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Ken Borland



Held together by bandages & gauze, but Jannie still relishes the challenge 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

The tight five is characteristically the place where the players are held together by bandages and gauze, such is the high-impact workload they have to shoulder in rugby seasons that are just getting longer and harder. But there’s one man in the Springbok pack who has been particularly burdened with a massive workload, and that is tighthead prop Jannie du Plessis.

The 30-year-old played in every SuperRugby match last year and in all 16 games for the Sharks this year, as well as every Test in 2012 and all three in 2013 thus far. But Du Plessis, a qualified medical doctor, says he’s relishing the challenge.

“I hope I become like leather: you know, the more you use it, the tougher and better it becomes. I don’t want to tempt fate and say I’m playing so much that I’m going to break down. I want to play 40 games a year for the next five years,” Du Plessis said after the Springboks’ training session in Fourways on Wednesday.

While the scrummaging skills and experience of the Bethlehem-born Du Plessis are invaluable in the crucial tighthead position – many ex-forwards say it’s the first position that should be chosen in a team – the other reason for why the Grey College-product is hogging the number three jersey is the lack of depth in his position in the country.

The current Springbok squad has five props in it and Du Plessis is the only one who can be regarded as a specialist tighthead, the foundation of a solid scrum.

The Springbok brains trust have identified Coenie Oosthuizen, the Cheetahs loosehead, as the next best tighthead in the land and coach Heyneke Meyer said the lack of depth has left him little choice but to develop the 24-year-old as the next choice number three for the 2015 World Cup.

“I truly believe we are in trouble with tightheads in South Africa,” Meyer said. “If you look at it, most of the guys are injured and at one stage we had the best tightheads in the world, but now there are a lot of inexperienced guys playing there.

“We feel Coenie is the second tighthead in the squad and we need to give him some game time. A tighthead is like great wine, it only gets better with time. Coenie is only 24 and we need someone who is the next tighthead who has time to develop and will be there for a long time.

“If Coenie doesn’t play there in Test match rugby, he won’t be right for the next World Cup. With Gurthro Steenkamp and Trevor Nyakane, they are great impact players, and we have a lot of looseheads with Beast as well. But we’re under pressure on the tighthead side,” Meyer said.

But there is also a lot of anti-Coenie-at-tighthead feeling around rugby circles, with many wondering why Cheetahs number three Lourens Adriaanse, an unused member of the Springbok squad in June, or impressive Sharks youngster Wiehahn Herbst aren’t given a chance.

Tighthead prop is a specialist position, like hooker or scrumhalf, and what Meyer is doing is a bit like trying to convert your second-choice outside centre into a scrumhalf just because he’s a great player. Coaches have to make tough decisions and, however brilliant Oosthuizen is and however much depth there is at loosehead, you can only have two in a match-day squad. Trying to turn a loosehead into a tighthead is fraught with danger, as we saw with previous coach Peter de Villiers’ unsuccessful attempts with John Smit.

Although Oosthuizen is an ox of a man – weighing 125kg and standing 1.83m – tighthead is a highly technical position where size and strength are not enough on their own.

Ask Jannie du Plessis himself.

“It is really flipping difficult to change from loosehead to tighthead, ask the looseheads who’ve tried. It’s a completely different position with a different set of skills. But I hope Coenie does well in the position, he’s done well enough when he has come on at tighthead, so then everyone won’t make such a big thing about it and me playing every game,” Du Plessis said.

The other problem with Oosthuizen playing tighthead is that he will be stuck in the scrum for longer and the Springboks stand to dilute two of his major weapons – his exceptional ability in carrying the ball and the pressure he brings to the breakdown.

And Oosthuizen’s switch is happening at a time of great uncertainty amongst front-rankers with the new scrum rules coming into effect for the Rugby Championship.

After protests over the number of collapsed scrums, the International Rugby Board [IRB] have introduced new calls governing the engagement. The new sequence is “crouch, bind, set”, requiring the props to bind before the scrum sets.

But the IRB, in their wisdom, have introduced the new protocol at Test level as well, without trialling it first in SuperRugby. So the top players in the Southern Hemisphere are all going into a crucial part of the game, for which match-swinging penalties are often given, blind, without any competitive experience of the changes.

“The scrums are an uncertainty for us. You have to play the cards that are dealt you, but the situation is that this is the first time in a Test series where we play the new rules. This year we are going straight into the new rules and we don’t know what to expect,” Meyer admitted.

Du Plessis, who has seen most things in the dark and dingy world of scrums, thinks even these new rules might not last.

“Normally you have a few games to get used to new laws, like they did with the ELVs. But the challenge now is to adapt right away. It might be a shambles and then they change it again.

“Since I started playing, this will be the sixth or seventh change to the scrum laws, so they are definitely chopping and changing and maybe they are scratching a place where it’s not itching… ” Du Plessis said.

The major difference that front-rankers will experience, with the “hit” taken out of the equation, is that scrums are going to last much longer now, according to Du Plessis.

“It’s going to be a big change. In the past you relied on speed because the gap between the front rows was big. Now because you’re binding first, you are much closer together and you can’t rely on speed.

“Scrums are going to be about generating more power and they will last much longer, so we’ll have to work harder. It won’t be so much about power and speed and more about endurance.

“They’ve said the scrum has to be steady now and they’re going to force scrumhalves to put the ball in straight, but it sounds like election promises to me: we hear that every year,” Du Plessis said.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-08-rugby-tightheads-at-a-loose-end/#.WCxJxvl97IU

Financial powerhouse’s backing a big vote of confidence for CSA 0

Posted on May 23, 2016 by Ken

 

It can only be a vote of confidence when one of South Africa’s financial powerhouses agrees to become your national team sponsor – across all three formats – particularly when they parted ways with you just six years previously because of misgovernance and the way they were treated, so Cricket South Africa had reason to celebrate this week and reflect on how far they have come in terms of corporate governance.

It’s the first time one sponsor has been found for all three teams, the Test, ODI and T20 outfits, and the four-year deal will allow just one name on all the replica shirts CSA sells. The fact that it is no longer an alcoholic brand on the shirt also allows huge numbers of people to now buy them whereas in the past their religious beliefs precluded them from wearing that logo, so there will be a sizeable financial benefit there as well.

It’s some much-needed good news for the Proteas in what has been a tough year for them. CSA chief executive Haroon Lorgat optimistically said at the sponsorship announcement that he believes the slide down the international rankings is only temporary.

“These have been tough times but I’m sure the team will provide the desired returns for Standard Bank. I believe they are still a world-class team despite the poor recent results. I think it’s just a blip for a team that is still in transition.

“We believe the system will still provide great players, especially after the three reviews we are currently running – into the domestic structure, a relaunched T20 league and the national team set-up, especially why the Proteas keep falling short at the final hurdle in major global tournaments,” Lorgat said.

Transformation is still a major issue for CSA – some of my sources tell me that the reason for the sudden postponement of the initial Standard Bank announcement was that the sponsor wanted a transformation clause inserted into the contract, others have denied this – and the dissatisfaction of sports minister Fikile Mbalula, however obxnoxious he is being, is a threat to their future plans.

There is a meeting on Saturday between CSA and Mbalula, and this is going to be a crucial sit-down to see if they can iron out the differences that were exposed by the minister’s shock announcement on April 25 that he was implementing punitive measures against the union.

“The unparalelled support that we enjoy – as Temba Bavuma approached his debut Test century at Newlands there were 10 million TV viewers for the first time – shows that we can be very proud of our transformation initiatives that are bearing fruit. We know the minister of sport is not satisfied with certain areas, but we will engage him. We strongly believe that transformation has to happen from the bottom up and we firmly believe that we need it for strategic reasons.

“It’s fair to say that we were caught by surprise by what the minister had to say, but we will meet this Saturday and I’m confident we will come to an understanding. Transformation is about more than targets, it covers our entire business. We are clear that it must be from the bottom up, but we need resources and support from government, in particular the departments of sport and recreation and basic education. It will be the only way to sustain our business into the future, never mind our moral obligations,” Lorgat said.

Apart from the poor corporate governance of the previous CSA administration, Standard Bank were also chased away in 2010 by the frustrating fashion in which they were treated by certain CSA staff, who did not seem to care that these were the people investing in their sport and paying a large proportion of their salaries at the end of the day. Fortunately that culture is long gone at CSA.

From the media’s perspective, we had some rip-roaring times with Standard Bank and it is with delight that we welcome them back into the pressboxes around the country.

‘In general, AB will open in T20s’ – Faf 0

Posted on February 26, 2016 by Ken

 

 

South Africa’s T20 captain, Faf du Plessis, says that in general he wants AB de Villiers to open the batting in the shortest format of the game and particularly in the ICC World T20 starting in India next month.

While De Villiers displayed his complete mastery of the role with his superb innings against England at the Wanderers at the weekend, Hashim Amla showed in the same game that he is also a great opening option and Quinton de Kock also fits the job description of being able to hit boundaries up front while playing normal cricket.

“I’ve always wanted AB to open because he has the potential to blast a team away, especially in India, so there’s just one spot left and Hashim and Quinton have both been excellent as well. It’s a tricky one, but it’s not a headache because it’s great to have options. The plan wasn’t to have all three playing, but by all means we’ll look at it.

“The whole world was screaming and shouting for AB to open the batting and then, if we have a shaky chase like at Newlands, then everyone starts questioning whether he might not be better in the middle-order. But AB is still a great finisher and we’ll go for the strongest team in the conditions. In England or South Africa it may be different to India … ” Du Plessis said.

The captain said he was confident that the squad for the ICC World T20 had all the practitioners of the different skills required for success in a tournament where South Africa’s best finishes have been semi-final appearances in 2014 and 2009.

“The great thing about the squad is that for the first time I believe any XI we field will be as strong as any other. We have a lot of options and the quality of the squad is such that I honestly don’t feel there are any holes. It’s well-balanced and it’s been consistent, which is what I always look for. The T20 results have been excellent over the last two years and it’s great to be winning. But we still have to improve against Australia and take that momentum into the world cup,” Du Plessis said after their eighth win in nine matches.

 

 



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