Archive for the ‘Music’ Category

Western Sydney Wanderers v Brisbane Roar, Saturday 6th December 2015, 7.30pm

February 28, 2016

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The second A-League game of our trip to Sydney took us out to the suburb of Parramatta for the game between Western Sydney Wanderers and Brisbane Roar.

Parramatta was twenty-odd kilometres away from our hotel in the CBD and as we didn’t have a hire car we were reliant upon public transport. In this case that meant an hour-long ferry ride from the Circular Quay.

It was the sort of journey that you’d happily take just for the sightseeing rather than to actually get somewhere and as we set off we had both the Opera house and the Harbour Bridge in view. The Opera House was a lot smaller than I’d assumed it to be from when I’d seen it on the telly as the backdrop to the New Year fireworks.

We went to a gig there a few days later, not opera, although I wouldn’t have minded that if I’d been able to wear one of those collapsible hats, but Father John Misty. He was ok, better live than recorded, I’d say, with a nice line in self-deprecation over his newly announced Grammy nomination for the quality of the packaging of his latest LP.

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The Harbour Bridge was also smaller than I’d expected. Maybe it’s because these things are famous that I assume they’ll be enormous. You all know what it looks like, it’s just like the Tyne Bridge, which isn’t surprising really as both were built during the same era by Middlesbrough’s own Dorman Long.

As we passed beneath the bridge I looked up at the Teesside steel above me and reflected that the recent steelworks closures meant that there wouldn’t be any future opportunities for me to do the same somewhere new.

I did a bit of work as a contractor at British Steel thirty years or so ago and can remember the fire resistant jacket and trousers that I had to wear when in the vicinity of a furnace. The material was like carpet, which isn’t ideal for trousers. Or jackets either I suppose.

I sweated enough wearing them outside, but that was nothing compared to being indoors in the summer with a furnace blasting out its heat.

It’ll be young Chinese fellas who will have to dress up like that from now on and take their turn to point out their steel when travelling around the world.

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The ferry that we caught sometimes goes all of the way to Parramatta, but on this occasion it only went as far as the Olympic Park and so we then had to catch a couple of buses to get within walking distance of the Pirtek Stadium.

Neither driver would accept any cash from us, I think, as a consequence of the impending implementation of a card-only payment system. If all you had was cash, then you were just waved on-board for free.

Pirtek Stadium dates back to, well, quite a long time ago. Long enough for WG Grace to have played cricket there in the century before last. Or rather the site dates back that far. The current ground’s history only goes back forty years or so.

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There were plenty of people milling around with an hour or so to kick-off, many of them sporting the Dennis the Menace style shirts worn by Western Sydney Wanderers. We queued briefly to collect our pre-booked tickets, using my newly acquired Northern Territories Driving Licence as ID.

I like the idea of having two licences and am hoping that by using my Australian one when in the UK and vice-versa, I might very well be able to reduce the amount of penalty points that I accrue.

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On our way around the ground to the South Stand I was handed a leaflet by a bloke outside of the north terrace. He was a member of a fan’s group who were boycotting the game in protest at the banning of a number of ‘active’ fans.

It’s an A-League wide problem and the main complaint seems to be that the banned supporters had no chance to put evidence forward and no right of appeal. I sympathised with the cause, but my principles aren’t strong enough to miss a game at short notice after travelling from Darwin and with a ticket in my hand.

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We took our seats in the North Stand, opposite the deserted South where the ‘active fans’ would normally have been found. The ten thousand crowd half-filled the stadium but was around four thousand down on their gate from the previous game. On a selfish note, the boycott cut the queues for food and drink and so it was no trouble to get a couple of beers and a very fancy selection of three mini pies.

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The home side opened the scoring after half an hour when Mark Bridge knocked one in at the far post. The lead didn’t last for more than a few minutes though with Jamie McLaren equalising for the visitors.

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There were plenty of chances for both sides in the second half as play opened up, but the only other goal came ten minutes from time when Mitch Nichols curled in the winner. The result was sufficient to take Wanderers to the top of the table.

I’d have liked to have taken the boat back to the Circular Quay for the river view at night, but they’d stopped running and so despite the ‘free’ buses we opted for a taxi for the half hour drive back to our hotel.

LG Twins v Doosan Bears, Sunday 6th May 2012, 2pm

May 29, 2012

“Everyday is like Sunday, everyday is silent and grey…”

Not this Sunday though, because this was the Sunday that Morrissey came to Seoul. How good’s that? In the couple of years that I’ve been here I’ve only seen Elvis Costello, Mogwai and a few not so memorable Korean bands. That’s it, apart from keeping Jen company at a Duran Duran gig.

Whilst Japan seems to be a must-visit sort of place, Korea rarely seems to attract anything like the same amount of touring bands. I’d been on edge over the Morrissey gig since getting the tickets a few weeks earlier as the first Sunday in the month is usually the day that I spend travelling to Oman for a couple of meetings in the desert. Luckily this month my trip was scheduled for a week later and I was free to get along to the AX-centre on the Sunday evening.

It had been a late night on the Saturday and any plans that I’d had for a Sunday hike were scuppered by the hangover. I wasn’t really expecting to do very much until I put the telly on at 2pm and realised that the day’s baseball fixtures were about to start.  Twenty minutes later I was at Jamsil for the derby between LG Twins and Doosan Bears.

Despite it being busy I thought I’d take my chances on an outfield ticket.  As I emerged from the tunnel it looked like I might have made a mistake as there were already people sitting in the aisles. I spotted a seat without a bag on it and the bloke next to it was gracious enough not to try to claim that he was saving it for a friend who hadn’t yet arrived. Or indeed been born.

No spare seats.

It was a really sunny day, perfect for baseball and with the second innings about to start, still scoreless. Ben Jukich was the starting pitcher for LG. He’s in his second season with the Twins and is one of their better pitchers. From what I’ve discovered he didn’t ever get to play Major League baseball in America, but he’s certainly been effective in Korea.

Ben Jukich – LG Twins

Kim Seung Hye was the starting pitcher for Doosan.

Kim Seung Hye – Doosan Bears

Neither of these teams are likely to win the title, so bragging rights over the team that shares their stadium makes these games important for both sets of fans. Doosan took the lead with a run in the third.

Standing room only at the front.

 Doosan didn’t stay in front for long though and a mix-up in the fourth enabled LG to level the scores. Doosan’s Kim Jae Ho who was fielding at second just failed to run out the lad who was running towards him before firing in the ball to first to try to get  Yoon Jin Ho out. Unfortunately his wild throw went over the head of the first baseman and in the following panic, not only did Ho make it to second, but the other fella got all the way around to fourth for LG’s first run of the afternoon.

The second run came soon afterwards when a hit from Twins infielder Kim Jae Yool enabled Yoon Jin Ho to get home from second and put his side into the lead.

Now whilst all this was very enjoyable, it wasn’t  a baseball day really, it was a Morrissey day. So if I tell you that Doosan scored a couple of runs in the fifth before LG got three in the eighth to run out five–three winners then that’s probably enough baseball talk for this occasion.

A good day for these fellas.

So, Mozza. He was on at the AX-Centre. It’s the place where we saw Mogwai last year and it probably holds about a thousand people. We arrived just before seven and whilst we were chatting away outside one of the security fellas very kindly made a point of letting us know that Morrissey would be on stage bang on seven.

We collected our tickets from the box office and headed in to our upstairs seats. I’ve seen Morrissey at least a dozen times or so over the last twenty years. Sometimes at festivals, sometimes at small venues around the UK, sometimes at the big Manchester ‘homecoming’ gigs. If you’ve seen him before then this one was just like any of those gigs, with a fanatical crowd hanging off his every word and pushing  towards the stage for the chance of a handshake or to give him a flower or two.

Yep, that’s him.

His set list was decent with a good balance between Smiths songs, a varied selection of older solo stuff and some of the better tracks from the more recent albums. He kicked off with ‘How Soon Is Now’,  and got ‘Everyday Is Like Sunday’ in early on.

That’s him too.

I was expecting a comment from him about eating dogs after Meat Is Murder, but he let it go. He included ‘I Know It’s Over’ and I can generally forgive him for whatever recent stuff he plays if I get to hear that one. Whilst we didn’t get ‘There Is A Light…’ or ‘Irish Blood, English Heart’ he did finish on a high with ‘First Of The Gang To Die’.

By eight thirty it was all over. Morrissey and the band had a plane to catch to Singapore which might have explained the early start and finish. I’ll settle for that anytime he likes.

SK Knights v LG Sakers, Friday 6th January 2012, 7pm

January 7, 2012

It’s been a while since my last sporting event in Korea, over a month in fact since I watched Jeonbuk clinch the K-League Championship. I haven’t really had much of an opportunity to see anything else as not long after that game I had to go to Oman for a few days and then went straight on from there to England for a couple of weeks holiday over Christmas and New Year.

I didn’t get up to much in Oman, I rarely do. My favourite activity was probably feeding the dog that hangs around the site with a few pieces of Spam from the Korean breakfast. I think it’s a more appropriate food for dogs than for people.

He overcomes his timidness when there is tinned chopped pork shoulder.

The highlight of the trip was seeing a few wild camels wandering by the side of the road on the way to the construction site. Unfortunately one of them hadn’t been observing his kerb drill and so had ended up as what is undoubtedly the biggest item of roadkill that I’ve ever seen. I didn’t take a photo, but if there is anything left of the carcass when I go back I’ll try and get a snap next time.

Back in England it was a case of catching up with family and friends that I hadn’t seen since August. My son and my grandson both had birthdays, with the elder of the two putting a bit more effort into his celebration. I did pretty well for gigs, seeing Withered Hand, Paul McCartney and Cattle & Cane over a four day period. As I’ve only seen two bands in Korea this entire year, I was quite pleased with the scheduling.

He's less keen on Spam.

The Boro fixtures fell nicely for me as well. Tom and  I took the bus down to Cardiff where a half past seven in the morning start to the drinking meant that I remember little of our away win. We later took four points from six in the home games against Hull and Peterborough. I even managed to squeeze in a Boxing Day visit to Central Avenue for the Billingham derby between Synners and Town.

Now that's a backdrop.

Tom and I spent an afternoon at Sedgefield Races too. I suppose a meeting a few days before Christmas isn’t going to be the best attended fixture of the year, but I was surprised by how small the crowd was. I wasn’t surprised by how much money I lost though, the knack of picking a winner is something that I seem to struggle with these days.

I think the entire crowd was in this photo.

A couple of days walking in The Lakes either side of a night in Coniston got me a bit of fresh air as well as a battering in a hailstorm on the hills above Hardknott Pass. It was nice to get outside though, despite the weather.

That was taken just before the hailstorm.

So, that’s the ‘what I did on my holidays’ update out of the way. Jen is still in America visiting her folks and so after work I got the subway on my own to the Jamsil Students Gymnasium to see SK Knights play LG Sakers. I bought a ticket from a tout in the subway for eight thousand won and got myself a roll of gimbap and a bag of chestnuts for my tea. I tend not to eat quite so well when I’m by myself.

 I hadn’t seen SK Knights this season yet, but I’d watched LG Sakers at Samsung Thunders a few weeks back and had been impressed with the way they had gradually clawed back an early deficit to win 81-74.

The Nigerian centre for the Sakers in that game, Olumide Oyedeji, was no longer playing in Korea and had been replaced with the somewhat pacier American  Aaron Haynes. I noticed that he was wearing headphones as he warmed up. Sensible bloke. Maybe I’m getting old but I found the noise from the speaker system in the arena to be just below my pain threshold. I saw Mogwai in Seoul just before Christmas and fortunately I had been warned in advance to wear earplugs for their performance. Next time I’ll bring them to the basketball too.

I'm tempted to wear a pair of those at work too.

SK Knights seemed to have been through a few foreign players themselves and tonight’s starter was an American called Amal McCaskill. If Google has given me the right fella then he’s knocking on a bit at thirty-eight, but has turned out for a few NBA teams over the years.

Amal McCaskill takes on SK Knights by himself.

As the game started the place was probably about a quarter full, although with people continuing to arrive throughout the game it was probably near to half its capacity by the end.

SK looked quite effective early on with some swift passing and had six points on the board before Sakers got their first basket. It wasn’t to last though and by the end of the first quarter the visitors led by 16-12. LG continued their good form in the second quarter, increasing their advantage to 41-33 at half time.

I had been wondering which K-Popstars would be ‘entertaining’ us at half time, having been subjected to Sistar, Shinee and that old biddy who looks a bit like Tina Turner’s Mam at previous games. SK must have a smaller budget though as all we got were a few obstacle course type games, cheerleaders dishing out pizzas and a dance routine from the seven mascots. Yes, seven. We had a bloke dressed up as a hamburger, another one as an orange, one who was either a tub of ice cream or a dumpling and one who I think was meant to be a pork chop. They were joined by a giant can of Pocari Sweat, a two legged horse and someone who I presume from his hat was supposed to be a knight. Maybe Sistar might have been a better option after all.

Horse, Hamburger, Orange and Pork Chop.

SK fought back after the interval and by the end of the third quarter had turned an eight point deficit into a four point lead. They stayed ahead until a couple of minutes from the end, setting up what would be a tense finish. As the match entered its final thirty seconds SK were two up and had possession. If they scored they would win, if they missed then LG would have maybe six or seven seconds to score themselves. SK did miss their shot but the lad was fouled in the process and he put one of the free-throws away to increase the lead to 77-74. LG had six seconds to score a three-pointer to tie the game.

There's just enough space for the obligatory cheerleaders photo.

We had to sit through an incredibly long time-out before play restarted. So long in fact that the mascots put the crowd through their paces with some exercise routines. Most of the Koreans joined in, but just as I do when I’m at work and all that nonsense starts, I left them to it.

When play did get underway again LG were able to work the position for the three point shot. Aaron Haynes took it but it rolled around the rim and came back out again. SK got the rebound and it was game over. It was definitely the closest game that I’ve watched whilst being over here and the win might just have moved SK back ahead of the Sakers into seventh place.

Samsung Thunders v SK Knights, Thursday 20th Jan 2011, 7pm

February 7, 2011

Another basketball game, Samsung Thunders this time. Yes, Thunders not Thunder. Perhaps they are named after the late New York Doll. I saw him, you know,  in 1984 supporting Hanoi Rocks at Newcastle Mayfair. At least I’m told I did. I can remember Hanoi Rocks but I can’t remember Johnny Thunders. It’s possible therefore that I might have spent the support set in a nearby pub, although with the layout of the Mayfair it’s slightly more likely that I did watch him whilst stood at a bar. Whatever. It’s probably a bit early for digression or else I’d go on to mention seeing Hanoi Rocks twenty five years later at one of their farewell gigs in Helsinki. Although I suppose I have now.

Mr. Monroe may just have aged a little better than we have.

 I don’t remember much about that performance either actually, although I do remember that I enjoyed it. I went with my friend Paul and we did a bit of salmon fishing on the same trip, not that we were too successful. We did get to cook our lunch on an open fire though, so it worked out fine.

It was just as well we had some sausages.

Right. The basketball. I’d tried to go and see Samsung Thunders the previous Friday but had got the venue mixed up. They actually play at Jamsil Gymnasium which part of the Sports Complex and next to the Olympic Stadium, the baseball stadium and confusingly, the Jamsil Students Gymnasium.  The SK Knights basketball team plays at the Jamsil Student Gymnasium and perhaps thats why I’d somehow got it into my head that Samsung Thunders were based a couple of miles away at the Gymnastics Hall in the Olympic Park.

Anyway, it had been a spur of the moment decision the previous Friday and I arrived at the Gymnastics Hall to find nothing more exciting going on than some rigging crew preparing for a concert. I did get to walk around the Olympic Park in sub-zero temperatures so I suppose the evening wasn’t entirely wasted.

Nice enough, but not really worth a traipse around the park.

By the time the following Thursday came around I’d done a little bit of research as to which team played where. The upshot is that no-one plays at the Gymnastics Hall, Samsung Thunders play at the Jamsil Gymnasium and SK Knights play at the Jamsil Students Gymnasium. It’s probably worth mentioning that the Jamsil Students Gymnasium is where the boxing was held at the 1988 Olympics, so those of you that know your pugilism will recognise it as the venue where Lennox Lewis won his gold medal and where Roy Jones Jnr was cheated out of his.

Right, so that’s the venues cleared up. Twice, in fact. But you can’t be too careful, someone might be reading this thinking that it’s Wikipedia.  Jen was back from America so I met her at the subway and we got floor seats for behind one of the baskets. The ticket office woman told us that the sides of the court were sold out, but if they were it was apparent that a lot of people hadn’t turned up. Perhaps they were all trekking around Olympic Park looking for the Gymnastics Hall.

It looks busy in the photo, but the top tier was virtually empty.

The Gymnasium has a capacity of about thirteen thousand, but I reckon that there were only a couple of thousand people in there. The upper tier had about a dozen people dotted around and there was plenty of space lower down.

There weren’t many fans supporting the visitors, SK Knights, despite the Jamsil Gymnasium being no more than a couple of hundred yards from their home venue the Jamsil Students Gymnasium. A bit surprising I suppose, how can you decide not to watch your team because it’s an extra two hundred yards? In fact, depending upon what side of the Sports Complex you live on it might even be two hundred yards closer.

The SK fans that did turn up seemed to enjoy themselves though.

One odd thing that I did notice was that when the stadium announcer started a chant, both sets of fans would join in. The cheerleaders were worth a comment too. They didn’t bother their (admittedly well shaped) arses until it was almost half time, then they disappeared and returned in what looked like dressing gowns.

Samsung Thunders Cheerleaders

At the interval we got a couple of songs from some American soldiers with guitars. Whilst I’m sure that they did their best and seemed to enjoy themselves, they had even less in common with Mr Thunders than the basketball team did. I reckon that if they were sent to play at the De-Militarised Zone then Kim Jong-il would soon be calling it a day.  There wasn’t a bar that would have allowed me to pretend that they were the support act either. There wasn’t any beer at all actually, a major omission at a Korean sporting event if you ask me.

I think they played the General Noriega gig too.

Now so far, none of the players have stood out at any of these basketball games. Until this time that is. Samsung Thunders had a centre that at first glance I’d have guessed was my age. I won’t reveal my age just in case he tends to Google his own name. But he’s actually only thirty. Still, he’s bigger than me and I wouldn’t like to mess with him. Quite a lot bigger actually, 6’9“ according to the Thunders website and 353lbs which is over twenty five stones in real money. Thats heavier than Shaquille O’Neal who I’m told is 7’1“. In yet one more wander from what went on, I’ll just mention that Shaquille O’Neal went to University with Jen. Ideal for when she needed a book from the top shelf of the library I imagine. Or the middle one, come to think of it.

This fella, Nigel Dixon, had, like Mr. O’Neal, been an American college star too. Although his brief spells at NBA teams hadn’t been quite as successful. It seems though that he has managed to make a pretty decent career for himself playing in a number of leagues around the world.

Nigel Dixon, aka 'The Big Jelly'.

The game was a bit one-sided with the Thunders getting ahead early on and never really being within SK’s reach.  One advantage of the result being decided long before the end was that the coaches didnt feel the need to use all of their  timeouts and the players didn’t need to try to either keep stopping the clock or to run it out. They just played end to end basketball right to the finish without having to pay much attention to the scoreboard

SK Knights attacking in the final quarter.

For what it’s worth the scoreboard read 84-65 to Samsung Thunders at the end, although SK did have the satisfaction of ’winning’ the final quarter by two points. I think I’ll probably pop along to see the ’Big Jelly’ again. I’ll take a couple of beers next time though and maybe some earplugs for half time.

My Beautiful Mint Life, Sunday 2nd May

June 2, 2010

My Beautiful Mint Life. It sounds like I’m showing off doesn’t it?  Well I’m not. Ok, maybe just a bit, but that’s the nature of blogs. They tend to either be a rant against the world or a bit of a smug ‘look at me, aren’t I having a great time’ sort of thing. I’m not really one for ranting, more for trying to have a great time so I suppose this blog falls into the latter category.

Anyway, My Beautiful Mint Life isn’t my latest attempt at telling you how wonderful everything is. No. It’s a festival, a music festival. Great name, eh. Perfect for a Teesside festival where those of you who don’t live there probably wont know that ‘mint’ is the word of choice for describing something that you quite like. Except this one wasn’t in Teesside, it was in Seoul.

One of the things that I have missed whilst I’ve been in Seoul is going to see bands. Hang on, perhaps this is turning into a ‘rant blog’ after all. I could have seen Bob Dylan about a month earlier, but it clashed with my trip to Japan to get my visa. Apart from that there hasn’t really been much else going on. I’ll particularly miss going to festivals. In recent years I’ve been cutting down on them, giving up Leeds and V, but I’ve still been going to the likes of Glastonbury and End of the Road when the opportunity arises. So the chance to see a music festival over here was something that I was keen to do.

Although I couldn’t have been that keen, as it ran for two days and I only went to one of them, the second day, Sunday. Another thing that I’ve been missing is going hiking (see, definitely one of those rant blogs, I’ll be complaining about work colleagues not appreciating me and locals pushing in front of me in queues next, it’s how these things work), so I decided to go hiking on the Saturday. The downside of this was that something had to give and this week that was the football. Apologies then, if you actually read this because you have an interest in Korean football. Although if that’s the case, then you’ve probably realized that you have to wade through an awful lot of dross just to find out the Jeonbuk result. Skip straight to the end now if you want to find out how Lee Dong Gook got on.

Seoul Racetrack from the top of a hill

So on Saturday I hiked up Mt. Cheonggyesan with a hiking group that I’d found on the internet. They were a friendly and interesting bunch, a mixture of mainly Koreans and Americans, with the odd Brit as well. Particularly odd, I suspect they thought, but that’s just my way. We walked for about five hours, with frequent stops for makgeolli, that milky looking Korean rice wine, bits of cake and pretty much any excuse for a chat that we could think of. One of the benefits of hiking with a group is that you don’t have any responsibility for where you go. I quite like that. It’s laziness I suppose, but as navigation isn’t one of my strong points, it’s a lot more enjoyable to leave it to people with a map and a sense of direction. At one stage when we were near the top we were able to look down on the racecourse that I’d visited a few weeks earlier and we passed some old burial mounds as well. When we were back down again we called into a Korean restaurant for more makgeolli and a barbeque. As the new boy I had to make a speech, which despite being kept down to about fifteen seconds, I was later told was too long. Fair point.

Graves

Sunday I didn’t have to make any speeches, but I did have to do a bit of navigation. I’d been seeing an American girl and thought that I’d take her along to the festival for a bit of company. Some things I prefer doing alone, the trips to football matches, for example, but some things benefit from having a drinking companion and, for me, music festivals fall into that category.

It was a bit of a trek to get there as it took place right on the outskirts of Seoul, three stops from the end of Line 3 at Jeongbalsan. I’d naively assumed that it would be signposted from the subway exit, but it wasn’t. We wandered about aimlessly for a while before I spotted a sign for it, quite close to the subway exit as it happens. We bought our day tickets, exchanged them for wristbands and went in. It wasn’t a particularly big festival, set in the grounds of a college I think. There were three stages, a main stage with tiered seating, a second stage where you just sat on the grass and a third stage that we didn’t bother even walking around to. There were probably about a thousand people in there, so it was easy to get around and get served.

It was a very pleasant way to spend a day, sitting in the sun listening to music whilst knocking back a variety of drinks. I started with beer, switched to bags of sangria that resembled blood bags from a hospital, tried beer with tomato, which I wasn’t too keen on and then moved onto some other stuff which I no longer remember. Possibly tequila sunrises. Without the accompanying coffee this time though I think.

The bands were pretty good, mainly folkie type guitar bands, with the odd acoustic one thrown in and a little bit of easy listening and jazz. Towards the end there was a flamenco style band who were very well received. It got a bit colder as it moved towards the finishing time of ten o’clock, but I’d brought a coat so that was fine too. My Beautiful Mint Life indeed.

Meanwhile, for those of you who are keeping up with his progress, Lee Dong Gook scored an injury time equalizer for Jeonbuk in their home draw with league leaders Gyeongnam. He was also named as one of the six strikers in the provisional World Cup squad of thirty. A couple of the others are pretty young and inexperienced, so as long as he stays fit it looks as though his good run of form will earn him a trip to South Africa.