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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

Stats & personal experience show new quotas are a mixed success 0

Posted on February 29, 2016 by Ken

 

Hopefully this year Cricket South Africa (CSA) will call in the consultants and the experts before making any decisions about transformation quotas in franchise cricket, but something that happened in the lift at the Wanderers suggests this season’s increased targets have been a mixed success.

It was after the T20 international against England and a group of youngish Black African fans, three guys and a woman, walked into the lift in animated, festive mood, having obviously had a good evening.

They were raving about the whole Wanderers stadium experience and one of them said “I’ve actually been to the Wanderers more times this season than I ever have before!”

Now, considering that there have only been three international matches in Johannesburg this summer, that tells you that the demographic most sought after by CSA is coming to franchise matches, which is surely a good thing.

I had a more scientific look at the situation via the averages and they show that there are several Black African bowlers of quality. The Knights are challenging for the Sunfoil Series title thanks to the efforts of Mbulelo Budaza, Tumi Masekela and Malusi Siboto, who have taken 39 wickets between them at an average of 15.25 at the halfway mark, providing superb support for Duanne Olivier (19 wkts @ 14.84).

Ethy Mbhalati is top of the Titans averages with 18 wickets at an average of 17, while, in the Momentum One-Day Cup, Siboto is the leading wicket-taker with 19, Junior Dala is third with 16, Tshepo Moreki has 15 scalps and Sisanda Magala 14. Eddie Leie and Andile Phehlukwayo have both taken 11 wickets, while Pumelela Matshikwe and Aaron Phangiso have been amongst the most economical bowlers in the competition, helping the Highveld Lions to the final.

Some of the same names featured prominently in the RamSlam T20 Challenge, with Magala finishing with the second-most wickets, Phangiso and Siboto having outstanding campaigns in terms of both wickets and economy, while Leie and Phehlukwayo were both among the leading wicket-takers. Lungi Ngidi showed promise in seven matches for the Titans.

But in terms of the bowlers, we already knew that was where the Black African talent is concentrated. Where are the batsmen looking to follow Temba Bavuma?

An average of 39 for Omphile Ramela is a bit disappointing for him considering he averaged 48 for the Cape Cobras last season, while there have been brief flashes of brilliance from Mangaliso Mosehle with his spectacular match-winning innings in the T20 final, Khaya Zondo in the One-Day Cup and Letlotlo Sesele, Thami Tsolekile and Somila Seyibokwe here and there.

To be fair though, the batting averages are dominated in general by the old guard – Vilas, Petersen, Cook, Kuhn, Ontong, Smit and Ingram.

As predicted in this column before the season started, coloured players are the ones losing out most in terms of opportunity and CSA are going to have to undergo a thorough review with the franchise coaches, players’ association and Corrie van Zyl’s cricket department to properly unpick the effects of a new system that was implemented on the whim of an individual.

There is currently a lot of negativity around South African domestic cricket, but to some extent the quality of local competition has always ebbed and flowed.

What is clear is that some of the sternest critics are sourcing their information from the sort of people who thought Geoff Toyana fielding for the Lions last week was due to quotas. What nonsense, especially since it was a White student who eventually replaced the coach as an emergency 12th man, forced into duty due to two injuries, one in the warm-up and one in the first half-hour.

These are the same sort of people who think protesters interrupting a rugby match is racist. How on earth does that make sense unless they believe rugby actually belongs to white people?

Fortunately cricket is further down the road away from that attitude. If the majority of the population love cricket, it can only be good for the game.

We are a nation prone to hysteria 0

Posted on January 09, 2016 by Ken

 

The last couple of weeks in social media have shown that we really are a nation prone to hysteria and thoroughly unreasonable presumptions. And I’m not referring to Penny Sparrow or Velaphi Khumalo, both of whose outrageous comments have been met with the storm of disgust they deserve.

Instead, it is the treatment of the South African cricket team, and especially players like Hashim Amla and Temba Bavuma, that has irritated me immensely.

We have a tendency in this country to criticise and call for this person or that person to “Fall”, never considering context, whether there is someone capable of replacing the subject of our derision, or the many great things the person may have done in the recent past.

South African cricket fans can count themselves blessed beyond measure that they have a person like Hashim Amla representing them: a truly great batsman respected worldwide and a person of tremendous fortitude, integrity and decency, a colossal figure in uniting the dressingroom.

But a bad year, capped by a poor performance in Durban in the Boxing Day Test, and Amla was being crucified, so-called Proteas supporters spewing vitriol at one of this country’s finest men. I was not surprised when he decided to relinquish the captaincy; having taken it on reluctantly, doing it out of a noble sense of duty, the hysteric reaction to his mistakes and the struggles of the team would have hurt and almost certainly contributed to his feeling that someone else could do the job better.

I can remember when Graeme Smith – South Africa’s most successful Test leader – started the captaincy: He made mistakes too, but he was given time to grow into the position and learn from those errors. Of course, Smith fitted the public perception that a captain should be square-jawed and vocal, leading from the front; but some great leaders lead by example and are more cerebral, in the mould of Mike Brearley, who turned England cricket around.

AB de Villiers can certainly do the job, but does he have the desire to play in every Test (as the captain must) for the next five years, plus handle the onerous off-field duties of the skipper, having already complained about his workload?

Amla revealed his feeling in his post-match press conference that he was doubted due to his skin colour and despite his domestic figures suggesting he was eminently qualified for the step up. The treatment of Bavuma these last couple of weeks shows that Amla has a point and that old prejudices still run deep.

Bavuma is but at the start of his international career and yet was written off by many critics, few of whom have paid any attention to domestic cricket, where the 25-year-old has consistently been amongst the leading run-scorers in the Sunfoil Series. Bavuma had batted seven times in Tests before his breakthrough, superb century at Newlands, scoring one half-century but showing enough mental grit and adaptability, especially in India, to suggest he could prosper.

Jacques Kallis took eight innings to get past 50 for the first time and made his first century in his 10th knock.

I have the unmistakeable feeling, as one person suggested on social media, that being a player of colour in the national team brings with it an automatic tainting, an attitude that quotas have earned them the place, that they are mediocre until they prove otherwise several times.

Apart from the continued and inexplicable absence of Stephen Cook as a specialist opener, the current players in the South African squad are the best available in the country. The domestic figures show that and perhaps the critics should study the game at all levels and ditch the prejudices of the past.

In the meantime, we should all savour the magnificent comeback by the Proteas in Cape Town, a sure sign that the spirit and fight remains and the leadership within the squad is still sound.

 

 



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