The 18-strong KZN Cricket Academy intake for 2016 are currently embroiled in a fun yet challenging three day team building camp at Spirit of Adventure at Shongweni Dam in the Upper Highway area as they look to strengthen relationships off the field ahead of their approaching busy schedule on it.
A quadrangular series in Potchefstroom in July, the CSA Franchise Colts Week in Oudtshoorn in September and a mouth-watering trip to Abu Dhabi in December await this year’s crop of tomorrow’s stars, all assignments the group is eager to impress at.
“The boys will be tested rigorously through a wide variety of different physical and mental activities during our time at Shongweni with the goal to bring the group closer before we head out onto the field,” explains KZN Academy Assistant Coach, Thokozani Zulu.
“We’ve got some big games coming up, starting off in Potch in five weeks’ time, and a strong team spirit will play an important role in contributing towards them overcoming the challenges they will be faced with on the field.
“We’ve got a great record as an Academy, having won 24 out of our last 25 matches, and that is something we will look to continue again this year as we aim to go out there and play the best possible cricket we can,” he adds. “Hopefully our time on camp will help in the achievement of that,” he adds.
The group of 18 players comprises of eight new faces – Blayde Cappel, Okuhle Cele, Tyron Koen, Nduduzo Mfoza, Jason Wagener, Richard Wissing, Dudu Zondo, Sthabiso Zungu – while ten of last year’s squad have returned, including captain Luke Schlemmer.
Notable absentees from last year’s group are Senuran Muthusamy and Rabian Engelbrecht, both of whom have now progressed from the Academy’s ranks into regular Provincial team members and, on occasion during the 2015/16 season, even on to represent the Sunfoil Dolphins in the various formats.
“The Academy forms a vital part of the pipeline of talent identification and development, helping take players from school and club level and prepare them for Provincial cricket and beyond.
“Sen (Muthusamy) has proven to be such a great role model for the rest of the guys at Academy level through his tremendous work ethic – always being first to training or willing to do that extra bit of work on his game.
“He did so well this last season and, in so doing, has also done the programme proud!”
While Muthusamy and Engelbrecht look to continue to contribute meaningfully towards the KZN Provincial side’s cause and push for more regular Franchise inclusion, the likes of Smangaliso Nhlebela, Johnny Riekert, Jason Oakes, Bruce Kerr, Jesse Smit and Okuhle Cele will all look to continue their journey through the ranks and take on the next level.
“It is great to have seen some of our Academy boys representing KZN at Provincial level last season.
“Hopefully this can continue again this coming season on the back of strong performances for the Academy.
“It is also nice to see guys like Okuhle and Smangaliso – amongst others – earning semi-pro contracts for the coming season alongside Sen and Rabian; now it’s just about ensuring these guys stay grounded and make the most of their opportunity,” says Zulu.
The squad’s trip to Potch sees them take on Free State, North West and Pukke’s academy outfits before the group combines with the KZN Inland setup for their Colts assignment in September.
The group’s invitation to attend an academies tournament in the United Arab Emirates in December is another mouth-watering prospect for the group who will square up against international academies and gain much form their international experience.
Should any party be interested in contributing financially to the squad’s tour aspirations, please contact Sunfoil Dolphins CEO Pete de Wet on (031) 335 4200.
The KZN Cricket Academy squad is guided by Head Coach, Yashin Ebrahim and Assistant Coaches, Thokozani Zulu and Bheki Nyathikazi.
KZN Cricket Academy squad:
Blayde Cappel, Okuhle Cele, Mlungiseleli Gcado, Nazeer Jaffar, Bruce Kerr, Tyron Koen, Nduduzo Mfoza, Ainsley Ndlovu, Smangaliso Nhlebela, Jason Oakes, Gavin Reddy, Johnny Riekert, Luke Schlemmer (captain), Jesse Smit, Jason Wagener, Richard Wissing, Dudu Zondo, Sthabiso Zungu