was through a controversial try that they were awarded. Scrumhalf Martin Landajo was swung towards the Sharks tryline by lock Lubabalo Mtyanda, but replays showed that he had dotted the ball down short of the line. Sharks fullback Willie le Roux then arrived and dragged the ball out of his grasp, touching it down in-goal in the process.

Referee Marius van der Westhuizen ruled, however, that the try was good, contradicting the views of his TMO.

Sanchez converted and the match was rapidly turning sour for the Sharks as they were 14-6 down, plus they lost flank Jean Deysel to what appeared to be a serious neck injury after he had landed poorly in a collision.

They had earlier lost scrumhalf Michael Claassens shortly before kick-off, meaning Stefan Ungerer was promoted to the starting line-up, but they were without a reserve scrumhalf, with Joe Pietersen forced to fill in in the closing minutes.

An intimidating crowd and the fiery, spoiling efforts of the Jaguares added to the challenges, with the weak officiating also corrupting the contest.

The Sharks did manage to eat away at the Jaguares’ lead though with a pair of Lambie penalties in the 27th and 30th minutes (12-14) and the spoiling efforts at the breakdown by flank Pablo Matera saw him yellow-carded four minutes later.

He had just gone off the field when eighthman Daniel du Preez shrugged off the desperate defensive efforts of the home side to power over the line, Lambie converting for a 19-14 lead.

The Jaguares managed to launch one more attack just before the teams went off for halftime, and the Sharks paid the fee for being trapped offsides as Sanchez kicked a penalty to cut the gap to 17-19.

The Sharks spent much of the second half being more like seals trying to avoid the killer blows of the home side, but they are an exceptionally resilient team and they came away with the spoils despite the numerous obstacles they had to overcome.

The Jaguares are going to be particularly disappointed that they failed to score any points leading up to the final quarter when they bashed away at the tryline and had several dominant scrums before the Sharks managed to come up with crucial shoves at the right time that turned over possession.

If they are going to convert winning positions into actual wins, then the Jaguares are going to have to improve their discipline and their goal-kicking, with both Sanchez and centre Juan Martin Hernandez missing crucial shots at goal in the second half.

Lambie kicked another penalty to stretch the Sharks’ lead to 22-17 after the Jaguares had failed to remove themselves from the 10-yard circle after a poor up-and-under by Landajo, but the visitors were under pressure again going into the last 10 minutes as replacement wing S’bura Sithole was sent from the field, to the sin bin, for offsides.

With eight minutes remaining, loosehead prop Santiago Garcia Botta burrowed over the line for the try that eliminated the Sharks’ lead, but Hernandez pulled his conversion attempt wide to leave the teams locked at 22-22.

The Sharks were under pressure in many scrums, but when it really mattered they managed to produce their best work in that set-piece. This was the case again in the penultimate minute as a big scrum earned a penalty and Lambie kicked the winning points from 40 metres out.

This was by no means a great display of rugby by the Sharks, but it was a tremendous display of heart and a team that has that sort of character will always do well.

Lambie has returned to rugby with aplomb and Lourens Adriaanse has once again shown that he is the kingpin when it comes to scrum time. Stephan Lewies was consistently good once again and has pushed himself into the conversation about potential Springbok locks.

http://www.citizen.co.za/1116355/sharks-defence-leaky-but-heart-still-in-place/

Coach Walter praises hard work of Titans team over last 3 years 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken

 

The Titans’ phenomenal performances over the last two rounds of the Sunfoil Series caught the eye as they clinched the four-day title at the weekend, but coach Rob Walter said there has been a tremendous amount of hard work over the last three years leading up to their triumph.

The Titans first of all produced an epic batting display to save their game against the second-placed Highveld Lions, batting for 10-and-a-half hours in their second innings, and then, last weekend, defended a target of just 136 as they bowled the Cape Cobras out for only 125, left-arm paceman Rowan Richards taking seven for 40.

“Everyone loves success but it’s a great feeling when you know what went into winning the title. When I started coaching the Titans, we said we wanted to win the first-class competition and there has been systematic improvement, going from last to fourth to second last season and now first.

“And that’s thanks to the effort that was put in, for three seasons in a row, and the extra time the players spent on their games and on their preparation for matches. We have worked very, very hard and we spoke continuously about what it means to be a champion side, the kind of behaviours needed, what that looks like. It’s a bit intangible until you do it, then those performances in the last two games come along.

“The last two games have been at the opposite ends of the cricketing spectrum – against the Lions we were purely trying to save the game, and the second match was just about all-out attack to try and win. It was huge for the players and an awesome achievement,” Walter told The Citizen on Monday.

Despite having to do without their national team players for the bulk of the season, it is clear that the killer instinct remains in the Titans camp and Walter praised the heroes of their campaign.

“It’s very much down to mindset, you must be prepared to win the game in the last session of the last day, and the players were geared to go the full distance. That killer instinct is just in their nature, it runs through their veins.

“You could see Dean Elgar’s hunger ball-after-ball as he set about batting at a higher level, like a Test batsman. To score over 1100 runs, Heino Kuhn must have played well but it was high-quality batting and he didn’t put a foot wrong in scoring that century against a really decent Cobras attack – with four international-grade bowlers – and it stood out that he’s good enough to play Test cricket, if he’s not in the national selectors’ discussions then there’s a problem.

“Qaasim Adams just grows and grows, gets better and better. He had an outstanding season and was able to deliver in varying situations – when we were on top or when we were very much under pressure. Theunis de Bruyn is a high-quality young cricketer who had a really good season and Henry Davids delivered in the last two weeks when we were horribly under the pump.

“The bowling unit also had a lot to do with the success of the team. Rowan Richards is always a competitor and when he got a sniff, he was able to find that little bit extra, like all x-factor players do. He just loves bowling and his 16 overs on the trot against the Cobras – and it was hot – were quick and on the money.

“Marchant de Lange had a change in length and mindset and had instant reward, while Ethy Mbhalati did well, was always solid. Then Tabraiz Shamsi got 41 wickets, with two 12-fors, which is a huge feat for a spinner in South Africa, so he’s very exciting,” Walter said.

 



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