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Ken Borland



SA rugby needs decency more than anything else 0

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Ken

 

In terms of rugby, the New Year is all about finding answers to the question “What is wrong with South African rugby?”, but two incidents in the last month show that, perhaps more than anything else, some of our players and administrators have to ditch their self-serving attitudes and get back to the old values of the game that were rooted in common decency and humility.

The recent actions of the Western Province Rugby Football Union and current Springbok player Johan Goosen suggest the problems are more about individuals being rotten to the core rather than structural issues.

Let’s start with Goosen and I’m not going to say anything more about his on-field performance than my feeling he has flattered to deceive, although the fact that he never had a start at flyhalf is a mitigating factor.

But his tawdry actions in trying to get out of a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, that he only signed a few months ago and that netted him €500 000 a year until 2020, indicate this is a man of scant integrity and someone who clearly does not put team ahead of self.

A couple of weeks ago Goosen announced his retirement from rugby at the age of just 24, following one of his more injury-free years and his return to international rugby, saying he was going to become commercial director of a Free State based agricultural company.

Of course no one is really going to believe that and his name has since appeared on a Cheetahs training squad list and it has since been said that Goosen is ultimately going to Gloucester, once Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad becomes the English club’s majority shareholder.

With flagrant disregard for any ethical considerations, Goosen has taken advantage of a loophole in French labour law which makes all fixed-term rugby contracts temporary. Hence a player can be released from his contract without penalty if he finds fulltime employment – ostensibly Goosen’s dubious “commercial director” job.

The actions of Western Province rugby are just as cynical and what little faith their loyal supporters had in their administrators must now have almost totally dissipated.

They had applied for liquidation of the business arm of WP Rugby and then, just a day after that was granted by the Cape High Court, the Western Province Rugby Football Union announced that the insolvent company had been bought by one of their other companies.

Having put Western Province rugby into financial strife, the likes of president Thelo Wakefield and CEO Paul Zacks are glibly trying to slip through a loophole in thoroughly dishonourable fashion to evade their creditors, most notably with sponsorship company Aerios.

And these are the calibre of administrators that have been put in charge of one of the most legendary brands in rugby?!

Goosen has surely played his last game in the Green and Gold because people of such deviousness really should not be representing our country. He should also not be allowed to play Super Rugby and the Springbok coach must ensure his players will make the nation proud, not embarrass us on an international stage; the good of the game must come before the avaricious accumulation of individual wealth.

Wakefield must also surely fall on his sword. This is not some village rugby team he is mishandling, but one of the proudest rugby legacies in the world, whose fans should be feeling deeply humiliated.

Bulls & Lions get their waggle on 0

Posted on August 03, 2016 by Ken

 

Social media was overflowing with praise for the Hurricanes and the Crusaders after their enthralling match in Wellington on Saturday morning, but the Bulls and Lions showed that evening at Loftus Versfeld that South African sides can also put on a show and both Victor Matfield and Johan Ackermann were waggling their metaphorical fingers at all the prophets of doom over the strength of local rugby.

The Bulls edged out the Lions 35-33 in a scintillating match in which seven tries were scored, several of them dazzling efforts using the width of the field and featuring superb offloading skills and vision.

“I saw the Hurricanes play the Crusaders this morning and I thought ‘what a great game’. But people must have enjoyed this game too, there was a lot of width and ball-in-hand rugby. New players are standing up in South African rugby and I’m sure the senior guys will start hitting their best form too towards the end of Super Rugby,” Bulls captain Matfield said after the win which returned his side to the top of the South African Conference.

“I think we have a different physicality when it comes to the rucks and scrums here in South Africa, whereas it’s more of a free-for-all when they play each other in New Zealand. They have a different mindset over there, the defences aren’t so tight. I still believe the best South African players compare to theirs and especially when you put them in a Springbok jersey,” Lions coach Ackermann said.

The Bulls started the game in exhilarating fashion playing the sort of rugby usually associated with the free-spirited Lions and coach Frans Ludeke said he was delighted with the first half, which ended with the home side 25-13 up.

“The first half was almost perfect and we had those attacking shapes Victor’s been chasing, we were accurate and really put them on the back foot. Getting momentum on the gain-line really helped and Victor has worked really hard on keeping the players on their feet and making good decisions,” Ludeke said.

But the Lions totally dominated the third quarter to snatch a 26-25 lead in the 54th minute and Matfield said the pressure was then really on his side.

“We started well, playing the way we wanted to – with width, but after the break we made mistakes and that put us under pressure. We showed great character to fight back and get the momentum back and I was very happy about the team’s will to win,” the veteran lock said.

Matfield mentioned “needing magic from someone” to get the Bulls out of their hole and that someone was replacement Pierre Spies, who sparked the move that ended with him powering through several tackles to score and regain the lead.

Ackermann bemoaned mistakes that cost his team but was pleased with their overall performance and contribution to a great game of rugby.

“All I ask is for them to play with their hearts and they did. I’m willing to lose if the passion and commitment are there and credit to the Bulls, especially for that first half. They punished every mistake we made,” Ackermann said.

 

The most memorable performance by a fast bowler 0

Posted on August 01, 2016 by Ken

 

The thrilling Kagiso Rabada stole the show at the CSA Awards this week by claiming most of the trophies for himself with the same ruthlessness he displays in targeting the batsman’s wicket, but the most memorable performance by a fast bowler, for me, came the night before at the 25 Years of Unity celebration when Vincent Barnes spoke movingly about the challenges he had to face as a cricketer whose career was ruined by Apartheid.

Barnes is currently the high performance manager for Cricket South Africa, having previously served for many years as the national team’s bowling coach. But he was also arguably the greatest cricketer in the non-racial ranks during the decade before 1991’s formation of the United Cricket Board and the return to international cricket.

The pitches were notoriously poor on their side of the divide – the Apartheid government certainly wasn’t bothered with providing facilities for the majority back then – but Barnes’ figures stand head and shoulders above everyone else in his generation: 323 wickets at an average of just 11.95!

The injustices of Apartheid meant Barnes had to work doubly hard just to play cricket and the passion he has for the game overcame the fact that there was no higher outlet for his talents. But the 56-year-old has seldom spoken of those frustrations – unlike some of the privileged set who were denied international cricket due to isolation – and instead focused on passing on his knowledge to the new, unified generation of South African cricketers.

The greats of White cricket were also acknowledged at the celebration, but it was Barnes’ story of overcoming the odds which was the most poignant for me.

As good as the awards dinner was the next evening, the shadow of sports minister Fikile Mbalula’s enormous ego and Donald Trump-like “leadership” did hang over it a bit for me. I am sad that Cricket South Africa’s response to the increase in pressure from the sports minister for a faster transformation pace, purely intended to put the spotlight on himself in this election year, has been to kowtow to a man who is all bluster and no positive action.

First we had HD Ackerman shamefully removed from the hosting duties because he is taking up a job in Australia (Derek Alberts did a fine job standing in), and then the announcement that quotas will be formally introduced at national level. At least that ends the dishonest sham that resulted in disasters like last year’s World Cup semifinal.

As if to really drive home the point that CSA have worked harder on transformation than any other code, Rabada then takes home half-a-dozen awards.

What was miserable Mbalula’s response? – a tweet that read “Congratulatons! Kagiso Rabada, I sincerely believe you not gonna disappear after being used like all others who came bfo”.

 

Lions show they can win well without the ball 0

Posted on July 23, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions had to show they are able to win without the ball and they did that to impressive effect at Ellis Park on Saturday night as they beat the Crusaders 42-25 in their SuperRugby quarterfinal.

The Lions probably only enjoyed about 40% of possession and territory, but their defence was superb and they showed a ruthless streak when they did have the ball, clinical finishing giving them five tries.

It was one-way traffic in the first 10 minutes though as the Lions scored two tries to settle their nerves and give them a 12-0 lead which the Crusaders chipped away at, but could never entirely eliminate.

After flank Warwick Tecklenburg had barged over the advantage line, scrumhalf Faf de Klerk made a good decision to go left and wing Courtnall Skosan showed lovely footwork to step past a couple of defenders and then race away from the halfway line for a superb second-minute try.

De Klerk was once again prominent in the Lions’ second try five minutes later as he intercepted a pass and led a breakaway from their own territory, Skosan loomed up in support and was stopped just short of the tryline, illegally, leading to a penalty.

Sensing blood, the Lions kicked to touch and got the rolling maul going and this time there was no avoiding a yellow card for the Crusaders when they sacked it illegally, lock Luke Romano being sent off the field by referee Craig Joubert.

That penalty was also kicked to touch and, a couple of phases after the lineout, bulldozer centre Rohan Janse van Rensburg went over for the try.

Elton Jantjies converted and seven minutes later he added a penalty after De Klerk had linked well with his forwards and backs and decoy runners had caused some confusion in the Crusaders defence.

The Lions were 15-0 up but they spent most of the second quarter pinned in their own territory and having to defend courageously, making tackle-after-tackle, to keep the Crusaders out.

While the visitors showed excellent ball-retention, most of the Lions’ problems were related to their poor tactical kicking and not getting enough distance on their clearing kicks.

Flyhalf Richie Mo’unga kicked a 19th-minute penalty and the Crusaders eventually made their territorial dominance count in terms of tries when another telling dart by wing Johnny McNicholl, who had been a handful on attack, led to outside centre Ryan Crotty dotting the ball down on the side of the post.

Mo’unga’s conversion closed the gap to 15-10 and the momentum was certainly with the Crusaders.

But the Lions brushed aside the difficulties of the last half-hour, a power scrum winning a penalty, which was again used to set the rolling maul, from which hooker Malcolm Marx scored.

Jantjies converted and the Lions were far more comfortable on the scoreboard – 22-10 up – than they were in reality at halftime.

But the Crusaders are a skilful side good at building pressure and they kept the ball through multiple phases at the start of the second half, trapping the Lions offsides and earning Mo’unga another penalty (13-22).

The Lions are perhaps too reliant on De Klerk using clearing kicks from the base, which are inevitably going to be more like an up-and-under than a long, raking touchfinder, but when Jantjies did manage to kick long and force the Crusaders back for a 22 drop out, it led to a penalty advantage and the flyhalf slotted a neat drop goal for the Lions to rebuild their lead.

The Crusaders were disappointed with the penalty count against them and they gave Jantjies another shot at goal in the 61st minute, the Lions getting front-foot ball as Janse van Rensburg crashed through the advantage line yet again.

The kicking game of the Crusaders was much better than the Lions’ and it earned them their second try when fullback Israel Dagg put pressure on the home side trying to field an up-and-under, the ball went loose and was tidied up by Mo’unga. He made it inside the Lions’ 22 before feeding replacement scrumhalf Mitchell Drummond for an easy run-in.

Mo’unga’s conversion made it 20-28 and the result was obviously back in the balance with 17 minutes remaining.

But the surprise substitution of the outstanding Janse van Rensburg brought immediate rewards. His replacement Howard Mnisi put outside centre Lionel Mapoe away with a sublime first touch, the Springbok incumbent racing through and then showing good composure to wait for the arrival of wing Ruan Combrinck in support. The power finish of the new international completed probably the try of the match.

On a special evening for the Lions, it was fantastic that some of their unsung heroes like Mnisi, Skosan and Tecklenburg produced some of the biggest plays.

Mnisi was in the thick of things again just five minutes later as his big tackle on McNicholl led to a turnover, which was sent wide, Mapoe chipping infield and replacement scrumhalf Ross Cronje getting to the ball first and then fighting his way over the line.

Unfortunately, he injured himself in the process and his fitness is a concern for next weekend’s semi-final at Ellis Park.

With Jantjies’ conversion making it 42-20, the Lions no longer had to worry and an attempt to run the ball in their own 22 instead gave the Crusaders a consolation try through replacement flyhalf Ben Volavola.

But the Lions were convincing winners and by beating the seven-time champions and playoff experts, they have marked themselves as strong contenders for the title.

If they are as clinical on attack and as determined in defence as they were against the Crusaders, it would be silly to bet against them in their home semifinal next weekend.

 

 

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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