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Ken Borland

The Currie Cup has fallen from its perch 2

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Ken


There can now be no doubt that the Currie Cup has fallen from its perch as one of the most respected domestic rugby competitions in the world to an afterthought, something that seems to have become a burden for SA Rugby rather than a jewel in the crown.

While rugby romantics who grew up on the grand old tales of the Currie Cup and its great provincial rivalry will just have to get used to the fact that most of SA Rugby’s resources will now be poured into SuperRugby and the Springboks (and even the Pro14 seems to have jumped the queue in importance), there is one important factor that needs to be dealt with – SuperRugby franchises still get their players from the Currie Cup.

The Currie Cup is still a vital stepping stone from which so many players graduate into the next year’s SuperRugby competition, and most of the franchises will tell you they have half-an-eye on the Sanzaar tournament throughout all their Currie Cup activities.

And, as Jake White has pointed out, what happens now in the Currie Cup affects the Springboks in five years’ time.

“If you look at the kind of players who are playing Currie Cup now, with the Springboks and internationals away, we are saying that the Currie Cup is not what it used to be, and my fear is that we’re accepting mediocrity. When I was a youngster, the likes of Hennie Bekker, Schalk Burger Snr and Henning van Aswegen were playing for Western Province. How many 19-year-olds played then? None. And how many of the youngsters playing today would make that Western Province team? None.

“That’s a worrying sign because whatever is happening now, there’s no doubt it will impact where we will be in the next five years. There are a lot of factors – overseas players, spreading the talent base – but I don’t think people want to admit that the consequences are going to come back to bite us,” White told All Out Rugby.

The downgrading of the Currie Cup is a serious concern that is reflected in attendance figures, but how are people meant to get excited about a tournament that started while SuperRugby’s exciting climax was hogging all the attention? Watching second and third-string teams play is really only going to excite the family members and close friends of the players involved.

One of the biggest questions the current Currie Cup breeding ground is not answering is “Where are we going to get all our future props from?”

It is a disgrace that the Currie Cup is practically the only premier rugby tournament in the world that is still using 22-man squads, which forces most teams to choose only one prop replacement. When it happened last year it was almost forgiven because of the chaotic preparation for the 2016 Currie Cup [], but making the same mistake again has drawn fully justified criticism from Sharks coach Robert du Preez and Nollis Marais of the Blue Bulls.

The reason for not moving with the times and having 23 players – which allows a full front row of replacements – is apparently financial. But given that it costs probably R6000 per player per match (and only the visiting team needs a flight and hotel), so with three games per weekend, that’s an extra R18 000 for the 23rd player.

With the Currie Cup being played over 14 weeks, that’s an extra cost of about R252 000. Surely SA Rugby can get that money from cost-cutting other areas that aren’t so vital for the welfare of the game?

It also avoids the unsavoury sight of uncontested scrums, which are open to abuse whenever a side is under pressure in that set-piece. The scrums are such a vital platform these days for front-foot ball and earning penalties and uncontested scrums are clearly unfair on the dominant team.

Speaking about the welfare of the game, women’s rugby in this country has taken a knock by it not being involved in the ongoing Women’s Rugby World Cup which has reached the semi-final stage in Ireland. The decision was made by SA Rugby to rather invest in the grassroots of women’s rugby, the U16 and U18 championships, to try and broaden the base, rather than sending a team to the World Cup to finish 10th.

While the reasoning is understandable, the enormous strides made by our national women’s cricket team shows that investing heavily at the elite level can also bring rewards.

SA Rugby needs to weigh up the merits of providing opportunities with the harsh economic realities of our time, but at the moment it seems the money men are calling all the shots.

Locals aim to bring SA Open crown home for first time since 2011 0

Posted on March 06, 2015 by Ken

A strong contingent of local golfers will tee it up at the South African Open at Glendower Golf Club from Thursday as most of the country’s biggest stars go in search of bringing the national open crown back to these shores for the first time since 2011.

A home golfer has not won the South African Open since Hennie Otto’s triumph at Serengeti Golf Club in 2011 and former champions Ernie Els and Richard Sterne, as well as top contenders Charl Schwartzel, who has just overtaken Tiger Woods in the world rankings, Branden Grace and George Coetzee will all be gunning for the prestigious title of the game’s second oldest national open.

Louis Oosthuizen has sent his apologies and is the major South African absentee, but there is plenty of other home-grown talent for fans to enjoy with Jake Roos, Jacques Blaauw, Darren Fichardt, J’be Kruger, Dawie van der Walt, Danie van Tonder, Jaco van Zyl, Jaco Ahlers, Thomas Aiken and Jean Hugo all having entered.

However, there is also a powerful overseas contingent coming to Edenvale aiming for a third successive overseas win. Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen is back for his title defence, aiming to become the first golfer to win back-to-back titles since Trevor Immelman in 2003/4.

Edoardo Molinari, who impressed for Europe in the 2010 Ryder Cup, will be one of the favourites from offshore, but any of Peter Uihlein, Pablo Martin, Anders Hansen, Paul Lawrie, Niclas Fasth or Andy Sullivan could continue the recent foreign dominance in the South African Open.

The final field of 166 entrants has yet to be printed, however, with 377 golfers aiming for the last 12 spots at the qualifiers to be held on Tuesday at Kempton Park, Zwartkops and Irene.

Smart money on the Cobras for Sunfoil Series 0

Posted on February 23, 2015 by Ken

Having just claimed their first title of the season in the RamSlam T20 Challenge, the smart money will be on the Nashua Cape Cobras to also mount a strong defence of their crown in the Sunfoil Series and the Western Cape side start their campaign today against the bizhub Highveld Lions at Newlands.

The Lions are already handily placed in the competition, just four points behind the leaders, the Chevrolet Knights, but coach Geoff Toyana has been a shopper for batsmen this week with Alviro Petersen, Quinton de Kock and Temba Bavuma all with the national side for the first Test against the West Indies at Centurion.

They will, however, welcome back Neil McKenzie and the experienced Jean Symes is also able to fill in, while the Lions will have a strong attack with Hardus Viljoen, Chris Morris and Lonwabo Tsotsobe joined by Kagsio Rabada, who was released by the national team while Bavuma inexplicably was not. Spinner Eddie Leie has also been in great form with the ball, so it all points to an intriguing contest against the powerhouse Cobras side, who have recalled Richard Levi to replace Stiaan van Zyl.

The Knights are hosting the Unlimited Titans in Bloemfontein and they too will want to take their T20 form, where they reached the final, into the four-day competition.

The Titans, by way of contrast, are looking to rebound from a disappointing T20 campaign, in which they finished last, and their well-balanced attack gives them hope.

David Wiese markets himself as a genuine all-rounder and his skills with the new ball, backed by the often scary pace of Marchant de Lange, the steadiness of Ethy Mbhalati and the exciting talent of Junior Dala, plus two spin options in Shaun von Berg and Roelof van der Merwe, means coach Rob Walter is comfortable that he has all the bases covered.

“There’s no substitute for pace and Junior, David, who also brings the quality of his skills, and Marchant all have that. Shaun von Berg also bowled beautifully in a couple of the T20 games,” Walter told The Citizen.

The Knights family was emotionally bruised by their disappointing defeat in the T20 final and coach Sarel Cilliers will also have to dig into his stores of replacement players as Rilee Rossouw, Dillon du Preez and Tumelo Bodibe are all unavailable due to injury.

The Sunfoil Dolphins will be out to arrest a mini-crisis after their poor run in the T20 Challenge as they host the Chevrolet Warriors in Pietermaritzburg.

It’s the Dolphins’ first game in the competition this season and they will want to make their mark. Coach Lance Klusener will be hoping David Miller hits top form again after scoring 364 runs in five innings last season, while Imran Tahir will be eager to rebound quickly from his dropping from the Test side.

The match is the first for the Warriors with new coach Malibongwe Maketa in charge, Piet Botha having resigned after a troubled season thus far.


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