for quality writing

Ken Borland



The Currie Cup has fallen from its perch 2

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Ken

 

There can now be no doubt that the Currie Cup has fallen from its perch as one of the most respected domestic rugby competitions in the world to an afterthought, something that seems to have become a burden for SA Rugby rather than a jewel in the crown.

While rugby romantics who grew up on the grand old tales of the Currie Cup and its great provincial rivalry will just have to get used to the fact that most of SA Rugby’s resources will now be poured into SuperRugby and the Springboks (and even the Pro14 seems to have jumped the queue in importance), there is one important factor that needs to be dealt with – SuperRugby franchises still get their players from the Currie Cup.

The Currie Cup is still a vital stepping stone from which so many players graduate into the next year’s SuperRugby competition, and most of the franchises will tell you they have half-an-eye on the Sanzaar tournament throughout all their Currie Cup activities.

And, as Jake White has pointed out, what happens now in the Currie Cup affects the Springboks in five years’ time.

“If you look at the kind of players who are playing Currie Cup now, with the Springboks and internationals away, we are saying that the Currie Cup is not what it used to be, and my fear is that we’re accepting mediocrity. When I was a youngster, the likes of Hennie Bekker, Schalk Burger Snr and Henning van Aswegen were playing for Western Province. How many 19-year-olds played then? None. And how many of the youngsters playing today would make that Western Province team? None.

“That’s a worrying sign because whatever is happening now, there’s no doubt it will impact where we will be in the next five years. There are a lot of factors – overseas players, spreading the talent base – but I don’t think people want to admit that the consequences are going to come back to bite us,” White told All Out Rugby.

The downgrading of the Currie Cup is a serious concern that is reflected in attendance figures, but how are people meant to get excited about a tournament that started while SuperRugby’s exciting climax was hogging all the attention? Watching second and third-string teams play is really only going to excite the family members and close friends of the players involved.

One of the biggest questions the current Currie Cup breeding ground is not answering is “Where are we going to get all our future props from?”

It is a disgrace that the Currie Cup is practically the only premier rugby tournament in the world that is still using 22-man squads, which forces most teams to choose only one prop replacement. When it happened last year it was almost forgiven because of the chaotic preparation for the 2016 Currie Cup [http://kenborland.com/2016/08/6043/], but making the same mistake again has drawn fully justified criticism from Sharks coach Robert du Preez and Nollis Marais of the Blue Bulls.

The reason for not moving with the times and having 23 players – which allows a full front row of replacements – is apparently financial. But given that it costs probably R6000 per player per match (and only the visiting team needs a flight and hotel), so with three games per weekend, that’s an extra R18 000 for the 23rd player.

With the Currie Cup being played over 14 weeks, that’s an extra cost of about R252 000. Surely SA Rugby can get that money from cost-cutting other areas that aren’t so vital for the welfare of the game?

It also avoids the unsavoury sight of uncontested scrums, which are open to abuse whenever a side is under pressure in that set-piece. The scrums are such a vital platform these days for front-foot ball and earning penalties and uncontested scrums are clearly unfair on the dominant team.

Speaking about the welfare of the game, women’s rugby in this country has taken a knock by it not being involved in the ongoing Women’s Rugby World Cup which has reached the semi-final stage in Ireland. The decision was made by SA Rugby to rather invest in the grassroots of women’s rugby, the U16 and U18 championships, to try and broaden the base, rather than sending a team to the World Cup to finish 10th.

While the reasoning is understandable, the enormous strides made by our national women’s cricket team shows that investing heavily at the elite level can also bring rewards.

SA Rugby needs to weigh up the merits of providing opportunities with the harsh economic realities of our time, but at the moment it seems the money men are calling all the shots.

Du Toit looks to Stormers after turning back on Sharks 0

Posted on August 10, 2017 by Ken

 

Springbok lock Pieter-Steph du Toit looks set to become a Stormers player after announcing his decision on Tuesday to leave the Sharks at the end of October.

Du Toit was scouted by the Sharks while still at school at Swartland High School in Malmesbury, but the highly-promising 22-year-old has proven injury-prone with two serious knee injuries in the last two years.

Having earlier said he owed loyalty to the Sharks for looking after him during these tough times, it now seems he is going to Cape Town. The Stormers have not officially confirmed his signing but did reveal two weeks ago that they were negotiating with him.

“Our medical team has invested immense time and effort into Pieter-Steph’s rehabilitation and recovery process and we are saddened to lose him, but I guess we cannot hold the player back if he has made up his mind,” Sharks CEO John Smit said.

Du Toit is believed to be in a relationship with a physiotherapist that works with the Stormers.

On the plus side for the Sharks, they have confirmed powerhouse flank Marcell Coetzee has signed for another two years.

Hardus wants more Test cricket, gets help from special woman in his life 0

Posted on July 08, 2016 by Ken

 

Hardus Viljoen has had a taste of Test cricket and wants more, so, with the help of the special woman in his life, he has put in the hard yards in the off-season to become an even leaner and meaner fast bowler.

The off-season is pretty much over for the Highveld Lions star as he leaves on Tuesday with the SA A side for two four-day matches in Zimbabwe and then a triangular series in Australia with India A as the other opponents.

And the 27-year-old looked in tremendous shape on Monday as the team had a middle practice session at the University of Pretoria’s Groenkloof field and is clearly not resting on the laurels of last season, when he took 47 wickets, the most in the Sunfoil Series, in nine matches at an average of just 23 and made his Test debut in January at the Wanderers and removed England captain Alastair Cook with his first ball.

The rest of his first game for South Africa did not go as well, though, as he finished with one for 79 in 15 expensive overs and then bowled four wicketless overs in the second innings as England chased down just 74 for a commanding victory.

“Last season has come and gone, no-one’s going to talk about how you bowled last year, there’s no reward on that. So I did a lot of training in the off-season and I’ve lost 10kg because I worked a lot on my fitness and my diet. My lady [girlfriend Rhemi Rynners, sister of Faf du Plessis] is into healthy eating and she helped me a lot with that, it’s become a way of life.

“I took a bit of flak for my fitness levels and it’s a personal thing – by doing this I can have a longer career and there’s less weight on my feet and legs. So I’ve worked hard on getting fitter and stronger, and it’s all about training smarter; I don’t want to just put on muscle like a rugby player,” a clearly focused Viljoen said on Monday.

“It was a good season last year, but it was also disappointing in a way because I didn’t perform as well as I wanted to in my debut. I wanted to really make an impact, so I’m working very hard on my consistency, that’s a massive thing for me. But that won’t happen in one week, it’s an ongoing process.”

Although Viljoen is desperate to earn a place back in the national team, he is being patient in that regard as well, not telling himself that he has to take a whole bunch of wickets in Zimbabwe and Australia.

“I don’t want to put unnecessary pressure on myself. These tours are good preparation for the summer and to see what my hard work has brought in terms of the things I’ve worked on in the off-season. It might be SA A, but I am still representing my country and I don’t want to take anything for granted. Our performances will obviously be looked at, but for me it’s still about how my game has progressed,” Viljoen said.

Viljoen initially sprung to prominence in limited-overs cricket, but he has taken more than 30 first-class wickets in each of the last seven seasons, with his highest average being 30.39 in 2013/14. The Waterkloof High School product whose actual name is just the initials GC, also has his sights set on a place in the Proteas limited-overs teams.

“In Test cricket, you need patience and consistency, but in T20s, for instance, I would love to just come out and bowl at 155km/h. One of my main goals last season was to bowl at 150km/h and I got to 152.4, so to bowl at 155 is another personal goal of mine.

“But you also need to execute your skills in limited-overs cricket and there’s a massive gap for a death bowler in the Proteas set-up, so I’m working on getting more skills in my arsenal. It’s not going to take one season though, you need about 10 000 hours to master those skills!

“So I have a few things to work on … ” Viljoen said.

It is clear, however, that Viljoen is not happy with his career standing in the same spot. The hunger inside him suggests he will be one to watch in Zimbabwe and Australia.

http://citizen.co.za/1190043/viljoen-desperate-to-earn-a-place-in-the-national-team/

Bulls will be without unsung hero Paige 0

Posted on June 27, 2016 by Ken

 

Scrumhalf Rudy Paige has probably been the unsung hero of the Bulls’ climb to the top of the South African SuperRugby Conference, but now they are going to have to do without the man who has become their attacking heartbeat for the crunch encounter with the Stormers at Newlands on Saturday.

Paige suffered a grade 1 medial ligament tear of his knee in the impressive win over the Sharks and will be out of action for at least two weeks, coach Frans Ludeke admitting that it is a major blow to his team.

“Rudy’s a very busy player and he gets a lot going for us, especially in terms of go-forward on attack. He brings a lot to our game,” Ludeke said.

The 25-year-old has not only provided a crisp, clean service from the base, but has also impressed with excellent decision-making in terms of who to pass to and when to probe gaps on his own.

Ludeke has two options when it comes to replacing Paige.

Francois Hougaard has played more rugby for the Springboks at scrumhalf than at wing, but the mercurial Paul Roos Gymnasium product has become an integral part of a Bulls back three that has produced some exceptional rugby and Ludeke could well decide not to potentially create two problems by moving him to halfback.

Piet van Zyl’s rugby has gone backwards since he moved to Pretoria, but he is likely to get a chance to shine now, at least for a couple of weeks, in the number nine jersey.

Stormers coach Allister Coetzee is keeping his cards very close to his chest this week, but he will be well aware of some Bulls’ weaknesses this season.

The Bulls are not a side that deals in offloads so the Stormers defence don’t need to worry about that, while, despite upstaging the Sharks last weekend at the breakdown, their record in the rucks has been far inferior to that of the Stormers’ this year.

You know what you’re going to get with the Bulls – the blunt instrument of forwards monotonously carrying the ball up – but it works for them and they have actually scored two more tries than the Stormers thus far in the campaign, even though the Capetonians boast the attacking abilities of Damian de Allende, Cheslin Kolbe, Juan de Jongh and Dillyn Leyds.

 

 



↑ Top