WHEN renowned journalist Peter Malherbe joined the Sunday Times in the early 80′s – I can safely say before I was even born – he joined an elite group of Dale College old boys that ruled its newsroom.
Then editor Tertius Myburgh and managing editor Joe Sutton were the people in charge of this great establishment. Sutton – as he wrote in the PE Herald earlier this year and I’m purely rehashing his words here – was the old Dalian that had a profound influence on Peter.
Sutton died at the age of 85, in February this year.
Peter wrote after his mentor’s passing:
While the editor is responsible for the political stance of the newspaper and the overall direction it takes, it is the managing editor who is often in charge of the day-to-day running of the paper and putting it all together.
In Joe you got what you saw. He was a kind, friendly man, but determined and dedicated to a fault. If he wanted a particular story that Sunday, he would continue to goad and push reporters and news editors until it landed on his desk. He believed in the Sunday Times and it was during his watch that the newspaper published some of its more memorable stories.
Ironically, I was to follow in his footsteps and become managing editor of the newspaper many years later. One of the things that I tried to emulate was his calm, unflappable disposition – a real challenge on a big newspaper like the Sunday Times. When the going got tough I would think of Joe and his simple approach to most issues.
Peter went on to become exactly what he wanted to be. A journalist that influenced thought and influenced the times he was living in and when that hat fulfilled him, he moved to Thailand, to satisfy his insatiable appetite for travel and experiencing new things.
Peter was at the Durban office this week, apparently to give the bureau a pep talk, give them insight, enthuse them or spy on them or whatever.
But Peter was candid about the person that was the greatest influence in his life and his career. The person that gave him his first shot in the paper, the one that shaped his journalistic mind and I’m sure – although I was not there – the person that stood up for him when many in the newsroom would have doubted his ability.
Being a journalist is tough. You need to know enough about everything to write about it, while you beg for insight from the experts of every available field. Then you have to compile that information so that Joe Khumalo down the street may also gain a bit of understanding.
And, Lord forbid, please don’t bore Khumalo to death, he has a wife and two kids to provide for.
We all need a Joe Sutton in our lives.
The person that believes in you, not because they are your relative or they think you’ll pay them back one day. No.
That person who will say: “Kid go to Mauritius, find out who has been running the housing scam that has scavenged millions from South Africans”, even though you might not have a contact in Mauritius or even a passport.
The point is, they trusted you to do the job, and you delivered because you dare not let your mentor down. You’d die for him, if he sent you the brief. And he will trust you with even bigger assignments because you didn’t let him down the last time and on the cycle goes.
Rugby has plenty “Suttons” in the changing rooms.
These Suttons made sure that the likes of Eben Etzebeth, Pieter-Steph du Toit, Pat Lambie and Siya Kolisi got their first shots at an early age. And guess what, they didn’t let their Suttons down.
They put their under-developed young bodies on the line, both appeasing the game plan and managing to add a bit of their flair and unique characteristics to their game.
I often wonder and worry about South African sport’s black sheep: soccer.
Soccer in South Africa is loved and enjoyed by many. Those who play it, do their best to make a decent spectacle out of it.
But I often worry that there aren’t enough Suttons in soccer. Guys that are there to mentor, groom and get the best from the player, not just on the field of play but off it.
Often budding soccer players need these mentors in their personal lives too, to get them away from the evils that come with fame and fortune. The good ol’ women and booze.
I was inspired to write this by two things (other than my yearning for the late Sutton): The cover of this month’s Kickoff magazine, which features renowned bad boys Jabu Pule and Steve Lekoelea; and Thulani “Tyson” Hlatshwayo’s impressive performances at the Cosafa Cup for Gordon Igesund’s watered down Bafana squad.
We all know about the famous bad boys so I’m going to head straight to Tyson.
Now, although I’m a firm believer that no single player should ever be praised in a losing cause (you win as a team, you lose as a team) the Ajax defender did his best to put up his hand for future selection. If the team loses, that means all the components that were designed to make it win failed, whether via penalty shoot-out or 90 minutes.
When a car crashes and kills everyone on board because the brakes failed, no one cares that the rear view mirror was positioned correctly. The same applies in team sports.
I feel like I’ve been going on forever. But the point is, Hlatshwayo (23) has entered the Bafana newsroom, it is really up to Gordon Igesund to decide whether he will be Hlatshwayo’s Sutton and include him in the final World Cup qualifier against Botswana or do the other thing that the editors we don’t know did, that Peter didn’t write about.
I had a laughing – then coughing – fit when fellow scribe and soccer analyst Tso joked that Mamelodi Sundowns were “Dikhothane tsa Pitori”.
Now if you have just landed from Mars, let me explain: Izikhothane is a group of youths practising a vile trend of buying expensive material – clothes, food, anything you can think of- mostly with money given to them by their parents and they go about destroying it as if it were worthless. The other day they were tearing R100 bank notes for kicks.
Well, the Motsepe Foundation (I guess not content with spending millions on under-performing players) hosted a concert in East London a day after Sundowns’ 1-0 Telkom Knockout final defeat to Bloemfontein Celtic. Now I’m sure that the concert was organised months before the final but why does it appear like the Sundowns family are more adept at organising lavish parties [insert Miss Mamelodi Sundowns pageant here] than they are getting the bloody team to play good football?
I understand the need to grow the brand but what good will it do if the team is 15th on the Absa Premiership log?
Coach Johan Neeskens has put Elias Pelembe, who is rumoured to be among the highest earners in the league at over R300,000 a month, in the stands. If that’s not Izikhothane behaviour, I really don’t know what is.
Neeskens is reviled by the Sundowns fans. Though they’ve suspended their violent streak, thank God, they have no say in the club anymore. They are expected to buy their match tickets, go to the stadium, sit down and shut the f**k up – and then watch this bunch soiling the Sundowns jersey once worn by Roger Feutmba, Raphael Chukwu and Zane Moosa.
British football writer Henry Winter, of the Telegraph, wrote about Chelsea after their 3-1 defeat to West Ham on Saturday:
Their confidence is brittle, their second-half collapse at a crowing, bubble-filled Upton Park raising legitimate questions about their character as well as Rafa Benítez’s ability to motivate them.
Winter could have been talking about Sundowns and Neeskens during the Telkom KO at Moses Mabhida.
A friend of mine and staunch Downs supporter BBM’d me saying: “I feel like a housewife in abusive marriage. I keep hoping the situation will change but I get more beatings in return.” Sorry skat, I understand *bbm hug face**.
Here’s what I don’t get about Neeskens, which a number of tense conferences has failed to clear up. He doesn’t want to be challenged and he has no sense of consistency in selection. Holding mid Thamsanqa Sangweni went to Chloorkop will to fight for his place in the star studded team but was shafted after two brilliant performances in the 4-1 win over Kaizer Chiefs and 1-0 win over Chippa United beginning of the season.
It was the same with Edward Manqele. Why?
Elias Pelembe, one of Sundowns’ most gifted players, watches the games on television, like you and I. One week Richard Henyekane has been banished to Robben Island, the next he’s starting in the cup final.
Samuel Julies, no offense kid, is talented but too inexperienced for such a crucial midfield position in a cup final. Why couldn’t he have played Hlompo Kekana in a more advanced role in midfield? Was Kekana not the flavour of the month a few months ago, what has he done to warrant a permanent spot on the bench?
The first thing Neeskens did when appointed as Downs coach last year was get rid of the team’s best performer from the previous season, Matthew Pattison. That was the first sign of diabolical decision-making and egotism.
These are talented players, whose careers are wasting away on the sidelines whilst the man in charge berates his critics because they’ve “never kicked a soccer ball”. I’ll tell you what, Zane Moosa has kicked plenty a soccer ball but was not any less critical on television of the pathetic performance in Durban.
Neeskens is holding Sundowns at ransom; he knows that if the suits want to fire him, they’ll have to pay him out for the remaining three years of his five-year contract.
If Sundowns pick up some form, win the Nedbank Cup and finish in the top four at the end of the season I will eat these words along with humble pie and maybe also wear a hat written “Dunce of the season” for an entire day. If not, then Neeskens would have torn up more R100 bank notes than any of the Izikhothane delinquents can ever get their hands on.
IT IS time to swallow a dry, lumpy, spiky object and admit that Springbok coach Heyneke Meyer hasn’t provided the “fresh start” many were hoping for. The Springboks are stale and Peter de Villiers’s leftovers are starting to cause a foul smell in the (relatively) new coach’s fridge.
After going through a turbulent marriage with Div, when the highs were intoxicating but the lows suicidal, culminating into a bitter non-renewal of vows, Meyer was supposed to be everything the Springbok ex wasn’t.
But five matches into his tenure, some Bok fans are realising that Meyer keeps forgetting to put the seat down, wash his own plate or take out the rubbish and have started noticing other little nuances that remind them of the ex.
Div would never drop Morne Steyn, Pierre Spies or Bryan Habana when the trio were horribly out of form. He didn’t know what to do with the talented Pat Lambie in his squad (the trend with Springbok coaches is to bench or drop the talented ones and start the statues).
In 2012, the year the world is apparently coming to an end, it appears that the world is in fact carrying on as usual and a Springbok coach still doesn’t know what to do with the most enterprising member of his squad.
There was supposed to be some sort of ceremonious cleansing after the World Cup, it hasn’t come.
Initially, Meyer did everything right and said all the sweet nothings when he was appointed, going all out to please everyone and getting everyone to support his “win every game” philosophy. It was refreshing to have a Springbok coach that didn’t have illusions about winning a World Cup in four years time and subjecting us to rubbish rugby in the interim.
Meyer is his own man. At the Bulls he did everything according to his style and made the club his Man Cave, where he could pick all the battering rams he wanted and forced them to play according to his style. And it worked.
But Meyer has yet to adjust to his marriage to the entire nation. He can no longer treat the Springboks as his Man Cave. Just a hint, there are uses for players in other unions other than the Bulls.
Meyer is a brilliant coaching coach but, as I quietly suspected, he botched the chance to give the Springboks a fresh start during the England three-match test series.
When the Boks crashed out of the World Cup last year, it was a painful, but the young talent that we had coming through the national team – that Div didn’t really know what to do with – made the pain easier to bear. There was hope of a fresh start.
I’ll acknowledge the inclusion of locks Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger and flanker Marcell Coetzee as some sort of signal of newness. But on the whole, the team, especially in the lame draw against Argentina, smelt of Div’s stale socks, which I thought we threw away when Meyer was moving in.
Much like in the final two years of Div’s tenure, the Springboks made the process of scoring a try about as odious as getting a pay increase from a Platinum mine boss.
And what about set plays? Have we forgotten how to cut open defences with four quick, purposeful passes intersected with diagonal runs that confuse the opposition to a standstill?
I’m beginning to wonder what Meyer meant when he said the Springboks should play “winning rugby”.
By his definition WINNING RUGBY is the process in which a flyhalf should ignore all other avenues of attack, resist temptation to draw two or more defenders towards him in order to fling the ball wide to the wings, who will then enjoy an overlap, but MUST ONLY launch the ball high and aimlessly off his boot and hope for the best.
The worst is when this statue game plan cannot even eke out a win against Argentina in our most important rugby competition other than the World Cup.
I, for one, had dreams of the below combinations, being tested against England this year:
or 6. Francois Louw 7. Marcell Coetzee 8. Willem Alberts
or 6. Keegan Daniel 7. Willem Alberts 8. Pierre Spies
Understandably, injuries to Schalk Burger and Duane Vermeulen soured things but as a proud rugby nation, we can do far better than Jacques Potgieter. No offence bruv but there’s no space to take a run-up in test rugby and without a run-up Potgieter is as useful a Brutal Fruit cider when you really need a beer. I wonder, if Meyer has any regrets, now that Siya Kolisi is out for the rest of the season because of a broken thumb he sustained in the Currie Cup when he should have been in Argentina stopping Julio Cabello from getting his paws in our ruck. Moving on …
11. Francois Hougaard 14. JP Pietersen
15. Zane Kirchner
9. Francois Hougaard
10. Pat Lambie
12. Jean de Villiers
13. Juan de Jongh
11. Bryan Habana 14. JP Pietersen
15. Frans Steyn
9. Francois Hougaard
10. Elton Jantjies
12. Frans Steyn
13. Jean de Villiers
11. Bryan Habana 14. JP Pietersen
15. Pat Lambie
And again, injuries to Jaco Taute, Johan Goosen (thank God he’s back) and (recently) JP Pietersen have done their bit to spoil the honeymoon.
Had some of these combinations been tested against England, we wouldn’t have been left not knowing what to do in Mendoza last weekend.
Note: Please add your own possible combinations that you would have liked to have seen being trialled and please agree or disagree with me in the comments below or on twitter @Sbu_Fundraiser.
As Sonny Bill Williams celebrated his try by jumping into the crowd in his last Super Rugby game during the Chiefs’ demolition of the Sharks in the final, it got me thinking: What legacy has he left behind, especially in the mind of the South African schoolboy rugby player?
The New Zealand inside centre said his good-byes to his country and the competition last month, much to fans’ dismay and rage, for the financially luscious pastures of Japan before returning to Rugby League – NRL – in Australia next year.
But what is the offload king leaving behind?
It was perhaps fitting that on the same day I watched the Chiefs gut the Sharks, I went to Pietermaritzburg to watch the old KZN school rugby derby between Maritzburg College and Glenwood High School – which ended in a thrilling 27-all draw.
I got some perspective.
On Saturday morning I watched Sonny Bill Williams create havoc in the middle of a Sharks defence that was valiant at first but started disintegrating pretty quickly. SBW, as he has been nicknamed, broke two tackles in the move that created the Chiefs first try – scored by Tim Nanai-Williams – before offloading, of course, to Robbie Robinson.
The Sharks, it became obvious, had thrown all their punches during the Stormers game and were smashed to all parts of Waikato Stadium. SBW, Aaron Cruden and Sona Taumalolo (also playing his last game for the Chiefs) the chief culprits.
SBW wrapped up his enthralling contribution to the match, Chiefs and indeed SANZAR rugby, by diving through untouched and throwing himself to the fans, who hugged him and thanked him for his contribution.
But that contribution came under heavy scrutiny last year when one man called Peter de Villiers was Springbok coach. De Villiers was quoted as saying, about SBW’s show-offy and outrageous ball releases during tackles:
“He’s doing everything wrong what rugby principles require of you in the game.”
“Backhand passes shouldn’t be the norm… it has become the norm, now everyone wants to do that kind of nonsense.”
“This kind of non-rugby stuff he’s doing, if it comes off it’s brilliant, but do you have control over these kind of things? If you get to the international level where people work you out, then you have to be in control of what you’re doing.”
Div said a youngster watching SBW in Super Rugby would get the wrong impression of the core skills needed. That’s Div for you, never one to nurse people’s feelings.
“I’ve got a simple reply for him [Div]. I am flattered that he would go to the lengths he did in dissecting my game. If I can change the face of rugby with the way I play, then so be it,” SBW apparently replied.
But was Div right? Or did he just want to ruin the fun for everyone?
To get the answer, you have to go to a school rugby game. As so I did.
I was lucky to catch the Maritzburg College 3rds vs. Glenwood High School 3rds and then the 2nd teams faced each other before the grand finale.
If one could have picked up anything from the fixtures, it was that the boys love throwing the ball around. Which of course they must. They are young, restless, fearless and careless. There were about as many knock-ons and turnovers from spilt ball as a result of failed offloads as there were spectators at the school. The referee’s whistle can get nauseating sometimes, so I was all too happy when the 1st XV’s ran onto Goldstone field.
The first teams promised more structured play.
I decided to be daring and count how many attempts at releasing the ball while caught in a tackle the lads made and how many they actually pulled off.
As if the Glenwood boys heard the voices in my head, they scored a 2nd minute opening try that was sparked by two brilliantly executed offloads and caught the home side sleeping.
Glenwood boasted generally bigger players – and I pray that they are all within the school rugby age limit – and therefore bossed the contact situations. Their players were taller, leaner and thus tried offloading more often than the College boys did.
The way I remember College, from my high school days, was that they never had the biggest nor the most talented rugby players but they played with a lot of heart and played until the final whistle.
College came back from 22-6 down midway through the second period to lead 27-22 before a late unconverted Glenwood try made sure that the boys shared the spoils.
My offload tally told an interesting story at the end. College attempted 12 offloads the entire game, ten of which went safely into hand while two went astray – one even created a gap from which a try was scored. Glenwood attempted 18 offloads and managed to safely secure half of them, the other half went the way of handling errors.
It seems that the most telling thing is that the “Sonny Bills” help the kids create gaps in midfield and if they succeed more than half the time then where’s the harm in trying one?
I saw more pick and go’s, something that Div considers “rugby stuff” than I did offloads. So let the kids be kids, I say. And if in the process we produce an attacking genius like Sonny Bill Williams, we would have done exceedingly well. But don’t dismiss Div as a grumpy old man, he’s got the interests of the SA rugby future at heart.
One final thought, when SBW first started playing Rugby Union, who decided to put him at inside centre? Was it Tana Umaga? That man is a genius.
Farewell SBW – current World Cup and Super Rugby title holder.
Catch my thoughts on rugby and other sports matters on twitter @Sbu_Fundraiser
It seems that the only time Orlando Pirates winger Mark Mayambela is guaranteed a place in the starting XI is during the Black Label Cup final* against Kaizer Chiefs , when scores of fans get to force-sms the skilful maestro into the lineup.
On Saturday night Mayambela started on the wing (alternating flanks with Sifiso Myeni) ahead of Daine Klate and Tlou “Gautrain” Segolela – men who’ve won many a game for Pirates. However, since the Black Label Cup lets the fans decide, the eye-pleasing footwork of Mayambela got the nod over the efficiency of either Klate or Segolela.
As a total neutral (let me reveal my secret: I’m a Mthatha Bush Bucks fan so don’t ask again in the future) I observed that Mayambela looked tortured, chained at the ankles almost and trying ever so hard to be the player Pirates coaches will want to start. And here’s the interesting bit, the very same Pirates fans who guarantee Mayambela at least one start a year (albeit in a glorified exhibition match), smsed furiously for his removal at half time and he was replaced by Klate.
Now why was that so? I’m not a Pirates fan but I think I know the answer.
You see, Mayambela is a tortured soul, a creative genius, if you like, with skills so mad that you get the feeling that the ball enjoys being knocked between his left foot and his right in quick, yet poetic, rhythm. Even the way he walks, talks and dress style off the pitch suggests that he could dribble his way out of whatever life throws at him or dribble his way into any girl’s pants (cough, cough).
The 24-year-old is one of those players who always want the ball at their feet, although he doesn’t always know what to do with it once he has, but his sheer enthusiasm and lust for football transcends on the pitch and the fans sense that. Heck, we in the press box can also feel it.
He is the mould of sensational dribblers like Steve Lekoelea, Jabu Pule, Scara Ngobese, Junior Khanye and Shakes Ngwenya (there are too many to name). And what about his left foot? That limb jiggles around a football faster than you can say shibobo.
On Saturday night, though, he certainly looked tortured. He looked like a teenage boy trying to impress his father by putting on a suit and looking like an accountant when the whole family knows that all the kid wants to do is ballet dance and paint. He was trying to please coach Augusto Palacios.
Mayambela started a handful of games last season and often not featuring even in the 18-man match-day squad. The artist was put on the sidelines while the artisans were trusted with the task of defending the illustrious treble.
So to prove his worth to the team and mostly to the coach, Mayambela dumbed down his skills on Saturday and tried to play the role that Klate does consistently well – make runs, dart down the touchline and put a decent cross in for Big Benni to bury. But he failed and ended up looking like a plumber (no offence) whose inner painter was suffocating underneath the blue overalls. He did unleash a shot in anger, with that sweet left foot, which narrowly zipped past Itumeleng Khune’s crossbar.
But where were the skills? Where was the magic? Or the tsamaya that fans paid 80cents in sms money to see? Nowhere. All we saw was a desperate attempt by ballet dancer to hold down a 9am to 5pm job. Mayambela took the ball on Saturday evening, thought about dribbling but decided to pass Oupa Manyisa and being fouled before he could complete his thought process.
He botched a well-worked attacking move, with Chiefs 1-0 up, when he was put into space down the right side of the 18-yard area but got his cross totally wrong, sending the ball straight into touch, with three men waiting for a powerful low cross and thus wasting a great chance of an equaliser. His right foot, which seems more like a tea lady for his stronger left foot rather than an able assistant, had let him down.
The fans didn’t like that very much and promptly reached into their pockets, whipped out their mighty cell phones and went about dialling him out of the game. For players, it’s painful to be substituted at half time by the coach but being substituted by the fans means you’re really having a crappy game.
You see, for Mayambela, the game was more than getting another cup over their old foes Kaizer Chiefs. It was a chance to stick true to his word, to the promise he made to himself, to stay at Pirates and fight for a place in the team rather than take a loan move to PSL new-comers Chippa United.
Another dynamic, is that players of Mayambela’s outrageous skills don’t generally do well in professional football in this country. Sure they get signed by the so-called big clubs but they generally get overlooked if they don’t provide the consistency and dependency coaches admire more than skill.
Lekoelea did well for himself on the pitch and so did Jabu Pule; both could dribble the socks off the opposition but could also give their teams a much needed goal or two and pin-point cross. But for Ngobese, Khanye and others, the nifty footwork doesn’t do them much good if they don’t supplement their game with good technical ability (neat first touch, accurate cross, good cover defence, general non-wasteful nature with the ball).
Mayambela needs to do more than just dance over the ball, I know he tried (too) hard on Saturday night, and I’m sure Palacios will reward him with a place on the bench this season, at the very least.
If newly signed Cheetahs centre Johann Sadie continues to believe his own hype, he will forever live in that precarious and ever contracting space between potential and greatness. A second chance awaits him in Bloemfontein but, like with most things in life, there is no guarantee of first team action.
How did a talented SA under-20 player, who had featured in all provincial and national age-group teams since under-12, end up clubless and so desperate that he was willing to settle for a pay cut at a union that battles to finish in the top half of the Super Rugby table?
Many would have thought by now that Sadie would be basking in the delight of being the first Springbok cap recipients under the Heyneke Meyer era with the likes of Marcell Coetzee, Eben Etzebeth, Juandre Kruger and Jacques Potgieter.
Why did he suddenly leave the Bulls, a hugely successful union domestically and internationally, barely six months into (what was supposed to be) a lucrative contract.
To understand Sadie’s conundrum, you must first understand his time at Western Province and by extension, the Stormers.
At Newlands he was the brightest young spark waiting in the wings of the one of the greatest Springbok centre pairings – that of Jean de Villiers and Jaque Fourie. His first team game time was therefore limited in Super Rugby but during the Vodacom and Currie Cups he was often the star of the show.
I remember a game between the Stormers and the Blues in Auckland in which the 23-year-old, alongside Juan de Jongh, starred in a brilliant display to dispose of the then title challengers. If there is one game that can show you what Sadie can do, what the Stormers had been nesting him for, it is this one.
De Jongh, to make an example, waited patiently for the chance to establish himself at any of the two centre positions even when he had had a brilliant season standing in for De Villiers, who was playing overseas, in 2010. When De Villiers returned last year to partner with old pal Fourie, De Jongh was relegated to the cold bench. This year De Jongh picks himself onto the team.
But things didn’t go as planned for Sadie or moved as quickly for him as he would have liked. First team action at the Stormers seemed a distant pipe dream. It is rumoured that through the sheer ridiculousness of the nature of his demands when negotiation a new Western Province contract, including of course the guarantee of first team action, the union begrudgingly, yet necessarily, had to let him go. Someone even suggested he demanded that he not share a hotel room with a team-mate on tour.
And well, believing his own hype, he took a contract with the Bulls, which to be fair were in desperate need of a quality outside centre last year. Instead of blossoming, he has lived in the shadow of the lanky frame of JJ Engelbrecht, also a former Stormer.
Sadie claims the structures at the Bulls didn’t suit him therefore he had to force an early release on his two-year contract. If I was him, I’d have gone back to Allister Coetzee, apologised and asked for my old job back.
Few players who have ever really been something on the rugby field have never had to wait for their turn to own a position in the starting fifteen every week and as talented as Sadie is, he’s just going to bounce from one union to the next looking for “guaranteed game time”.
It will be interesting to see if Cheetahs fans will value the potential in Sadie over the commitment of local hero Robert Ebersohn (a player that plays his nads off every week on the grassless Bloemfontein Stadium pitch without expecting much in return but to put smiles on the rugby mad oupa’s)
Now we wait to see if Sadie’s expectations from the Cheetahs will be met or if he’ll meet theirs.
I say this almost like a friend from varsity who has just walked in on you while you’re lying face first on the concrete floor of your dorm after yet another night of binge drinking: Get your ish together man!
Or you’ll always be one of those kids we pub critics speak about that could have been Springbok greats but fizzled into nothing in the end. The country is crawling with those kids (and those pub critics by the way), we don’t need another one.
It is an absolute honour that the first thing this blog ever does is to salute two historical sporting achievements, achieved by some of the greatest carriers of our national flag – Hashim Amla and Ernie Els.
At the end of what was a dream South African sporting weekend, one can only be glad that Bafana Bafana weren’t involved in any action. Proteas batsman Hashim Amla broke the South African individual test score at the same time became the first man to post 300 runs in one innings. Ernie Els, or “Oh Ernie” as he had been known in the last ten years, won his fourth career Major, the British Open.
Amla took to the England attack, in the first test at Lords, with the panache of the surgeon he is. England strike bowlers James Anderson and Graeme Swann could not tempt the bearded Durbanite (who should compare notes with Lions captain Josh Strauss) into poking at a wide one. Amla’s batting has certainly matured. Remember when you could trap him with a straight delivery while he was dancing in front of his stumps during his first four innings in Proteas colours when he registered scores of 24, 2, 1 and 0? His plucky batting action also gave you the sense that he would tickle one outside off stump.
Amla scored his second ever test century against England at Lords in 2008. Four years and 13 more centuries later, Amla became the first South African to cross the 300 run mark; a remarkable achievement. He finished day 4 of the first test on 311 not out, helping SA to an innings and 12 runs win in the first test.
As the England bowlers have demonstrated, you can’t stray on Amla’s pads, you can’t give him width and you simply cannot get him out cheaply any longer. He has the concentration span of an eagle. It’s as if the Proteas have two Jacques Kallises. He’s that good. Who can forget his 253 not out against India in 2010, which he followed up with a 114 and a 123 in the second test match in Kolkata a week later?
Hashim Mahomed Amla deserves praise in the same way AB de Villiers is being touted as a future Proteas legend.
Ernie Els, meanwhile, made an astonishing career comeback to win his second British Open and his fourth Major overall after a period of lean years and quivering putting. The 42-year-old’s lowest point came at the beginning of the year. There are 19 ways to qualify for the US Masters, Ernie failed in all of them after dropping out of the top 50 golfers in the world. Ernie will toast to good times once more.
The Sharks’ dominant win over the Reds in Brisbane to book a Super Rugby semifinal date with the Stormers in Cape Town this weekend deserves a mention. JP Pietersen was talismanic. He scored his fourth try in his last five games, including internationals, and the only game when he didn’t score, against the Cheetahs, he created two tries. He was again involved in the Paul Jordaan’s try, the second for the Sharks.
When I argue with fellow scribes that he’s the country’s most complete winger, because of his experience gained while playing fullback in his career, I will whip out Saturday’s tape as further evidence.
What about Graeme Smith’s 100 in his 100th test? The Proteas captain is becoming LeBron James-like in rising above criticism.
There are only two types of South African cricket fans: those that are for Smith and those that are against him. He will surely win more fans towards his side with his bullying batting performance.
And then Jacques Kallis, as splendid as ever.