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Ken Borland



Standard Bank jump in at grassroots level to ensure decent opportunities for all 0

Posted on October 31, 2017 by Ken

 

That there is enormous cricketing potential in this country is generally accepted, but due to a variety of reasons, it is tough for Cricket South Africa (CSA) to ensure all our communities get decent opportunities to play the game.

CSA’s development programmes are one thing, but what happens next? How do those talented young cricketers in the outlying areas then get to play enough decent matches, how are they transported to matches, what facilities do they have with which to hone their game? Are they given the love of cricket and then just left to their own devices?

CSA identified these problems and came up with the idea of hubs and regional performance centres (RPCs).

The RPCs have been a heck of a success in ensuring it is no longer the case that talented young cricketers from disadvantaged areas are lost to the system due to socio-economic circumstances. And, in tremendous news for South African cricket, it has been announced on Thursday that Standard Bank, the headline sponsors of the Proteas, will no longer be focused on just the pinnacle of the pipeline, but are now making a major contribution at grassroots level with their sponsorship of the RPC programme.

The implementation of the RPC programme means CSA are now making great headway in terms of building relationships with communities and local municipalities. And now this progress will be accelerated thanks to the support of Standard Bank, who have added this vital development initiative to their naming rights sponsorship of the national team.

“Standard Bank has been a key supporter and sponsor of the Proteas for many years and by sponsoring the RPCs we hope to develop the immense cricketing talent we have in our country.

Budding young cricketers in many outlying areas are still in desperate need of facilities and coaching, and this RPC in Soweto will assist in helping these players fulfil their true potential and turn their dreams into reality,” Vuyo Masinda from Standard Bank said at the launch of the new deal at the Dobsonville RPC in Soweto on Thursday.

There are RPCs in all nine provinces, with each having several hubs in their stable acting as feeders. Having a centralised venue dedicated to nurturing the disadvantaged talent in the vicinity allows CSA to pour resources into it, ensuring there is adequate infrastructure with which to develop quality cricketers.

Girls and women’s cricket is also included in this programme.

The quality of coaching is also of the greatest importance and each RPC must have a head coach who is Level III certified and an assistant coach who is Level II certified. The Hubs must have a head coach who is Level II certified and an assistant coach who is Level I certified.

The feeder system for the Hubs starts with the KFC Mini-Cricket programme and, thanks to the Momentum Friendship Games, the Hubs and RPCs get to play against the leading schools in their area.

Some of the franchise players who will be acting as mentors for the programme include Omphile Ramela, Malusi Siboto, Khaya Zondo, Mangaliso Mosehle and Temba Bavuma.

Springboks suffering due to lack of solid structure below them 5

Posted on October 17, 2016 by Ken

 

The Springboks’ humiliating defeat in Durban last weekend was a painful reminder of the gulf in quality that exists between the administration and structure of the game in New Zealand and back here in South Africa, with All Blacks coach Steve Hansen making sure to mention the decision-makers in their rugby when he was asked for the reasons behind their world record equalling run of 17 successive wins.

A solid structure from schoolboys to the Springboks is what is needed for our rugby to remain amongst the best in the world, not yet another overhaul of the national team and their coaches; that’s just treating the symptom, shuffling people around, and does not address the root cause of our problems.

And, as great as next week’s Rugby Indaba sounds – except for the unfortunate two coaches who have their preparations for the Currie Cup final disrupted (another example of Saru’s awful treatment of their flagship competition) – it’s not going to address our real problems either. There might be some good ideas about game plans and what-not, but the coaches and the franchise CEOs do not have the power to change the structural failings in rugby, that lies with the South African Rugby Union and their turkeys who will steadfastly not vote for Christmas.

Below the national sides, there should just be six teams playing fully professional rugby based in the major cities of Johannesburg, Cape Town, Durban, Pretoria, Port Elizabeth and Bloemfontein. And those six unions should have the power in South African rugby, not the eight lesser unions, largely amateurish and as relevant as dinosaurs, which are currently the tail that wags the dog.

Below that, all 14 unions can have semi-professional teams, but the amount of money that can be saved by only having six fully professional teams and by eight economically unviable organisations no longer drawing over R20 million a year in Saru grants could go a long way towards keeping our players in the country.

Just like in New Zealand, talented rugby players must fight for a limited number of professional contracts through their performances at club level, that lead to them playing for their provinces and then being chosen for a Super Rugby deal.

The vast majority of schoolboy players in New Zealand don’t become professional rugby players when they finish their education. They go to university and play rugby there, or play for their local club side while working, which is why so many All Blacks have had interesting occupations like lumberjack, piano mover or, as in the case of Aaron Smith, apprentice hairdresser.

It’s a system that builds character and ensures only the fittest and hungriest players survive to reach the top.

Good schoolboy players in South Africa should be lauded in their school hall and with selection for provincial and national schoolboy teams; not with professional contracts and way too much exposure on television.

There is far too great an emphasis on schoolboy rugby in South Africa and that just creates entitled, spoilt players, wastes a lot of late-developing talent, kills our clubs and also gets in the way of transformation in many cases.

This is not to say that our current Springboks and their management are beyond blame. The All Blacks have a relentless drive to improve on and off the field every day, they see every challenge as a means of getting better.

Do our Springboks and their coaching staff have that same hunger? The same desire to do whatever it takes? Because it will also come down to that if they are going to close the gap with the All Blacks.

Any top professional sportsman worth his salt would turn a record 57-15 hammering at home into motivation to lift their conditioning and skills to new levels.

The South African cricket team has just completed an historic 5-0 series whitewash of world champions Australia, with captain Faf du Plessis saying a culture camp they held before the start of the summer has ensured that they are now playing as a team again and, most importantly, are really challenging each other to be better.

Now that’s the sort of indaba that could be useful for our rugby players and coaches, but the administrators still need to make the major, unselfish changes that will really benefit the game in this country.

 

Stormers will provide early measure of Bulls’ reinvention 0

Posted on July 30, 2015 by Ken

 

It was the four successive defeats that the Bulls suffered against the Stormers and Western Province last year that were one of the major reasons for the change in approach of the Loftus Versfeld side and the Bulls will get an early indication of how well they have reinvented themselves when they take on the Cape side on Saturday in their Vodacom SuperRugby opener in Pretoria.

The pattern of those four defeats was similar: the Bulls forwards would dominate, they would bash away against the solid Stormers/WP defence or the ball would be kicked into the opposition 22, only for the ball to be lost and Allister Coetzee’s men would roar away for a turnover try.

Bulls captain Victor Matfield said the focus during their preparations was on raising the intensity and pace of their play, making try-scoring the goal after Bulls coach Frans Ludeke has previously admitted getting penalties was the desired outcome. The Stormers almost bring Sevens skills to their attacking play and the Bulls want to follow suit.

“We’ve put in a huge effort in the pre-season and the big difference has been in our conditioning because we have to reload quicker in defence and organise our attack. We want to go out and score tries because that’s almost always how you win and most times, the team that scores the most tries wins the competition,” Matfield said.

The veteran lock acknowledged that their opponents on Saturday have given them a torrid time recently on the counter-attack, but he hoped the tables would be turned on Saturday.

“They usually have a very quick back three and Juan de Jongh is a good stepper, so they’re dangerous off turnover ball. We mustn’t give them any of that, but we hope to turn over some free ball ourselves, because that’s where the tries lie,” Matfield said.

Publicly, Coetzee has acknowledged that his inexperienced team are the underdogs at Loftus Versfeld, but there is enough class and firepower in the Stormers side for the Bulls to be wary.

They won’t lack for inspiration with Duane Vermeulen leading from the front at eighthman, a comforting presence for the five players getting their first taste of SuperRugby – wings Johnny Kotze and Dillyn Leyds, replacement back Huw Jones and front-rowers Vincent Koch and Wilco Louw.

The scrums will be the main area of concern for the Bulls on Saturday, as Ludeke admitted.

“The scrums on Saturday are going to be a test, but the game against Saracens was a blessing in disguise because it alerted us to where we need to improve. It will be a huge battle because the scrums give you field position from penalties. We get rhythm and confidence from the scrum, but every one is a new contest,” Ludeke said.

The words “field position” are a hint that the Bulls are perhaps not quite ready to go all the way down the same road as the Stormers and the danger of being caught in between game-plans certainly exists for the home side.

Teams

Bulls: 15-Jurgen Visser, 14-Bjorn Basson, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jan Serfontein, 11-Francois Hougaard, 10-Handre Pollard, 9-Piet van Zyl, 8-Arno Botha, 7-Lappies Labuschagne, 6-Deon Stegmann, 5-Victor Matfield, 4-Jacques du Plessis, 3-Werner Kruger, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Trevor Nyakane. Reserves – 16-Callie Visagie, 17-Morne Mellet, 18-Grant Hattingh, 19-Pierre Spies, 20-Rudy Paige, 21-Jacques-Louis Potgieter, 22-Jesse Kriel, 23-Dayan van der Westhuizen/Neethling Fouche.

Stormers: 15-Cheslin Kolbe, 14-Johnny Kotze, 13-Juan de Jongh, 12-Damian de Allende, 11-Dillyn Leyds, 10-Demetri Catrakilis, 9-Nic Groom, 8-Duane Vermeulen, 7-Michael Rhodes, 6-Rynhardt Elstadt, 5-Ruan Botha, 4-Jean Kleyn, 3-Vincent Koch, 2-Scarra Ntubeni, 1-Steven Kitshoff. Reserves – 16-Bongi Mbonambi, 17-Oli Kebble, 18-Wilco Louw, 19-Jurie van Vuuren, 20-Nizaam Carr, 21-Louis Schreuder, 22-Kurt Coleman, 23-Huw Jones.

 

Four reasons for the Springboks to be optimistic 0

Posted on November 04, 2014 by Ken

1)      Their forwards can match anybody

While the backs stole much of the glory at Ellis Park, it was the hard workers up front who made the razzle-dazzle possible. The All Blacks had a tough time making much headway with ball-in-hand as their ball-carriers were suffocated by the physicality of the Springbok forwards. New Zealand captain Richie McCaw said after the game that the pressure exerted at close quarters by the South Africans caused many of the handling mistakes that robbed them of momentum.

The Springboks had a few problems in the lineouts in the second half, but that set-piece was generally solid and the scrum, which had been the focus of much concern earlier in the competition, ended the competition in impressive fashion by enjoying an edge over the All Blacks.

 

2)      They have two world-class, match-winning flyhalves

Flyhalf has been a position of almost perpetual uncertainty for coach Heyneke Meyer, but Handre Pollard and Pat Lambie were the heroes of their win over the All Blacks and have shown they have what it takes to perform against the best, under severe pressure.

Pollard has been touted as the next big thing ever since he was the player of the tournament as he led the South Africa U20s to the final of the IRB Junior World Cup in June, and he was given his first Test start at the end of that month against Scotland, playing with tremendous assurance in a 55-6 win for the Springboks.

Two more starts against Argentina followed, but with the forwards struggling, he did not set the world alight and Morne Steyn returned for the match against Australia in Perth. The veteran’s disastrous performance meant the number 10 jersey was given back to Pollard for the match against the All Blacks in Wellington, with the 20-year-old producing a composed display.

A solid outing against Australia in Cape Town followed, but this weekend at Ellis Park he was nothing sort of top-class.

A graceful runner with ball in hand, he is deceptively quick and very powerful, as he showed by scoring through McCaw.

A dangerous, direct runner, Pollard adds considerably to the Springbok attack, but his kicking is still a work in progress.

The presence on the bench of somebody as cool and composed under pressure as Lambie provides tremendous security for Meyer. The Sharks star played pivotal roles as a replacement in the wins over both Australia and New Zealand and, having spent many frustrating days injured and then waiting to get more game time, the 23-year-old can look forward to many more Test appearances.

The Steyn era may now have passed but the Springboks will be pleased to have his experience in the background, while the talents of Racing Metro flyhalf Johan Goosen are also on the radar.

 

3)      The midfield is gelling

The centre pairing for the Springboks has been the subject of much debate with Jan Serfontein moving to number 13 to partner Jean de Villiers. The critics have been calling for the more naturally attacking outside centre skills of a Juan de Jongh or a S’Bura Sithole, but the De Villiers/Serfontein partnership is certainly gelling judging by the ease with which they created space on the outside against the All Blacks. The marvellously quick hands of De Villiers were a major factor in this.

The goal will be for Serfontein to become totally defensively attuned to the number 13 position but the backs scoring three tries against the All Blacks suggests the attacking aspect is coming together.

 

4)      Confidence and belief will be sky-high

The Springboks will now believe that they can beat any other team in world rugby and that they can master a high-tempo, attacking brand of play, as well as a more forward-dominated, tighter strategy.

The pace at which they are able to perform – they have closed the gap on the All Blacks in this respect – will be a valuable weapon against Northern Hemisphere teams at the World Cup and there will no longer be the burden of a losing streak against a certain side.

 



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