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Ken Borland

Keeping aggressive attitude leads to untroubled win for Shubhankar 0

Posted on December 14, 2017 by Ken


Shubhankar Sharma, the winner of the weather-disrupted Joburg Open at Randpark Golf Club on Monday, said he worked hard on keeping an aggressive attitude on the course and, as a consequence, the rising Indian star never looked in trouble as he sealed a three-shot victory on 23-under-par.

The tri-sanctioned tournament had to be completed on Monday morning due to the fourth afternoon being almost entirely washed out, and it made for an anxious wait for Shubhankar, who led by four shots overnight.

“I obviously did not sleep last night, I woke up four times, every couple of hours, because it was raining so hard. There were a lot of nerves beforehand, absolutely, because if you are chasing then you have nothing to lose, but if you are leading then you can only maintain that.

“But I was really calm once I got going, I just stuck to my game-plan and kept saying to myself to be aggressive, I never wanted to defend my lead. I set myself a target of finishing 25-under, but 23-under will do. I just kept imagining that I was three shots back,” Shubhankar said after his first victory outside of India.

As impeccable as his golf was – the accuracy of Shubhankar’s driving was particularly impressive – the standout feature of the 21-year-old’s tournament was his composure and he obviously has a very good head on his shoulders, showing maturity beyond his years.

While having one of the hottest putters in the 240-man field obviously helped a great deal in accumulating 26 birdies over the week, the absence of bogeys in his last three rounds is what pleased Shubhankar most.

“I hit the ball good and putted very well, but the up-and-downs I made the whole week were very crucial. Those par-saves get your round going and I made vital pars on 10, 13 and 15 today. Not having any bogeys was one of my main objectives today and not dropping any shots over the last three days is what makes me most happy, that’s good golf and the best part of my win,” he said.

Shubhankar resumed his round on the eighth hole on Monday and the looming presence of South African Erik van Rooyen meant he could not relax, even after birdieing the par-four ninth hole from 25 feet.

Van Rooyen shot a brilliant 66 to finish second, but Shubhankar notched pars all the way home to ensure he did not provide a back door for the chaser to slip through.

Van Rooyen said he was “really proud” of his effort but “I just could not squeeze any more birdies the way I wanted to”.

Fellow South African Shaun Norris also had plenty of reasons to smile as he roared through the field with a 65 to finish tied for third with Finland’s Tapio Pulkkanen (68). Both Van Rooyen and Norris, who pipped Pulkkanen due to his better world ranking, qualified to join Shubhankar at next year’s Open Championship at Carnoustie.

Bulls romp to victory because of aggressive defence 0

Posted on July 11, 2016 by Ken


The Vodacom Bulls overwhelmed the Sunwolves 50-3 in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, running in seven tries without reply, but it was more because of their aggressive defence than any scintillating attacking play that the bonus-point win was recorded.

The Sunwolves had enough of the ball, especially in the second half, to have troubled the Bulls, but the home side, probably playing their last match at Loftus Versfeld this season, were fired up in defence and dominated the gain-line, as well as scrambling well and generally looking eager to make an impression.

The attacking work of the Bulls was by no means bad, but at times there was a lack of fluency and a few mistakes as well.

But it was obviously a pleasing evening for the Bulls as they kept the pressure on the Sharks for the last South African qualifying place, gaining a two-point lead over the KwaZulu-Natalians ahead of their crunch game against the Cheetahs in Durban.

It took the Bulls 12 minutes to break down the defence of the Sunwolves, who were fortunate not to be reduced to 14 men early on when outside centre Derek Carpenter received the benefit of the doubt for a trip and was not yellow-carded.

The Bulls’ efforts to bash away at close quarters were nullified by the Sunwolves spoiling their breakdown ball and tackling bravely, and the opening try eventually came when the Bulls were able to exploit the wide open spaces from deeper out. The Sunwolves cleared their lines with a kick, but Jesse Kriel, whose play at fullback was a breath of fresh air compared to his fettered efforts in midfield, took a quick lineout and wing Jamba Ulengo produced a great run from 58 metres out, beating several defenders and then popping the ball up in the tackle to flank Lappies Labuschagne, who was up in support and able to go over for the try.

Unlike the Bulls, the Sunwolves were able to get points from their first visit to the 22, as flyhalf Yu Tamura kicked a penalty after scrumhalf Piet van Zyl spent too long on the wrong side of a ruck.

Bulls flyhalf Francois Brummer, whose kicking game was sharp, added an 18th-minute penalty to his earlier conversion and would eventually finish with a five-from-six record with three more conversions.

The Bulls crossed the tryline again in the 21st minute as Van Zyl detected the space and launched a great counter-attack. Labuschagne was once again up in support and he sent centre Dries Swanepoel over for the try.

Labuschagne was all over the field, linking, tackling and winning turnovers, which suggests his move to Japan after Super Rugby is going to be a major blow for the Bulls. In the 27th minute, he was stopped just short of the line, but fellow flank Jannes Kirsten was on hand to pick up the ball and drive over the line (24-3).

It was one-way traffic in the first half and the Bulls grabbed a fourth try before the break as the Sunwolves tried to run their way out of the 22 – spurning the big boot of fullback Riaan Viljoen – and the ball went to ground in the backline. Brummer pounced, kicked through and had an easy path to dotting down, his conversion making the halftime score 31-3.

The scent of a real thrashing was in the air early in the second half as Van Zyl went on another jet-propelled dash through the defence, captain Adriaan Strauss finishing the move with a bullocking run.

The Sunwolves were 36-3 down, but they did not run out of gas, to their credit. Surviving on scraps up till then, they certainly stretched the Bulls defence in the second half and coach Nollis Marais will be fuming over the penalty count.

But the Bulls are the team with the best tackling success rate in the competition and they kept the Sunwolves out, before adding the finishing touches to their win with two late tries, both by wing Travis Ismaiel.

The Bulls are a skilful side when they get it right and there were some lovely hands involved in the first try, especially a brilliant, long, flat pass out wide from centre Burger Odendaal to Ismaiel.

The Sunwolves then went back on attack but, to their immense disappointment, a grubber through was tidied up by replacement fullback SP Marais, who then broke through and released Ismaiel on a 55-metre open run-in to the line.

The outstanding work-rate of Labuschagne meant he fully deserved the man of the match award, but the other star players were the eighthman Renaldo Bothma, who was at the forefront of smashing the Sunwolves back, and Van Zyl, who sparked much of the attacking play.

Pierre Schoeman’s first start in the number one jersey was also impressive, showing he can ably stand in during the absence of Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka through injury, while the midfield pairing of Swanepoel and Odendaal also rose to the occasion.


Vodacom BullsTries: Lappies Labuschagne, Dries Swanepoel, Jannes Kirsten, Francois Brummer, Adriaan Strauss, Travis Ismaiel (2). Conversions: Brummer (4), Tian Schoeman (2). Penalty: Brummer.

SunwolvesPenalty: Yu Tamura.

Proteas’ formula for success may come under threat 0

Posted on February 18, 2015 by Ken

Each highly successful Test team through the ages has had their specific formula for success  – think the West Indies and their fast bowlers or Australia and their aggressive batsmen setting the platform for Warne and McGrath to wheel away – and the current Proteas have always insisted that playing seven specialist batsmen has been a key factor in their climb to number one in the rankings.

But that philosophy may came under threat at SuperSport Park today when the first Test against the West Indies gets underway.

That’s largely due to the absence of the injured JP Duminy, which affects the balance of the Test side almost as much as the ODI outfit. An all-pace attack and seven specialist batsmen has been possible with Duminy there to bowl his tidy off-spin, but without him the options are either to have three pacemen and Robin Peterson, four quicks and no spinner save for Dean Elgar, or to go in with six specialist batsmen and play both the extra fast bowler and Peterson.

Although the seamers do traditionally bowl the bulk of the overs in Centurion, there have been occasions in the last five years when South Africa have relied heavily on spin – in both innings against Australia last season (22 and 31% of the overs bowled); in the second innings against India in 2010/11 (23%) and in both innings against England in 2009/10 (38 and 35%).

So there will be a reluctance to go into the Test, despite the rain around Gauteng on Tuesday and however grassy the pitch may be on the first day, without a specialist spinner.

“There might be a cracking blue sky at the game tomorrow so we’re not sure what our combination will be. We’ll see what happens on the day,” was all Hashim Amla, who will captain South Africa for the first time in a home Test, was willing to offer on Tuesday.

AB de Villiers was a bit more forthcoming, however.

“It’s the biggest decision management will have to make,” De Villiers said. “Centurion normally doesn’t turn that much which makes you feel that you can maybe go with that extra seamer, but with the team we are playing against, it might not be a bad idea to play a spinner. I’m pretty sure management will be tempted to play an all-pace attack though.”

For Dale Steyn, an extra batsman was important, despite the extra workload that would place on the stalwart fast bowler.

“It can be a bit sporty on day one, a bit slow, the last time we played here against Australia was crazy because it went up and down, but then in previous Tests it flattened out,” he said. “It was hard work to bowl teams out. Our batsmen were very dominant so it gave us enough time.”

The last time South Africa played the West Indies at SuperSport Park – in January 2004 – the tourists were tenderised by an opening stand of 301 between Graeme Smith and Herschelle Gibbs, followed by a Jacques Kallis century. Makhaya Ntini then took eight wickets in the match as the follow-on was enforced, resulting in a 10-wicket victory. Part-timers Smith and Jacques Rudolph were the Proteas’ spinners, bowling just 19.4 overs in the Test.

Steyn wasn’t quite laughing when he said: “I don’t think it really matters whether we play the spinner or the seamer, I think we’ll still do okay” – but the formbook and history both suggest the West Indies should be outclassed.

They are a formidable limited-overs outfit, but targeting cow-corner doesn’t often work as a strategy in Test cricket and few people will stake a fortune on the West Indies winning. One well-known bookmaker is offering odds of 1/33 that South Africa will win if there is a result in the match.

Even West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin was not sounding hugely confident on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be very challenging, we’re up against the number one team so they must be doing something very good to be on top, plus they’re at home. We need to be more consistent, especially our batting which has not been up to scratch lately. In the field we need to minimise our mistakes, not bowl so many bad balls and make sure our slip catching is up to par. If we perform well against the number one team, we should get credit for that. We will take it one step at a time and do our best,” Ramdin said.

While the West Indies are an inexperienced team with seven of their squad having played less than 10 Tests, South Africa will have just one greenhorn in action.

Stiaan van Zyl has staked his claim for a Test berth with a Sunfoil Series average of 49.57 and Amla admitted there was “a very good chance” of him playing, although he won’t bat at seven.

Let’s hope the silky strokeplay of the left-hander is employed at number six – specialist batsmen need to have the responsibility of batting in the top six – with wicketkeeper Quinton de Kock at seven.

There is speculation, however, that Van Zyl might replace Alviro Petersen at the top of the order, thereby enabling South Africa to play four pacemen and a spinner, with Vernon Philander batting at seven.

Petersen has put himself in the firing line by not exactly scoring a keg-full of runs lately, with just one half-century in his last 10 innings, and he has yet to play any four-day cricket for the Highveld Lions this season.


South Africa: Alviro Petersen, Dean Elgar, Faf du Plessis, Hashim Amla, AB de Villiers, Stiaan van Zyl, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Robin Peterson, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Kyle Abbott, Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada.

West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Leon Johnson, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jason Holder, Denesh Ramdin, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Sheldon Cottrell, Sulieman Benn, Shannon Gabriel, Asad Fudadin, Jermaine Blackwood, Chadwick Walton.


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