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Ken Borland



John McFarland Column: Having seen off the Aussies, time for SA franchises to take on the Kiwis 0

Posted on March 23, 2017 by Ken

 

South African rugby will get a good indication of where we’re at this weekend when the Bulls come up against the Blues in the first overseas game for a local side against New Zealand opposition.

Judging by the pace and intensity of the New Zealand derbies so far, they certainly seem to be out in front by comparison, but it’s been pleasant to see the Lions dominate the two Australian franchises they have played against and the Sharks have also beaten two Australian sides.

We’re definitely way ahead of the Australian teams, that’s as clear as day and has been convincingly shown in the first month of SuperRugby.

The one positive for the Bulls starting their tour against the Blues is that they can be quite careless in possession sometimes, they tend to make mistakes, and the Bulls have enough quality Springboks to take advantage of those.

You could see immediately when Adriaan Strauss came on last weekend against the Sunwolves how he tightened up the set-pieces, and people will realise this year how lucky the Springboks have been over the last 15 years to have John Smit, Bismarck du Plessis and Adriaan Strauss as hookers – all dead-eye dick throwing in at the lineouts and really good scrummagers.

The Bulls match against the Sunwolves showed the level of improvement by the Japanese side. Last year in Bloemfontein and Pretoria, the Sunwolves lost by a combined 142-20; this year they only lost 72-52, which shows how far they have come. They definitely deserve to stay in SuperRugby.

The Bulls have still to hit their straps, but guys are coming back from injury. Their first two tries against the Sunwolves were very easy – the first coming from a knock-on five metres from the line and the second from a lineout drive. You can be certain the Bulls will maul whenever they have a lineout in your 22, so why did the Sunwolves compete on that throw?

They certainly pushed the Bulls, but you can see a real emphasis from them on offloading in the tackle. It’s a high risk, high reward approach and in the first half the Bulls threw a few 50/50 passes and they never really got going, there was no flow to their game.

But the Sunwolves scrummed relatively well against them and that gave the tourists energy. The Bulls struggled because of a combination of the scrums, their own mistakes and some cracking counter-attacking tries by the Sunwolves.

It was great to see Jan Serfontein play so well. He’s a former World U21 Player of the Year and also played for the Springboks while he was still U21. It was a special try he scored running that inside line from a lineout and then around the wing. Jan has reached maturity now, having first played for the Springboks in 2013, but he was unlucky with injury last year.

The Bulls have a quality midfield unit and in fact we are really lucky in South Africa with very good, quality centres, especially at number 13 – Jan, Lionel Mapoe, Lukhanyo Am, EW Viljoen and Francois Venter. At inside centre we have Damian de Allende, Rohan Janse van Rensburg and Juan de Jongh.

It was only the third week back from long-term injury for Handre Pollard and he still needs to get his kicking rhythm back, but that’s just practice.

The Lions’ performance last weekend was a definite positive, against a Reds team with so many Wallabies, to beat them so convincingly and to play so well. The tightness of their defence, in particular, will give them a lot of satisfaction.

Courtnall Skosan really put his hand up with four tries. He has a very high work-rate off the ball and always backs up his players in the middle of the field, he doesn’t just stay in the tramlines. Courtnall is always supporting with great lines and has always had a great sense of space. When he was at the Bulls, he wasn’t so quick and I know he’s gone to a speed coach and has got an extra yard or two because of that.

Because of a relative lack of wings in recent times and an over-reliance on JP Pietersen and Bryan Habana, with Lwazi Mvovo, the fact that Courtnall played so well is encouraging. Centre is looking very strong, but wings need to stand up and Courtnall did just that.

The Lions’ set-piece is also so strong that they rarely need to kick to exit. They know that if they can get a scrum penalty around halfway, then they’ll be five metres from the line with the kick. For all their great attacking play, the Lions still use traditional South African strengths.

Their forwards are not overly big, but they are very sound technically and credit for that must go to Balie Swart and Johan Ackermann for how well-drilled they are.

Speaking about Ackers, he would not be talking about his Gloucester offer unless he was looking for a counter-offer from the Lions or SA rugby, or was seriously considering taking it. But perhaps he wants to go somewhere outside his comfort zone, where he can work with different players from all over the world. They are players he has not signed, so he would have to impress them and create unity in that new team.

Michael Cheika has coached in a couple of places overseas, Eddie Jones has been all over, Steve Hansen coached for a bit in Wales and Wayne Smith had some time with Northampton, and if you have aspirations to be an international coach then you have to broaden your horizons.

It’s a difficult decision for Johan, but going to Gloucester would certainly improve his coaching set and those sort of offers don’t come around often. But there will be a whole host of factors for him to consider, most importantly his family.

There’s been no word on whether Swys de Bruin would go with him, but as a head coach you need people around you with the same philosophy and drive, who you trust implicitly, and normally the English clubs allow you to bring one assistant with you. You need people who will back you when things are not going so good.

The Cheetahs host the Sharks this weekend having struggled in Buenos Aires. To be fair, the Jaguares played very well and got points on the board early on. So the Cheetahs were compelled to play catch-up rugby and they will be a bit upset with the tries they conceded. You don’t want to be chasing the game away from home, especially not in SuperRugby, and the Cheetahs made a lot of errors which put them under pressure, they basically leaked tries.

For one-off trips like to Argentina, the teams are tending to rest guys to freshen them up because it is a long trip. After all, it still comes down to beating the South African sides and then you have a great chance of going far in the competition, particularly since we are guaranteed two quarterfinals.

The Six Nations has come to an end and England’s record of 18 wins in a row was a terrific achievement. That included four wins over Australia, with three in a row Down Under, and a win over the Springboks, so there were top-quality sides beaten in that run.

The Six Nations is such a tribal tournament that all the games are hotly contested and nobody gave England an easy ride. Ireland probably feel the same way about the English as the Springboks do and they showed tremendous passion and fully deserved their win last weekend.

But England have now won two Six Nations titles on the trot, they’ve got the monkey off their back about the successive wins, and now they can get on with their World Cup preparation. The pool draw for the 2019 Rugby World Cup takes place in Kyoto, Japan, on 10 May, and with Argentina ranked ninth, there will be a pool of death with them in it. That pool will have three quality teams in it – Argentina, one of New Zealand, England, Australia or Ireland, and one of Scotland, France, Ireland or Wales, so everyone will want to avoid that pool.

There’s a pool of death in every World Cup, with hosts England losing out to Australia and Wales in 2015, Scotland failing to advance ahead of England and Argentina in 2011, and Ireland finishing below Argentina and France in 2007.

PS: Here’s another request to SuperSport to please schedule Friday night SuperRugby games – we’re again left with all the South African games crammed into Saturday!

 

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

 

 

 

 

Positive Klaasen makes a move into Test squad 0

Posted on March 04, 2017 by Ken

 

Titans wicketkeeper/batsman Heinrich Klaasen was celebrating a first call-up to the South Africa squad for their Test series against New Zealand on Friday, convenor of selectors Linda Zondi saying a “positive presence at the crease” had played a large part in his selection.

Klaasen has looked a top-class talent since his days with the dominant Tuks Varsity team and he now follows his skipper from his student days, Theunis de Bruyn, into the Test squad as one of the back-up players, having scored 635 runs in four-day cricket this season, at an average of 48.84.

Zondi confirmed that it was a close-run thing between Klaasen and Rudi Second of the Knights, who scored 684 runs at 52.61, with the 25-year-old Klaasen being considered a closer match in terms of approach to Quinton de Kock, the player he is understudying.

“It was a very close call and it could have gone either way. Rudi is a very experienced player and is definitely not out of our plans, but we just felt that Heinrich has a positive presence at the crease, he’s tidy behind the stumps and there’s something about him.

“He’s a good striker of the ball, a fearless cricketer. We’ve watched him a lot and we feel he can play the same role as Quinton de Kock,” Zondi told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

While the presence of players such as De Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, De Bruyn and Klaasen makes it a young squad, the selectors have also recalled veteran Morne Morkel, the 32-year-old who has not played a Test in more than a year.

Morkel is only two 50-over games into his comeback from serious back issues, but Zondi said they wanted some experience around to guide a young attack. Vernon Philander has played 40 Tests, but Keshav Maharaj (4), Wayne Parnell (5), Rabada (14), Olivier (1) and Chris Morris (2) have played just 26 Tests between them.

“We’ve been guided by our medical team with Morne and he’s 100% fit. We want him to play more games, but his extra experience is required, because we don’t want to be caught out if anything happens. We’re quite comfortable in terms of all-rounders, so Morne must just go there and compete, providing us with extra variety,” Zondi said.

Squad: Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (Capt), JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen.

Theunis de Bruyn’s selection for the Proteas is no surprise 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken

 

There will be a new cap in the Standard Bank Proteas squad for their three-Test series against Sri Lanka starting on Boxing Day, but the selection of Theunis de Bruyn is hardly a surprise given the 24-year-old’s amazing first three years of his franchise career.

Having scored over 500 runs for the Titans in his first two seasons of Sunfoil Series cricket, De Bruyn has continued to make progress after a move to the Knights, having already made 423 runs at an average of 60.42 in eight innings this season. He has also enjoyed a couple of prolific limited-overs campaigns, in both 50 and 20-over cricket, to suggest he is a batsman for all formats.

De Bruyn’s first-class haul of over 2500 runs at an average of 48.73 includes six centuries and an unbeaten double-hundred for SA A against the England Lions. The tall, elegant right-hander has in fact scored two centuries and two half-centuries in seven innings for SA A, another reason why his promotion to the Proteas squad was considered almost certain.

“Theunis is a good talent and has done well for both his franchise and SA A and is next in the pecking order. It’s good to get him into the set-up because we definitely see him as a future star for the Proteas, playing in all the formats,” convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said.

While the promotion of a new, young batting star to the national squad is always exciting, there will also be a tang of regret for Rilee Rossouw, who toured Australia but has now suffered yet another inopportune injury, another foot problem ruling him out of contention.

“Obviously we aren’t pleased with Rilee’s injury because he was the next batsman in line, and Stiaan van Zyl would probably also have been in line had he not signed a Kolpak deal. It’s obviously very disappointing for Rilee, I spoke to him in Australia and he really wants to do well for South Africa and was very happy with the way we backed him in the ODIs. He’s obviously an exceptional player and he will still do well in the future for South Africa and contribute immensely going forward because it’s still a long season ahead and he’s definitely still in our plans,” Zondi said.

Rossouw did not play in any of the Tests in Australia and was very much the reserve batsman on tour, and that is probably going to be De Bruyn’s role during the three Tests against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg. But with AB de Villiers already ruled out and captain Faf du Plessis potentially facing a ban from his ball-tampering appeal on Monday, the Knights captain will be preparing as hard as anyone in the camp.

And that’s the positive – whether he plays or not, De Bruyn will learn plenty about the skills and mindset required at full international level.

“Even if Theunis doesn’t make the starting XI, he’s going to gain more experience and fitting into those surroundings and the culture of the team will only enhance his belief that he will be able to fit in at international level,” Zondi said.

The squad for the Sri Lanka series also features a recall for left-arm fast bowler and useful batsman Wayne Parnell, who has been in top-class form for the Cape Cobras this season. He is averaging over 30 with the bat in T20 cricket and less than 20 with the ball, at a brilliant economy rate of 6.7.

A replacement for the injured Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, he could play a part in the Wanderers Test if the Proteas decide to go with four pacemen and let JP Duminy take the spinner’s job.

“Wayne strengthens the depth and therefore makes it a better squad. He’s an exciting cricketer with the left-arm variation he brings and he adds to our depth in batting. We’ve been hoping he would stay injury-free and dominate at franchise level, and we’ve seen that with his batting and bowling,” Zondi said.

Being on home soil, just a 13-man squad has been chosen and the starting XI pretty much selects itself after the dazzling success in Australia.

Stephen Cook, son of the legendary Jimmy, and Dean Elgar will continue as the opening batsmen taking the shine off the ball, with Hashim Amla, Duminy, Du Plessis or De Bruyn, Temba Bavuma and wiucketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock to follow. The bowlers will be Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj or Parnell, and Kyle Abbott.

The likes of fast bowler Hardus Viljoen and Van Zyl would have stood a decent chance of making the squad, were it not for their decision to sign Kolpak contracts for English county cricket. Although disappointed that two fine cricketers are no longer eligible for selection, Zondi said he is content there is still more than enough talent in South Africa for the Proteas to build on their recent success.

“We can’t compete with the pound and it hurts to lose quality players, but we do have depth. So I’m comfortable but not happy. Upon signing a Kolpak deal, these players make themselves unavailable, otherwise someone like Stiaan van Zyl probably would have been next in line in the batting queue,” Zondi said.

Sadly, there are going to be more high-profile South African cricketers signing Kolpak deals in the near future.

It has now been confirmed that Du Plessis will once again guide the Proteas as captain and he said he is grateful for his long-time friend De Villiers’ decision to step aside in the interests of the team.

“It just shows you the person that AB is, that he always puts the team first, and it also shows how strong the culture of the side is.

“Test cricket is for me the most enjoyable time to be a captain because you have to work on plans for a long period of time. You have to strategise on how you’re going to make sure you’re going to get guys out and continue to challenge guys over a long time.

“To finally have it now‚ as something that is set in stone‚ is a huge honour and I’ll be taking it very seriously. I’ll try and make sure that the stuff that we’ve been working on for the past six months to a year‚ that we don’t let those standards drop. If I keep pushing the guys to make sure we hit those standards, we’ll be a consistent team,” Du Plessis said.

If the Standard Bank Proteas show the same team unity and focus on executing their basics to perfection, then their fans at home can look forward to more stellar performances against the Sri Lankans.

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).

 

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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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