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Ken Borland

Coetzee has the experience, composure & skill to get the job done despite golf being a capricious mistress 0

Posted on February 06, 2023 by Ken

ST FRANCIS BAY, Eastern Cape – Golf is a capricious mistress and George Coetzee has been in the game for long enough to know the swing he has one day might not be around the next, but the two-time Sunshine Tour order of merit champion had the experience, composure and skill to get the job done on Sunday as he clinched his second PGA Championship title at the St Francis Links.

Coetzee had just a one-stroke lead going into the final round, but a polished four-under-par 68 on Sunday, which included two eagles and almost a third, carried him to 15-under-par and a three-stroke victory in the prestigious R1.2 million tournament.

“I was pretty much under pressure all day, I didn’t really feel comfortable and my swing wasn’t 100%,” Coetzee said after claiming his 14th Sunshine Tour title.

“But golf is one of those games, it’s not like cycling where the more you cycle the better you get. You can have one swing on one day and then the next day another swing.

“So I was putting pressure on myself, but I stuck to the game-plan, made good choices and hit good shots, and luckily it was enough in the end,” Coetzee said.

Some of those shots were better than good as an eagle on the par-five third hole brought some early pleasure, and he holed out with a sand-wedge for an eagle-two on the par-four 10th hole. In between those highlights, he could also have eagled the 350-yard par-four fifth hole after driving the green, but his putt was narrowly wide.

“We were put on the clock on the fifth and I didn’t have time to read my putt properly,” Coetzee laughed.

Unusually, Coetzee made bogey on the following hole on both occasions he registered an eagle.

“I was really happy with my two eagles after I saw a lot of chances in the third round. But then it was a bit hard to calm down and get back into my rhythm, get my head back into a good space,” Coetzee admitted.

But back-to-back birdies on the 12th and 13th holes put him firmly in control of the tournament and he parred his way in from the 14th for a comfortable victory in the end.

Rookie Casey Jarvis produced his best Sunshine Tour result as he finished second after a final-round 69, and the experienced duo of Hennie Otto and Jake Redman were tied in third place, one stroke behind on 11-under-par, both shooting two-under-par 70s on Sunday.

Coetzee will now head to Sun City and this week’s Nedbank Golf Challenge, which is like the AGM of South African professional golf, assured that he has the game in place to contend for that massive title.

“The confidence I take from beating the field here is a big boost and I’m generally pretty happy with the swing that has shown up for the last couple of weeks,” Coetzee said.

Maharaj praises Sammons for his work with all the batsmen, lower-order included 0

Posted on October 10, 2022 by Ken

Spin bowler Keshav Maharaj played a vital innings in the first Test against England that provided a crucial cushion for the Proteas, and on Tuesday he praised batting consultant Justin Sammons for the great work he has done with all the batsmen, the lower-order included.

When Maharaj came to the crease at Lord’s late on the second day, South Africa had slipped to 210/6, losing three wickets for 23 runs as England captain Ben Stokes produced an inspired spell for his team.

But Maharaj helped regain the momentum by scoring a pugnacious 41, as he and Marco Jansen (48) added 72 for the seventh wicket in just 12-and-a-half overs.

Anrich Nortje then added 28 not out on the third morning, boosting South Africa to a decisive first-innings lead of 161. It has been noticeable how much the batting of the lower-order has improved, and those runs are vital for a team playing with just six specialist batsmen and no real batting all-rounder.

“When Mark Boucher took over as coach, he really made us work hard on our batting because he knew how vital 70 runs can be,” Maharaj said. “So there’s lots of time spent by us in the nets.

“Mark, Justin Sammons and the other coaches really put in a lot of work throwing to us. Sammo has been exceptional for the batting unit as a whole, and he makes sure us in the lower-order really take care of the nitty-gritty of batting.

“As a batting unit, I’m sure the top six want more centuries, they are very driven. I’m sure in the second and third Tests we will see some hundreds.

“SJ Erwee showed really good application and he and Dean Elgar really set a good platform for us. The middle-order did not really fire, but I’m sure they’ll get that right in this Test coming up,” Maharaj said.

Speaking of Elgar, Maharaj said his direct captaincy style had been one of the reasons for the Proteas turnaround in Test cricket.

“We are more sound as a unit, we are going about our business a lot better,” Maharaj said. “From Dean’s first tour in charge to the West Indies last year, he put a lot of clarity in place.

“That’s what we needed, a bit of a shake-up. Dean is very driven and the youngsters feed off him as things have aligned in terms of discipline and culture.”

But Maharaj also respects the strength of the English camp ahead of the second Test starting at Old Trafford on Thursday.

“We know England are fierce competitors and they will do everything to try and bounce back. They have played some really good cricket in the last year.

“They have fought out of situations where they weren’t favoured to win. They have some world-class players and we know what they are capable of,” Maharaj warned.

Batting 1st with rain around has po-faced critics, but Proteas sticking to their strengths – Maharaj 0

Posted on September 05, 2022 by Ken

Proteas captain Keshav Maharaj’s decision to bat first even though rain was forecast in the third and decisive ODI against England last weekend had its po-faced critics, but as he later explained it was done to ensure South Africa stuck to their strengths and their game-plan, which leans heavily on their spinners.

While the rain ultimately washed out the match and made the toss a moot point, when the T20 series gets underway on Wednesday night in Bristol, we can expect the Proteas to stick to roughly the same game-plan as they use in ODI cricket.

South Africa’s rise to fourth in the T20 rankings has been built around the strength of their attack, and Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, number three in the world T20 rankings, have been key performers with their ability to both take wickets and stem the flow of runs. The game-plan has been the security blanket they cling to because it has carried them through some very tough times.

“We want to make sure we stick to our blueprint at all times and not go back into our slump,” Maharaj said.

“We really turned up to play in the last ODI, it could have been a spectacular end to the series, so it was frustrating to not get a result, but we can’t control the rain.

“The overhead conditions at Headingley told a different story, but the pitch was quite dry and we back our two spinners. We wanted to allow the wicket to deteriorate and use the spinners in the second innings,” Maharaj said.

Despite their awful collapse to 83 all out in the second ODI, the Proteas have built up some trust in their batting line-up. Aiden Markram (third) and Rassie van der Dussen (10th) are both high in the T20 world rankings, while Quinton de Kock is 15th and he showed in the final ODI that he still has that matchwinning x-factor.

“Obviously the batting collapse was not ideal and it was really disappointing after the spectacular batting in the first game,” Maharaj said. “The batting unit has generally been pretty good lately though.

“That first ODI was probably the most clinical we’ve been in the last 18 months and we want to replicate that in the T20s. Adapting to the pitch is the most crucial thing.

“It’s great to have Quinny back to his best too and his skill factor is one of the best in the world. He made it look much easier to bat than it was, and it’s always nice to see your senior players put their hands up,” Maharaj said.

David Miller is captain for the T20s and the series is likely to see the return of both Markram, who missed the India matches due to Covid, and Rilee Rossouw to the top-three of the Proteas batting line-up.

Batting baron Miller looks forward to influential role in India 0

Posted on July 15, 2022 by Ken

Batting baron David Miller is looking forward to playing an influential role for the Proteas both on and off the field in their five-match T20 series against India which starts on Thursday, having done the business in spectacular fashion for the champion Gujarat Titans in the Indian Premier League.

The 32-year-old Miller will become the first South African to play 100 T20 Internationals if he plays in all five matches of the series. Given his red-hot form of late – he scored 481 runs at an average of 68.71 and a strike-rate of 142 in the IPL – that would seem sensible.

“Scoring the runs that I did and closing out games for my team was what I was looking forward to doing, so it was nice to tick that box,” Miller said on Tuesday. “My objective is now the same for the Proteas.

“I’ve been around a long time and you develop, grow and mature in your role. I understand my game a lot better now. I still get nervous and the odd negative thought, but experience allows you to deal with that much better.

“So I also want to have that calming effect in the changeroom, clarify with the younger guys what they need to do, build those relationships. I enjoy giving advice and sharing my experience.

“But it’s important to learn from the youngsters too, how they approach the game, their mindsets. It’s a cool responsibility to have and I don’t feel any extra pressure because of it,” Miller said.

While Miller is mindful of the positive energy and good vibes they can engender back home by beating India, he warned that their hosts, despite resting stars like Rohit Sharma, Virat Kohli, Jasprit Bumrah and Mohammed Shami, have experience and matchwinners spread through their squad. And again, the IPL has played a key role in their success, which has seen them win 12 T20 internationals in a row.

“India have a lot of depth because of the IPL, and a lot of experienced players from there who are used to dealing with pressure,” Miller said. “They have serious matchwinners and it’s going to be a challenging series for us.

“We have had no games since the last World Cup but we now understand our roles much better and we just want to get that blueprint back to where we were and iron out a few things leading up to the World Cup,” Miller said.

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