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Ken Borland

Leishman has the energy to end testing year on a high 0

Posted on December 08, 2015 by Ken


It’s been an eventful and testing year for Australian golfer Marc Leishman, but he had the energy to end it on a high and claim the biggest paycheque of his career in winning the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City by six strokes on Sunday.

With home favourite Jaco van Zyl tumbling down the leaderboard – despite eagling the second he slumped to a six-over-par 78 – Leishman’s only challenger in the final round was world number seven Henrik Stenson, who had overcome severe flu to lead the first two rounds.

But after some early struggles, Leishman’s precise iron play took the wind out of Stenson’s sails, with the 2008 champion only managing to post a level-par 72 in stifling heat as the eventual winner produced some superb golf with six birdies in the last 12 holes.

Leishman began the year ranked 46th in the world after top-10 finishes in the Open and two World Golf Championships events in 2014, but his early season was severely disrupted by his wife Audrey suffering from acute respiratory distress syndrome, going into toxic shock and only being given a 5% chance of survival.

Happily she made it through and Leishman played in the Open Championship in July and lost out in the playoff with winner Zach Johnson and South African Louis Oosthuizen.

“I’ve been pretty happy to get this year over with, obviously with Audrey being very sick and I lost an uncle who was very close to me. The Open was very good but disappointing, so this win tops off the year for me. It’s pretty great, an awesome feeling and I’m very happy. It’s the biggest paycheque I’ve ever won so I’ll have to hang it on the wall of our new house,” a delighted Leishman said after he became just the second Australian to win the Nedbank Golf Challenge after Robert Allenby, who beat Stenson in a playoff in 2009.

With the demise of Van Zyl confirmed on the ninth, where he three-putted for bogey to add to the double-bogey he had on the sixth and another dropped shot on eight, the recipient of the $1.25 million winner’s cheque was obviously going to be either Leishman or Stenson.

But Leishman spun a sand-wedge back to within a few inches of the hole for birdie on the par-four 13th and the final nail in the coffin was hammered in when he birdied the 15th from 15 feet and Stenson made bogey after a wayward drive meant he had to chip out of thick bush.

Another birdie on the par-three 16th and two pars coming in meant Leishman completed the round of the day with his 67.

“Henrik is an awesome player who I knew could come back with five birdies in nine holes and two or three up is not that many over nine holes on this course. I knew that trouble waited on every shot and you don’t need to hit that bad a shot to get bogey here. It was probably only after the putt on 16 that I knew I would have to do something really dumb to lose it, but fortunately I was able to be more conservative,” Leishman said.


Matfield returned to finish on a high at World Cup & work with Meyer again 0

Posted on September 18, 2015 by Ken


Finishing his career on a high at the World Cup and having another chance to work with coach Heyneke Meyer were the main reasons Victor Matfield returned to rugby last year after retiring in 2011.

And even the skeptics were won over as Matfield enjoyed a fine season, his excellent form for the Bulls in SuperRugby winning him a return to the Springbok side.

And when the likes of Pieter-Steph du Toit and Flip van der Merwe were injured, the Springboks were reliant on the veteran number five lock to run their lineout, which he did with aplomb.

“There were a lot of challenges last year and it was a big decision to make to play again, it wasn’t easy and I was a bit nervous. But I’m pretty happy with my personal performance.

“Some of the other contenders were injured so it made it a bit easier for me, it opened up a gap for me,” Matfield said.

Having retired at the last World Cup and begun moving into his coaching career at the Bulls, it was Springbok coach Meyer, who coached the Bulls from 2000-2007, who told Matfield he believed he could still feature at this year’s global showpiece, even though he will be 38 when the tournament begins.

“Heyneke told me that if I was at my best, then he knew I would be good enough for another World Cup. But he said I had to play well in SuperRugby. He asked me to come back and knowing I had his backing was a big help in pushing myself.

“It’s one of the big things that motivates me, a new opportunity to work with Heyneke at the Springboks. We were able to build something very special at the Bulls and I was really keen to play with players like Fourie du Preez again, and also guys like Schalk Burger and Jean de Villiers, under Heyneke. And it’s been really successful having all of us back together at the Boks,” Matfield said.

The challenge of getting used to the intense physicality required when playing in the pack in top-class rugby was the first thing Matfield had to deal with, and thereafter it was a mental adjustment.

“It was all about the mindset in the end. When you’re 21, rugby is everything. But when you reach my age, then your marriage and your kids are also very important. But you have to decide to give rugby everything, which is a big decision.

“But with the backing of my family, rugby has become number one again. My wife Monja knows that if I put my mind to something then I am very disciplined about it,” Matfield said.

Matfield was allowed to take it relatively easy in the pre-season by Bulls coach Frans Ludeke but the veteran has played all 240 minutes of their first three SuperRugby games.

“Last year I thought that I was only going to play five or six games, but I ended up playing all of them. And now this year we lost our first two games at home, so the pressure is on again.

“I still hope to get managed in terms of game time because it’s important for your recovery. My fitness is there, but after five or six games it takes longer to recover from the knocks and be ready for the next game at my age,” South Africa’s most-capped player said.

Matfield is confident that Meyer will preside over a successful World Cup campaign, and with De Villiers recovering from knee surgery, the former Toulon lock might well be captain.

“My last year before retiring was 2011 and that was a bad year, with a very disappointing World Cup. Heyneke believes I can win another World Cup this year and there are very talented players in South Africa at the moment.

“Heyneke is pushing for us all to be kept fresh through SuperRugby, so hopefully there aren’t too many injuries. If we want to win, then we need all our best players there,” Matfield said.

Matfield has precious experience and his lineout skills are still invaluable. It may seem preposterous, but one of the Springboks best players in the 2015 World Cup could well be Matfield, as it was in Paris in 2007.



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