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Ken Borland

Theunis de Bruyn’s selection for the Proteas is no surprise 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken


There will be a new cap in the Standard Bank Proteas squad for their three-Test series against Sri Lanka starting on Boxing Day, but the selection of Theunis de Bruyn is hardly a surprise given the 24-year-old’s amazing first three years of his franchise career.

Having scored over 500 runs for the Titans in his first two seasons of Sunfoil Series cricket, De Bruyn has continued to make progress after a move to the Knights, having already made 423 runs at an average of 60.42 in eight innings this season. He has also enjoyed a couple of prolific limited-overs campaigns, in both 50 and 20-over cricket, to suggest he is a batsman for all formats.

De Bruyn’s first-class haul of over 2500 runs at an average of 48.73 includes six centuries and an unbeaten double-hundred for SA A against the England Lions. The tall, elegant right-hander has in fact scored two centuries and two half-centuries in seven innings for SA A, another reason why his promotion to the Proteas squad was considered almost certain.

“Theunis is a good talent and has done well for both his franchise and SA A and is next in the pecking order. It’s good to get him into the set-up because we definitely see him as a future star for the Proteas, playing in all the formats,” convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said.

While the promotion of a new, young batting star to the national squad is always exciting, there will also be a tang of regret for Rilee Rossouw, who toured Australia but has now suffered yet another inopportune injury, another foot problem ruling him out of contention.

“Obviously we aren’t pleased with Rilee’s injury because he was the next batsman in line, and Stiaan van Zyl would probably also have been in line had he not signed a Kolpak deal. It’s obviously very disappointing for Rilee, I spoke to him in Australia and he really wants to do well for South Africa and was very happy with the way we backed him in the ODIs. He’s obviously an exceptional player and he will still do well in the future for South Africa and contribute immensely going forward because it’s still a long season ahead and he’s definitely still in our plans,” Zondi said.

Rossouw did not play in any of the Tests in Australia and was very much the reserve batsman on tour, and that is probably going to be De Bruyn’s role during the three Tests against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg. But with AB de Villiers already ruled out and captain Faf du Plessis potentially facing a ban from his ball-tampering appeal on Monday, the Knights captain will be preparing as hard as anyone in the camp.

And that’s the positive – whether he plays or not, De Bruyn will learn plenty about the skills and mindset required at full international level.

“Even if Theunis doesn’t make the starting XI, he’s going to gain more experience and fitting into those surroundings and the culture of the team will only enhance his belief that he will be able to fit in at international level,” Zondi said.

The squad for the Sri Lanka series also features a recall for left-arm fast bowler and useful batsman Wayne Parnell, who has been in top-class form for the Cape Cobras this season. He is averaging over 30 with the bat in T20 cricket and less than 20 with the ball, at a brilliant economy rate of 6.7.

A replacement for the injured Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, he could play a part in the Wanderers Test if the Proteas decide to go with four pacemen and let JP Duminy take the spinner’s job.

“Wayne strengthens the depth and therefore makes it a better squad. He’s an exciting cricketer with the left-arm variation he brings and he adds to our depth in batting. We’ve been hoping he would stay injury-free and dominate at franchise level, and we’ve seen that with his batting and bowling,” Zondi said.

Being on home soil, just a 13-man squad has been chosen and the starting XI pretty much selects itself after the dazzling success in Australia.

Stephen Cook, son of the legendary Jimmy, and Dean Elgar will continue as the opening batsmen taking the shine off the ball, with Hashim Amla, Duminy, Du Plessis or De Bruyn, Temba Bavuma and wiucketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock to follow. The bowlers will be Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj or Parnell, and Kyle Abbott.

The likes of fast bowler Hardus Viljoen and Van Zyl would have stood a decent chance of making the squad, were it not for their decision to sign Kolpak contracts for English county cricket. Although disappointed that two fine cricketers are no longer eligible for selection, Zondi said he is content there is still more than enough talent in South Africa for the Proteas to build on their recent success.

“We can’t compete with the pound and it hurts to lose quality players, but we do have depth. So I’m comfortable but not happy. Upon signing a Kolpak deal, these players make themselves unavailable, otherwise someone like Stiaan van Zyl probably would have been next in line in the batting queue,” Zondi said.

Sadly, there are going to be more high-profile South African cricketers signing Kolpak deals in the near future.

It has now been confirmed that Du Plessis will once again guide the Proteas as captain and he said he is grateful for his long-time friend De Villiers’ decision to step aside in the interests of the team.

“It just shows you the person that AB is, that he always puts the team first, and it also shows how strong the culture of the side is.

“Test cricket is for me the most enjoyable time to be a captain because you have to work on plans for a long period of time. You have to strategise on how you’re going to make sure you’re going to get guys out and continue to challenge guys over a long time.

“To finally have it now‚ as something that is set in stone‚ is a huge honour and I’ll be taking it very seriously. I’ll try and make sure that the stuff that we’ve been working on for the past six months to a year‚ that we don’t let those standards drop. If I keep pushing the guys to make sure we hit those standards, we’ll be a consistent team,” Du Plessis said.

If the Standard Bank Proteas show the same team unity and focus on executing their basics to perfection, then their fans at home can look forward to more stellar performances against the Sri Lankans.

Rabada merely continuing his amazing trend of excellence 0

Posted on February 01, 2016 by Ken


When Kagiso Rabada took a record-equalling 13 wickets in just his sixth Test match it may have astonished the cricket world, but it merely continued an amazing trend in his still youthful career of rapidly excelling at every new level he has been thrust into.

While he was a pupil at St Stithians, he made the Gauteng Schools side while still in Grade 11 and immediately made his mark with 3/26 and a brilliant final over to win a T20 game against North-West.

He was earmarked as a future star by being chosen for the SA Schools Colts side and by the time Rabada was in matric, he was already playing for the SA Under-19 team touring England.

SA Schools selection was a given in 2013 and he first announced himself to the global stage at the 2014 Under-19 World Cup when he destroyed Australia with 6/25 in the semifinal and played a major role in South Africa winning that prestigious ICC title for the first time.

He made his first-class debut for Gauteng in the same summer and, after just two games and seven wickets in the first-class three-day competition, he was promoted to the Highveld Lions senior franchise team, again taking seven wickets in two matches.

When the Highveld Lions won the Sunfoil Series in March 2015 – the first time they had won the four-day competition since the inception of the franchise system – Rabada was their joint leading wicket- taker with Hardus Viljoen, taking 39 wickets at 21.12, including a magnificent 14 wickets in the match against the Dolphins at the Wanderers. His nine for 33 in the second innings, setting up a 10-wicket win, were the second-best innings figures in the franchise era and his match haul of 14 for 105 beat Dale Steyn’s previous best of 14 for 110. They were the best figures ever recorded at the famous Bullring.

Despite his tender years, international cricket was the logical next step and, in his ODI debut against Bangladesh in Mirpur, in conditions that could not have been more foreign to the lush Highveld pitches he was used to, Rabada took six for 16, including a hat-trick.

While being able to swing the ball at high pace is an amazing gift, Rabada still seems to have an extraordinary knack for taking wickets. Former West Indies bowling all-rounder Ottis Gibson, the England bowling coach who spent many summers in South Africa playing for Border, Gauteng and Griqualand West, says that’s because Rabada bows a fuller length than most South African fast bowlers, meaning he will find the edge of the bat more often.

While the 20-year-old generally gets the ball up there to maximise movement, he does possess a slippery bouncer and uses it extremely well as a surprise delivery. At his pace, it’s more like a shock ball.

Because of his tremendous talent and his importance in socio-political terms, there has been plenty of noise about protecting Rabada from a too-heavy workload. But the bowler himself said this week that he prefers doing more bowling and he doesn’t feel that he needs treatment that is any different to the monitoring and managing the other Proteas quicks undergo.

The knees are good, he has a tremendously athletic build and, apparently, a perfectly-aligned spine, an absolute rarity that is a great gift for any fast bowler.

Gibson was also certain that Rabada would get quicker as he reaches full adulthood – a scary prospect – and, interestingly, that there were even technical tweaks he could do to give him some extra yards of pace.

Time will tell whether Rabada will break the records of Allan Donald, Shaun Pollock, Makhaya Ntini and Steyn at international level, but they have all been mightily impressed by the level-headed young man who has the temperament to go with his physical attributes.

“His overall skill just blows me away and even his control is exceptional, it’s a bit freakish. I still think he’s going to get quicker and it stands him in good stead that he’s grooving that control for when the extra pace comes later. He’s already ahead of where he should be, his rhythm is good, he’s tall, athletic and can bowl a heavy ball, and when you combine all of that together, as he grows into his body he’s definitely going to get faster,” Donald, who was the bowling coach when Rabada was first included in the Proteas squad, said.

“He’s got all the raw ingredients. He has pace, control, heart and athleticism. And he is only 20. He has shown he can learn fast and has also bowled very well in the end overs, shown very good temperament,” was Pollock’s considered view.

Steyn is excited about someone he has been mentoring.

“KG has a very good attitude and is always asking a lot of questions – and the right questions. He has everything he needs to be a good fast bowler – pace, a good build, quite tall and intimidating,” Steyn said.

Ntini, for so long the lone Black African flagbearer, is delighted.

“I am so excited, happiness is an understatement. I am excited to watch him in the long run. He has put it out there that you should fear me now, not me being worried about who I am bowling to. If he can continue and have his head grounded, nothing will change. He is almost like a young apple tree that is growing very, very fast in a desert.”

Punda Maria, Pafuri & Crooks Corner 0

Posted on May 21, 2015 by Ken

Crooks Corner - the confluence of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers

Crooks Corner – the confluence of the Luvuvhu and Limpopo Rivers

Crooks Corner, which provides an amazing diversity of birds thanks to the combination of tropical riverine forest and sandveld, is one of those mystical, frontier places where you expect anything to turn up and is the north-eastern tip of Kruger National Park, at the end of the S63 Luvuvhu River Drive.

The confluence of the Limpopo and Luvuvhu rivers is called Crooks Corner because it was here, where the borders of South Africa, Zimbabwe and Mozambique meet, that scoundrels and rogues of a century ago would hide out and merely skip across the sandbars into another country when justice came a-looking.

There’s always something interesting in the dense forest or along the rivers at Crooks Corner, but the surrounding area is also great for birds and having that sense of expectation that something unusual is lurking just around the next bend is always exciting.

Heading back from Crooks Corner, away from the rivers in the direction of the Pafuri Border Gate with Mozambique, the road goes through an area of open Lala Palm savanna and then into Mopane forest that is fringed by Fever Trees.

Some little pools had formed below these Fever Trees which I initially drove past. But a hunch – you must always follow them! – made me go back and study the inundated areas more closely.

There were some baboons foraging on the ground and there, perched on a stick rising about a metre above the ground, was the distinct shape of a tiny heron.

Closer examination revealed the scarce Dwarf Bittern – only the second one I’ve seen. (The first was at Ndumo, also on the edge of a quiet pool in a well-wooded area).

The Dwarf Bittern is famous for its nomadic lifestyle, arriving in a place after good rains have led to local flooding, having an uncanny ability to find such areas within days of them being inundated.

It’s an enigmatic, secretive bird – partly nocturnal – and a much sought-after but seldom-seen tropical visitor.

Being mid-January, there were plenty of other pools scattered around the sandveld and the sweetveld grasslands on basalt, and just before the S63 Luvuvhu River Drive, Yellowbilled and White Storks, Water Dikkop and Little Bee-Eater were congregated around the water-filled depressions.

Turning on to the S63, the hundreds of Whitebacked Vultures either in the trees or circling in the sky soon became evident. There were 66 in two adjacent dead trees alone, with a few Lappetfaced Vultures among them.

Lappetfaced Vulture on the S63

Lappetfaced Vulture on the S63

Longtailed Starlings scratching around, Whitefronted Bee-Eaters swooping off the banks of the river, the odd Whitecrowned Plover on the sandbanks and Greenbacked Heron are the other typical birds of the S63, while a juvenile African Hawk Eagle was flying above the riverine forest.

The grassland around the Lala Palm savanna boasted Whitewinged Widow and a Steelblue Widowfinch was in a Fever Tree on the fringes of the forest, where a group of stately Ground Hornbill were strolling along and a Gymnogene was quartering nearby.

The viewpoint at Crooks Corner offered up Pied Kingfisher and Greenshank, while a Giant Kingfisher was hunting in front of the Pafuri picnic site and a Great White Egret was in the Luvuvhu River. Looking over the river from the main bridge, Rock Martin (and not Brownthroated as you’d expect over water), Little Swift and Wiretailed Swallow were all zooming about, while a Tropical Boubou was on the bank.

The beautiful Melba Finch was in the Acacia thickets as I was leaving Pafuri, the road back to Punda Maria passing through undulating grasslands studded with Baobabs, where all sorts of interesting sightings have been made.

Klopperfontein is always worth visiting and there was a solitary Hippopotamus lying in the dam, while a male Knob-billed Duck and a younger bloke had some territorial skirmishes. Ruff, Redbilled Teal and African Jacana were the other waterbirds present, while European Roller, Swainson’s Francolin, European Bee-Eater, Longtailed Shrike, Pintailed Whydah and Redbacked Shrike are common in the grassland around the dam and drift.

The Amur Falcon is the most common raptor in this habitat and one was sitting quite low down doing some serious maintenance on its heavily-barred tail.

A pair of Whiteheaded Vulture flew overhead and Wahlberg’s Eagle was also patrolling around, but the most fascinating hunter in action was a European Cuckoo sitting on top of a low shrub. It somehow spotted a caterpillar at 90° from it, about five metres away, and immediately swooped on to it. From there it flew briefly into a tree to devour its favourite food before making another sortie on to some rocks and boulders to catch another caterpillar. For a normally shy bird, this was a wonderful sighting.

The H1-8 tar road goes through open savanna grassland with stunted Mopane and is good for raptors, with Steppe Buzzard and Brown Snake Eagle prominent on this occasion. A Striped Cuckoo also posed beautifully.

Heading back towards Punda Maria on the H13-1 takes one through mature Mopane forest and Purple Roller and a very confusing juvenile Blackchested Snake Eagle on top of a dead tree were seen. A small flock of Redbilled Helmetshrike flew into a Tree Mopane making their typical growling calls.

There are also patches of mixed woodland along the H13-1 and seemingly in the middle of this forest stood a gorgeous Saddlebilled Stork on an exposed branch. There must have been a spruit nearby, and the threatened member of the Avian Big Six looked mildly embarrassed by how beautiful it was with its combination of black, white, red and yellow.

Saddlebilled Stork up a tree!

Saddlebilled Stork up a tree!

Groundscraper Thrush was another bird which I did not expect to see high up on top of a dead tree, but perhaps the lack of short grass below forced it up into the heavens.

A Bennett’s Woodpecker and an African Hoopoe were together at a dead log, the Woodpecker on top and the Hoopoe at ground level.

A friendly female Bushbuck

A friendly female Bushbuck

Two lovely female bushbuck welcomed me back to camp after an idyllic day and Chinspot Batis, House Martin, Bateleur, Grey Hornbill, Blackbacked Puffback and Greybacked Camaroptera (on the Flycatcher trail behind the reception) are easily seen at Punda Maria, one of the best bird-watching camps in Kruger, an island of sandveld within the sea of Mopane. The camp also has a waterhole just outside the fence which has a marvellous hide overlooking it and Hamerkop, Marabou Stork, Bronze Mannikin and Common Waxbill (both feeding on the seeds of the rank vegetation around the water) were there, along with plenty of Buffalo, a few Elephant and some antelope.

The beautiful Gumbandebvu Hills and their magnificent sandveld woodlands surround Punda Maria and provide great birding. Driving around close to camp provided a flock of 15 Brownheaded Parrot and then numerous others of this threatened gem, indicating that many of the wonderful trees in the area were probably fruiting.

One of the big herds of Buffalo around Punda Maria was enjoying a marvellous mudbath – one individual was having such an awesome spa-day that it had all four feet in the air and was bellowing like a Lion!

The Buffalo having a wonderful spa-day in the mud!

The Buffalo having a wonderful spa-day in the mud!

Redbilled and Yellowbilled Oxpeckers were together with this herd, with the scarcer Yellowbilled tending to be on the young Buffalo and the Redbilled on the adults.

Redbilled Hornbill, Greater Kudu, Plumcoloured Starling, Nyala, Carmine Bee-Eater (using the telephone line in front of the staff quarters), and Blackheaded Oriole are also inhabitants of this beautiful area, which is most effectively explored by taking the circular Mahonie Loop (S99), one of my absolute favourite drives in Kruger.

All sorts of exotic calls ring out from the broadleafed woodland and a Whitebrowed Scrub Robin was on top of a tree, calling away, while a Jacobin Cuckoo was a bit more shy at the Witsand waterhole. Black Widowfinch, Green Pigeon, Browncrowned Tchagra, Paradise Flycatcher and Marabou Stork were also spotted.

The Dzundzwini Loop south-east of Punda Maria (S58) provides a break from the tall stands of Mopane with more marvellous mixed woodland.

A beautiful Woodland Kingfisher was sitting on a low shrub, unusually for a bird that is normally perched on trees, while another tropical intra-African migrant, the equally spectacular Broadbilled Roller, was up in the high branches as one would expect. Continuing the theme of weird birding pairs, a Crested Francolin was sitting in a bush with a whole bunch of Grey Louries!

Waterbuck and Tawny Eagle were present at the Dzundzwini Spring, marked by a big Sausage Tree at the base of the hill.

The H1-7 tar road that takes one from Punda Maria to Shingwedzi goes through a mixture of palm savanna and open Mopane shrubveld and a Blackcrowned Tchagra was singing beautifully, as only they can, while just a single Monotonous Lark was also calling away, perhaps trying to hail his mates.

The call of the Tawnyflanked Prinia was also heard all around the wetlands of the Shisha River System but a sighting was proving elusive until I finally spotted one in a Mopane tree.

Thulamila Koppie is a short drive from Punda Maria camp and again offers a mixture of woodland trees. The road to the top of the koppie – at 604m – is quite steep but it had been freshly graded on this day and Jameson’s Firefinch was amongst other finches and waxbills enjoying what had been thrown up by the maintenance team.

Sightings list



House Martin


Grey Hornbill


Rattling Cisticola

European Swallow

Brownheaded Parrot

Grey Lourie

Natal Francolin

Slender Mongoose

Forktailed Drongo

Yellowbilled Oxpecker

Redbilled Oxpecker

Greater Blue-Eared Starling

Redbilled Hornbill


Cape Turtle Dove


Greater Kudu

Plumcoloured Starling


Blackheaded Oriole

Plains Zebra

Common Rough-Scaled Plated Lizard

European Roller

Swainson’s Francolin

European Bee-Eater

Amur Falcon

Longtailed Shrike

Pintailed Whydah

Whiteheaded Vulture

Southern Masked Weaver

European Cuckoo

Redbilled Teal

Blacksmith Plover


African Fish Eagle

Knob-billed Duck

Grey Heron

Marsh Terrapin

Chacma Baboon

Wahlberg’s Eagle

Common Moorhen

African Jacana

Egyptian Goose

Redbacked Shrike

Laughing Dove


Blue Wildebeest

Cinnamonbreasted Rock Bunting

Steppe Buzzard

Brown Snake Eagle

Purple Roller

Blackchested Snake Eagle

Redbilled Helmetshrike

Saddlebilled Stork


Chinspot Batis

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Spotted Flycatcher

Striped Skink

Blackeyed Bulbul

Carmine Bee-Eater

Lilacbreasted Roller

Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill


White Helmetshrike

Groundscraper Thrush

Arrowmarked Babbler

African Hoopoe

Bennett’s Woodpecker

Redbilled Buffalo Weaver

Tree Squirrel

Woodland Kingfisher

Broadbilled Roller

Crested Francolin

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove

Redbilled Woodhoopoe

Whitebacked Vulture

Moreau’s Tropical House Gecko

Blackbacked Puffback

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Whitebrowed Scrub Robin

Yellowfronted Canary

Jacobin Cuckoo

Black Widowfinch

Green Pigeon

Browncrowned Tchagra

Paradise Flycatcher

Whitebellied Sunbird

Blue Waxbill

Marabou Stork

Bronze Mannikin

Common Waxbill

Vervet Monkey


Tawny Eagle

Blackcrowned Tchagra

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Monotonous Lark

Crested Barbet

Striped Cuckoo

Longbilled Crombec

Water Dikkop

Little Bee-Eater

Yellowbilled Stork

Yellowbilled Kite

White Stork

Lesser Striped Swallow

Lappetfaced Vulture

Redeyed Dove

Longtailed Starling

Whitefronted Bee-Eater

Redbilled Quelea

Whitecrowned Plover

African Pied Wagtail

Common Sandpiper

African Hawk Eagle

Greenbacked Heron

Speckled Mousebird

Diederick Cuckoo

Whitewinged Widow

Nile Crocodile


Hadeda Ibis

Threebanded Plover

Steelblue Widowfinch

Ground Hornbill

Pied Kingfisher


Dwarf Bittern

Giant Kingfisher

Great White Egret

Melba Finch

Leopard Tortoise


Helmeted Guineafowl

Jameson’s Firefinch

Van Son’s Thicktoed Gecko

Burchell’s Coucal

Greybacked Camaroptera

Whitefaced Duck

Rock Martin

Little Swift

Wiretailed Swallow

Tropical Boubou


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