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Ken Borland



Speeding towards the World Cup with an elephant in the dressingroom 0

Posted on June 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by AB de Villiers’ comments after the Champions Trophy fiasco, South Africa could go speeding towards the 2019 World Cup having still not addressed the elephant in the dressingroom which is their continued, inexplicable failure to perform at their best in ICC knockout matches.

The Proteas are scheduled to play just 36 more ODIs before the June 2019 World Cup in England; they have played 36 ODIs since midway through their series in India in October 2015, just to give some perspective as to how quickly time will fly before the next showpiece ICC tournament starts.

And yet De Villiers maintained after the horrible showing against India last weekend that there was no lack of composure and the run outs and batting failures were not due to a mental problem. Given the skill levels of the players involved, it’s difficult to know what else could be the explanation.

It is probably a good thing, though, that the Champions Trophy disaster is still fresh in the minds as CSA begin the process to decide on who will be the Proteas coach that will guide yet another attempt at the elusive holy grail for South African cricket.

Two former Proteas coaches – who were both involved in coaching capacities during India’s memorable 2011 World Cup triumph – in Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons will sit on the five-man committee that will evaluate the applications and both have been outspoken about the problems South African players have in handling the pressures of ICC knockout matches.

It is one of the unwritten laws of sport that the most successful teams are able to shift pressure on to their opposition; sadly for the Proteas, they seem to crush themselves by piling pressure on to their own shoulders. In between ICC events, they are able to play freely and express themselves, at world cups they play totally differently – tentative and fearful cricket. Reading De Villiers’ autobiography, it is clear he has a Moby Dick sized obsession with winning the World Cup, an unhealthy obsession that probably does more harm than good.

The big difference between De Villiers and Virat Kohli is how the Indian captain invariably makes big runs when they are most needed; his 96 not out in the Champions Trophy semi-final was yet another example of that.

Whoever the Proteas coach will be, he needs to be able to free up the players when it comes to the high-pressure situations. The players need to pledge to each other that they will not change their games in knockout matches and it is the captain and coach who have to drive that.

No team plays with a greater burden of expectation than India, and yet Kirsten and Simons were able to get them winning and expressing themselves when they won the World Cup on home soil under immense pressure.

Simons raised some interesting points in the aftermath of the Champions Trophy loss, both in the SuperSport studio and in a subsequent conversation I had with him.

He pointed out that the Proteas never tried to shift the pressure India exerted on them with an excellent display in the field, India were never asked to try anything different.

When I asked him why India are consistently able to handle the pressure and expectation at ICC knockout events, he said he felt it was because their international players had come through a system featuring millions of cricketers so they have spent their entire lives ensuring they are on top of their game, they are always playing under intense scrutiny and, in a developing nation still wracked by poverty, it’s do or die for many of them. Natural selection and survival of the fittest in many ways.

“It’s not just these 11 Proteas players who have had the problem. CSA need to sit down and decide what to do, what do our teams lack? Somehow the players have got to be freed up … we saw them play differently against India. There needs to be a broader conversation about why? The world is asking the question, it’s time we did too,” Simons said.

I have no doubt Simons will bring the same questions to the panel that will decide the coaching situation moving forward.

But the first step in sorting out a problem is admitting you have a problem. As Paddy Upton, who was the mental coach when India, Kirsten and Simons won the 2011 World Cup, has pointed out, it’s part of the South African macho man psyche to never admit our vulnerabilities.

That has to change.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170617/282269550387810

Lions hit Bulls early & hard 0

Posted on May 20, 2017 by Ken

 

The Lions hit the Bulls with a ferocious first-half onslaught from which they could never recover as they notched a mighty 51-14 victory in their SuperRugby local derby at Ellis Park last night.

For periods in the first half, it was like men against boys as the Lions toyed with the Bulls, scoring four tries in the second quarter to open up a commanding 39-14 lead at the break.

And it was not as if the Bulls weren’t trying, either. They had their moments, but the Lions were just so much better at spotting and making space, and the pace and accuracy of their play was at another level.

The warning lights were flashing for the Bulls as early as the second minute as the Lions began their dissection. Flyhalf Elton Jantjies is almost as skilled as a Beauden Barrett, and he gave a masterful display of pulling the strings throughout, his direct play and ability to commit defenders on the gain-line opening up space out wide, which the Lions clinically exploited.

Ruan Combrinck’s rugby story is one of the more heartwarming ones and the 2016 Springbok debutant scored with his first touch upon his return to SuperRugby, having been out of the game since August when he fractured his fibula. A lovely midfield move saw Jantjies feed wing Courtnall Skosan on an inside run, the flyhalf then getting the ball out wide to fullback Andries Coetzee, who passed to Combrinck, who finished clinically with a deft chip and regather.

For all the criticism, it is apparent that there is ability in this Bulls team and there are moments when it is clear that they are well-coached.

Such a moment came in the sixth minute when they scored a wonderful set-piece try, certainly the equal of the Lions’ opening score.

From a lineout, a lovely interchange of passes between fullback Jesse Kriel and Sibahle Maxwane sent the debutant wing racing through the defensive line before centre Jan Serfontein stormed over for the try.

The Bulls were doing well in the first quarter, holding the Lions to just two penalties kicked by Jantjies, the first from a scrum, the second from a prolonged build-up which showed that the visitors were at least causing some frustration, the home side having earlier kicked goalable penalties to touch.

But the Bulls’ well would quickly run dry.

Blindside flank Jannes Kirsten is known for being a strong ball-carrier, an abrasive player who is difficult to stop. But when he came charging from deep at the much smaller Kwagga Smith, the Lions’ openside did not surrender an inch on the gain-line, instead holding Kirsten up for long enough for his fellow forwards to support him and force the turnover.

From the resulting scrum, Jantjies spotted that Kriel was standing too deep at fullback and his lovely chip into that space was claimed by Skosan, who raced into the Bulls’ 22 before passing out wide for Smith to score.

That was followed by lock Franco Mostert bursting clear in midfield from the kickoff and his good offload over the top went to up-in-support Ruan Dreyer, the tighthead prop showing that he has the mobility to go with his undoubted scrummaging prowess, for the Lions’ third try, all of them converted by Jantjies.

Kriel showed that he was up for the contest, however, when he burst through the weak tackles of Smith and Skosan to score the Bulls’ second try, in the 28th minute, when there really wasn’t much on for the visitors.

Brummer converted to make it 14-27, but that would be the last time they scored in the match.

To make matters worse, two stupid mistakes would gift the Lions two more tries before halftime.

It had been one-way traffic for a while, but for an international scrumhalf, it was exceptionally poor of Rudy Paige to telegraph his box-kick so blatantly by the way he was standing. Eighthman Warren Whiteley, who once again led from the front in inspirational fashion, charged down the kick and did well to dot down as the ball threatened to squirm out of his grasp on the tryline.

In contrast to Jantjies’ game-management, opposite number Brummer was a non-entity, although he did not have front-foot ball to play with. But his failure to find touch from a penalty kick on the Lions’ 22, which would have provided a wonderful attacking platform, was inexcusable.

Instead the Lions took a scrum on their 22, won a penalty and set up a lineout in Bulls’ territory. From there Jantjies’ direct run drew two defenders and then it just took two passes out wide for Combrinck to be racing over in the corner again, ending the first half as he had begun it.

The Bulls were staring a horror movie in the face, 39-14 down at the break, but instead of being disembowelled by the ravenous Lions, they did manage to claw back some pride with a better second half.

There were no further gains on the scoreboard, but limiting the Lions to just two more tries, in the 43rd and 80th minutes, was something of a success.

Jantjies manufactured the first one with a lovely little chip-pass to Skosan, hooker Malcolm Marx, never far from the action, came storming up in support and Mostert went over from the next ruck.

The final try came after outside centre Lionel Mapoe went into a half-gap and an interchange of passes with replacement centre Jacques Nel saw the Springbok split the tired defence and race away for the try, Jantjies converting to seal the Lions’ biggest winning margin against the Bulls.

While the Bulls did fight back in the second half, it was still a poor display and they were utterly humbled by their neighbours. As a corporation as a whole, they need to take a long, hard look at themselves.

Most galling is the fact that the core of the Lions side comes from players rejected by the Bulls. Coach Nollis Marais is likely to get the sack this week, but there are poorer performers above him in the Bulls hierarchy who should not be immune to the blame.

Points scorers

Lions: Tries – Ruan Combrinck (2), Kwagga Smith, Ruan Dreyer, Warren Whiteley, Franco Mostert, Lionel Mapoe. Conversions – Elton Jantjies (5). Penalties – Jantjies (2).

Bulls: Tries – Jan Serfontein, Jesse Kriel. Conversions – Francois Brummer (2).

Jurassic World at Loftus every Saturday 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Jurassic World opened in cinemas across South Africa last night to much excitement but there are many who would say dinosaurs could be seen running around every Saturday at Loftus Versfeld for Bulls fans’ viewing displeasure.

The Bulls are probably the most conservative of all the franchises in South Africa (their daily programme even tells the players and management what clothes to wear!) and innovations such as the offload are still frowned upon there.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a force on the playing field. In fact, things were looking good this season when they sat in second place on the log just before their overseas tour, only for the wheels to come off in Australasia, not for the first time.

There can be no denying that a winning culture is absent from Loftus Versfeld; you can have as much discipline as you want, but unless the players, management and administrators are tightly knit with a single purpose, cracks will grow ever wider and the team will fall apart at the seams.

Where the Bulls have erred most obviously is in the appointment of a High Performance Manager in Xander Janse van Rensburg whose sole achievement so far at the union has been to rip at those seams and drive not one, nor two but three major player exoduses from Loftus Versfeld.

Since Janse van Rensburg’s arrival – apparently he was appointed to replace Ian Schwartz because he was a much cheaper option – hardly a day goes by without talk of a player who wants to leave or a player who is unhappy with broken promises or upset with his team-mates, such is the climate of fear and self-interest at Loftus.

To treat players as dispensable goods creates the sort of selfishness and attitude of self-preservation that destroys team spirit; the Bulls’ decision to send Janse van Rensburg on tour, while scrum coach Wessel Roux remained at home, coincided with the dramatic reversal in fortunes that killed their Super Rugby hopes.

But to lay the blame purely at the doors of the administrators would be wrong and several players are going to have to face their own consciences in the mirror when coach Frans Ludeke pays the price for their failure to step up when needed.

Ludeke’s willingness to shoulder all of the responsibility speaks to the character of the man. While his decision to take on all the media duties himself was well-intentioned, it merely increased the pressure on him. To allow different voices to be heard does not weaken his authority and his failure to spread the load is not going to improve his stress levels or general health.

 

****

South African cricket provided reason to celebrate in the last week via the comments of newly-appointed bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, who said yorkers were something the Proteas bowlers needed to embrace.

Speaking on the SuperSport cricket magazine show Inside Edge, Langeveldt said the yorker was a skill the national team’s bowlers needed to be able to produce three or four times an over if they are to improve the standard of the bowling in limited-overs cricket.

The lack of such skills in the Proteas’ attack was the glaring difference between them and the champion Australian team and the appointment of Langeveldt, one of the most skilful bowlers South Africa have ever produced, is a step in the right direction.

Langeveldt’s story is the epitome of hard work paying off and hopefully he will get the necessary buy-in from the Proteas and the graft required for the up-skilling will take place.

 

Threatening Botha is back at 8 for Bulls 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken

 

Arno Botha is back at eighthman for the Bulls for the SuperRugby clash with the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday, which could well be a conference decider.

Botha, who replaces Hanro Liebenberg, is one of four changes to the starting line-up announced on Wednesday by coach Nollis Marais, with the 24-year-old Springbok having shown some threatening form a few weeks ago.

“Hanro is definitely a talent for the future, but Arno is more experienced and a natural number eight. We’re going to need some really good ball-carriers and tough players against the Stormers. We’re going to need experience against the Stormers as well and we have to get momentum. We have plans for if they want to make it a physical battle up front,” Marais explained at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.

The other changes to the line-up see Francois Brummer and Piet van Zyl taking over the starting halfback jerseys from Tian Schoeman and Rudy Paige, while Travis Ismaiel is on the left wing instead of Bjorn Basson.

“Bjorn has a bit of a calf strain so we’re giving him a rest. Travis has been playing excellent rugby and Jamba Ulengo is getting better every week as well.

“Francois’ game-management is just a bit better, but we will still use Tian at certain times. Francois has kicked for poles very well and he’s been there before in high-pressure SuperRugby games, he’s settled in well this year. Piet played well on tour and he can make the game quicker for us, while Rudy has a bit of a hamstring strain and is working on areas of his game. But in the last 20-30 minutes we might need to control the game and Rudy can slow it down for us,” Marais said.

The need for experience also sees Grant Hattingh and Deon Stegmann return on the bench, taking the places of Marvin Orie and Roelof Smit.

Ben O’Keeffe is the referee on Saturday and, after he blew the Bulls out of the breakdown against the Brumbies two weeks ago, Marais is hoping the veteran Stegmann will be able to make decisions that are in accordance with the referee’s.

Bulls team: SP Marais, Jamba Ulengo, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Travis Ismaiel, Francois Brummer, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha, Jannes Kirsten, Lappies Labuschagne, RG Snyman, Jason Jenkins, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Lizo Gqoboka. Bench – Jaco Visagie, Trevor Nyakane, Pierre Schoeman, Grant Hattingh, Deon Stegmann, Rudy Paige, Tian Schoeman, Dries Swanepoel.

 



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