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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: In praise of the Crusaders, SuperRugby champions 0

Posted on August 10, 2017 by Ken

 

Congratulations to the Crusaders for winning the SuperRugby final and one can only give them credit for an unbelievable season.

They lost just one game, against the Hurricanes in Wellington, and they are the first team to win the final after flying across the Indian Ocean.

Keeping the Lions to just two tries – even with just 14 men – was a heck of a defensive effort, especially with all the flying they had to do.

But the Crusaders are a very experienced group built on a tremendous forward pack. Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and Israel Dagg, in the backline, are four world-class players and guys like Matt Todd and Ryan Crotty are really solid players too.

The Crusaders’ set-pieces were very strong and, as predicted, it was a different kettle of fish in the lineouts for the Lions, with Whitelock making some crucial steals, and they negated the lineout drive.

The Lions’ strength is built on forward dominance, at the lineout and scrum, but with four international front-rowers in their squad, the Crusaders stood up very well. They have an international-class tight five, plus Luke Romano off the bench and Kieran Read is one of the best lineout forwards in the world.

You could see how much it meant for the Lions – they really wanted to send off Johan Ackermann on a high – but the red card obviously had a huge effect.

It was the right decision by the officials, there’s no two ways about it.

The decision by Elton Jantjies to send up the high kick would have been because their ball was a bit slow, but then the chaser (flank Kwagga Smith) was sprinting and not even looking at the ball. The rule is quite clear that if you land up under the guy catching the ball – who is now in a very vulnerable position – it’s a red card.

In the Varsity Cup, there is already the rule that if the defending team catches an up-and-under and calls for the mark, then it’s a free kick, which makes teams less prone to try the high kick.

In a lot of situations, you’re dealing with specialists (the wings) doing the chasing and catching, but the problem comes when someone not used to it, it’s not their role, ends up doing the chasing or catching.

But rugby must never lose the contest for the high ball, it’s been part of the game since the 1930s in Ireland when the Garryowen was used in the rain.

If it’s a fair contest and both sets of eyes are on the ball, then all good, but Kwagga probably needed to wait until David Havili had come down before trying to tackle him.

The Crusaders were well in control at that stage, but the Lions are known for their finishing at altitude and it was 14-10 with 14 men in the second half and they were pushing hard.

Defensively, Kieran Read’s brilliant tackle on Elton Jantjies forced the turnover and a 70-metre try as the Lions ran out of width and Ross Cronje had to try and chase the wing; while Read’s own try came when Ruan Combrinck was the last defender at the goalposts, so the Lions were obviously in trouble there.

The Crusaders built up a big enough lead to force Jantjies not to kick for poles, but the Lions need to realise the importance of taking your points in finals rugby. It reminds me of 2012 with the Bulls in New Zealand when we lost 28-13 to the Crusaders in Christchurch. We outscored them two tries to one, but Dan Carter kicked six penalties and a drop goal. That’s always the right mindset in playoffs, especially at altitude because the game can change very quickly.

As the Crusaders coach back then, Todd Blackadder, used to say: “You must take every point,” and the New Zealand side certainly did that in this year’s final.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

Why CSA have said no to more franchises 1

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ken

 

Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat explained on Tuesday that Cricket South Africa have said no to the idea of increasing the number of franchises because they want to give more attention to the semi-professional level that is the second tier of domestic cricket.

There has been speculation over the last couple of years that the number of franchises would be increased from six to either seven or eight. But Lorgat said this has now been put on the backburner, with CSA deciding instead to focus on the next level down.

“The decision actually came out of our domestic review, which was a very detailed report and indicated that there is work to be done at the semi-professional level. We are open-minded about it and there might come a day when we move from six franchises.

“But extra franchises have got to be sustainable and we’re only now at the point where each franchise is, at the very worst, breaking even, although I expect them all to announce surpluses at the end of this financial year at the end of the month. But now we want to grow the base and what we now call semi-professional, we want to make that professional.

“At the moment there are only seven full-time contracts per provincial team in the system and it’s arguable whether players are able to sustain themselves on those contracts. So we want to lift that up and we will take the same money we would have used for a seventh franchise to uplift semi-pro cricket,” Lorgat said at the launch of the Africa Cup 2017 at the Wanderers on Tuesday.

An exodus of players to earn pounds in English cricket has taken its toll on the South African game, and Lorgat said CSA hoped raising the standard and lucrativeness of cricket below franchise level would encourage players to stay.

“If we can raise the competitive nature of that cricket then we can use that tier to hopefully sustain guys until they get a crack at franchise level. The Africa Cup has brought more names to the fore and I know the coaches are excited about the opportunity it gives players to shine. We’ve identified the second tier as being an area where we need to widen opportunity,” Lorgat said.

The Africa Cup is the T20 competition that has kicked off the last two seasons and is considered the bridge between senior provincial and franchise cricket, with the 12 CSA provinces plus KZN Inland and Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya playing in a tournament that mixes fully professional cricketers with those from the semi-pro ranks.

The Africa Cup has been the gateway to success for players like Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo, who are all now part of the Proteas’ plans.

Lorgat confirmed that following the Africa Cup in August/September and the introduction of the new showpiece global T20 league in November/December, the existing franchises’ CSA T2O Challenge will now shift to late summer, probably in April 2018.

“There is a risk of too much T20 cricket, but access of opportunity is really the driver and it also brings more transformation players to the fore. We have to develop players and give them opportunities to aspire towards developing into something more. We have the Africa Cup and the T20 global league and we’ve got to have something in between.

“First-class and 50-over cricket are acknowledged as being crucial in the development of players, whether there are supporters watching or not, so it will be the same for the CSA T2O Challenge at the end of the season,” Lorgat said.

The draw for the Africa Cup, which starts on August 25 and will be hosted on successive weekends by Benoni, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein and Kimberley, was made on Tuesday and defending champions Eastern Province find themselves in the same pool as hosts North-West, dominant provincial side Northerns and Gauteng.

Draw

Pool A   (Willowmoore Park, 25-27 August): Easterns, Western Province, South-Western Districts, Namibia.

Pool B   (Senwes Park, 1-3 September): North-West, Northerns, Gauteng, Eastern Province.

Pool C   (Mangaung Oval, 9-11 September): Free State, KZN Inland, Zimbabwe, Boland.

Pool D   (Diamond Oval, 15-17 September): Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Kenya, Border.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1484582/domestic-cricket-isnt-going-to-get-bigger-anytime-soon-says-csa/

AB confident camp will give birth to better fortune 0

Posted on August 17, 2016 by Ken

 

AB de Villiers says he is confident a “culture camp” the wider Proteas squad held last week will give birth to a resurgence in fortunes for the national side, starting with victory over New Zealand in the two-Test series that gets underway in Durban on Friday.

De Villiers is off for six weeks with an elbow injury the most serious of several niggles he is getting right before the season gets into full swing, but he is clearly still playing a powerful leadership role within the team, speaking confidently about how he backs them to beat New Zealand, when he was interviewed at the launch of the series, at which sponsors Sunfoil announced they would be extending their sponsorship of South African Test and first-class cricket for another two years.

“We had a culture camp five days ago where we were brutally honest with each other about where we are as a team and where we would like to see ourselves. We know exactly where we want to go, we had a lot of hard chats about what is wrong, what issues there are, behind our dip in form.

“A big part of our success in the past has been our culture and we revisited our core values, who we play for. I wouldn’t say we’re in a transitional phase because this is still a fantastic team that can beat anyone. I’m really backing our boys, even though the Black Caps are clearly a force to be reckoned with,” De Villiers said.

The Proteas arrived in Durban extra early for the Test and have had twice-daily practice sessions in order to offset their lack of Test cricket, in contrast to New Zealand, who have just enjoyed a convincing 2-0 win in Zimbabwe. De Villiers, however, predicted that it would be South Africa who would set the early pace in the series.

“One thing we really discussed in our camp was throwing the first punch. We’re proud of our ability to come back from all sorts of trouble, but it’s time for us to dominate from the start now and not be scared of being aggressive, of trying things. Hopefully people will get to see that in this series.

“I think New Zealand could be a bit thin in the batting department and if they don’t score big runs they’ll be in trouble. I don’t think they have an advantage from playing Tests recently, all our guys have played enough cricket and it was much more important for us to connect as players at our camp,” De Villiers said.

 

The lack of interest in the Olympic golf competition is palpable 0

Posted on June 13, 2016 by Ken

 

The announcement of South Africa’s team for the golf component of the Olympic Games in Rio de Janeiro is now a month away and the lack of major interest is palpable for a sport that should give the country a chance of a precious medal.

The legendary Gary Player is the captain of South Africa’s team but the two-man outfit will be chosen purely on the basis of the world rankings on July 11. Because Branden Grace is the only available South African in the top-15, we will only be able to send two players.

The great pity is that Louis Oosthuizen, currently 14th, has withdrawn from Olympic contention, so the prospect of sending a third player in Charl Schwartzel and maybe even a fourth in Jaco van Zyl, falls away. Only countries with more than two players in the top-15 are allowed to send bigger teams.

Schwartzel has also made himself unavailable, joining the Australian Adam Scott in snubbing the Olympics.

Golf was always going to be a tough fit for an event based on such classical ideals as amateurism. Today’s top golfers care mostly about the paycheque and winning Majors, that’s what really counts for them.

But instead of harping on about why the sport shouldn’t be at the Olympic Games, here are a couple of suggestions that could make a gold medal more attractive to golfers.

Firstly, it’s going to take time.

Tennis only returned to the Olympics in 1988 and initially there seemed to be similar problems to what golf is experiencing. But now Novak Djokovic is going all out to win that gold medal and a small thing like the Zika Virus is not going to keep him away.

Roger Federer is going to play singles, doubles and mixed doubles for Switzerland, while Rafael Nadal has been given the honour of carrying Spain’s flag into the Maracana Stadium.

Secondly, to make it more enticing for golfers, why not make it into a team competition, rather than an individual strokeplay? We’ve seen what the Ryder Cup does to them, it’s one of the highlights of any European or American golfer’s career.

How about bringing an amateur component into the competition, teaming a country’s top two amateurs with their top two pros?

Or what about making the golf a mixed team competition?

One gets the feeling that the Olympic Games might be struggling to remain as one of the most important sporting events, hence their decision to extend invitations to global sports like golf and rugby, but they have to get the format right if these events are going to add to the spectacle and not detract from it.



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