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Ken Borland

Outstanding results but the negative & destructive still want Boucher Out! 6

Posted on January 30, 2022 by Ken

It is typical of the negativity and destructiveness of so many in South Africa that even after the Proteas completed an outstanding 3-0 ODI whitewash of India, to go with their remarkable triumph in the Test series, there were still choruses of ‘Boucher Out!’ from many of cricket’s version of the RET faction and the naively woke.

Of course the major reason for those wanting Boucher’s head to roll has got nothing to do with what happens out on the field, which has sadly been a recurring theme in South African cricket for way too long. It is because of alleged racial slurs that date back 20 years to Boucher’s early playing days with the Proteas.

It is highly improbable that Boucher was the only one singing the offensive song in question, so why is he being singled out? Because it is the continuation of the same witch-hunt put in place by the same people who took Cricket South Africa to the brink of ruin before the Fundudzi Report and Stavros Nicolaou’s Interim Board sorted things out.

Of course, justice needs to be done for sins of the past, but when they involve entire teams and took place in a time very different from our own from which we are peering back in judgement, then rough justice will cause more harm than good.

Boucher’s evidence before his disciplinary tribunal will probably point out that, due to the total lack of sensitivity training and the state of society as a whole back in the 1990s, it was not just Paul Adams who had a nasty song written about him (the author of which is apparently a major surprise). The White players were called names too, as were the Black Africans and the Coloureds. For those who have never been in a fines meeting, it is all meant to be about poking fun. However misguided the lyrics were.

But confidence in CSA and their ability to ensure we have a competitive Proteas team will be severely dented if they summarily dismiss Boucher, just as the national side are starting to bloom again.

The last two months have seen not just any team vanquished, but the mighty Indians, the superpowers of the game and ranked No.1 in Tests before being knocked off their perch by South Africa.

To make the triumph even more memorable, the Proteas managed to overturn the previous history between the two teams when it came to playing and bowling spin. India’s spinners were previously able to exert a stranglehold over the South African batsman, including during the February 2018 series over here.

But in this series, the Proteas batsmen were terrific against the turning ball, in conditions that were going to suit the visitors, and they have said much of the credit for that should go to Boucher and batting consultant Justin Sammons.

And then when India batted, they were dominated by Keshav Maharaj and Tabraiz Shamsi, with even Aiden Markram keeping them under pressure, to such an extent that South Africa won the crucial middle-overs battle conclusively. The way the Proteas have embraced the use of spin and have become one of the best sides in the world in that department is another reason to commend Boucher, who has instituted a sea-change in strategic thinking.

Boucher’s immense playing experience is obviously helpful to the team as they navigate the varied challenges of the international game, but his knowledge of various team cultures and environments can also serve to help the current team as they forge a new identity.

When Boucher made his debut for the national team in 1997, the culture was pretty rotten with new arrivals treated very much as juniors and a threat to the places of the senior players. He lived through that and learnt from it, and he was also a key part of the Graeme Smith era when the team embraced Protea Fire and made big efforts to become more inclusive.

Getting rid of Boucher now would only serve as an exercise in bloodletting and scapegoating. CSA Boards have a history of giving baying mobs what they want; let’s hope Lawson Naidoo and Co can show stronger leadership at this crucial time.

Nienaber: Worst Springbok performance in 3 years 0

Posted on October 08, 2021 by Ken

Coach Jacques Nienaber said it was the worst Springbok performance in three years as they succumbed to a 30-17 defeat at the hands of the Wallabies in Brisbane on Saturday, which would seem to be a fair call based on how thoroughly dismal South Africa were in so many departments.

It started at the breakdowns, where the Springboks conceded a dozen turnovers on attack, the defence was astonishingly ineffective as South Africa missed 20 of their 88 tackles, and they were too lateral with ball-in-hand and poor in the basic skills of handling and passing.

“I was disappointed with every department of our play today, we were beaten hands down. We have to figure out quickly why because I can’t put my finger on a reason at the moment and we have a massive challenge coming up next weekend against the All Blacks. We get tested differently by our Sanzaar partners and it has been a big eye-opener for us.

“It definitely wasn’t just our worst performance this year but our worst since 2018 when we lost to Argentina in Mendoza. We weren’t great at everything. The defence was not up to standard, it’s the first time we’ve conceded four tries since against New Zealand in 2018. We did have a bit of attacking opportunity, but there were lots of errors, too many with ball-in-hand,” Nienaber said after the match.

Skipper Siya Kolisi said he was shocked by how poorly his team had played, describing their preparation as being good.

“We’ve been training very well but then every single guy made mistakes today. You make a mistake at one maul and then it carries through to the next maul. We were losing things which we are normally good at, like physicality. Oh we need to look at ourselves alright and pull tighter together. We were well-prepared for this game but we just couldn’t enforce what we had planned.

“Especially at the breakdowns, we spoke about it on the field but just did not deliver. Losing breakdowns, especially the wide ones, was one of the big things we chatted about at halftime, but then it happened again in the second half. As players we have to take the responsibility for that. I wouldn’t go as far as to say our plan is not working, it’s just we did not implement it properly and we missed 20 tackles,” Kolisi said.

Nienaber finds haven in many of the Boks who won World Cup final 0

Posted on August 17, 2021 by Ken

The British media have been gleefully pointing out how little rugby the Springboks have had against top-tier opposition since winning the World Cup in November 2019, but coach Jacques Nienaber has found haven in being able to select so many of the players who won that final for the first Test against the British and Irish Lions in Cape Town on Saturday.

Nienaber announced a Springbok team on Tuesday in which only six of the 23 players were not on the field on that heady evening in Yokohama. Starting loosehead Ox Nche and replacement flank Rynhardt Elstadt are the only players who were not part of the triumphant World Cup squad.

“Without any Test rugby in 2020 and limited preparation games now, obviously selecting players who have been in the system is quite important. That experience, to have over 500 Test caps in the starting team and more than 700 in the squad of 23, is what we’re looking for. These are guys who have been here before, they understand the pressure they will be under.

“And there will be immense pressure, so it’s great to have players who have experienced it before. This is the real thing and we are going to need calm, steady heads. I think we are going to have new pictures thrown our way by the Lions and will be forced to make solutions on the field. One of the big challenges is that the Lions have a very versatile squad that can play in multiple styles,” Nienaber said on Tuesday.

Amongst the backs, there have been fitness question marks over Handre Pollard, Makazole Mapimpi and Damian de Allende, so Nieneaber has decided not to field the Bomb Squad 6-2 split on the bench. He understandably has confidence the forward replacements – Steven Kitshoff, Malcolm Marx, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager and Elstadt – will be able to man up to whatever the Lions pack throws at them.

“Handre has not played a lot of rugby and he’s just come back from Covid, Makazole is the same. If we were fully confident about them then we could have gone with a 6-2 split. It’s probably just not the right time to only have two backs on the bench. We are comfortable with a 6-2 split, we will go with it again, but there just wasn’t the opportunity for this specific game.

“We’re not 100% sure everyone will last the whole 80 minutes because, due to Covid, some of them have not been exposed to much rugby for quite some time. The bench might only come on for 20 minutes, but it will happen the moment a player on the field is not producing his required role due to tiredness. We look to the subs when the performance starts to drop off,” Nienaber explained.

As selections go, it is a vote of confidence in the tried and tested, even if that means a gamble on recent returnees like captain Siya Kolisi, De Jager and Mapimpi. Given the opposition and the question marks over their preparation, it would be silly for the Springboks not to look at their World Cup winners.

Springbok team: Willie le Roux, Cheslin Kolbe, Lukhanyo Am, Damian de Allende, Makazole Mapimpi, Handré Pollard (vice-captain), Faf de Klerk, Kwagga Smith, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Siya Kolisi (captain), Franco Mostert, Eben Etzebeth, Trevor Nyakane, Bongi Mbonambi, Ox Nché. Replacements – Malcolm Marx, Steven Kitshoff, Frans Malherbe, Lood de Jager, Rynhardt Elstadt, Herschel Jantjies, Elton Jantjies, Damian Willemse.

So many versatile players a positive for Boks, and that’s a fact – Davids 0

Posted on June 23, 2021 by Ken

Forwards coach Deon Davids said on Monday that the fact that there are so many versatile players in the Springbok squad will have a positive effect on selection for the British and Irish Lions series.

While both Jean-Luc du Preez and Rynhardt Elstadt were designated as utility forwards in the official team announcement, the likes of Jasper Wiese, Siya Kolisi, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Dan du Preez, Franco Mostert and Nicolaas Janse van Rensburg can also play in a couple of positions. Four of the seven props also have some experience of playing on the ‘other side’.

“It’s good to have players with versatility and guys like the Du Preez twins and Pieter-Steph are also good lineout forwards. Rynhardt Elstadt can assist at No.4 as well. The Du Preez twins especially have a lot of versatility and can feature in the lineout as both locks and loose forwards. It’s been good to see them take their games to another level with Sale.

“They are quality rugby players, very physical, good lineout forwards and ball-carriers. They can both give and stop momentum. In Europe they have been playing against quality internationals week in and week out. They get involved in battles, they have high work-rate and it’s fantastic to see them step up. We are looking forward to having them here,” Davids said from Bloemfontein.

While some critics have suggested captain Kolisi is not playing well enough at the moment to be a first-choice loose forward, notwithstanding that the omission of the inspirational skipper would really set the cat amongst the pigeons, Davids said the Springbok management have been monitoring the Sharks star that will turn 30 on Youth Day (Wednesday) since his return from injury and they are happy with his progress.

“We have been in communication with Siya and the rest of the players for a while about the fundamentals and technical aspects of their performance. Siya is definitely coming back, there has clearly been an improvement with the way he plays with the ball and especially off the ball. It was fantastic to have him at training today with his experience and just the way he is continually going. He is a core part of the whole pack.

“The camp started with a lot of energy and excitement last week and it’s been a while since we’ve been together for on-field sessions. We now the opportunity to implement the stuff we have spoken about a lot in the alignment camps. Last week went very well and today there was a big focus on our exit plays, then we will do attacking plays and Thursday will be a lot of defence,” Davids said.

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