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Ken Borland



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.

Player power and perfect storms 0

Posted on June 07, 2016 by Ken

 

I am totally behind empowering players and allowing them to lead the way in terms of the direction and culture of a team, but there are times when too much player power can become a bad thing.

Knowing Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold reasonably well, I know that he is the sort of coach who will look to empower the players, treat them as adults and allow them to plot their own destiny. But it seems the Sharks are embroiled in a perfect storm at the moment and it is showing not only in their results but in the shocking lack of discipline their senior players are exhibiting.

The Sharks are a team dominated by senior Springboks, a lot of older players who are eyeing one last World Cup before earning their pensions in Europe or Japan. This strong core of players totally lost respect for Jake White and it was their rebellion (which probably isn’t too strong a word given the stories I heard this week about what happened on tour last year) that forced CEO John Smit to release the World Cup-winning coach.

Gold will be well aware of his predecessor’s fate but his efforts to refresh the team, bring in some new blood, are hampered by the poor recruitment that has happened at the Sharks in the last couple of years.

Signing players like Matt Stevens, Mouritz Botha and Marco Wentzel merely strengthens the “old boys club” and, people being people, nobody likes the feeling that they’re about to be replaced by someone younger, so they cling on to whatever power or influence they have. Because most of these players spent their formative years elsewhere, their attachment to the Sharks’ brand and badge is perhaps not as strong as that of players like Pat Lambie or Marcell Coetzee, a duo to emerge with credit so far this troubled season.

A major part of the Sharks’ problems is that their academy is not functioning properly, its emphasis is more on making money than providing a pipeline of players for the franchise. Wealthy parents of kids who only played 3rd XV rugby at school are getting entries for their children, which only lowers the standard of the academy.

The Sharks must rediscover their soul, return to their roots and start looking closer to home for their answers. The best Natal/Sharks sides were made up of a core of players who studied in the province – think John Allan, Rod Gould (Glenwood), Mark Andrews, Tommy Bedford, John Smit (Natal University), Steve Atherton (Pinetown), Tim Cocks (Westville), Wayne Fyvie, Gary Teichmann (Hilton), Trevor Halstead (Kearsney), Henry Honiball (Estcourt), Butch James, Keith Oxlee, Joel Stransky, Jeremy Thomson, Craig Jamieson (Maritzburg College), Andre Joubert (Ladysmith), Dick Muir (Kokstad), Hugh Reece-Edwards (Northlands), Andre Snyman (Newcastle) Rob Hankinson (Michaelhouse) and Lood Muller (Voortrekker).

And the standard of schools’ rugby in KwaZulu-Natal has risen considerably in the last 30 years.

The senior players must either buy into the new vision or go elsewhere, but they certainly have roles to play in restoring Sharks rugby to even keel.

The happy days must return to Kings Park and that also involves tough decisions for Smit and the board.

Conversely, a bit more player power would probably be a good thing when it comes to South African cricket.

Although there probably won’t be any clarity on the whole Philander/Abbott selection issue any time soon, the deafening silence of the players has been telling.

If all the speculation that there had been a late, unpopular change to the team for the World Cup semi-final was totally wide of the mark, then surely either Philander or Abbott, AB de Villiers or some other player would have been quick to stand up and say it was absolute nonsense?

As someone very close to the team said to me: “Where there’s smoke there will always be fire”.

The day will come when, with a lucrative IPL contract in his pocket, a player makes a public stand, but at the moment there would be too many repercussions.

The last time a player protested against interference in selection – the courageous Charl Langeveldt – he was mercilessly bullied by the same person who is now the lead independent director of the Cricket South Africa board.

 

Financial powerhouse’s backing a big vote of confidence for CSA 0

Posted on May 23, 2016 by Ken

 

It can only be a vote of confidence when one of South Africa’s financial powerhouses agrees to become your national team sponsor – across all three formats – particularly when they parted ways with you just six years previously because of misgovernance and the way they were treated, so Cricket South Africa had reason to celebrate this week and reflect on how far they have come in terms of corporate governance.

It’s the first time one sponsor has been found for all three teams, the Test, ODI and T20 outfits, and the four-year deal will allow just one name on all the replica shirts CSA sells. The fact that it is no longer an alcoholic brand on the shirt also allows huge numbers of people to now buy them whereas in the past their religious beliefs precluded them from wearing that logo, so there will be a sizeable financial benefit there as well.

It’s some much-needed good news for the Proteas in what has been a tough year for them. CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat optimistically said at the sponsorship announcement that he believes the slide down the international rankings is only temporary.

“These have been tough times but I’m sure the team will provide the desired returns for Standard Bank. I believe they are still a world-class team despite the poor recent results. I think it’s just a blip for a team that is still in transition.

“We believe the system will still provide great players, especially after the three reviews we are currently running – into the domestic structure, a relaunched T20 league and the national team set-up, especially why the Proteas keep falling short at the final hurdle in major global tournaments,” Lorgat said.

Transformation is still a major issue for CSA – some of my sources tell me that the reason for the sudden postponement of the initial Standard Bank announcement was that the sponsor wanted a transformation clause inserted into the contract, others have denied this – and the dissatisfaction of sports minister Fikile Mbalula, however obxnoxious he is being, is a threat to their future plans.

There is a meeting on Saturday between CSA and Mbalula, and this is going to be a crucial sit-down to see if they can iron out the differences that were exposed by the minister’s shock announcement on April 25 that he was implementing punitive measures against the union.

“The unparalelled support that we enjoy – as Temba Bavuma approached his debut Test century at Newlands there were 10 million TV viewers for the first time – shows that we can be very proud of our transformation initiatives that are bearing fruit. We know the minister of sport is not satisfied with certain areas, but we will engage him. We strongly believe that transformation has to happen from the bottom up and we firmly believe that we need it for strategic reasons.

“It’s fair to say that we were caught by surprise by what the minister had to say, but we will meet this Saturday and I’m confident we will come to an understanding. Transformation is about more than targets, it covers our entire business. We are clear that it must be from the bottom up, but we need resources and support from government, in particular the departments of sport and recreation and basic education. It will be the only way to sustain our business into the future, never mind our moral obligations,” Lorgat said.

Apart from the poor corporate governance of the previous CSA administration, Standard Bank were also chased away in 2010 by the frustrating fashion in which they were treated by certain CSA staff, who did not seem to care that these were the people investing in their sport and paying a large proportion of their salaries at the end of the day. Fortunately that culture is long gone at CSA.

From the media’s perspective, we had some rip-roaring times with Standard Bank and it is with delight that we welcome them back into the pressboxes around the country.

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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