Coca-Cola Schools T20 Challenge
The Coca-Cola Schools T20 Challenge is the only nationally coordinated schools cricket programme in South Africa, and forms a vital part of the CSA cricket development pipeline, which aims to give a young cricketer the ideal preparation for life as a future Protea.
The inaugural edition attracted 349 schools, and was well received by the youth cricket community.
The initial plan was to pilot programme in the 2009/2010 season, and look to increase the number of schools to 500 within three years, but the feedback from players, coaches, and parents alike, has been overwhelming, and we easily surpassed that target.
The 2010/2011 Schools T20 Challenge, sponsored by Standard Bank, came to a thrilling climax when Hoerskool Waterkloof from the Nashua Titans beat Hoerskool Noordkaap of the Chevrolet Knights in a super over, after the two teams tied the final, which took place on 20 February 2011.
The final was the culmination of a five-month process. More than 600 schools entered the competition, and week by week, these were whittled down to six schools representing the six franchises, who travelled to Stellenbosch for the national finals.
The boys were kitted out in the colours of their franchises, and three of the matches at the finals were shown live on Supersport, with the first match of the tournament, between Wynberg Boys High (Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras) and Grey High (Chevrolet Warriors) being played at Sahara Park Newlands as a curtain-raiser to the T20 match between the two senior franchise teams.
“The chance to play at Newlands was fantastic, and it was amazing to be live on television,” said Grey High captain Eddie Moore.
Although Grey failed to win a single match at the finals, there was no doubt that the players had the time of their lives.
“I’ve never stayed in a hotel before,” said one player. “We got all that kit, and we were treated like VIPs. I wish I was still in Grade 11 so that I could play again next year.”
Standard Bank’s cricket sponsorship came to an end after the ICC Cricket World Cup in the sub-continent, but Cricket South Africa (CSA) Youth Manager Niels Momberg says talks with potential sponsors are underway, and it is hoped that the tournament will continue next year.
“It has been a great success,” said Momberg. “It has grown from about 340 schools last year to more than 600 this year, and we would like to grow it even more.
“There was some fantastic cricket during the finals weekend, and most matches were very close. What is interesting that two schools that are fairly new to cricket ended up in the final, with more established cricket schools, like KES and Maritzburg College, did not. I don’t think that means that standards are going down in the cricket schools – I think it means that the other schools are catching up.”
Momberg said the more competition there was among schools, the better the chances of identifying talent that could go on to higher levels.
“There were some very talented players at the finals,” he said. “Players like JP Kok (Waterkloof), Diego Rosier (Noordkaap), Quinton de Kock (KES) and Calvin Savage (Maritzburg) are definitely on the road to greater things.”
He said Noordkaap was the success story of the tournament. Having finished last in the 2010 finals, they surprised everyone by beating Grey High and Wynberg, and finishing on top of their pool.
“Their coach told me they had travelled 3 000 kms since the beginning of the year to get some good cricket competition,” he said. “There is no-one nearby, apart from Grey College in Bloemfontein, so they have travel to other areas to play competitive matches.
“They are also a success story in that they have a truly integrated team, with five or six players of colour. They have come through the local development programmes and are definitely a feather in Griquas’ cap.”
All the schools that qualified for the final received a cash prize to go towards cricket development, with Waterkloof receiving R100 000 for winning.