for quality writing

Ken Borland

Is everyone there on merit? One wonders … 0

Posted on November 17, 2016 by Ken


Cricket South Africa (CSA) has assured their stakeholders that selection for the national team will only be on merit and this week signed a new transformation agreement with Sascoc and the Department of Sports and Recreation in which they are apparently the only sporting code that has not agreed to quotas at the highest level.

CSA’s attitude is that the system must provide the national team with black players on merit, which is why they are aggressively pursuing quotas at domestic level.

It is also believed that CSA have met with the Proteas and have clarified with them that there was no interference in selection at the World Cup and that there won’t be targets in future.

But the squads announced for the tour of Bangladesh in July do make one wonder.

Reeza Hendricks and Aaron Phangiso have been picked for the Test squad, while Kagiso Rabada has leapfrogged Kyle Abbott in the fast-bowling pecking order.

I have the utmost respect as cricketers for them, but logic suggests the selectors were not looking at purely on-field performance in making these decisions.

Hendricks is undoubtedly a bright talent and I fully support him being involved in the limited-overs squads. But the figures show that Hendricks is not yet ready to be a Test opener. His first-class franchise batting average is just 34.55 with three centuries in 20 matches. Last season he averaged just 31.76, half what Highveld Lions opener Stephen Cook managed.

Cook has scored 10 centuries in the last two seasons, while Cobras opener Andrew Puttick has averaged 49.27 and 40.23 in the last two Sunfoil Series season. The fact that these two prolific batsman can’t make the side when an opening batsman is required and yet someone whose performances in the same competition are far inferior only adds fuel to the fire that is raging around selection for the national team.

The cynic in me believes that Phangiso’s selection for the Test squad is to make up for the appalling manner in which he was treated at the World Cup that saw him not play a single game.

Both Phangiso and Highveld Lions coach Geoff Toyana have gone on record as saying that the 31-year-old still needs a lot of work in the longer format and five wickets at an average of 67 in the Sunfoil Series shows that is the case.

Convenor of selectors Andrew Hudson said that they wanted a left-arm spinner for the squad and there is a ready-made, experienced, proven option in Robin Peterson.

As far as Rabada goes, I am certain that he will be a great fast bowler for South Africa in all formats, but what has Abbott done wrong?

Lady Luck always has her say when it comes to cricket, but Abbott has been one of the most unfortunate players in the country for a while now.

As a unit, the Proteas have been exceptionally strong in the Test arena, but the pain of the World Cup loss was all too obvious and whether CSA’s clearing-the-air session with the players was enough remains to be seen. They maintain that the only affirmative action when it comes to selection is if there is a 50/50 choice between two players, then the player of colour will get the benefit.

Was Hendricks being preferred to Cook really a 50/50 call? Phangiso over Peterson and Rabada ahead of Abbott?

A Bangladesh tour was never exactly looked forward to and this time the challenges will be even greater on the field. The Proteas will be asked tougher questions than ever before by Bangladesh on their home turf, while questions still swirl around their selection.


How do Saru best use Rassie Erasmus? 0

Posted on February 24, 2016 by Ken


An interesting new dynamic has emerged in the hunt for the new Springbok coach with Rassie Erasmus’s chances apparently now being hurt for the ironic reason that he could be too valuable for the South African Rugby Union (Saru) to lose in his current position of general manager of the rugby department.

Saru use Erasmus and his brilliant rugby brain to devise just about everything surrounding the professional game in South Africa, be it systems to successfully identify, develop and monitor players and coaches, the off-field logistics and planning required for high-performance teams, technical analysis, medical care and safety and even the referees.

There are some in Saru who are apparently acutely aware that the position of Springbok coach has been one in which talented men are used and abused and then discarded. To paraphrase The Doors: “Nobody gets outta here alive!”

It normally takes a few years of recovery (maybe it should be therapy!) before a former Springbok coach is rehabilitated enough to return to the frontlines of the game; Ian McIntosh has served as a national selector for several years, Nick Mallett is now a popular television pundit and Rudolf Straeuli is the CEO of the Golden Lions, but where are the seven other living coaches?

And so Saru are faced with something of a dilemma … are the skills of Erasmus more valuable and likely to be in service for longer if he stays behind the scenes in an “office job”? Obviously the former Springbok captain has the technical and tactical know-how to succeed as the national coach in what must be an interesting time of rebuilding and renewal.

But does he have the desire to handle the off-field pressures and demands of the job? The abuse of his family when things don’t go well, all the fronting up on television and to the media he will be expected to do, the long weeks away from home …

For a foreigner to take on the “poisoned chalice”, one would need to add to the above list of drawbacks being able to handle the internal politics of Saru, which are busy eating their CEO, Jurie Roux, alive, and the external politics of transformation demands. There is apparently also a recognition now within Saru that a foreigner would not be a wise choice for head coach given the peculiarities of the job in a South African context. A top-class overseas figure may yet get a call-up as a consultant or as a member of the back-up coaching staff.

A final decision on who the new Springbok coach is can only be made by a meeting of the General Council and their next scheduled gathering is for the AGM on April 1. Let’s hope a fool is not appointed.

Speaking of fools, there have been some misguided reports doing the rounds suggesting that Roux (not a fool) has somehow been “punished” by no longer being the man in charge of headhunting the new Springbok coach.

The fact of the matter is that the Elite Player Development Committee is, and has always been, in charge of the search for Heyneke Meyer’s successor, and this has been confirmed to me personally by Lions president Kevin de Klerk, who sits on that committee.

Once they come up with a potential candidate, then Roux will get involved in terms of negotiating the contract.

But the false reports stem from the same sources that clearly have an agenda to drive against the CEO, judging by the thoroughly unprofessional tweets they sent out during the SuperRugby launch on Thursday.

Objective journalism, now there’s a concept.



Raising glasses to the Lions for an unbeaten campaign 0

Posted on October 26, 2015 by Ken


The 1995 World Cup-winning squad enjoyed a luncheon in London on Thursday ahead of the Springboks’ semi-final against the All Blacks, and apparently they metaphorically raised their glasses to the Golden Lions team that will aim to complete a rare unbeaten campaign when they take on Western Province in the Currie Cup final at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The 1995 Springbok squad was, of course, predominantly made up of Lions (or Transvaal as they were then known) players, but it was Natal who won the Currie Cup that year and in 1996, when they went through the season unbeaten, the last team to do so.

Lock Mark Andrews was a pivotal figure and he said the main similarity between the Natal Sharks of 1996 and the Lions of today was their ability to create and sustain momentum.

“We were just talking about it at our ’95 World Cup lunch today,” Andrews told The Citizen on Thursday, “about how we spent a fair amount of time as forwards on ball-handling drills, but you have to have momentum on the field to use those, because that’s what gives you more time and space. You can’t really use those skills if you’re under pressure because then you’re always struggling to clear the ball away.

“Our Natal coach Ian McIntosh instituted a game plan based on momentum, the forwards getting over the gain-line and having good ball-skills and an ability to link with the backs, and I’m also impressed with the way the Lions can create momentum and sustain it. They do it by keeping ball-in-hand and they’ve shown that you can win games doing that, even from their own 22.

“In general, South African teams try and kick from their own 22 and put pressure on the opposition in their own territory and try and win penalties. The Lions have shown a different skill-set, it’s a refreshing approach for a South African team, much like we had an innovative strategy back in 1996,” Andrews said.

One big difference though between now and 1996 is that the Currie Cup doesn’t feature the leading Springboks anymore.

“All the provinces had all their Springboks back then, but you still have to give the Lions credit for their consistency. You need some luck too, but it comes down to preparation and belief in your structures. You need some kicks to go over as well to win the tight games, but if you are consistently getting over the gain-line and making your tackles, then you are very hard to beat,” Andrews added.

Natal went through 14 consecutive Currie Cup matches unbeaten in 1996 and beat Transvaal 33-15 in the final at Ellis Park, leading rugby writer John Bishop of The Natal Witness describing it as a display of “devastating brilliance”.


Cultural storm could be rallying call for Sharks 0

Posted on September 14, 2015 by Ken


The Beeld newspaper ran a story this week alleging that Sharks captain Keegan Daniel believes there are too many Afrikaans-speakers in the team, with an opening paragraph that read “The Anglo-Boer War is apparently raging again in Sharks rugby”.

While the chances of Daniel actually being an Afrikaans-hater are absolutely remote – he is highly-regarded as a person and leader within the squad, which is dominated by Afrikaners – the storm the accusation has caused could provide the Sharks with the sort of rallying call they desperately need to end the five-match losing streak that has almost certainly ended the 2012 runners-up’s chances of making the playoffs.

The Sharks condemned the report, CEO Brian van Zyl saying the strength of the team has always been its diversity, while Daniel himself slammed the allegations both in the statement released by the union and on social media, where he posted photos of himself and colleagues like Jannie du Plessis, Franco van der Merwe and Pieter-Steph du Toit out and about together.

“I was shocked to hear about these allegations. I can’t believe that someone would say this about me in order to try and sell newspapers. It is an attack on my integrity, which is very disappointing, and it is most untrue.

“I have never had a problem with any person in our rugby squad. Since this report surfaced, I have had nothing but support from my team-mates of all cultures. This is a lesson that younger players in our squad can learn – when a team is struggling with form then you become an easy target,” Daniel said.

Where Daniel does need to look at himself, however, has been in terms of his own performances. Normally an inspirational figure leading from the front, Daniel has been pedestrian this season and in recent weeks the Sharks have struggled to get out of first gear and have been especially sluggish in defence.

He would seem to have the backing of his team and, if he can channel his anger into a rousing performance on the field, he could just spark a change in fortunes for the Sharks.

He will have the imposing physical presence of Willem Alberts back alongside him in the loose trio, while coach John Plumtree was no doubt mightily relieved that there were no further injuries during last weekend’s loss to the Reds in Brisbane.

He has, however, made four changes to the team with Alberts returning for Jean Deysel, Odwa Ndungane, fresh from earning his 100th SuperRugby cap off the bench, starting on the wing instead of Piet Lindeque, while tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis and lock Anton Bresler are rotated back into the tight five in place of Wiehahn Herbst and Pieter-Steph du Toit.

But whatever the changes in personnel, the Sharks must know that the unfocused, lacklustre displays they have produced so far on tour just won’t hack it against the Force in Perth.

Right now, the Force are much the better team, having lost by one point away to the Chiefs, drawing with the Reds and beating the Crusaders in recent weeks.

It’s now or never for the Sharks and if the hurt they are feeling right now doesn’t get them going on Friday, then nothing will.

The mood in the most Afrikaans franchise of the lot – the Bulls – is totally different at the moment. Fresh off a bye, they are in control of the South African Conference and playing slick, impressive rugby.

But they are up against one of the few New Zealand teams that knows how to win at Loftus Versfeld – the Highlanders, who have won four and drawn one of their last eight visits to Pretoria.

As SuperRugby nears the international break, it is teams like the Highlanders, playing with nothing to lose, who are especially dangerous as they come up against contending teams who are under pressure and have much at stake.

Playing at altitude is always a problem for overseas visitors to Loftus, but teams that don’t have a strong set-piece have a particularly tough mountain to climb. Fortunately for the Highlanders, it’s not an issue for them as rugged, experienced campaigners like Brad Thorn, Tony Woodcock, Andrew Hore and Chris King mean they have solid scrums and lineouts.

The Bulls scrum will be under particular scrutiny and coach Frans Ludeke has changed his props with Frik Kirsten and Morne Mellett starting in place of Werner Kruger and Dean Greyling.

Two of the Bulls’ most influential players this season will also celebrate milestones on Saturday: Pierre Spies, who will almost certainly be Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok eighthman now that Duane Vermeulen is out injured, will play his 100th SuperRugby game for the Bulls and, as their leading ball-carrier (87) and tackler (96) this season, will lead the forward effort.

Morne Steyn will also be the favourite to reclaim the Springboks’ number 10 jersey and, in his record 117th match for the Bulls, he will be a key figure in pinning the dangerous Highlanders in their own territory.

It is going to be a tough outing for the Bulls, however, even if the Highlanders are at the bottom of the log, and the visitors have the pace to punish Bulls’ errors in the form of scrumhalf Aaron Smith, wing Hosea Gear and fullback Ben Smith.

Pace and attacking verve are things Stormers supporters are desperately hoping will return to their team as they take on the Rebels in Melbourne on Friday.

The Stormers will be playing for their lives in terms of the competition, having lost their last two games, and injuries and a new halfback pairing might force them into playing with more sparkle.

Elton Jantjies and Louis Schreuder will be at half-back and can hopefully get the best out of what remains a top-class backline.

The injury to Vermeulen, a battering ram if ever there was one, means Nizaam Carr, more of a traditional linking eighthman, will play at the back of the scrum which suggests a more dynamic, wider approach from the Stormers on attack. The absence of Rynhardt Elstadt, with mobile hooker Deon Fourie now playing flank, merely adds to the argument.

The Rebels are a better side than they are giving credit for, however, and a swing too far in the other direction by the Stormers could be fatal against a team that would prefer an unstructured, loose affair. A focus on gaining dominance in the set-pieces and on a strong territorial kicking game will help the Stormers to a morale-boosting victory.

The Cheetahs are also facing a critical outing on Saturday as they entertain the Reds in Bloemfontein. Defeat for Naka Drotske’s men, who slipped up last weekend against the Hurricanes, could leave them nine points behind the Bulls if they win at Loftus.

Although the Cheetahs eventually only lost by five points to the Hurricanes, one has to be critical of how they tried to play the New Zealanders at their own high-tempo, ball-in-hand game.

Coach Drotske seems to have inexplicably not learnt from that lesson, however, as he has chosen a “more attacking” flyhalf in Elgar Watts in place of Burton Francis, whose boot has been a vital part of the Cheetahs’ success this season.

The Cheetahs might be guilty of believing their own press that raves about their wonderful running rugby (even though it has brought them no trophies for many years) and even Reds flyhalf Quade Cooper was busy buttering them up this week when he said he loved their exciting playing style.

Taking on the Reds and beating them at their own game (superb vision, running lines and offloads) will be a ridiculously tough task for a Cheetahs team that, as exciting as they are, simply does not have geniuses of the calibre of Cooper, Will Genia, Digby Ioane and Rod Davies.


Stormers (v Rebels, Friday 11.40am): Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Juan de Jongh, Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Siya Kolisi, Deon Fourie, Andries Bekker, Eben Etzebeth, Pat Cilliers, Scarra Ntubeni, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements – Martin Bezuidenhout, Frans Malherbe, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Nic Groom, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.

The Sharks (v Force, Friday 1.45pm): Riaan Viljoen, Odwa Ndungane, JP Pietersen, Meyer Bosman, Lwazi Mvovo, Pat Lambie, Charl McLeod, Keegan Daniel, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Franco van der Merwe, Anton Bresler, Jannie du Plessis, Kyle Cooper, JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements – Monde Hadebe, Wiehahn Herbst, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Derick Minnie/Lubabalo Mtembu, Jean Deysel, Tian Meyer, Piet Lindeque.

Bulls (v Highlanders, Saturday 5.05pm): Jürgen Visser, Akona Ndungane, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Lionel Mapoe, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Frik Kirsten, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Morné Mellett. Replacements – Callie Visagie, Werner Kruger, Grant Hattingh, Arno Botha, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché, Bjorn Basson.

Cheetahs (v Reds, Saturday 7.10pm): Hennie Daniller, Willie le Roux, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Raymond Rhule, Elgar Watts, Piet van Zyl, Phillip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagne, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements – Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Riaan Smit, Ryno Benjamin.

Other fixtures: Hurricanes v Chiefs (Friday 9.35am); Crusaders v Blues (Saturday 9.35am); Waratahs v Brumbies (Saturday 11.40am).

Bye: Southern Kings.

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

    The lessons Christ taught were intensely spiritual, but also extremely practical. For him, everything - every thought and deed - was an expression of his relationship with his heavenly Father. All of our life must be an expression of the spiritual.

    "I wait upon God to renew my mind, to make me creative, instead of becoming the clanging cymbal that Paul spoke of." - Paul Tournier

    "The spiritual life touches the realities of every day and enables you to look, to a certain extent, at people's problems as God does." - Solly Ozrovech

↑ Top