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Ken Borland

Xaba gobbling up every opportunity with Stormers & WP 0

Posted on June 13, 2022 by Ken

Western Province captain Nama Xaba is one of the most exciting young loose forwards in the country, but for now he is focused on trying to lead his team out of the Currie Cup doldrums and gobbling up every opportunity he gets for the high-flying Stormers side in the United Rugby Championship.

The 24-year-old Xaba is a turnover specialist of note, but his place in the Stormers team is blocked by the evergreen Deon Fourie, who has been in phenomenal form this year. But the respect with which the Durban-born player is held in Cape Town is shown by him being appointed captain of the Currie Cup team, which is struggling to stay in semi-final contention with just nine points from eight matches.

“It’s been a baptism of fire for me but a great honour to captain Western Province,” Xaba said. “It hasn’t gone too well on the field, but we have a young side and we will take a lot of learnings out of it.

“We know what exciting players we have in the union and we’re just waiting for everything to click, we’re trying to get our competitiveness back, we feel like we can touch it, it’s so close.

“There are a few players swinging between the URC and the Currie Cup, like myself, Ben-Jason Dixon and Juan de Jongh. In a way I’m fortunate that I know I’m not in John Dobson’s direct URC plans and I won’t be starting every week.

“But I just try and use whatever opportunity I get in the URC to the best of my ability. It’s tricky when players come down to the Currie Cup side, but obviously their experience is very helpful,” Xaba said.

The Western Province Rugby Union was in disarray a couple of years ago, but the superb success of the Stormers – fourth in the URC log – has improved the mood considerably. Xaba said the team management have been able to drive a focus on what is happening inside the squad and on the field, but not allowing all the administrative controversy and chaos to distract them.

“The management have brought a lot of change in attitude and we should give them credit. What’s happening in the newspapers is not being allowed to creep into the team space.

“The coaches have done really well because it is our job security on the line. We have focused just on what we need to do, which has freed up the players and we are training well. They’ve done well to shield us.

“Winning is also a big thing. There are a lot of external pressures if you don’t win, because people think those off-field issues are creeping in. But it takes a lot of pressure off when you have the Stormers being so successful in the URC,” Xaba said.

Hamza celebrating white-ball breakthrough as he realises his skills are applicable in those formats too 0

Posted on December 31, 2021 by Ken

Zubayr Hamza is definitely one of the most skilful batsmen in the country and his breakthrough in limited-overs cricket came when he realised those same abilities were applicable in the white-ball game.

Over the last couple of seasons, Hamza has shaken off the tag of being a red-ball player, becoming a key batsman for the Cape Cobras and now Western Province in both 50-over and T20 cricket.

After being dropped from the Test side in January 2020, having played five Tests, during South Africa’s troubles against England, Hamza found himself in the middle of a slump in form. It was actually 50-over cricket that revitalised his career as he averaged 55.58 at a strike-rate of 97.81 later that season in the Momentum One-Day Cup. This season it has been T20 cricket in which he has sparkled, averaging 46.75 at a strike-rate of 142.74, including a century against the powerful Central Gauteng Lions attack.

And so the national selectors have rewarded him with a call-up to the squad for the three-match series against the Netherlands in Gauteng from November 26.

“I started as a red-ball batsman in the middle-order, now I’m at the top in white-ball cricket. It’s been a learning curve in terms of adapting my scoring areas and strike-rate, I’m very happy with my progress.

“It was a bit of spite actually to get one-up on the naysayers who said I couldn’t play limited-overs cricket. To play white-ball cricket for South Africa has always been a goal.

“So I adapted my game to meet the standards around the world. The game is evolving and it’s best to keep up with that.

“If you want to keep up at the highest level then you have to continually adapt and become a better all-round batsman. I’ve learnt to apply myself to whatever game-plan is required in the different formats,” Hamza said.

It’s been a winding road for Hamza since he began playing franchise cricket for the Cobras shortly after turning 21. The Rondebosch Boys High prodigy was soon averaging around 50 in first-class cricket and his Test debut came in 2019 when he was 23.

And then came the loss of form, but the talented batsman now seems to have regained his usual prolific ways, thanks to the freedom he has enjoyed in limited-overs cricket.

“The turnaround came after a tough run for a season and a bit,” Hamza said on Thursday. “When you’re not performing and things aren’t going your way, you can look for issues that aren’t actually there.

“It was mostly in the mental space that I had problems, but I managed to turn it around. Now playing is purely about enjoying myself and trusting the players around me.

“There will always be criticism and I’m realistic with how I view the game – obviously there were certain areas I had to improve. Other guys have enhanced their games to fit into different formats and I’ve taken some advice from them.

“My focus is on adapting and understanding my different roles, all purely for the good of the team,” Hamza said.

Come October, NW will want to show their batting Kuhn’t be knocked over 0

Posted on April 19, 2021 by Ken

When the North-West cricket team return to the top division of domestic cricket in October, they’ll have good reason to believe their batting line-up is not going to be knocked over cheaply thanks to the acquisition of one of the most admired batsmen of the franchise era.

Heino Kuhn was the sixth highest run-getter in the history of franchise cricket, his 7209 runs at 40.50 for the Titans putting him behind only Stephen Cook (8678), Andrew Puttick (7832), Justin Ontong (7583), Vaughn van Jaarsveld (7503) and Neil McKenzie (7263). The 37-year-old is still a prolific run-scorer and he averaged 67.33 for Kent in county cricket last year.

Kuhn will provide some invaluable quality and experience to the North-West top-order batting, along with Imperial Lions star Nicky van den Bergh. They are the standout names in the batting line-up, which boasts some quality all-rounders in Senuran Muthusamy, Delano Potgieter and Dwaine Pretorius, and an exciting, explosive batsman in Wesley Marshall, who has tasted success at franchise level despite limited opportunities with the Titans and Lions.

“North-West has great facilities in Potchefstroom and because it’s a new franchise that will bring new challenges. I see a lot of new names in the squad so hopefully I can bring some knowledge and experience to the group. But I am excited to be playing with some young guys.

“As you know, I don’t change the way I play, so if I’m the only experienced batsman or there’s five experienced batsmen around me, I will play the same way – be positive and bat with intent. I don’t really know how the new structure will work, but all I know is that we are in the First Division and together with Nicky and the coaching staff we will do whatever we can to win trophies and stay there,” Kuhn told Saturday Citizen on Friday.

Muthusamy’s arrival from Durban, where his left-arm spin and solid batting played a key role in the Dolphins’ triumphant season, is another major acquisition for North-West. They have also lured the promising left-arm quick Duan Jansen back from Bloemfontein to his birthplace, and he will join former Lions stars Eldred Hawken and Nono Pongolo in a useful seam attack.

One of the country’s most-liked coaches gets the chop 0

Posted on May 04, 2020 by Ken

Pote Human is one of the most well-liked coaches in the country but it was not enough to save him from the changes sweeping through Loftus Versfeld in the wake of former Springbok coach Jake White’s appointment at the helm of Bulls rugby.

White had already made it clear that even though his designation is director of rugby, he sees himself having a very hands-on, on-field coaching role. That means there is no room for Human when it comes to guiding the SuperRugby side and the Blue Bulls Company announced on Friday that there would be an amicable parting of the ways.

Human joins a raft of changes at Loftus Versfeld, with chief executive Alfonso Meyer also standing down at the end of the month and 17 players reportedly set to get the chop, including captain Burger Odendaal and Springboks Cornal Hendricks and Juandre Kruger.

“The Blue Bulls Company would like to confirm that it has come to a mutual agreement with Super Rugby head coach Pote Human regarding the early termination of his current contract, which was due to end in October 2020. The BBCo were open and transparent in informing Human that the contract would not be extended. Given the current situation, with no rugby expected to be played in the near future, both parties mutually agreed on exiting with immediate effect, thus also allowing Human extra time with his future planning,” the union said in their statement on Friday.

And just to prove what a nice guy he is, Human expressed his gratitude to the Bulls and went on to call for all involved with the Bulls to support White.

“My time at Loftus has been amazing to say the least. It has been an emotional rollercoaster, with many highs and lows. But through it all I have made friendships and memories that I will treasure forever. I have dedicated my life to this beautiful game and trust me there is no better place to do that than at Loftus Versfeld.

“I would sincerely like to thank the BBCo for giving me the opportunity to live my dreams and for affording me the privilege to work with some truly amazing people. I’d like to wish them every success going forward and it is important for Jake to get the backing and support from all stakeholders. He certainly has my support and I wish him all of the best,” Human said.

History will record that Human did not win any trophies with the Bulls, making the SuperRugby playoffs last year and the Currie Cup semi-finals in 2018, but his coaching prowess should obviously be measured by the resources at his disposal, especially a glaring lack of playing quality due to the extremely poor recruitment that took place at Loftus Versfeld before his stint as head coach.

Meyer praised the influence Human has had on the lives of both players and staff.

“Pote is known as more than a coach at Loftus and has influenced the lives and careers of players and staff alike. He is a nurturer and a mentor, and has made a lasting impact on many great players. Pote is an absolute gentleman of the game and has been an asset to the Bulls Family. However, it is time for us to part ways, and we wish him everything of the best with his journey ahead,” Meyer said.

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    “If your vision of him grows dim, your service will become powerless and ineffective. This will happen if your spiritual reserves are not regularly replenished through prayer and meditation.

    “You must put him first in all your activities. Your service for him must be the result of your intimate knowledge of him. Only when he enjoys priority in all things, can you understand life from his perspective. Putting Christ first in your life and work makes you a more capable servant of God.” – A Shelter From The Storm, Solly Ozrovech

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