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Ken Borland



Proteas selectors not being helped by the players 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

The poor old national selectors are not being helped by the players at the moment as they look to pick up the pieces following the Proteas’ humiliating T20 World Cup exit at the hands of the Netherlands, their next foes being arguably the meanest of the lot – Australia in Australia.

Even without the T20 turmoil and the nagging feeling that Test cricket – where South Africa are in strong contention to make the World Championship final – is being neglected more and more by the powers-that-be in this country, taking on the Aussies in their backyard over Christmas has always been the benchmark for the Proteas. Their victories there have been amongst the most memorable and impressive of their achievements.

I still believe the greatness of a cricketing nation is measured by their Test results, and seeing how the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri prioritised making India the No.1 Test side in the world, or the hype around the Ashes, I am sure there are millions who agree with me.
For such a high-intensity series, selection is always going to be under the microscope by the fans, and the selection panel are certainly being given a hard time by the ‘cognoscenti’ for the composition of the 16-man squad that will leave on December 1.

Cricket being such a statistics-based game, there will always be runs and wickets with which to put forward one’s case, but it is very difficult to argue with miraculous acts. Ryan Rickelton, ruled out of the tour by the CSA medical committee due to an ankle condition they believe will need surgery some time soon, scored his second successive century for the Central Gauteng Lions on Friday, and then kept wicket, seemingly untroubled by an injury that has been described as “very serious”.
By not being willing to risk Rickelton, who would be back-up wicketkeeper to Kyle Verreynne, due to the time and distance required to replace him if his ankle does suddenly implode, the selectors have opened the door for Heinrich Klaasen to return to the squad. He celebrated by smashing an extraordinary 292 off just 240 balls against the Free State Knights.

But it his Titans team-mate Theunis de Bruyn whose return to the Test squad has raised even more eyebrows. His last Test was three years ago in India and his domestic form hasn’t exactly screamed ‘RECALL!’ since then – he has made just three centuries and one fifty in the last three seasons.

Perhaps De Bruyn owes his selection to two things: He is a specialist No.3 and the Proteas need someone to fill the gap left by the injured Keegan Petersen, and new interim coach Malibongwe Maketa has seen the 30-year-old at his best for the SA A team he has been coaching – De Bruyn averages 69.70 in 14 innings for the national second-stringers.

What Maketa won’t be seeing before they arrive in Australia though is Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje preparing for such an important tour for South Africa’s hopes of appearing in next year’s World Test Championship final.

Bavuma and Rabada have both declined to play for the Lions. Given that they were two of the most under-performing players in the T20 World Cup, one would think they could do with getting some confidence back by bossing matters at domestic level, especially Bavuma, whose morale is low and will be targeted by the Australian media.

Meanwhile Nortje is playing T10 cricket in Abu Dhabi, would you believe. There were other Proteas players who reluctantly donned their whites this week ahead of the vital Australia series.

It really is time that Cricket South Africa started to lay down the law with the Proteas who complain about not having enough red-ball cricket to hone their longer-form skills, but then would rather not play for their provinces when the opportunity presents itself.

They will now have one warm-up match in Australia to prepare themselves and will then no doubt be surprised when they begin the Test series in rusty fashion.

Rickelton collecting centuries like accessories as Lions win again 0

Posted on December 14, 2022 by Ken

Ryan Rickelton is collecting centuries these days like the rich and famous buying accessories, and Wednesday’s hundred to lead the Central Gauteng Lions to victory over the North-West Dragons at the Wanderers was arguably the most dazzling of the lot.

Rickelton blazed 110 off 75 balls, a great innings in terms of quality, beautiful strokeplay and the class of a different level that oozed from each of his 12 fours and four sixes.

After a morning that called for flippers and masks rather than cricket bats and leather balls, play at the Wanderers was delayed from the scheduled 1pm start to 3.45pm and the CSA One-Day Cup match was reduced to 31 overs a side.

Considering the weather, North-West won the toss and sent the Lions in to bat, but openers Josh Richards and Rickelton were superb in getting on top of the bowlers pretty much from the outset.

They cruised to fifty at a run-a-ball and their hundred stand came off just 80 deliveries. Richards was also classy and easy on the eye as he scored 44 off 51 balls before being caught on the boundary off left-arm spinner Senuran Muthusamy.

That ended the first-wicket stand on 132, off just 109 balls, but Reeza Hendricks then came in and ensured there was no loss of momentum with a brisk 37 off 24 deliveries.

Rickelton went to his century, his fourth in six innings to go with a 99 in his previous visit to the crease, off just 71 balls. It was a ferocious pace, but the left-hander barely seemed to be breaking a sweat and was never anything less than elegant.

It eventually took an outstanding catch by Dwaine Pretorius, running along the long-on boundary and then diving, to dismiss Rickelton. The bowler was Eldred Hawken, the best of the Dragons attack and a former Lions player, who married excellent control with some handy variations to finish with two for 31 in his seven overs, which included two maidens.

The Lions were then 201 for two in the 25th over and would have been targeting beyond 270.

But North-West, led by Hawken, did fight back with the ball, restricting the Lions to 260 for five. Evan Jones made the other significant contribution with 29 not out off 21 balls.

Even that was way too much of an ask for the North-West batting line-up though as they were bundled out for just 127 in 22.1 overs.

Sisanda Magala, almost as prolific a matchwinner as Rickelton, was the destroyer-in-chief with outstanding figures of five for 31 in five overs. One wonders how much more they need to do to become Proteas regulars.

Magala delivered the opening wicket when he deceived the dangerous Wesley Marshall (9) and had him caught at mid-off.

Lesego Senokwane (41) and Grant Mokoena (16) then stabilised with a second-wicket stand of 53, but they scored at no better than a run-a-ball, needing to provide more acceleration if they were to keep up with the ever-ballooning asking rate.

Wiaan Mulder (6-1-39-1) and Malusi Siboto (4-0-17-2) did tidy jobs in the middle overs, as the Dragons began to lose regular wickets under the pressure.

Spinner Bjorn Fortuin (3.1-0-12-2) removed the last bit of resistance in dismissing Chris Britz (28), and Magala then ran through the tail as North-West lost their last seven wickets for 22 runs in a handful of overs.

As tight and disciplined as the Lions bowling was, they were also outstanding in the field, with Mitchell van Buuren and Richards both taking magnificent catches.

Victory by 133 runs brought with it a bonus point, allowing the Lions to overtake North-West and move into second place on the log, with a couple of games in hand.

Coach Wandile Gwavu could not have asked for much more than the superbly-polished all-round display his team produced.

No oriental climes for Gelant as he wants to become a better player 0

Posted on September 19, 2022 by Ken

For current members of the Springbok squad, the decision to join an overseas club provides a couple of options: They can either earn a big pay packet but play less demanding rugby in oriental climes, or they can go to Europe, still earn plenty and compete in arguably the most competitive leagues in the world.

Warrick Gelant is forthright about his decision to join Racing 92 in France being all about becoming a better player; he is adamant playing for the Springboks is his ultimate and he wants a regular starting berth.

Last season was so special for him at the Stormers, being a key figure as they claimed a sensational United Rugby Championship crown, but Gelant is not one to stay in a comfort zone.

“Anytime you go to a top club it is an opportunity, and I believe the Top 14 is the best competition in the world. It’s really tough because there are 14 different teams in it, compared to just four franchises in South Africa,” Gelant says.

“You also play in such different conditions: You play indoors in a closed stadium at Racing, but then you’ll be in the rain and maybe even snow in your away matches.

“Every part of my game will be tested. I certainly don’t know it all yet, and it will be a great test to measure myself. And Racing have amazing management and they are a great club,” Gelant says.

“I feel I can still take my game up a notch, I can still get better now that my body has no issues. And I haven’t given up on the Springboks either.

“Being exposed to quality, world-class players in France every week will give me the best chance of getting back into the Springbok starting XV. If they do select me, they will be getting a better player than I was,” Gelant states.

There were times in last season’s United Rugby Championship that Gelant reminded one of South Africa’s Rolls Royce of fullbacks, 1995 World Cup hero Andre Joubert.

This year has been a triumph for the man known as “Boogie” – probably for both his threat as the boogie-man for defences and also his fast feet.

Gelant dazzled in counter-attack for the Stormers and was arguably the best fullback in the URC as the team that started the competition in disarray due to off-field problems ended up winning the trophy.

Gelant loved the season, not only because of the success, but also because of the style of rugby the Stormers played under coach John Dobson.

“We had to get accustomed to a new style of rugby and rules are blown differently in the UK. So we struggled initially, but at least we were together all the time overseas and we could sort things out,” Gelant says.

“Belief started to creep in when we saved the game against Edinburgh and then we beat the Dragons. Things started to work for us and we really started to believe we were getting somewhere.

“There was buy-in from everyone in terms of how we wanted to play and we really played for each other. So we ended up winning our last 11 games on the trot.

“The Irish and Welsh teams really stick to their systems, they are very tight and very driven by that, they rarely go out of their system. And that can really break you down.

“So we needed to disrupt their structure and we did that by not making our play too structured. We needed to find a way to handle chaos better than they did.

“We needed to understand what sort of game we wanted to play and if we wanted to kick. It was about how to handle territory and space and understand the opportunities that are there when play gets loose and making sure you can capitalise. It’s about the way everyone reacts and plays off each other,” Gelant said.

The Knysna-born player returned to the Cape in 2020, having made his name at the Bulls. But before this year, for much of Gelant’s time with the Stormers he seemed like a broken-down car languishing in the garage, rather than a Rolls Royce.

After the frustrations of Covid causing all rugby to be shelved, Gelant then suffered an ACL knee injury when play resumed. But that is when he really showed his mettle.

Gelant has fought back from double knee surgery at the end of 2020, which speaks volumes for his motivation and professionalism.

In order to ensure he would return to being the player he was, Gelant sacrificed playing against the British and Irish Lions last year in order to have both knees sorted out at the same time.

“I already had a hole in my one cartilage when I tore my ACL and I had been playing in severe pain. I had the opportunity to get the other knee fixed too, but that meant turning my back on the Lions tour,” Gelant explains.

“But I made a really mature decision to sacrifice in the short-term and fix both knees at the same time. It was not easy, but I believe I have a lot of rugby still in me. There were tough times in rehab, but I imagined myself coming back as a better player, moving better and being more mature.

“When I did come back for the Stormers, it felt amazing and I know I made the right decision. I quickly refound my old form. I was so grateful just to be playing again after double knee surgery. It can be taken away from you so easily,” the 27-year-old says.

5 South Africans in the Masters … all but one of them going in the wrong direction 0

Posted on May 09, 2022 by Ken

Five South Africans are going to be teeing it up at the Masters tournament at Augusta from Thursday, but the bad news is that all but one of them have been going in the wrong direction in the world rankings and will be entering the first, and arguably most prestigious, Major of the year without good form behind them.

Erik van Rooyen is the South African golfer enjoying the best year thus far, playing with reasonable consistency to move from 65th in the rankings at the start of the year to 62nd at present, with five top-30 finishes in eight tournaments. His best performance came in the Dubai Desert Classic when he tied for fourth, so he at least carries some momentum into the tournament and is considered a dark horse in some quarters, even with that weird facial hair.

Louis Oosthuizen is always the South African golfer who attracts the most attention, especially given his stellar record in Majors, but this week he will be having more eyes than ever in his general direction because he is going to be playing in the same three-ball as Tiger Woods, who is making a dramatic return to golf following his serious car accident 14 months ago in which he suffered serious leg injuries.

Oosthuizen is typically under-the-radar leading into Majors, and has slipped from 13th to 15th in the world, with two top-30 finishes in only five events. But South Africa’s highest-ranked golfer had an outstanding 2021 in the Majors, finishing tied-third, second, tied-second and tied-26th in the Masters. He was the runner-up at Augusta in 2012, famously won by Bubba Watson.

Charl Schwartzel is another former champion who is going to be playing this week, but the 2011 winner has dropped to 169th in the world rankings and has missed the cut in his last six tournaments. He did, however, finish third in the 2017 Masters.

Garrick Higgo is another South African who is hoping to overcome a run of bad form as he has missed his last three cuts. In fact he has not finished in the top-20 since his breakthrough win at the Palmetto Championship last year.

The fifth South African, Christiaan Bezuidenhout, is at least going to the Masters with some reasonable form behind him, finishing in the top-30 four times in nine events this year. He made the cut in both his previous starts at Augusta.

Scottie Scheffler is the new No.1 golfer in the world and the hottest competitor coming in, but he will be challenged strongly in the tipping stakes by Jon Rahm, Collin Morikawa, Justin Thomas and Brooks Koepka.

Cameron Smith and Xander Schauffele are dark horses in the 90-stroing field, while one can never discount Dustin Johnson.

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  • Thought of the Day

    Philemon 1:7 – “Your love has given me great joy and encouragement, because you, brother, have refreshed the hearts of the saints.”

    “Every disciple of Jesus has a capacity for love. The most effective way to serve the Master is to share his love with others. Love can comfort, save the lost, and offer hope to those who need it. It can break down barriers, build bridges, establish relationships and heal wounds.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

    If there’s a frustrating vacuum in your spiritual life and you fervently desire to serve the Lord but don’t know how you’re meant to do that, then start by loving others in his name.

     



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