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Ken Borland



Proteas end high up in rankings but hardly inspired in 2017 0

Posted on January 12, 2018 by Ken

 

South Africa ended last year ranked second in Tests and first in one-day internationals in the International Cricket Council rankings, but they were hardly inspired in 2017.

In fact, the Proteas were more like the bully in the schoolyard, bolstering their self-esteem, and rankings, by picking on easy-beats like Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and Zimbabwe at home. But when they were up against the big boys, most notably in the Champions Trophy and in the four-Test series in England, they folded in a heap.

Although they won in New Zealand, the ODIs were tightly-contested and they had good fortune in the Tests, rain washing out the final game when the Black Caps were in an excellent position to level the series.

In terms of individual performances, Hashim Amla and Kagiso Rabada continued to deliver world-class performances on a consistent basis, with the batting of AB de Villiers, Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis helping to make the ODI batting unit a dominant force.

Imran Tahir was their best white-ball bowler but it was the Test spinner, Keshav Maharaj, who perhaps made the greatest strides in 2017 and, at the age of 27, he is clearly a future star for the Proteas.

The arrival of Aiden Markram as a technically solid opening partner for Dean Elgar, who was the mainstay of the Test batting with 1128 runs, behind only India’s Cheteshwar Pujara and Aussie maestro Steve Smith in the year’s tally, helped bolster a batting line-up that was exposed in England, especially during De Villiers’ hiatus from Test cricket.

Markram will obviously face far sterner challenges than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe in 2018, but he couldn’t have been expected to do much better than 380 runs in his first four innings, including two centuries.

But that there were more question marks than answers over the Proteas’ performance was borne out by the departure of Russell Domingo as coach before the start of the summer and the arrival of former West Indies head coach and England assistant Ottis Gibson.

After a gentle introduction into the job, his charges feasting on minnows Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, Gibson faces his first real test in the new year as world number ones India arrive.

He will need to keep De Villiers available for Tests just to settle the batting line-up, while the bowlers are certainly there to challenge for the number one ranking, the only problem being keeping them fit and getting the right balance in selection due to the transformation targets.

Most importantly, Gibson will be focused on the creation of a steely edge in the team, and has already created expectation for the 2019 World Cup by declaring that winning that elusive trophy is his goal.

When put under proper pressure by the likes of England, and by Pakistan and India in the Champions Trophy, the old signs of muddled thinking and near-panic were once again there. Gibson will want to make the Proteas a side that plays the big moments well and seizes every opportunity that comes their way.

The South African women’s team provided some of the highlights of the year and captured the imagination of cricket fans back home by narrowly missing out on a place in the Women’s World Cup final, hosts and eventual champions England just sneaking through in a pulsating semi-final.

Players such as Marizanne Kapp, the number one ODI bowler in the world, and Dane van Niekerk became global stars.

 

The biggest need for the Proteas is stability 0

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Ken

 

Whoever the new coach of the Standard Bank Proteas will be, the team’s biggest need at present is for stability after all the disruptions of the England tour that ended with South Africa being heavily beaten in four days in the fourth and final Test, losing the rubber 3-1, their first series loss in England since 1998 and their heaviest defeat since losing 3-0 to Colin Cowdrey’s team in 1960.

The frontrunner to replace Russell Domingo, judging by media reports, is Ottis Gibson, the current England bowling coach and the former West Indies head coach who won the World T20 in 2012. The 48-year-old Barbadian has both the international experience – having been involved at that level for 11 years – and the local knowledge, having played in South Africa for the better part of the 1990s for Border, Griqualand West and Gauteng.

The list of disruptions the Proteas suffered on their tour of England, with the Tests following their defeats in both limited-overs series and the disappointment of an early exit in the Champions Trophy, starts with Domingo. The coach was not only in the awkward position of not knowing whether the tour would be his last in charge, but then had the awful heartbreak of his mother being involved in a car accident and eventually tragically passing away, forcing Domingo to leave the squad on two occasions and fly back home.

The Proteas were not only without their coach but they also went into the series without their galvanising skipper Faf du Plessis, who missed the first Test at Lord’s having stayed in South Africa for the difficult birth of his first child; a hard call but a totally understandable one.

Du Plessis returned for the second Test at Trent Bridge, with the Proteas winning by a whopping 340 runs. But they were brought back down to earth, hitting the ground hard, in the last two Tests, losing by 239 and 177 runs respectively.

The combination of Vernon Philander and Chris Morris as bowling all-rounders worked a treat in the second Test, but not in the third as Philander suffered an untimely, debilitating illness having made the ball talk in spectacular fashion as he did great work on the first day at the Oval.

The stalwart of the attack then pulled out of the fourth Test with a sore back, prompting Du Plessis to snipe that Philander needed to work harder on his fitness.

The captain shows refreshing candour in press conferences and he basically also confirmed that AB de Villiers’ Test career is dead and the team need to move on as quickly as possible.

At the moment it seems as though they have been left hanging by De Villiers, with three different batsmen being used in the crucial number four spot against England.

For me, Du Plessis should step up, take responsibility and bat in the number four position. He can bat both time and aggressively, and as captain he also needs to set the tone.

Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock, as good as they are, are better suited to coming in lower down the order.

Bavuma has the technique and tenacity to be a middle-order fighter much like Jonty Rhodes was, and his value is often worth more than simply the sum of his runs; he should be batting five or six and can also handle the second new ball and marshal the tail.

De Kock has been touted as the new Adam Gilchrist and needs to be used in the same role as the great Australian wicketkeeper/batsman. De Kock has all the shots and likes to use them, and needs to come in at six or seven where he can play his own, counter-attacking game. Having to rebuild at 40 for two does not suit him and he is the sort of batsman who can shift momentum batting lower down or really take the game away from tired bowlers.

Everything depends on a solid start, however, and South Africa had an average opening stand of just 13.62 against England and nothing higher than 21 between Dean Elgar and Heino Kuhn.

Elgar had a good series in tough conditions, scoring a century and two half-centuries as he made the second most runs (291) for the Proteas, behind Hashim Amla (329), but Kuhn’s place must be under serious threat after he made just 113 runs in eight innings.

Stephen Cook, the man Kuhn replaced, must still be in the mix judging by his century last weekend for the SA A side, while those who believe players of the future must be given as much opportunity as possible will be clamouring for Aiden Markram to make his Test debut against Bangladesh at the end of next month.

But whatever the final selection, there must be far more stability over the coaching situation – who Gibson’s assistants will be is shaping as an interesting discussion – and the captaincy. Surely everyone would feel a lot more settled if Du Plessis was just given the captaincy for all three formats?

The selectors and management also need to make up their minds about batting positions and stick to them, players floating up and down the order is doing nobody any good.

A couple of Tests against Bangladesh should be a good opportunity for the Proteas to regather their balance and get back on the winning trail.

There will be the distraction of the Global T20 League after that, but the South Africans need to get quickly back up to speed because world number one India and Australia, itching for revenge, will be considerable opposition when they arrive on these shores later in the summer.

For now, Hoskins just wants to talk about the good times 0

Posted on September 03, 2016 by Ken

 

South African rugby followers are going to hear more from outgoing president Oregan Hoskins when the time is right, he said, but for now he wants to dwell on the positives of his 10-year term which ended when he stood down earlier this month.

‘I have always been truthful and I will talk, but it’s just a question of timing. There are legal issues that mean I can’t say anything now, but once I am not beholden to anyone then I will speak,” Hoskins told Saturday Citizen.

“You can never please everybody as president, but there are some great memories, from being the first person of colour to become president, spending a weekend in Bloemfontein with Archbishop Desmond Tutu, being a director of the Rugby World Cup and living in the houses of friends all over South Africa, rather than staying in hotels. It was an opportunity to get to know South Africans of all colours and creeds and there are unbelievable memories,” Hoskins said.

Transformation and the structure of the game are two issues still bedevilling South African rugby, with Hoskins saying progress had been made in the former.

“I’ve seen transformation happen at all levels, I’ve seen it in the supporters and it makes me so proud, that was a victory for me. Ten years ago there were lots of questions about the national team, but now it is less of a big issue. The major stakeholders, government and sponsors need to jointly govern transformation.

“There’s no doubt the structure of South African rugby is totally flawed and we are still a long way off getting it right. Many of our efforts don’t grow because of the poor system and until there is total equity ownership of all rugby entities from clubs to franchises, it’s going to be very difficult to satisfy the political demands rugby faces,” Hoskins said.

Tendai Mtawarira will equal Os du Randt’s record for the most capped Springbok prop on Saturday in Argentina, but Hoskins remembers him in tears in his house in 2009 when his Test career was still at a fledgling stage.

“I’ll never forget a young Beast walking into my house in Westville in tears because Makhenkesi Stofile had phoned and said he can’t play for the Springboks anymore because he wasn’t a South African citizen. Beast was broken and I made it my duty to make sure he played for the Springboks. I got to meet Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma, then at Home Affairs, and pleaded with her and she gave Beast citizenship there and then, so he became a Springbok again,” Hoskins recalled.

Helping to bring stability in the Springbok coaching position will also be a lasting legacy of Hoskins’.

Helping to grow rugby in Africa will be Hoskins’ focus in the game for the time being, with a shipment of kit on its way to the Democratic Republic of the Congo thanks to his efforts already.

SuperRugby ended negatively so Blue Bulls look to set early marker in Currie Cup 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

SuperRugby may have ended negatively for the team from Loftus Versfeld, but much the same group of players will be eager to lay down an early marker for the Currie Cup trophy when the Blue Bulls open that campaign against Western Province at Loftus Versfeld on Friday.

Coach Nollis Marais named a team on Tuesday that features just two debutants and only three players on the bench (lock Eli Snyman, scrumhalf Andre Warner and flyhalf Tony Jantjies) who did not feature in the SuperRugby campaign which ended with the Bulls just two points off the playoffs.

With Travis Ismaiel still recovering from a niggling injury, 23-year-old Jade Stighling comes in on the wing, while former Western Province prop Entienne Swanepoel will make his senior debut as the starting tighthead.

Springbok Bjorn Basson starting at fullback is the only other change to the regular backline that played in Super Rugby, the move forced due to the absence of Jesse Kriel on national duty and SP Marais coming to the end of his short-term contract.

“There are only two changes to the Super Rugby backline and just two debutants in the team overall. Bjorn was always an option at fullback, where we also have Manie Libbok. But Bjorn is a bit more experienced and is good in the air, and it’s just about getting the best players on the field. He was good for his Japanese team [Honda Heat] at fullback.

“Jade was very good in the Currie Cup qualifiers and has been waiting for a chance. Travis is not quite ready yet, but I’m happy that we will still have a good attacking back three. It’s a young team overall, but they have more Super Rugby experience, guys like Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten and Pierre Schoeman up front are all a lot better players now,” Marais said on Tuesday at Loftus Versfeld.

Eighthman Arno Botha has been named as the new Currie Cup captain and the Springbok loose forward said he would be impacting more through actions than by words.

“The coach kept the announcement till the end, which is good because it keeps us on our toes. But it’s not a competition to be captain, it’s not about me as an individual, it’s about the team and I want to get the guys together and playing for each other. I won’t speak too much, most of the time I will let my actions do the work. Most of leadership is in what you do,” Botha said.

Team: Bjorn Basson, Jade Stighling, Dries Swanepoel, Burger Odendaal, Jamba Ulengo, Tian Schoeman, Piet van Zyl, Arno Botha (c), Jannes Kirsten, Ruan Steenkamp, Marvin Orie, Jason Jenkins, Entienne Swanepoel, Jaco Visagie, Pierre Schoeman. Bench – Bandise Maku, Nqoba Mxoli, Eli Snyman, Hanro Liebenberg, Andre Warner, Tony Jantjies, Dan Kriel.

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    James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

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