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Ken Borland

All eyes on FNB Stadium as football, rugby & music share the stage 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken


Notwithstanding the awful events in Cairo, the eyes of much of the sporting world will be on South Africa on Saturday as a football international and a rugby Test are played at the same stadium on the same day.

Bafana Bafana will take on Burkina Faso in a friendly at FNB Stadium from 1.30pm, to be followed by the Springboks’ Rugby Championship opener against Argentina from 5pm, and it’s all to celebrate the birthday of Nelson Mandela, the Messiah from the Transkei, as the Parlotones call Madiba.

With a music concert to come after the rugby match, there is plenty of scope for things to get messy as a soccer field has to be turned into an international rugby pitch.

For the sake of the ailing former president’s good name, let’s hope everything works smoothly.

But the Springboks have a different kind of mess to try and avoid on Saturday.

Their last meeting with Argentina ended in a 16-16 draw in Mendoza last August as the Pumas turned the breakdowns, now the most important facet of rugby, into a messy scramble for possession. The naïve Springboks failed to protect their ball in the rucks, the cleaners weren’t there to hold off a horde of spoilers, and South Africa could never get their game plan going and were fortunate to escape with a draw thanks to a charge-down try by Frans Steyn.

This year, Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer has tried to ensure the breakdowns are an area of strength for his team. Not only has he hired a Scot – Richie Gray – as a specialist consultant for that key area, but he has also chosen a back row that features two players renown for their ability in the rucks in eighthman Duane Vermeulen and openside flank Francois Louw.

With Siya Kolisi, another loose forward who plays to the ball, on the bench it is clear Meyer has placed new emphasis on the breakdowns.

Of course, quick ball still has to be used wisely and much will depend on how sharp scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar and subsititute Fourie du Preez, a hero of yesterday making an international comeback a la George Smith, are when it comes to controlling the game and distributing to the backline.

It’s easy to picture Saturday’s groundbreaking Test becoming a dour battle for territory.

Springbok flyhalf Morne Steyn spoke this week about righting the wrongs of that Mendoza shocker and using a kicking game to pin Argentina in their own half, while not spending too much time in their own territory.

Meyer sometimes errs on the side of caution in selection and strategy, but it is encouraging that he has chosen the likes of Willie le Roux, JJ Engelbrecht and Bjorn Basson in the backline.

All of them have formidable attacking strengths but they have also all made defensive blunders this year that would have been enough to send them to church on Sunday for forgiveness. But there’s no doubt fullback Le Roux has added vision and spark to the backline, Engelbrecht has the pace and strength to cut defences to shreds and Basson has brilliant ability in the air and tremendous pace on the counter-attack.

Forward play has traditionally been the strength of the Pumas and Meyer has identified that it is amongst the backs, where veterans Bryan Habana and Jean de Villiers are playing as well as they ever have, where the Springboks could have a clear edge.

The Argentina team has been rocked by the absence of star loose forward Juan Martin Fernandez Lobbe and highly-rated prop Marcos Ayerza, but it is still crucial that the Springboks have done their homework on the new scrum laws, that seem tailor-made to the famous bajada scrum employed by the Pumas.

A weak scrum has done irreparable damage to several team’s chances already this year, but Meyer is a great believer in laying a platform up front in the set-pieces.

A great deal of work has also been done on the Springbok lineout, where the rapidly-maturing Juandre Kruger has returned in the number five jersey.

Providing everyone does their job clinically, the Springboks should have too much firepower for Argentina, who lost 27-6 to the Springboks in Cape Town in their Rugby Championship debut last year.

Speaking of debuts, Ewen McKenzie will make his first appearance as the new Australian coach when they take on the All Blacks in Sydney on Saturday.

McKenzie, the Queensland Reds coach until last month, has put his trust mostly in a bunch of players who led the Brumbies into the SuperRugby final.

Chief among those is Matt Toomua, the debutant who has been put in the crucial flyhalf position, ahead of Reds pivot Quade Cooper, who is back in the Wallabies squad after falling out with previous coach Robbie Deans.

Hands off our cricket, Guptas! 0

Posted on March 29, 2016 by Ken


It would be naïve to think, after all the dramatic revelations this week of just how far the tentacles of the Guptas have infiltrated into practically every organ of state, that sport in this country is okay. Never mind football’s problems now that Fifa have named South Africa as being complicit in bribery.

Sports Minister Razzmatazz may just want to carry on partying and living the life, hoping it all just goes away (“Fifa must retract”, have you ever?), but the government’s ability to make things just disappear doesn’t work so well in overseas courts.

And cricket could face another day of reckoning once it is exposed just how thoroughly Cricket South Africa sold out to the Guptas. It was a few years ago, but many of those same, morally deficient administrators are still on the board.

As with so many of CSA’s problems, it all started with the IPL South Africa hosted in 2009. Initially it all looked okay, a wonderful jamboree of cricket brought to our shores. But it didn’t take long for the sordid underside of the tournament to become visible.

Such a billion dollar event was obviously going to be irresistible to the rapacious Guptas and their fingers had to be in the pie. The Family (ironically, this is how they are known in cricket circles) were involved in the assault of a man in the Wanderers Long Room and when the police were called they were instructed by the Guptas to arrest the victim. It is believed he was subsequently deported.

The IPL was moved to South Africa due to security concerns surrounding the Indian general election, and the South African government instituted a requirement that anyone travelling from troubled areas of India to the tournament would have to undergo a 30-day security clearance process. But when all the Guptas’ friends from Uttar Pradesh wanted to come over for the IPL final, this requirement was mysteriously waived for them, allegedly on the instruction of the family.

A leading administrator of the time says “Many cricket administrators colluded with the Guptas, like the politicians. The Guptas controlled the administrators and Gerald Majola, especially, was their man. He was the means to their control and so, when we were fighting him, we were actually fighting the Guptas.”

Little wonder then that, when some board members, with the support of then BCCI president Shashank Manohar, called for clarity as to how the amount of R400 million paid to CSA for the tournament was spent, there was a furious response from other directors and KPMG were prevented from doing an audit.

There is no doubt there was a you-scratch-my-back-and-I’ll-scratch-yours relationship between CSA and the Guptas. The Guptas even had their family spokesman, Gary Naidoo, sitting on the board.

When Majola was finally removed from office, his successor, Jacques Faul, faced a vicious onslaught from The New Age, the Gupta newspaper.

Board members have often been invited to Saxonwold and in return the Guptas are used to being treated like royalty at cricket matches, demanding their own tables and such like. The Guptas invited the CSA board to 2010 soccer World Cup games and CSA had board meetings in the family’s R50 000 a day penthouse at the luxurious Oyster Box in Umhlanga Rocks. Security measures that have been in place for everyone else attending matches, including top CSA administrators, have been waived for the Guptas because they refused to comply.

No one seems to know for sure how much per annum stadiums like Willowmoore Park, Newlands and Kingsmead received for Sahara [the Guptas’ computer company, they even “borrowed” the name of the more famous Indian version] getting the naming rights; but the talk is it was a negligible amount.

The finger has also been pointed at TV broadcasters, with a schools cricket game at St David’s being shown live in prime time; co-incidentally one of the Gupta sons was playing.

Cricket administrators also speak of the build-up to the IPL when they were told by the Guptas not to bother keeping then sports minister Makhenkesi Stofile informed of proceedings because “we have been to the cabinet kgotla and he won’t be sports minister for long”. That’s another thing Fikile Mbalula has to answer for, given his denials about how he was put in his post in the first place.

The day is hopefully coming soon when South Africa is rid of this parasitic family, whose presence must become as unpopular as e-toll gantries given how they have sucked the blood of the people along with their corrupt accomplices.


Accurate Bulls force Hurricanes on to back foot 0

Posted on July 15, 2015 by Ken

Bulls coach Frans Ludeke accurately summed up his team’s convincing 48-14 win over the Hurricanes at Loftus Versfeld when he said the visitors had been forced to play “back-foot football with no momentum”

Ludeke would also have been delighted with how precisely his team executed the perfect game plan against the Hurricanes – a team that love to run with ball in hand and are lethal from broken play.

But the Bulls, with a resurgent Morne Steyn pulling the strings, thoroughly dominated the territorial battle and a combative defence ensured the Hurricanes had to try more and more outlandish ways of attacking.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies also hit the nail on the head when he praised the tight five for laying the perfect platform. It was their efforts that allowed Steyn to dictate and also gave the backline space to impress on attack.

The suffocating effect of the Bulls’ game plan would have its effects on the naïve Hurricanes as early as the 19th minute as JJ Engelbrecht snaffled an intercept inside enemy territory and stormed over for a try as the Hurricanes tried to go wide far too early in the move. While they would say they were trying to stretch a rock-solid defence around the fringes, they would also lament the fact it was a prop, Ben Franks, who was trying a long, loopy pass out wide.

The Bulls rumbled over a rolling maul for their second try and then Akona Ndungane pounced on another ill-advised long pass out wide for a second intercept try as the home side strolled into a 27-0 half-time lead.

There was still some fight left in the Hurricanes, however, and the visitors showed the best of their attacking skills through two tries by scrumhalf TJ Perenara when they had the patience to wait for the gaps to open at close quarters and the ball was kept nearer to the supporting runners.

But the Bulls were never really threatened and the bonus point was gathered just six minutes into the second half when prop Dean Greyling thundered over.

The loosehead also had much to do with the improved display by the Bulls in the scrums, while the lineouts were once again ultra-efficient.

The pressure on the Hurricanes barely eased off and the Bulls scored two more tries to seal a handsome win and increase the gap between them and the Cheetahs at the top of the South African Conference to two points.

The Bulls have a bye and a guaranteed four points next weekend, but Spies pledged that his team would not be focusing on the log rather than their performance on the field.

“If you look at the log, it is a by-product of what we do and it is satisfying when you look at your position, but it is really not the focus.

“We are going to get the four points from the bye, then we move up and we might lie second [in the overall standings] but there are still plenty of games to play.

“We know it is going to be very marginal in the end and that is why you have to be focused for every game,” Spies said.

The Cheetahs will now need to beat the Hurricanes next weekend to ensure they stay in touch with the Bulls, while both the Sharks and Stormers conspired to fluff their lines overseas and are now eight points behind the three-time champions.

The Stormers, in particular, managed to shoot themselves in the foot as they lost 18-17 to the Blues.

Centre Jean de Villiers scored two brilliant second-half tries to inspire his side, but even though the Springbok and Stormers captain did his best to lead from the front, his team were always playing catch-up rugby after a dismal opening hour.

What was particularly frustrating for De Villiers and Stormers supporters was that their forwards gave a top-class display in the set-pieces to give the visitors a great platform from which to attack.

But a bad display of kicking, both tactically and at poles, poor discipline that led to a rash of penalties and allowed flyhalf Chris Noakes to kick a Blues’ record six penalties, and a lack of vision on attack led to a galling defeat.

A searing break by Joe Pietersen, who otherwise endured a miserable game, midway through the first half really should have led to a try, but first Gio Aplon and then Andries Bekker ignored a team-mate with a clear run-in to the line and the Stormers had to settle for a penalty.

They had already gifted Noakes with two shots at goal, and gave him another three for a 15-3 lead before Juan de Jongh eventually burst clean through midfield after a pop pass from De Villiers, who forced his way over for a 65th-minute try.

De Villiers’ second was down to his own individual brilliance, but with De Jongh surprisingly substituted in the closing minutes, the Stormers’ rather laboured efforts to snatch victory at the death came to nought. In the end they shovelled the ball to poor Elton Jantjies to try an after-the-hooter drop goal, but the replacement flyhalf’s effort barely got off the ground with several Blues defenders bearing down on him.

While the Stormers are way down in 10th place on the log with 29 points, they at least have a game in hand on the Sharks, who have the same number of points but are battling to get out of a four-game losing slump.

Weighed down by an awful injury list, they’re not making life any easier for themselves though by lacking focus.

They led 15-7 at half-time against the Highlanders in Dunedin, but an awful third quarter, when they spent more time arguing with referee Steve Walsh (how low his star has fallen) than concentrating on important matters such as defence, saw the home team claim a 25-15 lead by the hour mark.

Although centre Meyer Bosman scored his second try, the Sharks had left themselves with too much to do against a Highlanders team that was reinvigorated by the bye and desperate to shake off the burden of being the only winless team in SuperRugby this season.

The Southern Kings have surprised many in notching two wins and a draw thus far, but on Saturday they sunk without a trace, as quickly as someone with cement boots with an anchor attached in Algoa Bay, as the Waratahs hammered them 72-10.

A flatfooted, lethargic defensive effort – perhaps understandably after nine successive matches for a fatigued team with little depth – ensured that the Waratahs had plenty of space to work a whole heap of attacking magic with all the front-foot ball their mighty, all-Wallaby pack was giving them.

Exciting fullback Israel Folau scored one try, but that did not come close to reflecting the influence he had on the game. It was the record-breaking former rugby league star’s stepping, vision and pace off the mark that cut the Kings to shreds and he set up many of the Waratahs’ 11 tries. Wings Cam Crawford (3) and the impressive Peter Betham (2) shared five of those.

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