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Ken Borland



Faf hopes JSK are over their batting woes after change in the order 0

Posted on February 07, 2024 by Ken

FOCUSED: Joburg Super Kings captain Faf du Plessis returned to form with a quickfire half-century, steering his team’s late charge into the SA20 playoffs at the Wanderers.
Photo: Ron Gaunt.

A change in their batting order has Joburg Super Kings captain Faf du Plessis hopeful that they are over their batting woes as they head into their do-or-die eliminator against the Paarl Royals at the Wanderers on Wednesday.

JSK just snuck into the playoffs courtesy of their rousing victory over then log-leaders Durban Super Giants at the Wanderers last weekend, successfully chasing down a daunting target of 204. Du Plessis himself was man of the match with his 57 off 29 balls, marking a return to form for the former Proteas captain who had averaged just 20.66 in the tournament up till then.

Leus du Plooy opened the batting with Du Plessis and also scored 57, with Wayne Madsen coming in at number three and scoring 44 not out off 29 balls as he partnered big-hitters Moeen Ali and Donovan Ferreira as they took the Super Kings to victory with a ball to spare.

“After we were bowled out for 78 by the Sunrisers here, I felt embarrassed for the sell-out crowd, you’re hurting as a player and as a team. You’re half-expecting them not to turn up for the next game because they think you’re down-and-out, but we are extremely grateful we have such great supporters and we’re really glad we turned things around,” Du Plessis said at the Wanderers on Tuesday.

“I’m really proud of the performance against DSG, we were under a lot of pressure and managed to chase more than 200 against the best team in the tournament so far. So we will take a lot of confidence from that because DSG are a remarkable side with such balance.

“Obviously you need your big players to perform in a competition like this to put you in contention and there’s no doubt me not scoring many runs before that had a huge impact on the confidence of the team.

“You hope a couple of batsmen will have a purple patch and carry the batting line-up, but we were a bit light in that respect. But once we found our rhythm, we had better starts and that flowed through the team. We made a change with Leus moving up front and tactically that was a good change.

“Reeza Hendricks is an unbelievable player, but with the ball gripping in the first six overs like it has here, having two right-handers open the batting made it an uphill battle. To have two different batsmen at the crease [right-hand & left-hand] is important, especially if there’s something in the conditions.

“Wayne Madsen has also been fantastic in the last couple of games. Last season the pitch spun quite a bit here and so we went for Wayne because he’s very experienced and plays spin really well, his game centres around sweeping and reverse-sweeping. He’s been brilliant for us and he’s also one of the reasons our batting is in a better place,” Du Plessis said.

For Paarl Royals captain David Miller, the major change they need is in how they finish innings with the ball, having lost their last four games on the trot.

“It’s not ideal losing the last four, but it would look different if we lost five matches scattered through the tournament and there’s no stress or panic in any way. I was really happy with the way we went about our game at St George’s Park, even though we lost.

“In previous games, the opposition has taken the match away from us in the last four/five overs. You think you’ve restricted them to a good score to chase, but then it becomes a massive total and, as a batsman, chasing 10 or 11 an over from the get-go, you’re under pressure.

“So we’ve been in the game until the 15th or 16th over, playing really good cricket, but we need to stick to our processes, that’s what we’ll look to correct. T20 cricket can switch quickly, we have worked really hard and we still finished third on the log. So we are really positive and we just need to find our mojo again,” Miller said.

Playing at home in the eliminator and also potentially Qualifier 2 should also pump up the tyres of the Joburg Super Kings, but Du Plessis admitted they have struggled to adapt to the vagaries of the Wanderers pitch.

“Being at home will make a difference, it can give you an extra 10%, although we have been a bit frustrated here because we have not been able to produce our best. We’ve been a bit unsure of what the pitch will do. Winning your matches at home means you will generally be near the top at the back end of the tournament.

“But the last game here had a really good cricket wicket and it did not make that much difference whether you batted or bowled first. In the first few matches here, the pitch was very dry in the first innings and that played a bit into the oppositions’ strengths.

“But against DSG it was about playing your best cricket and then the best team would end up on top. It was all about how well you do your skills,” Du Plessis said.

As Miller pointed out though, Paarl Royals have won both their matches on the Highveld this season. Lungi Ngidi took four wickets as they won a thriller against the Pretoria Capitals in Centurion, and then they took advantage of a messy display in the field by the Super Kings to chase down 169 at the Wanderers and beat them by five wickets with an over to spare.

But back-to-back defeats to both the Durban Super Giants and Sunrisers Eastern Cape has punctured the confidence of the Royals; just how deflated they are will be seen on Wednesday evening.

Bulls listed in last 16 of Champions Cup after good win, but made life hard for themselves 0

Posted on January 21, 2024 by Ken

Bulls captain Marcell Coetzee carried strongly and scored two tries as his team overcame Bordeaux-Begles to ensure a place in the last 16 of the Champions Cup.
Photo: Christiaan Kotze (Gallo Images)

A 46-40 victory over group winners Bordeaux-Begles has ensured the Bulls will be listed in the final 16 of the Champions Cup, and coach Jake White is delighted by that, but he did admit to being a little bemused by how hard they made life for themselves at Loftus Versfeld on Saturday afternoon.

The Bulls scored six tries, some of them absolutely brilliant, with flank Marcell Coetzee going over twice and wing Devon Williams, centre David Kriel, fullback Willie le Roux and scrumhalf Embrose Papier, with a superb individual effort, also getting on the try-scorers’ list. Flyhalf Johan Goosen converted five of the tries and his replacement, Jaco van der Walt, kicked two crucial late penalties.

Bordeaux-Begles also scored six tries, taking two bonus points from the match, which was enough to confirm they will finish top of the group.

The Bulls twice found themselves in a rock-solid position of dominance, leading 21-7 after 26 minutes and then 40-21 after 53 minutes, but on both occasions their concentration and game-management wobbled and they ended up letting the quality Bordeaux side back in the game.

It was the home side’s replacements who saw out the final quarter, their strong ball-carrying earning them the two penalties that enabled them to just hold off the French challenge.

“We did make it difficult for ourselves and maybe at halftime we started to think about winning by 36 points because that would have seen us top the pool if Bordeaux didn’t get any bonus points,” White admitted afterwards.

“Maybe we were seduced into that style of play, it became like a sevens game and that probably helped Bordeaux, who are a good team. This is such a big competition and there are very small margins, those are the things we need to be sharper on.

“But I can’t be cross with the team, we had four forwards under the age of 22. This is the next step to Test rugby and the only way the team is going to learn to cope with these sort of situations is by going through it. We need to be more streetwise, but that comes with time. When we have our debrief, we’ll look at what some of the best options should have been.

“But I’m obviously still very proud of the win and scoring 46 points versus Bordeaux, they don’t often concede that many and they have been dominant in France. So I’m happy and it’s nice to learn when you’ve won,” White said.

The Bulls gave the visitors, on an eight-match winning streak, a ferocious welcome as eighthman Cameron Hanekom was ruled to have just lost the ball over the line and tighthead prop Carlu Sadie was yellow-carded for a ruck offence. After seven minutes, the Bulls were finally on the board as Coetzee went over from a tap-penalty.

Bordeaux equalised six minutes later when fullback Romain Buros knifed through to score, but the Bulls then thrilled the crowd of more than 10 000 with a superbly-executed try off a lineout. Strong carries by hooker Jan-Hendrik Wessels and lock Ruan Nortje were followed by a lovely pass out wide from Goosen to Williams, who scampered over for the try.

Coetzee forced his way over for a second try on 26 minutes, but in the last 10 minutes, the Bulls had to call on all their scrambling ability in defence as Bordeaux put them under severe pressure following prop Gerhard Steenekamp’s yellow card for ruck offences.

The Bulls did concede a try to lock Adam Coleman, but half-time beckoned with them still in the lead, 21-14, and then they added a vital score against the run of play. Stedman Gans sparked the counter with a half-break and lovely offload to Le Roux, who was through the gap in a flash and then threw a pinpoint pass to Kriel, who went all the way from long range.

The 26-14 lead would have pleased White, and the try that opened the second half would have delighted him even more. Goosen produced a brilliant up-and-under despite being under big pressure from two defenders, wing Sebastian de Klerk made a fine aerial win and Kriel then made the initial break before Le Roux was, as is his trademark, in the right place at the right time to score.

Papier’s try was a brilliant piece of individual play as his team presented him with untidy, backfoot ball, but the scrumhalf spotted a hole in the defence and raced through it before swerving past the cover defence to dot down.

But White would have then been po-faced as Bordeaux scored three times in the next 15 minutes. But the smile was back as his team held on for a good win.

With Saracens beating Olympique Lyon later on Saturday night, the Bulls remained second in the final group standings and will have a home match in the last 16.

Ironically, White believes finishing second and getting a home match in the last 16 could boomerang on the Bulls.

“I would love to have a home knockout game in this competition, but that means we will play Dragons and Leinster away in the URC, come back for a home last-16 Champions Cup match and then an away quarterfinal before coming back to Loftus to play Munster.

“It will be helluva tough flying back and forth like that. But the nice thing is it shows the improvement and growth we’ve had in the Champions Cup. There is belief that we can win it, but we also need to understand that the big guns are now coming.

“It will be teams where 20 of the 23 are internationals playing against youngsters who are still growing and learning the ropes. I’m a realist and this competition now goes on steroids,” White said.

Scorers

BullsTries: Marcell Coetzee (2), Devon Williams, David Kriel, Willie le Roux, Embrose Papier. Conversions: Johan Goosen (5). Penalties: Jaco van der Walt (2).

Bordeaux-BeglesTries: Romain Buros, Adam Coleman, Madosh Tambwe, Tevita Tatafu (2), Paul Adadie. Conversions: Zack Holmes (3), Mateo Garcia (2).

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.

Maharaj expresses frustrations over coming up against rampant Aussies 0

Posted on October 26, 2023 by Ken

South African spinner Keshav Maharaj expressed his frustrations on Thursday over what he described as “a very tough tour” coming up against a rampant Australian batting line-up.

With Australia roaring to 475 for four at stumps on the second day of the third Test at the Sydney Cricket Ground, the Proteas had conceded over a thousand runs and taken just a dozen wickets in their last two innings of bowling. Maharaj caught-and-bowled Steven Smith for 104 for his first wicket of the series in the final Test of the rubber.

“It’s been a really tough tour,” Maharaj admitted. “At the start of this game we expected the pitch to turn a lot more. I think the weather has been a big factor, the pitch getting a bit wet.

“I haven’t changed much, I’m still working hard. Sometimes you just have these ebbs and flows in your career, maybe my body is a bit tired, I don’t know. I wish I was a machine that you could just plug in.

“These are good pitches in Australia and there’s not as much spin as we are used to elsewhere in the world, although there is bounce you can work with. And bowling when you’re behind the eight-ball is tough, with spread fields and in-batsmen.

“It’s about being consistent and I probably haven’t been, I’ve dished up a few, which is something I need to address. It’s probably about keeping the mind fresh rather than bowling more,” Maharaj said.

South Africa’s first-choice spinner said Australia have one of the best batting line-ups in the game and they have been able to dominate thanks to the platform laid up front. David Warner scored a double-century in the second Test in Melbourne, and his opening partner Usman Khawaja was 195 not out at the end of the second day in Sydney.

“Fair play to Australia, their opening batsmen have created a good foundation for them to play freely. But you can’t take anything away from their batsmen, they have very sound, clear plans and they stick to them.

“Usman is a different player against spin than he was here in 2016 and in South Africa in 2018/19, he has played all around the wicket, taking his scoring opportunities and he has very good hands.

“Travis Head is probably one of the best timers of the ball in international cricket and he has played very well, scoring fifties in all three Tests. It comes from the platform set up front, it gives him licence.

“It’s one of the more experienced batting line-ups and the top-order makes sure there is a strong base so the middle-order can play aggressively. The Australian batting line-up is one of the best in the world,” Maharaj said.

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