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Ken Borland



The biggest need for the Proteas is stability 0

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Ken

 

Whoever the new coach of the Standard Bank Proteas will be, the team’s biggest need at present is for stability after all the disruptions of the England tour that ended with South Africa being heavily beaten in four days in the fourth and final Test, losing the rubber 3-1, their first series loss in England since 1998 and their heaviest defeat since losing 3-0 to Colin Cowdrey’s team in 1960.

The frontrunner to replace Russell Domingo, judging by media reports, is Ottis Gibson, the current England bowling coach and the former West Indies head coach who won the World T20 in 2012. The 48-year-old Barbadian has both the international experience – having been involved at that level for 11 years – and the local knowledge, having played in South Africa for the better part of the 1990s for Border, Griqualand West and Gauteng.

The list of disruptions the Proteas suffered on their tour of England, with the Tests following their defeats in both limited-overs series and the disappointment of an early exit in the Champions Trophy, starts with Domingo. The coach was not only in the awkward position of not knowing whether the tour would be his last in charge, but then had the awful heartbreak of his mother being involved in a car accident and eventually tragically passing away, forcing Domingo to leave the squad on two occasions and fly back home.

The Proteas were not only without their coach but they also went into the series without their galvanising skipper Faf du Plessis, who missed the first Test at Lord’s having stayed in South Africa for the difficult birth of his first child; a hard call but a totally understandable one.

Du Plessis returned for the second Test at Trent Bridge, with the Proteas winning by a whopping 340 runs. But they were brought back down to earth, hitting the ground hard, in the last two Tests, losing by 239 and 177 runs respectively.

The combination of Vernon Philander and Chris Morris as bowling all-rounders worked a treat in the second Test, but not in the third as Philander suffered an untimely, debilitating illness having made the ball talk in spectacular fashion as he did great work on the first day at the Oval.

The stalwart of the attack then pulled out of the fourth Test with a sore back, prompting Du Plessis to snipe that Philander needed to work harder on his fitness.

The captain shows refreshing candour in press conferences and he basically also confirmed that AB de Villiers’ Test career is dead and the team need to move on as quickly as possible.

At the moment it seems as though they have been left hanging by De Villiers, with three different batsmen being used in the crucial number four spot against England.

For me, Du Plessis should step up, take responsibility and bat in the number four position. He can bat both time and aggressively, and as captain he also needs to set the tone.

Temba Bavuma and Quinton de Kock, as good as they are, are better suited to coming in lower down the order.

Bavuma has the technique and tenacity to be a middle-order fighter much like Jonty Rhodes was, and his value is often worth more than simply the sum of his runs; he should be batting five or six and can also handle the second new ball and marshal the tail.

De Kock has been touted as the new Adam Gilchrist and needs to be used in the same role as the great Australian wicketkeeper/batsman. De Kock has all the shots and likes to use them, and needs to come in at six or seven where he can play his own, counter-attacking game. Having to rebuild at 40 for two does not suit him and he is the sort of batsman who can shift momentum batting lower down or really take the game away from tired bowlers.

Everything depends on a solid start, however, and South Africa had an average opening stand of just 13.62 against England and nothing higher than 21 between Dean Elgar and Heino Kuhn.

Elgar had a good series in tough conditions, scoring a century and two half-centuries as he made the second most runs (291) for the Proteas, behind Hashim Amla (329), but Kuhn’s place must be under serious threat after he made just 113 runs in eight innings.

Stephen Cook, the man Kuhn replaced, must still be in the mix judging by his century last weekend for the SA A side, while those who believe players of the future must be given as much opportunity as possible will be clamouring for Aiden Markram to make his Test debut against Bangladesh at the end of next month.

But whatever the final selection, there must be far more stability over the coaching situation – who Gibson’s assistants will be is shaping as an interesting discussion – and the captaincy. Surely everyone would feel a lot more settled if Du Plessis was just given the captaincy for all three formats?

The selectors and management also need to make up their minds about batting positions and stick to them, players floating up and down the order is doing nobody any good.

A couple of Tests against Bangladesh should be a good opportunity for the Proteas to regather their balance and get back on the winning trail.

There will be the distraction of the Global T20 League after that, but the South Africans need to get quickly back up to speed because world number one India and Australia, itching for revenge, will be considerable opposition when they arrive on these shores later in the summer.

Titans hard at work in midwinter to find a new coach 0

Posted on July 25, 2016 by Ken

 

It may be midwinter but the Titans are hard at work for the cricket season ahead, announcing Multiply, Momentum’s lifestyle and wellness program, as their new team sponsor for 50-over and four-day cricket on Tuesday, but their major focus is on finding a new coach to replace Rob Walter.

Walter is heading to New Zealand to coach Otago from September 1 and, although the Titans were in negotiations with a former South African international based in England, they were frozen out due to the problems with trying to match a pounds salary with rands.

“We’ll be advertising the post from today, so the process starts. We did look at a few candidates initially, we made approaches, but it’s not always possible to get the people you want. It’s difficult to attract guys because of the currency weakness and not all the guys are available. But we hope to complete the search in two or three weeks,” Titans chief executive Jacques Faul said on Tuesday.

“Looking at the squad we have, we need someone who can keep winning trophies. We need to fit the coach with the squad because the players have just come off a helluva season. Obviously the coach must bring something new to the table, but he must be able to work with the squad we’ve got. Rob did so well, winning trophies, but there’s also the bigger picture of producing Proteas, and that’s what the new coach needs to duplicate.”

Although Walter has joined HD Ackerman and Pierre de Bruyn as high-profile coaches leaving South Africa this year, Faul said he believes there is still more than enough talent available when it comes to coaching.

“I’m very positive. There are a lot of young coaches coming through, a guy like Malibongwe Maketa energised the Warriors and they are playing an exciting brand of cricket, and I think we have good systems, I think there is a lot of talent around the country. If one or two guys leave, it doesn’t mean that the system is in trouble.

“A guy like Geoff Toyana is a very good coach, but he had to get the opportunity first and somebody had to leave. We’re part of a global village that attracts good coaches, and I think we’ll get a lot of overseas applications. We’re not hitting any panic buttons,” Faul said.

Sea of bad news for Dolphins but Morgan positive 0

Posted on June 15, 2016 by Ken

 

New coach Grant Morgan has just completed his first week at the Dolphins amidst a sea of bad news for the KwaZulu-Natal franchise, but as a dogged former cricketer he says the challenges will be turned into positives.

The Dolphins have lost marquee stars in David Miller and Kyle Abbott, international all-rounder Ryan McLaren and up-and-coming players like Mathew Pillans, Jonathan Vandiar, Daniel Sincuba, Craig Kirsten and Aya Myoli, while their CEO, Pete de Wet, confirmed this week that he will be leaving his post at the end of July to become the chief executive of Central Districts in New Zealand.

“They can knock down Kingsmead stadium and move us all to Chatsworth and I won’t mind. I expect more challenges in the role and we will turn them into positives. A lot of people will look at us and say we’re in trouble, maybe underestimate us, and we can trade on that. There are some gems in KZN cricket that people don’t even know about,” Morgan told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

While the 44-year-old is not the high-profile, internationally-experienced coach some Dolphins fans were hoping for – it’s not as if the franchise has billions of rand to attract that sort of figure – Morgan fits the bill as a well-travelled and successful coach.

“The first challenge I had to get over was people always saying I haven’t coached at that level. But I’ve been involved with 19 different teams and encountered a lot of cultures and circumstances, at four different unions, some universities, IPL teams and overseas clubs.

“And there are a couple of lurkers in this Dolphins squad that most people in South Africa don’t know about, guys I really feel can make a jump up, they can jump out of the pack. Some are already good enough for the next level, I just need to build their self-belief. I tell them all that when they come back to Kingsmead for a 10-year reunion, I want them to say these were the greatest days of their lives,” Morgan said.

The winner of four domestic trophies with the KZN Inland side wants his players to be lion-hearted and brave in their cricket.

“We want to play positive and attractive cricket, although you always want the bragging rights of being able to win. But we need an aggressive brand that will turn people back to Kingsmead, we need to show that we are enjoying what we do. I’ll encourage them to take the risk, but be humble players.

“I also don’t want to isolate the amateur guys, I’ll be working with the semi-professional team coaches Shane Burger and Roger Telemachus. Those players must see that I am there for them too, I want to draw the net wider and develop them too, make them believe that they can step up as well,” Morgan said.

 

Evaluating Coetzee’s first Springbok squad 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Speculating on Springbok squads is always one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a rugby writer and I was pleased to read Allister Coetzee said choosing it had been one of the highlights of his career. One of a scribe’s other jobs is to then evaluate the selection, and I’m pleased to say the new coach’s squad makes me largely very happy.

It would be remiss of me, however, not to point out what I believe are a couple of oversights in Coetzee’s first task in his new project.

I will explain the first by asking you, dear reader, to imagine you have been transported forward in time by a week and you are perusing this column on the morning of the opening Test against Ireland. And the shock news has just broken that Pat Lambie injured himself in yesterday’s captain’s run.

This will be a major problem for Coetzee and the Springboks because of the flyhalves he has chosen in his squad. Elton Jantjies has only just resumed training after having surgery on a fractured finger, so he has not had much time to heal or acquaint himself with what the new coach is hoping to do on the field. Garth April is a bright talent, no doubt, but has only made three starts in top-flight rugby and it would be a massive gamble for him to play in a Test match.

So who is going to be the general as South Africa enter a new era against a tough Irish side?

We can look at the other side of the halfback equation, the scrumhalves, but the picture is just as bleak there, with Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige no doubt players of the future, but vastly inexperienced at the moment when it comes to Test rugby. I have some sympathy for Coetzee when it comes to the dearth of scrumhalves though because he did apparently approach Ruan Pienaar, who turned him down, possibly because of all the abuse he takes from fickle Springbok fans.

Nic Groom also does not inspire much confidence. Against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld recently, the Stormers enjoyed a surfeit of possession, but he was unable to stamp his mark or take control of proceedings against a team that was hammered by the Lions the following week.

With Lambie out, the Springboks could be forced into playing Willie le Roux, who has had no serious rugby with a number 10 on his back, in the pivot position. All this could have been avoided by just naming Morne Steyn as the third flyhalf. It’s too late now because you can’t fly him out from France on the eve of a Test.

The other error, I believe, is in the composition of the loose forwards. They are all fine players with varying skills, but there seems to be, apart from Duane Vermeulen, a lack of a mean and nasty ball-carrier, someone with mongrel who can crash through the advantage line and bounce away anyone trying to get through the Springbok defences.

With Jaco Kriel and Francois Louw surely fighting over the openside flank position, Siya Kolisi is likely to wear the number seven jersey and is a super player, with a tremendous work-rate and great skills, but for me he is more of a hybrid loose forward, good at plenty of things and master of none. As a ball-carrier, he is only ranked 58th in Super Rugby this year, according to the Vodacom stats.

And Coetzee could open himself up to accusations of Stormers bias with his selection of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, another hybrid flank, as well as the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Groom and Scarra Ntubeni, ahead of players like Jean-Luc du Preez and Malcolm Marx.

But overall, it is a pleasing squad with the experience of players like Beast Mtawarira, Eben Etzebeth, JP Pietersen, Vermeulen, Lambie, Le Roux and Louw being combined with some of the exciting talent sweeping through our rugby, and a fine choice of captain in Adriaan Strauss.

And there is the thrilling prospect, looking at some of the selections, of the Springboks playing a more high-tempo, ball-in-hand style of rugby.

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    James 1:5 - "If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him."

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