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Posted on: Wednesday, 27 January 2010

South African Sports News – 27 January

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Mickey Arthur

Mickey Arthur

Mickey calls it quits
Proteas’ coach Mickey Arthur (pictured) has resigned. The shocking news was leaked to the media on Monday and although Arthur’s resignation has still to be made official, it has been confirmed by reliable sources. It is believed that Arthur and Proteas’ captain Graeme Smith have been at loggerheads for some time and the result is that their relationship has broken down completely.

The departure of Arthur has come at a difficult time for the Proteas who leave these shores on Saturday for a demanding tour of India, which consists of two tests and three one-day internationals (ODI’s). It has been learned that former South African pace bowler Corrie van Zyl is likely to be appointed as caretaker coach for the tour of India.

The 48-year-old Van Zyl has previously worked as the Proteas’ assistant coach and was appointed as coach of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) high performance centre in Pretoria in 2009.  It is believed that Arthur’s right-hand man at the Proteas, Vincent Barnes, has also been given the boot. Mike Procter and his panel of national selectors may also soon be shown the door in a shake up that is likely to send shockwaves through the South African cricketing ranks for some time to come.

Besides Van Zyl, former South African captain Kepler Wessels and former England one-day player Jeremy Snape have also been mentioned as possible successors to Arthur. Snape, a qualified psychologist, joined the Proteas as a consultant in 2008 and is a personal friend of Smith, with whom he is also associated at the Rajasthan Royals in the Indian Premier League (IPL). It is believed that Arthur met with CSA CEO Gerald Majola on Monday to discuss his severance package. Arthur, Majola, Barnes and Van Zyl did not want to make any comments to the media. An official press conference will be held in East London today.

The 41-year-old Arthur and CSA management held an emergency meeting in Johannesburg last Tuesday to discuss the team’s struggles in the recent test series against England, which ended in a 1-1 deadlock. The Proteas won their first series in England in over 40 years and recorded a first series victory in Australia under Arthur’s guidance after he replaced Ray Jennings as coach in 2005. However, they lost a home series against the Australians not long after their groundbreaking victory against the same opponents and produced a sub-par performance in the Twenty20 World Championship and Champions Trophy series last year.

Although many pundits are not convinced that Arthur is to blame for the Proteas’ recent slump in form it’s clear that something had to be done to remedy the situation, but it seems as though Majola and his minions are hitting the panic buttons by introducing sweeping changes throughout the South African cricketing set-up. Whether or not these changes will have the desired effect on the Proteas’ on field performances remains to be seen, but there is little doubt that future developments will make for some interesting reading.

Franklin Cale

Franklin Cale

Upbeat Bafana ready to take on Zim
Head coach Carlos Alberto Parreira seems to have breathed new life into Bafana Bafana. The 66-year-old Brazilian has put his squad through some rigorous training in Durban over the past two weeks, but they seem to have relished the challenge and have put in some hard work, which has already begun to bear good fruit.

Parreira appears to have stopped Bafana from sliding into the abyss after a slew of poor results under former coach Joel Santana. However, the cool and calculating Parreira is the first to admit that he has much more to do to whip Bafana into shape ahead of their 2010 World Cup clash against Mexico on June 11.

Bafana displayed an urgency not seen under Santana’s ‘tutorship’ when they crushed minnows Swaziland 6-2 in a training match at the Chatsworth Stadium on Saturday. This convincing victory has set the stage for what is likely to be an exciting southern African derby against Zimbabwe in Durban tonight.

Zimbabwe have some quality players to provide a serious test for Bafana with their tireless midfielder Tinashe Nengomasha, who plays for Kaizer Chiefs in the Premier Soccer League (PSL), likely to be a major threat to the South Africans. Zimbabwe also have Chiefs striker Knowledge Musona, Sundowns midfielder Esrom Nyandoro and Platinum Stars goalkeeper Tapuwa Kapini in their line-up so Bafana will have to be at their very best in order to come away with a win.

Parreira expressed his satisfaction with the progress made in Durban: “We will continue to play our brand of soccer – which is keeping possession and hitting Zimbabwe on the counter attack.  It worked well against Swaziland and we will keep working to try and become better and cut out the mistakes.”

Despite their runaway victory over the weekend, Bafana still leaked two goals and it is this that Parreira alluded to when he spoke of “mistakes”. However, defensive-lapses aside, Parreira has managed to install confidence in his squad, and the fact that Bafana were able to find the back of the net on no less than six occasions is a testament to their progress. Parreira has also brought back competition for places in the squad whereas Santana stuck with the same players leaving many of them in a comfort zone.

The Bafana coach said he would not make many changes to the side that started against Swaziland for today’s game, but Mamelodi Sundowns winger Franklin Cale (pictured) could well be fielded from the get go rather than coming on at a later stage. Cale scored two brilliant goals when he took the field at the beginning of the second half against Swaziland and was in sublime form.

Orlando Pirates striker Gert Schalkwyk, who also notched up a brace in the first half, deserves his place against Zimbabwe. His partnership with Orlando Pirates teammate, midfielder Teko Modise, was a revelation and should be encouraged to develop for the South Africans. Kick-off at the Moses Mabhida Stadium is at 8.30pm.

Hashim Amla

Hashim Amla

Dolphins shock Titans to reach final
For the second week running, the Nashua Dolphins got the better of the Nashua Titans and their 15 run victory at SuperSport Park in Centurion on Sunday enabled the KwaZulu-Natalians to book themselves a place in Friday’s MTN40 final.

Batting first the Dolphins notched up an impressive 251/6 of their allotted 40 overs with the top three of Loots Bosman (42 off 49 balls), Hashim Amla (59 off 58 deliveries) and brother Ahmed Amla (54 off 54 balls) all weighing in with useful contributions to set the platform for the Dolphins’ innings.

Hashim (pictured) was in particularly good form and played some attractive strokes in his innings, possibly sending a message to the national selectors that they could well have erred by leaving him out of the One Day International (ODI) squad for the upcoming tour of India. The Dolphins middle order kept the scoreboard ticking before Johann Louw (26 not off 13 deliveries) and Pierre de Bruyn (11 not out off seven balls) scored 28 runs off the last 14 deliveries to take the KwaZulu-Natalians through to their formidable total.

Morne Morkel (1/46 off eight overs), Ethy Mbhalati (2/51 off eight overs), Roelof van der Merwe (1/58 off eight overs) and Pierre Joubert (1/33 off seven overs) all got wickets, but, with the exception of Joubert, were a tad expensive. The end result was that the Titans had to chase 252 for victory at a rate of 6.3 to the over, which was never going to be easy against an attack as varied as that of the Dolphins.

The Titans made a disastrous start to their innings, losing opener Gulam Bodi for nought and number three Jacques Rudolph for seven to leave them on a precarious 22/2 after 4.3 overs. Heino Kuhn and AB de Villiers set about repairing the damage with a stand of 48 for the third wicket before Kuhn was caught and bowled by Daryn Smit for 28 to leave the Titans on 70/3. De Villiers was then joined at the crease by Faf du Plessis and the pair looked like taking the Titans to victory with both batsmen carting the Dolphins’ bowlers all over the park.

However, fate intervened on behalf of the visitors when De Villiers was unluckily run out for a well-played 61 off 66 balls after Du Plessis had slipped at the crease while turning for a second run. Smit then removed Farhaan Behardien for two heralding the arrival of the dangerous Albie Morkel to the crease. The left-handed Proteas batsmen teamed up with Du Plessis and the duo added a further 13 runs to the total before Du Plessis was caught in the covers by Andrew Hall off the bowling of Kyle Abbott for 51. With De Villiers and Du Plessis now in the pavilion the pressure was mounting on the home side and Morkel and new man at the crease Joubert responded positively with some lusty blows to keep the Titans in the hunt.

However, things turned sour once again for the Pretoria franchise when Morkel (26 off 27 deliveries) was brilliantly caught on the boundary by a diving David Miller leaving Joubert and the remaining batsmen with too much to do.
In the end, the Titans fell 15 runs short of their target with Joubert full value for his 38 off 37 balls. Louw (2/39 off eight overs), Abbott (1/40 off eight overs), Hall (1/55 off eight overs), Smit (2/35 off seven overs) and Alfonso Thomas (1/60 off eight overs) all got amongst the wickets, but it was Louw and Smit in particular who stood out.

It was a bitterly disappointing defeat for the Titans who topped the log and looked a sure bet for the championship, only to be outplayed by a motivated Dolphins outfit when it counted most. The Dolphins will now play the Chevrolet Warriors in the final on Friday at Buffalo Park in East London. It should be an absolute cracker and the crowd can expect a tense struggle between these two well-matched teams.

Scores in brief
Dolphins: 251/6
Cobras: 236/9
Result: Dolphins won by 15 runs

Rusty Theron

Rusty Theron

Rusty ruins Cobras’ party
The Chevrolet Warriors proved more than a handful for the more fancied Cape Cobras when they defeated them by nine runs in their MTN40 semi-final clash at Boland Bank Park in Paarl on Friday. Batting first the Warriors amassed an intimidating 274/4 off their allotted 40 overs with opening batsman Justin Kreusch (60 off 59 deliveries) and Ashwell Prince (48 off 48 balls) getting the visitors off to a rollicking start. The duo put on 104 for the first wicket before Prince was caught at long off after trying to hit off-spinner JP Duminy out of the ground.

Kreusch was then joined by Colin Ingram and the pair added a further 21 runs before the opener was run out by at the keeper’s end after a superb throw from Herschelle Gibbs at short cover. However, Kreusch’s demise heralded the arrival of Proteas stalwart Jacques Kallis to the crease and the batting maestro wasted little time in putting the Cobras to the sword. Kallis hammered the Cobras attack to all corners of the park on his way to amassing an unbeaten 73 off just 55 balls as the Warriors smashed 67 runs off the last five overs of their innings.

The 34-year-old Kallis struck six fours and two sixes in his innings and together with Davey Jacobs (47 not out off 34 deliveries) put on 111 for the fifth wicket to take the Warriors to their impressive total. The Cobras had looked like bowling themselves back into the match when Ingram (35 off 42 balls) and Mark Boucher (three off four deliveries) fell in quick succession, but Kallis and Jacobs’ magnificent efforts enabled the Warriors to attain a formidable total.

Chasing 266 for victory from the get go at an asking rate of 6.65 to the over was always going to be a tough task for the Cobras, and in the end it proved to much for the Cape franchise. Speedster Rusty Theron (pictured left) was the destroyer in chief for the Warriors with 4/48 off eight overs with Lonwabe Tsotobe (1/35 off six overs) and Wayne Parnell (1/43 off eight overs) providing valuable support. Justin Kemp (71 off 55 deliveries) batted well for the Cobras and kept their victory hopes alive, but when he was trapped leg-before by Theron with the total on 220/5, the Cobras were always going to struggle. The flame-haired Theron then removed Rory Kleinveldt (nought off three balls) and Justin Ontong (24 off 25 deliveries) to conclude his four-wicket haul.

Vernon Philander, batting at number nine, tried valiantly to win the match for the home side with an unbeaten 23 off 14 balls but the Warriors’ bowlers kept their composure under pressure to ensure a well-deserved victory.
It was a very disappointing end to what had been an excellent season for the Cobras who finished second on the log only to fail in the semi-finals against their less fancied opponents.

Scores in brief
Warriors: 274/4
Cobras: 265/8
Result: Warriors won by nine runs.

Thabiso ‘The Rock’ Mchunu

Thabiso ‘The Rock’ Mchunu

Mchunu demolishes Groenewald to retain title
South African cruiserweight champion Thabiso ‘The Rock’ Mchunu (pictured) successfully defended his title in the Bloemfontein City Hall on Friday night with a fourth TKO victory over veteran campaigner Ruben Groenewald.

The 32-year-old Groenewald, who tipped the scales at a somewhat podgy 89.96kg, obviously hadn’t prepared for a long fight and came out swinging in the opening round, clearly intent on scoring a quick knockout with his dangerous left hook. Mchunu, in stark contrast, weighed in at a chiselled 90.36kg and utilised his quick reflexes and tight defence to perfection, as Groenewald was unable to land any meaningful punches. The champion also used his excellent jab to probe his opponent for weaknesses and spent the rest of the round sizing up the challenger.

Things become very unpleasant for the Brakpan resident in the next round when Mchunu, obviously encouraged by his new found assurance that his foe posed no threat to him, started to unleash an array of hurtful punches that reddened Groenwald’s face. The champion really turned up the heat in round three by landing some blistering combinations that stunned the challenger, forcing him to back peddle towards the ropes. One three-punch (jab-cross-hook) combination was particularly impressive and had Groenwald reeling from its effects.

Mchunu picked up right where he had left off in round four by firing off fearsome combinations that Groenewald simply had no answer for. Although the challenger was yet to take a count he was taking a bad beating, and it therefore came as no surprise when referee Jaap Van Niewenhuizen called a halt to proceedings at 1:31 of the round to save the hapless challenger from further punishment.

It was a very impressive performance by the young southpaw from KwaZulu-Natal, who, at just 21 years of age, demonstrated a maturity that far exceeds his fledgling years. Mchunu’s punches were fast, accurate and damaging and there is little doubt that he can go all the way to the top of the sport if he is managed correctly. The champion, who also holds the lightly regarded World Boxing Association (WBA) Pan African Cruiserweight belt, improved his record to 7-0 (6 KO’s) with the win while Groenewald fell to 23-8-3 (10 KO’s) and looks like he has nowhere to go but down from here on.

Mchunu stated in the post fight television interview that he is: “finished with fighting local opposition” and wants to now “take on international boxers”. Indeed, that is precisely what is required for his career to carry on in the right direction. Boxing fans and scribes alike will be hoping that Mchunu can sign up with a promoter who can get him international fights; otherwise his career is likely to stall and eventually fizzle out. And that, ladies and gentleman, would be a travesty of justice as Mchunu is undoubtedly one of South Africa’s most gifted young boxers.

Undercard results
Gideon Buthelezi TKO 4 Nelson Mtshali (mini-flyweights)
Michael Ramabeletsa TKO 4 Zukile Toko (bantamweights)

Birkett and Graham

Birkett and Graham

Birkett and Graham are Dusi kings
Andrew Birkett and former pupil Jason Graham (both pictured) capitilised on the misfortune suffered by defending champions Ant Stott and Michael Mbanjwa on the final day of the Dusi Canoe Marathon, to take race honurs in 7 hrs, 42 min and 4 secs. The duo won by more than three minutes as pre-race favourites Stott and Mbanjwa had to make do with second.

At one stage Stott and Mbanjwa enjoyed a 90 second advantage over Birkett and Graham, but their hopes of staging a successful defence of their title were dealt a mortal blow when their boat overturned on some rapids only an hour before the finish on Saturday. Birkett and Graham took full advantage of the situation to paddle well clear of their rivals and secure victory. Local favourites Thomas Ngidi and Eric Zondi finished third.

The women’s race was won by the heavily favoured duo of Abbey Miedema and Robyn Kime in 8:56:4. Miedema and Kime finished almost 12 minutes ahead of Abby Adie and Lindi-May Harmsen with Hilary Pitchford and Jen Hodson taking third a further 5:38 behind Harmsen and Pitchford. Michael Stewart and Kirsty Fox took the K2 mixed race honours in 9:19:11, narrowly beating Mark and Angelique Mulder (9:20:21) into second place.

The 31-year-old Birkett and the 19-year-old Graham’s victory was a major surprise as Stott and Mbanjwe were heavy favourites to win the race after a dominant performance in last year’s race. However, Birkett and Graham had other ideas and their persistence paid off as their more illustrious rivals made a crucial mistake from which they just could not recover.

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