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Ken Borland



CSA & anti-corruption unit have been methodical & efficient 0

Posted on December 26, 2016 by Ken

 

Cricket South Africa and the chairman of their anti-corruption unit, former Judge President Bernard Ngoepe, need to be congratulated for the methodical and efficient manner in which they have dealt with the attempts to fix matches during last season’s T20 competition, resulting this week in Alviro Petersen joining ringleader Gulam Bodi and Jean Symes, Pumelela Matshikwe, Ethy Mbhalati and Thami Tsolekile as players who have received bans.

Petersen accepted a ban of two years this week and his was the most complex of the cases, the former Proteas batsman being both whistleblower and conspirator, both helpful and obstructive to the investigators.

That half-a-dozen players have now successfully been prosecuted – with just one more high-profile name believed to be on the radar – points to the systematic, detailed work of Ngoepe’s anti-corruption unit. There had been pressure on them early on in the investigations to speed up the process and some of the guilty were also politically-sensitive figures, but they ensured they followed due process every step of the way, even if it meant there was no news for a baying public for periods of time.

The acquittal of former New Zealand all-rounder Chris Cairns on matchfixing charges last November really upped the ante in terms of the evidence required by cricket administrators looking to pursue successful prosecutions of those involved in corruption and CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat and Ngoepe and his staff have handled the latest South African case with the delicacy and precision of a surgeon.

While Petersen claims he raised the alarm about the nefarious activities Bodi was putting into play, the investigators always had questions about the 36-year-old’s continued involvement in the scheme. Did he pull out because he wasn’t going to get enough money out of the scam?

Petersen was implicated by the evidence of his co-accused as well as his actions in destroying key evidence, believed to be his cellphone records, and has basically been found guilty of that and of not immediately reporting the suspicious activities. Perhaps by trying to be the hero and bypassing the rules which all cricketers should know, he has probably ended his professional career.

It is fair to say Petersen is not well-liked by most of his team-mates, I have heard him referred to as “Lord Voldemort”, and, probably due to a really tough upbringing in the Port Elizabeth township of Gelvandale, he is a bristly, difficult character, always on the defensive.

Coming from a really poor background, perhaps the drive to make “easy” money was too strong; or perhaps his desire to be the hero and singlehandedly destroy Bodi’s matchfixing ring turned into hubris.

Perhaps he is guilty of merely showing poor judgement, something all of us suffer from at times, but he has paid a terrible price in his name being tarnished and losing two of his twilight years as a player, particularly in English county cricket, where he has been a prolific and highly-valued run-scorer for Lancashire.

But that’s the penalty under a system that rightly operates under a zero tolerance principle and no professional cricketer can claim that they are uneducated about the anti-corruption measures.

Petersen’s punishment is par for the course for what he did and thankfully he has accepted it without the need for protracted hearings and appeals. This frees up the anti-corruption unit to now zoom in on a former international pace bowler with especially strong political connections.

Perhaps they have left the toughest case to last.

Saru have enough money to throw at the Springbok problem 0

Posted on December 08, 2016 by Ken

 

That the South African Rugby Union have a major problem with their flagship product – the Springboks – is undeniable, and it’s going to take all their wisdom and sound judgement to make the right decisions to fix the mess. One thing in their favour though is that they have enough money to throw at the problem.

Their latest financial statements, for the year ending 2015, show that Saru had revenue of close to a billion rand, with R249 million spent on the rugby department, under which all the national teams and their management fall.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has made his fair share of blunders and his ability to inspire his current group of players is debatable, but there is no doubt that he was given the job with one hand tied behind his back by not being able to choose his coaching staff.

Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot was the one exception, while he inherited Johann van Graan from the previous era of Heyneke Meyer, so at least he had experience of working at international level. But for all their promise, the likes of Mzwandile Stick, Chean Roux and Louis Koen have only coached at much lower levels. Apart from Proudfoot, and Franco Smith, a belated addition to the squad after just one season of Super Rugby, who amongst his assistants has experience of running a top franchise?

Compare that to the All Blacks’ situation, where assistant coaches Ian Foster, who spent eight years in charge of the Chiefs and three with the New Zealand juniors, and Wayne Smith, who guided the Crusaders to two Super 12 titles and is a former All Blacks head coach, are vastly experienced.

Perhaps the primary problem affecting the Springboks is the lack of attention Saru have given them; can they truly say the wellbeing of their national team has been their priority?

So many incidents suggest not: from Meyer having to go begging to Gavin Varejes to pay the salary of breakdown specialist Richie Gray up until the parlous decision to appoint, on the cheap, the majority of Coetzee’s backroom staff, Saru are not backing the Springboks as they should.

Are the Springboks not CEO Jurie Roux’s new sweetheart? Before he joined Saru, Roux was able to source R35 million to beef up the Stellenbosch University rugby team. Why is he not willing to put big money towards finding the best assistant coaches possible or keeping more players on these shores?

I also wonder what Rassie Erasmus, still the flavour of the month in many quarters, actually achieved in terms of boosting the Springboks during his four-year tenure as Saru’s high performance general manager before ducking to Munster?

While mapping out new structures for SA rugby and running the Mobi-Unit of specialist coaches, Erasmus’s detractors, some of whom were and are intimately involved with the Springboks, say everything he did was geared towards making himself the next national coach.

But when it became clear that Saru would have to speed up transformation within the Springboks in order to get the government out of their hair, Erasmus suddenly turned his attention overseas. His about-turn led directly to Coetzee’s appointment being made very late, just a couple of months before the first Test.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe transformation is the foe of Springbok rugby, in fact it’s the game’s best long-term survival plan.

According to reports this week, Coetzee will remain as national coach next year, but will now be able to choose his own support staff as Saru have belatedly realised the error of their ways.

Well duh.

It reminds me of Kim Kardashian suddenly deciding she wants to withdraw herself and her children from the spotlight after they were robbed in Paris in early October; she decided to flaunt her lifestyle, bling and children on reality TV, why is she surprised it attracted nefarious attention?

The hapless Springboks are the way they are at the moment for many reasons, but it all comes down to haphazard decision-making by Saru.

Lions fix their defence & cut through WP’s to win final 0

Posted on October 24, 2015 by Ken

 

The Golden Lions said before the Currie Cup final that they would have to fix the defensive errors that made things close in the semi-final against the Free State Cheetahs, and they did that to great effect while consistently breaking through the Western Province lines on their way to a 32-24 victory and the title at Ellis Park on Saturday.

The scoreboard was a one-sided 29-10 two minutes into the second half, but the lopsided score masked how well the Lions had defended and how soft a couple of their tries had been.

There were nerves all around at the start as both kickers made mistakes, Lions flyhalf Marnitz Boshoff missing two early penalties, but the home side were looking dangerous, making inroads as Western Province tended to tackle around the chest and were also quick to fan out in defence, making them vulnerable to the inside-pass.

These two factors came together perfectly for the Lions in the 14th minute as exciting new outside centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg muscled through the too-high tackles of Juan de Jongh and Sikhumbuzo Notshe in midfield and broke clear into Western Province territory.

He held on to the ball too long and it was knocked loose by the tackler, but livewire fullback Andries Coetzee was on hand to pick up and continue the attack. From the next ruck, Warren Whiteley passed out to Boshoff, who immediately passed back inside for the eighthman to burst through a big gap and score the opening try.

Six minutes later, another crucial missed tackle by the visitors saw Coetzee go around the outside without much trouble. Western Province again ignored the close-in channels at the ruck and scrumhalf Ross Cronje threw a short pass and then got the ball immediately back on the inside, dashing over for a try without a hand being laid on him.

Western Province were missing tackles and making basic errors like not finding touch on penalty kicks, losing their own lineouts and kicking turnover ball like tightheads from their powerful scrum straight into touch.

Flyhalf Robert du Preez did kick a 27th-minute penalty to get Western Province on the board, but the Lions threatened to make the final one of the less thrilling spectacles of the season when they scored their third try to claim a 19-3 lead.

Scrumhalf Cronje might not be one of the most highly-rated players in this impressive Lions outfit, but he is an important cog in their fluent attacking play and he will always remember the 2015 Currie Cup final as he scored his second try on his way to winning the man of the match award.

Cronje threw a lovely dummy from the base of a ruck and fought his way through another high and ineffectual tackle to score.

Boshoff then kicked a 38th-minute penalty and the Lions were in firm control with a 22-3 lead and threatening to run away with the final.

Western Province badly needed a way back into the match and it came via their powerful scrum, providing the perfect platform close to the line for Du Preez to knife through for a much-needed try and then convert to bring them back into the game at 10-22 at the break.

The Fat Lady had certainly not sung yet, but she did begin warming up again as the Lions scored two minutes into the second half.

Janse van Rensburg was again a muscular presence in forcing his way between two poor tackle attempts to dot down and round off a strong attack that featured a mini-break by flank Kwagga Smith.

Boshoff converted and the Lions’ lead was back to 19 points (29-10) and the situation was desperate for Western Province.

Once they managed to hang on to the ball for a while, they were able to bring their lethal back three into the game and fullback Cheslin Kolbe was able to scythe through an outside gap to put WP in the red zone, from where eighthman Nizaam Carr’s pace, power and nifty stepping was too much for even the Lions’ defence.

Du Preez converted and suddenly the visitors were two tries away (17-29) with half-an-hour remaining.

Boshoff, however, slotted a crucial long-range penalty from 51 metres after replacement prop Oli Kebble had been penalised for a dangerous tackle, which forced Western Province to score three times.

Their powerful scrum forced a penalty, which was kicked to touch, allowing Western Province’s rolling maul to surge over the tryline, Notshe getting the try.

Coleman converted to make it 24-32, but Western Province continued to lose lineout and breakdown ball to stymie their comeback, and a harsh yellow card to replacement lock Chris van Zyl, for not using his arms in clearing out a ruck, was the final blow.

To go through a Currie Cup season unbeaten is a remarkable achievement, not seen since the Natal Sharks did it in 1996, and the Lions and their coaches deserve enormous credit.

Johan Ackermann has honed their pack into a tremendous unit, but locks Franco Mostert and Lourens Erasmus stood out on Saturday in their efforts to ensure momentum for the Lions.

Their hard-working loose trio brings tremendous presence to the breakdowns and Janse van Rensburg and Coetzee took the attack to the opposition most effectively.



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