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Ken Borland

Boucher has no sorrow over difficult selection decisions ahead 0

Posted on September 19, 2022 by Ken

Despite now being faced with the toughest of selection conundrums, coach Mark Boucher feels no sorrow at all for the difficult decisions he will have to make ahead of the T20 World Cup following the Proteas adding a series win over Ireland to their heady triumph over England.

With Reeza Hendricks in rampant form at the top of the order, Aiden Markram continuing to be an explosive presence in the middle-order and Rilee Rossouw showing his class, it seems inevitable that one of stalwart Rassie van der Dussen, appointed captain Temba Bavuma or even a struggling Quinton de Kock will not be selected for the World Cup in Australia in October.

Wayne Parnell’s superb five-wicket haul in the last T20 against Ireland also complicates the all-rounder situation, where he, Dwaine Pretorius and Andile Phehlukwayo are probably competing for just two spots in a 15-man squad.

“As part of the selection panel, there are some tough choices to be made,” Boucher admitted after the 44-run win in Bristol on Friday night. “But it’s a good headache to have, especially with the World Cup around the corner.

“There’s great competition in the squad in quite a few different positions. We gave guys opportunities and they have come good. I like the brand of cricket they have played, it has been brave but smart.

“The guys coming back in have had fantastic attitudes and put in good performances, they’ve definitely added a different dimension. There’s not space for anyone to rest, guys keep challenging for selection and pushing the others to greater heights.

“It’s a very healthy place to be in for South African cricket. A year ago we would not have been having these discussions, so we have a lot more depth now,” Boucher said.

The coach said he was particularly impressed with what Hendricks has done, as he has basically reinvented himself as an aggressive opening batsman.

“Reeza has really come good, being Man of the Series twice in a row and scoring four successive fifties against very good opposition. We always knew he could play.

“But the way he has gone about it, his change in mindset to now being more aggressive, has really stood out. I know Justin Sammons [batting consultant] has done a lot of work with him.

“So credit to Justin, he’s been fantastic with the blueprints he has come up with and he’s had tremendous conversations with the players.

“As the coach, it’s up to me to come up with strategies – how we want to play in different conditions in Australia. The selection panel will then decide what characters they want to get that done,” Boucher said.

One of the toughest days for Bavuma as the Proteas’ mental preparation is rocked 0

Posted on December 06, 2021 by Ken

Proteas skipper Temba Bavuma described it as one of the toughest days he has had as a captain as the mental preparation of his team for the crucial T20 World Cup match against the West Indies in Dubai was rocked by the CSA Board’s directive that all players must take the knee in support of BLM and the subsequent withdrawal from the side of key batsman Quinton de Kock because he chose not to do so.

It took South Africa a good 10 overs to get their mental focus back on track, in which time Evin Lewis had given the West Indies a blazing start, but the Proteas deserve enormous credit for the clinical display they produced thereafter in winning by eight wickets with 10 balls to spare.

“It was one of the toughest days I’ve had as the captain, but I’m just ecstatic that we were able to get into the right frame of mind and play the way we did against a powerhouse West Indies team,” Bavuma said after the impressive victory.

“We should not take this win lightly and I’m just very glad that we’ve now got our campaign started. We knew our batting in particular needed to improve and the way we were so clinical with the bat was a big step in the right direction.

“The bowlers have been fantastic the last while and they again showed their skill and class, it was a good day in the field in the end. What happened with the directive and Quinny pulling out was not ideal, but they were the cards we were dealt as a team and it was good that the guys were able to represent the country as well as they did today,” Bavuma said.

While losing De Kock is a major blow – and it could well be for the rest of the tournament – Bavuma expressed the hope that the team, brought closer together by hardship, will grow more and more as a unit in their remaining group matches against Sri Lanka, Bangladesh and England.

“It’s going to be a tough couple of days for the group as we try and find out a bit better about the decisions that have been made, but we have to respect those whether we agree or not.

“Unfortunately the team still has to get the job done and it’s important to find a way to get into the right mental space. And the tournament is obviously only going to get tougher.

“So it’s important that we stay even more together as a team. Hopefully we can now create some momentum. But we need to focus on matters on the field.

“We will only lose energy as a team if we focus on things on the outside, and I would hope we are judged by how well we hit or bowl the ball and not by what causes we support or how we do it.

“We need to have our eyes on the ball,” Bavuma said.

‘This is not the end’ – Faf 0

Posted on May 05, 2020 by Ken

This last year has probably been the toughest in Faf du Plessis’ Proteas career but the 35-year-old revealed on Monday that he does not believe this is the end of his story as an international cricketer.

A year ago, Du Plessis was coming off the ignominy of leading South Africa to a Test series defeat to Sri Lanka at home, but looking forward to the World Cup with optimism. This hope was misplaced and the accursed tournament was an even bigger disaster than the ones that have gone before for the Proteas, and then Du Plessis was at the helm for a humiliating Test thrashing in India.

As if the on-field woes were not enough, Du Plessis then had to pick up the slack as the dysfunctional Cricket South Africa executive imploded just weeks before England arrived for the summer’s major tour. Having helped restore some stability along with Jacques Faul, Graeme Smith and Mark Boucher, Du Plessis then lost form with the bat, scoring just 195 runs in 11 innings in the Tests against England and three T20s versus Australia. This put pressure on his place in the underperforming team.

He relinquished the captaincy in February. And then Covid-19 struck, leaving him in Lockdown and the Indian Premier League, the lucrative annual jamboree of the world’s elite cricketers, cancelled. But all the troubles have at least focused Du Plessis’ mind.

“It was probably one of the toughest seasons I’ve ever had to face and it was not just about cricket. I felt that I had fought the good fight, I gave everything leading the Proteas, I went away to reflect and I felt it was the right time to stand down. There’s a new coaching staff, maybe they should start their journey with someone new and me stepping aside could fast-track that process.

“But I still believe I have a lot of value to add, I still love playing and being involved with the Proteas. I’m still extremely motivated to play in all three formats and at no stage did I think of signing overseas. The time away from the game has made sure that my hunger is still there and I really look forward to getting back to the Proteas. The time is right to help grow other leaders,” Du Plessis said.

The veteran of 36 Tests as captain said he is optimistic that the Proteas will now return to winning ways, although he warned the Test team is still in a growing phase.

“The India tour showed us the Test team was far behind, we weren’t scoring enough runs and we weren’t able to take 20 wickets, plus we didn’t have the skills to back up our performance. There are a lot of holes. It was obvious for me that you can’t replace all the playing experience we lost overnight, but I also felt there was a lack of experience in the coaching staff, which required a lot of energy from me.

“Enoch Nkwe did a great job in India but we needed to fill that lack of experience in the coaches because you can’t just get experienced players in. Some really good moves were made in the build-up to the England series and we are in a position to start producing again now. Our structures look sound and we have good heads in charge to grow the game. The series against Australia showed that we definitely have a lot of talent,” Du Plessis said.

The Chiefs are the champions; the Lions will join them in SuperRugby 0

Posted on November 07, 2016 by Ken


The Chiefs are the SuperRugby champions once again and the Lions will be joining them in the competition next year after the dramatic final weekend of action in the toughest tournament in rugby.

The Chiefs made up a 12-22 deficit in the final quarter to beat the Brumbies 27-22 in the final in Hamilton and the Waikato men are clearly deserved champions. The defence of a title is almost always harder than winning it in the first place and the Chiefs’ back-to-back crowns were achieved the hard way, by topping the log, beating the Crusaders and then changing the momentum of the final in dramatic fashion.

The Lions were beaten 23-18 by the Southern Kings in the second leg of the promotion/relegation clash at Ellis Park, but the seven-point winning margin they claimed in Port Elizabeth was enough for them to win the series on aggregate. The Kings also mounted a stirring comeback in the final quarter, taking advantage of the yellow card to centre Stokkies Hanekom to overturn the 9-18 deficit that seemed to have settled the relegation contest. But in the end they were just one score short of returning to a competition in which they achieved the most wins by a side in their first season.

The Lions were roared on by 50 000 fans on a chilly night in Johannesburg and one wonders where all the people came from, judging by how sparse the crowds have been at Ellis Park for the last couple of years. Hopefully they don’t disappear into the night as quickly as they came and they have a responsibility to match the support the Kings enjoyed in Port Elizabeth – their attendance average was the third best in the competition – when the Lions face another daunting SuperRugby challenge next year.

Perhaps the Lions’ union bosses should take a hint from the fact that the Kings were based at the modern, superb Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium. Would the Lions not attract more consistent support if they played at the FNB or even Orlando Stadium?

 The Kings, bringing tremendous passion and fiery commitment, as expected with their survival as a team hanging in the balance, dominated the opening exchanges and really squeezed the Lions with their kicking game. Scott van Breda also kicked two penalties to give the Kings a 6-0 lead.

The Lions were really struggling to get out of their own half, the Kings enjoying 83% territory in the opening quarter, and some outstanding defence was also suffocating them.

But the one thing the Lions did prove during their otherwise rather meaningless series of challenge matches was that they have a pack that is up to the rigours of SuperRugby.

A top-class scrum, anchored by loosehead prop and captain JC Janse van Rensburg, and a formidable rolling maul are valuable weapons and partly a result of having Johan Ackermann and Balie Swart on the coaching staff.

Using their scrum and also driving effectively off the lineout, the Lions enjoyed a resurgence in the last 10 minutes of the first half, Elton Jantjies kicking a penalty and Derick Minnie being driven over the tryline, and they took a firm grip on the game after half-time.

The Kings scrum could probably be heard creaking in the nicely-paved plaza outside the stadium and Jantjies was able to give the Lions an 11-9 lead early in the second half after loosehead Schalk Ferreira had been penalised for losing his bind.

Flank Jaco Kriel then surged over for a try that was converted by Jantjies (18-9), enjoying the acres of space that a Kings defence that was far too bunched afforded him out wide.

The seven-point deficit from the first game meant that the Kings had to score 17 points in the last 20 minutes to avoid relegation and the Lions ensured that they had a sniff by making some crucial mistakes.

Jantjies missed an easy penalty after a powerful scrum had turned over possession and wings Chrysander Botha and Anthonie Volmink counter-attacked superbly – the Springbok flyhalf was poor with the boot in general – and Hanekom was yellow-carded for a dangerous tackle. The decision was fair according to the letter of the law because he lifted an opposition player and then just dropped him.

The response by the Kings was immediate as they kicked the Hanekom penalty to touch and set the rolling maul, which was defended well by the Lions. After a couple of pick-and-goes by the forwards and a sniping run by scrumhalf Shaun Venter that was stopped just short of the line, Ferreira, with Engelbrecht behind him, charged through replacement scrumhalf Guy Cronje to score.

Wing Van Breda, who was impressive with the boot as he came in for the injured Demetri Catrakilis, converted and then scored the Kings’ second try with just six minutes remaining.

The Lions were in possession deep inside the Kings’ half but Kriel was stripped of the ball by the abrasive Jacques Engelbrecht. The focus of the Lions flank seemed to be on equipment failure, however, as Kriel was fiddling with his headgear, which seemed to be slipping down the forehead, just before he went into contact.

The ball was quickly shipped to the backline by the Kings and Shane Gates, the replacement centre, made a searing break down the middle of the field. From there the Kings just needed to draw-and-pass and Van Breda was over in the corner.

The tricky conversion was nailed and the Kings, 23-18 ahead, needed just one more score to deny promotion for the Lions.

By now the crowd was frantic and George Whitehead must have felt like he was the epicentre of all that pressure as he failed to kick a penalty to touch that would have given the Kings a prime opportunity to attack inside the Lions’ half.

The future of rugby in the Eastern Cape is now once again in doubt. This Kings team, the most determined of new boys on the block, will be dismantled with director of rugby Alan Solomons already heading to Edinburgh and most of their better players already linked to the likes of the Bulls.

It is obviously not ideal for South African rugby to have one of their biggest areas not represented by a professional team, never mind that the Eastern Cape is the historical home of black rugby.

The future of the Lions is not exactly rosy either. The quality of their play suggests they will themselves be involved in the rigours of avoiding relegation next year, unless they are able to substantially bolster their squad, reserve depth being vital as well in such a gruelling tournament.

But how are they going to be able to attract players to Ellis Park with the guarantee of just one year of SuperRugby? Providing they can put aside the whole arch-rivals tag that led to some spicy, niggly moments in the first half of the match, several of the Kings players might well be moving to the Lions in the next few months.

But in the meantime we should allow the Lions to enjoy their return to the top-flight – and give great credit to Ackermann and his coaching staff for ensuring their team was up to speed – and mourn with the Kings as what looked a promising crop has been cut back to grassroots in the Eastern Cape.

At the other end of the SuperRugby spectrum, the Brumbies began the final playing with military precision to another canny Jake White game plan.

A ferocious presence at the breakdowns, getting up quickly (or being offsides) and in the faces of the Chiefs on defence and the faultless boot of Christian Lealiifano were the main vehicles for their success as they racked up a 22-12 lead by the hour mark.

Having a top-class openside in George Smith – and lock Scott Fardy was also a prominent player at the breakdowns – was obviously a major support for the game plan and the Chiefs looked a hassled and flustered side as half-time approached.

A defence that rushed inwards from the wings cramped the Chiefs’ preferred expansive style and they conceded a crucial try in the 40th minute when scrumhalf Tawera Kerr-Barlow threw a wild pass right into where the defence was concentrated and Lealiifano pouched a brilliant pick-up and sped away for a 47-metre intercept try.

A tally of 10 turnovers in the first half indicated where the Chiefs’ problems lay and they conceded a penalty at the breakdown early in the second half when Fardy and Smith made a great team in catching Kerr-Barlow in possession.

A fifth penalty by Lealiifano, stemming from another Smith turnover, put the Brumbies 22-12 ahead after 59 minutes and they were perhaps already booking an open-top bus in Canberra for a ticker-tape parade.

And that is when the Chiefs showed their champion quality. An alteration to their breakdown strategy – committing an extra man to protect the ball – and deciding to be more direct with ball in hand turned the tide.

And with referee Craig Joubert starting to lose patience with the Brumbies’ spoiling tactics, the final quarter belonged to the Chiefs.

Brumbies scrumhalf Nic White produced a terrible kick to touch off a penalty, leading to a five-metre scrum for the Chiefs and then followed Kerr-Barlow as he went wide, opening up a lovely gap for flank Liam Messam to power through and cut the deficit to 17-22.

Flyhalf Aaron Cruden missed the conversion – and kicked poorly throughout, missing two penalties as well – but it didn’t matter as the Chiefs scored again just four minutes later.

Centres Asaeli Tikoirotuma and Bundee Aki broke out of their own territory and Robbie Robinson then cruised through the defence after one little sidestep.

Cruden then put aside his bum kicking form to kick a late penalty and the Chiefs had the title in the bag.

So the Chiefs win the overall title and the Lions will be benefiting from several million rand more than they had this year, but the other big winner over the weekend was scrumhalf Fourie du Preez.

Du Preez, one of the heroes of the 2007 World Cup triumph, has been recalled to the Springbok squad for the Rugby Championship. His Japanese club, Suntory Sungoliath, have however insisted he only play in the Tests in South Africa.

People may well be asking questions as to why Du Preez has been selected when he’s only available on a part-time basis and whether he will be sharp enough after playing for the last two years in the less intense Japanese league.

But one can hardly blame Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer for wanting to have a look at Du Preez, one of the all-time great scrumhalves, given South Africa’s stocks in that position at the moment and the fact that his contract in Japan is coming to an end and he will be available for the 2015 World Cup.

The inexperienced Jano Vermaak and the solid but unspectacular Ruan Pienaar are the other scrumhalves in the squad, while the young Piet van Zyl will replace Du Preez in the squad when they travel overseas. Francois Hougaard is out for the rest of the season after surgery on the ankle that has hampered him all year.

The success of George Smith with the Brumbies is a sign that using Japan-based players might not be on the wrong side of reason, and Meyer has also chosen seven other overseas-based players, the most ever, in both Vermaak and Pienaar, Morne Steyn, Bryan Habana, Juandre Kruger, Francois Louw and Gurthro Steenkamp.

Du Preez, experienced Toulouse prop Steenkamp and fit-again eighthman Duane Vermeulen are the three recalled players who did not feature in the incoming quadrangular series in June.

The main criticism of the squad will be the composition of the front row where Meyer has chosen just a single specialist tighthead in the over-worked Jannie du Plessis and four looseheads, although the Springbok coach hopes to convert Coenie Oosthuizen into a number three.

The Cheetahs hero is however definitely more comfortable at loosehead and Meyer really needs to develop the tighthead talent that is there in Oosthuizen’s team-mate Lourens Adriaanse and Wiehahn Herbst of the Sharks. Frans Malherbe of the Stormers is also a candidate but is currently out injured.

Springbok squad – Willie le Roux, Zane Kirchner, JJ Engelbrecht, Jean de Villiers, Juan de Jongh, Jan Serfontein, Bryan Habana, Bjorn Basson, Morne Steyn, Pat Lambie, Fourie du Preez, Jano Vermaak, Ruan Pienaar, Duane Vermeulen, Willem Alberts, Marcell Coetzee, Francois Louw, Siya Kolisi, Juandre Kruger, Franco van der Merwe, Eben Etzebeth, Flip van der Merwe, Jannie du Plessis, Coenie Oosthuizen, Bismarck du Plessis, Adriaan Strauss, Chiliboy Ralepelle, Tendai Mtawarira, Gurthro Steenkamp, Trevor Nyakane.

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