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Ken Borland



From 2016 in Kruger to last week at Zebula, KFC Mini-Cricket has kept the same energy 0

Posted on November 11, 2021 by Ken

The last time I was fortunate enough to attend the KFC Mini-Cricket National Seminar was five years ago in Kruger Park, so it was wonderful to see CSA’s flagship development programme has lost none of its energy or passion when I was invited to this year’s annual gathering, held at Zebula Golf Estate outside BelaBela last week.

This mass participation grassroots programme, which will celebrate its 40th anniversary next year, is operated by the noble crew of 10 500 volunteer coaches, working closely with the sponsors and CSA’s development office.

Some of the bile that has been thrown around in cricket circles over the last couple of years has been difficult to stomach, but being able to share in an environment where everyone is just working for the love of the sport, where egos are put to the side because this is the grassroots game, is gratifying enough to cure the most severe indigestion.

Graeme Smith, as director of cricket, has had to deal with much of that bile, but he was happy and relaxed at Zebula, being asked for plenty of photographs by the delegates after his address on the first morning.

“I basically just gave them an update of where cricket is and then it was great to sit through the sessions with them,” Smith said.

“I feel like I’ve been starved of being on the ground with these sort of cricket-lovers. It’s so exciting to be here, this programme is nearly 40 years old and has been a massive investment in the game at all levels.

“All credit to the volunteer coaches and co-ordinators who grow their communities and are mentors for the youngsters. It’s so important that kids have the opportunity to be touched by the game and I know how important KFC Mini-Cricket is to CSA.

“These coaches are the life-blood of our game and I’ll be surprised if there are any other development programmes in this country that come close in terms of reach,” Smith said.

Unfortunately though, like everything else, the effectiveness of the KFC Mini-Cricket Programme does come down to how many Rand are in the bank for CSA.

The organisation held its AGM last weekend and the financial statements clearly showed the serious effects of Covid and how important it is for the Proteas to be a ‘box-office’ team on the global stage.

CSA still has total assets of R797 million, but they suffered a nett loss of R221 million in 2020/21, having budgeted for just a R177 million deficit.

This was largely due to broadcast revenue plummeting from R534 million to R161 million. Having made up almost half of CSA’s revenue the previous financial year, broadcast rights now only accounted for 31% of profit. Sponsorships also dropped from R186 million to R79 million, 15% of revenue.

Accordingly, in an environment of sometimes brutal cost-cutting (but pleasingly with no employees laid off because of Covid), investment in development dropped from R385 million to R273 million.

So anyone who wants to see the game in this country truly transform has to also acknowledge that the Proteas have to be one of the best teams internationally. That’s the only way the Big Three will want to tour here, generating the lucrative broadcast rights that are by far CSA’s biggest revenue-earner.

And KFC Mini-Cricket has certainly produced its fair share of Proteas – Beuran Hendricks and Sinalo Jafta were two in attendance at Zebula. But the programme also wants to empower the coaches, while bringing an estimated 118 000 kids from diverse schools and communities together this summer, introducing them to cricket and also getting them active.

Lions will be coming to Loftus after all … for hastily-arranged match v Sharks 0

Posted on August 03, 2021 by Ken

The British and Irish Lions will be coming to Loftus Versfeld after all and they have invited the Sharks to once again be their opposition in a hastily-arranged match that will take place on Saturday.

The Lions were originally scheduled to play the Bulls in Pretoria on Saturday, but that game has been postponed due to positive Covid tests in the Bulls camp.

But just as the Springboks, who have had their second Test against Georgia cancelled, are concerned about lack of game time ahead of the Test series against the Lions, so too are the tourists desperate not to miss out on any matches on their roster. Coach Warren Gatland would have carefully planned out giving his whole squad certain opportunities ahead of the first match against South Africa on July 24, and games not being played would throw all of that out of kilter.

The Sharks, who were hammered 54-7 by the Lions at Ellis Park on Wednesday night, were still in Gauteng on Thursday and have agreed to stay on the Highveld and play the tourists again. This will necessitate the postponement of their scheduled Currie Cup match on Saturday, against the Gauteng Lions at Kings Park, and SA Rugby are expected to communicate these details later on Thursday.

There had been speculation that the European Lions would want to get down to Cape Town, where they are meant to play SA A on Wednesday, as soon as possible to escape the epicentre of Covid in Gauteng. But their desperation to not lose out on game time has won the day.

And the Sharks have 36 players in Johannesburg, ready and willing to play. And hopefully second time around they will be better up to speed and able to provide more stern competition for the Lions.

Focus on the overseas-based players as Springbok selection draws near 0

Posted on May 10, 2017 by Ken

 

It is a rugby truism that any coach stands or falls by his selections and Allister Coetzee’s mind will be rapidly focusing on who will represent the Springboks in the three Tests next month against France, the bulk of whom will surely be invited to the final training camp from May 20-22.

And when the first Springbok squad of 2017 is selected towards the end of the month the focus will once again be on the overseas-based players. But SA Rugby, who have done their coach precious few favours since negotiations with him began in 2015, have put him on the back foot in this regard with their new ruling that, from July 1, only players with 30 Test caps can be chosen from overseas.

If Coetzee had to just choose the most in-form team from SuperRugby then a backline could run on to Loftus Versfeld on June 10 with less than 50 caps, which a coach, on as shaky ground as he is, is highly unlikely to gamble on. The form Super Rugby backline would probably be Bosch-Mvovo-Mapoe-Odendaal-Skosan-Jantjies-Cronje.

So it seems inevitable that Coetzee will call on overseas-based players, especially amongst the backs.

Jan Serfontein is on his way to France and only has 26 Springbok caps at the moment, so he will not be eligible for the Rugby Championship. Should Coetzee pick him anyway against France knowing that he won’t be part of the plans for the rest of the year?

Willie le Roux has been playing with typical enthusiasm for Wasps and is likely to be in the picture at fullback, but Coetzee will be curbing the development of Curwin Bosch by not selecting him against France and instead letting him play in another World Junior Championship for the SA U20s.

Bosch has been one of the standout players in SuperRugby and has come through the ranks having been tipped as a future Springbok star after his exploits with the SA U20s last year. He will surely be involved in the 2019 World Cup, and could quite possibly be needed during this year’s Rugby Championship, so why not get him involved now? Let him play at fullback where he will have more time to settle at senior international level.

Bryan Habana, JP Pietersen, Morne Steyn and Ruan Pienaar are all still playing well overseas, but the general feeling amongst rugby observers is that it is time we moved on from these superstars, particularly since none of them are likely to be around for the 2019 World Cup. Nevertheless, Coetzee is a desperate coach trying to avoid the axe, so don’t be surprised if he calls on some of these elder statesmen.

While there is probably more depth at forward, veteran hooker Bismarck du Plessis is almost certain to be summoned to play the role of a general in the tight five, and playing the French at the end of their gruelling season with two of the Tests being played on the Highveld should produce open rugby and encourage Coetzee to pick players suited to a free-flowing game plan like Warren Whiteley, Siya Kolisi, Jaco Kriel, Franco Mostert, Ruan Dreyer, Malcolm Marx, Thomas du Toit, Coenie Oosthuizen, Pieter-Steph du Toit and Sikhumbuzo Notshe.

But the new 30-cap ruling on overseas players will also hurt Coetzee at forward. There is a hint of lawlessness in the way certain agents are shipping their players off overseas these days, so some tightening probably is necessary, but a hard-and-fast arbitrary number like 30 is not in the Springboks’ best interests.

Someone like Saracens tighthead prop Vincent Koch is playing unstoppable rugby at the moment, but he has only nine caps and is ineligible after July 1. If a couple of tightheads get injured during the Rugby Championship, how desperate will Coetzee be to select him? He may be forced to go back to Jannie du Plessis.

Ferocious flank Marcell Coetzee is in a similar position, stranded on 28 caps and currently out of action after another knee injury.

Instead of an inflexible rule, it should be left up to the national coach and Coetzee has already expressed his preference for locally-based players unless there is no viable option in a position, which is how it should be.

Hopefully the boring predictability of SuperRugby these days – those playing SuperBru will know this well – will give way to a thrilling Springbok resurgence next month, but there are numerous selection concerns for Allister Coetzee.

The rapid returns of Pat Lambie, Damian de Allende and Juan de Jongh to their best would help, but the lack of in-form options at scrumhalf is also an obvious worry. But let’s hope that the natural flair, tremendous tenacity and game-breaking ability of Faf de Klerk is not ignored. Not blooding Curwin Bosch will be a bad enough waste of talent.

 

 

 

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