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Ken Borland



Between AB & Atta, all we need is just a little patience 0

Posted on September 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Between them, Adriaan Strauss and AB de Villiers have generated numerous headlines and many words of copy over the last couple of days, but whatever one thinks of their sporting achievements, what is more important is that they are both fine men who enjoy enormous respect from everyone who works with them.
Unfortunately, South African sports fans being what they are, both have also had to face enormous vitriol and unfair denigration on social media, especially Strauss in the last couple of weeks.

Of course we are all disappointed with how the Springboks have been performing lately and Strauss’s own form has not exactly been inspirational, but so much of the criticism is uninformed and ignores the core roles he performs in the scrums and lineouts. As for his leadership, the players go out of their way to say what a good captain he is.

With so many veteran Springboks departing the scene in between the Heyneke Meyer and Allister Coetzee eras, this is a new-look team that is going to take time to settle, especially since they are trying to forge a new game plan. The side that started in Salta had only six players with more than 40 caps in the 23.

Even the Lions took three years to settle into their new style of play, so the most important thing the Springboks need right now is patience. They are in a transitional period, which is perhaps why Coetzee chose someone like Strauss to be the captain for the first year, seeing as though he knew at the time of the appointment that the hooker would be retiring from Test rugby at the end of 2016.

By the end of this year, Warren Whiteley could have made himself a definite starter at eighthman plus Pat Lambie could well have returned.

I know patience is not something South African sports fans are particularly known for, but there are very few successful teams who don’t go through bad patches. Before they won the 1995 World Cup, the Springboks were no great shakes either and Jake White nearly lost his job in 2006, a year before lifting the biggest prize in rugby.

Removing Coetzee from his post anytime soon will serve absolutely no purpose and should not even be considered.

Such bad patches also happen on an individual level as De Villiers, now considered by many to be the best batsman in the world, himself described at the launch of his autobiography this week. Between 2005 and 2008, he played 17 Tests without scoring a century and made just six half-centuries.

“I’m always very scared of failing before I go out to bat and there used to be ducks at international level and I’d be in tears in the shower. One of the low points came in 2006 at SuperSport Park, my home ground, when coach Mickey Arthur told me I was running out of chances after another soft dismissal, and in 2007 I was just surviving, I probably should have been dropped.

“I’d had a taste of the dream and I was going to throw it away. But then came a huge moment in 2007 when Jacques Kallis approached me and told me that to earn his respect I have to find some consistency. He was willing to work with me, especially on my defence,” De Villiers said.

Even the most naturally gifted, world-conquering sports stars have their dips in form. The Proteas have seen their patience with De Villiers rewarded many, many times over, never mind how many spectators he has thrilled beyond measure in that time.

Similarly, Allister Coetzee and the Springboks need to be allowed time to find their groove together. Hysteria and short-term thinking will do their cause no good at all.

Weird & wonderful brings the crucial variety to sport 0

Posted on January 13, 2015 by Ken

I have seen many weird, wonderful and not so wonderful things at the Harlequins bar in the Sun City main hotel and this was one of them – the German Interlausen Boogie with Left Arm Dominant Dance Club whirling and whirring around as the cocktail bar singer enjoyed her best audience ever and thanked her lucky stars no drunk men were trying to pick her up.

What was initially a captivating sight soon turned into a repetitive affair though as the dozen dancers all just did the same move,  over and over again, in identical fashion.

It reminded me that what makes sport special is the variety – the many different ways there are to be successful and the many different techniques that are employed.

Sun City is of course hosting the Nedbank Golf Challenge at the moment; golf being a game that revolves around myriad statistics and in which technique is absolutely key. Being a centimetre offline with your swing can result in disaster.

And yet there are all sorts of different swings out there. Jim Furyk, a two-time winner at Gary Player Country Club, is famous for his unorthodox swing but has enjoyed consistent success at the highest level for 15 years.

Danie van Tonder is having his unusual swing – which is more like a brutal punch at the ball than anything flowing and graceful – scrutinised on global television for the first time but, as fellow South African Tim Clark said, it works.

“He can obviously play. That’s the beauty of golf, you don’t have to have a cookie-cutter swing, and I’ve always admired those who go out and do it their own way,” said Clark, who has made a highly successful career for himself in the United States through sheer determination as much as talent.

Cricketer Phillip Hughes, so movingly laid to rest this week, chased his dream all the way to the top with an unorthodox technique that certainly frustrated South African bowlers. As recently as July 29 he smashed a brilliant 202 from 151 balls to lead Australia A to a massive win over South Africa A in a one-day game in Darwin.

It’s those that bring something different to sport that give such pleasure.

But there is one part of sport that I am desperate to see more uniformity in and that is in the refereeing of rugby Tests.

The governors of the game have to act urgently because I am convinced the winner of next year’s Rugby World Cup will be decided by a refereeing decision, given that almost every Test this year has been marred by some controversy over officiating or gross inconsistencies.

The yellow-carding of Springbok wing Cornal Hendricks for chasing an up-and-under last weekend against Wales was sickening. The number of times this year that players have jumped into each other contesting a high ball would need a proper census to count; there were even similar incidents in the same game that referee John Lacey was happy to let go.

Sure, intemperate efforts to compete in the air need to be policed but Lacey’s decision was ridiculous and I hope just an example of sheer incompetence.

But it would be reckless in the extreme for World Rugby to naively ignore the possibility that their game is infected by darker elements.

Match-fixers have afflicted cricket, who have at least taken steps to deal with the problem, but rugby doesn’t seem to think their game could possibly also be affected. Or they don’t care.

But like an asp striking at the breast, officiating controversies do far more damage to the image of the game than most of the things the administrators seem concerned about.

 

 



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