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Ken Borland



Meyer makes popular selections for UK tour 0

Posted on September 04, 2017 by Ken

 

Heyneke Meyer has previously said that bowing to public opinion would be akin to having fans voting for the national team, but the Springbok coach has made what will be some popular selections in the squad announced on Sunday to tour Great Britain and Ireland.

While it’s a perfectly logical squad, featuring all the players who appeared for the Springboks this year and are fit, there will be some debate, as ever, round the flyhalf position.

Meyer has predictably named all three contenders – Elton Jantjies, Morne Steyn and Pat Lambie – in the squad, and it would perhaps be best for the long-term growth of the Springboks if he spread the flyhalf duties between the trio for the three Tests against Ireland, Scotland and England.

There are five uncapped players in the 31-man squad, with lock Franco van der Merwe and scrumhalf Jano Vermaak having been round the block a few times, while outside backs Lionel Mapoe and 19-year-old Raymond Rhule have the flair and skills to be exciting additions to the Springbok backline in years to come.

Speaking of flair and skills, Meyer has decided to bring hooker-cum-part-time flank Schalk Brits in from the cold, the 31-year-old Saracens player having not represented the Springboks since 2008. The other overseas-based players in the squad are Ulster scrumhalf Ruan Pienaar, Bath flank Francois Louw and mountainous Toulouse loosehead prop Gurthrö Steenkamp.

The other uncapped player in the touring group is loose forward Arno Botha, who has been part of the Springbok squad this year.

Meyer explained his reasoning by saying: “We’ve got a settled core of players that did the job during the England series and the Rugby Championship and we decided to stick with them.

“Gurthrö and Schalk are experienced front-rankers who have played for South Africa before and know the conditions in the Northern Hemisphere. This tour provides a good opportunity to assess them as we plan ahead. Arno, Lionel, Franco and Jano have all been part of our squad earlier in the season.

“Raymond put up his hand for the Junior Boks and the Cheetahs and I’m very excited to see what he can do. It’s also great to have JP Pietersen and Chiliboy Ralepelle back from injury as they bring a lot of experience to the squad.”

Meyer will also name a 32nd squad member before the team departs for the United Kingdom on Saturday, with loose forward and outside back being the two areas where the Springboks probably currently have holes.

Captain Jean de Villiers, who missed Western Province’s run-in to the Currie Cup title with a hamstring strain, will also have to prove his fitness before departure.

The Springboks have already been hard-hit by injuries with prop Coenie Oosthuizen, hookers Bismarck du Plessis and Tiaan Liebenberg, lock Andries Bekker, loose forwards Siya Kolisi, Jacques Potgieter and Pierre Spies, flyhalf Johan Goosen, centre Frans Steyn and wing Bryan Habana all being wounded in action this year.

Flanks Schalk Burger, Juan Smith and Heinrich Brussow were all ruled out before the Springboks even stepped on to a field this year.

The injury curse got her dirty little hands into Habana over the weekend, the in-form winger leaving the field with a knee injury in the 14th minute of the Currie Cup final after Beast Mtawarira hurled him to the ground at a ruck.

On the plus side, though, Pietersen is back in the Springbok squad and will be hoping Lady Luck only has her best in store for him after he missed the entire Rugby Championship with a hand injury.

While Springbok fans have had to endure a diet of uninspired rugby and regular defeats this year, the team began to show real promise in the second half of the Rugby Championship before the brilliant All Blacks taught them a lesson in Soweto.

Weather conditions overseas may favour Meyer’s preferred conservative game plan, but there are enough exciting youngsters in the squad for more glimmers of hope to be seen. 

Springbok squad – Zane Kirchner (Bulls), Pat Lambie (Sharks), JP Pietersen (Sharks), Juan de Jongh (WP), Jaco Taute (Lions), Jean de Villiers (WP), Lionel Mapoe (Lions), Lwazi Mvovo (Sharks), Raymond Rhule (FS), Elton Jantjies (Lions), Morne Steyn (Bulls), Ruan Pienaar (Ulster), Francois Hougaard (Bulls), Jano Vermaak (Bulls), Duane Vermeulen (WP), Willem Alberts (Sharks), Arno Botha (Bulls), Francois Louw (Bath), Marcell Coetzee (Sharks), Juandre Kruger (Bulls), Franco van der Merwe (Lions), Eben Etzebeth (WP), Flip van der Merwe (Bulls), Jannie du Plessis (Sharks), Pat Cilliers (Lions), CJ van der Linde (Lions), Adriaan Strauss (FS), Chiliboy Ralepelle (Bulls), Schalk Brits (Saracens), Tendai Mtawarira (Sharks), Gurthro Steenkamp (Toulouse).

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2012-10-29-back-in-action-crowd-pleasers-in-the-latest-bok-squad/#.Wa08tbIjHIU

Why CSA have said no to more franchises 1

Posted on May 02, 2017 by Ken

 

Chief Executive Haroon Lorgat explained on Tuesday that Cricket South Africa have said no to the idea of increasing the number of franchises because they want to give more attention to the semi-professional level that is the second tier of domestic cricket.

There has been speculation over the last couple of years that the number of franchises would be increased from six to either seven or eight. But Lorgat said this has now been put on the backburner, with CSA deciding instead to focus on the next level down.

“The decision actually came out of our domestic review, which was a very detailed report and indicated that there is work to be done at the semi-professional level. We are open-minded about it and there might come a day when we move from six franchises.

“But extra franchises have got to be sustainable and we’re only now at the point where each franchise is, at the very worst, breaking even, although I expect them all to announce surpluses at the end of this financial year at the end of the month. But now we want to grow the base and what we now call semi-professional, we want to make that professional.

“At the moment there are only seven full-time contracts per provincial team in the system and it’s arguable whether players are able to sustain themselves on those contracts. So we want to lift that up and we will take the same money we would have used for a seventh franchise to uplift semi-pro cricket,” Lorgat said at the launch of the Africa Cup 2017 at the Wanderers on Tuesday.

An exodus of players to earn pounds in English cricket has taken its toll on the South African game, and Lorgat said CSA hoped raising the standard and lucrativeness of cricket below franchise level would encourage players to stay.

“If we can raise the competitive nature of that cricket then we can use that tier to hopefully sustain guys until they get a crack at franchise level. The Africa Cup has brought more names to the fore and I know the coaches are excited about the opportunity it gives players to shine. We’ve identified the second tier as being an area where we need to widen opportunity,” Lorgat said.

The Africa Cup is the T20 competition that has kicked off the last two seasons and is considered the bridge between senior provincial and franchise cricket, with the 12 CSA provinces plus KZN Inland and Zimbabwe, Namibia and Kenya playing in a tournament that mixes fully professional cricketers with those from the semi-pro ranks.

The Africa Cup has been the gateway to success for players like Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi, Tabraiz Shamsi and Andile Phehlukwayo, who are all now part of the Proteas’ plans.

Lorgat confirmed that following the Africa Cup in August/September and the introduction of the new showpiece global T20 league in November/December, the existing franchises’ CSA T2O Challenge will now shift to late summer, probably in April 2018.

“There is a risk of too much T20 cricket, but access of opportunity is really the driver and it also brings more transformation players to the fore. We have to develop players and give them opportunities to aspire towards developing into something more. We have the Africa Cup and the T20 global league and we’ve got to have something in between.

“First-class and 50-over cricket are acknowledged as being crucial in the development of players, whether there are supporters watching or not, so it will be the same for the CSA T2O Challenge at the end of the season,” Lorgat said.

The draw for the Africa Cup, which starts on August 25 and will be hosted on successive weekends by Benoni, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein and Kimberley, was made on Tuesday and defending champions Eastern Province find themselves in the same pool as hosts North-West, dominant provincial side Northerns and Gauteng.

Draw

Pool A   (Willowmoore Park, 25-27 August): Easterns, Western Province, South-Western Districts, Namibia.

Pool B   (Senwes Park, 1-3 September): North-West, Northerns, Gauteng, Eastern Province.

Pool C   (Mangaung Oval, 9-11 September): Free State, KZN Inland, Zimbabwe, Boland.

Pool D   (Diamond Oval, 15-17 September): Northern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal, Kenya, Border.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-cricket/1484582/domestic-cricket-isnt-going-to-get-bigger-anytime-soon-says-csa/

Coetzee calls for all-encompassing review, including of him 0

Posted on December 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee returned to Johannesburg on Monday and said he would accept it if the South African Rugby Union decided to remove him from his post as long as it was part of an all-encompassing review of South African rugby.

Coetzee and the team returned from what the coach termed a “disastrous” tour of Europe without a win, leaving them with just four victories in 12 Tests this year, the worst record since the Springboks lost seven of their eight Tests in 1965.

“In one word, the tour was disastrous. But on the other hand, sometimes you have to go as low as you can go in order to get back up again and I still see a massive opportunity for this team. But we cannot plaster over the cracks, there has to be a proper clean-out of the wounds. There will have to be changes.

“I will be the first to put my hand up and take responsibility, and the players have owned up too, but finger-pointing doesn’t help. We need a good, proper review that addresses all the key areas. My vision and the players’ vision and the franchises’ visions all have to be aligned so that Springbok rugby is of number one importance.

“I am contracted until 2019, and my performance will be discussed in my review. Of course I am disappointed in my performance too. But every coach goes through a tough year and I would rather take it at the beginning. We might not see it now, but this is best for Springbok rugby, I see it as a turning point and if the time is not right for me to be coach, then I will accept that,” Coetzee said at OR Tambo International Airport on Monday.

While Coetzee said he did not want to single out the players, he said poor skill levels and conditioning were the major problems in terms of on-field performance.

The 53-year-old coach also said the pipeline leading to the Springboks, which has previously been the envy of other countries, needed to be streamlined.

“From the schools, through the U21s, all the way to the Springboks, we need to have a hard look at the pipeline. Does it all benefit Springbok rugby? We need to work together as South Africans, doing well in just the Currie Cup or Super Rugby is not good enough.

“The northern hemisphere are doing very well now, it’s no longer the case that we are better than them because they have immense collaboration. It’s the same with the franchises in New Zealand and that’s indicative of where they are now. Collaboration is most important.

“Everyone involved in rugby needs to start working on the 10 most important things to get the Springbok team to perform and put those in place. I have a good idea of what I want to put in place and I’d like to make sure when I leave the post that there is a clear and tangible blueprint for collaboration with the franchise coaches on how we contract players and what we expect from them in terms of conditioning,” Coetzee said.

Retiring captain Adriaan Strauss was similarly apologetic, but said he felt positive that the Springboks would rise again.

“There’s a lot of talent and good players even though it has been a disappointing, challenging year. We’re not in a good space at the moment, and there have been a lot of causes over some time, but I believe it is a good time to address those now. There are a lot of things that have not been spoken openly about before and it has to be a joint effort now to sort those out.

“There are a lot of good decisions and discussions to be made and I believe some good will come out of this. We need to construct a way forward and everyone is accountable from the players up all through the ladder. Everyone has to work together, we need to realise where we are now and make the right decisions now so we can build for the future. I’m very hopeful of the future, there’s lots to be excited about,” Strauss said.

“The year hurts in the way that we feel we have let people down and the supporters have every right to feel let down. But every guy who wears this blazer does their all, they do everything in their power. The Springboks are supposed to be up there with the best, the fans are fully within their rights to demand that, and we haven’t produced that excellence.

“I accepted responsibility when I said yes to the captaincy and it was not the best of years, in fact the records will show it was the worst. I made a lot of mistakes and I apologise for that, it was a learning curve for me. But I’m also proud of a lot of things I did, I always put the Springboks first and in tough times I feel I stood up,” an emotional Strauss said.

“The players must also take responsibility and the coaches as well, we’re all in this together, and SA Rugby as well. I can openly and honestly say that everyone must step up, everyone has made mistakes. We are all responsible and we must all face up together. We can’t be having a pity party.”

While the torment is over for Strauss, coach Coetzee will pray he never has another year like 2016.

“It does test everything as a person, even my faith. But I am still alive and kicking through the grace of God. You do have doubts when things don’t go right, but I believed in my plan and then you feel better when the players and captain give you buy-in every Monday when we start training again,” Coetzee said.

“I can understand the supporters are disappointed, so are we. Many people feel I should stay on and I am confident that I can turn the team around. I’m not the sort of guy to just walk away.”

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-rugby/1359769/coetzee-calls-encompassing-review-including/

Noren blitzes front nine to win from far behind 0

Posted on November 16, 2016 by Ken

 

Alex Noren started the final round of the Nedbank Golf Challenge at Sun City on Sunday six strokes behind the leader and said he didn’t feel he had any chance of winning.

But the 34-year-old Swede immediately birdied the first three holes and set about producing a dazzling front nine of just 30 strokes.

As if that wasn’t good enough, he then eagled the 10th hole and birdied 11 to go to nine-under-par for his round. Suddenly, he was three strokes ahead of overnight leader Jeunghun Wang.

Although he completed the last seven holes in level-par, it was enough for him to double his lead by the end of the day as he signed for an incredible final round of 63 and a six-stroke win on 14-under-par.

“Honestly, I thought I had no chance at the start of the round, this is a really tricky course and the leader had shot 64 yesterday which was like 59 today.

“So I just wanted to get a good round in before the World Tour Championship in Dubai next week, to have a good positive feeling going there, work on my swing a bit. Anything under par I would have been happy,” Noren said after his astonishing victory at the Gary Player Country Club.

None of the other contenders were able to check Noren’s incredible rise up the leaderboard, with the final three-ball of Wang, local favourite Louis Oosthuizen and Andy Sullivan all struggling to get going.

Pars were the order of the day for Oosthuizen, who started the day three behind Wang, and the South African then fell six behind after a double-bogey at the par-three seventh when he got stuck in a greenside bunker.

Wang was a pale shadow of the golfer who had shot an incredible 64 in decidedly unfriendly conditions in the third round, a bogey on the fourth and two dropped shots on the par-four eighth undoing his birdies on the second and fourth holes.

Even though he birdied the par-five ninth to draw level with Noren, it was clear all the momentum was with one of the most in-form players on the European Tour.

It was a hammer blow for Wang when Noren eagled the 10th and when he sank a superb flop-shot for birdie after short-siding himself on 11, the look of disbelief he received from Henrik Stenson’s caddy said it all.

Back-to-back bogeys on 15 and 16 thanks to wayward tee shots were the final blows to Wang’s chances as the 21-year-old South Korean had to settle for second on eight-under-par.

Sullivan birdied the second hole, but he then made three bogeys to undo the two more birdies he made, finishing with a level-par 72 and in a tie for third, seven strokes behind Noren, with Branden Grace (70), Spaniard Alejandro Canizares (68), Frenchman Victor Dubuisson (68) and Portugal’s Ricardo Gouveia (67).

Noren said his putter was his most outstanding club and it was hard to argue as his birdie putts on the first, seventh and eighth holes were all longer than 20 feet, as was his eagle putt on the 10th.

“I was a bit nervous at the start, I didn’t feel on top of my game but something happened and after seven holes I started to realise that I must believe in myself that I can win. My putter was very hot and I’ve never holed so many putts, I think on those first 11 holes, and I got a lot more excited,” Noren said.

Even though he registered his only bogey of the day on the par-five 14th, after a visit to the infamous love-grass, his victory – his fourth in his last 11 tournaments – was already secure by then.

The win keeps him in contention to win the Race to Dubai next weekend as he has vaulted into third place behind Stenson and Danny Willett, and 2017 will no doubt offer more titles for the newest member of the world top 10.

“I’ve been able to see what sort of game I could have and what I need to do to compete with the best. Today everything worked, but I still have a lot of work to do,” Noren said.

Stenson shot a two-under-par 70 on Sunday to finish in eighth place and will take a 300-point lead into the final event of the Race to Dubai next weekend.

Oosthuizen bogeyed on 16 and then double-dropped on the 17th to finish on five-under for the tournament and in ninth place.

Grace three-putted for a bogey on the last to slide back into the tie for third, a very costly lapse, but finished as the leading South African.

South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer did confirm that he is still determined to become the first local winner of the Nedbank Golf Challenge since Trevor Immelman in 2007.

“I was very disappointed with the three-putt on 18, but tied third is my best finish here yet, and hopefully next year I can come back and improve on that,” Grace said.

http://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-golf/1343936/noren-producing-top-grade-golf-storm-lead/

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