Fresh-faced A-team to take on Oz

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Ontang Jul 9 Gallo Images South Africa's A players will be in good hands with captain Justin Ontong to guide them on their tour Down Under. Photo: Petri Oeschger

Pretoria – The key to having a good tour of Australia is for the youthful South African A players to be themselves, coach Vincent Barnes said on Wednesday.

“For them to get to this point, they’ve shown that they have the ability,” he said at the team’s first day in training camp at the Tuks High Performance Centre in Pretoria.

“If the players take the opportunity, they may find the Proteas knocking on their door. It’s a great opportunity for them, which is what these tours are all about.”

Barnes would look to guide his relatively inexperienced team to success Down Under where they were set to face Australia A, India A and the Australian National Performance Squad (NPS) in a quadrangular, limited-overs series.

The South Africans would, thereafter, face Australia A in two four-day matches. The team jets off on Tuesday before playing their first fixture on July 20 against the Australian NPS.

The youngsters would not be thrown into the deep end without a safety net and captain Justin Ontong would be among those expected to guide the side.

“There is quite a bit of experience in the side. We have players who have played for the Proteas and we have our leader Justin, whom a lot of the players will look up to during the tour,” Barnes said.

The composition of the team was a complete contrast to last year’s side, he said.

“Last year, we played a similar series with a very experienced bunch. Not this time around – now we have young side. I want that freshness but I don’t want them to go overseas and find themselves in awe of who we are playing.”

Much responsibility lay with skipper and Ontong would need to ensure his performance is exemplary, he said.

“We’ve got a lot of new faces and future stars. It’s going to be tough to tour Australia on one’s first international assignment,” Ontong said.

“As a leader, my job is going to be very important to get the best out of my players and make sure the attitude is right.”

For Highveld Lions prodigy Kagiso Rabada, the tour was a stepping stone towards fulfilling his ultimate goal. The 19-year-old pace bowler’s ascendancy continued after being part of the Under-19 World Cup winning side earlier this year.

“It is all building blocks for the future. It’s a level that one has to cross before making it to the Proteas,” Rabada said.

“It is important for me to learn as much as I can and just soak it all in. It has been an unbelievable couple of months for myself and I hope to continue to learn and make the most of the tour.” – Sapa


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