The Highveld Lions’ new head coach Enoch Nkwe has made building a strong relationship with his predecessor Geoffrey Toyana one of his priorities as he seeks to re-establish the franchise at the top table in domestic cricket.
Nkwe, 35, has agreed to a three-year contract to become the Lions coach taking over from Toyana who won four trophies in his five seasons in charge until he was relieved of his duties at the end of last season, with one year still left on his contract.
“He’s done some amazing work in the last few years and laid a very good platform. He’s proved the Lions can achieve greatness,” Nkwe said from Haarlem in the Netherlands, where has been coaching for the last two and a half years.
“I’m looking forward to working with him and ensuring that Lions cricket keeps moving forward. Hopefully I can build on the foundations that have been laid and achieve even better results on top of what’s been achieved in the past.”
There was no success for the Lions last summer. Instead the season proved to be a nightmare for the franchise, as it failed to mount a decent challenge in any of the three competitions, finishing last in the Sunfoil Series, and fifth in both the RamSlam T20 Challenge and the Momentum One day Cup.
Toyana has been moved into a new position as High Performance Coach for the franchise which will see him oversee the development structures at the team’s two affiliates, Gauteng and North West.
The Lions’ administrative hierarchy believe a close relationship between Nkwe and Toyana will be vital in helping to create a more successful side next summer.
“The High Performance coach, to my mind, must be able to help a guy, who may not be playing well at franchise level and has to drop down to the provincial set up, to then get back up to the franchise side,” said Lions chairman Oupa Nkagiseng. “The link between Enoch and Geoff will hopefully help us to close some of the gaps between franchise and semi-professional level.”
While Nkwe will be the youngest coach among the six franchise teams, he brings a lot of experience to the Lions, which includes his own intimate knowledge of the franchise from his time as a player in the late 2000s. Nkwe was a talented all-rounder who was set for higher hours until a wrist injury curtailed his playing career.
Nkwe’s cricket education began in Johannesburg at St Stithians College and he move through the Lions provincial structures and into the franchise team, playing 42 first class matches, 38 limited over games and nine T20s.
He quickly moved into the coaching structures working with the provincial under-19 side and then the semi-professional Gauteng Strikers team winning each of the three provincial titles on offer in three years with that side.
He moved to the Netherlands three years ago and was head coach at the Haarlemsche club before being hired as a bowling coach for the Dutch national men's team. More recently he’s been back in SA as an assistant coach for the national women’s team.