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Ken Borland



Chapter & verse from Coetzee, and then what? 0

Posted on December 10, 2017 by Ken

 

In the next week, national coach Allister Coetzee will have to give chapter and verse on what happened to the Springboks this year to the SA Rugby executive council and if he stays true to his public pronouncements after the loss to Wales, then he will describe his charges as “a side that is on the up” and having “a really healthy team environment”.

Which is nothing but a sop for a South African public that rightly expects top-class performances from their national rugby team. Instead, the Springboks have endured a decidedly mediocre year, without a single rousing victory for Coetzee to rave about at his performance review. Victories over France, Argentina and Italy are not results we would expect the Springboks to boast about, and neither were two draws against a very average Australian side.

The results have been disappointing enough but to add insult to injury, the Springboks are playing such uninspired rugby that it feels like we are back to the most conservative days early on in Heyneke Meyer’s tenure as national coach.

Simply put, the Springboks are not making any progress under Coetzee. In fact, we have seen two more unwanted milestones set this year in record defeats to New Zealand and Ireland.

To put an end to this continued slide into mediocrity, SA Rugby simply have to hold Coetzee accountable and relieve him of his duties as Springbok coach. I had sympathy for him this time last year because he was coaching with one hand tied behind his back, perhaps even being set up to fail, but this year he has been given everything he wanted and even said at the start of the campaign that there were no excuses this year.

In the general public, Rassie Erasmus, freshly back in the post of director of rugby, is seen as the obvious candidate to replace Coetzee and try and rescue South Africa’s hopes for the 2019 World Cup.

But Erasmus has shown little desire to emerge from the shadows, from which he has been strategising, and there seems little doubt that the rumours that Deon Davids of the Southern Kings will be the new Springbok coach have emanated from his office via his usual journalistic channels.

Davids has done wonders with the Kings considering the lack of resources, both in terms of players and finance, and time he has had to deal with, and is highly-rated as a coach. But other players and coaches tell me he would be out of his depth at international level.

I do have a fundamental problem, though, if Davids is appointed to merely be the face of the Springboks with Erasmus making all the big decisions.

The Springbok coach needs to be accountable to the fans and he needs to be regularly available to the media to explain his decisions; something Coetzee and those before him have never shirked. Erasmus cannot be allowed to be pulling the strings and not seen to be answerable for the national team’s performance.

As Springbok coach, Coetzee has made some stupid selections (such as neutralising Eben Etzebeth as an enforcer by making him captain) and has rightly been called to task for them; Erasmus cannot be allowed to operate as a dictatorial figure whose instructions are not open to scrutiny.

The time has come for change, but as in Zimbabwean politics, there are concerns that the change won’t necessarily be for the better. The smooth-talking Erasmus has been able to con a lot of people in recent years, but perhaps now is the time for him to display his rugby acumen in the frontline, under the glare of the television cameras and the beady eye of the fourth estate.

 

Piedt amongst the spinners flourishing in SA cricket’s ‘po’ phase 0

Posted on June 22, 2016 by Ken

 

Edward de Bono, the father of lateral thinking, created the term “po” to describe an idea which moves thinking forward to a new place from where new ideas or solutions may be found. It’s probably not stretching things too far to suggest South African cricket is having a few po moments of its own, especially when it comes to spinners.

Omar Henry has had a long and successful journey through South African cricket: first as a player of colour he broke down barriers during Apartheid, as a fine left-arm spinner and a dangerous lower-order batsman he was highly respected both here and overseas, where he famously played for Scotland. He was already 40 when official international cricket returned, but he was still good enough to become the first non-white to play for South Africa.

After he retired in 1994, Henry turned to coaching and then became the convenor of the national selectors before entering the boardroom as the CEO of Boland cricket.

He has now returned to coaching and was helping out on Tuesday at the national academy at the centre of excellence at the University Of Pretoria, and he told The Citizen that the sight of three frontline spinners playing for South Africa in the West Indies triangular had been thrilling if scarcely believable.

Henry was keeping a beady eye on the spinners at the national academy nets and he had an interesting assistant in current Test spinner Dane Piedt, who was also bowling a few overs.

Piedt is one of the South African spinners who is not involved in limited-overs cricket or T20 competitions (perhaps he should be?), and with Test cricket starting again in August with two home games against New Zealand, he is needing practice, especially since the Cape weather is really not conducive to any sort of outdoor activity at the moment.

“It’s the end of the world in Cape Town at the moment! The weather channel says there’s an 85% chance of rain but it’s more like 105%. So I needed to come up here and get some work in before the SA A side goes to Zimbabwe and Australia,” the 26-year-old said after taking a break from the serious stuff.

The idea of a current player coaching up-and-coming stars who could be competing with him for places in teams is another example of forward-thinking, and it was wonderful to see the many different generations that academy head Shukri Conrad has roped in to help at the academy. Vincent Barnes was a prolific bowler of the 1980s, while Henry and Jimmy Cook were there from South Africa’s early years back in international cricket, as were Shaun Pollock and Gary Kirsten from the next era, more recent players like Andre Nel and Greg Smith, and then current stars Piedt and Stephen Cook.

For Piedt, doing some coaching was an eye-opening experience.

“I told Shukri that I actually learn a lot about my own game watching these youngsters. I remember the things that I used to do, what my weaknesses are, so it helps a lot just to focus on your own game. Guys like Robin Peterson, Claude Henderson and Paul Adams passed on to me what they knew about bowling and now I’m passing on the little I’ve learnt to these guys, which is exciting,” Piedt said.

Much of the off-season talk in South African cricket has been around playing pink ball day/nighters in Australia and how our players are going to prepare for a totally new challenge. De Bono would be proud of the positive attitude with which the Proteas are tackling this leap into the unknown.

“I’ve never played with a pink ball before, so it’s unknown territory, but the game is changing so rapidly these days and we need to keep up. When the SA A side meets up on July 2 we’re going to try and get a couple of pink balls into the nets to work out how they are different, devise strategies for it.

“I watched that Test between Australia and New Zealand in Adelaide and Nathan Lyon and Mark Craig were getting quite a bit of spin, even with the ball swinging all over the place. Apparently there are a lot of differences and you tend to see it, lose it and then pick it up again in the field,” Piedt said.

Piedt has taken 22 wickets in his five Tests in a career that was interrupted for over a year by a serious shoulder injury after his eight-wicket debut against Zimbabwe in Harare. He is the incumbent spinner after playing in three of the four Tests against England last summer and he feels he ticked the box when it came to consistency.

“The big thing for me was getting that consistency, being able to land the ball in the same place and build pressure. Taking three for 38 in 18 overs in the second innings in Cape Town really helped my confidence and then I felt I came into my own in the last Test at Centurion. And then the Tests just stopped!

“But England have a very strong batting line-up and I felt I was expensive early on. I want to put the two together, go for two/2.5 runs-per-over and also take wickets. I want to implement the parts of my game where I feel strong, like being aggressive. I was pleased with 10 wickets in the series on good surfaces,” Piedt said.

For the moment, the South African selectors are only seeing Piedt as a long-format player, but who knows what might happen in the future.

Few would have predicted the current success of Tabraiz Shamsi, who has proven an able deputy for the unstoppable Imran Tahir, while Aaron Phangiso also fulfils a valuable role and the likes of Eddie Leie and Simon Harmer are also waiting in the wings.

http://citizen.co.za/1172155/piedt-among-the-spinners-flourishing-in-sa-crickets-po-phase/

Pieter-Steph du Toit & Warren Whiteley Q&As 0

Posted on June 21, 2016 by Ken

 

Pieter-Steph du Toit

 

Q: How did it feel for the Springboks to be booed off the field at halftime?

PSdT: Well the first half was quite a shocker and being booed, well we fully deserved it. But we were 100% better in the second half and we showed what we can do. It’s difficult to describe the feeling when you get booed like that, but it made me a bit angry, I wanted to show that we are not that bad. If you play good rugby, then the crowd gets behind you.

 

Q: What went wrong in the first half?

PSdT: Us players were all on the field, but we just weren’t playing, we had no energy, we all just seemed a bit tired. I do not know why that happened in the first half, I have no explanation at the moment, except that our game plan was to work around the corner and we didn’t do that as the forwards.

 

Q: How did the Springboks manage to pull off such an amazing comeback?

PSdT: Eben Etzebeth and I spoke about it and we never doubted that we could win, and if you believe it then you can do it. There was a mindshift – we knew we had to win, so we had to lift our game to a different level and the changes helped too, a guy like Ruan Combrinck was man of the match after playing just 40 minutes, so that’s quite an effort. We stuck to the game plan more, the forwards came into the game and we cut out the mistakes. We made a lot of errors in the first half, we didn’t keep the ball, and Allister Coetzee and Adriaan Strauss spoke to us about that and said if this was our last Test for South Africa, how would we play? Of course they were upset.

 

 

Warren Whiteley

 

Q: How satisfying was that second-half comeback and how did you pull it off?

WW: We’re delighted with the win and the character we showed. We definitely felt the momentum swing early in the second half and that gave us a chance. We got quick ball and we were hitting the advantage line and so creating space out wide. We managed to keep that width, make holes in the middle and earn the right to go wide. It means a lot because we were extremely disappointed after the first half, but we showed our character in the second half, which is definitely going to be a massive confidence boost.

 

Q: Did you feel extra pressure coming on straight after halftime in front of your home crowd with the Springboks in a hole, and do you think you’ve secured a starting place now?

WW: Every time I step on to the field it’s a privilege and I try to make sure I use every opportunity. I didn’t feel any extra pressure, but I was highly motivated to make a difference. No, I don’t think I can talk about starting places because there are a lot of very talented loose forwards in the squad – Jaco Kriel hasn’t even played a game yet and there’s a guy like Sikhumbuzo Notshe also waiting in the wings.

 

Q: There’s been plenty of talk already about the win being down to all the members of the Lions team you captain who were on the field in the second half … is that why the Springboks won the game?

WW: There’s no way it was the Lions team who won the game, collectively we worked together on the game plan and the style of rugby we wanted to play. The first week together was tough, we did lots of work but lost, and this week was tough too. But slowly and surely we’re getting into our rhythm, we’re still reading and learning about each other. This was only my fifth Test, I’ve never had to link with Damian de Allende before, I’ve never scrummed behind Pieter-Steph du Toit before, so I’m still learning how to play with them.

 

All agree Glendower will be stern SA Open test 0

Posted on March 09, 2015 by Ken

The leading contenders used various terms to describe the rough at Glendower Golf Club, but one thing they all agreed on was that this year’s South African Open starting on Thursday in Edenvale will be a stern test.

Anything offline and away from the fairway will be punished, with chipping out of the rough often the only option.

Ernie Els, recently announced as the tournament’s ambassador and searching for his sixth SA Open title, is pleased that the Glendower set-up is tough.

“If you stray just off the fairway, you can really get a very tough lie. I hit one at 18 yesterday where I was a metre off the fairway and I could only advance it maybe 100 yards. But it’s what Opens are all about it, isn’t it? I think for a tournament of this stature it needs to be tough.

“Kikuyu is obviously a very thickly-laid grass and they’ve obviously let it go when there’s been a lot of rain, so it’s as thick and as tough as I’ve ever seen rough. But we want to find the best player this week and that’s what we’re going to get. You’re not going to get a guy who’s hitting it offline and getting lucky lies in the rough winning. You’re going to have to play proper golf and that’s what I think a national Open should be like,” Els said on Wednesday.

Charl Schwartzel thought the rough should have been even longer, while Branden Grace hoped it would be cut a bit, and George Coetzee described the course as “a real challenge”.

“If you miss a fairway, there is an 80% chance that you’ll have to chip out and I hit an eight-iron about 15 yards on one hole,” the Joburg Open champion said.

The greens, however, are soft and receptive, so conditions will favour the most accurate golfer rather than the most powerful.

“If there’s no rough then it’s usually a big hitter that wins, but this week is about hitting fairways and greens, which changes things a bit,” Danie van Tonder, the leader of the Sunshine Tour Order of Merit, said. “I won’t be stupid and hit driver everywhere. I’ll take three-wood or four-iron and lay-up before going for the green. To the pins I’ll be aggressive, but not on the tee shots.”

That doesn’t suit a guy like Coetzee, who likes to bomb it off the tee, but the 28-year-old said he will apply himself and look to adapt.

“I prefer tricky greens to tricky rough, but you’ve got to make your game suit the course. Hopefully I’ll hit it straight and make a few putts. You’ve got to hit a lot of fairways, because I don’t think the best putter will win it this week,” Coetzee said.

What is certain is that the leading South Africans – Schwartzel, Els, Coetzee, Grace, Richard Sterne and Hennie Otto – are all extremely hungry to claim their national Open and return the imposing trophy to home soil for the first time since Otto’s triumph in 2011.

Victory would be especially sweet for Ekurhuleni products like Els, Otto, Van Tonder and J’be Kruger.

“It’s wonderful to be back at the SA Open, especially here at Glendower in Ekurhuleni, the city where I’m from,” Els said. “I’ve played a lot of golf at Glendower, I grew up 12km from here and we’ve got a great venue this week. I feel very motivated to win as many as I can before I’m done,” the 45-year-old said.

 

 

 

 

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