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Ken Borland



Sanzar’s SuperRugby Christmas present is likely to be meh 0

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Ken

 

Rugby fans who have had enough of the current fatigue-inducing set-up will be eagerly anticipating Christmas and the expected announcement by Sanzar of a new SuperRugby format from 2016. But what they find in their stocking might still leave them unimpressed because Sanzar are unlikely to go the most obvious route of two pools of nine, eight matches home and away and semi-finals and a final.

Because the Southern Kings had such a dramatic impact on rugby in the Eastern Cape, certainly in terms of crowd figures, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) seem to have accepted that they can no longer leave such a massive region out in the cold even though they lost the promotion/relegation series to the Lions. And Argentina, full Sanzar partners now, look set to be rewarded with a place in SuperRugby as well, expanding the competition to 17 teams. Judging by the noises coming out of New Zealand and Australia, some sort of Japanese involvement is also being strongly considered to make it an even 18.

But the same Australian demands that impacted so heavily on the previous broadcasting agreement, which brings in all the money and therefore decides the format, seem set to ensure common sense does not apply. In order to sustain the ailing code of rugby union in Australia, they want their own conference, even if they have to share it with some New Zealand teams.

So the three proposals that Sanzar are considering are to keep the status quo (yes, many stakeholders, most of them living on a big island, actually think the current format is great), to split into South African and Australasian conferences, or to expand the competition even more and include other Asian teams, and the USA and Canada as well.

It would appear the two-conference system has been most positively received by Saru, and hopefully their negotiators will show much more skill when Sanzar meet in Sydney next week than the muppets who negotiated the previous deal. That could mean six South African franchises, which play each other home and away, making 10 fixtures. If the Australasian conference is split into two pools, with Japan in one and Argentina in the other, then they, too, could play 10 round-robin matches. The idea is then for the top six or eight teams across the conferences to play in the finals. If six teams go through and play each other, that’s five more matches. A semi-final and a final would then mean a maximum of 17 games per team – much cleaner, much simpler and less of a slog than SuperRugby is at the moment for all concerned.

What is vital is that Sanzar consult the players, on whom they rely to sell their product. There is a strong suggestion that the current exodus of players from the southern hemisphere to Europe is not just because of the power of the euro, but also because they are on their last legs due to the unceasing intensity and quantity of rugby Sanzar has foisted on them.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies, one of many on the injured list after the prolonged SuperRugby campaign, is pegging his hopes on change. “I’d really like to see the competition end before the international season. That three-week break for the internationals in June is a waste. I’d like to see all the focus on SuperRugby, get that done with and then give all the teams three or four weeks to prepare for the Tests. We could then finish the Rugby Championship at the end of October and either go back to our franchises or prepare for the end-of-year tour. I’d prefer there to be one global schedule and to finish SuperRugby in one go. That would also give all the teams one extra bye,” Spies told Daily Maverick on Thursday.

There does seem to be growing agreement on the sense of having one global rugby season. The International Rugby Players’ Association has come out in favour of it and even Sanzar CEO Greg Peters has said it makes sense. “The idea of moving June to July, in a Sanzar context, certainly holds a lot of appeal, for a lot of reasons,” Peters told The Herald Sun. “We could complete the SuperRugby season without a break, which is something in an ideal world we would want to do. Then you would move straight into the international program, have a short break, the Rugby Championship, short break, and then the Spring Tours. We would certainly be interested in sitting down with the northern unions and getting their views about whether it would work. And obviously we are interested in the views of the players’ associations as well.”

The Currie Cup Premier Division also looks set to change, with a new eight team format apparently agreed to in principle by the Saru executive committee, just two years after they went to great lengths to justify a cut to six teams. The phrase “political expediency” immediately springs to mind, but the thought of the Kings and the Pumas, who have dominated the First Division in recent times and are based in the rapidly-growing centre of Nelspruit, competing at the top table does have appeal.

The administrators sit in the boardrooms and make the decisions over lavish lunches, changing tune according to their own vested interests, but it is the players who have to go out, put their bodies on the line, and make these formats work.

“I’ve only been playing SuperRugby for six years and I’m struggling to get on the field now,” says Springbok star Francois Steyn, who has been out of action since May after two operations for compartment syndrome in the leg – an over-use injury.

“In South African rugby, we all worry about saying something wrong and stepping on someone’s toes, so I should probably keep my mouth shut. But it’s all about bringing the fans out and less rugby is probably better. Then the top players can play for longer. At this rate, if you play for 10 years, you’re a lucky guy.”

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-30-quo-vadis-superrugby/#.WKrl_2997IU

Absence of Alberts would be major blow for Sharks 0

Posted on August 09, 2016 by Ken

 

The fitness of Willem Alberts, Franco Marais and Conrad Hoffmann are the new concerns facing Sharks coach Gary Gold ahead of his team announcement on Thursday for their SuperRugby match against the Hurricanes in Wellington on Saturday.

The absence of the inspirational physical presence of Alberts would obviously be a massive blow for the Sharks as they take on the runaway leaders of the competition and, although Renaldo Bothma is fit to play, the only other specialist loose forward on tour is Etienne Oosthuizen, who did not have the best of games last weekend against the Highlanders.

The arrival of the experienced Kyle Cooper from South Africa this week means the reserve hooker berth is taken care of should Marais not pass a late fitness test, but the player Cooper replaced, Cobus Reinach, has left a massive gap at scrumhalf.

Reinach has fractured his hand, according to Gold, and his substitute against the Highlanders, Hoffmann, now also has a niggle. The inexperienced Stefan Ungerer could therefore be in for a baptism of fire at The Cake Tin.

After four successive defeats – two of them in ignominious fashion – Gold said he does not believe he needs to light a fire under his squad just yet.

“For me the big stick comes out when you have a look at your play and get a sense of a group of players who are lethargic, non-committed and are not trying hard enough. I do not believe that this is the case at the moment.

“Over the course of my coaching career I have had to use the big stick. Don’t get me wrong, I am by no means satisfied with our performances, but at this moment in time I see a group of players who are hurting a lot and whose pride is at stake.

“As a coach and a leader, one needs to assess the situation. Everybody goes through tough times. I do not believe for a minute that this group lacks commitment, in fact, the players are committed to fixing the problem.

“Difficult times require calm heads and mature leadership. We have a great group of senior guys who are committed to seeing out this campaign.  A lot of lessons have been learnt and a huge amount of lessons can be taken out of this campaign, which will only benefit us down the line,” Gold said.

 

The lack of interest in the Olympic golf competition is palpable 0

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Ken

 

The announcement of South Africa’s team for the golf component of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is now a month away and the lack of major interest is palpable for a sport that should give the country a chance of a precious medal.

The legendary Gary Player is the captain of South Africa’s team but the two-man outfit will be chosen purely on the basis of the world rankings on July 11. Because Branden Grace is the only available South African in the top-15, we will only be able to send two players.

The great pity is that Louis Oosthuizen, currently 14th, has withdrawn from Olympic contention, so the prospect of sending a third player in Charl Schwartzel and maybe even a fourth in Jaco van Zyl, falls away. Only countries with more than two players in the top-15 are allowed to send bigger teams.

Schwartzel has also made himself unavailable, joining the Australian Adam Scott in snubbing the Olympics.

Golf was always going to be a tough fit for an event based on such classical ideals as amateurism. Today’s top golfers care mostly about the paycheque and winning Majors, that’s what really counts for them.

But instead of harping on about why the sport shouldn’t be at the Olympic Games, here are a couple of suggestions that could make a gold medal more attractive to golfers.

Firstly, it’s going to take time.

Tennis only returned to the Olympics in 1988 and initially there seemed to be similar problems to what golf is experiencing. But now Novak Djokovic is going all out to win that gold medal and a small thing like the Zika Virus is not going to keep him away.

Roger Federer is going to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles for Switzerland, while Rafael Nadal has been given the honour of carrying Spain’s flag into the Maracana Stadium.

Secondly, to make it more enticing for golfers, why not make it into a team competition, rather than an individual strokeplay? We’ve seen what the Ryder Cup does to them, it’s one of the highlights of any European or American golfer’s career.

How about bringing an amateur component into the competition, teaming a country’s top two amateurs with their top two pros?

Or what about making the golf a mixed team competition?

One gets the feeling that the Olympic Games might be struggling to remain as one of the most important sporting events, hence their decision to extend invitations to global sports like golf and rugby, but they have to get the format right if these events are going to add to the spectacle and not detract from it.

Tshwane Open moves to the heart of the city 0

Posted on June 26, 2015 by Ken

This year’s Tshwane Open will really be played in the heart of the city after the announcement yesterday that the co-sanctioned golf tournament will be hosted by the Pretoria Country Club in Waterkloof from March 12-15.

The Pretoria Country Club is 105 years old and is renowned for being a quality sports and social venue in the capital. Set in the magnificent surrounds of Waterkloof, the Country Club boasts a par-71 parklands golf course, designed by the Gary Player Group.

Sunshine Tour commissioner Selwyn Nathan explained that the tournament has been moved from Copperleaf near Centurion after two years because the Tshwane Metro would like to see the European Tour event move around the city every couple of years. Nathan said he hoped Pretoria Country Club would also be hosts for at least two years.

Subesh Pillay, the MMC responsible for Economic Development and Planning, explained why the City of Tshwane were investing in the tournament again.

“We took a bit of flak initially because many people asked why we are spending money on golf when there are backlogs in housing, electricity and water. But the decision was not taken lightly and we did it because of what the tournament meant for the city, because it added value.

“Tourism is the biggest contributor to our economy and the Tshwane Open received coverage in 47 countries last year and it reached 217 million households. The global media coverage we received was worth $67 million and the direct impact to the city was R44.5 million. Plus 202 temporary jobs were created by the tournament in 2014,” Pillay said.

Pretoria Country Club is not by any means long by professional standards at 6459 metres, but she will be able to protect herself through tight fairways and rough that can be brutal at the end of summer.

Nathan said the Tshwane Open provided an important platform for the rising stars of the game both in South Africa and from Europe.

“It’s an enormous platform for young players, it tests their skills and enables them to compete all over the world. Look at our previous two winners: Dawie van der Walt was nowhere in world terms and now he’s playing in both the United States and Europe and is having big success; Ross Fisher, last year’s winner, is now second on the Race to Dubai,” Nathan said. “I can almost guarantee that whoever wins this year will also go on to great heights.”

Nathan said he was optimistic Fisher would return to defend his title, while most of South Africa’s regular European Tour campaigners should also tee it up because there is no other competing tournament for them on the schedule that week.

“I have commitments from a big group of European Tour golfers, there’s no reason for them to be anywhere else that week plus there’s prizemoney of 1.5 million euro – about R18 million – for them to play for,” Nathan said.

 

 



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