ONLY FI­NAL PUSH MAT­TERS

Watch­ing from side­lines hurts but his only con­cern is Lions win­ning ti­tle

The Star Early Edition - - SPORT - SPORTS RE­PORTER MATSHELANE MAM­ABOLO JAC­QUES VAN DER WESTHUYZEN

PAGE 28 MIGNON du Preez and Laura Wolvaardt rep­re­sent both ends of the ex­pe­ri­ence spec­trum for South Africa and af­ter com­ing des­per­ately close to a maiden World Cup fi­nal, both are keen to come back and give it an­other crack.

The Proteas fell ag­o­niz­ingly short against host Eng­land, los­ing by two wick­ets with two de­liv­er­ies to spare, but both Du Preez, who had made an un­beaten 76, and Wolvaardt who scored 66, played their part in a thrilling en­counter.

Now 28, and a former cap­tain, Du Preez was tak­ing part in her third World Cup, and al­though she is one of the older cam­paign­ers in the team, the up­ward tra­jec­tory of the team has con­vinced her she has more to give.

“I’ve played for South Africa for 10 years and to fi­nally get to a semi-fi­nal of an ODI World Cup is very spe­cial,” Du Preez told www.icc-cricket.com.

“This is my third World Cup. Un­for­tu­nately, we didn’t come out on the side we would have liked but I still think we can be proud of the whole tour­na­ment. We’ve played a bril­liant brand of cricket. We had a slo­gan com­ing in – ‘Al­ways ris­ing’ – and I think that’s ex­actly what we did. We’ve got a lot to be proud of, even though the re­sult didn’t go our way.

“This has ex­cited me to come back for an­other one, so that we take a tro­phy home. It’s def­i­nitely not the end of the road, I think I’ve got a few more years to con­trib­ute to SA cricket.

“I think back home, we said com­ing here we wanted to leave a legacy and that’s ex­actly what we’ve done. We’ve shown the world that we are a force to be reck­oned with and I hope a lot of girls fi­nally had the chance to see us play and I hope young girls will be in­spired to take up the sport in SA and it will bea full ca­reer op­tion back home.”

At just 18, Wolvaardt was the youngest player in the SA squad, but de­spite her prodi­gious tal­ent, has been weigh­ing up the op­tion of study­ing medicine.

How­ever, af­ter fall­ing just short of a first World Cup fi­nal, she re­vealed she was keen to give it an­other go.

“It’s my first World Cup and I’ve just been try­ing to score as many runs as I can for my team. I re­ally wanted to play well for the team,” Wolvaardt said.

“It’s def­i­nitely mo­ti­vated me to stay with it more. I don’t know about my fu­ture plans yet, I still have to think about that. But I think we came so close, and just get­ting a taste of what could be, I’ll def­i­nitely be back for more.” THE SIGHT of Roger Fed­erer win­ning yet an­other Wim­ble­don ti­tle this past week­end has stirred up some fire in Tsepo Masilela.

“I am a fan of ten­nis, and see­ing Roger win a Grand Slam when so many peo­ple were start­ing to doubt him, gave me a push. It in­spired me to say: ‘I can still do it’,” said the Kaizer Chiefs left­back.

And so it will be with re­newed vigour that Masilela, him­self con­sid­ered way past his sell-by-date by many, tack­les the up­com­ing sea­son, driven by a de­sire to show that age is no lim­i­ta­tion but also the need to help Amakhosi avoid a tro­phy­less hat-trick of sea­sons.

“It’s very im­por­tant for me to keep win­ning tro­phies. I’ve been with Chiefs for a while now and I’ve won two league ADRIAN Bir­rell is pretty clear, de­spite South Africa’s suc­cess at Trent Bridge on Mon­day and his role in it, he wants no part of be­ing the team’s head coach.

“I’m a stand-in head coach, that’s it,” he quipped. He did a heck of a job in the ab­sence of his boss and close friend Rus­sell Domingo. “We pre­pared the same way we have in all other Test matches...we just did ex­actly the same thing, there was no panic af­ter the Lord’s Test. The feed­back from the play­ers was that we’d pre­pared very well at Lord’s but we played poorly,” said Bir­rell. JULY 20 2017 ti­tles and a few (knock­out) tro­phies. And once you’ve tasted win­ning and lift­ing the tro­phy, it is amaz­ing. You keep on want­ing that feel­ing.”

At 32-years of age, Masilela is among the club’s se­nior play­ers and it is up to the likes of him that coach Steve Kom­phela will look to for lead­er­ship as Chiefs strive to bring back the glory days. Masilela is up to the task. “There’s a big role for us. We’ve got new play­ers who have just joined and we also have the younger ones join­ing from the academy. The only way for us to lead them is through our per­for­mances. Of course, we can lead and talk to them off the field, but we have to show it with our per­for­mances be­cause that’s where it all mat­ters.”

“Two sea­sons and no tro­phy is bad for a team like Chiefs ... We are not re­ally in a place to say we want to win ev­ery­thing but of course we are in it to win it. The com­pe­ti­tion is tough, it has al­ways been tough, but let’s see how it plays out.”

He says they learnt some big lessons from the pre­vi­ous cam­paign.

“Ob­vi­ously, we can­not con­cede (goals) as much as we did and es­pe­cially at the times we con­ceded – at cru­cial stages like the dy­ing min­utes of the game. We must be­able to man­age and close down the game. And while we do score, we can al­ways im­prove there.”

He also says Chiefs will do well to hit the ground run­ning and en­sure they set the pace or at least be up there with the pace-set­ters.

“We don’t want to be in a sit­u­a­tion where we are play­ing catch-up. So, if we start strong, even if we have a slump, we’ll have the points or maybe we’ve al­ready won a tro­phy, it will re­lieve the pres­sure.”

With the Car­ling Black La­bel loom­ing large against Or­lando Pi­rates, Masilela says it is im­por­tant that Amakhosi, fresh from win­ning the Bokone Bophir­ima Maize Cup, lay down the marker.

“Derby ex­pec­ta­tions are al­ways high,” he states “It’s a derby at the end of the day. I hear tick­ets are al­ready sold out, that says a lot about the mag­ni­tude of the game. We want to win it for the fans, but it is good for the club too and as a player you need to see how far you are - if your tank is filled up.”

De­spite an il­lus­tri­ous ca­reer that has even seen him play in the high­lyrated La Liga as well as the World Cup and win nu­mer­ous ti­tles, Masilela’s de­sire for suc­cess is clearly not filled up yet. And with Fed­erer show­ing him it can be done no mat­ter one’s age, the Chiefs left-back has all in­ten­tions to have a mas­sive sea­son.

NOT be­ing able to lead his team, his Lions, at home in the Su­per Rugby play­offs is some­thing War­ren White­ley tries to not think about. It hurts too much.

“I dread even think­ing about it,” said the reg­u­lar Lions skip­per yes­ter­day. “I try not to think about it. It’s very dif­fi­cult (miss­ing out), it’s tough. Be­ing in­volved with this team at this stage of the com­pe­ti­tion and con­sid­er­ing what is on the line in the com­ing weeks, is ev­ery­thing I dreamed of.”

White­ley will miss the all knock­out rounds games this sea­son af­ter be­ing ruled out of rugby for some time with a lig­a­ment in­jury in his pelvis. He also missed out on lead­ing the Spring­boks at his home ground in June in the third Test against France, hav­ing picked up the in­jury in the week be­fore the match.

The Lions have a won­der­ful chance of go­ing all the way and be­com­ing South Africa’s sec­ond fran­chise to lift the tro­phy af­ter the Bulls, who have won the com­pe­ti­tion three times. Af­ter fin­ish­ing top of the log, hav­ing suf­fered just one de­feat in 15 out­ings.

This week­end, the Lions open the knock­out phase of the com­pe­ti­tion with a quar­ter-fi­nal clash against the Sharks.

It re­ally is déjà vu for White­ley. Last June in the third Test against Ire­land in Port El­iz­a­beth he in­jured his AC joint in his shoul­der and was at one stage ruled out of the rest of the Su­per Rugby com­pe­ti­tion.

His only in­volve­ment with the Lions af­ter the June break came in the quar­ter-fi­nal win against the Cru­saders ... and then in the fi­nal in a wet and windy Welling­ton, when the Lions lost to the Hur­ri­canes.

As was the case a year ago when White­ley re­mained close to the team and in­volved him­self in team meet­ings and dis­cus­sions, he will do the same this year.

“I’ll try and stay as in­volved as a I can with the team, but with all my physio, re­ha­bil­i­ta­tion, get­ting into the oxy­gen cham­ber and so on it’s not like I have a lot of time on my hands,” he said.

“I would love to be at ev­ery train­ing ses­sion, talk­ing to the guys, and help­ing out where I can, but I can’t. I’ll do what I can.”

As tough as it has been watch­ing his team­mates fin­ish top of the stand­ings and see­ing good mate Jaco Kriel lead­ing the side out, White­ley said the only thing that mat­tered right now was the team go­ing all the way.

“As hard as it is for me, this is not about me ... it’s about the Lions, the team, the union,” he said. “The guys have got to this point and they now need to go on and win it. I’m just re­ally so grate­ful and for­tu­nate to have played a small part in it, this jour­ney we have been on over the last few years. It’s been a priv­i­lege and an hon­our to be part of this team; that’s what’s im­por­tant.”

Un­like last year when he re­cov­ered in time to play in the fi­nal in Welling­ton af­ter miss­ing the semi-fi­nal vic­tory against the High­landers in Joburg, White­ley is un­likely to make a mir­a­cle re­turn.

White­ley said he would do “ev­ery­thing pos­si­ble” to be back in time to lead the Boks when they kick off their Rugby Cham­pi­onship chal­lenge against Ar­gentina in PE

on Au­gust 19.

THURS­DAY

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