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Ken Borland



Ackers deserves enormous credit & support 0

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Johan Ackermann deserves enormous credit for the way he has transformed the Lions team over the last five years but he also deserves the public’s support for the tough decision he has made to further his career overseas with Gloucester.

Coaches always have a shelf-life with a team and guys like Alex Ferguson or Ian McIntosh staying for many years at one club are the exception rather than the rule. Ackermann has been the provider of so much to the Lions – rebuilding their culture after their morale was shattered during the John Mitchell years; up-skilling them such that they now lead the way in South Africa when it comes to the most progressive brand of rugby; helping to build Springboks who will surely do the country proud if trusted by Allister Coetzee in future; and giving them steel, not only up front amongst their highly impressive pack but also in the way they are now able to win the tight games, as they did against the Sharks last weekend.

So who can begrudge Ackers the chance to advance his own career a bit?

There is no doubt the 46-year-old would never be wrenching himself away from his Lions family and the Ellis Park supporters – the way he broke down while making the announcement of his departure makes this clear – unless he believed a move was essential to further his own highly-promising coaching career.

Ackermann has rightly been spoken of as a future Springbok coach, but there is no top-level international coach at the moment who has been employed in just one country. Steve Hansen coached Wales before joining the All Blacks staff; Eddie Jones was involved with the Australian, Japanese and South African sides before rejuvenating England; Michael Cheika coached Leinster and Stade Francais before getting the Wallabies job; Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi who coached in France before taking over Ireland, and Scotland coach Vern Cotter has the same story.

As brilliant as Ackermann has been, he has no real experience outside of coaching the Lions to a Super Rugby final and one Currie Cup crown. It can only be good for South African rugby that one of its most promising coaches spreads his wings and enjoys new horizons.

There also should be no panic at Ellis Park with the departure of their much-loved coach. As far as a replacement goes – the successor will take charge for the Currie Cup later this year – there is no need for the Lions to look further than what they already have.

The fact that the Lions have someone like the highly-rated Swys de Bruin – who has done well as a head coach before with Griquas and will undoubtedly build on the legacy of the last five years, providing great continuity – means president Kevin de Klerk and CEO Rudolf Straeuli, who have both also played key roles in the Lions’ resurgence, can kip easy when it comes to Ackermann’s successor.

Their structures are clearly in good nick – part of the wonderful legacy Ackermann has left – with both their U19 and U21 teams winning their respective provincial championships last year, so if someone has to move up from that level it should not be so high an elevation as to cause a ricked neck.

In fact, Straeuli used the terms “continuity” and “stability” several times while responding to questions about the road forward for the Lions, so it is not unreasonable to expect De Bruin, JP Ferreira (defence) and Ivan van Rooyen (conditioning) will continue in their roles and have more responsibility.

For those who believe Ackermann has turned his back on the Springbok coaching job, it seems clear that both Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus are in his way for the foreseeable future.

The SA A job is an indication that he is somewhere on Saru’s radar, and he is still willing to coach the second-stringers when SuperRugby breaks for the mid-year internationals, but new challenges and experiences await overseas and it is exciting to think just how good a coach Ackermann will be when he returns to these shores.

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170408/282621737571662

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?

Coetzee rides wave of home support to win Tshwane Open 0

Posted on January 01, 2016 by Ken

 

George Coetzee rode a wave of huge home club support to shoot a five-under-par 65 and win the Tshwane Open by one stroke in a thrilling final round at Pretoria Country Club yesterday.

Coetzee began playing golf at the Waterkloof course and won his first tournament there as a 10-year-old, so the genial 28-year-old had plenty of support as he edged out Jacques Blaauw, who fired a tremendous 61, with a birdie on the 17th hole.

“I loved the fans, when I was growing up you dream about playing in front of galleries like that and the crowd just seemed to get bigger and bigger. There were hundreds of people following our group and I recognised a lot of them. I never thought, as a kid, that I’d be playing a European Tour event at my home club, so it’s unreal to win here,” Coetzee said after finishing on 14-under-par 266.

Coetzee was one of six golfers who shared the lead after the third round, but with Craig Lee (70), Adrian Otaegui (71), Wallie Coetsee (76), David Horsey (73) and Trevor Fisher Junior (75) all fading away in the final round, it was left to Blaauw, who teed off an hour-and-three-quarters before Coetzee, to set a target with a blistering round that included four successive birdies from the sixth hole and two-in-a-row to finish.

In the end it came down to whether Coetzee, who had picked up four birdies in five holes from the sixth to catch Blaauw on 13-under, could gain one more shot in the closing holes, or alternatively falter as he pushed too hard.

But that’s where home course knowledge kicked in and Coetzee showed great temperament. The crucial shot was his second on 17 after he hit his driver well right, between the trees, but a delicate, skilful chip left him with a five-foot putt for birdie.

“I had a good game plan mentally and I was waiting for 17, which is usually a birdie chance. It didn’t happen exactly how I wanted, but I know there are gaps between the bunkers there. Today it was about mixing aggressiveness with cleverness and I was very happy with my ball-striking, I was loving my driver. Most of my wins have been due to my putting, so it was nice for my ball-striking to come through today,” Coetzee said.

Not allowing his hand to be forced was crucial for Coetzee and he showed similar patience at the start of his round when he reeled off five straight pars before a monster-drive at the sixth set up his first birdie.

“I’ve played those first three holes a thousand times and they’re probably the trickiest on the course, and then the fourth they made a par-four this week. So that’s not where I wanted to make my charge, it’s easy to drop shots there, but I knew when I stepped on to the sixth tee that it was time,” Coetzee said.

Being able to deliver the goods under pressure also means the changes to Coetzee’s game, which includes simplifying his pre-shot routine again, are bearing fruit.

South Africans Dean Burmester and Tjaart van der Walt both shot three-under 67s to join Lee in a tie for third on nine-under, while Otaegui dropped back to eight-under to share sixth with Jaco Ahlers.

 

White armbands as EP Kings not paid again 0

Posted on October 08, 2015 by Ken

 

The Eastern Province Kings team played with white armbands in their Currie Cup match against the Blue Bulls in Pretoria over the weekend to support their fellow players and the coaching staff who have not been paid for a month, captain Tim Whitehead revealed after the match.

“We were wearing white armbands because only the 22 who played in this game have been paid and we wanted show our support for the coaching staff and the non-playing members of the squad who haven’t been paid for over a month,” Whitehead announced, unprompted, at the post-match press conference.

The Kings produced a superb first half before ultimately being beaten 48-27 by the Bulls.

The Kings team began the Currie Cup campaign having not been paid for months and went on a mini-strike in August as they had still not received their due money. The crisis continued in September but less than a week ago, the Aveng group were announced as new sponsors of the Kings.

But it is more than two months since EP Rugby president Cheeky Watson announced that the signing of “possibly the biggest sponsorship partnership for any franchise this country has ever seen” was “imminent”.

 



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