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Ken Borland



Lawrence not yet an expert at finishing, but temperament & skill enough to carry him to victory 0

Posted on April 06, 2023 by Ken

At just 26 years of age, Thriston Lawrence is not yet an expert at finishing off wins, but his temperament and skill were still enough to carry him to an exciting one-stroke victory in the South African Open at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate on Sunday.

Lawrence was leading by five shots with seven holes to play, but he let Frenchman Clement Sordet back into the contest with a horror run that saw him drop five shots between the 12th and 16th holes, including a double-bogey on the par-four 15th, when he hit his second into the river.

Sordet had now drawn level, having birdied the par-four 14th after a great approach shot to 12 feet. But the Challenge Tour graduate then blinked as he missed a six-foot putt for par on the penultimate hole, and then his drive on the par-five 18th went into the fairway bunker, meaning he had to lay up and couldn’t really put pressure on Lawrence.

The South African, who collected four birdies between the fourth and 10th holes, could afford to miss a three-foot birdie putt and still win by one.

“In a one-on-one like that, you need to make pars and not make mistakes, even when I was five ahead,” Lawrence said after his third DP World Tour win, all of them coming this year.

“Inside I’m not always calm, but it comes with experience, having been in that situation, and once you have won, it all adds up in terms of experience. It’s a big mental thing and I try to think of the present.

“So it was nice to see I managed to stay in the moment, even though I was nervous. I had been five ahead and I didn’t want to disappoint friends, family and sponsors. There was quite a lot of emotion walking up 18, it was a weird but good feeling.

“It’s never easy to win, it’s the toughest thing, but you teach yourself with experience. It felt easy in the middle of the round, but then golf happened and it was not the prettiest finish. But I just tried to stick to my game,” Lawrence said.

Starting the final round two strokes ahead of Sordet, Lawrence did not have the start he would have wanted as he bogeyed the first hole and Sordet pulled level with a birdie.

But an even bigger swing happened on the par-four fourth as Lawrence curled a superb approach shot to eight feet from the pin and made the birdie, while the 30-year-old Sordet found the fairway bunker and then hit his second out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey.

Suddenly Lawrence was three ahead and he extended that lead to five with another birdie on the fifth and back-to-back gains on nine and 10.

Pretoria Country Club’s Christian Maas claimed the Freddie Tait Cup for leading amateur as he finished on five-under-par. All five members of the GolfRSA squad who received invitations to the tournament made the cut, the first time this has happened in at least 30 years and exactly what the backers of the amateur programme would have wanted.

Constants & challengers looking for cheer in Pakistan 0

Posted on February 15, 2021 by Ken

South Africa have played 14 T20 Internationals in the last two years and have used 26 players in that time.

Of the squad that will start a three-match series in Pakistan on Thursday afternoon (3pm SA time), Tabraiz Shamsi (13/14), David Miller (11/14), Dwaine Pretorius (9/14) and Andile Phehlukwayo (8/14) have been pretty constant selections in the Proteas T20 squad.

But with the T20 World Cup scheduled to be played in India in October/November this year, who are the other players who will be looking to book their places in the first-choice squad over the next week? What are the roles for which there are still selection question marks?

Back-up spinner

With Imran Tahir only appearing once in the last two years, it would appear wrist-spinner Tabraiz Shamsi is now the first-choice spinner. But the effectiveness of spin bowlers in T20 has been a constant through the years, especially in India, and South Africa would love to be able to field two tweakers. Ideally, to balance the side, the second one should be a batsman as well.

The players who fit that description are Bjorn Fortuin, George Linde and Jon-Jon Smuts, all accurate left-arm orthodox bowlers.

Linde is the one who has had most to cheer lately, taking five wickets the last time he bowled, in the second Test. With an average of 17.78 and a strike-rate of 136 in franchise T20s, the left-hander can certainly bring some power-hitting to the No.6 position.

Fortuin is probably the best bowler of the three, but is the weaker batsman, while the 32-year-old Smuts is Mr Consistent and he has already excelled with both bat and ball in the five ODIs he has played.

Fast bowling back-up

Kagiso Rabada, now back resting in Bryanston, and Lungi Ngidi, the pride of Kloof, are the twin pace bowling spearheads of South Africa’s first-choice T20 side. There is quite a divide in terms of success between them and the other pacemen who are striving to be in the World Cup squad.

While Anrich Nortje is also back resting in South Africa, Junior Dala and Lutho Sipamla have the opportunity to make themselves regulars in the squad, while the uncapped trio of Glenton Stuurman, Nandre Burger and Okuhle Cele will want to show their abilities as well.

The No.3 link-man

Temba Bavuma is busy establishing himself as Quinton de Kock’s opening partner and Rassie van der Dussen and David Miller have cemented their places in the middle-order. But will veteran Faf du Plessis make it to another World Cup? The 36-year-old had a little dip in form last year, his strike-rate dropping from 145 to 125, but he does still churn out the runs in the shortest format.

If Du Plessis is not going to be at that No.3 node, who could possibly replace him?

Heinrich Klaasen and Pite van Biljon are more finishers who bat five or six, while Reeza Hendricks has plenty of experience in the top three but needs to regain his best form. If Janneman Malan blossoms then he could force his way into the reckoning and cause the batting order to shuffle with Bavuma maybe moving to No.3.

Ryan Rickelton and Jacques Snyman are the up-and-coming young stars who have excelled at franchise level batting in the top three as well.

Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve 0

Posted on October 24, 2017 by Ken

 

Nestled between the rampant development of Umhlanga Rocks is a little 26 ha sanctuary of coastal bush, a refuge for birds and small mammals amidst all the hotels and holiday homes that are mushrooming along the coast north of Durban.

The Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, with its coastal dune forest, reed beds, ponds and the Ohlange River’s lagoon and mouth, provides an ideal getaway for the public to spend a few hours reconnecting with nature, and there are plenty of interesting birds waiting to be discovered.

The Eastern Olive Sunbird is largely restricted to these coastal forests and it disappears readily into the thick foliage, it’s dark olive plumage lacking any of the metallic shininess of the other sunbirds.

But it makes up for this unobtrusive behaviour by being amongst the most vocal of all sunbirds, and, in a couple of hours spent in the Umhlanga Lagoon Nature Reserve, I managed to find four different individuals singing little “whit-peep” songs from inside the trees.

As charming as the reserve is though, one cannot help but be dismayed by the pace of development squeezing it from all sides; the difference between my January 2014 visit and my previous foray to Umhlanga in 2003 was stark.

A Purplecrested Lourie flew into a bare tree above the forest and seemed to look around anxiously, seemingly perplexed by all the development going on around the oasis of green.

Nevertheless, three species of Weaver can be found in the reserve, including nesting Yellow Weavers, and there were fleeting glimpses of Tawnyflanked Prinia, as well as a Slender Mongoose scampering away into the reedbeds, just proving the wide range of habitats these carnivores can inhabit.

Common Sandpiper and Pied Kingfisher are prominent along the lagoon, while there always seems to be a Goliath Heron around.

Thickbilled Weaver can either be found nesting in the reeds or foraging on the way back through the forest.

Sightings list

Cape Wagtail

Spottedbacked Weaver

Blackeyed Bulbul

Yellow Weaver

Tawnyflanked Prinia

Purplecrested Lourie

Eastern Olive Sunbird

Cape White-Eye

Sombre Bulbul

Southern Red Bishop

Slender Mongoose

Common Sandpiper

Pied Kingfisher

Blackheaded Heron

Goliath Heron

Hadeda Ibis

Bronze Mannikin

Thickbilled Weaver

 

The John McFarland Column – Not enough emphasis on defence 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken

 

To see so many tries scored against the South African teams in SuperRugby last weekend – 26 in all – was disappointing and it’s not great when your top franchises are conceding so many tries in particular, but the problem is that there has just not been enough emphasis on defence.

Look at the value SA Rugby put on defence after Jacques Nienaber left halfway through 2016: they appointed Chean Roux in his position and he will freely admit that he was an absolute rookie defence coach at that stage. What does that say about how they rate defence and defence coaches?

We’ve now had the national indaba and the Springboks are on to their fourth defence coach under Allister Coetzee, but I’m sure Brendan Venter will do a really good job because he has the experience and the skills, and was the architect of the Saracens defensive system that has taken them to the European Champions Cup final.

But there was no national defence coach when the indaba was convened, so I wonder if there was input on defence at that gathering? After conceding a record score against New Zealand, defence was an obvious area that needed fixing.

It’s not Allister’s fault of course because he was handed his staff; now he has been given the staff he wants and I expect to see a massive improvement in the Springboks this year.

There are problems, but the people who coach defence in the franchises will, of course, care deeply about the defensive performances. In 2013, I remember when the Springboks conceded five tries against the All Blacks at Ellis Park, but we needed the bonus point to win the Rugby Championship and we played a high-tempo game, which a lot of people said was one of the best Test matches ever played. But I stewed over those five tries for a month; but then at least we only conceded one try, to France, on the whole European tour thereafter.

So our defence in general is not in a great situation at present and whether it is due to conditioning problems or the speed of the modern game is open to debate. But you can never win a rugby match if you are conceding that many tries.

There’s obviously currently an emphasis on attacking skills but I’m certain the defence coaches are still being given sufficient time with their teams, and they would have done a lot of work on certain aspects of how the opposition attack. Like the Australian middle ruck attack, for instance, where the flyhalf goes hard for the line with a wing or centre like Israel Folau hard on their shoulder.

It’s no surprise when the New Zealand teams employ the kick-pass, especially the Hurricanes.

They employ the rush defence, therefore their wings have to be high and so there is always space behind them. Beauden Barrett would have had a lot of practice doing the kick-pass in training because he would see and have a high understanding of that space all the time.

The Stormers left too much of the field free, nearly 20 metres of space, and with players set in the wide channels, that’s not the smartest move.

In order to make sure you cover the width of the field, you need your tight five to work really hard close to the ruck, to set the breakdown correctly with good placing between the three pillars, and then the outside backs go wider.

The Bulls obviously had problems with their defence and if you said it started with their conditioning then you would not be far off. They also have folding problems, they’re just not setting the breakdown around the corner and so they end up with insufficient numbers.

They were also caught out by grubbers and so one has to ask questions about the back three’s positional play. They need to co-ordinate better to cover those and they need a much higher work-rate.

The Southern Kings have also had defensive problems and so it is only really the Lions and Sharks, who are defending in the same fashion as always, who can be satisfied with their defence.

The Lions have shown a great defensive improvement and one must credit JP Ferreira for improving their consistency in this regard.

The Lions are rolling through nicely and it will be a phenomenal tour if they can beat the Brumbies, which will make it probably the first unbeaten tour by a South African team – a tremendous achievement, and they’ve been winning with bonus points!

We know Australian rugby is at an all-time low and they have even more defensive problems, but their forwards are really their soft underbelly and the Lions have exposed that to great effect.

And the quality of finishing this weekend by Courtnall Skosan and Sylvian Mahuza was top-class. As we get closer to the Springbok selection, it’s a good time for players to remind the national coach that they are out there by scoring skilful tries like that.

In South Africa, skills development seems to be more coach-driven, but in New Zealand, the players take personal responsibility for it. An example at the Kubota Spears is Patrick Osborne, who has played at the top level as a wing, but he works hard on his kicking. He’s playing as a right-footer on the left wing, so he’s constantly working on his left-footed grubbers and other kicks, he does that consistently.

To see a top New Zealand SuperRugby player take individual responsibility like that was quite an eye-opener.

 

John McFarland is the assistant coach of the Kubota Spears in Japan and was the Springbok defence coach from 2012 through to the 2015 World Cup, where they conceded the least line-breaks in the tournament and an average of just one try per game. Before that, McFarland won three SuperRugby titles (2007, 09, 10) with the Bulls and five Currie Cup crowns with the Blue Bulls. In all, he won 28 trophies during his 12 years at Loftus Versfeld.

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