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Ken Borland



Markram waits patiently for his chance to join Rabada 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken

 

2014 Junior World Cup winner Kagiso Rabada is about to be unleashed on the international stage as he tours with the Proteas to Bangladesh, but what of his captain at that prestigious tournament, Aiden Markram?

Rated as one of the most promising young players in the country, Markram is learning the hard way that it takes much longer for batsmen to break through in the senior ranks than it does for bowlers. But the 20-year-old Northerns player is still full of optimism and says there is plenty of opportunity lying ahead for him.

“Obviously I’m happy that KG is with the national team, he completely deserves it. But it’s tough as a top-order batsman trying to play for your franchise and then your country, so I’m not concerned with my progress,” Markram told The Citizen.

The Tuks product has played 10 first-class games for Northerns, scoring 424 runs at an average of 30.28, including three half-centuries. His limited-overs returns have been more spectacular, scoring two List A centuries in five innings on his way to an average of 71.25, a strike-rate of 95.95 and a nomination for the CSA Provincial One-Day Cricketer of the Year award.

Markram was also brilliant in the T20 competition, scoring 165 runs in four innings, with two half-centuries, an average of 55 and a strike-rate of 146.

“I’ve played a lot more limited-overs cricket in my life. I have game-plans in place for those formats but in the longer format it was only towards the end of the season that I had identified a plan. So that was a big positive and I’m really looking forward to next season’s three-day competition. I don’t want to be labelled a limited-overs player, but I’m happy with the way the season went.

“In the season ahead, it would be nice to play franchise cricket for the Titans, that’s definitely a goal for me, in any format. But all I can control is scoring runs and putting myself in contention. If I’m selected, great, but if not then I want to make a big contribution for the Northerns team. I enjoy my role there and I’m looking forward to more responsibility,” Markram said.

For someone who has such a solid technique, it is surely only a matter of time before Markram makes his mark in first-class cricket, having already shown in the shorter formats that he has the measure of most bowlers in provincial cricket.

“I’d only played two three-day games in my life before this season, so it’s been a new challenge. As a top-order batsman, the bowlers are fresh and armed with a new ball, so if you get in then you must kick on. And it’s usually tough batting on day one.

“I just need to re-set myself more during my innings, make sure I get myself in properly and then just bat time,” Markram said.

For someone as talented as him, it is surely also only a matter of time before he is back playing on the same stage as his former team-mate Rabada.

High time at Loftus as the Bulls rapidly evolve 0

Posted on October 14, 2015 by Ken

 

Just four months ago, the Blue Bulls Rugby Union was in a sorry state with Frans Ludeke about to be axed as coach, the SuperRugby side ending a miserable campaign with a humiliating loss at home to the Cheetahs, and the players, management and administrators all pulling in different directions.

The atmosphere at Loftus Versfeld was so bad and so stuck in its ways that I called them dinosaurs in this same column.

But since then, there has been rapid evolution and their fortunes have soared with new coach Nollis Marais taking them to a home semi-final in the Currie Cup, playing a fresh, invigorating brand of rugby that has brought the crowds back to Loftus Versfeld, and giving much of the young talent that was being unused and growing frustrated the chance to shine.

Marais has already received his reward in that he has been confirmed as the SuperRugby coach and he has been given a four-year contract, an incredible sign of faith from a Bulls board that has never been known for its willingness to take a chance.

But CEO Barend van Graan said the sight of families returning in droves to Loftus Versfeld made it an easy decision.

“We can see how the tide has turned the last few weeks and attendances have been double what they were compared to last year, nearly the same as for SuperRugby games. Not many applicants reached the standards we require and it was not a difficult decision, Nollis had the inside track because of what has happened in the Currie Cup.

“Our expectations are high, if not I’m sure we would have only given him a one or two-year contract. But we have a lot of confidence in Nollis and he now has the opportunity to build for the next four years. He’s already brought through a number of young, excellent players,” Van Graan said.

While Marais has thoroughly updated the Bulls’ style of play, credit must also go to Van Graan and his board for realising that they need to adapt as well. The CEO said the BBRU would need to adjust their strategies.

“There are decreasing White numbers in our area, the whole demographic of Pretoria is changing dramatically. There are eight PSL teams in Gauteng, plus one each in North-West, Limpopo and Mpumalanga, so this is a soccer region. The average crowd for a PSL game is 5000.

“Twenty-eight percent of the Blue Bulls’ support comes from the Eastern Cape and 98% of that is Black, most of whom don’t have pay-TV at home. So we have to revise our strategy and penetrate new markets. In the last five years, we have seen a decline of more than 70% on the number of tickets sold at the ground. People just buy tickets on the internet now and they’re no longer buying season tickets,” Van Graan pointed out.

The Bulls have earned a reputation for being aggressive recruiters of junior players, but their showcase teams have also suffered due to a revolving door of players leaving or losing their contracts.

“Since 2011, we have lost 57 players, a lot of them to the Euro, Yen and British Pound. But things are cyclical in a team sport, you have to let guys go, but perhaps we released too many players, in hindsight. The last six or seven SA U21 captains have come from here, but our Currie Cup side will be even younger next year so we need to be smart in our recruiting. We need to fast-track talent, but only five percent of the schools in our region play rugby,” Van Graan said.

Marais has given the Bulls a new lease of life on the field and credit should also be given to Van Graan and the board for identifying the new direction the BBRU has to take. If they continue along this path, there’s no reason why the Bulls shouldn’t in time become the most powerful union in the country again.

 

 

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    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".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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