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Ken Borland

Centurion product becoming one of the key white-ball generals 0

Posted on September 14, 2022 by Ken

There were many who believed Aiden Markram would be in charge of the Proteas by now, but even though the product of Cornwall Hill College in Centurion admitted on Tuesday that “I have not got it all worked out yet”, he is clearly becoming one of the key generals in the South African white-ball team.

That side will be in action again on Wednesday evening as they take on Ireland in the first of two T20 matches in Bristol. It will be interesting to see what XI the Proteas field because they have often experimented against the Irish in the past. Paceman Kagiso Rabada has been ruled out of both games with an ankle injury.

But they are fresh off a 2-1 series win over mighty England in which they fielded a few players who may have been thought of as fringe members of the squad that is being built for the T20 World Cup in October.

Markram, although he is their highest-ranked T20 batsman, was one of the ones to sit out, but it says something of his standing in the team that he was given a full explanation of the reasons why it was done. He returned for the deciding match against England and scored a brisk 51 not out off 36 balls as the Proteas batted their hosts out of the contest. Markram also fulfilled the vital sixth bowler role.

“Not playing in India was incredibly frustrating, but it’s one of those things even though it’s strange to get Covid these days,” Markram said.

“But here in England, the communication has been really good from the coach, the management team and captain David Miller. We were told where we stand, we understand where the selection is coming from and why they did it.

“These things happen when you’re building towards a World Cup, you have to give everyone a fair opportunity. Rassie van der Dussen and I understood why we were sitting out.

“The communication made it a lot easier. We’re on a journey to the World Cup so we understand why we try things and different options. If it doesn’t work, then rather get it wrong now than at the World Cup,” Markram said.

The 27-year-old has been one of the most dominant batsmen at SuperSport Park in Centurion, which is one of the smaller grounds in South Africa but still bigger than the ground in Bristol.

England had the Proteas in disarray in the first T20 in Bristol last week but, as they arrange their plans for the World Cup, being able to perform on smaller grounds is one of the things they need to sort out.

“We’re maybe a team that’s better on slower pitches and bigger fields, we’ve played some of our best cricket in tougher conditions,” Markram said.

“But we definitely want to get better at smaller venues where the margin for error is a lot smaller. We’re going to try and nail that because we want to keep growing as a team.”

*Play starts at 7.30pm

Private equity improves the product out on the park – SuperSport 0

Posted on February 24, 2021 by Ken

SuperSport are all about the product out on the park, which is why they were delighted to hand a controlling stake in the Sharks to MVM Holdings, according to the broadcaster’s CEO Marc Jury.

SuperSport International and the KwaZulu-Natal Rugby Union were the majority shareholders in the Sharks franchise but last month they agreed to sell a 51% stake to the U.S. investment consortium headed by Marco Masotti. It has been the most high-profile equity deal thus far in South African rugby and Jury told The Citizen there were no qualms about handing over control of the Sharks because it provides a wonderful opportunity for all concerned.

“Private equity can provide some fantastic opportunities but it’s not just about who you partner with but also what their intentions are. And MVM Holdings have some wonderful ideas that will take the franchise to the next level and allow us to show the best rugby possible. Any investment in the game has to be a positive and this deal will allow the Sharks to retain some great talent.

“That’s what we as SuperSport want as well, to keep the best players here. We just want to show the best possible product which is why we have invested such large amounts in local rugby and forged a very close relationship with the mother body. We have invested heavily in the Sharks for a long time but we feel this partnership can help South African rugby,” Jury said.

Jury acknowledged that it has been a difficult time for all involved in SA Rugby competitions. Playing in the heat and humidity of mid-summer was a new challenge and testing protocols played havoc with the usual training week of the teams.

“These have been tough times and we have to remember that Covid will pass. We have stayed very close to SA Rugby through the whole period and playing in a bubble and not being able to prepare properly has not been good for the players mentally. There have also been no crowds and a great degree of anxiety, so there have not been the ingredients for the players to produce their best rugby.

“I think the teams did the best they could with a very difficult situation. But everyone is just hoping for some normality soon and the thing people miss the most is the whole experience of coming together and watching their favourite team. Hopefully they have missed it so much that when normality does return they will watch the rugby more than ever,” Jury said.

Many things buffet the SuperRugby product, but here’s a fresh idea to sell it 0

Posted on February 09, 2019 by Ken

Economic hardships, the lure of foreign lands and a saturated market all buffet SA Rugby’s efforts to produce an alluring SuperRugby product, but in the magnificently comfortable Cape Town Stadium last weekend they were given some massive ideas in terms of getting it to work again.

Getting spectators to watch live sport these days is all about the stadium experience, and the fact the Cape Town Stadium was sold out for the SuperRugby Superhero Sunday Double-header – warm-up matches that ultimately count for nothing – tells you the venue is doing something right.

Spacious and with plenty of open spaces along the concourses, Cape Town Stadium is also brilliantly designed so that there is not a bad seat in the house. Thanks to SuperSport, I enjoyed my first visit to the Green Point venue last weekend and I was enormously impressed.

The Cape Town public came in their droves even though the Stormers rested most of their big stars. Fortunately there were enough Springboks in the Lions, Bulls and Sharks teams to make up for that. When Duane Vermeulen walked on to the field, the Stormers faithful began cheering, until they remembered he has signed for their archrivals the Bulls, which was when the boos and jeers began.

The big success story of Superhero Sunday was bringing the kids back into the stadium. Support for rugby seems to be dying and what better way to halt the slide than by recruiting the yongsters and getting them hooked on the live game.

The fact that SuperSport and Vodacom, with huge backing from Marvel, made major efforts to market the day was obviously also crucial, but so too was the idea of four teams playing in one stadium.

Every SuperRugby franchise has a sizeable number of fans in cities outside of their province these days and I would love to see double-headers played in the actual competition as well.

The cricketers do it during their T20 tournament and the argument of teams losing home-ground advantage is easily combatted and should be set aside if, for probably the first time ever, the unions are willing to do what is best for the game.

The answer is simple: The schedule must be such that the Stormers and the Sharks visit the Lions and the Bulls on the same weekend. Seeing as though both coastal teams are now on the Highveld, they play at the same venue, either Ellis Park or Loftus Versfeld. The next year, the double-header is played at the other Gauteng venue.

The number of Sharks and Stormers fans in Gauteng is huge and all the coaches I spoke to – Swys de Bruin, Robert du Preez and Pote Human – were supportive of the double-header concept.

The superhero theme was novel and certainly attracted the kids, but it doesn’t have to continue. The success of the double-header does not rest on it, the South African rugby fan is known for the passion they bring to the game and there are other narratives that can be pursued.

Besides, the sight of a rather unathletic Black Panther and a very naff Spiderman mincing around are not things I would want to see again. Apparently Marvel insist that only their regular costume-wearers are allowed to fulfil those roles and the Americans they brought fell way short of what my imagination had been inspired to expect from the comics.

Cape Town Stadium, however, surpassed expectations and it is difficult to comprehend why Western Province rugby would not want to move there from the old and decrepit Newlands stadium, which has tradition and a proud history going for it, but not much else.

Which sounds a bit like SA Rugby at times, but a new SuperRugby season full of possibility lies before us; will they take the lead offered by two of their most loyal sponsors in SuperSport and Vodacom and come up with new, fresh ideas to re-popularise the tournament?

Saru have enough money to throw at the Springbok problem 0

Posted on December 08, 2016 by Ken


That the South African Rugby Union have a major problem with their flagship product – the Springboks – is undeniable, and it’s going to take all their wisdom and sound judgement to make the right decisions to fix the mess. One thing in their favour though is that they have enough money to throw at the problem.

Their latest financial statements, for the year ending 2015, show that Saru had revenue of close to a billion rand, with R249 million spent on the rugby department, under which all the national teams and their management fall.

Springbok coach Allister Coetzee has made his fair share of blunders and his ability to inspire his current group of players is debatable, but there is no doubt that he was given the job with one hand tied behind his back by not being able to choose his coaching staff.

Forwards coach Matt Proudfoot was the one exception, while he inherited Johann van Graan from the previous era of Heyneke Meyer, so at least he had experience of working at international level. But for all their promise, the likes of Mzwandile Stick, Chean Roux and Louis Koen have only coached at much lower levels. Apart from Proudfoot, and Franco Smith, a belated addition to the squad after just one season of Super Rugby, who amongst his assistants has experience of running a top franchise?

Compare that to the All Blacks’ situation, where assistant coaches Ian Foster, who spent eight years in charge of the Chiefs and three with the New Zealand juniors, and Wayne Smith, who guided the Crusaders to two Super 12 titles and is a former All Blacks head coach, are vastly experienced.

Perhaps the primary problem affecting the Springboks is the lack of attention Saru have given them; can they truly say the wellbeing of their national team has been their priority?

So many incidents suggest not: from Meyer having to go begging to Gavin Varejes to pay the salary of breakdown specialist Richie Gray up until the parlous decision to appoint, on the cheap, the majority of Coetzee’s backroom staff, Saru are not backing the Springboks as they should.

Are the Springboks not CEO Jurie Roux’s new sweetheart? Before he joined Saru, Roux was able to source R35 million to beef up the Stellenbosch University rugby team. Why is he not willing to put big money towards finding the best assistant coaches possible or keeping more players on these shores?

I also wonder what Rassie Erasmus, still the flavour of the month in many quarters, actually achieved in terms of boosting the Springboks during his four-year tenure as Saru’s high performance general manager before ducking to Munster?

While mapping out new structures for SA rugby and running the Mobi-Unit of specialist coaches, Erasmus’s detractors, some of whom were and are intimately involved with the Springboks, say everything he did was geared towards making himself the next national coach.

But when it became clear that Saru would have to speed up transformation within the Springboks in order to get the government out of their hair, Erasmus suddenly turned his attention overseas. His about-turn led directly to Coetzee’s appointment being made very late, just a couple of months before the first Test.

Just to be clear, I don’t believe transformation is the foe of Springbok rugby, in fact it’s the game’s best long-term survival plan.

According to reports this week, Coetzee will remain as national coach next year, but will now be able to choose his own support staff as Saru have belatedly realised the error of their ways.

Well duh.

It reminds me of Kim Kardashian suddenly deciding she wants to withdraw herself and her children from the spotlight after they were robbed in Paris in early October; she decided to flaunt her lifestyle, bling and children on reality TV, why is she surprised it attracted nefarious attention?

The hapless Springboks are the way they are at the moment for many reasons, but it all comes down to haphazard decision-making by Saru.

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