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Ken Borland



A new maturity behind De Kock’s top-class season 0

Posted on May 26, 2017 by Ken

 

A top-class season resulted in a handful of trophies for Quinton de Kock at the Cricket South Africa Awards over the weekend, and the wicketkeeper/batsman said he is approaching his game with a new maturity that befits his evolution into one of the senior players.

“I think I’ve slowly grown up and I’m being more mature about the game now, being more clever in the way I do things and prepare. I’m going to keep trying to learn and hopefully become even better. I don’t know as much as guys like AB and Hash, they are true geniuses and they teach me.

“I’m really focusing on my batting because in the next couple of years we’re going to have to start replacing some senior batsmen and I will have a more senior role. Sometimes you just need to do things yourself and I think I’m a fairly fast learner. Sometimes it’s all about trying to read what the bowler is trying to do or reading the situation,” De Kock said after he was named the overall Cricketer of the Year.

“To get all these individual accolades is nice, it feels good, but being able to just change the momentum or do something to keep the momentum for your team is the ultimate.”

The ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year is now off to England to try and help the Proteas to Champions Trophy glory. Although South Africa go into the tournament as the number one ranked side, suggesting they have the inside lane to success, De Kock downplayed expectations.

“We have a lot of backing at every ICC tournament, it seems whenever we go into a big tournament we’re always the favourites, but we don’t want to say too much about that. We don’t want to be the favourites, we just want to go and do our best, take it game-by-game,” De Kock said.

In addition to the main award, De Kock was also named Test Cricketer of the Year and ODI Cricketer of the Year, was honoured by his peers by being named SA Players’ Player of the Year and by the fans as the SA Fans Player of the Year.

De Kock scored 761 Test runs last season at an average of 54.35 and 805 ODI runs at an average of 50.31 and a strike-rate of 115.

 

Heyneke Meyer has me thinking mischievous thoughts 0

Posted on September 07, 2015 by Ken

 

It may be mischievous to say there are a handful of White quota players in the Springbok World Cup squad, but there certainly are players who can count themselves most fortunate that Heyneke Meyer obviously has such a high opinion of them.

There are the walking wounded of Jean de Villiers, Fourie du Preez, Duane Vermeulen and Coenie Oosthuizen, and overseas-based players like Schalk Brits and Morne Steyn who have been chosen ahead of younger talent that has excelled in Super Rugby.

I fully back the selection of De Villiers – he has performed for the last four years both in terms of his own play and the captaincy, and his tenacious return from a serious knee injury and then a fractured jaw should be applauded. Having worked so hard to be fit for the World Cup, De Villiers will undoubtedly bring immense hunger to the tournament. Jesse Kriel and Damian de Allende are the in-form centres but are both inexperienced in high-pressure situations, so there’s no question De Villiers is there on merit.

Meyer is undoubtedly gambling on Du Preez and Vermeulen, who have not played a Test this year, but if they do come off they are the sort of players who can win you the World Cup, so I support their inclusion as well, even though there are major question marks surrounding them.

But there must be something else going on that the rugby media are not aware of when it comes to the selection of Oosthuizen. For all the talent he undoubtedly possesses, he has done little in a Springbok jersey and hasn’t played a Test since last November. He only completed half the SuperRugby season and at the end of June he had his third neck operation in four years.

Meyer hopefully knows something we don’t when it comes to Coenie, otherwise his selection is utterly insane. What’s more, it sends an incredibly negative message to Vincent Koch, Marcel van der Merwe and Steven Kitshoff, three up-and-coming props.

And the argument that Oosthuizen is in the squad because he can play on both sides of the scrum doesn’t hold water when you consider the problems he has had at tighthead and the fact that Trevor Nyakane is more than capable of switching between loosehead and tighthead as well.

The World Cup squad selection just highlighted more inconsistency from Meyer as he is willing to gamble on the 50/50 (at best) fitness of players like Oosthuizen, but not on Marcell Coetzee, the outstanding Springbok loose forward in the Rugby Championship this year.

The recall of players like Zane Kirchner and Morne Steyn also disappoints me because it signals the intention of Meyer to return to the same brand of rugby the Springboks played in 2012/13. The backline does need some attacking spark, which is why Jesse Kriel and Willie le Roux would be in my first-choice starting XV. I did not agree with the rave reviews Kirchner received after the Buenos Aires game – he was solid but he really offers nothing extra in attack.

Kriel, Pat Lambie, Lwazi Mvovo and JP Pietersen can all play fullback should something happen to Le Roux. Incidentally, I would also have chosen Lionel Mapoe ahead of Pietersen to bolster the midfield stocks, with the 29-year-old veteran battling to regain the form of old that made him an integral part of the 2007 and 2011 World Cup teams.

The selection of Kirchner has wasted the extra place Meyer was gifted by only choosing five props, instead of the six he thought he had to at the start of the international season. The demands of World Cup rugby surely compel one to choose more forwards and the coach could have had both Siya Kolisi and Coetzee in his squad, but instead the backs received an extra player who I really don’t believe is going to provide the brilliance that wins you the World Cup.

The selection of Steyn and Brits is another slap in the face of transformation because it ignores the outstanding Super Rugby form of Elton Jantjies and Scarra Ntubeni.

My World Cup squad – Willie le Roux, Lwazi Mvovo, Jesse Kriel, Damian de Allende, Jean de Villiers, Lionel Mapoe, Bryan Habana, Pat Lambie, Handre Pollard, Elton Jantjies, Fourie du Preez, Ruan Pienaar, Francois Hougaard, Duane Vermeulen, Marcell Coetzee, Willem Alberts, Schalk Burger, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi, Victor Matfield, Lood de Jager, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Eben Etzebeth, Jannie du Plessis, Frans Malherbe, Marcel van der Merwe, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Scarra Ntubeni, Trevor Nyakane, Tendai Mtawarira.

 

Match-fitness not as big an issue for the Springboks 0

Posted on August 11, 2014 by Ken

 

South Africa forwards coach Johan van Graan said on Monday that fears over the match-fitness of the handful of Springboks returning from injury were unfounded ahead of Saturday’s Rugby Championship opener against Argentina at Loftus Versfeld.

Tendai Mtawarira, Frans Malherbe, Eben Etzebeth, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende and Pat Lambie are all likely to be involved in Saturday’s Test and all of them have just returned from injuries that have kept them out for weeks and in some cases months.

But Van Graan said players today, especially experienced ones, were more able to hit the ground running.

“It varies from player to player, but they are all professionals who have been around the block. For example, last year Duane Vermeulen had been injured for a long time but he came back and played 80 minutes straight away,” Van Graan said.

Team doctor Craig Roberts acknowledged that players did need to take contact in order to get match-fit, but he said much of this could be done in training.

“You need hits and contact to get match-fit and sometimes you need game time if you’ve been out for a long time. Which is one of the reasons Eben Etzebeth and Frans Malherbe were sent back to their province last week because they had three months out with injury.

“Someone like Beast has only been out for six weeks and he’s done everything in training, he did a lot of scrumming last week and he’s looking good. We had some big, heavy sessions last week,” Roberts said.

Fears that captain De Villiers might miss the opening Rugby Championship encounter now look misplaced as South Africa’s most-capped centre continues to make steady progress from his knee injury.

“We’ve brought Jean through slowly and we’re happy with where he’s at,” Roberts said.

Mtawarira’s progress means that he might well start in the number one jersey in his 56th Test and his first match since the game against Wales in Nelspruit on June 21.

The Springbok pack has been even more disrupted by the injury to veteran Victor Matfield.

“Victor tweaked his knee, there’s a little tear in the cartilage, but he’s responded well to rest and rehab and it doesn’t look like a scope will be necessary. But he won’t be available this week and we’ll reassess his fitness for the trip to Argentina,” Roberts said.

While Van Graan said the absence of “probably the best lock to have ever played” would be felt beyond just the lineouts – Matfield also plays a key role in the defensive organisation – the search was on for someone else to run that set-piece for the Springboks.

“Losing Victor is obviously a huge setback, but we’ve worked hard with Lood de Jager and Eben Etzebeth on calling the lineouts and Duane Vermeulen has been calling the Stormers’ lineout for some time. He’s been part of the system for a long time and is an experienced caller, so Duane is probably the favourite to do it,” Van Graan said.

The forwards coach said taking on the Argentinians this weekend would be a major test of the Springboks’ ability to hang on to their own ball.

“In 2013, Argentina and us stole the most ball, not only at the breakdowns but also at set-pieces, and we were at one and two again in the June Tests. So it’s definitely going to be a game with a lot of contesting for the ball, Argentina will attack us at every breakdown, scrum, lineout and kick-off.

“The Pumas also do a lot of leg-tackles, taking the ball-carrier low, but playing against Wales and Scotland in June was good preparation for that. They also do more leg-tackles, while you have more double-hits in SuperRugby. But it’s been a focus of ours in training, especially for the taller guys, who are put in situations they’re not used to,” Van Graan said.

There is a good buzz in the Springbok camp, especially with the legendary Juan Smith once again part of the squad, and they are hopeful, despite the injury concerns, that they will be in tiptop shape come Saturday.

“For the first time in two-and-a-half years, we’ve had the actual 30-man squad together two weeks before the start of the tournament and you can feel the buzz and vibe in the squad. Everything’s been planned – the players knew in June what we would be doing now – and we’ve been concentrating on our set-pieces, attack, kicking game and what to do when you’re five metres from your own line and five metres from their line,” Van Graan said.

Even the rusty Malherbe and Etzebeth showed good form in Western Province’s weekend Currie Cup victory over the Eastern Province Kings, with the tighthead prop making over a dozen tackles.

 

 



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