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Ken Borland



Proteas’ future muddied by a lot of disruption 0

Posted on August 15, 2017 by Ken

 

The Proteas have just returned from a sorry tour of England and there has understandably been plenty of speculation over what the future holds for South African cricket.

Coach Russell Domingo seems to have accepted his fate, but Cricket South Africa have been absolutely stum over the whole coaching situation, having only too happily made it clear they were looking elsewhere in the middle of the home series against Sri Lanka in January.

Ottis Gibson is clearly the man CSA have earmarked to take over from Domingo, and he has considerable international experience, having been head coach of the West Indies as well as spending a lot of time with England as their bowling coach. The 48-year-old also played in South Africa for a decade, representing Border, Griqualand West and Gauteng.

The uncertainty over the coaching situation, made worse by Domingo having to return home twice due to the tragic death of his mother, clearly unsettled the Proteas, but there were a lot of other disruptions on their tour as well. Faf du Plessis missing the first Test and Vernon Philander’s health problems did them no favours either.

The most crucial thing that CSA need to do for the national team is to provide stability.

AB de Villiers is still leaving the team hanging as to when and what he wants to play and those in the know are quite clear about the fact that his presence has now become at best a distraction and, at worst, a disruption. In terms of talent and reputation, De Villiers is like a supernova, but we all know that a supernova also tends to produce explosive shockwaves that destroy everything in their path.

South Africa’s recent limited-overs form suggests the team is overshadowed when De Villiers plays, so unused to his presence they have become.

So there needs to be complete clarity over De Villiers’ availability and, if he is not available for everything, then he should also not be allowed to captain the limited-overs teams.

Test captain Du Plessis clearly believes De Villiers will retire completely from the longest format, and the question of who should fill AB’s number four berth has not been answered, with three different batsmen filling the spot in the series against England.

It is Du Plessis himself who should take responsibility and step up into the number four berth. He has the all-round game, being able to both attack and defend, that is needed in that position and as captain he also needs to set the tone.

Temba Bavuma is the incumbent number four, but he seems to be more of a gritty middle-order batsman, coming in at five or six. His displays thus far in Test cricket suggest he will inherit the Jonty Rhodes mantle of his value being far greater than just the sum of the runs he scores.

To me, it was an especially poor decision to move Quinton de Kock up to number four, it betrayed a management that was pandering to the views of those outside the camp. The man touted as the new Adam Gilchrist must have the same role as the great Australian wicketkeeper/batsman; De Kock will have much more impact coming in at six or seven where he can play his own game. He does not want to have to rebuild an innings coming in at 40 for two the whole time, he’s the type of batsman to take the game away from the bowlers.

Which brings us to the openers. It is Heino Kuhn’s misfortune that he waited so long for a chance and it came against one of the greatest new-ball pairings in conditions that were always difficult for batsmen; Dean Elgar fared best of all the openers with an average of just 36.37.

But by jettisoning Stephen Cook after four unsuccessful Test matches, the selectors have created a precedent and it would be only fair to give Aiden Markram a go against Bangladesh at the end of next month. He is unlikely to be tested by their gentle pace bowlers, but at least he is a player for the future who needs a chance sooner rather than later.

There is only one round of Sunfoil Series matches before that, so it seems Kuhn will not even have much opportunity to save himself by scoring a whole lot of runs back on home soil. Even Cook will have a better chance as he will play two four-day games for SA A.

It’s difficult to know what’s eating AB 0

Posted on June 26, 2017 by Ken

 

It’s difficult to know exactly what’s eating AB de Villiers.

It’s not so much the lack of matchwinning performances we have become accustomed to from a true genius – his form has actually been solid, averaging 56 at a strike-rate of 105 in ODIs this year – but more the manner and timing of his dismissals as well as his general demeanour.

Some of his comments dismissing other cricketers have been most unlike a player known for his sportsmanship and generosity, although AB has always had a tendency to speak confidently, as if it will make it come true if he says something enough times with enough conviction.

Since his decision to take a sabbatical from Test cricket, De Villiers has failed to score a century. But are we reading too much into that decision, which was presumably (and hopefully) extremely difficult to make? He did of course suffer a long-term elbow injury – a serious ailment for a batsman – before deciding to ease his workload.

(Interestingly, there is some scientific evidence to suggest the sort of elbow injury De Villiers suffered is seen more often in batsmen under pressure, whether that be due to poor form or the importance of their innings, basically gripping the handle too tightly).

Apart from the elbow injury, the 33-year-old De Villiers, who has always been such a great athlete, has also begun to suffer back problems and now a hamstring niggle, all of which must contribute to the pressure he must feel operating under such expectation at the highest levels of international sport.

The mental pressures are probably greater than the physical workload and De Villiers’ awful strokes to get out in his two Champions Trophy failures are indicative of mental fatigue more than anything else. For a batsman of his quality to slap a wide delivery first ball straight to backward point speaks of the mind being elsewhere.

It’s a controversial precedent that Cricket South Africa have allowed in letting De Villiers miss the crucial Test series in England, but the key question is how are the Proteas management going to get the best out of one of the biggest trumpcards in world cricket through to 2019?

The first piece of the puzzle should be to make Faf du Plessis captain in all formats. Removing the ODI captaincy from De Villiers will no doubt be a great disappointment for someone who is as passionate about representing and leading his country as anyone, but I think the pressures of captaincy are making him sick.

In the field, De Villiers just seems harassed and under pressure, constantly consulting his bowlers and causing the Proteas to have problems with the over-rate police. Counter-intuitively, this all seems to happen while De Villiers sometimes sticks slavishly to plans despite the current situation on the field. Cases in point are the first 10 overs against Sri Lanka, when he did not make a bowling change despite the flood of runs, and the decision to recall the expensive Wayne Parnell just before the rain against Pakistan.

By contrast, Du Plessis just seems a more natural captain and things just seem to be more slick with him at the helm.

By unburdening De Villiers, we will be able to see whether we are dealing with just the vagaries of form or the gradual winding down of a great career.

Let’s not forget, similar questions were being asked of Hashim Amla not that long ago, and he has obviously answered them in the best way possible.

Let’s hope that the best talents of De Villiers will be a part of the Proteas for a long time to come. If that means a lessening of his work-load, wouldn’t it be worth it?

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170610/282372629589258

Sanzar’s SuperRugby Christmas present is likely to be meh 0

Posted on February 20, 2017 by Ken

 

Rugby fans who have had enough of the current fatigue-inducing set-up will be eagerly anticipating Christmas and the expected announcement by Sanzar of a new SuperRugby format from 2016. But what they find in their stocking might still leave them unimpressed because Sanzar are unlikely to go the most obvious route of two pools of nine, eight matches home and away and semi-finals and a final.

Because the Southern Kings had such a dramatic impact on rugby in the Eastern Cape, certainly in terms of crowd figures, the South African Rugby Union (Saru) seem to have accepted that they can no longer leave such a massive region out in the cold even though they lost the promotion/relegation series to the Lions. And Argentina, full Sanzar partners now, look set to be rewarded with a place in SuperRugby as well, expanding the competition to 17 teams. Judging by the noises coming out of New Zealand and Australia, some sort of Japanese involvement is also being strongly considered to make it an even 18.

But the same Australian demands that impacted so heavily on the previous broadcasting agreement, which brings in all the money and therefore decides the format, seem set to ensure common sense does not apply. In order to sustain the ailing code of rugby union in Australia, they want their own conference, even if they have to share it with some New Zealand teams.

So the three proposals that Sanzar are considering are to keep the status quo (yes, many stakeholders, most of them living on a big island, actually think the current format is great), to split into South African and Australasian conferences, or to expand the competition even more and include other Asian teams, and the USA and Canada as well.

It would appear the two-conference system has been most positively received by Saru, and hopefully their negotiators will show much more skill when Sanzar meet in Sydney next week than the muppets who negotiated the previous deal. That could mean six South African franchises, which play each other home and away, making 10 fixtures. If the Australasian conference is split into two pools, with Japan in one and Argentina in the other, then they, too, could play 10 round-robin matches. The idea is then for the top six or eight teams across the conferences to play in the finals. If six teams go through and play each other, that’s five more matches. A semi-final and a final would then mean a maximum of 17 games per team – much cleaner, much simpler and less of a slog than SuperRugby is at the moment for all concerned.

What is vital is that Sanzar consult the players, on whom they rely to sell their product. There is a strong suggestion that the current exodus of players from the southern hemisphere to Europe is not just because of the power of the euro, but also because they are on their last legs due to the unceasing intensity and quantity of rugby Sanzar has foisted on them.

Bulls captain Pierre Spies, one of many on the injured list after the prolonged SuperRugby campaign, is pegging his hopes on change. “I’d really like to see the competition end before the international season. That three-week break for the internationals in June is a waste. I’d like to see all the focus on SuperRugby, get that done with and then give all the teams three or four weeks to prepare for the Tests. We could then finish the Rugby Championship at the end of October and either go back to our franchises or prepare for the end-of-year tour. I’d prefer there to be one global schedule and to finish SuperRugby in one go. That would also give all the teams one extra bye,” Spies told Daily Maverick on Thursday.

There does seem to be growing agreement on the sense of having one global rugby season. The International Rugby Players’ Association has come out in favour of it and even Sanzar CEO Greg Peters has said it makes sense. “The idea of moving June to July, in a Sanzar context, certainly holds a lot of appeal, for a lot of reasons,” Peters told The Herald Sun. “We could complete the SuperRugby season without a break, which is something in an ideal world we would want to do. Then you would move straight into the international program, have a short break, the Rugby Championship, short break, and then the Spring Tours. We would certainly be interested in sitting down with the northern unions and getting their views about whether it would work. And obviously we are interested in the views of the players’ associations as well.”

The Currie Cup Premier Division also looks set to change, with a new eight team format apparently agreed to in principle by the Saru executive committee, just two years after they went to great lengths to justify a cut to six teams. The phrase “political expediency” immediately springs to mind, but the thought of the Kings and the Pumas, who have dominated the First Division in recent times and are based in the rapidly-growing centre of Nelspruit, competing at the top table does have appeal.

The administrators sit in the boardrooms and make the decisions over lavish lunches, changing tune according to their own vested interests, but it is the players who have to go out, put their bodies on the line, and make these formats work.

“I’ve only been playing SuperRugby for six years and I’m struggling to get on the field now,” says Springbok star Francois Steyn, who has been out of action since May after two operations for compartment syndrome in the leg – an over-use injury.

“In South African rugby, we all worry about saying something wrong and stepping on someone’s toes, so I should probably keep my mouth shut. But it’s all about bringing the fans out and less rugby is probably better. Then the top players can play for longer. At this rate, if you play for 10 years, you’re a lucky guy.”

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-08-30-quo-vadis-superrugby/#.WKrl_2997IU

SA rugby needs decency more than anything else 0

Posted on January 12, 2017 by Ken

 

In terms of rugby, the New Year is all about finding answers to the question “What is wrong with South African rugby?”, but two incidents in the last month show that, perhaps more than anything else, some of our players and administrators have to ditch their self-serving attitudes and get back to the old values of the game that were rooted in common decency and humility.

The recent actions of the Western Province Rugby Football Union and current Springbok player Johan Goosen suggest the problems are more about individuals being rotten to the core rather than structural issues.

Let’s start with Goosen and I’m not going to say anything more about his on-field performance than my feeling he has flattered to deceive, although the fact that he never had a start at flyhalf is a mitigating factor.

But his tawdry actions in trying to get out of a lucrative contract with Racing Metro, that he only signed a few months ago and that netted him €500 000 a year until 2020, indicate this is a man of scant integrity and someone who clearly does not put team ahead of self.

A couple of weeks ago Goosen announced his retirement from rugby at the age of just 24, following one of his more injury-free years and his return to international rugby, saying he was going to become commercial director of a Free State based agricultural company.

Of course no one is really going to believe that and his name has since appeared on a Cheetahs training squad list and it has since been said that Goosen is ultimately going to Gloucester, once Montpellier owner Mohed Altrad becomes the English club’s majority shareholder.

With flagrant disregard for any ethical considerations, Goosen has taken advantage of a loophole in French labour law which makes all fixed-term rugby contracts temporary. Hence a player can be released from his contract without penalty if he finds fulltime employment – ostensibly Goosen’s dubious “commercial director” job.

The actions of Western Province rugby are just as cynical and what little faith their loyal supporters had in their administrators must now have almost totally dissipated.

They had applied for liquidation of the business arm of WP Rugby and then, just a day after that was granted by the Cape High Court, the Western Province Rugby Football Union announced that the insolvent company had been bought by one of their other companies.

Having put Western Province rugby into financial strife, the likes of president Thelo Wakefield and CEO Paul Zacks are glibly trying to slip through a loophole in thoroughly dishonourable fashion to evade their creditors, most notably with sponsorship company Aerios.

And these are the calibre of administrators that have been put in charge of one of the most legendary brands in rugby?!

Goosen has surely played his last game in the Green and Gold because people of such deviousness really should not be representing our country. He should also not be allowed to play Super Rugby and the Springbok coach must ensure his players will make the nation proud, not embarrass us on an international stage; the good of the game must come before the avaricious accumulation of individual wealth.

Wakefield must also surely fall on his sword. This is not some village rugby team he is mishandling, but one of the proudest rugby legacies in the world, whose fans should be feeling deeply humiliated.



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