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Ken Borland

All is not well in The Shark Tank 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

All is not well in The Shark Tank down in Durban, with the sudden sacking of head coach Sean Everitt, as inevitable as it was, highlighting the pressures that come with having major outside investors.

Everitt is a coach who has grown up in Sharks rugby and they were a final-minute drop goal away from contesting the semi-finals of the United Rugby Championship last season.

But as soon as former Springbok Sevens coach Neil Powell was brought in as director of rugby, it became inevitable that one of them would have to go, and the man with the lesser profile, but the greater institutional knowledge, was always going to be the most vulnerable.

Especially since the Board has shown they have an infatuation with big names, which does not always work when one is trying to put together a winning rugby team. So many of those Springbok stars have only been able to play in patches for the Sharks. It is often, as the Stormers and Bulls have shown, what lies in reserve that determines whether the trophy sits in your cabinet at the end of the season.

Powell was initially signed as the defence coach, but when he was suddenly, and without much clarity, elevated to the position of Director of Rugby, Everitt would have known he was in trouble. The talk in Durban is that it was at the insistence of the American investors.

For those with short memories, Everitt had taken the Sharks to the top of the Super Rugby log, after their overseas tour, when Covid struck in 2020. The lucrative equity deal was signed during the pandemic and the culture and vibrant counter-attacking style that Everitt had been building (similar to John Dobson’s success at the Stormers) began to change.

But before Powell’s arrival, the Sharks had given Leinster a memorable battle in Dublin and then produced an outstanding home win over Glasgow Warriors that lifted them to fourth on the log.

Powell then became the face of the team, in charge of selection and apparently very hands-on in terms of coaching.

The Sharks were then flat in going down to the Bulls in Pretoria, followed by last weekend’s traumatic performance against Cardiff, the worst at Kings Park in a very long time and the first time in 50 years the KZN team have not scored a point at home.

One wonders whether Everitt is, in fact, the right scapegoat?

Elgar has a reputation for being a bit gabby, but he’s not afraid to talk about his own shortcomings 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

Dean Elgar has a reputation amongst opposition teams for being a bit gabby, but the Proteas captain is not afraid to talk about his own shortcomings and on Sunday he revealed the hard work he has been doing to get his batting back on track ahead of the Test series in Australia.

Opener Elgar is one of the senior statesmen in the South African batting line-up, usually setting a solid tone up front, but he was disappointed with his output on the England tour, scoring just 107 runs in five innings.

The left-hander revealed that he has done a technical overhaul, that seems to be working judging by his form for the Northerns Titans in domestic four-day cricket. Elgar scored 55 and 25 not out to help steer the Titans to a 10-wicket win over the Central Gauteng Lions at the Wanderers on Sunday. With his 137 against the Free State Knights, he is averaging 72.33 this season.

“It feels good to get runs under the belt, obviously to influence the team and to get my game in order with something big coming up [the Australia Tests]. I’ve had a nice three weeks prep.

“I’ve been able to get my confidence back up high and sort out some technical stuff. Knowing where your off-stump is is important, one of the basic fundamentals, but there are a lot of other basics I’ve worked on too.

“I was doing stuff in England which I never used to do, so I broke down my technique and tried to make what I thought were weaknesses less so.

“Having experience really helps because I know when something is wrong, although it is easier said than done to fix it. But it’s nice to be able to do it at domestic level where there is less pressure,” Elgar said.

Visiting captains always feel the heat in Australia, so Elgar has been well-advised to make sure his own game is shipshape. The straight-talking skipper did not hide his disappointment that his vice-captain, Temba Bavuma, and senior fast bowler Kagiso Rabada, who are both sure to feel the warmth Down Under too after underwhelming T20 World Cup campaigns there, have not played any four-day cricket before the tour.

“KG is maybe one exception because his workload is quite high and I can maybe understand him having the time off with fast bowling being extremely demanding,” Elgar said.

“But batsmen should ideally be trying to utilise time in the middle, although I have no control over the medical rules. But playing domestically is the best place to get form and confidence.

“Getting runs here can really change your thought patterns. So it has been nice to see a lot of the squad playing and working on technical flaws. A guy like Kyle Verreynne has obviously worked hard and scored a lot of runs.

“I’m a bit concerned with our seam bowling though. There has been a lot of emphasis on T20 cricket and the bowlers are not conditioned enough for long spells or bowling all day,” Elgar warned.

Conrad not the manufacturer of a dramatic new way, but has made brave calls 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad has made some brave calls for his first series in charge, against the West Indies.

New Proteas Test coach Shukri Conrad is not aiming to be the manufacturer of some dramatic new way of playing five-day cricket, but he has nevertheless made some brave calls as South Africa head into a new era in what most players still consider the pinnacle of the game as they take on the West Indies in the first of a two-match series in Centurion from Tuesday.

Conrad has not only installed a new Test captain in Temba Bavuma, whose predecessor Dean Elgar remains in the team but needs to regain his ability to make tough runs, but also cut a trio of players who would probably have expected to still be involved.

Dropping two of the three leading run-scorers in the series in Australia over the festive season is certainly a tough call if you are Kyle Verreynne, who scored two half-centuries in the three Tests, or Sarel Erwee, whose last Test innings was the dogged 42 not out he scored to help South Africa save the third Test in Sydney.

Lungi Ngidi has also been a regular in the Test team, playing 11 of the 18 Tests in the last two years. He has taken 33 wickets in that time, at an excellent average of just 21.63. Ngidi has also conceded only 3.06 runs-per-over in that time, all of which suggests he plays an important role in the Proteas attack, but Conrad has seemingly gone the bold route of wanting the express pace of uncapped Gerald Coetzee instead.

Heinrich Klaasen and Aiden Markram are the batsmen to benefit from the axing of Verreynne and Erwee. There is no doubting that both are amongst the most talented strokeplayers in the country, but Klaasen has scored just 48 runs in four Test innings, and Markram makes yet another return based on just how damn good he looks whenever he picks up a bat, except when it comes to actually scoring runs at Test level.

Typically of Conrad, who is never afraid to back his big calls, he has already stated that Markram will return to opening the batting alongside Elgar. The new coach is not reinventing how the Proteas play Test cricket, but he is certainly aiming for a more aggressive, positive approach.

Conrad was walking around the SuperSport Park field on Monday morning during the Proteas’ final preparations like a sergeant major, but he is not all bark and bite; he found time to give the no-doubt hurting Elgar an arm around the shoulder and a rub of the neck.

If the 55-year-old Conrad is the equivalent of the Proteas’ chairman of the board, then Bavuma is the new CEO tasked with getting the best out of the staff.

Bavuma is no stranger to international captaincy, of course, having led the Proteas in 17 ODIs and 25 T20s. He is highly-respected by his team-mates for his tactical acumen, technical ability and tenacity.

Bavuma has been no stranger to tough times recently, and he was stressing the need for his team to embrace a fresh start against the West Indies.

“These are exciting times, it’s the start of a new journey and I would like us to start with a clean slate and play the way we want to play,” Bavuma said at Centurion on Monday.

“We have got enough resources in the 15-man squad to adapt to conditions and back up whatever tactics we want to employ. And there are other leaders within the team, guys who have been around for a while, who I can definitely lean on. We just need to ensure we are all speaking the same language.

“The brand of cricket we play is how we want to measure ourselves, but we still need to man up. We know as a batting unit that we need to score the runs, we need to go out and do what we need to do.

“A lot of these guys have won a series against India not long ago when no-one really backed us to do that. I always preach playing together as a team and we don’t want to lose that,” Bavuma said.

Fresh starts almost always involve a positive approach to things, and it seems the Proteas are as concerned with how they go about playing as what they produce. Conrad will have to live or die by his brave choices, and perhaps he will discover that sometimes producing the goods is all that matters, no matter how you look doing it.

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