for quality writing

Ken Borland



John McFarland on Springboks v Barbarians & the European Tests 0

Posted on November 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks’ European tour-opener against the Barbarians this weekend is the perfect game to see some of the up-and-coming players in action before three tough Tests coming up against England, Italy and Wales.

Obviously the Barbarians fixture was put in place some time ago, probably by Heyneke Meyer, who would have wanted a warm-up game before taking on England. So the Barbarians team is not that strong, in matches before they have sometimes been like a World XV and players like Ma’a Nonu, Matt Giteau and Drew Mitchell have appeared for them against the Springboks.

Normally the game against the BaaBaas is at the end of the tour when they are far stronger, it’s a bit of an anomaly but I think it’s a blessing to have the match at the start of the trip.

Saturday’s outing gives a chance to some of the leading lights of the Currie Cup and SuperRugby, and it could be a completely different Springbok team next weekend against England – I think Allister Coetzee will choose a very experienced side, but the Barbarians match allows him a good couple of weeks to work with the fringe players. In preparing for the BaaBaas, they’ve been given a taste of Springbok rugby and it has also given Allister a chance to work more closely with these players and see how they fit in with his plans.

So it’s basically three weeks preparation for the England match and a chance for the staff to bed down as well. The Springboks are on to their third defence coach this year in JP Ferreira and he will obviously bring new ideas and skills, plus Franco Smith has joined the management. You normally don’t have that long to assimilate new ideas, but this time they can sort out their roles and responsibilities and Allister can see how they all gel together.

Choosing nine uncapped players in his squad to play the Barbarians has basically been forced on the Springboks, but Allister Coetzee understands the situation and he and Matt Proudfoot are both enlightened coaches when it comes to the benefits of having players in Japan.

There is a large amount of South African players spending their off-season in Japan, with the full blessing of their SuperRugby unions because they have signed dual contracts. It’s a win-win situation and, for example, someone like Lions CEO Rudolf Straeuli, with all his experience and wisdom, has a lot of his players on dual contracts. He knows it’s the best way to keep them in South Africa and not lose them to Europe.

For example, Franco Mostert was on his way to Olympique Lyon, but has now renewed his contract with the Lions and has signed to play in Japan as well. Louis Schreuder, Jaco Kriel, Lionel Mapoe and Patrick Osborne all spend their off-season with Kubota before going back to SuperRugby.

In fact, they actually spend very little time on the field because a team can only have three overseas players on the park at any given time. So all the main teams have a rotation policy such that the players don’t play too much but have sufficient time in action. For example, Jaco Kriel came off the bench for us last weekend to play the last 30 minutes, when he got injured, while Lionel Mapoe has only played in two of our four games since he came over.

The Japanese teams are all company-based with a mix of amateur and professional players. Our amateur guys are in their companies’ offices from 8am to 1pm and then they travel out to Funabashi where we are based. They are all totally committed to the cause and their work ethic and work rate are second to none – they’re always doing extra time after training working on things, it really is quite a thing to see.

Frans Ludeke and myself are part of a three-strong foreign coaching group, while we also have three Japanese coaches, who serve as translators.

Most of the teams also have links to SuperRugby franchises – for example while Allister Coetzee was here his Kobe team had links to Dave Rennie and his Chiefs side, while for us it’s with the Hurricanes. So there’s an exchange of ideas and the professional development of coaches.

Anyway, back to the Springboks and they actually have a really good record in Europe lately, having won 16 of their last 21 end-of-year Tests.

Under Heyneke, we had an 80% win record and in 2012 and 2013 we were highly successful, with wins over first Ireland, Scotland and England, and then the next year good triumphs against Wales, Scotland and France. We only lost in 2014 against Ireland and Wales, also when we didn’t have overseas-based players and Wales actually paid for their players to be released.

So in the last four seasons the Springboks have a tremendous record in the Northern Hemisphere and they only conceded half-a-dozen tries in that time, so the defence has been good.

This year the Barbarians will just have a basic framework to play within, but a Brendan Venter-coached Italy are waiting in the middle and it certainly won’t be easy against England and Wales.

To beat them, there are some key areas to get right, like the lineout maul.

England scored twice against us in 2014 with the drive, one of them being from 50 metres out, so the Springboks need to both stop the maul and execute it well themselves. I would like to see one of South Africa’s traditional strengths back in play.

In that same 2014 game we scored against England with a pre-planned move against the rush defence that had Pat Lambie kicking out to Willie le Roux, and playing in that weather means you have to kick well and win the territory battle.

The ability to dominate the collisions in secondary defence is another key thing the Springboks need to get back so they can produce front-foot ball on attack. Jean-Luc du Preez is a strong ball-carrier and tackler and the sort of blindside flank we need, plus he’s tall enough to be a lineout option.

I also know Roelof Smit very well because he waited a long time at the Bulls for a chance, he was very patient behind Deon Stegmann. He can certainly get over the ball and is very hard to shift, while he also has carrying ability and is very good at controlling the maul at the back. He’s a traditional openside flank and he has the physical attributes.

I hope the Springboks emerge with four good wins and then everything will be alright again in South African rugby.

 

 

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.

 

Rehabilitated Hawken soaring at Titans & national academy 0

Posted on June 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Up-and-coming Titans fast bowler Eldred Hawken had his promising first season of franchise cricket interrupted by a back injury, but he has managed to rehabilitate himself in time to take up a place at the prestigious national academy at Cricket South Africa’s Centre of Excellence, an indication of what a talent he is.

Hawken only played four of the champion Titans’ Sunfoil Series games, but showed enough in taking nine wickets at an average of 30.44 to suggest he has a bright future. He may be 27 already, but there is something reminiscent of Dale Steyn in him in the way he is able to swing the ball at high pace and in his physique.

“I’m pretty excited moving forward. My back seized up during last season so I was helluva surprised to be called up for the academy. I thought maybe I was past it in terms of age, but it’s nice to know my good work paid off,” Hawken told The Citizen.

“The Titans side made me feel very comfortable, even though my first over went for 14 runs! But I felt comfortable after that [a change of ends helped!] and I got settled in for cricket at that level, although I still have a lot of work to do, especially on my conditioning. I can bowl 20 overs in a day in amateur cricket, but it’s harder to bowl 15 in franchise cricket because there’s more intensity.”

The similarities with Steyn don’t end with just the physical, however, as Hawken is from Tzaneen and also attended Merensky High School. The lithe Titans prospect admits that the great fast bowler was his role-model growing up as a cricketer in the Limpopo province.

“Dale was my hero. My dad, who was president of Limpopo Cricket, coached both of us at the Hornbills club in Tzaneen and when I was 12 or 13 I would go and watch them play. I would bring my whites just in case and often I would be standing at mid-off watching Dale bowl or watching clips of him on TV.

“I was actually an off-spinner until I was 16 and then when I changed, I envisaged in my mind his action as the basis for what I was trying to do. Those days were a big influence for me, I had the structures to flourish. The area has produced quite a few fast bowlers including Dale, Ethy Mbhalati and Marchant de Lange,” Hawken said.

The expert attention Hawken gets at the national academy means he has a good chance of following in the footsteps of those bowlers and becoming the leader of the Titans attack.

 

Barnes preparing SA A for mental assassination 0

Posted on July 10, 2014 by Ken

While the Proteas are in Sri Lanka, South Africa’s next tier of internationals – the SA A side – will be heading off to Australia soon and coach Vincent Barnes says one of his most important tasks will be to mentally prepare the up-and-coming players for a country in which character assassination seems as much of a goal as taking wickets or scoring runs.

The SA A squad play their first match in a triangular series with the Australian and Indian A sides on July 20 and are busy preparing for a tough tour at the CSA Centre of Excellence in Pretoria. Barnes will be able to take fully-fledged internationals such as captain Justin Ontong, Marchant de Lange, Beuran Hendricks, Rory Kleinveldt, Heino Kuhn, Farhaan Behardien, Aaron Phangiso and Vaughn van Jaarsveld in his party, but there are numerous younger players, several of whom have never been to Australia before.

“The tour is designed to give our fringe players top-quality opposition and it’s a fantastic opportunity to play in Australia even though it’s winter. There are four recent Proteas [Hendricks, Phangiso, Kleinveldt & Behardien], but it’s a nice blend with a lot of senior players and quite a few young debutants.

“I’m doing a lot of mental work with them because I want us to go across there with presence, our body language is important. The biggest challenge in Australia is mentally and quite a few of the guys are on their first tour there. They’re going to have to deal with those mental pressures and learn how to overcome them,” Barnes told The Pretoria News on Wednesday.

Warriors opening batsman David White and Highveld Lions pace bowler Kagiso Rabada are two of the rookies in the squad, but they are both excited by the learning opportunities they will have in Australia.

“It’s a great honour to be chosen for the A side, I feel very privileged and I’m very excited. I want to learn as much as I can so I can build on my game for the Warriors, after I put in some nice performances for them in four-day cricket last season. Obviously the goal is to play Test cricket for the Proteas, but I don’t want to get ahead of myself.

“I have huge respect for the guys I’m playing with, there are some great cricketers and I’m going to learn as much as possible from them. Especially Justin Ontong, because he’s been around the block and has a lot of information to share,” White said.

Rabada was shining for the SA U19 Junior World Cup-winning side at the start of the year and his selection in both the four-day and limited-overs squads completes a whirlwind six months for the St Stithians product.

“Everything has happened so quickly, I went straight into the franchise team from the U19s and now I’m playing for SA A. I hope to learn from it and become a better cricketer. If I just play my best then the other things will take care of themselves, but my main goal is to play for the Proteas and long-term to be one of the best fast bowlers in the world,” Rabada said.

Five members of last season’s SA A squad – Kyle Abbott, Stiaan van Zyl, Dean Elgar, Hendricks and Phangiso will be involved in the Proteas’ tour of Sri Lanka and Barnes is excited by the possibilities that lie ahead for this year’s intake.

“Having so many young players has been refreshing and they’ve brought a lot of freshness and energy to the squad,” Barnes said.

And let’s not forget that next year’s World Cup will be held in Australia and history suggests a player or two from this A squad could well be involved with the full national team by then. While the wintry conditions in the sub-tropical far north will be different to those experienced at the height of the 2014/15 summer, it will do them the world of good to acclimatise to the abrasive Australian way of playing the game and all the other off-field quirks over there.

SA A squads

Four-day squad: Justin Ontong, Temba Bavuma, Marchant de Lange, Simon Harmer, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Rory Kleinveldt, Heino Kuhn, Eddie Leie, Mangaliso Mosehle, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Hardus Viljoen, David White, Khaya Zondo.

Limited-overs squad: Justin Ontong, Farhaan Behardien, Cody Chetty, Marchant de Lange, Simon Harmer, Beuran Hendricks, Reeza Hendricks, Rory Kleinveldt, Heino Kuhn, Mangaliso Mosehle, Aaron Phangiso, Kagiso Rabada, Rilee Rossouw, Mthokozisi Shezi, Vaughn van Jaarsveld.

Itinerary: July 20 v Australia National Performance Squad (Northline); July 22 v India A (Gardens Oval); July 24 v Australia A (Northline); July 26 v India A (Gardens Oval); July 29 v Australia A (Marrara); July 31 v Australia National Performance Squad (Gardens Oval); August 2 1v2, 3v4 (Northern Territory); August 7-10 v Australia A (Tony Ireland Stadium); August 14-17 v Australia A (Tony Ireland Stadium).

 



↑ Top