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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.

6 weeks in a row for Bok trio but Sharks say they will honour Saru agreement 0

Posted on February 12, 2016 by Ken

 

Director of Rugby Gary Gold said on Thursday that the Sharks will honour the agreement they entered into with the South African Rugby Union (Saru) over the resting of Springboks, despite naming Marcell Coetzee, Pat Lambie and Cobus Reinach in the starting line-up for the sixth week in a row for their crunch match against the Chiefs in Durban on Saturday.

Saru confirmed this week that the agreement with the franchises that key Springboks would not play for more than five consecutive weeks and that they would have rest weeks during the tournament was “the ideal” and was not legally binding.

With the Sharks having endured a difficult start to the season, Saturday’s match against the powerful Chiefs is a key one as they look to close the five-point gap between them and the Stormers in the South African Conference, and Gold said the selection should be seen in the light of this.

“Our view is that we’re 100% behind the Boks in resting players, I think it’s the right thing to do and we’ve agreed to a plan. But we have a different challenge on our hands that other Unions don’t have. We have the most number of Springboks and our first bye is only in Week 11. So when other teams get that bye, they have the break within the five weeks.

“Where it becomes problematic is not being able to meet that five-week period this week. We haven’t been given the benefit of a bye which three of the five South African franchises have already. But as of last week, we’re the only team to have rested Springboks.

“It’s a challenge, but it’s something we’re committed to. It’s the right thing to do, I think the Springboks do need to get some rest time, and I want to make it very clear that we’re committed to that agreement. No-one wants the Springboks to win this Rugby World Cup more than me after going through the disaster of 2011,” Gold, who was the assistant coach when South Africa were eliminated at the quarterfinal stage of the last World Cup, said.

The selection of the current national players means there is just one change to the Sharks team that won so convincingly last weekend in Bloemfontein, with Marco Wentzel, capped as a Springbok in 2002, named as the replacement for the injured lock Pieter-Steph du Toit.

The in-form Du Toit’s knee injury is not as serious as first feared, with the 22-year-old now being ruled out for three months.

After such a good performance as the one in Bloemfontein, Gold said it would be silly to now make changes.

“The guys took a lot of confidence out of a tough game, the Cheetahs are not a roll-over. We played in tough conditions and we’re able to keep continuity going for the same guys in the same positions. From next week we’re going to have to look at jiggling things,” Gold said.

 

How the Springboks win v Italy of most interest 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

The Springboks will almost certainly emerge victorious over Italy in their Test at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, but the way they achieve that triumph is what most people will be interested in.

Italy have lost all 10 previous Tests they have played against South Africa, with an average score of 53-13, and even though they are an improved outfit since their last meeting – the 55-11 defeat in East London in 2010 – they still have a way to go before they can seriously expect to beat the Springboks on their home turf.

With the world-class Sergio Parisse an inspirational figure at eighthman, they will bring a combative, committed pack to the contest on Saturday, and a stern challenge in the scrums, even with brilliant tighthead Martin Castrogiovanni coming off the bench, but it is difficult to see what other weapons they can bring to the table.

They lack generals at halfback with Edoardo Gori at scrumhalf and the 33-year-old Alberto di Bernardo making his debut at flyhalf, while it is difficult to see the rest of their backline finding a way through what is generally a formidable Springboks defence.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer struggled to keep his clients – the South African rugby public – happy last year as he won seven of 12 Tests. Of course his primary aims are winning and building a team for the next World Cup, rather than playing a brand of rugby that the public likes.

But if your greatest desire when it comes to the Springboks is seeing tries and the ball being thrown around by an entertaining backline, then Saturday’s game should provide a few more moments of pleasure than almost all of the games last year did.

Meyer’s selection of the likes of Willie le Roux at fullback, JJ Engelbrecht at outside centre and Jano Vermaak at scrumhalf suggests he wants to bring some youthful enthusiasm to the attack and the team he announced this week has been met with a thumbs-up by most critics.

The Springboks will, of course, still crash the ball up through the likes of powerful carriers like Willem Alberts, Pierre Spies, Eben Etzebeth, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira, Jean de Villiers and substitutes Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe and Chiliboy Ralepelle, but it is hoped the backline will keep the ball in hand more often than kicking up-and-unders.

Meyer confirmed that Le Roux’s call-up was due to the brand of rugby he displayed for the Cheetahs, and that’s what the Springbok coach wants him to reproduce on Saturday.

“He has shown himself to be a player who has that X-factor we need to add to the mix if we are going to be a complete team,” said Meyer. “If you look at the past World Cups, they’re not usually decided by lots of tries, but an X-factor moment in a key World Cup game can win you the trophy.

“I’ve had a chat with Willie and told him that what I am expecting from him in this Test match is what he has done at SuperRugby level. I don’t want him to change anything from what he does at the Cheetahs. That means he will be given licence to play his natural game.”

Hopefully that vote of confidence will see Le Roux prosper. Meyer is obviously not just looking for X-factor from his fullback; he also needs a good kicking game, security in the air and solid defence.

An Italian team not renowned for dazzling attacking play provides the ideal opportunity for the 23-year-old to show he can make his mark at international level as well.

A resurgent Morné Steyn is there at flyhalf for the percentage game if necessary, while the presence of De Villiers would provide invaluable experience for a new-look backline. The Springbok captain is, however, battling a hamstring niggle and if he is ruled unfit it would mean a debut for another exciting young gun, Bulls centre Jan Serfontein.

Pat Lambie had his backers for the flyhalf position on his home ground, but is on the bench to provide even more attacking impact if need be.

“I rate Patrick Lambie highly and he will get his chance to play. My view is that we have two flyhalves and which one plays will depend on what we need from a particular game. A lot of people have pigeon-holed me as a guy who only likes players who can play a certain way, but if you look at my Bulls teams over the years, there were always guys there that were a bit different and could provide that missing X-factor,” Meyer said.

Saturday could just be the day when we see that come to fruition in the Green and Gold jersey.

Teams

South Africa: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Morné Steyn, 9-Jano Vermaak, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Juandré Kruger, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Flip van der Merwe, 20-Arno Botha, 21-Ruan Pienaar, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein.

Italy: 15-Andrea Masi, 14-Giovanbattista Venditti, 13-Luca Morisi, 12-Alberto Sgarbi, 11-Luke McLean, 10-Alberto di Bernardo, 9-Edoardo Gori, 8-Sergio Parisse, 7-Robert Barbieri, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 5-Marco Bortolami, 4-Antonio Pavanello, 3-Lorenzo Cittadini, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1-Alberto de Marchi. Replacements:  16-Davide Giazzon, 17-Matias Aguero, 18-Martin Castrogiovanni, 19-Valerio Bernabo, 20-Joshua Furno, 21-Tobias Botes, 22-Luciano Orquera, 23-Tommaso Iannone

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-07-boks-vs-italy-preview-in-search-of-factor-x/#.VkXVcXYrLIU



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