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Ken Borland



The World Cup beckons for both the SA men’s & women’s hockey sides 0

Posted on November 06, 2017 by Ken

 

The World Cup beckons for both the South African women’s and men’s hockey teams after coach Sheldon Rostron pulled off the remarkable feat of steering both sides to the African Cup of Nations title in Ismailia, Egypt, at the weekend.

While the women, who went through the Africa Cup tournament without conceding a goal, had already qualified for the 2018 World Cup in London thanks to their fifth-place finish in the World League Semifinals, the men were under severe pressure, in the last-chance saloon, to beat hosts Egypt and win the continental crown which also gets them to the World Cup, the men’s event being held in India.

With just two minutes remaining in the final, Jethro Eustice scored from a penalty corner to give South Africa the 2-1 victory.

“It was quite a daunting task in the beginning, but with the right preparation and planning it became a lot more simpler. I was lucky to have really good support staff and I was really proud of both sets of players,” Rostron told The Citizen on Tuesday when asked how tough it was to coach two teams at the same tournament.

“The specific objective of the women’s side was to not have any goals scored against us, we were using a different structure, and I’m really pleased that worked out and that the ranking points we gained should lift us back to the 11th spot in the world.

“The men’s side had qualification for the World Cup hanging over us, but we implemented a very good process which the players bought into and it was very good to see it come to fruition. In the final though, our plans didn’t work out so well, we were 1-0 down after the first quarter and we had to be more aggressive,” Rostron said.

Competing in Africa, where there is a wide range of strengths when it comes to the opposition, also meant the teams had to at times rein themselves in so as not to become too loose. For the men, this was especially important as a daunting final against Egypt, who beat them in the World League in July, was always going to be lying ahead.

“We had to be very specific, it couldn’t just be about scoring goals and going crazy, every match we played was about using the tactics we were going to use in the final. African teams are so unconventional and forever changing. But now there is a lot of positivity going forward in South African hockey,” Rostron said.

https://citizen.co.za/sport/sport-other-sport/1711538/smart-planning-key-in-sas-brilliant-hockey-double/

SA women ensure they will travel to World Cup 0

Posted on July 20, 2017 by Ken

 

 

The South African women’s hockey side made sure that they will travel to London next year for the World Cup as they beat Ireland 3-0 in the Hockey World League at Wits Astro on Thursday, ensuring that they will finish either fifth or sixth in the prestigious tournament that ends on Sunday.

Normally, the top five from the Hockey World League semi-finals gain automatic qualification for the World Cup, but because England are hosting the 2018 edition of hockey’s biggest event and they finished in the top five in Johannesburg, it has opened up another spot and sixth place will be good enough for South Africa.

South Africa dominated the first half against Ireland, but took their time in transferring that on to the scoreboard.

The opening goal eventually came in the 24th minute after three successive short-corners, with a rebound falling to Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, who lashed an excellent reverse-sticks shot into goal at the near post.

But South Africa lost focus for the next 20 minutes, giving too much ball away through poor basics or ill-judged passes, and were fortunate that Ireland did not equalise.

Just a minute before halftime, Deirdre Duke’s swerving run earned Ireland a short-corner, and although goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande made a good save, the ball deflected into Nicolene Terblanche standing in front of goal. It was touch-and-go whether the ball was going into goal or missing, with Australian umpire Aleisha Neumann wisely calling for a video review of her own decision to award a penalty stroke.

The views from in front of the action and from behind seemed to contradict each other on the path of the ball and it would have been unwise for the TV umpire to over-rule the on-field official’s call.

So Roisin Upton stepped forward to take the stroke, but sent it flying into the post and a massively relieved home side went into the break still 1-0 up.

Mbande has alternated through most of the tournament with Nicole la Fleur in goal, and the University of Pretoria graduate pulled off an excellent reflex stick-save to deny Chloe Watkins early in the second half and Watkins also threatened goal from a short-corner in the 43rd minute.

But if nothing else, this South African side has shown true character and growing composure and confidence through the tournament, and, having weathered the storm, they ended the match by dominating the final quarter.

The second goal came against the run of play, in the 50th minute, with Bernie Coston just failing to latch on to the promising ball from Sulette Damons, but she never gave up, kept fighting and then robbed the defender, made sure of at least the short-corner and then fired past the goalkeeper into the right-hand corner of the goal.

The Irish threw on a kicking back for the closing stages, and Lilian du Plessis applied the finishing touches to an impressive South African win with a lovely run from outside the 23, easily beating the kicking back when she threw herself at her feet and just pushing the ball into the goal.

“We’ve done what we wanted to do by qualifying for the World Cup and now we want to make the top-five, and to do that we’ll have to come out really hard against Japan on Saturday. There were some nerves and we did not execute 100% in the third quarter, but we pulled it back well,” coach Sheldon Rostron said.

“The team definitely showed a lot of character and I’m really pleased that we’re starting to show control during the game, we’re remaining relatively composed. The uncertain moments are becoming less and further apart and it was a very good performance tonight.”

Deetlefs, the opening goal-scorer and the mainstay of South Africa’s defence, said the home side were not surprised that they had to ride out the tough times posed by the Irish.

“It’s always very tense against Ireland, the last time we played them too, and we know they will keep playing till the last minute. So we knew they would come into the second half with all guns blazing and it was a very good defensive effort for us, man-on-man we did well.

“I saw the ball and just tried to hit it as hard as I could for the goal, so that was a great start. It takes a lot of pressure off us to get the World Cup qualification, that’s the goal we set for this tournament,” Deetlefs said.

 

Later, the sixth-ranked USA team and the seventh-ranked Germans advanced to the women’s final, to be played on Sunday.

Germany beat Argentina 2-1, although the end of the match was mired in controversy as two crucial umpiring decisions went against the South Americans, while the USA pipped England in a shootout, after the match had ended 1-1 in regulation time.

Melissa Gonzalez, the captain, scored the USA goal in the first set of five shootouts that ended 1-1 and then scored the winner in sudden-death.

Results: 9th/10th – Chile 2 (Manuela Urroz, Camila Caram) Poland 1 (Marlena Rybacha). 5th-8th – Japan 2 (Kana Nomura, Naho Ichitani) India 0; South Africa 3 (Lisa-Marie Deetlefs, Bernadette Coston, Lilian du Plessis) Ireland 0. Semi-finals – Germany 2 (Naomi Heyn, Charlotte Stapenhorst) Argentina 1 (Lucina von der Heyde); United States 1 (Jill Witmer) England 1 (Hannah Martin), USA won shootout 2-1 (Melissa Gonzalez 2 v Sarah Haycroft 1).

Friday’s fixtures (men): 10am South Africa v Japan (9th/10th); 12.15pm Egypt v New Zealand (5th-8th); 2.30pm Ireland v France (5th-8th); 4.45pm Spain v Germany (semi-final); 7pm Australia v Belgium (semi-final).

 

 

Rule-bound IRB criticised for Cyprus exclusion 0

Posted on July 03, 2017 by Ken

 

The International Rugby Board (IRB) has been accused of being more concerned with rules and regulations than actually growing the game in the wake of Cyprus’s exclusion from the European qualifiers for the 2015 World Cup.

In the last four-and-a-half years, Cyprus have stormed through the lower echelons of European rugby, winning 19 consecutive Tests – more than any other team in the history of the game – on their way to the top of Nations Cup Division 2C (effectively the sixth division).

But their ultimate dream – that of playing in the World Cup qualifiers – has been denied them due to the fact that the tiny, football-mad island does not have enough rugby teams.

Quite how the country – in the midst of a financial crisis much like Greece’s – is meant to develop more rugby teams when the IRB are closing down their opportunities is difficult to fathom.

Cyprus’s problem is that they have less than the four teams (the IRB don’t count the British Army sides based on the island, which is ridiculous) required for associate membership of the IRB. And a country has to be an associate member for at least two years before they can become full members. Only full members are allowed to participate in World Cup qualifiers.

“The IRB certainly don’t want to stand in the way of Cyprus, we will assist them and try to encourage rugby there. We have 117 members so we don’t want to exclude anyone. But the rules are to ensure quality control and they are the criteria agreed by the members,” IRB spokesman James Fitzgerald told the Daily Maverick.

“Cyprus can’t be included in World Cup qualifiers until they’ve been associates for two years and then they have to apply for full member status.

“They don’t fulfil the criteria in terms of the number of teams – for national 15s rugby you need at least four teams. They are moving towards that, but that competition won’t start until September. To be a full member, you need 10 teams.”

Critics of the IRB decision have pointed out that both Greece and the United Arab Emirates were given full membership due to “extenuating circumstances”.

“Greece fulfil the core criteria but have had financial problems, therefore they were given consideration as a special case,” Fitzgerald explained, while the UAE were fast-tracked due to the collapse of the previous Arabian Gulf Rugby Football Union and the strategic importance of the region.

These rules don’t take into account the fact that Cyprus rugby is in a stronger state than in countries like Slovenia and Luxembourg, both of whom will take part in World Cup qualifying. Because Cyprus are four levels below serious potential European qualifiers like Georgia, Russia, Romania and Portugal, there is little chance of them keeping anyone out of the showpiece event, but they should at least be allowed to chance their arm at the highest level of the game.

The qualifiers start in four days’ time on May 4 so even if the IRB relent in the face of public pressure and give Cyprus membership, it is probably too late for them to take part in the 2015 tournament.

The IRB will be meeting this week and South African Rugby Union president Oregan Hoskins, who is the vice-chairman of the IRB, believes the game’s governing body can make exceptions to their rules.

“There’s a crucial meeting and I’m certain it will be up for discussion. Cyprus form a part of Fira, the European governing body, and they do have a representative in the council, Octavian Morariu, a Romanian.

“Countries can be exempt from the regulations if there are extenuating circumstances. Every law can be bent, I like to think, if there’s a very good case for it,” Hoskins told the Daily Maverick.

“We’ve made exceptions before in South Africa, for instance with clubs that didn’t have five teams but their rugby was so good that we let them play in the premier leagues. Some clubs have so few players, but because of the quality of those players they should not be penalised.

“If countries make a good case, a compelling argument, then rugby’s attitude is pragmatic,” Hoskins said.

“The Cyprus Rugby Federation regrets that the IRB has taken this decision which we believe will have severe and detrimental effects on Cyprus rugby, especially due to the economic and continuous crisis that has affected the nation recently,” Lawrence Vasiliades, the president of the CRF, said.

Hopefully a plan can be made because rugby will certainly be the loser if one of the great fairy tales of the game’s history is allowed to wither away, denied the chance to compete on the highest stage. Cyprus in the World Cup qualifiers would be a wonderful advertisement for the IRB’s efforts to develop the sport all over the world.

https://www.dailymaverick.co.za/article/2013-04-30-rule-bound-irb-tackled-over-cyprus-exclusion/#.WVo8hoSGPIU

Speeding towards the World Cup with an elephant in the dressingroom 0

Posted on June 29, 2017 by Ken

 

Judging by AB de Villiers’ comments after the Champions Trophy fiasco, South Africa could go speeding towards the 2019 World Cup having still not addressed the elephant in the dressingroom which is their continued, inexplicable failure to perform at their best in ICC knockout matches.

The Proteas are scheduled to play just 36 more ODIs before the June 2019 World Cup in England; they have played 36 ODIs since midway through their series in India in October 2015, just to give some perspective as to how quickly time will fly before the next showpiece ICC tournament starts.

And yet De Villiers maintained after the horrible showing against India last weekend that there was no lack of composure and the run outs and batting failures were not due to a mental problem. Given the skill levels of the players involved, it’s difficult to know what else could be the explanation.

It is probably a good thing, though, that the Champions Trophy disaster is still fresh in the minds as CSA begin the process to decide on who will be the Proteas coach that will guide yet another attempt at the elusive holy grail for South African cricket.

Two former Proteas coaches – who were both involved in coaching capacities during India’s memorable 2011 World Cup triumph – in Gary Kirsten and Eric Simons will sit on the five-man committee that will evaluate the applications and both have been outspoken about the problems South African players have in handling the pressures of ICC knockout matches.

It is one of the unwritten laws of sport that the most successful teams are able to shift pressure on to their opposition; sadly for the Proteas, they seem to crush themselves by piling pressure on to their own shoulders. In between ICC events, they are able to play freely and express themselves, at world cups they play totally differently – tentative and fearful cricket. Reading De Villiers’ autobiography, it is clear he has a Moby Dick sized obsession with winning the World Cup, an unhealthy obsession that probably does more harm than good.

The big difference between De Villiers and Virat Kohli is how the Indian captain invariably makes big runs when they are most needed; his 96 not out in the Champions Trophy semi-final was yet another example of that.

Whoever the Proteas coach will be, he needs to be able to free up the players when it comes to the high-pressure situations. The players need to pledge to each other that they will not change their games in knockout matches and it is the captain and coach who have to drive that.

No team plays with a greater burden of expectation than India, and yet Kirsten and Simons were able to get them winning and expressing themselves when they won the World Cup on home soil under immense pressure.

Simons raised some interesting points in the aftermath of the Champions Trophy loss, both in the SuperSport studio and in a subsequent conversation I had with him.

He pointed out that the Proteas never tried to shift the pressure India exerted on them with an excellent display in the field, India were never asked to try anything different.

When I asked him why India are consistently able to handle the pressure and expectation at ICC knockout events, he said he felt it was because their international players had come through a system featuring millions of cricketers so they have spent their entire lives ensuring they are on top of their game, they are always playing under intense scrutiny and, in a developing nation still wracked by poverty, it’s do or die for many of them. Natural selection and survival of the fittest in many ways.

“It’s not just these 11 Proteas players who have had the problem. CSA need to sit down and decide what to do, what do our teams lack? Somehow the players have got to be freed up … we saw them play differently against India. There needs to be a broader conversation about why? The world is asking the question, it’s time we did too,” Simons said.

I have no doubt Simons will bring the same questions to the panel that will decide the coaching situation moving forward.

But the first step in sorting out a problem is admitting you have a problem. As Paddy Upton, who was the mental coach when India, Kirsten and Simons won the 2011 World Cup, has pointed out, it’s part of the South African macho man psyche to never admit our vulnerabilities.

That has to change.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-kzn/20170617/282269550387810



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