Minds

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - MIKE GREEN­AWAY

THE South African Rugby Union have yet to con­firm a suc­ces­sor to out­go­ing SA Un­der-20 coach Dawie Theron but the gov­ern­ing body is nev­er­the­less get­ting an early start to prepa­ra­tions for the 2017 Un­der- 20 World Rugby Cham­pi­onship that will kick-off in Ge­or­gia in late May.

This week, SA Rugby act­ing High Per­for­mance man­ager Louis Koen, the for­mer Spring­bok fly­half, will fa­cil­i­tate con­di­tion­ing assess­ment camps around the coun­try in­volv­ing 86 play­ers. Speed, strength and con­di­tion­ing lev­els will be tested and a trimmed down Ju­nior Spring­bok train­ing squad will sub­se­quently be named.

Theron’s suc­ces­sor will not be short of tal­ent. Cur­win Bosch, who was a nom­i­nee for World Rugby Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onship Player of the Tour­na­ment last year and Zain Davids are among 11 play­ers who fea­tured for the Ju­nior Spring­boks in 2016.

Davids is in the Spring­bok Sevens squad for the im­mi­nent Welling­ton and Syd­ney World Sevens Se­ries tour­na­ments.

The other play­ers in­vited to the camps who par­tic­i­pated in last year’s Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onship in Manch­ester are utility back St­ed­man Gans, fly­half Manie Lib­bok, scrumhalf Em­brose Pa­pier, prop Kwenzo Blose, fly­half Ben­hard Janse van Rens­burg, loose for­ward Ernst van Rhyn, locks Cobus Wiese and Ruben de Vil­liers and prop Carl Sadie.

Also un­der scru­tiny are 12 SA Schools play­ers from 2016, in­clud­ing cap­tain and lock Sal­maan Mo­erat, fly­half Damian Willemse, cen­trer Man­ual Rass and full­back Gianni Lom­bard.

“This is the first step in as­sem­bling a Ju­nior Spring­bok squad that will en­ter the World Rugby Un­der-20 Cham­pi­onship with high ex­pec­ta­tions in Ge­or­gia later this year,” said SA Rugby CEO Jurie Roux. “Given the tal­ent on of­fer, I be­lieve we will be able to put to­gether a top-class squad for the tour­na­ment.”

The SA Un­der-20s will face France, hosts Ge­or­gia and Ar­gentina in the pool stages of the tour­na­ment in Tbil­isi, Ge­or­gia, on 31 May, 4 June and 8 June re­spec­tively. SWEET SUC­CESS: An­gelo Mathews (right) and Nuwan Ku­lasekara of Sri Lanka cel­e­brate their team’s vic­tory South Africa in the sec­ond T20 game of the se­ries at the Wan­der­ers yes­ter­day. The sides are level 1-1 in the three-match se­ries go­ing into Wed­nes­day’s fi­nal match at New­lands.

FARHAAN Be­har­dien clearly lacks the pow­ers of per­sua­sion that Faf du Plessis pos­sesses. Where Du Plessis got what he wanted with re­gards to the pitches for the Tests against Sri Lanka – ex­tra grass to aid seam bowl­ing and nul­lify the threat of Ran­gana Herath – here the Sri Lankans had a sur­face which could have been flown in from Colombo and they rel­ished it – at least when they were in the field.

For the pur­poses of 20-over cricket this was a far from ideal sur­face at a venue fa­mous for pro­duc­ing pitches that as­sist big scor­ing. The pitch was very dry, crack­ing up and never as­sisted good stroke­play. It cer­tainly didn’t make for a run-fest and there were a num­ber of oc­ca­sions when the sold out crowd could be heard voic­ing their dis­plea­sure about the lack of en­ter­tain­ment – ie. bound­aries.

“It was lit­tle bit dis­ap­point­ing com­ing to the Bull­ring and get­ting a slow turner,” Be­har­dien said af­ter­wards.

“Nor­mally, you ex­pect pace and bounce, lots of runs, fours and sixes ... not so to­day.”

The match would fin­ish in dra­matic cir­cum­stances, with an in­jured An­gelo Mathews smash­ing a pair of straight sixes to get his side across the line and earn their first win on what has been a wretched tour thus far.

It was a scrappy game, not helped by the bats­men on both sides – bar Mathews and to a lesser ex­tent Di­nesh Chandi­mal – fail­ing to ad­just their meth­ods ac­cord­ing to the na­ture of the pitch.

South Africa’s an­swer to the spin­ning chal­lenge was fren­zied and oc­ca­sion­ally brain­less.

It wasn’t just the shot se­lec­tion that was poor but from the get go the South Africans lacked pa­tience, and, as the in­nings un­folded, the nous to deal with what Sri Lanka’s bowlers served up.

Heino Kuhn and The­u­nis de Bruyn got into an aw­ful mix up at the start of the third over not know­ing whether to at­tempt a quick sin­gle and the for­mer should have been run out. In­stead of some­one tak­ing a deep breath for the home team, they just con­tin­ued tak­ing tight sin­gles and, as if by num­ber, hav­ing taken three sin­gles they then sought to play the big shot and on most oc­ca­sions got out.

“We thought we’d as­sessed the pitch, but the na­ture of it brought the Sri Lankan spin­ners into the game, no­tably their left-arm chi­na­man (Lak­shan San­dakhan), who was a star for them to­day and picked up wick­ets on a reg­u­lar ba­sis,” Be­har­dien re­marked.

Kuhn top scored with 29, but if South Africa were go­ing to get a proper score on that sur­face he needed to be bat­ting well into the sec­ond half of the in­nings. He was out in the ninth over, the sec­ond of debu­tant San­dakhan’s four wick­ets.

The left-arm wrist spin­ner was very im­pres­sive fin­ish­ing with 4/23 in four overs, bam­boo­zling the South Africans who, fail­ing to read him, then tried to hit him too hard.

The Proteas de­serve some credit for the spirit they showed in de­fend­ing a to­tal that they knew was far from ad­e­quate. Led by an en­er­getic per­for­mance from Lungi Ngidi, who backed up his de­but per­for­mance with a stun­ningly ma­ture dis­play yes­ter­day, they made a Sri Lankan side lack­ing con­fi­dence, work very hard for their vic­tory.

The 20-year-old ex­tracted pace and bounce off the sur­face, caus­ing dis­com­fort for the all the Sri Lankan bats­men, and even­tu­ally fin­ished with 4/19 from four overs.

Where South Africa had ear­lier failed Sri Lanka suc­ceeded in their in­nings, build­ing a cru­cial part­ner­ship for the fourth wicket be­tween their two most ex­pe­ri­enced play­ers, Mathews and Chandi­mal, of 51.

Three late wick­ets made for a tense fin­ish which was fur­ther height­ened when Mathews ap­peared to twist his an­kle div­ing for a quick sin­gle at the end of the penul­ti­mate over.

Jon-Jon Smuts was tasked with bowl­ing the last over and nearly had Mathews caught at deep mid­wicket, but in div­ing for­ward to take the catch Kuhn missed a dif­fi­cult chance.

Mathews main­tained his com­po­sure and smashed two sixes to win the game. He ended on 54 not out off 50 balls hav­ing hit a four and three sixes.

Sri Lanka’s coach Gra­ham Ford said af­ter­wards that the med­i­cal staff were still as­sess­ing the cap­tain, but although he was “look­ing very sore, he was also very happy”.

The se­ries de­cider will be played at New­lands on Wed­nes­day

*The na­tional se­lec­tors added AB de Vil­liers to the squad for that fi­nal match.

While the Proteas bat­tled at the ‘Bull­ring,’ 40 min­utes away in Benoni, De Vil­liers made a hun­dred play­ing for the North­erns semi-pro­fes­sional side in a lo­cal pro­vin­cial game against Easterns at Wil­low­moore Park.

De Vil­liers, play­ing his first game back since un­der­go­ing el­bow surgery in Oc­to­ber, fin­ished not out on 134 off 103 balls, hit­ting 19 fours and three sixes. Given the way South Africa bat­ted here, De Vil­liers’ ex­pe­ri­ence and com­po­sure will cer­tainly be wel­comed.

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