The past couple of seasons have been rather difficult for Western Province, a union with a rich history of domination in domestic cricket.
Last season was yet another trophyless one, despite the team reaching the final of the One-Day Cup, only to lose to the Lions at the Wanderers.
For such a successful side, it was expected of supporters and former players to publicly air their frustration at the drought of trophies in recent years.
While everyone was complaining, coach Salieg Nackerdien was focused on the long-term success of Western Province cricket as he silently went about his mission of building a squad of youngsters – the future of the union.
All of that paid off, with Tony de Zorzi, Jono Bird and Mihlali Mpongwana, to name a few, coming into their own at this level.
The same youngsters have taken the Capetonians to a second One-Day Cup final in a row, which they will host against the North West Dragons at Newlands today (10am start).
“As a coach, you obviously want to win, but you need to think of the big picture in terms of the longevity of Western Province. They (youngsters) can be big assets for years to come. That’s massive for me, to invest in youngsters,” said Nackerdien.
“The big thing is that when I’m done here in terms of this coaching role, the guy that’s going to take over will have a good chance to inherit a blend of good youngsters and he can build on that.
“(Talent) Identification needs to be spot-on in terms of your pipeline and the people that work in your pipeline, because they are your eyes and ears in terms of who’s coming through in the Under-17 and Under-18 ranks, and also from the academy and colts.
“If you’re looking at the last two years, there were a lot of youngsters introduced into the system, and in my first year (at Western Province), it was not easy – but you can see the growth in terms of where they are now.”
Nackerdien sees last season’s final as an opportunity for his young team to learn how a title decider is played.
Today’s match will be the second time most of the youngsters play in a final at this level, and Nackerdien expects growth from how they handled themselves last season.
“Some of those guys had never played in the final before, and I think to play in another final will be massive for them,” he said.
“Nobody really expected us to be in that final, because we had a few hiccups during that campaign.”
They take on the Dragons today, who have a youngster by the name of Meeka-eel Prince currently enjoying a rich vein of form.
Prince is a born-and-bred Western Province boy, but somehow found himself having to take a contract in Potchefstroom.
Nackerdien explained how Prince was lost to Province.
“It was one of those things where you can’t keep everyone, to be honest,” said Nackerdien.
“He is a quality youngster. “Sometimes you think it could’ve been so different, but he can learn straight there and come back to Western Province – if that’s alright.”