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by djp

1 Step forward – 2 Steps back for Meyer

November 27, 2012 in Uncategorized

From the get-go I’d like to say that I’m not Heynecke Meyer’s biggest fan but it looks like he’s here to stay so regardless whether I dislike his game plans & player selections, I’ll just have to suck it up & get behind Springboks. But one of the most frustrating things for me as a Bok fan is how HM seems to be taking 1 step forward – 2 steps back. His latest 1-2 step: Next year

I just read an article about how HM admitted that he made a few errors regarding player selections & how certain players surprisingly impressed him… How he’s looking forward to 2013 where he’ll hopefully have a bigger pool of players to select from because he was starved of the likes of Burger, Bismarck, Smith, Bekker, Spies etc. in 2012. Now that’s all beer & biltong but then HM goes on to say that he would like to continue with Jean de Villiers as captain of the Bok team.

Here’s the thing, I’ve been a JdV fan from the first minute I saw him play & I think he’s been one of our best 12’s we’ve ever produced. He should & will be regarded as one of our modern Bok legends along with the Smits, Matfields & Fouries that played in our glory years of last decade. Having said that, I do feel that he’s past his best and has been for a while now. He has shown flashes of what he can do but we’ll need much more than that from one of the senior players of the team.

I understand that Meyer didn’t have a lot of options for Bok captaincy in 2012 & therefore Jean was a logical choice but surely he’ll have more options come 2013? In fact who’s to say that JdV will even be available to lead the team considering his injury history? But the most important question HM should be asking himself is: Does he really think that a then 34 year old de Villiers will be able to compete with younger & probably better & faster centres & still lead his team come the 2015 Rugby World Cup? I’m sorry but I don’t!! So shouldn’t HM be looking at someone else he can use as a long term captain? And shouldn’t HM be looking at more options at 12 & 13’s to nurture into his squad & game plan while he still has the time? I mean besides Francois Steyn & Juan de Jongh, who else has been tried? Taute, who HM sees as his future fullback? JJ Engelbrecht?  Shouldn’t a Whitehead or Venter, Brache even Serfontein be given a shot. Now maybe HM will call up some of these guys but what are the chances of them getting any game time, hell even a guy like de Jongh (arguably SA’s best 13 this year) struggled to get game time this year. What will happen to him once Steyn is fit again?

Meyer should be shrewd enough to know that when he picks a captain, he also picks a guy that’s going to fill a playing position for most of the time during a game & his coaching tenure, so it’s not just leadership qualities that he must consider. I’ve noticed that lately we’ve had the problem of picking a permanent Bok captain that’s got great leadership qualities & the respect of his peers & coaches alike but unfortunately he’s usually not the best in his position. John Smit was a prime example of that. It looks like Meyer is going to continue that trend of picking a captain past his glory days & that’s a shame… even if that player is one of my favourite Boks of all time.

I’m outy.

 

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Time to Step Up Proteas!!

November 26, 2012 in Uncategorized

Even though Siddle & Co. huffed & puffed with all their might till the very last ball, they just couldn’t get past their opponents’ resilience & fight lead by debutant hero Faf du Plessis.

Honourable mentions should go to AB & Kallis for hanging in there with the Titans batsman & kudos to Rory & Morkel for providing much needed stubbornness in those last 10 pressurized overs. So instead of being 1-0 down in the series with the 3rd & final test match coming up, the series is still drawn meaning we can still win it but unfortunately, so can Australia.

Just like during the last day & a half in the 1st test match, this was their game to lose & I for one was a bit surprised when the ever-attacking Oz captain Michael Clarke gave us so many runs to get. Didn’t he have enough faith in his bowlers to bowl us out under say, 300 – 350 runs instead of the 430 he set for us to win? Sure there was still a lot of time left to go for a score of over 400 runs but the same could be said about getting 10 2nd innings wickets right?

Onto the 3rd one we Go!!

I’m very proud of the way our fighting spirit has come to the fore especially on Day 2 & 5 but the Proteas will know that we’ll have to improve in almost all facets of our game if we want to win this last test match. Let’s look at the bowling first:

As harsh as it may sound, the bowling has been poor when you consider the high standard these guys have set for themselves in the previous 2 or 3 test series. There has been some brilliant individual spells by some but we need that to become more frequent & for longer periods.

The biggest strength of our bowling department has been how soundly each bowler compliments the other guys & how well the back-up & 1st change bowlers followed up the usually strong opening partners’ performances. With that being said it’s obvious that we not only missed Big Vern’s wicket taking prowess but the fact that he doesn’t go for a lot of runs as well. Ryan McLaren (no slouch with bat or ball) has been called up as cover for Philander & Kallis but I hope that he won’t be needed.  Kleinveldt’s minor improvement has shown us that he can mix it up with boys on the test level & I hope we give him another shot (pending Philander’s availability). Tahir, ai tog.. Look as terrible as he’s been in the last test match, he does offer something different & gives our bowling team some variety so I’ll play him in the 3rd test. Now for the batting:

Please, please, please drop Jacques Rudolph!! You know I really hoped that he would provide at least one innings of substance, instead a rookie upstaged him (& some others) with TWO brilliant, veteran-like outings, something you’d expect from the likes of Rudolph. I hope that Kirsten doesn’t go all Heynecke Meyer on us & keep a player that’s clearly out of form. Hell, he couldn’t even repay Kirsten’s faith in him by moving him up the order to prove that he belongs in the team, that in itself should be enough to cut him from the starting 11. Dropping Rudolph also creates the perfect opportunity to bring in Thami Tsolekile which could help AB de Villiers to solely concentrate on his batting which (coz of his keeping duties or not) has also dipped in form. If that’s not the route the selectors want to go, then giving Dean Elgar a shot is also an option when you consider that like Faf, he also provides a spin option. I understand that we’ve been hit by some unlucky injuries (JP, Vern & Kallis), guys that have been heavily instrumental in our success of late & the well-balance of the team and consistency in selection certainly helped with that but some changes will have to be made whether it’s strategic or forced.

Keys to winning the series:

  • We can’t allow Oz to go about their batting at 4 – 6 runs an over: Our bowlers will have to start building pressure batting situations for longer periods & frustrate their Ozzy counterparts who can get a bit antsy if the runs aren’t coming easily for them.
  • Build more partnerships: More so on the bowling front, we can’t have say a Steyn go for 1’s & 2’s on the one end & the other bowler go for 8 or 10 on the other end.
  • Remove Clarke & key batsmen early: Yes, Clarke is in the form of his life but just like our very own form batter (Amla), he does give us chances to get him out, especially early his innings. The Ozzies really depended on their middle order to get them out of some tough situations so we need to get to Wade & the tail a.s.a.p if we want a chance.
  • Be more aggressive: It’s not in their nature to be as hostile & aggressive as the Ozzies but for the guy on the fence, it would like the they want to win more badly than the Proteas. Kirsten & Biif has no need to motivate their troops because everyone knows what’s at stake here but an aggressive mindset wouldn’t hurt.

Final word

I’m still confident that we can win the last match & with that the series because as below par as we’ve been AND to a certain extent, as dominating as Australia has been, they still couldn’t beat us in the 2 successive tries. Clarke even admitted that they ‘did their best’ & I’m sure Biff can’t say the same. Well they have one more chance, one last bite at the cherry & if they can step up a gear, I have no doubt that we can beat the Ozzies once again. And here’s the team I’d love to see doing would look like this:

Biff, Viro, Hash, JK, AB, Faf, Dean / Thami, Vern / Rory, Dale, Morne & Immy.  Feel free to let me know what you think.

Go Proteas!!!

I’m outy

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Who’s got the upper hand? The Ozzies or the Proteas!?

November 5, 2012 in Uncategorized

First they had to battle the Poms off their nr.1 ranking in England & in a couple of days’ time, they have to defend that nr. 1 ranking against Ozzies in Australia. It just doesn’t get any easier for the South African Test team does it? They have the team to do it, of that I have no doubt but not so long ago playing Australia in Australia was one of test cricket’s most daunting tasks & by the looks of the Ozzies last 2 series’ there, it can be again. So with a few days to go, I decided to take a closer look at the 2 teams, how they compare to each other, what team got the upper hand and where etc. And this is what I came up with:

The Captains:

Whenever I read about Clarke’s captaincy, the words attacking & innovative are regularly mentioned & to a certain degree that is true but (with a bit of tongue in the cheek) what former Ozzie captain do you know wasn’t like that?? Clarke no doubt has the potential to become a great captain & it seems that the added responsibility has also helped his batting. He will definitely be tested in this series & so will his ‘attacking’ mentality because there are going to be lotsa times when he’ll have to be conservative against a formidable opponent.

Many cricket experts feel that Biff is a bit too conservative when captaining his side & sometimes the SA captain gives them a legitimate reason to feel that way but I’m not so sure. Yes, I do feel that there were times when he should’ve declared earlier than he did in a couple of matches but when I look at his approach when he’s batting I don’t see any of that conservativeness he’s been labelled as. He always to try to make his presence felt, always try to attack & dominate the bowler. So why wouldn’t  he do that when he’s on the field then? He will always have his critics (hell, I’m one of them from time to time) but he’s worst critic cannot deny that there are very few captains in the test arena that can match Smith’s leadership & captaincy at the moment.

The Top order:

I’m sorry to ask this Ozzy fans but is your opening batsmen combination settled yet coz I’m not so sure. We all know the too-quickly-labelled-great Phil Hughes is out & Watson moved down a spot to 3 in your last test series against the Windies where he averaged 32 odd. The openers of Cowan & Warner didn’t fare any better with the bat with averages of 25 & 28 respectively. Throw in a Ponting that’s far from the player once feared in the cricket world & surely this should be an area where the South African bowling attack should be licking their lips for.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves; we’re still talking about Watto, Warner & Punter here, 3 batsmen that can be your worst nightmare on their day.

On the other hand Darren, we have a South African top order that’s settled & spearheaded by run scoring freak, Hashim Amla. Smith always makes sure he provides some noteworthy performances against the Ozzies & I don’t think this time will be any different. And for those guys that’s still not convinced that Petersen is a capable opener on this level, a 42 average is very good. It just looks a bit bleh when it’s put around his top order partners that average almost 50.

The Middle order:

The 2 Michaels Clarke & Hussey will probably head the middle order of the Ozzies with Wade or Haddin at 7 & I see this as a bit of a soft spot that SA can target. (Wow, just had a flashback where someone like Gilchrist was batting at 7 for the Ozzies. At 7!!) I read earlier in the week that Mr. Cricket doesn’t have that great of a record against the Proteas so long may it continue. According to the test rankings, Clarke is Australia’s best batsman as he’s shown that in the last series against us, so getting him out asap should be top priority.

The Proteas middle order is led by the already legendary Kallis & the Ozzies would like to see his way back to the pavilion very early in his innings. This could be his last tour in Oz & I’m sure he would want to go out with a bang. Maybe another double ton ey JK? But when Kallis goes (or we lose our 3rd wicket) AB de Villiers will come out to bat, another world class player in his own right. AB’s campaign in England was a bit frustrating for his fans & I’m sure for him too as he kept on getting starts but never converted them into big scores.

I don’t believe that keeping wicket has influenced his batting in a negative way & I think it will show in Oz. One guy that needs a big tour I think is Rudolph. JP had a lovely tour in England & Faf is a potential candidate for the 6th spot so Rudolph will know that his.. rare is on the line & he’s not getting any younger either. JP & Faf also offer a little bit of spin which will definitely help their cases. Speaking of JP, it was in Aus where he made a name for himself in the test arena & his play in England has shown that maybe he’s come full circle as a batsman after a couple of disappointing seasons.

The Bowlers:

If you like pace, if you like to see ball whistling past the batsman’s ear, stumps flying & if you like the death-wish stare only a fast bowler can give then you’re in for a treat!! Not that these guys will need any help but Australian pitches tend to bounce & assist with pace which will make the battle between bat & ball even more intriguing. Even though Australia has more options in the pace department, they will still heavily rely on ‘old heads’ Siddle, Hilfenhaus & Harris to take the pressure off exciting youngters Starc & Cummins.

I’ve read somewhere that Cummins might not play in this series but I can’t wait to see how we’re going to handle Starc.

While the Ozzies will keep us guessing with who they’re going to play, they know that chances are very good that they’ll face a bowling trio some are already calling South Africa’s greatest. It was against Australia that Philander made the cricket world sit up & take notice so he’ll be raring to have another go at them. Morkel will certainly love the bounce he’ll be able to generate on the ozzy pitches and Steyn, well I think we all know we’ll see pace, swing & wickets from world’s nr. 1. But it’s not just the pacers that will play an integral part in the outcome of the test matches: Spin bowling will also have a say in this series.

There was this leggy that loved bowling at the Gabba & he was pretty damn good at. Uhm what’s his name again?? I’m sure it will come to me… Anyways many pundits have called on Tahir to start repaying the faith selectors have shown in him by delivering match winning performances like that other guy. Ofcoz I would love to see that too but Tahir actually hasn’t been that bad & he is getting better. Maybe it will happen Australia for him? Australian’s offy Nathan Lyon actually took the most wickets for his side in their last test series so they will definitely be looking at him to target the lefties like Biff, JP & Rudolph.

Mentality & Home advantage:

The Ozzies have always been a mentally tough side & they’re the masters of getting into their opponent heads ‘ with by use of chirps & breaking their concentration but South Africa has shown against England that not only can they handle the big moments of a match, they can grab it by scruff of the neck and ride it. The Proteas has also shown that playing away doesn’t bother them too much but playing the baggy greens in Australia is a whole nother beast on its own.

Final thought:

I honestly can’t pick a favourite coming into this test series. South Africa will come in with a lot of confidence after their triumph in England & Australia is on a bit of a roll with back to back series victories. I do think however that the winner of the 1st test will definitely have their tails up for the rest of the series so we can expect a real humdinger at the Gabba.

And after writing this blog, I’ve done what I’ve promised myself not to do: Get excited!! Coz now I have to wait days to watch these 2 rivals have a go at each other. I remember during the last series in Australia where Morne Morkel gave Ponting such a nasty bouncer that the batsman had to gather himself while sitting on the ground. An inexperienced Morkel was well on in his way to check if he was okay only to be screamed upon & chased back to his run up by Biff, Bouch & even Kallis. I got goosebumps when I saw that & I know there are going to be more moments like that in the next couple weeks. It’s going to be a classic folks!! I for one can’t wait & I Know I’m not the only one.

Hopefully this could happen again..

I’m outy