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Ken Borland



Mark Boucher the coach 0

Posted on August 19, 2016 by Ken

 

Mark Boucher, the heartbeat of the South African team from the late 1990s to 2012, is hoping the experience and wisdom gained from all those years of playing and inspiring the changeroom will rub off on the new career of coach that he has chosen for himself, with the 39-year-old set to land the job as the new Titans mentor.

Boucher’s stellar career, in which he played 147 Tests and 295 ODIs and took the most dismissals in Test history, was ended on the 2012 tour of England when he suffered a serious eye injury after being hit by a bail in a warm-up game.

Since then Boucher has become a leading figure in rhino conservation and is with the Proteas squad in Durban at the moment, working as a consultant for the Test series against New Zealand. The Titans coaching job is the best-paid franchise post in the country and the Centurion-based team won two of the three domestic trophies on offer last season, so the famously nuggety cricketer has landed a high-profile role at the start of his coaching career.

‘I always said I would take five or six years off from the game and it’s been five years now so I’m ready to get involved again. I’m not sure where it’s going to take me, but I’ve always enjoyed imparting knowledge,” Boucher said this week when asked about his invitation to join the Proteas coaching staff.

“I’ve been through quite a few coaches and teams and cultures in my career, and also eras, I was part of the old Proteas team as well as the new. So the lessons I’ve learnt I’d be stupid not to use. I don’t really like the term ‘coach’, I’d like to be more of a man-manager. The game has changed and you see specialist coaches come in more these days,” Boucher said.

Although Boucher’s tenacity and competitiveness were his most famous attributes, he said he was also a student of the technical side of the game and would certainly bring that into his coaching.

“Even though people think of me more on the mental side, you pick up a few things behind the stumps, it provides a very good view. But I always used to sit behind the computer a lot too and look at opposing batsmen, I got a lot of knowledge that way, looking at head and hip positions because you’re trying to get these batsmen out.

“Being brought up in Border, where we didn’t have the best sides, you just had to make it work. Not every player in a team is going to have the technique of a Kallis or De Villiers, but that doesn’t mean he’s not a good player. You have to make do with what you’ve got, you can be technically sound but be lacking mentally, while someone like Graeme Smith didn’t have the greatest technique, but he had a very strong head,” Boucher pointed out.

Titans CEO Jacques Faul was unable to confirm Boucher’s appointment.

“The process has been completed and we have appointed a candidate that we feel can take the team forward and we will announce his name on Monday. Unfortunately we cannot speculate before that,” Faul said.

Things have obviously changed in KZN rugby 0

Posted on July 18, 2016 by Ken

 

I can remember well covering Natal Sharks rugby in the 1990s – they were the team of the decade with four Currie Cup titles – and how we used to tut-tut at teams like the Lions because down in Durban we were the best both on and off the field, in terms of administration and brand marketing.

Things have obviously changed and the Lions are leading the way for South African rugby, while the Sharks don’t look like adding to their 2010 and 2013 Currie Cup crowns any time soon, never mind claiming that elusive Super Rugby title. And they are embroiled in the unseemliest of off-field squabbles, one that is straight out of the Louis Luyt book of skulduggery.

The actions of KZN Rugby Union president Graham Mackenzie would appear to be obvious grounds for his removal from his post. This week it was revealed that he was involved in a dirty tricks campaign that included trying to get journalists to publish a prepared article he or someone close to him had written discrediting former CEO and major critic Brian van Zyl under their own bylines. Unfortunately a blogger eventually took the bait and has subsequently been exposed and disgraced.

It would be premature to suggest Mackenzie is another Cheeky Watson waiting to happen because there is no proof of any financial impropriety. Then again, we can’t be entirely sure because for the first time in the KZNRU’s history the financial statements were not ready to be presented to the board or the clubs at the AGMs in April.

But that sort of maladministration inevitably gives birth to speculation and rumours, one just doesn’t expect the president of the union to be involved in spreading misinformation.

The Sharks have been hit by the economic downturn just like all the other franchises, but they have not been helped by the new broom that was wielded by John Smit when he replaced Van Zyl as CEO in 2013 when Mackenzie and chairman of the board Stephen Saad took over control of the Sharks in the boardroom. Some leading Natal rugby figures are apparently still nursing the knife wounds in the back.

While Smit secured several lucrative sponsorships for the Sharks, by getting rid of so many experienced staff members, people who have made an immense contribution to KZN rugby, he caused turmoil in the Kings Park offices. Never mind sacking coach John Plumtree, who it must be remembered had failed to win Super Rugby despite having a powerhouse side full of Springboks, it was the clear-out of people like Piet Strydom, Hans Scriba, Garth Giles and Rudolf Straeuli which raised eyebrows. And inevitably led to allegations Smit was just bringing in his old buddies both on and off the field.

Straeuli was the commercial manager and, ironically, it is the Lions who have now been reinvigorated by his acumen as CEO.

Transparency is the only way to avoid Sharks rugby being plunged into a hole like Eastern Province currently find themselves in, or a scandal like Cricket South Africa found themselves embroiled in during the Gerald Majola days.

SuperSport, as a major player on the Sharks board, have a vital role to play. But so do the clubs, who have a right to hold Mackenzie to account for his actions.

Van Zyl has made a disturbing allegation, however, that Mackenzie has built a devoted power base for himself by adding a raft of smaller clubs to the leagues, leading to a number of mismatches.

Either way, it is time a bright light was shone on the affairs of KwaZulu-Natal rugby to ensure that they can return to being a powerhouse of the South African game.



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