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Ken Borland



Lions battling against victims of own success sporting law 0

Posted on June 07, 2017 by Ken

 

It is almost a law of sport that teams can become victims of their own success in terms of competitors trying to lure a franchise’s star performers away, and the Highveld Lions are currently going through an unsettled period marked by the departures of key internationals Temba Bavuma and Eddie Leie, as well as their general manager, Heinrich Strydom.

But it could have been a lot worse because CEO Greg Fredericks reportedly tendered his resignation as well, but the board did not accept it and managed to convince the popular former MP to continue in his role, thus avoiding another major blow to a union that also lost several experienced players to matchfixing bans at the start of last season.

Fredericks did not want to comment on his alleged resignation, but told The Citizen, “I had an offer which I turned down. My job here is not done.”

Strydom, who was also the CEO of North-West Cricket, has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Dolphins franchise and the Lions have been forced into a time of change, which they are trying to manage as best they can.

There has also been speculation that Cricket South Africa want to groom Lions coach Geoff Toyana for greater things by appointing him as one of the Proteas’ assistant coaches, which would be another blow to the franchise.

“Geoff has just renewed his contract with us for another three years. But if anything happens, we obviously do have succession plans and one or two individuals in mind. We are also advertising for a batting coach at the moment,” Fredericks said.

“The board has expressed concern, however, over the performances of the Highveld Lions and the Gauteng Strikers over the last season, and a committee led by David Terbrugge will investigate and come up with proposals. But the team lost Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie, and that experience you can’t replace overnight. People might not also know the important roles of players like Kagiso Rabada, Thami Tsolekile, Pumi Matshikwe and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

“Heinrich was also a huge asset for us, but we are very happy for him. He’s a very hard-working person and we will miss him. But if our pipeline is strong, then we should be able to replicate our previous successes, it’s about ensuring our character and culture stay strong,” Fredericks said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170525/282119226487652

Former defence coach John McFarland’s six solutions for the Springboks 0

Posted on September 22, 2016 by Ken

 

It was very hard to watch the Springboks v All Blacks game last weekend because there were a mountain of mistakes. You could see the players were really trying, but very often that’s not good enough against a quality side like New Zealand.

There were many system and individual errors within the Springbok defence, but the good news is that they can all be fixed, they can be corrected through good coaching. So I would prefer to talk about solutions rather than showing what went wrong.

Because I was in charge of the Springboks’ defence and kicking game for four years, I obviously know the pressure the coaching staff feel and have experienced this many times myself in my coaching career. You don’t coach for 21 years at a professional level without experiencing setbacks, so you must know how to fix them, plus the players pick up on your body language, passion and intensity.

Since I left the Springboks, I’ve been lucky enough to be working in Japan at the Kubota Spears. The Springboks defence was taken over by Jacques Nienaber, who was obviously being lined up for the full-time job.

He coached the defence in the Ireland Tests as a consultant for five weeks. Chean Roux worked hand-in-hand with him at the MobiUnit and was then earmarked to carry on his structures and principles as seamlessly as possible.

As a coach in this situation, you can’t just point the finger at the players. It’s important to have solutions and you need to look at yourself as well, take responsibility for the performance and fix it. Heyneke Meyer and Frans Ludeke always knew that I would take responsibility for the defensive performance, win or lose.

It’s very easy to point out what went wrong against the All Blacks, but it’s far more important to identify solutions. So here are six simple things that the Springboks can fix.

 

  • The passive defence system. Over a period of time it has come through that line integrity is the key. But at the moment the Springboks are not coming off the line and pressurising the attacking team, or if they are, it’s in single fashion, for example Juan de Jongh trying to cut off the outside options.
    Experience has shown that all this does against the All Blacks is pressure our own inside defence. They are very good at running reverse-lines at the shooting defender.
    A 75% tackle success rate at Test level shows that this system is not working. Too many good defenders are making errors and missing tackles because we are allowing the attack to dictate to the defence.
    On the Sam Whitelock try, it came from width and the spacing of the defensive line was really poor – there were only three defenders covering 30 metres of space, they were far too tight to the ruck, which pulled the wings in.
    If you have a passive defence, like the Springboks had, then it highlights if anyone breaks the system. With a passive defence, the whole object is to push the attackers towards the touchline, so it’s never a good idea if everyone is drifting and one player comes in on a read.

 

  • Winning the gain-line. I don’t think the Springbok backline once won the gain-line off first-phase ball, especially off the lineout. We call it ‘winning the race’ – if the defender can hit the ball-carrier behind the gain-line, it’s so much easier to set your defensive pillars in place. But if you allow the opposition to get easy yards over the gain-line as we did at the weekend, then it’s very difficult to get your pillars in place. The attack just rolls forward, gaining momentum … and confidence and belief.
    It’s quite simple: You have to close the space from the set-piece a lot quicker. You have to close the space (press) on the first receiver when he has the ball.

 

  • Blindside defence. As alluded to in earlier columns, this was the same part of our defence that was exploited by Australia from the lineout and from a scrum, and was mercilessly exploited by New Zealand on Saturday. The key is that the hooker and blindside wing have to communicate the reversing of play and the players have to look up before folding to the openside. The Springboks’ blindside defence has to be much, much better than it was against the All Blacks.

 

  • Scrumhalf channel off scrum. New Zealand also ran at this channel and since 2014 they’ve been doing the same thing against us. So as a defence coach that would have been my first port of call – making sure that the defence of the scrumhalf channel was really strong in Christchurch.
    But Aaron Smith punched through that channel so the scrumhalf and the flank have to work together. The first defender has to adjust and basically they have to play flat after that.
    The scrumhalf must defend the ball – after all nobody has ever scored a try without the ball!

 

  • High balls. Every All Blacks high ball went on Francois Hougaard, so that was obviously seen as a mismatch for Israel Dagg to exploit. To be fair, Francois dealt with it well, but the Springboks need to be able to play from the retreating ruck post-kick.

 

  • Kicking game. The kicking game is really quite simple and I believe we over-complicate it to a large degree. The key is that a kick is only as good as its chase, so the work-rate has to be much higher. If the kick is long, then the harder the chase, the easier it is to catch the opposition further back, to separate the counter-attacking wing and fullback from their cleaners/forwards. So the chase has to be a heck of a lot better and more aggressive from the Springboks.
    Tactically, the Springboks should be in a strong position because they have right-footed and left-footed options at flyhalf and fullback, because all they have to do then is get into the middle of the field and the right-footer [Johan Goosen] can go on the right side of the ruck and the left-footer [Elton Jantjies] takes the left. That will create indecision in the opposition back three as to who will exit. It will also affect the All Blacks’ pressure plan because the key guys trying to charge down the kick are always Aaron Smith or TJ Perenara and Brodie Retallick – it will be more difficult for them to pick up who is going to kick.
    Because the Boks have such a good mauling game, the box-kick from 9 is vitally important and needs to have an organised chase and contest, so they need to select wings that go up in the air.

 

These are the solutions to the defensive problems which I know I would be asking questions about if I were in the same situation as Chean Roux.

Just on Malcolm Marx and his alleged throwing woes, I think the criticism is incredibly unfair. People just look at the stats and not at what actually went on. It’s easy to say we lost four lineouts and blame the hooker, but if you look through all our games against New Zealand over the last four years, we’ve always lost four or five lineouts against them in the second half, because at halftime, whatever they talk about, they come out differently in the second half.

The World Cup semifinal last year against the All Blacks was decided because we lost five set-pieces around the halfway line. So to come out firing against a young hooker in his first Test is really not fair.

And I’ve looked at his throws – the first one was not straight, that was obvious and an error on his part because his alignment and set-up were wrong. But the two other lost throws were directly because of poor lifts by the back supporter, he was late.

And then at the lineout on the line, the triggers were not right as to when the hooker should throw in. At the top level, the hooker always has a trigger telling him when to throw, it tells him when to begin the throw. It comes from the jumper and it’s important to get it right.

The positive is that in rugby you always get another chance and I really think the Springboks will be so much better at home, they always do play better back here.

I really hope the Springboks and their coaching staff will bounce back well against Australia. I’m sure they will because there is too much hurt and as a group they know their responsibility is to give the country hope. I believe they will do that in these two home Tests.

Allister Coetzee is also a highly-experienced coach who everyone seems to forget won the World Cup in 2007. He’s been in these situations many times and he will know how to get out of it. We just need to give him and the Springboks our backing and support.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

4 changes but Gold wants as much consistency as possible 0

Posted on August 17, 2015 by Ken

 

There are four changes to the Cell C Sharks’ starting line-up for their Vodacom SuperRugby match against the Emirates Lions in Durban on Saturday, but director of rugby Gary Gold said he is trying to maintain as much consistency as possible despite their poor start to the season.

The Sharks went down to the Cheetahs in a shock result at King’s Park last weekend, and three of the four changes are injury-enforced.

The odd one out is captain Bismarck du Plessis’ return at hooker, which is a no-brainer after he withdrew shortly before the Cheetahs game with a shoulder problem.

Lubabalo “Giant” Mtyanda will make his SuperRugby debut as he comes in at lock for Mouritz Botha, the English international having fractured a cheekbone last weekend.

He won’t have “Beast” Mtawarira in front of him, however, as the loosehead prop suffered a torn calf against the Cheetahs and has been replaced by Dale Chadwick.

Wing S’bura Sithole twisted his ankle to rule him out of action, with veteran Odwa Ndungane coming in on the right wing.

“It was a very disappointing performance against the Cheetahs but we’re not going to hit the panic button. Making four enforced changes already means nearly 30% of your team has changed and I want to try and keep some consistency in selection,” Gold told The Citizen. “We’re backing the players to get it right this weekend and they’ve trained well.”

Gold also said the time was not quite right to rush loose forward Jean Deysel back into the starting line-up, despite his strong showing off the bench in the opening game.

“He’s very close, but getting back from Japan not that long ago, we just want to give him a slow entry back into SuperRugby and not throw him into the deep end. Another 30-35 minutes off the bench this weekend will be good for him,” Gold said.

The other places on the bench opened up by the injuries go to loosehead prop Thomas du Toit and powerful young centre Andre Esterhuizen.

Mtyanda, who moved to Durban from the Pumas last year, has leapfrogged the experienced Marco Wentzel, who is seen more as a number five lock and will continue to provide cover on the bench. Pieter-Steph du Toit is able to play in either second-row position.

Gold said Ryan Kankowski is back from Japan and in training with the Sharks, while Frans Steyn and JP Pietersen are going to be playing in a semi-final this weekend, with Sharks fans obviously hoping they lose so they can return as soon as possible to SuperRugby action.

Team: 15-SP Marais, 14-Odwa Ndungane, 13-Waylon Murray, 12-Heimar Williams, 11-Lwazi Mvovo, 10-Pat Lambie, 9-Cobus Reinach, 8-Tera Mtembu, 7-Renaldo Bothma, 6-Marcell Coetzee, 5-Pieter-Steph du Toit, 4-Lubabalo Mtyanda, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis (capt), 1-Dale Chadwick. Replacements – 16-Kyle Cooper, 17-Thomas du Toit, 18-Matt Stevens, 19-Marco Wentzel, 20-Jean Deysel, 21-Conrad Hoffmann, 22-Fred Zeilinga, 23-Andre Esterhuizen.

 

Fanie pulling the strings for Hardus Viljoen to leave SA 0

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Ken

Former South African paceman Fanie de Villiers is playing an instrumental role in one of the country’s brightest fast bowling talents trying to leave the country and play for New Zealand.

Hardus Viljoen has just come off another outstanding season for the Highveld Lions, playing a key role in their Sunfoil Series title with 39 wickets at an average of 20.43, but De Villiers told The Citizen on Wednesday that the 26-year-old would be travelling to New Zealand next week for talks with one of their franchises.

Although Viljoen has not yet played for the national side, he is definitely in the selectors’ thoughts, having played nine games, in both four-day and 50-over cricket, for representative A teams. The strong fast bowler has taken 103 wickets, more than any other bowler, in the last three Sunfoil Series seasons at a superb average of 23.95.

“Patriotism is out the door,” De Villiers, who described himself as “a close family friend who has advised Hardus since he was in Standard 8,” said. “He’s been the leading wicket-taker over the last few seasons but he hasn’t played for South Africa because of the dynamics of the team. Hardus is a very strong and very good fast bowler who can bowl at 150 km/h and he will be sought after in New Zealand and Australia.

“So on April 22 we are meeting one of the New Zealand franchises to see what they offer, which is why Hardus is the only player not to have signed his new Lions contract yet,” De Villiers said.

De Villiers added that the move was not to do with quotas but was rather designed to ensure Viljoen was remunerated properly for his ability, with English County Cricket a key target.

“Because of the new quotas, a lot of players will look elsewhere, but Hardus is already in the system and could play for any franchise. But he’s playing in the shadow of others and should have played for South Africa already. There are two fantastic fast bowlers at the top in the Proteas, but there’s no way some of the others who have played are better than Hardus.

“He can’t qualify to play County Cricket, where you get your revenue from, unless he has played for South Africa, and Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange and Chris Morris are all ahead of him in line, I know how the selectors operate. So we have an appointment in New Zealand, where he can get serious opportunity with the new ball and qualify for them in four years’ time,  when he is 30, and then play County Cricket and earn a million rand a year,” De Villiers said.

While Viljoen’s benefactor stressed that the fast bowler could not afford to wait an iota longer for selection to the Proteas, De Villiers’ own bitterness towards the South African cricket system could now negatively affect a tremendous talent who has just really begun to blossom within the brilliant Lions bowling attack.

 

 

 



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