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Lions squad brings skill to South Africa party – but past lessons must be learned


For those players selected in the British & Irish Lions squad on Wednesday, the tour starts this weekend. That’s how I felt when I was lucky enough to have my name read out in 2009; you feel a sense of wanting to prove you deserve your place and you are already thinking about pressing your claims for the Test team. I was up against Shane Williams who had been named World Player of the Year in 2008 so I knew I had my work cut out.

My first match after being selected was a European quarter-final against Leinster and my last was the Premiership semi-final against London Irish. I didn’t find this out for a while afterwards but my mum had a dream in the week that I broke my neck playing rugby. I went up for a high ball in the first 10 minutes and landed on my head – my mum was in the crowd at the time. I just remember thinking I couldn’t go off, I was desperate to help Harlequins to a final. The following Six Nations I was knocked unconscious and had to have a scan, and while I got the all clear for that they noticed I had a displaced disc in my neck that had been there for six months or so. Had I gone off against Irish I really don’t think I would have made the tour so it just goes to show, the fate of these players is the lap of the gods.

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It also means that while there is huge devastation among so many players who have missed out, they too have to remain focused for these final weeks of the season. The chances are that the 37 who get on the plane may not be the same as those who had their names read out. Dylan Hartley springs to mind in 2013, and in 2009 Jerry Flannery was injured in the final training session before flying out.

There’s so much to like about this squad, even if Nostradamus couldn’t have predicted it. There’s a lot of physicality: a clear message that the Lions are ready to take South Africa on, to match their fitness and pace but also to bring skill to the party. It has some good balance plus a few question marks, and I would have to agree with Brian O’Driscoll and wonder where the creativity will come from in midfield. The answer may well be Finn Russell if it is a continuing problem for Warren Gatland and, on a separate note, I can imagine that South Africa will look at that squad and be delighted Manu Tuilagi is not in it.

Warren has talked about the 2009 tour and how we were caught cold in the first Test, that we were not ready for the Springboks’ brutality and I would have to agree with him. My mind goes back to the Monday morning review after that defeat. Shaun Edwards said it was the worst first defensive set he had seen in an international match. We got battered on the scrum and John Smit strolled in under the sticks. We conceded a try in the first defensive set in our 22 – it’s not exactly how you want to set your stall out. Warren will have learned from that and it will have affected his squad selection.

Finn Russell may well be the source of the Lions’ creativity. Photograph: John Berry/Getty Images

So too will the character and personality of his players. It is so important that if you’re not a Test starter and you’re in a bubble for 10 weeks, you have good men who can accept their roles in the squad. You can’t underestimate the importance of the midweek squad. They have opportunities to press for places but you can’t have people going off tour.

Someone such as Duhan van der Merwe –I don’t have him in the Test side at the moment –but I can see him being so grateful for the opportunity and being a great midweek tourist. It’s easy to be a good bloke and a good Lion when you’re part of the Test side but it’s doing it when you aren’t that’s the challenge. I think having to manage that in the era of biosecure bubbles has played a big part in Warren handing Alun Wyn Jones the captaincy.

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The level of competition for places in that Test side is so intense, you just throw yourself into everything from the first day to try and gain the respect of your teammates. I was gutted when I wasn’t selected for the first game against the Royal XV. You want to get out there and set your stall out, but it motivated me even more to make sure when I got my chance I really took it and I scored two tries in the next game. You have to relish the competition but at the same time understand that 37 doesn’t go into 23. The importance of ensuring that everyone buys into that message cannot be overstated.


Source: Lions squad brings skill to South Africa party – but past lessons must be learned

A graduate from Oprah Winfrey’s school in South Africa just became the first to get a PhD


Oprah Winfrey et al. posing for the camera: Talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey poses with the graduates from the inaugural class at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Henley-on-Klip, South Africa, January 14, 2012. © Provided by CNBC Talk show host and philanthropist Oprah Winfrey poses with the graduates from the inaugural class at the Oprah Winfrey Leadership Academy for Girls, Henley-on-Klip, South Africa, January 14, 2012.

Lindiwe Tsope has become the first graduate of Oprah Winfrey's Leadership Academy for Girls in South Africa to be awarded a PhD. 

Tsope was part of the first class to be inducted at Oprah Winfrey's school in 2007 when it opened in the town of Meyerton, near Johannesburg in South Africa. 

Tsope graduated in 2012 and then enrolled at South Africa's Rhodes University in 2013, where she completed her undergraduate and masters degrees, along with her PhD in sociology. 

Tsope thanked OWLAG and Winfrey, calling the talk show host and philanthropist the "driver" of her dreams, in an interview released by Rhodes University on Monday. 

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"I cried for an hour when I received that last email that confirmed I had completed my qualification," Tsope said, saying that it was the "greatest thing" she had done for herself. 

During her course she lectured a class for undergraduates and initially worried about how she was "going to be received, especially as a young black female." 

However, Tsope said that she felt her life had come "full circle," lecturing the class in which she was once a student. 

OWLAG is the only school Winfrey has set up but prior to launching the academy, she was already donating to a scholarship program at Morehouse College, in Atlanta, Georgia. She established the Oprah Winfrey Scholar Program at the men's liberal arts college in 1989, which has funded the education of over 700 students, sending over 300 to South Africa to "engage in service and leadership experiences."

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Source: A graduate from Oprah Winfrey’s school in South Africa just became the first to get a PhD

Coronavirus live news: WHO warns of risk of new wave in Africa; UK no-quarantine travel list to be announced


The World Health Organization on Thursday warned of a new wave of Covid-19 infections in Africa due to delayed vaccine supplies, a slow rollout and new variants, AFP reports.

The African bureau of the UN agency said the continent had to catch up with the rest of the world in terms of vaccine rollouts.

“The delay in the delivery of vaccine doses from the Serum Institute of India earmarked for Africa, the delay in the deployment of vaccines and the emergence of new variants means that the risk of a new wave of infections remains very high in Africa,” it said in a statement.

It added that new variants such as the ones that emerged in India and South Africa could unleash a “third wave” on the continent.

“The tragedy in India does not have to happen here in Africa, but we must all be on the highest possible alert,” said regional WHO director Matshidiso Moeti.

“While we call for vaccine equity, Africa must also knuckle down and make the best of what we have. We must get all the doses we have into people’s arms.”

Some African countries had been exemplary in deploying vaccines, the WHO said, without naming them.

But it added that in spite of this, only just under “half of the 37 million doses received in Africa have been administered so far”.

Africa now accounts for only one percent of vaccine doses administered globally, the WHO said - down from two percent a few weeks ago, as other regions’ rollouts are progressing much faster.

The first vaccines deliveries to 41 African countries under the Covax scheme began in March but nine countries have so far administered only a quarter of the doses received, while 15 countries have used less than half of their allocations.

The vaccination rate in Africa is the world’s lowest. Globally an average of 150 vaccine doses per 1,000 people have been administered, but in sub-Saharan Africa it is hardly eight doses per 1,000, according to the WHO.


Source: Coronavirus live news: WHO warns of risk of new wave in Africa; UK no-quarantine travel list to be announced



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