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Ken Borland



Improvement needed if today’s pride & joy is to remain 0

Posted on December 06, 2016 by Ken

 

The Standard Bank Proteas need to continue improving if the sense of pride and joy that surrounds the team today is to remain in the long-term, coach Russell Domingo said upon the squad’s victorious return from their Test series triumph in Australia.

The Proteas not only became only the second team in over a hundred years to win three successive Test series in Australia, but they also completed an amazing turnaround in fortunes from last season’s woes, beginning with the series win over New Zealand and then the historic 5-0 whitewash of the Aussies in the limited-overs series. But Domingo, who has come through a tough time personally with many calling for his head, wants the Proteas to keep pushing on.
“The team is in a good space at the moment and we have to treasure and nurture that because things can change very quickly in this game. The belief is slowly coming back into the team, but we are not yet where I feel we could be, although we’re heading in the right direction,” Domingo said.
Chief among the coach’s concerns is the inconsistency of the batting. Although South Africa’s batsmen scored five centuries and five half-centuries during the three-match series, only Quinton de Kock and Faf du Plessis averaged over 40.
“The batting, in particular, is an area we need to improve. We were 40 for three a lot and even 150 for six in the last game. Players are putting in big performances, but not consistently. A guy would score a hundred and then have a couple of Tests with no runs. Quinton was the one guy to find a rich vein of form, but for the rest there was no follow-up after they scored big runs. We’ve identified that and will work hard at it,” Domingo said.
Australia scored just one century in the series, by the impressive Usman Khawaja in the final Test in Adelaide, which Australia won by seven wickets. But that defeat was more about the Proteas having just run out of legs and intensity, having given their absolute all in winning the first two Tests.
Although the chance of an historic double-whitewash passed the Proteas by, captain Du Plessis said he was more than satisfied with a 2-1 series win.
“We set high standards and obviously we wanted a 3-0 win, but I’m exceptionally happy with a 2-1 win. If you had offered me 2-1 at the start of the series, I would have bitten your whole arm off for that result. If there was one specific incident that was more important than any others in winning us the series, it was the turnaround in Perth.
“The belief that the team took from that session, sparked by resilience, was out of this world and it took the team to a new level of confidence. It’s probably the best session I’ve been part of on a cricket field, the way everyone stood up after losing Dale Steyn, which was incredibly hard, the whole team felt it, but somehow they just made it possible to bounce back.
“After Dale’s injury, everyone thought we were out of the contest and I think we shocked Australia by playing some scarily good cricket,” Du Plessis said.
Despite the magnitude of the triumph, South Africa are still only fifth in the Test rankings, with Australia third, and the Proteas are going to have to keep winning if they are to return to the number one spot, preferably starting with a 3-0 victory over Sri Lanka in December/January.
“Going up the rankings is a goal of ours but it won’t just happen, we need to take really small steps to get back to number one. But all the signs are there that we can get back there; Sri Lanka are a good team, they’re playing well, but if we beat them then I reckon we’ll be close to number two,” Du Plessis said.
When Domingo and Du Plessis were asked to come up with reasons for the remarkable resurgence in the Proteas’ fortunes, the coach came up with “unity” and “resilience”, while the skipper mentioned “energy” and “vision”.
“It’s been a combination of things and getting a few players back that we have missed a lot, like Vernon Philander and Dale Steyn, has made a massive difference. But the unity amongst the guys and the realisation of how important it is to play for your country has been very important. A few players have also come back into form, the team as a whole has got their confidence back. This team prides itself on their resilience,” Domingo said.
For Du Plessis, it goes back to the culture camp the squad had in August.
“We made some obvious goals because we weren’t happy with where we were as a team. We had that weekend away and we took a hard look at ourselves with brutal honesty. Ninety percent of our success is due to the rebirth in energy and vision from that camp and the results speak for themselves. We wanted to make sure our team culture was strong, that all of us were on the same boat and making sure we are going in the right direction,” Du Plessis said.
The Proteas captain will now await the date for his appeal hearing for ball-tampering, which is expected to be confirmed this week, but Du Plessis maintained his strong stance that he is innocent of any wrongdoing.
Whatever the outcome of that hearing, at which Du Plessis will now have proper South African legal representation, it will not detract from the fact that he led South Africa to one of their greatest triumphs – beating Australia in Australia is the stuff childhood dreams are made of.

http://sponsorships.standardbank.com/groupsponsorship/News-and-Media/Proteas:-Improvement-needed-if-today’s-pride-&-joy-is-to-remain

How the Springboks win v Italy of most interest 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

The Springboks will almost certainly emerge victorious over Italy in their Test at Kings Park in Durban on Saturday, but the way they achieve that triumph is what most people will be interested in.

Italy have lost all 10 previous Tests they have played against South Africa, with an average score of 53-13, and even though they are an improved outfit since their last meeting – the 55-11 defeat in East London in 2010 – they still have a way to go before they can seriously expect to beat the Springboks on their home turf.

With the world-class Sergio Parisse an inspirational figure at eighthman, they will bring a combative, committed pack to the contest on Saturday, and a stern challenge in the scrums, even with brilliant tighthead Martin Castrogiovanni coming off the bench, but it is difficult to see what other weapons they can bring to the table.

They lack generals at halfback with Edoardo Gori at scrumhalf and the 33-year-old Alberto di Bernardo making his debut at flyhalf, while it is difficult to see the rest of their backline finding a way through what is generally a formidable Springboks defence.

Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer struggled to keep his clients – the South African rugby public – happy last year as he won seven of 12 Tests. Of course his primary aims are winning and building a team for the next World Cup, rather than playing a brand of rugby that the public likes.

But if your greatest desire when it comes to the Springboks is seeing tries and the ball being thrown around by an entertaining backline, then Saturday’s game should provide a few more moments of pleasure than almost all of the games last year did.

Meyer’s selection of the likes of Willie le Roux at fullback, JJ Engelbrecht at outside centre and Jano Vermaak at scrumhalf suggests he wants to bring some youthful enthusiasm to the attack and the team he announced this week has been met with a thumbs-up by most critics.

The Springboks will, of course, still crash the ball up through the likes of powerful carriers like Willem Alberts, Pierre Spies, Eben Etzebeth, Adriaan Strauss, Tendai Mtawarira, Jean de Villiers and substitutes Coenie Oosthuizen, Flip van der Merwe and Chiliboy Ralepelle, but it is hoped the backline will keep the ball in hand more often than kicking up-and-unders.

Meyer confirmed that Le Roux’s call-up was due to the brand of rugby he displayed for the Cheetahs, and that’s what the Springbok coach wants him to reproduce on Saturday.

“He has shown himself to be a player who has that X-factor we need to add to the mix if we are going to be a complete team,” said Meyer. “If you look at the past World Cups, they’re not usually decided by lots of tries, but an X-factor moment in a key World Cup game can win you the trophy.

“I’ve had a chat with Willie and told him that what I am expecting from him in this Test match is what he has done at SuperRugby level. I don’t want him to change anything from what he does at the Cheetahs. That means he will be given licence to play his natural game.”

Hopefully that vote of confidence will see Le Roux prosper. Meyer is obviously not just looking for X-factor from his fullback; he also needs a good kicking game, security in the air and solid defence.

An Italian team not renowned for dazzling attacking play provides the ideal opportunity for the 23-year-old to show he can make his mark at international level as well.

A resurgent Morné Steyn is there at flyhalf for the percentage game if necessary, while the presence of De Villiers would provide invaluable experience for a new-look backline. The Springbok captain is, however, battling a hamstring niggle and if he is ruled unfit it would mean a debut for another exciting young gun, Bulls centre Jan Serfontein.

Pat Lambie had his backers for the flyhalf position on his home ground, but is on the bench to provide even more attacking impact if need be.

“I rate Patrick Lambie highly and he will get his chance to play. My view is that we have two flyhalves and which one plays will depend on what we need from a particular game. A lot of people have pigeon-holed me as a guy who only likes players who can play a certain way, but if you look at my Bulls teams over the years, there were always guys there that were a bit different and could provide that missing X-factor,” Meyer said.

Saturday could just be the day when we see that come to fruition in the Green and Gold jersey.

Teams

South Africa: 15-Willie le Roux, 14-Bryan Habana, 13-JJ Engelbrecht, 12-Jean de Villiers, 11-Bjorn Basson, 10-Morné Steyn, 9-Jano Vermaak, 8-Pierre Spies, 7-Willem Alberts, 6-Francois Louw, 5-Juandré Kruger, 4-Eben Etzebeth, 3-Jannie du Plessis, 2-Adriaan Strauss, 1-Tendai Mtawarira. Replacements: 16-Chiliboy Ralepelle, 17-Trevor Nyakane, 18-Coenie Oosthuizen, 19-Flip van der Merwe, 20-Arno Botha, 21-Ruan Pienaar, 22-Pat Lambie, 23-Jan Serfontein.

Italy: 15-Andrea Masi, 14-Giovanbattista Venditti, 13-Luca Morisi, 12-Alberto Sgarbi, 11-Luke McLean, 10-Alberto di Bernardo, 9-Edoardo Gori, 8-Sergio Parisse, 7-Robert Barbieri, 6-Alessandro Zanni, 5-Marco Bortolami, 4-Antonio Pavanello, 3-Lorenzo Cittadini, 2-Leonardo Ghiraldini, 1-Alberto de Marchi. Replacements:  16-Davide Giazzon, 17-Matias Aguero, 18-Martin Castrogiovanni, 19-Valerio Bernabo, 20-Joshua Furno, 21-Tobias Botes, 22-Luciano Orquera, 23-Tommaso Iannone

http://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-06-07-boks-vs-italy-preview-in-search-of-factor-x/#.VkXVcXYrLIU



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