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Ken Borland



Parnell a cautionary tale for Rabada 0

Posted on March 02, 2015 by Ken

There was a time when Wayne Parnell was one of the hottest prospects on the planet, dominating the ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in 2008 alongside the likes of Virat Kohli, Tim Southee and Ravindra Jadeja, who are all now world stars of the international game.

New Australian captain Steven Smith (as well as the late Phillip Hughes), Kane Williamson, Ahmed Shehzad, Junaid Khan, Umar Akmal, Dinesh Chandimal and Darren Bravo were all part of that tournament as well.

That Parnell is an extravagantly gifted cricketer is not in doubt, nor that he can be a tricky customer to manage at times, but it is also clear that the 25-year-old has certainly not fulfilled his talent.

And I strongly believe that that has not all been his own fault; young cricketers need to be treated with care, no matter how talented they are.

Parnell was thrown into senior international cricket as a 19-year-old in January 2009, in Australia, just 10 months after that junior world cup. Although some initial performances were encouraging, like all inexperienced players he struggled for consistency and began to be chosen in squads without earning a regular place in the starting XI.

All that touring, without actually playing much, took its toll and Parnell became more inconsistent. He was never free to learn his trade at first-class or franchise level; eight years after making his first-class debut, he is finally playing his 50th match this weekend for the Warriors (and doing rather well). By way of comparison, Parnell’s 2008 team-mates, Rilee Rossouw and Reeza Hendricks, have played 73 and 85 first-class matches respectively and their stars are definitely on the rise, while his is waning. Southee has played 37 Tests and claimed 128 wickets, Parnell has just seven wickets in four Tests.

Parnell for me is a cautionary tale when it comes to the treatment of South Africa’s latest junior world cup sensation – Kagiso Rabada.

I was delighted that Rabada was released from the national squad playing in the first Test against the West Indies to go and play a Sunfoil Series four-day game for the Highveld Lions.

As good as it is for Rabada to be bowling in the nets and soaking up the ProteaFire atmosphere, I would beseech the national selectors to please allow this wonderful young talent to grow the foundation in the game that Parnell missed out on.

Through playing and learning at that level, against various types of batsmen, in different conditions, Rabada will know his game when he finally steps up to play Test cricket.

He can recycle the knowledge he will gain in the Lions set-up from such experienced cricketers as Neil McKenzie, Lonwabo Tsotsobe and Stephen Cook.

It is not too late, of course, for Parnell to fulfil his potential and he might even one day open the bowling in a Test with Rabada. But like good wine, great cricketers are not rushed, they are developed and matured.

I would also have preferred seeing Temba Bavuma return to the Lions side and get some time in the middle, hopefully adding to the 90 runs he has scored in four Sunfoil Series innings this season.

In regards to that, national coach Russell Domingo said “the media would be all over us if a makeshift 12th man dropped a catch”, which seems a bit harsh on Robin Peterson!

As things worked out, both Bavuma and Peterson were required in the field, but hopefully the young batsman will be able to get some proper runs under his belt before what seems an inevitable call-up for him too.

 

No chance for someone to bale Proteas out 0

Posted on January 06, 2015 by Ken

It’s been the saddest of weeks for the cricketing world with the tragic passing of Phil Hughes in what can only be described as the freakiest of accidents dominating all discussions.

So many batsmen are hit on the head these days (I’m of the school of thought that says helmets encourage them to take their eye off the ball), but Hughes had the awful misfortune of being struck on the side of the neck, just below his helmet’s grille, flush on the vertebral artery, which split and caused the fatal brain haemorrhage.

South Africans have also been mourning the 25-year-old Australian, not least of all because he greatly impressed everyone on these shores with his grit and unorthodox talent as he averaged 53 against the Proteas in five Tests, scoring two centuries and two half-centuries.

The national team has, of course, just returned from Australia, where their 4-1 ODI series hammering caused much soul-searching and anguish amongst their fans, before being overshadowed by the real tragedy that unfolded in Sydney.

Whatever AB de Villiers so brashly said upon his return home about being the better side and South Africa’s World Cup plans being on track, serious questions have been raised about the Proteas’ ability to seriously contend at the global showpiece tournament starting in 11 weeks’ time.

Most worryingly, there is no further ODI cricket scheduled for them before they have to announce their final 15-man squad for the World Cup on January 7. So the five-match series against the West Indies will not provide the selectors with the opportunity to find someone who can bale them out of their current problems in terms of balance and form, because it starts on January 16. Neither is there any franchise 50-over cricket before then.

The squad that plays against the West Indies will be the World Cup squad and those 15 players will have dress rehearsals on five days in which they have to regain form and convince their fans that they are the strong contenders they perceive themselves to be.

South Africa’s most pressing need would seem to be to fill the number seven position with someone who can genuinely contribute with bat and ball. Ryan McLaren, with his mediocre bowling and his weakness against the short ball when batting, has done little lately to suggest he could be a match-winner in that vital position. Sadly, the schedule has dictated that the selectors are not going to be able to see what David Wiese can do.

I would back the Titans all-rounder because he brings power-hitting and a proven ability at the death, as well as the sort of bowling skills the South African attack desperately needs to master on what should be good batting pitches in Australasia.

In terms of cover, the 15-man squad will need to include two extra pace bowlers – perhaps one containing and one more attacking – an extra batsman who can bowl a bit and either an extra spinner or a top-order batsman.

This means Kyle Abbott must surely have secured his ticket, while I would choose Lonwabo Tsotsobe, in great form since returning from injury, ahead of Wayne Parnell. This would also reduce the pressure on the selectors in terms of Black African representation; although Aaron Phangiso deserves to go to the World Cup, his ill-timed injury and the need for top-order batting cover could count against him.

The selection of both Rilee Rossouw and Farhaan Behardien would facilitate cover for both the top three and the middle-order, with Behardien able to fulfil the crucial role of a sixth bowler that was vital in JP Duminy’s absence.

The presence of a genuine all-rounder like Wiese at seven would enable the Proteas to avoid the problem of either having to go into games a batsman or a bowler short, but the other issue they need to solve is not one of personnel but one of skills.

The bowling in the death overs was generally poor and the failure to consistently execute yorkers, slower-ball bouncers and changes of pace means the South Africans lack the weapons the other top teams enjoy.

My World Cup squad: Hashim Amla, Quinton de Kock, Faf du Plessis, AB de Villiers, JP Duminy, David Miller, David Wiese, Vernon Philander, Dale Steyn, Morne Morkel, Imran Tahir, Kyle Abbott, Lonwabo Tsotsobe, Farhaan Behardien, Rilee Rossouw.

 

SuperRugby will be a baptism of fire for Southern Kings 0

Posted on June 10, 2013 by Ken

The SuperRugby season kicks off on Friday with Australian teams getting the competition started. The five South African franchises join the fray next weekend with several burning questions still to be answered. Foremost of these is whether the Southern Kings have procured enough firepower to avoid totally embarrassing themselves and the South African Rugby Union administrators who promoted them with scant regard for on-field performance.

The Southern Kings have brought a dozen new players to Port Elizabeth, but they can best be described as SuperRugby journeymen. Even though hooker Bandise Maku and centres Waylon Murray and Andries Strauss are all Springboks, they are not what one would term star players capable of dominating at SuperRugby level. The Kings have also signed two seasoned Argentinean internationals in scrumhalf Nicolas Vergallo and flank Tomas Leonardi, as well as former Toulouse hooker Virgile Lacombe.

The role of captain Luke Watson, of whom opinions vary from sulky trouble-causer to inspiring team-man and leader, is going to be very important in melding such a disparate group of players into a team. Massive expenditure is no guarantee of success in a sport that depends so greatly on team cohesion and attitude.

The Kings have also incurred the wrath of many South African fans who believe their inclusion in the competition is purely on political grounds and the pressure will be on them from the outset.

All eyes will be on their opening game when they host the Western Force, who are also trying to find their feet in SuperRugby. Then, before heading off on their overseas tour, the Kings face daunting meetings with the Sharks and defending champions the Chiefs.

The other game the Kings could possibly target in search of that morale-boosting first victory will be against the Rebels in Melbourne on 13 April, but that will be the last game of their overseas tour and whether they will still be on two feet remains to be seen.

On the positive side, this year provides an ideal opportunity for talented players such as flank Daniel Adongo, flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis, centre Ronnie Cooke and lock Steven Sykes to make their mark on this semi-international stage.

The Bulls will be looking to build on their achievement in making last year’s playoffs as they showed there is still life in the union after so many of yesterday’s heroes moved on.

Pierre Spies’s team will include two new faces in utility back Lionel Mapoe and talented young lock Paul Willemse, but the Pretoria faithful will be relying on remaining stalwarts such as Morne Steyn, Spies, Flip van der Merwe, Francois Hougaard, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dewald Potgieter, Deon Stegmann, Wynand Olivier, Akona Ndungane and Zane Kirchner for bigger and better things in 2013.

None more so than Steyn whose eye will still be on the Springbok number 10 jersey. He can count on Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer still valuing his experience and goal-kicking ability, but he needs to play more like the dashing flyhalf of 2008/9 than a gout-ridden has-been turning out for the Blikkiesdorp over-35s.

Loose forward CJ Stander has moved on to new pastures, which counts as a big loss for the Bulls, but the likes of lock Juandre Kruger and backs JJ Engelbrecht, Francois Venter and Bjorn Basson are ready to take the next step and dominate at SuperRugby level.

The Cheetahs will be well aware that their neighbours in Gauteng are smarting over their exclusion from SuperRugby and the way their former allies in Bloemfontein helped betray them. So they will be nervous going into the SuperRugby season, desperate to avoid finishing last in the South African conference and having to face the Lions in a promotion/relegation series.

Their build-up to the campaign has not been good, with the final bell having rung on Juan Smith’s superb career and another favourite, prop Coenie Oosthuizen, still taking the first steps on his way back to recovery. The front row has been one of the Cheetahs’ premier areas of strength in recent years, but with WP Nel and Marcel van der Merwe both having left, coach Naka Drotske is a worried man, with his job under some pressure as well.

Twenty-year-old Johan Goosen is a potential match-winner for the Cheetahs and a popular choice for the Springbok number 10 jersey – he will be a key man for Drotske.

Captain Adriaan Strauss is a respected leader and brilliant hooker, but the state of the rest of the tight five will be the key factor in determining whether Goosen and other exciting backs like Sarel Pretorius, Robert Ebersohn, Johann Sadie, Raymond Rhule and Willie le Roux are able to play with the flair they are famous for.

The Cheetahs also have a bad draw: they have just a solitary home game against the Sharks before they head off overseas, their opening tour matches being against the defending champions, the Chiefs, and then the Highlanders at the House of Pain in Dunedin.

The Stormers topped the log in 2012 and are the Currie Cup champions, and there is plenty of optimism in Cape Town that they are heading into another golden age of Western Province rugby to rival that of the late 1990s/early 2000s. The SuperRugby title is the one they really want and they certainly have the players to become the second South African franchise to claim the trophy. Though their defence was famously committed and superbly organised last year, they will need to sharpen up on their attacking skills.

Jean de Villiers, Bryan Habana and Schalk Burger are household names, but they have also added some potential superstars in fullback Jaco Taute and flyhalf Elton Jantjies.

Their pack also boasts Springboks in Eben Etzebeth, Duane Vermeulen, Andries Bekker and new signing Pat Cilliers, while much is expected of loose forwards Siya Kolisi and Rynhardt Elstadt.

But items up for debate are whether they have enough depth in the tight five should injuries strike, whether scrumhalves Dewaldt Duvenhage, Nic Groom and Louis Schreuder have the star quality to get the best out of a phenomenal backline also featuring Juan de Jongh, Gio Aplon and Joe Pietersen, and when Burger will actually return to action after a succession of leg injuries.

It will be necessary for the Stormers to hit the competition running as their first three games are key away trips to conference contenders the Bulls and Sharks, followed by a meeting with the Chiefs at Newlands.

 

The Sharks have such a wealth of talent at their disposal across almost all positions that it is becoming inexplicable that they still haven’t managed to win a SuperRugby crown.

The only items causing some concern down Durban way will be the second row, where Franco van der Merwe is the experienced import among the greenhorns, who is going to start at hooker while Bismarck du Plessis continues his rehab from knee ligament surgery, and will Frans Steyn continue to captain while Keegan Daniel recovers from a knee injury?

A dreadfully slow start to the 2012 campaign was to blame for the Sharks only finishing sixth on the log and scraping into the playoffs. Travelling to Australia, Cape Town and then to New Zealand was a bridge too far for them and they will be mindful of the need to earn home playoffs this time round.

Although the Currie Cup ultimately ended in a shock defeat to Western Province in the final, the potential was plain to see in the likes of lock Anton Bresler, scrumhalf Cobus Reinach, centres Paul Jordaan and Tim Whitehead, wing Sibusiso Sithole and fullback Louis Ludik.

The Sharks loose trio was arguably the best in the competition last year and Ryan Kankowski is back from Japan to join Marcell Coetzee, Daniel, Willem Alberts, Jean Deysel and Jacques Botes.

In Butch James, the Sharks have experienced cover for Pat Lambie in the flyhalf position, while Steyn provides muscle in midfield and JP Pietersen and Lwazi Mvovo were inspirational on the wing last year.

The Sharks will also be spending the first eight weeks of the competition in South Africa, playing teams like the Stormers, Brumbies and Crusaders in Durban, so they should be in good spirits by the time they head overseas in the last week of April.

The Sharks will surely be in contention and, provided they don’t get in their own way, 2013 could be the year they finally get their hands on the SuperRugby trophy.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-02-15-superrugby-preview-brief-lull-before-the-storm-for-sa-franchises/#.UbXJOec3A6w

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