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Ken Borland



Only human for Maphaka to feel pressure of expectation, but instead he flourished 0

Posted on April 05, 2024 by Ken

Expectation can be an unkind burden for young cricketers and it would only have been human for Kwena Maphaka to feel the pressure during the ICC U19 World Cup hosted by South Africa. But instead the DP World Lions rising star showed his mettle by flourishing and enjoying a spectacular tournament.

The St Stithians pupil was named the Player of the Tournament for his 21 wickets, just one short of the all-time record at the event. Bangladesh spinner Enamul Haque took 22 wickets in 2004, but one record Maphaka did claim for himself was for three five-wicket hauls in a single edition of the U19 World Cup, which no-one had managed before.

He is the fourth South African to receive the honour, the first being current DP World Lions men’s captain Dominic Hendricks in 2010. Aiden Markram (2014) and Dewald Brevis (2022) are the others to bring the individual title back to Mzansi.

Left-arm fast bowler Maphaka is a prodigy, of that there is no doubt, and the 17-year-old was playing in his second junior world cup. He first played for the St Stithians first XI in Grade IX, so he has had to deal with expectation from a very young age.

“I’ve learnt how to deal with it quite well, there is always expectation. It’s getting higher as I get older, but I’m just trying to grow as a cricketer at the same pace,” Maphaka says.

“On a personal level I was quite happy with the tournament, but it was unfortunate that we did not go through from the semifinals and win as a team. But that’s cricket.

“I guess I just hit a run of form and when you’re in that purple patch you feel confident and that there’s not much that can stop you. The games were all so close together and I was in good mental places, so I just ran with it,” Maphaka says.

Having fulfilled his considerable potential at junior level, the matric student will be prioritising his academics in 2024, but he is already part of the DP World Lions men’s squad. He made his debut for them on November 30 at St George’s Park, taking four wickets in the match against the Warriors. He had already made his first-class debut back in June last year when he was fast-tracked into the SA A team in Sri Lanka by Test coach Shukri Conrad.

Maphaka is sure to still pop up from time-to-time this year as he begins to transition into senior cricket.

“This year my first priority is to pass matric, so my focus will be on school, that’s my main goal. From next year onwards I can focus on domestic cricket and I hope to make my name with the DP World Lions. Then maybe in a couple of years I will be fortunate enough to represent the Proteas,” Maphaka says.

By then he could quite possibly be running the joint, just like his predecessor at St Stithians and the DP World Lions, the great Kagiso Rabada.

DP World Lions bowling coach Allan Donald sees some similarities between Maphaka and Rabada, who he coached in his first few months at international level with the Proteas.

“You get these youngsters who you just absolutely know have got it and they’ve got the jewels to go the whole way, like KG. The first time I saw Kwena I could see he had everything – he’s fit, strong and athletic; he has a good action and a magnificent wrist.

“We saw in the U19 World Cup that he was bowling late-inswinging full balls to the right-handers, knocking over the stumps at pace. He has all the credentials to be a wonderful prospect. Every now and then you get a freakish cricketer and Kwena is one of those.

“It’s a privilege to be involved with him and I look forward to him joining us full-time when he’s finished school. He is just a gem and the world is at his feet,” Donald said.

4 Boks who knocked the door down to be named in October for EOYT 0

Posted on November 16, 2022 by Ken

The next Springbok squad will be named in October for the end-of-year tour and here are four players who knocked the door down during the Rugby Championship and must be included in the group for the Tests against Ireland, France, Italy and England.

Jasper Wiese

The Leicester Tigers loose forward turns 27 in October and is clearly entering his prime, knocking over opponents on the gain-line and just being constantly busy in terms of work-rate. While it remains to be seen whether he will depose Duane Vermeulen at the World Cup next year, the great eighthman has some bouncing back to do after his injury problems, although he made an encouraging cameo off the bench at Kings Park this weekend. At the moment, Wiese is certainly bringing the fire though and is a real thorn in the opposition’s flesh.

Jaden Hendrikse

A series of polished displays means young Hendrikse surely now owns the No.9 jersey. Despite his tender 22 years, he has taken on the key tactical kicking role of the Springboks with aplomb, and has generally been slick and precise with his service, as well as offering some variety on attack. This Rugby Championship has proven he belongs in Test rugby.

Kwagga Smith

The former Springbok Sevens star made a series of crucial contributions at the breakdown through the tournament and, coming off the bench, he has been able to form a great partnership with whoever his other two loose forwards are, showing his experience and versatility. And it’s not just the flashy stuff Smith has been doing, he gets through a lot of ‘dirty work’ too. Most important has been the sheer energy he has brought from the bench, which is exactly what you want from your replacements.

Damian Willemse

The highly-talented 24-year-old will no doubt be in the Springbok squad, but will he be earmarked as a flyhalf, centre or fullback? Hopefully he will play flyhalf because the Springboks will need to sort out this key position post-haste. Handre Pollard will still be around, but has just battled to get the attack firing of late, while surely the time has now come to ditch Elton Jantjies, who is making more headlines off the field than on.

Willemse showed enough when he did play flyhalf in the Rugby Championship to suggest he has great potential there. He has an attacking mindset, is a steely defender and seems confident enough to be the team’s general. He will need to work on his kicking, but that should not be a problem for a player as skilful as he is.

From Godfather Donald to Rabada: Proteas pace rules 0

Posted on October 10, 2022 by Ken

Kagiso Rabada became the second-quickest bowler, in terms of deliveries bowled, to reach 250 Test wickets during South Africa’s almighty thrashing of England at Lord’s, making it three Proteas inside the top-four of that particular statistical honours list.

The great Dale Steyn tops that list, needing just 9 927 deliveries to take 250 wickets, with Rabada reaching the milestone with his 10 065th ball, a clever slower-ball that had a slogging Stuart Broad caught at backward point. Pakistani legend Waqar Younis is third on 10 170 deliveries, with Allan Donald, the godfather of Proteas fast bowling, the fourth quickest (11 559).

Since South Africa’s return from isolation in November 1991, they have taken over from the West Indies as the team that has consistently produced the most lethal fast bowlers, and it was great to see that traditional strength used to such marvellous effect at Lord’s.

Test cricket is arguably at its best, a heavenly spectacle indeed, when great fast bowlers are in action, especially these days when so much is loaded in favour of batsmen.

South Africa is clearly blessed to have four world-class pacemen at the same time in Rabada, Anrich Nortje, Lungi Ngidi and Marco Jansen, who played together for the first time at Lord’s.

Sadly, it seems they will not be given enough Test matches to put up the same numbers as some of the other great fast bowlers in the history of the game.

Rabada, for instance, takes his wickets currently at a rate of 4.71 per Test. With just 28 Test matches scheduled for the Proteas over the next five years, given the same strike-rate, Rabada will be on around 380 Test wickets, still well short of breaking Steyn’s mark of 439 as South Africa’s most prolific bowler. Even Steyn himself expected Rabada to cruise past his record, but if South Africa keep playing as few Tests as they do, it will take the man who sprang to fame as the spearhead of the U19 side that won the Junior World Cup until he is in his mid-30s to claim the record.

For neutrals, South Africa’s demolition of England at Lord’s must have made for compelling viewing. Surely the International Cricket Council would want to ensure their fans get to see more of that?

After his dozen years of All Blacks rugby, Whitelock knows his job 0

Posted on September 23, 2022 by Ken

Veteran lock Sam Whitelock has been a member of some great All Blacks teams during his dozen years of international rugby, and while New Zealand’s current slump may be confusing for many, the 33-year-old knows his job is to make sure his game is in the best possible condition in Saturday’s crunch Rugby Championship Test against the Springboks at Ellis Park.

Whitelock is a totem for an All Blacks side coach Ian Foster says is still in development, and not just because of his 6’8 stature or his 135 caps. The Crusaders legend has also provided much of the smarts for the 2011 and 2015 World Cup winners, and is a proven leader.

“I’m not used to having this many losses in an All Blacks jersey, but as a senior player, the main thing is to sort myself out first. I go back to what I can control and that is my own game. I look at what I can do better. I make sure I train well so that I can play well,” Whitelock said on Friday.

“There are always things you can improve on, whether that be in terms of skills, discipline or mentality. I’ve played under some great leaders and they all sort themselves out first when things are tough.

“We’ve got to be better, there were some improvements last weekend, but also things we did not nail. There are things we have to nail down as a forward pack.

“Test rugby is all about not getting sick of nailing the basics and there were basics we did not quite get right,” Whitelock said.

Playing in Johannesburg has been kind to Whitelock, who has won four out of five Tests there as well as a Super Rugby quarterfinal and final against the Lions at Ellis Park.

“The atmosphere is electric, it’s an amazing place to play. Both teams have had some great games there, and some really tough ones too,” Whitelock said.

“I immediately think back to 2013 when the Springboks scored a couple of quick tries, but we managed to come back and win 38-27.

“There’s massive history at Ellis Park, you go back to 1995, and we understand as All Blacks what it means for South Africa to play there. But it’s also one of the places we love to play at. “Driving in, it is very loud with fans of both sides banging on the bus and saying a few things. It’s an amazing place and you want to go out there and put your best foot forward,” Whitelock said.

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