For the ninth time in a decade, the pick of KwaZulu-Natal’s township cricketers will measure their skills against one another at the 2016 Sunfoil Township Tournament to be held at Hilton College from 28 June to 2 July.
This annual tournament is organised by the KwaZulu-Natal Cricket Union (KZNCU) Township and Rural Development Programme in partnership with Willowton Group, manufacturers of Sunfoil cooking oil, and the Department of Sports and Recreation in the province.
Its purpose is to give disadvantaged young cricketers the opportunity to compete against other leading players under match conditions in an event which has become an eagerly anticipated beacon on the sporting calendar.
This year, 336 players and coaches will be participating from areas like KwaMashu, Umlazi, Mpumalanga, KwaDabeka, Pongola, Mbali and Sweet Water. A total of 24 teams will take part – twelve made up of U15 players and twelve by U19s. They will play 49 T20 matches in total.
In both the U19 and U15 age groups, eight of the teams will be from KZN, with four teams coming from other provinces. The visiting teams represent Gauteng, Northern Cape, Border and Western Province.
The KZN Sunfoil Elite Squad is announced at the award ceremony on the final day. After the closing ceremony, a team of the best KZN players in each age group take on the top visiting teams in two hotly contested matches.
Shoaib Moosa, Chief Commercial Officer of Willowton Group said that witnessing the journey of these young township players into fine cricketers was an inspiration and one of the many benefits that came from Willowton Group’s sponsorship of the tournament.
“Our sponsorship of cricket in South Africa, through our Sunfoil brand, has taken many forms at all levels over a long period, from the development programmes to the pinnacle of the national Test Series.
“Whilst, all aspects of our support have provided exceptional moments and long-term benefits, our involvement with development cricket at grassroots level is arguably the most rewarding because, for many underprivileged youngsters, it provides life-changing opportunities.”
“It is not just about creating young cricketing stars of the future, although this is undoubtedly happening, it is also about giving youngsters with few advantages a chance to play a sport which gives them joy and that teaches them life skills they will draw on into adulthood.”
Sanelisiwe Kuzwayo, Manager of KZNCU’s Township and Rural Development Programme, said that the boys were eagerly anticipating the tournament. “Within township cricket in the province, this is the biggest event that happens. It transforms lives and the boys know this.”
“This is where we identify boys for whom we can apply for bursaries and scholarships at top cricketing schools. This is also where we select the cricketers who will be sent for KZN trials, as well as those who will be part of the high performance programme within the development setup.”
She added that it wasn’t just the cricketing aspects that the boys looked forward to. “Most of these boys come from very poor backgrounds. Some go to bed without having anything to eat,” she explained. “For them, staying at Hilton College is like being in a hotel – they get three meals a day, they get to have hot water showers and sleep in comfortable beds.”
She encouraged members of the public to come and support the boys at the tournament, pointing out that it was not possible for their parents to do so.
Pete de Wet, CEO of the Sunfoil Dolphins, said that KZNCU’s longstanding partnership with Willowton Group in staging the township tournaments had produced outstanding results.
“Our aim is to continually take development cricket in the province to even higher levels and there is no doubt that this is happening. Exceptional young talent is being identified, fostered and cultivated into quality young cricketers who have a real chance of making their mark in the sport.”
“The results speak for themselves. We had 55 township teams playing in the Durban & District Cricket Union league in the 2015/16 season and they acquitted themselves admirably.”
“Mpumalanga won division 3 of the league in the senior phase and Ink 1 Lindelani won division 2, also in the senior league. Twenty-five boys and seven females were selected to represent KZN teams in all age groups, from U11 to U19.”
“We were enormously proud when, for the second year running, the U13 elite boys won the championship title in the Sunfoil U13 Gauteng Township Night Tournament,” Pete de Wet said.
Three KZN township boys on bursaries from the Sunfoil Education Trust receive financial assistance to attend highly regarded schools such as Northwood and Glenwood.
It was also a fruitful season for the KZN township ladies with seven girls being selected for KZN provincial teams. One was called up to play for the SA women’s squad and another was chosen for Cricket SA’s national camp in Pretoria. The KZN girls’ tournament will take place again this year on 9 August.
Moosa said that the township cricket programme not only provided opportunities for individuals, it also generated a groundswell of interest, support and a love of the game in disadvantaged communities which was beneficial for everyone involved.”