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Ken Borland

Thanks to Lions pipeline, Potsane contemplates world cup after discovery seven years ago 0

Posted on February 06, 2024 by Ken

Seven years ago Sipho Potsane was your typical Alexandra township 10-year-old, crazy about soccer. Now 17 years old, he is contemplating playing in the U19 Cricket World Cup, which will be hosted in South Africa, starting in January.

The dramatic transformation in Potsane’s life is a testament to the work of the Central Gauteng Lions union’s pipeline; their work is not just about ensuring the DP World Lions men’s and women’s teams remain amongst the strongest in the country, but also about making sure that success is sustainable by growing the game at grassroots.

It is something CEO Jono Leaf-Wright is passionate about and he is not the sort of leader who limits his role to shuffling papers and editing spreadsheets in his Wanderers office; he is out there getting his hands dirty and there is a sense of urgency when it comes to his efforts to uplift all the people who the great game of cricket touches in Gauteng.

Potsane is an up-and-coming left-arm spinner and Leaf-Wright, who has a Level III coaching qualification, remembers their first meeting well.

“At 10 years old, Sipho was a big soccer boy and he had no clue about cricket. But we saw when we brought cricket to his school that he could throw, catch and hit the ball. After a lot of nutritional work and extra coaching, he was given a bursary to Jeppe and is now playing for the SA U19s and has been named in the squad for their World Cup.

“He was a talent we discovered in Grade V and we and the other parties involved embarked on a journey then to make sure that he succeeded in making the best of that talent.

“Cricket is not being played much any more in township schools, but the Lions pipeline reintroduced them to the game. It’s a real challenge though because they don’t have fields, so they are playing cricket in corridors and car parks.

“Sipho’s wonderful story shows how our pipeline can get kids playing cricket at a higher level. And that pipeline is only going to get stronger thanks to the new pipeline sub-committee of the Central Gauteng Board that has been created by our new president, Dr Mohammed Moosajee, who was the Proteas manager for so long,” Leaf-Wright said.

Karabo Meso is a player who has already announced herself at a Junior World Cup, being named in the ICC’s team of the tournament after the T20 event also hosted by South Africa in Benoni and Potchefstroom in January 2023.

The wicketkeeper/batter was a resident of Rockville in Soweto when she was introduced to the game through the KFC Mini-Cricket programme and it was not long at all before the Central Gauteng Lions spotted her talent. She was playing for the DP World Lions senior provincial team before her teens.

Meso was one of three players included in the girls SA U19 squad that came from a Gauteng township, the others being captain Oluhle Siyo and Refilwe Moncho of Soweto Pioneers.

“It all starts at grassroots and we are grateful for the support from our partners,” Reuben Mandlazi, the Lions Amateur Cricket Manager, says. “There are 124 schools in Gauteng that play cricket, 94 of them are high schools. And the Lions have 26 teams at various national weeks this year.

“Infrastructure is what distinguishes a lot of these schools though, that’s the great challenge. It’s something township schools don’t have. We at the Lions ensure that we create an environment that enables us to spread the game. We make sure the children are well-transported, kitted and coached.

“A strong Lions means a strong Proteas and if we don’t have strong schools programmes then that will impact that. We ensure that we have sustainable programmes that feed into making us a world-class brand,” Mandlazi said.

Words alone will of course not accelerate the development of all the talent in the province, neither will one-off, showy gestures for good PR. Fortunately, those accusations can never be levelled at the Central Gauteng Lions union. Their success at age-group level and their thriving club leagues make sure of that.

“We need to bridge the gap between U19s and the Lions teams, not everyone can be like Kagiso Rabada or Quinton de Kock and just make a straight jump to senior level,” Mandlazi says.

“The players are all on their own journey and we have to ensure there is a platform for them. We have the strongest club leagues in South Africa, that is one of the most important things, and our Macrocomm, Enza and Black Widow leagues are that platform for the players.”

That the Central Gauteng Lions boast a premier pipeline is borne out by their results in the various national weeks in December. Lions Cricket were the champions in both the U16 Girls and the U19 Boys weeks, while they finished third in the U16 Boys and U19 Girls tournaments.

As champions of the Khaya Majola Week in Makhanda (Grahamstown), the Lions also dominated selection for the SA Schools side with three players in Richard Seletswane, Kwena Maphaka and Esosa Aihevba.

Luke Francis and Potsane were named in the SA Colts team.

In the U19 girls week, Meso made the SA Schools side, not only making the opposition chase leather in the field, but her wicketkeeping was also of the finest quality.

Which epitomises the Central Gauteng Lions pipeline, ensuring durable success for the Pride of Jozi.

A history of T20’s adverse effects on CSA; is another calamitous mistake in the offing? 0

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Ken

South Africa’s bombshell decision to pull out of their ODIs in Australia next January, thereby harming their chances of qualifying automatically for the World Cup, have exposed not only the adverse financial situation CSA find themselves in, but also their obsession and the massive gamble they are taking in trying to get a T20 franchise league off the ground.

By forfeiting three ODIs against Australia, the Proteas will miss out on a possible 30 points that could have lifted them from their lowly current position of 11th on the World Cup Super League qualifying table into the top eight and an automatic place in the showpiece 50-over tournament.

The reason CSA have given for taking such a drastic step is that their new T20 franchise league they are launching next January is their priority and they feel they have to have their Proteas available for the new tournament.

Not many people realise, but it was South Africa who first played T20 cricket at a senior, interprovincial level. Back in 2002, SuperSport and Discovery combined for a knockout 20-over tournament featuring Western Province, Northerns and KZN, and one other invited team, that sent the winners on a trip to an exotic destination as a prize.

South Africa were also amongst the first to stage a formal domestic T20 tournament, in 2004 as part of the switch to the franchise system.

While T20 was not initially taken very seriously at international level, after South Africa hosted the first T20 World Cup in 2007, the format’s popularity quickly spread through all levels of the cricketing world.

India won that inaugural World Cup, beating Pakistan in a thrilling final at the Wanderers, and the most cricket-mad country in the world’s love affair with T20 began. The Indian Premier League, the most lucrative of all cricket events, began in 2008.

The 2009 IPL was hosted by South Africa due to security concerns surrounding India’s general election. And that is when the adverse effects T20 has had on the running of cricket in this country began to rear their ugly head.

For CSA, T20 has been a bit like The One Ring in J.R.R. Tolkien’s classic, The Lord of the Rings. The ring forged by the dark lord Sauron has the ability to provide great power, but it also corrupts even the most well-intentioned.

Following their hosting of the IPL, CSA became embroiled in the Bonus Scandal that cost CEO Gerald Majola and several high-ranking administrators their jobs.

The T20 Global League, the brainchild of Haroon Lorgat, who succeeded Majola as CSA’s chief executive, was meant to get off the ground in 2017 and then in 2018, but it was embroiled in controversy over broadcast rights. Lorgat was fired by the Cricket Capturers who then plunged CSA into its biggest ever crisis, and the reason why the organisation was, six months ago, apparently a year away from Day Zero – when they could no longer pay the players.

The engineers of that ‘coup’ then launched the Mzansi Super League, which was played in 2018 and 2019 but was never financially sustainable because the broadcast rights – where most of the income should be derived – were given to the SABC for free.

And now CSA have a new Precious. There is another T20 domestic franchise league on the table, waiting to be launched. Whether this will be another poisoned chalice or a belated success story remains to be seen.

On the positive side, what toppled the previous attempts – the lack of broadcast income – has been resolved by SuperSport coming on board and being a 30% stakeholder in the event.

As far as the Proteas are concerned, there is disappointment that they won’t be playing the ODIs in Australia and they are upset over the 30 qualifying points lost. But unlike last October when CSA made a unilateral decision that the players must take a knee for Black Lives Matter, this time the team were consulted and they understand the financial priorities at play.

Apart from having all our own stars involved, big-name overseas players such as Jos Buttler and Liam Livingstone are being courted to play in the league. But it’s not as if there’s no competition for their signatures: The Big Bash League starts in Australia in December and the Emirates Cricket Board are launching their own new T20 league in January 2023 as well.

CSA are reportedly allowing each of the six teams in their league a U.S.$1.5 million salary bill, but the UAE are apparently going to match that and their players will only have to pay 2% tax, compared to the 15% withholding tax in South Africa.

CSA have three main income streams: broadcast rights, sponsorships and ICC disbursements.

While not qualifying for the 50-over World Cup would mean missing out on a substantial amount of U.S. dollars, broadcast rights only really bring in the millions CSA require when they host one of the Big Three, especially India.

And, thanks to the aforementioned CSA ‘coup’ in 2018, sponsors have also largely fled the coop.

So one can understand CSA’s desperation to find some way to keep the lights on at their Melrose Estate offices. And by extension the 15 provinces, which cost CSA R250 million a year to look after.

More countries are likely to pull out of bilateral commitments, and even risk their participation in ICC events, because of cricket’s skewed financial model.

It is time the International Cricket Council, as the mother body of the game, took serious steps to look after all their children and not just India, England and Australia. A failure to ensure a level playing field will lead to the demise of international cricket.

ICC should take the blame for SA pulling out of their Australia ODI series – SACA 0

Posted on August 22, 2022 by Ken

The International Cricket Council are in charge of the sport globally and they should take the blame for South Africa feeling forced to make their Proteas head back from Australia without playing their ODI series next January, the players’ association said on Wednesday.

Cricket South Africa announced on Wednesday that they have forfeited their three-match ODI series – and therefore potentially crucial World Cup qualifying points – that was scheduled to be played in Australia between January 12-17. The reason for this is that they are launching their new franchise T20 league then and they want all their Proteas to be available.

South African Cricketers’ Association CEO Andrew Breetzke told The Citizen that while the players are “disappointed and upset” both at missing out on the ODIs in Australia and the prospect of not automatically qualifying for the World Cup, the blame should be laid at the ICC’s door.

The Proteas are currently 11th in the Super League, with the top eight qualifying directly for the World Cup and the rest going into a qualifying tournament. With zero points now from their matches against Australia, South Africa have eight ODIs left to qualify – three against England in South Africa early next year, three in India and the rescheduled two matches against the Netherlands.

“CSA have engaged with us and the players are obviously disappointed and upset,” Breetzke said. “It’s not an ideal situation but it was inevitable due to the ICC’s failure to show leadership around bilateral series.

“For South Africa cricket to be sustainable, bilateral series don’t do it. Every country [outside the Big Three] is feeling the same pain and T20 leagues is how they survive. CSA’s decision is no surprise, it’s about sustaining the game.

“Fica [the international players’ associations body] have been saying for the last five years that the ICC need to ensure a happy mix between bilateral cricket and T20 leagues, but nothing has been done.

“We are quite angry to be honest. This decision is the canary in the gold mine, but don’t blame CSA, blame the ICC. They should be creating windows but they’ve done nothing and international cricket is in a bad space,” Breetzke fumed.

As it is, the Proteas are in for an extremely busy summer.

Their tour of England only ends on September 12, and their three ODIs, as well as T20s, in India are believed to be in October, before they head to Australia for the T20 World Cup from October 16 to November 13.

Their Test tour of Australia then starts with the first match from December 17 in Brisbane. That series ends on January 8, but they won’t then be resting because CSA is pegging the success of their new T20 league in January on their participation.

The three ODIs against England are also scheduled for January. It now looks more and more possible that South Africa will also have to play in the World Cup qualifying tournament in June/July.

Bulls need to jack up their ability to turn pressure into points – Coetzee 0

Posted on July 27, 2022 by Ken

After losing twice to the Stormers in January and April, the Bulls had to jack up their ability to turn their pressure into points according to captain Marcell Coetzee, and he is confident that their finishing is now on a par with their hosts ahead of their United Rugby Championship final in Cape Town on Saturday.

The Bulls lost 26-30 to the Stormers at Loftus Versfeld in January, a 20-minute purple patch giving them a 26-18 lead with 12 minutes left, but they frittered away their advantage. Then, in Cape Town in April, the Bulls were outscored two tries to one in a 17-19 defeat as the Stormers’ defence showed none of the little losses of concentration that their archrivals did.

“Execution was the difference in those matches,” Coetzee said. “We had a lot of opportunities and we could have sealed the deal. There were a lot of chances that we did not take.

“But the Stormers did, like they did in their semi-final last weekend against Ulster. That’s what makes them dangerous: They take their chances to the best of their ability.

“But we’ve got better at that too and we are more clinical now. So I would say the execution of our game-plans is at an equal level for both sides.

“There was huge jubilation after beating Leinster, but what we were most proud of was how we implemented our plan on the day with 100% efficiency. We showed we can win an away playoff,” Coetzee said.

With so much riding on the game – not just the previous history between the two great North/South rivals of South African rugby, but also the chance to be the first URC champions – it is unlikely the teams will be able to play with unfettered freedom. Adding to the Test match feel will be the fact that the Stormers will give the Bulls little leeway in the scrums or at the breakdown.

The Stormers have the edge in current Springboks and World Cup winners, and the Bulls will be running to the shelter provided by their experienced, internationally-proven men like Coetzee, Morne Steyn, Bismarck du Plessis, Cornal Hendricks and Arno Botha.

“I remember as a young player playing in finals for the Sharks between 2011 and 2013, there’s immense pressure on you, but you feel safe with guys who have been there and done it before. You feed off that,” Coetzee said.

“And those experienced guys feed off the youngsters’ energy, how much we appreciated being in a final. Guys like Morne and Bismarck, they know what to expect and we know what to expect from them.

“It’s not so much about revenge, but a final will be personal on both fronts and it’s always 50/50 on the day. We will approach the final with the humility and respect it deserves.

“Our job is not done yet, there’s still a lot for us to fix. Our plan worked to perfection but then we let Leinster back in the game at the end. But the Stormers were able to keep their composure towards the end of a tight contest,” Coetzee said.

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