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Ken Borland



Focus on the overseas-based players as Springbok selection draws near 0

Posted on May 10, 2017 by Ken

 

It is a rugby truism that any coach stands or falls by his selections and Allister Coetzee’s mind will be rapidly focusing on who will represent the Springboks in the three Tests next month against France, the bulk of whom will surely be invited to the final training camp from May 20-22.

And when the first Springbok squad of 2017 is selected towards the end of the month the focus will once again be on the overseas-based players. But SA Rugby, who have done their coach precious few favours since negotiations with him began in 2015, have put him on the back foot in this regard with their new ruling that, from July 1, only players with 30 Test caps can be chosen from overseas.

If Coetzee had to just choose the most in-form team from SuperRugby then a backline could run on to Loftus Versfeld on June 10 with less than 50 caps, which a coach, on as shaky ground as he is, is highly unlikely to gamble on. The form Super Rugby backline would probably be Bosch-Mvovo-Mapoe-Odendaal-Skosan-Jantjies-Cronje.

So it seems inevitable that Coetzee will call on overseas-based players, especially amongst the backs.

Jan Serfontein is on his way to France and only has 26 Springbok caps at the moment, so he will not be eligible for the Rugby Championship. Should Coetzee pick him anyway against France knowing that he won’t be part of the plans for the rest of the year?

Willie le Roux has been playing with typical enthusiasm for Wasps and is likely to be in the picture at fullback, but Coetzee will be curbing the development of Curwin Bosch by not selecting him against France and instead letting him play in another World Junior Championship for the SA U20s.

Bosch has been one of the standout players in SuperRugby and has come through the ranks having been tipped as a future Springbok star after his exploits with the SA U20s last year. He will surely be involved in the 2019 World Cup, and could quite possibly be needed during this year’s Rugby Championship, so why not get him involved now? Let him play at fullback where he will have more time to settle at senior international level.

Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar are all still playing well overseas, but the general feeling amongst rugby observers is that it is time we moved on from these superstars, particularly since none of them are likely to be around for the 2019 World Cup. Nevertheless, Coetzee is a desperate coach trying to avoid the axe, so don’t be surprised if he calls on some of these elder statesmen.

While there is probably more depth at forward, veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis is almost certain to be summoned to play the role of a general in the tight five, and playing the French at the end of their gruelling season with two of the Tests being played on the Highveld should produce open rugby and encourage Coetzee to pick players suited to a free-flowing game plan like Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Thomas du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

But the new 30-cap ruling on overseas players will also hurt Coetzee at forward. There is a hint of lawlessness in the way certain agents are shipping their players off overseas these days, so some tightening probably is necessary, but a hard-and-fast arbitrary number like 30 is not in the Springboks’ best interests.

Someone like Saracens tighthead prop Vincent Koch is playing unstoppable rugby at the moment, but he has only nine caps and is ineligible after July 1. If a couple of tightheads get injured during the Rugby Championship, how desperate will Coetzee be to select him? He may be forced to go back to Jannie du Plessis.

Ferocious flank Marcell Coetzee is in a similar position, stranded on 28 caps and currently out of action after another knee injury.

Instead of an inflexible rule, it should be left up to the national coach and Coetzee has already expressed his preference for locally-based players unless there is no viable option in a position, which is how it should be.

Hopefully the boring predictability of SuperRugby these days – those playing SuperBru will know this well – will give way to a thrilling Springbok resurgence next month, but there are numerous selection concerns for Allister Coetzee.

The rapid returns of Pat Lambie, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh to their best would help, but the lack of in-form options at scrumhalf is also an obvious worry. But let’s hope that the natural flair, tremendous tenacity and game-breaking ability of Faf de Klerk is not ignored. Not blooding Curwin Bosch will be a bad enough waste of talent.

 

 

 

Fisher Junior has excellent chance for greatest triumph 0

Posted on October 29, 2015 by Ken

 

Trevor Fisher Junior is an ex-South African Open leading amateur and he has been in strong contention in co-sanctioned events before, but he stands poised for his greatest triumph yet as he goes into the final round of the Africa Open at East London Golf Club with a two-shot lead.

Fisher Junior fired a magnificent nine-under-par 63 with seven birdies and an eagle on Saturday to vault to 16-under-par, a near-faultless display of precision golf in tricky, windy conditions.

The 35-year-old will be chased in the final round by second-round leader Matt Ford, who recovered well from a double-bogey on the par-four eighth to post a solid three-under-par 69, leaving him on 14-under for the tournament, and Jaco van Zyl, who played well but just could not sink enough putts to turn his 68 into something even better, leaving him on 12-under and four shots back.

Fisher Junior, who started the day three shots behind Ford, was off to a fast start as he birdied the first hole and then nailed a long eagle putt on the third.

The South African picked up a birdie on the eighth too, before a top-class display of golf on the back 10 saw him come home in five-under-par 34.

“It was really nice, a big surprise in fact because I didn’t think I would shoot a 63. But I just stayed in the moment and didn’t count my shots, I stayed really focused and everything just went right. I hit the ball well but I also sank some crucial putts and that’s the difference between shooting four-under and nine-under,” Fisher Junior said.

The reigning Chase to the Investec Cup champion claimed the lead when he sank a monster 65-foot birdie putt on the par-four 13th, Ford having just dropped two shots on the eighth when he found the bunker with his approach, hit his third over the green, was short with his fourth, on for five and then putted for a six.

Fisher Junior sealed the deal with three birdies in his last four holes and he said he will just go out and enjoy the experience of leading in Sunday’s final round.

“Whatever happens tomorrow, I’m going to have a smile on my face. When you’re younger, you tend to try too hard, but now that I’m more mature I realise that it’s just a game and I’m lucky to be playing it. Having kids also gives you a whole new perspective, and I’m just going to enjoy the view tomorrow,” Fisher Junior said.

The Modderfontein golfer tied for third in the 2012 Joburg Open and has six other top-10 finishes in co-sanctioned events (including a tied-fourth in the Africa Open in 2010), and when he overtook George Coetzee to win the Investec Cup and claim the R3.5 million bonus pool, it gave him the belief that he could also win on the European Tour.

“You learn from every experience but the Investec Cup was invaluable and I now know how to handle the pressure of trying to win on the final day. It’s about managing your game, where to be and where not to be. But you also have to hit the ball well and putt well,” Fisher Junior said.

Three birdies in the first seven holes had kept Ford comfortably in the lead until the disaster on the eighth, but the composure the European Tour rookie showed in rebounding from that was impressive.

“I’ve been working on the mental side for a while and it’s always good to bounce back. It was a roller-coaster round, there were quite a few emotions and I’m a bit drained now,” Ford said after his round.

“I would have taken three-under at the beginning of the round and there were more good shots than bad. Like a swan, it might look calm on the outside, but the feet are going mad underneath. But I try not to get too involved in the emotional side because you can’t play good golf with too much emotion,” Ford said.

The 36-year-old also sank an enormous putt for birdie on the 13th, but then dropped a shot on the par-four 14th before coming to the clubhouse with pars.

Van Zyl has had to beat double knee-surgery and off-course travails in the last year and has done so in amazing fashion. The only ills that were worrying him on Saturday were judging the wind and reading the lines when putting.

Like his compatriot Fisher Junior, Van Zyl started his round with a birdie at the first and an eagle on the third, but he failed to build on that, only managing to post pars before he dropped a shot at the ninth. Birdies on the 10th and 12th holes were then followed by another run of pars.

“I got off to a flying start, but then I battled to see the lines from 13 on. I was rolling the ball nicely and I gave myself lots of opportunities, but I was always wondering about the lines. Anyway, I’m really enjoying being in the mix,” Van Zyl said.

The other leading South African, Erik van Rooyen, was undone by three bogeys on the front nine and was on six-under after a 74.

Morten Orum Madsen, the 2014 SA Open champion, was the other big mover on the third day, shooting a 64 to climb to 10-under par with Jorge Campillo, John Parry and Edoardo de la Riva, but the brilliance of Fisher Junior meant the Dane was six shots off the pace.

 



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