Cricket

Boks to 'surprise' critics

2011-09-06 14:48
Gary Kirsten (Gallo)
Rob Houwing, Sport24 chief writer

Cape Town – New national cricket coach Gary Kirsten has a “strong belief” that some of the Springboks’ perceived old guard will rise to the occasion at the Rugby World Cup which starts in New Zealand on Friday.

Kirsten, who helped guide India to the most recent Cricket World Cup earlier this year before returning to the country of his birth, told Sport24 he felt the Boks would “surprise the critics” in their attempted defence of the title, despite misgivings in some circles that some core players’ best years were behind them.

“I think playing for that badge ... a couple of those guys won’t play like 32- or 33-year-olds; they’ll play more like 26-year-olds.

“They know this is the last throw of the dice,” said Kirsten, referring to 2007 RWC winners like John Smit and Victor Matfield.

“I think we’ll have a good tournament. Whether we win it, I don’t know. But I do back (the Boks) to go a long way down the road in New Zealand.”

Kirsten, a former first-team scrumhalf at UCT in the days when former Bok assistant coach Alan Solomons called the shots there, met the Bok squad and offered some words of encouragement ahead of their departure for the tournament last week.

Meanwhile Kirsten, who clearly missed his dual South African sporting fix while based in India, admits it has been a “nice feeling” getting reacquainted with the Proteas cricket environment.

“Of course from a playing point of view I’m already so familiar with Jacques (Kallis), Graeme (Smith), Ashwell (Prince), Bouch (Mark Boucher) and also JP (Duminy) ... now I’m there in a different capacity and that’s obviously going to unfold as we go along.

“I’ll have to manage that very differently and am fully aware of that.”

Asked whether having once been “one of the boys” would serve as a benefit or drawback, Kirsten replied: “It could be a bit of both.

“There’ll be a bit of respect value there because the guys know I’ve been there, been in the mix, played (for the country) for 11 years. They’ll understand that I understand South African cricket!

“I suppose the negative is familiarity. As a coach you’ve got to focus on 15 people at any one time. You’re a leader of a bigger picture. I’m mindful of the familiarity threat.

“But at the same time it’s about creating positive connections – the relations will be very different. My connection with Jacques Kallis may well actually be that we had such a strong bond because of the amount of partnerships we had together as batsmen.

“I’ll use that as a vehicle to get the best out of him in whatever way I can. The younger players will clearly be different.”

*This concludes Rob Houwing’s series of pre-season interviews with Gary Kirsten

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