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Ken Borland



New scrum laws will boost Argentina’s bajada 0

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Ken

 

Argentina is a rising power in world rugby and they are set to be boosted even further by the new scrummaging laws, which are tailor-made for their famous bajada scrum technique.

 The Springboks will be the first to tackle the Pumas since the introduction of the “crouch, bind, set” scrum engagement when they meet at the FNB Stadium on Saturday and they could be in for a shock.

Argentina was introduced into the Rugby Championship last year and made an impressive entry into the big league, proving plucky opponents as they even managed a draw against the Springboks in Mendoza.

After a largely disappointing third-place finish in last year’s competition, the Springboks will want to get into their stride far quicker this season, but the Pumas’ strength is in the pack and the new scrum laws will only magnify that.

The emphasis at scrum-time will now change from being on the “hit” to technique, something the Argentineans have been famous for and many rugby fans in the South American country are looking forward to the return of the bajada as the potent weapon it used to be.

The bajada is all about the entire pack working as a unit and channelling their power through the hooker, with the speed with which a front row can get the “hit” no longer a factor because they have to pre-bind before the engagement.

The co-ordinated, cohesive nature of the bajada scrum is exactly what the new scrum laws will favour, judging by what Springbok scrum coach Pieter de Villiers said on Tuesday.

“It’s going to be a learning process for players worldwide who have practised their trade over the last 10 years with the ‘hit’ scrum and it’s a big change. Speed won’t be as important and the frustration over grey areas in decisions, especially when binds slip, often because of tricks of the trade, has been dealt with.

“It’s now very important for the scrum to stand together and have endurance and it’s become a much tougher battle. It’s more about sound technique and endurance now and it’s more important for your whole pack to work together. The pack operating as a unit is vital,” De Villiers said.

The Springbok scrum has not always lived up to its reputation in recent years and those dastardly Australians who seem to spend their life trying to avoid proper scrums have even taken a couple of pot shots at the South Africans, saying the new laws will expose them more than anyone else.

The new engagement places a higher premium on scrummaging technique rather than skill in winning the “hit” and it is the Springboks’ lack of depth at tighthead prop, the most technical position in the pack, that suggests Saturday night could be a tough time for them.

De Villiers, having played 69 times for France, is well aware that the Pumas are masters of the dark arts of scrummaging.

“Their passion for scrummaging will always be there. They’re short, stocky guys and difficult to move and we expect them to have a strong, stable base at scrum time,” De Villiers said.

Jannie du Plessis is right up there with the best tightheads in world rugby but he has played so much over the last two years that a serious injury seems almost inevitable and there are no other specialist number threes in the Springbok squad. Coach Heyneke Meyer believes the sky is the limit for young Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead he is converting into a tighthead.

De Villiers expressed confidence in Oosthuizen’s ability to make the change, if not with the same enthusiasm as Meyer has done.

“Coenie is progressing very well. You must remember everyone is starting with a clean slate now because of the new laws and it’s important to see how Coenie adapts. But even the top tightheads in world rugby have to start afresh,” De Villiers said.

Meanwhile, Springbok backline coach Ricardo Loubscher stressed that despite all the attention focused on the scrums, the Argentines’ backline strengths are not being ignored.

“Most of their backs play in Europe and they are world-class. Given the opportunity, they can finish, their outside backs are quick and have had plenty of exposure to sevens rugby. So we need to prepare well against them too,” Loubscher warned.

Another area where South African has not looked too clever in terms of depth has been scrumhalf and the new lenient approach to choosing overseas-based players made it inevitable that Meyer would call on Fourie du Preez, one of the players he built the champion Bulls team around.

The Springbok coach has made it clear he is relying on Du Preez’s experience and game management abilities to lift their performance and Loubscher said those strengths were already evident on the training field.

“He’s a world-class player, there’s no need to elaborate on his credentials. He just slotted right back in, I was impressed, I thought he did really well in training. He brings great experience to the team, you can see the way he talks with players like JJ Engelbrecht and Willie le Roux, who haven’t played in the Rugby Championship before, and he makes it much easier for me as the backline coach,” Loubscher said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-14-rugby-dont-cry-for-argentina/#.WDQ6FrJ97IU

Sharks denied in controversial fashion 0

Posted on August 10, 2016 by Ken

The Cell C Sharks were controversially denied a famous victory in Wellington on Saturday as a clear try was disallowed and several marginal calls went against them in the final quarter, as the Hurricanes registered a flattering 32-24 victory in their Vodacom SuperRugby match.

The Sharks, despite making some basic errors in defence in the first half, had pushed the runaway SuperRugby leaders all the way in the first hour, and seemed to have taken a 22-21 lead in the 62nd minute when their rolling maul thundered over the tryline.

Even the Hurricanes seemed in no doubt that the try had been scored, but referee Chris Pollock, who has robbed the Sharks in the past, called for the TMO to review any obstruction and then talked him into a ruling that the visitors had “changed lanes”. Neither leading coach John Mitchell, in the television studio, nor referee Jonathan Kaplan, on social media, could see anything wrong with the try.

The Sharks did reclaim the lead five minutes later, the skills and experience of Francois Steyn and JP Pietersen allowing them to attack from deep and easily create space as they caused the usually efficient Hurricanes defence to hesitate, Pietersen’s lovely offload inside to Odwa Ndungane allowing the wing to score.

Steyn squeezed the conversion over to put the Sharks 24-21 ahead, but the extra try would have given them a far more comfortable cushion going into the final stages.

James Marshall, the struggling stand-in for Beauden Barrett at flyhalf, pulled a straightforward penalty wide in the 70th minute, but the relentless Hurricanes attack brought them the bonus-point try three minutes later, the livewire flank Ardie Savea doing brilliantly down the right touchline to stay infield and get the ball inside for lock Jeremy Thrush to crash over.

The Sharks, who defended well in the second half, had played themselves virtually to a standstill and, with two men down injured, flyhalf Lionel Cronje inexplicably kicked the ball back to the Hurricanes. It was not the first time he had booted away possession at the most inopportune moments either. The counter-attack was swift, down the right, with replacement fullback Reynold Lee-Lo and centre Conrad Smith making good ground and forcing a penalty for hands in the ruck.

Marshall slotted this one to stretch the Hurricanes’ lead to 29-24 and, in the final minute, he kicked the penalty that denied the Sharks a well-deserved bonus point, after the referee had harshly penalised Kyle Cooper, a hooker playing as replacement flank, for going off his feet at a ruck.

The other marginal call by Pollock in the final quarter came when abrasive hooker Motu Matu’u crashed into Ndungane after the wing had kicked but the referee ruled no sanction was necessary.

But it was a gallant effort by a Sharks side for which nothing has gone right this season and they showed they were up for the contest when they opened the scoring in the seventh minute with a try that followed some tremendous attacking play.

They showed great ball-retention, pace on the ball and, with wing S’Bura Sithole and Pietersen making strong runs, they were deep in the Hurricanes’ 22. The home side had a lineout five metres from their own line and Sharks captain Marco Wentzel, the stalwart of that set-piece, slapped the ball out of Thrush’s hands and Bismarck du Plessis drove over for the try.

The Hurricanes were quickly level, however, the sneakiest attacking side in Super Rugby holding the ball through 20 phases and then seizing the opportunity when the Sharks’ defence became too narrow. The sight of Cronje running all over the place indicated there was disarray and centre Ma’a Nonu, a constant threat, produced a lovely long pass out wide for wing Cory Jane to score.

The Sharks were rewarded with a penalty by Steyn (10-7) for their own excellent period of ball-retention, bashing the ball up for 23 phases as props Jannie du Plessis and Tendai Mtawarira were prominent on the drive and Pietersen was once again direct and effective.

But the Hurricanes were back in front just three minutes later as they reopened gaping holes in the Sharks’ defence. After a lineout, Nonu put left wing Matt Proctor through the gap with a super inside ball and then Smith went through Pietersen’s feeble tackle to score.

Marshall’s conversion put the home side 14-10 up and, when flank Etienne Oosthuizen was yellow-carded for the Sharks’ third high tackle in the opening quarter, the embattled visitors looked as if they might be buried.

But their rolling maul was a good attacking weapon and their pack fronted up in fantastic fashion at the collisions, also winning several turnovers. One of these led to a penalty for the Sharks from halfway in the final minute, but Steyn made a hash of it with a poor strike.

At 10-14 down at the break, the Sharks were still in the game, their simple but effective approach working. At halftime they had used 25 pick-and-goes to zero by the Hurricanes.

The Sharks kept at the Hurricanes in the third quarter, led by Bismarck du Plessis, who at one stage picked scrumhalf Chris Smylie up and carried him back several metres, won successive turnovers and even put in a clearing kick.

The hooker followed that kick up and won the turnover again, the Sharks beating the Hurricanes at their own game as Cronje exploited the space well to send Sithole racing over out wide.

The lead changed hands again in the 53rd minute when the power of Nonu, after eighthman Victor Vito had burst off a scrum, took the Hurricanes into the shadow of the Sharks’ poles and the South African-born replacement flank Reggie Goodes barged over the line.

The conversion was good, but the Sharks fought back once again and surely secured the moral victory, for what it’s worth.

Scorers

Sharks – Tries: Bismarck du Plessis, S’Bura Sithole, Odwa Ndungane. Conversions: Francois Steyn (3). Penalty: Steyn.

Hurricanes – Tries: Cory Jane, Conrad Smith, Reggie Goodes, Jeremy Thrush. Conversions: James Marshall (3). Penalties: Marshall (2).

http://citizen.co.za/379129/sharks-denied-in-controversial-fashion/

It takes a special organisation to destroy a top-class brand like the Currie Cup 3

Posted on August 08, 2016 by Ken

 

It takes a special organisation to destroy a top-class brand like the Currie Cup – a 124-year-old South African sporting institution and one of the most famous competitions in the game – but the South African Rugby Union, the custodians of this treasured tournament, are pulling off this dubious feat with scarcely-believable efficiency.

A crowded schedule and the growth of SuperRugby, both in terms of size and importance, has put the squeeze on the Currie Cup in recent years, but in 2016 Saru have taken the self-sabotage to a whole new level.

The build-up to this year’s tournament can only be described as a fiasco – from a largely pointless qualification competition to the scheduling of the fixtures, the Eastern Province Kings saga and the decision that match-day squads will only feature 22 players, it has been a litany of mistakes by Saru.

Griquas, Boland and the Pumas all finished in the top five of the qualifying tournament and their involvement in the Premier Division is a fine idea. But the Kings are likely to be an absolute shambles given that they have been liquidated and almost all their Super Rugby players have left. Their second-string players could only win two of their 14 qualifying games.

The Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, itself about to undergo a change of leadership, has temporarily bailed out Eastern Province with a R20 million support package, but that’s not going to fix their tight five or their defence.

Everyone knows that the Kings are going to be a disaster but a Saru vote, thanks to their archaic governance system, has kept them in the Premier Division. Instead of a path being chosen for the benefit of South African rugby as a whole, the decision was made by the general council of the 14 union presidents and it needed to be unanimous for the dysfunctional, bankrupt team to be booted.

Of course one could guarantee self-interest would win the day and the Griffons vetoed the scheme. Apparently they agreed the Kings shouldn’t be in the top division but they didn’t want the Leopards to replace them. Talk about childish petulance and abysmal leadership, and we have seen the same outcome in many other issues Saru have voted for over recent years.

No wonder so many sponsors run a mile when Saru come knocking on their doors, because who wants their brand to be associated with a bunch of dinosaurs who are busy presiding over the extinction of the once mighty and proud Currie Cup?

The scheduling has also been poor with the opening round of the main event taking place in the same radius as the SuperRugby final and one of the biggest stories in the local game for many years, the possibility of the Lions winning that trophy. So nobody really cares that the Currie Cup is starting.

The final is scheduled for October 15 and the Springboks only play their first end-of-year-tour match on November 5, so the Currie Cup could easily have started a week later, out of the shadow of SuperRugby.

The vexed question of the Kings’ participation has also led to a dizzying array of fixture changes, but even before that the Lions were scheduled to play this weekend, even though the attentions of the defending champions were clearly going to be on SuperRugby.

Saru are certainly not putting their money where their mouth is when it comes to the Currie Cup and the lack of resources for the competition is also shown by the decision that teams can only have 22-man match-day squads, instead of the 23 with a full front row on the bench that is used now in all other high-level rugby.

This will not only affect the quality of the competition – expect more uncontested scrums – but obviously affects the preparation of the Springboks because they will have to use 23 players at international level.

No wonder the Springboks have struggled in recent years when their support structures and their pipelines are like an IOU from Cheeky Watson blowing in a Port Elizabeth gale.

Former Vaal greats tapping into the reservoir of footballing talent in Sedibeng 0

Posted on July 29, 2016 by Ken

 

There is a vast, largely untapped reservoir of footballing talent lurking out of sight and out of mind near Johannesburg. The gritty industrial area known as the Vaal south of Jozi is a region that lives in the shadow of the great city and its famous stepchild, Soweto.

More than one million people live in the Sedibeng region that includes historic locations like Sharpeville, Sebokeng and Evaton. The Vaal is also the gravitational heart for the northern Free State dorps of Heilbron, Parys, Kroonstad, Sasolburg and also Heidelberg.

Rich in political history, this area has a lesser known heroic soccer past too, with a local team being the first to represent then newly-democratic South Africa in African competition.

While the locals complain about the roads that are rapidly becoming potholes surrounded by islands of tar and wonder how the massive ArcelorMittal factory in Vanderbijlpark benefits the community, there is a group of residents who are laying the foundations for not only the development of all that football talent in the region, but also a long-desired return of professional soccer to the Vaal Triangle.

Vaal Professionals were based in the Sedibeng region and used to be one of the most feared teams in the old national soccer league, winning the BobSave SuperBowl (now the Nedbank Cup) in 1994, becoming the first South African team to play in the Mandela Cup – the African Cup Winners’ cup – and being a founder member of the PSL in 1996.

But football politics and the depressed economic situation of the region reared their ugly heads and Vaal Professionals disappeared around the turn of the century. Their coach at that time was the former Kaizer Chiefs legend Simon “Bull” Lehoko and he is behind the efforts to resurrect the club where his fabulous career started.

“Back in 1970, the NPSL was formed and we were one of the founder members. I played for Vaal Professionals for seven years, but in my eighth year I went to Kaizer Chiefs and Vaal Professionals were relegated to the second division,” said Lehoko.

“I spent eight years at Kaizer Chiefs before I retired in 1985 because of my knee. Kaizer Motaung refused to let me go, but I came back home to work with young guys and rebuild the Vaal Professionals team with Johannes “Man” Direro and 10 other players from Real X20, my father’s team.

“Then the split came, when the NSL was formed in 1985 and they took all the best teams and sponsors. But the NPSL president was our own George Thabe, a local man, so it made it tough for us to choose who to follow.”

He said, “But the George Thabe Stadium was still full when we played the top teams and it became a stronghold of the NPSL, even though the NSL was favoured in places like Boipatong and Sebokeng. But there was no prize money in the NPSL for three or four years and the players called a meeting with the supporters. Players were starting to go for nothing and we were aware that we could lose the whole team.

“So we decided to leave the NPSL but the NSL gave us a second-division place in 1988 even though they had promised us a first division place because we were very strong, winning the NPSL from 1986 to 1988. We chased promotion until 1991, but there was a lot of bribery in those days and points were taken away from us.

“We would lead for the whole year but then it would fall apart at the end with referees giving us red cards and other things. An example was what happened to us when we were leading 3-0 at Potgietersrus. The referee gave penalties against us until it was 3-4 and then the red cards came.

“Teams fielded ineligible players against us and we won those cases despite the arbitrator being the same guy who heard the original case. We were also offered R150 000 to only take promotion the following year,” Lehoko remembered.

Promotion eventually came and Vaal Professionals were a tough side to beat, especially at their home venues of George Thabe and Zamdela stadiums.

“We were doing well and teams like Chiefs and Pirates used to jump the fences here to avoid the muti they thought was outside the change rooms …

“But by 1997/98, everybody was after us. We were offered R8-million to disappear but this club serves the community! They won’t go to Orlando Stadium or go watch Kaizer Chiefs, we even had a supporters’ club in Soweto.

“So they tried to relegate us using the referees. But one referee actually gave his money back, saying Vaal Professionals were too powerful. The only way they could beat us was by underhand means,” he said.

While Lehoko and several of his former Vaal Professionals colleagues have their hearts set on top-level football returning to the area, they are also squarely behind efforts at grassroots level to develop not only the football skills of youth in the area but also their life skills and ability to handle the tremendous social challenges they face.

The idea of drawing on the experience of these former professional footballers was Richard “Bricks” Mokolo’s. A former Vaal Professionals player, Mokolo is a paralegal for the Centre for Human Rights and the Orange Farm Human Rights Advice Centre, and is also involved in campaigns against racism and xenophobia.

He formed the Soccer Legends in 2007 and the impressive initiative benefits both the former players, who often don’t know what to do with themselves once their careers have ended, and the youth who need guidance and inspiration.

“For most former players, it’s a dramatic life change when you retire and it can become very stressful. They feel they’ve lost control of their lives; you’re no more Bull the Man. That kind of prestige is addictive and they lose their dignity along with the fame and respect. Now you’re on your own plus you have to provide for your family and you’re unemployed,” said Mokolo.

“But we’ve opened the door with this programme for the legends to get recognition and their space back. Before, a lot of these former players were unemployed and they would just drink during the day. Man Direro was a teacher and this gives him a chance to do something, to share his experience with learners and assist with life skills as well as being a soccer coach. There are about 40 former professional footballers in the Soccer Legends and they can also assist current players to plan and prepare for the future.”

This means half the benefit goes to the former players doing the teaching and the other half to their students. But they are not just being given football tips by the pros but also being taught life skills.

“It’s not just about soccer but also about social challenges. We’re not just teaching them skills because they come from poor families and we can’t forget about their backgrounds. We teach the Soccer Legends to deal with these issues. We’ve conducted research into the challenges facing both current and future players, and substance abuse is the main problem.

“We also offer counselling for those who’ve suffered domestic violence and we can mediate as alternative role models in the community. We encourage the children to use libraries and we support reading and writing projects.

“The kids may not have seen the Soccer Legends play, but when they’re introduced it motivates children through sports,” Mokolo points out.

A prime example of the success of the Soccer Legends project comes in the form of the Jet Nteo and Mohloli secondary schools, who have excelled in the Motsepe Cup, a top-class national schools competition that this year offers R1-million to the winning team.

A year after introducing the Soccer Legends programme to the Boipatong school, Jet Nteo won the Motsepe Cup and Mohloli, from Sharpeville, also have a fine record in the competition.

Lehoko said: “Bricks is a professor of life skills and he organised courses for us at the Sports Science Institute, the department of sports and recreation and Theta. But to do these courses you rely on sponsorships.”

The Soccer Legends is a pilot project and Mokolo says a lack of funding is all that is holding it back from making an even bigger impact in the Sedibeng area.

“We’ve started a pilot project and we’re seeing the results. The problem is we have no sponsors. Most times we’re in the schools it’s because we’ve volunteered and we can’t keep the children for more than three hours without food. The municipality says they have no money to help us.”

Among the dozens of complaints heard in one day chatting to the Soccer Legends were that local politicians are more interested in petty power plays than actually supporting efforts to benefit the community, that promises made before the 2010 World Cup have never come to fruition and that professional teams don’t belong to the communities they are based in.

People inside the municipality want to control the football projects, but they know nothing about football and they don’t want to bring these opportunities to the Soccer Legends. They’re not actually implementing anything,” Aggripa “Malombo” Tsoari complained.

“Most people here are saying the Soccer Legends are the last hope,” according to Mokolo.

“By 2008 we were strong and preparing for the World Cup. They were told after the World Cup that their lives would change … We were given hope that life will change, and things have changed, but only to make us poorer.”

Not coincidentally, the hundreds of protesters who gathered in Zamdela in early April were venting their anger at the alleged corruption in mayor Brutus Mahlaku’s office.

As Mokolo pointed out, footballers have also been at the forefront of local politics in this country. “We used to say we were victims of apartheid and we couldn’t take our talent to the outside world. At Vaal Professionals, one of our officials was a security policeman. He would take our training in the morning and then arrest us at night for being protesters!

“It was a milestone when football liberation was achieved and we were integrated 19 years before Nelson Mandela was released. But now we’re football victims but no one called us to the TRC.”

So instead Mokolo, the sort of proactive, hands-on administrator that gets things going and makes ideas work, has set up the Bull Lehoko Fund to “capacitate” the Soccer Legends. “There’s no chance of politicians doing anything, so we need to come up with strategies to survive, like the Bull Lehoko Fund which links football to social challenges like nutrition, food and education. As a group, we want to arm ourselves with different skills,” said Mokolo.

How exciting would it be to see not only the return of Vaal Professionals but also the grassroots growth of the game in that area being put under the control of professionals like the Soccer Legends?

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-07-30-soccer-the-forgotten-talents-of-the-vaal-professionals/#.V583c_l97IU

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    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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