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Ken Borland



A weekend in August the most important in SA cricket’s turnaround 0

Posted on January 01, 2017 by Ken

 

It was the year of the remarkable turnaround in South African cricket and perhaps the most important weekend of 2016 was the one the national team spent at a “culture camp” in Johannesburg in August.

South African cricket was seemingly in freefall before that, the number one ranking in Tests lost due to a series defeat at home to England, yet another disappointment in a major ICC tournament as the Proteas were eliminated in the first round of World T20 in India and their ODI form was also ropey as they failed to make the final of a triangular series in the West Indies.

There was an atmosphere of doom and gloom, as transformation became an easy scapegoat, and national coach Russell Domingo was not expected to survive the year. An independent review was instituted and then scrapped.

Far more importantly, the greater squad got together and pledged that they had to be better, that ProteaFire was being extinguished and the flame needed to be rekindled. The players themselves took the responsibility to challenge each other and be better.

After flirting with the captaincy of Hashim Amla and AB de Villiers, Faf du Plessis taking the reins of both the Test and ODI side was also crucial and, being a more natural captain drawn to the job, he got the team going in ways that have not been seen in the last couple of years.

The Proteas were glorious in the second half of the year, winning their Test series against New Zealand and then becoming the first team to ever whitewash Australia in a five-match ODI series, before going across the Indian Ocean to their great rivals and winning the first two Tests to claim the series and become the first side since the great West Indies outfits of the 1980s/1990s to win three successive rubbers on Australian soil. You have to go back to the early days of Test cricket between 1884 and 1888 to find the only other team to achieve that feat – England.

If the year itself was memorable for the amazing turnaround in their fortunes, then the one match that epitomised the unity of purpose in the Proteas was the first Test against Australia in Perth.

After choosing to bat first, South Africa batted poorly, only reaching 242 thanks to Quinton de Kock’s 84 and a half-century from Temba Bavuma. Australia had raced away to 158 without loss in reply, before Dale Steyn dismissed David Warner but injured himself in the process, a fractured shoulder bone ruling him out of the rest of the season.

But with just two fit pacemen and debutant spinner Keshav Maharaj weighing in with three wickets, they managed to dismiss Australia for just 244. Du Plessis spoke later about the opposition being “shocked” by the comeback and the resolve shown by the Proteas, who dominated the rest of the game and won the second Test in Hobart by an innings.

De Kock was the Proteas’ outstanding player of 2016, scoring 695 Test runs at 63.18, second only to Amla’s 729 at 48.60, and continuing to plunder ODI runs such that he was named the ICC’s player of the year in the 50-over format.

On the bowling front, Kagiso Rabada continues to grow and ended as the Proteas’ leading wicket-taker and amongst the top six globally, while the excellent form of Vernon Philander and Kyle Abbott suggests that the end of Steyn’s great career, whenever it may come, will not necessarily leave a vacuum.

Lions have earned universal respect despite failing to make playoffs 0

Posted on November 24, 2016 by Ken

 

The Lions may have failed to make the SuperRugby playoffs after their dramatic weekend draw against the Stormers, but the Johannesburg-based franchise has certainly earned the respect of all their opponents this season.

Just two years after they were controversially relegated from SuperRugby, the Lions have clinched second place in the South African Conference and boast an almost identical record to the Brumbies, who have snuck into the playoffs ahead of them because of bonus points.

They have maintained their positive style of play with ball in hand, but where they have improved most is defensively, boasting the best tackling success rate in the competition. The Lions play at the highest tempo of all the South African sides as they swarm around in defence and always have great intensity on the ball. Their powerful scrum has provided a solid platform and their lineout has also been efficient.

“It’s all about playing with intensity and hunger, and we have to up our performance every week. There are plans in place, but I also allow the guys to be free spirits and you have to live with the small mistakes that come from that,” coach Johan Ackermann says. “Obviously I’m very proud of the team, it must be one of our best years and it shows that hard work is worth it.”

The Lions have certainly deserved all the praise that has come their way, beating the qualified Waratahs and Highlanders in the last five weeks and showing all season that they are never out of the contest with some superb second-half comebacks.

“There’s great belief within this side, a real hunger. We want to close down the opposition’s space and put them under pressure. We’ve built our physicality in defence, we want to be in their faces and not stand back,” captain Warren Whiteley says.

Their impressive performances have seen several of their players grow into Springbok contenders. The most likely Lions player to feature in Heyneke Meyer’s Springbok World Cup squad is flyhalf Elton Jantjies, who dares to take the ball flat and attack the opposition line, has superb hands and is a strong defender, as well as kicking well this season.

Eighthman Whiteley is competing with Duane Vermeulen and Schalk Burger for a place at the World Cup, but he gets through a mound of work and is the only player in SuperRugby this year to have made more than 200 tackles, while also being highly effective in a linking role, possessing great skill and vision as befits a Springbok Sevens player who helped win the Commonwealth Games gold medal last year.

He is also adept at interfering with the opposition lineout, where Franco Mostert has also been a key performer for the Lions, as well as in the loose.

Warwick Tecklenburg has been outstanding in doing all the Lions’ dirty work, being second only to Whiteley in terms of tackles made, but fellow flank Jaco Kriel has been the most impressive forward.

A constant nuisance at the breakdown, he oozes raw talent in offence, having phenomenal pace, strength and hands, and has more often than not been able to spark the most sensational counter-attacks by the Lions.

Harold Vorster and Lionel Mapoe have proved to be two powerful centres, while scrumhalf Faf de Klerk and wing Ruan Combrinck are two other backs who have announced themselves as future Springboks this year.

Despite their success over the last two years, Ackermann says at the moment they are just playing pretty rugby and haven’t won anything yet, there is more growing to do.

“We can look back on a good season regardless of missing the playoffs. The players know where they stand with me and they know my expectation on deserving the jersey. As long as they do that, I can’t ask for more. The growth from last year is definitely there, but there is still a lot of work to do.

“Nobody has achieved anything yet. We are not in the playoffs, we haven’t won the Currie Cup yet, we haven’t won any trophies yet. But if you ask me if there is a lot of growth, both for me as coach and for the team, then definitely if you look where we started in January 2014 until where we are now,” Ackermann says.

 

Sun City ends era with increased crowds & enthusiastic sponsors 0

Posted on December 09, 2015 by Ken

 

Increased crowd figures and an enthusiastic response from the sponsors marked the end of an era at Sun City as the final 30-man Nedbank Golf Challenge was completed at the weekend.

Next year the tournament will shift away from the first weekend in December for the first time since its inception in 1981, moving to mid-November as it becomes the penultimate event in the European Tour’s Race to Dubai Finals Series and will be played with a 72-man field and an increase in prizemoney to reflect its more elite status.

But the traditional Nedbank Golf Challenge went out with a bang at Sun City over the weekend, Australian Marc Leishman’s comfortable victory being watched by hordes of people.

According to tournament director Alastair Roper, crowds steadily improved through the week. Thursday’s opening day was watched by a few hundred people less than usual, but then there was a 1.5% increase on Friday and the improvement over the weekend was apparent as 12.8% more people came through the gates on Saturday compared to last year, and 4.7% more on Sunday.

“Overall the crowd figures were better and I think that was largely related to the field, people felt it was very good and provided a diversity of golfers,” Roper told The Citizen on Monday.

“What also bodes well for the event as it heads into a new format is that there was even more enthusiasm from the sponsors, with a number of them saying they are going to have to double the size of their facilities for next year.”

The Nedbank Golf Challenge has always been a marker for the beginning of the Christmas holidays and an end-of-year bash for corporate South Africa, but that might change with the tournament starting on November 10.

“It is one of my fears that the crowds might not come, but we will only find out the impact on that once we experience the new date. Universities and schools will also be in the middle of exams. Already the European Tour are talking to the guys in Dubai to maybe have the Tour Championship a bit later, possibly moving into our old spot in the first week of December. There are problems with Thanksgiving, when a lot of Americans in the United Arab Emirates won’t be around to watch golf, and the Abu Dhabi Grand Prix, but the dates will hopefully be massaged a bit,” Roper said.

“A lot of things will have to change because of the impact of having 72 players, there will have to be bigger facilities for them. Even the media centre needs to be looked at because there will be greater demands with it being the penultimate event on the Race to Dubai. I think we may have to use some properties close by for specific facilities like caddies’ accommodation,” Roper said.

 

Titans eager to maintain momentum after bruising start 0

Posted on November 12, 2015 by Ken

 

 

The Titans took a bruise to their pride in their opening RamSlam T20 Challenge loss to the Dolphins, but successive victories have lifted the mood and left them eager to maintain their momentum as they head into a vital weekend.

The Titans travel to Bloemfontein to take on the Knights on Friday night, before returning home to face the Warriors on Sunday at Centurion in a double-header that also features the Dolphins playing the Cape Cobras.

“We weren’t happy with our performance in that first game against the Dolphins, we just didn’t adapt to conditions, we weren’t smart enough. So we’re very happy with our progression through the last two matches, but we’re still playing at only 70% of our capability. We’re executing better game plans and we’re very happy that the workload is being shared in terms of both batting and bowling,” senior batsman Farhaan Behardien said at SuperSport Park on Wednesday.

The inclusion of players like Graeme van Buuren and Lungi Ngidi has helped the change in fortunes, but there is likely to be another shake-up of the team this weekend with the return of all-rounder David Wiese after recovering from a hand injury.

While other captains are stumbling around in the fog when the pressure is on, Albie Morkel can chuckle and consider the luxury of fielding eight batsmen and nine bowlers – five pacemen, a dibbly-dobbler in Behardien, wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi, a slow left-armer in Van Buuren and offie Henry Davids.

“We’re seeing in T20 now that you need eight batsmen, you need that depth if you go five or six down. The last two games, we’ve had enough batting to win and that takes the pressure off Albie and myself, everyone is chipping in. It’s where the game is going and we’ve taken a leaf out of Australia’s book – they have guys like James Faulkner, Mitchell Marsh and Mitchell Johnson; Chris Morris, Albie and David are a wonderful addition to our team. We have three frontline bowlers and three all-rounders with a wealth of experience internationally,” Behardien said.

“There are so many different combinations and it’s a quality 15-man squad. Anyone on their day can perform, we probably have more variety with our bowling than any other team and a lot of guys who love batting under pressure,” Van Buuren 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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