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Ken Borland



SA rugby needs decency more than anything else 0

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Ken

 

In terms of rugby, the New Year is all about finding answers to the question “What is wrong with South African rugby?”, but two incidents in the last month show that, perhaps more than anything else, some of our players and administrators have to ditch their self-serving attitudes and get back to the old values of the game that were rooted in common decency and humility.

The recent actions of the Western Province Rugby Football Union and current Springbok player Johan Goosen suggest the problems are more about individuals being rotten to the core rather than structural issues.

Let’s start with Goosen and I’m not going to say anything more about his on-field performance than my feeling he has flattered to deceive, although the fact that he never had a start at flyhalf is a mitigating factor.

But his tawdry actions in trying to get out of a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, that he only signed a few months ago and that netted him €500 000 a year until 2020, indicate this is a man of scant integrity and someone who clearly does not put team ahead of self.

A couple of weeks ago Goosen announced his retirement from rugby at the age of just 24, following one of his more injury-free years and his return to international rugby, saying he was going to become commercial director of a Free State based agricultural company.

Of course no one is really going to believe that and his name has since appeared on a Cheetahs training squad list and it has since been said that Goosen is ultimately going to Gloucester, once Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad becomes the English club’s majority shareholder.

With flagrant disregard for any ethical considerations, Goosen has taken advantage of a loophole in French labour law which makes all fixed-term rugby contracts temporary. Hence a player can be released from his contract without penalty if he finds fulltime employment – ostensibly Goosen’s dubious “commercial director” job.

The actions of Western Province rugby are just as cynical and what little faith their loyal supporters had in their administrators must now have almost totally dissipated.

They had applied for liquidation of the business arm of WP Rugby and then, just a day after that was granted by the Cape High Court, the Western Province Rugby Football Union announced that the insolvent company had been bought by one of their other companies.

Having put Western Province rugby into financial strife, the likes of president Thelo Wakefield and CEO Paul Zacks are glibly trying to slip through a loophole in thoroughly dishonourable fashion to evade their creditors, most notably with sponsorship company Aerios.

And these are the calibre of administrators that have been put in charge of one of the most legendary brands in rugby?!

Goosen has surely played his last game in the Green and Gold because people of such deviousness really should not be representing our country. He should also not be allowed to play Super Rugby and the Springbok coach must ensure his players will make the nation proud, not embarrass us on an international stage; the good of the game must come before the avaricious accumulation of individual wealth.

Wakefield must also surely fall on his sword. This is not some village rugby team he is mishandling, but one of the proudest rugby legacies in the world, whose fans should be feeling deeply humiliated.

Brumbies stick to game plan to snatch victory over Bulls 0

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Ken

 

It was all about sticking to game plans as the Brumbies upset the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday night, snatching a 26-23 victory at the death in their Vodacom SuperRugby semi-final in Pretoria.

With just a minute remaining, the Bulls looked about to win despite turning down three shots at goal in the preceding minutes as they led 23-19, but the Brumbies then scored a dramatic try as Bulls wing Bjorn Basson rushed up far too early on defence, leaving a yawning gap for flyhalf Matt Toomua to slide through and then pass inside for centre Tevita Kuridrani to break the home side’s hearts.

Much more fuss has been made over Bulls captain Dewald Potgieter’s decision to turn down shots at goal for three kickable penalties in the 67th, 69th and 72ndminutes than over Basson’s awful defensive lapse, but the loose forward fronted up for his options after the game.

Potgieter did eventually tell Morne Steyn to aim for goal after a massive scrum by the Bulls had earned them another penalty in the 76th minute, the flyhalf increasing their lead to 23-19, but the Bulls failed to successfully exit their own territory from the kick-off, allowing the Brumbies to attack within their 22.

“My feeling was that we hadn’t exited well the whole evening, we struggled to get out of our own half, so I wanted to keep the Brumbies down there. We did that for 10 minutes and my only regret is that I went for poles in the last five minutes. I should have backed my earlier decisions and kept them down there.

“I chatted to Morne Steyn every time we got a penalty and he had the same mindset as me, to keep them down there. The Brumbies aren’t the sort of team you expect to score from their own territory and even if there was a turnover, we were confident of keeping them there. I also felt that we were getting the upper hand through our forwards and that altitude was also playing a role,” Potgieter said.

There’s nothing wrong with the thinking behind Potgieter’s decisions, except that it meant a departure from the Bulls’ game plan all season. They have readily admitted that their strategy is to play for penalties and they have the most accurate goal-kicker of the competition in Steyn. Coach Frans Ludeke confirmed that building a bigger lead on the scoreboard had been the tactic he would have preferred.

“I spoke to Dewald afterwards about what happened and he had a totally different view to me. He felt like they should keep the Brumbies in their own territory, because he wanted to keep the pressure on them. To my mind, we should have been building a cushion on the scoreboard, but that’s rugby and I back him still as a brilliant leader,” Ludeke said.

The leadership skills of Potgieter are not in doubt – he led by example in a flat first half for the Bulls as well – and the courage and transparency he showed in being willing to discuss his decisions was in stark contrast to many other captains and teams. The Sharks left Loftus Versfeld a couple of weeks ago without even attending the press conference after suffering a one-point defeat.

Apart from deviating from the trusted game plan, the only other real criticism one can make of Potgieter’s strategy was that he may have been guilty of looking too far ahead, and even backwards to previous games, and not just focusing on winning the semi-final.

“I would back the same call again. When we lost against the Chiefs we were maybe too conservative. It was not just about closing out this game, but also how we wanted to walk into the next game. You need a total game to go all the way, the right attacking mindset brings reward,” Potgieter said in further revealing his thinking.

The Brumbies, in contrast, stuck to their game plan and executed with precision. From the opening kick-off to Akona Ndungane, which was chased hard and forced the wing into touch, giving the visitors a lineout from which they attacked through several phases and then won a penalty, it was clear they were playing to a plan and the plan was followed right until the 80th minute.

The shrewd hand of coach Jake White was very apparent as the Brumbies qualified for their first SuperRugby final since 2004.

“That opening was part of a specific plan and that was the way we wanted to start. We knew how nervous we were playing in front of our home crowd last week, plus the Bulls didn’t play last week, so we wanted a good start.

“It’s one of the greatest Brumbies win ever, we were down and out after 75 minutes but became the first team to win at Loftus this season. It’s a massive achievement,” White said.

The former Springbok coach, who never enjoyed the best of relationships with the Loftus Versfeld hierarchy, was also critical of Potgieter’s decision to spurn shots at goal in the last 10 minutes.

“We grew a leg when they didn’t go for poles, it helped us because it left the door open. If I had a new hooker on the field and the best goal-kicker in the competition, I’d be telling Stephen Larkham [Brumbies assistant coach] to get the kicking tee on as quickly as possible!”

While the last 10 minutes will remain fresh in most people’s memories, the truth is that the Bulls also didn’t show nearly enough intensity in the first half to stamp their dominance and make use of home-ground advantage.

“We had a very complacent first 15/20 minutes,” Potgieter admitted.

The dominance of the Brumbies in the scrums and at the breakdowns, thanks mainly to the brilliance of George Smith and the occasional leniency of referee Craig Joubert, was also obvious and the set-piece woes of the Bulls are something that must focus the minds of the management as they review the campaign.

“The Brumbies applied pressure through the set-piece and put points on the board through that. We need a solid set-piece, but it was under pressure,” Ludeke admitted.

The character of the Bulls was shown, however, by the way they fought back in the second half, gaining more parity in the scrums, pressurising the lineout and forcing penalties.

Unfortunately, those infringements by the Brumbies were neither punished nor taken advantage of.

The Brumbies will now travel to Hamilton to take on the defending champion Chiefs, who established themselves as the pre-eminent force in New Zealand rugby by beating the Crusaders 20-19 in their epic semi-final.

The Chiefs were under the cosh, the Crusaders controlling the set-pieces and the pace of the game, until the 53rdminute when the Waikato team were inspired by wing Lelia Masaga.

The Chiefs, having absorbed tremendous pressure from the Crusaders in the opening minutes of the second half, were hard on attack and Masaga received a long pass by scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow. By running straight back in the direction of the pass, Masaga surprised the Crusaders defence and, once he had built up some momentum, the 26-year-old had the pace and power to plough through the heavy traffic, going through four tackles to score.

The Chiefs had the lead for the first time (13-9) and the Crusaders were then shut out by some brilliant defence. Crotty was denied a try by a last-ditch Aaron Cruden tackle and, playing behind the advantage line thanks to crunching hits by the likes of Ben Afeaki and Tanerau Latimer, the Crusaders then conceded an intercept try. Crotty’s long pass, with his back to the Chiefs, was claimed by Cruden, who sprinted clear for the try and a 20-9 lead.

The Crusaders struck back with a brilliant individual try by Israel Dagg and a conversion and penalty by Dan Carter, but the Chiefs hung in for a brilliant victory against a team that was meant to be peaking at the right time.

Having enjoyed a lot of attacking ball in the first half, but wasting it through turnovers and set-piece failures, the Chiefs resorted to the safety of a simpler, more direct approach in the second half. The Crusaders, meanwhile, were forced to go wide too early by the aggressive defence and Carter trying an unlikely drop goal while he was on the run in the final minute epitomised how they had been shaken off their game.

“I just anticipated it and luckily he threw it for me,” Cruden said of his intercept try with some understatement. For connoisseurs of the game, watching Cruden and Carter display their magic was an absolute treat and it seems fair to say the All Blacks boast the two best flyhalves in world rugby.

While those two produced their best under pressure, there was arguably a match with even higher stakes played in Port Elizabeth, where the Southern Kings hosted the Lions in the first leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The Lions called on all their composure and an impressive display by their young flyhalf, Elton Jantjies, to beat the Kings 26-19.

Playing on their home ground, the Kings perhaps felt the weight of desperate expectation on their shoulders as their passionate home crowd willed them on to victory and a better chance of survival in SuperRugby.

Sadly, the Kings did not show as much composure under pressure as the Lions and four moments of ill-discipline in the first half allowed the on-target Jantjies to give the visitors a 12-6 lead by the half-hour.

Demetri Catrakilis then landed a cross-kick on the proverbial ticky for wing Marcello Sampson to dot down the Kings’ first try, but he made two important mistakes before half-time and then went off injured before the hour mark in a major blow for the Eastern Cape team, both in terms of the match and their prospects of overturning the deficit next weekend.

He firstly struck the post with a 37th-minute penalty after the Lions players had been in front of a chip by replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje, and then Catrakilis threw the pass that was intercepted by impressive outside centre Stokkies Hanekom for a 39th-minute try that must have felt like a real kick in the shins for the Kings as it gave the visitors a five-point lead at the break.

Hanekom – remember his name, people! – also scored the Lions’ second try after bursting through the line on the angle. The pass from Jantjies looked slightly forward and has drawn the ire of Kings supporters, but judging on the decisions made previously in SuperRugby this year, the TMO may well have ruled it was flat anyway.

The Kings were the victims, however, of losing out on many 50/50 decisions by referee Jaco Peyper, the Lions attacking the breakdowns with particular vigour, with Derick Minnie a hugely disruptive presence.

The Lions were good value for their win, however.

The pace and intensity of SuperRugby was made clear to them from the opening seconds when tighthead prop Kevin Buys, responsible for several big hits against his former team, crashed into Minnie, knocking the ball loose and leading to the first points of the match via a Catrakilis penalty. But the Lions adapted immediately and much credit must go to the new coach, Johan Ackermann, and his assistants for ensuring the Lions were ready for the battle without the same level of competition as the Kings have enjoyed.

The Kings did at least claim the bonus point for losing by seven, but the Lions are certainly the favourites for the decider next weekend at Ellis Park.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-29-superrugby-semi-finals-sometimes-off-the-game-plan-but-always-on-the-game/#.V5X7pPl97IU

How to make a star with KFC 0

Posted on July 05, 2016 by Ken

 

To make a star one needs enough heat and pressure to start nuclear fusion in a cloud of gas, but in a cricketing sense it’s all about CSA’s pipeline and KFC Mini-Cricket provides the masses of raw material that are necessary to find the ones that will glow brightly on fields around the country in the future.

KFC Marketing Director Thabisa Mkhwanazi says it is the biggest grassroots development program in the country, which is a big call, but the numbers back her up. More than 114 000 kids from 5584 schools were involved in the program last season, thanks to the dedication of nearly 9000 volunteer coaches and the excellent custodianship of CSA’s mass-participation manager, David Mokopanele.

Corrie van Zyl, CSA’s general manager of cricket, makes an even bigger call and says it is the best development program in the world. The fact that countries like Australia, India and England have been in contact wanting to know more about KFC Mini-Cricket, especially their marvellous Kids v Proteas Tour, suggests he may be correct.

I was privileged to attend the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar held in Kruger Park this week, which is an incentive for the top coaches of the previous season, a celebration of what has been achieved and a focused look at their future targets.

It may surprise some to know that I don’t recall hearing the word “transformation” once over the two days and that’s simply because, at that level, both coaches and players are already predominantly Black. Colour is one thing, but fixing the socio-economic conditions that make it so hard for any talented boy or girl to make it from the vast rural areas of our country is another matter altogether and KFC Mini-Cricket is probably the best weapon we have when it comes to taking the game to greater portions of our population.

Van Zyl was one of the speakers who addressed the delegates drawn from all 16 affiliates of Cricket South Africa and he pointed out in no uncertain terms that excellence at the highest level was non-negotiable, but that it was also dependent on grassroots development and vice-versa.

The former international fast bowler and national coach used the example of The Oaks Cricket Club from a small village near Hoedspruit where Cavaan Moyakamela, a coach with an extraordinary love for the game, mentors 70 children on a concrete slab.

“Imagine if a guy from The Oaks is chosen for the Limpopo U13 side, he will bring great passion and we can use and enhance that. Our dream is that a kid from that area can become a Protea, but there will be performance gaps – socio-economic factors that affect his health, physical and psychological development and his lifestyle – that we need to close for him.

“We cannot change the benchmark of international cricket, we have to take the players to that standard, and the responsibility of our coaches is to get the player there. If we don’t maintain excellence at international level then the grassroots suffers because we need money to develop that. They both depend on each other because the grassroots is the base of our game.

“KFC Mini-Cricket is the biggest part of that base, it is strong and built on the passion and dedication of the coaches. If we are to maintain excellence then we need quality coaching, so we need to grow coaches so the kids can grow under them. The growth of the program has been so good that with that base, the cream will rise to the top,” Van Zyl said.

Temba Bavuma spoke movingly about how he was first introduced to cricket via the program, getting to run around on the same Newlands ground where he scored his historic maiden Test century last summer; AB de Villiers is also a product, while the program is going strong in the remote regions of the former Transkei and Limpopo. It’s reach will only increase thanks to the wonderful news that KFC have extended their sponsorship of the program for another 10 years.

When the Kids v Proteas Tour came to Umtata, it was like the world’s greatest bazaar had hit town, such was the reaction.

“It brought Umtata to a standstill! Their little school was playing against the Proteas and it was magical. Many of the communities we have stores in hunger for this sort of development and our dream is for young people to look back and remember ‘the day KFC came to my small town with cricket’,” Mkhwanazi says.



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