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Ken Borland

New captain misses out but SA women producing more depth 0

Posted on July 15, 2016 by Ken


Newly-appointed South African women’s cricket captain Dane’ van Niekerk will miss her team’s first engagement since her appointment as she and three other leading players will not be making the trip to Ireland for a four-match ODI and two-match T20 series in Dublin from 1-11 August.

All-rounder Van Niekerk, fast bowler Shabnim Ismail and batters Marizanne Kapp and Lizelle Lee are the current stars of the South African team and have, deservedly, won contracts to play the England Super League T20 competition.

This is a great opportunity for the country’s top women’s players, who are way behind the men and their own counterparts from places like England, Australia and New Zealand when it comes to being able to make a decent living out of cricket, and, given that the Irish invited the Proteas after they had already been given No Objection Certificates and signed contracts with the Super League, Cricket South Africa have wisely decided to allow them to honour their commitments in England.

The absence of the four stars will also, however, boost CSA’s efforts aimed at producing more depth in the women’s national team.

“We see this as a good opportunity to give our young, up-and-coming players some vital international experience,” coach Hilton Moreeng said. “This will help us with the depth of the side and it will be a good test to see what they have to offer, especially after campaigning for a place in the side for so long. All of them have represented South Africa before and will value the opportunity to play more cricket against a good Ireland side on foreign soil.”

The South Africans will have a well-travelled replacement captain in Dinesha Devnarain, who leads the KZN side and is also a leading coach, one of only eight women in the country with a Level III certificate.

There is still plenty of top-class talent in the side with former captain Mignon du Preez, Trisha Chetty, Ayabonga Khaka, Marcia Letsoalo, Chloe Tryon, Moseline Daniels and Sune Luus all included in the touring party.

Medium-pacer Letsoalo said there is a hunger in the side to ensure they do not make the same mistakes as last season.

“We can improve, we know what we’re capable of. We let ourselves down last season, we know the mistakes we made and we’re working hard not to repeat them. It boils down to preparation and fitness, and being able to execute. You have to be wise and able to perform in the game.

“Having a strong batting department is the key thing we have been working on at the centre of excellence academy, batting long hours, rectifying the mistakes and weaknesses. The bowlers must just keep doing what we’re doing,” Letsoalo said.


Team: Dinesha Devnarain (KZN), Trisha Chetty (Gauteng), Mignon du Preez (Northerns), Lara Goodall (Boland), Ayabonga Khaka (Border), Yolani Fourie (Gauteng), Marcia Letsoalo (Northerns), Andrie Steyn (Western Province), Laura Wolvaardt (Western Province), Masabata Klaas (Northerns), Chloe Tryon (KZN), Moseline Daniels (Boland), Suné Luus (Northerns), Odine Kirsten (Northerns).


Fixtures: 1 August – 1st T20I (YMCA); 3 August – 2nd T20I (YMCA); 5 August – 1st ODI (Merrion); 7 August – 2nd ODI (YMCA); 9 August – 3rd ODI (Malahide); 11 August – 4th ODI (The Hills).


Boks need to improve to maintain feel-good factor 0

Posted on January 02, 2013 by Ken


While the Springboks’ second-half comeback against Ireland last weekend was rightly lauded, no-one enjoys seeing them play as poorly as they did in the first half and it is imperative that they hit their straps from the outset on Saturday against Scotland to avoid the feel-good factor of Dublin being totally diminished.

While there is no question the team has enormous character and are growing mentally with every outing, there are still nagging doubts eating away at many analysts that the Springboks might not be on the right path.

While the fickle public throw their rotten tomatoes over the way the Springboks play, the lack of tries they’ve scored and who is selected, there are valid concerns about South Africa’s greatest rivals, New Zealand, disappearing over the horizon in terms of how far ahead they are in terms of quality.

Many comparisons with the All Blacks have not been between apples and apples, simply because they have a far more experienced, injury-free side at the moment, but the way they dismantled a brave Scottish team last weekend with a second-string side gives the Springboks a pointer as to what they should be aiming for.

Heyneke Meyer’s team may have risen to number two in the world rankings, but there has not been much to choose between them, Australia, France, England and even Argentina this year.


Ruthless and efficient is what most fans would want to see from them this weekend in Edinburgh.


Scotland is currently ranked ninth and in danger of slipping further into the third tier of nations ahead of the 2015 World Cup draw on 3 December. Running through their team list, only a handful of players are recognisable internationals. The Springboks really should dominate them and, for a change, make sure the scoreboard reflects that as well.


Even when the admirable young Springbok pack has dominated its opposition this year – even doing it against the All Blacks in Dunedin – the team has turned that advantage into points just once, beating Australia 31-8 at Loftus Versfeld at the end of September.


There is a bright young thing at flyhalf now in Pat Lambie, but one feels he still needs to sell himself to coach Meyer and there was more than a hint of him playing within himself last weekend against Ireland.


Lambie’s strength is not the aerial route and, given that Zane Kirchner and Ruan Pienaar are still in the team and kicking for territory is still a vital part of Test rugby, he would perhaps be well-advised to leave those duties to them, while focusing on his more magical skills while the Springboks are on attack.


The Springboks have come to Murrayfield before with expectations running high that they would emulate the All Blacks, but lost their last outing there 21-17 in 2010 and struggled to a 14-10 victory in the previous match in 2008.


The major advantage South Africans have over northern hemisphere teams is the pace at which they play the game in Sanzar events, and the Scots will surely not be able to match the intensity if the Springboks up the pace, as they did in the first half of the Test against England at Ellis Park in June.


The pack obviously has a key role to play in laying the foundation and securing quick ball, but the Springboks should learn from the mistakes of the past and not only rely on forward dominance for victory.


After choosing centres that provided a steady diet of crash ball in midfield for the whole year, it is pleasing that Meyer has given Juan de Jongh a chance in the number 13 jersey. One of the heroes of the Currie Cup final has the footwork to splinter the best of defences and the possibility exists of actually seeing a few linebreaks and offloads on Saturday.


The defence, which was outstanding against Ireland, may lose a bit in physicality, but De Jongh is a tenacious tackler and the Western Province and Stormers teams he starred in had the best defensive records in their competitions.


The Springboks are overdue a complete performance that proves they are indeed the nearest challengers to the All Blacks.

Resolute Boks prove character in comeback win 0

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Ken

You can say what you want about the Springboks’ skills and style of play, but there is no doubting they are a team of excellent character, as proven by their come-from-behind 16-12 victory over Ireland in Dublin at the weekend.

Trailing 3-12 at half-time – a scoreline which flattered them, if anything – the Springboks produced a wonderful second-half display to allow coach Heyneke Meyer to claim his first away victory.

It was a victory built on magnificent defence. To keep Ireland scoreless in the second half, allowing them just one missed shot at goal, was a superb effort and testament to enormous discipline and commitment.

That defence was at its best in the last 25 minutes, when three Ireland attacks of 14, nine and 13 phases respectively foundered on the resolute green-and gold-wall.

The first half was totally different.

The locals were undoubtedly contemplating kegs of celebratory Guinness as Ireland thoroughly dominated the first half. The Springboks were ill-disciplined and were made to pay as referee Wayne Barnes seemed to have his eye on them, penalising them 11 times in the first 40 minutes.

And apart from conceding four penalties to flyhalf Jonathan Sexton, the Springboks could get nothing going themselves, having just a solitary Pat Lambie penalty to their name at the break as their moves came to naught due to handling errors or turnovers at the breakdown, where Ireland dominated in the first half.

The Springboks’ tactical kicking was also poor and on the several occasions they did try something ambitious with ball in hand, it was often from the wrong positions and without the hard work having been done first on the inside. The result was one-off runners isolated out wide and either a penalty or a turnover to Ireland.

It was one of those days when nothing seemed to go right for the Springboks. They had even lost their talismanic and hugely popular loosehead prop, Beast Mtawarira, to heart palpitations on the morning of the Test. (He has since been released from hospital and should be fine to continue with the tour).

Even JP Pietersen was harshly yellow-carded for a tackle that was a split-second too early, the refereering team undoubtedly being swayed by the howling of the capacity crowd.

It would have been so easy for this largely inexperienced team to have lost their composure and crumbled to an embarrassing defeat, but instead they came out in the second half and produced a compelling 40 minutes of rugby that were devoid of the errors that had blighted their first half.

A fiery start to the second half saw a penalty kicked to touch – credit to captain Jean de Villiers for that – and an impressive rolling maul was launched which Ireland captain Jamie Heaslip could only bring down illegally, earning himself a yellow card.

Shortly thereafter, scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar sniped over under the poles for the only try of the match.

That cut the deficit to 10-12 and the Springboks played the percentages much better thereafter. The ball was kept in hand, but it was also kept tighter with short passes from the rucks, and eventually Ireland cracked under the barrage of ball-carriers, going offsides and allowing Lambie to grab the lead with his second penalty.

The Ireland offensive plan was based on the possibility of earning penalties within kickable distance rather than any obvious threat to the tryline, but the defence of the Springboks was nevertheless magnificent.

The skills of openside flank Francois Louw on the ground also helped tremendously, as did the introduction of loosehead prop Heinke van der Merwe in the 64th minute, the Ireland-based prodigal son earning crucial penalties in his first two scrums.

The return of Van der Merwe to the Springbok fold after playing just one Test against Wales in 2007 could well be one of the major success stories of the Meyer tenure. The former Lions prop was rated as one of the strongest scrummagers in the country before joining Leinster in 2010 and he can also play tighthead, a position where there is a serious lack of depth in South African rugby.

The performances of all four props who played was impressive, while hooker Adriaan Strauss was an almost manic presence all over the field as he won his family battle with cousin and Irish debutant Richardt Strauss.

Lock Eben Etzebeth’s work in the lineouts was once again of the highest quality, while the physical presence he and loose forwards Willem Alberts and Duane Vermeulen brought to the contest was also instrumental in the defensive steel of the Springboks.

While De Villiers received the ball almost impossibly flat in midfield and still made yards every time, the most talked-about backline player was Lambie.

The troubles of the first half aside, the 22-year-old produced a solid if unspectacular display, although he was instrumental in the impressive change of game plan in the second half that proved the mental abilities of this Springbok outfit.

Meyer errs on the conservative with Steyn failsafe 0

Posted on January 01, 2013 by Ken

Heyneke Meyer has admitted that he tends to err on the side of the conservative, and the Springbok coach has done it again with his answer to the team’s flyhalf conundrum ahead of their Test against Ireland in Dublin on Saturday.

While Meyer has taken the plunge and rewarded Pat Lambie for his outstanding Currie Cup form with the starting number 10 jersey, he has retained Morne Steyn in the match squad, on the bench, undoubtedly as a failsafe.

While Meyer’s caution is understandable – he stands to lose his job if his teams don’t win in an environment where the margin between success and failure is very small – there is the danger that his fears could rub off on the players and leave them with the feeling that the coach doesn’t have complete faith in their abilities.

Meyer has not only suggested he believes Lambie might not be up to the task by including the out-of-form but experienced Steyn as back-up, but also by ditching his plan to make a change at fullback.

Before the tour, Meyer suggested he wanted to look at Jaco Taute at fullback, with the 21-year-old being largely anonymous in his two starts at outside centre at the end of the Rugby Championship. But the coach has ultimately gone with Zane Kirchner again, the Bulls man’s tactical kicking ability saving him and again pointing to the lack of total faith in Lambie’s abilities.


Of course, Meyer does deserve some credit for going down the Lambie route at 10 when he probably felt Steyn was the totally safe choice. But the Bulls player’s confidence is gone, and it will be seriously tested if he has to be rushed off the bench in the final quarter with the Springboks in trouble.


Elton Jantjies, who was preferred to Steyn as the injured Johan Goosen’s back-up in the last two Tests, is now gone from the match-day 22 and has paid for some average showings as the defending champion Lions were eliminated from the Currie Cup.


Apart from improving his winning record, which currently stands at just 44%, the other thing Meyer is hoping to get from the Great Britain and Ireland tour is an indication of which players can shine in those conditions, with an eye on the next World Cup in England and Wales in 2015.


And they are conditions that the Springboks have often struggled in. They have just emerged from a three-match losing streak against Ireland, scraping home 23-21 at the Aviva Stadium two years ago, and they can expect the men in emerald green to come out with intense passion and commitment.


Ireland themselves have some hard knocks to recover from, their previous Test resulting in a 60-0 whitewash at the hands of the All Blacks in Hamilton in June, while they have also been hard-hit by injuries.


Centre Brian O’Driscoll, hooker Rory Best, flank Sean O’Brien and fullback Rob Kearney are all out of action for all their November internationals, while loose forward Stephen Ferris (ankle) and lock Paul O’Connell (back) failed to recover from their niggles and were both ruled out this week.


But the Irish still boast quality players, particularly in their backline. Centres Gordon D’Arcy and Keith Earls and wing Tommy Bowe just need the slightest aperture in the defence to be a major threat, but they will need a steady diet of front-foot ball to make that happen.


It is up front where the Springboks will be hoping to really dominate the Irish. There were times against both Australia and New Zealand when the South African pack overwhelmed their opponents and they will be looking to dominate the collisions again on Saturday.


Ireland’s new captain, eighthman Jamie Heaslip, will need to lead from the front but the Springboks will have Duane Vermeulen and Willem Alberts watching him closely to ensure the powerful 28-year-old does not build up momentum for his side.


Flyhalf Jonathan Sexton and his replacement, Ronan O’Gara, have both previously kicked Ireland to victory over the Springboks and they will be looking to dominate territory and grab whatever points are on offer through penalties.


The Springboks will obviously have to meet fire with fire, but discipline will be paramount with referee Wayne Barnes sometimes verging on the pedantic. Rainy weather is also expected to hit the Irish capital on Friday, making the game even more of an arm-wrestle. There will be an especially interesting clash between hooker Adriaan Strauss and his cousin Richardt, who will make his Test debut on Saturday in the unlikely colours of Ireland.


While the Test will be won and lost up front, most eyes, however, will be on Lambie and whether he can do enough to make that number 10 jersey his own. To convince Meyer of that, the young star will need to control the game with his boot as much as anything else. He managed to do it for the Sharks during their exceptionally wet October and there is no reason Lambie can’t do it again.

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