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Ken Borland



All-rounder Phehlukwayo anointed for greater things 0

Posted on March 15, 2016 by Ken

 

Andile Phehlukwayo turned 20 last week and has already been anointed as a Dolphins bowling all-rounder fit to follow in the footsteps of legends like Shaun Pollock and Lance Klusener, but he has already achieved so much as one of the successes of South African cricket’s development pipeline.

There was clearly something special about Phehlukwayo when he played for the Dolphins in the 2014 Champions League while he was still in his matric year at Glenwood High School. He scored 22 off 17 balls against the powerhouse Chennai Super Kings in his first game and then 37 off just 18 deliveries against the Kolkata Knight Riders.

Since then, his bowling has become his strongest suit, especially in limited-overs matches, and he has produced several match-winning performances for the Dolphins, most notably with his nerveless, skilful death bowling in the RamSlam T20 Challenge playoff against the Cape Cobras.

He certainly does not want to be pigeon-holed, however, as a limited-overs specialist and the work he has been putting into his long-format game is bearing fruit, with Phehlukwayo taking a career-best four for 39 against the Warriors in East London last weekend.

“I was thrown in the deep end playing in the Champions League while I was still at school, which was a tough one, but I’m grateful for the experience and there’s no pressure on me. I’m my own player, different to other all-rounders, but obviously I would like to try and be like guys like Jacques Kallis and Lance Klusener. I need to perform for  SA A first, and there are lots of guys performing as all-rounders in South African cricket, like Chris Morris and David Wiese. I just need to be consistent, I know there will always be chances for me and I believe one day I will play for South Africa, even if maybe not in the next two or four years,” Phehlukwayo says.

The son of a domestic worker in Margate, who earned a hockey scholarship to Glenwood and was then noticed when he went to cricket trials, Phehlukwayo has every reason to be proud of what he has already achieved despite such humble beginnings.

“My big goal is for my mom to come and watch me play. I was fortunate to have good support in the background and my coaches believed in me. For me it’s just about working hard and not giving up on my dream. I never thought that I would be playing franchise cricket at this age and at some stages I thought I would never play professional cricket.

“I’ve made quick progress as a bowler, T20 does fast-track you, you need to adapt quickly in that format and practise your skills. Playing for SA A over the last couple of months, bowling to people like Jos Buttler and Eoin Morgan, taught me that you’ve got to be on-song and stay on your game-plan, back yourself, always believe in yourself. It was definitely an experience I won’t forget, especially bowling a couple of long-hops to Morgan!”

 

Heyneke’s hope in experience, trusted lieutenants & walking wounded 0

Posted on September 01, 2015 by Ken

 

Springbok rugby coach Heyneke Meyer announced a World Cup squad heavy with experience and his trusted lieutenants, admitting that he was “hoping” many of the walking wounded would be fit for their opening game against Japan in Brighton on September 19.

Meyer has chosen nine members of the victorious 2007 World Cup squad in Schalk Burger, 2015 captain Jean de Villiers, Bismarck and Jannie du Plessis, Fourie du Preez, Bryan Habana, Victor Matfield, Ruan Pienaar and JP Pietersen, while players such as Willem Alberts, Zane Kirchner, Tendai Mtawariria and Morne Steyn have been stalwarts of his four-year term.

But a massive injury cloud hangs over the Springboks with De Villiers, key eighthman Duane Vermeulen, Jannie du Plessis, Du Preez, Willie le Roux, Francois Louw and Coenie Oosthuizen all having their build-up to the World Cup disrupted by injuries.

“The medical advice is that they are 100% confident that all 31 players will be fit for the first game and I’m hoping that will be the case. It is a worry to be honest, but certain players are warriors and they’re like charcoal that becomes diamonds under pressure.

“I know what a guy like Fourie du Preez can do, we’ve been training against Namibia, we’ve been having semi-opposed contact and I can see how ready they are in training. We’ll have four pool games at the World Cup to blend guys in and players like Flo and Duane are in the best form I’ve ever seen them in. Guys like that just need 30 minutes on the field and they’re back in the game,” Meyer said at the squad announcement at the team’s Umhlanga Rocks hotel on Friday night.

Meyer admitted that the last week had been a highly emotional one with players like flank Marcel Coetzee, who is 50/50 to be fit in time for the first game, and scrumhalf Cobus Reinach the unluckiest players to miss out on the squad.

“I started coaching because I wanted to make a difference in people’s lives, to make dreams come true. But these have been some of my most emotional days, it has felt like life and death. All the guys have put their bodies on the line and every single guy is good enough to play in a World Cup final.

“But I saw every player in a one-on-one and many of them burst into tears when I told them they had been selected and the same for those guys who I had to tell that they had not been selected,” Meyer said.

Scrumhalf Rudi Paige is the only uncapped member of the squad, although he was selected for the 2014 end-of-year tour before getting injured.

The average age of the squad is just over 26.

 

Charismatic Jean is back, but where to play him? 0

Posted on August 04, 2014 by Ken

The charismatic leadership of Jean de Villiers makes him a certainty for South Africa’s starting line-up whenever he is fit, but Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer’s toughest selection decision for the Rugby Championship revolves around his captain’s position.

While the return of Victor Matfield and his stepping into the captaincy while De Villiers was injured during the incoming tours certainly did not curdle the Springboks’ play nor team cohesion, Meyer made it clear on Monday that the Stormers man would return for the Rugby Championship.

But factors beyond Meyer’s control have dished up a selection quandary for the Springbok coach.

In the absence of the unavailable JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn, the injured Jaque Fourie and the out-of-form JJ Engelbrecht, there is a dearth of outside centres in the squad.

But the specialist centres who have been named – De Villiers, Jan Serfontein and new cap Damian de Allende – are all more comfortable in the number 12 jersey.

So who should play in the number 13 top? Serfontein was outstanding at inside centre during the incoming tours, while De Villiers has played outside centre several times for the Springboks. De Allende has all the attributes of a top international midfielder, but no experience at that level.

“We’ll certainly look at Jean at number 13, although I believe 12 is his best position,” Meyer said on Monday.

“Jan Serfontein was superb at inside centre during the incoming tours, while Damian de Allende has only played 13 at school. Damian can be a brilliant centre at international level, but we need to find the right position for him.

“I just know that when Jean played 13 outside Frans Steyn, although there were a few factors involved, we didn’t score many tries. I love Jean at 12 because of the way he organises play, he was probably the best inside centre in the world last year. He can crash the ball up, but he’s also got unbelievable hands and I prefer a number 12 who can move the ball and create space on the outside.

“We can’t just crash the ball up now in midfield because all the sides have big centres and I always want to get that width and get around teams on the outside. Jean is big and strong and he has unbelievable hands, but those three haven’t played much together,” Meyer explained.

But there are no guarantees yet that either De Villiers or De Allende are actually ready for Test rugby, having spent several weeks on the sidelines with injuries.

The Springboks began their camp in Johannesburg on Monday with medical examinations and, while the results of these are only likely to be known on Tuesday, Meyer admitted that there was some concern over the pair of Stormers centres.

“The players are busy with their medicals and a lot of them haven’t played for some time. Obviously Jean is a concern because although he has been training with Western Province, he hasn’t had any contact yet.

“The feedback we’ve had from Cape Town is that Damian has done well in training, but usually the problems only come out once we begin training.

“There are also guys like Eben Etzebeth, Frans Malherbe, Beast and Pat Lambie who we just want to manage properly,” Meyer said.

The match readiness of Etzebeth will also decide the other main selection issue, which is the second row.

While Matfield has no real challengers for the number five jersey, who will play alongside him? Does Meyer opt for the experience of Bakkies Botha or the in-form Lood de Jager? Who then to put on the bench – Botha, Etzebeth or De Jager?

Meyer said the focus of this year’s Rugby Championship campaign will be the acquisition of the bonus points that were the major factor in 2013’s competition.

The fact that the Springboks had to chase the bonus point win in their last match against New Zealand – thereby ensuring the sort of open game the All Blacks love – was absolutely crucial in the final outcome.

“I think this year’s Rugby Championship will be the most difficult of the lot, historically the third year has been the most difficult for the Springbok coach.

“I think it’s going to come down to bonus points and if we don’t get bonus points against Argentina, like Australia and New Zealand did last year, and away from home if you don’t win, then we’re going to be under pressure to win both our games at home again. You must get bonus points to win this competition!

“We scored the most tries in world rugby last year, so we need to catch up to that momentum very quickly. I want to play total rugby, I want to play 15-man rugby, but our tactical kicking also really needs to improve. That was one of our downfalls last year, while New Zealand and Australia both had nines and 10s using tactical kicks,” Meyer said.

The absence of the injured Fourie du Preez is the major stumbling block to Meyer’s plans.

“Losing Fourie is an unbelievable setback, his tactical kicking is the biggest thing we’ll miss, but he is also the master on attack. He always picks up the right runners and last year we had a huge evolution in our attack in that we did it out of our own 22. Fourie is just an amazing tactical general,” the coach said.

“I want our scrumhalf to play more to the ball, to give the backline quick ball. We have a lot of scrumhalves in South Africa who are snipers and can score great individual tries, which is what the public sees, but we need a nine who can clean out quickly and give quality ball because we’re interested in team tries.”

The experienced Ruan Pienaar is probably the closest to Du Preez’s all-round skill set, with the utility talents of Francois Hougaard probably earning him a place on the bench.

The Sharks’ dismal SuperRugby semi-final performance – and the inaccuracy of the kicking by halfbacks Cobus Reinach and Lambie – is probably going to count against their chances of playing in the tournament opener against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld on August 16.



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