ONLY FINAL PUSH MATTERS
Watching from sidelines hurts but his only concern is Lions winning title
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.