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Ken Borland



Provided with decent support, our sportswomen flourish 0

Posted on August 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Women’s sport has always taken the back seat in this macho country of ours, but the last 10 days have shown just how much can be achieved, and how much joy our female sports stars can bring us when they are provided with decent support.

The Proteas women’s cricket team are the obvious example and one could only salute a magnificent effort when they were pipped by eventual champions England in their World Cup semi-final, which was one of the classic games of the tournament as the hosts and favourites were so nearly undone by the tenacious underdogs.

Our national women’s cricket team have become the most-improved team in the game thanks to the wonderful support they have been given by Momentum and Cricket South Africa. Many young girls will have been inspired by their efforts and it is vital that the momentum created by their exploits is not lost.

The national women’s hockey team have just finished a global tournament of their own in the Hockey World League, which will go down as yet another international showpiece sporting event that we have hosted with aplomb.

Unfortunately, South African hockey does not have the same sort of backing as our cricketers, and it still sticks in the craw to see Investec, founded in Johannesburg in 1974, emblazoned all over the England team. But they have arguably more female talent than even the cricketers do simply because it has been ‘acceptable’ in our misogynistic society for women to play hockey for far longer than it has for cricket.

They showed that they have the ability to consistently be in the top-10 in the world rankings by finishing fifth in the Hockey World League Semifinals, pulling off a memorable win over eventual champions, the United States, as well as beating Ireland and Japan and finishing above India in the final standings. They also qualified automatically for the World Cup.

The obvious enjoyment they get from playing alongside each other, their tremendous team spirit, is one of their greatest assets, but sadly, it was obviously lacking from the men’s team, who managed to avoid relegation but did not win any other games.

Again, South Africa has the male talent to push for a top-10 place, with several of our players sought-after members of overseas clubs, which enables them to escape the poor economic prospects of an amateur sport in this country.

But it is this split-nature of the team – made up of locally-based and overseas-based players – that is causing problems, just as it did with Springbok rugby. According to players who are part of the expanded national squad, the environment in the camp is “hostile” and this threatens to scupper any hopes of our men’s team recouping the losses they have suffered over the last few years of neglect.

Sure, hockey overseas is more professional and better, but the returning players need to realise their job is to lift up their team-mates who are still slogging it out back at home, not belittle them. The team culture is non-existent, with some stars apparently staying in their own hotels, and it is up to the senior players to set an example.

Apart from results, there has been one casualty already with coach Fabian Gregory resigning to take up a position overseas. He says he battled to get his ideas through to the team, that he had a hard time dealing with certain “know-it-all” players.

The senior players, apparently, found it hard to take Gregory seriously as a coach, especially those who are based overseas.

So a new coach will have to be found before the Africa Cup in October – which will be crucial for World Cup qualification – and, hard as it will be for some absolute stalwarts of South African hockey, the time seems right to make a new start with the men’s team, who are really rather old in global terms.

My new broom would be Garreth Ewing, who was one of Gregory’s assistants at the Hockey World League, and I have been highly-impressed by the work he has done with both the SA U21 and University of Johannesburg sides, both in terms of the brand of hockey they play and the team culture he has grown.

De Bruyn unfazed by chilling start to his Test career 0

Posted on June 12, 2017 by Ken

 

Hamilton is by no means as far down south as you can get in New Zealand, but it is still a rather cold, desolate place to make your Test debut, especially when you’re batting out of position and have to come out and open on the first morning in the typically damp, swing-friendly conditions found in that country.

There are many who believe Theunis de Bruyn was not given the best chance to succeed in his first Test back in March, scoring a three-ball duck in the first innings and then being run out for 12 in the second after a horrible mix-up with Hashim Amla, but the elegant right-hander says he was unfazed by it all and grateful that the chance came at all.

“The message I was sent was that the selectors wanted me to play, although obviously it was out of position. But I started my franchise career as an opener and as a number three batsman you face the new ball sometimes anyway. Obviously I was disappointed with how it went, but when I get to England, which is a big series, at least I have already played Test cricket.

“So I think it was worth it. Any debut is difficult with all the emotions of your dream coming true, singing the anthems, and then immediately going in on a green pitch. So it will only get easier in terms of emotion, if I play again hopefully I can just focus on watching the ball and making runs,” De Bruyn said.

“I’ll bat anywhere for the Proteas and I truly believe I can be a good opener. People chat about me being a middle-order batsman, but in my opinion, three or four is part of the top-order and you have to adapt your game to batting at 150 for one or 30 for three. It’s about switching your mind on.

‘So I’m not fazed about my debut, you never really start where you want to in Test cricket, you have to earn that right. So I’ll play where they need me,” the successful Knights captain added.

The whole brouhaha over the 24-year-old De Bruyn’s first Test threatens to obscure the positive news that he enjoyed a tremendous season, averaging 57.76 as he led the Knights to the Sunfoil Series title.

“All this focus on my debut suggests I had an horrendous season and I know with the media here that you’re a hero one day and zero the next, it’s part of professional sport. But I left my family behind in Pretoria to play for a new franchise, I won a trophy and made runs, and in two out of three formats I made my debut for South Africa, so it was a wonderful season. And it was just my third as a professional, I’m still young,” De Bruyn, who likes nothing better than to get out into the bush, pointed out.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170603/282286730229932

A passionate, top-class SA coach without a job 0

Posted on May 24, 2017 by Ken

 

Despite a poor final year in charge of the Springboks, there is little doubt Heyneke Meyer remains a top-class coach and it is a symptom of a sick South African rugby system that the 49-year-old is without a full-time coaching job despite making it clear that he still wants to make a difference to the game in this country.

Meyer was back at Loftus Versfeld a couple of days ago to launch the Beachcomber World Club 10s, a unique tournament for professional teams in a social environment, that will be held in Mauritius next month, but there is no doubt he still harbours a burning desire to be involved in the cauldron of top quality rugby again judging by the passion with which he answered a range of questions on South African rugby.

Although a great admirer of New Zealand rugby and a personal friend of All Blacks coach Steve Hansen, Meyer makes a good point when he says a drive to play like the Kiwis do is a case of chasing the wind for South African rugby.

He reckons it will take us 10 years to catch up to their style of play, by which time their game will have evolved and they will still be 10 years ahead of South Africa. It is perhaps a symptom of our insecurity as a nation that we are always trying to copy other teams – in the early 2000s it was Australian rugby that was the flavour of the month.

Meyer, who has been working with plenty of New Zealanders and Fijians in his part-time role as coach of the Asia Pacific Dragons team, points to a higher innate skills level as one of the main reasons South Africans will find it very difficult to emulate the free-flowing, expansive style of the Kiwis.

“South Africans don’t have the same natural understanding of space that they do, but I truly believe any of our teams can still beat a New Zealand team, especially at home. But if we try and follow them then we’ll never be the best in the world. We have to rediscover what we stand for and play South African rugby – brilliant set-pieces, driving, strong defence. We must do what we’re good at and kick intelligently, not just kick the ball away,” Meyer said.

The national coach from 2012 to 2015 made the point that ex-Springbok coaches are practically driven out of the country and pointed to Eddie Jones travelling from Australia to South Africa and now to England as an example of the value of experience, even if it comes from losing a few games.

“Eddie lost eight games in a row with Australia and was fired, he then helped the Springboks and learnt a lot there. In fact England are now playing like the Boks used to – they have great set-pieces, a great defence and kicking game, they still score tries and they’re on a winning run. It would be 50/50 right now between them and the All Blacks.”

Many observers have pointed to the speed at which New Zealand teams play the game and Meyer said this difference was most marked towards the end of matches, due to the superior fitness of the Kiwis.

“The All Blacks have always been superior in terms of fitness. We have big, strong guys, but it’s harder to get them fit. New Zealand have smaller but more mobile players and they run you ragged in the last 10-15 minutes. Central contracting means Steve Hansen knows the fitness of all his players and whether they need to rest or work harder.

“But you can’t do major fitness work if your players are tired or injured and our guys going overseas makes it very difficult, I’m very concerned about all the guys in Japan because you can’t play for 12 months. Before the last World Cup, I did not see the players for eight months so I asked for fitness reports from the franchises and nobody sent them in.

“So when I got the players I knew we were in trouble and the guys were not fit for the first game against Japan. But the All Blacks get to rest for three months after SuperRugby, so they’re super-fit for the next year, but we’re playing Currie Cup or in Japan. It’s very difficult for the South African coaches,” Meyer said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170513/282578787965088

The future is doubtful but the SA Rugby Annual has the past in glorious detail 0

Posted on May 05, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s been another troubling week in South African rugby with the news of more players going overseas and there have been the usual dire predictions of the game in this country having no future.

In situations like these, looking back into the past sometimes provides solace and the 2017 edition of the South African Rugby Annual, which is available now at all leading retailers nationwide and on certain online platforms, is as comprehensive a collection of all the past glories and sorrows of the game in this country as you could hope to find.

It is a statistical and trivia treasure trove. Did you know for instance that Bulls and Springbok centre Jan Serfontein (2011) and his father, Jan ‘Boelie’ Serfontein (1976-78), the former Eastern Province eighthman, were the first father and son combination to play for the SA Schools team?

Serfontein junior is of course the player who dropped the bombshell this week that he is leaving South African rugby, thus joining the four pages of South Africans playing abroad compiled by Stuart Farmer, a section of the Annual that is growing at a daunting pace.

The Annual obviously provides a comprehensive wrap of the Springboks in 2016, including a report on their draw against the Barbarians at Wembley last November, when Francois Venter first played for the national side. The Cheetahs centre will perhaps gain the most from Serfontein’s exit and many would say ‘what’s all the fuss about’ given how good a player Venter is.

Why I believe there should be a fuss made about Serfontein’s move is because his agent belongs to the same Essentially sports management company behind the controversial departures of South African cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott as well as numerous other rugby players now playing abroad.

I have it on good authority that Essentially only earn commission when they land their players an overseas deal, so it is obvious they have a massive vested interest in pushing players to go the foreign route. What they have been doing to South African sport recently amounts to strip-mining its assets.

It is difficult to know where SA Rugby can go to stop the plunder – Serfontein was offered what he himself described as a “generous” national contract – but perhaps it’s time they became strict on players not being allowed to negotiate with other clubs while still under contract.

It was reported in France as far back as January that Serfontein had signed a three-year deal with Montpellier, so his subsequent ‘negotiations’ with SA Rugby and the Bulls were undoubtedly in bad faith, much like the poor form Rossouw showed in his dealings with Cricket South Africa.

There was, of course, no guarantee that Serfontein would have been in the Springbok midfield when they line up against France next month – the Annual will tell you that South Africa’s last Test against Les Bleus was, astonishingly, the 19-10 win in Paris back in November 2013 – and, to be fair, the 25-year-old has not always done full justice to his talents when he has pulled on the Green and Gold.

It’s all part of the change though that is inevitable in rugby, like the rise of Argentina – in the Springbok section of the Annual you can find the results of the eight Tests they played against the whole South American continent (and latterly ‘boosted’ by Spain) between 1980 and 1984 and now we struggle to beat just the one country!

Anyway, for those of you who want to blame the Bulls for letting Serfontein go, you can find the franchise’s phone number and address, and those of all the SuperRugby teams, inside the Annual to make your protest action easier.

The Annual also provides full SuperRugby coverage, including that the Lions used 44 players in the competition, while the Currie Cup section will show you that Border used 40. If you are interested in Valke players, there is a complete list of them too, as well as all of their 2016 results. The Varsity Cup is also covered.

If global rugby is your thing, you can find out the score when Rwanda played Burundi in Kigali last May or who the leading try-scorers in world rugby are.

Other intriguing lists provided by editors Duane Heath and Eddie Grieb are of all the top schoolboy players and their schools, all SA Schools caps since 1974 and all players who have appeared in Currie Cup finals. And there are photographs too – including a classic of gigantic Waratahs lock Will Skelton engulfing some unfortunate opponent much like the euro/pound/yen are overwhelming the rand.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170422/282462823807677



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