JOHANNESBURG - They'll need to build a new trophy cabinet at SuperSport Park soon such is the success at a franchise that even with a new coach, even while supplying players to the national side - young ones at that - just can’t stop winning.
Out of the last 12 domestic franchise competitions dating back four seasons, the Titans have won five and shared one title too. This season they claimed the honours in the two domestic ‘white ball’ competitions and were narrow runners-up to the Knights in the Sunfoil Series.
As far as Mark Boucher is concerned, this coaching lark is easy right? Not quite. “I get a little bit more nervous (as a coach). I had to actually go and look at myself in the mirror and tell myself to calm down; sometimes players can feed off that nervousness,” Boucher (pictured) said about the tension he felt before Friday night’s Momentum One-Day Cup final.
“When you’re under pressure and you can walk to the crease, you can control it. I’ve walked to the crease as a player and once you’re on the field, you calm down, because you get into the bubble of actually having to do the business. Unfortunately as a coach you can’t go onto the field; you’re relying on someone else to release that pressure for you, which is tough.”
Except in Boucher and the Titans’ case such is the quality and depth of talent at his disposal that he really needn’t be nervous.
There is a wonderful mix of youth and experience at the franchise and on Friday they put the stamp on another outstanding season by pummelling the Warriors by 236 runs in the final.
“I’m blessed to have the number of quality cricketers that I’ve got here. It’s not just the franchise guys or the Proteas that come back, but the system in the franchise is great. We’ve had great guys from Easterns (semi-professional team) coming through, from the Northerns side. Whatever they’re doing, as far as the lower roots is concerned, is definitely working,” Boucher explained.
“We’ve got a host of players to select from. There are world class performers sitting out every game, which is tough. As long as they see it as ‘Titans first’, then we’ll go places as a franchise.”
Picking a starting XI has probably been Boucher’s biggest challenge in his first season as a professional coach. Players like Shaun von Berg - the leg-spinner who picked up 15 wickets in six Momentum Cup matches, and David Wiese - the all-rounder, who scored 159 runs and snared seven wickets in seven games, were on the bench on Friday night and are certainly capable of walking into any other franchise’s starting side.
“There is a tendency, from a couple of guys who may not understand the different scenarios that we’ve got going (to be upset when they don’t start), but from the start of the season we said we have to put Titans first,” said Boucher.
“What we do is try and look at the conditions on the day, who we have to select from, the stipulations with regard to our team and what we have to do in order to try and win. Everyone understands that. We’ve had to leave out certain guys after match-winning performances, man of the match performances over the course of the whole season. But as long as we are consistent and I’m consistent in the way I do things, the guys really do understand.”
Jonathan Vandiar is one example; he had to sit out on Friday after a man of the match performance in the Titans’ last league game against the Cape Cobras. He was replaced by Henry Davids, who having spent eight hour sessions in an oxygen chamber in the lead up to the final, then made a superb century to set the Titans on their way.
Boucher admitted it was tough leaving the likes of Vandiar, Wiese and Von Berg on the sidelines. “When you have guys like (Chris Morris) and AB (De Villiers) coming back, it’s difficult to leave them out - it was a focus on the squad winning the competition, not just the 11 guys on the field. We had other guys like Rivaldo Moonsamy, Eldred Hawken, Tony de Zorsi all play their part throughout the competition. That’s why we’ll have all of them in the dressing-room with us celebrating tonight too,” he said after the final.