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Ken Borland



Anxious times for Coetzee as his plans are undermined 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

The way his plans for his crucial second year as Springbok coach are being undermined by injuries and overseas departures, Allister Coetzee could be forgiven for starting to take Valium as his appointment with the feisty French looms ever nearer.

Coetzee was spared the axe by SA Rugby after a 2016 campaign that had most Springbok fans in need of post-traumatic stress drugs, and he has also been given more support in terms of more experienced assistants and training camps during SuperRugby.

But there is little doubt that Coetzee needs to produce a series win from the three Tests against France in Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg in June if he is to still be Springbok coach for the Rugby Championship. There are ongoing shadowy moves involving Rassie Erasmus that will have Coetzee perpetually looking over his shoulder.

But the problems Coetzee already faces in terms of selecting his squad would be enough to send someone of less tenacious character running for the hills.

A run of injuries has sidelined his two most capped local flyhalves and his first three choices for inside centre. Another midfield star has decided to pursue his career overseas as has a potential scrumhalf candidate, a position in which Coetzee has real problems.

In fact, if you run through the list of names of local players currently available for the backline, it makes gloomy reading.

And thus we come to the thorny issue of overseas players. The new 30 caps criterion of SA Rugby only comes into effect from July 1, so there are obviously going to be a bunch of foreign-based players included for the French series.

If one had to pick a backline only from the ranks of the SuperRugby franchises, it would be sorely lacking in the experience which is so important at Test level.

On current form, the uncapped Ross Cronje should probably be the starting scrumhalf, but Faf de Klerk, although suffering from the vagaries of form at the moment, must surely feature somewhere, especially since he played in 11 of the Springboks’ 12 Tests last year.

Cobus Reinach is the scrumhalf heading overseas and will be ineligible after July 1 because he only has 10 caps.

At flyhalf, Coetzee is faced with a repeat of last year’s problem when he was without Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard. The Bulls man is a non-starter for the French series, leaving the coach to gamble between a rusty Lambie or a frustrating Elton Jantjies, a man who looks top-class in SuperRugby but has been as hesitant as a vegan in a butchery at Test level.

But hopefully there will be a change in approach from the Springboks this year, a move towards the up-tempo, ball-in-hand style of the Lions, and Jantjies will surely feel more comfortable in that sort of environment.

The Springboks have a history of throwing Lambie into battle when in need of a rescue act, but it would surely not be fair on the 26-year-old to toss him back into Test action after probably just three SuperRugby games.

Curwin Bosch has burst on to the scene for the Sharks, but it would be heaping too much pressure on to the 19-year-old’s shoulders to expect him to play flyhalf for the Springboks, especially when you have Jantjies to call on.

Bosch could well be selected at fullback for the Springboks, however, with Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant only producing glimpses of form for the Bulls.

Lwazi Mvovo is likely to be on the one wing for the Springboks and Courtnall Skosan certainly looks like someone who can be relied upon if called to make the step up. The local depth at wing is not great, with Ruan Combrinck out with a long-term injury and Seabelo Senatla and Sergeal Petersen battling to get on the field.

One does not like to dwell on the defensive frailties of players, but for all their brilliance with ball in hand, Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Dillyn Leyds and Cheslin Kolbe have all shown weaknesses in defence that Test opposition will definitely focus on.

Lionel Mapoe and Francois Venter have put their hands up for the outside centre berth, but Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh, the last three players to wear the number 12 jersey for the Springboks, are all currently injured.

De Allende and De Jongh might return to action just before the June international window, but the confirmation last week that Jan Serfontein has given in to the agents flashing lots of numbers on their calculators and will head overseas is most untimely.

While Serfontein can still play against France, will Coetzee be willing to make an investment in a player who will be stranded on 29 Tests, if he plays all three internationals in June, and therefore won’t be eligible for selection for the Rugby Championship?

While I fully understand the reasons players leave to perform overseas, I have it on good authority that Serfontein is managed by an agency that only gets a commission if they land the player an overseas deal.

So obviously his agent was unlikely to recommend the improved contracts that were on the table from both the Bulls and SA Rugby. In fact, there was an unconfirmed report from France that Serfontein had already signed a three-year deal with Montpellier back in January.

Surely SA Rugby could have a case for negotiating in bad faith against the Essentially sports management company and cancel their agents’ licence? This same company hardly covered their names in glory with the way they handled the departures of SA cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott on Kolpak deals earlier this year …

That leaves someone like the uncapped Burger Odendaal as the frontrunner for the inside centre position and as tempting as it may be to pick a backline purely from SuperRugby players, their total number of caps might then amount to less than 50.

Which means there is the likelihood that the likes of Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar and Morne and Francois Steyn will be winging their way back to South Africa in an effort to make up for their undistinguished recent efforts for the Springboks.

One cannot blame desperate coaches for trying anything to save their own skins, but bringing back all those former stars would surely be a retrograde step in terms of the future of Springbok rugby.

https://www.alloutrugby.com/euro-boks-retro-injuries/

Ackers deserves enormous credit & support 0

Posted on May 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Johan Ackermann deserves enormous credit for the way he has transformed the Lions team over the last five years but he also deserves the public’s support for the tough decision he has made to further his career overseas with Gloucester.

Coaches always have a shelf-life with a team and guys like Alex Ferguson or Ian McIntosh staying for many years at one club are the exception rather than the rule. Ackermann has been the provider of so much to the Lions – rebuilding their culture after their morale was shattered during the John Mitchell years; up-skilling them such that they now lead the way in South Africa when it comes to the most progressive brand of rugby; helping to build Springboks who will surely do the country proud if trusted by Allister Coetzee in future; and giving them steel, not only up front amongst their highly impressive pack but also in the way they are now able to win the tight games, as they did against the Sharks last weekend.

So who can begrudge Ackers the chance to advance his own career a bit?

There is no doubt the 46-year-old would never be wrenching himself away from his Lions family and the Ellis Park supporters – the way he broke down while making the announcement of his departure makes this clear – unless he believed a move was essential to further his own highly-promising coaching career.

Ackermann has rightly been spoken of as a future Springbok coach, but there is no top-level international coach at the moment who has been employed in just one country. Steve Hansen coached Wales before joining the All Blacks staff; Eddie Jones was involved with the Australian, Japanese and South African sides before rejuvenating England; Michael Cheika coached Leinster and Stade Francais before getting the Wallabies job; Joe Schmidt is a Kiwi who coached in France before taking over Ireland, and Scotland coach Vern Cotter has the same story.

As brilliant as Ackermann has been, he has no real experience outside of coaching the Lions to a Super Rugby final and one Currie Cup crown. It can only be good for South African rugby that one of its most promising coaches spreads his wings and enjoys new horizons.

There also should be no panic at Ellis Park with the departure of their much-loved coach. As far as a replacement goes – the successor will take charge for the Currie Cup later this year – there is no need for the Lions to look further than what they already have.

The fact that the Lions have someone like the highly-rated Swys de Bruin – who has done well as a head coach before with Griquas and will undoubtedly build on the legacy of the last five years, providing great continuity – means president Kevin de Klerk and CEO Rudolf Straeuli, who have both also played key roles in the Lions’ resurgence, can kip easy when it comes to Ackermann’s successor.

Their structures are clearly in good nick – part of the wonderful legacy Ackermann has left – with both their U19 and U21 teams winning their respective provincial championships last year, so if someone has to move up from that level it should not be so high an elevation as to cause a ricked neck.

In fact, Straeuli used the terms “continuity” and “stability” several times while responding to questions about the road forward for the Lions, so it is not unreasonable to expect De Bruin, JP Ferreira (defence) and Ivan van Rooyen (conditioning) will continue in their roles and have more responsibility.

For those who believe Ackermann has turned his back on the Springbok coaching job, it seems clear that both Allister Coetzee and Rassie Erasmus are in his way for the foreseeable future.

The SA A job is an indication that he is somewhere on Saru’s radar, and he is still willing to coach the second-stringers when SuperRugby breaks for the mid-year internationals, but new challenges and experiences await overseas and it is exciting to think just how good a coach Ackermann will be when he returns to these shores.

http://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170408/282621737571662

Stone shows he’s blessed with temperament as well as ‘game’ 0

Posted on December 08, 2016 by Ken

 

Young Brandon Stone is undoubtedly blessed with a terrific golf game but an equally impressive temperament as he showed on Sunday by blazing his way to a seven-stroke victory in the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.

The 23-year-old began the day with a three-stroke lead over defending champion Charl Schwartzel, who has won the tournament four times, and showed immense composure as South Africa’s number two ranked golfer drew level with him after six holes.

But Stone stuck to his game-plan of staying conservative on the tougher front nine, turning in one-under-par, before obliterating the field on the back nine as he raced to a five-under-par 67, including five birdies, that left him on 22-under-par for the tournament, the second-best winning score ever.

It was the vastly more experienced Schwartzel who disintegrated, a bogey at the par-five 13th, when he wasted a superb drive by taking two shots to get out of a greenside bunker, being followed by a disastrous eight at the par-five 15th and then a double-bogey on the par-three 16th after more water trouble.

In fact, Stone stared down all his challengers, with Keith Horne and Chris Hanson both fading to 76s for 10-under overall, while Benjamin Hebert could only manage a level-par 72 to finish in a tie for fourth on 12-under and David Drysdale shooting a 73 to finish on 10-under.

Richard Sterne, second on 15-under-par after a 67, and young Belgian Thomas Detry, who finished third in just his fifth European Tour start after a 68, were the chief beneficiaries of the carnage up top the leaderboard.

“It wasn’t stress free but it feels great and it’s massive to have my name alongside those big ones already on the trophy. It’s probably the best I’ve played, my ball-striking was superb from the first to last hole and there wasn’t a hole where I was really in trouble all week. To shoot 22-under around here is not a simple task, it’s quite something,” a delighted Stone said after his second European Tour triumph following his SA Open win at the start of the year.

A pair of birdies on the sixth and seventh holes were key for Stone as they kept him under par on the front nine, even though he bogeyed the eighth, taking a lot of flak for hitting Driver off the deck.

“On the front nine I was tied for the lead at one stage and it was reminiscent of the SA Open. But I knew my game-plan was to be one or two under for the front nine and then try and score on the back nine and I was able to get some momentum going,” Stone said.

Victory was sealed on the 13th shortly after Schwartzel’s bogey there as Stone narrowly missed his putt for eagle after a superb drive and approach shot to 25 feet, his birdie giving him a five-shot lead.

Stone was just way too hot for the rest of the field on a sweltering 40 degree day in Malelane.

 

The best way to avoid an awful thrashing 0

Posted on September 18, 2016 by Ken

 

“What is the best way to avoid an awful thrashing,” was the question uppermost in my mind on Thursday afternoon.

It’s fair to say that my mind this week has been a bit like the ocean outside Pegasus Bay, which shelters Christchurch from the wave-tossed Pacific Ocean as it crashes into the rest of New Zealand’s South Island’s rugged coastline –restless, uneasy and with thoughts of Springbok rugby’s demise pounding away.

The lack of focus became apparent in the Sunshine Tour Media Challenge on Thursday afternoon, as Musiwalo Nethunzwi, the gifted 28-year-old from Modderfontein Golf Club, quickly dominated the front nine at Glendower Golf Club to go eight-up over hapless me at the turn.

The prospect of losing 10&8 had thankfully been averted, but the ignominy of a massive defeat was very much on the cards. At the halfway house I decided the only way forward was to stick with the things (it’s a short list) that have worked in the past and I was fortunate to also bump into Thabang Simon, the Soweto Country Club professional who has been playing on tour since 1998/99.

I suspect Simon just wanted to tag along out of morbid curiosity to watch the trainsmash that is my golf – I was having a bad day so it’s probably more like the effects of a tsunami obliterating a densely-populated area – but his presence had the effect of galvanising me and I managed to win a few holes before eventually going down 5&4.

On a serious note, the difficulties our development golfers face in trying to make it as professionals is clearly illustrated by Nethunzwi. He was magnificent off the tee, long and straight, and outplayed James Kamte, the pinnacle of Black African golf in South Africa and part of our fourball, to illustrate the talent he has.

But Nethunzwi, a thoroughly affable chap as well, does not have a full-time coach, simply because he cannot afford one, providing an opportunity for corporate South Africa to help transform the game if ever I’ve seen one.

I have a feeling most Springbok fans are expecting a “5&4” defeat at the hands of the All Blacks on Saturday morning.

It’s important to note, however, that South African rugby has been through these times of mourning before.

Heyneke Meyer’s first Rugby Championship campaign in 2012 saw the Springboks draw in Argentina before losing both games in Australia and New Zealand, the All Blacks also hammering them 32-16 at Ellis Park in Johannesburg.

In Peter de Villiers’ first Tri-Nations tournament, in 2008, the Springboks won just one game, astonishingly against the All Blacks in Dunedin, while Jake White started superbly, but a run of five successive defeats in 2006 left him on the brink of being fired before a 77th-minute Andre Pretorius penalty edged them to a one-point win over New Zealand in Rustenburg. Just over a year after that, the Springboks were winning the World Cup in France.

Even their 1995 triumph came after they had won just three of their previous 15 Tests against Australia, New Zealand, France and England.

The Springboks dug their way out of those troughs and came out stronger, and former star Fourie du Preez certainly believes this will be the case again.

“It’s a tough story for South African rugby at the moment and all supporters would like to believe it will get better. As a former player though, I can tell you that this experience now will really count in their favour further down the line. I remember before the 2007 World Cup it was the same for us.

“When the Springboks have their backs against the wall, they always stand up and we still have great players. I just don’t understand why we have to wait until we’re under such pressure though. It’s very unfortunate that the new coach was appointed just four weeks before his first Test and he’s going through a tough time as well,” Du Preez said.

The inspirational scrumhalf was speaking in studio as part of The Dan Nicholl Show, which so often puts matters of South African sport in perspective. The first episode of season four, which has Du Preez in the line-up, will be broadcast on Wednesday at 7pm on SuperSport 1.

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    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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