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Ken Borland



SA rugby needs decency more than anything else 0

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Ken

 

In terms of rugby, the New Year is all about finding answers to the question “What is wrong with South African rugby?”, but two incidents in the last month show that, perhaps more than anything else, some of our players and administrators have to ditch their self-serving attitudes and get back to the old values of the game that were rooted in common decency and humility.

The recent actions of the Western Province Rugby Football Union and current Springbok player Johan Goosen suggest the problems are more about individuals being rotten to the core rather than structural issues.

Let’s start with Goosen and I’m not going to say anything more about his on-field performance than my feeling he has flattered to deceive, although the fact that he never had a start at flyhalf is a mitigating factor.

But his tawdry actions in trying to get out of a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, that he only signed a few months ago and that netted him €500 000 a year until 2020, indicate this is a man of scant integrity and someone who clearly does not put team ahead of self.

A couple of weeks ago Goosen announced his retirement from rugby at the age of just 24, following one of his more injury-free years and his return to international rugby, saying he was going to become commercial director of a Free State based agricultural company.

Of course no one is really going to believe that and his name has since appeared on a Cheetahs training squad list and it has since been said that Goosen is ultimately going to Gloucester, once Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad becomes the English club’s majority shareholder.

With flagrant disregard for any ethical considerations, Goosen has taken advantage of a loophole in French labour law which makes all fixed-term rugby contracts temporary. Hence a player can be released from his contract without penalty if he finds fulltime employment – ostensibly Goosen’s dubious “commercial director” job.

The actions of Western Province rugby are just as cynical and what little faith their loyal supporters had in their administrators must now have almost totally dissipated.

They had applied for liquidation of the business arm of WP Rugby and then, just a day after that was granted by the Cape High Court, the Western Province Rugby Football Union announced that the insolvent company had been bought by one of their other companies.

Having put Western Province rugby into financial strife, the likes of president Thelo Wakefield and CEO Paul Zacks are glibly trying to slip through a loophole in thoroughly dishonourable fashion to evade their creditors, most notably with sponsorship company Aerios.

And these are the calibre of administrators that have been put in charge of one of the most legendary brands in rugby?!

Goosen has surely played his last game in the Green and Gold because people of such deviousness really should not be representing our country. He should also not be allowed to play Super Rugby and the Springbok coach must ensure his players will make the nation proud, not embarrass us on an international stage; the good of the game must come before the avaricious accumulation of individual wealth.

Wakefield must also surely fall on his sword. This is not some village rugby team he is mishandling, but one of the proudest rugby legacies in the world, whose fans should be feeling deeply humiliated.

Bhubesi Pride – really making a difference to African rugby 0

Posted on November 13, 2015 by Ken

 

 

One day when Richard Bennett is old and greying and watching Zambia make their debut in the 2039 World Cup he will sit back and reflect on how his Bhubesi Pride Foundation really did make a difference to African rugby after all.

Bhubesi Pride is the initiative Bennett started in 2010 to bring together rural communities, NGOs and government departments in Africa with lovers of rugby union. It’s basically a charitable initiative that selects volunteers from all over the world to help develop rugby and harness its benefits for society in general.

According to Bennett, Bhubesi Pride has three main objectives: “To unite communities through rugby, promoting the sport’s values and life skills; empower and up-skill local staff, nurturing community leaders, male and female, in a way that maximises sustainability; and to inspire long-term developmental outcomes via tangible legacy projects, alongside in-country partners.”

The current expedition, which began at the end of January, is travelling through Uganda, Kenya, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Zambia, Botswana, Namibia and South Africa and the 25-strong team of volunteers is drawn from 11 different countries.

The charity has reached over 10 000 children since 2012 and the likes of Ethiopia and Rwanda have also featured on the itinerary.

The key goal for Bennett is sustainability and the synergies between Bhubesi Pride and WorldRugby’s own Get Into Rugby initiatives in Africa are obvious.

“We do overlap with Get Into Rugby, we have the same basic premise, which is to offer rugby as a means of bringing communities together, to give youngsters life skills and to promote the values of WorldRugby. There’s a synergy between us and we like to support those efforts.

“Ideally, we want to up-skill local teachers, show them how to teach and coach rugby. Bhubesi Pride is a legacy program and we want to inspire the people we work with. If we just coach rugby and bugger off five days later, then there’s very little sustainability, which is the key. The important thing is we see a lot of kids come back to our sessions and we can see the improvement in them,” Bennett says.

Building a new netball court at the Emzomncane Primary School in Port Elizabeth, South Africa, and opening a new computer room, complete with 25 computers, in the rural Nahumba Basic School in Choma, Zambia, are just a couple of the legacy projects Bhubesi Pride have implemented.

And it’s not as if  Bhubesi Pride arrive and sweep through villages with all the subtlety of Schalk Burger entering a ruck either. They are sensitive to the needs of local communities and Bennett says the volunteers only arrive in a village after the foundation’s management have met with all the key stakeholders to nail down their plans. The places to visit are suggested by the NGOs, government departments and rugby structures in the host country.

G4S Africa have signed on as the foundation’s lead partner due to their success thus far.

“Bhubesi Pride is really making a significant difference to the lives of children, teachers and the community around us. We definitely see opportunities to expand the programme and we are on board all the way. We’re also keen to get involved in community legacy projects that make a difference to the youth,” Elanie Kruger, the Regional HR Director of G4S Africa, says.

Wordsworth Rashid, a 43-year-old from Lilongwe, Malawi, is a prime example of the difference Bhubesi Pride is making in the lives of people.

“Wordsworth e-mailed me out of the blue in 2010 and has been involved in every expedition since 2011. He’s a special needs co-ordinator, he’s passionate about education and providing for the needs of people.

“Bhubesi Pride has taken Wordsworth out of Malawi for the first time in his life and he’s now our project manager in Lilongwe, he organises everything for us. With the support of the expat community in Lilongwe, we’re hoping to be able to employ Wordsworth for the whole year and he can set up sport and educational programs,” Bennett says.

With the support of G4S, the Bill McLaren Foundation, Inmarsat, Flya Sportswear, DHL, Investec and Norton Rose Fulbright, Bhubesi Pride were able to set off on their latest expedition in a brilliantly branded combi. They will be bringing rugby gear and equipment with them – they have provided over 20 000 euros worth of resources over the last three years – and they plan to expand operations in Africa over the next three years, with Mozambique being added this year. They are hoping to reach 70 schools and communities by 2017 and accredit 250 locals as coaches or referees.

Building and stocking libraries and classrooms, or providing desks are also in the plans, as is establishing rugby academies.

Oregan Hoskins, the vice-chairman of WorldRugby, is a supporter of the foundation.

“I’m really happy to see Bhubesi Pride continue doing what they do so well: Spreading the game at grassroots level, transporting kids to tournament days and delivering life skills talks,” Hoskins says.

Bhubesi Pride is now accepting volunteer applications from all over the world and, thanks to further sponsorship, has been able to significantly decrease its volunteer fees for 2016.

Find out more about Bhubesi Pride and how you can volunteer at http://rugbyinafrica.org/ and http://rugbyinafrica.org/about/apply-to-join-us/

 

 

Meyer has wanted Brussow since his Japan adventure 0

Posted on July 22, 2015 by Ken

 

According to Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer, he has been wanting to choose Heinrich Brussow ever since he started playing in Japan and regained his pace of old, but his selection was delayed by long-term injuries.

Brussow was the surprise selection in the Springbok team announced to play the All Blacks at Ellis Park on Saturday, earning his first Test cap under Meyer and ending a four-year spell in the international wilderness as he joins Francois Louw in a loose trio featuring two specialist openside flanks.

“I have a lot of respect for Heinrich, there has been a lot of speculation that there is bad blood between us but that’s certainly not the case. There’s been a lot of communication between us, he knew where he stood and he has worked hard.

“He had two bad injuries and I believe he lost a bit of pace because of them, and then he tried to get too big and gained weight. But since playing in Japan, where the game is quicker, Heinrich has got his speed back, which is what you need as an openside.

“He has a very good record against the All Blacks [having been on the winning side in all four previous appearances against them] and I believe it’s the right game to give him a go, he deserves that.

“I’m going with two opensides because I believe the battle will be won on the ground on Saturday and the All Blacks have one of the best opensides in the world in Richie McCaw. One of the main things for the openside is also to secure your own ball and Heinrich has worked on that as well,” Meyer said.

Brussow described his game as having become more “clinical” since his last appearance for the Springboks, limping off early in the bitterly disappointing 2011 World Cup quarterfinal against Australia, which would have been a very sad end to a career in which he had won 14 of the previous 19 Tests he had played in.

“It’s a few years ago that I last played for the Springboks and I’m more experienced now, I think I make better decisions on which rucks to chase. I’ve become more clinical as the laws have changed and I’ve had to adapt.

“It was a different experience playing in Japan but I wanted to try new things and their game plan over there is really quick. I have a good relationship with Heyneke, I always knew where I stood so I kept positive and working hard. But then when I was close to selection, injuries came my way,” the man who turned 29 on Tuesday said.

The selection of two fetchers is a dramatic change in direction for Meyer, who has made his love for big ball-carriers and lineout options in the loose trio very clear, but Brussow said his job will be made easier by having Louw alongside him.

“I played with another openside flank at the Cheetahs because we did not always have big loose forwards, we often played with two fetchers. It makes it easier, you can make better decisions and support each other.

“But it’s going to be a big challenge against the All Blacks, any game against them is tough, but you have to beat the best to be the best. Richie McCaw speaks for himself, but with Liam Messam, Kieran Read and Jerome Kaino, that’s the best loose trio in the world, they’re playing well and in form,” Brussow said.

The other main feature of the Springbok selection is a new-look bench, with Vincent Koch set to make his Test debut. Flip van der Merwe will bring his experience upon his return from his self-imposed exile, while Lionel Mapoe could also play his first match in the Green and Gold.

Cornal Hendricks was originally named on the bench, but then wing JP Pietersen strained his hamstring in training, allowing the Cheetahs flyer to move up to the starting line-up and giving Mapoe his call-up as wing/outside centre cover, just like the veteran Sharks player.

Warren Whiteley is the reserve loose forward and will surely come on in front of his adoring home crowd for his first home Test, Meyer saying his abilities in the lineout and in open play would be valuable in the final quarter.

Meyer’s use of the bench in the last-minute loss to Australia in Brisbane last weekend was criticised, but the coach defended his tactics, saying he was in a no-win situation.

“I was in a lose/lose situation because we have so many injuries and I’m trying to bring players back for the World Cup. And then Victor Matfield and Marcell Coetzee went off and Jannie du Plessis also got injured.

“People say players are over the hill and ready for retirement, and then when I substitute them they say that was wrong too. We didn’t lose because of the replacements, we lost because we made mistakes. The big difference is my teams play, whereas those of the kenners [experts] don’t!” Meyer said.

The Springbok coach will certainly make changes in the final quarter again, however, because he expects a late surge from the superbly fit All Blacks.

“Last year at Ellis Park we made a great start against them but then they came back. In their last 60 matches, most of them have been won in the final 20 minutes because their fitness is superior.

“So we need fresh guys coming off the bench, I expect an open, running game from the All Blacks in the last 15 minutes, they’ll play at a very high tempo, which is one thing we’re not very good at presently,” Meyer said.

Hearing Meyer call for improvement in the tempo at which the Springboks play may surprise the public, but his loose trio selection is a genuine shock. Instead of playing two fetchers, Meyer could have used captain Schalk Burger as a ball-carrier, Whiteley starting at eighthman, or even Teboho Mohoje or Siya Kolisi as blindside flanks.

“We pride ourselves in having one or two big ball-carriers who can get over the gain-line and also stop the opposition’s momentum. It’s a problem at this stage and you don’t want to use half-measures, there’s simply no-one standing at the moment who can do that.

“So we have to change our game plan. Games against the All Blacks are always lost or won at the breakdown, they thrive on quick ball, especially at the end of the game,” Meyer explained.

The life of a Springbok coach is never simple and Meyer knows he will face a backlash from his transformation critics over Mohoje and Kolisi being leapfrogged, but he is selecting with half-an-eye on the World Cup and measuring potential players under pressure.

That’s also why Hendricks has returned, why Brussow has been given another life in international rugby and why there has been so much rotation on the bench.

Springbok team: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Cornal Hendricks, 13-Jesse Kriel, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Bryan Habana, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Ruan Pienaar, 8-Schalk Burger, 7-Francois Louw, 6-Heinrich Brussow, 5-Lood de Jager, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Bismarck du Plessis, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements – 16-Trevor Nyakane, 17-Adriaan Strauss, 18-Vincent Koch, 19-Flip van der Merwe, 20-Warren Whiteley, 21-Cobus Reinach, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Lionel Mapoe.

England A show not to judge a pitch until both sides have bowled on it 0

Posted on March 08, 2015 by Ken

The old proverb of not judging a pitch until both sides have bowled on it was applicable at the University of Johannesburg’s Soweto Campus Oval on Tuesday as the England Lions racked up 443 and then bowled the Gauteng Invitation XI out for just 179 on the second day of their tour match.

The tourists were 43 for three in their second innings at lunch, a lead of 307 going into the final day.

It was the hosts who actually set the tone for a much better day for the bowlers. The Gauteng attack had taken a pounding on the first day as they conceded 361 for four (two batsmen retired), but they showed some pride and rebounded well on Tuesday, claiming the last six English wickets for 82 runs.

Alex Lees, who had mixed reserve with aggression in going to 82 not out on the first day, added just three more to his score beforeWesley Landsdale gobbled up the catch at second slip as the batsman edged a drive off Keith Dudgeon.

Jonny Bairstow, the son of a former England wicketkeeper and considered for some time to be the successor to Matt Prior, became the third Lions batsman to retire, having scored a fine 62 off 95 balls and the tourists’ tail did not offer much else.

Seamers Dudgeon (20-6-51-2) and Nono Pongolo (22-7-70-3) were the best of the Gauteng bowlers with five wickets between them, while Zaid Saloojee claimed the last two wickets with his off-spin.

The Gauteng reply was rocked by the early loss of openers Yassar Cook (4) and Karabo Mogotsi (5) to the new-ball pair of Liam Plunkett and Jack Brooks.

Change bowlers Boyd Rankin and Mark Wood then kept the England A side right on top by removing Yaseen Valli (11) and Landsdale (15).

Bradley Dial (23) and captain Sizwe Masondo (27) briefly stabilised the innings with a stand of 45, but the batting honours went to Brian Barnard (39) and Pongolo (36), who added 65 for the seventh wicket.

The tail then collapsed to Wood, who finished with four for 29, while Plunkett was also impressive with two for 17 in nine overs.

Trailing by 264 runs, Gauteng were able to claim three English scalps in the 11.3 overs before the close with Matthew Arnold, Cormi le Roux and Lazarus Mokoena each taking a wicket.

First-innings centurions Sam Robson (1) and Adam Lyth (25) are both gone, but Jonathan Trott is still there on 10 not out and looking to stamp his return to international cricket with a major innings.

 http://citizen.co.za/302986/dont-judge-pitch-sides-bowled/

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