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Ken Borland

Koekemoer determined but Lions strike telling blows late in the day 0

Posted on December 20, 2023 by Ken

Tian Koekemoer watchful in defence

A grimly determined Tian Koekemoer batted through most of the opening day of the CSA 4-Day Domestic Series match for the KZN Inland Tuskers against the Central Gauteng Lions at the Wanderers on Wednesday, before the home side landed some telling blows late in the day to be the happier of the two teams at stumps.

Having won the toss and elected to bat first, KZN Inland closed on 252 for six, but they were 208 for three going into the final hour.

But a fired up Duanne Olivier, operating with the second new ball, had Kagiso Rapulana (24) caught splicing a hook to square-leg, and in his next over, he had Koekemoer caught behind for 90.

You could tell the left-handed Koekemoer, who had produced more than six hours of defiance, was unsettled by the fast bowler switching from over the wicket to around and then back to over again in quick succession, and the 29-year-old just sparred at a delivery that was angled across him and was caught behind. It was a fine innings though by the former Eastern Province player, who faced 265 balls and hit 10 compact boundaries.

With Tshepo Moreki then having Thamsanqa Khumalo caught behind for a duck, the pressure was all on the Tuskers in the closing overs, but Cameron Shekleton (15*) and Malcolm Nofal (11*) collected a couple of boundaries each as they took the visitors to stumps without further loss.

Koekemoer honed his game as part of the highly successful Pretoria University side under Pierre de Bruyn, playing alongside Aiden Markram, Heinrich Klaasen, Lungi Ngidi and Theunis de Bruyn. He joined forces on Wednesday with a man from Kimberley who came through the Free State Schools system – Michael Erlank.

The St Andrew’s Bloemfontein product scored a century against North-West in nearby Potchefstroom previously this season, and Erlank looked bound for three figures again as he batted with great tenacity, but with lovely drives through the covers and shots off his legs too, to reach 79. So when he slapped a short-and-wide delivery from Malusi Siboto straight to backward point, he would have tore his hair out if he wasn’t wearing a helmet.

The Lions started well with the ball, reducing the Tuskers to 22 for two in the first hour of play.

Josh Richards should have had the acclamation of a large Wanderers crowd ringing in his ears when he dived full-length in the gully to snap up Yaseen Valli (1) off Olivier’s second over of the day.

Ben Compton (9) then misread the aerodynamics of Moreki’s second delivery of the match and was trapped lbw.

Moreki finished the day with two for 64 in 18 overs, but the pick of the Lions attack was Olivier, who ran in like the wind and claimed three for 39 in 19 tight overs that included seven maidens.

Lions CEO Leaf-Wright provides an education in leadership 4

Posted on July 10, 2023 by Ken

Central Gauteng Lions CEO Jono Leaf-Wright is usually the first to arrive and the last to leave the DP World Wanderers Stadium.

The finals of the Diadora Jozi Cup over the Youth Day long weekend drew the curtain on another jampacked, successful season at the DP World Wanderers Stadium, all overseen by CEO Jono Leaf-Wright, who continues to provide an education in leadership through his passion for Lions Cricket.

Just as the Diadora Jozi Cup brought together over 1800 players in 110 teams in a phenomenal competition for clubs, so too has Leaf-Wright united the talents of his staff and players as the union continues to lead the way in South African domestic cricket.

A good leader plays a pivotal role in setting the climate and reputation of their organisation, as well as affecting the attitude of its members. Leaf-Wright has been able to surround himself with good people in an empathetic environment that values integrity and does not waver when it comes to quality.

“Jono has such respect for individuals, it doesn’t matter who you are, he makes you feel amazing. He has time, compassion and appreciates everyone who works at Lions cricket and beyond, irrespective of your role in the ranks,” Chief Financial Officer Brecht Mohonathan says.

“He has resilience, he deals with difficult people and problems daily, but he doesn’t give up, he bounces back and manages to look at the bigger picture. It’s a refreshing new style of leadership at Lions Cricket, one that was needed.

“Jono brings the organisation together – all teams work together, towards a common goal. All ideas are considered, he has an open-door policy and never professes to know it all. Everyone feels included,” Mohonathan says.

Busi Radebe, an Independent Director of the Central Gauteng Lions, has been highly-impressed by the CEO’s influence at Board level.

“Working with Jono leaves me in awe all the time. He has amazing leadership ability and is a visionary and innovator of note. His committed focus on community, family, transformation and empowerment is always evident in all the events and was clearly visible throughout the Diadora Jozi Cup Finals.

“Jono’s leadership and passion seem to have permeated his entire Lions team. It has also been interesting for me to see the values of Central Gauteng Lions Cricket (PRIDE)  come to life in all that they do no matter how small. The Passion, Reliability, Inclusion and Innovation, Dedication, Excellence and Enjoyment that they exude in their delivery cannot be missed,” Radebe says.

Great leaders are also visionaries and one of Leaf-Wright’s strongest attributes is his ability to make other people believe in his vision. It’s also a lot easier to believe in someone when they lead from the front in terms of effort and dedication. Like so many of his DP World Lions players who put in hours of extra training at the nets, the 40-year-old Leaf-Wright is always willing to go the extra mile.

The CEO stayed at this year’s Lions awards evening at the Wanderers Club almost till the bitter end – carriages were preparing to turn into pumpkins – but the next day (a Sunday) he was up bright and early like on any work day and off to see as many of the 27 venues being used for the Jozi Cup as he could.

“Jono is a very hands-on CEO who constantly leads by example, he is often found on the ground welcoming people and making them feel comfortable. His compassion and respect for players, the spectators and cricket is truly rare and is appreciated by all,” 2022 DP World Lions Ladies Players’ Player of the Season Jameelah Shaikjee says.

“Because of his professionalism and perseverance, Jono pushes through despite late nights, early mornings and weekends. It’s thanks to his passion for the game and the people that he has this dedication – he leaves home early and gets back late every single day,” Mohonathan points out.

“Jono always shows such diligence – he does things properly and makes sure things are done properly. He also shows doggedness when he stands up for people, he doesn’t cave in, he’s courageous and meets challenges head-on. Jono just has that drive so he keeps pushing through in order to make sure it all gets done.”

Leaf-Wright speaks often about how important a balanced life is; despite the many times he no doubt wanted to spend more time with his wife, nine-year-old son and four-year-old daughter, he also is keenly aware that other families are depending on him to ensure Lions Cricket is economically thriving.

And his Midas Touch has been evident on the books with the union enjoying a financial turnaround despite the ravages of Covid. When Leaf-Wright took over, they were declaring losses of R12-14 million in consecutive years. In May 2022, after the redesign of the stadium and the implementation of his vision and business plan, Lions Cricket declared a nett profit for the 2021/2022 financial year for the first time since 2017, and it is set to declare another nett profit after this current 2022/2023 financial year.

A successful businessman and entrepreneur in his own right, Leaf-Wright always wanted, however, to be involved in elite cricket and he has worked his way up from carrying drinks and cleaning shoes as a changeroom attendant at the self-same DP World Wanderers Stadium.

Leaf-Wright coached at every level of grassroots cricket and has a CSA Level Three Coaching Qualification, has been a national U19 talent scout for 11 years and coached the Lions U19 team for 11 years as well. He was the manager of the Jozi Stars in the Mzansi Super League and spent time with the Royal Challengers Bangalore from 2009 to 2011 assisting the IPL side.

Under Leaf-Wright’s watch, Lions Cricket have won over 10 trophies since the 2019/2020 season when he took over as CEO at the back end of 2019.

In his business endeavours, Leaf-Wright has shown himself to be a disruptor, not always sticking to the norms and traditions, but trying things. But he has always wanted to do things for the right reason – to serve his organisation. He has said that the biggest part of leadership is the care factor for other people.

The all-round sports fan is on a journey that is not his own, the colleagues that travel with him are just as important.

“Jono is an incredible leader with great people skills. It doesn’t matter which walk of life you are from, he will make you feel welcome and special and go out of his way for you. His vibrant positive energy is infectious. He’s an out-of-the-box thinker, always looking for ideas to make things better and improve situations,” Reeza Hendricks, DP World Lions stalwart and Proteas white-ball star, says.

Leaf-Wright understands that he cannot do his job alone, that would be a very lonely task. Instead, he empowers the people around him to help achieve their common goals and the big dreams they have for Lions Cricket.

It is an approach that has certainly impressed the Lions’ chief sponsors, DP World.

“Jono has been integral to the ongoing success, strategic direction and innovation of the DP World Lions family and DP World Wanderers Stadium,” says Esha Mansingh, the Executive Head: Corporate Affairs and Sustainability sub-Saharan Africa at DP World.

“As a key partner to the stadium, we are proud of the immense growth of Lions cricket over the past few years, extending its footprint and impact both on and off the field, driven by Jono’s exceptional vision, passion and support of both professional and community cricket. Jono always ensures that the requirements of Lions Cricket’s partners, such as ourselves at DP World, are accommodated and that we work together towards a common goal that not only drives results but also supports our teams and communities,” Mansingh says.

Throughout his tenure, Leaf-Wright and his team have managed to attract multiple proud partners and built solid, genuine and mutually beneficial relationships with global brands such as McDonalds and Coca-Cola as well as many other brands just as impressive in the likes of Telkom, ENZA Construction, Sun International, Fidelity ADT, Masana Fuels and too many more to mention.

Lions Cricket is on a good wicket, enjoying their purple patch and clearly have no intention of stopping any time soon.

Bulls & Stormers can drive buses through opposition defences, but tight derby expected between them 0

Posted on June 13, 2023 by Ken

There have been United Rugby Championship games where both the Bulls and Stormers have been able to drive buses through the opposition defence, but when last season’s finalists meet in a massive derby in Cape Town on Friday night, a tight spectacle is expected by the visitors.

Both teams were amongst the leading try-scorers last season and have thrived on counter-attack, with exciting back threes carrying the ball back to great effect. But Bulls fullback Wandisile Simelane said on Tuesday that he expects swarming defence to be a key feature of Friday’s humdinger.

“Any South African derby is always going to be difficult because we really study each other well,” Simelane said. “Games like these are great to be part of and it’s where you test yourself.

“I assume it’s going to be a tight match, a momentum game and putting points on the board will be crucial. I expect the defences to rush up on the faster guys, but opportunities will still come.

“If we don’t get five or six chances like usual, then there will be one or two and we have to make sure we make them really count. It’s about how well we execute in those one or two moments.

“Momentum will be very vital, we can’t throw the ball away, keeping it for a few more phases will be very beneficial. We mustn’t throw 50/50 miracle passes,” Simelane said.

While the romantics would love the match to be decided by a Simelane sidestep or a piece of Manie Libbok magic, the reality is it is the forwards who will have the key roles; from the tremendous platform laid by evergreen Stormers props Frans Malherbe and Steven Kitshoff, to the bruising gainline presence of Elrigh Louw and Marco van Staden that can leave opponents purple and pink.

Some big oaks have departed the Bulls kraal, but the shrubs that are coming up in their place show great promise. In the white-heat of battle, the 24-year-old Simelane knows being able to control and manage the contest will be crucial.

“Hopefully we will be calm enough to control the game and our game-managers can put us in the right positions. We love having ball-in-hand on attack, using our natural instincts, but there is a thin line between relying on natural instinct and building pressure through being more conservative,” Simelane said.

To finish the season with smiles on faces compared to how SA cricket was feeling in December was a tremendous achievement 0

Posted on April 12, 2023 by Ken

Compared to how South African cricket was feeling midway through the season – at the end of December 2022- to finish the summer with the smiles back on everyone’s faces and a general sense of excitement about the game in this country was a tremendous achievement by all involved.

Last year ended with the Proteas going to Australia and being put to the sword in humiliating fashion: bowled out for just 152 and 99 in the first Test in Brisbane, then thrashed by an innings and 182 runs in Melbourne. They needed the help of the weather to avoid defeat after they were forced to follow-on in the third Test in Sydney, but perhaps the first signs of renewal, the first tiny green shoots, became visible then as they did at least only lose six wickets on the final day as the batsmen discovered some defiance.

The Proteas had been in Australia in November as well, for the T20 World Cup, and a promising campaign looked set to deliver them into the semi-finals until they totally failed to pitch for their decisive game against minnows Netherlands and lost, eliminating them from the playoffs in embarrassing fashion.

The lack of form of captain Temba Bavuma caused great bother, but the sometimes ugly vitriol hurled at him was just plain ugly.

The performances of the national team cast a spotlight on the domestic game, the pipeline for the Proteas, and the inescapable conclusion that it is probably not fit to be called high performance. The quality of South African batsmanship was particularly worrying.

There were the controversies over fitness tests which, more often than not, seemed to make our teams weaker rather than better.

The Social Justice and Nation-Building fiasco thankfully came to an end in 2022, but there was still a bitter taste in many cricket-lovers’ mouths as Cricket South Africa’s inquest into alleged racist behaviour by Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher fell apart.

CSA also spent much of 2022 trying to remedy their poor financial situation, which saw them make a R200 million loss in the previous year. The search for sponsors and trying to play more international cricket (especially Tests) in a jam-packed schedule with constrained coffers were only adding to the strain.

The financial battle is ongoing for CSA, but the improved performances of the Proteas, the better image enjoyed by the board and administrators and, crucially, the tremendous success of the SA20 tournament provides hope that those coffers will be enjoying more inflow in the near future.

The Proteas are very much the shop window for CSA and the appointments of Shukri Conrad and Rob Walter as dual national coaches has certainly worked in the short-term. While both coaches will be pleased with how their tenures have started, they have both stressed that South African cricket is on a journey and there will still be many obstacles ahead to overcome.

It is not exaggerating to say that journey probably began when CSA stopped trying to chase Graeme Smith away and instead gave him control of the SA20, the former national captain and director of cricket turning the tournament into an unmitigated success.

“We must not underestimate the impact the SA20 had,” Walter said when asked how he felt the turnaround had happened. “With all the crowds and the quality cricket being played, there was definitely momentum coming out of that. The Proteas jumped on the wave and played really well.

“We have played some nice cricket but that does not mean we’re at our best yet, which is exciting. It’s a process in which a lot of people are involved. We’re trying to create a platform from which we can play, this team is still young, but it’s nice to see the positive signs. I kept a close eye on South African cricket while I was in New Zealand, and one thing that really rings true is that the playing resources are very significant,” Walter said.

The change in mood has not just been seen at the macro level of the team and the organisation though; individuals such as Bavuma, Aiden Markram, Sisanda Magala and Heinrich Klaasen have turned their summers around in remarkable fashion.

Bavuma shoved aside his injury problems and loss of form, as well as the rabid critics clamouring for his head, to enjoy a triumphant end to the season, making career-best centuries in both Tests and ODIs. Taking T20s off Bavuma’s plate, but giving him the Test captaincy taken from Dean Elgar, would have been a tough call for Walter and Conrad to make, but it has been shown to be the correct move.

Magala’s season began with CSA banning him from playing for the Central Gauteng Lions because he failed a fitness test; he ended it with a five-wicket haul at the Wanderers as the Proteas beat the Netherlands 2-0 in their ODI series to keep alive their hopes of automatic qualification for the World Cup later this year. From being ruled unfit to play by CSA, Magala attracted buyers from T20 leagues all over the world and is now playing for the Chennai Super Kings in the IPL.

Markram was unequivocally backed by Conrad and Walter in all three formats and had blossomed into the player we all knew he could be by the end of the season. So too Klaasen, in and out of the team previously, had become a first-choice player in white-ball cricket.

The Proteas Women’s team also deserve credit for their major role in the turnaround, reaching the final of the T20 World Cup hosted by South Africa and given a wonderful reception.

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    Mark 7:8 – “You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to the traditions of men.”

    Our foundation must be absolute surrender, devotion and obedience to God, rising from pure love for him. Jesus Christ must be central in all things and his will must take precedence over the will of people, regardless of how well-meaning they may be.

    Surrender yourself unconditionally to the guidance of the Holy Spirit, then you will be able to identify what is of man with the wisdom of the Holy Spirit. Then you will be able to serve – in love! – according to God’s will.

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