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Ken Borland



Chiefs favourites but a sad day awaits for SA rugby 0

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Ken

 

About 80% of respondents on the country’s biggest sports website believe the Chiefs will beat the Brumbies to win back-to-back Vodacom SuperRugby titles on Saturday, and one imagines a similar proportion of fans would declare it a sad day for South African rugby when the Southern Kings or Lions are banished into the wilderness later in the day after the second leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The future of both the Lions and the Kings as professional, commercially viable franchises rests on Saturday afternoon’s match at Ellis Park. The Eastern Cape side have a deficit of seven points to make up, never mind the fact that they have to win and prevent the hosts from getting a bonus point.

It is obviously a no-win situation for South African rugby: either the tremendous growth of the game in the Eastern Cape, the Kings having performed much better than expected, or one of the traditional powerhouses will be sacrificed.

The lack of SuperRugby action in 2013 has left the Lions with their heads barely above water and the coffers of the proud union, already struggling before their relegation from the competition, could well run dry if they do not have top rugby to host next year.

The incompetence of the officials the South African Rugby Union (Saru) sent to negotiate the expanded SuperRugby format means the sport in this country will lose a leg this weekend … it’s a bit like asking someone whether they’d like to have their left leg or their right leg chopped off.

It also makes it absolutely imperative that Saru are already planning for 2016 when the next Sanzar expansion is scheduled to occur and that they have contingency plans in place to keep either the Kings or the Lions afloat until then.

The Lions edged out the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend because they kept their composure better under pressure. The ill-discipline of the Kings allowed Elton Jantjies to keep chipping away at the scoreboard. Now that the chips are down and the Kings have to beat the Lions at a sold-out Ellis Park, how will they respond?

There seems little doubt that the Kings will need to add something extra to their ultra-conservative game plan in order to beat the Lions, but is there the attacking skill to do that within their side?

Director of rugby Alan Solomons, who is leaving the Kings to coach Edinburgh whatever the outcome of Saturday’s match is, is backing a new centre pairing of the experienced duo of Waylon Murray and Ronnie Cooke.

Star flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is out with a hand injury, with George Whitehead taking the number 10 jersey, while debutant Scott van Breda, who is normally a centre, is on the left wing and is going to handle the goal kicking for the Kings.

The Kings, as the rank underdogs in SuperRugby, have honed their defensive skills to such an extent that they made the most tackles and had the best completion-rate in the competition; but Saturday’s game is calling for them to showcase attacking capabilities that have been lying dormant.

The Lions, on the other hand, have been racking up the tries in non-competitive matches and the backline is used to crossing the whitewash this year; Jantjies is a skilful distributor, they have a quality centre pairing in Stokkies Hanekom and Dylan des Fountain and dangerous finishers in the back three in Antony Volmink and Ruan Combrinck.

Up front, hard, experienced men such as Franco van der Merwe, captain JC Janse van Rensburg and flank Derick Minnie ensure that the Lions aren’t lambs to the slaughter when it comes to matching the intensity and physicality of a SuperRugby side.

But whatever the outcome, one hopes that Saru will take steps to ensure that, when we look back through the mists of time, we don’t remember the Kings, representing such a strategically important chunk of the country as the Eastern Cape, as having one season of SuperRugby as some sort of quirky experiment; or the Lions as being a once-great union, the first winners of the Super 10 competition that preceded the Sanzar tournament, that has faded into obscurity.

The Brumbies are a side that is returning from relative obscurity in SuperRugby as they contest the final for the first time since their 2004 triumph. They will be travelling to Hamilton and will need to overcome a Chiefs side that has the confidence of winning the title last year, scoring the most points and tries this season, and the prestige of beating the heavily-favoured Crusaders last weekend.

Jake White’s men will also have to overcome travelling from Pretoria to New Zealand and the distracting effects of thousands of cow bells as a 25 000 capacity crowd roars on the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Brumbies have certainly bought into the former World Cup winning coach’s philosophy and they showed at Loftus Versfeld last weekend that they are willing to risk their limbs in defence and have a steely focus on sticking to the game plan.

And the Brumbies have the kicking game and a powerful lineout that could trouble a Chiefs side that, amazingly, had the ball for the least time out of all sides in SuperRugby.

But the fact the Chiefs scored the most points and tries in regular season play shows their greatest strengths – their ability to make metres when carrying the ball and the skills of their players in beating defenders.

Locks Brodie Retallick and Craig Clarke and loose forwards Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer bring a hard edge to the pack, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden have the tactical vision and skills that have been central to the Chiefs’ success.

Those website pollsters clearly believe the Brumbies will need a miracle to beat the Chiefs at their home ground in Hamilton. But miracles do happen in rugby, as the spirited, well-coached Brumbies discovered last weekend in Pretoria.

Teams

Lions: 15-Ruan Combrink, 14-Deon Helberg, 13-Stokkies Hanekom, 12-Dylan des Fountain, 11-Antony Volmink, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Ross Cronjé, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Derick Minnie, 6-Jaco Kriel, 5-Franco van der Merwe, 4-Hendrik Roodt, 3-Julian Redelinghuys, 2-Martin Bezuidenhout, 1-JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements – 16-Robbie Coetzee, 17-Martin Dreyer, 18-Willie Britz, 19-Warwick Tecklenburg, 20-Guy Cronjé, 21-Marnitz Boshoff, 22-Chrysander Botha.

Southern Kings: 15-SP Marais, 14-Hadleigh Parkes, 13-Ronnie Cooke, 12-Waylon Murray, 11-Scott van Breda, 10-George Whitehead, 9-Shaun Venter, 8-Jacques Engelbrecht, 7-Wimpie van der Walt, 6-Cornell du Preez, 5-Darron Nell, 4-David Bulbring, 3-Kevin Buys, 2-Bandise Maku, 1-Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – 16-Charl du Plessis, 17-Hannes Franklin, 18-Steven Sykes, 19-Devin Oosthuizen, 20-Nicolas Vergallo, 21-Wesley Dunlop, 22-Shane Gates.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-02-superrugby-relegation-or-promotion-speaks-volumes-of-saru/#.V6R-8Pl97IU

Welcome to the big city, but please be more responsible with the pipeline 0

Posted on April 11, 2016 by Ken

 

Many of the country’s top rugby-playing schools came to the big city last weekend as Easter rugby festivals were held at St Stithians, St John’s and King Edward VII.

I always find it interesting to look at the composition of these teams because, if we accept that transformation has to occur in order for the Springboks to pick from all the talent in the country and if we also accept that developmental change has to happen at grassroots level and not at the top, then it follows that the responsibility for ensuring there are more black players in the pipeline must sit with the schools.

While there were some very exciting black players who lit up the festivals – I was hugely impressed by the Grey High backline at St Stithians and Jeppe eighthman Hacjivah Dayimane apparently stole the show at the KES festival – it seems choosing players of colour remains uncomfortable, at best, for certain schools.

It certainly did not sit well with me that my alma mater, Michaelhouse, had only one player of colour in their team. But Michaelhouse, although a decent side, are far from being one of the best schoolboy teams in the country.

Transformation only works if black players are developed through the pipeline and if they get the opportunity to play at the best schools, alongside the best players.

Paarl Boys High, Paul Roos Gymnasium and Affies are generally regarded as the top three rugby schools in the country but players of colour are few and far between in those sides. When those two great Boland teams, Paarl BHS and Paul Roos, played each other last, the local Stellenbosch newspaper featured a double-page spread with all the players mugshots on display. So that’s 44 faces and, barring a handful of kids, they were noticeably lily-white.

Perhaps quotas should be in the works at schoolboy level? How else are unions meant to get enough players of colour into their systems?

For the top rugby schools, who have a history of enticing the best talent, to just about ignore black players is unpatriotic to say the least. Just in the Boland example, there is plenty of fantastic talent right there.

This is yet another issue for Saru to wrestle with, but don’t hold your breath because at the moment they can’t even seem to get a coach for the Springboks sorted out.

You can still bank on the new man being Allister Coetzee, but the constant delays in his appointment are not doing him or the Springboks’ chances of success this year any good at all.

Cricket South Africa also faces interesting times as it ponders whether to keep their faith in their national coach, Russell Domingo.

Chief executive Haroon Lorgat said there will be a thorough review of the team’s performance under Domingo, but speaking to other coaches and players, the Eastern Cape man certainly has backing.

Again, timing is of the essence, though, and four Tests in Australia in November would not be a kind first assignment if they are going to make a change. Far rather use the triangular limited-overs series in the West Indies in June and the home Tests against New Zealand in August to bed someone new in.

Glendower confirmed as SA Open hosts for 3rd straight time 0

Posted on September 29, 2015 by Ken

 

The wait to see which of the country’s major golf courses will host the 2015/16 South African Open is finally over with Glendower Golf Club in Edenvale confirmed as the hosts for the third successive time and sixth time overall.

At this stage, the 105th SA Open will be held in the same calendar slot as the 2014/2015 event, from January 7-10, with Johannesburg’s other co-sanctioned Sunshine/European Tour event, the Joburg Open, taking place the following week (January 14-17), which will not only encourage overseas golfers to play in both tournaments but also cut the costs for the Sunshine Tour.

“There’s a need for back-to-back tournaments because it’s not fair on the European golfers to make them travel back and forth to South Africa. It also means we save money on costs, which is important as well,” Duncan Cruickshank, the marketing and communications director of the Sunshine Tour, told The Citizen.

There had been strong speculation that Humewood Golf Club in Port Elizabeth, which has hosted the SA Open on five previous occasions, would be the venue for this summer’s prestigious event but the financial muscle of Gauteng has perhaps won the day.

Even though hosting the SA Open is of enormous value in terms of worldwide television coverage – Cruickshank said the exposure gained for the tourism industry by the tournament in January was worth more than a billion rand – sponsors are still needed over and above the huge investment made by municipalities and local government.

It is believed that the Africa Open at East London Golf Club is in some doubt due to a lack of sponsors, but it would be very sad if the Eastern Cape – and the coastal region as a whole – did not host a single co-sanctioned event.

Cruickshank confirmed that the Alfred Dunhill Championship would kick off the Summer Tour at Leopard Creek in Malelane from November 26-29, with the Nedbank Golf Challenge following immediately afterwards at Sun City from December 3-6.

The SA Open and Joburg Open are then on successive weekends in January, with the Africa and Tshwane Opens scheduled to go back-to-back in early March.

It was also confirmed on Tuesday that the 2016 AfrAsia Bank Mauritius Open, the only tri-sanctioned tournament endorsed by the European, Sunshine and Asian Tours, will be held from May 12-15, 2016, at the Four Seasons Golf Club Mauritius at Anahita.

 

Fanie pulling the strings for Hardus Viljoen to leave SA 0

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Ken

Former South African paceman Fanie de Villiers is playing an instrumental role in one of the country’s brightest fast bowling talents trying to leave the country and play for New Zealand.

Hardus Viljoen has just come off another outstanding season for the Highveld Lions, playing a key role in their Sunfoil Series title with 39 wickets at an average of 20.43, but De Villiers told The Citizen on Wednesday that the 26-year-old would be travelling to New Zealand next week for talks with one of their franchises.

Although Viljoen has not yet played for the national side, he is definitely in the selectors’ thoughts, having played nine games, in both four-day and 50-over cricket, for representative A teams. The strong fast bowler has taken 103 wickets, more than any other bowler, in the last three Sunfoil Series seasons at a superb average of 23.95.

“Patriotism is out the door,” De Villiers, who described himself as “a close family friend who has advised Hardus since he was in Standard 8,” said. “He’s been the leading wicket-taker over the last few seasons but he hasn’t played for South Africa because of the dynamics of the team. Hardus is a very strong and very good fast bowler who can bowl at 150 km/h and he will be sought after in New Zealand and Australia.

“So on April 22 we are meeting one of the New Zealand franchises to see what they offer, which is why Hardus is the only player not to have signed his new Lions contract yet,” De Villiers said.

De Villiers added that the move was not to do with quotas but was rather designed to ensure Viljoen was remunerated properly for his ability, with English County Cricket a key target.

“Because of the new quotas, a lot of players will look elsewhere, but Hardus is already in the system and could play for any franchise. But he’s playing in the shadow of others and should have played for South Africa already. There are two fantastic fast bowlers at the top in the Proteas, but there’s no way some of the others who have played are better than Hardus.

“He can’t qualify to play County Cricket, where you get your revenue from, unless he has played for South Africa, and Kyle Abbott, Marchant de Lange and Chris Morris are all ahead of him in line, I know how the selectors operate. So we have an appointment in New Zealand, where he can get serious opportunity with the new ball and qualify for them in four years’ time,  when he is 30, and then play County Cricket and earn a million rand a year,” De Villiers said.

While Viljoen’s benefactor stressed that the fast bowler could not afford to wait an iota longer for selection to the Proteas, De Villiers’ own bitterness towards the South African cricket system could now negatively affect a tremendous talent who has just really begun to blossom within the brilliant Lions bowling attack.

 

 

 



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