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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.


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.

Sam makes trumpet call against bloated sports department 0

Posted on May 18, 2015 by Ken


Sascoc president Gideon Sam has made a trumpet call for Minister of Sport Fikile Mbalula to forge a more efficient administration in the fight for sporting transformation.

Sam, speaking at the Highveld Lions awards dinner this week, said Mbalula was presiding over a bloated administration that was deflecting money away from the effort to clear “historical backlogs” in sport.

“The minister of sport has a very small budget, hardly a billion rand, and that’s for his administration too. Each minister of sport inherits a huge staff and, because of the power of the unions, he dare not touch that staff. I compare it to Sascoc and I wonder why there are so many people in the department of sport and recreation? It has to be asked. It’s very hard for the minister to work people out and usually he brings in more of his own people as well.

“Politicians want to use sport for ‘social cohesion’, but that phrase is not in my dictionary. How can sport, which is so impoverished, do that? The truth is, if you really go into it, South African sport is not structured correctly. We’re not giving impoverished sportspeople, black and white, a fair chance,” Sam said.

Sam suggested the debate over World Cup selection was “deliberate, to try and throw stones at the administration and it takes us nowhere”, but he did acknowledge that there was growing frustration at much of the bureaucracy that surrounds transformation and funding.

“The federations apply, they fill in all those forms and they don’t even get an acknowledgement so they get fed up with the battle. Why should they concern themselves with transformation policy when they have to foot the bill themselves?”

The Sascoc president said the club player who could “afford a plane ticket and the price of accommodation in a hotel” was always going to make a team ahead of competitors who could not afford to travel to tournaments.


Fresh CSA cabal includes Majola’s fiercest backers 0

Posted on June 10, 2013 by Ken

Hopes that Cricket South Africa’s new board will steer the sport’s administration away from the scandals of the Gerald Majola era look set to be dashed because the new dispensation seems to be merely setting up a fresh cabal that includes several fierce supporters of the former chief executive.

The new regime at CSA will revolve around lead independent director Norman Arendse and the current board is dominated by his supporters.

The new board is made up of people like Andy O’Connor, who was Majola’s right-hand man, and Peter Cyster, another strong supporter of the central figure in the bonus scandal. The new directors come from provinces like Griqualand West, Easterns, Border and Boland.

The new CSA non-independent directors, elected on February 2, are president Chris Nenzani (Border), vice-president Cyster (Boland), O’Connor (Easterns), Beresford Williams (WP), Graeme Sauls (EP), Fa-eez Jaffar (KZN) and Rihan Richards (GW).

When the nominations committee initially recommended Arendse for one of the independent directorships, the CSA board were vehemently opposed to his appointment. Now, less than four months later, that same board has voted Arendse as the lead independent director and it seems favours were offered to secure his appointment.

Cyster was previously totally opposed to Arendse but is believed to have voted for him and is now the vice-president. Graeme Sauls, who has been on the board for just three months and has been an anonymous figure, is president of Eastern Province who were fierce opponents of Arendse. But they too are believed to have gone for him and Sauls now has a seat on the board of directors. Richards is another provincial president who has only been on the board for a short, anonymous while and is now a director.

Those smaller provinces have recently been getting more international games and there is the fear that Nenzani’s new board will just be puppets run by Arendse.

And neither government nor Sascoc are likely to interfere in CSA’s return to gravy-train administration, despite both of them signing the Nicholson Commission’s findings and agreeing to help implement all of the retired judge’s recommendations.

While sports minister Fikile Mbalula can’t really flex his muscles anymore in the wake of backing the wrong horse at Mangaung, there is perhaps a more sinister reason why Sascoc have ditched their original support for Nicholson’s recommendations and backed Arendse in his bid to be considered as an independent director despite the fact that he is an honorary life president of Western Province cricket.

Arendse can go to Western Province board meetings and vote, but he said he does not participate. But anyone who is aware of Arendse’s domineering personality will find that hard to believe. When he was the president of CSA between 2007 and 2008 he tried to do the jobs of both the CEO and the convenor of selectors. Merely observing is not this man’s style.

The same rule that stated independent directors could not have been involved in cricket for three years counted against SK Reddy from KZN, but for Arendse it’s okay.

Sascoc’s about-turn perhaps has its roots in an allegation of attempted bribery Arendse made against their president, Gideon Sam, that was revealed a year ago.

Arendse alleged that while he was chairing the adjudication committee for a R7-billion state tender in 2008 he was offered an “open chequebook” bribe by an individual claiming to represent Cash Paymaster Services (CPS).
Arendse refused to confirm or deny the identity of the inducer, but the Mail & Guardian said Arendse named Sam when he recorded the incident.

The tender is now the subject of court action by one of the bidders who failed to win the contract, but it could be telling that Advocate Arendse never reported the attempted bribe to the police, as required by South African law.

The franchises are almost bankrupt and always begging for money, which is how CSA keep them under control. CSA are always pleading poverty, but their income from broadcast rights runs into 10 figures every four years. Apparently, independent directors at some franchises have refused to sign the annual reports because technically the franchise is insolvent.

The best people for the jobs are certainly not being elected at CSA, even though the Companies Act states quite clearly that directors must always act in the best interests of the company and not themselves. The same people who ignored the Companies Act in allowing Majola his free reign are ignoring the same law again.

Both Archie Pretorius of North-West, the chief forensic auditor for one of the leading mining houses, and chartered accountant Vincent Sinovich, who were coincidentally two of the minority who were critical of Majola, have been sidelined as directors.

Cyster, a dentist, is now the non-independent director who sits on the finance committee.

And there could be further trouble ahead for CSA when it comes to appointing their new CEO to replace Jacques Faul.

Former International Cricket Council CEO and Proteas selection convenor Haroon Lorgat is the overwhelming favourite for the post, but that could be disastrous for South Africa’s standing in international cricket politics.

Reports from India make it clear that the Board of Control For Cricket in India will be reconsidering the special relationship between the two countries should Lorgat be appointed.

The former ICC CEO was the chief nemesis for the BCCI when it came to furthering their agenda at the global level and the way leading Indian administrators have openly taken the credit for Lorgat’s contract not being renewed suggests the same bad reaction will afflict the alliance between them and South Africa.

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    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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