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Ken Borland


Bonamanzi Game Park 0

Posted on May 18, 2017 by Ken

 

A Nile Crocodile gives me the eye

A Nile Crocodile gives me the eye

As my birding colleagues will attest, I have a predilection for taking obscure tracks and paths in the bush – blame it on my sense of adventure coupled with acute FOMO* – but my detours have often thrown up remarkable sightings.

Any road without a clear No Entry or Private sign is fair game as far as I’m concerned and when I went off on what was an adventurous track in the central forests of Bonamanzi I was richly rewarded.

Soon I heard a loud, piercing call, so I got out of the car to investigate and there, sitting on an exposed branch, preening and calling away magnificently, was an Emerald Cuckoo.

It is a bird that I have long been searching for – the colour emerald also being one of my favourite things – and because it tends to keep to the top of the canopy, it is unobtrusive and hard to spot, except when calling. So it was my lucky day in terms of getting a long-sought-after lifer and a superb sighting of a dazzling bird.

Yellowspotted Nicator was calling further down the same little road and was kind enough to keep calling so I could also track it down on foot and the other Bonamanzi specials seen – Lemonbreasted Canary, Narina Trogon and Gorgeous Bush Shrike – were all also surprisingly obliging and easy to tick off.

The Lemonbreasted Canaries, also unobtrusive birds that were only discovered in 1960, are actually best seen on the road to Hluhluwe along the western border of Bonamanzi, where I spotted them once again on the side of the road.

Gorgeous Bush Shrike was calling loudly and comfortably sighted in the bushes on the side of the road leading out of the main camp, but Narina Trogon was amongst a host of delights that came to visit me at my campsite near the swimming pool.

The procession of lovely creatures viewed from my throne (what I call my fancy campchair) started on the first night as a pair of Thicktailed Bushbabies and a Rustyspotted Genet came to visit, followed the next day by Impala, Vervet Monkey, Emeraldspotted Wood Dove, Forest Weaver, Purplebanded Sunbird, Bearded Robin and Terrestrial Bulbul.

The day after brought a pair of Narina Trogons, then another, and altogether four pairs of this sought-after forest gem visited my camp on a single day!

The late afternoon brought a carnival of birds to the campsite thanks to a swarm of mayflies that were fluttering all over as a gentle rain fell. Southern Black Tit, Yellowbellied and Blackeyed Bulbul, Forest Weaver, Plumcoloured Starling, Yellowthroated Sparrow, Yellowbreasted and Rudd’s Apalis, the Narina Trogons and Collared Sunbird were all tucking in and then an Orangebreasted Bush Shrike took to flight and joined the feast.

Narina Trogon

Narina Trogon in the gloomy drizzle

For those who enjoy working hard for their sightings, there are plenty of skulkers at Bonamanzi, including the usual suspects – Greenbacked Camaroptera and Redchested Cuckoo.

When I eventually spotted the Bleating Warbler it was close to a Black Cuckoo and bouncing around like a cross between a wind-up toy and a jack-in-the-box!

The Piet-my-Vrou was calling insistently in camp but was equally determined not to be seen, until my patience won the day.

The main camp at Bonamanzi – Lalapanzi – is situated in sand forest around a dam and water hole, so there is plenty to see around the chalets.

Sombre Bulbuls call from the tops of the tall trees that are all around the fancy accommodation, Hadeda Ibis congregate around the big bird baths that are spread around the lawns, and walking down to the smaller pan in front of the offices is always worthwhile. On this occasion, half-a-dozen Water Dikkop were resting and hiding in the long grass, while the Fever Trees were a hive of activity, which was unsurprising because five different species of weaver were nesting there during this early summer visit.

The Yellow Weavers were the most prolific nesters, bundles of frantic activity, but there were also Thickbilled, Southern Masked, Spottedbacked and Lesser Masked Weaver nesting.

 

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Spottedbacked Weavers fluttering in display below their nests

A Diederick Cuckoo was looking a bit sheepish as I spotted him lurking on the fringes of the weaver colony, plotting skulduggery, but a Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet was getting along well with the Ploceids as they feasted on berries together from one of the bushes around the dam.

A Malachite Kingfisher was high atop one of the Fever Trees at the second, larger dam, while a juvenile Little Bittern skulked in the papyrus reeds and had me thinking of great rarities.

The southern part of Bonamanzi has a wilderness feel to it with no accommodation, only a few tracks and hiking trails, and often throws up something interesting.

Woollynecked Stork are found in the forest and a Crowned Eagle was sitting on a telephone pole at the southern boundary. Three black Impala were on the adjoining property, as was an Ostrich. Redbilled Oxpecker were with Giraffe and Impala near the Ndulalamithi Dam.

The Crowned Eagle takes to flight

The Crowned Eagle takes to flight

There is a lovely walking trail from the main camp leading 2km to a couple of hides overlooking pans. At the Leguaan pan, a Crested Guineafowl kept collecting items of food and bringing it back to its partner to eat, while a Water Dikkop was dipping itself in the water and flapping its wings in what looked like some sort of display.

The road to Hluhluwe along the western boundary also provides good birding and, apart from the Lemonbreasted Canaries, a Tambourine Dove disappeared quickly into the very thick undergrowth of the Mzineni River, with Redbilled Firefinch and Pintailed Whydah also in the vicinity of this river which flows into the northern tip of False Bay.

Telephone lines along the road are always worth examining and even some of the Rattling Cisticolas have taken to perching on them rather than the thorn bushes below, along with other typical bushveld birds such as European Bee-Eater, European Swallow, Blackeyed Bulbul, Glossy Starling and Yellowfronted Canary.

Where is Bonamanzi?

Sightings list

Nyala

An Nyala scratches his ear

An Nyala scratches his ear

Rustyspotted Genet

Thicktailed Bushbaby

Impala

Vervet Monkey

Crowned Hornbill

Blackbellied Starling

Forktailed Drongo

Blackbacked Puffback

Southern Black Tit

Yellowbellied Bulbul

Red Duiker

Natal Robin

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Emerald Cuckoo

Plains Zebra

Yellowspotted Nicator

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Sombre Bulbul

Blackwinged Stilt

Water Dikkop

Wood Sandpiper

Yellow Weaver

Nile Crocodile

Thickbilled Weaver

Southern Masked Weaver

Lesser Striped Swallow

European Bee-Eater

Lemonbreasted Canary

European Swallow

Blackeyed Bulbul

Glossy Starling

Yellowfronted Canary

Rattling Cisticola

Tambourine Dove

Redbilled Firefinch

Pintailed Whydah

Woollynecked Stork

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove

Forest Weaver

Purplebanded Sunbird

Bearded Robin

Terrestrial Bulbul

Black Cuckoo

Greenbacked Camaroptera

Hadeda Ibis

Purplecrested Lourie

Plumcoloured Starling

Acacia Rat

Yellowthroated Sparrow

Yellowbilled Kite

Yellowbreasted Apalis

Narina Trogon

Cape White-Eye

Collared Sunbird

Redchested Cuckoo

Black Crake

Spottedbacked Weaver

African Pied Wagtail

Lesser Masked Weaver

Striped Skink

Egyptian Goose

African Jacana

Diederick Cuckoo

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Goldenrumped Tinker Barbet

Sacred Ibis

Grey Heron

Wiretailed Swallow

Warthog

Malachite Kingfisher

Little Bittern

Spurwinged Goose

Common Sandpiper

Rudd’s Apalis

African Fish Eagle

Dusky Flycatcher

Chinspot Batis

Blue Wildebeest

Crested Guineafowl

White-Eared Barbet

Leopard Tortoise

Paradise Flycatcher

Orangebreasted Bush Shrike

Red Bush Squirrel

Squaretailed Drongo

Crowned Eagle

Ostrich

Little Bee-Eater

Redeyed Dove

Gorgeous Bush Shrike

Southern Boubou

Giraffe

Redbilled Oxpecker

*FOMO = Fear of missing out

 

Ex-national coaches the finished article: Heyneke 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer returned to Loftus Versfeld on Thursday and bemoaned the irony that former Springbok coaches, who can be considered close to the finished article, are excluded from the local game at a time when South African rugby is in crisis and needs as much experienced help as it can get.

Meyer was at his former stamping ground to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s to be played in Mauritius next month, but his passion for top-level rugby is still there.

“Ex national coaches learn so much, they’re at their best, and then they get moved sideways. The perception here is that I’m in the rugby wilderness, but I’m getting offers from all over the world. But I want to be in South Africa, I believe I can make a difference, even though I’m currently very happy working for Carinat.

“You look at Eddie Jones, who lost eight-in-a-row with Australia and was fired, but then he helped the Springboks and now with England you can see how much he has learnt. Most South African coaches are just gone, though; Rassie Erasmus and Jake White have been really successful overseas and someone like John Plumtree was not seen as a great coach here, but I always rated him, and now he’s won SuperRugby in New Zealand. So it’s not the lack of coaches that is our problem, it’s the system,” Meyer said.

The coach of the first South African team to win Super Rugby, back in 2007, said local franchises were severely hampered by the overseas exodus, fitness issues and the push to play like New Zealand teams.

“You know we’re in trouble when we want to follow New Zealand, if you do that then you’ll never be the best in the world. There’s an over-fixation to play like the All Blacks, it will take us 10 years to get there and then they’ll be another 10 years ahead! We have to find out what we stand for and play the South African way.

“It’s very concerning all the players going to Japan because they can’t play for 12 months and players need to be uninjured and fresh in order to do proper fitness work. And if you’re tired you can’t execute your skills, you can’t press in defence, or scrum or drive. Teams win because of superior fitness and with guys going overseas it’s very difficult.

“Plus it’s impossible to keep the same side together for five years, you just start building and guys leave by the time they’re 25. We’ve got the right coaches and players but we need a better system to keep the players,” Meyer said.

 

In praise of the Lions: The John McFarland Column 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic achievement by the Lions to win all three of their SuperRugby games overseas, for any rugby team to do that is an unbelievable effort and they continue to do really well in terms of the competition standings.

I think this is the first time a South African team have been unbeaten on their overseas tour and the bonus points they gained, to score the tries they did and to defend so securely was superb, and credit must go to the coaching staff as a whole.

Not that long ago, it was virtually impossible for a South African team to win against the Brumbies in Canberra and that could be the result that gives the Lions a great shout of hosting a home final. They can now top the log and go all the way, playing New Zealand sides at 3pm on the Highveld in the knockouts.

It was certainly a memorable moment when they managed to steal the ball for a turnover and what pace Kwagga Smith showed to finish!

For those criticising the way the Lions have been playing, you never play your best away from home, you just have to make sure you win. And you can’t be at your best every week in SuperRugby, it’s impossible, and it’s important to win when you’re playing badly.

This weekend the Lions will look forward to hosting a Bulls team low on confidence and belief at Ellis Park.

The Bulls were certainly better last weekend against the Highlanders. Although the conditions were a great leveller, they showed fight and character and it was a good turnaround which showed what they can achieve when they put their minds to it. There was also a huge improvement in their defence.

The Bulls have so many good players and they will see a chance to play against the Lions as a great opportunity; there is always a bit more passion and intensity in the local derbies. It is a very young Bulls side though, and they will need to match the Lions in the set-pieces. Obviously the scrums are crucial because the Lions will certainly attack them there, and the Bulls will also need to stop the lineout drive. Then they need to deal with the Lions’ game-breaking backs, although the Bulls also have a dangerous backline.

I fully expect the Stormers to beat the Blues back in Cape Town after their rest. The start will be key for the Stormers because they don’t have so much confidence now, but if they can get back to how they were playing before going overseas, then there’s no reason why they can’t beat the Blues. Their biggest challenge is going to be that they have to defend a lot better.

You’ve also got to take your hats off to the Southern Kings, who have no budget but are certainly playing with high confidence at the moment, and it was a really good performance to beat the Sharks with four tries to two. It was encouraging to see they’ve got the reward of four guys being named in the last Springbok training squad.

But the only South African team that has really performed to their potential has been the Lions, so you would think they will form the bulk of the final Springbok squad to be announced next week. The Sharks have recently lost to the Kings and drawn with the Rebels, the Stormers have lost four successive matches and the Bulls and Cheetahs are also on big losing streaks, so there is not a lot of confidence amongst the other players in South Africa.

But we’ve been like this before – in 2015 we struggled in SuperRugby but ended up losing by just two points to the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final. The players get excited about being in a different environment and representing their country.

The Stormers locks are world-class and proven Test players need to play, plus there are special considerations around making the squad representative, so there are a lot of variables, one can’t just choose all the Lions players.

The positive, though, is that two of the Tests against France will be played on the Highveld, so it’s an opportunity to pick more Gauteng players who are used to the conditions and the quick tempo of play.

France will bring a gigantic pack and big midfield backs, they certainly like to play ball-in-hand and they have an offload game centred around Louis Picamoles. So Allister Coetzee needs to pick the right combinations to stop that, which is always the challenge in selection – it’s like putting together a fine potjie, making sure the blend is right is most important and you’re always going to use some tried and tested frontline Test players.

It will be interesting to see who Coetzee picks from overseas, some of them have had a very long, hard, arduous season in the French playoffs or the English Premiership. You need continuity and if guys are based overseas it makes it difficult because you have so little time together as a team anyway. For me, I would only use guys who qualify to play after the 30-caps criterion comes into force after July 1.

As far as Jan Serfontein goes, if there’s an emergency then obviously Allister will use him, and the Springboks definitely need size and experience in midfield.

With all the injuries, it looks like Elton Jantjies will get an extended run at flyhalf, and it will be a make-or-break series for 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.

Dala understands the physics of his action better now 0

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Ken

 

Titans fast bowler Junior Dala has ascribed his selection for the South Africa A side’s tour of England later this month to an improved understanding of the physics of his bowling action, which has led to greater control and consistency.

Dala was one of the best bowlers in the country in limited-overs cricket last season, being the joint-highest wicket-taker in the Momentum One-Day Cup with 16 scalps at an average of only 18.68 and an excellent economy rate of just 5.29. He was also outstanding in the CSA T20 Challenge with 11 wickets at 26.63 and he was one of the key performers as the Titans claimed both white-ball titles, where there is huge pressure on bowlers to be more skilful.

“In the last two years I have made a big step up. When I first went to the Titans, I did not really know my action, but Rob Walter and Mandla Mashimbyi really coached me on that, whereas other coaches before that were just happy that I could bowl fast. But I was being found out in franchise cricket, I always felt under pressure because I did not really know what I was doing from ball-to-ball. I would try and bowl a yorker and miss by eight metres!

“But I’ve realised that I can’t just get away with being quick, at times things went horribly wrong in four-day cricket and that has taught me the importance of consistency. I’m a lot more consistent now, Albie Morkel has shown a lot of trust in me and even used me in the powerplay with the new ball. I trust myself 90-95% of the time to hit my mark now,” the unorthodox Dala told The Citizen on Wednesday.

It is a measure of how quick a learner the 27-year-old Dala is that he changed from being mostly an inswing bowler to an away-swinger this last season, simply because he felt batsmen were beginning to read him too easily.

“I sacrificed a little pace but I’m still bowling 140 with more control, and I predominantly shaped the ball away because nobody thought I could do that. Now I’m working on doing all that at 145km/h.

“You have to accept that you’re going to be hit for fours and embrace that, but I have the freedom to express myself at the Titans and then it becomes a lot easier to execute, without that fear of failure.

“I haven’t played in England before so I’m excited for that and I hope it’s a good tour with lots of wickets. Guys are getting reward for their performances in the last six months, whereas before they had to wait two years sometimes. Mark Boucher told me things can happen very quickly at that level and I must just make the most of the opportunity,” Dala, who was born in Lusaka in 1989 as his parents were in exile, said.

 

 

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    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
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    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

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