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Ken Borland

SA goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande: master of the balancing act 0

Posted on September 06, 2018 by Ken


Hockey being a largely amateur pursuit in South Africa has led to the implementation of delicate balancing acts by our national teams, but if one player stands out for their ability to juggle the demands of work and playing international sport then it is women’s goalkeeper Phumelela Mbande.

Mbande was the star of South Africa’s World Cup campaign in London last week, and was named player of the match for her sensational display in salvaging a 1-1 draw with world number three Argentina. But like Wonder Woman changing into the work clothes of Diana Prince, her civilian identity, Mbande takes off her pads, glove and chest protection and, when she returns to South Africa, will continue slogging away at her ‘real job’.

The 25-year-old is a qualified chartered accountant and is busy doing her articles with Price Waterhouse Coopers, a daunting enough task on its own without having the added ‘burden’ of ensuring she remains South Africa’s first-choice goalkeeper.

“It’s definitely not easy doing both, but there have been so many people willing to help, especially my varsity coaches at Tuks and PWC, I always say how lucky I am that everyone is willing to meet halfway. It’s been very tough and it has been a huge learning curve for me as a person, but I’m grateful for all the help I’ve had to make it easier,” Mbande says.

Hailing from Pietermaritzburg, Mbande started playing hockey in Grade V at Lynford Primary School and the challenge of being the goalkeeper and having a hard object fired at you from close range was appealing from the outset. Mbande agrees that it takes a special type of person to want to be a hockey goalkeeper.

“In all the teams you see, the goalkeeper is usually a standout character, you certainly won’t miss us!” Mbande laughs. “The position definitely suits me personality-wise, I’m a typical first-born, I like to get my way and I’m pretty independent. Goalkeepers are part of the team but we think of ourselves as a team within the team. Being goalkeeper has definitely allowed my personality to bloom.”

Mbande then went to Carter High School and she singles out the arrival of Marie-Laure Johnson as a teacher there when she was in Grade VII as being pivotal in her development.

“If there’s one person who has been a major influence then it’s Marie-Laure, who basically adopted me. During the World Cup now I went to visit her mother who lives in Stratford and that just shows the great relationship we have. She encouraged me to go and play at Collegians, where I was by far the youngest at the club, but I was able to be coached by Brian Edwards [former national captain who coached both the men’s and women’s national teams].

“Marie-Laure would give me lifts to the airport, bought me my first own kit and, outside of hockey, played a huge role in my life. She was definitely more than a coach to me, she’s a mentor and a friend.”

Mbande’s academic excellence earned her a PWC bursary to the University of Pretoria, where she also received a sports bursary, and she made her debut for South Africa in 2013. Initially she was playing in the considerable shadow of Sanani Mangisa, one of the country’s greatest goalkeepers, a double Olympian capped 112 times between 2006 and 2016.

“It felt like a great achievement to start out under Sanani because she was the first hockey personality I really looked up to, after she coached me in Grade VIII. She noticed one of my strengths was how hard I can kick the ball and it was awesome to come into the national team with her still there.

“But it was also very disappointing not to make the squads for the 2014 Commonwealth Games and World Cup. But I’ve learned quite a bit since then and I’m definitely a better goalkeeper now, I manage pressure better. But I still wish I had more time in the national team with Sanani,” Mbande says.

With the continued support of her mother, the shoulder she has cried on the most, Mbande says, and her two younger brothers, the 2020 Olympic Games in Tokyo are the next big sporting goal for one of the new stars of South African hockey.

“This was the first World Cup I’ve played in, so I was pretty excited to play so well and end on a high after we did not start so well. Considering everything that’s available to South African hockey teams, the Olympics are definitely top of the food chain and I would love to make it to Tokyo.

“But it’s one step at a time and God willing and if my employers allow it, then the Olympics will be my next big thing. Maybe one or two of the players will retire before then, but we still have a good group of players and massive talent, and two years is a good period in which to build.”

Mbande will be at the forefront of those plans and the excellence and determination she brings to all her endeavours can only be good for the game.

Do Sanzaar & TMOs act with fairness? 0

Posted on April 14, 2016 by Ken


Sanzaar’s decision to slap Sharks coach Gary Gold with a fine of A$13 500 – which is more than R150 000 – has once again raised the infuriating issue of whether southern hemisphere rugby’s governing body acts with fairness in disciplinary matters concerning South African teams.

Gold was fined for having a less-than-polite chat during the game against the Crusaders with TMO Johan Greeff. The Sharks – and many other teams – have history with this woefully incompetent official as it was his abysmal decision to award a try that saw them lose to the Bulls at Loftus Versfeld last year.

While I have no problem with Gold being fined – even he admitted that what he did was wrong – what raised my ire was the severity of the punishment handed down by Kiwi judicial officer Nigel Hampton.

Especially when one considers that the selfsame Hampton only fined then-Waratahs coach Michael Cheika A$6000 in April 2014 for abusing a cameraman in Durban, also with foul language. And Cheika was a repeat offender, as Hampton himself pointed out in his judgement – “I do not regard Mr Cheika to be a first-time offender and it would be farcical to disregard other matters over the past nine years, including proven misconduct allegations from his time as a professional coach in Europe and a warning from Sanzar during the 2013 SuperRugby season,” he said.

“This matter bears a number of striking similarities with past instances, particularly the use of foul and abusive language towards those charged with running a match and the propensity of Mr Cheika to behave in this manner is disturbing. Given his previous record and the factual findings of the investigation, I regard this as a serious offence and do not see it as a result of any provocation, nor is there any excuse for it.

“Mr Cheika’s admission of guilt and contrition during the hearing is balanced by inappropriate accusations made on his behalf that witnesses fabricated evidence; a notion they rightly recoiled at.”

Cheika was also found guilty, last year, of approaching a referee at halftime and, guess what? Sanzar let him off with a warning!

What is equally infuriating is that Sanzaar continue to come down hard on the symptom of the problem and not the cause – which is incompetent TMOs.

While I have great sympathy for referees, who have to make split-second rulings based on a bewildering variety of laws, especially at ruck time, TMOs really should not be making the mistakes they do. Knowing the laws is one thing, but not being able to see or interpret several replays properly is another; I’d be willing to wager that you could drag someone out of the crowd in their denim jeans and they could do a better job than some of the TMOs Sanzaar have inflicted on the game.

Greeff’s failure to properly review two occurrences in the game against the Crusaders had an obvious impact on the result of the match.

The first was Willie le Roux’s disallowed try in the 66th minute that would have given the Sharks a 19-12 lead. Greeff made a rapid decision that the fullback was in front of the kicker but he made use of just one replay, and the camera angle wasn’t even in line with play.

Then, in the 72nd minute, when Kieran Read scored to give the Crusaders a 19-14 victory, Greeff declined to look at a replay after there had been a suggestion of a knock-on in the 15-phase build-up to the try.

Much of the rugby public is already feeling confused and disenchanted with SuperRugby and its new format; when the officials are seemingly watching an entirely different game to them on TV, despite having the benefit of several replays, then the usual reaction is one of anger and frustration and no brand should want the customers to go through that.


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    Don’t be so busy – even working for God – that you don’t have regular quiet time. Don’t let your activities become more important than your time with the Father. You can be alive ‘for’ God without experiencing the presence and power of the living Christ.

    “Attempting to serve the Lord without the strength of the Holy Spirit results in frustration and ultimate disaster.

    “If your vision of him grows dim, your service will become powerless and ineffective. This will happen if your spiritual reserves are not regularly replenished through prayer and meditation.

    “You must put him first in all your activities. Your service for him must be the result of your intimate knowledge of him. Only when he enjoys priority in all things, can you understand life from his perspective. Putting Christ first in your life and work makes you a more capable servant of God.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

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