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Ken Borland



Nollis is not going anywhere – Van Graan 0

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ken

 

Nollis Marais is the Bulls’ head coach and is not going anywhere – at least in the short-term – franchise CEO Barend van Graan confirmed on Thursday.

Pressure is mounting on the Bulls and their management, with their poor results – just one win from six matches – dragging them into the discussion about which two South African franchises should get the chop for next year’s Super Rugby competition.

But Van Graan said on Thursday that as disappointing as the results have been, the franchise is requesting their supporters to be patient and the administration will not resort to any kneejerk reactions.

“We’ve got a head coach, Nollis Marais, and he has our support. But we have had serious talks with the coach, some of the coaching team and some players. I must stress that we are all as disappointed as the fans with the results. But I can’t promise anything about this weekend except that we will try our hardest to enhance our performance,” Van Graan said at Loftus Versfeld on Thursday.

Apart from their on-field struggles, the Bulls have also been in the news for supposed financial difficulties. Van Graan admitted that there is pressure on their finances but certainly not to the extent suggested by weekend reports, which he described as “mistaken”.

“In last year’s annual report I said we are under pressure and when you manage a business like the Bulls then you have to balance your revenue, which you need to increase, with your expenses, which are player costs. But we have an advance plan, although there is only a limited amount of cash we can spend and we must balance that between marquee players and youngsters.

“And as a country, South Africa as a whole is under economic pressure. Overseas clubs have realised they can go for younger guys now, they are professional athletes so it will happen. But winning Super Rugby in 2018 is still our goal, it might not happen but there’s nothing wrong with the talent we have or the effort we’re putting in,’ Van Graan said.

Van Graan admitted, however, that the anger and frustration felt by the fans was an appropriate response that showed their love for the Bulls team.

“There’s a lot of disappointment and a lot of questions among our supporters and a lot of suggestions about where we need to go to. But it’s important that the board, the management, the coach, captain and players, who are all under an immense amount of pressure, keep perspective, they need to know where this is coming from.

“It’s because of the passion and loyalty of our supporters. The fact is, they love the brand and we realise how important the Bulls brand is to them. The people are worried and their complaints are justified,” Van Graan said.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1487522/embattled-nollis-marais-has-the-bulls-faith-as-coach/

The thrills and drama of the Sunfoil Series 0

Posted on February 24, 2017 by Ken

 

The Sunfoil Series – the four-day domestic franchise competition – came down to the most thrilling of conclusions last weekend with the Knights claiming the title by just 1.78 points, the equivalent of 89 runs over a tournament that lasted 10 weeks, once again proving that, at least in the minds of the players and the aficionados of the sport, it is the premier trophy in the local game.

Nicky Boje, the Knights coach, confirmed that the four-day competition was the main target in their minds this season, and the other franchise coaches made similar comments through the campaign.

The thing about four-day cricket is that it provides the most all-encompassing test of a player’s skills and of a team’s quality – it’s essentially 40 days of cricket, 96 overs a day, so an examination that can last 3840 overs.

And it still came down to the narrowest of margins, so small in fact that Knights captain Theunis de Bruyn gave a large part of the credit for his team’s triumph to a partnership of just 10 runs between the last pair in their penultimate game against the Cape Cobras.

Akhona Kula and Tshepo Ntuli took the Knights’ first innings in Paarl from 143 for nine to 153 to get them one batting point – 150 is set as the milestone for the first batting bonus point, make 149 and you get zero. Even though the Knights went on to lose the match by 151 runs, that single point made their life a lot easier in the final game against the Highveld Lions because it meant they were targeting 430 in 100 overs rather than around 480.

“It allowed us to believe a little bit more,” De Bruyn said, and we all know belief plays a massive role in any achievement.

I just wish Cricket South Africa had a bit more belief in their four-day competition. It would be unrealistic to expect huge crowds to attend, but they could certainly do more to generate greater interest in the tournament that makes our Test cricketers. They have scheduled media sessions with the franchises before T20 and Momentum One-Day Cup games, why not before Sunfoil Series matches?  Their decision to no longer pay for a scorer to sit in the press box during four-day games suggests their attitude is to cut investment in the competition rather than promote it.

Scorers are an essential help to the media in terms of getting all their stats and figures correct, and it is heartening that CSA’s official statistician, Andrew Samson, is very much a long-format man.

The Oracle, as our media call him – I’m not sure what the BBC Test Match Special team call him but he is also their official statistician – has just brought out a book, The Moon is Toast, which is a celebration of all the quirky statistics the wonderful game of cricket throws up, written in the format of a year-long diary.

Copies of the book are available from http://tinyurl.com/hgbulfp and the wry humour of Samson makes what could become a boring read into an entertaining delight.

Long-form cricket obviously lends itself to more statistical gems than the wham-bam! of limited-overs cricket and the greater scope for all sorts of possibilities to occur was shown by the dramatic conclusion of our own four-day competition.

The longer the game, the greater the chance of an amazing comeback, just as the New South Wales team did in their recent Sheffield Shield game against Queensland at the Sydney Cricket Ground. They were two for two in their first innings before going on to make 603 for six declared which, Samson tells me, is only the fourth time in all first-class cricket that a team has lost their first two wickets for two or less runs but still gone on to score more than 600.

The South African example is Griqualand West recovering from one for two and then three for three to make 602 all out against Rhodesia in Kimberley in 1930, thanks to a double-century by the exotically-named Xenophon Balaskas, the Test all-rounder.

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.

Lions have earned universal respect despite failing to make playoffs 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions may have failed to make the SuperRugby playoffs after their dramatic weekend draw against the Stormers, but the Johannesburg-based franchise has certainly earned the respect of all their opponents this season.

Just two years after they were controversially relegated from SuperRugby, the Lions have clinched second place in the South African Conference and boast an almost identical record to the Brumbies, who have snuck into the playoffs ahead of them because of bonus points.

They have maintained their positive style of play with ball in hand, but where they have improved most is defensively, boasting the best tackling success rate in the competition. The Lions play at the highest tempo of all the South African sides as they swarm around in defence and always have great intensity on the ball. Their powerful scrum has provided a solid platform and their lineout has also been efficient.

“It’s all about playing with intensity and hunger, and we have to up our performance every week. There are plans in place, but I also allow the guys to be free spirits and you have to live with the small mistakes that come from that,” coach Johan Ackermann says. “Obviously I’m very proud of the team, it must be one of our best years and it shows that hard work is worth it.”

The Lions have certainly deserved all the praise that has come their way, beating the qualified Waratahs and Highlanders in the last five weeks and showing all season that they are never out of the contest with some superb second-half comebacks.

“There’s great belief within this side, a real hunger. We want to close down the opposition’s space and put them under pressure. We’ve built our physicality in defence, we want to be in their faces and not stand back,” captain Warren Whiteley says.

Their impressive performances have seen several of their players grow into Springbok contenders. The most likely Lions player to feature in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok World Cup squad is flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who dares to take the ball flat and attack the opposition line, has superb hands and is a strong defender, as well as kicking well this season.

Eighthman Whiteley is competing with Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger for a place at the World Cup, but he gets through a mound of work and is the only player in SuperRugby this year to have made more than 200 tackles, while also being highly effective in a linking role, possessing great skill and vision as befits a Springbok Sevens player who helped win the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year.

He is also adept at interfering with the opposition lineout, where Franco Mostert has also been a key performer for the Lions, as well as in the loose.

Warwick Tecklenburg has been outstanding in doing all the Lions’ dirty work, being second only to Whiteley in terms of tackles made, but fellow flank Jaco Kriel has been the most impressive forward.

A constant nuisance at the breakdown, he oozes raw talent in offence, having phenomenal pace, strength and hands, and has more often than not been able to spark the most sensational counter-attacks by the Lions.

Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe have proved to be two powerful centres, while scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Ruan Combrinck are two other backs who have announced themselves as future Springboks this year.

Despite their success over the last two years, Ackermann says at the moment they are just playing pretty rugby and haven’t won anything yet, there is more growing to do.

“We can look back on a good season regardless of missing the playoffs. The players know where they stand with me and they know my expectation on deserving the jersey. As long as they do that, I can’t ask for more. The growth from last year is definitely there, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“Nobody has achieved anything yet. We are not in the playoffs, we haven’t won the Currie Cup yet, we haven’t won any trophies yet. But if you ask me if there is a lot of growth, both for me as coach and for the team, then definitely if you look where we started in January 2014 until where we are now,” Ackermann says.

 

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  • Thought of the Day

    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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