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Ken Borland

Open avenues to the pro game, but not the road to mediocrity 0

Posted on July 20, 2022 by Ken

One of the positive aspects of forcing South African franchises to compete in both the United Rugby Championship and the Currie Cup at the same time has been the way it has opened up an avenue to the professional game for those late developers who would previously have been stuck in club rugby and whose talent would ultimately have gone to waste.

It has also meant Griquas and the Pumas are now way more competitive in the Currie Cup, both being strong contenders for the semi-finals.

Surely no-one would disagree that the broader and more far-reaching the South African pipeline is, the better it will ultimately be for the Springboks. When one considers the roads players like Makazole Mapimpi and Marco van Staden took to the national team, one does wonder just how much great talent is still going to waste. Are they just the absolute flukes who made it through to the big time?

Drawing players from club rugby is something the Bulls have managed quite successfully, given how they go into the final weekend of Currie Cup round-robin play on the top of the log, while also competing in a URC semi-final in Dublin on Friday night.

But, as praiseworthy as their efforts have been, that should not detract from the fact that next season, when all four URC franchises have an extra European competition to contend with, the situation is going to become even harder to manage.

Both the Bulls director of rugby, Jake White, and Sharks head coach Sean Everitt have called for SA Rugby to release the franchises from their player caps. At present, South Africa’s top four teams can only contract 50 players and cannot spend more than R60 million on contracts.

While the intention – preventing unions from stockpiling talent as they did in the past and forcing them to draw from the amateur ranks – is noble, 50 players is simply not enough if you have three concurrent competitions to look after.

While a R60 million salary cap already puts South Africa at a disadvantage in Europe because it translates to just £3-million – compared to the £4.2m Scottish clubs can spend, £5m for Wales and England, £6.6m for Ireland and £10m for France – it is the numbers game that needs attention most urgently.

When a team travels, they usually take between 26 and 28 players with them – the match-day 23 plus cover in specialist positions like hooker, prop and scrumhalf. That leaves just about enough contracted players for a Currie Cup match on the same weekend. Unless, of course, as the Sharks experienced last weekend and the Bulls are dealing with on Saturday, you also have injuries, which are pretty much inevitable during a rugby season.

Then there are also call-ups from national teams like the Springboks and the SA U20s …

Now that SA Rugby have secured five lucrative seats at the European table, the last thing one wants is for the South African teams to be mediocre. The Currie Cup is also far too historic and valuable a brand to be allowed to become not much more than a club competition.

Just increasing the number of players a union can offer some sort of contract to will give the struggling coaches some breathing space. When the cap was originally introduced, South Africa was still in Super Rugby and the Currie Cup generally only really got going once that competition was over.

So there was no need for such massive squad numbers and the development of fringe players suffered as a result.

That is no longer the case and it is time to ease this particular burden on the unions.

Free State show they might be the team to chase in the Currie Cup 0

Posted on February 28, 2022 by Ken

The Free State Cheetahs showed that they might well be the team to chase in the Currie Cup as they downed the previously-unbeaten, two-time defending champions, the Bulls, 38-25 in an all-action display at Loftus Versfeld on Wednesday night.

It was clear from the outset, when the Cheetahs kept the ball alive with offloads and passing through multiple phases, that the visitors were after tries and they scored six of them. Two of them were via hooker Louis van der Westhuizen at the maul, but the rest were slickly worked and the reward for ball-in-hand rugby.

Flank Andisa Ntsila’s grubber through for wing Rosko Specman to score was an early highlight.

A helter skelter first 20 minutes saw the Bulls match the Free Staters on the scoreboard, even if they only scored two tries to the three of the Cheetahs. Nineteen-year-old debutant loose forward Cameron Hanekom was rewarded for following up a botched restart by the visitors for the opening try, and a good long pass out wide by flyhalf Chris Smith led to the second try by wing Stravino Jacobs.

Fullback Clayton Blommetjies cutting through for a try after a lovely angled run by flyhalf Siya Masuku was not enough to prevent Free State actually trailing by one point (19-20) at halftime.

But the Bulls were left chasing the game in the second half as very little went right for them.

They had practically zero lineout platform and a physical, streetwise Cheetahs pack meant the Bulls’ rolling maul had no traction.

Referee Paul Mente was also ruthless in targeting their ill-discipline and both lock Reinhardt Ludwig and prop Lizo Gqoboka were yellow-carded in the final quarter.

The problems started in the 47th minute when wing Siyabonga Novuka was a fraction-of-a-second early in tackling Specman in the air. The Cheetahs set the maul, went wide right and then, when they came back left, there were no defenders left and lock Aidon Davis strolled over for the try.

The visitors built on their lead 12 minutes later when Van der Westhuizen rumbled over for his second try and Masuku then put in a lovely crosskick for Ntsila to score to put Free State 38-20 up and out of sight.


Bulls: Tries – Cameron Hanekom, Stravino Jacobs, Siyabonga Novuka. Conversions – Chris Smith (2). Penalty – Smith. Drop goal – Smith.

Free State Cheetahs: Tries – Rosko Specman, Louis van der Westhuizen (2), Clayton Blommetjies, Aidon Davis, Andisa Ntsila. Conversions – Ruan Pienaar (4).

SA brood over poor batting in 1st game after they beat England but still exit World Cup 0

Posted on December 31, 2021 by Ken

South Africa were left to brood over their poor batting in their opening game against Australia as they beat previously unbeaten England by 10 runs but were knocked out of the T20 World Cup in Sharjah on Saturday night on nett run-rate.

Losing an important toss and being sent in to bat first, South Africa’s batsmen produced a superb display, their best of the tournament, to hammer 189/2 in their 20 overs.

It means they had to restrict England to less than 131 in order to qualify for the semi-finals in front of Australia, who had earlier cruised past the West Indies by eight wickets with 22 balls to spare. Although they failed to do that, they showed impressive calm in the closing overs to limit England to 179/8.

England’s powerhouse batting line-up kept a cracking pace throughout and were not helped by Jason Roy having to retire hurt on 20.

Under pressure, where the Proteas did not err however was in still picking up wickets. Anrich Nortje bowled well and removed dangerman Jos Buttler for 26 off 15 balls, before Tabraiz Shamsi (4-0-24-2) struck two big blows by dismissing Moeen Ali (37), the ball after being hit for a huge six, and trapping Jonny Bairstow lbw for 1.

Dawid Malan (33 off 26) and Liam Livingstone (28 off 17) kept England very much in the hunt, but both were winkled out by Dwaine Pretorius.

England needed 14 off the last over and Kagiso Rabada had to bowl it, having travelled for 45 runs in his three overs up till then.

It’s not as if Rabada strew the ball all over the place, but rather that he bowled entirely the wrong length on a pitch with low bounce – instead of hitting the deck hard back-of-a-length, he bowled far too full and was belted for five fours and three sixes. For a bowler of his experience and skill, it was baffling and infuriating.

But pulling his length back and using variations in pace worked an absolute treat for him in the final over, as he took a hat-trick, Chris Woakes (7), Eoin Morgan (17) and Chris Jordan (0) all falling to catches in the deep. The villain turned match-winner.

The Proteas can take enormous heart from their batting display against such a strong bowling attack, especially considering how much the batting has improved in the last year.

Quinton de Kock again gave a tantalising glimpse of his abilities as he scored 34 off 27 balls before holing out at long-on off leg-spinner Adil Rashid.

He had given South Africa a solid platform though, departing on 86/2 in the 12th over.

Rassie van der Dussen showed how effectively he can change gears, both helping to set up the innings and then accelerating brilliantly at the death as he struck a marvellous 94 not out off 60 balls.

Aiden Markram showed he can be a highly-effective finisher as he lashed 52 not out off just 25 deliveries, including four sixes. His fiery strokeplay means he now has two of the five fastest half-centuries in the tournament.

Van der Dussen and Markram added 103 for the third wicket in just 8.4 overs and South Africa’s top-order can certainly feel they did more than what was expected, setting up an impressive victory and ensuring the Proteas depart the tournament on a high.

Previously suspended Ramela now officially removed as CSA director 0

Posted on December 17, 2020 by Ken

The previously suspended Omphile Ramela was officially removed as a director of the interim board of Cricket South Africa on Tuesday, the organisation announced in a statement.

Ramela is the previous president of the South African Cricketers Association and was one of the players association’s nominees for the board.

Judge Zak Yacoob, the chairman of the interim board, said last week that the rest of the directors had resolved to have Ramela removed from the board due to him being “generally obstructive in board matters”.

“He refuses to accept the majority decision if he does not feel it’s right and feels he needs to continue to fight. He does not have the discipline to accept a majority decision and is virtually impossible to deal with,” Yacoob said of Ramela last week. The former Cape Cobras and Highveld Lions batsman has apparently taken up the cudgels on behalf of suspended Company Secretary Welsh Gwaza, which is a very surprising turn of events in itself because Gwaza, along with former CEO Thabang Moroe spearheaded CSA’s efforts to sideline the players association, targeting Ramela personally in the process.

Ramela was notified of Tuesday’s meeting last week and given the opportunity to be present, with an attorney, to respond to the allegations against him.

But the 32-year-old did not respond to his notice, or to follow-up e-mails and WhatsApps, according to the interim board’s statement.

So the five remaining directors who were present – Haroon Lorgat is in Dubai and Stavros Nicolaou was also unable to attend – voted on the resolution to remove Ramela. Andre Odendaal abstained, but the other four directors voted in favour of the resolution.

“We are disappointed by what has transpired but we respect the fact that the board must do its work, they have a job to do. We will not engage the interim board unless they formally engage with us, which they have done on other issues, because we believe in their independence,” Andrew Breetzke, the CEO of SACA, told The Citizen.

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