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Ken Borland

Theunis de Bruyn’s selection for the Proteas is no surprise 0

Posted on December 19, 2016 by Ken


There will be a new cap in the Standard Bank Proteas squad for their three-Test series against Sri Lanka starting on Boxing Day, but the selection of Theunis de Bruyn is hardly a surprise given the 24-year-old’s amazing first three years of his franchise career.

Having scored over 500 runs for the Titans in his first two seasons of Sunfoil Series cricket, De Bruyn has continued to make progress after a move to the Knights, having already made 423 runs at an average of 60.42 in eight innings this season. He has also enjoyed a couple of prolific limited-overs campaigns, in both 50 and 20-over cricket, to suggest he is a batsman for all formats.

De Bruyn’s first-class haul of over 2500 runs at an average of 48.73 includes six centuries and an unbeaten double-hundred for SA A against the England Lions. The tall, elegant right-hander has in fact scored two centuries and two half-centuries in seven innings for SA A, another reason why his promotion to the Proteas squad was considered almost certain.

“Theunis is a good talent and has done well for both his franchise and SA A and is next in the pecking order. It’s good to get him into the set-up because we definitely see him as a future star for the Proteas, playing in all the formats,” convenor of selectors Linda Zondi said.

While the promotion of a new, young batting star to the national squad is always exciting, there will also be a tang of regret for Rilee Rossouw, who toured Australia but has now suffered yet another inopportune injury, another foot problem ruling him out of contention.

“Obviously we aren’t pleased with Rilee’s injury because he was the next batsman in line, and Stiaan van Zyl would probably also have been in line had he not signed a Kolpak deal. It’s obviously very disappointing for Rilee, I spoke to him in Australia and he really wants to do well for South Africa and was very happy with the way we backed him in the ODIs. He’s obviously an exceptional player and he will still do well in the future for South Africa and contribute immensely going forward because it’s still a long season ahead and he’s definitely still in our plans,” Zondi said.

Rossouw did not play in any of the Tests in Australia and was very much the reserve batsman on tour, and that is probably going to be De Bruyn’s role during the three Tests against Sri Lanka in Port Elizabeth, Cape Town and Johannesburg. But with AB de Villiers already ruled out and captain Faf du Plessis potentially facing a ban from his ball-tampering appeal on Monday, the Knights captain will be preparing as hard as anyone in the camp.

And that’s the positive – whether he plays or not, De Bruyn will learn plenty about the skills and mindset required at full international level.

“Even if Theunis doesn’t make the starting XI, he’s going to gain more experience and fitting into those surroundings and the culture of the team will only enhance his belief that he will be able to fit in at international level,” Zondi said.

The squad for the Sri Lanka series also features a recall for left-arm fast bowler and useful batsman Wayne Parnell, who has been in top-class form for the Cape Cobras this season. He is averaging over 30 with the bat in T20 cricket and less than 20 with the ball, at a brilliant economy rate of 6.7.

A replacement for the injured Morne Morkel and Dale Steyn, he could play a part in the Wanderers Test if the Proteas decide to go with four pacemen and let JP Duminy take the spinner’s job.

“Wayne strengthens the depth and therefore makes it a better squad. He’s an exciting cricketer with the left-arm variation he brings and he adds to our depth in batting. We’ve been hoping he would stay injury-free and dominate at franchise level, and we’ve seen that with his batting and bowling,” Zondi said.

Being on home soil, just a 13-man squad has been chosen and the starting XI pretty much selects itself after the dazzling success in Australia.

Stephen Cook, son of the legendary Jimmy, and Dean Elgar will continue as the opening batsmen taking the shine off the ball, with Hashim Amla, Duminy, Du Plessis or De Bruyn, Temba Bavuma and wiucketkeeper/batsman Quinton de Kock to follow. The bowlers will be Vernon Philander, Kagiso Rabada, Keshav Maharaj or Parnell, and Kyle Abbott.

The likes of fast bowler Hardus Viljoen and Van Zyl would have stood a decent chance of making the squad, were it not for their decision to sign Kolpak contracts for English county cricket. Although disappointed that two fine cricketers are no longer eligible for selection, Zondi said he is content there is still more than enough talent in South Africa for the Proteas to build on their recent success.

“We can’t compete with the pound and it hurts to lose quality players, but we do have depth. So I’m comfortable but not happy. Upon signing a Kolpak deal, these players make themselves unavailable, otherwise someone like Stiaan van Zyl probably would have been next in line in the batting queue,” Zondi said.

Sadly, there are going to be more high-profile South African cricketers signing Kolpak deals in the near future.

It has now been confirmed that Du Plessis will once again guide the Proteas as captain and he said he is grateful for his long-time friend De Villiers’ decision to step aside in the interests of the team.

“It just shows you the person that AB is, that he always puts the team first, and it also shows how strong the culture of the side is.

“Test cricket is for me the most enjoyable time to be a captain because you have to work on plans for a long period of time. You have to strategise on how you’re going to make sure you’re going to get guys out and continue to challenge guys over a long time.

“To finally have it now‚ as something that is set in stone‚ is a huge honour and I’ll be taking it very seriously. I’ll try and make sure that the stuff that we’ve been working on for the past six months to a year‚ that we don’t let those standards drop. If I keep pushing the guys to make sure we hit those standards, we’ll be a consistent team,” Du Plessis said.

If the Standard Bank Proteas show the same team unity and focus on executing their basics to perfection, then their fans at home can look forward to more stellar performances against the Sri Lankans.

Cobras looking to avoid last place after disrupted season 0

Posted on May 19, 2016 by Ken


While the bizhub Highveld Lions have secured their position at the top of the Sunfoil Series standings, there will be a fiercely-fought contest at the other end of the log as the defending champion Nashua Cape Cobras look to avoid the wooden spoon in the final round of matches starting on Thursday.

The Cobras, with so many representatives of both the national and SA A sides coming in and out of the team, have endured a disrupted season, but they would dearly like to beat the Sunfoil Dolphins, who are looking to hang on to second place behind the Lions, to ensure they don’t finish last.

Although their hopes of winning the four-day title for the fifth time in six seasons are long gone, the progress of players like Dane Paterson and Omphile Ramela has been a major positive.

“Obviously we’ve spoken about not finishing last, but we’ve gained some things this season in the form of people like Dane and Omphi, and they would like to finish near the top of the leading wicket-takers and run-scorers lists,” Cobras coach Paul Adams told The Citizen on Wednesday.

The depth of the Cobras has always been one of the major reasons for their dominance of franchise cricket in recent years, and Adams will use the match against the Dolphins at the Oval in Pietermaritzburg to give exposure to other players coming through like Matthew Kleinveldt, left-arm swing bowler Mpilo Njoloza and wrist-spinner George Linde.

Stiaan van Zyl is out of action with a thigh strain, but the inclusion of Dane Piedt means the Cobras have one new international returning for another.

“It’s another chance to look at a couple of players, someone like Matthew has done nicely in the three-day competition, with guys like Rory Kleinveldt, Robin Peterson and Mthokozisi Shezi having a break after the long season.

“Players like Paterson and Ramela understand their games better now and hopefully we’ll be back in the running in four-day cricket next season. Despite the results, we’ve had some consistent players who are moving on in the game,” Adams said.

For the Dolphins, the disappointment of losing to the Lions last weekend and therefore ending the title chase leaves them vulnerable against a quality, hungry outfit like the Cobras and coach Lance Klusener has intimated that he might well freshen up the squad by making a few changes.

The Chevrolet Warriors are the other team in danger of ‘winning’ the wooden spoon and they take on the champion Lions at the Wanderers with a slender lead of just 1.22 points over the Cobras.

The Eastern Cape side are also looking to the 2015/16 season according to coach Malibongwe Maketa and the same squad that were beaten in East London by the Chevrolet Knights last weekend will do duty in Johannesburg.

The pressure will be on the Warriors batsmen to score runs in the first innings against the best attack in the competition and Maketa said the inconsistent batting has been the biggest issue for his side this season.

“We haven’t been consistent enough, we haven’t batted well in the first innings and, although we’ve managed to save some games in the second innings, last weekend’s defeat was always coming. But we’re working hard on our young batsmen, we want to test them against the Lions, where they’ll have to score runs under pressure.

“But this is our best side and we have them for the next two or three seasons, so we want to keep playing them and building. We’re not going to be giving away free Warriors caps,” Maketa said.

The Lions will want to complete their superb campaign by beating the Warriors and are likely to name their strongest XI even though nobody can catch them at the top of the standings.

Dominic Hendricks will replace wicketkeeper/batsman Thami Tsolekile, who is being troubled by a finger injury, while the batting will be further strengthened by the return of Alviro Petersen.

The battle for second place also involves the Unlimited Titans, who are 12.16 points behind the Dolphins, and they host the Knights at SuperSport Park in Centurion.

The Titans will be without opening batsman Dean Elgar, who was the star of their draw against the Cobras last weekend with an unbeaten double-century, before being struck on the head by Paterson and suffering a mild concussion.

But Qaasim Adams, who has scored a century for the Titans in both the Sunfoil Series and the Momentum One-Day Cup and was named as the franchise’s Most Improved Player at their awards function this week, returns from injury, and with Albie Morkel and Shaun von Berg both in the squad, the home side could bat down to number nine.

Knights coach Sarel Cilliers is expecting a pitch that will become up-and-down as the Titans need to win the game to overtake the Dolphins and finish second. But victory for the visitors could see them swop positions with the Titans and finish third.

“I definitely think their plan is to use inconsistent bounce and the pitch looks as if it will go up-and-down quite early. So far in this competition we’ve had three losses, three draws and three wins, so I’d really like to tilt the balance in favour of wins by the end of the season,” Cilliers said.

Quinton Friend, who many judges of fast bowling rate as a quality paceman, is back for the Knights and so is Malusi Siboto, an accurate back-up seamer.

Unfortunately Corne Dry and Duanne Olivier are both out injured and Cilliers said they are the sort of bang-it-in bowlers who could have thrived on the SuperSport Park pitch.

“They’ve really struck their straps in the last couple of weeks and their injuries are unfortunate because those youngsters do hit the deck hard. We’ve been capable of containing sides, but wickets have been a bit short and we had three games where we bowled for 140 overs, not being able to bowl sides out in the first innings, and that’s a long time in the field.

“But it was a good turnaround in East London, where we managed to bowl the Warriors out in both the first and second innings, and that was a good performance, especially by the bowlers,” Cilliers said.


Commitment, passion, fire & skill as SA Conference leaders clash in Bloem 0

Posted on October 16, 2015 by Ken


There will be no lack of commitment, passion nor fire – nor even skill – when the Cheetahs meet the Bulls on Saturday in a potential decider for the South African SuperRugby conference.

The competition will then take a break for the June Tests and the humdinger in Bloemfontein is a perfect way to go into the recess. The Cheetahs are currently five points behind the Bulls so, with just three rounds remaining once the franchises return to action, it is imperative Naka Drotske’s men win in order to ensure the three-time champions don’t start running away with the conference title.

While both sets of forwards are phenomenally powerful in the collisions, the Cheetahs have the stronger scrum and a backline that is more likely to create something out of nothing. The Bulls have the most efficient lineout in the competition, but there is another key area where they have the edge.

The Cheetahs lack a general of the calibre of Morné Steyn at flyhalf and, as talented as Elgar Watts is, he lacks the experience and the masterful boot that his Springbok counterpart will surely bring to what is going to be a tight contest, played with the same intensity as a final.

With the announcement of the Springbok squad for those June Tests happening within an hour of the end of the Bulls/Cheetahs clash, there are also some intriguing individual clashes that could decide who gets a place in Heyneke Meyer’s match-day 22 and who doesn’t.

The most obvious of these contests in the match will be at inside centre where Jan Serfontein comes up against Robert Ebersohn; the physically strong young upstart against the silky skills and clever reading of the game that characterises Ebersohn after six years in SuperRugby.

The arrival of Lappies Labuschagné as an outstanding loose forward also sets up an intriguing battle with Bulls youngster Arno Botha, a member of last year’s Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship and the end-of-year tour but still uncapped. The reward of a place on the bench against Italy in Durban next weekend could be up for grabs.

A top-class Cheetahs loose trio also features Philip van der Walt and Heinrich Brüssow, who both also have plenty to prove after not getting a call-up from Meyer for the national training camps, a sad oversight in many people’s eyes.

While loose forward is, as usual, a department where the Springboks have a wealth of riches, there is a potential opening at fullback.

Willie le Roux is playing left wing for the Cheetahs, but he has a roaming role and if he can breach a superb Bulls defence on attack, make his tackles and absorb a probable aerial bombardment, then he might just encourage Meyer to take a chance on him at international level.

Hennie Daniller is also a solid figure at fullback for the Cheetahs, while Springbok incumbent Zane Kirchner could make a return to SuperRugby off the bench after a finger operation.

The Bulls scrum, up against the mightily impressive Coenie Oosthuizen, Adriaan Strauss and Lourens Adriaanse, will be a concern for Frans Ludeke and the coach has chosen an all-Springbok trio of Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle and Dean Greyling in the front row.

The Bulls lineout makes up for any shortcomings there, however, with Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Pierre Spies and Ralepelle forming a superb unit.

The visitors are unlikely not to see enough of the ball then in Bloemfontein, but where the game will be won or lost is in how and where the possession is used.

The Cheetahs have to absorb the slow-poison tactics of the Bulls and make sure they don’t fall into the trap of trying too much in their own half of the field. The iron wall of the Bulls defence and the pressure they exert at the breakdowns will then inevitably bring the boot of Steyn into play.

But if the Cheetahs are able to spend lengthy periods in the Bulls’ 22, then they have the attacking weapons to score the tries that move the scoreboard along even quicker.

The Stormers and the Southern Kings meet earlier on Saturday at Newlands in the only other match involving South African teams this weekend.

The Kings will be without regular captain Luke Watson, who has withdrawn due to flu. He has been replaced by Jacques Engelbrecht, but that will only help as the Cape Town-born 27-year-old brings exactly the sort of physicality and power that is needed against the Stormers, especially if the weather is as wet as most people in the area are predicting.

The Kings are also without lock Steven Sykes, a real stalwart for them this season, and wing Siyanda Grey, but the Newlands faithful might want to shield the eyes of any women and children in the stadium as the Eastern Cape side are going to bring a ferocious attitude as this really is their last chance saloon when it comes to avoiding the promotion/relegation game.

The Stormers are already 10 points in front of the Kings, so victory on Saturday will put to bed any fears that they won’t be in SuperRugby next year.

The home side, despite their lowly 11th position in the standings, showed last weekend in holding off the title-chasing Reds that there is still plenty of spirit and ability in the Stormers camp.

With this game likely to be won in the trenches, Stormers coach Allister Coetzee has brought more experience back into the pack with Deon Fourie returning to the loose trio and De Kock Steenkamp back in the second row.

The reliable Steenkamp will be in the number five jersey, meaning Eben Etzebeth, who made such an impression there in last weekend’s game, will be back at the front of the lineout. Whether he will play in the same position in the Springbok side remains to be seen.

The Stormers have shown some inconsistency in the set-pieces, which is where the Kings could attack them, and the loose trio of Nizaam Carr, Fourie and Siya Kolisi will also have their hands full stopping the big ball-runners coming their way – Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt and Cornell du Preez.

The weather forecast is awful, however, so the boots of Stormers fullback Joe Pietersen and Kings flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis could well have the final say.


Stormers (v Southern Kings, Saturday 15:05): Joe Pietersen, Gio Aplon, Jean de Villiers, Damian de Allende, Bryan Habana, Elton Jantjies, Louis Schreuder, Nizaam Carr, Deon Fourie, Siya Kolisi, De Kock Steenkamp, Eben Etzebeth, Brok Harris, Tiaan Liebenberg, Steven Kitshoff. Replacements: Martin Bezuidenhout, Chris Heiberg, Gerbrandt Grobler, Don Armand, Dewaldt Duvenage, Gary van Aswegen, Gerhard van den Heever.

Southern Kings (v Stormers, Saturday 15:05): SP Marais, Siviwe Soyizwapi, Ronnie Cooke, Andries Strauss, Marcello Sampson, Demetri Catrakilis, Nicolas Vergallo, Jacques Engelbrecht, Wimpie van der Walt, Cornell du Preez, David Bulbring, Darron Nell, Kevin Buys, Bandise Maku, Schalk Ferreira. Replacements: Hannes Franklin, Grant Kemp, Rynier Bernardo, Devin Oosthuizen, Shaun Venter, Shane Gates, George Whitehead.

Cheetahs (v Bulls, Saturday 17:10): Hennie Daniller, Raymond Rhule, Johann Sadie, Robert Ebersohn, Willie le Roux, Elgar Watts, Piet van Zyl, Philip van der Walt, Lappies Labuschagné, Heinrich Brüssow, Francois Uys, Lood de Jager, Lourens Adriaanse, Adriaan Strauss, Coenie Oosthuizen. Replacements: Ryno Barnes, Trevor Nyakane, Ligtoring Landman, Boom Prinsloo, Sarel Pretorius, Riaan Smit, Rayno Benjamin.

Bulls (v Cheetahs, Saturday 17:10pm): Jürgen Visser, Lionel Mapoe, JJ Engelbrecht, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Morné Steyn, Francois Hougaard, Pierre Spies, Arno Botha, Deon Stegmann, Juandré Kruger, Flip van der Merwe, Werner Kruger, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Dean Greyling. Replacements: Callie Visagie, Frik Kirsten, Grant Hattingh, Dewald Potgieter, Jano Vermaak, Louis Fouché, Zane Kirchner.

Other fixtures: Crusaders v Waratahs (Friday 9.35am), Brumbies v Hurricanes (Friday 11.40am), Highlanders v Blues (Saturday 9.35am), Reds v Rebels (Saturday 11.40am).

Byes: Sharks, Chiefs, Force.

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