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Ken Borland



Richards discovers control, looking for strong limited-overs showings 0

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Ken

 

Left-arm paceman Rowan Richards discovered the control he was missing in the second half of last season, leading to a strong showing in the Sunfoil Series which he now plans to take into the limited-overs arena for the Titans.

Richards was the leading wicket-taker for the Titans in four-day cricket with 36, but he only played half of the games in their triumphant Momentum One-Day Cup campaign, taking six wickets and conceding a shade over a run-a-ball. His one appearance in the RamSlam T20 was a disaster, conceding 55 runs in his four overs, against the Cape Cobras during the triple-header at the Wanderers that began the competition.

“At the beginning of the season, it was a struggle, but it clicked heading into the four-day games. It was just a matter of improving my action with Mandla Mashimbyi and Rob Walter [Titans coaches], to get more consistency and be able to control the swing. My goal for next season is to carry that through to the limited-overs formats,” Richards told The Citizen.

Four-day cricket certainly tests a person’s patience and range of skills and the 30-year-old showed that he is one of those bowlers who can plug away while nothing much is happening, but will suddenly get on to a streak and be unplayable.

“l enjoyed the four-day campaign. You get slow periods, it’s just dead, but you have to believe something is going to happen, even when you’re not getting wickets. If I get one, then I believe I can get three or four and that then gives you a sniff.

“Last season I was swinging the ball both ways and I was dangerous with both the new and old ball, getting a bit of reverse. Anyone can go up to a higher level, I just need to focus on my processes, build on what I do well and be consistent,” Richards said.

Those who witnessed his hat-trick on the final afternoon to beat the Warriors in Benoni or his five for 38 against the Knights in Bloemfontein will know that Richards is a left-armer the national selectors should certainly be keeping their eyes on.

 

John McFarland Column – All Blacks win not a foregone conclusion 0

Posted on October 05, 2016 by Ken

 

It’s not a foregone conclusion that the All Blacks will beat the Springboks this weekend in Durban, with the win over Australia last weekend showing that there are strengths the home side can use against New Zealand.

If you look at the team Allister Coetzee selected, it was specifically chosen to stop the opposition on the gain-line and kick their goals, and they did that. They gathered points through their set-piece and winning breakdowns at crucial times. They were far more aggressive at the breakdown and they were rewarded for it.

So the Springboks have their pride back going into the game against the All Blacks and I’m certain that they will have the mindset that they can beat the world champions. If they make a good start, if they play territory, use their set-pieces and defend well, then they have a chance.

They need to kick behind the New Zealand wings like Argentina did in the second half of their match last weekend. The Pumas managed to put them under pressure, they made them look average and won the second half.

But the All Blacks were pretty special for 20 minutes before halftime, when they turned up the pace and took their opportunities, which is always the danger with them.

It was a concern how easily Australia were able to get into South Africa’s 22, but from then on you’re up against a full line of defence, all 15 players, and it comes down to playing off nine and collision rugby. But the Springboks really defended well, they scrambled well, it’s not ideal but they still only conceded one try.

They ended up with Jaco Kriel on the wing, but they gutsed it out and got the win. When you’re playing people out of position and really scrambling, you could be in trouble, but the Springboks won some crucial turnovers.

There were many try-saving tackles and some very important steals, notably two by Adriaan Strauss. You can’t really compete at the breakdown if the other team has momentum because it’s hard then to get over the ball, but I thought Francois Louw and Strauss were immense at the breakdown against the Wallabies, and when Lionel Mapoe and Jaco Kriel came on, they used choke-tackles to turn over possession as well.

One also has to credit the Springbok scrummage for winning crucial penalties. They applied pressure at the set-piece and scored points through that.

They will not score a lot of tries as the backline is set up to chase kicks and long kicks at that.

The first thing I noticed when I came back from SuperRugby into international rugby in 2012, having worked with the Springboks back in 1999 and 2002, was that all the players are so much quicker and more powerful at that level, it really is a different game.

But the Springboks now have a backline that has been chosen to defend well, chase kicks and obviously it’s evasive having Hougaard and De Jongh, and the only real speedsters are Jesse Kriel and Habana. But Allister’s plan is obviously to have the best defenders in place and to play for territory and field position with Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie and whoever plays at nine.

Territory was still a problem though, but that’s because Australia keep the ball so well. They would attack from anywhere, even at the end when a kick downtown behind Jaco Kriel would probably have been better, they were still running from deep. They were trying to tire out the Springbok forwards, but it’s a credit to the home side that they didn’t ever slacken off.

But you don’t look back at the style or manner in which a team won, the record books will just show that it was a win.

There’s obviously a great amount of difference between playing at altitude on the Highveld and playing down on the coast in Durban. The last time the Springboks played the All Blacks at sea level at home was in 2011 when we won 18-5 in Port Elizabeth. New Zealand made many line-breaks that day but just didn’t finish, the Springboks just scrambled and kept them out, and then Morne Steyn kicked very well.

They need to do the same this weekend – kick well, use their scrum to put the All Blacks under pressure, and it’s really key that the second half and the lineouts still function well. The Springboks can’t go into the game with a defensive mindset, and in the last 20 minutes they need the bench to come on and make a difference. If it’s wet this weekend, that will also be a great leveller.

In all three of our recent close games on the Highveld the Springboks have led going into the second half.

In 2013 the Boks needed a bonus point to win the Rugby Championship, so we had to play. From a turnover, New Zealand scored just before halftime and then we had key injuries at forward. In 2014 the Springboks beat them 27-25 at Ellis Park and last year it took a moment of Dane Coles magic for the All Blacks to win, again there was a crucial turnover just before halftime. So the margins are small and the gulf is not as big as many believe.

The All Blacks are beatable at sea level and both the Highlanders, Hurricanes and Crusaders, the top three New Zealand sides, were well-beaten by South African teams in SuperRugby. So the Springboks need to go into the match with a positive mindset and play the game they want to play.

But the Springboks have scored very few tries in the Rugby Championship and had few line-breaks. They’ve constructed just one try in their last three games, the others have come from turnovers and interceptions, but it’s obviously how Allister has decided they can win games.

In the Test in 2014 against the All Blacks, which the Springboks won, Handre Pollard scored two tries by playing very flat. You really need the flyhalf to challenge the gain-line more if you’re going to score tries, but Allister has decided he wants the comfort of Morne Steyn’s excellent goalkicking and drop goals and a strong set-piece to win this game. We would all love to celebrate a Springbok victory on Saturday.

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012-15, having 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.

 

Picture looks rosy for Northerns women’s hockey 0

Posted on May 04, 2016 by Ken

 

The picture looks rosy for Northerns women’s hockey as their young side triumphed in the Senior Interprovincial Nationals at the weekend, showing impressive self-belief as they beat a star-studded, more experienced Southern Gauteng team in a shootout at the Randburg Hockey Stadium.

“We were definitely underdogs if you looked at the names on paper, Southern Gauteng are a powerhouse who have won many IPTs. But we took each game as it comes and we played very good hockey to get through the semi-finals. To beat North-West 4-0 was a very good performance and I was a bit concerned that we wouldn’t be able to reach that peak again.

“We were very nervous in the first half of the final, we showed our inexperience, but I knew if we could just keep them out then we could claw our way back. The players began to believe in themselves and put more pressure on. It was actually a blessing that we went 1-0 down because I told them ‘now we have to chase the game’.

“You can’t do all that work to get to the final and then just not play, so we began to pass the ball, be positive, and it felt like we shifted the momentum. We were winning more 50/50s, winning those one-on-one battles and we had more shots at goal,” coach Lindsay Wright told The Citizen.

“It’s very exciting and I believe it was some of the best hockey Northerns have ever played, the girls really stood up, which was wonderful. Northerns have tended to not play good hockey in the right moments, they tended to not get through semi-finals, although they were always recognised for their doggedness, their never-say-die attitude.

“We’re basically a university-based team, 90% of our players come through Tuks, so they’re all inexperienced and youthful and we rely heavily on the more experienced players. Tuks will attract more players and we have good schools, but we need to produce more locally-based players and keep them in the province, and then we will potentially build a powerhouse team,” Wright added.

Northerns are likely to lose KZN product Jacinta Jubb, their leading goalscorer, but it is certainly not doom and gloom for them. Player of the Tournament Celia Evans, in particular, is a phenomenal talent.

“Celia is one of the best players in the country right now and she is a real all-rounder, not just in terms of her hockey talent but in terms of what she gives to the team and her fellow players. She’s like Nicolene Terblanche and Kim Hubach, who have been there and done that and who constantly give to those who have less experience, which is the true sign of a very talented player,” Wright said.

Any champion side learns from their mistakes and Wright admitted that their failure to defend their title last year, when Southern Gauteng won the IPT, had been taken on board and thoroughly analysed.

Northens hockey is on the rise and the traditional powerhouses have been warned.

“The girls never gave up and their energy was fantastic. We took the lessons from last year and changed things round,” Wright said.

Hockey’s junior stars are talented & transformed 0

Posted on May 03, 2016 by Ken

 

The South African men’s U21 team played in the final of the Greenfields Senior Interprovincial Nationals in Randburg on Saturday, showing that there is plenty of young talent coming through the ranks. But they are also thoroughly transformed with eight players of colour in the squad, including six Black Africans, showing that hockey is heading away from the representivity frustrations that have dogged them in the past.

And while “quotas” is a word bandied about by the older generation, it is not a hip word when it comes to hockey’s rising young talent.

“It hasn’t been difficult at all to find players of colour for the team because these guys have come through the age-groups, they’ve played together in the U16s and U18s, where there is a heck of a lot of good quality. The core of this side have played Tests together for the SA U18s and made the Junior Olympics semi-finals with the SA U17s, both under Neville Rothman, my assistant coach.

“So there are no quota – I hate that word – players in the team. They were all born after 1995 and have played in every national team together, so there is no baggage. They say it themselves in team meetings that the colour of your skin makes no difference. There’s a very positive feeling in this squad, there’s such a positive culture,” SA U21 coach Garreth Ewing said.

The players of colour in the current squad that is beating seasoned professionals at the senior IPT are composed midfielder Tyson Dlungwana, defender Nduduza Lembethe, Ryan Julius, an elusive runner with the ball, forward Khumo Mokale, the skilful Nqobile Ntuli, pacy Tevin Kok, solid Amkelwa Letuka and goalkeeper Siyavuya Nolutshungu, and they would comfortably be playing in this IPT for their provincial sides were they not on national duty.

“Obviously we do pay close attention to the players of colour, but a lot of them are our best players. Some of them are going to be superstars. They have a long way to go, but their ability and decision-making under pressure is already so good. I can’t wait to see where they all go, six of them already have full national caps,” Ewing said.

Ewing, who has considerable experience coaching both locally and internationally, clearly likes the emphasis on bringing through players of colour that has to be there if South African hockey are to get back to where they want to be – in the upper echelons of the world game.

“What is coming through underneath shows that there is so much potential. We’re not afraid of targets, we embrace them. Things don’t happen overnight, but we’re getting there. The guys play with such joy and style, their hockey is so attractive,” Ewing said.

Most encouragingly, Black coaches are also starting to come through. The losing semi-finalists, KZN Raiders and the Northerns Blues, are coached by Sihle Ntuli and Krinesan Moodley respectively. WP Peninsula are coached by Denzil Dolley and the team they played in the B Section final, KZN Mynahs, are mentored by Sharmin Naidoo

Patrick Tshutshani is Ewing’s counterpart with the junior women, Ryan Pillay coached the Western Province women’s team and even the Mpumalanga women’s team have a Black African coach in Brighty Mshaba.

Numerous other players of colour have shone with Jermaine Johnson and Julian Hykes both playing key roles in getting Southern Gauteng into the men’s final, while Pierre de Voux of Western Province and KZN’s Mohamed Mea are two newer players that are going to have the national selectors’ eyes on them.

The story is the same in the women’s section: Southern Gauteng are going to take on Northerns Blues in the final with Sanani Mangisa their stalwart in goal and Toni Marks and Lisa Hawker two of their man threats up front.

Northerns have Mmatshepo Modipane in goal.

But there is a challenge that SA Hockey will need outside help to overcome and, as ever, it is a financial one.

“The financial challenges for the previously disadvantaged players is huge. Consider the cost of going to our world cup – and the players have to pay! My biggest fear is having to leave someone behind because they can’t afford it,” Ewing says sombrely.



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