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Ken Borland



Sanzar’s SuperRugby Christmas present is likely to be meh 0

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Ken

 

Rugby fans who have had enough of the current fatigue-inducing set-up will be eagerly anticipating Christmas and the expected announcement by Sanzar of a new SuperRugby format from 2016. But what they find in their stocking might still leave them unimpressed because Sanzar are unlikely to go the most obvious route of two pools of nine, eight matches home and away and semi-finals and a final.

Because the Southern Kings had such a dramatic impact on rugby in the Eastern Cape, certainly in terms of crowd figures, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) seem to have accepted that they can no longer leave such a massive region out in the cold even though they lost the promotion/relegation series to the Lions. And Argentina, full Sanzar partners now, look set to be rewarded with a place in SuperRugby as well, expanding the competition to 17 teams. Judging by the noises coming out of New Zealand and Australia, some sort of Japanese involvement is also being strongly considered to make it an even 18.

But the same Australian demands that impacted so heavily on the previous broadcasting agreement, which brings in all the money and therefore decides the format, seem set to ensure common sense does not apply. In order to sustain the ailing code of rugby union in Australia, they want their own conference, even if they have to share it with some New Zealand teams.

So the three proposals that Sanzar are considering are to keep the status quo (yes, many stakeholders, most of them living on a big island, actually think the current format is great), to split into South African and Australasian conferences, or to expand the competition even more and include other Asian teams, and the USA and Canada as well.

It would appear the two-conference system has been most positively received by Saru, and hopefully their negotiators will show much more skill when Sanzar meet in Sydney next week than the muppets who negotiated the previous deal. That could mean six South African franchises, which play each other home and away, making 10 fixtures. If the Australasian conference is split into two pools, with Japan in one and Argentina in the other, then they, too, could play 10 round-robin matches. The idea is then for the top six or eight teams across the conferences to play in the finals. If six teams go through and play each other, that’s five more matches. A semi-final and a final would then mean a maximum of 17 games per team – much cleaner, much simpler and less of a slog than SuperRugby is at the moment for all concerned.

What is vital is that Sanzar consult the players, on whom they rely to sell their product. There is a strong suggestion that the current exodus of players from the southern hemisphere to Europe is not just because of the power of the euro, but also because they are on their last legs due to the unceasing intensity and quantity of rugby Sanzar has foisted on them.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies, one of many on the injured list after the prolonged SuperRugby campaign, is pegging his hopes on change. “I’d really like to see the competition end before the international season. That three-week break for the internationals in June is a waste. I’d like to see all the focus on SuperRugby, get that done with and then give all the teams three or four weeks to prepare for the Tests. We could then finish the Rugby Championship at the end of October and either go back to our franchises or prepare for the end-of-year tour. I’d prefer there to be one global schedule and to finish SuperRugby in one go. That would also give all the teams one extra bye,” Spies told Daily Maverick on Thursday.

There does seem to be growing agreement on the sense of having one global rugby season. The International Rugby Players’ Association has come out in favour of it and even Sanzar CEO Greg Peters has said it makes sense. “The idea of moving June to July, in a Sanzar context, certainly holds a lot of appeal, for a lot of reasons,” Peters told The Herald Sun. “We could complete the SuperRugby season without a break, which is something in an ideal world we would want to do. Then you would move straight into the international program, have a short break, the Rugby Championship, short break, and then the Spring Tours. We would certainly be interested in sitting down with the northern unions and getting their views about whether it would work. And obviously we are interested in the views of the players’ associations as well.”

The Currie Cup Premier Division also looks set to change, with a new eight team format apparently agreed to in principle by the Saru executive committee, just two years after they went to great lengths to justify a cut to six teams. The phrase “political expediency” immediately springs to mind, but the thought of the Kings and the Pumas, who have dominated the First Division in recent times and are based in the rapidly-growing centre of Nelspruit, competing at the top table does have appeal.

The administrators sit in the boardrooms and make the decisions over lavish lunches, changing tune according to their own vested interests, but it is the players who have to go out, put their bodies on the line, and make these formats work.

“I’ve only been playing SuperRugby for six years and I’m struggling to get on the field now,” says Springbok star Francois Steyn, who has been out of action since May after two operations for compartment syndrome in the leg – an over-use injury.

“In South African rugby, we all worry about saying something wrong and stepping on someone’s toes, so I should probably keep my mouth shut. But it’s all about bringing the fans out and less rugby is probably better. Then the top players can play for longer. At this rate, if you play for 10 years, you’re a lucky guy.”

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-30-quo-vadis-superrugby/#.WKrl_2997IU

Win or lose, some coaches just can’t win 0

Posted on February 06, 2017 by Ken

 

There is an unfortunate tendency in South African sport that a coach sometimes cannot win whether his team are losing or winning. We’ve seen it before with former Springbok coach Peter de Villiers and now with current Proteas coach Russell Domingo.

It’s the unfortunate attitude that if a team is losing – as the Proteas were for 2015 and the first half of 2016 – then it must be the coach’s fault, but if they are winning, as Domingo’s charges are currently and the Springboks did under De Villiers in 2009, then it must have nothing to do with the coach and be all the players’ doing!

If people are going to blame and criticise the coach during the lean times then they have to credit and praise the coach when things are going well. His influence cannot just extend in the one direction.

Domingo gets to be seen way less on television than the Springbok rugby coach, so perhaps he has less opportunity to convey his knowledge of the game, but it was disturbing last weekend when Cricket South Africa dropped what can only be termed a bombshell. They were going to be taking applications for his position and he would need to reapply himself. It’s like being in a relationship and being told “it’s time we see other people”.

I have been a critic of Domingo in the past, believing he was no longer able to get the best out of the Proteas, but their form in the last six months has been superb and clearly the coach has them all pulling in the same direction.

A 5-0 limited-overs whitewash of Australia and a Test series win Down Under, without AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn, rank amongst some of the finest achievements in South African cricket history, and so far Sri Lanka have been dealt with ruthlessly, save for the T20s when some experimentation took place.

But CSA believe now is the time to say we need to start looking for another coach!

I agree, depending on how results go in the Champions Trophy and the Tests in England, that August may be time for a change given that Domingo will have been in the job for four years, but what if he wins the ICC event and then beats the Poms on their home turf? If he wants to continue, surely he would be the obvious choice?

Sure, you have to plan ahead and put out some feelers to see who Domingo’s successor will be, particularly if things go badly in England. But you don’t have to announce to the whole world that you are no longer sure about the guy who is currently doing a great job with the team.

Having been told quite clearly that uncertainty about the future was a major reason for players and coaches leaving South Africa, you would have thought CSA would be doing everything in their power to reassure a Proteas team and management that they have security, given how well they have been doing.

The talk from official sources has been that CSA don’t want to create the impression that Domingo will automatically just keep getting contract extensions – it’s all to do with the fine print of the labour regulations apparently – but the gap between the end of the trip to England (the last Test ends on August 8) and the start of the new summer with the first Test against Bangladesh starting on September 28 is surely long enough to sort out whatever the decision is.

Of course the list of possible replacements needs to be sussed out, but why does the post of Proteas head coach need to be advertised? Surely the successor to Domingo should be headhunted?

Particularly since the obvious next coach is working just across the road from the CSA offices at the Wanderers.

 

 

 

Australia’s unexpected collapse a warning to SA cricket 0

Posted on November 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Australia’s rapid implosion as a Test team, going from the number one ranked side in August to their current shambles, was unexpected but there have been warning signs in their cricket for a while and they are similar to the problems South African rugby is experiencing at the moment.

A focus on chasing money and the commercial aspects of the game has been allowed to mar the systems and structures that were in place to ensure that Australia’s Test team – as well as, at times, the Springboks – were always at the pinnacle of the game.

The Big Bash T20 league is obviously a wonderful, exciting occasion in the Australian sporting calendar, but it seems it has become the most important part of the cricket season, Cricket Australia’s priority and something that is pushing everything else on to the periphery.

There was a time that the four-day Sheffield Shield competition was Australia’s premier domestic tournament and the envy of the world; nowadays it seems almost an afterthought and pace bowlers are pulled out of games midway through by national team management using medical protocols that have little basis in actual cricketing wisdom.

The most amazing example of T20 taking over to the detriment of everything else Down Under will come in February. Six days before Australia play the first Test against India in Pune, starting what is an incredibly daunting tour for a struggling team, a three-match T20 series against Sri Lanka starts in Melbourne.

International cricket was always about the best from each country playing against each other, but either Australia send a second-string team to India or their reserves will be playing in the T20 series. The last T20 will be played the night before the first Test starts!

Some of the Australian media were understandably outraged by the scheduling and, in the wake of the series loss to the magnificent Proteas, they have given their team and administrators both barrels and deservedly so.

Other Australian media have, however, resorted to blame-shifting and a video focusing on South African captain Faf du Plessis doing two perfectly legal things – eating a sweet on the field and using his saliva to shine the ball – albeit at the same time, was always going to go viral and attract the interest of the International Cricket Council.

But if they do punish Du Plessis, what are they going to do about players using sunscreen and then wiping their sweat on the ball? How about the ubiquitous Australian practice of chewing gum on the field, that is also like steroids for saliva.

South African cricket is currently basking in a glorious, phenomenal third successive series win in Australia that is going to be remembered for a long time because of the resilience and team unity they have shown, especially in the absence of big guns AB de Villiers and Dale Steyn.

But we also need to be wary that our administrators aren’t going to go down the same route as their Australian counterparts; there have been enough instances of South African sporting administrators chasing the bucks instead of what is going to be best for the game for us to be cautious.

Which is why, when I see the Proteas and Sri Lanka will be playing the third Test in Johannesburg from January 12-15, and the two Gauteng teams, the Titans and the Lions, will be playing a potentially crucial Sunfoil Series game at exactly the same time, I wonder if our four-day cricket is also going to be neglected, leading to the demise of our wonderful Test side?

Surely it can’t be too hard for the schedulers to say: “There’s going to be a Test in Johannesburg that week, let’s make sure that both Gauteng teams are playing away from home?”

Let the Australian malaise be a warning to us, no matter how smug and happy we are currently feeling.

New Springbok captain one of the most admired SA leaders 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Adriaan Strauss has been confirmed as the new Springbok captain and it’s difficult to find a current player whose leadership skills and personality are more admired across the board in South African rugby.

The 30-year-old is one of those people for whom leadership comes naturally, even though he is softly-spoken and rarely demonstrative, a classic example of someone who leads from the front through actions, rather than words. He is currently doing a fine job as the captain of a young Bulls side, having previously led the Cheetahs, and has been a member of the Springbok leadership group for some time, having already played 55 Tests and been a vice-captain on several occasions.

Former Springbok eighthman Anton Leonard, who is working closely with Strauss as the Bulls’ forwards coach, is well-placed to speak about the hooker’s leadership skills, having led the Loftus Versfeld outfit himself to two Currie Cup crowns.

“Atta is a great person before he’s a rugby player and I have a lot of respect for him, a lot of players have a lot of respect for him as well. He’s not a big-talker, he’s more of a doer, but when he speaks, people listen. He’s done a tremendous job at the Bulls, especially with a young side, showing them the ropes of life and rugby. He’s personally earmarked and is growing some other leaders in the squad,” Leonard told Saturday Citizen.

There is little flashy about Springbok captain number 57 – although he is rather adept at stealing balls in the ruck – but he will be bringing technical excellence to his core role as a hooker and that is in solidifying the set-pieces. Leonard said these will be exciting times under the stocky Billy Bunter-like figure of Strauss, who did his schooling at Grey College in Bloemfontein like so many other Springboks.

“His appointment is very satisfying for us who work with him and I’m very glad for him. Firstly, he deserves to be the number one hooker, he’s number one in SuperRugby in that position if you look at the stats for the lineout. His hard work has paid off and he will bring fighting spirit to the Springboks in what is obviously going to be an exciting new era.

“He will have a lot of leaders around him, helping, respected guys like Warren Whiteley and the experienced Pat Lambie. But Atta’s strengths are that he is very good at summing up the game and he looks first at himself. He’s very humble and straightforward, every player knows where he stands with him. He handles pressure well, he shifts it on to himself and takes responsibility,” Leonard said.

Adriaan Strauss is living proof that not saying much does not mean you cannot have an amazing impact on those around you.

LAST 20 SPRINGBOK CAPTAINS

 

NAME              DATE          VERSUS      WHERE   RESULT    AGE   TEST No.      PREVIOUS EXPERIENCE
Wynand Claassen  30/5/81    Ireland                  Cape Town          23-15          30           Debut                       Natal captain
Divan Serfontein    20/10/84  S America & Spain   Pretoria    32-15          30           18th                         Led WP to 3 Currie Cup titles
Naas Botha               10/5/86        New Zealand         Cape Town      21-15       28            18th                        NT captain 4 previous seasons
Jannie Breedt        26/8/89      World XV            Cape Town            20-19        30           5th                    Tvl captain in 2 Currie Cup finals
Francois Pienaar   26/6/93     France                   Durban                 20-20         26           Debut          Captained Tvl Super 10 title 1992
Tiaan Strauss           9/7/94       New Zealand       Dunedin      14-22        29           12th             WP capt, close contender when Pienaar appointed
Adriaan Richter        30/5/95     Romania           Cape Town             21-8        29           8th            Midweek captain on Boks’ 93 tour of Australia; NT captain
Gary Teichmann         17/8/96      New Zealand   Durban            19-23              29        7th         Captained Natal to ’95 Currie Cup title
Corne Krige               19/6/99                Italy              Durban       101-0            24          Debut         Captain Paarl BHS, SA Schools & WP
Rassie Erasmus        17/7/99        Australia      Brisbane      6-32        26                21st      Turned down captaincy earlier when Krige appointed
Joost van der Westhuizen   7/8/99    New Zealand      Pretoria  18-34    28           52nd                   Led Blue Bulls to ’98 Currie Cup title, inspired confidence
Andre Vos                        10/10/99           Spain                    Edinburgh   47-3  24           7th                 Lions captain ’98 & former Bok midweek captain
Bobby Skinstad                  30/6/01           Italy                Port Elizabeth    60-14    24           18th                Maties, WP & Stormers capt
John Smit                             24/10/03          Georgia               Sydney      46-19        25           24th     Led SA U21 to Sanzar title & Natal ’01 CC final
Victor Matfield                  23/6/07      New Zealand        Durban        21-26    30         58th       Bulls Super 14-winning captain, highly respected
Johan Muller                 14/7/07           New Zealand            Christchurch   6-33    27           16th            Sharks Currie Cup captain
Jean de Villiers             9/6/2012           England                 Durban           22-17       31           73rd    Stormers capt & long-term leader in Bok team
Schalk Burger                    25/7/15       New Zealand       Johannesburg  20-27    32           78th         SA U21 & Stormers captain
Fourie du Preez              3/10/15         Scotland                   Newcastle       34-16     33        72nd         2008 Bulls Super Rugby captain, had to turn down Bok captaincy in 2012
Adriaan Strauss            11/6/16          Ireland                 Cape Town       ??-??    30         56th                Previously Bok vice-captain, Cheetahs & Bulls SR capt
 
 


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