JOHANNESBURG - South Africa’s Under-19 team will be in search of redemption at the 2018 ICC Under-19 Cricket World Cup.
They will hope that a more experienced core will help them to progress out of the group stages of the competition in New Zealand, something the last SA Under-19 team failed to do two years ago.
In fact that team, finished a dismal 11th out of 16 teams, an embarrassing outcome for those associated with the development structures of South African cricket.
However, the new group announced on Monday, skippered Raynard van Tonder, has been bolstered by players with some playing experience at senior level.
“It sounds weird to talk about experience with Under-19s, but one of the things the senior provincial coaches have done is give the youngsters an opportunity,” said the national Under-19 coach Lawrence Mahatlane.
It’s one area he’s focused on intently have copped some painful blows during his tenure as the junior sides he’s coached have fallen short against teams containing players who have picked up first-class experience in their countries, and in the case of some of the Indian teams, even had players with IPL experience.
“If you go back to 2016, only (Rivaldo) Moonsamy had played senior cricket, and that was just one game.”
Among the 15-player squad for the 2018 Under-19 World Cup, Matthew Breetzke, Jiveshen Pillay, Jason Niemand and Akhona Mnyaka have all played at senior level for their respective provinces.
In the case of opening batsman Breetzke, his experience includes being picked for an SA Invitational side which featured Aiden Markram, JP Duminy and AB de Villiers that faced Bangladesh recently.
Breetzke scored 71 in that match played just before the three match ODI series between the Proteas and Bangladesh, sharing a 147-run opening stand with Markram - who famously skippered the 2014 SA Under-19 side that won the age-group World Cup.
“The fact that he opened with Markram, sat in a change-room with JP Duminy (and AB de Villiers) it’s about having cricket conversations, that has helped him understand his game better. As a young talented guy, you come out, play shots, he’s free... but now he’s taken a lot of responsibility, along with Jiveshen Pillay at the top of the order,” Mahatlane added.
Breetzke was one of the stars of the recent triangular series the South Africans played against Namibia and England in Potchefstroom, finishing with an aggregate of 243 runs, including a century against what Mahatlane described as a strong England side.
“He scored a 100 in a game in which we got 250, a game in which we were in a lot of trouble; and that’s where the maturity comes out.”
Despite suffering two heavy defeats to the English in the round-robin phase of the triangular tournament, the South Africans fought back well to win the final by three wickets with two balls to spare on Sunday night.
“That experience we now have came to the fore there again,” said Mahatlane. “It’s about maturity and discipline. In that chase on Sunday, your general schoolboy would have panicked.
“And to watch Niemand, who did it three weeks ago (for Border) against WP, getting 85 in a chase of 320 (in the CSA Provincial Challenge), manage that innings and to be comfortable winning it with two balls to spare shows the kind of maturity we’ve been talking about.
“I’m thankful to all the local coaches for giving the kids a chance.”
South Africa’s Under-19s head to New Zealand on January 4 and will play two warm-up matches against Australia and India, before tackling what Mahatlane claimed was the ‘group of death’ that included defending champions the West Indies and hosts New Zealand.
South Africa open their campaign against Kenya on January 14.
SA Under-19 World Cup Squad
Raynard van Tonder (captain), Matthew Breetzke, Jean du Plessis, Jason Niemand, Gerald Coetzee , Jade de Klerk, Fraser Jones, Wandile Makwetu, Andile Mogakane, Kgaudise Molefe, Thando Ntini, Jiveshen Pillay, Hermann Rolfes, Kenan Smith, Akhona Mnyaka.
Management: Lawrence Mahatlane (Head Coach), Wandile Gwavu (Assistant Coach), Chris van Noordwyk (Assistant Coach), Riaan Osman (Manager), Kyle Southgate (Performance Analyst), Lizahn Naude (Physiotherapist), Sipokazi Sokanyile (Media Liaison), Runeshan Moodley (Fitness Trainer), Robin Peterson (Technical Consultant), Maurice Aronstam (Mental Conditioning Coach).