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Ken Borland

Markram waits patiently for his chance to join Rabada 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken


2014 Junior World Cup winner Kagiso Rabada is about to be unleashed on the international stage as he tours with the Proteas to Bangladesh, but what of his captain at that prestigious tournament, Aiden Markram?

Rated as one of the most promising young players in the country, Markram is learning the hard way that it takes much longer for batsmen to break through in the senior ranks than it does for bowlers. But the 20-year-old Northerns player is still full of optimism and says there is plenty of opportunity lying ahead for him.

“Obviously I’m happy that KG is with the national team, he completely deserves it. But it’s tough as a top-order batsman trying to play for your franchise and then your country, so I’m not concerned with my progress,” Markram told The Citizen.

The Tuks product has played 10 first-class games for Northerns, scoring 424 runs at an average of 30.28, including three half-centuries. His limited-overs returns have been more spectacular, scoring two List A centuries in five innings on his way to an average of 71.25, a strike-rate of 95.95 and a nomination for the CSA Provincial One-Day Cricketer of the Year award.

Markram was also brilliant in the T20 competition, scoring 165 runs in four innings, with two half-centuries, an average of 55 and a strike-rate of 146.

“I’ve played a lot more limited-overs cricket in my life. I have game-plans in place for those formats but in the longer format it was only towards the end of the season that I had identified a plan. So that was a big positive and I’m really looking forward to next season’s three-day competition. I don’t want to be labelled a limited-overs player, but I’m happy with the way the season went.

“In the season ahead, it would be nice to play franchise cricket for the Titans, that’s definitely a goal for me, in any format. But all I can control is scoring runs and putting myself in contention. If I’m selected, great, but if not then I want to make a big contribution for the Northerns team. I enjoy my role there and I’m looking forward to more responsibility,” Markram said.

For someone who has such a solid technique, it is surely only a matter of time before Markram makes his mark in first-class cricket, having already shown in the shorter formats that he has the measure of most bowlers in provincial cricket.

“I’d only played two three-day games in my life before this season, so it’s been a new challenge. As a top-order batsman, the bowlers are fresh and armed with a new ball, so if you get in then you must kick on. And it’s usually tough batting on day one.

“I just need to re-set myself more during my innings, make sure I get myself in properly and then just bat time,” Markram said.

For someone as talented as him, it is surely also only a matter of time before he is back playing on the same stage as his former team-mate Rabada.

Snyman & Bulls eager to avoid repeat of last year 0

Posted on October 12, 2016 by Ken


Listening to Western Province coach John Dobson talking about the Blue Bulls having all the pressure as favourites in this weekend’s Currie Cup semi-final, it reminds one of the same stage of the competition last year when the Capetonians came to Pretoria and upset the home side.

Bulls lock RG Snyman is well aware of the history and is eager to avoid the same painful result this time around.

“We were in the same situation last year playing against Western Province at Loftus Versfeld and we’d like to change what happened in that game. The way we do that is by not changing what we’ve been doing this season, we have to stick to what we’ve been doing. But the good thing is that this semi-final feels like nothing new, it’s quite a difference playing it now when we’ve all been through another whole Currie Cup season and a season of Super Rugby,” Snyman told The Citizen on Tuesday.

The Bulls have focused on an exciting brand of rugby, but they went down 23-18 to Western Province in last year’s semi-final thanks to the visitors not allowing them any platform or space to play the type of rugby they wanted to produce.

This year they come to Pretoria with a much-less hardened pack and the Bulls youngsters are all a year older and coming into their prime, most notably Snyman, who turned 21 only this year.

“Western Province have a good pack and it will definitely be a physical battle, especially in the set-pieces. But if we can dominate at forward then we should do really well. With the break we’ve had a bit more time to prepare and the team has clicked a bit better through the competition. Hopefully we’ll see that greater experience and better cohesion come through now at the end of the tournament,” Snyman said.

Springbok reserve hooker Bongi Mbonambi will be coming to Loftus, as should prop Oli Kebble and lock JD Schickerling, and the Bulls are going to have to show some real grunt up front to ensure they make the final.

Rabada explodes on to international stage & wins fulsome praise from Donald 2

Posted on July 14, 2015 by Ken

Kagiso Rabada has made the most sensational start to a Proteas ODI career since Allan Donald exploded on to the international stage when South Africa returned to world cricket in Kolkata in November 1991, and the former national bowling coach says he believes the 20-year-old prodigy is only going to get better and better.

Due to Apartheid, Donald was already 25 years old when he took five for 29 against India, but Rabada claimed the world record for best figures on ODI debut with his six for 16, including a top-order hat-trick, against Bangladesh in Dhaka.

Donald became one of the greatest bowlers the world has seen, but began his career as a young tearaway with pace to burn, but who was often erratic in terms of control. Rabada’s greatest attribute seems to be his control, at good pace, which is extraordinary for one so young.

“His overall skill just blows me away and even his control is exceptional, it’s a bit freakish. I still think he’s going to get quicker and it stands him in good stead that he’s grooving that control for when the extra pace comes later. He’s already ahead of where he should be, his rhythm is good, he’s tall, athletic and can bowl a heavy ball, and when you combine all of that together, as he grows into his body he’s definitely going to get faster,” Donald told The Citizen at the launch of the Titans’ and Nashua’s Art of Fast Bowling Programme at the weekend.

Rabada came into the national squad last summer when Donald was still the bowling coach, and the spearhead of South Africa’s return to international cricket says the St Stithians product is an absolute pleasure to work with.

“You can just sit back and watch him, his action, ability, athleticism, I don’t have a bad thing to say about him. He has a wonderful work ethic which makes a coach’s job so much easier, he wants to compete so badly and he asks a lot of great questions, which you don’t normally get from a 20-year-old. I just loved him, he’s well-grounded and full of humility as well.

“And he has a natural action, there’s absolutely no need to interfere with that. It’s clean, uncomplicated and all in sync. Are we looking at a legend? I’m pretty sure we are,” Donald said.


Bulls on top but trio chasing hard in SA Conference 0

Posted on June 17, 2015 by Ken

This year’s SuperRugby competition is just past the halfway stage and it’s clear that this season’s South African Conference winner could easily be one of four teams.

The current leaders are the Bulls, but just four points separate them from the fourth-placed Stormers and third-placed Sharks, while the Cheetahs are just a point behind.

The Bulls, Cheetahs and Stormers all won this weekend, while the Sharks lost 37-29 to the Chiefs in Hamilton, but collected a bonus point for scoring four tries.

This will be regarded as something of a success for the Sharks, especially since they were 24-0 down after just 17 minutes, and went into the match against the defending champions with several first-choice players out injured or on the bench.

And they could easily have picked up a second bonus point, were it not for a last-minute penalty conceded to Aaron Cruden.

The Bulls maintained a narrow lead at the top of the conference by beating the Waratahs 30-19 at Loftus Versfeld.

The match was a lot tougher than the scoreline suggests, but with the Bulls enjoying in the region of 60% of possession and territory they were clearly the better side, whatever sore loser Michael Cheika might have said after the game.

Waratahs coach Cheika had a full go at Argentinian referee Francisco Pastrana after the loss, which was a bit rich after his team had spent most of the match parked offsides, thereby making it much harder for the Bulls to penetrate their in-your-face defence.

But in such situations the Bulls have a tailor-made solution in flyhalf Morné Steyn and the Springbok calmly collected 25 points through six penalties, a conversion and a try. He looked like he was having a stroll in the park at times, and it was fantastic to see the hero of the 2009 season back at his best.

The Waratahs’ refusal to toe the line when it came to staying on-sides or rolling away in the tackle saw Steyn slot four first-half penalties to put the Bulls 12-5 ahead at the break.

The visitors’ only points in the first half came shortly before half-time when fullback Israel Folau tore through the Bulls’ defences for a brilliant try.

The Bulls generally did a good job in defence, but another lapse four minutes into the second half saw flank Michael Hooper bursting through and replacement prop Paddy Ryan finishing off the try to bring the Waratahs back on level terms at 12-12.

A Steyn penalty, after Ryan had kicked the ball away when miles offside, returned the lead to the Bulls 14 minutes later, but it was clear the persistent offending of the Waratahs was really starting to irk the home side. Captain Pierre Spies had a word with Pastrana, who agreed that Ryan’s offence had been cynical but did not deserve a yellow card because “he’s a front-ranker, you know”, said with a shrug of the shoulders.

The Bulls brushed off Pastrana’s leniency and a compelling mix of forward drives and sending the ball out wide saw them up the intensity on the hour mark. The Bulls were hard on attack, but former Lions star Jano Vermaak then deflected a long pass from Steyn that was intended for the man outside him, and once Folau had pounced on the loose ball, there was little doubt a try would be the outcome at the other end, flyhalf Bernhard Foley getting it.

But with Steyn in regal form and keeping the Bulls going forward, the home side scored 15 points in the last 13 minutes to clinch victory. Replacement scrumhalf Francois Hougaard, who was given a reception worthy of the mayor of Pretoria when he finally returned to action as a 53rd-minute substitute, dived over the side of a ruck to score after Steyn had been stopped just short of the line, before the flyhalf added a penalty and a try of his own.

Cheika may be upset with the referee, but he should perhaps turn his attention to the eight lineouts the Waratahs lost – Juandré Kruger and Flip van der Merwe were superb for the Bulls – and the poor goalkicking of Brendan McKibbin, who succeeded with just one of his four kicks at goal.

The Cheetahs beat the Southern Kings 26-12 but again, the match was tougher than the scoreline suggests.

The Kings had plenty of possession and enjoyed long stints in Cheetahs territory, but they did not have the skill or finishing ability of the hosts on attack.

The Cheetahs were excellent on defence and adept at creating space, and also dominated the breakdowns. Loose forwards Philip van der Walt and Lappies Labuschagne were formidable on defence and also superb on attack, and there is plenty of pace among the backs in the form of Raymond Rhule, Piet van Zyl and Willie le Roux, and turning opportunities into points was the home side’s most notable strength.

It’s always easy to criticise from the comfort of the armchair, but with that in mind, the Cheetahs really should have scored a fourth try in the last 35 minutes for a bonus point that would have put them on top of the conference.

The Stormers saw off the Hurricanes 18-16 in Palmerston North in a game also marred by lenient refereeing.

Steve Walsh should be hauled before the chairman of the referees’ panel to explain why Ben Franks escaped a yellow card, first for punching and then for twice collapsing the Stormers’ rolling maul on his own tryline in the space of two minutes, the Hurricanes having already lost one player for the same offence.

Duane Vermeulen was surely the man of the match as he put in an immense performance at eighthman, making 17 tackles and running 46 bullocking metres with ball-in-hand, the most for the Stormers.

The match-winning try came in the 63rd minute as Gio Aplon ran a fabulous line to back up Vermeulen’s charge off the back of a scrum.

Credit too must go to De Kock Steenkamp for some crucial lineout steals and captain Jean de Villiers for ensuring the Stormers were tactically astute in the way they handled the strong wind blowing down the ground. Hats off too to Bryan Habana for charging down a conversion attempt, those two points being the difference between the two sides in the end.

Sharks coach John Plumtree would have been dismayed by his team’s shoddy start and slack defending in their match against the Chiefs, but the character shown in the fightback and some of the fine attacking play would have pleased him no end.

With the Sharks 24-0 down inside the first quarter, there was fat chance of them getting anything from the game, but the seeds of their revival were sown in the set-pieces, which they dominated in impressive fashion.

Unfortunately, Keegan Daniel seemed to have forgotten this when, 15 minutes before the end of the game, he took a quick tap when the Sharks were awarded a penalty under the Chiefs’ poles, when he really should have called for a scrum, lineout or even kicked the penalty to close the deficit to just five points.

The Chiefs defence scrambled well and loose forward Tanerau Latimer got away with murder when he scooped the ball out of a ruck while on his knee. When the Sharks finally did get back on to attack and Pat Lambie kicked a penalty to make the score 29-34, there were only two minutes remaining.

Daniel then erred again when he went off his feet at a ruck and conceded the late penalty that cost the Sharks a potentially crucial point.

The Sharks also laboured under the burden of having two anonymous wings in Odwa Ndungane and Piet Lindeque, even though their attacking play was much better, forced by the massive early deficit.

Their set-pieces were also excellent, while Lubabalo Mthembu made a highly encouraging first start at eighthman.

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