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Ken Borland



Lions battling against victims of own success sporting law 0

Posted on June 07, 2017 by Ken

 

It is almost a law of sport that teams can become victims of their own success in terms of competitors trying to lure a franchise’s star performers away, and the Highveld Lions are currently going through an unsettled period marked by the departures of key internationals Temba Bavuma and Eddie Leie, as well as their general manager, Heinrich Strydom.

But it could have been a lot worse because CEO Greg Fredericks reportedly tendered his resignation as well, but the board did not accept it and managed to convince the popular former MP to continue in his role, thus avoiding another major blow to a union that also lost several experienced players to matchfixing bans at the start of last season.

Fredericks did not want to comment on his alleged resignation, but told The Citizen, “I had an offer which I turned down. My job here is not done.”

Strydom, who was also the CEO of North-West Cricket, has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Dolphins franchise and the Lions have been forced into a time of change, which they are trying to manage as best they can.

There has also been speculation that Cricket South Africa want to groom Lions coach Geoff Toyana for greater things by appointing him as one of the Proteas’ assistant coaches, which would be another blow to the franchise.

“Geoff has just renewed his contract with us for another three years. But if anything happens, we obviously do have succession plans and one or two individuals in mind. We are also advertising for a batting coach at the moment,” Fredericks said.

“The board has expressed concern, however, over the performances of the Highveld Lions and the Gauteng Strikers over the last season, and a committee led by David Terbrugge will investigate and come up with proposals. But the team lost Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie, and that experience you can’t replace overnight. People might not also know the important roles of players like Kagiso Rabada, Thami Tsolekile, Pumi Matshikwe and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

“Heinrich was also a huge asset for us, but we are very happy for him. He’s a very hard-working person and we will miss him. But if our pipeline is strong, then we should be able to replicate our previous successes, it’s about ensuring our character and culture stay strong,” Fredericks said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170525/282119226487652

In praise of the Lions: The John McFarland Column 0

Posted on May 17, 2017 by Ken

 

What a fantastic achievement by the Lions to win all three of their SuperRugby games overseas, for any rugby team to do that is an unbelievable effort and they continue to do really well in terms of the competition standings.

I think this is the first time a South African team have been unbeaten on their overseas tour and the bonus points they gained, to score the tries they did and to defend so securely was superb, and credit must go to the coaching staff as a whole.

Not that long ago, it was virtually impossible for a South African team to win against the Brumbies in Canberra and that could be the result that gives the Lions a great shout of hosting a home final. They can now top the log and go all the way, playing New Zealand sides at 3pm on the Highveld in the knockouts.

It was certainly a memorable moment when they managed to steal the ball for a turnover and what pace Kwagga Smith showed to finish!

For those criticising the way the Lions have been playing, you never play your best away from home, you just have to make sure you win. And you can’t be at your best every week in SuperRugby, it’s impossible, and it’s important to win when you’re playing badly.

This weekend the Lions will look forward to hosting a Bulls team low on confidence and belief at Ellis Park.

The Bulls were certainly better last weekend against the Highlanders. Although the conditions were a great leveller, they showed fight and character and it was a good turnaround which showed what they can achieve when they put their minds to it. There was also a huge improvement in their defence.

The Bulls have so many good players and they will see a chance to play against the Lions as a great opportunity; there is always a bit more passion and intensity in the local derbies. It is a very young Bulls side though, and they will need to match the Lions in the set-pieces. Obviously the scrums are crucial because the Lions will certainly attack them there, and the Bulls will also need to stop the lineout drive. Then they need to deal with the Lions’ game-breaking backs, although the Bulls also have a dangerous backline.

I fully expect the Stormers to beat the Blues back in Cape Town after their rest. The start will be key for the Stormers because they don’t have so much confidence now, but if they can get back to how they were playing before going overseas, then there’s no reason why they can’t beat the Blues. Their biggest challenge is going to be that they have to defend a lot better.

You’ve also got to take your hats off to the Southern Kings, who have no budget but are certainly playing with high confidence at the moment, and it was a really good performance to beat the Sharks with four tries to two. It was encouraging to see they’ve got the reward of four guys being named in the last Springbok training squad.

But the only South African team that has really performed to their potential has been the Lions, so you would think they will form the bulk of the final Springbok squad to be announced next week. The Sharks have recently lost to the Kings and drawn with the Rebels, the Stormers have lost four successive matches and the Bulls and Cheetahs are also on big losing streaks, so there is not a lot of confidence amongst the other players in South Africa.

But we’ve been like this before – in 2015 we struggled in SuperRugby but ended up losing by just two points to the All Blacks in the World Cup semi-final. The players get excited about being in a different environment and representing their country.

The Stormers locks are world-class and proven Test players need to play, plus there are special considerations around making the squad representative, so there are a lot of variables, one can’t just choose all the Lions players.

The positive, though, is that two of the Tests against France will be played on the Highveld, so it’s an opportunity to pick more Gauteng players who are used to the conditions and the quick tempo of play.

France will bring a gigantic pack and big midfield backs, they certainly like to play ball-in-hand and they have an offload game centred around Louis Picamoles. So Allister Coetzee needs to pick the right combinations to stop that, which is always the challenge in selection – it’s like putting together a fine potjie, making sure the blend is right is most important and you’re always going to use some tried and tested frontline Test players.

It will be interesting to see who Coetzee picks from overseas, some of them have had a very long, hard, arduous season in the French playoffs or the English Premiership. You need continuity and if guys are based overseas it makes it difficult because you have so little time together as a team anyway. For me, I would only use guys who qualify to play after the 30-caps criterion comes into force after July 1.

As far as Jan Serfontein goes, if there’s an emergency then obviously Allister will use him, and the Springboks definitely need size and experience in midfield.

With all the injuries, it looks like Elton Jantjies will get an extended run at flyhalf, and it will be a make-or-break series for him.

 

 

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.

SA rugby needs decency more than anything else 0

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Ken

 

In terms of rugby, the New Year is all about finding answers to the question “What is wrong with South African rugby?”, but two incidents in the last month show that, perhaps more than anything else, some of our players and administrators have to ditch their self-serving attitudes and get back to the old values of the game that were rooted in common decency and humility.

The recent actions of the Western Province Rugby Football Union and current Springbok player Johan Goosen suggest the problems are more about individuals being rotten to the core rather than structural issues.

Let’s start with Goosen and I’m not going to say anything more about his on-field performance than my feeling he has flattered to deceive, although the fact that he never had a start at flyhalf is a mitigating factor.

But his tawdry actions in trying to get out of a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, that he only signed a few months ago and that netted him €500 000 a year until 2020, indicate this is a man of scant integrity and someone who clearly does not put team ahead of self.

A couple of weeks ago Goosen announced his retirement from rugby at the age of just 24, following one of his more injury-free years and his return to international rugby, saying he was going to become commercial director of a Free State based agricultural company.

Of course no one is really going to believe that and his name has since appeared on a Cheetahs training squad list and it has since been said that Goosen is ultimately going to Gloucester, once Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad becomes the English club’s majority shareholder.

With flagrant disregard for any ethical considerations, Goosen has taken advantage of a loophole in French labour law which makes all fixed-term rugby contracts temporary. Hence a player can be released from his contract without penalty if he finds fulltime employment – ostensibly Goosen’s dubious “commercial director” job.

The actions of Western Province rugby are just as cynical and what little faith their loyal supporters had in their administrators must now have almost totally dissipated.

They had applied for liquidation of the business arm of WP Rugby and then, just a day after that was granted by the Cape High Court, the Western Province Rugby Football Union announced that the insolvent company had been bought by one of their other companies.

Having put Western Province rugby into financial strife, the likes of president Thelo Wakefield and CEO Paul Zacks are glibly trying to slip through a loophole in thoroughly dishonourable fashion to evade their creditors, most notably with sponsorship company Aerios.

And these are the calibre of administrators that have been put in charge of one of the most legendary brands in rugby?!

Goosen has surely played his last game in the Green and Gold because people of such deviousness really should not be representing our country. He should also not be allowed to play Super Rugby and the Springbok coach must ensure his players will make the nation proud, not embarrass us on an international stage; the good of the game must come before the avaricious accumulation of individual wealth.

Wakefield must also surely fall on his sword. This is not some village rugby team he is mishandling, but one of the proudest rugby legacies in the world, whose fans should be feeling deeply humiliated.

Eksteen recognises KFC mini-cricket is a cunning plan 0

Posted on July 07, 2016 by Ken

 

Eight months ago, Clive Eksteen was ‘just’ a former Test cricketer whose passion for the sport remained. But now he has to apply the same cunning he showed as a spin bowler to Cricket South Africa’s commercial operations and this week he was dishing out praise to the KFC Mini-Cricket programme where it all begins in terms of the game in this country.

“This is where it all starts, it would be so much harder for us to implement our plans without a program like this,” Eksteen told the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar at Kruger Park. “This is not only about the pipeline, it goes way beyond that. We want to get cricket to all 55 million people in this country, to create a love for the game. Cricket has got to make a difference in this country, it has to play a crucial role, and it starts with the little kids. There are more than 100 000 involved in the programme, thanks to the more than 8000 coaches, which is enough to fill all six of our international stadia.”

“When Temba Bavuma played that awesome knock at Newlands, the TV ratings went through the roof and from that we can see how big this game can become in South Africa. We had 14 million unique viewers watching cricket last season and there were 500 000 tickets sold for people to go watch the cricket at the ground, which is 68% more than the previous year,” Eksteen said as he applied factual numbers rather than spin to his mode of attack.

For CSA, it is just as important to cultivate customers for their product: to have cricket fans going to the matches or watching on TV.

“We have the most diverse following of any sport in South Africa but we’re not finished yet, cricket must get to every part of the country, we want to create a passion for the game. It’s a hard sport, but it teaches you a lot and you make friends for life.

“There’s no doubt we have fantastic talent second to none, but not all the kids will become reasonable cricketers let alone internationals. But they can become passionate followers and that’s a win for us from a commercial point of view. Full stadia, people watching the game, that’s what drives the sport. For sponsors, it ultimately comes down to numbers and when your first program starts with over 100 000 kids, from very diverse backgrounds, then that’s a massive plus.

“Coaches make the biggest impact on kids and KFC Mini-Cricket creates that passion and love for the game, it’s our flagship program and the beginning of how we sustain the game,” Eksteen said.



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