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Ken Borland



Sharks have become hot property in dramatic turnaround 0

Posted on September 26, 2023 by Ken

One of the great characteristics of rugby is how quickly a team’s fortunes can turn around and the Sharks have gone, in the space of a month, from being a beleaguered team on the defensive to hot property that looks capable of challenging for silverware.

At the beginning of December, the Sharks had just axed coach Sean Everitt and were retreating into a laager as director of rugby Neil Powell tried to fend off questions about the decision and even refused to talk about Siya Kolisi apparently being injured.

But they have started January with a thumping over the Bulls, their nemeses for the last couple of years, and they have charged up into the top five of the United Rugby Championship log, with games in hand on everyone above them, as well as winning their opening two Champions Cup matches.

The strong run has coincided with Kolisi finding the sort of rampaging form that he regularly brings to the Springboks, and Eben Etzebeth, Bongi Mbonambi and Makazole Mapimpi have also lived up to their billing as world-class internationals.

The amount of power the Sharks have when at full-strength is enough to make electricians beam with joy and Bulls coach Jake White pinpointed this as the key factor when his side was overwhelmed at Kings Park at the weekend.

But the Sharks’ biggest challenge might well be coming up. Because of the hectic schedule involving two European competitions, Powell is going to have to unplug and recharge some of those Springboks due to their workloads. Can the Sharks still maintain a push for at least one title after shedding their star players?

They have two crucial matches coming up against the Stormers in February and March, and those thrilling encounters will go a long way to deciding who wins the South African Shield in the URC.

It has also been wonderful to see the reception the Sharks’ resurgence has received from their supporters, with especially large crowds at Kings Park over the last two weekends, with around 50 000 spectators in total over the two matches against the Lions and Bulls over the festive season.

Perfect batting & then SA fried England in hot oil of unrelenting pressure 0

Posted on September 12, 2022 by Ken

South Africa produced a compelling all-round display as they paced their batting perfectly and then fried England’s batsmen in the hot oil of unrelenting pressure from the bowlers and fielders, beating the hosts by a massive 90 runs to win their T20 series in Southampton on Sunday evening.

The Proteas had been sent in to bat and conditions were tough early on for the batsmen as Quinton de Kock was bowled for a duck by David Willey (4-1-25-3) in the first over and there was early movement with the new ball.

But Reeza Hendricks dug in and Rilee Rossouw then blazed 31 off 18 balls to provide some impetus in the powerplay, which South Africa finished on 53/1.

Hendricks, in red-hot form, accelerated to his third successive half-century and went on to score a fine 70 off 50 balls as he and Aiden Markram (51* off 36) built towards the death overs with a fantastically-judged partnership of 87 for the third wicket in 10 overs.

An impressive Markram, David Miller (22 off 9) and Tristan Stubbs, who hit his first two balls for four, then provided the big finish with 50 runs in the last four overs taking the Proteas to an above-par 191/5.

South Africa were outstanding in the field, their bowlers giving nothing away and being backed by superb fielding, led by a magnificent catch by Stubbs to remove Moeen Ali for just 3.

England missed their usual rollicking start as Jos Buttler (14) was outfoxed by the Proteas’ plans and excellent bowling by left-arm spinner Keshav Maharaj, and Jason Roy struggled to 17 off 18 balls before Anrich Nortje had him caught behind.

Tabraiz Shamsi then continued his spectacular comeback from the mauling he took in the first game, ripping through England with career-best figures of 5/24.

Fellow spinners Keshav Maharaj (2/21) and Markram, who dismissed Moeen courtesy of an extraordinary catch by Stubbs, running from a widish midwicket towards mid-on and diving full-length to take a one-handed catch as the ball went past him, also contributed. Their success showed that England erred in only giving off-spinner Moeen one over, getting too carried away with match-ups when conditions and a big field favoured the spinners.

Second legacy of the old board set to cause CSA strife 0

Posted on June 06, 2022 by Ken

Hot on the heels of the new Cricket South Africa board protesting that they inherited the mess that was the Social Justice and Nation-Building hearings, there is a second legacy of the old, disgraced board that may also cause them strife in the coming months.

I do have some sympathy for chairman Lawson Naidoo and his fellow directors when they ask with some frustration, in the wake of CSA’s embarrassing arbitration loss to Graeme Smith, “What were we supposed to do?”

The fact that SJN ombudsman Dumisa Ntsebeza chose only to make “tentative findings” on “untested evidence”, but was quite happy to make public claims of racism (surely the most damaging allegation against a White South African), meant CSA were almost damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

If they failed to further investigate the SJN allegations, then they would have been accused of ignoring the systemic racism that no doubt was part of our cricket in previous decades. But by acting on the claims against Smith, they left themselves open to criticisms of a witch-hunt and slander because the evidence was so flimsy.

Naidoo and fellow director Steven Budlender, the noted advocate, defended themselves in a Daily Maverick article this week, but what they did not mention was the way CSA’s legal representatives handled themselves in the arbitration, being criticised by the officials for “changing their tack” in the middle of the hearings and “trying to trap Smith”.

Little wonder costs were awarded against CSA.

Because the SJN was not properly set up to hear and test such inflammatory evidence in a better-controlled legal environment, the previous board certainly left Naidoo and Co with an explosive booby-trap.

The other decision of the previous board that is now causing some unhappiness in cricket circles is the automatic promotion/relegation that will apply at the end of next summer and see one of the top eight teams go down to the second division.

At the moment, one of Northern Cape, KZN Inland or South-Western Districts look set to be promoted. The Free State Knights, based in Bloemfontein, are bottom of the Division One relegation standings, with North-West (Potchefstroom) and the KZN Dolphins (Durban) tied second-from-bottom. Even teams like Western Province (Cape Town) and the Eastern Province Warriors (PE) have anxious times ahead as they are only lead the Knights by 10 points.

Do CSA really want one of those major centres to miss out as the likes of Kimberley, Pietermaritzburg or Oudtshoorn have a Division One team instead?

The problem with automatic promotion/relegation is that it is unlikely, barring a mass defection of players, that the team coming up will be better than the side going down, given the quality of cricket played in Division II.

There are many good reasons to ensure teams in the lower division can work their way up into the premier section, but the majority of fans do not want to see the Dolphins, Western Province or the Central Gauteng Lions playing in the second league. Imagine iconic stadiums like Newlands, the Wanderers or Kingsmead not hosting the best domestic players?

The only reason teams like KZN or the Lions, who would have been involved in the relegation battle before their surprise victory in the One-Day Cup right at the end of the season, would find themselves in danger of going down is because they provide most of the Proteas team.

There are many who feel automatic promotion/relegation is there to ensure the smaller unions, whose votes are often like the tail wagging the dog, share a place at the top table for at least one season before themselves being demoted.

I know CSA have a lot on their plate, but tweaking this system to ensure the Division II winners are only promoted if they beat the bottom side in Division I, is hopefully going to become a priority.

Important signs of hot form by Pakistan-bound Malan & Burger 0

Posted on February 03, 2021 by Ken

Pakistan-bound Janneman Malan and Nandre Burger showed important signs of hot form as they led the Cape Cobras to a vital 76-run win over the Imperial Lions in their Momentum One-Day Cup match in Potchefstroom on Friday.

The victory keeps the Cape Cobras alive in the competition and their match against the Warriors on Saturday will decide who goes through to the semi-finals with the Lions, who were already guaranteed first place on the log and rested some key players.

Malan and debutant Burger have both been included in the Proteas squad for the T20 series in Pakistan that starts on February 11.

Opening batsman Malan blazed 95 off 97 balls to lead the Cobras to a formidable 284 for five, with brother Pieter scoring 53 in a first-wicket stand of 131 with the Protea. A run-a-ball 40 from captain Zubayr Hamza and the talented Jonathan Bird’s 50 not out off 47 balls added the finishing touches to the innings.

Left-arm spinner Bjorn Fortuin, who is also heading for Pakistan, continued his fine tournament as he was the pick of the Lions bowlers with two for 42 in nine overs.

Left-arm quick Burger then had the Lions under pressure from the outset with a feisty new-ball burst in which he also swung the ball, bowling Reeza Hendricks (another T20 squad member but sadly out of form) for just 6 with a beauty.

Burger deserved much better than his final figures of two for 51 in nine overs, and seamer Onke Nyaku then built on the pressure created with some outstanding bowling of his own to take four for 29 in 10 overs as the Lions were bowled out for 208, giving the Cobras a bonus point which puts them level-pegging with the Warriors on the log.

Fortuin lashed 39 off 29 balls and Eldred Hawken scored a run-a-ball 37, but they were ancillary efforts as by then the required run-rate was almost 10 runs-per-over and the Lions were seven down. Nicky van den Bergh was the only other batsman to threaten the Cobras as he scored 35.

Lanky off-spinner Imraan Manack played a good supporting tole to the Cobras seamers as he took two for 31 in 7.4 overs.

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