for quality writing

Ken Borland



Back to school for Saru, who look set to fail again 0

Posted on February 13, 2017 by Ken

 

If the South African Rugby Union were a kid, based on their 2016 performance they would be the one who failed to pass their grade and has to repeat the year, hopefully being shamed into harder work and improvement by the embarrassment of sitting in a class with a bunch of people a year younger than you.

Unfortunately, if I was their teacher in that school, I would be forced to conclude already at this early stage of the year that Saru are doomed to fail again because they are simply repeating the same mistakes.

We are two weeks away from the start of Super Rugby and we still don’t know yet whether Allister Coetzee will continue in his post as Springbok coach. If he does – and that looks likely given how tardy Saru have once again been in sorting out their most important appointment (apart from arguably the CEO, who has done another of his disappearing tricks) – then Coetzee will once again find his planning set back by an administration that seems intent on tying one hand behind his back.

The contracts are apparently in place and the official announcement is supposed to be made in the next week, but we’ve heard that line before.

There is another vital appointment that Saru is also dragging its feet over and one that just creates enormous uncertainty amongst the best junior talent in this country and their parents, many of whom are probably sitting on offers from overseas.

Dawie Theron finished his tenure as national U20 coach in June and a replacement has still not been named. There is a great candidate – both in terms of the success he has achieved with young rugby players and the tremendous transformation message it would send – sitting in Potchefstroom by the name of Jonathan Mokuena, previously a manager of the Junior Springboks side, a winner of the Varsity Cup and a successful coach of the Leopards senior team.

But instead there are strong suggestions Abe Davids, the brother of Saru vice-president Francois Davids, is being lined up for the job.

Former traffic cop Francois Davids is also the president of Boland rugby, the union which suspended Abe Davids in 2014 for faking his coaching qualifications, and has been accused of such nepotism by the clubs in the area that the administration was called the “House of Davids”.

The only good news coming out of Saru lately  is that they have invested in getting Brendan Venter back involved with the Springboks. With him and Franco Smith, working with Matt Proudfoot and Johann van Graan, Coetzee will finally have back-up staff worthy of the Springboks.

Of course the name of Rassie Erasmus still pops up from time to time and the former Springbok and director of rugby has put in a lot of time and effort in plotting his coaching career-path. A leading Afrikaans Sunday newspaper seems be the PR company for his ambitions.

While the dithering and politicking carries on in the Saru boardroom, the All Blacks have already held their first camp together and the gap just widens. One would hope the news that the Springboks could be ranked as low as seventh after the next round of Six Nations matches would shock Saru into decisive action, but the wheels of their bureaucracy turn with the speed of a sloth.

 

What to do with our bunch of U19 losers? 0

Posted on February 15, 2016 by Ken

 

 

Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula will no doubt call them “a bunch of losers”, while many cricket followers, judging by the comments I’ve seen, would want even harsher punishment meted out to the South African U19 team after their dismal display in the ICC junior world cup.

I would normally feel sorry for a group of young men with such expectation heaped on their shoulders to go and perform in a strange land like Bangladesh, especially since their predecessors, the special team led by Ray Jennings, Aiden Markram and Kagiso Rabada, claimed the title in the last tournament two years ago.

But when any South African team loses to Namibia and someone close to the squad slams them for their arrogance and lack of discipline and accuses some of them of just wanting to bolster their CVs before heading overseas, then I begin to wonder whether being charitable is the right response or should they face the music?

Coach Lawrence Mahatlane has come in for brutal criticism, but then he is an easy target. Being Black African, his appointment was immediately greeted with a chorus of “quota appointment”; having not played first-class cricket also counted against him.

I have had many private discussions about cricket with Mahatlane and, in fact, I have played in teams coached by him. Although the level of play and the pressures were obviously vastly different, I can assure sceptics that Mahatlane is as passionate about the game as anyone, including Jennings, and is immensely knowledgeable.

From what I have heard in private from people surrounding the squad, Mahatlane may have been on a hiding to nothing. The health of our U19 cricket always fluctuates, there has been a cycle of great sides and more mediocre ones for decades.

But while one can forgive players for maybe not having as much talent as some of their predecessors, there is absolutely no excuse for a lack of work ethic nor for an attitude that suggests “we have already made it”.

I would describe Mahatlane as someone who cares for his players, but perhaps, behind the scenes, they did not have the necessary respect for their coach, for whatever reason, be it his skin colour or his lack of a playing record.

Jennings was a master of getting such destructive attitudes out in the open and removing them from the set-up, but he also boasted healthy experience as a coach.

With the shocking results of the U19 team coming at the same time as the senior side were struggling against England, alarming questions bordering on panic were asked about the health of the game in South Africa in general.

We should take care not to lose sight of the bigger picture and the context in which these results have occurred. There is an awful amount of negativity feeding into cricket at the moment and this was undoubtedly partly to blame for the disaster in Bangladesh. If players already have it in their heads to emigrate and play for another country, how is the team going to perform, no matter how inspiring the management was?

For those blaming quotas, there was only a pair of Black African players in the loss to Namibia.

To counter-balance that, Namibia played in the CocaCola Khaya Majola Week – the U19 interprovincial – and their performance was underwhelming. They beat Limpopo and North-West on first innings, but lost to Western Province and Northern Cape and were thrashed by 192 runs by Easterns.

Those results perhaps show that there was something seriously wrong with the selection of the national U19 team.

Mahatlane’s position is probably untenable but I hope a place is found for him somewhere else in the pipeline because he has a lot to offer. In the meantime, South Africa have lost a top-class coach in Pierre de Bruyn, who would have been an ideal fit for the Junior Proteas, but is off to take up a lucrative contract in county cricket.

As Mahatlane pointed out, though, one of the key facets of U19 cricket is learning and improving as players, and hopefully the current South African squad has learnt some brutal lessons.

 

 

 

 

 

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