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Ken Borland



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.

Bonus point left in Bloem, but Du Preez happy with attacking work 0

Posted on March 28, 2017 by Ken

 

The Sharks left a potential bonus point behind in Bloemfontein, but coach Robert du Preez was nevertheless delighted with their 38-30 win over the Cheetahs at the weekend, and especially that they managed to score four tries.

“Unfortunately we didn’t get the bonus point, but it’s always very tough to come here and win, the Cheetahs are a very good, talented side and Franco Smith is a very good coach, so you’re always up against it here. So we’ll take the win any day!

“We want to score tries and we scored four, which is much better than last week when we only managed two against the Kings. I’m also very happy that the wings scored three of those tries, that’s always good. And Kobus van Wyk scored two of those on the left, coming from the right-hand side, so that shows that the boys are working really hard,” Du Preez said.

While 19-year-old flyhalf Curwin Bosch stole the limelight with a stellar display, Du Preez still swears by Pat Lambie, who is set to return to action in six weeks after fracturing a vertebra.

“Curwin’s now ready to play flyhalf, but Pat is in a class of his own. We’ll be in a good position when Pat comes back because then Curwin can go back to fullback. The fact that he can also play there gives him more space, and he gets confidence from that. At flyhalf he’s under pressure to call all the plays on attack, it’s a big responsibility and it’s not the same at fullback,” Du Preez said.

“Curwin has definitely got BMT and pedigree, but we must all be very careful with how we handle him because he is young. But he’s definitely one for the future for South African rugby.”

Du Preez also backed tighthead prop Coenie Oosthuizen, whose all-round game caught the eye, for a return to the Springboks.

“The work that Coenie has done on his conditioning has played a big role and he’s a fantastic team man. I think he’s really enjoying his time with the Sharks and he should definitely be in the mix again for the Springboks,” the former international scrumhalf said.

 

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170328/281973197487081

Confident Bulls knock stuffing out of WP in first hour 0

Posted on August 09, 2016 by Ken

 

The Blue Bulls knocked the stuffing out of Western Province in the first hour as they beat last year’s Currie Cup runners-up 45-26 at Loftus Versfeld on Friday night, giving the ball plenty of air as they ran in six tries to start their campaign on a confident – almost arrogant – note.

After a bad start in which flyhalf Tian Schoeman had his clearance from the kickoff charged down, forcing the Bulls to defend five metres from their line, the home side played some breathtaking rugby as they scorched into a 24-0 lead at halftime, which they extended to 38-0 after 54 minutes.

The try-feast began with a high-class try in the 19th-minute as loosehead prop Pierre Schoeman, who was one of the Bulls’ standout forwards, made a great steal and then scrumhalf Piet van Zyl, who gave quality service throughout, made a tremendous pass out wide to eighthman Arno Botha, the captain going on a storming run before passing back inside for Van Zyl to score.

The Bulls’ second try, 13 minutes later, came from a textbook up-and-under from Van Zyl and a wonderful chase by wing Jamba Ulengo, opposite number Khanyo Ngcukana being counter-rucked off the ball. A swift backline attack led to a Bulls lineout and centre Dries Swanepoel took it quickly, his smart play leading to a ruck, from which impressive lock Jason Jenkins burst through to score.

Another slick backline move created space out wide from the kickoff and lock Marvin Orie galloped over to complete a classy first half for the Blue Bulls.

Pierre Schoeman was again in the thick of things in the loose in the 47th minute, his tackle winning a scrum for the Bulls, from which debutant wing Jade Stiglingh showed his pace to slice through for the try on a wraparound move with Tian Schoeman.

The home side again found space out wide in the 54th minute, fullback Bjorn Basson chipping infield for Ulengo to score.

The quality of the game suffered in the last 10 minutes as the Bulls went through the motions and Western Province finally hung on to the ball for long enough to score four tries and earn themselves a bonus point, Basson scoring a late try for the Bulls to have the final say.

Tian Schoeman was excellent with the boot, succeeding with all seven of his kicks at goal.

Scorers

Blue BullsTries: Piet van Zyl, Jason Jenkins, Marvin Orie, Jade Stiglingh, Jamba Ulengo, Bjorn Basson. Conversions: Tian Schoeman (6). Penalty: Schoeman.

Western ProvinceTries: Johnny Kotze, Leolin Zas, Huw Jones, Scott van Breda. Conversions: Brandon Thomson (3).

 

 

Despite talk, Sharks put faith in tight five 0

Posted on July 28, 2015 by Ken

 

Despite all the talk about scoring tries, the Cell C Sharks will be putting their faith in the expertise of their tight five, judging by the team announced yesterday for their opening Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Toyota Cheetahs in Durban on Saturday.

Jannie and Bismarck du Plessis, Tendai Mtawarira, Mouritz Botha and Pieter-Steph du Toit will all be bringing international experience to the field and coach Gary Gold will be hoping they will be laying the most solid of foundations.

Marcell Coetzee is the senior loose forward, with Pumas import Renaldo Bothma getting a SuperRugby debut and Tera Mtembu slotting in at eighthman. Willem Alberts and lock Stephan Lewies are still out with injury.

Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach form an outstanding halfback pairing, but Gold has a less settled combination at centre. Waylon Murray was born in Durban and schooled at Westville, but has played most of his recent rugby outside the province and he returns to the outside centre berth, with young Heimar Williams alongside him, preferred to exciting young powerhouse Andre Esterhuizen.

SP Marais will be at fullback, but perhaps the Sharks’ greatest attacking threat will be from wings Lwazi Mvovo and S’bura Sithole.

Jean Deysel is on the bench and is the only one of the Japanese-based players to make the match-day squad, with the return of Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen keenly awaited as they will give the backline the experience that is currently lacking in comparison to the tight five.

Matt Stevens, the former British Lions prop, is also on the bench, as is the veteran wing Odwa Ndungane.

The match will be refereed by the Australian, Andrew Lees, and the kick-off is at 5.05pm.

 

 



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