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Ken Borland


The John McFarland Column: Let’s get real about the Currie Cup 0

Posted on November 02, 2017 by Ken

 

The Currie Cup final was a real spectacle, but it is a competition that SA Rugby really needs to sort out and it doesn’t any longer have any real bearing on Springbok selection for the end-of-year tour.

The Currie Cup staggered to the playoff rounds, when there was far more interest, but the competition cannot overlap with SuperRugby, teams can’t be playing three games in a week and we can’t have the situation we had this year with the Free State Cheetahs starting with a team on fire, winning five of their first six games, but then having to go and play in the Pro14.

SA Rugby needs to get the crowds back to the Currie Cup, it is the most traditional South African tournament and every player and coach, when they set out on their career, they want to win it. The basis of South African rugby is unions, not franchises, that’s how they run it, so the Currie Cup should be SA Rugby’s main competition.

One must commend the two smaller unions, the Pumas and Griquas, for showing how much they belong in the tournament. The Pumas hammered the Blue Bulls by 50 and Griquas beat eventual champions Western Province, and both teams gave some of the other sides real frights.

The Springboks have shown good continuity in their selection – Lukhanyo Am has been recalled after being in the squad in June, Louis Schreuder was there already and Warrick Gelant has been part of the training camps. You don’t want to keep starting again with new players and you don’t want the situation where guys have to fly in and out because of the game against Wales on December 2 falling outside the international window.

Allister Coetzee has been pretty consistent in selection this year and the players have responded because it shows the coach has belief in them, after a good run in which the only team to beat them has been the All Blacks.

Ireland, they’re first up, will be the toughest game for the Springboks on their tour, because of where they are after a stellar year, but I expect South Africa to beat France, Italy and Wales. If the Springboks can win all four tour games, it would be a very good year indeed.

Against Ireland, the Springboks will need a solid lineout and a bit of size around the field, which is why I think Pieter-Steph du Toit will be chosen as a back-row forward from now on. They will need to dominate the set-pieces and have a good kicking game on those fields. The back three will need to absorb pressure and put it back on Ireland because Conor Murray kicks 70% of the time for Munster and kicking from scrumhalf, there’s always a good chase.

The Springbok team is always chosen before the Currie Cup final so that you don’t make emotional decisions, so there are no late inclusions and no outsiders suddenly selected. International rugby is really high-pressure and you need guys who have played well consistently.

Curwin Bosch showed some great moments of class in the final, especially with his kicking game – that drop goal was particularly brilliant. But he’s been in the system since he was 16, part of South African rugby’s elite programs, flagged as a major talent. But it’s obvious he has a weakness in defence, in fact it’s his only real weakness.

This will obviously have to be worked on during the end-of-year tour, but why hasn’t it been worked on already? There are no small centres in international rugby anymore and if he’s going to play in the flyhalf channel then he has no choice – he has to fix his defence or move to fullback.

Robert du Preez certainly put his hand up in the final and I am sure he will get his chance with the Springboks. He now needs a good SuperRugby season.

In the game itself, the other big defensive lapse came when Nizaam Carr picked up against the wheel of the scrum and there was very poor defence by the Sharks flank, it was their dominant scrum but he still allowed the Western Province eighthman to get around him and set up the try.

The final showed the value of a great set-piece and forward-dominance. Western Province were completely in charge from the time their front row was dominant.

The Sharks were maybe a little over-confident after their scrum demolished the Blue Bulls in the semi-finals, but hats off to Wilco Louw and JC Janse van Rensburg.

Wilco has received plenty of deserved plaudits, but hats off to JC as well, who is a real stalwart, especially at the scrummage. Many a tighthead has come off second-best against him and he is unfortunate not to have a Springbok cap, although he did go on tour with us to Great Britain in 2012.

It was a clear turning point in the game when Western Province scored a try just before halftime, with Damian Willemse having the vision to evade Kobus van Wyk’s spot-tackle. There are always risks to rushing out like the Sharks wing did, and Western Province kept the ball for a number of phases after the break by their fullback and the try left them only five behind going into the second half, when Western Province just completely pegged down the Sharks through the dominance of their pack and set-piece.

The Sharks were probably the better team in broken-field play, they have quite exciting backs, and they got a lot of mileage from the kickoffs. That’s a basic thing, but it seems most locks in the Currie Cup were not able to catch the ball! So that’s a work-on for South African teams ahead of SuperRugby.

For the Sharks, they can still approach 2018 with some confidence. They chose not to pick the experienced Chiliboy Ralepelle in their squad for the final, and they’ll have him and Beast Mtawarira back in the front row. They’ll also have some nice physicality in the backs with Robert du Preez arriving at flyhalf and Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am, Marius Louw and Louis Schreuder around him.

 


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.

Most daunting journey of all for well-travelled McLaren 0

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Ryan McLaren has travelled many miles in his cricket career but he is about to embark on his most daunting journey of all as the probable replacement for Jacques Kallis in South Africa’s Test side.

The 30-year-old has gone from being born into a famous Kimberley family through Grey College in Bloemfontein, stints as a Kolpak player in English county cricket for Kent and Middlesex, three IPL teams and on to play for South Africa.

Although the national selectors named a 15-man squad yesterday to take on Australia in the three-Test series next month, McLaren is the favourite to replace Kallis, coming in at number seven and providing the team with a fourth seamer.

National selection convenor Andrew Hudson spoke of “staying with the brand of cricket that has brought us such success” and that means a fourth seamer will be an integral part of South Africa’s game plan, which involves unrelenting pressure on the opposition.

But, as coach Russell Domingo pointed out, with no Kallis, having a fourth seamer means either dropping a batsman or not playing a spinner.

“We have to do away with the luxury of having seven specialist batsmen. Number seven will now probably be an all-rounder or a spinner.

“It’s very difficult to have seven batsmen, four seamers and a spinner. Something has to give, and I do like to have a spinner because it gives the team a lot more balance,” Domingo said yesterday.

It won’t of course be a Test debut for McLaren because he has appeared for South Africa in the ultimate version of the game before – against England at the Wanderers four years ago.

McLaren bowled tidily as part of a five-prong seam attack that ran rampant over England, dismissing them for just 180 and 169 as South Africa romped to victory by an innings and 74 runs to level the series. The left-handed batsman also scored 33 not out coming in at number eight.

Wayne Parnell also made his debut in that match and has also been included in the squad to play the Aussies. Although Domingo said he loved the 140km/h pace and left-arm variation that Parnell brings to the attack, McLaren’s greater consistency – he could do the holding role alongside Steyn, Morkel and Philander very well – and better ability with the bat should see him get the nod.

McLaren has the experience of already playing 40 ODIs and 10 T20s for South Africa and has become an integral part of the 50-over side in the last year. He’s a genuine all-rounder: In 103 first-class matches he has scored 3860 runs at an average of 30 and has taken 329 wickets at 25.47.

McLaren said he has no delusions of stepping into Kallis’s boots but is also confident that he can perform the role the national team requires of him.

“I’ve pretty much made peace with the fact that you can’t make comparisons between myself and Jacques. There’s only been one Jacques Kallis and there will only ever be one.

“So I’m just going to focus on the role I have to perform, which is batting seven and bowling second-change, which is pretty much what I’ve been doing most of my career.

“As an all-rounder, there’s always the physical demands of contributing in both disciplines, but it’s nothing new for me because I’ve been doing it for the Knights for many years – bowling 20 or 25 overs a day and batting.

“I will take some confidence from how I’ve performed well in ODI cricket in the last year, but Test cricket is a totally different game, it’s where every cricketer wants to be measured. And there’s no greater test than playing against Australia, so I’m excited for the challenge,” McLaren said.

The absence of Kallis will lead to another change in the batting order, with Domingo confirming that Faf du Plessis would be promoted to the number four spot, the place where greats such as Graeme Pollock, Sachin Tendulkar, Wally Hammond and Javed Miandad batted.

“It’s no state secret, Faf is the guy we have earmarked for number four. He made a big hundred at number four to save a Test recently and he bats there at franchise level. He’s a suitable replacement,” Domingo said.

Robin Peterson, the left-arm orthodox incumbent, is the only specialist spinner in the squad, but Hudson said the selection certainly did not mark the end of Imran Tahir’s Test career.

“Robbie P has put in some good performances lately and he did well in Perth at the back end of the last tour to Australia. He fits in with the style of cricket we want to play.

“But we know Imran Tahir can bowl with variety and an attacking leg-spinner on a turning pitch is still an option for us because we play a lot of cricket in the sub-continent. We certainly are not going past Imran,” Hudson said.

Domingo suggested that the pitches for the three Tests – in Centurion, Port Elizabeth and Cape Town – will favour the quick bowlers, setting up the most tantalising pace war between the two best fast bowling attacks in world cricket.

“We would like pitches that assist our bowlers. Our batsmen are well-versed in South African conditions, whereas in Australia the pitches are more in favour of the batsmen. In South Africa they favour the fast bowlers more and our batsmen are used to adapting to that,” the coach said.

Squad – Graeme Smith, Alviro Petersen, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, Dean Elgar, Ryan McLaren, Wayne Parnell, Thami Tsolekile, Robin Peterson, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Rory Kleinveldt.

*Left-arm paceman Beuran Hendricks and off-spinner Simon Harmer will practice with the squad for the sake of preparation against Mitchell Johnson and Nathan Lyon. 

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2014-01-30-ryan-mclaren-his-own-man-not-stepping-into-kallis-shoes/#.WfmzAFuCzIU

‘You can’t ask for much better’ – Gibson 0

Posted on November 01, 2017 by Ken

 

“When you come in as a new coach, you can’t ask for much better,” Proteas mentor Ottis Gibson said on Monday when asked how he rated South Africa’s performance in their triple-series sweep over Bangladesh that was completed over the weekend.

“When you consider the way we played, I’d like to give the team more than 10/10. It’s gone really well. I know there’s been a lot of talk about the opposition, but we were able to play dominating, front-foot cricket, while also unearthing some new talent like Aiden Markram and Wiaan Mulder.

“We played the way we wanted to play, we were able to go out and do that, and there’s been a very positive and relaxed vibe in the changeroom. I’ve built up a really nice relationship with Faf du Plessis, he’s honest and very passionate about representing and leading his country. We speak with the same voice and he’s been a very good sounding board,” Gibson said.

The former West Indies fast bowler confirmed that he will be looking after the specialist pace bowling coaching from now on, and he can rest easy that the batsmen are back on the right track given how well they have started the summer with runs aplenty.

“The batting was a huge positive, because there were a lot of questions asked about it in England, they had a tough time in tough conditions that they weren’t accustomed to. I would hope that their confidence is back now because we have scored 10 hundreds across the different formats. It says a lot for the ability and talent of the batsmen that they’ve been able to go out and dominate.”

Gibson said he would still be employing four other back-up coaches – an assistant, and specialist batting, field and spin-bowling consultants.

“It’s quite likely that there will be new faces, I will do the fast bowling myself and I’ve spoken to Charl Langeveldt about that. I’ve given Cricket South Africa my wish-list, guys who I believe can add value, and they now have to make that happen.

“I want to make more use of guys who are working in South Africa, I want to use the franchise system so that those guys can continue with the work if I leave. So there will be four guys plus myself, some key positions that I hope can make a real difference to the country. But I also want to set up a lead bowling and batting coach for the country as a whole, a person who can tell me who the next best fast bowler is, for instance,” Gibson said.

Standard Bank jump in at grassroots level to ensure decent opportunities for all 0

Posted on October 31, 2017 by Ken

 

That there is enormous cricketing potential in this country is generally accepted, but due to a variety of reasons, it is tough for Cricket South Africa (CSA) to ensure all our communities get decent opportunities to play the game.

CSA’s development programmes are one thing, but what happens next? How do those talented young cricketers in the outlying areas then get to play enough decent matches, how are they transported to matches, what facilities do they have with which to hone their game? Are they given the love of cricket and then just left to their own devices?

CSA identified these problems and came up with the idea of hubs and regional performance centres (RPCs).

The RPCs have been a heck of a success in ensuring it is no longer the case that talented young cricketers from disadvantaged areas are lost to the system due to socio-economic circumstances. And, in tremendous news for South African cricket, it has been announced on Thursday that Standard Bank, the headline sponsors of the Proteas, will no longer be focused on just the pinnacle of the pipeline, but are now making a major contribution at grassroots level with their sponsorship of the RPC programme.

The implementation of the RPC programme means CSA are now making great headway in terms of building relationships with communities and local municipalities. And now this progress will be accelerated thanks to the support of Standard Bank, who have added this vital development initiative to their naming rights sponsorship of the national team.

“Standard Bank has been a key supporter and sponsor of the Proteas for many years and by sponsoring the RPCs we hope to develop the immense cricketing talent we have in our country.

Budding young cricketers in many outlying areas are still in desperate need of facilities and coaching, and this RPC in Soweto will assist in helping these players fulfil their true potential and turn their dreams into reality,” Vuyo Masinda from Standard Bank said at the launch of the new deal at the Dobsonville RPC in Soweto on Thursday.

There are RPCs in all nine provinces, with each having several hubs in their stable acting as feeders. Having a centralised venue dedicated to nurturing the disadvantaged talent in the vicinity allows CSA to pour resources into it, ensuring there is adequate infrastructure with which to develop quality cricketers.

Girls and women’s cricket is also included in this programme.

The quality of coaching is also of the greatest importance and each RPC must have a head coach who is Level III certified and an assistant coach who is Level II certified. The Hubs must have a head coach who is Level II certified and an assistant coach who is Level I certified.

The feeder system for the Hubs starts with the KFC Mini-Cricket programme and, thanks to the Momentum Friendship Games, the Hubs and RPCs get to play against the leading schools in their area.

Some of the franchise players who will be acting as mentors for the programme include Omphile Ramela, Malusi Siboto, Khaya Zondo, Mangaliso Mosehle and Temba Bavuma.



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