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Ken Borland



Chiefs favourites but a sad day awaits for SA rugby 0

Posted on August 05, 2016 by Ken

 

About 80% of respondents on the country’s biggest sports website believe the Chiefs will beat the Brumbies to win back-to-back Vodacom SuperRugby titles on Saturday, and one imagines a similar proportion of fans would declare it a sad day for South African rugby when the Southern Kings or Lions are banished into the wilderness later in the day after the second leg of their promotion/relegation series.

The future of both the Lions and the Kings as professional, commercially viable franchises rests on Saturday afternoon’s match at Ellis Park. The Eastern Cape side have a deficit of seven points to make up, never mind the fact that they have to win and prevent the hosts from getting a bonus point.

It is obviously a no-win situation for South African rugby: either the tremendous growth of the game in the Eastern Cape, the Kings having performed much better than expected, or one of the traditional powerhouses will be sacrificed.

The lack of SuperRugby action in 2013 has left the Lions with their heads barely above water and the coffers of the proud union, already struggling before their relegation from the competition, could well run dry if they do not have top rugby to host next year.

The incompetence of the officials the South African Rugby Union (Saru) sent to negotiate the expanded SuperRugby format means the sport in this country will lose a leg this weekend … it’s a bit like asking someone whether they’d like to have their left leg or their right leg chopped off.

It also makes it absolutely imperative that Saru are already planning for 2016 when the next Sanzar expansion is scheduled to occur and that they have contingency plans in place to keep either the Kings or the Lions afloat until then.

The Lions edged out the Kings in Port Elizabeth last weekend because they kept their composure better under pressure. The ill-discipline of the Kings allowed Elton Jantjies to keep chipping away at the scoreboard. Now that the chips are down and the Kings have to beat the Lions at a sold-out Ellis Park, how will they respond?

There seems little doubt that the Kings will need to add something extra to their ultra-conservative game plan in order to beat the Lions, but is there the attacking skill to do that within their side?

Director of rugby Alan Solomons, who is leaving the Kings to coach Edinburgh whatever the outcome of Saturday’s match is, is backing a new centre pairing of the experienced duo of Waylon Murray and Ronnie Cooke.

Star flyhalf Demetri Catrakilis is out with a hand injury, with George Whitehead taking the number 10 jersey, while debutant Scott van Breda, who is normally a centre, is on the left wing and is going to handle the goal kicking for the Kings.

The Kings, as the rank underdogs in SuperRugby, have honed their defensive skills to such an extent that they made the most tackles and had the best completion-rate in the competition; but Saturday’s game is calling for them to showcase attacking capabilities that have been lying dormant.

The Lions, on the other hand, have been racking up the tries in non-competitive matches and the backline is used to crossing the whitewash this year; Jantjies is a skilful distributor, they have a quality centre pairing in Stokkies Hanekom and Dylan des Fountain and dangerous finishers in the back three in Antony Volmink and Ruan Combrinck.

Up front, hard, experienced men such as Franco van der Merwe, captain JC Janse van Rensburg and flank Derick Minnie ensure that the Lions aren’t lambs to the slaughter when it comes to matching the intensity and physicality of a SuperRugby side.

But whatever the outcome, one hopes that Saru will take steps to ensure that, when we look back through the mists of time, we don’t remember the Kings, representing such a strategically important chunk of the country as the Eastern Cape, as having one season of SuperRugby as some sort of quirky experiment; or the Lions as being a once-great union, the first winners of the Super 10 competition that preceded the Sanzar tournament, that has faded into obscurity.

The Brumbies are a side that is returning from relative obscurity in SuperRugby as they contest the final for the first time since their 2004 triumph. They will be travelling to Hamilton and will need to overcome a Chiefs side that has the confidence of winning the title last year, scoring the most points and tries this season, and the prestige of beating the heavily-favoured Crusaders last weekend.

Jake White’s men will also have to overcome travelling from Pretoria to New Zealand and the distracting effects of thousands of cow bells as a 25 000 capacity crowd roars on the Chiefs in Hamilton.

The Brumbies have certainly bought into the former World Cup winning coach’s philosophy and they showed at Loftus Versfeld last weekend that they are willing to risk their limbs in defence and have a steely focus on sticking to the game plan.

And the Brumbies have the kicking game and a powerful lineout that could trouble a Chiefs side that, amazingly, had the ball for the least time out of all sides in SuperRugby.

But the fact the Chiefs scored the most points and tries in regular season play shows their greatest strengths – their ability to make metres when carrying the ball and the skills of their players in beating defenders.

Locks Brodie Retallick and Craig Clarke and loose forwards Liam Messam and Tanerau Latimer bring a hard edge to the pack, while Tawera Kerr-Barlow and Aaron Cruden have the tactical vision and skills that have been central to the Chiefs’ success.

Those website pollsters clearly believe the Brumbies will need a miracle to beat the Chiefs at their home ground in Hamilton. But miracles do happen in rugby, as the spirited, well-coached Brumbies discovered last weekend in Pretoria.

Teams

Lions: 15-Ruan Combrink, 14-Deon Helberg, 13-Stokkies Hanekom, 12-Dylan des Fountain, 11-Antony Volmink, 10-Elton Jantjies, 9-Ross Cronjé, 8-Warren Whiteley, 7-Derick Minnie, 6-Jaco Kriel, 5-Franco van der Merwe, 4-Hendrik Roodt, 3-Julian Redelinghuys, 2-Martin Bezuidenhout, 1-JC Janse van Rensburg. Replacements – 16-Robbie Coetzee, 17-Martin Dreyer, 18-Willie Britz, 19-Warwick Tecklenburg, 20-Guy Cronjé, 21-Marnitz Boshoff, 22-Chrysander Botha.

Southern Kings: 15-SP Marais, 14-Hadleigh Parkes, 13-Ronnie Cooke, 12-Waylon Murray, 11-Scott van Breda, 10-George Whitehead, 9-Shaun Venter, 8-Jacques Engelbrecht, 7-Wimpie van der Walt, 6-Cornell du Preez, 5-Darron Nell, 4-David Bulbring, 3-Kevin Buys, 2-Bandise Maku, 1-Schalk Ferreira. Replacements – 16-Charl du Plessis, 17-Hannes Franklin, 18-Steven Sykes, 19-Devin Oosthuizen, 20-Nicolas Vergallo, 21-Wesley Dunlop, 22-Shane Gates.

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-02-superrugby-relegation-or-promotion-speaks-volumes-of-saru/#.V6R-8Pl97IU

Things have obviously changed in KZN rugby 0

Posted on July 18, 2016 by Ken

 

I can remember well covering Natal Sharks rugby in the 1990s – they were the team of the decade with four Currie Cup titles – and how we used to tut-tut at teams like the Lions because down in Durban we were the best both on and off the field, in terms of administration and brand marketing.

Things have obviously changed and the Lions are leading the way for South African rugby, while the Sharks don’t look like adding to their 2010 and 2013 Currie Cup crowns any time soon, never mind claiming that elusive Super Rugby title. And they are embroiled in the unseemliest of off-field squabbles, one that is straight out of the Louis Luyt book of skulduggery.

The actions of KZN Rugby Union president Graham Mackenzie would appear to be obvious grounds for his removal from his post. This week it was revealed that he was involved in a dirty tricks campaign that included trying to get journalists to publish a prepared article he or someone close to him had written discrediting former CEO and major critic Brian van Zyl under their own bylines. Unfortunately a blogger eventually took the bait and has subsequently been exposed and disgraced.

It would be premature to suggest Mackenzie is another Cheeky Watson waiting to happen because there is no proof of any financial impropriety. Then again, we can’t be entirely sure because for the first time in the KZNRU’s history the financial statements were not ready to be presented to the board or the clubs at the AGMs in April.

But that sort of maladministration inevitably gives birth to speculation and rumours, one just doesn’t expect the president of the union to be involved in spreading misinformation.

The Sharks have been hit by the economic downturn just like all the other franchises, but they have not been helped by the new broom that was wielded by John Smit when he replaced Van Zyl as CEO in 2013 when Mackenzie and chairman of the board Stephen Saad took over control of the Sharks in the boardroom. Some leading Natal rugby figures are apparently still nursing the knife wounds in the back.

While Smit secured several lucrative sponsorships for the Sharks, by getting rid of so many experienced staff members, people who have made an immense contribution to KZN rugby, he caused turmoil in the Kings Park offices. Never mind sacking coach John Plumtree, who it must be remembered had failed to win Super Rugby despite having a powerhouse side full of Springboks, it was the clear-out of people like Piet Strydom, Hans Scriba, Garth Giles and Rudolf Straeuli which raised eyebrows. And inevitably led to allegations Smit was just bringing in his old buddies both on and off the field.

Straeuli was the commercial manager and, ironically, it is the Lions who have now been reinvigorated by his acumen as CEO.

Transparency is the only way to avoid Sharks rugby being plunged into a hole like Eastern Province currently find themselves in, or a scandal like Cricket South Africa found themselves embroiled in during the Gerald Majola days.

SuperSport, as a major player on the Sharks board, have a vital role to play. But so do the clubs, who have a right to hold Mackenzie to account for his actions.

Van Zyl has made a disturbing allegation, however, that Mackenzie has built a devoted power base for himself by adding a raft of smaller clubs to the leagues, leading to a number of mismatches.

Either way, it is time a bright light was shone on the affairs of KwaZulu-Natal rugby to ensure that they can return to being a powerhouse of the South African game.

Schwartzel gives brutal assessment of his Leopard Creek chances 0

Posted on February 03, 2015 by Ken

Charl Schwartzel is usually honest in his appraisal of his golf and seldom jazzes up his chances, but on Wednesday at Leopard Creek he was almost brutal in his assessment of his game, saying he believed he had little chance of winning an unprecedented hat-trick of Alfred Dunhill Championship titles.

It came as a shock because Schwartzel’s game normally purrs in sweet cohesion around the course bordering Kruger National Park, which he unashamedly admits is his ‘happy place’. He has a phenomenal record in Malelane, winning the European Tour co-sanctioned event in 2004, 2012 and 2013, while he finished second in 2005, 06, 09 and 10.

Opposite to where Schwartzel sat in the pre-tournament press conference, there is a photo of him as a 20-year-old with the Alfred Dunhill Championship trophy, sporting a broad grin, braces and all. But golf is not bringing him much joy at the moment.
“That feels like yesterday, but it’s actually 10 years ago!” Schwartzel mused when the photo was pointed out to him.

“This course has always treated me very well over the years, it does something for my game, but I think I’m still a long way away from winning.

“The pattern the whole year has been that I get my game going, it looks like I’m going to contend, and then one or two bad holes make me fall back. And then I do it all over again and the cycle is really frustrating. I’m making enough birdies to win, but mistakes are costing me so much. It’s just a swing that’s not repeating itself, it’s not consistent enough,” South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer said.

But Schwartzel is still cautiously optimistic that if he can harness the feel-good factor from a course he has dominated in the past, as well as his tremendous work-ethic, then something just might click over the next four days in Malelane.

“It’s frustrating, especially playing in your home country, because you want the results to come. I just have to keep working at it. I’ve been on tour for 11 years now and I’ve had lots of these downs, I know how it goes. There’s no shortcut to getting out of it, it’s just practising and playing. I’ve come here in the past and not been playing my best, but somehow, something seems to spark and I get going,” Schwartzel said.

But this is “Wild Africa” as Schwartzel put it when talking about his leopard and rhino sightings early Wednesday, and things can get gory for golfers who are not on top of their game on a typical Gary Player layout that brings reward and punishment.

“It’s a good challenge, it’s a golf course where you can shoot a low number, but it can also bite you. It’s got tough stretches in the middle and you need to be on your game,” Louis Oosthuizen warned.

South Africa’s second-highest ranked golfer was also wary of donning the favourite’s mantle on a course which has not always been kind to him, and Oosthuizen has also been struggling on the greens lately, changing his putting grip mid-tournament in last weekend’s Nedbank Golf Challenge.

While Schwartzel and Oosthuizen will capture the bulk of local attention, there are several other South Africans ready and waiting to claim the European Tour title at one of the country’s greatest courses.

While George Coetzee did not have the greatest time at Sun City, he will clearly be a threat, while Branden Grace is probably due a victory. Richard Sterne is the 2008 champion, while Hennie Otto is in form and hungry.

Peter Uihlein, the 2013 European Tour Rookie of the Year, is a star in waiting and has expressed his liking for the course.
But one of the joys of playing at Leopard Creek is that even if your golf game is not going well, the scenery, animal and bird life is magnificent.

Danny Willett showed his game is in great nick with his impressive Nedbank Golf Challenge triumph last weekend, but even he gets the sighs when he thinks of the Leopard Creek course bordering Kruger National Park.

“Every year, regardless of how many years you’ve come here, everyone marks their ball on the 13th and walks to the back of the green. You look out over the Crocodile River, so it’s a pretty awesome hole,” Willett said.

Willett came out tops in a 30-man field last weekend; the size of the field this weekend (156) suggests the winner of the 2014 Alfred Dunhill Championship could come from anywhere, like a leopard emerging from cover to drink at dusk in the Crocodile River.

http://citizen.co.za/291128/little-chance-dunhill-hat-trick-schwartzel/

Smith confident SA can break their duck at World Cup 0

Posted on October 09, 2014 by Ken

The actual ICC Cricket World Cup is busy touring South Africa at the moment and nobody should need reminding that the number of Proteas’ titles in that prestigious competition stands at zero, least of all Graeme Smith.

But the former captain is confident that South Africa have the players to finally achieve that breakthrough triumph because many of the boxes required for glory have or will be ticked once the World Cup starts in Australia and New Zealand in mid-February.

“I was very blessed to go to three World Cups, but I’m very excited for this World Cup. The team is shaping up nicely and for the first time in a long time we’ll be playing in conditions that we actually like.

“There’s a great balance to the batting unit, the top five is really outstanding and can win games, they’re dynamic and can chase or set big scores.

“The bowling is attacking and can take wickets, which is very important with the current rules. There’s a really good feeling and buzz around the team and the core is there. AB de Villiers has had some great results, he’s pretty relaxed as a captain, I hear he’s doing a super job and the confidence will be good,” Smith said after a photoshoot with the World Cup trophy.

Amongst the issues that do concern Smith are the lengthy interludes between games.

“It’s a long tournament and there’s always a period when you seem to just sit around for two weeks. It helps though that it’ll be in Australia, previously we got caught with two weeks in Bangladesh [2011] and two weeks in Guyana [2007]. It’s important to stay fresh and in it mentally, and momentum is huge, you don’t want anything to stop that. You will also need to overcome the odd tough game, that’s when you need one or two players to pull you through,” Smith said.

There is consensus that South Africa’s death bowling is another issue and Smith said bowlers needed to prepare mentally for that challenge.

“Death bowling is always key and everyone in the seam attack must be able to contribute. Each player needs to grow mentally in that space, so you want them to have been there before, they need to be exposed to powerplays and death overs.

“if there’s reverse-swing, then going into the blockhole makes sense, but at places like the Wanderers, if you miss the yorker by one centimetre, you’re gone, plus guys lap so well now. It’s about how to block the field, give the batsman one and protect your over. Bowlers need to spend as much time as possible practising those thought processes, the tactics of death bowling,” Smith said.

The two-time World Cup captain’s final words for the 15 lucky men going to Australasia is to enjoy themselves.

“They should be excited as players, it’s a great occasion and all teams aspire to play in any World Cup. Only a select few have won it, especially since Australia dominated for a large period,” Smith said.

 

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  • Thought of the Day

    1 Corinthians 3:3 - "For while there is jealousy and strife among you, are you not of the flesh and behaving only in a human way?"

    One of my favourite U2 songs is a collaboration with Johnny Cash called The Wanderer, and it features the line "they say they want the kingdom, but they don't want God in it".
    Many people say they believe in God, but they don't experience his loving presence. They may be active in Christian work, but only if they have their way. If they cannot be leaders, they refuse to be involved.
    Because they refuse to allow God to fill their lives with his love, they remain weak and powerless.
    Spiritual maturity means developing a greater love for others.

    "When the love of Christ saturates you, immature attitudes such as pettiness, jealousy and strife are dissolved.
    "It is only when you have an intimate relationship with the Lord that you receive sufficient grace to rise above this immaturity and enjoy the solid food that the Holy Spirit gives you." - Solly Ozrovech, A Shelter From The Storm



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