Ashwell Prince's Cape Cobras have sorely missed the experience of Vernon Philander and Dane Paterson this season. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix
Ashwell Prince's Cape Cobras have sorely missed the experience of Vernon Philander and Dane Paterson this season. Photo: Chris Ricco, BackpagePix

Cape Cobras problems run deeper than just at the top, says Vernon Philander

By Zaahier Adams Time of article published Jan 25, 2021

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CAPE TOWN - Proteas and Cape Cobras legend Vernon Philander believes “a complete overhaul” of the structures is required in the Western Cape to get cricket back on track in the region.

The Cobras have yet to win a single game this season, with their dismal record stretching further across all formats. They failed to taste any success in the 4-Day Domestic Series last season too and have continued in that vein thus far in 2020-21, while they finished last in the 2019-20 Momentum 1-Day Cup too.

Undoubtedly the pressure and focus is firmly on coach Ashwell Prince to turnaround the team’s fortunes, but Philander believes the problems run far deeper.

“We don’t have the depth of players coming through the system like we used to,” Philander told IOL Sport. “We can’t just rely on the feeder system being the four big Southern Suburbs boys’ schools. Local talent needs to be nurtured all around the province and structures need to be put in place to create these opportunities.

“We have to ask the questions … ‘What is being done at amateur level? Do we have the right personnel in the set up? Are they able to funnel the talent that is there through the system?

“Everybody is looking at the very top for the answers. That’s the end product. I feel that’s more a management role in this era. It’s lower down where the ‘real’ coaching needs to be done and that’s why I believe a complete overhaul needs to happen.”

Philander has been involved on a temporary coaching basis with the Cobras in the build-up to this COVID-19 affected season, where he shared his vast knowledge gained over 101 internationals with the young seam bowlers.

He admits there was plenty of promise on display, but the absence of a “banker” was telling.

“I worked with the bowlers for a short while and there really is plenty of potential. But they are young and need to develop and learn their trade still. It was too close to the season for me to come in and change actions and type of thing because that’s not my style. That requires time and patience for consistency to develop.

“Right now this team needs some like Rory Kleinveldt that got through his 10 overs for next to nothing while picking a few wickets. Just someone that can be depended on to deliver a performance week in and week out. And unfortunately that only comes with experience.”

There’s no doubt the Cobras, particularly the bowling unit, are going through a transitional phase after Kleinveldt’s retirement , while also the departure of Philander (Somerset), Dane Paterson (Nottinghamshire), Dane Piedt (USA), Mthiwekhaya Nabe (Warriors), Tladi Bokako (Highveld Lions) and Lizaad Williams (Titans) at the end of last season has left a massive void.

The end of the Kolpak system in England due to Brexit last year opened up the possibility of Paterson returning to the Cobras, but the former Proteas seamer picked up an untimely injury and could not be included in the squad for the Momentum One-Day Cup. Philander, though, believes Williams’ departure to Centurion was the greatest loss.

“Lizaad has developed into a quality seam bowler. He’s 27 now and has played plenty of first-class cricket. He was still a youngster from Boland when Rory and I were doing our thing and he did a lot of learning during that period. To lose him now hasn’t been ideal,” Philander said of the former SA u-19 paceman.

The Cobras have the opportunity to get their first win of the season when they face the Warriors in a crucial 1-Day Cup game in Potchefstroom on Tuesday.

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