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Ken Borland

Learning life lessons from golf 0

Posted on July 04, 2022 by Ken

One can learn so many life lessons from sport and I am convinced that more can be learned from golf than most other codes. My own golf is certainly a lesson in dealing with frustration and how to extricate oneself from seemingly unreachable positions.

But professional golf, especially the Majors, provides such human drama and, as in life, disaster or glorious success seem just as likely to occur on the next hole.

Last weekend in the PGA Championship at Southern Hills, Mito Pereira was one hole away from one of the most astounding Major triumphs. He had seemingly beaten off numerous, way more experienced and storied challengers, on a chaotic final day to stand on the 18th tee clinging to a one-stroke lead. All he needed was a par to become one of the rare rookies, playing just his second Major championship, to win on one of golf’s grandest stages.

The 27-year-old from Santiago, Chile, decided to go the aggressive route, and hit Driver. Except he made an awful swing and deposited his ball in the creek down the right, leading to a double-bogey. Not only was Pereira no longer at the top of the leaderboard, he wasn’t even in the playoff that would decide the fate of the Wanamaker Trophy, Justin Thomas eventually emerging as the champion.

When Pereira decided to take the risky route on the last, you could almost hear Sir Nick Faldo tearing his hair out in the commentary box. The man who famously made 18 pars to win the first of his six Major championships in the 1987 Open at Muirfield, could not fathom why the leader had not just played it safe.

It was a most frustrating end to what would have been a fairytale win. I have no doubt Pereira just went with Driver because it had worked before.

While sympathy for his cruel fate was the over-riding emotion, it does anger me when highly-talented sportspeople justify poor decision-making by saying things like “that’s just the way I play, that’s my game.”

Just as the rest of us have to adapt to the various challenges and frustrations of life, so sports stars have to adapt to their circumstances. Play the situation!

If you’re roaring to victory by four shots, or your team is 370/3 or 30-7 up, by all means be aggressive. But the truly great sports heroes are able to tailor their game to whatever the situation, or their team, requires in order to win.

For now, Pereira will be walking the Boulevard of Broken Dreams, but he certainly showed he has game and I will be surprised if he does not win on the PGA Tour, once he gets over this heartbreak. Most importantly, how he handled the devastating blow has been widely acclaimed and he fronted up to the media after his round when all he would have wanted was to go and hide away somewhere. Dealing with failure is another life lesson, of course.

Long-form sports, where the tension is gradually ramped up before it reaches a tremendous crescendo on the final day, are right up my street. Golf’s Majors, and especially the Ryder Cup, are still such compelling viewing even in an age where the cancer of instant gratification seems to reign supreme.

Golf can be just as slow as Test cricket, but the feeling of that tension building as you reach the final round is a bit like a Hitchcock horror movie – a masterful building of suspense.

Sport needs to have good stories, as well as the best players in the world in the limelight. How good was it to have an unknown like Pereira challenging for what would have been an incredible win in the PGA Championship?

Even though he was pipped in the end by one of the world’s best in Thomas, it was still wonderfully dramatic.

Test cricket can perhaps learn its own life lessons from golf. It can provide just as much drama, but it needs to be properly packaged, marketed and looked after by the ICC.

Boks finally home, while franchises learn some home truths in Europe 0

Posted on November 04, 2021 by Ken

The Springboks are finally home after spending 14 weeks in a bio-secure bubble, having restored their pride with their epic win over the All Blacks in the last Rugby Championship Test, having pushed them to the brink in the previous match.

The world champions are also back at number one in the WorldRugby rankings, a quite remarkable achievement when one considers that, having not played since winning the World Cup in November 2019, they had to play the might of the British and Irish Lions and four Tests away from home against top three sides New Zealand and Australia.

The Springboks certainly deserve their rest now, until the end-of-year tour to the United Kingdom at the end of the month. Of course, half the team that beat New Zealand last weekend will already be heading off to the Northern Hemisphere, because they play for overseas clubs.

There are also, of course, four South African teams currently in Wales and Scotland, playing in the United Rugby Championship. Starting that tough new challenge away from home has been a bridge too far for the South African franchises with just one win from eight matches so far.

The struggles in the URC have further justified Springbok director of rugby Rassie Erasmus’s decision to look to the Northern Hemisphere for the bulk of the national squad, due to the poor state of the local game. For those who have been involved in South African rugby for a while, there are definite parallels with when we returned from isolation in 1992.

It took a while for the Springboks to adapt to where the game had moved on to, and the input of two overseas-educated coaches in Ian McIntosh and Kitch Christie.

We can blame Covid for the recent isolation that meant no international competition for our domestic teams for nearly 20 months.

This has been exacerbated by the talent-drain from these shores to those self-same European teams that has been going on for several years now. This means we are currently trying to find our feet in a new competition, overseas, against some of the leading clubs in the world, with weakened teams who have been denied international competition for more than a year-and-a-half.

The damage done by the talent-drain and Covid to our game seems to have been underestimated in many quarters, and this is reason enough to be a little patient when it comes to expecting our four franchises to contend with the top URC teams.

The size of the fight in the dog is going to have to come to the fore over the next fortnight, because matching the skills that the European teams are executing at high tempo is not just going to happen overnight.

Tempo and skill-set are two factors that have dogged our local rugby players for a while, which explains why the Springboks choose so many overseas-based players, and even then use something of a dumbed-down game-plan to ensure success.

This is not to say we don’t have skilful players. Just think of Lukhanyo Am and his ridiculous behind-the-back, reverse-flip pass to set up the first try last weekend, or Cheslin Kolbe and how we missed his dazzling feet. Elton Jantjies stamped his mark on the final minutes against the All Blacks by showcasing his excellent skills as well, and Lood de Jager is a lineout practitioner of great expertise.

But they are the outliers and one can only praise Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber for his pragmatism in recognising not just the strengths of his team, but also their weaknesses, and building his strategy around that.

Sharks team needs to learn to stop giving away raft of penalties – Everitt 0

Posted on October 21, 2021 by Ken

Sharks coach Sean Everitt said his team needs to learn quickly how to avoid giving away a raft of penalties following their chastening 42-17 defeat at the hands of Munster in their opening United Rugby Championship match at Thomond Park at the weekend.

Not for the first time this year, the Sharks’ ill-discipline prevented them from getting any sort of foothold in the match as they conceded a whopping 17 penalties. Munster were thereby gifted territory and, with their dominance in the set-pieces, they were able to merely grind the visitors out of the match.

“I was disappointed with the discipline, we gave away 17 penalties and almost all of them had massive consequences. So the guys have to learn quickly, although I felt we were a bit unlucky at the breakdown and could have been rewarded more there.

“The first 20 minutes was how we want to play, the territory and possession stats were both with us. But in the second quarter we gave away too many penalties and that’s all Munster needed to get control of the game. But I was very proud of the fight and energy the team showed for the full 80 minutes. There are three games left on this tour though, and the players have got to learn quickly,” Everitt said.

The Sharks were dogged in the Currie Cup by poor discipline at the defensive breakdown, making the same silly errors that were evident on Saturday night in Limerick. It is clear that this is going to be a massive issue for the Currie Cup runners-up going forward because their lack of focus is giving their opposition a grip on the game.

It is individual errors that are putting the whole team under pressure, forcing them to defend for long periods, which inevitably leads to more penalties. Everitt might need to now show more bite because his bark clearly is not working.

Markram learning to ignore the huskey-voiced temptress who says ‘chase 200’ 0

Posted on September 29, 2021 by Ken

Chasing boundaries and trying to get to 200 on a subcontinent turner can be as tempting as the allure of a huskey-voiced temptress, but it can be disastrous and Proteas batsman Aiden Markram says these are the lessons he has had to learn as he adapts to a new role in T20 cricket.

With South Africa enjoying so many top-order options – Quinton de Kock, Temba Bavuma, Reeza Hendricks and Janneman Malan are all in the mix to open – Markram has slipped down a bit into the middle-order. Particularly on the subcontinent, that can be the toughest place to bat, but the 26-year-old seems to be learning when to be patient and when to go for it, judging by his well-paced 48 off 33 balls that took the Proteas to a winning total of 163-5 in the first T20 in Colombo on Friday night.

“It’s quite tough to judge what a winning total will be sometimes, and I haven’t been in that situation too often. You have to trust the information you get from the sidelines, Quinton de Kock usually gives a rough ball-park figure and I was able to chat with David Miller, who is very experienced. We thought 160 was good, slightly above par in those conditions, but we still had to bowl well.

“It’s a new challenge not opening the batting, obviously I have not done it much. But I’m enjoying it and it requires you to be street-smart in how you approach your innings. I’m used to being up front where your game-plan is fixed, set in stone. But you can’t be like that at No.3 or 4, your approach has to be flexible and it changes from game-to-game,” Markram said.

The Proteas cross swords again with Sri Lanka at the same venue on Sunday and stand-in captain Keshav Maharaj wants the same intensity to ensure his team wrap up the series at the first opportunity. They will then be able to go into next month’s T20 World Cup in good form having won eight of their last 10 matches. The home side will be angered by their defeat and will come out firing.

“It’s really important for us to show intensity and energy. We understand what’s at stake and we want to be as clinical as possible. We need to stick to the basics and repeat what was good from the previous game. In terms of our preparation for the T20 World Cup, we must make sure we take care of the series by winning the next game, knowing that Sri Lanka will bounce back.

“I’m a very open-minded captain, but I do demand a lot of energy and intensity. That’s the best way to bring out your character and the best things in your game. Body language is also important because it conveys a message to the opposition.

“The batting is starting to get better with Quinny and Reeza Hendricks setting a foundation and Aiden and David were sublime at the end. The bowlers set the tone in the powerplay – to only concede 34 runs is almost unheard of on the subcontinent – and then they were superb in finishing the game off,” Maharaj said.

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