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Ken Borland

Sanzar turn on own judicial officer & appeal Steyn ruling 0

Posted on May 31, 2016 by Ken


Francois Steyn’s return to the Sharks captaincy and the flyhalf position for Saturday’s SuperRugby game against the Western Force is now in doubt after Sanzar decided to appeal the decision of their own judicial officer and put the 2007 World Cup winner back on trial for the tip-tackle for which he was red-carded last weekend against the Chiefs.

It is believed All Blacks lawyer Stephen Cottrell is behind Sanzar’s unprecedented decision to appeal against Advocate Jannie Lubbe’s ruling this week that exonerated Steyn, and a Sanzar Appeals Committee, chaired by Terry Willis and with advocates Nigel Hampton and Robert Stelzner as members, will hear the matter via a video conference on Friday morning South African time.

But this will seriously disrupt the Sharks’ preparations for the match against the Force, with their team due to be named on Thursday morning and the Vodacom Cup side off to Cape Town on Friday morning. The franchise has appealed against the timing of the hearing and are looking to get it moved to after the game, either on Sunday or Monday.

Although Lubbe’s decision to clear Steyn was considered to be a highly generous one, Sanzar’s appeal is nevertheless extraordinary as they have never turned on one of their own judicial officers before.

The move has once again reignited old feelings of bitterness that South African players are judged by different standards in the competition, particularly since Cottrell, a legal representative for Sanzar, was the lawyer who defended Brad Thorn when he notoriously up-ended Springbok captain and current CEO John Smit, dumping him on his back without the ball, during a Test against the All Blacks in Wellington in 2008.

Cottrell argued that because Smit did not have the ball, Thorn’s foul play could not be considered a dangerous tackle and he was only given a one-week ban.

It was a decision that outraged the Springboks, for whom current Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold was then an assistant coach.

The uncertainty over Steyn further complicates the issue of the Sharks captaincy in the absence of the rested Pat Lambie and the suspended Bismarck du Plessis.

Jake White leaves the Sharks after just one year 0

Posted on October 15, 2014 by Ken

Jake White is on his way from Sharks rugby after just one year and the smart money is on the 2007 World Cup winner re-emerging in a consultancy position with some team playing in next year’s edition of the global showpiece.

White has always stated his prime goal is to return to coaching an international team, something Sharks CEO John Smit acknowledged yesterday in announcing the move, but the departure is not on as amicable terms as the statement suggested.

The director of rugby’s tenure has been on rocky ground since the Sharks board took exception to the unpopular style of play used in SuperRugby, with an over-reliance on kicking and territory, and the former schoolteacher has also reportedly had bust-ups with junior players at the union.

“Jake and I have known each other a long time and were very frank in our discussions regarding this Sharks opportunity back in 2013, Jake was excited to implement change as well as be involved with South Africa’s most talented squad, but from the outset stated his ambition to be on the international stage again and I was all too happy to have him for however long we could. What he has achieved for us in such a short time is incredible and our staff and players have learned a huge amount,” Smit said in the statement.

The captain of White’s 2007 World Cup-winning Springbok team praised White for the culture he had installed at the Sharks and his work in developing structures for both the leading players and those coming through the system.

“Jake was also tasked to up-skill the young coaches as well as tidy up all rugby structures across the board from our academy all the way to our senior team. Initially it was thought this would take some time. However, being allowed to concentrate on these tasks during the Absa Currie Cup has fast-tracked the process and we can happily say our SuperRugby squad is in place and our pre-season plan ready to go.

“The mentoring role Jake has played to our coaches has been invaluable and the time is right for Jake to free himself up for any international coaching and consulting opportunities. The 2015 Rugby World Cup is just months away,” Smit said.

White has a very good relationship with Japan coach Eddie Jones, the former Wallabies mentor who he brought in as a consultant to South Africa’s triumphant 2007 campaign. Jones recently suffered a stroke, plus Japan are in the same pool as South Africa, of whom White obviously has intimate knowledge. The Japan Rugby Union are also well off financially, so paying for a consultant of White’s pedigree would not be a problem.

White has confirmed that he will be moving back to Cape Town, prompting speculation that he might be lining up a role with the Stormers. But this would be highly unlikely, given that current coach Allister Coetzee has steered his team to the top of the Currie Cup log and they already have a high-profile director of rugby in Gert Smal, who was White’s assistant with the Springboks.

Plus the brand of rugby White introduced at the Sharks will not go down well with the Newlands faithful.

The doors at King’s Park could well be opening for someone like Gary Gold, who was the Springbok forwards coach from 2008-2011, during the Peter de Villiers era, and someone who worked well with Smit.

However, if the decision is not left entirely to the CEO and the Sharks board want to be actively involved in recruiting White’s successor, then former All Black and Gauteng Lions coach John Mitchell is already in KwaZulu-Natal as the head of University of KZN rugby.



Changes in SA women’s cricket give Letsoalo plenty to smile about 0

Posted on September 05, 2014 by Ken

Matshipi ‘Marcia’ Letsoalo’s radiant smile ripped through the blueness of a Highveld winter’s morning as she considered how women’s cricket in South Africa has changed since she made her international debut in 2007.

“When I started playing for South Africa, support was lacking and it wasn’t easy. When I first heard I was about to play for the Proteas, I pictured us being in the limelight like the men’s team. But it was totally different, nobody knew we had a women’s team,” Letsoalo recalls.

“But we’ve made such progress, we now get so much and the publicity and media attention is good too. We’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

The 30-year-old medium-pacer was heading for England in a few hours when she spoke to The Pretoria News at the High Performance Centre at Tuks on Monday, with Momentum, the sponsors who have made such a difference to women’s cricket in South Africa, giving the national team a send-off before their three-match T20 series against the World Cup runners-up and two games versus Ireland.

Momentum have certainly put their money where their mouth is by extending the six central contracts they paid for last year to all 14 members of the national squad, while yesterday the announcement was also made that SuperSport have come on board and will provide live coverage of all three matches against England on September 1, 3 and 7.

“Oh wow, the pressure!” Letsoalo joked. “No, it’s exciting, it’s what we’ve always wanted to happen. It’s my dream come true to be able to call myself a professional cricketer, from 2007 it’s what I’ve dreamt of. I’ve been working hard and finally got the reward, so it’s superb.

“My grandmother and other relatives have never seen me play cricket, so now that it’s on TV, it’s a great opportunity for them to do that,” the South African Air Force employee says.

Born in Phalaborwa, Letsoalo had to come down to Pretoria, enrolling at Tshwane North College for a management diploma, for her to make her cricket dreams come true. Women’s cricket in Limpopo in the early 2000s was very much at a fledgling level, so she spent her formative years playing with schoolboys in informal games.

“When I was 13, I saw a men’s game on TV, I had only seen cricket on TV. So I started played with the boys on the street and my passion grew for the game.

“I started playing for Foskor Cricket Club, but even then it was only with boys. But I never stopped because of my love for the sport,” Letsoalo says.

She finally experienced cricket without the boys when she started playing for the Limpopo U19 provincial team, but she admits she came to Pretoria both for study and cricketing purposes. Joining Atteridgeville Cricket Club, she was soon invited to Northerns trials and she was firmly on the road to the international stage.

Someone with Letsoalo’s sheer passion, determination and infectious enthusiasm is very difficult to keep down, and she soon won over her family, who were sceptical at first about her life choices.

“They weren’t very happy with me playing cricket, they used to say ‘It’s not safe with the boys!’ But they saw there was no stopping me and I just kept going. Eventually they realised that cricket is my passion in life,” she recalls.

A nagging medium-pacer who is more of a seam bowler than a swing merchant, Letsoalo says she is inspired by a pair of South African pace bowling legends – Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock.

Both of them achieved a great deal of success in England and, although South Africa’s women have never beaten them, Letsoalo says the team is looking forward to testing themselves against top-class opposition.

“Conditions should be similar to here and we’re looking forward to the tour as a group. We want competitive cricket, we’re not going to stress too much about the results, but rather focus on implementing what we’ve learnt here at the academy, where we’ve been having a camp. We’re not going to play the names.”

A senior player now with 72 appearances across the three formats for the Proteas, Letsoalo is a bundle of good energy for a team that is definitely moving forward. She didn’t stand still in Phalaborwa, making the life-changing move to Pretoria, and she is eager that the national team do the same.

“I would love to see us in the top two women’s cricket nations in the world. We made the top four in the Women’s World T20 earlier this year, so we are preparing to see if we can make the top two in the 2017 World Cup,” the player who just loves cricket says.


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