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Ken Borland

Lack of experience a large part of the Proteas’ batting woes – Sammons 0

Posted on November 08, 2023 by Ken

Proteas batting coach Justin Sammons says a large part of his team’s batting woes this year is due to their lack of experience because they do not play enough red-ball cricket.

While South Africa already play less Test cricket than most teams – a situation which will worsen markedly in the next couple of years – Cricket South Africa have also cut the number of four-day matches the provinces play to just seven per season due to financial constraints.

It means the country’s top batting talent may only play ten first-class innings a season when the effects of the weather and innings victories are thrown into the equation. Senior Proteas have also been conspicuous by their absence in domestic cricket, which weakens both the batting and bowling standard of the competition.

“What’s very important to realise is that there is no substitute for experience and you only gain that from playing,” Sammons said on Friday in Sydney. “The more you play, the more experience you get and the more lessons you learn.

“As a country, we need to look at how we look after the four-day system going forward. With the way the world is going, it’s a tricky balancing act, but we do need to find a way.

“The bottom line is that the players need to play as much cricket as possible. We’ve got to think out of the box, whether that’s the board or the director of cricket.

“But there has to be a way. We can’t just resign ourselves to T20 dominating and not playing enough first-class cricket. I believe the key for us is playing more four-day cricket,” Sammons said.

While the batting coach admitted that the batsmen were suffering from a lack of confidence, one positive has been the form of wicketkeeper Kyle Verreynne, who has proven himself to be a tenacious customer. Verreynne was one of only three Proteas batsmen to average more than 30 (32.12) in 2022, the others being Temba Bavuma (40.07) and Keegan Petersen (38.38).

“The growth in Kyle’s game has been tremendous, both technically and obviously mentally,” Sammons said. “The key I think is that he has figured out his own way of playing at his tempo.

“He has stuck to the tempo that allows him to be successful. He will continue to work on that, but he’s clear in terms of his identity as a cricketer, he understands how to go about scoring runs.

“He’s like Dean Elgar, Jacques Kallis or Graeme Smith in that you knew what you would get from them. I think he has that clear identity of who he is as a cricketer, which goes a long way.

“Following the England series, in tough conditions, our batsmen’s confidence was dented a bit. And then the first Test here the conditions really favoured the bowlers and naturally the confidence was hit even more,” Sammons said.

Lawrence not yet an expert at finishing, but temperament & skill enough to carry him to victory 0

Posted on April 06, 2023 by Ken

At just 26 years of age, Thriston Lawrence is not yet an expert at finishing off wins, but his temperament and skill were still enough to carry him to an exciting one-stroke victory in the South African Open at Blair Atholl Golf and Equestrian Estate on Sunday.

Lawrence was leading by five shots with seven holes to play, but he let Frenchman Clement Sordet back into the contest with a horror run that saw him drop five shots between the 12th and 16th holes, including a double-bogey on the par-four 15th, when he hit his second into the river.

Sordet had now drawn level, having birdied the par-four 14th after a great approach shot to 12 feet. But the Challenge Tour graduate then blinked as he missed a six-foot putt for par on the penultimate hole, and then his drive on the par-five 18th went into the fairway bunker, meaning he had to lay up and couldn’t really put pressure on Lawrence.

The South African, who collected four birdies between the fourth and 10th holes, could afford to miss a three-foot birdie putt and still win by one.

“In a one-on-one like that, you need to make pars and not make mistakes, even when I was five ahead,” Lawrence said after his third DP World Tour win, all of them coming this year.

“Inside I’m not always calm, but it comes with experience, having been in that situation, and once you have won, it all adds up in terms of experience. It’s a big mental thing and I try to think of the present.

“So it was nice to see I managed to stay in the moment, even though I was nervous. I had been five ahead and I didn’t want to disappoint friends, family and sponsors. There was quite a lot of emotion walking up 18, it was a weird but good feeling.

“It’s never easy to win, it’s the toughest thing, but you teach yourself with experience. It felt easy in the middle of the round, but then golf happened and it was not the prettiest finish. But I just tried to stick to my game,” Lawrence said.

Starting the final round two strokes ahead of Sordet, Lawrence did not have the start he would have wanted as he bogeyed the first hole and Sordet pulled level with a birdie.

But an even bigger swing happened on the par-four fourth as Lawrence curled a superb approach shot to eight feet from the pin and made the birdie, while the 30-year-old Sordet found the fairway bunker and then hit his second out of bounds, leading to a double-bogey.

Suddenly Lawrence was three ahead and he extended that lead to five with another birdie on the fifth and back-to-back gains on nine and 10.

Pretoria Country Club’s Christian Maas claimed the Freddie Tait Cup for leading amateur as he finished on five-under-par. All five members of the GolfRSA squad who received invitations to the tournament made the cut, the first time this has happened in at least 30 years and exactly what the backers of the amateur programme would have wanted.

Elgar believes he has a great attack, but pressure on the batsmen 0

Posted on March 08, 2023 by Ken

Proteas captain Dean Elgar believes he has a great attack for Australian conditions, but at the moment the pressure is on his batsmen to put enough runs on the board for them to be effective in their three-Test series that starts on December 17.

The South Africans departed for Australia on Thursday night and Elgar admitted the focus would be on their embattled batsmen.

“The style of cricket we play is tailor-made for over there, we have great fast bowlers. It’s bad enough facing them in the nets, I’m really glad I don’t have to do it in a match,” Elgar said at the Wanderers on Thursday morning.

“But runs on the board is key in Australia and our attack needs those scores to be most effective. Our batting has not been good enough in the last year, there is no shying away from it.

“It’s up to the batsmen to take accountability and responsibility. There are a lot of guys on the fringes who are champing on the bit and eager to play,” Elgar said.

There has been some criticism aimed at the recalling of Theunis de Bruyn and Heinrich Klaasen to the squad, both of whom are over 30 and last played Test cricket on the ill-fated tour of India in October 2019. But Elgar backed them as both having the experience and ability to dominate the strong Australian attack.

“Heinrich is a good, experienced international cricketer now and he has immense ability and a lot of character,” Elgar said.

“I’ve always thought that Theunis is one of the most talented batsmen in the country, he just has that extra gear which not a lot of guys have. He can really take an attack apart.

“I think he’s also in a really good space for Test cricket now, he has come a long way as a cricketer and person since his last international encounter and he will definitely be part of the selection discussion.”

Elgar is also fully expecting the Australians to try and bait his team with verbals, but said the Proteas must not back down when things get fiery.

“Australia is a tough place to play because there are a lot of external pressures and in their home conditions they are always pretty feisty. It’s the nature of them as individuals – brash and bold and in your face.

“But we enjoy that confrontation and we’ve shown the ability to keep calm heads. I would encourage the players not to shy away from it because that’s when South Africans show their best character,” Elgar said.

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.

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    “Attempting to serve the Lord without the strength of the Holy Spirit results in frustration and ultimate disaster.

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