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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Why I think the Boks will win in Perth 0

Posted on September 07, 2017 by Ken

 

The Springboks have so many guys playing well at the moment that I see us getting the result against Australia in Perth on Saturday, even though the Wallabies have been very competitive against the All Blacks for the last 120 minutes – it’s just the first 40 minutes of the first Test in which they were hammered.

Australian rugby is not at its strongest state at the moment and there has been a losing culture around the players from SuperRugby and a two-game loss to New Zealand, which has been their traditional start to the Rugby Championship.

They did come very close to winning in Dunedin and they probably should have won that match, but they haven’t been convincing, whereas the Springboks are full of confidence, belief in their systems and they have momentum. You can just see the positivity in the camp.

On the back of two losses, the Wallabies will be in a motivated and desperate state, but the confidence is not quite there.

Australia don’t have the same weapons as the Springboks do and they don’t have much of a kicking game. In fact they don’t want to kick, everything is about ball-in-hand for them, so obviously if the Springbok defence stands up well, opportunities could be created by the Wallabies trying to play under pressure.

There has been an exceptional improvement in the Springbok defence and the players are working so hard for each other, they’re getting off the line and smashing the opposition. It just shows that defence can be a weapon as well.

Australia will want to carry the ball a lot, they want to outscore teams, but the Springbok defence has proven quite lethal in stopping attacks and forcing turnovers, and then finishing those off.

Australia have a few good ball-carriers at centre, but the Springbok defence has been very good from first phase and they coped well against France, who had big wings and midfielders.

The Wallabies will try to beat you through phase play, which means they can become very vulnerable themselves later on in the movement, around phases five to 10, when the attack is not as structured and there’s a chance for turnovers.

Australia also don’t have the best scrum and Stephen Moore being out will affect that even more. Their back row is also a lot younger than it was previously.

Centre Tevita Kuridrani is the big threat in their team with the way he runs inwards at the lineout vacuum – that area between the last player in the lineout and the first backline defender. He can be a handful running hard and headlong into that hole.

Flyhalf Bernard Foley is definitely a threat as well, especially around middle rucks, because he has good feet and gets quite flat so he is able to go at the inside pillars.

We just don’t know from week-to-week though what team Wallabies coach Michael Cheika will pick, which is the difference between the teams because we virtually know the Springbok team from one to 23. It’s settled, which is a big advantage, and they’ve had combinations now for five Tests and they’ve performed really well. The biggest positive for the Springboks is that consistency of selection, which means the players are confident in the people around them.

The Perth crowd can also be 50/50 when it comes to who they support between South Africa and the Wallabies, but the pitch is very removed from the stands, so the crowd is quite a long way back. It also makes it a bit difficult for the kickers because the stadium is just different to most others.

The other unknown is that the Boks have not been in a losing position in any Test so far this year, they’ve been in control after the first 20-30 minutes of every game. So that is the only box unticked – if they are 10-15 points down after the first half-hour or 40 minutes, can they come back? That is the only question mark against them, but I’m sure they can do that if necessary as well.

There’s real hope that we can win in Perth for the first time since 2009. Elton Jantjies is in such a rich vein of form, the defence is so strong and the attack has been lethal – scoring at least four tries in every Test this year has been phenomenal.

 

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.

Our archrivals aren’t scared of age, why should we be? 0

Posted on July 20, 2015 by Ken

It’s always been a very South African thing, especially in rugby and cricket, for us to look over the Indian Ocean at our archrivals New Zealand and Australia, and try and copy what they are doing.

Notwithstanding the fact that Australian cricket teams and New Zealand rugby sides have generally been the best in the world during the last two decades, it is a habit that is not always beneficial for our national teams. Mostly because we have different strengths and therefore what works best for them won’t necessarily be the best approach for us.

But there is one current debate in Springbok rugby which I believe can be neatly resolved by taking a leaf out of the All Blacks’ book.

Amongst the many unfair criticisms that are being hurled at Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, one of the least intelligent ones is that he is going to take a geriatric team to the World Cup. In this regard, I have to say, like our venerable Archbishop Emeritus Desmond Tutu did recently in supporting HelpAge International, that “I am for people of all ages”.

Looking back at the previous seven World Cups, it is clear that nobody is going to win the Webb Ellis Cup without experience. Meyer is certainly not alone in wanting to include some cool older heads in his side – we need only look at the team New Zealand coach Steve Hansen put on the field yesterday to open their Rugby Championship campaign.

With only a handful of matches left before they begin the defence of their 2011 title, Hansen is not going to be messing around with players that aren’t going to be in contention for the World Cup.

The All Blacks team that belted Argentina in Christchurch yesterday contained half-a-dozen players who are over 30 – Ma’a Nonu, Dan Carter, Richie McCaw, Jerome Kaino, Keven Mealamu and Tony Woodcock. Add in 29-year-olds Kieran Read and Luke Romano, and the average age of yesterday’s starting XV was 29.13 years.

The likes of Ben Smith (29) and Conrad Smith (33) are almost certainly going to be World Cup starters and other players who should return and will push up the average age are Julian Savea (24 compared to Charles Piutau 23), Aaron Smith (26, while TJ Perenara is 23) and Liam Messam (31).

The likely All Blacks team for a World Cup final would have an average age of 29.60 years.

Meyer’s probable first-choice team – Le Roux, Pietersen, De Villiers, De Allende, Habana, Pollard, Du Preez, Vermeulen, Alberts, Louw, Matfield, Etzebeth, Du Plessis x2 and Mtawarira – is actually younger than that – 29.33 years.

There are nine players over 30, but there are also three key players who are 23 or younger – 23-year-old centre Damian de Allende (Jan Serfontein is 22), 21-year-old flyhalf Handre Pollard and 23-year-old lock Eben Etzebeth. That seems to me to be a good balance between experience and youthful energy.

And there’s even a chance that the Springboks will have some outrageous young talent like Marcell Coetzee (24), Pieter-Steph du Toit (22), Frans Malherbe (24) and Steven Kitshoff (23) dancing around the UK fields, which would make South Africa’s team even younger.

So the next time an ill-informed someone moans about the geriatric Springbok team at the World Cup, those are the facts to dispel that argument; New Zealand, the outright favourites and world number ones, have an even older side!

In the pressure-cooker environment of a do-or-die knockout game at the World Cup, you need players who have been there and done it, who have proven their mettle when the stakes are highest.

 



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