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Ken Borland



Woods chasing records while Grace & Coetzee make debuts 0

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Ken

 

While the revitalised Tiger Woods is favoured to close to within three of Jack Nicklaus’s record 18 major titles when the Masters gets underway this evening, Branden Grace and George Coetzee will make their debuts at Augusta, lifting South Africa’s representation in one of golf’s most hallowed events to an all-time high of eight.

The pair will join compatriots Tim Clark, Louis Oosthuizen, Ernie Els, Charl Schwartzel, Richard Sterne and Trevor Immelman in an event that has seen five South African triumphs – Gary Player in 1961, 74 and 78; Immelman in 2008 and Schwartzel in 2011.

The last player to win on his Masters debut was Fuzzy Zoeller in 1979 and, although Oosthuizen was edged into second by Bubba Watson in a playoff last year and Els is the reigning British Open champion, the spotlight has been elsewhere.

Woods, who has risen like the phoenix back to number one in the world, is the clear favourite, bringing both great form – three wins in his last five starts – and tremendous pedigree, having four previous Masters titles, to the tournament.

Even Nicklaus backs Woods to kick-start his quest for 19 major titles again.

“If Tiger doesn’t figure it out here, after the spring he’s had, then I don’t know. I’ve said, and I continue to say it, that I still expect him to break my record. I think he’s just too talented, too driven and too focused on that. From this point, he’s got to win five majors, which is a pretty good career for most people to start at age 37. But I still think he’s going to do it, he’s in contention every year,” Nicklaus said.

The other contenders are Rory McIlroy, who returned to form with a second-place finish in last weekend’s Texas Open, three-time champion Phil Mickelson and, if you believe the British press, perennial favourite Ian Poulter, even though the Ryder Cup star is battling allergies as practically everything is blooming at Augusta at the moment.

This year’s Masters will also see the emergence of a stunning new talent who could not only be the successor to Woods but also the precursor to the Chinese dominance of the game many have predicted.

The 14-year-old Guan Tianlang will smash Matteo Mannesero’s record of being the youngest golfer to play in the Masters by two years and the youngster has impressed all and sundry in the build-up to the Major.

The son of a keen seven-handicap golfer, who knew his boy was something special when he beat him aged seven, Guan qualified for the Masters by winning the Asia-Pacific Amateur Championships in November.

Woods and two-time champion Tom Watson were among the legends he played practice rounds with, and both came away with the impression they were in the presence of future greatness.

“I enjoyed playing with Guan, he has good tempo, his rhythm is very good. Once he grows a little bit, he will be able to get the club faster. He will use a different swing plane when he gets taller and stronger,” Watson said.

“He’s so consistent,” said Woods. “He was hitting a lot of hybrids into the holes yesterday, hitting them spot-on, right on the numbers. He knew what he was doing, he knew the spots he had to land the ball and to be able to pull it off. Good scouting, good prep, but also even better execution.”

The importance of course knowledge is magnified at Augusta, where the slopes on the fairways and greens are far steeper than the television coverage portrays. It really is the thinking man’s golf course.

“There isn’t a single hole out there that can’t be birdied if you just think, but there isn’t one that can’t be double-bogeyed if you ever stop thinking,” was the famous quote of Bobby Jones, the Masters co-founder and winner of seven Majors as an amateur.

The veteran Els gave the rookie Grace some words of advice before the tournament and he used the Jones quote.

“Overall I’d say it’s a tough golf course to learn in a hurry. I’m sure this will be the first of many visits to Augusta in your [Grace’s] career, so try to enjoy it and soak it all up. There are certain ‘crunch shots’ at Augusta where the tariff is very high and from one to 18 there is no other course where the margins between a birdie and a bogey are so small. You have to commit to your shots and be aggressive to your spots, even if that’s 25-feet right of the pin.

“You’ll know already that the slopes are more severe than they appear on television, so you hit a lot of iron shots from sloping lies and you’ve got the big elevation changes coming into some of those greens. The wind can switch around, especially in Amen Corner.

“The short game is the biggest thing at Augusta, though. The grass around the greens is mowed very tight and against the direction of play, so you have to be very precise with your strike. Obviously the speed and the slope of the greens get your attention, as well. Other than that, it’s really pretty straightforward!”

In Grace’s case, his short game, especially his lob-wedge, is impressive, but what is also relevant is that he is comfortable playing a high draw, which Augusta favours.

Apart from the advice from Els, Grace has also played a practice round with no less of an authority on Augusta than Player.

“I’m hitting the ball like I did in January again and I’m ready. Excitement will take care of the rest. It’s an experience I’ve never had before, Augusta and the Green Jacket is the most special of them all because of the history and South Africans having done well in the Masters in the past.

“I’ve been given some great insights in the practice rounds and everyone has just tried to help George and I as much as possible. Obviously I was disappointed to miss the cut in my last Major, but there was a little bit of extra pressure then because I had come in from nowhere really.

“Now I’m not worried that I have to go out and play well, I’m not worried about what people think because I’m number 32 in the world and I can just go out and enjoy myself. I’m in a good place,” Grace said.

Whatever the result, many would say he is in the best place of all for a golfer: beautiful Augusta in the springtime.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-11-masters-preview-tiger-tiger-burning-bright/#.WZLvBlUjHIU

Titans limit their Black African batting options but beef up bowling 0

Posted on May 10, 2017 by Ken

 

The absence of a single fully-contracted Black African batsman in the Titans squad for next season could limit their options when it comes to fulfilling the quota of three in every starting line-up, but CEO Jacques Faul said they had decided to beef up their bowling.

Grant Mokoena, who averaged just 26 in eight Sunfoil Series games and scored 49 runs at a strike-rate of only 89 in his three T20 appearances, has joined the Knights, while Daniel Sincuba played one four-day game, scoring 32 and 0, and has been released.

Former SA U19 Junior World Cup captain Tony de Zorzi showed glimpses of promise in a few opportunities he was given towards the end of the season, and he has been given a rookie contract, and the inside lane in terms of Black African batsmen.

Mokoena and Sincuba’s contracts have gone to a pair of fast bowlers who excelled for Northerns in their triumphant season – Eldred Hawken and Alfred Mothoa, while former SA U19 batsman Andrea Agathangelou, who has played county cricket for Lancashire and Leicestershire, has been signed from South-Western Districts.

“It’s probably not ideal, but we still have a lot of batting depth and we have decided to run with Tony de Zorzi, simply because whoever we bring in needs to be on the same sort of level as a Henry Davids or Aiden Markram, and there’s probably nobody close to that.

“We’ve beefed up the bowling and we have three quality pacemen in Lungi Ngidi, Malusi Siboto and Junior Dala, plus Alfred Mothoa is a banker and we’re excited about left-arm spinner Gregory Mahlokwana, who got injured after his first game, but we think he will play more,” Faul told The Citizen on Friday.

Nevertheless, readers of the Titans squad list will be struck by the tremendous depth at their disposal – eight current nationally-contracted players, four former Proteas and three players with bright international futures in Heinrich Klaasen, Markram and Ngidi.

Players like fast bowler Dala and leg-spinner Shaun von Berg are also certainly on the national selectors’ radar having been chosen for SA A and the CSA spin camp in India respectively.

Titans Contracted Players 2017/18: Andrea Agathangelou, Junior Dala, Henry Davids, Heinrich Klaasen, Heino Kuhn, Eldred Hawken, Aiden Markram, Albie Morkel, Alfred Mothoa, Lungi Ngidi, Rowan Richards, Malusi Siboto, Grant Thomson, David Wiese, Shaun von Berg, Jonathan Vandiar. Rookies – Tony de Zorzi, Rivaldo Moonsamy. CSA-contracted national players – Farhaan Behardien, Quinton de Kock, AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis, Dean Elgar, Morné Morkel, Chris Morris, Tabraiz Shamsi.

 

John McFarland Column – The intent is obviously there 0

Posted on March 03, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by the quality of the games last weekend, I am really looking forward to this weekend’s SuperRugby action, with the Stormers, Bulls and Lions looking like South Africa’s three major contenders.

Last weekend we saw very different South African derbies to what we normally see and the will to attack was clearly there. The intent was obviously there to play with ball in hand and the teams played with real speed in terms of tempo, and pace, which made a heck of an impact.

An example of this was when the Stormers took a quick tap and scored seven points against the Bulls; they, in particular, showed more intent than they have in the past.

The effects of the new tackle law, meaning players now have to go lower with their hits, were also evident in that there were more offloads. Attacks can now continue through the tackle because the arms are free and the tall guys can get the ball above the tackle. It keeps the ball alive and it has led to a lot more continuity.

What was really impressive to me was how lean some of the leading Springboks looked. Guys like Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Siya Kolisi looked in great shape and the speed they played at was a direct consequence of their fitness levels.

There’s definitely been a huge emphasis on conditioning through the franchises and it could mean the end of the New Zealand and Australian sides feeling that a high ball-in-play figure is their secret to success because the South African teams will tire.

While the Stormers were fantastic, what was encouraging about the Bulls was that they never gave up, which is huge. They denied the Stormers a bonus point, which at the end of the day could be vital; from 24-0 up at halftime, the Stormers really needed to get that bonus point. The second half would have provided a huge swing in confidence for the Bulls.

In the Cheetahs versus Lions game in Bloemfontein, the visitors really got out of jail, but if you can score three tries away from home then you deserve your victory.

Rohan Janse van Rensburg showed his finishing power and speed, while the Lions’ try down the short side to win the match showed again that rugby is about defending the full width of the field, even if you only have two or three metres to touch.

The penalty try given off a driving maul was a game-changer; most referees would have copped out and just given a penalty, but if the maul is set and moving forward then it deserves that decision, so credit to referee Quinton Immelman for his brave call.

The Southern Kings looked better and scored some really good tries, but again conceded turnovers at crucial times. During the first half they were in control for long periods, but a yellow card really cost them and prop Ross Geldenhuys was lucky not to get a red card, which a knee to the back should be penalised with.

The major talking point of the last week in the rugby world, however, was Italy and their decision not to contest rucks against England.

I had lunch with Brendan Venter last week and he mentioned that they were going to do it. Any tactic that is new and innovative has to be applauded and it certainly took England a long time to cope with it, so credit to Brendan and the rest of the Italian coaching staff and players for that.

But I believe World Rugby do need to look at the law. As defence coaches, we encourage players to get back on their feet and in the defensive line, but now teams might just try to herd the attacking team into a small radius of the ruck, which would not be good for the game.

It would take a full week of coaching to get a game plan against Italy’s tactic. It was  a real shock-and-awe strategy and difficult to adapt to on your feet. In fact, England played into Italy’s hands with their counter to it, so it clearly worked as a tactic.

 

 

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.

CSA slammed out the park too often 0

Posted on November 22, 2016 by Ken

 

If Cricket South Africa were a bowler, they would be the type that gives you an over comprising three great deliveries, beating the bat a couple of times and maybe bowling the batsman, and three rank full tosses that are hammered out of the park, and are no-balls just to make matters worse!

There are so many good things going on in CSA, so many people within that organisation who have a deep love for the game and are faithful servants of it, often at considerable cost to themselves. While those good balls are being bowled, it is easy to believe that everything in South African cricket is hunky dory and the future is bright.

Like when you go to the Centre of Excellence and National Academy in Pretoria. This is a superb facility where national teams can prepare with the latest technology at their fingertips.

The gadgets have recently been improved with the world’s most advanced batting simulator – the PitchVision Batting Studio – now installed. The high-tech bowling machine and smart lane equipped with sensors takes net batting to the next level. The simulator features a moveable bowling machine that can bowl over or around the wicket, videos of bowlers, shot-tracking, field setting and tracking of runs scored. The system also records technique for video analysis.

The batsman can set up any match scenario and bat with the realistic pressures of finding the gaps and trying to chase down a score at the death.

The technology even showed that I was planting my front leg when batting, but then a good coach could probably have pointed that out anyway. And, as I told coaches Shukri Conrad and Vincent Barnes, nobody has trapped me lbw for a long time! (Now I’m just tempting fate!)

There are lots of other good news stories around CSA at the moment, such as the thawing of relations with India. According to Haroon Lorgat, the CSA chief executive, the BCCI are keen on the idea of South Africa and India developing an icon series like the Ashes. The Proteas will be playing four Tests in India this year and the next tour to South Africa is not going to be the thoroughly inadequate shortened series which was foisted upon CSA in December 2013.

Sadly, however, there are still people in CSA who seem more intent on furthering their own agendas than the good of the game.

Despite CSA continuing to swear blind that there was nothing untoward in the selection of the team for the World Cup semi-final, that merit is the only criterion for the Proteas (except when the call is 50/50), the gathering of the cricket family this week for the CSA Awards (another example of how well they can do things) meant I was given yet more snippets of information that would seem to confirm that the side that took the field at Eden Park was not the one Russell Domingo, AB de Villiers or the selectors initially wanted.

And now, an event as happy and well-organised as the awards banquet has also been marred by the same faceless, cowardly interferers as allegations of the judges’ decisions being changed rear their ugly heads.

Two members of the judging panel confirmed to me that one of the franchise award-winners had been changed – that when they left their selection meeting, they were under the impression that a different player had won.

The last thing I want to do is cast aspersions on the ability and class of Robin Peterson (poor Vernon Philander was shamefully treated by the World Cup fiasco), whom I rate highly and believe should be in the Test squad ahead of Aaron Phangiso, but apparently he was the third-choice for the Momentum One-Day Cup Player of the Season, behind Dean Elgar and Andrew Puttick.

So the last week has pretty much summed up CSA’s performance in general: leading the field in many ways, like the centre of excellence in Pretoria, enjoying the support of an ever-growing list of sponsors and putting on superb events, but then also shooting themselves in the foot through dishonesty and backroom dealings. It felt like a family gathering this week, even if the family is dysfunctional at times, but that doesn’t mean there aren’t some members who really would be better suited to Fifa than cricket administration.



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