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Kriel’s hot form is no accident: Jesse reveals the secret to his resurgence 0

Posted on July 14, 2024 by Ken

Jesse Kriel has been in hot form for the Springboks ever since stepping back into the starting line-up at last year’s World Cup and the 30-year-old says the resurgence in his fortunes is no accident, it is down to plenty of hard work through the years.

The outside centre position for the Springboks has been fiercely contested by Lukhanyo Am and Kriel, two world-class No.13s. When Kriel came off the bench and was injured in the opening match of the 2019 World Cup, it opened the door for Am to make the position his own.

But ironically, last year the situation was reversed as Am was injured at the World Cup and Kriel stepped up in spectacular fashion. He has continued that strong form this year, shining in the Tests against Wales and Ireland. And the second Test against Ireland in Durban on Saturday saw the former Bulls star partner Damian de Allende in midfield for the 30th time, making them South Africa’s most-capped centre combination, beating the old mark set by the great pairing of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie.

“The rugby I’m playing at the moment is definitely right up there with the best of my career. But a great World Cup doesn’t just happen, it takes continual work, year after year,” Kriel says.

“It helped that I was given the opportunity to play more and playing in Japan has built my confidence, allowed me to tweak my game. In Japan I regularly have up to 80 touches of the ball in a game, so being that involved is familiar to me. Japan has also taught me to be open to other ideas from players and coaches.”

Kriel’s livewire displays this year have come in a backline that also seems to have discovered a fresh spring in their collective step, attacking with greater width and ambition than previously.

“I think it just shows how good Tony Brown has been coming in as attack coach,” Kriel says. “He has really changed our mindset on attack. In previous Tests you would never see us doing offloads and chicken wings, but now we have drills, we actually practise those skills.

“Tony just has a very positive way of seeing rugby and he’s got the whole side excited about attack now and getting the ball in their hands. If we want to become a better team, then we can’t just carry on doing the same things, we’ve got to keep changing things up, those are those marginal gains that are so crucial.

“I think we’re just a handful of games away from nailing it. Every training session is better than the last, our players have awesome skill-sets and we are starting to see that now. Damian definitely has the best pass in the team and he has an unbelievable rugby brain. But we’re also seeing the big guys using their hands, like Eben Etzebeth popping the ball out the back, along with typical South African physicality. We’re playing really smart rugby,” Kriel says.

While De Villiers did send a congratulatory message to Kriel’s phone, the Canon Eagles player also had kind words for his partner De Allende.

“Damian and I have been off-field mates since around 2019. It’s very nice to share this record with him because he’s a special player. We’ve got to know each other in a deeper way, I see his character and he’s one of the first people I would take to war with me. When the going gets tough, he always puts up his hand,” Kriel says.

While the slick handling and searing breaks are the sexy things that get noticed on the field, it is Kriel’s work ethic in training and conditioning that lays the platform for his success. He is magnificently conditioned and trains with heavyweight boxer Kevin Lerena.

“Kevin is a good friend and we have a similar mindset in how we approach sport. I like cross-training in general, it keeps me stimulated. So I’ll run along the beachfront promenade or go mountain biking as well. It’s a good way to challenge yourself mentally in a different way.

“Playing in Japan also has a big part in my conditioning, having such high ball-in-play times helps both on attack and defence. It’s not as physical as Test rugby, but it is such a competitive league and there are so many former All Blacks, Fijians and Tongans playing,” Kriel says.

The 6’1 star is in such good nick that he says he would like to play in two more World Cups, extending his career another eight years to when he is 38. One should not bet against Kriel pulling that off.

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Posted on July 09, 2024 by Ken

As I discovered on a recent tour of development areas in Gauteng, there is absolutely no shortage of enthusiasm for cricket in these parts, but it is astonishing how little agency these players and coaches have when it comes to pursuing their passion.

Despite all the money and effort poured into developing cricket in previously disadvantaged areas over the last two decades, my sad, overriding impression is that things are actually getting worse, not better, when it comes to elevating Black African talent.

The obvious obstacles like poverty and a lack of facilities still remain, and have been worsened by the socio-economic situation and the dysfunctional education system in which the majority of children in this country find themselves. The common absence of support networks in disadvantaged communities is an off-field burden that makes on-field performance that much more difficult.

The vast majority of transformation success stories come from children who have received bursaries to established cricket schools, but this means they are taken out of their communities, which brings with it a host of new obstacles. Often these pupils are thrown into former Model C high schools without being able to speak English or having slept on a proper bed before.

Many of the concerned parties interviewed said there has been a decline in both the number and the quality of coaches provided for development cricket, but there are many other factors beyond the influence of Cricket South Africa that stifle the success of their efforts to grow the game in previously disadvantaged areas. One wonders how much talent does actually get into their pipeline? Sadly, the rest is just left to fend for itself, trying to overcome the sort of challenges we delve more deeply into below.

Decent facilities available, but controlled by bad landlords

Katlehong Cricket Club was formed in 1997 and currently has 112 players, spread through four junior teams between U8 and the U16 Colts, plus two senior teams. Nolo Phasha has been the head coach since 2016 and he has a Level II coaching certificate.

Phasha says the club’s most pressing need is for their own ground or even just a proper turf pitch to use. He bemoans the fact that the club cannot use the nearby fields of the Huntersfield Stadium, due to the meanness of the landlords, the Ekurhuleni Metro.

“In 2019, the Easterns Cricket Union built two nets at the Thuto Pele Secondary School but we have nothing. We can’t afford to use Huntersfield Stadium because in 2019 they told us it would cost R500 a game. It’s a municipal-owned facility, so why are they charging us? How are we expected to expand the game in Katlehong?

“So most times we just use tennis courts to practise, we have no choice but to work around it. The senior team has just one practice a week, on a Saturday, and then play on Sunday.

“But because we have no home ground, we play all our matches away, we have no choice but to travel. Easterns help with the transport costs, but we get food only when we play against the traditional clubs like Alberton, Kempton Park and Benoni Northerns. So the kids are starving most of the time,” Phasha says.

Nageng Primary School, in Vosloorus,was one of the best cricket schools in the Easterns union, and SA A batsman Lesiba Ngoepe was a student there, as was Easterns batter Lerato Langa. They had a dedicated coach in Eddie Meko, who was in charge of cricket there from 1988 to 2017, when he handed over the reins to Semakaleng Mathibela, a former Nageng pupil who was a talented cricketer and is now a passionate coach.

“I played cricket here since I was 10 years old, moving from mini-cricket to hard-ball cricket. Before Covid, we had eight teams and two of them were Boksburg Schools champions, we were always playing and competing. We had a ground behind the school we used, but when we came back, our equipment had been stolen and the field had been vandalised by council building a concrete path right across the field,” Mathibela says.

So from being able to play just about for free at their school, the Nageng Primary cricket teams now have to play their matches almost exclusively away from home, thereby incurring costs this struggling but orderly school can ill afford.

“Facilities are now a struggle because we play most of our games away. Our community never sees us play now and potential sponsors from the community want to see you play at home. So I take money out of my own pocket for food and transport, I use my own phone for admin. I end up not having time for my own family, but I do it because cricket is my passion,” Mathibela adds.

Meko, now retired, remembers the glory days of Nageng cricket with fondness.

“I was a soccer fanatic, but because of my love of sport in general, when Bakers Mini-Cricket came to the school in 1988, I wanted to know this new sport. We were then the only school producing cricketers in Vosloorus and pupils would go from the school leagues into the adult leagues.

“We had a field, we had a home ground. Teams like Parklands, Boksburg and Baanbreker used to come there and we competed with them. We also played in the Peermont competition with Thokoza and Katlehong and took the trophy. We won the title in another tournament at Westwood in Boksburg.

“Lesiba Ngoepe started playing when he was seven years old, although his Mom said he mustn’t play. Now he has built a home for them because of the progress he has made in cricket. Semakaleng was also one of the best U13 cricketers we had. So it makes me very angry when I see cricket in Vosloorus heading in the wrong direction,” Meko says.

Meadowlands Primary School had one of the top development programmes in Soweto and produced Central Gauteng Lions and North-West stalwart Kagiso ‘Jonty’ Rapulana. They were a successful cricket team in junior township competitions, but no longer as their nets have been done away with and a neighbouring church is disputing their use of the Shako Bowa Cricket Field.

The plight of the talented

Itumeleng Letwaba started playing cricket seven years ago in Grade V at Fairways Primary School, practically next door to the Wanderers Stadium.

“I saw cricket on TV, I was watching the Proteas, and I saw Black players and thought let me try it,” Letwaba says. “I put up a mirror at home which was quite long and tried to imitate the bowling action.

“And then I saw some friends playing and joined in properly. Soon I was playing on Wednesdays against teams like St David’s and KEPS. It was like starting a new journey because I was the first one in my family to play cricket.”

But he soon found out how his enthusiasm could not make up for the obvious uneven playing field.

“There was a lack of coaching and that affected our mentality. We had the talent but we lacked confidence. No-one believed we were good enough, the other teams always seemed to be one step ahead of us, and I did not challenge myself to be better than them because I wasn’t confident enough,” Letwaba explains.

“And then David Mashiyi came to coach us and then we did not lose a game, he changed the way we think. He tried to get us to play more, against clubs and other schools in the area, and for us to push for provincial teams.

“We were getting better, you could see the results. So the provincial selectors invited some players to trials. We thought we could be better, but we felt intimidated at trials seeing the other guys with their full cricket bags. We just thought they would obviously be more skilful.

“They split us Fairways pupils up depending on whether we were pace bowlers, batsmen or spinners. So I was in a different net to my friend, who has a bit of weight on him. But parents were asking ‘Why is he here?’ and putting him down. He was actually better than most of the kids there, but this treatment just lowered his confidence. We felt alienated, like they had sidelined us,” Letwaba says.

Letwaba did, however, make the 2016 area team. But his ill-treatment did not end there.

“I am an all-rounder, but I did not bowl or bat on the first day of the tournament week, on the second day it was the same, on the third day the same. I bowled on the last day. And this was with Black coaches from Zimbabwe.

“I felt like I was not meant to be there, I was not doing what I love, I wasn’t given a proper opportunity to show I can do this. And the other players did not care about me, they stayed together, sharing snacks which they would not offer me. Their parents were always around too, but I did not get any encouragement and I did not feel part of the team. Plus I had to pay money – R1500 – to play.

“My father played a big role in my cricket, along with David Mashiyi. They really fought for me to bat or bowl. David would pick me up and take me to trials and training, and my father told me to keep pushing, he told me I can make a life out of cricket,” Letwaba says.

Mashiyi, a Level II coach, helped to get Letwaba into King Edward VII Preparatory School, where he earned colours for cricket, football and swimming. But the feelings of insecurity remained.

“Things changed a certain bit, but not a lot. I was shocked I was in this school, they taught me the culture but I still felt sidelined,” Letwaba says.

“They put me in the B team and they were good to me for two or three weeks. I felt that they could see I was good. But then we got a White coach and I was dropped down to the C team.

“I’m not playing cricket anymore, even though I enjoy bowling and batting. I just could not take it anymore, my father knows the reasons although he was very disappointed. His support played a big role, he told me to keep fighting, but it was just so tough to progress to a higher level.

“I took it to heart, I didn’t want to quit but I was mentally weak. I decided to concentrate on soccer and now I have a trial with a First Division team,” the tall, athletic Letwaba says.

Tsepang

Having taken up cricket at Bramley Primary School and then done well at Glenhazel, Tsepang has now gone to a high school with miscellaneous disciplinary challenges and no cricket.

“In Grade IV at Bramley, I had to choose a sport. I saw cricket and thought ‘let me try’. Catching, batting, learning how to bowl, I went through the whole process and the more you learn, the more fun it gets,” Tsepang said.

“I then went to Glenhazel Primary School for Grade VI and VII and they said I was a good bowler and batsman. I then went to a high school where they have a field and equipment, but they only play soccer and netball. I keep asking them why we can’t play cricket and they just always have excuses.

“The environment there is not good, the kids are gambling and smoking. Some of the pupils don’t play any sports, they’re just on their devices all day and then they smoke drugs and some have committed suicide. There is no sport teaching at this school.”

The club that is making a difference

The Wanderers Cricket Club was established in 1888 and quickly thrived to become one of Johannesburg’s leading clubs. But being attached to the Wanderers Club, one of the most aspirational clubs in Gauteng, also means members generally come from more affluent backgrounds.

But in this day and age, clubs have to attract more diverse membership and it is also necessary, and right, to provide opportunities for those who were disadvantaged prior to the dawn of democracy in 1994.

Realising that the club had to evolve in order to survive and that Cricket South Africa could start to harry amateur teams into fielding more players of colour, Wanderers adopted a progressive attitude.

Graham McMillan, brother of the mighty Proteas all-rounder of the 1990s Brian, is the director of cricket at Wanderers and he is firmly resolved that there has to be a level playing field for cricket development to succeed.

“We are part of the pipeline that is meant to be bringing through Black African players, but we just weren’t getting them as members, our club doesn’t really fall into their demographic area,” McMillan said. “In terms of Black players in the club, we had 52% coloured, 3-4% Black African and the rest were Asian.

“We realised that Cricket South Africa would probably start imposing a lot more stringent targets, but it was also a moral imperative and a no-brainer in terms of the sustainability of the club, to get more Black African players in.

“We realised we can either buy them from other clubs or raise them ourselves. We prefer the grassroots approach and that money that would have been spent buying players can now go into coaching and enhancing our development programme,” McMillan says.

While school cricket is a traditional strength in the more affluent former Model C schools, there is a huge gap when it comes to the game in the majority of schools in this country. The Wanderers cricket development programme is enjoying much success as they service this vital segment of the pipeline.

“School sport is basically divided into two streams. You have the traditional cricket-playing schools like St Stithians and St John’s and KES. But then you have the non-traditional schools.

“We have nearly 150 kids playing at the club on a Saturday morning and 80% of those are from non-traditional schools. We start from the U7s and go through to the U13s.

“Then they graduate to playing with the 15 and 16-year-olds on a Sunday. We also have a Colts team for the U16s to U18s with two adults playing with them. From our Sunday Sixth League team, we’ve had nine guys make it to the Sunday First League team and a couple in the President’s B League.

“The cream will always rise and this is the third year we have been doing this. We have a good relationship with the Department of Sports and Recreation, they are very supportive. And we partner with Jackie Mafa and his Golden Bells Cricket Development organisation. He has bolstered our women’s cricket and brings eight or nine players from Ivory Park for our women’s section. We hire a taxi for them and that costs R2500 per weekend,” McMillan explains.

The guide

David Mashiyi is a cricket coach who is the director of the Champions Drive NPO, which supports the development of sport in underprivileged schools and clubs, through participation; and not just of the pupils but the parents and teachers as well.

He has been praised for changing lives and giving hope to some of the most disadvantaged youth in the country.

“Cricket development can save the lives of children because it can take them away from the societal issues they face like domestic violence and exposure to drugs. We try to give them the best options for life and it’s all about mentorship and education,” Mashiyi says.

Originally from Cape Town, Mashiyi remembers his own difficult experiences as part of the Western Province Academy.

“I would have to leave Gugulethu at 4am to get to the train in time and often I couldn’t afford the ticket so I had to dodge the conductors to get to trials and practice.

“I was thrown into a high school on a bursary when I couldn’t speak English and I had never slept in a proper bed before. And then you have to go on tour with the rest of the team … ”

But for the last 10 years, Mashiyi has been the guide to many schools and clubs, helping them find sponsors, paying them regular visits, pushing the importance of an holistic education, organising kit for them, co-ordinating coaching and the playing of fixtures.

Mashiyi is no rabble-rouser nor divisive trouble-maker, just someone who is passionate about children fulfilling their talent, but he has some explosive things to say about cricket development.

“Both the Langa and Ngoepe Reports said not enough development is being done. But this is not a racial thing, it’s about incompetence.

“We can complain or get up and do something, and I’m trying to change the lives of children for the better, but sometimes I feel I’m not appreciated. The people sitting in the offices don’t see what is happening on the ground.

“What’s happening to all that money for development? Soweto gets the most money but kids there still don’t have the right attire or they are going hungry. Schools have nets built for them but they don’t play cricket! There is no follow-up.

“Hubs don’t even have their own grounds, they are all owned by the municipalities. And Easterns has just two Hubs – Duduza and KwaThema – but no Vosloorus Hub. Central Gauteng has six Hubs but Easterns has much more players,” Mashiyi complains.

A glimpse into a positive future

But to end on a positive note, Lyndhurst Primary School has given a glimpse of what the future could be like if passionate cricket development starts at the bottom.

Andrew Matatanye is the sports co-ordinator and he has introduced squash, tennis and golf, as well as cricket, to the school of 1065 pupils. On Fridays the teams go to the University of Johannesburg to enjoy their facilities.

A cricket team catering for U9s to U13s is in place, with increasing numbers suggesting a 2nd XI will soon be fielded as well. Mashiyi takes them to watch cricket at the Wanderers and private coaching, including by Graham McMillan, ensures they are very well trained.

The school has slightly more girls than boys, and they are on a drive to get more of them playing cricket.

Tebatso Mangena is the cricket co-ordinator at Lyndhurst and she speaks of the challenges, but never seems to veer into negativity-land or stop smiling.

“Transport is one of our challenges, getting the kids back home after cricket. In terms of infrastructure, we have our top field which is used for many different sports. It has a concrete slab in the middle for cricket, but it is our only field. We are fundraising to try and improve our facilities.

“There’s no sport that is just a male game or that only men can coach. It’s just about wanting to learn and our teachers have that mentality that they love to pass on knowledge. Cricket is not just for boys and we are trying to inspire more girls to play,” Mangena says.

“We’re just trying to change the lives of these children, the majority of whom come from Alexandra, and we would not be here without the teachers, and we know headmaster Mr Wellington Shaw also supports us,” Mashiyi adds.

Mapungubwe National Park 0

Posted on July 21, 2022 by Ken

A Grey Lourie stands sentry as dusk falls over Mapungubwe.

Bird hides have been a staple of twitching ever since the 1880s when watching our avian neighbours rather than hunting them began to become popular.

One of the finest hides I have experienced is the one at the Maloutswa Pan in the Mapungubwe National Park.

This pan is largely ephemeral in nature, although water is pumped into the main pond year round. But in high summer the whole area is a tropical wetland promising magnificent birding.

In late March, the water may be a bit shallower, but the grass is still thick and this provides prime housing for a variety of waterfowl, especially various rallids.

They like the thick vegetation because they can very effectively hide away in it. Which of course makes spotting – and then identifying – these often crepuscular, shy birds which are muted in terms of colour, much harder for hopeful birders.

Fortunately, the digital age has brought with it some most useful tools for the modern birder; electronic gadgets abound and fancy cameras seem more common than binoculars these days.

Social media has also infiltrated birding and it certainly played a major part in me being able to tick off a mega Lifer.

It was my penultimate morning at Mapungubwe and going to Maloutswa had already paid off with a Dwarf Bittern flying first towards and then past the hide, showing the characteristic big, dark stripes down the neck.

I was enjoying watching a Little Egret sitting in a tree on the left of the hide with some Cattle Egrets, its plume waving in the breeze, when some movement below in the thick vegetation on the edge of a bank caught my eye.

It turned out to be a very confusing glimpse of some sort of Rallid, which I could never fully see in the luxuriant grass and there were chicks. Adding to the mystery were the Common Moorhens who were also around with chicks and much more obliging when it came to showing themselves.

The adult of this Mystery of the Marsh (the translation of the Latin generic name Aenigmatolimnas) remained very well hidden, but I did see a couple of the chicks quite well and they had a distinctive black line down their throat.

I was only satisfied a few days later, however, that I had actually seen Striped Crake when social media came to the rescue! I was alerted to the fact that the SA Rare Bird Network site had photos of Striped Crake and chicks from Maloutswa from the same day as my sighting. Looking at the photos (bless you, Kim Porteous!) confirmed my Lifer.

The Striped Crake (Aenigmatolimnas marginalis) is a rare denizen of seasonally-flooded wetlands in east and central Africa and not often seen in South Africa.

I promise there is a Striped Crake in this photo! Look 45 degrees above the water lily, where the muddy bank meets the brown grass …

When one finally tears oneself away from Maloutswa, there is a very productive road back to the Mazhou camp.

This road goes through various environments: there are thick bushes of thorn scrub bordering the Limpopo riverine forest, sparse grassland plains with bare patches, and dry Acacia tortilis (Umbrella Thorn) woodland with bushy clumps of Salvadora australis (Narrow-Leaved Mustard Tree) & Acacia stuhlmannii (Vlei Thorns).

These semi-arid savanna flats are actually the ancient floodplain of the Limpopo River, with alluvial soils, and there is a wealth of birdlife here too on the outskirts of the lush riverine forest belt.

The savanna flats heading to Mazhou campsite, with Impala in foreground and Plains Zebra behind

On this road back to camp from Maloutswa the previous evening, I was fortunate to spot something exciting and special – the Threebanded Courser, using the road as open ground for the nocturnal hunting of invertebrates they specialise in.

This bird is rare and erratic in Southern Africa, found most frequently in lowveld river valleys, loving alluvial soils with plenty of open areas, which the elephants have opened up in the scrub mopane.

Speaking of nocturnal delights, inside the Mazhou Camp, there is a regular European Nightjar, that lies (lengthwise, typical of this species) on the branch of an Ana Tree (Faidherbia albida) during the day.

The most helpful camp caretaker can point it out for you, and he found the Barred Owl, high in an Nyala Tree (Xanthocercis zambesiaca), which had been calling incessantly through all the early hours of the morning on my day of departure.

African Scops Owl is also a regular, with three different individuals around camp on this trip.

Sitting in camp in the heat of the day, through the gaps in the canopy of trees, I saw the massive silhouettes of Marabou Storks against the bright blue sky.

I was surprised that the usually friendly Bushbuck only made an appearance in camp on the third day.

On my final morning, I just caught a glimpse of White Stork flying over the forest. Hearing loud drumming coming from the edge of camp, I managed to find Bearded Woodpecker, a bushveld classic that I am always on the lookout for and a fitting last sighting.

Bearded Woodpecker

The eastern side of Mapungubwe, where the main Leokwe camp is situated, set amongst rocky outcrops, is also most interesting. The small valleys between the outcrops have mopane scrub and mixed woodland and it was on the side of the entrance road to Leokwe that I spotted a Dusky Lark, just chilling, not walking around looking for insects or seeds, or flicking its wings, as if often does.

A family of three Cut-Throat Finch were in a low, scrubby bush nearby, and, handling the rocky slopes with ease were some lovely Klipspringer, again a family of three.

Even when travelling between the Western and Eastern sections of the park, birding is good.

The Den Staat Road is the shorter route, but has been ravaged by floods in recent years and is not always passable. The Maloutswa watercourse actually stretches up alongside the road, in an area known as Leeupan, and driving up as far as I could, I was pleased to see Yellowbilled Stork and Knob-Billed Duck, while Longtailed Paradise Whydah were on the telephones lines as usual.

The other route is longer and more circular, through the Rhodesdrift farmlands and then on to the tar of the R521 and around to the R572.

There are often interesting birds around Rhodesdrift though, and this time Redheaded Finch were spotted, while there was also a big family group of Banded Mongoose.

THE RHODESDRIFT GANG … Banded Mongoose

The R572 runs along the southern border of the park and it is worth keeping an eye open as you drive along because good sightings can still be made.

Sure enough, just before the main entrance, I spotted, from the road, a Martial Eagle inside the park, dismembering some prey item while perched in a dead tree.

Once through the main gate and inside the park, the first stop is the Nungu Waterhole. Basically just a depression between the rocks, this time there was a decent pool of water that had built up from the rains.

This meant there were lots of doves and Cinnamonbreasted Rock Buntings around, as well as a couple of Longbilled Pipit, and the activity encouraged me to stay a while longer than I usually do when there are just some ridges of dry rock to look at.

And I was rewarded when a few small flocks of Burchell’s Sandgrouse arrived, but would only drink for a couple of seconds before flying off again in seeming panic. There were a couple of individuals that visited too, all in all a wonderful sighting of a shy and secretive bird that I had not seen for 17-and-a-half years!

Arriving at Mapungubwe on a warm 30° afternoon, a Gabar Goshawk was the first bird of real interest as it flew with its lunch across the grassland into a dead tree.

A Lesser Grey Shrike was being hassled by a Southern Greyheaded Sparrow, while Carmine and European Bee-Eaters were doing circuits over the grassland and around my car.

Carmine Bee-Eater

I arrived at Mazhou with more than a dozen birds on my list already, and Tree Squirrels, Natal Francolin and Longtailed Starlings politely inspected my campsite as I applied the finishing touches to my abode for the next three nights.

Natal Francolin

My next visitors showed far less decorum. They were fascinated by their reflections on the outside of my kettle, and then one of them stole the lid!

You guessed it – the dreaded Vervet Monkeys.

Having set up camp, there was time for sundowners at Maloutswa, with sporadic Whitefaced Duck flying over and making their beautiful whistled calls. A Woodland Kingfisher was having its evening ablutions by plunging into the water and getting thoroughly soaked.

On the way back to camp, more Starlings were on the road and patches of bare ground, looking for supper, and were joined by Crested Barbet.

Crested Barbet

A couple of Rattling Cisticola were making a real racket before bedtime and a male Chestnutbacked Sparrowlark and the others in his family went running along the road in hunched fashion.

The next morning it was off to the Eastern side of Mapungubwe, where there are fewer trees and less shelter from the searing sun, but thankfully it was a cooler day reaching just 27°.

After the excitement of the Sandgrouse at Nungu Waterhole, it was down into the Limpopo Valley, with a pair of Southern Whitecrowned Shrike standing guard in intimidating fashion in their tree just before the road began its descent.

Kori Bustard

Heading towards the Treetop Boardwalk, a big flock of Wattled Starling flew into the rehabilitating arid thornveld which is next to the riverine woodland, while a Kori Bustard was also strutting around.

Wattled Starlings

While on the boardwalk itself, a Willow Warbler was singing away but stayed deep in the foliage of a Knobthorn (Acacia nigrescens), requiring some effort to see.

A Meyer’s Parrot was more obliging as it was chirping while it munched away on the bladed seeds of the Russet Bushwillow (Combretum heroense).

Once done on the boardwalk, one heads along the road that runs parallel to the Limpopo River for a bit before it climbs through the wonderful rocky landscape up a hill where one overlooks its confluence with the Shashe River. From this viewpoint one can gaze into Botswana and Zimbabwe at the same time, while also looking down on the ubiquitous and fascinating Baobab trees from your elevated perch.

One of these Baobabs was hosting a rather considerable, and messy, nest of thorny twigs – the communal nest of the Redbilled Buffalo Weaver. Amidst the seeming chaos of sticks jutting this way and that, a male was very carefully and delicately placing a single stick very specifically next to the hundreds of others that make up these multi-chambered constructions.

From Confluence one heads back down again towards the Limpopo, through some spectacular buttresses of rock. High up on a shelf in one of the cracks that split these dramatic ramparts, a Mocking Chat sat.

Leaving the fascinating rock formations behind, one heads down to the fertile, beautiful riverine forests along the Limpopo. A little circular route takes one to Poachers’ Corner, where one can park at the bank of the river and gaze across into Zimbabwe just a hundred metres away, with a family of Redbilled Woodhoopoe flying past on this occasion.

Heading away again from the Limpopo, there is a little road that goes off from the Poachers’ Corner loop to Zebra Pan, a beautiful little spot, an oasis from the dry surrounding veld and dust which usually has something interesting around.

On this occasion, a pair of Saddlebilled Stork were digging in a muddy field with the Waterbuck, Plains Zebra, Cattle Egrets and nearby Blue Wildebeest.

Heading up out of the Limpopo River Valley on the Vhembe Road, one starts climbing over the rocky sandstone ridges; a Jacobin Cuckoo flew into a mopane bush on the side of the road, dug around in there for a bit and then emerged with a big cicada.

Closer to Schroda Dam, a group of Common Eland were also frequenting the mopane.

There is another small dam just before one exits via the main gate, another good spot. Some Cape Teal, with unusually black bills, were upending in the water weed, while a Dabchick had young, as did the Whitefaced Ducks. A Greater Kudu was enjoying the sweet grasses around the dam.

Black Crake, Wood Sandpiper, Threebanded Plover and Common Greenshank were the other waders present.

Another lovely drive from Mazhou Camp is the River Road along the Limpopo river bank, through the huge trees of the gallery forest.

There are a couple of spots where the road allows you to scan the actual river. While I had stopped early one morning, several Reed Cormorant, along with a couple of Grey Heron and a few Cattle Egrets, came flying eastwards along the river.

One can actually follow a road along the Limpopo River bank for quite some distance and the striking trees of the riverine forest continue, with a dense grassy understory, all the way to Sanana farm.

Something like a small francolin was on the road ahead of me and then it dashed into the long grass. Drawing alongside, I found it peering at me, before it scooted off deeper into the undergrowth. The plaintive, repetitive whistling of its colleagues could still be heard and helped in the identification of what I had seen as being a Common Quail.

Lilacbreasted Roller

Sightings List

Lilacbreasted Roller

Redbilled Quelea

Gabar Goshawk

Lesser Grey Shrike

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Southern Greyheaded Sparrow

Longtailed Starling

Impala

Grey Hornbill

Whitewinged Widow

Carmine Bee-Eater

Carmine Bee-Eater

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.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

European Bee-Eater

European Bee-Eater

Redbacked Shrike

Laughing Dove

Cape Turtle Dove

Tree Squirrel

Natal Francolin

Vervet Monkey

Redbilled Hornbill

Redbilled Hornbill

Whitebrowed Sparrow Weaver

Crested Barbet

Grey Lourie

Grey Lourie

Blue Wildebeest

European Swallow

Rattling Cisticola

Crowned Plover

Chestnutbacked Sparrowlark

Spurwinged Goose

Egyptian Goose

Whitefaced Duck

Woodland Kingfisher

Common Sandpiper

Marsh Terrapin

Chacma Baboon

Plains Zebra

Threebanded Courser

African Scops Owl

Goldentailed Woodpecker

Redbilled Oxpecker

Namaqua Dove

Redheaded Finch

Fantailed Cisticola

Banded Mongoose

Blackeyed Bulbul

Hadeda Ibis

Blue Waxbill

Lesser Striped Swallow

Brown Snake Eagle

Martial Eagle

Cinnamonbreasted Rock Bunting

Sabota Lark

Sabota Lark

Longbilled Pipit

Burchell’s Sandgrouse

Southern Masked Weaver

Southern Whitecrowned Shrike

Browncrowned Tchagra

Redwinged Starling

Klipspringer

Klipspringer

Giraffe

Marico Flycatcher

Cut-Throat Finch

Dusky Lark

Kori Bustard

Wattled Starling

Common Warthog

Blackbacked Puffback

Willow Warbler

Forktailed Drongo

Blackheaded Oriole

Whitefronted Bee-Eater

Palm Swift

Meyer’s Parrot

Little Bee-Eater

Redbilled Buffalo Weaver

Familiar Chat

Longbilled Crombec

Mocking Chat

Redbilled Woodhoopoe

Waterbuck

Cattle Egret

Saddlebilled Stork

Blackcollared Barbet

Steelblue Widowfinch

Jacobin Cuckoo

Common Eland

Cape Teal

Dabchick

Black Crake

Wood Sandpiper

Threebanded Plover

Common Greenshank

Greater Kudu

Great Sparrow

Thicktailed Greater Bushbaby

Reed Cormorant

Grey Heron

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Common Quail

Emeraldspotted Wood Dove

Sacred Ibis

Dwarf Bittern

Pied Kingfisher

Little Egret

Striped Crake

Common Moorhen

Amur Falcon

Lesser Kestrel

Blacksmith Plover

Southern Black Tit

White Helmetshrike

European Nightjar

Marabou Stork

Bushbuck

Bluegrey Flycatcher

Yellowbilled Stork

Longtailed Paradise Whydah

Knob-billed Duck

Southern Yellowbilled Hornbill

Barred Owl

Whitebacked Vulture

White Stork

Spotted Flycatcher

Paradise Flycatcher

Bearded Woodpecker

Sharks will need to be quicker … but also be smarter – Am 0

Posted on June 17, 2021 by Ken

The Sharks have to beat the Bulls and get a bonus point at Kings Park on Saturday if they are to be in the Rainbow Cup final, which means they have to score four tries. That will probably mean they will try to play an even quicker game against the Currie Cup champions, but captain Lukhanyo Am said on Tuesday that they also have to be smart in how they play.

If the Bulls score four tries and get a bonus point then it probably won’t matter who wins the game because their points difference is so much better than the Sharks that the home team would need to beat them by 34 points just to draw level. So Am’s charges can’t just throw caution to the wind and go all-out trying to just score as many tries as possible.

“We’re not going to shy away from our DNA, but the Bulls present a different threat to the Lions and we need to try and find the balance between running, flashy rugby and smart, tactical rugby on the right side of the field. We’ll want to bring energy and continuity and we’ll be trying our best to get into the final,” Am said on Tuesday.

This will be the last time the likes of Am, Makazole Mapimpi and Siya Kolisi will be playing for the Sharks until the end of the chockablock Springbok schedule towards the end of the year. The Sharks do, however, have nine players in the extended Springbok squad and their clash with the dominant force in domestic rugby for the last year will be thrilling.

*Perhaps the biggest surprise after the Sharks officially confirmed on Tuesday that Stormers hooker Bongi Mbonambi will be joining them at the end of the Lions tour was that the Springbok star had held out for so long before signing his new contract.

Mbonambi was already poised to join the Sharks back in March, when his Roc Nation stablemate Kolisi had already been unveiled as a key signing for the Durban franchise.

The talented 21-year-old Fez Mbatha has been the Sharks’ first-choice hooker recently, but Kerron van Vuuren and part-time flank Dylan Richardson have also had plenty of time in the middle of the front row. Former Maties and SA U20 hooker Dan Jooste is also under contract at Kings Park.

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.



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