Excitement will be high in Potchefstroom - “Home of World Champions” - this weekend when schools representing the six cricket franchises come together to battle it out for the right to call themselves South Africa’s top Twenty20 school.
The national finals of the CSA Schools T20 Challenge begin on Friday and end on Sunday. The schools are divided into two pools. Each school will play four matches and the top schools in Pool A and Pool B will meet in a televised final on Sunday morning.
The six finalists are Hoërskool Nelspruit (Nashua Titans), Potchefstroom Gimnasium (Highveld Lions), Hoërskool Noord Kaap (Chevrolet Knights), Grey High (Chevrolet Warriors), Paarl Boys High (Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras) and Westville High (Sunfoil Dolphins).
The players will be kitted out in their franchise colours, and will be staying where Spain had their training base before going on to win the Fifa World Cup in 2010.
Only two of the schools – Grey High and Hoërskool Noord Kaap – have reached the final in the past, so for the other four schools, it will be a whole new experience.
Proteas ODI and T20 captain AB de Villiers –whose school, Affies, were beaten by Hoërskool Nelspruit in the regional final – urged the players to make the most of a wonderful occasion.
“This is a proud moment for you in your school cricketing career,” said De Villiers.
“This is not only an opportunity to stake your claim on the schools cricket map in South Africa, but also the chance to make your school proud.
“Schools cricket was always a competitive and enjoyable part of my teenage years and I hope you are using the wonderful opportunities given to you to enjoy this great game. May the best team win.”
Noord Kaap is the only school to have reached all three finals played so far. In 2010, Noord Kaap finished at the bottom of the log, but last year, they lost the final to Waterkloof after a Super Over.
Chevrolet Knights middle order batsman Reeza Hendricks is an Old Boy, and he is excited about what Noord Kaap have achieved.
“It’s wonderful to see them going from strength to strength,” he said. “It’s always good when a team from one of the smaller provinces does well – usually, there is no recognition for the smaller provinces.
“My advice is for them to believe in themselves and to keep doing what they’ve been doing. I hope they are able to go one step further this year, and bring the title home. Keep it simple, guys, and you’ll get there.”
Grey High – which produced South Africa’s cricketer of the 20th century, Graeme Pollock, former national ODI captain Johan Botha, and fast bowler Lonwabo Tsotsobe, among others – is making its second appearance at the national finals. Another Grey High Old Boy is Chevrolet Warriors stalwart, Craig Thyssen, who believes his old school should take advantage of the experience they gained last year.
“Just go out there and enjoy yourselves – leave nothing in the change-rooms,” he urged.
“Think about where you went wrong last year, and make sure you don’t make the same mistakes.”
The match between Grey and Noord Kaap on Saturday morning will be televised, and Thyssen said the players should not allow themselves to be distracted by being on television, or even by the music and the dancing girls.
“Just keep your mind on the game,” he said. “Once you’re on the field, don’t think about those things – not even the girls.”
Tsotsobe sent a good luck message to all the teams taking part.
“I hope it’s going to be a fantastic weekend of action-packed cricket, but more importantly, I hope everyone enjoys their time on the field.
“My most memorable cricketing memories were made while playing with close schoolmates and peers, and I hope this weekend further cements your futures as budding cricketers,” said Tsotsobe.