If you watched the previous seasons of ‘SA’s Got Talent’, then you’ll know there have been some changes the latest season. The judges’ panel, the format and the host channel have been affected in one way or the other.

Looking at the judges’ panel, replacing Randall Abrahams would always be difficult, but Kabelo Mabalane was a smart choice.

“Casting a judge is a tricky business,” said Kee-Leen Irvine, the show’s executive producer, now for e.tv.

“There are so many people who look good on TV, who have experience, but do not have TV sass. It is hard to find someone who looks good on TV and has the ability to judge,” she said.

After scratching their heads over who to cast, Mabalane came to Irvine’s team’s mind and made the cut instantly.

“I called Monde [Twala, e.tv’s head of channel] and suggested we try Kabelo. Monde was thrilled and agreed with me that he was a good choice,” she said.

Having professed himself a Christian a few years ago, Mabalane, one third of the kwaito crew TKZee, changed many things in his life, so much so you wouldn’t have been surprised to hear he was moving to the Vatican. Many probably believed this transformation would make him more lenient. We were wrong. He is a tough nut to crack. Once at the auditions he sang the praises of an act, only to deny them his vote. Every contestant knows not to cross him and some of them probably miss Abrahams.

“We had a judges’ workshop where we asked the judges to familiarise themselves with the show and each other. However, at no point do we ask them to behave in a certain way. They do what they do with no guidance whatsoever so we get them giving their most natural responses. As we on go you will see the arguments become heated among them,” said Irvine.

If you saw past episodes of this new season you will have noticed that some acts don’t get much screen time. In some cases, too much time is spent zooming in on the audience. Then many acts are meshed into one, with a backing track fast-forwarding the audition process.

“We pre-auditioned about 5 500 people and only 240 acts made the actual auditions. I only have 45 minutes in every show and a few episodes before we go to the live shows. We edited the material according to international Got Talent standards,” Irvine explained.

‘SA’s Got Talent’ airs every Thursday at 8.30pm on e.tv.