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Ken Borland



Provided with decent support, our sportswomen flourish 0

Posted on August 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Women’s sport has always taken the back seat in this macho country of ours, but the last 10 days have shown just how much can be achieved, and how much joy our female sports stars can bring us when they are provided with decent support.

The Proteas women’s cricket team are the obvious example and one could only salute a magnificent effort when they were pipped by eventual champions England in their World Cup semi-final, which was one of the classic games of the tournament as the hosts and favourites were so nearly undone by the tenacious underdogs.

Our national women’s cricket team have become the most-improved team in the game thanks to the wonderful support they have been given by Momentum and Cricket South Africa. Many young girls will have been inspired by their efforts and it is vital that the momentum created by their exploits is not lost.

The national women’s hockey team have just finished a global tournament of their own in the Hockey World League, which will go down as yet another international showpiece sporting event that we have hosted with aplomb.

Unfortunately, South African hockey does not have the same sort of backing as our cricketers, and it still sticks in the craw to see Investec, founded in Johannesburg in 1974, emblazoned all over the England team. But they have arguably more female talent than even the cricketers do simply because it has been ‘acceptable’ in our misogynistic society for women to play hockey for far longer than it has for cricket.

They showed that they have the ability to consistently be in the top-10 in the world rankings by finishing fifth in the Hockey World League Semifinals, pulling off a memorable win over eventual champions, the United States, as well as beating Ireland and Japan and finishing above India in the final standings. They also qualified automatically for the World Cup.

The obvious enjoyment they get from playing alongside each other, their tremendous team spirit, is one of their greatest assets, but sadly, it was obviously lacking from the men’s team, who managed to avoid relegation but did not win any other games.

Again, South Africa has the male talent to push for a top-10 place, with several of our players sought-after members of overseas clubs, which enables them to escape the poor economic prospects of an amateur sport in this country.

But it is this split-nature of the team – made up of locally-based and overseas-based players – that is causing problems, just as it did with Springbok rugby. According to players who are part of the expanded national squad, the environment in the camp is “hostile” and this threatens to scupper any hopes of our men’s team recouping the losses they have suffered over the last few years of neglect.

Sure, hockey overseas is more professional and better, but the returning players need to realise their job is to lift up their team-mates who are still slogging it out back at home, not belittle them. The team culture is non-existent, with some stars apparently staying in their own hotels, and it is up to the senior players to set an example.

Apart from results, there has been one casualty already with coach Fabian Gregory resigning to take up a position overseas. He says he battled to get his ideas through to the team, that he had a hard time dealing with certain “know-it-all” players.

The senior players, apparently, found it hard to take Gregory seriously as a coach, especially those who are based overseas.

So a new coach will have to be found before the Africa Cup in October – which will be crucial for World Cup qualification – and, hard as it will be for some absolute stalwarts of South African hockey, the time seems right to make a new start with the men’s team, who are really rather old in global terms.

My new broom would be Garreth Ewing, who was one of Gregory’s assistants at the Hockey World League, and I have been highly-impressed by the work he has done with both the SA U21 and University of Johannesburg sides, both in terms of the brand of hockey they play and the team culture he has grown.

Lions battling against victims of own success sporting law 0

Posted on June 07, 2017 by Ken

 

It is almost a law of sport that teams can become victims of their own success in terms of competitors trying to lure a franchise’s star performers away, and the Highveld Lions are currently going through an unsettled period marked by the departures of key internationals Temba Bavuma and Eddie Leie, as well as their general manager, Heinrich Strydom.

But it could have been a lot worse because CEO Greg Fredericks reportedly tendered his resignation as well, but the board did not accept it and managed to convince the popular former MP to continue in his role, thus avoiding another major blow to a union that also lost several experienced players to matchfixing bans at the start of last season.

Fredericks did not want to comment on his alleged resignation, but told The Citizen, “I had an offer which I turned down. My job here is not done.”

Strydom, who was also the CEO of North-West Cricket, has been appointed as the new chief executive of the Dolphins franchise and the Lions have been forced into a time of change, which they are trying to manage as best they can.

There has also been speculation that Cricket South Africa want to groom Lions coach Geoff Toyana for greater things by appointing him as one of the Proteas’ assistant coaches, which would be another blow to the franchise.

“Geoff has just renewed his contract with us for another three years. But if anything happens, we obviously do have succession plans and one or two individuals in mind. We are also advertising for a batting coach at the moment,” Fredericks said.

“The board has expressed concern, however, over the performances of the Highveld Lions and the Gauteng Strikers over the last season, and a committee led by David Terbrugge will investigate and come up with proposals. But the team lost Alviro Petersen and Neil McKenzie, and that experience you can’t replace overnight. People might not also know the important roles of players like Kagiso Rabada, Thami Tsolekile, Pumi Matshikwe and Lonwabo Tsotsobe.

“Heinrich was also a huge asset for us, but we are very happy for him. He’s a very hard-working person and we will miss him. But if our pipeline is strong, then we should be able to replicate our previous successes, it’s about ensuring our character and culture stay strong,” Fredericks said.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170525/282119226487652

Quotas are the fees CSA must pay for political support 0

Posted on April 14, 2017 by Ken

 

One way of thinking of quotas is as the fees sports bodies must pay to the minister of sport for political support, so the great news that Fikile Mbalula and his circus have been removed from sport creates a new dynamic.

Of course, rational sports fans and true patriots will be treating the appointment of Thulas Nxesi as the new minister of sport with some caution. Judging by his obfuscation of the Nkandla issue during his previous role as minister of public works, he seems to struggle with figures and the quota calculations used in cricket might be a challenge for him.

Ironically, Cricket South Africa actually presented a report on their transformation successes to parliament’s sports portfolio committee this week and they managed to meet their targets with a bit of wriggle room.

Over the last international season, the Proteas were meant to provide 161 playing opportunities for players of colour and 54 for Black Africans, and they have surpassed those quotas by a percentage point or two.

So the system seems to be working at international level and has been met with approval by coach Russell Domingo and the players, who are probably most grateful for the fact that they now know exactly where they stand.

But our domestic cricket is also vital as the feeder to the Proteas and the different system of quotas used here has certainly detracted from the quality of fare on offer. Not so much in terms of the players not being good enough to play at that level, but rather because of the imbalances caused by having a hard-and-fast rule of five Whites and six players of colour, three of which must be Black Africans.

The Momentum One-Day Cup final was played in Centurion on Friday between the Titans and the Warriors, an exact repeat of the CSA T20 Challenge final.

In the T20 final, the Warriors were unable to play their leading wicket-taker, Andrew Birch, because the quota and the need to balance the side dictated that either he or Kyle Abbott would play, but not both. Similarly, the Titans went into the 50-over final without two of their key players – leg-spinner Shaun von Berg, their most successful bowler, and all-rounder David Wiese, an international and potent force in limited-overs cricket. That’s due to the return from Proteas duty of Tabraiz Shamsi and Chris Morris.

To prevent these occurences, which clearly detract from the occasion of a final and bring the whole system into disrepute, why are the franchises not allowed a package deal just like the Proteas? Why can’t their transformation successes be measured as a total figure at the end of the season? Then playing their best team in a final is possible, as long as they have concentrated on ensuring they are ahead of the transformation curve in the regular season.

It’s funny how quickly solutions can be found when money is the issue. Cricket South Africa’s new T20 Global League has a focus on securing foreign investment and the sport’s governing body has realised that team owners are going to want to pick their teams strictly on merit, or else they will take their money elsewhere.

And so it seems there will be no quotas or transformation targets in that competition. Moral principles and the need to redress the past have all suddenly flown out the window because of money. But CSA would certainly be speaking the same language as Mbalula and his successor Nxesi in that regard.

Are our national team or our professional franchises so unimportant that they don’t deserve the same consideration?

I know a week is a long time in sport, but … 0

Posted on March 20, 2017 by Ken

 

I’ve always known that a week can be a long time in the world of sport, but I go away for eight nights to the bush of northern Limpopo and return to find rugby’s entire landscape changing with indecent haste compared to the months of feet-dragging that often characterise a game that has been presided over at some stages by dinosaurs or the old farts of the straw-chair brigade.

One of the changes I saw coming before my departure. I always love unintended consequences and it was former Springboks and Bulls defence coach John McFarland who pointed out to me that the rulemakers’ new emphasis on keeping tackles lower, away from the head and shoulders, was at least partly responsible for the sudden rash of offloads we have seen from the South African teams, who have traditionally preferred taking contact and winning some hard-earned, psychologically-meaningful centimetres.

So it’s not just a mindset change amongst our franchise coaches and players, but also that tacklers are now being forced down below the arms, allowing the hands to be free to keep the ball alive.

Time will tell whether that more skilful approach is carried through to the Springboks, but the national team has already had better preparation than last year with a camp and they look better resourced too in terms of coaching staff.

One of those additional resources is Cheetahs coach Franco Smith and it may be just as well that he has earned a promotion because he might be out of a decent Super Rugby job next year. If we believe what the New Zealand media tell us, then the Cheetahs as well as the Southern Kings will be axed from Super Rugby under the new, hopefully improved format for 2018 that is yet to be unveiled.

Harold Verster, the CEO of the Cheetahs, cheerfully told the world though that he keeps his “ear to the ground” and that the rumbling noise he hears is not a rampaging stampede of buffalo at all, but the sound of the Grey College-Free State-somewhere else in the country pipeline running smoothly. He says the Cheetahs are safe.

You cannot be nearly as optimistic about the Kings, however. They would seem to be sitting ducks as not only are they struggling on the field but they are a financial drain on the South African Rugby Union and money always shouts loudest when it comes to administrators, like politicians.

Speaking of politicians, you cannot escape the irony that Cheeky Watson, the self-proclaimed messiah of transformation, has now left Eastern Cape rugby and has done more damage to the nursery of Black rugby in our country than anything since a Nationalist government functionary.

If you called him a blood-sucking tick you would probably be understating his effect. The man has been a full-blown parasite on the game in that vulnerable region, more like the deadly malaria protozoans that kill half-a-million people a year in sub-Saharan Africa.

Later this year, the British and Irish Lions tour New Zealand in what should be the rugby highlight of 2017, but this type of proper tour probably won’t become more common given the news this week that a new global rugby calendar is being introduced. Coming into effect in 2020, it has reducing player workload as one of its main tenets.

Tours by northern hemisphere teams to the southern hemisphere will be pushed back to July, but this will allow Super Rugby to be completed in one fell swoop from February to June. This is a good thing and will come into effect in 2019, because that is a World Cup year.

The 2023 World Cup is another story of course, with South Africa seemingly ranged against France and Ireland for the right to host the tournament. If you can believe what came out of sports minister Fikile Mbalula’s mouth this week, then government is now backing the bid.

Then again, Mbalula might just have been trying to distract from the fiasco that was Durban’s Commonwealth Games bid. The chairman of that bid was Mark Alexander, the president of the South African Rugby Union, but that’s a story for another day.



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