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Ken Borland



Focus on the overseas-based players as Springbok selection draws near 0

Posted on May 10, 2017 by Ken

 

It is a rugby truism that any coach stands or falls by his selections and Allister Coetzee’s mind will be rapidly focusing on who will represent the Springboks in the three Tests next month against France, the bulk of whom will surely be invited to the final training camp from May 20-22.

And when the first Springbok squad of 2017 is selected towards the end of the month the focus will once again be on the overseas-based players. But SA Rugby, who have done their coach precious few favours since negotiations with him began in 2015, have put him on the back foot in this regard with their new ruling that, from July 1, only players with 30 Test caps can be chosen from overseas.

If Coetzee had to just choose the most in-form team from SuperRugby then a backline could run on to Loftus Versfeld on June 10 with less than 50 caps, which a coach, on as shaky ground as he is, is highly unlikely to gamble on. The form Super Rugby backline would probably be Bosch-Mvovo-Mapoe-Odendaal-Skosan-Jantjies-Cronje.

So it seems inevitable that Coetzee will call on overseas-based players, especially amongst the backs.

Jan Serfontein is on his way to France and only has 26 Springbok caps at the moment, so he will not be eligible for the Rugby Championship. Should Coetzee pick him anyway against France knowing that he won’t be part of the plans for the rest of the year?

Willie le Roux has been playing with typical enthusiasm for Wasps and is likely to be in the picture at fullback, but Coetzee will be curbing the development of Curwin Bosch by not selecting him against France and instead letting him play in another World Junior Championship for the SA U20s.

Bosch has been one of the standout players in SuperRugby and has come through the ranks having been tipped as a future Springbok star after his exploits with the SA U20s last year. He will surely be involved in the 2019 World Cup, and could quite possibly be needed during this year’s Rugby Championship, so why not get him involved now? Let him play at fullback where he will have more time to settle at senior international level.

Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar are all still playing well overseas, but the general feeling amongst rugby observers is that it is time we moved on from these superstars, particularly since none of them are likely to be around for the 2019 World Cup. Nevertheless, Coetzee is a desperate coach trying to avoid the axe, so don’t be surprised if he calls on some of these elder statesmen.

While there is probably more depth at forward, veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis is almost certain to be summoned to play the role of a general in the tight five, and playing the French at the end of their gruelling season with two of the Tests being played on the Highveld should produce open rugby and encourage Coetzee to pick players suited to a free-flowing game plan like Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Thomas du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

But the new 30-cap ruling on overseas players will also hurt Coetzee at forward. There is a hint of lawlessness in the way certain agents are shipping their players off overseas these days, so some tightening probably is necessary, but a hard-and-fast arbitrary number like 30 is not in the Springboks’ best interests.

Someone like Saracens tighthead prop Vincent Koch is playing unstoppable rugby at the moment, but he has only nine caps and is ineligible after July 1. If a couple of tightheads get injured during the Rugby Championship, how desperate will Coetzee be to select him? He may be forced to go back to Jannie du Plessis.

Ferocious flank Marcell Coetzee is in a similar position, stranded on 28 caps and currently out of action after another knee injury.

Instead of an inflexible rule, it should be left up to the national coach and Coetzee has already expressed his preference for locally-based players unless there is no viable option in a position, which is how it should be.

Hopefully the boring predictability of SuperRugby these days – those playing SuperBru will know this well – will give way to a thrilling Springbok resurgence next month, but there are numerous selection concerns for Allister Coetzee.

The rapid returns of Pat Lambie, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh to their best would help, but the lack of in-form options at scrumhalf is also an obvious worry. But let’s hope that the natural flair, tremendous tenacity and game-breaking ability of Faf de Klerk is not ignored. Not blooding Curwin Bosch will be a bad enough waste of talent.

 

 

 

The best way to avoid an awful thrashing 0

Posted on September 18, 2016 by Ken

 

“What is the best way to avoid an awful thrashing,” was the question uppermost in my mind on Thursday afternoon.

It’s fair to say that my mind this week has been a bit like the ocean outside Pegasus Bay, which shelters Christchurch from the wave-tossed Pacific Ocean as it crashes into the rest of New Zealand’s South Island’s rugged coastline –restless, uneasy and with thoughts of Springbok rugby’s demise pounding away.

The lack of focus became apparent in the Sunshine Tour Media Challenge on Thursday afternoon, as Musiwalo Nethunzwi, the gifted 28-year-old from Modderfontein Golf Club, quickly dominated the front nine at Glendower Golf Club to go eight-up over hapless me at the turn.

The prospect of losing 10&8 had thankfully been averted, but the ignominy of a massive defeat was very much on the cards. At the halfway house I decided the only way forward was to stick with the things (it’s a short list) that have worked in the past and I was fortunate to also bump into Thabang Simon, the Soweto Country Club professional who has been playing on tour since 1998/99.

I suspect Simon just wanted to tag along out of morbid curiosity to watch the trainsmash that is my golf – I was having a bad day so it’s probably more like the effects of a tsunami obliterating a densely-populated area – but his presence had the effect of galvanising me and I managed to win a few holes before eventually going down 5&4.

On a serious note, the difficulties our development golfers face in trying to make it as professionals is clearly illustrated by Nethunzwi. He was magnificent off the tee, long and straight, and outplayed James Kamte, the pinnacle of Black African golf in South Africa and part of our fourball, to illustrate the talent he has.

But Nethunzwi, a thoroughly affable chap as well, does not have a full-time coach, simply because he cannot afford one, providing an opportunity for corporate South Africa to help transform the game if ever I’ve seen one.

I have a feeling most Springbok fans are expecting a “5&4” defeat at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday morning.

It’s important to note, however, that South African rugby has been through these times of mourning before.

Heyneke Meyer’s first Rugby Championship campaign in 2012 saw the Springboks draw in Argentina before losing both games in Australia and New Zealand, the All Blacks also hammering them 32-16 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

In Peter de Villiers’ first Tri-Nations tournament, in 2008, the Springboks won just one game, astonishingly against the All Blacks in Dunedin, while Jake White started superbly, but a run of five successive defeats in 2006 left him on the brink of being fired before a 77th-minute Andre Pretorius penalty edged them to a one-point win over New Zealand in Rustenburg. Just over a year after that, the Springboks were winning the World Cup in France.

Even their 1995 triumph came after they had won just three of their previous 15 Tests against Australia, New Zealand, France and England.

The Springboks dug their way out of those troughs and came out stronger, and former star Fourie du Preez certainly believes this will be the case again.

“It’s a tough story for South African rugby at the moment and all supporters would like to believe it will get better. As a former player though, I can tell you that this experience now will really count in their favour further down the line. I remember before the 2007 World Cup it was the same for us.

“When the Springboks have their backs against the wall, they always stand up and we still have great players. I just don’t understand why we have to wait until we’re under such pressure though. It’s very unfortunate that the new coach was appointed just four weeks before his first Test and he’s going through a tough time as well,” Du Preez said.

The inspirational scrumhalf was speaking in studio as part of The Dan Nicholl Show, which so often puts matters of South African sport in perspective. The first episode of season four, which has Du Preez in the line-up, will be broadcast on Wednesday at 7pm on SuperSport 1.

Pace unbeatable at home, now for the majors! 0

Posted on January 18, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Lee-Anne Pace will be the hot favourite to defend her title and win the bonus pool when she tees it up in this weekend’s Investec Cup for Ladies at the Millvale and Lost City golf courses in North-West, but South Africa’s top women’s golfer has her mind on making an impact in the majors this year.

The world number 31 is third in the Chase to the Investec Cup for Ladies after her victory in Tuesday’s Tshwane Open at Pretoria Country Club made it a perfect three wins from three Sunshine Ladies Tour events this summer. Pace said on Tuesday that her preparations for the first major of the year – the ANA Inspiration from April 2 at the famous Mission Hills Country Club in California – could not have gone better.

“I’ve gained a lot of confidence from these last couple of weeks in South Africa, I’ve been striking the ball really well and I feel a lot more ready for the majors because I’ve been competing. This time last year I hadn’t played nearly as much and especially winning, no other feeling compares to that and hopefully I can carry that into the majors,” Pace told The Citizen.

Her best finish in a major is a tie for 21st at the 2010 British Open, but Pace will attack this year’s showpiece events with considerably more confidence, especially after her breakthrough win on the LPGA Tour last year at Blue Bay in China, beating the likes of Michelle Wie, Jessica Korda and Lydia Ko.

“I’d like to creep towards the top-10 in the world rankings and win again on the LPGA Tour, but I really want to attack the majors this year and my sights are set on the British Open at Turnberry in July. That win on the LPGA Tour last October was a big breakthrough because it was against the best in the world and I now know that I can do it in the majors,” Pace, a nine-time Ladies European Tour winner and twice their Player of the Year, said.

Stacy Bregman is South Africa’s second-highest ranked golfer at number 155 in the world and the Johannesburg Country Club star has also foregone overseas competitions in order to compete at home, with Pace saying this shows how the Sunshine Ladies Tour is growing into something that could make an impact on the global stage.

“It’s been important to me for a while to support the local tour and Stacy Bregman feels the same as well. We now have especially good sponsors on board like Investec, and hopefully the tour can get even bigger and we can get co-sanctioned events like the men.

“There are endless possibilities and this year’s tour has had a lot more exposure and interest and there’s been a lot more players, including a couple from England. Hopefully they can get the word out and even more overseas players will come,” Pace said.

Sunshine Tour executive director Selwyn Nathan said the success of the Sunshine Ladies Tour had surpassed expectations.

“The growth of the women’s tour has been unbelievable, even though it is still a work in progress. This tour is going to grow and we have fantastic plans for it. It’s been an absolute success and sponsors, fans and social media interest have all grown.

“And the appreciation from the women golfers has been amazing, there’s not been one tournament where the sponsors have received less than 30 letters of thanks from the players, and that’s from fields of less than 50,” Nathan said.

Bregman and Pace are both chasing Melissa Eaton for the R250 000 bonus pool prize for finishing first in the Investec Cup standings, with Eaton currently 33 points ahead of Bregman and 121.34 in front of Pace. With 1000 points on offer for the winner when the chase ends at the Lost City on Sunday, those deficits are negligible.

It is a tremendous coup for Investec and the Sunshine Tour that both South Africa’s top male and female golfer will be in action.

Ex-Masters champion Charl Schwartzel is taking part and, even though he has a 1160-point deficit to make up on standings leader Trevor Fisher Junior, his focus is on the serious business of preparing for another tilt at the Augusta title from April 9.

The Chase to the Investec Cup is a marvellous exposition of the most consistent South African golfers because it takes into account both the co-sanctioned events and the regular Sunshine Tour tournaments through the winter.

The likes of Fisher Junior, Jacques Blaauw, Danie van Tonder and Jaco Ahlers are the centre of attention as they lead the standings and look to claim the lucrative R3.5 million bonus pool prize this weekend.

It’s a nice reward for their consistency over a long period of time but Schwartzel and other international stars like George Coetzee and Denmark’s Morten Orum Madsen will be out to wreck their payday.

Fields (with points)

Men (1500pts for winner) – Trevor Fisher Jnr 2207.65; Jacques Blaauw 2095.92; Danie van Tonder 1800.69; Jaco Ahlers 1675.95; Dean Burmester 1515.87; Jean Hugo 1491.79; Keith Horne 1439.58; Wallie Coetsee 1435.99; Jaco van Zyl 1431.50; Ulrich van den Berg 1415.25; George Coetzee 1378.50; Tjaart van der Walt 1357.25; Jared Harvey 1161.04; Charl Schwartzel 1047.00; Neil Schietekat 1025.63; Titch Moore 982.51; Erik van Rooyen 978.53; Adilson da Silva 963.35; Morten Orum Madsen 959.17; Oliver Bekker 937.74; Merrick Bremner 929.96; Darren Fichardt 920.57; Rhys West 884.33; Haydn Porteous 879.74; Justin Harding 853.55; Louis de Jager 803.37; Jbe’ Kruger 801.00; Chris Swanepoel 726.58; Shaun Norris 714.26; Christiaan Basson 680.88.

Women (1000pts for winner) – Melissa Eaton 1021.34; Stacy Bregman 988.33; Lee-Anne Pace 900.00; Nicole Garcia 738.50; Bonita Bredenhann 588.00; Lucy Williams 568.10; Nobuhle Dlamini 559.48; Kim Williams 558.66; Monique Smit 482.50; Monja Richards 410.83.

 



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