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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.

Critics that jeer the Proteas from their TV chairs must not be distracted 0

Posted on December 30, 2023 by Ken

Now that the painful Test series in Australia is over, the critics no longer need to sit in their chairs in front of the TV in the early hours of the morning and jeer the Proteas, and the anticipated extravaganza that the SA20 will be should distract attention anyway.

But one hopes what transpired in Australia is not forgotten, lost in the hurly-burly of the new T20 league and just the sheer volume of cricket and sport that constantly competes for attention. Let’s not forget that the Proteas also spent October and November in Australia, playing in the T20 World Cup, where they bowed out at the hands of minnows the Netherlands. The anger over that fiasco may have died down a bit, but the promise of a full review by Cricket South Africa has not been forgotten. The outcome of that review and the rebuilding strategies decided upon are now overdue.

The responsibility for making sure lessons are learnt from the 2-0 hiding (it surely would have been 3-0 but for rain) lies with the administrators, who now have the opportunity to ensure something good comes out of the ruins.

The current team and their coaches, plus the former players working as commentators in Australia, have all pinpointed the amount of domestic first-class cricket, as well as the standard, as being the main cause of the woeful performances of the Proteas lately. So that is surely where CSA need to start their autopsy.

CSA’s current executives inherited a house that was in drastic need of renovation and Proteas fans need to realise that there are no quick fixes at international level. But that is no excuse for inaction and CSA need to come up with definite plans that have the health of the Proteas – still by far their greatest source of income – as the greatest priority.

It is all very well if the next month is spent admiring the dazzling front garden of the house that is the SA20, but the fire that is raging in the kitchen needs some attention too.

Australia call into service all their ruthlessness, precision & nous; SA follow-on almost certain 0

Posted on November 17, 2023 by Ken

Australia called into service all the ruthlessness, precision and nous of their ace bowling attack to leave South Africa reeling on 149 for six, the follow-on now almost certain, at the end of the fourth day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground on Saturday.

With rain having washed out the entire third day’s play and the fourth morning, and Australia declaring on their overnight score of 475 for four, the Proteas were left with five sessions to survive, the follow-on target of 276 their prime objective.

But their top-order was blown away before tea as they slumped to 37 for three, and middle-order resistance in the final session was broken as captain Pat Cummins bowled a wonderful spell of skilful, clever and aggressive fast bowling, using the around-the-wicket option superbly.

Temba Bavuma (35) and Khaya Zondo (39) provided some brave resistance as they added 48 for the fourth wicket, and Zondo and Kyle Verreynne (19) added 45 for the fifth wicket.

Marco Jansen (10*) and Simon Harmer (6*) are at the wicket for the Proteas and will try and prolong the first innings for as long as possible on the final day.

Josh Hazlewood returned to Test action with an immaculate line at brisk pace, and he grabbed his second wicket when he removed the tenacious Bavuma, the batsman edging an unnecessary defensive stroke outside off-stump to the wicketkeeper.

An outstanding yorker from around the wicket by Cummins (14-5-29-3) then accounted for Zondo, trapped lbw, and four overs later, he induced an easy slip catch from Verreynne.

The Australian attack, having five sessions to take 20 wickets to win the Test and claim a 3-0 sweep of the series, as well as assuring themselves of a place in the World Test Championship final, were bang on target from the outset on Saturday.

It made for a torrid time for the Proteas batsmen, especially opener Dean Elgar. The captain scored 15, but most of those runs were off the edge and he lived a charmed life, notably when he edged Hazlewood to Steven Smith at first slip. Smith was diving forward one-handed, but the similarity to the Marnus Labuschagne/Harmer incident on the first day saw third umpire Richard Kettleborough quite rightly disallow the catch because some part of the ball had touched the ground.

But Hazlewood dismissed Elgar four overs later when the left-hander got into a tangle against a well-directed lifter on leg-stump, gloving a catch to the wicketkeeper.

Off-spinner Nathan Lyon was introduced in the eighth over and he bowled opener Sarel Erwee for 18 in his sixth over, the left-hander making a terrible error of judgement and shouldering arms to a delivery that went straight on to off-stump.

Excellent use of the short ball again by Australia, this time by Cummins, saw the departure of Heinrich Klaasen (2) in the next over, gloving a lifter aimed at his armpit through to the wicketkeeper.

Reborn Centurion Hotel marketing itself as sports-orientated destination 0

Posted on June 09, 2023 by Ken

The refurbished Centurion Hotel.
(Pic: Nicci Mitchell)

The popular Centurion Lake Hotel has been reborn as just The Centurion Hotel and is now marketing itself as a sports-orientated destination, which makes perfect sense given its close proximity to SuperSport Park and its historical connection with cricket in general.

SuperSport Park came into use in 1986, known then as Centurion Park, as the Northern Transvaal team moved from Pretoria to make their base there. Five years later, the Centurion Lake Hotel opened on the banks of the Hennops River, with the lake and its beautiful waterworks display being a popular gathering spot.

And, given it’s proximity to SuperSport Park (less than a kilometre away), the hotel quickly became the accommodation of choice for both teams playing against Northerns (who then became the Titans), as well as the television commentators for local and international games.

My first experience of the Centurion Lake Hotel happened way back in February 1996 when I travelled up from Pietermaritzburg to cover the final match of the Castle Cup season between Natal and Northern Transvaal for The Natal Witness newspaper.

Natal were chasing a second-successive four-day title, but their hopes were cruelly dashed as the last two days of their match against Northerns were washed out. Instead of one of my earlier away ‘tours’ as a journalist ending in a triumphant celebration of taking the crown, it turned into utter frustration as us visitors watched the rain fall for two long and gloomy days, allowing Western Province, who were eight points behind Natal, to sneak in and win the competition.

Natal did reclaim the four-day crown, renamed the SuperSport Series, in the 1996/97 season, so but for rain they could have completed the first hat-trick of titles since the Transvaal Mean Machine did it in the early 1980s. The washout also denied the great Malcolm Marshall the send-off he deserved for everything he did for Natal cricket, the West Indian legend departing to coach his national team at the end of the season. Even more sadly, the genial, inspirational Marshall succumbed to colon cancer in November 1999.

Commentator Brett Proctor, another considerable figure in Natal cricket, having played, selected and been the stadium manager at Kingsmead, was also staying at the hotel along with the rest of SuperSport’s team. Ever gracious and happy to talk cricket, I remember fondly our chats during the week. Brett is, of course, still an invaluable part of the SuperSport commentary line-up.

Many famous former cricketers stayed at the Centurion Lake Hotel and it was clearly a most convivial spot for them to unwind after the day’s play. Thanks to their presence, the hotel built up an impressive collection of memorabilia and that will be highlighted as each floor is refurbished.

However, one or two commentators down through the years would mention how their rental car left in the underground parking had floated off when the Hennops River burst its banks and the big flood of 2019, followed shortly afterwards by Covid, was why the hotel closed down for three years.

But extensive work has gone into changing the shape of the response to the inevitable floods that come every summer.

“We have built a big wall that will prevent the flooding of the hotel, along with five-ton sluice gates and a monitoring system,” general manager Kamala Douglas pointed out.

The lake itself has also been a problem, many different issues being involved including the build-up of silt, pollution and litter, theft of metal grids and foul smells emanating from the water. But the council has embarked on an ambitious rehabilitation programme to restore the natural flow of the river and, looking down on the lake from our fourth-floor room window, the signs were promising with heavy machinery hard at work. According to Douglas, the plan is to build up sandbanks which will then have grass planted on them, creating a lovely natural area ideal for picnics.

The Centurion Lake Hotel was a four-star establishment, but the new Centurion Hotel is three stars.

The lounge area next to the bar.
Pic: Ken Borland

“We are now a three-star hotel because it is more cost-effective. But the rooms are the same and the sizes and standards of everything are still the same too. It allows us to have a light, self-service breakfast,” Douglas explained.

“Each floor will be representing a certain sport, with world record-holders and legends on the walls, as we push the whole sporting connection. We have also lightened the passages, taken out the curtains and modernized a bit. There are also plans for updated showers in all the rooms,” she said.

The rooms are certainly spacious and well-appointed, with tasteful décor and comfortable beds. The twin rooms, unusually, have queen-size beds, and suites are especially spacious.

Our room (excuse the slept-in bed).
Pic: Ken Borland

The hotel has direct access to the Centurion Mall, which is hugely convenient. But if one wants to stay in and eat, then Bruno’s Restaurant and the bar are both very cosy. There is quality food to cater for all tastes, coming out of an older, bigger kitchen than is the norm in modern hotels.

Bruno’s Restaurant.
Pic: Ken Borland

That also makes the Centurion Hotel an ideal functions and conferencing venue.

There is a large ballroom that can fit 170 people and six fully-catered conference rooms can be hired for R450 per head per day, which is an attractive deal. They are very smart, boardroom-type venues with modernised tech, and there is not much else in the area when it comes to conferencing facilities.

The hotel boasts various hospitality areas and exterior adjustments are planned to create something of a summer oasis by the pool overlooking the lake. Big-screen TVs will also be installed in this area.

One of the corridors with its lovely finishes.
Pic: Ken Borland

Despite all this modernisation, the Centurion Hotel still maintains a distinct, classic charm. Perhaps it is all the lovely old wooden finishes around the place, but it almost feels as if one has retreated to a relaxed rural hotel out in nature, and yet one is in the centre of one of the busiest parts of Gauteng.

The Centurion Hotel’s star is certainly rising once again.

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    Our Christian experience begins when the Holy Spirit starts working in our imperfect lives. An inexplicable restlessness and a feeling that nothing can give you the satisfaction you yearn for, could be the Spirit working in you.

    Even when God calls you and chooses you to serve him, there may be inner conflict and confusion because you are not always willing to do what God is asking of you.

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