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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.

Johan Goosen Q&A 0

Posted on June 16, 2014 by Ken

Springbok flyhalf Johan Goosen

 

Your decision to sign with Racing Metro must have been a tough one. What were the key factors that made up your mind?

 

A: Big decisions such as this one are never easy, but I decided to take this opportunity as I would love to experience a different culture, on the field and away from it, work on certain aspects of my game, and, as the World Cup will be played in the Northern Hemisphere, give myself the opportunity to get used to the playing conditions over there while pushing for a place in the squad.

 

 

There are a lot of South Africans playing in France and it is obviously a strong league. Do you believe playing in those conditions will improve your game and are there any particular areas you’re looking to improve in?

 

A: Yes, I do think so. One area which I can still improve in is my tactical kicking and as it’s vital to be able to kick well in those conditions, I think I will definitely benefit from moving to France.

 

 

Were any players influential in your move?

 

A: I chatted to Bernard le Roux and Francois van der Merwe, Flip’s brother, about playing over there and both of them recommended it highly.

 

 

You were in France last year with the Springboks, what were the main attractions for you?

 

A: Paris is obviously a magnificent city and I’m looking forward to getting to know it much better, but the main thing is the rugby and I’m going to work very hard to make my move to Racing a success.

 

 

You were something of a schoolboy prodigy. Tell us about your early days and who was the most influential person in your boyhood career?

 

A: My earliest memories involve rugby so I started playing when I was still very young. Two people have made a massive difference in my rugby career and also my life. One is my dad, who always supports me and gave me the best possible chances in life. And the other is Mr Basson from Burgersdorp Primary School. He made the very important decision to move me from flank to flyhalf and started moulding me into what I am today. And then it was very enjoyable being at Grey College, where you can just live for rugby and wearing their jersey was always a highlight for me.

 

Do you have any role-models as a flyhalf?

A: I think Jonny Wilkinson was the most complete flyhalf. But comparing yourself to other flyhalves, which happens constantly in South Africa, creates pressures that I don’t need. I’m not going to change my natural game because that’s what got me picked and Heyneke’s always saying that too. I have to keep working hard and trust myself.

You’re just 21 years old and already playing international rugby, how special does that feel?

A: Just like all players, it was my ultimate goal to represent my country at the top level one day. But I’m just trying to stay humble and be grateful for everything I do. I was the youngster coming into the Springbok squad and I was all ears, learning as much as I could.

Apart from rugby, what hobbies do you have?

A: I really enjoy Golf and horse-riding and I also go hunting quite a bit. While I was injured last year, I had to keep myself busy and I spent a lot of time at a farm in Bloemfontein riding and grooming horses.

 

After making your debut in 2012, you missed most of 2013 because of injury, how frustrating was that?

A: It was disappointing not to play any Test rugby last year, but I was privileged to go on the tour to Europe in November and that was a great experience, I really learned a thing or two.

 

 

Meyer launches a new Springbok era 0

Posted on October 15, 2012 by Ken

Coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday launched a possible new era in Springbok rugby when he named 20-year-old Johan Goosen as the starting flyhalf for the Rugby Championship Test against Australia at Loftus Versfeld in Pretoria on Saturday.

While Meyer will probably consider the selection a brave move, it was always the only sensible one with Morne Steyn suffering such an obvious loss of form and confidence.

Meyer, whose linguistic gymnastics in trying to deny Steyn is being rested or dropped amused the horde of journalists gathered for the team announcement at Montecasino, stressed that the prolific 28-year-old points-scorer was not being thrown into the wilderness.

“It was a very difficult decision, but I have to look after the team’s interests first and then the individual’s. Morne really wanted to play, especially at Loftus, his home ground, but he is a true champion and he took my decision gracefully. He has won a lot of games for his country, just the last few have not gone well. But Morne’s not someone you need to feel sorry for, he’s a fighter and he will come back stronger,” Meyer said.

Whether Steyn will be able to add to his 41 Test caps and 486 points – the second-most for the Springboks – will depend on how well Goosen and Elton Jantjies, who is on the bench on Saturday, take their chances.

Meyer did suggest that his long-term vision revolves around the two youngsters taking South Africa through to the 2015 World Cup.

“It’s great that going forward to the World Cup – and I know there’s still a long way to go – we have such depth at flyhalf. Johan has always been in the mix since day one, but it’s been a process with him. I feel he is now ready to start a Test for South Africa and I’m excited to see what he can bring.

“As far as Elton goes, we know how strong his kicking game is and I would not put a player in the 22-man squad if I did not have full confidence in him,” Meyer said.

Jantjies, despite being in and around the Springbok squad since 2010, is yet to play a Test and there is a good chance a second debutant will be in action in Pretoria in Jaco Taute.

Inside centre Francois Steyn has been battling a twisted ankle all week and then he aggravated the injury trying to run on Wednesday, and Taute has been earmarked to take his place in midfield if the 2007 World Cup winner does not pass a fitness test on Friday.

But Meyer is rightly concerned about having debutants at 10 and 12 and confirmed on Wednesday that if Frans Steyn is unable to play, then captain Jean de Villiers will shift back to his more accustomed position at inside centre and Taute will slot in at number 13.

“I don’t want new caps at both 10 and 12, so Jean will play 12 if Frans doesn’t make it. Jaco played some great rugby at outside centre in SuperRugby, he would have been in my 22 from day one if he wasn’t injured and he’s 106kg and can run 100m in 10.7 seconds,” Meyer said.

There will be some, especially in the Western Cape, who will be unhappy that Taute has seemingly leapfrogged Juan de Jongh, who was bracketed with the Lions player on the bench.

“It’s tough on Juan, he’s brilliant on defence and he runs great lines. But I looked at the way Australia defend and I went for horses-for-courses with Jaco. It’s also easier if the new guy starts because if he struggles, then you can bring the more experienced guy on and Juan is a very good impact player,” Meyer explained.

Even though locks Flip van der Merwe and Juandre Kruger were brilliant in Dunedin, they have both been demoted, with Van der Merwe at least finding a place on the bench. Again, Meyer said it was a horses-for-courses selection as Eben Etzebeth and Andries Bekker were announced as the starting locks for the Pretoria Test.

“All the locks are sticking up their hands and we’re building great depth there, so it was a tough call. Flip van der Merwe had probably his best game ever for the Springboks and Juandre Kruger was very good too.

“Against the All Blacks, you want locks that play more to the ball and Flip and Juandre were superb at the rucks. But Australia are very good in the lineout, they will put us under pressure there, and one of Bekker’s other strengths is that, in a more open game, he has the ability to pitch up at centre or on the wing,” Meyer said.

It means the Springboks are going into the Loftus Versfeld Test with their tallest possible lineout and an all-Stormers trio of jumpers with Duane Vermeulen at eighthman. Tiaan Liebenberg is also the reserve hooker.

But it is the highly-rated Goosen who will be under the most scrutiny and Springbok vice-captain Adriaan Strauss, his captain at the Free State Cheetahs, is confident the youngster is going to handle the expectation with aplomb.

“It’s great to see Johan get an opportunity, even though Morne Steyn is an exceptional player. He might be a bit nervous when he’s in the moment, but I don’t think it will get the better of him. As I told him, if there’s one player I’ve seen who can handle pressure, it’s Johan. It’s his best attribute,” Strauss said.

Meyer also promised that Goosen will be able to take the attack to the Wallabies as he is wont to do with the Cheetahs.

“Every player is encouraged to play the situation as they see it, I say to every player that he must just be himself because that’s why I chose him. But there’s always going to be more space and line-breaks at Currie Cup level, so the public mustn’t expect too much,” Meyer said.

The public will be eager for Goosen to make a rapid impression. But it will be even more important for the Springboks just to win, in whatever fashion. And then all will be well again in South African rugby.

 

Boks choose promising Goosen at flyhalf 0

Posted on October 14, 2012 by Ken

South Africa coach Heyneke Meyer on Wednesday included promising 20-year-old flyhalf Johan Goosen at the expense of the experienced Morne Steyn in the team to play Australia in a Rugby Championship Test in Pretoria on Saturday.

Steyn’s form deserted him as the Springboks drew in Argentina and then lost to Australia in Perth and New Zealand in Dunedin, and the under-pressure Meyer has responded by omitting the man many South African fans hold responsible for the poor results.

“It was a very difficult decision, but I have to look after the team’s interests first and then the individual’s. Morne really wanted to play, especially at Loftus, his home ground, but he is a true champion and he took my decision gracefully. He has won a lot of games for his country, just the last few have not gone well. But Morne’s not someone you need to feel sorry for, he’s a fighter and he will come back stronger,” Meyer told a news conference in Johannesburg on Wednesday.

Goosen, who looked a prodigious talent in SuperRugby for the Cheetahs before a dislocated shoulder ruled him out at the halfway stage of the competition, has promised much in two appearances totalling half-an-hour off the bench.

“Johan has always been in the mix since day one, but it’s been a process with him. I feel he is now ready to start a Test for South Africa and I’m excited to see what he can bring,” said Meyer.

The uncapped 22-year-old Elton Jantjies has been included as the reserve flyhalf on the bench and, if inside centre Francois Steyn fails to recover from a twisted ankle, then another debutant, utility back Jaco Taute, will play outside centre, with captain Jean de Villiers shifting to number 12, where he has played most of his 79 Tests.

“I’m really passionate about the Springboks, it feels like life and death decisions for myself. But it’s not about giving players chances at this level, they must be able to make a difference and I would not put them in the 22 if I did not have confidence in them,” Meyer said.

The other changes to the Springbok team that lost 21-11 to New Zealand in Dunedin two weekends ago sees South Africa fielding a new lock pairing in 2.03m Eben Etzebeth and 2.08m Andries Bekker that will give them the same lineout that led the Stormers to the top of the SuperRugby standings. Eighthman Duane Vermeulen is also a key lineout jumper, while Tiaan Liebenberg is the reserve hooker.

Meyer said the changes in the second row would ensure that the Springboks had taller players better suited to the strong Australian lineout and what is expected to be a fast-paced game.

“All the locks are sticking up their hands and we’re building great depth there, so it was a tough call. Flip van der Merwe had probably his best game ever for the Springboks and Juandre Kruger was very good too.

“Against the All Blacks, you want locks that play more to the ball and Flip and Juandre were superb at the rucks. But Australia are very good in the lineout, they will put us under pressure there, and one of Bekker’s other strengths is that, in a more open game, he has the ability to pitch up at centre or on the wing,” Meyer said.

Team- 15-Zane Kirchner, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-Jean de Villiers/Jaco Taute, 12-Francois Steyn/Jean de Villiers, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Johan Goosen, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Andries Bekker, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Tiaan Liebenberg, 17-Coenie Oosthuizen, 18-Flip van der Merwe, 19-Marcell Coetzee, 20-Elton Jantjies, 21-Jaco Taute/Juan de Jongh, 22-Pat Lambie.

 



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