for quality writing

Ken Borland



Failure to pitch a recipe for disaster for Boks 0

Posted on February 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Meeting a fired-up Argentina team on their home turf is never an easy prospect, regardless of what happened the previous week, so when the Springboks decided not to “pitch” physically for their Rugby Championship Test in Mendoza at the weekend, it was always going to be a recipe for disaster.

For whatever reason, the Springboks failed to match the intensity and physicality of the Pumas and for long periods it just looked as if they weren’t “up” for the game.

With Argentina attacking the collisions and breakdowns with tremendous ferocity, it meant the Springboks were always on the back foot and had little decent ball to actually launch the attacking side of their game, which had been so impressive the weekend before back in Johannesburg.

The Springboks eventually won the Test 22-17 with two late penalties by Morne Steyn, but it was hardly an authoritative performance. The massive physicality that had blown the Pumas away at the FNB Stadium and set up the record 73-13 victory a week earlier was as absent this weekend as the president of the South African Rugby Union.

The home side pressed forward from the outset and, after robbing scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar of possession at a ruck – he endured a torrid day as he was hassled throughout at the breakdowns – they scored the opening try through flank Juan Manuel Leguizamon after just two minutes.

It meant the Pumas’ prayers were answered in terms of getting their passionate crowd behind them and they enjoyed a 10-3 lead after 10 minutes as Felipe Contepomi and Steyn traded penalties.

Centre Contepomi was then partly to blame for the Springboks’ only try, in the 14th minute, as he failed with a clearance kick, gifting the ball to the Springbok backs. Willie le Roux – he didn’t have the best of games overall – then showed tremendous hands to put wing Bjorn Basson away for the try.

But the Springboks’ hopes were severely dented just before half-time when centre Marcelo Bosch crashed through to score Argentina’s second try.

The Pumas had generally tried to avoid lineouts – a Springbok strength – in the first half, but eventually they had one inside the 22, only the third of the match. From there, another direct attack with short pop passes led to Bosch powering over.

The Argentine loose forwards continued to rob and spoil the Springboks’ ball in the second half and their more direct approach with ball-in-hand also hurt the South Africans. But there is something almost naive about this Springbok side in that they sometimes give the impression that they expect the opposition to be placid, to allow them an easy stroll through a game. And so not enough numbers were committed to the breakdowns or the defence close-in and the Pumas were adept at exploiting the gap in the first channel from the ruck.

The Springboks were, frankly, being bullied and they even sought referee Steve Walsh’s attention, alleging eye-gouging and biting. Two Argentinean loose forwards, Leonardo Senatore and Pablo Matera, would later be cited for foul play, but the whistleman’s focus during the match seemed to be on all sorts of peripheral things rather than keeping the breakdown contest tidy and enforcing offsides lines.

The Pumas’ ill-discipline was eventually punished by Walsh, allowing Steyn to kick four second-half penalties that won the game.

Questions, though, will be asked over some of coach Heyneke Meyer’s decisions, such as leaving the struggling Pienaar on for the entire game or not giving the more physical Flip van der Merwe a longer run in the second row.

But it’s the failure of the Springboks to lift themselves – having spoken all week about how they expect the Pumas to bounce back ferociously – that is perhaps of most concern.

They will now travel to Australasia next weekend for their two Tests against the Wallabies and the All Blacks and they are not going to win those unless their pack rediscovers the fire they showed at the FNB Stadium.

The Springbok backline are not going to be able to win those Tests on their own; the forwards are going to have to do the gruntwork and lay the foundation.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-26-rugby-boks-win-but-without-conviction/#.WJHMPVN97IU

Titans have so many bowling options – Morris 0

Posted on December 10, 2015 by Ken

 

“We have so many different options that we have guys who can bowl anything, in any situation, on any pitch,” Chris Morris, the RamSlam T20 Challenge’s leading wicket-taker, said on Wednesday as he discussed the Titans’ bowling attack ahead of the final in Centurion on Saturday.

The Titans won an astonishing eight games in a row to comfortably top the log by 13 points and their bowlers have led the way with six in the top-20 of the averages, all-rounders David Wiese, Albie Morkel and Morris all being in the top four. Fast bowler Junior Dala and wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi have also excelled, and the Titans have other options in Lungi Ngidi, off-spinner Henry Davids and slow left-armer Graeme van Buuren.

“It’s gone pretty well for us as a unit and it has made it a lot easier for me knowing that there are a lot of other bowlers who can step up. The new guys have done very well and there’s a lot of back-up. I’ve never been in a team before that has every base so well covered,” Morris, who has taken 18 wickets, said.

The former Highveld Lions star said the Titans will go into the final eager just to keep enjoying themselves.

“The way Albie has captained the side has been aggressive and solid and we’re always looking to take wickets. We’re looking at Albie and Farhaan Behardien to see how they handle themselves before the final, it’s finals week, it doesn’t happen often, especially at home. We must just enjoy it – my theory is that you see the best catches in garden cricket because the guys are just having fun. So it’s vital for us to enjoy the final and it’s much more difficult to play against a happy team,” Morris said.

 

 

Bowling questions remain for Proteas 0

Posted on June 19, 2015 by Ken

The successful series against the West Indies did answer a few questions about the Proteas as they head into the World Cup, but a couple of glaring question marks remain – such as why the bowlers insist on banging the ball in halfway down the pitch so often?

Bowling coach Allan Donald was quoted as saying this week “I’d rather not have that many yorkers at the back end … at the World Cup, we want to be unpredictable in the last 10 overs and that is not going to be about bowling 40 yorkers in the last 10 overs.”

Not bowling yorkers is also becoming predictable, however, for this attack.

While the South African bowlers were generally dominant against the eighth-ranked West Indies – and let’s be honest, their batting was largely woeful – it was alarming to see how exposed the Proteas were once again in the death overs when Andre Russell, Darren Sammy and the tail took the tourists to an unlikely victory in the fourth ODI in Port Elizabeth.

The West Indies top-order was barely a factor through the series, meaning they were under pressure every time they batted; how will South Africa’s attack fare against much stronger batting line-ups at the World Cup, especially if the pitches are flat, without the luxury of early wickets?

Kyle Abbott was particularly disappointing in the series – taking just two wickets for 121 runs, conceded at a rate of 7.33 per over. It was depressing to see someone who had previously shown such skill in finding the blockhole, banging the ball in short and getting regularly smashed – perhaps Donald’s comments have something to do with that? There was surely a message in the second of those Abbott wickets coming from a full, straight delivery that bowled Marlon Samuels at Centurion.

Lady Luck has not been kind to South Africa in previous World Cups, but she tends to favour teams that are tactically astute, hard-working and gifted. The Proteas are certainly dedicated to their craft and in terms of talent we only need to mention AB de Villiers, Hashim Amla and Dale Steyn, so no issues there.

But while the batting looks so powerful – Rilee Rossouw adding his name into the mix of potential match-winners – their bowling remains vulnerable due to the current strategic thinking and I have a feeling opposing teams will back themselves to chase down whatever target South Africa set by putting them under pressure in the field.

The balance of the team – without a genuine all-rounder – is out, so JP Duminy and Farhaan Behardien have to share 10 overs or someone like Vernon Philander or Wayne Parnell has to bat seven.

That fifth-bowler portion will certainly be targeted by the opposition and sides like India and Australia will probably have a go at Morne Morkel and Philander as well.

Immersed in the pressure of a knockout game, how cool can Morkel stay? His display under the pump in Port Elizabeth suggests the portents are not that good, while Philander, at no more than fast-medium pace and generally sticking to line-and-length, could also be vulnerable.

The positives, however, are that South Africa, with Dale Steyn and Imran Tahir, are better than most at taking wickets in the middle overs and there will be no more feared batting line-up at the World Cup.

The bookies are hawking odds of between 3/1 and 13/3 on South Africa winning the World Cup, but they are only second favourites behind Australia – who range from 2/1 to 13/4 to win their fifth title.

There are a million different scenarios that could play out – and South Africa have historically provided the weirdest of those – but I will be hugely frustrated if the Proteas post 350-8 in a semi-final and then lose by three wickets in the final over as Duminy/Behardien travel for 90 runs in their 10 combined overs and Morkel and Philander concede 75 each.

Ryan McLaren or David Wiese are not part of the squad to provide a genuine fifth bowling option and from what we’ve seen from the West Indies series, South Africa are not going to be able to stray too far from their first-choice attack.

Which is not entirely a bad thing. Barring the number seven position, South Africa are a settled combination, going to Australasia with confidence and not many teams will fancy taking them on.

 

Amla shining like a diamond in the gloom 0

Posted on April 16, 2015 by Ken

Hashim Amla’s skill was shining like a diamond in the Centurion gloom as his unbeaten half-century gave South Africa a solid platform on a SuperSport Park pitch on which steep bounce made batting hard in the fifth Momentum One-Day International against the West Indies on Wednesday.

Amla had moved to 54 not out off 52 balls, taking South Africa to 114 for two after 21 overs, midway through their innings in a match reduced to 42 overs a side due to rain.

The West Indies had won the toss and unsurprisingly elected to bowl first after bad weather wiped out two-and-a-half hours of play, and their pacemen were able to extract awkward bounce, some of it inconsistent, to trouble the South African top-order.

Cross-batted leg-side shots cost both Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis their wickets, while Rilee Rossouw was enjoying a few lives as he battled to 24 not out off 40 deliveries with just one boundary.

De Kock, playing his first game for the Proteas since doing his ankle ligaments at the same ground in mid-December, had just one scoring stroke, a lofted square-drive for four off Sheldon Cottrell, before Jason Holder removed him with his third delivery of the match.

De Kock tried to pull a shortish delivery away on the leg-side but could only splice the ball, sending a simple catch looping on the off-side.

Du Plessis hung around for 27 balls, hitting two fours, as he and Amla added a run-a-ball 53 for the second wicket, before Andre Russell banged one in head-high, a top-edged hook landing in fine leg’s hands. South Africa’s T20 captain was out for 16.

Rossouw, the ultimate in feast or famine batting it seems, came to the crease in the 11th over in the number four position, the return of De Kock having shifted him out of the opening berth.

The left-hander was not always fluent at the crease, but he enjoyed some of the luck which has previously not been with him in the 13 other innings of his ODI career.

Seamer Carlos Brathwaite was the best of the West Indian bowlers, joining the attack in the ninth over and immediately dropping the run-rate with a tight line on the off stump, just 18 runs coming from the 26-year-old’s six-over spell.

 http://citizen.co.za/316612/amla-shines-centurion/



↑ Top