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Ken Borland



Sharks Currie Cup coaches licking their lips 0

Posted on March 22, 2017 by Ken

 

“You must be licking your lips!” Sharks director of rugby Gary Gold told his assistant coaches, Sean Everitt and Ryan Strudwick, when he introduced the Currie Cup coaching team at a pre-tournament press conference in Durban on Wednesday.

Everitt, who has been part of the Sharks’ coaching structures for nearly a decade, will look after the backline and Gold said he was particularly excited by the quality players available in that department.

“We have such an exciting backline with Andre Esterhuizen who played so well, S’bura Sithole played very well, Odwa Ndungane I thought was very good; to name a few. We have a really good balance this year with a little bit of experience but a lot of youth. We also have the SA U20 players coming back in. It’s exciting times at the moment, Michael Claassens has been very impressive, likewise Joe Pietersen,” Gold said.

Mobility is what stood out for Gold in terms of the forward pack.

“If you take just one position, Etienne Oosthuizen will go to second row and he’s played back row in Super Rugby. You have those kinds of mobile players in the second row which can only stand you in good stead. Then there’s Philip van der Walt, Jean-Luc and Daniel du Preez, Khaya Majola, Jean Deysel to pick from in the back row, we have quite a mobile team. I think it can lead to some exciting rugby.

“I’m very excited about the team, about the balance between the young players who are so enthusiastic and a couple of older guys we have, like Deysel and Marco Wentzel. Philip van der Walt has joined us now and he’s looked particularly impressive too,” Gold said.

Gold also expounded the merits of his assistant coaches.

“It made perfect sense for Ryan Strudwick to step up. His experience speaks volumes, not only did we work together in the UK at London Irish, he was our captain and we won trophies together, but he’s also been an outstanding coach in KZN for a number of years, recently winning the Varsity Shield. For me it’s a very exciting prospect to take Durban boys and be able to bring them through.

“Sean Everitt’s experience is fantastic, he was a rock in the Super Rugby competition, he’s coached at club level and been successful there, and he’s done very well with the juniors. It’s great continuity to be able to bring these guys through and I’m very excited for this Currie Cup campaign,” Gold said.

Hockey is far from dying 0

Posted on May 08, 2016 by Ken

 

We are constantly being told that hockey is a dying game in South Africa, unloved by the politicians that run sport in this country and struggling to stay afloat as an amateur pursuit in this professional day and age.

But when I spent last week at the Senior Interprovincial Nationals – the most prestigious interprovincial tournament – in Randburg, I was delighted to be reacquainted with a vibrant sport that has passionate followers and a festive culture of its own.

At the top level, where our best hockey players continue to be denied opportunities to play on the biggest stages like the Olympics, there are obvious frustrations, but hockey is the epitome of a mass-participation sport at school, university and club level.

I was told stories of how traditional rugby schools are now finding greater numbers of children wanting to play hockey rather than the oval-ball game.

And in terms of transformation, the South African Hockey Association (Saha) have a good story to tell with numerous players of colour involved at IPT, including several Black coaches. The SA U21 team that made the men’s final included eight players of colour, including six Black Africans.

Saha’s wise policy of humouring and engaging with Sascoc and the minister of sport has paid off with Fikile Mbalula announcing a R10 million injection into hockey’s coffers two weeks ago.

Hockey has been operating on shoestring budgets ever since I began reporting on it back in the early 1990s, so any financial input is most welcome. It’s a well-known fact that our top players have been paying their own way to compete and represent South Africa, something Tubby Reddy and Gideon Sam of Sascoc should choke on the next time they sit down for their sumptuous dinner on their next first-class flight to their next jaunt.

Due to these financial constraints, hockey, at top level, has been forced to become a sport for the young. Once the stars leave their places of tertiary education, the demands of work make it just about impossible for them to dedicate the time they need to remaining in peak shape for the game. It was noticeable how young most of the teams at IPT looked, to such an extent that it reminded me of an U21 interprovincial.

A handful of internationals have been able to become professional players in Europe.

Like cricket, it’s probably fair to say that hockey had its stronghold in English-speaking areas like Natal, Cape Town and Johannesburg, but this has changed dramatically. Northerns, with many Tuks students in their ranks, won the women’s IPT and Afrikaans schools have taken to the game with gusto, as they have to cricket. There is already an explosion of interest amongst the Coloured and Black communities.

In terms of marketing, hockey has much going for it. It has a strong youth flavour (which is always attractive) but it is a sport entire families can participate in, with leagues running from the youngsters through to the Masters, from highly-competitive to social. It is also a game that is evolving into a high-speed, highly entertaining spectacle thanks to the work of the FIH, the international body, in tinkering with the rules.

Saha president Mike du Plessis was telling me about the exciting plans they have for festivals of five-a-side hockey in which the whole family can be involved at the same venue.

Hockey should not be embarrassed that it needs money, sometimes the local game suffers under the impression that they are the ugly step-child of South African sport.

I say they should be bold about their needs, because they have much to offer and there are certainly exciting plans in the pipeline.



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