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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Springboks still heading for a very good year 0

Posted on September 28, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s a very important Test for the Springboks against Australia in Bloemfontein on Saturday because victory will take them to six wins out of eight matches and that obviously means they are heading for a very good year.

Heading into the last two home Tests of the year, the good news is that the Springboks have a good chance to finish second in the Rugby Championship. If they win their last two games, then they are heading for a very good year indeed!

But first they need to get through Australia, but they are playing one of the top four teams, so it’s a chance to go up the rankings.

Traditionally the Wallabies have always struggled at altitude – South Africa have won 14 of the last 15 games on the Highveld – but there’s obviously more to it than that. The Springbok forwards were really in control at the back end of the game in Perth, they scored a really good lineout drive try and their scrum was dominant, so those are real positives.

I expect the scrum to go well again and garner penalties like they did at Loftus Versfeld last year and in Perth, and I expect the lineout maul to dominate when in good field positions. Hooker Malcolm Marx remains a helluva talent and the Springboks will definitely produce a better lineout performance. New Zealand have one heck of a competing lineout and it wasn’t the first time they’ve dismantled an opposition lineout and it won’t be the last.

So the Springboks should have different quality ball for the halfbacks and having Ross Cronje back and fit will definitely be a big help for Elton Jantjies.

In terms of any scarring from the 57-0 hammering in Albany, after a big loss the hardest thing is that the confidence takes a knock. It wasn’t the best day for the players or the coaches and they’ve got to regain trust in the system. It’s a good thing that they had a week off to clear the mind and Allister Coetzee needs to look at people who can bounce back and deliver a great performance.

The stakes are so high and there’s such immense pressure to perform at national level that the players will have real feelings of shame. They know how great the support is and how high the expectations are because the Springboks are one of the country’s flagship sporting teams.

It was obviously a great disappointment, but that all goes when they step back on to the training field and they’re back to normality. But there will still be that little bit of doubt in the back of their minds, which is why they need a good performance to erase that.

At altitude, it’s not so important to start well as we saw with the Lions in the SuperRugby semi-final. From 30 minutes onwards, the altitude starts to kick in and take the sting out of the opposition legs.

Test matches are like playing 12 Currie Cup finals in a year, such is their importance that they are live or die, every one of them.

Which is why I feel sorry for Raymond Rhule, who took full responsibility for his performance, but there’s no need to throw him away as a Springbok. In my time on the Springboks staff, we had a player who missed five tackles on the wing and weeks later he was still deeply upset and disappointed. You could see the hurt in his eyes a month later. But he went on to play stellar rugby for South Africa for the next three years, he recovered and became a regular throughout my tenure with the national team.

The players need to know they have the backing of their coaches and sometimes you get players who are immense talents on attack but their defence is not so strong. Then you have to ask: Is he coachable? Does he listen? Does he make the right decisions under pressure? Is his positional play such that he will be in the right place to execute the tackle?

Social media can be quite brutal, everyone has an opinion, but now it can be stated and broadcast far and wide. In the old days the players didn’t have to bother with any of that.

The Handre Pollard situation has also raised plenty of debate and it’s non-negotiable for me. A returning Springbok has to come back into the franchise 23 because the national interest comes first, sometimes coaches have to see the bigger picture.

He is an elite player for the Bulls and has been with them since he was 18, six years, and he has shown great loyalty and produced many good performances. A player of Pollard’s class should slot in seamlessly.

In 2004, I can remember Jake White released Victor Matfield from the Springbok squad and we were in the middle of our Currie Cup campaign at the Bulls, but we accommodated him on the flank against the Lions.

He was man of the match the next weekend against the All Blacks and that was the season South Africa won the Tri-Nations.

It is vitally important that if a Springbok needs game time, then you give it to him, even if it’s off the bench. We always used to play them at the Bulls and the Western Province, Sharks and Free State national squad players were all welcomed straight back into their teams.

John Mitchell has stated how important the Currie Cup is to build towards SuperRugby. Surely the chance to integrate a world-class player in a match situation is very much a bonus for the Bulls?

So for a week he gets to use his key tactical decision-maker in the Currie Cup while preparing for SuperRugby 2018. Surely you would take that any day?

 

 


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.

 

18-year-olds & seasoned veterans all in the race for SA hockey 0

Posted on May 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Featuring 18-year-olds to seasoned veterans, South Africa’s national men’s and women’s hockey squads for the year were announced on Thursday and are part of the South African Hockey Association’s planning through to next year’s Commonwealth Games and the race to regain as many of their world ranking points as they can.

Due to the loss of ranking points caused by not participating in last year’s Rio Olympics, South Africa’s women have slipped to 13th in the world rankings and the men are 15th. Nevertheless, South Africa will host the prestigious World League semi-finals for both men and women from July 3-24 and, with several top-10 nations taking part, even the smallest upset should improve their ranking.

Australia, Germany, Belgium, New Zealand, Ireland and Spain are the top-10 men’s sides coming to Johannesburg, while England, Argentina, the USA and Germany are the leading nations taking part in the women’s tournament.

A 25-strong women’s squad has been named and, even though there are no new caps, convenor of selectors Mickey Gordon explained that a structure had been put in place to improve the youth profile of the team.

“With a view to the World League Semi-Finals, the Africa Cup of Nations in August and the Commonwealth Games next April, and possibly the World Cup later in 2018, we have chosen a fairly long-term squad so we can look at selection from a consistent basis. We’ve set out to change the age profile because we have a lot of qualifying to do and these youngsters can gain experience.

“We will use all 25 players in the build-up to the next World Cup and we need to get youth into the squad. I sit on the U16 to U21 national selection panels as well in order to get some consistency. We want to grow our talent and if you look at world standards these days, then there is a predominance of youth,” Gordon said.

That does not mean experience is being thrown out the window though, and stalwarts of the South African side such as Nicolene Terblanche, Bernadette Coston, Sulette Damons, Ilse Davids and Shelley Jones (nee Russell) have all been included in the squad.

That applies to the men’s squad as well, with the likes of Rassie Pieterse, 34-year-old Julian Hykes, Jethro Eustice and Owen Mvimbi chosen alongside new cap Melrick Maddocks and 18-year-old Dayaan Cassiem.

There are nine members of the KZN Coastals team that won the recent IPT in the squad and national coach Fabian Gregory said it was the selectors’ intention that form be rewarded.

“KZN did exceptionally well to win IPT, playing well both as a group and with stand-out individual players. We wanted to send the correct message that IPT has not been watered down and we will reward form there. So Melrick is rewarded for being one of the top strikers there as is his team-mate Julian, who was the top goal-scorer for Southern Gauteng,” Gregory said.

The 43-year-old Gregory said he will cut the squad down from 21 to 18 for the World League Semi-Finals.

For both the men’s and women’s national squads, the next couple of years promise plenty of playing opportunities against the top nations in world hockey.

“Our world ranking being lower does not make things easier for us, but there is a total plan in place to rejuvenate our competitiveness. Not playing enough games is killing us due to a lack of sponsorship, but we have the talent, we just need to spend more time working together as a team,” Gordon said.

SA Womens Squad: Kirsty Adams (Boland), Stephanie Baxter (North-West), Kara Botes nee Stella (KZN Coastals), Nicole la Fleur (Western Province), Candice Manual (Western Province), Nicolene Terblance (Northerns Blues), Izelle Verster (Northerns Blues), Quanita Bobbs (Western Province), Bernadette Coston (Southern Gauteng), Sulette Damons (North-West), Ilse Davids (Western Province), (Lisa Deetlefs (Southern Gauteng), Lilian du Plessis (Southern Gauteng), Celia Evans (Northerns Blues), Tarryn Glasby (Western Province), Erin Hunter (KZN Coastals), Shelley Jones nee Russell (KZN Coastals), Marizen Marais (Northerns Blues), Jade Mayne (Western Province), Phumelela Mbande (Northerns Blues), Line Malan (Western Province), Jessica O’Connor (KZN Coastals), Carmen Smith (Southern Gauteng), Marelize van Tonder (Northerns Blues), Nicole Walraven (Free State).

SA Mens Squad: Rassie Pieterse (Southern Gauteng), Gowan Jones (KZN Coastals), Jethro Eustice (KZN Coastals), Robin Jones (KZN Coastals), Tyson Dlungwana (Southern Gauteng), Mohamed Mea (KZN Coastals), Jonty Robinson (KZN Coastals), Dan Sibbald (KZN Coastals), Reza Rosenburg (Southern Gauteng), Ryan Julius (Western Province), Clinton Panther (KZN Coastals), Owen Mvimbi (Southern Gauteng), Julian Hykes (Southern Gauteng), Ryan Crowe (Western Province), Nqobile Ntuli (KZN Coastals), Ignatius Malgraff  (Eastern Province), Dayaan Cassiem (Western Province), Richard Pautz (Northerns Blues), Tevin Kok (Northerns Blues), Melrick Maddocks (Southern Gauteng), Damien Kimfley (KZN Coastals).

 

https://www.sahockey.co.za/sa-teams/305-sa-men-s-and-womens-squads

Back to school for Saru, who look set to fail again 0

Posted on February 13, 2017 by Ken

 

If the South African Rugby Union were a kid, based on their 2016 performance they would be the one who failed to pass their grade and has to repeat the year, hopefully being shamed into harder work and improvement by the embarrassment of sitting in a class with a bunch of people a year younger than you.

Unfortunately, if I was their teacher in that school, I would be forced to conclude already at this early stage of the year that Saru are doomed to fail again because they are simply repeating the same mistakes.

We are two weeks away from the start of Super Rugby and we still don’t know yet whether Allister Coetzee will continue in his post as Springbok coach. If he does – and that looks likely given how tardy Saru have once again been in sorting out their most important appointment (apart from arguably the CEO, who has done another of his disappearing tricks) – then Coetzee will once again find his planning set back by an administration that seems intent on tying one hand behind his back.

The contracts are apparently in place and the official announcement is supposed to be made in the next week, but we’ve heard that line before.

There is another vital appointment that Saru is also dragging its feet over and one that just creates enormous uncertainty amongst the best junior talent in this country and their parents, many of whom are probably sitting on offers from overseas.

Dawie Theron finished his tenure as national U20 coach in June and a replacement has still not been named. There is a great candidate – both in terms of the success he has achieved with young rugby players and the tremendous transformation message it would send – sitting in Potchefstroom by the name of Jonathan Mokuena, previously a manager of the Junior Springboks side, a winner of the Varsity Cup and a successful coach of the Leopards senior team.

But instead there are strong suggestions Abe Davids, the brother of Saru vice-president Francois Davids, is being lined up for the job.

Former traffic cop Francois Davids is also the president of Boland rugby, the union which suspended Abe Davids in 2014 for faking his coaching qualifications, and has been accused of such nepotism by the clubs in the area that the administration was called the “House of Davids”.

The only good news coming out of Saru lately  is that they have invested in getting Brendan Venter back involved with the Springboks. With him and Franco Smith, working with Matt Proudfoot and Johann van Graan, Coetzee will finally have back-up staff worthy of the Springboks.

Of course the name of Rassie Erasmus still pops up from time to time and the former Springbok and director of rugby has put in a lot of time and effort in plotting his coaching career-path. A leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper seems be the PR company for his ambitions.

While the dithering and politicking carries on in the Saru boardroom, the All Blacks have already held their first camp together and the gap just widens. One would hope the news that the Springboks could be ranked as low as seventh after the next round of Six Nations matches would shock Saru into decisive action, but the wheels of their bureaucracy turn with the speed of a sloth.

 

A weekend in August the most important in SA cricket’s turnaround 0

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Ken

 

It was the year of the remarkable turnaround in South African cricket and perhaps the most important weekend of 2016 was the one the national team spent at a “culture camp” in Johannesburg in August.

South African cricket was seemingly in freefall before that, the number one ranking in Tests lost due to a series defeat at home to England, yet another disappointment in a major ICC tournament as the Proteas were eliminated in the first round of World T20 in India and their ODI form was also ropey as they failed to make the final of a triangular series in the West Indies.

There was an atmosphere of doom and gloom, as transformation became an easy scapegoat, and national coach Russell Domingo was not expected to survive the year. An independent review was instituted and then scrapped.

Far more importantly, the greater squad got together and pledged that they had to be better, that ProteaFire was being extinguished and the flame needed to be rekindled. The players themselves took the responsibility to challenge each other and be better.

After flirting with the captaincy of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis taking the reins of both the Test and ODI side was also crucial and, being a more natural captain drawn to the job, he got the team going in ways that have not been seen in the last couple of years.

The Proteas were glorious in the second half of the year, winning their Test series against New Zealand and then becoming the first team to ever whitewash Australia in a five-match ODI series, before going across the Indian Ocean to their great rivals and winning the first two Tests to claim the series and become the first side since the great West Indies outfits of the 1980s/1990s to win three successive rubbers on Australian soil. You have to go back to the early days of Test cricket between 1884 and 1888 to find the only other team to achieve that feat – England.

If the year itself was memorable for the amazing turnaround in their fortunes, then the one match that epitomised the unity of purpose in the Proteas was the first Test against Australia in Perth.

After choosing to bat first, South Africa batted poorly, only reaching 242 thanks to Quinton de Kock’s 84 and a half-century from Temba Bavuma. Australia had raced away to 158 without loss in reply, before Dale Steyn dismissed David Warner but injured himself in the process, a fractured shoulder bone ruling him out of the rest of the season.

But with just two fit pacemen and debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj weighing in with three wickets, they managed to dismiss Australia for just 244. Du Plessis spoke later about the opposition being “shocked” by the comeback and the resolve shown by the Proteas, who dominated the rest of the game and won the second Test in Hobart by an innings.

De Kock was the Proteas’ outstanding player of 2016, scoring 695 Test runs at 63.18, second only to Amla’s 729 at 48.60, and continuing to plunder ODI runs such that he was named the ICC’s player of the year in the 50-over format.

On the bowling front, Kagiso Rabada continues to grow and ended as the Proteas’ leading wicket-taker and amongst the top six globally, while the excellent form of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott suggests that the end of Steyn’s great career, whenever it may come, will not necessarily leave a vacuum.



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