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Ken Borland



The Currie Cup has fallen from its perch 2

Posted on August 22, 2017 by Ken

 

There can now be no doubt that the Currie Cup has fallen from its perch as one of the most respected domestic rugby competitions in the world to an afterthought, something that seems to have become a burden for SA Rugby rather than a jewel in the crown.

While rugby romantics who grew up on the grand old tales of the Currie Cup and its great provincial rivalry will just have to get used to the fact that most of SA Rugby’s resources will now be poured into SuperRugby and the Springboks (and even the Pro14 seems to have jumped the queue in importance), there is one important factor that needs to be dealt with – SuperRugby franchises still get their players from the Currie Cup.

The Currie Cup is still a vital stepping stone from which so many players graduate into the next year’s SuperRugby competition, and most of the franchises will tell you they have half-an-eye on the Sanzaar tournament throughout all their Currie Cup activities.

And, as Jake White has pointed out, what happens now in the Currie Cup affects the Springboks in five years’ time.

“If you look at the kind of players who are playing Currie Cup now, with the Springboks and internationals away, we are saying that the Currie Cup is not what it used to be, and my fear is that we’re accepting mediocrity. When I was a youngster, the likes of Hennie Bekker, Schalk Burger Snr and Henning van Aswegen were playing for Western Province. How many 19-year-olds played then? None. And how many of the youngsters playing today would make that Western Province team? None.

“That’s a worrying sign because whatever is happening now, there’s no doubt it will impact where we will be in the next five years. There are a lot of factors – overseas players, spreading the talent base – but I don’t think people want to admit that the consequences are going to come back to bite us,” White told All Out Rugby.

The downgrading of the Currie Cup is a serious concern that is reflected in attendance figures, but how are people meant to get excited about a tournament that started while SuperRugby’s exciting climax was hogging all the attention? Watching second and third-string teams play is really only going to excite the family members and close friends of the players involved.

One of the biggest questions the current Currie Cup breeding ground is not answering is “Where are we going to get all our future props from?”

It is a disgrace that the Currie Cup is practically the only premier rugby tournament in the world that is still using 22-man squads, which forces most teams to choose only one prop replacement. When it happened last year it was almost forgiven because of the chaotic preparation for the 2016 Currie Cup [http://kenborland.com/2016/08/6043/], but making the same mistake again has drawn fully justified criticism from Sharks coach Robert du Preez and Nollis Marais of the Blue Bulls.

The reason for not moving with the times and having 23 players – which allows a full front row of replacements – is apparently financial. But given that it costs probably R6000 per player per match (and only the visiting team needs a flight and hotel), so with three games per weekend, that’s an extra R18 000 for the 23rd player.

With the Currie Cup being played over 14 weeks, that’s an extra cost of about R252 000. Surely SA Rugby can get that money from cost-cutting other areas that aren’t so vital for the welfare of the game?

It also avoids the unsavoury sight of uncontested scrums, which are open to abuse whenever a side is under pressure in that set-piece. The scrums are such a vital platform these days for front-foot ball and earning penalties and uncontested scrums are clearly unfair on the dominant team.

Speaking about the welfare of the game, women’s rugby in this country has taken a knock by it not being involved in the ongoing Women’s Rugby World Cup which has reached the semi-final stage in Ireland. The decision was made by SA Rugby to rather invest in the grassroots of women’s rugby, the U16 and U18 championships, to try and broaden the base, rather than sending a team to the World Cup to finish 10th.

While the reasoning is understandable, the enormous strides made by our national women’s cricket team shows that investing heavily at the elite level can also bring rewards.

SA Rugby needs to weigh up the merits of providing opportunities with the harsh economic realities of our time, but at the moment it seems the money men are calling all the shots.

Leopard Creek 0

Posted on July 05, 2017 by Ken

 

The elusive, mysterious and secretive African Finfoot

The elusive, mysterious and secretive African Finfoot

Leopard Creek has recently been rated amongst the top 100 golf courses in the world by the prestigious Golf Digest magazine and it is surely the wildest top-class golf course in the world, situated as it is alongside the Kruger National Park.

The Crocodile River forms the northern boundary between Leopard Creek and the Kruger National Park and the back nine runs along the river, offering tremendous sightings of all the animals and birds made famous by one of the largest game reserves in the world.

A channel runs off the Crocodile River and flows right in front of the clubhouse, making the verandah of this opulent building an ideal spot for bird and animal spotting. Unfortunately the clubhouse is also extremely hard to access for the rank and file visitor to Leopard Creek, but the good news is that there is a little service road that runs along this channel for a hundred metres or so, before turning up the hill to the 10th tee.

Shaded by luxuriant riverine trees, the road passes right by the water and I always make a point of taking a quiet stroll along this area. It has always seemed to me to be a perfect spot for African Finfoot – which Roberts describes as favouring “quiet, wooded streams and rivers flanked by thick riparian vegetation and overhanging trees” – the very description of my favourite part of Leopard Creek.

And so, on my eighth visit to this special place outside Malelane for the Alfred Dunhill Championship, I finally got my Finfoot.

There in this shady channel I saw the bright orange legs first as the bird stood on the bank and then went into the water, gliding stealthily to the other side of the river.

A hippopotamus was contentedly passing the day between this channel and the main Crocodile River, while a Brownhooded Kingfisher called from high up in the trees and a Malachite Kingfisher hunted from low down on fallen branches close to the water.

Heuglin’s Robin, one of my favourites, also hangs around this area.

Coming back up out on to the golf course, a series of dams is in front of you between the ninth, 18th and 10th holes, with Lesser Striped Swallow flying over and African Pied Wagtail patrolling the banks.

Heading backwards through the front nine, Blackbacked Puffback is calling away and Blue Waxbill are in a sapling on the side of the ninth fairway.

The seventh hole, a par-three, shares a dam with the fifth hole, fringed by Fever Trees, and Spottedbacked, Southern Masked and Thickbilled Weavers were all nesting in the same specimen of this archetypal tree of tropical wetlands, from which gin and tonics (no doubt consumed in large quantities on the verandah of the clubhouse) originated.

Along the stream feeding this dam, a Giant Kingfisher was eating a good-sized fish, while a Greenbacked Heron was flying upstream.

Anywhere on the course, you are likely to see Whitebacked Vultures soaring overhead and Purplecrested Louries flying between patches of thicker bush. Whitefaced Duck are also often flying over.

But the 13th is the signature hole of Leopard Creek, not just because of its great design but mostly because of the dazzling vista it provides over the Crocodile River just beneath the elevated green and Kruger Park just across the way.

Charl Schwartzel when the going was still good

Charl Schwartzel when the going was still good

While sitting there on the final day and watching Charl Schwartzel’s challenge implode in the face of young Brandon Stone’s brilliance, I was able to admire Great White Egret, Purple Heron, Grey Heron, Black Crake, Egyptian Goose, Whitefronted Bee-Eater, African Elephant and Nile Crocodile along the river.

Away from the golf course, Leopard Creek is in an area of typical dense bushveld savanna with Forktailed Drongos, sometimes even perching on low aloes, ruling the day and Spotted Dikkops, marching around the parking lot, at night.

 

 

 

 

Where is Leopard Creek?

 

Sightings list

Forktailed Drongo

Spotted Dikkop

Impala

Bushbuck

Whitefaced Duck

Blackeyed Bulbul

Little Swift

Hippopotamus

Brownhooded Kingfisher

Malachite Kingfisher

African Finfoot

Heuglin’s Robin

Whitebacked Vulture

Lesser Striped Swallow

African Pied Wagtail

Blackbacked Puffback

Blue Waxbill

Spottedbacked Weaver

Southern Masked Weaver

Thickbilled Weaver

Giant Kingfisher

Grey Lourie

Greenbacked Heron

Yellowthroated Sparrow

Nile Monitor

Purplecrested Lourie

Great White Egret

Purple Heron

Grey Heron

Black Crake

Egyptian Goose

Whitefronted Bee-Eater

African Elephant

Nile Crocodile

Sombre Bulbul

Pintailed Whydah

 

Cosmopolitan mix of owners for new T20 Global League 0

Posted on July 05, 2017 by Ken

 

The new T20 Global League to be held in South Africa at the end of the year will have the most cosmopolitan feel of any of the T20 tournaments around the world as team owners from five different countries were unveiled at a function in an upmarket Knightsbridge hotel in London on Monday.

Cricket South Africa’s desire for the bulk of the franchises to be locally-owned has played second fiddle to the rewards of big overseas investment, with the eight team owners coming from Pakistan (2), India (2), Hong Kong and Dubai. The two teams based in Pretoria and Stellenbosch will have South African owners.

“It’s really important that there is local investment from a South African point of view, but the foreign interest means we’ll be playing in front of much bigger audiences. It places a much bigger emphasis on South African cricket, especially for our domestic players. It should keep most of our players in the country now because the T20 Global League provides a huge step forward in terms of opportunity and financially,” Proteas captain Faf du Plessis, who will be playing for the Stellenbosch franchise, said at the launch.

There are drawbacks, however, that come with the overseas investment, with the foreign team-owners having no real answer to questions about transformation imperatives.

Both the Pakistani team owners – their teams will be based in Durban and Benoni – spoke about T20 cricket being the answer to the problems besetting their game. Even though Pakistan’s memorable Champions Trophy triumph at the weekend had London’s large cricket fanbase abuzz, their game is still faced with the problems of not being able to host any games due to security concerns.

The Pakistan Super League has attracted some overseas players back and both Fawad Rana (Durban) and Javed Afridi (Benoni) spoke about their involvement in the T20 Global League improving the image of cricket in their troubled country.

https://www.pressreader.com/south-africa/the-citizen-gauteng/20170620/282759176664564

CSA need to put their faith in building the base, not quick riches 0

Posted on May 30, 2017 by Ken

 

Two not entirely unconnected happenings in the world of cricket caught my eye this week: The first was an article (http://www.espncricinfo.com/magazine/content/story/1098043.html) on CricInfo about the looming player strike in Australia and how the relationship between their administration and their players has almost entirely broken down; the second was that Cricket Australia’s executive manager of broadcast, digital and commercial, Ben Amarfio, had come to South Africa and briefed local cricket stakeholders on their successes, in particular the Big Bash League.

The irony of the situation is that although the Big Bash League has been an enormous success in terms of crowds and television revenue, the damage it is doing to all other aspects of Australian cricket reminds one of the south Indian proverb that “nothing grows under the shade of the Banyan tree”.

The T20 competition might be going through the roof, but the rest of Australian cricket is not exactly excelling: results have been indifferent and the players are about to go on strike! The temptation to copy what they are doing should be resisted.

The dollar signs are already rolling in the eyes of Cricket South Africa when it comes to the new Global Destination T20 League that will debut on our shores next summer, but the actual economics of the event have been poorly communicated to many of the stakeholders who will hand over control of their stadia and players for the duration of the competition.

The state of the game in this country is currently strong, and CEO Haroon Lorgat was a well-deserved winner of the Leadership in Sport Business award at this week’s Sports Industry Awards, but the danger still exists that the lower levels of the sport, the foundation, will be ignored in favour of the riches that could suddenly become available.

We all know the immense damage done to the reputation of Cricket South Africa following the hosting of the IPL in 2009 and the money-grabbing associated with it, but our administrators seem to have short memories; how else can one explain the presence of disgraced former CEO Gerald Majola as an honoured guest, seated in the front row, at their own awards ceremony last week?

At the same awards dinner, it was noticeable that the prize for the best scorers association, previously included in the professional operations section along with the umpires, had been demoted to the amateur awards given out at the breakfast earlier on the same day. It may seem like a trivial matter – but it was certainly a slight felt by the scorers, who are an integral part of the game, just like umpires. It points to a lingering suspicion that CSA might just be undervaluing their foundations, the domestic base.

It is a fact that the best organisations look after the interests of all their people – their employees and stakeholders – and a prime example of this is the Northerns Cricket Union, who also held their awards luncheon this week.

Their Titans team is the best in the country, winning two trophies last season and narrowly missing out on the third, and that is partly because of the superb administrative structures that support the on-field performance. The Northerns team is also the dominant force in senior provincial competitions.

The administration is happy and productive because every person is treated well and with enormous respect; they are made to feel part of the success of the union and franchise. There is no greater measure of this than the fact that all the grounds staff, dressed in their Sunday best, were invited to the luncheon and the hug and kiss CEO Jacques Faul received from one of the housekeeping staff when she received her certificate.

Faul is an outstanding CEO who makes every one of his staff feel valued, and that is the secret to getting the best out of people, and the strong relationship between him and president John Wright, a true servant of sport, is also vital.

Cricket South Africa need to be warned that there is a danger of prioritising money over people and the overall well-being of the game of which they are trustees; when things are going well is probably the right time for this reminder.

*Altaaf Kazi, CSA’s head of media and communications, has pointed out, however, in response to this column that the scorers were never previously honoured during the live TV broadcast segment of the awards, whereas this year their award presentation from the breakfast was shown live on SuperSport. The reshuffling was due to the pleasing inclusion of three extra awards for women’s cricket.



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