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Ken Borland

Ludeke on his way out of Loftus 0

Posted on December 22, 2016 by Ken

It is not yet clear whether Frans Ludeke will be catching the next train out of Loftus Versfeld for a permanent exit, but the Bulls coach has stood down from his SuperRugby and Currie Cup duties with immediate effect after eight years in charge.

Nollis Marais, the Blue Bulls Vodacom Cup and U21 coach, will pick up the pieces of the failed SuperRugby campaign and guide the team through this year’s Currie Cup, franchise CEO Barend van Graan announced on Saturday night after the first defeat to the Cheetahs at Loftus Versfeld in the history of the Sanzar competition.

The 43-year-old Marais has steadily risen up the ranks at Loftus Versfeld, coaching the U21s since 2011 and the Vodacom Cup team since 2013, while also winning the Varsity Cup with Tuks in 2012 and 2013.

Who will coach the Bulls in next year’s SuperRugby competition is still up in the air, however, with Van Graan describing the decision as “an ongoing process”.

Ludeke still has a shade more than a year left on his contract with the Bulls and there is speculation that the two-time Super Rugby winner will move upstairs to take up a director of rugby post.

“It is a big privilege for me, a tough competition lies ahead and I look forward to taking that on. I heard today about my appointment, I’ve been busy preparing for the U21 leagues, so it’s been a very quick five hours in a man’s life.

“As far as my coaching philosophy goes, for me, if you are being paid R1 to play, then you must really play, for the jersey before anything else, but also for the union and the people who come to watch. I will try very hard to bring that attitude to the team,” Marais said on Saturday night.

The Bulls’ reluctance to come out and reveal their long-term plans is mostly because there are still too many variables that haven’t been decided yet. There has been speculation that if Heyneke Meyer does not get an extension to his Springbok contract then the Bulls would be willing to shell out on him as a director of rugby.

His Springbok support team – Johann van Graan, John McFarland and Ricardo Loubscher – could then join him at Loftus Versfeld.

No conversation about the Bulls’ future coaching structure is complete without Victor Matfield joining the debate. The Springbok lock is already part of the coaching set-up and has indicated his desire to succeed Ludeke.

Benkenstein back to SA, but not to Titans … at the moment 0

Posted on July 29, 2016 by Ken


Former Dolphins captain and Proteas ODI player Dale Benkenstein is returning to South Africa following his exit from the Hampshire coaching position, leading to speculation that he could be in line to take over from Rob Walter at the Titans, but the franchise confirmed on Wednesday that negotiations with the 42-year-old did not lead to anything concrete.

“We did negotiate with Dale Benkenstein but unfortunately we weren’t able to secure a contract with him,” Titans CEO Jacques Faul told The Citizen on Wednesday.

“Applications close today [Wednesday] for the position, but we reserve the right to head-hunt someone if the applicants are not of a suitable quality,” Faul added.

It would be premature, though, to dismiss Benkenstein as a candidate because the Titans’ initial talks with him happened before his departure from Hampshire was announced last weekend.

Faul said he was not sure whether Benkenstein had applied for the job as the CEO is currently on leave.

Benkenstein could not be reached for comment.

Abbott & Phangiso, victims of CSA’s transformation failures 0

Posted on May 31, 2016 by Ken


The tears and recriminations are flowing after yet another premature World Cup exit for South Africa’s cricketers, but spare a thought for Vernon Philander, Kyle Abbott and Aaron Phangiso, who all have good reason to feel angry on top of the brutal disappointment they must be suffering after the semi-final loss to New Zealand.

Nobody selects himself to play for the Proteas, and while it was undeniably a poor decision to play Philander ahead of Abbott, the Cape Cobras man has been a wonderful bowler for South Africa, even if his ODI skills on flat pitches don’t match his Test brilliance, and he certainly deserves way better than to be scornfully dismissed as a “quota” selection.

There were so many good cricketing reasons to play Abbott – his superb form in the quarterfinal against Sri Lanka, the doubts over Philander’s fitness (made worse by Dale Steyn’s own niggles and the ridiculously arrogant decision to only play four frontline bowlers), and the fact that the strategy against Brendon McCullum and some of the other NZ batsmen revolved around digging the ball in short and targeting the ribcage, for which Abbott is suited and Philander, who bowls at a very hittable pace if there is no movement, is not.

There has been speculation that Abbott was left out in order to play another player of colour, with rumours coming from people close to the camp that the Dolphins fast bowler was extremely angry ahead of the semi-final.

Which begs the question – when will Cricket South Africa get transformation right?

For me, it is just as much of a disgrace that Phangiso did not play a single game at the World Cup as it is if Abbott was left out for political reasons.

Will young Black Africans believe CSA when they say the Proteas are for everyone or will they look at Phangiso’s treatment and say his selection in the squad was all just window-dressing of the worst kind?

Instead of bowing to political demands before a semi-final that will now leave fresh scars on the South African psyche, why did CSA not insist Phangiso play at least against the UAE?

South Africa have not bowled skilfully enough in limited-overs cricket for a while now and this is ultimately where the World Cup campaign was lost; the only good all-round bowling performance they produced was against Sri Lanka. And to think they thought going into a semi-final with just five bowlers was a wise move.

All AB de Villiers’ statements about the Proteas being “the best team in the tournament” now sounds like empty chest-beating, designed to cover their own doubts.

If Russell Domingo did not have any misgivings about his side, why did he say they could not play Phangiso against the UAE because it was vital they finish second in their pool? An SA A side should have no trouble beating the UAE!

Yes, the Proteas have given their all and played with tremendous courage in the semi-final. But they also seem to have had an over-inflated opinion of how good they were throughout the World Cup, only for the doubts that have so blighted them in previous tournaments to come back once that bubble was burst.

Springboks can’t feel hard done by 0

Posted on October 27, 2015 by Ken


Although it was undoubtedly a valiant effort by the Springboks, they can’t feel hard done by after their exit from the World Cup at the hands of the All Blacks in their semi-final at Twickenham over the weekend.

It is often said that you can’t play rugby without the ball and that is also true of territory: against top defensive patterns like New Zealand have, you’re not going to be causing many problems if you’re playing from your own half all the time.

South Africa only had 33% territory against the All Blacks – in other words two-thirds of the game was played in their own half. We saw magnificent defence from the Springboks, but we didn’t see anything else. As predicted before the game, they could only offer one-off ball-carriers, strong as they were, and no variety to their attacking play.

Much of the territory problems came down to poor exit strategies. When your scrumhalf is chiefly responsible for clearing your lines via a box-kick from the base – which by its very nature is going to be a higher, shorter kick – then you’re not going to be gaining as much ground compared to when your flyhalf, with a bit more space, can fire a long, raking touchfinder off after a couple of phases. It’s become a bugbear of mine, but Handre Pollard has a massive boot, why wasn’t it used more to drive the All Blacks back?!

The Springboks were hoping that their physicality would wear down the All Blacks, but that’s not going to happen when the opposition can match you physically and is better conditioned. In fact, it is the defending champions who did all of the wearing down, because they constantly asked different questions of the defence, as Nick Mallett pointed out.

“The All Blacks tried to attack in a variety of ways – they had Julian Savea coming off his wing, they played off nine, then they tried going to the backs with Conrad Smith and Ma’a Nonu carrying the ball, then they went to pick-and-goes and they even tried grubbers. They kept on trying different things, which keeps the pressure on the defence. They don’t just have one game plan, they have a whole variety of attacking options and we were beaten by a better team. We were lucky it was a very wet day,” Mallett said on SuperSport after the game.

There is understandably some negativity around South African rugby at the moment, but I believe our glasses aren’t just half-full of talent, they are full to overflowing, as shown by some of the wonderful Currie Cup rugby produced by the Lions, Western Province and Blue Bulls.

Experienced, visionary coaches are a bit thinner on the ground, but appointing Heyneke Meyer as Springbok coach again is not going to take our rugby forward. The high-intensity, ball-in-hand game plan which Meyer flirted with and then ditched is the way forward, but he clearly does not believe in it and/or cannot coach it.

Two of the most promising young coaches in the country, Nollis Marais of the Bulls and John Dobson of Western Province, have both gone on record in the last couple of weeks as saying the Lions’ brand of rugby, which is all about laying a platform up front and then using the ball while playing what is in front of you, is the way forward.

Lady Luck is a fickle mistress in the arena of top-level sport, but she seldom favours the team that isn’t willing to try anything; the team that hardly plays any rugby at all.


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