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Ken Borland



Caution as dead as a dodo for aggressive Titans 0

Posted on November 10, 2017 by Ken

The days of being cautious with the bat in limited-overs cricket are as dead as the dodo for the Multiply Titans, with captain Albie Morkel saying he wants the batsmen to take their aggression to another level when the RamSlam T20 Challenge gets underway on Sunday.

 

The Titans won both white-ball titles last season, in no small measure because they took their batting to a new level never before seen in South African domestic limited-overs cricket.

 

The Titans reached 400 on three occasions in last season’s 50-over competition, the Momentum One-Day Cup, including a record-breaking 425 for five in the final against the Warriors at SuperSport Park. In the T20 tournament, the Titans went past 180 on four occasions, including another domestic record in lashing 230 for five against the bizhub Highveld Lions, in Centurion.

 

Those exploits were made possible by the flying starts given to the Titans by mostly Aiden Markram, Jonathan Vandiar and Henry Davids; with openers averaging well above 50 and scoring at better than a run-ball, the batting unit is always likely to soar to great heights.

 

“The batsmen must keep playing with freedom and flair. If conditions allow it, then we’ve set ourselves the target of a score of 200 for every innings, we want the batsmen to go a step further, to provide extra impetus. To get 180 is also good, but then you can still fall short,” said Morkel.

“In the 50 overs competition, we passed 400 three times and that doesn’t happen by chance, it comes because the batsmen are encouraged to be aggressive. Batting deep is also important and having guys in the middle who can hit boundaries.”

 

The Titans start the defence of their title against their neighbours from Johannesburg, the Lions, at SuperSport Park on Sunday, November 12, as the main attraction of a double-header also featuring the WSB Cape Cobras against the Hollywoodbets Dolphins. Morkel’s team also scored 194 for four in their game against the Lions at the Wanderers, on their way to a 42-run win.

 

With the Titans producing such entertaining, winning T20 cricket, the hour is now to make plans to watch their campaign for a hat-trick of titles. To make attending their games even more attractive, a number of Proteas stars will be playing.

 

“We didn’t win the last two competitions by chance, we have a recipe that has proved itself, although there are always small things we can improve on. It’s always nice to start a new competition with some sort of momentum and most of the guys have put in good performances to go to the top of the Sunfoil Series log.

 

“We’ll have a few players from the Proteas as well and we’ll be able to put good sides out on the field again, guys who know how to play T20 and how to play the big moments. Form is very important, but so too is the team gelling together.

 

“We would now rather rotate players than loan them out, but we have to be mature about it and by the knockouts we should know who the guys in form are. Until then we need to do the basics right, you can’t overlook how important small things are, every ball is an event,” concluded Morkel.

http://www.titans.co.za/index.php/k2-8/2014-12-23-04-21-46/listing-2-columns/item/738-days-of-being-cautious-are-dead

Big Trevor & the lollipop: Meyer leaving nothing to chance 0

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Ken

Being one of the largest specimens of humanity in Pretoria, Trevor Nyakane is not exactly hard to spot. But I was nevertheless very excited to see him at Loftus Versfeld the other day, mostly because of what he was doing.

The Bulls prop was busy with Springbok assistant coach John McFarland practising lineout throwing, with the defence guru using the big metal “lollipop stick” he designed exactly for this purpose to replicate Victor Matfield’s hands soaring high above the opposition and claiming the throw that sets up the maul that sets up the try that wins South Africa the World Cup later this year.

I was intrigued because I figured this may mean Nyakane is being groomed to play hooker for the Springboks.

There has not been much for the Bulls to be happy about this season, but Nyakane has been one of the few shining lights at Loftus Versfeld, and here, at the same venue, he was showing the adaptability that has already seen him master the tighthead position, having left the Cheetahs as a loosehead at the start of the year.

I was very excited because, if Nyakane could play as a back-up No 2 it would mean Heyneke Meyer could name just two hookers in his squad, thereby freeing up a place that could help unblock the amazing loose forward log-jam he has to wrestle with.

Because the World Cup in England will be just an overnight flight away from South Africa, it means Nyakane could sit on the bench if one of the two match-day hookers went down on the eve of a game, with a replacement being flown over if the injury was more long-term.

At the moment, Meyer can only take five loose forwards to the World Cup (with Oupa Mohoje going as a lock), so Duane Vermeulen, Francois Louw, Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger and Marcell Coetzee would appear to be the frontrunners. But that would mean leaving quality, in-form players such as Jaco Kriel, Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi and Nizaam Carr behind, so any scheme that could sneak one of those on to the plane to England should be investigated.

Unfortunately it’s turned out that this was one of the many occasions when I was getting ahead of myself and Nyakane is definitely not being groomed as a hooker and Meyer will choose three No 2s in the World Cup squad.

But it is one of the many examples of how detailed Meyer’s planning is for the World Cup because Nyakane is being trained as a back-up thrower should the on-field hooker get a yellow card. Of which Bismarck du Plessis has many.

It’s an emergency policy for 10 minutes, but it has happened a couple of times to the Springboks in the last two years, with Vermeulen notably forced to throw into the lineout against Ireland last year.

It’s another of the many one-percenters that Meyer reckons could decide the World Cup and the Springbok coach has gone into minute detail in his planning. That includes poring over the minutiae of every previous tournament and the venues where his team will play. He has even gone into the weather records and keeps an eye on the long-term forecasts.

Unfortunately there still seems to be no solution to the problem that will see the likes of Kriel, Whiteley, Kolisi and Carr staying at home!

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-columnists/408023/kb-col/

No dancing around the issue for odd-one-out Morkel 0

Posted on November 09, 2016 by Ken

 

A lesser player or person might have danced around the issue, but Titans T20 captain Albie Morkel was forthright on Tuesday about himself being the odd one out as his team defend their title in the shortest format of the game, starting with their derby clash with double-header hosts the Lions at the Wanderers on Saturday.

Because Morkel is only available for limited-overs cricket for the Titans, he has not been part of the side that has put a poor start in the Sunfoil Series behind them and climbed to the top of the four-day log at the halfway stage. So he is acutely aware that while he will be leading an in-form group of players into battle this weekend, his own form has yet to be tested.

“Having a winning team definitely helps and it doesn’t matter which format it’s been in. In T20, one guy can win a game on the night, but the team with the most in-form players will win the competition. So the four-day games have provided nice momentum, lots of guys have made big contributions.

“So we don’t have to hide anyone, we’re not trying to fill any gaps, all the guys have performed on the field in recent weeks. If you’re out of form in T20 cricket, you get exposed very quickly,” Morkel said on Tuesday at the announcement that Multiply would be the franchise’s team sponsor in the CSA T20 Slam.

“But I’m the one guy who’s had an extended holiday. The challenge has been to stay fit, so I played a bit of club cricket, although that’s not at the same intensity. So this week I’ll make sure I get some good practice in, match-sharpness is the key, and I can also fall back on experience to an extent,” the all-rounder added.

Last season the Titans went on a record-breaking eight-match winning streak to top the log and then win the final they hosted against the Dolphins, but life could be a bit harder for them this time around, certainly in the initial stages of the competition.

“We have almost a completely different team, last season we had Quinton de Kock scoring over 400 runs on his own and Chris Morris and Tabraiz Shamsi making it very hard to chase down our scores. Those guys won games on their own and we’ve also lost someone like Graeme van Buuren, who did very well too, and Mangaliso Mosehle.

“So we need to find our combinations quickly, even though there are a few older guys still around, that’s no guarantee for success. We’re starting from scratch again and we’ll definitely have to bowl smarter. But we’re still a strong team, we’ll look at Aiden Markram up front, he’s a bit of an unknown factor in T20, and our middle and lower-order is very strong with myself, David Wiese, Qaasim Adams and Farhaan Behardien all coming in back-to-back. We can really take on attacks if we get good starts,” Morkel said.

Evaluating Coetzee’s first Springbok squad 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Speculating on Springbok squads is always one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a rugby writer and I was pleased to read Allister Coetzee said choosing it had been one of the highlights of his career. One of a scribe’s other jobs is to then evaluate the selection, and I’m pleased to say the new coach’s squad makes me largely very happy.

It would be remiss of me, however, not to point out what I believe are a couple of oversights in Coetzee’s first task in his new project.

I will explain the first by asking you, dear reader, to imagine you have been transported forward in time by a week and you are perusing this column on the morning of the opening Test against Ireland. And the shock news has just broken that Pat Lambie injured himself in yesterday’s captain’s run.

This will be a major problem for Coetzee and the Springboks because of the flyhalves he has chosen in his squad. Elton Jantjies has only just resumed training after having surgery on a fractured finger, so he has not had much time to heal or acquaint himself with what the new coach is hoping to do on the field. Garth April is a bright talent, no doubt, but has only made three starts in top-flight rugby and it would be a massive gamble for him to play in a Test match.

So who is going to be the general as South Africa enter a new era against a tough Irish side?

We can look at the other side of the halfback equation, the scrumhalves, but the picture is just as bleak there, with Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige no doubt players of the future, but vastly inexperienced at the moment when it comes to Test rugby. I have some sympathy for Coetzee when it comes to the dearth of scrumhalves though because he did apparently approach Ruan Pienaar, who turned him down, possibly because of all the abuse he takes from fickle Springbok fans.

Nic Groom also does not inspire much confidence. Against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld recently, the Stormers enjoyed a surfeit of possession, but he was unable to stamp his mark or take control of proceedings against a team that was hammered by the Lions the following week.

With Lambie out, the Springboks could be forced into playing Willie le Roux, who has had no serious rugby with a number 10 on his back, in the pivot position. All this could have been avoided by just naming Morne Steyn as the third flyhalf. It’s too late now because you can’t fly him out from France on the eve of a Test.

The other error, I believe, is in the composition of the loose forwards. They are all fine players with varying skills, but there seems to be, apart from Duane Vermeulen, a lack of a mean and nasty ball-carrier, someone with mongrel who can crash through the advantage line and bounce away anyone trying to get through the Springbok defences.

With Jaco Kriel and Francois Louw surely fighting over the openside flank position, Siya Kolisi is likely to wear the number seven jersey and is a super player, with a tremendous work-rate and great skills, but for me he is more of a hybrid loose forward, good at plenty of things and master of none. As a ball-carrier, he is only ranked 58th in Super Rugby this year, according to the Vodacom stats.

And Coetzee could open himself up to accusations of Stormers bias with his selection of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, another hybrid flank, as well as the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Groom and Scarra Ntubeni, ahead of players like Jean-Luc du Preez and Malcolm Marx.

But overall, it is a pleasing squad with the experience of players like Beast Mtawarira, Eben Etzebeth, JP Pietersen, Vermeulen, Lambie, Le Roux and Louw being combined with some of the exciting talent sweeping through our rugby, and a fine choice of captain in Adriaan Strauss.

And there is the thrilling prospect, looking at some of the selections, of the Springboks playing a more high-tempo, ball-in-hand style of rugby.

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