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Ken Borland



Standard Bank jump in at grassroots level to ensure decent opportunities for all 0

Posted on October 31, 2017 by Ken

 

That there is enormous cricketing potential in this country is generally accepted, but due to a variety of reasons, it is tough for Cricket South Africa (CSA) to ensure all our communities get decent opportunities to play the game.

CSA’s development programmes are one thing, but what happens next? How do those talented young cricketers in the outlying areas then get to play enough decent matches, how are they transported to matches, what facilities do they have with which to hone their game? Are they given the love of cricket and then just left to their own devices?

CSA identified these problems and came up with the idea of hubs and regional performance centres (RPCs).

The RPCs have been a heck of a success in ensuring it is no longer the case that talented young cricketers from disadvantaged areas are lost to the system due to socio-economic circumstances. And, in tremendous news for South African cricket, it has been announced on Thursday that Standard Bank, the headline sponsors of the Proteas, will no longer be focused on just the pinnacle of the pipeline, but are now making a major contribution at grassroots level with their sponsorship of the RPC programme.

The implementation of the RPC programme means CSA are now making great headway in terms of building relationships with communities and local municipalities. And now this progress will be accelerated thanks to the support of Standard Bank, who have added this vital development initiative to their naming rights sponsorship of the national team.

“Standard Bank has been a key supporter and sponsor of the Proteas for many years and by sponsoring the RPCs we hope to develop the immense cricketing talent we have in our country.

Budding young cricketers in many outlying areas are still in desperate need of facilities and coaching, and this RPC in Soweto will assist in helping these players fulfil their true potential and turn their dreams into reality,” Vuyo Masinda from Standard Bank said at the launch of the new deal at the Dobsonville RPC in Soweto on Thursday.

There are RPCs in all nine provinces, with each having several hubs in their stable acting as feeders. Having a centralised venue dedicated to nurturing the disadvantaged talent in the vicinity allows CSA to pour resources into it, ensuring there is adequate infrastructure with which to develop quality cricketers.

Girls and women’s cricket is also included in this programme.

The quality of coaching is also of the greatest importance and each RPC must have a head coach who is Level III certified and an assistant coach who is Level II certified. The Hubs must have a head coach who is Level II certified and an assistant coach who is Level I certified.

The feeder system for the Hubs starts with the KFC Mini-Cricket programme and, thanks to the Momentum Friendship Games, the Hubs and RPCs get to play against the leading schools in their area.

Some of the franchise players who will be acting as mentors for the programme include Omphile Ramela, Malusi Siboto, Khaya Zondo, Mangaliso Mosehle and Temba Bavuma.

The John McFarland Column: A special win for the Springboks 0

Posted on June 13, 2017 by Ken

 

It was really a quite special win for the Springboks over France at Loftus Versfeld last weekend, against a side that definitely turned up, were hard to break down and were the best French side available on that Saturday.

The match was brutal on the gain-line, there were double-hits, they smashed the Springboks and the Springboks smashed them, so it was a great Test for the home side to come through, especially with five debutants in the 23-man squad. It’s a great start to their 2017 season.

The match was in the balance at 16-14 and then came the penalty try. Given how quickly the officials made up their minds, it must have been a clearcut decision.

The Springbok attack was definitely based around getting to the middle of the field and there were a lot of tip-on passes from the forward pods, which creates indecision in the defence, one-on-one tackles and lightning-quick ball. It’s quite an effective tactic against a rush defence.

From middle rucks, sometimes the outside back-row forward would come hard off the scrumhalf, who would either play him or go behind his back to Elton Jantjies, which makes the defence sit a bit and creates space.

There was a lot of quality passing from the Springboks, which was not in evidence last year, and there was definitely more attacking understanding and ball-in-hand play.

It was great that Jantjies looked so composed, and he and Ross Cronje, who gave very slick service and was a threat around the edges, directed play well; they always had a couple of options and it created indecision in the French defence. Because Elton is the only specialist flyhalf in the squad, he’s not looking over his shoulder and he feels he has Allister Coetzee’s total backing, he can run the show. It’s the sort of thing a key decision-maker wants.

Andries Coetzee, in his first Test, showed real pace, especially in the outside channels, he showed one or two lovely touches and was willing to run the ball back from deep, he really had a go.

The ball-carries of Malcolm Marx were exceptional and the Springboks made a lot of blindside probes, guys like Marx running a hard line close to the ruck, and he bounced off defenders at will, also creating more space. When was the last time we saw such a physically dominant performance by a South African hooker?

The scrum was very compact, it looked in good shape and form and was used as a good platform. The Springboks had two very experienced props, plus with their locks and loose forwards, there was no shortage of beef behind them.

The lineout also functioned really well, Eben Etzebeth was really good, and the Springboks won most of their pressure throws. There were not many easy balls at number two in the lineout, and it’s very difficult to attack from the front of the lineout. So they were very adventurous with their lineout tactics and Marx’s throwing was spot-on.

It was also a superbly-executed try off a throw to the back, a move which was very difficult to defend against. It’s very special to score those sort of tries at Test level, so credit to the coaches, it takes some doing.

In terms of the kicking game, South Africa cleared their lines very well and were never under pressure from kickoffs, it was just one hit up and then back to Jantjies, who kicked it to halfway. In the middle areas of the field, they would drive to suck in forwards and then Cronje would kick, and there was excellent execution of that too.

It was also a very much improved defensive display from the Springboks, credit to Brendan Venter for the best defensive performance by a South African team this year. There was brutality on the gain-line, great field-coverage and, at the end of the game, their willingness to put their bodies on the line and keep the French out was tremendous.

The defence looked organised and in the French faces for the whole game, and it will only get better as the players settle into the system. What was most impressive was how disciplined they were, so France only had one penalty shot at goal.

A small area of improvement that is needed was that they became a little compressed from wide rucks and were caught a little short on numbers in the outside channels. They came off the line quite hard and if France were able to get the ball behind their first line of attackers then they did find space.

The Springboks also closed very early at fullback, Coetzee came very early into the line, which means you then rely a lot on the scrumhalf for cover. Everyone does it these days, but sometimes perhaps the fullback should not be so quick to come up.

But it was a good start for the first Test and you can see the team is much more bonded, the leadership has set the right tone. Warren Whiteley is so selfless and empathetic, as alluded to in this column when he got the Springbok captain’s job, so he is in tune with his team.

France will obviously be a different animal in Durban, especially because they have just been physically dominated. But the whole Springbok side worked so hard, to keep a Test side pointless in the last 25 minutes at altitude is an amazing effort and it speaks to South Africa having a really strong bench.

It was a really positive start and we hope for more over the next two weeks.

And good luck too to the South African U20s for their Junior World Cup semi-final. It’s going to be a really big challenge against the England U20s, but I hope they can come through.

 

De Bruyn unfazed by chilling start to his Test career 0

Posted on June 12, 2017 by Ken

 

Hamilton is by no means as far down south as you can get in New Zealand, but it is still a rather cold, desolate place to make your Test debut, especially when you’re batting out of position and have to come out and open on the first morning in the typically damp, swing-friendly conditions found in that country.

There are many who believe Theunis de Bruyn was not given the best chance to succeed in his first Test back in March, scoring a three-ball duck in the first innings and then being run out for 12 in the second after a horrible mix-up with Hashim Amla, but the elegant right-hander says he was unfazed by it all and grateful that the chance came at all.

“The message I was sent was that the selectors wanted me to play, although obviously it was out of position. But I started my franchise career as an opener and as a number three batsman you face the new ball sometimes anyway. Obviously I was disappointed with how it went, but when I get to England, which is a big series, at least I have already played Test cricket.

“So I think it was worth it. Any debut is difficult with all the emotions of your dream coming true, singing the anthems, and then immediately going in on a green pitch. So it will only get easier in terms of emotion, if I play again hopefully I can just focus on watching the ball and making runs,” De Bruyn said.

“I’ll bat anywhere for the Proteas and I truly believe I can be a good opener. People chat about me being a middle-order batsman, but in my opinion, three or four is part of the top-order and you have to adapt your game to batting at 150 for one or 30 for three. It’s about switching your mind on.

‘So I’m not fazed about my debut, you never really start where you want to in Test cricket, you have to earn that right. So I’ll play where they need me,” the successful Knights captain added.

The whole brouhaha over the 24-year-old De Bruyn’s first Test threatens to obscure the positive news that he enjoyed a tremendous season, averaging 57.76 as he led the Knights to the Sunfoil Series title.

“All this focus on my debut suggests I had an horrendous season and I know with the media here that you’re a hero one day and zero the next, it’s part of professional sport. But I left my family behind in Pretoria to play for a new franchise, I won a trophy and made runs, and in two out of three formats I made my debut for South Africa, so it was a wonderful season. And it was just my third as a professional, I’m still young,” De Bruyn, who likes nothing better than to get out into the bush, pointed out.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170603/282286730229932

John McFarland Column – What the Boks need is money & leadership 0

Posted on December 12, 2016 by Ken

 

It’s been a really poor year for the Springboks under any circumstances and nobody can hide from that, but now is the time for true leadership.

It is in times of adversity that true leadership is shown and it is time for the South African Rugby Union to bring the Springboks we all love and cherish back to their rightful place in world rugby.

They need to decide either to change direction, replace Allister Coetzee and start afresh; or back him and give him his own coaching staff going forward, allowing him to put his own stamp on the team. If they back him then they have to give him what he wants going forward.

If they decide to change direction, then they must have someone new appointed by February. The national coach needs a little time to get his systems in place and the skills program has to be continued through the year and monitored.

As for 2016, there were many changes in game plan, that was quite obvious, so I feel for the players. They also had so many different defence coaches, who would all have different ideas.

There was never any clarity on the way forward in 2016, there was very little continuity, especially in defence, which makes up 50% of the game. The biggest mistake was changing defence coaches all the time.

And then you look at the rumoured national U20 coaches, none of them have coached at the really sharp end of rugby before, even at Currie Cup U19 or U21 level. Why not appoint someone with SuperRugby experience? You need to make strong appointments in these areas, because that is the start of the Springbok pipeline, you need quality coaches at all levels. Why not appoint someone with real experience and clout and give him a four-year contract?

SA Rugby needs to put their hands up, who will take responsibility for these decisions? Where has been the leadership off the field in this time of great uncertainty in Springbok rugby? New president Mark Alexander has spoken a lot, so credit to him, but also shouldn’t the leader of Saru, who is involved in all these decisions, back his decisions?

Compare that to the situation with English Rugby Football Union CEO Ian Ritchie and Stuart Lancaster, who is an excellent coach, but Ian had the unpleasant task of firing him. He said they have to get their ship going in the right direction and they have to do what they have to do, so they appointed Eddie Jones and allowed him to choose his own assistants and management team.

I see now that Saru’s exco will have responsibility for all decisions related to rugby. It will really come down to them making the right decisions going forward.

Someone like Richie Gray, who is at the forefront of his craft, was let go and he’s now the fulltime breakdown coach for Scotland. It’s a big loss for the Springboks and you can see how well Scotland did in the November series of Tests, you can see the impact he made.

The breakdown is not just about stopping tries but also creating them because 50% of all tries are scored from turnover ball and unstructured play. So it’s about how you win the ball at the breakdown and use it.

For South African rugby, the principle thing to get right is where the money should go. You can have all the marketing you want and great structures within your company, but if your major rugby team is not successful then it all falls down. You can’t attract sponsors just to start with. The Springboks should be their major spend, they need to get that right.

In any core rugby business, the spend of budget on the team and management is normally 60%. The question must be asked: Has 60% of the budget been spent on getting the Springboks right this year and moving forward?

They’ve got the money, more than enough, their turnover is R1 billion which is a very large amount of money in any corporate business, but they haven’t shown the vision and necessary expertise in spending that money widely on the rugby front. Questions need to be asked.

There are also more than enough quality players and experienced coaches in South Africa, but most of the things that were said in the recent indaba, the previous Springbok management have said for four years – things like kicking execution, high-ball and breakdown work.

So Saru need to spend money and employ coaches to fix it and they need to work around the franchises. The franchises are very open to information-sharing and always backed the national process and way. The thing is that national coaches have to be seen around the franchises, making themselves freely available to help when and where needed.

South African rugby needs a director of rugby who is high-quality and there are enough candidates in South Africa, who have a proven record when it comes to building pipelines and structures and winning trophies.

That’s what is fantastic overseas, the interaction between the national management and the franchises, like in New Zealand and other places. England have a full-time coaching co-ordinator who coaches the coaches of the elite teams. He helps them with their professional development, it makes all their coaches better. There’s nothing like that in South Africa; here, you can win one Currie Cup and you’re the next big thing. Coaching takes time and learning, and the first port-of-call for Saru should be a support system for their top coaches.

I’ve been interested to see Dave Rennie’s name mentioned. The Kobelco Steelers, where Allister Coetzee was coach before getting the Springbok job, have a relationship with the Chiefs and Dave would spend time at Kobe as a spot-coach, where he would have developed a relationship with Allister.

As ever, contracts are a problem and Rennie has signed for two years with Glasgow, so it will cost a fair bit of money to buy him out of that and then Saru need to make it lucrative enough for him to want to come to South Africa.

Any coach worth their salt wants to coach an international team, so hopefully Saru would give the job description the weight it needs. He could be used in a whole host of possible roles, the key is getting the job specifications and expectations right.

If Allister stays on, at the end of the day he is on very shaky ground next year and there will be huge pressure on him going into the Rugby Championship. Fortunately he starts with a series against France and in June they are never at their best because their championship finishes so late and is so long. Their players are tired by June and have eased back on training.

This week will be a very important week for South African rugby, with critical decisions needing to be made and backed. The process needs to be driven by those with the real power at Saru.

Sitting in 6 degrees in Japan, a long way from the South African summer, I wish everyone a very happy and prosperous Christmas. We will resume the column in January.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland 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.

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