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Ken Borland



Bavuma details his feelings of that all-significant century 0

Posted on July 08, 2016 by Ken

 

Temba Bavuma has not yet watched the highlights of his historic century against England at Newlands at the start of the year, but he has had the time now to mentally process the significance of it all and this week spoke for the first time about the details of how he felt during the innings.

It was fitting that Bavuma revealed his thoughts at the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar at Kruger Park because that was the program that introduced him to the game back in the late 1990s.

“All the attention afterwards was quite overwhelming, when I went in to bat it was just another innings for me. But afterwards I began to understand the whole impact and significance of the knock a bit better and that it was actually quite a big thing. But I haven’t even watched the highlights because I just wanted to try and move on as quickly as I could. It’s very easy to get caught up in the whole emotion of it, when you just want to refresh, clear your mind and focus on the next one.

“But I’ve come to realise that I am a role-model for the masses, for the majority in this country. Prior to the milestone at Newlands, it was just another day of cricket for me, even though the batting unit as a whole was under pressure and at times it felt like my whole career was on the line.

“On the first day-and-a-half England smashed us around, then Hashim, AB and Faf all had good partnerships. I tried to be as calm as I could when I came in, just watch the ball, ball-by-ball. As the innings unfolded it got a bit easier and there was a moment early on between me and the England bowlers which spurred me on. I rolled with the energy it gave me and next thing I had 70.

“I began to look at the scoreboard a bit more and I started to get more nervous, my mind was racing and I just tried to slow things down. My celebration after reaching the hundred was just the culmination of all those emotions, relief and joy at seeing my parents’ delight. And for it to happen at Newlands, where I first learnt about cricket, where the seed was planted, was very special …

“KFC Mini-Cricket introduced me to the game at a young age, it was my first form of official, organised cricket, running around on Newlands. It’s about much more than just taking kids off the street, there’s a whole element of social upliftment, of building the nation, the whole program is excellent.

“And it’s not just about coaching the kids, it’s about nurturing them as well. So many of the coaches are mothers, so they instil discipline, they make sure you’re always neat, with your shirts tucked in, and you listen when you’re spoken to. It’s all hugely beneficial,” Bavuma said.

The 26-year-old Highveld Lions star had a more successful visit to India last year than many of his batting colleagues, impressing with his tenacious and adept approach to sharply-spinning pitches, but this summer will challenge him in different ways as South Africa play Tests against the powerful pace bowling attacks of both Australia and New Zealand.

“One of my biggest challenges to overcome has been my stature because I’m not the biggest guy, but I’m always fighting against that stereotype that I’m too short and you have to be a certain size to succeed. I use it as positive energy to motivate me to prove people wrong, to break through that stereotype. But I don’t consider myself as having a permanent place in the Test team now or having solidified my position, I’m always looking for ways to improve, to become a better person and cricketer, so that I can reach higher levels,” Bavuma said with refreshing candour.

 

Evaluating Coetzee’s first Springbok squad 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Speculating on Springbok squads is always one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a rugby writer and I was pleased to read Allister Coetzee said choosing it had been one of the highlights of his career. One of a scribe’s other jobs is to then evaluate the selection, and I’m pleased to say the new coach’s squad makes me largely very happy.

It would be remiss of me, however, not to point out what I believe are a couple of oversights in Coetzee’s first task in his new project.

I will explain the first by asking you, dear reader, to imagine you have been transported forward in time by a week and you are perusing this column on the morning of the opening Test against Ireland. And the shock news has just broken that Pat Lambie injured himself in yesterday’s captain’s run.

This will be a major problem for Coetzee and the Springboks because of the flyhalves he has chosen in his squad. Elton Jantjies has only just resumed training after having surgery on a fractured finger, so he has not had much time to heal or acquaint himself with what the new coach is hoping to do on the field. Garth April is a bright talent, no doubt, but has only made three starts in top-flight rugby and it would be a massive gamble for him to play in a Test match.

So who is going to be the general as South Africa enter a new era against a tough Irish side?

We can look at the other side of the halfback equation, the scrumhalves, but the picture is just as bleak there, with Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige no doubt players of the future, but vastly inexperienced at the moment when it comes to Test rugby. I have some sympathy for Coetzee when it comes to the dearth of scrumhalves though because he did apparently approach Ruan Pienaar, who turned him down, possibly because of all the abuse he takes from fickle Springbok fans.

Nic Groom also does not inspire much confidence. Against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld recently, the Stormers enjoyed a surfeit of possession, but he was unable to stamp his mark or take control of proceedings against a team that was hammered by the Lions the following week.

With Lambie out, the Springboks could be forced into playing Willie le Roux, who has had no serious rugby with a number 10 on his back, in the pivot position. All this could have been avoided by just naming Morne Steyn as the third flyhalf. It’s too late now because you can’t fly him out from France on the eve of a Test.

The other error, I believe, is in the composition of the loose forwards. They are all fine players with varying skills, but there seems to be, apart from Duane Vermeulen, a lack of a mean and nasty ball-carrier, someone with mongrel who can crash through the advantage line and bounce away anyone trying to get through the Springbok defences.

With Jaco Kriel and Francois Louw surely fighting over the openside flank position, Siya Kolisi is likely to wear the number seven jersey and is a super player, with a tremendous work-rate and great skills, but for me he is more of a hybrid loose forward, good at plenty of things and master of none. As a ball-carrier, he is only ranked 58th in Super Rugby this year, according to the Vodacom stats.

And Coetzee could open himself up to accusations of Stormers bias with his selection of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, another hybrid flank, as well as the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Groom and Scarra Ntubeni, ahead of players like Jean-Luc du Preez and Malcolm Marx.

But overall, it is a pleasing squad with the experience of players like Beast Mtawarira, Eben Etzebeth, JP Pietersen, Vermeulen, Lambie, Le Roux and Louw being combined with some of the exciting talent sweeping through our rugby, and a fine choice of captain in Adriaan Strauss.

And there is the thrilling prospect, looking at some of the selections, of the Springboks playing a more high-tempo, ball-in-hand style of rugby.



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