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Check out a Guide to the Best Stargazing Spots in the Southern Hemisphere (Excerpt from Offbeat SA) @PRHSouthAfrica…

Woordfees 2015: Fanie Viljoen en Nanette van Rooyen gesels oor tienerwoede en die skryf van jeugromans

Woordfees 2015: Fanie Viljoen en Nanette van Rooyen

Fanie Viljoen het op Woensdag, 11 Maart met Nanette van Rooyen gesels oor die skryf van tienerboeke.

UitPleisters vir die dooiesEk was hier

Van Rooyen het gesê Viljoen se jeugromans, Pleisters vir die dooies en Uit, is meér as grensverskuiwend, pakkend, skokkend en belangrik.

Viljoen het gesels oor die naamlose woede van tieners en die kwessies van selfdood en homoseksualiteit wat hy in sy boeke aanpak. Hy het ook vertel dat JD Salinger se boek The Catcher in the Rye ’n belangrike invloed op Pleisters vir die dooies gehad het.

Helené Prinsloo (@helenayp) het regstreeks vanaf die praatjie met #Woordfees2015 getwiet:



Wen een van vyf boeke: ’n Duisend stories oor Johannesburg, Chuck Norris kan deel deur nul en nog

In die nuutste Bloem Nuus-kompetisie is daar ’n boek vir elke tipe leser op die spel, van kinderstories en jeugromans tot romanses en ’n stadsroman.

’n Duisend stories oor JohannesburgChuck Norris kan deel deur nulReënboog in die sandDiere TeenoorgesteldesChain Reaction

Een gelukkige leser kan ’n kans staan om ’n kopie van Dirna Ackermann se liefdesroman, Reënboog in die sand, te wen. Vir die jeugdige lesers is daar twee boeke wat gewen kan word – Chuck Norris kan deel deur nul deur Annelie Ferreira en Chain Reaction deur Adeline Radloff.

Wen ’n kopie van Diere Teenoorgesteldes deur Human & Rousseau vir die kinders of ’n Duisend stories oor Johannesburg: ’n Stadsroman deur Harry Kalmer vir liefhebbers van stadstories en kortverhale.

Die kompetisies sluit Maandag, 9 Maart om 09:00. Registreer op Bloem Nuus se webtuiste om in aanmerking te kom vir die pryse.


JB Roux resenseer As ek val deur Jenny Downham, vertaal deur Lydia du Plessis

As ek valUitspraak: wortel

As ek val is nugter en eerlik, sonder om morbied of jammerhartig te wees. Dis ook nie ligsinnig nie, al laat Kara se eksentrieke optrede jou glimlag.

As daar nog iets bestaan soos ’n tiener met ’n boekrak, verdien dié een ’n ereplek.


Taking the Bulls by the horns

ONE of the most comprehensive makeovers of any South African sporting institution was undertaken by Heyneke Meyer at the turn of the century. He transformed the Blue Bulls from an underperforming, amateur outfit into a successful professional business. And he is building on the strategies honed at the Bulls to take the Springboks into the 2015 Rugby World Cup.

The organisational principles Meyer instituted could apply to any modern business: a flattened, relatively transparent leadership group; a culture which prioritised the goals of the team above those of the individual and the systematic development of fresh talent to ensure the long-term sustainability of the organisation.

When Meyer was appointed head coach of the Bulls in 2001 rugby had already been professional for five years but the Bulls had not caught up. Their coaches had traditionally been drawn from the ranks of the South African Defence Force and the University of Pretoria. Their player group was dominated by the fading stars of the 1995 Rugby World Cup.

There was a poor work ethic. Senior players demanded fag-like obeisance from the younger players. Gym was slipshod and amateurish, with wives and girlfriends frequently joining in, which meant there was more preening than pruning. The ruling ethos was army-style: hierarchical and authoritarian.

And their rugby was awful. In 2000 their Currie Cup team was so poor it was relegated to the B division. In Super Rugby they languished at the bottom of the league.

Meyer’s strategy was to invest in a first-class management team that was capable of recruiting and developing promising young rugby players and turning them into Springboks. Where previous practice had been to blow most of the budget on buying star players, under Meyer the focus was on building the institutional capacity to create star players.

The first thing he did was to cull 11 of the 16 Springboks he inherited and drastically cut the salaries of those who remained, such as Joost van der Westhuizen. The money saved went into a recruiting drive for coaches and young talent. The average age of players dropped from 29 to 23.

The tradition in rugby at the time was to appoint a head coach assisted by a backline and forwards coach, each of whom aspired to succeed the head coach. Meyer positioned himself differently: he was leader and co-ordinator of a team of specialists, each of whom had to know more about their field of expertise than he did.

Thus he sought expert kicking, conditioning, defence and attack coaches and then persuaded the Bulls management to employ them. He was also the first coach to insist on a dedicated team doctor to ensure consistent treatment and management of one of rugby’s biggest problems: injuries.

As Marco Botha records in his book, Coach, there was a divisive, envious culture at the Bulls prior to Meyer’s arrival. The under-19 coach hoped that the under-21 coach would mess up so that he could get his job. And the under-21 coach was secretly gunning for the Currie Cup coach’s job. It was the same with the players: each man was in it for himself.

There was little consistency in the style of rugby played by the Bulls teams. A player would have to adjust to different scrumming, tackling or kicking tactics each time he progressed to a more senior team. Under Meyer, everyone employed or contracted by the Bulls was a cog in the machine and either they all pulled in the same direction or they were out.



Coaches at every level reported directly to Meyer and he thus ensured that teams played the same style of rugby. Specialists from the senior team were deployed to junior teams to ensure their coaches were all instilling the same techniques.

If a spate of injuries meant Meyer needed to fast-track an under-21 player to the senior team, he could be confident that the boy would fit in seamlessly.

It has to be said that Meyer was fortunate in that his tenure coincided with effective leadership at the top. Bulls CEO Barend van Graan bought into Meyer’s vision and backed him all the way, which mainly meant persuading the board to support Meyer and finding the funds to pay his unprecedentedly large coaching team.

Under Van Graan, the Bulls remain the best run union in the country. Despite the fact that rugby has been professional for two decades, South African rugby still tends towards the clubbish and secretive.

Van Graan, alone among union CEOs, keeps his office door ajar, literally and figuratively. Without this kind of openness, it is unlikely Meyer would have been able to achieve what he did.

And his achievements were remarkable: he not only transformed the management model and culture, he also set the Bulls off on a winning streak. They won the Currie Cup in 2002, 2003 and 2004. They reached the semifinals of Super Rugby in 2005 and 2006 and, in 2007, became the first South African team to win the Super Rugby title.

Meyer realised that he needed to be looking to the future as well. Management teams can be relied on to last, but players wear out fast. By the age of 35 — unless they are Victor Matfield who is still playing at the age of 37 — they are past their sell-by dates.

Meyer is clear about what he looks for when he is recruiting: “Character. Mental toughness. After three playing sessions, I can tell you which player will make it and which not. After tough sessions, guys who walk out and sit out will always sit out when it’s tough.

“I also look at their upbringing: when I interview youngsters, it is usually with both their parents. Now, 90% of the time, the mother will want them to be in the hostel: their washing must be done and they must study. The father just wants them to play rugby.”

“You get kids who, in an hour’s conversation, don’t say a word. The parents speak for him. Clearly he can’t express himself. He’s never been able to fight for himself,” Meyer says.

The characteristics Meyer looks for would equally apply to an employee in any other business: self-reliance, discipline, a strong work ethic, a team player and, above all, emotional resilience. The ability to overcome setbacks and come back stronger.



Again, though, he recognised that recruiting was a speciality and he employed someone else to focus on it. The man he chose, Ian Schwartz, created a database of promising young players throughout the country and built up relationships with school coaches, agents and parents to ensure the Bulls were their first choice once they had matriculated.

Schwartz, along with almost the entire management team originally recruited by Meyer for the Bulls, is now with the Springboks. This was a precondition for Meyer’s acceptance of the job.

“Most of the best coaches in the country were at the Bulls,” he says. “I know because I spent 10 years getting them in.”

So it is the Bulls culture which dominates the national team.

This is largely a good thing. They are highly professional and dedicated. They are also modest, unassuming men who espouse another Meyer dictum: the Japanese philosophy of kaizen — continuous progress and improvement.

This is usually infinitesimal in scale but, incrementally, it amounts to a continuing capacity to adapt to changing circumstances and thus stay on top.

As in every workplace with a strong internal culture, there is the danger of narrowness: Afrikaans is too often used in team talks, which is alienating for black players.

The challenges Meyer faces now are different to those he faced at the Bulls: he does not have control over the workload or the game plans of his players when they are not on national duty.

But, being Heyneke Meyer, he has not let this defeat him. He has worked hard on his relationships with Super Rugby coaches in an attempt to get them to implement similar techniques, sending his specialist coaches to spend time with the Super Rugby franchises.

He has also achieved what no other Springbok coach has, which is an agreement that top Springboks will be periodically rested by their franchises in the run-up to the Rugby World Cup in September.

It’s all about winning, whatever it takes.

• This article first appeared in Business Day


A yen for Japan

ONE wouldn’t automatically link Japan and SA in a single train of thought: there is limited cultural, tourist and economic exchange between the two countries. We are a young, diverse, developing nation. Japan has the third-biggest economy in the world, a 4.1% unemployment rate and an ageing, homogenous population right now shivering in below-zero temperatures.

But there is one connection between us with immediate consequences for an activity close to many South African hearts. In a Tokyo stadium on Saturday a whisky producer takes on a speed merchant and, once the dust has settled, our Super Rugby campaign should get an additional charge with the return of some of our star players.

The final of Japan’s Top League sees Suntory Sungoliath and Yamaha Jubilo battling it out for the privilege of carrying off the 2014-15 trophy.

Fourie du Preez and Schalk Burger play for Suntory. The Bulls’ Dewald Potgieter turns out for Yamaha. Du Preez, in particular, seems to have been a hit in Japan. And, judging from a recent interview on a Japanese website, he has comfortably adjusted to a more philosophical turn of questioning from reporters than he would be likely to encounter here. Fourie explained that, crucial to his performance, was to “see a picture in my head of how I want to play”.

“Is this picture like a third person seeing from above?” probes the reporter. “I just see good images from my previous experiences,” replies Du Preez.

He should be back here shortly. Ryan Kankowski and Jean Deysel have just returned from Japan to the Sharks. JP Pietersen and Frans Steyn are also due home soon. Jaque Fourie, currently contracted to the Kobelco Steelers, is rumoured to be negotiating a berth at the Sharks.

Japanese steel giant Kobe Steel, owner of the Steelers, has a soft spot for South Africans: they have just waved goodbye to head coach Gary Gold, who takes over as head coach of the Sharks, and will welcome in his stead Stormers coach Allister Coetzee later this year.

Former Springbok lock Andries Bekker still runs their lineouts.

Japan’s top corporations have become sugar daddies for South African rugby, providing temporary respite from the rigours of the professional game here. They not only pay huge salaries, bumping up players’ post-retirement funds, but they also provide a much more holistic, family-friendly playing environment.

All the big rugby clubs in Japan are owned and run by corporations. Most of their players are amateurs. They are company employees who work full-time and practice after hours. During the season they work in the mornings — in marketing, management or production — and practice in the afternoons. Once their rugby playing days are over, these players will remain with the company. There is still a jobs-for-life culture and a steady salary and job security is what counts. Rugby is an extracurricular activity.

Fewer than 10% of players are professionals — and most of those are foreigners. There are limits: there can be only two foreign players on each side on the field at one time. This means that, for the professionals, there is ample family time. Both Du Preez and Schalk Burger have recently added to their families and will have been at home for every developmental milestone. If they had remained tied to the relentless South African rugby schedule they would barely have seen their kids.

A Japanese stint is becoming a favoured option, even for some union administrators, because it means they can cottonwool some star players and are relieved of some of the financial responsibility for those players.

But what is in it for the Japanese? Unlike here, rugby barely causes a flicker on the national radar. Walk into any sports bar in Tokyo and a punter will be able to rattle off the names of 40 baseball or soccer players, even sumo wrestlers, but you’d get a blank stare when it came to rugby players. Someone like Schalk Burger might be noticed in the street for his size and blondness, not for his prowess on the rugby field.

Rugby is shown only on pay-to-air TV, and then fleetingly. It barely features on terrestrial television, which attracts the vast majority of viewers.

Most Japanese rugby players emerge through the universities, but it is the soccer J-League which commands the greatest attention.

Japan is hosting the 2019 Rugby World Cup. It must be a worry to the Japanese Rugby Football Union: how are they going to drum up sufficient support in the next four years? Do they have any hope of filling their stadiums?

Presumably it will help that Tokyo is hosting the 2020 Olympic Games. Nationalistic pride in showcasing the country for major international sporting events will already be swelling by the autumn of 2019, when Japan plays host to the world’s top rugby players.

And, from 2016, Japan will have a team in Super Rugby. Bizarrely, it will be part of the South African conference.

 *This column first appeared in Business Day

Kom geniet ’n buitelugvertoning van Suurlemoen! deur Jaco Jacobs by die Taalmonument

Suurlemoen!Die Afrikaanse Taalmonument nooi jou graag na ’n buitelugvertoning van die fliek gebaseer op Jaco Jacobs se veelbekroonde jeugroman, Suurlemoen!.

Die vertoning word aangebied deur die Taalmonument en vorm deel van hul piekniekreeks ten bate van hul leesprojek vir kinders.

Suurlemoen! draai op Vrydag, 6 Maart, om 20:00 by die Taalmonument in Paarl. Kaartjies kos R70 per persoon en R35 vir kinders onder 13 jaar en is beskikbaar by Computicket. Besoek die Taalmonument en -museum se Facebook-blad vir meer inligting.

Moet dit nie misloop nie!