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Ken Borland

SA hockey team overcome miscellaneous challenges in remarkable triumph 0

Posted on April 13, 2023 by Ken

The South African men’s hockey team has had to overcome miscellaneous challenges ranging from the shock departure of their coach to having to pay thousands of rands to compete and having to stay in a boarding house in Potchefstroom, so their victory in the FIH Nations Cup at the weekend was a remarkable, most praiseworthy effort.

More important than winning the trophy itself, the thrilling 4-3 victory over Ireland in the final means South Africa get the single qualification spot for the 2023/24 FIH Pro League, where they will compete on a regular basis with top teams like Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and India.

South Africa beat Malaysia, France, Canada and Ireland, all teams higher up on the world rankings, to achieve this brilliant feat.

One can only salute the skill, hunger and determination the team showed in the final; they produced some sublime attacking hockey, led by inspirational 22-year-old captain and player of the tournament Dayyaan Cassiem, but their defence, marshalled by veteran Jethro Eustice, was exceptional as they held off numerous Irish onslaughts in the final quarter.

With so much on the line, one can only praise interim coach Cheslin Gie and his charges for showing tremendous composure.

One hopes there are assorted sponsors lining up to support them now that they are going to be getting regular exposure on the global stage. A capacity crowd in Potchefstroom, a fully transformed team and the exciting brand of hockey they play should make it one of the easier sales for SA Hockey to now pull off.

Hockey has enormous support at grassroots level with it being one of the most popular school sports, so the potential for sustained growth is big, providing they get the right backing and the administration is focused on selling the game.

The World Cup in India in January is the next major event on the international hockey calendar and an opportunity for South Africa to move closer to their long-term goal of getting into the top-10 of the rankings.

Youngsters obviously need opportunity & Otto praises the sponsors of the Sunshine Tour for development of sport 0

Posted on October 27, 2022 by Ken

SOUTHBROOM, KwaZulu-Natal – The most obvious thing young, up-and-coming golfers need is the opportunity to compete, and veteran Sunshine Tour campaigner Hennie Otto has praised the sponsors of this week’s event at San Lameer, Vodacom, for the critical role they have played in the development of the sport in this country.

Otto has been on tour since 1997/98, when it was actually known as the Vodacom Tour, and is teeing it up this week in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series event at San Lameer Country Club as one of the favourites, given his ninth position on the current Luno Order of Merit.

As a senior statesman of the tour and someone who has enjoyed its benefits so much, Otto is eager to ensure the younger generation get the same exposure and rewards.

“Vodacom have been involved in golf in this country for more than 20 years and what they’ve really done is develop golfers,” Otto said after the first round of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Pro-Am at San Lameer.

“Every young golfer needs opportunity in order to have a successful career, and if nobody creates those opportunities for them, then they won’t get them.

“I’ve played with Mr Mzimba [William, CEO Vodacom Business Group] a few times in these Vodacom Origins of Golf Pro-Ams and he tells me about the dozen or so development players they help. Hopefully those guys really come through, and even if just five of them do then it is still something special.

“The tour is definitely growing and I think in the years to come, it is just going to get bigger,” Otto said.

While the Sunshine Tour has seen a number of very promising young players shine this year, the fairways are still very much the lair of experienced pros like Otto, Jean Hugo, who is seventh on the Luno Order of Merit, and Jaco van Zyl, who won last weekend at Selborne Park Golf Club.

The 46-year-old Otto is still hitting the ball well and looked in hot form last weekend when he finished second to Van Zyl at the Gary and Vivienne Player Challenge. It was his fourth top-six finish this season, a ray of hope after a couple of very tough years following the passing of his wife in 2020.

“As a senior, some of the guys call me ‘Oom’, but this ‘Oom” can still play now and again,” Otto smiles. “I’ve been doing nicely, I just haven’t finished off like I want to.

“But I’m close to where I want to be both mentally and physically, although I’m a bit overweight – I’ve had a few braais,” he laughs.

“But there are nice tournaments coming up, we’re building up and up for the big ones at the end of the year, and the more you finish up the leaderboard, the more confident you get.

“I’ve played all those tournaments before, I know the places, so I’ll be even more comfortable,” Otto said.

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.

Open avenues to the pro game, but not the road to mediocrity 0

Posted on July 20, 2022 by Ken

One of the positive aspects of forcing South African franchises to compete in both the United Rugby Championship and the Currie Cup at the same time has been the way it has opened up an avenue to the professional game for those late developers who would previously have been stuck in club rugby and whose talent would ultimately have gone to waste.

It has also meant Griquas and the Pumas are now way more competitive in the Currie Cup, both being strong contenders for the semi-finals.

Surely no-one would disagree that the broader and more far-reaching the South African pipeline is, the better it will ultimately be for the Springboks. When one considers the roads players like Makazole Mapimpi and Marco van Staden took to the national team, one does wonder just how much great talent is still going to waste. Are they just the absolute flukes who made it through to the big time?

Drawing players from club rugby is something the Bulls have managed quite successfully, given how they go into the final weekend of Currie Cup round-robin play on the top of the log, while also competing in a URC semi-final in Dublin on Friday night.

But, as praiseworthy as their efforts have been, that should not detract from the fact that next season, when all four URC franchises have an extra European competition to contend with, the situation is going to become even harder to manage.

Both the Bulls director of rugby, Jake White, and Sharks head coach Sean Everitt have called for SA Rugby to release the franchises from their player caps. At present, South Africa’s top four teams can only contract 50 players and cannot spend more than R60 million on contracts.

While the intention – preventing unions from stockpiling talent as they did in the past and forcing them to draw from the amateur ranks – is noble, 50 players is simply not enough if you have three concurrent competitions to look after.

While a R60 million salary cap already puts South Africa at a disadvantage in Europe because it translates to just £3-million – compared to the £4.2m Scottish clubs can spend, £5m for Wales and England, £6.6m for Ireland and £10m for France – it is the numbers game that needs attention most urgently.

When a team travels, they usually take between 26 and 28 players with them – the match-day 23 plus cover in specialist positions like hooker, prop and scrumhalf. That leaves just about enough contracted players for a Currie Cup match on the same weekend. Unless, of course, as the Sharks experienced last weekend and the Bulls are dealing with on Saturday, you also have injuries, which are pretty much inevitable during a rugby season.

Then there are also call-ups from national teams like the Springboks and the SA U20s …

Now that SA Rugby have secured five lucrative seats at the European table, the last thing one wants is for the South African teams to be mediocre. The Currie Cup is also far too historic and valuable a brand to be allowed to become not much more than a club competition.

Just increasing the number of players a union can offer some sort of contract to will give the struggling coaches some breathing space. When the cap was originally introduced, South Africa was still in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup generally only really got going once that competition was over.

So there was no need for such massive squad numbers and the development of fringe players suffered as a result.

That is no longer the case and it is time to ease this particular burden on the unions.

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    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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