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Ken Borland

Springboks suffering due to lack of solid structure below them 5

Posted on October 17, 2016 by Ken


The Springboks’ humiliating defeat in Durban last weekend was a painful reminder of the gulf in quality that exists between the administration and structure of the game in New Zealand and back here in South Africa, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen making sure to mention the decision-makers in their rugby when he was asked for the reasons behind their world record equalling run of 17 successive wins.

A solid structure from schoolboys to the Springboks is what is needed for our rugby to remain amongst the best in the world, not yet another overhaul of the national team and their coaches; that’s just treating the symptom, shuffling people around, and does not address the root cause of our problems.

And, as great as next week’s Rugby Indaba sounds – except for the unfortunate two coaches who have their preparations for the Currie Cup final disrupted (another example of Saru’s awful treatment of their flagship competition) – it’s not going to address our real problems either. There might be some good ideas about game plans and what-not, but the coaches and the franchise CEOs do not have the power to change the structural failings in rugby, that lies with the South African Rugby Union and their turkeys who will steadfastly not vote for Christmas.

Below the national sides, there should just be six teams playing fully professional rugby based in the major cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. And those six unions should have the power in South African rugby, not the eight lesser unions, largely amateurish and as relevant as dinosaurs, which are currently the tail that wags the dog.

Below that, all 14 unions can have semi-professional teams, but the amount of money that can be saved by only having six fully professional teams and by eight economically unviable organisations no longer drawing over R20 million a year in Saru grants could go a long way towards keeping our players in the country.

Just like in New Zealand, talented rugby players must fight for a limited number of professional contracts through their performances at club level, that lead to them playing for their provinces and then being chosen for a Super Rugby deal.

The vast majority of schoolboy players in New Zealand don’t become professional rugby players when they finish their education. They go to university and play rugby there, or play for their local club side while working, which is why so many All Blacks have had interesting occupations like lumberjack, piano mover or, as in the case of Aaron Smith, apprentice hairdresser.

It’s a system that builds character and ensures only the fittest and hungriest players survive to reach the top.

Good schoolboy players in South Africa should be lauded in their school hall and with selection for provincial and national schoolboy teams; not with professional contracts and way too much exposure on television.

There is far too great an emphasis on schoolboy rugby in South Africa and that just creates entitled, spoilt players, wastes a lot of late-developing talent, kills our clubs and also gets in the way of transformation in many cases.

This is not to say that our current Springboks and their management are beyond blame. The All Blacks have a relentless drive to improve on and off the field every day, they see every challenge as a means of getting better.

Do our Springboks and their coaching staff have that same hunger? The same desire to do whatever it takes? Because it will also come down to that if they are going to close the gap with the All Blacks.

Any top professional sportsman worth his salt would turn a record 57-15 hammering at home into motivation to lift their conditioning and skills to new levels.

The South African cricket team has just completed an historic 5-0 series whitewash of world champions Australia, with captain Faf du Plessis saying a culture camp they held before the start of the summer has ensured that they are now playing as a team again and, most importantly, are really challenging each other to be better.

Now that’s the sort of indaba that could be useful for our rugby players and coaches, but the administrators still need to make the major, unselfish changes that will really benefit the game in this country.


Time for caution at brutal Gary Player CC course 0

Posted on January 08, 2015 by Ken

The first day of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City will be a time for caution as the elite 30-man field – which includes 17 debutants – takes on the brutal Gary Player Country Club course.

Recent rains means the rough is up – but not as high as in some years – while hot weather the last couple of days will make the greens firmer and faster, adding to the difficulty once golfers have safely found the fairway.

Defending champion Thomas Bjorn, whose 65 on the final day last year won him the title and his biggest paycheque ever on his third attempt, said on Wednesday that it was a tough course to tame.

Round one draw – tee times

10.10am – Miguel Angel Jimenez (Spain), Tim Clark (SA), Shane Lowry (Ireland).

10.21am – Joost Luiten (Netherlands), Jaco Ahlers (SA), Kevin Na (USA).

10.32am – Marc Warren (Scotland), Danie van Ronder (SA), Danny Willett (England).

10.43am – Louis Oosthuizen (SA), Lee Westwood (England), Martin Kaymer (Germany).

10.54am  – Kiradech Aphibarnrat (Thailand), Dawie van der Walt (SA), Brendon Todd (USA).

11.05am – Jonas Blixt (Sweden), Tommy Fleetwood (England), Mikko Ilonen (Finland).

11.16am – George Coetzee (SA), Marcel Siem (Germany), Ross Fisher (England).

11.27am – Jamie Donaldson (Wales), Stephen Gallacher (Scotland), Thongchai Jaidee (Thailand).

11.38am – Brooks Koepka (USA), Pablo Larrazabal (Spain), Alexander Levy (France).

11.49am – Thomas Bjorn (Denmark), Charl Schwartzel (SA), Luke Donald (England).

“If you’re not playing well, then this course is a beast to get around, there are certainly stretches that can really bite you. But there are opportunities to score well too, which is the nature of a good course.

“I remember the Sunday last year was a great day, but it was a tough battle with good players and little things went my way on the back nine. It was certainly a big boost for me, it gave me the belief that I could make another Ryder Cup team, that on really tough courses I can still compete with the best, the game is still there.

“I have a good eye for the course and hopefully I can put up a strong defence, but somebody will kick-start the 2015 year in a great way here,” the 43-year-old seasoned professional said.

Bjorn is not renown for bombing the ball off the tee, but his victory last year will provide inspiration for two South African challengers – Louis Oosthuizen and Tim Clark. Both said they will adopt a cautious approach as the $6.5 million event starts at 10.10am on Thursday morning with Clark in the opening three-ball alongside Spanish veteran Miguel Angel Jimenez and Irishman Shane Lowry.

“On the first day you just want to start with a solid round, to set it up. If you’re struggling with your game, then this is a tough course, and with the new thing of 30 guys playing, anyone who gets hot could run away with it.

“But I’ve played here a few times and every year has been a bit better. My game is in good shape after a few weeks off, I’ve done some practice and it feels pretty good. But you never really know what to expect and I’ll just try to stay out of my way,” Clark, whose last start saw him finish second in the lucrative World Golf Championships HSBC Champions, said.

The 38-year-old is making his fifth appearance in the Nedbank Golf Challenge and was runner-up to a runaway Lee Westwood in 2010 in his last outing at Sun City. In 2009 he finished one stroke behind playoff winner Robert Allenby and Henrik Stenson, while his other finishes were sixth in 2005 and tied-10th in 2003.

Oosthuizen is making his fourth appearance in the last five years and is also hoping to learn from those experiences and improve on his previous best finish of fourth in 2012.

“I’m confident going into the tournament, but I want to take it slow. It’s the type of place where a bad hole is around the corner. There are tough tee shots and spots that you need to stay away from. I’ll be cautious out there and take it slow.

“The rough is always very thick and you need to hit fairways and not just take driver and bomb it. There are a lot of holes out there where I’ll be hitting five woods, three-woods and three-irons just to get myself in play,” Oosthuizen said.

One man lurking ominously in the field is Westwood, the two-time champion and Ryder Cup star, who said he was coming into the tournament with confidence.

“I’ve been lucky enough to win it a couple of times, I’ve been coming here since 1997 and it’s a championship I’ve always held in very high regard and want to win. My scoring average is pretty good round here and I’ve been looking forward to this week for a while. Hopefully I can play as well as I did a few years ago.

“There hasn’t been a lot of rain recently so the rough isn’t that long. There could be some low scoring this week, but obviously the conditions will dictate whether or not that’s the case. That’s always the way in professional golf,” Westwood said.

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