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Ken Borland

The thrills and drama of the Sunfoil Series 0

Posted on February 24, 2017 by Ken


The Sunfoil Series – the four-day domestic franchise competition – came down to the most thrilling of conclusions last weekend with the Knights claiming the title by just 1.78 points, the equivalent of 89 runs over a tournament that lasted 10 weeks, once again proving that, at least in the minds of the players and the aficionados of the sport, it is the premier trophy in the local game.

Nicky Boje, the Knights coach, confirmed that the four-day competition was the main target in their minds this season, and the other franchise coaches made similar comments through the campaign.

The thing about four-day cricket is that it provides the most all-encompassing test of a player’s skills and of a team’s quality – it’s essentially 40 days of cricket, 96 overs a day, so an examination that can last 3840 overs.

And it still came down to the narrowest of margins, so small in fact that Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn gave a large part of the credit for his team’s triumph to a partnership of just 10 runs between the last pair in their penultimate game against the Cape Cobras.

Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli took the Knights’ first innings in Paarl from 143 for nine to 153 to get them one batting point – 150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point, make 149 and you get zero. Even though the Knights went on to lose the match by 151 runs, that single point made their life a lot easier in the final game against the Highveld Lions because it meant they were targeting 430 in 100 overs rather than around 480.

“It allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said, and we all know belief plays a massive role in any achievement.

I just wish Cricket South Africa had a bit more belief in their four-day competition. It would be unrealistic to expect huge crowds to attend, but they could certainly do more to generate greater interest in the tournament that makes our Test cricketers. They have scheduled media sessions with the franchises before T20 and Momentum One-Day Cup games, why not before Sunfoil Series matches?  Their decision to no longer pay for a scorer to sit in the press box during four-day games suggests their attitude is to cut investment in the competition rather than promote it.

Scorers are an essential help to the media in terms of getting all their stats and figures correct, and it is heartening that CSA’s official statistician, Andrew Samson, is very much a long-format man.

The Oracle, as our media call him – I’m not sure what the BBC Test Match Special team call him but he is also their official statistician – has just brought out a book, The Moon is Toast, which is a celebration of all the quirky statistics the wonderful game of cricket throws up, written in the format of a year-long diary.

Copies of the book are available from and the wry humour of Samson makes what could become a boring read into an entertaining delight.

Long-form cricket obviously lends itself to more statistical gems than the wham-bam! of limited-overs cricket and the greater scope for all sorts of possibilities to occur was shown by the dramatic conclusion of our own four-day competition.

The longer the game, the greater the chance of an amazing comeback, just as the New South Wales team did in their recent Sheffield Shield game against Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground. They were two for two in their first innings before going on to make 603 for six declared which, Samson tells me, is only the fourth time in all first-class cricket that a team has lost their first two wickets for two or less runs but still gone on to score more than 600.

The South African example is Griqualand West recovering from one for two and then three for three to make 602 all out against Rhodesia in Kimberley in 1930, thanks to a double-century by the exotically-named Xenophon Balaskas, the Test all-rounder.

The most memorable performance by a fast bowler 0

Posted on August 01, 2016 by Ken


The thrilling Kagiso Rabada stole the show at the CSA Awards this week by claiming most of the trophies for himself with the same ruthlessness he displays in targeting the batsman’s wicket, but the most memorable performance by a fast bowler, for me, came the night before at the 25 Years of Unity celebration when Vincent Barnes spoke movingly about the challenges he had to face as a cricketer whose career was ruined by Apartheid.

Barnes is currently the high performance manager for Cricket South Africa, having previously served for many years as the national team’s bowling coach. But he was also arguably the greatest cricketer in the non-racial ranks during the decade before 1991’s formation of the United Cricket Board and the return to international cricket.

The pitches were notoriously poor on their side of the divide – the Apartheid government certainly wasn’t bothered with providing facilities for the majority back then – but Barnes’ figures stand head and shoulders above everyone else in his generation: 323 wickets at an average of just 11.95!

The injustices of Apartheid meant Barnes had to work doubly hard just to play cricket and the passion he has for the game overcame the fact that there was no higher outlet for his talents. But the 56-year-old has seldom spoken of those frustrations – unlike some of the privileged set who were denied international cricket due to isolation – and instead focused on passing on his knowledge to the new, unified generation of South African cricketers.

The greats of White cricket were also acknowledged at the celebration, but it was Barnes’ story of overcoming the odds which was the most poignant for me.

As good as the awards dinner was the next evening, the shadow of sports minister Fikile Mbalula’s enormous ego and Donald Trump-like “leadership” did hang over it a bit for me. I am sad that Cricket South Africa’s response to the increase in pressure from the sports minister for a faster transformation pace, purely intended to put the spotlight on himself in this election year, has been to kowtow to a man who is all bluster and no positive action.

First we had HD Ackerman shamefully removed from the hosting duties because he is taking up a job in Australia (Derek Alberts did a fine job standing in), and then the announcement that quotas will be formally introduced at national level. At least that ends the dishonest sham that resulted in disasters like last year’s World Cup semifinal.

As if to really drive home the point that CSA have worked harder on transformation than any other code, Rabada then takes home half-a-dozen awards.

What was miserable Mbalula’s response? – a tweet that read “Congratulatons! Kagiso Rabada, I sincerely believe you not gonna disappear after being used like all others who came bfo”.


Bulls know underestimating Lions would be an error 0

Posted on June 02, 2016 by Ken


The Vodacom Bulls may have been superb in claiming the big scalp of the Crusaders last weekend, but they know it will be an error to expect Saturday’s SuperRugby match against the Emirates Lions at Ellis Park in Johannesburg to be any easier.

It is, of course, a local derby that will always get the blood pumping on both sides, plus the Lions have been playing with an enormous unity of purpose and will be able to draw on the confidence of a record-breaking three wins on tour, while there should be a sizeable home crowd to welcome them home.

“It would be wrong to think it’s going to be an easier game this weekend. The Lions have shown how good they are, it’s never easy winning three games on tour. They will play for the full 80 minutes, they’re fit and well-coached and they will obviously get up for this game because they’ll want to start their home stretch of matches well,” Bulls captain Pierre Spies warned.

Coach Frans Ludeke was also stressing that his team cannot afford any drop in intensity from last weekend.

“We’ve had a very good week of preparation just to add to what we did against the Crusaders, so we’re high in confidence and things are working well. But against the Lions, we will definitely need to match that performance against the Crusaders,” Ludeke said.

Spies called for his team to be clinical in using whatever opportunities they get, and Ludeke has also ensured there are no oversights in selection by choosing another specialist openside flank on the bench in Roelof Smit, against a Lions team that will almost certainly play a high-tempo game and target the Bulls’ breakdown.

Much will also depend on which tighthead – Trevor Nyakane or Ruan Dreyer – gets the upperhand in the scrums because that is such an important set-piece, especially for a team like the Bulls that will use the penalties from there to further their territory game or set up their lineout maul.

Ludeke was full of praise for the way Nyakane has not only adapted to his move from the Cheetahs but also switched to the other side of the scrum during his first three months at Loftus Versfeld. Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer will also be smiling because he now has Marcel van der Merwe or Nyakane as quality back-up for Jannie du Plessis.

“His first-choice position is loosehead, but we had a lot of injuries at tighthead and he has really come through and done a job for us. He’s adding a lot, and a lot more than just scrummaging which is what we’re going to need this weekend.

“The national coach knows what he has in Trevor, he can play loosehead or tighthead, which makes it easy for a coach. Trevor now knows where he wants to go in his career,” Ludeke said.

The omission of Marnitz Boshoff from the starting line-up suggests the Lions are, perhaps unlike the Bulls, targeting tries rather than penalties, but whether they can absorb the pressure from an in-your-face Bulls defence will determine whether they can make inroads on attack or succumb to the errors that undid the Crusaders last weekend.

The Lions may have sometimes been negligent in terms of their own defence in the past, but that aspect of their game was outstanding on tour and coach Johan Ackermann is hoping that continues.

“We’ve put a lot of effort and commitment into our defence, that’s what kept us in the game quite often on tour. We weren’t really able to get our attacking game going, but hopefully at 5pm on a Saturday afternoon we’ll see better rugby on the attacking side. But defence must come with that and if we win the game because of a big tackle, I’ll definitely take that,” Ackermann said.


Lions: 15-Andries Coetzee, 14-Ruan Combrinck, 13-Lionel Mapoe, 12-Harold Vorster, 11-Anthony Volmink, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Ross Cronje, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Warwick Tecklenburg, 6-Derick Minnie, 5-Franco Mostert, 4-Andries Ferreira, 3-Ruan Dreyer, 2-Robbie Coetzee, 1-Jacques van Rooyen. Replacements – 16-Armand van der Merwe, 17-Corne Fourie, 18-Julian Redelinghuys, 19-Robert Kruger, 20-Jaco Kriel, 21-Faf de Klerk, 22-Marnitz Boshoff, 23-Howard Mnisi.

Bulls: 15-Jesse Kriel, 14-Francois Hougaard, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Burger Odendaal, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 9-Rudy Paige, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Hanro Liebenberg, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Grant Hattingh, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Trevor Nyakane, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Dean Greyling. Replacements: 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morné Mellet, 18-Marcel van der Merwe, 19-Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg, 20-Roelof Smit, 21-Piet van Zyl, 22-Tian Schoeman, 23-Jurgen Visser.



Bulls display precision & power to beat Cheetahs 0

Posted on October 23, 2015 by Ken


The Bulls produced a display of precision and power to beat the Cheetahs 30-25 in Bloemfontein and put themselves on the brink of claiming the Vodacom SuperRugby South African Conference title and a home playoff match.

The Bulls, thanks to their combative forwards, who dominated the gain line and the lineouts, were in control for most of the crunch encounter and led 30-13 going into the last 10 minutes.

Tries by flyhalf Riaan Smit, after magical hands by inside centre Robert Ebersohn, and prop Trevor Nyakane then claimed a bonus point for the Cheetahs and kept them above the Crusaders in fifth place on the overall standings.

But for the other 70 minutes, they seldom threatened the Bulls line. The Cheetahs seemed to be drowning in a sea of blue defenders, every collision seemingly another metre gained by the Bulls, and the Thick Blue Line was no laughing matter for an increasingly desperate home side.

The one area where the Cheetahs did dominate, however, was in the scrums and Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss, Lourens Adriaanse and Trevor Nyakane were all rewarded with Springbok call-ups shortly after the game.

It’s clearly an area of concern for the Bulls as it will allow whoever they face in the playoffs to target a specific area of weakness, and coach Frans Ludeke hauled loosehead prop Dean Greyling off the field as early as the 44th minute.

But while Greyling and Werner Kruger are struggling in the scrums, it doesn’t seem to be costing the Bulls games … yet. And besides, Greyling and Kruger are at the forefront of the massive hits the Bulls tight forwards put in on the gain line and one can understand Ludeke’s reluctance to jettison them completely.

Hooker Chiliboy Ralepelle is also not renowned for his scrummaging, but his open play is outstanding and it was his charge through the defence that allowed the Bulls to make the breakthrough in the eighth minute, as Kruger barged over the tryline.

The only time the Bulls defence looked as if it might be breached was when the Cheetahs’ roaming wing Willie le Roux had the ball in hand. He scored from a typical piece of individual brilliance in the 13th minute when, with nothing much on, he chipped over the defence and gathered to score under the poles.

But the next five minutes were dominated by the Bulls’ direct runners, so strong with ball in hand (lock Flip van der Merwe in particular), and the inevitable ruck penalty saw Morné Steyn kick for the corner, the rolling maul put in place and flank Deon Stegmann scoring.

The Cheetahs were still in touch at 10-17 down at half-time, but with the hugely talented Jan Serfontein in white-hot form at inside centre, the shell-shocked home side soon found themselves 30-13 down after two penalties by Steyn and a try by Jano Vermaak that had its roots in the 20-year-old crashing through the home line. There was also great interplay between replacement forwards Grant Hattingh and Dewald Potgieter, who were both able to come on and make a major impact, with the latter throwing a precision pass for the scrumhalf to complete the try.

The Stormers emerged victorious (19-11) from their arm-wrestle with the Southern Kings at a sodden Newlands, fullback Joe Pietersen kicking 14 points in blustery conditions and ensuring the visitors were kept in their own half for much of the game.

Flank Deon Fourie also scored a try, but the Stormers were victorious because they won the kicking battle, their set-pieces were better and they shaded the collisions.

The Kings were determined and skilful, and can point to two gross misfortunes having a material impact on the outcome.

Flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, part of the Springbok training camp and very close to selection for the final squad according to Heyneke Meyer, had a recurrence of his calf injury and pulled out just before the game and left the Kings without a major weapon for the kicking and territorial battle.

And Fourie’s try came from a rolling maul after the Stormers had been given a lineout throw five metres from the line when replacement scrumhalf Dewaldt Duvenhage’s chip deflected off a Kings defender and rolled into the corner.

The Kings had the Stormers under pressure in the closing minutes, scoring through flank Wimpie van der Walt after a lineout drive, but flyhalf George Whitehead missed the crucial conversion and the visitors had the chance to kick a penalty for the losing bonus point but went for the try instead and lost the ball.

Jean de Villiers had another inspirational game for the Stormers at outside centre, although clearly no one had much fun in the awful conditions.

The Kings can now concentrate all their resources on the almost-inevitable promotion/relegation matches they will have to play against the Lions at the end of July.

And it looks like they will need them after the Lions demolished Samoa 74-14 at Ellis Park.

While one can never read too much into such a one-sided game, the fact that the Samoans were all at sea in the set-pieces and defending out wide suggests the Lions have weapons that can really hurt the Kings.

Super Rugby Logs – after Round 16:

Combined Log

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Chiefs (NZ) 13 10 0 3 383 283 100 40 29 2 8 56
2 Bulls (SA) 13 10 0 3 367 263 104 32 27 2 6 54
3 Brumbies (AUS) 14 9 2 3 376 257 119 35 26 2 6 54
4 Reds (Q) 15 9 2 4 307 284 23 30 21 1 6 50
5 Cheetahs (Q) 14 9 0 5 345 317 28 35 28 1 6 46
6 Crusaders (Q) 13 8 0 5 338 263 75 32 24 2 6 46
7 Blues 13 6 0 7 298 282 16 35 26 2 11 43
8 Waratahs 14 7 0 7 371 344 27 40 31 2 4 40
9 Hurricanes 13 6 0 7 303 349 -46 30 36 2 7 39
10 Sharks 13 6 0 7 285 252 33 25 24 2 6 38
11 Stormers 13 6 0 7 264 264 0 22 17 2 6 38
12 Rebels 14 4 0 10 327 439 -112 36 55 2 8 32
13 Force 14 3 1 10 233 323 -90 21 29 2 5 27
14 Southern Kings 13 3 1 9 255 434 -179 23 51 2 2 24
15 Highlanders 13 2 0 11 276 374 -98 28 40 2 6 22

South African Conference

Pos Team P W D L PF PA PD TF TA Bye BPts Pts
1 Bulls 13 10 0 3 367 263 104 32 27 2 6 54
2 Cheetahs 14 9 0 5 345 317 28 35 28 1 6 46
3 Sharks 13 6 0 7 285 252 33 25 24 2 6 38
4 Stormers 13 6 0 7 264 264 0 22 17 2 6 38
5 Southern Kings 13 3 1 9 255 434 -179 23 51 2 2 24

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