JOHANNESBURG – The bizhub Highveld Lions’ new coach Enoch Nkwe is looking forward to having his entire squad - including the world’s best fast bowler Kagiso Rabada - together as it wraps up pre-season training with camps at Sun City and then Potchefstroom.
Nkwe admitted Wednesday that it had been a challenging few months since his return from the Netherlands to take over from Geoffrey Toyana as the franchise’s head coach, but with the new season just weeks away excitement was building not just for him but the players too.
“Those challenges haven’t been major things; aligning the players with your thoughts as a coach, just getting my principles across so that the players are as well prepared as possible and of course we’ve had guys away on international duty either with the Proteas or the SA A side.”
In addition, the franchise’s newly appointed captain Temba Bavuma has just gotten married, and has taken a few days of personal leave. The Lions’ SA A contingent, that includes new signing Malusi Siboto, will return at the end of the week and will be part of the two camps next week.
The first at Sun City, Nkwe explained would focus on strategic planning - “and what it is we want to get out of the season and how we go about doing that” - following which the squad heads to Potchefstroom for a few days of intense skills work that will include an internal match.
The coaching and fitness staff are working hard behind the scenes.— Lions Cricket (@LionsCricketSA) July 24, 2018
Head Coach @enochnkwe set his expectations of players early on in pre-season; Excellence and Professionalism on and off the field✨🦁#LionsCharge pic.twitter.com/VuVFCXEQ5m
Nkwe said Rabada’s availability would be a fillip not just for the rest of the players but Rabada too. “We know he’s not likely to be available for us too often this season, but it’s encouraging that he wants to be part of the pre-season, and it will help him too for is we do have him available to play that he is aware of the side’s blueprtint and he’ll thus be able to slot in quite comfortably,” said Nkwe.
The Lions begin their season with a trip to Port Elizabeth on October 1 to face the Warriors in the Four-day Challenge competition.
“I’m not sure how many of our guys have played in PE that early in the season, it could be a first for many of them. You usually know what to expect down there, but it maybe different this time given the early stages of the season, however one of the things we want to do is be able to confront and play our game no matter what the conditions.”
Nkwe faces an enormous task to try and change the fortunes of the Lions team who struggled across all three formats last season, barely challenging in any of them. They won just one match in the four-day competition, finishing bottom of the points table, registered only three wins for a fifth place finish in the Momentum One-Day Cup and picked up only two wins in the T20 tournament, finishing second last.
Besides Nkwe and Bavuma, the franchise also appointed former Board member Patrick Maroney as selection convener, signalling a complete change in the leadership.
The 2018/19 domestic season kicks off at the end of September when the defending champions in the Four-day Challenge - which like the domestic T20 competition has no main sponsor - face the Dolphins in Centurion.
The Titans have conducted part of their pre-season work in the exotic climes of the Seychelles, playing a couple of local teams who’ve been pleasantly startled to find themselves up against international players like Henry Davids, Chris Morris and Lungi Ngidi.
The Titans, have also had to conduct some of their pre-season work without a few of their stars, who were in India with the SA A side, including, Theunis de Bruyn, who returned to Centurion after a couple of successful seasons captaining the Knights and spin duo Tabraiz Shamsi and Shaun von Berg.@shockerhess