JOHANNESBURG – Wandile Makwetu was hanging on every word Kagiso Rabada uttered when the latter was on hand to address members of the South African Under-19 team during the recent Khaya Majola week.
Makwetu is in New Zealand hoping to emulate Rabada’s team of 2014 and win the ICC Under-19 World Cup.
It’s also a tournament of redemption of sorts for this SA Under-19 team, as coach Lawrence Mahatlane and Makwetu were both in Bangladesh two years ago when South Africa lost to Namibia and Zimbabwe and finished 11th out of 16 teams.
“(My) first World Cup was a bit of a whirlwind, things happened really quickly,” said Makwetu. “We were in and out of the World Cup really quickly.”
Makwetu turned 19 four days ago, but being part of that group in Bangladesh resulted in some harsh lessons and a toughening up he may not otherwise have received had the going been good.
This year’s SA Under-19 squad has spent a lot more time together than the 2016 side.
“Unlike last time, I’ve known for a while that I’d be going to the World Cup, my mind is more settled.We’ve been playing together for a while now, we’ve gelled quite nicely, I feel we are a really tight knit unit.”
Part of the team’s preparation included that interaction with the young man who is now ranked Test cricket’s No 1 bowler.
For the likes of Makwetu and others in that Under-19 side, seeing and hearing from someone like Rabada, whose heroics occurred less than four years ago, would have made things seem more tangible for them ahead of a significant stepping stone in their careers.
“We had a chat with him about what it was like; the pressure of the World Cup and getting down to the knock-out stages, how to play those situations. It was nice to sit with him, hear what went well for him,” said Makwetu.
In addition, Wiaan Mulder, another St Stithians College graduate who was captain of the SA team in 2016, was on hand to describe what went wrong in Bangladesh, and how he felt this year’s group could avoid the pitfalls when they start their campaign in New Zealand.
“You could contrast Kagiso Rabada, whose team won, and Wiaan’s team, who didn’t do so well. When I was part of the group, it was nice to contrast that, see what the sides did differently and what we can do using those examples. It was nice to tap into those two guys.”
Makwetu and the rest of the SA Under-19 squad start their World Cup campaign on Sunday against Kenya.
Hopefully, Rabada’s words resonated with them and some form of redemption for 2016 will be achieved.