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Ken Borland

SA have a few injuries, but Euro franchise stars ‘look sharp’ 0

Posted on October 26, 2023 by Ken

South Africa men’s hockey coach Cheslyn Gie (right) and captain Dayaan Cassiem at the launch of the Africa Olympic Qualifier at the University of Pretoria.
Photo: Lee Warren

The South African men’s hockey team will go into their African Hockey Olympic Qualifier in Pretoria from Sunday with a few injury withdrawals but a full complement of their available stars playing for European franchises.

The winners of the eight-team men’s competition, which concludes with the final on Sunday, November 5, will qualify directly for the Paris Olympics next July, so the stakes are high and SA coach Cheslyn Gie is delighted with the squad he has.

“Unfortunately we’ve had a few injuries, but it is still a very good squad and our training camp has gone very well,” Gie said at the University of Pretoria, where the tournament will be held, on Thursday.

“Clayton Saker, Le-Neal Jackson and Connor Beauchamp, who is one of our drag-flickers, are all out with knee injuries. Unfortunately that’s three defenders ruled out, and Chad Futcher and goalkeeper Siya Nolutshungu have both just started new jobs and cannot get leave, our team being an amateur one.

“But everyone else is good to go and our European-based players are in the midst of their season. They’ve all played four-to-six matches and they are looking really sharp, despite having to travel long distances to get here.

“This is a very important tournament for us, it always is, and I’ve never experienced any easy matches in it. It’s a bit of a worry that we haven’t played a Test since the World Cup at the beginning of the year and we will need to adjust quickly to the pace of international hockey and it’s something we’ve tried to simulate in our training camp,” Gie said.

Speaking of drag-flickers, Gie said he was concerned about Nigeria’s arsenal of these penalty corner goal-scoring specialists, but he also warned about the challenge perennial finalists Egypt, Kenya and Ghana will pose, even though South Africa have won every one of these qualifying tournaments. Fortunately those last three teams are all in the other pool, with Namibia, while the hosts will take on Nigeria, Zimbabwe and Uganda and should comfortably finish in the top two of their section, thereby qualifying for the semi-finals.

“Egypt are definitely going to be strong contenders, but Nigeria have three very good drag-flickers and Ghana are always strong. They actually led against Egypt in the semi-finals of the last qualifier, but missed some tap-in goals. Kenya are also very physical and strong, and they’ve been together for a while with their whole U21 squad coming through.

“You can’t underestimate how quickly things change in this tournament. There’s a lot of ebb and flow in the games too, and we have to make sure that when things are going well for us, we score the goals, and when things are not going well, we keep the opposition out,” Gie said.

Celia Seerane (right) and assistant coach Inky Zondi of the SA women’s hockey team.
Photo: Lee Warren

South Africa’s women’s team have also won all four of the previous qualifying tournaments, but experienced star Celia Seerane said although their preparation has been outstanding, thoughts of just pitching up and cleaning up the opposition are far-fetched.

“It’s probably the best prepared we’ve ever been for the Africa Cup, we are ready and focused and enjoying the comforts of playing at home, but we can’t take anything for granted.

“History tells us that Ghana are going to be tough opponents and I remember when we went 1-0 down to them in a final in Kenya,” Seerane said.

Assistant coach Inky Zondi had a similar warning.

“All the teams have their unique style, which makes it very exciting. Nigeria will be very physical, they play quite an exciting brand of hockey and they have the combinations to do well in small spaces. Ghana are always a force, as are Kenya,” Zondi said.

South Africa play Nigeria and Zimbabwe in their pool, while Ghana, Kenya, Namibia and Zambia are in the other group in the seven-team women’s competition.

South Africa’s men open their campaign against Zimbabwe at 6pm on Sunday, while the women play the same country, at 4pm.

Last season was stocked full of runs for Rickelton … but he still calls it a failure 0

Posted on June 21, 2023 by Ken

The prolific Ryan Rickelton was frustrated by his season at Proteas level.

Ryan Rickelton’s 2022/23 season was stocked full of runs and accolades, and yet the 26-year-old maintains that it was a failure because he did not entirely nail down his place in the Proteas team.

Never mind that the management of the national squad seemed reluctant to choose him due to an ankle injury that their medical staff deemed too much of a risk.

Rickelton showed his determination by ploughing through the season, churning out runs at domestic level for the Central Gauteng Lions as he stubbornly refused to have surgery and his ankle became the most talked-about body part in South African cricket.

The wicketkeeper/batsman scored three centuries in his five four-day innings for the Lions and he was the leading run-scorer in the One-Day Cup with 452 at 64.57, scored at better than a run-a-ball and playing a leading role in his team claiming a third-successive 50-over title. He was named the Lions’ Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season recently.

But his opportunities at international level were limited to one Test and two ODIs. Perhaps unsurprisingly given the lack of consistent game time for the Proteas, he scored just 22 and 10 in the second Test against the West Indies at the Wanderers and 14 and three in his two ODIs against the same team.

And that is why Rickelton, because of the passion he brings to the game and the high standards he sets himself, deems the previous summer to have been a failure.

“It was not my best season, if you look at the whole package. I had a couple of successful competitions but there were also failures at international level and in T20. I had four chances for success in the international season, so it’s a failure for me by pure percentages, but I guess I will take it and move forward,” Rickelton said.

“I always have this anxiety that I don’t want to be just a good domestic player. I had no fear in my international debut in March 2022, but now it’s something I need to overcome.

“If I can just make one score at international level then that will settle the nerves and I’m sure I can make a good contribution for the Proteas. It’s hugely different to playing at domestic level, but awesome at the same time, which is why everyone aspires to play there.

“There’s a helluva lot more pressure, shit it’s hard. For the first time in my career, you get dismissed cheaply and you feel like you might not necessarily get runs tomorrow either.

“But it’s more internal pressure from myself. I’ve stuck my foot in the door now and I’ve just got to climb the ladder and get more comfortable as I get more opportunity,” Rickelton said.

The left-hander leaves no doubt that his fiery ambition burns brightest for Test cricket, which is why his mediocre return at the Wanderers was most upsetting. For a naturally free-flowing player, full of strokeplaying talent, efforts of 22 off 49 balls and 10 off 29 deliveries left him “disgusted”. On both occasions he was caught behind, edging a cut in the first innings and then attempting to drive on the up and providing the wicketkeeper with another catch.

But cricketers are not computers and it is difficult to simulate the kind of pressure that burrows its way into the consciousness when a batsmen feels like they are playing for their place. Rickelton should have played in the first Test against the West Indies at Centurion, when South Africa chose an extra bowler (spinner Senuran Muthusamy only delivered eight overs in the match) and their middle-order was badly exposed. One mistake and you’re out, gone, and there could be a long wait for another chance at Test level, particularly given how sparse the Proteas’ schedule is in that format.

“When I got the opportunity for the Proteas, technically I was not batting as well as I had been at the start of the season. But it’s also mental because you desperately want the fairytale.

“I was told two days before the Wanderers Test that I would then play. So I knew I had at least one innings, maybe two. You’re playing on your home turf, your parents are coming to watch, and you start thinking ‘maybe I will get a hundred, that would be cool’. And those thoughts accumulate.

“I felt really good going into the match, but in the end I was disgusted with my Test, I had no idea what was going on. It was like my head and body had no idea what the other one was doing.

“In the first innings I was maybe unlucky but I did not have to play that shot. Now you have one more chance and it gnaws at you.

“It’s the first time I’ve experienced fighting the same battle, making mountains of molehills, and I don’t like it. But I just have to deal with it.

“You so desperately want to prove that you belong, to take that weight off your shoulders and not have to fight for your place. You just want to bat with intent, open up on your own terms, but it’s ferociously difficult at the highest level. You have to earn the right to play like you want to.

“With the Proteas playing just 10 Tests over the next four years, every series you will feel like a new cap again, which doesn’t help. It’s going to be frustrating not to be able to build any momentum. Test cricket is the purest form of the game and I hope that the administrators don’t cripple it,” Rickelton said with searing honesty.

T20 franchises are becoming the main drivers of the game now, and Rickelton is sober-minded enough to know he has to master that format in order to have a long career. He was poor last season, by his own admission, in both the CSA T20 Challenge for the Lions (averaging 15 with a strike-rate of 131) and the SA20 for MI Cape Town (averaging 20, strike-rate 113).

“I have a shit-load of work to do quickly before next season to make sure I progress. Apart from making sure I step up internationally, I also need to rediscover my T20 game, which I lost a bit. I’m going to put a lot of effort into that and make sure I have a very good SA20. T20 is so important nowadays and I’ve neglected it a bit,” Rickelton said.

The ankle has now been operated on and fixed, and Rickelton says it is “loading very nicely”. He has started batting again and was part of the Proteas’ recent camp in Durban.

He hopes to be match-fit in a couple of weeks and able to push for selection for the ODIs against Australia in September.

The feeling of having to fight for a regular place in the team is not a new one for Rickelton. Surprisingly, given his natural talent and a pedigree that included playing for the 2014 SA Schools side, the St Stithians product initially languished in the Gauteng semi-pro team before making his breakthrough.

“I found my feet slowly and had to fight for my life at Gauteng, even though I knew what I could do. I almost had to prove it to myself though and allow myself to be free and have a real crack with the bat.

“It’s an experience every player goes through and I’ve been guilty of wanting things too badly in the past. But I will keep going,” Rickelton stated.

Fans’ cellphones were previously full of images of sandpaper & changeroom confrontations, but Elgar hopes for less spiciness in Oz 0

Posted on April 13, 2023 by Ken

The last time South Africa and Australia met in a Test series, cricket fans’ cellphones were full of images of sandpaper and changeroom confrontations with the captain only wearing a towel, but Proteas skipper Dean Elgar is hoping that this time the spiciness stays on the field and does not cross the line into illegality.

The infamous “Sandpapergate” tour of 2017/18 was the last Test series between the two great rivals, with South Africa winning 3-1 as Australian captain Steven Smith and batsmen David Warner and Cameron Bancroft were banned for their ball-tampering shenanigans in the third Test.

“I have no animosity at all for any of the players or Australian cricket,” Elgar said in Brisbane on Monday. “It was a tough time for all of us and obviously they were sad events, it was unfortunate.

“We have moved forward as a group, although we wish things could have happened differently because there is a rich history of cricket between us and we have a similarly competitive nature.

“It was extremely juicy out in the middle, they were interesting times, but hopefully that has all been put to bed. There’s always a bit of spice on the field when we play Australia, but hopefully none of those antics.

“We love playing against Australia, we have heaps of respect for them, and hopefully this series will be a good spectacle,” Elgar said.

With Australia having plenty of depth when it comes to pacemen, the series should be a fast bowling extravaganza. Although he can be a bit of an enigma, notably in the T20 World Cup in Australia a month ago, Kagiso Rabada is still South Africa’s leading Test bowler. And Elgar is excited by the quick bowlers he has to support him – Lungi Ngidi, Anrich Nortje, Marco Jansen, Gerald Coetzee and Lizaad Williams.

“KG’s career and repertoire speaks for itself in terms of what he can bring to the table,” Elgar said. “But it’s good to have options and all our bowlers bring something unique.

“It’s exciting to have raw pace in the changeroom and, facing them in the nets, I’m happy that they are part of our squad. Their skillsets are up there and they can bring the heat as well.

“In Australian conditions, you want a balance of skill and raw pace. You get a lot of value on these pitches if you can execute and hit the right areas,” Elgar said.

South Africa begin their tour with a warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI at Allan Border Field in Brisbane from Friday to next Monday.

The first Test starts at the Gabba in Brisbane on December 17.

An early look at the course & conditions one of the premises of playing in a pro-am, & O’Kennedy takes full advantage 0

Posted on October 27, 2022 by Ken

SOUTHBROOM, KwaZulu-Natal – One of the premises of playing in a pro-am event for the professionals is that it allows them an early look at the course and the conditions before their proper tournament, and Hennie O’Kennedy certainly made full use of the opportunity to play in the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series San Lameer Pro-Am by winning the competition on Wednesday with amateur partner Tyler Whittaker.

The 26-year-old O’Kennedy says he now knows all about the San Lameer Country Club layout ahead of their Sunshine Tour event there starting on Thursday. And the Stellenbosch Golf Club representative has played it both in the wind on Wednesday and in calmer weather on the first day.

“I expected nothing less than a lot of wind from San Lameer, but it was a beautiful day yesterday,” O’Kennedy said. “I didn’t play last week, so it’s been really nice to come in early here and open up what will be a seven-week stretch for me with a pro-am win.

“Today San Lameer just gave us a taste of what she’s made of and it was really fun. It meant you had to hit a lot of different shots and I enjoyed it. It’s a phenomenal course.

“There’s a lot of water and it’s been called the Blue Monster of South Africa. There’s quite a lot of uphills and downhills as well, so you need to be creative, which makes it more fun.

“If it were flat, it would be simple, but even the greens here, you have to work with the slopes. You really need to stick to your game-plan and really commit to your shots. Fortunately my game-plan seems to be good,” O’Kennedy said cheerfully.

O’Kennedy’s 11th position on the Luno Order of Merit marks him out as someone to watch as the Sunshine Tour builds towards all the mega-tournaments at the end of the year.

He made an impression at the start of the season with three top-10 finishes, before dropping back into the middle of the field in the middle of the year.

“I made a little change with my putter and I reckon that’s why there was a bit of a dip. But now I’ve changed back to my Moneymaker and hopefully that will help me get back to my best.

“Hopefully this week will put me back on track for the next seven weeks and then the co-sanctioned tournaments that follow,” O’Kennedy said.

His playing partner Whittaker is one of the founders of the Custom Apparel golfwear company that sponsors O’Kennedy and is a partner of the Vodacom Origins of Golf Series.

O’Kennedy is a tall, physically-imposing person who stands out in a crowd, but the funky, tropical-themed golf shirts he wore from CA made him even more of a landmark.

“I never expected this, but we dovetailed amazingly well. We play at San Lameer now and then on golf tour, and it is amazing, a really tight set-up.

“The wind was way harder today, but we made it work for ourselves and just played the right shot at the right time,” Whittaker, who hails from Durban and plays off a 5.4 handicap, said.

“I could not have asked for a better partner than Tyler,” O’Kennedy said. “It was  nice to meet him because he has really helped me out with clothing, and he’s a solid golfer and you could not ask for a better person.”

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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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