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Ken Borland



Provided with decent support, our sportswomen flourish 0

Posted on August 01, 2017 by Ken

 

Women’s sport has always taken the back seat in this macho country of ours, but the last 10 days have shown just how much can be achieved, and how much joy our female sports stars can bring us when they are provided with decent support.

The Proteas women’s cricket team are the obvious example and one could only salute a magnificent effort when they were pipped by eventual champions England in their World Cup semi-final, which was one of the classic games of the tournament as the hosts and favourites were so nearly undone by the tenacious underdogs.

Our national women’s cricket team have become the most-improved team in the game thanks to the wonderful support they have been given by Momentum and Cricket South Africa. Many young girls will have been inspired by their efforts and it is vital that the momentum created by their exploits is not lost.

The national women’s hockey team have just finished a global tournament of their own in the Hockey World League, which will go down as yet another international showpiece sporting event that we have hosted with aplomb.

Unfortunately, South African hockey does not have the same sort of backing as our cricketers, and it still sticks in the craw to see Investec, founded in Johannesburg in 1974, emblazoned all over the England team. But they have arguably more female talent than even the cricketers do simply because it has been ‘acceptable’ in our misogynistic society for women to play hockey for far longer than it has for cricket.

They showed that they have the ability to consistently be in the top-10 in the world rankings by finishing fifth in the Hockey World League Semifinals, pulling off a memorable win over eventual champions, the United States, as well as beating Ireland and Japan and finishing above India in the final standings. They also qualified automatically for the World Cup.

The obvious enjoyment they get from playing alongside each other, their tremendous team spirit, is one of their greatest assets, but sadly, it was obviously lacking from the men’s team, who managed to avoid relegation but did not win any other games.

Again, South Africa has the male talent to push for a top-10 place, with several of our players sought-after members of overseas clubs, which enables them to escape the poor economic prospects of an amateur sport in this country.

But it is this split-nature of the team – made up of locally-based and overseas-based players – that is causing problems, just as it did with Springbok rugby. According to players who are part of the expanded national squad, the environment in the camp is “hostile” and this threatens to scupper any hopes of our men’s team recouping the losses they have suffered over the last few years of neglect.

Sure, hockey overseas is more professional and better, but the returning players need to realise their job is to lift up their team-mates who are still slogging it out back at home, not belittle them. The team culture is non-existent, with some stars apparently staying in their own hotels, and it is up to the senior players to set an example.

Apart from results, there has been one casualty already with coach Fabian Gregory resigning to take up a position overseas. He says he battled to get his ideas through to the team, that he had a hard time dealing with certain “know-it-all” players.

The senior players, apparently, found it hard to take Gregory seriously as a coach, especially those who are based overseas.

So a new coach will have to be found before the Africa Cup in October – which will be crucial for World Cup qualification – and, hard as it will be for some absolute stalwarts of South African hockey, the time seems right to make a new start with the men’s team, who are really rather old in global terms.

My new broom would be Garreth Ewing, who was one of Gregory’s assistants at the Hockey World League, and I have been highly-impressed by the work he has done with both the SA U21 and University of Johannesburg sides, both in terms of the brand of hockey they play and the team culture he has grown.

Germany lose both the men’s & women’s finals 0

Posted on July 23, 2017 by Ken

 

The Germans had the chance to be uber alles on the last day of the Hockey World League at Wits Astro on Sunday, but unfortunately lost in both the men’s and women’s finals.

The loss in the women’s final, against the United States, was particularly heartbreaking as it came in a shootout, after Germany had scored the opening goal, only for the Americans to snatch the equaliser with just two minutes left.

The men’s final was nowhere near as thrilling, as Belgium produced hockey of the highest standard to storm to a 6-1 victory, firmly laying to rest the 3-2 defeat they had suffered at the hands of the Germans in the pool stages.

Belgium’s pace, skill, use of space and understanding of the angles on a hockey field were all outstanding, especially in the second quarter, when they scored three goals to go into halftime 4-1 up and leaving Germany with a near-insurmountable task to catch them.

Highlights for Belgium were Arthur van Doren, who rescued a short-corner that had gone wrong for the first goal, providing a superb ball into the circle for Amaury Keusters to one-time into goal with a great deflection; Cedric Charlier’s dazzling run that brought the fourth goal and his deftest of touches to deflect a super long ball from Gauthier Boccard into goal after Germany had replaced their ‘keeper with a kicking back.

The USA women had been chasing the game against a dominant German side, and had goalkeeper Jackie Briggs to thank for being only 1-0 down, Camille Nobis steering home the opening goal from Marie Mavers’ cross after she had picked up a deflected slap by Nina Notman.

It was only in the final quarter that the USA managed to impose themselves on a German defence expertly led by Janne Muller-Wieland, with Kathleen Sharkey causing problems with some great runs up front.

Then, with two minutes to go, Sharkey was off on another sortie and defender Nike Lorenz stick-hacked her and leaned into her with the shoulder, causing the 27-year-old Olympian to lose the ball. According to the laws of the game, umpire Carolina de la Fuente of Argentina had no option but to award a penalty stroke.

Germany employed the surprise tactic of replacing their goalkeeper just before the stroke, but Taylor West found the top corner of the goal with ease.

The drama of a shootout then decided the final, with the USA obviously enjoying a big advantage thanks to the brilliance and experience of goalkeeper Briggs. She saved Lorenz’s shot and superbly channelled German captain Jana Teschke away from goal, before Franzisca Hauke beat her but only managed to get the ball into the goal just 0.4 seconds after the hooter.

The responsibility of deciding the shootout then fell to 17-year-old Erin Matson, and she was as cool as a veteran as she calmly finished and claimed the first title for a young American team going through a time of rebuilding.

It was an amazing turnaround in fortunes for the USA, who lost two games in the pool stages.

One of the teams that beat them were South Africa, and they completed a fine end to the tournament on Saturday by beating Japan 2-1 to claim fifth place.

Results: Men’s 3rd/4th – Australia 8 (Jake Whetton, Jeremy Hayward 2, Aaron Kleinschmidt 2, Tom Craig, Trent Mitton, Tom Wickham) Spain 1 (Pau Quemada); Women’s 3rd/4th – England 5 (Sophie Bray, Susannah Townsend, Laura Unsworth, Giselle Ansley 2) Argentina 2 (Lucina von der Heyde, Delfina Merino); Women’s final – United States 1 (Taylor West) Germany 1 (Camille Nobis), USA beat Germany 3-2 in shootout (Erin Matson, Melissa Gonzalez, Michelle Vittese vs Janne Muller-Wieland, Marie Mavers); Men’s final – Belgium 6 (Arthur van Doren, Tim Boon, Amaury Keusters, Cedric Charlier 2, Augustin Meurmans) Germany 1 (Tom Grambusch).

Final standings

Women: 1 USA; 2 Germany; 3 England; 4 Argentina; 5 South Africa; 6 Japan; 7 Ireland; 8 India; 9 Chile; 10 Poland.

Men: 1 Belgium; 2 Germany; 3 Australia; 4 Spain; 5 Ireland; 6 New Zealand; 7 France; 8 Egypt; 9 South Africa; 10 Japan.

 

Germany get the tolerance & the only goal 0

Posted on July 18, 2017 by Ken

 

 

South Africa went down 1-0 to Germany in their Hockey World League women’s quarterfinal at the Wits Astro on Tuesday night, in a game marred by the officials’ tolerance of the Germans’ over-robust play and their bumbling use of the video referral system.

After an evenly-contested first quarter, in which there were chances at both ends but SA goalkeeper Nicole la Fleur’s double-save at a short-corner was a highlight, the home side launched a promising attack which led to a short-corner as Sulette Damons’ good cross was met by Jade Mayne, whose reverse-sticks shot was saved but not without a penalty corner being conceded.

Bernie Coston was then barged over as she went for the deflection from the set-piece, an infringement missed by New Zealand umpire Kelly Hudson. But South Africa called for the video referral and Russian TV umpire Elena Eskina agreed that there had been an off-the-ball body tackle, but called for a card and a short-corner. Ordinarily, a card would be given for a deliberate offence and, being in the circle, that should lead to a penalty stroke.

Umpire Hudson then awarded the short-corner but did not issue the card, leading to confusion all round.

“We asked about the card and what the video umpire said, but the umpire just waved us away and said we must play on,” South Africa captain Nicolene Terblanche, who was celebrating her 200th cap, said afterwards.

The Germans were also extremely physical, often shouldering South African players off the ball, but the home side maintained their composure exceptionally well and certainly ensured the world’s seventh-ranked side were in a fierce contest.

“Germany are always physical and they won a lot of 50/50 balls, which are about who fights hardest. But we were very composed and stuck to our guns, I was very happy with how we reacted. We had control of the game in general and had enough chances to get a win out of it, but we just couldn’t turn them into goals,” South Africa coach Sheldon Rostron said.

Germany brought their typical measured, controlled approach to the game, but South Africa more than held their own as they too played mature, impressive hockey. Their build-up work was at times brilliant, but sadly the finishing touches were lacking.

With two minutes to go to halftime, Camille Nobis received the ball close to goal, swivelled and easily took La Fleur out of the game before flipping the ball into the empty goal to give Germany their 1-0 lead.

South Africa had more than enough chances to equalise, starting with one just a minute later when German goalkeeper Julia Ciupka dived to keep out the impressive Ilse Davids’ reverse-sticks shot from the top of the circle.

In the 41st minute, Damons just had the goalkeeper to beat, but lost control of the ball and was tackled by Ciupka, but the best chance of all fell to Candice Manuel, the heroine of the thrilling win over the USA that put South Africa into the quarterfinals.

Davids intercepted the ball in the German defence and passed to Manuel, who flicked over the advancing goalkeeper only to see the ball bounce wide of the open goal.

The German goalkeeper conceded another short-corner in the 54th minute, but with the ball bobbling about the goalmouth, the home side were just unable to scramble the ball into goal.

The Germans had a goal disallowed on review, umpire Hudson missing that the ball had come off the leg of an attacker, and the South Africans forced one last short-corner in the 59th minute and should have been awarded another but the ball was cleared.

The home side will now chase fifth spot and automatic qualification for the World Cup in London next year, with the gutsy Irish side the first hurdle to get over in that regard. The match will be played on Thursday, before the semi-finals between Germany and Argentina, and England and the United States.

Results: USA 1 (Michelle Vittese) Japan 0; Argentina 2 (Delfina Merino, Julia Gomes) Ireland 1 (Roisin Upton); England 4 (Giselle Ansley, Alex Danson, Susannah Townsend, Hannah Martin) India 1 (Gurjit Kaur); South Africa 0 Germany 1 (Camille Nobis).

Wednesday’s fixtures (men’s quarterfinals): 11.15am Australia v Egypt; 1.30pm Spain v Ireland; 3.45pm Germany v France; 6pm Belgium v New Zealand.

 

More tough roads for SA hockey 2

Posted on July 14, 2017 by Ken

 

South African hockey has travelled some tough roads in the last 20 years, but few defeats have been more dismaying than the one their women’s team suffered at the hands of Chile in their Hockey World League Semifinal at the Wits Astro on Friday.

South Africa are ranked seven places higher than Chile in the world rankings and, given how well they played in their previous game, pushing South American giants Argentina all the way, there was plenty of expectation that the home side would beat Chile and seal their place in the quarterfinals.

Alas, the only goal was scored by Chile and the 1-0 defeat now means South Africa have to beat the USA, ranked sixth in the world, on Sunday to qualify for the knockout round.

South Africa began the game by doing some nice things on attack, but too many moves broke down due to basic errors and they struggled to get sufficient numbers through the circle, all their entries into the D only bringing one short-corner the whole match.

Chile were strong in midfield through the skilful duo of Agustina Venegas and Manuela Urroz, and they earned several short-corners. Goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande was forced to make a couple of good saves and Lisa-Marie Deetlefs also blocked and cleared a dangerous penalty corner.

A fine tackle by Quanita Bobbs and a good run by Candice Manuel set up South Africa’s short-corner just before the end of the first quarter, but the variation to the pusher was not accurate enough and the chance went begging.

At halftime the match was still goalless, a flat South African team seemingly not having the drive to outwork a committed Chile side.

Given all the short-corners Chile were getting, it was always likely they were going to score and it was Urroz who slid in and managed to get her stick to the ball to deflect in what turned out to be the winning goal just two minutes into the second half.

The sluggish home side continued to labour until just before the end of the third quarter, when Tarryn Glasby found a bit of space and fired in a strong shot, but Chile goalkeeper Claudia Schuler managed to get some equipment in the way.

South Africa belatedly raised their tempo in the final chukka, but it was too late by then. It summed up their match when, five minutes from time, the ball bobbled in front of the open goalmouth to Bernie Coston, but the seasoned striker could not scramble it home.

“At the end of the game we saw some movement and passes going forward, but it was too late by then to start playing combination hockey,” coach Sheldon Rostron complained.

“We didn’t have enough go-forward ability, you can’t just keep defending. We weren’t potent enough on attack. The approach of the team has to be better, sometimes it’s easier against the bigger teams because there’s not as much expectation. But against the teams ranked below you, you have to make sure you go out and perform, it’s about consistency. It’s about execution and we have to make sure it all comes together against the USA,” Rostron said.

The most alarming aspect of the South African performance was the lack of movement off the ball. The ball-carrier had far too few passing options and this stunted the attack, allowing the Chile defence to swarm around the circle and make it very hard for the home side to find a way through.

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