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Ken Borland

Ex-national coaches the finished article: Heyneke 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken


Heyneke Meyer returned to Loftus Versfeld on Thursday and bemoaned the irony that former Springbok coaches, who can be considered close to the finished article, are excluded from the local game at a time when South African rugby is in crisis and needs as much experienced help as it can get.

Meyer was at his former stamping ground to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s to be played in Mauritius next month, but his passion for top-level rugby is still there.

“Ex national coaches learn so much, they’re at their best, and then they get moved sideways. The perception here is that I’m in the rugby wilderness, but I’m getting offers from all over the world. But I want to be in South Africa, I believe I can make a difference, even though I’m currently very happy working for Carinat.

“You look at Eddie Jones, who lost eight-in-a-row with Australia and was fired, but then he helped the Springboks and now with England you can see how much he has learnt. Most South African coaches are just gone, though; Rassie Erasmus and Jake White have been really successful overseas and someone like John Plumtree was not seen as a great coach here, but I always rated him, and now he’s won SuperRugby in New Zealand. So it’s not the lack of coaches that is our problem, it’s the system,” Meyer said.

The coach of the first South African team to win Super Rugby, back in 2007, said local franchises were severely hampered by the overseas exodus, fitness issues and the push to play like New Zealand teams.

“You know we’re in trouble when we want to follow New Zealand, if you do that then you’ll never be the best in the world. There’s an over-fixation to play like the All Blacks, it will take us 10 years to get there and then they’ll be another 10 years ahead! We have to find out what we stand for and play the South African way.

“It’s very concerning all the players going to Japan because they can’t play for 12 months and players need to be uninjured and fresh in order to do proper fitness work. And if you’re tired you can’t execute your skills, you can’t press in defence, or scrum or drive. Teams win because of superior fitness and with guys going overseas it’s very difficult.

“Plus it’s impossible to keep the same side together for five years, you just start building and guys leave by the time they’re 25. We’ve got the right coaches and players but we need a better system to keep the players,” Meyer said.


2003 was a poor vintage, but it did inspire Mvovo 0

Posted on September 08, 2015 by Ken


If South Africa’s 2003 World Cup squad were a wine, it would have been considered a very poor vintage indeed, but they did inspire a 17-year-old kid in Umtata to such an extent that he is now on his way to the 2015 World Cup in Great Britain.

The young adult dreams of Lwazi Mvovo are now coming true as the maker of tries looks to cement his place in the Springbok starting XV following an impressive display in the previous Test they played, the belated win over Argentina in Buenos Aires.

“I was watching the 2003 World Cup in Umtata and I decided to start playing rugby then. I was playing soccer at the time, but I ended up switching sports because I knew I could make it in rugby. That was my whole focus, I didn’t allow any stumbling blocks to get in the way of my dream,” Mvovo said after being named in Heyneke Meyer’s World Cup squad in Durban.

While the experienced JP Pietersen will obviously be pushing hard to regain the number 14 jersey, Mvovo has another string to his bow in that he can play fullback and can obviously be expected to handle the kicking game, both in terms of offence and defence, that is likely to see plenty of action at the World Cup.

“Playing as a fullback for the Sharks has opened up a whole new game-plan for me, it’s been a great couple of years. I think I have lots of natural talent, but I still have to work hard. The moment you relax you lose that feeling that you’re in the game. I still do speed training, but also a lot of kicking and catching. I do whatever I need to do to improve – kicking, catching high balls – and I’ll still do that going forward,” Mvovo said.

Although Mvovo grabbed his only chance in the international season with both hands to seal his World Cup place – proving his BMT – he said it was a nervous week in Durban before the squad announcement.

“Nobody can be sure you’re in the squad, but you just have to concentrate on training well and making sure that whenever the opportunity comes, you use it very well. So many players want to be in the Springbok team, it’s an honour and a privilege, so the training camp was just about working hard for me,” Mvovo said.

The 29-year-old with 13 Test caps does not need any prompting to talk about the United Kingdom being a happy hunting ground for him. He made his Springbok debut in Edinburgh in 2010 and he scored his first Test try the following weekend against England at Twickenham, a fine individual effort that sealed a 21-11 victory.

“Yes, Twickenham was where I scored my first international try and there are great memories whenever I go there. I hope to do the same this year if I get the chance.

“This team is experienced in the Northern Hemisphere, the tour at the end of last year really helped us. We’re going with a game-plan and we must just stick to it, the fields and the weather don’t affect that a lot,” Mvovo said.

The transformation issue swirling around Springbok rugby is also not going to distract Mvovo.

“What I can control is my dream of going to the World Cup, so performing at the camp was the most important thing, I didn’t let outside stuff affect me. But my heroes as a kid were Springboks so we must be the heroes of children now,” Mvovo said.


Changes in SA women’s cricket give Letsoalo plenty to smile about 0

Posted on September 05, 2014 by Ken

Matshipi ‘Marcia’ Letsoalo’s radiant smile ripped through the blueness of a Highveld winter’s morning as she considered how women’s cricket in South Africa has changed since she made her international debut in 2007.

“When I started playing for South Africa, support was lacking and it wasn’t easy. When I first heard I was about to play for the Proteas, I pictured us being in the limelight like the men’s team. But it was totally different, nobody knew we had a women’s team,” Letsoalo recalls.

“But we’ve made such progress, we now get so much and the publicity and media attention is good too. We’re definitely headed in the right direction.”

The 30-year-old medium-pacer was heading for England in a few hours when she spoke to The Pretoria News at the High Performance Centre at Tuks on Monday, with Momentum, the sponsors who have made such a difference to women’s cricket in South Africa, giving the national team a send-off before their three-match T20 series against the World Cup runners-up and two games versus Ireland.

Momentum have certainly put their money where their mouth is by extending the six central contracts they paid for last year to all 14 members of the national squad, while yesterday the announcement was also made that SuperSport have come on board and will provide live coverage of all three matches against England on September 1, 3 and 7.

“Oh wow, the pressure!” Letsoalo joked. “No, it’s exciting, it’s what we’ve always wanted to happen. It’s my dream come true to be able to call myself a professional cricketer, from 2007 it’s what I’ve dreamt of. I’ve been working hard and finally got the reward, so it’s superb.

“My grandmother and other relatives have never seen me play cricket, so now that it’s on TV, it’s a great opportunity for them to do that,” the South African Air Force employee says.

Born in Phalaborwa, Letsoalo had to come down to Pretoria, enrolling at Tshwane North College for a management diploma, for her to make her cricket dreams come true. Women’s cricket in Limpopo in the early 2000s was very much at a fledgling level, so she spent her formative years playing with schoolboys in informal games.

“When I was 13, I saw a men’s game on TV, I had only seen cricket on TV. So I started played with the boys on the street and my passion grew for the game.

“I started playing for Foskor Cricket Club, but even then it was only with boys. But I never stopped because of my love for the sport,” Letsoalo says.

She finally experienced cricket without the boys when she started playing for the Limpopo U19 provincial team, but she admits she came to Pretoria both for study and cricketing purposes. Joining Atteridgeville Cricket Club, she was soon invited to Northerns trials and she was firmly on the road to the international stage.

Someone with Letsoalo’s sheer passion, determination and infectious enthusiasm is very difficult to keep down, and she soon won over her family, who were sceptical at first about her life choices.

“They weren’t very happy with me playing cricket, they used to say ‘It’s not safe with the boys!’ But they saw there was no stopping me and I just kept going. Eventually they realised that cricket is my passion in life,” she recalls.

A nagging medium-pacer who is more of a seam bowler than a swing merchant, Letsoalo says she is inspired by a pair of South African pace bowling legends – Makhaya Ntini and Shaun Pollock.

Both of them achieved a great deal of success in England and, although South Africa’s women have never beaten them, Letsoalo says the team is looking forward to testing themselves against top-class opposition.

“Conditions should be similar to here and we’re looking forward to the tour as a group. We want competitive cricket, we’re not going to stress too much about the results, but rather focus on implementing what we’ve learnt here at the academy, where we’ve been having a camp. We’re not going to play the names.”

A senior player now with 72 appearances across the three formats for the Proteas, Letsoalo is a bundle of good energy for a team that is definitely moving forward. She didn’t stand still in Phalaborwa, making the life-changing move to Pretoria, and she is eager that the national team do the same.

“I would love to see us in the top two women’s cricket nations in the world. We made the top four in the Women’s World T20 earlier this year, so we are preparing to see if we can make the top two in the 2017 World Cup,” the player who just loves cricket says.


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