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Ken Borland



The John McFarland Column: Let’s get real about the Currie Cup 0

Posted on November 02, 2017 by Ken

 

The Currie Cup final was a real spectacle, but it is a competition that SA Rugby really needs to sort out and it doesn’t any longer have any real bearing on Springbok selection for the end-of-year tour.

The Currie Cup staggered to the playoff rounds, when there was far more interest, but the competition cannot overlap with SuperRugby, teams can’t be playing three games in a week and we can’t have the situation we had this year with the Free State Cheetahs starting with a team on fire, winning five of their first six games, but then having to go and play in the Pro14.

SA Rugby needs to get the crowds back to the Currie Cup, it is the most traditional South African tournament and every player and coach, when they set out on their career, they want to win it. The basis of South African rugby is unions, not franchises, that’s how they run it, so the Currie Cup should be SA Rugby’s main competition.

One must commend the two smaller unions, the Pumas and Griquas, for showing how much they belong in the tournament. The Pumas hammered the Blue Bulls by 50 and Griquas beat eventual champions Western Province, and both teams gave some of the other sides real frights.

The Springboks have shown good continuity in their selection – Lukhanyo Am has been recalled after being in the squad in June, Louis Schreuder was there already and Warrick Gelant has been part of the training camps. You don’t want to keep starting again with new players and you don’t want the situation where guys have to fly in and out because of the game against Wales on December 2 falling outside the international window.

Allister Coetzee has been pretty consistent in selection this year and the players have responded because it shows the coach has belief in them, after a good run in which the only team to beat them has been the All Blacks.

Ireland, they’re first up, will be the toughest game for the Springboks on their tour, because of where they are after a stellar year, but I expect South Africa to beat France, Italy and Wales. If the Springboks can win all four tour games, it would be a very good year indeed.

Against Ireland, the Springboks will need a solid lineout and a bit of size around the field, which is why I think Pieter-Steph du Toit will be chosen as a back-row forward from now on. They will need to dominate the set-pieces and have a good kicking game on those fields. The back three will need to absorb pressure and put it back on Ireland because Conor Murray kicks 70% of the time for Munster and kicking from scrumhalf, there’s always a good chase.

The Springbok team is always chosen before the Currie Cup final so that you don’t make emotional decisions, so there are no late inclusions and no outsiders suddenly selected. International rugby is really high-pressure and you need guys who have played well consistently.

Curwin Bosch showed some great moments of class in the final, especially with his kicking game – that drop goal was particularly brilliant. But he’s been in the system since he was 16, part of South African rugby’s elite programs, flagged as a major talent. But it’s obvious he has a weakness in defence, in fact it’s his only real weakness.

This will obviously have to be worked on during the end-of-year tour, but why hasn’t it been worked on already? There are no small centres in international rugby anymore and if he’s going to play in the flyhalf channel then he has no choice – he has to fix his defence or move to fullback.

Robert du Preez certainly put his hand up in the final and I am sure he will get his chance with the Springboks. He now needs a good SuperRugby season.

In the game itself, the other big defensive lapse came when Nizaam Carr picked up against the wheel of the scrum and there was very poor defence by the Sharks flank, it was their dominant scrum but he still allowed the Western Province eighthman to get around him and set up the try.

The final showed the value of a great set-piece and forward-dominance. Western Province were completely in charge from the time their front row was dominant.

The Sharks were maybe a little over-confident after their scrum demolished the Blue Bulls in the semi-finals, but hats off to Wilco Louw and JC Janse van Rensburg.

Wilco has received plenty of deserved plaudits, but hats off to JC as well, who is a real stalwart, especially at the scrummage. Many a tighthead has come off second-best against him and he is unfortunate not to have a Springbok cap, although he did go on tour with us to Great Britain in 2012.

It was a clear turning point in the game when Western Province scored a try just before halftime, with Damian Willemse having the vision to evade Kobus van Wyk’s spot-tackle. There are always risks to rushing out like the Sharks wing did, and Western Province kept the ball for a number of phases after the break by their fullback and the try left them only five behind going into the second half, when Western Province just completely pegged down the Sharks through the dominance of their pack and set-piece.

The Sharks were probably the better team in broken-field play, they have quite exciting backs, and they got a lot of mileage from the kickoffs. That’s a basic thing, but it seems most locks in the Currie Cup were not able to catch the ball! So that’s a work-on for South African teams ahead of SuperRugby.

For the Sharks, they can still approach 2018 with some confidence. They chose not to pick the experienced Chiliboy Ralepelle in their squad for the final, and they’ll have him and Beast Mtawarira back in the front row. They’ll also have some nice physicality in the backs with Robert du Preez arriving at flyhalf and Andre Esterhuizen, Lukhanyo Am, Marius Louw and Louis Schreuder around him.

 


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.

Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve 0

Posted on August 12, 2017 by Ken

 

The Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve, in the southern Durban suburb of Yellowwood Park, is a five-star birding venue which provides a fine selection of more than 200 KwaZulu-Natal species.

Visiting on a partly cloudy, warm spring morning in October 2016, the place was alive with bird song and I knew I was in for a treat.

Because the 253 hectare reserve is mostly coastal evergreen forest and grassland, a Greyheaded Bush Shrike was not what I was expecting to see, especially since the Birds in Reserves atlasing project had it recorded on just five of 404 cards submitted through the year at Stainbank Nature Reserve.

But there the handsome Greyheaded, the largest bush shrike in Southern Africa, was, calling loudly as the morning warmed up, its trademark mournful hoot coming from a tree along a stream.

Nearby, Purplecrested Lourie, by contrast a typical bird of this area, was also calling loudly, along with Blackheaded Orioles from the tops of trees.

Searching the tops of the trees, which included many impressive Yellowwoods, proved to be fruitful in general, as well as throwing up one or two surprises. A Bronze Mannikin was all on its own on top of one tree and, deep in the forest, there was even a Kurrichane Thrush, which usually favours drier woodland, on top of a tree!

Even a dead tree was a good place for birds, with three White-eared Barbet, inevitably, on top of one. These subtropical lowlands specials are often seen perched prominently on bare branches.

There are various trails to walk along in Stainbank Nature Reserve, as well as bush tracks one can drive along, and Tambourine Dove went whizzing along one of these, while Gymnogene was also spotted soaring over the forest.

The forest is best explored on foot and a quiet stroll can lead to some lucky glimpses. I surprised a pair of Hadeda Ibis along a shady path so the hiking boots were obviously in good stealth mode!

A Southern Black Flycatcher swooped away with a caterpillar and a couple of Olive Sunbird were quite confiding as they flew out from below the leaves of the Large-Leaved Dragon Tree, a typical denizen of coastal dunes.

A Forest Weaver was moving down a tree trunk and a pair of Southern Black Tit were also quite low down in the foliage.

Sometimes just sitting quietly and waiting for the birds to come to you is also effective and a Natal Robin came to investigate while I was eating an orange.

Never mind the birds and trees, there is also a nice sprinkling of game in the Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve and a young Bushbuck was close to a herd of zebra, all feeding contentedly, to sum up a decidedly refreshing, tranquil morning.

 

Where is Kenneth Stainbank Nature Reserve?

 

Sightings list

Vervet Monkey

Yellowbilled Kite

Tambourine Dove

Plains Zebra

Blackheaded Oriole

Yellowbellied Bulbul

Bronze Mannikin

Hadeda Ibis

Gymnogene

Purplecrested Lourie

Greyheaded Bush Shrike

Forktailed Drongo

Blackcollared Barbet

Red Duiker

Southern Black Flycatcher

Impala

Olive Sunbird

Forest Weaver

Kurrichane Thrush

Little Swift

Speckled Mousebird

Cape White-Eye

Yellow Weaver

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Southern Black Tit

White-Eared Barbet

Natal Robin

Blackheaded Heron

Bushbuck

 

Dala understands the physics of his action better now 0

Posted on May 15, 2017 by Ken

 

Titans fast bowler Junior Dala has ascribed his selection for the South Africa A side’s tour of England later this month to an improved understanding of the physics of his bowling action, which has led to greater control and consistency.

Dala was one of the best bowlers in the country in limited-overs cricket last season, being the joint-highest wicket-taker in the Momentum One-Day Cup with 16 scalps at an average of only 18.68 and an excellent economy rate of just 5.29. He was also outstanding in the CSA T20 Challenge with 11 wickets at 26.63 and he was one of the key performers as the Titans claimed both white-ball titles, where there is huge pressure on bowlers to be more skilful.

“In the last two years I have made a big step up. When I first went to the Titans, I did not really know my action, but Rob Walter and Mandla Mashimbyi really coached me on that, whereas other coaches before that were just happy that I could bowl fast. But I was being found out in franchise cricket, I always felt under pressure because I did not really know what I was doing from ball-to-ball. I would try and bowl a yorker and miss by eight metres!

“But I’ve realised that I can’t just get away with being quick, at times things went horribly wrong in four-day cricket and that has taught me the importance of consistency. I’m a lot more consistent now, Albie Morkel has shown a lot of trust in me and even used me in the powerplay with the new ball. I trust myself 90-95% of the time to hit my mark now,” the unorthodox Dala told The Citizen on Wednesday.

It is a measure of how quick a learner the 27-year-old Dala is that he changed from being mostly an inswing bowler to an away-swinger this last season, simply because he felt batsmen were beginning to read him too easily.

“I sacrificed a little pace but I’m still bowling 140 with more control, and I predominantly shaped the ball away because nobody thought I could do that. Now I’m working on doing all that at 145km/h.

“You have to accept that you’re going to be hit for fours and embrace that, but I have the freedom to express myself at the Titans and then it becomes a lot easier to execute, without that fear of failure.

“I haven’t played in England before so I’m excited for that and I hope it’s a good tour with lots of wickets. Guys are getting reward for their performances in the last six months, whereas before they had to wait two years sometimes. Mark Boucher told me things can happen very quickly at that level and I must just make the most of the opportunity,” Dala, who was born in Lusaka in 1989 as his parents were in exile, said.

 

 

Positive Klaasen makes a move into Test squad 0

Posted on March 04, 2017 by Ken

 

Titans wicketkeeper/batsman Heinrich Klaasen was celebrating a first call-up to the South Africa squad for their Test series against New Zealand on Friday, convenor of selectors Linda Zondi saying a “positive presence at the crease” had played a large part in his selection.

Klaasen has looked a top-class talent since his days with the dominant Tuks Varsity team and he now follows his skipper from his student days, Theunis de Bruyn, into the Test squad as one of the back-up players, having scored 635 runs in four-day cricket this season, at an average of 48.84.

Zondi confirmed that it was a close-run thing between Klaasen and Rudi Second of the Knights, who scored 684 runs at 52.61, with the 25-year-old Klaasen being considered a closer match in terms of approach to Quinton de Kock, the player he is understudying.

“It was a very close call and it could have gone either way. Rudi is a very experienced player and is definitely not out of our plans, but we just felt that Heinrich has a positive presence at the crease, he’s tidy behind the stumps and there’s something about him.

“He’s a good striker of the ball, a fearless cricketer. We’ve watched him a lot and we feel he can play the same role as Quinton de Kock,” Zondi told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

While the presence of players such as De Kock, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, De Bruyn and Klaasen makes it a young squad, the selectors have also recalled veteran Morne Morkel, the 32-year-old who has not played a Test in more than a year.

Morkel is only two 50-over games into his comeback from serious back issues, but Zondi said they wanted some experience around to guide a young attack. Vernon Philander has played 40 Tests, but Keshav Maharaj (4), Wayne Parnell (5), Rabada (14), Olivier (1) and Chris Morris (2) have played just 26 Tests between them.

“We’ve been guided by our medical team with Morne and he’s 100% fit. We want him to play more games, but his extra experience is required, because we don’t want to be caught out if anything happens. We’re quite comfortable in terms of all-rounders, so Morne must just go there and compete, providing us with extra variety,” Zondi said.

Squad: Stephen Cook, Dean Elgar, Hashim Amla, Faf du Plessis (Capt), JP Duminy, Temba Bavuma, Quinton de Kock, Vernon Philander, Keshav Maharaj, Wayne Parnell, Kagiso Rabada, Duanne Olivier, Morne Morkel, Chris Morris, Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen.



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