Lance Klusener wants to take the Dolphins players out of their comfort zones so they can start winning again.
The 40-year-old former Proteas all-rounder was finally confirmed as coach of the Dolphins yesterday, 113 days after he completed his job as interim coach at the end of last season.
Klusener knows better than anyone the dark times the team has gone through in recent years. Their last trophy was when he captained the team to a share of the SuperSport Series in 2005/6. Since then, the Dolphins have finished last three times in the past four years in the first-class competition, while also failing to make an impact in the limited-overs game.
Speaking after his appointment yesterday, Klusener said bluntly: “Why haven’t we been competing? I think the talent is there, but I don’t think the belief is there. Players have been happy to go through the motions. I believe we have to come out of our comfort zones if we are to win anything.”
The inordinate length of time taken over Klusener’s appointment has masked a major power struggle within the union with the president, Faeez Jaffer, and his lieutenant, vice-president Logan Naidoo, ranged against those who supported the local hero.
Last weekend, after a tortuous process in which the 16 original candidates had been reduced to two – former Cobras coach Shukri Conrad and Klusener – the decision finally went the 40-year-old Zululander’s way, although it took until yesterday morning before it was officially announced.
After all the manoeuvrings within the corridors of power, peace broke out at the press conference yesterday with Jaffer saying he “backed Lance all the way”.
It’s no secret that the Dolphins players all supported Klusener’s appointment from the start, and player representative Daryn Smit said they were very happy to have “Zulu” on board.
“He changed our mindset at the end of last season and there was much more intensity in our performances.”
Smit’s presence at the press conference may not have been a coincidence, because chief executive Jesse Chellan announced that last season’s skipper, Imraan Khan, had stepped down from the job. His replacement was not named, but the tough, determined Smit – who has long since shown he has the right qualities for the job – is the hot favourite to take over.
Chellan said both Klusener and Conrad “interviewed well” but pointed out the key elements that turned the tide Klusener’s way were his passion for the Dolphins and the strong support of the players who had been impressed by his contribution as interim coach after the resignation of Graham Ford towards the end of last season.
Chellan added that the new coach had been given a two-year contract, with an option for a third. He said that a number of performance indicators had been put in place, but confirmed that they were not “penal”.
Klusener acknowledged that a number of important personnel decisions had to be taken before the start of the season, with the identity of the new captain a particularly important one. Other decisions would relate to the make-up of the High Performance Centre and the coach of the provincial team.
Klusener is determined to toughen up his players and make Kingsmead a hard place to visit, while his overall objective is to transform them from caterpillars into butterflies.
“It’s really a mental challenge. The guys need to stand up and believe in themselves and their ability to win matches.”
One change he is determined to push through is the production of “result” pitches with bounce, pace and carry, a far cry from the recent placid surfaces at Kingsmead.