CAPE TOWN - The tide is certainly turning at Newlands after a couple of barren seasons with Cape Cobras coach Ashwell Prince full of praise for his prize winners at the annual CSA awards.
Although the Cobras failed to land any silverware in Prince’s maiden full season as head coach of the Western Cape franchise, there was significant improvement across the board with the Cobras progressing to both white-ball semi-finals. The biggest improvement was, however, the form shown in the Sunfoil Series, where the Cobras just lost out on the title.
The most notable feature of the Cobras’ season was the way the rookies performed, which was acknowledged with Kyle Verreynne and Pieter Malan walking away with the Domestic Newcomer of the Year Award and Domestic Players’ Player of the Year Award respectively. Malan struck 615 runs in the One-Day Cup and scored 892 runs in the Sunfoil Series.
“Pieter Malan had a phenomenal season and proved his doubters wrong, so the accolade of Domestic Players’ Player of the Season is just reward for his performances in his first season since being promoted to the professional squad,” Prince said. “The numbers speak for itself. He had a phenomenal season. When he was promoted to the professional squad there might have been some question marks, but he proved his doubters wrong.”
The former Proteas batsman believes the accolades received by the newcomers to his team justified the franchise’s efforts to encourage local talent through opportunity. At times during last season, both Prince and the Cobras hierarchy came under pressure to play more experienced players, but they maintained their belief in the youngsters.
“We have a young squad and we had two of your younger players, Kyle Verreynne and Mthiwekhaya Nabe, nominated for the prize of Domestic Newcomer of the Year. We are in a rebuilding phase and have put our trust in some younger players," Prince said.
“The fact that two were nominated may have underlined that we made the right choices. In his first season, the ultimate thing about Verreynne was the character he displayed. He showed a lot of maturity in his maiden season for the Cape Cobras."
Taking over from former Cobras captain and seasoned campaigner Dane Vilas behind the stumps would have been intimidating for a player just a couple of years out of school, but the former Wynberg Boys’ High prodigy took it all in his stride.
“I did not feel I needed to prove myself. And I did not feel out of place in the Cobras squad. The nomination for the award was no shock to me, but winning it against such quality (Nabe and Alfred Mothoa) was a surprise,” Verreynne said. “It was a reward for hard work that I put in throughout the season."
Verreynne averaged 48.33 in the four-day competition and 34.33 in the One-Day Cup. In the Sunfoil Series, he managed a best score of 85, but that was not the highlight for him. “I like the pressure and to control my aggression and see off the bowling attack,” he said.
The unbeaten 30 he struck off 100 balls to stave off defeat against the Warriors was a highlight as the Warriors had the Cobras in heaps of trouble on 75/5 at St. George’s Park. A mature Verreynne led his team to 131/6 as the match finished in a stalemate.
Top-order batsman Zubayr Hamza - also playing in his first full season - was nominated for the Sunfoil Series Cricketer of the Year award, but lost out to Warriors off-spinner Simon Harmer. There is further reason to be upbeat down under The Oaks next season with a further promising talent Janneman Malan - younger brother of Pieter - heading to the Cape from the North West. Janneman, a hard-hitting opener, was outstanding last season with the 22-year-old claiming the Student Cricketer of the Year and the Sunfoil 3-Day Cup Cricketer of the Year.