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Ken Borland

Thanks to Lions pipeline, Potsane contemplates world cup after discovery seven years ago 0

Posted on February 06, 2024 by Ken

Seven years ago Sipho Potsane was your typical Alexandra township 10-year-old, crazy about soccer. Now 17 years old, he is contemplating playing in the U19 Cricket World Cup, which will be hosted in South Africa, starting in January.

The dramatic transformation in Potsane’s life is a testament to the work of the Central Gauteng Lions union’s pipeline; their work is not just about ensuring the DP World Lions men’s and women’s teams remain amongst the strongest in the country, but also about making sure that success is sustainable by growing the game at grassroots.

It is something CEO Jono Leaf-Wright is passionate about and he is not the sort of leader who limits his role to shuffling papers and editing spreadsheets in his Wanderers office; he is out there getting his hands dirty and there is a sense of urgency when it comes to his efforts to uplift all the people who the great game of cricket touches in Gauteng.

Potsane is an up-and-coming left-arm spinner and Leaf-Wright, who has a Level III coaching qualification, remembers their first meeting well.

“At 10 years old, Sipho was a big soccer boy and he had no clue about cricket. But we saw when we brought cricket to his school that he could throw, catch and hit the ball. After a lot of nutritional work and extra coaching, he was given a bursary to Jeppe and is now playing for the SA U19s and has been named in the squad for their World Cup.

“He was a talent we discovered in Grade V and we and the other parties involved embarked on a journey then to make sure that he succeeded in making the best of that talent.

“Cricket is not being played much any more in township schools, but the Lions pipeline reintroduced them to the game. It’s a real challenge though because they don’t have fields, so they are playing cricket in corridors and car parks.

“Sipho’s wonderful story shows how our pipeline can get kids playing cricket at a higher level. And that pipeline is only going to get stronger thanks to the new pipeline sub-committee of the Central Gauteng Board that has been created by our new president, Dr Mohammed Moosajee, who was the Proteas manager for so long,” Leaf-Wright said.

Karabo Meso is a player who has already announced herself at a Junior World Cup, being named in the ICC’s team of the tournament after the T20 event also hosted by South Africa in Benoni and Potchefstroom in January 2023.

The wicketkeeper/batter was a resident of Rockville in Soweto when she was introduced to the game through the KFC Mini-Cricket programme and it was not long at all before the Central Gauteng Lions spotted her talent. She was playing for the DP World Lions senior provincial team before her teens.

Meso was one of three players included in the girls SA U19 squad that came from a Gauteng township, the others being captain Oluhle Siyo and Refilwe Moncho of Soweto Pioneers.

“It all starts at grassroots and we are grateful for the support from our partners,” Reuben Mandlazi, the Lions Amateur Cricket Manager, says. “There are 124 schools in Gauteng that play cricket, 94 of them are high schools. And the Lions have 26 teams at various national weeks this year.

“Infrastructure is what distinguishes a lot of these schools though, that’s the great challenge. It’s something township schools don’t have. We at the Lions ensure that we create an environment that enables us to spread the game. We make sure the children are well-transported, kitted and coached.

“A strong Lions means a strong Proteas and if we don’t have strong schools programmes then that will impact that. We ensure that we have sustainable programmes that feed into making us a world-class brand,” Mandlazi said.

Words alone will of course not accelerate the development of all the talent in the province, neither will one-off, showy gestures for good PR. Fortunately, those accusations can never be levelled at the Central Gauteng Lions union. Their success at age-group level and their thriving club leagues make sure of that.

“We need to bridge the gap between U19s and the Lions teams, not everyone can be like Kagiso Rabada or Quinton de Kock and just make a straight jump to senior level,” Mandlazi says.

“The players are all on their own journey and we have to ensure there is a platform for them. We have the strongest club leagues in South Africa, that is one of the most important things, and our Macrocomm, Enza and Black Widow leagues are that platform for the players.”

That the Central Gauteng Lions boast a premier pipeline is borne out by their results in the various national weeks in December. Lions Cricket were the champions in both the U16 Girls and the U19 Boys weeks, while they finished third in the U16 Boys and U19 Girls tournaments.

As champions of the Khaya Majola Week in Makhanda (Grahamstown), the Lions also dominated selection for the SA Schools side with three players in Richard Seletswane, Kwena Maphaka and Esosa Aihevba.

Luke Francis and Potsane were named in the SA Colts team.

In the U19 girls week, Meso made the SA Schools side, not only making the opposition chase leather in the field, but her wicketkeeping was also of the finest quality.

Which epitomises the Central Gauteng Lions pipeline, ensuring durable success for the Pride of Jozi.

The car’s most definitely back on the road for the Sharks 0

Posted on July 17, 2023 by Ken

If we think of the Sharks team as being a motor vehicle then the car’s most definitely back on the road and starting to gain speed in the fast lane, following their 37-10 victory over the Lions in their United Rugby Championship derby at Kings Park.

That’s not to say the Sharks did not have spluttering moments. They raced into an early 12-0 lead but then did not score another point in nearly half-an-hour, as the Lions were only down 10-15 as the hour-mark loomed. But the home team then put their foot down in the final quarter and roared away to a five-try, bonus point victory.

Sevens legend Frankie Horne once said that Neil Powell took the Blitzboks car for performance enhancements after previous national coach Paul Treu built the car, and Powell seems to be having a similar effect as director of rugby at the Sharks. They have now won four matches in a row since he took over the head coaching duties, and they played some great rugby against the Lions, their ball-retention and direct attacking style being superb at times.

“We’re obviously always pushing for the perfect game and we had glimpses this evening, but unfortunately we couldn’t keep it up for 80 minutes,” Powell said after the win which lifted the Sharks to sixth on the URC log, but with at least one game in hand over all the teams above them.

“The first 15-20 minutes were exhilarating, but then a couple of soft moments let the Lions back in. Once you give away momentum, it’s difficult to get back.

“But it was another step in the right direction and we know where we can improve. But it’s been great to see the improvement over the last four games, especially the effort in defence.

“At times we were really good, we definitely respected the ball a lot more and asked questions of the opposition defence. Getting through phases was definitely one of our work-ons,” Powell said.

The things Powell said the Sharks could improve on were the stupid mistakes just as they had seized control of the match and being even more patient on attack.

“There were three individual errors after we went 12-0 up and at times the players went out of the structure,” Powell said.

“We can also be a lot more patient on attack inside the 22, it feels as if we’re almost rushing ourselves.

“But we managed the game well in general and only conceded one try. We’re starting to believe that we can be successful in the URC and the EPCR,” Powell said.

Maketa not laying out red carpets for anyone, but says Bavuma is key 0

Posted on May 09, 2023 by Ken

Proteas interim coach Malibongwe Maketa has stressed that he will not be laying out red carpets for anyone when it comes to selecting the team for the first Test against Australia in Brisbane, starting in the early hours of Saturday morning SA time, but he sees Temba Bavuma as being one of the key batsmen.

Bavuma has endured a rather wretched 2022, injury keeping him out of the Tests in England and then his travails as Proteas T20 captain being well-documented. He did not play any domestic four-day cricket before arriving in Australia, and did not bat in the first innings of the warm-up match against a Cricket Australia XI due to a reoccurrence of elbow problems. But the vice-captain did bat in the second innings and compiled 28 off 92 balls.

“I’m not here to protect anyone and we will make decisions that are best for the team,” Maketa said on Wednesday. “If we have to knuckle down and play with just six batsmen because the pitch will be tough to get 20 wickets on, then we will do that.

“If there’s a lot of grass and the pitch really assists the bowlers, then we will need the extra batsman to give us that magical 400/450. But we have to trust the top-order to get those runs.

“I’m very happy with how Temba is batting. It was nice for him to get in in the second innings, but he has also done a lot of batting volume in the nets since we got here and I am very happy with his progress.

“He hit the ball really nicely in the warm-up game and at practice today at the Gabba, he looked one of our best batsmen. Where he’s at mentally, smiling and confident, bodes well for him being one of our best batsmen going into the series,” Maketa said.

South Africa have the bowling attack to be ruthless, and one Australian batsman who seems to have an ever-tightening oesophagus at the moment is opener David Warner, given how he was the central figure in Australia’s capitulation in their previous Test series against the Proteas and his mediocre recent form, averaging just 23 in nine Tests this year. The events of 2018 seem to be haunting him the most at present.

“What happened in that previous series has not dragged on for us and neither are we focused on what’s happening in the other camp,” Maketa said.

“Our focus is on how to get Warner out, let the ball do the talking and we have got our basic plans. He always brings energy to our contests and I think this series will be no different.

“We’re looking forward to the challenge. There’s no talk about sledging, but we will bring a lot of aggression like we usually do,” Maketa said.

Down to serious business now for the Proteas 0

Posted on May 02, 2023 by Ken

The Proteas effectively acclimatised to local conditions in their warm-up match against the Cricket Australia XI in Brisbane, and now it is down to the serious business of completing preparations for the first Test against Australia, starting at the Gabba in the early hours of Saturday morning.

Test series against Australia are always intense and among the most demanding examinations South African cricketers face. And it is seldom just a test of batting or bowling skills, the Australians pride themselves on playing mental games and there is as much off-field pressure as there is in the middle. It was Australia who lost the plot though in the last Test series between these two great rivals, the Sandpapergate affair marring the 2018 rubber in South Africa.

With so much to deal with on and off the field, no Protea will want to go into the series with any question marks over their preparation. Which is why it was most heartening to see captain Dean Elgar lead from the front with a century in the warm-up match, and Kyle Verreynne, Rassie van der Dussen and Theunis de Bruyn get good scores with the bat, while Temba Bavuma spent extended, much-needed time at the crease. With the ball, Lungi Ngidi and Kagiso Rabada looked particularly sharp.

Meanwhile, the West Indians have provided poor preparation for the Australians, being hammered by 164 and 419 runs in the two Tests.

The South African attack will provide a much bigger test for the greedy Aussie batsmen, while the Proteas batsmen will certainly show more fight.

Scoring first-innings totals of 598 for four declared and 511 for seven declared will certainly have provided much confidence though for the home batsmen, led by South African-born Marnus Labuschagne, who had scores of 204, 104 not out, 163 and 31 in the series.

Steven Smith, who stood in as captain for the injured Pat Cummins in the second Test, made an unbeaten double-hundred in the first game, while Travis Head had scores of 99 and 175.

For the cricket aficionado, Australia versus South Africa is always a mouthwatering prospect. Stand by for those all-nighters over the next three weeks.

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