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Ken Borland



Highs & lows of 2022: The shock wins & humiliating defeats 0

Posted on August 29, 2023 by Ken

Highs

  • The Bulls pulling off a shock victory over Leinster in the 2021/22 United Rugby Championship semi-final in Dublin, overcoming the daunting challenge against the giants of European rugby, laden with Irish internationals. The Bulls produced an inspired performance to stun the juggernauts 27-26, ensuring Leinster went trophyless for the first time since 2017. It was a mighty display of physicality and fierce defensive effort.
  • The Proteas sealing a memorable series win over India, their superb pace attack revelling at home and their batsmen showing impressive toughness against a feisty bowling line-up. Despite their greatness as a cricketing nation, India have never won a Test series in South Africa, and the Proteas had to win the last two Tests to maintain that record. It was an exceptional achievement against the powerhouse Indian team, especially since South Africa produced two top-class fourth-innings chases to secure the thrilling win.
  • The South African men’s hockey team had to deal with many frustrations in 2022, as usual, so roaring to victory in the FIH Nations Cup in Potchefstroom, despite the resignation of coach Garreth Ewing on the eve of the tournament, was a remarkable effort. Victory over Ireland in the final meant South Africa grabbed the single qualification spot for the 2023/24 FIH Pro League, where they will compete on a regular basis with top teams like Australia, Belgium, the Netherlands and India. One can only praise interim coach Cheslin Gie and his charges.

Lows

  • South Africa have kissed many toads when it comes to cricket world cups but this year’s defeat to minnows the Netherlands and subsequent exit from the T20 World Cup at the group stage might be the worst blow-out of them all. Despite a washout against Zimbabwe, everything was going swimmingly as the Proteas needed to win just one of their last two matches, against Pakistan and the Netherlands, to reach the semi-finals. A desperate Pakistan side put up a stout effort to beat South Africa by 33 runs, but the Proteas looked astonishingly short of energy in the crunch match against the Dutch. A lacklustre bowling effort was followed by a miserable batting performance as they limped to 145 for eight and a humiliating defeat.
  • The sheer greed exposed by the breakaway LIV Golf Tour. One would think the world’s leading golfers have enough fancy motor cars, luxurious villas and lavish luxury goods, but apparently not.
  • Springbok coach Jacques Nienaber’s decision to not use the services of his first-choice team for the Rugby Championship Test against New Zealand at Ellis Park. After South Africa’s magnificent victory in Nelspruit (one of the highlights of the year), the All Blacks were hanging by a prayer, their coach Ian Foster and their captain Sam Cane being on the verge of being axed one year out from the World Cup. But instead of ruthlessly finishing off the job against their old rivals the following weekend, Nienaber took the foot off their neck by leaving key players on the bench at Ellis Park, resulting in an impressive 35-23 triumph for New Zealand, on their way to winning the tournament.

Proteas back in Australia – this time in white clothing 0

Posted on April 24, 2023 by Ken

The Proteas are back in Australia, but this time they will be in white clothing as they prepare for their crucial three-Test series, their shock exit from the T20 World Cup a month ago in Adelaide put behind them, according to interim head coach Malibongwe Maketa.

Seven of the crestfallen T20 squad are also in the Test group, including players such as Temba Bavuma and Kagiso Rabada, who had poor World Cups, and a player like Marco Jansen who did not get to play a game.

“It’s a totally different format and we made sure the T20 players had a longer break both mentally and physically,” Maketa said in Brisbane on Tuesday.

“The players who were here during the World Cup have been able to contribute in terms of conditions and I have challenged them to bring energy to the team.

“In terms of their mental space, the turnaround has happened sooner than expected, so that is really positive. And some guys are coming off good performances at home.

“We have one warm-up game and it’s important for us, we will get all the batsmen to have a chance and monitor our bowlers. It’s crucial for us to get exposed to the pitches,” Maketa said.

The Proteas have already been tested with questions about the acrimonious previous Test series between the two teams – the Sandpapergate Tests of 2017/18 – with the Australian media hoping someone will put their foot in their mouth, but the South Africans have so far brushed off the controversy as something in the past.

“It’s most definitely not an issue for this group. There were only a handful of us involved and it changed people’s careers because it was an unfortunate incident. But that was way back then,” Maketa said.

The 42-year-old, seasoned coach also seems to have been wearing his drill sergeant cap since the Proteas arrived in Australia.

“It’s important as a coach to remember that the only way I can affect the game is through preparation. I know some of the guys are not liking me at the moment because I have put them through some really hard sessions.

“But when the Test starts, I hand over to Dean Elgar and the players. Then it’s about how we support them as coaching staff, constantly thinking how we can turn things around or stay ahead in the game.

“We give that info to the players and it’s down to them. We must never get in the way of the players, we have to trust the work we’ve done and ensure the environment is conducive for them to perform,” Maketa said.

Rabada worn out at T20 World Cup, but looks forward to knocking over Aussie batsmen 0

Posted on March 14, 2023 by Ken

Kagiso Rabada has admitted to feeling worn out at the T20 World Cup, but the Proteas pace spearhead is excited about knocking over a few Australian batsmen in the Test series that is set to begin in Brisbane on December 17.

Rabada ended October by producing an intense, pressure-building bowling spell, as well as two superbly athletic outfield catches, in the impressive T20 World Cup win over India, but he was then flat and ineffective against Pakistan and the Netherlands as South Africa made a shock exit from the tournament at the group stage.

The 27-year-old said that is why he decided to rest rather than play any four-day domestic cricket ahead of the crunch series back in Australia.

“I felt like I needed to rest, it’s been a long year,” Rabada said on the morning of the Proteas’ departure for Australia. “It is a concern the amount of cricket we are playing and it needs to be managed.

“You can feel the fatigue in the intensity of your play, it’s just not where you want it to be. It catches up with you and at international level you really want to be playing at high intensity.

“I’m not trying to make excuses, I wasn’t up to scratch at the World Cup and I did have a disappointing tournament. I didn’t feel like I had great energy. I tried my best but it felt like the harder I tried, nothing really came out.

“But I am excited about playing some cricket now, playing against quality opposition like Australia always seems to bring the best out of me and I have good memories of playing there,” Rabada said.

In the three Tests in Australia in 2016, Rabada took 15 wickets at an average of 22.40 and his overall record against them is outstanding – 38 wickets in seven matches at 20.50.

Rabada has had some famously fiery exchanges with the Australian batsmen, and some of the language thrown around then probably belongs in the Adult Classifieds, but as befits the leader of the South African attack, he says he will never back down.

“We will be tested over there and against them it always seems like we are going up against some sort of feud, that is always extremely apparent,” Rabada said.

“It’s always a good contest and,  as much as nerves and passion are incredibly important, sometimes you must just let it happen. It always seems to be a challenge against Australia.

“But I won’t back down to the challenge, if they want to come hard then I will stand up to it. That’s what competition is,” Rabada said firmly.

Proteas selectors not being helped by the players 0

Posted on February 28, 2023 by Ken

The poor old national selectors are not being helped by the players at the moment as they look to pick up the pieces following the Proteas’ humiliating T20 World Cup exit at the hands of the Netherlands, their next foes being arguably the meanest of the lot – Australia in Australia.

Even without the T20 turmoil and the nagging feeling that Test cricket – where South Africa are in strong contention to make the World Championship final – is being neglected more and more by the powers-that-be in this country, taking on the Aussies in their backyard over Christmas has always been the benchmark for the Proteas. Their victories there have been amongst the most memorable and impressive of their achievements.

I still believe the greatness of a cricketing nation is measured by their Test results, and seeing how the likes of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, Virat Kohli and Ravi Shastri prioritised making India the No.1 Test side in the world, or the hype around the Ashes, I am sure there are millions who agree with me.
For such a high-intensity series, selection is always going to be under the microscope by the fans, and the selection panel are certainly being given a hard time by the ‘cognoscenti’ for the composition of the 16-man squad that will leave on December 1.

Cricket being such a statistics-based game, there will always be runs and wickets with which to put forward one’s case, but it is very difficult to argue with miraculous acts. Ryan Rickelton, ruled out of the tour by the CSA medical committee due to an ankle condition they believe will need surgery some time soon, scored his second successive century for the Central Gauteng Lions on Friday, and then kept wicket, seemingly untroubled by an injury that has been described as “very serious”.
By not being willing to risk Rickelton, who would be back-up wicketkeeper to Kyle Verreynne, due to the time and distance required to replace him if his ankle does suddenly implode, the selectors have opened the door for Heinrich Klaasen to return to the squad. He celebrated by smashing an extraordinary 292 off just 240 balls against the Free State Knights.

But it his Titans team-mate Theunis de Bruyn whose return to the Test squad has raised even more eyebrows. His last Test was three years ago in India and his domestic form hasn’t exactly screamed ‘RECALL!’ since then – he has made just three centuries and one fifty in the last three seasons.

Perhaps De Bruyn owes his selection to two things: He is a specialist No.3 and the Proteas need someone to fill the gap left by the injured Keegan Petersen, and new interim coach Malibongwe Maketa has seen the 30-year-old at his best for the SA A team he has been coaching – De Bruyn averages 69.70 in 14 innings for the national second-stringers.

What Maketa won’t be seeing before they arrive in Australia though is Temba Bavuma, Kagiso Rabada and Anrich Nortje preparing for such an important tour for South Africa’s hopes of appearing in next year’s World Test Championship final.

Bavuma and Rabada have both declined to play for the Lions. Given that they were two of the most under-performing players in the T20 World Cup, one would think they could do with getting some confidence back by bossing matters at domestic level, especially Bavuma, whose morale is low and will be targeted by the Australian media.

Meanwhile Nortje is playing T10 cricket in Abu Dhabi, would you believe. There were other Proteas players who reluctantly donned their whites this week ahead of the vital Australia series.

It really is time that Cricket South Africa started to lay down the law with the Proteas who complain about not having enough red-ball cricket to hone their longer-form skills, but then would rather not play for their provinces when the opportunity presents itself.

They will now have one warm-up match in Australia to prepare themselves and will then no doubt be surprised when they begin the Test series in rusty fashion.

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