for quality writing

Ken Borland



Rugby not expediting much joy for me 0

Posted on December 05, 2017 by Ken

 

I must confess to a certain sense of relief today as our rugby season (the 15-man game anyway) comes to an end this weekend with the misfiring Springboks facing a daunting assignment in Cardiff. Sad to say, but I find myself more and more irritated by rugby these days.

The uninspiring fare dished up by the Springboks, made worse by the tantalising glimpse they gave of what they are capable of in the Newlands Test against the All Blacks, brings little joy and the two domestic sides I cover, the Bulls and Sharks, have had more heartache than cheer this year. Even the Lions’ loss in the Super Rugby final still hurts.

Nevertheless, just to get two last parting shots in before Christmas, rugby made me angry twice more this week.

It’s annoying that Springbok coach Allister Coetzee is not expediting the smooth introduction of the tremendously talented Warrick Gelant into international rugby. Instead of playing him in his natural position of fullback, where change is surely required because the solid Andries Coetzee has done little to suggest star-quality, coach Coetzee has plonked Gelant on the wing for his first start.

The selection of players out of position has become something of a Springbok curse in recent years, but the disappointing treatment of Gelant might also be due to the lack of options Coetzee has on the wing. As at fullback, we can all see change is necessary, but the only other specialist wing in the squad is Raymond Rhule, and would he really improve things?

A rugby sage once told me that Springbok coaches stand or fall by selection and, judging by the number of times Coetzee has replaced an injured player with someone who plays in a different position, the current national coach is obviously failing in this regard. Just on this tour, we’ve had an eighthman, Duane Vermeulen, replacing a prop, Coenie Oosthuizen, and lock Ruan Botha came in for flank Jean-Luc du Preez, which clearly shows he got the initial selections wrong.

But the failure of WorldRugby to honour their own processes and award the 2023 World Cup to South Africa was the low point of the year; at least South Africa’s 57-0 thrashing in Albany came with plenty of wonderful rugby from the All Blacks to admire.

The duplicity and lack of integrity shown by their council members makes the blood boil, and the reputation of rugby took a major hit in London a fortnight ago.

So it was with utter shock that I observed the sheer nerve of WorldRugby this week trying to clamp down on players writing messages on their strapping. The rationale was that WorldRugby had no control over what messaging was displayed and with the pettiness typical of the jobsworths who have more regard for their own positions and privilege than the good of the game, the decision was made to clamp down.

Perhaps WorldRugby should worry more about the game being brought into disrepute by their own administrators; the message sent by the 2023 World Cup decision was far worse than anything a player could fit on to his strapping.

Sport did bring me some happiness this week though. It was wonderful to see a cricketing legend of yesteryear, Mike Procter, team up with one of the country’s most talented young writers, Lungani Zama, to launch an updated autobiography.

Procter, of course, played in an era when someone like Zama, who is a good enough cricketer to have played for the KZN Inland side before they gained first-class status, was not allowed to fully express their talents.

Procter, one of the all-time greats of South African cricket and a former national coach and selector, understands these issues and it is wonderful to see him so actively involved in cricket development through his coaching work at the Ottawa Primary School outside Durban, introducing the game to nearly a thousand underprivileged children.

A cricketer capable of taking the new ball and bowling at 145km/h, with prodigious swing, and a good enough batsman to score 254 against Western Province in a Currie Cup game, Procter was obviously a rare talent and one that the current lovers of the game really need to know more about.

He is certainly one of the contenders for the title of greatest all-rounder the game has known and the story of his playing days is augmented with fascinating accounts of his stint as an ICC match referee, having to deal with the major controversies of Darrell Hair abandoning an England v Pakistan Test match, the Harbhajan Singh and Andrew Symonds ‘Monkeygate’ saga, and the bomb blast that ended international cricket in Pakistan.

As Caught in the Middle details, Procter is one of the heroes of the game still adding value in the present day.

 

The John McFarland Column: In praise of the Crusaders, SuperRugby champions 0

Posted on August 10, 2017 by Ken

 

Congratulations to the Crusaders for winning the SuperRugby final and one can only give them credit for an unbelievable season.

They lost just one game, against the Hurricanes in Wellington, and they are the first team to win the final after flying across the Indian Ocean.

Keeping the Lions to just two tries – even with just 14 men – was a heck of a defensive effort, especially with all the flying they had to do.

But the Crusaders are a very experienced group built on a tremendous forward pack. Kieran Read, Sam Whitelock, Owen Franks and Israel Dagg, in the backline, are four world-class players and guys like Matt Todd and Ryan Crotty are really solid players too.

The Crusaders’ set-pieces were very strong and, as predicted, it was a different kettle of fish in the lineouts for the Lions, with Whitelock making some crucial steals, and they negated the lineout drive.

The Lions’ strength is built on forward dominance, at the lineout and scrum, but with four international front-rowers in their squad, the Crusaders stood up very well. They have an international-class tight five, plus Luke Romano off the bench and Kieran Read is one of the best lineout forwards in the world.

You could see how much it meant for the Lions – they really wanted to send off Johan Ackermann on a high – but the red card obviously had a huge effect.

It was the right decision by the officials, there’s no two ways about it.

The decision by Elton Jantjies to send up the high kick would have been because their ball was a bit slow, but then the chaser (flank Kwagga Smith) was sprinting and not even looking at the ball. The rule is quite clear that if you land up under the guy catching the ball – who is now in a very vulnerable position – it’s a red card.

In the Varsity Cup, there is already the rule that if the defending team catches an up-and-under and calls for the mark, then it’s a free kick, which makes teams less prone to try the high kick.

In a lot of situations, you’re dealing with specialists (the wings) doing the chasing and catching, but the problem comes when someone not used to it, it’s not their role, ends up doing the chasing or catching.

But rugby must never lose the contest for the high ball, it’s been part of the game since the 1930s in Ireland when the Garryowen was used in the rain.

If it’s a fair contest and both sets of eyes are on the ball, then all good, but Kwagga probably needed to wait until David Havili had come down before trying to tackle him.

The Crusaders were well in control at that stage, but the Lions are known for their finishing at altitude and it was 14-10 with 14 men in the second half and they were pushing hard.

Defensively, Kieran Read’s brilliant tackle on Elton Jantjies forced the turnover and a 70-metre try as the Lions ran out of width and Ross Cronje had to try and chase the wing; while Read’s own try came when Ruan Combrinck was the last defender at the goalposts, so the Lions were obviously in trouble there.

The Crusaders built up a big enough lead to force Jantjies not to kick for poles, but the Lions need to realise the importance of taking your points in finals rugby. It reminds me of 2012 with the Bulls in New Zealand when we lost 28-13 to the Crusaders in Christchurch. We outscored them two tries to one, but Dan Carter kicked six penalties and a drop goal. That’s always the right mindset in playoffs, especially at altitude because the game can change very quickly.

As the Crusaders coach back then, Todd Blackadder, used to say: “You must take every point,” and the New Zealand side certainly did that in this year’s final.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

A new maturity behind De Kock’s top-class season 0

Posted on May 26, 2017 by Ken

 

A top-class season resulted in a handful of trophies for Quinton de Kock at the Cricket South Africa Awards over the weekend, and the wicketkeeper/batsman said he is approaching his game with a new maturity that befits his evolution into one of the senior players.

“I think I’ve slowly grown up and I’m being more mature about the game now, being more clever in the way I do things and prepare. I’m going to keep trying to learn and hopefully become even better. I don’t know as much as guys like AB and Hash, they are true geniuses and they teach me.

“I’m really focusing on my batting because in the next couple of years we’re going to have to start replacing some senior batsmen and I will have a more senior role. Sometimes you just need to do things yourself and I think I’m a fairly fast learner. Sometimes it’s all about trying to read what the bowler is trying to do or reading the situation,” De Kock said after he was named the overall Cricketer of the Year.

“To get all these individual accolades is nice, it feels good, but being able to just change the momentum or do something to keep the momentum for your team is the ultimate.”

The ICC ODI Cricketer of the Year is now off to England to try and help the Proteas to Champions Trophy glory. Although South Africa go into the tournament as the number one ranked side, suggesting they have the inside lane to success, De Kock downplayed expectations.

“We have a lot of backing at every ICC tournament, it seems whenever we go into a big tournament we’re always the favourites, but we don’t want to say too much about that. We don’t want to be the favourites, we just want to go and do our best, take it game-by-game,” De Kock said.

In addition to the main award, De Kock was also named Test Cricketer of the Year and ODI Cricketer of the Year, was honoured by his peers by being named SA Players’ Player of the Year and by the fans as the SA Fans Player of the Year.

De Kock scored 761 Test runs last season at an average of 54.35 and 805 ODI runs at an average of 50.31 and a strike-rate of 115.

 

Why such negativity in the season of hope? 0

Posted on December 20, 2016 by Ken

 

This is the season of hope and our cricketers have certainly given cause for much optimism for the rest of the summer, and yet there are still people spreading negativity about the game in this country.

It started up again when Keaton Jennings, son of former Transvaal Mean Machine great Ray, made a century on debut for England against India last week. The South African-born expat is 24 years old and has been playing for Durham since 2012.

Following his brilliant 112 in the first innings in Mumbai, the nonsense talk started about Jennings being ignored by the South African system, without honour in his own land, if you like, with “quotas” receiving their normal share of the blame.

Just to set the record straight, young Jennings was the captain of the SA U19 team in 2011 and made his first-class debut for Gauteng later that same year. So Jennings was in the system, playing in the same side as Quinton de Kock at that stage, but to expect him just to waltz into the Highveld Lions team ahead of players like Alviro Petersen, Neil McKenzie, Temba Bavuma, Stephen Cook and Zander de Bruyn would have been naïve.

So Jennings was not denied fair opportunity, he merely made a personal decision, good luck to him, and it in no way reflects badly on Cricket South Africa.

The other bizarre negativity at the moment surrounds AB de Villiers’ selfless decision to give up the Test captaincy.

From being the blue-eyed boy of South African cricket, suddenly certain people are reading all sorts of sinister motives and reasons into De Villiers’ decision. It’s disgraceful that aspersions are now being cast on the honourable Faf du Plessis and his long-time friendship with De Villiers.

The person crying foul the most has been Fanie de Villiers, but then he has had an axe to grind with South African cricket for some time, and is persona non grata around the Proteas so he doesn’t really know what is going on inside that camp.

Sit down Fanie and follow the wise advice that says: “If you don’t have anything nice to say, rather don’t say anything!”



↑ Top