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Ken Borland



A weekend in August the most important in SA cricket’s turnaround 0

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Ken

 

It was the year of the remarkable turnaround in South African cricket and perhaps the most important weekend of 2016 was the one the national team spent at a “culture camp” in Johannesburg in August.

South African cricket was seemingly in freefall before that, the number one ranking in Tests lost due to a series defeat at home to England, yet another disappointment in a major ICC tournament as the Proteas were eliminated in the first round of World T20 in India and their ODI form was also ropey as they failed to make the final of a triangular series in the West Indies.

There was an atmosphere of doom and gloom, as transformation became an easy scapegoat, and national coach Russell Domingo was not expected to survive the year. An independent review was instituted and then scrapped.

Far more importantly, the greater squad got together and pledged that they had to be better, that ProteaFire was being extinguished and the flame needed to be rekindled. The players themselves took the responsibility to challenge each other and be better.

After flirting with the captaincy of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis taking the reins of both the Test and ODI side was also crucial and, being a more natural captain drawn to the job, he got the team going in ways that have not been seen in the last couple of years.

The Proteas were glorious in the second half of the year, winning their Test series against New Zealand and then becoming the first team to ever whitewash Australia in a five-match ODI series, before going across the Indian Ocean to their great rivals and winning the first two Tests to claim the series and become the first side since the great West Indies outfits of the 1980s/1990s to win three successive rubbers on Australian soil. You have to go back to the early days of Test cricket between 1884 and 1888 to find the only other team to achieve that feat – England.

If the year itself was memorable for the amazing turnaround in their fortunes, then the one match that epitomised the unity of purpose in the Proteas was the first Test against Australia in Perth.

After choosing to bat first, South Africa batted poorly, only reaching 242 thanks to Quinton de Kock’s 84 and a half-century from Temba Bavuma. Australia had raced away to 158 without loss in reply, before Dale Steyn dismissed David Warner but injured himself in the process, a fractured shoulder bone ruling him out of the rest of the season.

But with just two fit pacemen and debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj weighing in with three wickets, they managed to dismiss Australia for just 244. Du Plessis spoke later about the opposition being “shocked” by the comeback and the resolve shown by the Proteas, who dominated the rest of the game and won the second Test in Hobart by an innings.

De Kock was the Proteas’ outstanding player of 2016, scoring 695 Test runs at 63.18, second only to Amla’s 729 at 48.60, and continuing to plunder ODI runs such that he was named the ICC’s player of the year in the 50-over format.

On the bowling front, Kagiso Rabada continues to grow and ended as the Proteas’ leading wicket-taker and amongst the top six globally, while the excellent form of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott suggests that the end of Steyn’s great career, whenever it may come, will not necessarily leave a vacuum.

Faf says the ball-tampering saga showed the unity in the Proteas squad 0

Posted on December 04, 2016 by Ken

 

Triumphant Proteas captain Faf du Plessis returned to Johannesburg on Tuesday and described the whole ball-tampering saga as a ploy by the Australian media to disrupt the South African team, but said the farce had served as a powerful indicator of the unity within the squad.

A video of Du Plessis doing two entirely legal things at once – sucking a mint and using his saliva to shine the ball – went viral in Australia between the second and third Tests, leading to the International Cricket Council charging the captain with ball-tampering and later finding him guilty and fining him his entire match fee from the Hobart game, during which South Africa won the series.

“The Australian media used it as a ploy to derail us, they speak of themselves as the Australian team’s 12th man. The challenge was to fight back and it was remarkable the way the team fought the battle so firmly for me, it shows where we are as a team in terms of our strong culture.

“At first we didn’t think it was anything really serious, but the media made it a big issue until nobody could control it. It was very disappointing the way it turned out, but my character was tested and against all odds I was able to make a play, it showed I can withstand those tests,” Du Plessis, who made a century in the third Test, said.

Team manager Mohammed Moosajee said they will be arranging a date for the appeal hearing, at which Du Plessis will have his own legal representation from South Africa, with the ICC and it should be set by the end of this week.

Moosajee also revealed that Cricket South Africa had laid an official complaint with their Australian counterparts and broadcasters Channel 9 had apologised for the behaviour of their aggressive reporter who sparked a scuffle at Adelaide Airport.

While admitting that captaincy brought out the best in him, Du Plessis reiterated that he sees himself as the stand-in skipper for AB de Villiers, who is set to return for the Sri Lanka series next month.

“I’ve always enjoyed it, I feel it does bring out the best in me, but AB knows that I am 100% behind him. I’ve learnt a lot about myself as a leader and the great thing is that the team has three guys – myself, Hashim Amla and AB – who have been captains and we are all very similar in the way we want the culture of the team to move forward,” Du Plessis said.

South Africa are still only fifth in the Test rankings, however, with Australia third.

“Going up the rankings is a goal of ours but it won’t just happen, we need to take really small steps to get back to number one. But all the signs are there that we can get back there; Sri Lanka are a good team, they’re playing well, but if we beat them then I reckon we’ll be close to number two,” Du Plessis said.

Coetzee calls for all-encompassing review, including of him 0

Posted on December 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee returned to Johannesburg on Monday and said he would accept it if the South African Rugby Union decided to remove him from his post as long as it was part of an all-encompassing review of South African rugby.

Coetzee and the team returned from what the coach termed a “disastrous” tour of Europe without a win, leaving them with just four victories in 12 Tests this year, the worst record since the Springboks lost seven of their eight Tests in 1965.

“In one word, the tour was disastrous. But on the other hand, sometimes you have to go as low as you can go in order to get back up again and I still see a massive opportunity for this team. But we cannot plaster over the cracks, there has to be a proper clean-out of the wounds. There will have to be changes.

“I will be the first to put my hand up and take responsibility, and the players have owned up too, but finger-pointing doesn’t help. We need a good, proper review that addresses all the key areas. My vision and the players’ vision and the franchises’ visions all have to be aligned so that Springbok rugby is of number one importance.

“I am contracted until 2019, and my performance will be discussed in my review. Of course I am disappointed in my performance too. But every coach goes through a tough year and I would rather take it at the beginning. We might not see it now, but this is best for Springbok rugby, I see it as a turning point and if the time is not right for me to be coach, then I will accept that,” Coetzee said at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

While Coetzee said he did not want to single out the players, he said poor skill levels and conditioning were the major problems in terms of on-field performance.

The 53-year-old coach also said the pipeline leading to the Springboks, which has previously been the envy of other countries, needed to be streamlined.

“From the schools, through the U21s, all the way to the Springboks, we need to have a hard look at the pipeline. Does it all benefit Springbok rugby? We need to work together as South Africans, doing well in just the Currie Cup or Super Rugby is not good enough.

“The northern hemisphere are doing very well now, it’s no longer the case that we are better than them because they have immense collaboration. It’s the same with the franchises in New Zealand and that’s indicative of where they are now. Collaboration is most important.

“Everyone involved in rugby needs to start working on the 10 most important things to get the Springbok team to perform and put those in place. I have a good idea of what I want to put in place and I’d like to make sure when I leave the post that there is a clear and tangible blueprint for collaboration with the franchise coaches on how we contract players and what we expect from them in terms of conditioning,” Coetzee said.

Retiring captain Adriaan Strauss was similarly apologetic, but said he felt positive that the Springboks would rise again.

“There’s a lot of talent and good players even though it has been a disappointing, challenging year. We’re not in a good space at the moment, and there have been a lot of causes over some time, but I believe it is a good time to address those now. There are a lot of things that have not been spoken openly about before and it has to be a joint effort now to sort those out.

“There are a lot of good decisions and discussions to be made and I believe some good will come out of this. We need to construct a way forward and everyone is accountable from the players up all through the ladder. Everyone has to work together, we need to realise where we are now and make the right decisions now so we can build for the future. I’m very hopeful of the future, there’s lots to be excited about,” Strauss said.

“The year hurts in the way that we feel we have let people down and the supporters have every right to feel let down. But every guy who wears this blazer does their all, they do everything in their power. The Springboks are supposed to be up there with the best, the fans are fully within their rights to demand that, and we haven’t produced that excellence.

“I accepted responsibility when I said yes to the captaincy and it was not the best of years, in fact the records will show it was the worst. I made a lot of mistakes and I apologise for that, it was a learning curve for me. But I’m also proud of a lot of things I did, I always put the Springboks first and in tough times I feel I stood up,” an emotional Strauss said.

“The players must also take responsibility and the coaches as well, we’re all in this together, and SA Rugby as well. I can openly and honestly say that everyone must step up, everyone has made mistakes. We are all responsible and we must all face up together. We can’t be having a pity party.”

While the torment is over for Strauss, coach Coetzee will pray he never has another year like 2016.

“It does test everything as a person, even my faith. But I am still alive and kicking through the grace of God. You do have doubts when things don’t go right, but I believed in my plan and then you feel better when the players and captain give you buy-in every Monday when we start training again,” Coetzee said.

“I can understand the supporters are disappointed, so are we. Many people feel I should stay on and I am confident that I can turn the team around. I’m not the sort of guy to just walk away.”

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1359769/coetzee-calls-encompassing-review-including/

Lions have earned universal respect despite failing to make playoffs 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions may have failed to make the SuperRugby playoffs after their dramatic weekend draw against the Stormers, but the Johannesburg-based franchise has certainly earned the respect of all their opponents this season.

Just two years after they were controversially relegated from SuperRugby, the Lions have clinched second place in the South African Conference and boast an almost identical record to the Brumbies, who have snuck into the playoffs ahead of them because of bonus points.

They have maintained their positive style of play with ball in hand, but where they have improved most is defensively, boasting the best tackling success rate in the competition. The Lions play at the highest tempo of all the South African sides as they swarm around in defence and always have great intensity on the ball. Their powerful scrum has provided a solid platform and their lineout has also been efficient.

“It’s all about playing with intensity and hunger, and we have to up our performance every week. There are plans in place, but I also allow the guys to be free spirits and you have to live with the small mistakes that come from that,” coach Johan Ackermann says. “Obviously I’m very proud of the team, it must be one of our best years and it shows that hard work is worth it.”

The Lions have certainly deserved all the praise that has come their way, beating the qualified Waratahs and Highlanders in the last five weeks and showing all season that they are never out of the contest with some superb second-half comebacks.

“There’s great belief within this side, a real hunger. We want to close down the opposition’s space and put them under pressure. We’ve built our physicality in defence, we want to be in their faces and not stand back,” captain Warren Whiteley says.

Their impressive performances have seen several of their players grow into Springbok contenders. The most likely Lions player to feature in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok World Cup squad is flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who dares to take the ball flat and attack the opposition line, has superb hands and is a strong defender, as well as kicking well this season.

Eighthman Whiteley is competing with Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger for a place at the World Cup, but he gets through a mound of work and is the only player in SuperRugby this year to have made more than 200 tackles, while also being highly effective in a linking role, possessing great skill and vision as befits a Springbok Sevens player who helped win the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year.

He is also adept at interfering with the opposition lineout, where Franco Mostert has also been a key performer for the Lions, as well as in the loose.

Warwick Tecklenburg has been outstanding in doing all the Lions’ dirty work, being second only to Whiteley in terms of tackles made, but fellow flank Jaco Kriel has been the most impressive forward.

A constant nuisance at the breakdown, he oozes raw talent in offence, having phenomenal pace, strength and hands, and has more often than not been able to spark the most sensational counter-attacks by the Lions.

Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe have proved to be two powerful centres, while scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Ruan Combrinck are two other backs who have announced themselves as future Springboks this year.

Despite their success over the last two years, Ackermann says at the moment they are just playing pretty rugby and haven’t won anything yet, there is more growing to do.

“We can look back on a good season regardless of missing the playoffs. The players know where they stand with me and they know my expectation on deserving the jersey. As long as they do that, I can’t ask for more. The growth from last year is definitely there, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“Nobody has achieved anything yet. We are not in the playoffs, we haven’t won the Currie Cup yet, we haven’t won any trophies yet. But if you ask me if there is a lot of growth, both for me as coach and for the team, then definitely if you look where we started in January 2014 until where we are now,” Ackermann says.

 

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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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