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Ken Borland

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve 0

Posted on August 12, 2017 by Ken


The Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, in the southern Durban suburb of Yellowwood Park, is a five-star birding venue which provides a fine selection of more than 200 KwaZulu-Natal species.

Visiting on a partly cloudy, warm spring morning in October 2016, the place was alive with bird song and I knew I was in for a treat.

Because the 253 hectare reserve is mostly coastal evergreen forest and grassland, a Greyheaded Bush Shrike was not what I was expecting to see, especially since the Birds in Reserves atlasing project had it recorded on just five of 404 cards submitted through the year at Stainbank Nature Reserve.

But there the handsome Greyheaded, the largest bush shrike in Southern Africa, was, calling loudly as the morning warmed up, its trademark mournful hoot coming from a tree along a stream.

Nearby, Purplecrested Lourie, by contrast a typical bird of this area, was also calling loudly, along with Blackheaded Orioles from the tops of trees.

Searching the tops of the trees, which included many impressive Yellowwoods, proved to be fruitful in general, as well as throwing up one or two surprises. A Bronze Mannikin was all on its own on top of one tree and, deep in the forest, there was even a Kurrichane Thrush, which usually favours drier woodland, on top of a tree!

Even a dead tree was a good place for birds, with three White-eared Barbet, inevitably, on top of one. These subtropical lowlands specials are often seen perched prominently on bare branches.

There are various trails to walk along in Stainbank Nature Reserve, as well as bush tracks one can drive along, and Tambourine Dove went whizzing along one of these, while Gymnogene was also spotted soaring over the forest.

The forest is best explored on foot and a quiet stroll can lead to some lucky glimpses. I surprised a pair of Hadeda Ibis along a shady path so the hiking boots were obviously in good stealth mode!

A Southern Black Flycatcher swooped away with a caterpillar and a couple of Olive Sunbird were quite confiding as they flew out from below the leaves of the Large-Leaved Dragon Tree, a typical denizen of coastal dunes.

A Forest Weaver was moving down a tree trunk and a pair of Southern Black Tit were also quite low down in the foliage.

Sometimes just sitting quietly and waiting for the birds to come to you is also effective and a Natal Robin came to investigate while I was eating an orange.

Never mind the birds and trees, there is also a nice sprinkling of game in the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve and a young Bushbuck was close to a herd of zebra, all feeding contentedly, to sum up a decidedly refreshing, tranquil morning.


Where is Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve?


Sightings list

Vervet Monkey

Yellowbilled Kite

Tambourine Dove

Plains Zebra

Blackheaded Oriole

Yellowbellied Bulbul

Bronze Mannikin

Hadeda Ibis


Purplecrested Lourie

Greyheaded Bush Shrike

Forktailed Drongo

Blackcollared Barbet

Red Duiker

Southern Black Flycatcher


Olive Sunbird

Forest Weaver

Kurrichane Thrush

Little Swift

Speckled Mousebird

Cape White-Eye

Yellow Weaver

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Southern Black Tit

White-Eared Barbet

Natal Robin

Blackheaded Heron



Sheer delight for SA rugby 0

Posted on July 25, 2017 by Ken


Following the awful disappointments of 2016, what a sheer delight the last three weeks of Springbok rugby have been, culminating in the series whitewash over France in front of more than 55 000 people at Ellis Park, as well as a wonderful game the night before at Orlando Stadium between the SA A and French Barbarians sides.

Apart from the winning, up-tempo rugby played by both the Springboks and their second-stringers, the other similarity between the two teams is that both clearly enjoy a wonderful team culture.

It cannot be understated how important a role a good team environment will play in the success of a side and we saw last year how the Proteas cricket team drastically improved their results after a “culture camp”.

At the top level, teams are very similar in terms of physicality, conditioning and skill, so the crucial extra 1% that gives sides the edge is often found on the mental side of sport – happy players committed to a cause or a “brotherhood”, to use the in-vogue expression, will give more out on the field.

Sure, Brendan Venter and Franco Smith have come along and brought considerable technical expertise to the Springboks, but I have never, in 25 years of covering South African rugby, seen a squad speak more about just how happy they were to be together and how much they loved the environment than the current group under Allister Coetzee and his fellow coaches. The captaincy of Warren Whiteley must also be mentioned because there’s no doubt he has played a big role in the team culture as well.

It is a similar culture, borne from adversity, that is seen in Whiteley’s Lions team and it is also evident in the SA A side under Johan Ackermann. It was clearly displayed at the end of the game against the French Barbarians in Orlando when scrumhalf Jano Vermaak was spontaneously, just for the sheer joy of it, lifted on to the shoulders of his team-mates after kicking the last conversion, and when the whole squad sang stirring songs together, bobbing in a tight embrace, after the trophy presentation.

The fact that Ackermann has managed to create that culture in the SA A side in just a few weeks is testament to what a fine coach he is and hopefully he will be back in South Africa soon after increasing his experience and knowledge with Gloucester in the United Kingdom.

Ackermann, a former Springbok lock, first made his name as a coach through his technical and tactical acumen in the set-pieces, but he also has the ability to inspire a team, a crucial man-management skill in any coach.

Singing along with the SA A team were a bunch of supporters in the far grandstand and I believe playing top rugby in Soweto has a great future. The SA A game was played at 8pm on a Friday night the day before a Test at Ellis Park, so the crowd was always going to be small.

But I know it is in SA Rugby’s future plan to play more games in Soweto, and to stage them at 3pm in the afternoon and not during a Test week in the same city. There’s no doubt we will then see the crowds pouring in, because there is a great love for the game in Soweto, but access remains a problem.

Orlando Stadium is also a magnificent venue, modern, spacious and with one of the best views of the field, from any vantage point, you will see.  The fact that top rugby did not return earlier to Orlando after the memorable 2010 Super Rugby final that inspired such goodwill is a great pity.

Bulls romp to victory because of aggressive defence 0

Posted on July 11, 2016 by Ken


The Vodacom Bulls overwhelmed the Sunwolves 50-3 in their SuperRugby match at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday, running in seven tries without reply, but it was more because of their aggressive defence than any scintillating attacking play that the bonus-point win was recorded.

The Sunwolves had enough of the ball, especially in the second half, to have troubled the Bulls, but the home side, probably playing their last match at Loftus Versfeld this season, were fired up in defence and dominated the gain-line, as well as scrambling well and generally looking eager to make an impression.

The attacking work of the Bulls was by no means bad, but at times there was a lack of fluency and a few mistakes as well.

But it was obviously a pleasing evening for the Bulls as they kept the pressure on the Sharks for the last South African qualifying place, gaining a two-point lead over the KwaZulu-Natalians ahead of their crunch game against the Cheetahs in Durban.

It took the Bulls 12 minutes to break down the defence of the Sunwolves, who were fortunate not to be reduced to 14 men early on when outside centre Derek Carpenter received the benefit of the doubt for a trip and was not yellow-carded.

The Bulls’ efforts to bash away at close quarters were nullified by the Sunwolves spoiling their breakdown ball and tackling bravely, and the opening try eventually came when the Bulls were able to exploit the wide open spaces from deeper out. The Sunwolves cleared their lines with a kick, but Jesse Kriel, whose play at fullback was a breath of fresh air compared to his fettered efforts in midfield, took a quick lineout and wing Jamba Ulengo produced a great run from 58 metres out, beating several defenders and then popping the ball up in the tackle to flank Lappies Labuschagne, who was up in support and able to go over for the try.

Unlike the Bulls, the Sunwolves were able to get points from their first visit to the 22, as flyhalf Yu Tamura kicked a penalty after scrumhalf Piet van Zyl spent too long on the wrong side of a ruck.

Bulls flyhalf Francois Brummer, whose kicking game was sharp, added an 18th-minute penalty to his earlier conversion and would eventually finish with a five-from-six record with three more conversions.

The Bulls crossed the tryline again in the 21st minute as Van Zyl detected the space and launched a great counter-attack. Labuschagne was once again up in support and he sent centre Dries Swanepoel over for the try.

Labuschagne was all over the field, linking, tackling and winning turnovers, which suggests his move to Japan after Super Rugby is going to be a major blow for the Bulls. In the 27th minute, he was stopped just short of the line, but fellow flank Jannes Kirsten was on hand to pick up the ball and drive over the line (24-3).

It was one-way traffic in the first half and the Bulls grabbed a fourth try before the break as the Sunwolves tried to run their way out of the 22 – spurning the big boot of fullback Riaan Viljoen – and the ball went to ground in the backline. Brummer pounced, kicked through and had an easy path to dotting down, his conversion making the halftime score 31-3.

The scent of a real thrashing was in the air early in the second half as Van Zyl went on another jet-propelled dash through the defence, captain Adriaan Strauss finishing the move with a bullocking run.

The Sunwolves were 36-3 down, but they did not run out of gas, to their credit. Surviving on scraps up till then, they certainly stretched the Bulls defence in the second half and coach Nollis Marais will be fuming over the penalty count.

But the Bulls are the team with the best tackling success rate in the competition and they kept the Sunwolves out, before adding the finishing touches to their win with two late tries, both by wing Travis Ismaiel.

The Bulls are a skilful side when they get it right and there were some lovely hands involved in the first try, especially a brilliant, long, flat pass out wide from centre Burger Odendaal to Ismaiel.

The Sunwolves then went back on attack but, to their immense disappointment, a grubber through was tidied up by replacement fullback SP Marais, who then broke through and released Ismaiel on a 55-metre open run-in to the line.

The outstanding work-rate of Labuschagne meant he fully deserved the man of the match award, but the other star players were the eighthman Renaldo Bothma, who was at the forefront of smashing the Sunwolves back, and Van Zyl, who sparked much of the attacking play.

Pierre Schoeman’s first start in the number one jersey was also impressive, showing he can ably stand in during the absence of Trevor Nyakane and Lizo Gqoboka through injury, while the midfield pairing of Swanepoel and Odendaal also rose to the occasion.


Vodacom BullsTries: Lappies Labuschagne, Dries Swanepoel, Jannes Kirsten, Francois Brummer, Adriaan Strauss, Travis Ismaiel (2). Conversions: Brummer (4), Tian Schoeman (2). Penalty: Brummer.

SunwolvesPenalty: Yu Tamura.

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