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Ken Borland

Powerhouse Lions field top-class outfit for T20 opener 0

Posted on May 10, 2024 by Ken

A “powerhouse” DP World Lions men’s team are determined to claim a second trophy this season as they start their CSA T20 Challenge campaign against the GBets Rocks in Johannesburg on Friday night, and they will be fielding a top-class outfit.

The #PrideOfJozi boast a couple of players named in the Betway SA20 Team of the Tournament in Ryan Rickelton and Wiaan Mulder, there is a thrilling prospect of Kagiso Rabada and his protégé Kwena Maphaka sharing the new ball, and a wonderful batting line-up with other Proteas stars in Reeza Hendricks, Rassie van der Dussen and Temba Bavuma.

Apart from Rickelton and Mulder blazing a trail in the SA20, the DP World Lions are guided by a coach in Russell Domingo who has played a key role in the Sunrisers Eastern Cape winning back-to-back titles as their batting coach. The experienced Domingo will know exactly how to play winning T20 cricket in South Africa.

Rickelton, who was the leading run-scorer in the SA20 with 530 runs at an average of 58.89 and a strike-rate of 173.77, is setting a confident tone right up front.

“We will have a full squad, barring KG when he goes to the IPL, so we have a powerhouse team, obviously we’re going to put our names up for the overall win. We would be upset if we don’t get that far and we’re really looking forward to it after winning the four-day title, which was a big incentive for us because we haven’t won that in a while,” Rickelton said.

“While the tournament was obviously a major let-down for us at MI Cape Town, I have clarity about my batting. Coach Robbie [Peterson] was quite decisive about what he wanted us to do and we really strived to win the powerplay. So I had to execute my role as well as I can with Rassie, because of the power we had to come behind.

“The opportunity was there to really take the game on there up front, to really maximise the powerplay. I had the freedom to fail and I just tried to keep it simple, while training specifics. Now I want to make sure I make an impact for the Lions, that is hugely important for me,” Rickelton said.

All-rounder Mulder earned a spot in the SA20 Team of the Tournament mostly for his batting, where he averaged a healthy 37.13 and scored at a dynamic 157.14, continuing what has been a top-class summer with the bat. Mulder shone as a finisher, but also as a safeguard who could come in during the powerplay and lay a platform for the spectacular hitting of Heinrich Klaasen.

Mulder said he went into the competition with confidence, thanks to, again, the freedom given him by the DP World Lions coaches, and a clear job description from Durban Super Giants coach Lance Klusener.

“Russell Domingo and Hashim Amla have been incredible for my game, they have really motivated me and allowed me to just go and play, to break the shackles. Because of them I took a lot of confidence into the SA20.

“I discovered a couple of new things about my game during the tournament. I worked really hard on playing spin and finishing, which is a part of the game Mark Boucher told me he didn’t think I had when he was Proteas coach. I spent quite a lot of time working with Heinrich and Dwaine Pretorius, but I’m never going to be that type of batter, having a perfect swing and getting carried away hitting sixes.

“But I can hit space and I can score different sorts of boundaries, I can still score 50 off 25 balls. Lance backs me quite a lot, my technique gave me the opportunity to bat in the top five and my role was to face quite a lot of balls and protect Heinrich. You can get some real jaffas in the powerplay, but you can play with a lot of freedom afterwards,” Mulder said.

With the players that the Lions have, playing at a fast-action venue like the DP World Wanderers Stadium, and with so many of them knowing exactly what to do to win T20 games, there is no reason why our Pride should not back themselves to bring home another trophy.

Bulls house in order & campaign back on track – Jake 0

Posted on January 24, 2023 by Ken

Following their impressive victory over the Sharks in their United Rugby Championship derby at the weekend, the Bulls house is in order and the campaign is back on track, coach Jake White says.

The 40-27, bonus point win over the Sharks at Loftus Versfeld was the Bulls’ second in a row after a couple of defeats on tour, and it lifted them back into third place on the log.

“It’s a tough competition and we’ve toured and had a couple of injury problems, but we’ve done well the last couple of weeks,” White said. “The campaign is back on track.

“We’ve played seven games, we’ve got five wins, scored lots of tries, got a handful of bonus points and we’re third on the log. That’s fantastic for us, one-third of the way into the competition.

“And there’s no reason we can’t get better, with 14 games left until the final. Hopefully it’s a well-timed break for the players now, and we come back on November 9.

“Then we’ll switch on for two home games and wait and see who we get back from the national squads,” White said.

The coach did admit to some frustration at the Bulls’ performance against the Sharks, however, with the home side sometimes their own worst enemy.

“At times we shot ourselves in the foot. We couldn’t get out of our half and we had two kicks direct into touch. We were outstanding in the first 20 minutes but just didn’t finish,” White said.

“We knocked on in their 22 twice and chose the wrong lineout play once. We should have stayed with the maul, they had two warnings, but we moved away from the maul when the Sharks probably would’ve got a card.

“So there are a lot of things still to look at, we let them score three tries after all. We can’t give teams those soft moments like we did just before halftime.

“We practised defending against that Aphelele Fassi move the whole week, but he scored anyway because we get narrow.

“But when they led 17-16, no-one was thinking about a bonus point win, so there is a lot of excitement and energy in the changeroom. Now it’s time to recharge and it will be nice to have that same energy when we come back from the break,” White said.

T20 Challenge starts proceedings in a season that’s all about avoiding relegation in new dispensation 0

Posted on January 03, 2023 by Ken

All eight Division One teams have arrived in Potchefstroom for the start of their season, with the CSA T20 Challenge kicking off proceedings in a season that will be all about avoiding relegation for those sides that struggled in the first campaign under the new dispensation of province-based teams in two divisions.

The Central Gauteng Lions fared poorly in the T20 tournament last season, finishing second-last. But their triumph in the One-Day Cup and their third-place finish in a Four-Day Series they led for most of the time, means they should not be in danger of relegation. Certainly not with the quality of players they have brought to Potchefstroom.

For coach Wandile Gwavu, it is all about playing with freedom.

“We were definitely not happy with last season’s T20, especially the way we batted. Yes, conditions were challenging, but the brand of cricket we want to play means we must play freely.

“But we never got ourselves into position to do that. We also don’t have enough depth in terms of boundary-hitters, we don’t have enough power batsmen.

“And spin bowlers, we need guys who can bowl in the middle overs and take wickets. In terms of the death, we have some of the best bowlers in the country.

“But if you look at our performances, they were definitely not where they were supposed to be. We have some really good T20 players, but not getting good starts means there is real pressure on the middle-order,” Gwavu said.

The availability of Ryan Rickelton and the acquisition of aggressive opener Cameron Delport should sort out the starts, while the Lions have an exciting middle-order combination of Mitchell van Buuren and Evan Jones, whose growing reputation as a big-hitter – and he can bowl a bit – was shown by the bidding war at the SA20 Auction which saw the Paarl Royals purchase the 26-year-old for R1.7 million.

The bowling revolves around quality seamers in Sisanda Magala, Wiaan Mulder, Malusi Siboto, Codi Yusuf and Lutho Sipamla.

Gwavu said he hopes the pitches in Potchefstroom provide the pace for both them and batsmen to thrive.

“People want to watch good cricket and I don’t think T20 should be played on spinning pitches. The past two seasons have been very challenging for that, and we’ve had a lot of growth in learning how to bat on those wickets.

“But we played some warm-up games in Potch and if the conditions are the same then I think it will be very exciting cricket. There was also no better prep than going to Windhoek and winning that competition.

“Bowlers and batsmen trying to hit you is the best preparation you can get and we took a lot out of that,” Gwavu said.

The KZN Dolphins and the Northerns Titans get the tournament underway on Monday at 2.30pm, followed by the Lions taking on the hosts, North-West, at 6pm.

So near and yet so far for Boks 0

Posted on December 01, 2022 by Ken

So near and yet so far is probably an apt summation of the Springboks’ Rugby Championship campaign, and there is a lingering feeling that Jacques Nienaber’s team are still not playing to their true potential and are still not ruthless enough when it comes to translating dominance to points on the scoreboard.

And their next opponents, on November 5 and 12 respectively, are Ireland in Dublin and France in Marseille. Those are the top two sides in the world rankings and then we will have a better idea of whether South Africa are genuine World Cup contenders or just also-rans in a southern hemisphere competition that is no longer the gold standard of international rugby.

Having hammered the All Blacks in Nelspruit on the opening weekend, the Springboks really only have themselves to blame for not winning the Rugby Championship for just the fifth time.

Their first misjudgement lies squarely on Nienaber (and maybe director of rugby Rassie Erasmus) for not choosing the best XV to play New Zealand the following weekend at Ellis Park. The All Blacks were in disarray and ripe for the taking after their 26-10 defeat at Mbombela Stadium. When your greatest rivals are on their knees, you don’t experiment and give them a helping hand, you ruthlessly turn the knife and ensure they sack their coach mid-competition.

Instead, Ian Foster’s men bounced back with an impressive win, the ship was steadied and, despite an historic first loss at home to Argentina, they were worthy winners of the Rugby Championship.

Having lost to the Pumas 25-18 in Christchurch, New Zealand then thrashed them 53-3 the following weekend in Hamilton, the result that ultimately won them the title, because it left the Springboks needing a bonus point and turning around a big points differential in the final round to claim the silverware.

It is that kind of ruthlessness, the ability to really put opposition away, that the Springboks lack. The last time they scored 40 points in the Rugby Championship, never mind winning by a margin of 39, was back in August 2019 against Argentina.

I get that Test matches cannot always be like a commercial for open, running rugby, but the great sides are able to leverage dominance and make it reflect on the scoreboard. And there have been periods when the Springboks have enjoyed an absolute monopoly on momentum, but just did not have the execution or intent to make it count.

In the last match against Argentina, I would have liked to have seen the Springboks try and play some expansive rugby. They had nothing to lose – even if they lost, they still would have finished second.

But with crash-ball centres at numbers 10 and 12 and the creativity of Lukhanyo Am missed at outside centre, the Springboks still just relied on their usual formula of scoring from set-pieces and rolling mauls.

They were not helped by a referee, Damon Murphy, who was determined to be in the middle of the limelight. If you are going to steal the show, at least make sure you are competent, but Murphy and his officiating team made a series of terrible decisions that robbed South Africa of momentum.

From winning the World Cup in 2019, the Springboks no longer seem to be the leaders of the pack. I don’t see much growth, especially in terms of their attacking play, since those heady days in Japan. The opposition will have had four years to work out how to blunt South Africa’s forward-based, strangling game of stout defence and contestable kicking, and the Boks better have more strings to their bow if they hope to defend their title.

Perhaps Nienaber, an inexperienced head coach maybe in Erasmus’s shadow, has tried too hard to prove he is the man and is too prescriptive in terms of the style of play. While throttling the opposition has worked, one wonders if the Springboks are not strangling their own potential in the process?

Let’s hope they express themselves more in Europe.

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