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Ken Borland



Sheer delight for SA rugby 0

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Ken

 

Following the awful disappointments of 2016, what a sheer delight the last three weeks of Springbok rugby have been, culminating in the series whitewash over France in front of more than 55 000 people at Ellis Park, as well as a wonderful game the night before at Orlando Stadium between the SA A and French Barbarians sides.

Apart from the winning, up-tempo rugby played by both the Springboks and their second-stringers, the other similarity between the two teams is that both clearly enjoy a wonderful team culture.

It cannot be understated how important a role a good team environment will play in the success of a side and we saw last year how the Proteas cricket team drastically improved their results after a “culture camp”.

At the top level, teams are very similar in terms of physicality, conditioning and skill, so the crucial extra 1% that gives sides the edge is often found on the mental side of sport – happy players committed to a cause or a “brotherhood”, to use the in-vogue expression, will give more out on the field.

Sure, Brendan Venter and Franco Smith have come along and brought considerable technical expertise to the Springboks, but I have never, in 25 years of covering South African rugby, seen a squad speak more about just how happy they were to be together and how much they loved the environment than the current group under Allister Coetzee and his fellow coaches. The captaincy of Warren Whiteley must also be mentioned because there’s no doubt he has played a big role in the team culture as well.

It is a similar culture, borne from adversity, that is seen in Whiteley’s Lions team and it is also evident in the SA A side under Johan Ackermann. It was clearly displayed at the end of the game against the French Barbarians in Orlando when scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was spontaneously, just for the sheer joy of it, lifted on to the shoulders of his team-mates after kicking the last conversion, and when the whole squad sang stirring songs together, bobbing in a tight embrace, after the trophy presentation.

The fact that Ackermann has managed to create that culture in the SA A side in just a few weeks is testament to what a fine coach he is and hopefully he will be back in South Africa soon after increasing his experience and knowledge with Gloucester in the United Kingdom.

Ackermann, a former Springbok lock, first made his name as a coach through his technical and tactical acumen in the set-pieces, but he also has the ability to inspire a team, a crucial man-management skill in any coach.

Singing along with the SA A team were a bunch of supporters in the far grandstand and I believe playing top rugby in Soweto has a great future. The SA A game was played at 8pm on a Friday night the day before a Test at Ellis Park, so the crowd was always going to be small.

But I know it is in SA Rugby’s future plan to play more games in Soweto, and to stage them at 3pm in the afternoon and not during a Test week in the same city. There’s no doubt we will then see the crowds pouring in, because there is a great love for the game in Soweto, but access remains a problem.

Orlando Stadium is also a magnificent venue, modern, spacious and with one of the best views of the field, from any vantage point, you will see.  The fact that top rugby did not return earlier to Orlando after the memorable 2010 Super Rugby final that inspired such goodwill is a great pity.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170701/282321090023086

Batsmen can bank on being unsettled – Elgar 0

Posted on April 12, 2017 by Ken

 

South Africa opener Dean Elgar said on Thursday night that the one thing a batsman can bank on at international level is that your head is always on the chopping block following what he described as the “unsettling” axing of his opening partner Stephen Cook for the last Test against New Zealand.

The Proteas returned to Johannesburg on Thursday night after rain spared them the likelihood of defeat on the final day of the third Test, allowing them to win the series 1-0, but there are still rumblings over the controversial decision to drop Cook, who scored only 17 runs in four innings but had made three centuries in his previous nine Tests.

Theunis de Bruyn was then forced to make his Test debut as a makeshift opener, without success.

“We had a good thing going but selection is out of the players’ control, it’s one of those things. It’s not easy for Stephen, I’ve been through it before and you can go into a dark place. The team has still been winning though, so it’s very difficult, especially when you know how much hard work he has put in and he’s a massive team guy.

“But the general thing with batsmen is that if you think you’re safe, you’re not. Your head is always on the chopping block and a good ball or a bad decision could cost you your spot. It’s unsettling that a guy like him can be left out when he’s been working his butt off,” Elgar said at O.R. Tambo International Airport upon the team’s return.

South Africa’s success – they won the T20, ODI and Test series – in New Zealand on pitches that closely approximate the conditions they will find in England for the Champions Trophy and a much-anticipated Test series, suggest they are on track to do well on that tour in mid-year.

“We feel we are nicely set up for England having won all three series, which doesn’t happen often in New Zealand,” assistant coach Adrian Birrell said. “Obviously we’re all gearing up for the Champions Trophy and the fact that we won the ODI series 3-2 by winning what was like a final at Eden Park will be good going forward.

“Conditions were probably closest to what we will find on the England tour, there was always seam movement but not excessive bounce, which is what we expect in England. We’ve used various combinations and we have an idea for what works. We’re particularly pleased that all-rounders came to the fore and that batsmen in the lower-order were winning us games.”

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170401/282419874094770

 

Handling & defence chief concerns for Nollis 2

Posted on March 27, 2017 by Ken

 

Handling errors and poor defence were the chief concerns of Bulls coach Nollis Marais following their dismal display in Albany which saw them being belted 38-14 by the Blues at the weekend.

Despite having their fair share of possession and shading the territory battle, the Bulls were outscored by six tries to two and fell apart badly in the second half after going into the break level at 7-7.

“We were very competitive in the first half but we didn’t take our chances in the second half. We made too many errors with our handling and we couldn’t convert from the lineout. We gave them too many opportunities and obviously the defence is definitely a concern.

“We conceded too many points in the second half and we will have to look at that, re-visit our defence,” Marais said.

The Bulls allowed 13 linebreaks and missed 24 tackles against the Blues, and have now conceded 17 tries in four matches.

The Blues had won just one of their four matches prior to their meeting with the Bulls, who now face far tougher opposition in the form of the unbeaten Chiefs in Hamilton on Saturday.

“There will definitely be one or two changes to the team, but we’re not going to change structurally, we have to make sure everything is in place for next Saturday,” the coach said.

The scrums were perhaps the only area where the Bulls did themselves justice.

“It was a great performance in the scrums, Trevor Nyakane did really well at tighthead, and we were dominant there, so that was a very good positive,” Marais said.

“But we didn’t take our chances in the second half, we wasted too many opportunities. A couple of times we were in their 22 but we didn’t convert that into points either.”

 

Proteas in much better mental space – Boucher 0

Posted on November 10, 2016 by Ken

 

Former Proteas legend Mark Boucher believes it is the South African team which is in a vastly better mental space than the Australians following their wonderful victory in the first Test in Perth.

“It was sensational and it will have left Australia scratching their heads about which is their right side. I don’t think Mitchell Marsh is right at number six because he’s not the sort of guy to score you hundreds there, you compare him to someone like Mike Hussey and it’s chalk and cheese. So the Proteas are in a really good position if it’s the Australians asking questions after the first Test.

“The Proteas are in a much better space than Australia and their only real headache is selection for Hobart, which is a nice position to be in. Do they play Morne Morkel or Dwaine Pretorius, who has been in good form locally and can add extra with the bat.

“I believe we should be moving away from ‘horses for courses’ because we have guys who can perform in different conditions. I’m not too sure what Hobart will be like, they might give us a greentop and then maybe JP Duminy can do the spinner’s job.

“But thankfully we played the spinner in Perth, with the Fremantle Doctor that was a fantastic call, a spinner can bowl a lot of overs and Keshav Maharaj did a wonderful job. Australia don’t play spin too well, they don’t really rotate the strike, they just try to be aggressive. In the past, Paul Harris did a fabulous job for us when we won the series Down Under and they might decide to unleash Tabraiz Shamsi because they might feel the Australians don’t read him too well,” Boucher said.

The record-holder for most dismissals by a Test wicketkeeper paid special tribute to Kagiso Rabada, the 21-year-old fast bowler who had to shoulder so much responsibility after Dale Steyn broke down. Instead of buckling, Rabada flourished with five wickets in the final innings.

“We’ve seen in the past that KG really thrives on leading the bowling attack, when Dale and Vernon Philander were injured he really led from the front. When you put KG in that space, he seems to really enjoy the challenge, which is a big positive,” Boucher said.

 

 



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