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Ken Borland

Proteas may not like the cut of the Hagley Oval’s jib, but they have to adapt 0

Posted on March 28, 2022 by Ken

The Proteas can be forgiven for not liking the cut of the Hagley Oval’s jib after their humiliation in the first Test against New Zealand, but they have no choice but to adapt and do better when the second Test starts at the same Christchurch venue at midnight on Thursday evening South African time.

Losing an important toss and having to bat first, jetlag, or the effects of 10 days of hard isolation can all be proffered as reasons or excuses for the Proteas’ dismal failure last week, but international cricket, especially these days, is all about adapting to foreign circumstances. South Africa need to find the same resilience they show at home.

“Whoever adapts quicker will get the upper hand,” opening batsman Sarel Erwee said on Wednesday. “It’s not neccessarily the team that wins the toss and bowls first that will have an advantage, the stats show there is not much difference at Hagley Oval.

“We face a lot of tough conditions at home and it’s about adapting to them and making peace with the conditions. Mentally we have gone over our game-plans and processes.

“We need to stick to what we did right and those things that didn’t work, we need to adapt to be better. We mustn’t overthink it, but there were a few mistakes made and we need to put those right.

“It’s not going to get easier and our backs are against the wall. The only way to deal with it is to step forward and try and throw the first punch. I think people will see a different side and energy this Test,” Erwee said.

But taking on the New Zealand attack, even though it will still be without Trent Boult, is an advanced task, not just a simple matter of confidence and energy.

They were magnificent in their discipline, control and skill in the first Test.

“I always knew the intensity would be high and there would be no let-up,” Erwee said of his debut last week, “but the biggest surprise was that the intensity just never went away. It did not seep away, it was there every minute and every ball.”

Notwithstanding all the dropped catches and loose bowling, it is the South African batsmen who are under the most pressure. They need to get in and someone needs to go big. It will require much more discipline and patience in waiting for the Black Caps bowlers to come to them.

Boks have had to play their rugby against the grain, but that mental toughness should serve them well 0

Posted on September 06, 2021 by Ken

The Springboks can be forgiven for thinking that ever since they won the World Cup they have had to play their rugby against the grain, but the adaptability and mental toughness they have shown will once again serve them well amidst the chaos in the Rugby Championship scheduling that threatens to overshadow their second Test against Argentina at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium on Saturday.

Following New Zealand’s unilateral withdrawal from their scheduled fixture against Australia in Perth next weekend and their cancellation of South Africa’s matches in Auckland and Dunedin, the whole tournament was thrown into disarray on Friday.

But as Springbok captain Siya Kolisi pointed out, they can only focus on what is in front of them, and that will be a Pumas team out for revenge on Saturday.

“All we can do is concentrate on tomorrow, tomorrow’s match is guaranteed, it will happen and we are really excited for it. We can’t control everything and the rest of the fixtures is something we can’t control. We take it game-by-game and try not to think of the end of the competition and trophies. We put the same effort in whoever we are playing against.

“We go through exactly the same processes and we want to win very game, every competition and every trophy, we don’t want to just compete. The challenges we have faced in these times of a pandemic are never an excuse, when we step on the field we have to be ready and we have to be champions. After missing a whole year of rugby, we just want to play as much as we can,” Kolisi said on Friday.

With quarantine issues meaning New Zealand no longer want to travel to Australia or host games, SA Rugby made sure the opportunity to suggest themselves as hosts of the rest of the Rugby Championship was not passed up on, with the United Kingdom also being mooted as a possible venue.

Springbok assistant coach Mzwandile Stick said South Africa had shown with the successful, albeit troubled, hosting of the British and Irish Lions series that they would be able to safely pull off such a feat.

“If you look at our facilities, we have very good stadiums around Gauteng and we have hosted big events before. You see the success of the Lions tour, they enjoyed our hospitality, staying at a nice golf course. Argentina are down the road from us here in Gqeberha in a very nice hotel on the beachfront. I have no doubt that Australia and New Zealand would enjoy being here as well.

“We have got everything we need to host the rest of the Rugby Championship and it would be great if they decided to come to South Africa, we would welcome them. Our squad will still be staying together until the call is made, but we trust our executive and Director of Rugby to do everything they can to finish the tournament, whether in South Africa or the UK,” Stick said.

Anxious times for Coetzee as his plans are undermined 0

Posted on May 09, 2017 by Ken


The way his plans for his crucial second year as Springbok coach are being undermined by injuries and overseas departures, Allister Coetzee could be forgiven for starting to take Valium as his appointment with the feisty French looms ever nearer.

Coetzee was spared the axe by SA Rugby after a 2016 campaign that had most Springbok fans in need of post-traumatic stress drugs, and he has also been given more support in terms of more experienced assistants and training camps during SuperRugby.

But there is little doubt that Coetzee needs to produce a series win from the three Tests against France in Pretoria, Durban and Johannesburg in June if he is to still be Springbok coach for the Rugby Championship. There are ongoing shadowy moves involving Rassie Erasmus that will have Coetzee perpetually looking over his shoulder.

But the problems Coetzee already faces in terms of selecting his squad would be enough to send someone of less tenacious character running for the hills.

A run of injuries has sidelined his two most capped local flyhalves and his first three choices for inside centre. Another midfield star has decided to pursue his career overseas as has a potential scrumhalf candidate, a position in which Coetzee has real problems.

In fact, if you run through the list of names of local players currently available for the backline, it makes gloomy reading.

And thus we come to the thorny issue of overseas players. The new 30 caps criterion of SA Rugby only comes into effect from July 1, so there are obviously going to be a bunch of foreign-based players included for the French series.

If one had to pick a backline only from the ranks of the SuperRugby franchises, it would be sorely lacking in the experience which is so important at Test level.

On current form, the uncapped Ross Cronje should probably be the starting scrumhalf, but Faf de Klerk, although suffering from the vagaries of form at the moment, must surely feature somewhere, especially since he played in 11 of the Springboks’ 12 Tests last year.

Cobus Reinach is the scrumhalf heading overseas and will be ineligible after July 1 because he only has 10 caps.

At flyhalf, Coetzee is faced with a repeat of last year’s problem when he was without Pat Lambie and Handre Pollard. The Bulls man is a non-starter for the French series, leaving the coach to gamble between a rusty Lambie or a frustrating Elton Jantjies, a man who looks top-class in SuperRugby but has been as hesitant as a vegan in a butchery at Test level.

But hopefully there will be a change in approach from the Springboks this year, a move towards the up-tempo, ball-in-hand style of the Lions, and Jantjies will surely feel more comfortable in that sort of environment.

The Springboks have a history of throwing Lambie into battle when in need of a rescue act, but it would surely not be fair on the 26-year-old to toss him back into Test action after probably just three SuperRugby games.

Curwin Bosch has burst on to the scene for the Sharks, but it would be heaping too much pressure on to the 19-year-old’s shoulders to expect him to play flyhalf for the Springboks, especially when you have Jantjies to call on.

Bosch could well be selected at fullback for the Springboks, however, with Jesse Kriel and Warrick Gelant only producing glimpses of form for the Bulls.

Lwazi Mvovo is likely to be on the one wing for the Springboks and Courtnall Skosan certainly looks like someone who can be relied upon if called to make the step up. The local depth at wing is not great, with Ruan Combrinck out with a long-term injury and Seabelo Senatla and Sergeal Petersen battling to get on the field.

One does not like to dwell on the defensive frailties of players, but for all their brilliance with ball in hand, Jamba Ulengo, Travis Ismaiel, Dillyn Leyds and Cheslin Kolbe have all shown weaknesses in defence that Test opposition will definitely focus on.

Lionel Mapoe and Francois Venter have put their hands up for the outside centre berth, but Rohan Janse van Rensburg, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh, the last three players to wear the number 12 jersey for the Springboks, are all currently injured.

De Allende and De Jongh might return to action just before the June international window, but the confirmation last week that Jan Serfontein has given in to the agents flashing lots of numbers on their calculators and will head overseas is most untimely.

While Serfontein can still play against France, will Coetzee be willing to make an investment in a player who will be stranded on 29 Tests, if he plays all three internationals in June, and therefore won’t be eligible for selection for the Rugby Championship?

While I fully understand the reasons players leave to perform overseas, I have it on good authority that Serfontein is managed by an agency that only gets a commission if they land the player an overseas deal.

So obviously his agent was unlikely to recommend the improved contracts that were on the table from both the Bulls and SA Rugby. In fact, there was an unconfirmed report from France that Serfontein had already signed a three-year deal with Montpellier back in January.

Surely SA Rugby could have a case for negotiating in bad faith against the Essentially sports management company and cancel their agents’ licence? This same company hardly covered their names in glory with the way they handled the departures of SA cricketers Rilee Rossouw and Kyle Abbott on Kolpak deals earlier this year …

That leaves someone like the uncapped Burger Odendaal as the frontrunner for the inside centre position and as tempting as it may be to pick a backline purely from SuperRugby players, their total number of caps might then amount to less than 50.

Which means there is the likelihood that the likes of Bryan Habana, Francois Hougaard, Willie le Roux, JP Pietersen, Ruan Pienaar and Morne and Francois Steyn will be winging their way back to South Africa in an effort to make up for their undistinguished recent efforts for the Springboks.

One cannot blame desperate coaches for trying anything to save their own skins, but bringing back all those former stars would surely be a retrograde step in terms of the future of Springbok rugby.

More injury woe for Bulls coach Nollis Marais 0

Posted on February 11, 2016 by Ken



Nollis Marais could be forgiven for shouting “Woe is me!” from the top of the Loftus Versfeld grandstand given the way injuries have hampered his pre-season preparation and the Bulls coach suffered another blow on Wednesday when highly-rated prop Lizo Gqoboka went down with a groin injury.

Following hot on the heels of the devastating news that flyhalf playmaker Handre Pollard has been ruled out for the season with ruptured knee ligaments, Gqoboka pulled out of this weekend’s warm-up match against the Lions in Polokwane with a groin strain an hour after being named in the squad.

Gqoboka will be out of action for a couple of weeks, joining senior loose forwards Lappies Labuschagne and Deon Stegmann, as well as youthful flank Roelof Smit, on the sidelines.

“You nurse Handre Pollard for weeks with his shoulder injury and then in a normal passing drill he hurts his leg. He was obviously a huge part of our plans, and Lizo too, plus Lappies and Steggies are out too. But the other guys must now step up. It’s a mind switch and the other guys must just get on with it,” Marais said at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday.

Marais announced his best available team for Saturday’s match against the Lions with Springbok hooker Adriaan Strauss, named as the Super Rugby captain, set to lead the franchise for the first time.

“It’s a great privilege for me and I seem to play better when responsibility is on my shoulders. We’ve lost Handre and Deon, who are both great leaders, but Rudi Paige has made a massive step up in terms of leadership. The team has a lot of respect for him, he has a lot of authority and he makes great calls,” Strauss said.

Jesse Kriel, who played fullback when he announced himself to the world stage in last year’s Super Rugby competition, has been named at outside centre by Marais, with the exciting Warrick Gelant in the number 15 jersey.

“I see Jesse as a number 13, he played there when I coached the U21s, and he is the Springbok outside centre, so that was the easiest position to slot in, he understands what we’re trying to do. I’m not too keen on him at fullback. Bjorn Basson is also an option at 15, and Jamba Ulengo could move into 11. Maybe we’ll do that for the last 15 minutes on Saturday,” Marais said.

When Francois Brummer returned to Loftus Versfeld in November for the first time since 2010 on loan from the Pumas, the 26-year-old could not have foreseen how vital he would be for the Bulls’ Super Rugby plans. But the former Waterkloof High School star is now the starting flyhalf with Tian Schoeman on the bench.

Team – Warrick Gelant, Travis Ismaiel, Jesse Kriel, Jan Serfontein, Bjorn Basson, Francois Brummer, Rudy Paige, Arno Botha, Hanro Liebenberg, Nic de Jager, Grant Hattingh, RG Snyman, Marcel van der Merwe, Adriaan Strauss, Trevor Nyakane. Replacements: Jaco Visagie, Lizo Gqoboka, Jason Jenkins, Jannes Kirsten, Piet van Zyl, Tian Schoeman, Burger Odendaal, Werner Kruger, Pierre Schoeman, Jamba Ulengo, Jade Stighling.


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