Boucher back in from cold
A few months ago, during the Gary Kirsten coaching tenure, Mark Boucher got a seemingly short-term consultative role within the Proteas set-up.
Holder of so many wicketkeeping records and a real veteran of both Test and limited-overs international combat, he certainly seemed a logical fit to become a gloveman guru to the likes of AB de Villiers and much less experienced Quinton de Kock.
Since then, though, Kirsten has stepped down and the two most notable new additions to the coaching team, now headed by Russell Domingo, have been Adrian Birrell and Claude Henderson.
Whether Boucher - his playing career abruptly cut short by that awful, much-publicised eye mishap in England last year - has any meaningful future as a contributor on the CSA/Proteas mentoring front remains to be seen.
He appeared to slip back into relative privacy for a while, albeit putting much energy into his passion for rhino conservation.
So it was pleasing to many followers of the national side (as evidence by a barrage of favourable comments on Twitter and the like) to see Boucher suddenly resurface in public terms as a studio pundit early in the ODI series in Sri Lanka.
I thought he dovetailed very well with Shaun Pollock and Victor Mpitsang - the latter increasingly more assertive now after shy early days - during the second ODI in Colombo, with Sias du Plessis anchoring the Randburg-based element to the presentation.
Boucher has some prior experience of media work because he did a short stint as a match commentator during the 2011 Indian Premier League.
Personally, I think he is infinitely better at studio stuff (than describing live play), where he can simply be “Mark Boucher” as a front-of-camera expert contributor of natural gravitas, instead of having to get to grips with the specialised nuances of ball-by-ball description.
He doesn’t pull punches, and gave good insight into the various hazards and challenges associated with playing and practising in Sri Lanka, which has been a graveyard for many SA teams.
Ditto “Polly”, which seemed only logical when you recall how often “c Boucher b Pollock” was a productive feature of scoreboards involving the national team worldwide!
It’s good that SuperSport involve fresh figures in studio duty from time to time, as evidenced earlier when Graeme Smith had a confident stint during the ICC Champions Trophy.
Sometimes their rugby equivalent seems a bit too much of a closed shop; with cricket you feel there has been better room for fluidity and variety of personalities ...Rob’s Awesome Foursome
1. Sri Lanka v South Africa, 3rd and 4th cricket ODIs
Pallekele, Friday & Sunday 11:00, SS2, SHD2, CSN
How are the Proteas going to come through this backs-to-the-wall weekend for them? Alas, I fear it will take a turnaround of some magnitude for them to emerge on Sunday night still alive in the series at 2-2, and thus having knocked over the ‘Lankans twice. Perhaps the best we can hope for is at least one ray-of-light victory in the Pallekele double header, ensuring the breaking of a ODI drought on those shores stretching back incredibly to 1993. One reason for some optimism is that the surface at the venue apparently ought to be just a little more seam-friendly, so the Proteas may trim their spin attack and introduce a Rory Kleinveldt or “Lopsy” Tsotsobe for greater oomph on that front. But will that be enough? 2. Bulls v Brumbies, Super Rugby semi-final
Pretoria, Saturday 17:05, M-Net, SS1, SHD
I suggested via Twitter that my gut feel (these have largely been atrocious this season, I admit) is the Crusaders have peaked a fraction too early and may not knock over defending champions the Chiefs in the earlier Hamilton fixture on Saturday (09:35). If that proves the case, the contestants of the later Loftus semi will know in advance that the winner must go to Waikato Stadium for a second showpiece there in succession. It would be a particularly unfortunate occurrence for the Bulls, given the marathon trek involved ... but at the same time it shouldn’t alter their motivation to knock over Jake White’s Brumbies. I back the Bulls, while not without some bother from quality foes, to do the business by five to seven points. The SuperSport commentators? Messrs Bladen/Stransky (English), Koortzen/Wiese (Afrikaans) and Ntunja/Jack (Xhosa). 3. Orlando Pirates v Kaizer Chiefs, Carling Black Label Cup soccer
Johannesburg, Saturday 15:30, SABC1, SS4, SHD4
Ah, the new PSL soccer season must be just around the corner ... the Soweto giants are back at each other’s throats in the limb-loosening, slightly gimmicky beer-sponsored annual challenge. While some might frown about fans effectively choosing the line-ups through a voting system, some 22 million responses were apparently gathered and the sides are largely as you would expect them to be anyway. SuperSport4 begin their lead-up a full hour before the (sold out) FNB Stadium kick-off, whilst SABC1 are advertising their Laduma equivalent from 15:00. It would be nice to have an open-play winner this time; Pirates have clinched these particular laurels twice in a row through penalty shootouts ... 4. Kings v Lions, Super Rugby 1st leg promotion/relegation
Port Elizabeth, Friday 19:10, SS1, CSN, SHD
So here we go, then ... the long-awaited (and always likely), high-stakes clash between the two franchises vying for just one intended slot between them in Super Rugby next season. The fact that it is determined cup soccer-like over two legs, only adds to the grudge-game appeal, doesn’t it? Clearly the incumbent Kings will be desperate to build a head of steam via initial home advantage – I reckon they’re in real trouble if they head for the Highveld having played second fiddle in the Friendly City. I’m tempted to fractionally fancy the Kings to secure their ongoing status, but only if they produce the sort of “gees” that marked their overseas leg this year, before they receded somewhat back on SA turf. English commentary comes from old Eastern Cape hand Gavin Cowley, and former Bok captain Bob Skinstad, with affable one-time Lions hooker Hanyani Shimange “sideline”.