for quality writing

Ken Borland



Jurassic World at Loftus every Saturday 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

Jurassic World opened in cinemas across South Africa last night to much excitement but there are many who would say dinosaurs could be seen running around every Saturday at Loftus Versfeld for Bulls fans’ viewing displeasure.

The Bulls are probably the most conservative of all the franchises in South Africa (their daily programme even tells the players and management what clothes to wear!) and innovations such as the offload are still frowned upon there.

But that doesn’t mean they can’t still be a force on the playing field. In fact, things were looking good this season when they sat in second place on the log just before their overseas tour, only for the wheels to come off in Australasia, not for the first time.

There can be no denying that a winning culture is absent from Loftus Versfeld; you can have as much discipline as you want, but unless the players, management and administrators are tightly knit with a single purpose, cracks will grow ever wider and the team will fall apart at the seams.

Where the Bulls have erred most obviously is in the appointment of a High Performance Manager in Xander Janse van Rensburg whose sole achievement so far at the union has been to rip at those seams and drive not one, nor two but three major player exoduses from Loftus Versfeld.

Since Janse van Rensburg’s arrival – apparently he was appointed to replace Ian Schwartz because he was a much cheaper option – hardly a day goes by without talk of a player who wants to leave or a player who is unhappy with broken promises or upset with his team-mates, such is the climate of fear and self-interest at Loftus.

To treat players as dispensable goods creates the sort of selfishness and attitude of self-preservation that destroys team spirit; the Bulls’ decision to send Janse van Rensburg on tour, while scrum coach Wessel Roux remained at home, coincided with the dramatic reversal in fortunes that killed their Super Rugby hopes.

But to lay the blame purely at the doors of the administrators would be wrong and several players are going to have to face their own consciences in the mirror when coach Frans Ludeke pays the price for their failure to step up when needed.

Ludeke’s willingness to shoulder all of the responsibility speaks to the character of the man. While his decision to take on all the media duties himself was well-intentioned, it merely increased the pressure on him. To allow different voices to be heard does not weaken his authority and his failure to spread the load is not going to improve his stress levels or general health.

 

****

South African cricket provided reason to celebrate in the last week via the comments of newly-appointed bowling coach Charl Langeveldt, who said yorkers were something the Proteas bowlers needed to embrace.

Speaking on the SuperSport cricket magazine show Inside Edge, Langeveldt said the yorker was a skill the national team’s bowlers needed to be able to produce three or four times an over if they are to improve the standard of the bowling in limited-overs cricket.

The lack of such skills in the Proteas’ attack was the glaring difference between them and the champion Australian team and the appointment of Langeveldt, one of the most skilful bowlers South Africa have ever produced, is a step in the right direction.

Langeveldt’s story is the epitome of hard work paying off and hopefully he will get the necessary buy-in from the Proteas and the graft required for the up-skilling will take place.

 

Bursting with pride over Faf 0

Posted on December 01, 2016 by Ken

 

I think it’s fair to say most South African cricket fans almost burst with pride when Proteas captain Faf du Plessis produced the most magnificent riposte to all his detractors with his century on the first day of the third Test against Australia in Adelaide.

Under huge pressure for a week – hounded by the International Cricket Council’s desire for a scapegoat and persecuted by the Australian media, who even went so far as to launch a physical assault through the pushing-and-shoving goon with a microphone, Will Crouch – Du Plessis played an innings of immense mental strength, skill and determination as he rescued the South African innings from total collapse in tough conditions.

The Adelaide airport incident was undoubtedly a set-up because there were go-pro cameras stationed ahead of time on the walkway and all media were well aware that Du Plessis was not allowed to comment anyway as per ICC rules.

The South African camp believes the original ball-tampering video was placed in the media’s hands by Cricket Australia and, desperate for something to deflect from the massive problems in their cricket, the media pushed it to the limit.

At which point the ICC stepped into the fray and the song-and-dance about the Proteas captain doing two entirely legal things at the same time – eating a sweet and using his saliva to shine the ball – and something the Australian team themselves have sportingly admitted they do as well, turned into a full-scale operetta.

The ICC’s behaviour in this matter has been truly pathetic and to hear CEO David Richardson whingeing on Friday about how disappointed he is that Du Plessis is appealing, as is his right, his guilty verdict astonished me.

Richardson is a trained lawyer and yet he thinks Du Plessis has been fairly treated when the ICC laid the charge and appointed one of their own employees, match referee Andy Pycroft, as the judge, with other employees, the umpires, as the star witnesses. To make matters worse, because the ICC wanted to rush the whole process to completion before the start of the Adelaide Test, Du Plessis was denied the right to have the legal representation he wanted, being unable to fly them in from South Africa in time.

I know this all happened in Australia, but to make it an absolute kangaroo court was taking things too far.

If Du Plessis is guilty of an offence, what about all those cricketers who put sunscreen on and then wipe their sweat on the ball? The infused mixture is a wonderful ball-shiner.

What about the ubiquitous practice of chewing gum and then using your saliva to polish the ball?

If Richardson really wants to uphold the integrity of the game then perhaps he should be applying his mind to the blatant shortcomings in the laws of cricket.

Du Plessis’ tremendous performance in adversity has had even more people wondering if he should not continue as captain even once AB de Villiers returns.

Personally, I rate Du Plessis as the more natural captain and probably someone who wants the job more. But you cannot just ditch De Villiers as he has done little wrong as captain and also has a wonderful cricket brain. Convenor of selectors Linda Zondi has said all the right things in this regard.

I believe you have to leave that sort of decision to De Villiers himself and, with his workload issues, he may well decide to hand over the reins to Du Plessis.

The only other issue is that Du Plessis might have been the batsman earmarked to make way for De Villiers, but you surely cannot leave him out after his Adelaide masterpiece?

Evaluating Coetzee’s first Springbok squad 0

Posted on June 06, 2016 by Ken

 

Speculating on Springbok squads is always one of the more enjoyable aspects of being a rugby writer and I was pleased to read Allister Coetzee said choosing it had been one of the highlights of his career. One of a scribe’s other jobs is to then evaluate the selection, and I’m pleased to say the new coach’s squad makes me largely very happy.

It would be remiss of me, however, not to point out what I believe are a couple of oversights in Coetzee’s first task in his new project.

I will explain the first by asking you, dear reader, to imagine you have been transported forward in time by a week and you are perusing this column on the morning of the opening Test against Ireland. And the shock news has just broken that Pat Lambie injured himself in yesterday’s captain’s run.

This will be a major problem for Coetzee and the Springboks because of the flyhalves he has chosen in his squad. Elton Jantjies has only just resumed training after having surgery on a fractured finger, so he has not had much time to heal or acquaint himself with what the new coach is hoping to do on the field. Garth April is a bright talent, no doubt, but has only made three starts in top-flight rugby and it would be a massive gamble for him to play in a Test match.

So who is going to be the general as South Africa enter a new era against a tough Irish side?

We can look at the other side of the halfback equation, the scrumhalves, but the picture is just as bleak there, with Faf de Klerk and Rudy Paige no doubt players of the future, but vastly inexperienced at the moment when it comes to Test rugby. I have some sympathy for Coetzee when it comes to the dearth of scrumhalves though because he did apparently approach Ruan Pienaar, who turned him down, possibly because of all the abuse he takes from fickle Springbok fans.

Nic Groom also does not inspire much confidence. Against the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld recently, the Stormers enjoyed a surfeit of possession, but he was unable to stamp his mark or take control of proceedings against a team that was hammered by the Lions the following week.

With Lambie out, the Springboks could be forced into playing Willie le Roux, who has had no serious rugby with a number 10 on his back, in the pivot position. All this could have been avoided by just naming Morne Steyn as the third flyhalf. It’s too late now because you can’t fly him out from France on the eve of a Test.

The other error, I believe, is in the composition of the loose forwards. They are all fine players with varying skills, but there seems to be, apart from Duane Vermeulen, a lack of a mean and nasty ball-carrier, someone with mongrel who can crash through the advantage line and bounce away anyone trying to get through the Springbok defences.

With Jaco Kriel and Francois Louw surely fighting over the openside flank position, Siya Kolisi is likely to wear the number seven jersey and is a super player, with a tremendous work-rate and great skills, but for me he is more of a hybrid loose forward, good at plenty of things and master of none. As a ball-carrier, he is only ranked 58th in Super Rugby this year, according to the Vodacom stats.

And Coetzee could open himself up to accusations of Stormers bias with his selection of Sikhumbuzo Notshe, another hybrid flank, as well as the likes of Steven Kitshoff, Groom and Scarra Ntubeni, ahead of players like Jean-Luc du Preez and Malcolm Marx.

But overall, it is a pleasing squad with the experience of players like Beast Mtawarira, Eben Etzebeth, JP Pietersen, Vermeulen, Lambie, Le Roux and Louw being combined with some of the exciting talent sweeping through our rugby, and a fine choice of captain in Adriaan Strauss.

And there is the thrilling prospect, looking at some of the selections, of the Springboks playing a more high-tempo, ball-in-hand style of rugby.

Mother Cricket is fluttering her eyelashes at potential all-rounders 0

Posted on September 21, 2015 by Ken

 

I was pleased to hear Titans and South Africa all-rounder Chris Morris say this week that, despite a little tiff with Mother Cricket and her often tough ways, he has been spending more time than ever hitting balls in the nets.

Morris, having struggled in Bangladesh and then missing the series against New Zealand with an abdominal/groin muscle strain, has been recalled to the national squad for the tour of India which starts on September 29 as the selectors continue their search for a genuine all-rounder.

“I had a poor tour to Bangladesh, I shouldn’t have gone but you never want to turn down an opportunity to play for the Proteas,” Morris, whose grandfather also passed away in the middle of the T20 series, said.

“I came back from there and a lot of things in my head needed sorting out, because you’re in a very dark place when you’re injured. I thought about what I wanted to achieve – doing so badly made me think I wasn’t good enough to play for South Africa – and I went back to the drawing board.

“A couple of days in the bush and playing golf meant I got my passion for cricket back and I’m trying to be a proper all-rounder. It’s the hardest I’ve ever worked on my batting, I’m hitting more balls than ever with [Titans coach] Rob Walter. My bowling will get me in the team, but I want to be a genuine all-rounder,” Morris said with surprising candour.

This will be great news for the selectors, who are known to be searching for someone who can hold their own with bat and ball in the number seven position. It’s amazing how South Africa’s all-round stocks have diminished when, for so many years, we had several of the best multi-skilled players in the world – Jacques Kallis, Albie Morkel, Shaun Pollock, Nicky Boje, Lance Klusener, Eric Simons, Brian McMillan, Mike Procter, Clive Rice, Anton Ferreira, Eddie Barlow and Trevor Goddard all spring to mind.

The selectors are not just looking for someone who can swing the bat to good effect in the lower-order, but a proper batsman who scores regular first-class centuries and who is a good enough bowler to be relied upon for 10 overs in an ODI.

The prime candidates to fit the bill are Morris, David Wiese and the unfortunate Ryan McLaren, who missed the World Cup because the selectors somehow reasoned that Farhaan Behardien and JP Duminy were genuine all-rounders. Wayne Parnell is also still in the picture.

The Australian team that won the World Cup had Shane Watson, Glenn Maxwell, wicketkeeper Brad Haddin, James Faulkner, Mitchell Johnson and Mitchell Starc batting from five to number 10, and you can also throw Mitchell Marsh’s name into the discussion as an all-rounder.

The balance of the South African side is just so much better with a fifth frontline bowler, but then he has to be good enough with the bat to fill the number seven position. The gauntlet has been thrown down by the selectors and it will be interesting to watch the progress of the likes of Morris, Wiese and McLaren in the coming summer .

It will certainly help if the franchises give these candidates as much opportunity with the bat as they can.

 

 

  • Recent Posts

  • Archives

  • Thought of the Day

    Hebrews 13:5 - "Keep your life free from love of money, and be content with what you have, because God has said, 'Never will I leave you, never will I forsake you'."

    Depend on Christ, not on people nor material things, nor on emotional spirituality.

    "You have to take responsibility for your own actions. When you have made certain choices, then you alone must bear the consequences and walk along the path you have chosen. Therefore, choose wisely.
    "When you walk the last stage of life's journey, you will be on your own. Nobody can enter the valley of death with you. And yet, you are not alone, because the Lord promised to be with you when you go into the vast unknown. As his child you have the immeasurable privilege of enjoying his companionship right through life, through death, and for all eternity." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



↑ Top