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Ken Borland

Oosthuizen & Schwartzel at their best as they set up another Leopard Creek showdown 0

Posted on December 09, 2023 by Ken

Louis Oosthuizen during his wonderful 63 in the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
(Photo by Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour)

With Louis Oosthuizen shooting his best ever round at Leopard Creek and Charl Schwartzel feeling physically back to something approaching his best, the stage is set for a classic showdown between the two great friends and Major champions as they go into the final round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship tied for the lead.

Sunday’s closing round will take the tournament back a decade and more as Schwartzel and Oosthuizen re-enact a rivalry that was a dominant feature of the tournament back then. Schwartzel had the better of the exchanges, winning the title a record four times, in 2012, 2013 and 2015, in addition to his 2004 triumph at Houghton Golf Club.

Oosthuizen has never won the Alfred Dunhill Championship, finishing runner-up in 2005 and 2014. The famous prowling leopard trophy is one he dearly wants to raise, and he put himself into prime position with a tremendous, nine-under-par, course record equalling 63 on Saturday to go to 15-under-par after three rounds.

“That was good,” Oosthuizen grinned after his faultless round with seven birdies and an eagle on the par-four, 284m sixth when he drove the green. “I played really solid and did not make a lot of mistakes, and then rolled it nicely on the greens.

“But it was hot! I was close to getting a beer from someone on the side of the course! I just tried to walk in the shade as much as I could, because it was brutal out there. And this is such a tough course, there are certain holes you need to take on and you have to play good shots. This course can really bite you and I’ve been on the bad side of it.

“But this is one tournament I really want on my CV, I’ve come close to winning before and I’ve messed it up before too. So tomorrow I’m just going to stay calm and do the same thing as today,” Oosthuizen said.

Charl Schwartzel on his way to firing a 65 in the third round of the Alfred Dunhill Championship at Leopard Creek.
(Photo by Tyrone Winfield/Sunshine Tour)

Schwartzel has endured an injury-plagued year and is just delighted that the physios have managed to patch him back together so well that he feels like his old self again. That old self has been the dominant figure at Leopard Creek through the years, and the 39-year-old turned back the clock on Saturday as he produced a stellar back nine featuring four birdies and an eagle on the par-five 15th, posting a 65 that saw him reach 15-under shortly after Oosthuizen.

“I loved it, that was really nice. It’s so much fun to be healthy again after having constant niggles for the whole year. You don’t realise how much an injury hampers you because you are always working around it. It was just free-flowing again and I can hit all my shots again. The clubface is stable and I’m striking the ball so well. It makes me really happy.

“This heat is comfortable for me, it’s how I know Leopard Creek. The first two days it felt like a new course I was learning how to play, with the ball not going so far in the cool weather, making it very difficult to go for the par-fives in two.

“Louis had a great round and we’ve been friends for a long time. We’ve come a long way together and we will both just try our best in the final round and see what the outcome is. The one who makes the least mistakes will win,” Schwartzel said.

Heavy prices were paid lower down the leaderboard for errant tee-shots or impure iron shots, and for poor course-management, which combined to give Oosthuizen and Schwartzel a five-shot lead.

Two quality golfers, well-versed in winning in South Africa, are tied in third place on 10-under-par: Christiaan Bezuidenhout dropped a couple of shots on the front nine, but reeled off four birdies in a row after the turn to post a 68; Andy Sullivan had a double-bogey on the par-three seventh and dropped another shot on 17, but finished superbly with an eagle at the last to sign for a 69.

Overnight leader Casey Jarvis notched four birdies but made too many mistakes, four bogeys and a double-drop on the par-five 15th took him down the leaderboard with a 74 to finish on eight-under-par.

Marco Penge got himself to 12-under-par after 13 holes, but three bogeys in his next four holes saw him slip back to nine-under and in a tie for fifth with Ashun Wu (69).

To finish the season with smiles on faces compared to how SA cricket was feeling in December was a tremendous achievement 0

Posted on April 12, 2023 by Ken

Compared to how South African cricket was feeling midway through the season – at the end of December 2022- to finish the summer with the smiles back on everyone’s faces and a general sense of excitement about the game in this country was a tremendous achievement by all involved.

Last year ended with the Proteas going to Australia and being put to the sword in humiliating fashion: bowled out for just 152 and 99 in the first Test in Brisbane, then thrashed by an innings and 182 runs in Melbourne. They needed the help of the weather to avoid defeat after they were forced to follow-on in the third Test in Sydney, but perhaps the first signs of renewal, the first tiny green shoots, became visible then as they did at least only lose six wickets on the final day as the batsmen discovered some defiance.

The Proteas had been in Australia in November as well, for the T20 World Cup, and a promising campaign looked set to deliver them into the semi-finals until they totally failed to pitch for their decisive game against minnows Netherlands and lost, eliminating them from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.

The lack of form of captain Temba Bavuma caused great bother, but the sometimes ugly vitriol hurled at him was just plain ugly.

The performances of the national team cast a spotlight on the domestic game, the pipeline for the Proteas, and the inescapable conclusion that it is probably not fit to be called high performance. The quality of South African batsmanship was particularly worrying.

There were the controversies over fitness tests which, more often than not, seemed to make our teams weaker rather than better.

The Social Justice and Nation-Building fiasco thankfully came to an end in 2022, but there was still a bitter taste in many cricket-lovers’ mouths as Cricket South Africa’s inquest into alleged racist behaviour by Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher fell apart.

CSA also spent much of 2022 trying to remedy their poor financial situation, which saw them make a R200 million loss in the previous year. The search for sponsors and trying to play more international cricket (especially Tests) in a jam-packed schedule with constrained coffers were only adding to the strain.

The financial battle is ongoing for CSA, but the improved performances of the Proteas, the better image enjoyed by the board and administrators and, crucially, the tremendous success of the SA20 tournament provides hope that those coffers will be enjoying more inflow in the near future.

The Proteas are very much the shop window for CSA and the appointments of Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter as dual national coaches has certainly worked in the short-term. While both coaches will be pleased with how their tenures have started, they have both stressed that South African cricket is on a journey and there will still be many obstacles ahead to overcome.

It is not exaggerating to say that journey probably began when CSA stopped trying to chase Graeme Smith away and instead gave him control of the SA20, the former national captain and director of cricket turning the tournament into an unmitigated success.

“We must not underestimate the impact the SA20 had,” Walter said when asked how he felt the turnaround had happened. “With all the crowds and the quality cricket being played, there was definitely momentum coming out of that. The Proteas jumped on the wave and played really well.

“We have played some nice cricket but that does not mean we’re at our best yet, which is exciting. It’s a process in which a lot of people are involved. We’re trying to create a platform from which we can play, this team is still young, but it’s nice to see the positive signs. I kept a close eye on South African cricket while I was in New Zealand, and one thing that really rings true is that the playing resources are very significant,” Walter said.

The change in mood has not just been seen at the macro level of the team and the organisation though; individuals such as Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Sisanda Magala and Heinrich Klaasen have turned their summers around in remarkable fashion.

Bavuma shoved aside his injury problems and loss of form, as well as the rabid critics clamouring for his head, to enjoy a triumphant end to the season, making career-best centuries in both Tests and ODIs. Taking T20s off Bavuma’s plate, but giving him the Test captaincy taken from Dean Elgar, would have been a tough call for Walter and Conrad to make, but it has been shown to be the correct move.

Magala’s season began with CSA banning him from playing for the Central Gauteng Lions because he failed a fitness test; he ended it with a five-wicket haul at the Wanderers as the Proteas beat the Netherlands 2-0 in their ODI series to keep alive their hopes of automatic qualification for the World Cup later this year. From being ruled unfit to play by CSA, Magala attracted buyers from T20 leagues all over the world and is now playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.

Markram was unequivocally backed by Conrad and Walter in all three formats and had blossomed into the player we all knew he could be by the end of the season. So too Klaasen, in and out of the team previously, had become a first-choice player in white-ball cricket.

The Proteas Women’s team also deserve credit for their major role in the turnaround, reaching the final of the T20 World Cup hosted by South Africa and given a wonderful reception.

Rabada worn out at T20 World Cup, but looks forward to knocking over Aussie batsmen 0

Posted on March 14, 2023 by Ken

Kagiso Rabada has admitted to feeling worn out at the T20 World Cup, but the Proteas pace spearhead is excited about knocking over a few Australian batsmen in the Test series that is set to begin in Brisbane on December 17.

Rabada ended October by producing an intense, pressure-building bowling spell, as well as two superbly athletic outfield catches, in the impressive T20 World Cup win over India, but he was then flat and ineffective against Pakistan and the Netherlands as South Africa made a shock exit from the tournament at the group stage.

The 27-year-old said that is why he decided to rest rather than play any four-day domestic cricket ahead of the crunch series back in Australia.

“I felt like I needed to rest, it’s been a long year,” Rabada said on the morning of the Proteas’ departure for Australia. “It is a concern the amount of cricket we are playing and it needs to be managed.

“You can feel the fatigue in the intensity of your play, it’s just not where you want it to be. It catches up with you and at international level you really want to be playing at high intensity.

“I’m not trying to make excuses, I wasn’t up to scratch at the World Cup and I did have a disappointing tournament. I didn’t feel like I had great energy. I tried my best but it felt like the harder I tried, nothing really came out.

“But I am excited about playing some cricket now, playing against quality opposition like Australia always seems to bring the best out of me and I have good memories of playing there,” Rabada said.

In the three Tests in Australia in 2016, Rabada took 15 wickets at an average of 22.40 and his overall record against them is outstanding – 38 wickets in seven matches at 20.50.

Rabada has had some famously fiery exchanges with the Australian batsmen, and some of the language thrown around then probably belongs in the Adult Classifieds, but as befits the leader of the South African attack, he says he will never back down.

“We will be tested over there and against them it always seems like we are going up against some sort of feud, that is always extremely apparent,” Rabada said.

“It’s always a good contest and,  as much as nerves and passion are incredibly important, sometimes you must just let it happen. It always seems to be a challenge against Australia.

“But I won’t back down to the challenge, if they want to come hard then I will stand up to it. That’s what competition is,” Rabada said firmly.

Jake on the offensive as Cape-based journos feel his ire 0

Posted on January 03, 2023 by Ken

Bulls coach Jake White was on the offensive after his team’s poor display in their 31-17 defeat at the hands of Munster, with a couple of Cape-based journalists feeling his ire in prickly exchanges.

The questions they raised were largely self-evident, but White took exception to his team being described as “outmuscled” and when asked about senior players not standing up, he asked for a list.

There is no doubt that the Bulls were second-best at the gain-line, as shown by Munster scoring three of their four tries from pick-and-goes, while they bashed away at the home team’s line for the last 10 minutes without getting through.

The only Bulls players who emerged with credit from the game were youngsters David Kriel, a second-half substitute, and fullback Kurt-Lee Arendse, who was still full of attacking threat in the wind and rain.

“I don’t think we were outmuscled at all,” White said afterwards. “We leaked a couple of tries from close quarters, but I’m proud of the way we fought back, it was a good learning curve.

“Munster have a lot of internationals and will definitely be near the top at the end of the competition. It was raining, they contested well in the lineouts, where we had a young hooker.

“We are still a long way from where we want to be, but our spine, numbers two, eight, nine and 15 are all youngsters, while theirs are internationals. I’m not happy with the result, but I am a realist.

“We will keep staying positive. If I listened to you guys in the media, I would go stand on top of a building and jump! We have a very young group and last season they exceeded expectations,” White said.

What possession they had, the Bulls often wasted with poorly-directed kicks, but White made it sound like you needed to be the Dean of Science at the University of Limerick on the other side of the River Shannon to understand the wind.

“Conditions did not help us and we kicked inaccurately. But the wind made it very difficult – you were constantly worried that if you kicked short then the ball would come straight back to you, or if you gave it more it would go too long.

“The conditions were in the forwards’ favour and Munster bravely defended their line at the end. Being at home, they obviously played the conditions well and the worst thing was that we gave them a 17-3 start in the first half.

“We have what we have in terms of players and they have got to grow. If we started Bismarck du Plessis, what would Jan-Hendrik Wessels learn?

“It’s not the end of the world, touring is very difficult, we saw that with Ulster almost losing to the Lions. I can’t hide these players, I’ve got to put them in pressure situations and I know they will get better over time,” White said.

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.

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