South Africa’s biggest schools cricket competition ended in an exciting climax in Potchefstroom on Sunday afternoon, when Paarl Boys High beat Northern Cape High by four wickets to win the Cricket South Africa (CSA) Schools Twenty20 Challenge.
It was a great result for Boland team, who twice had to stand by and watch Wynberg Boys High represent the Cape Cobras at the prestigious tournament, before qualifying this year by beating Rondebosch Boys High.
“Paarl is more known as a rugby school,” said captain Eddie Schutte. “Maybe this will show that we really are a cricket school as well.”
Schutte said Paarl’s success had been the result of a real team effort.
“We wanted it so badly,” he said. “We were so happy to get into the national finals and we really wanted to stamp our authority. There’s a tremendous spirit in the team, and we wanted to do it for our coach, who told us he had never won a final. So we fought for him and we fought for each other.”
It was heartbreak for a second time for Northern Cape, who were runners-up last year as well, losing to Waterkloof in a Super Over in 2011, but captain Diego Rosier was philosophical.
“We just didn’t get enough runs, and we lost wickets at the wrong time,” he said. “But we got to the final after losing our first match, so I think we fought back hard.”
Rosier said the tournament was very important to a school like Northern Cape High.
“It is a fantastic experience,” he said. “The final was shown on TV, and that was very exciting. We also got to meet players from around the country and to talk cricket to them. It also provides opportunities for guys who want to go on and make cricket their career.”
Someone who has no doubt about the value of the tournament was former Springbok rugby coach and rugby legend, Carel du Plessis, father of Paarl Boys High all-rounder, Jean-Luc du Plessis.
“I think this is a wonderful tournament,” he said. “It provides schools around the country with an incentive to play cricket and to play it well. It also motivates the boys in a school to want to play for the first team.”
He confessed to having had some nervous moments during the final.
“Cricket’s a nerve-racking game,” he said. “You never know what’s going to happen next, but I really enjoyed the whole weekend.”
The teams were kitted out in the colours of their regional franchise and stayed in the Potchefstroom Sports Village, home to Spain during their successful 2010 Fifa World Cup campaign, and for a short time, they had something of a taste of life as a professional cricketer.
Even the school that finished at the bottom of the log, Dolphins’ representative Westville Boys High, came away feeling good about themselves.
“There is such stiff competition among the cricket schools in KwaZulu-Natal, that it was a real privilege to get a chance to play in the national finals,” said the school’s head of cricket, Sharmin Naidoo. “The boys take part in provincial cricket weeks, but they don’t often get the opportunity to play outside KZN.
“It was a whole new experience for them, playing on the faster tracks of the Highveld, and it’s an experience they will always remember.
‘’They might not have won a match, but they have all learned a great deal.”
The Tournament Referee was one of South Africa’s best-loved and most highly-respected umpires, former Test umpire Cyril Mitchley, who has been involved in cricket for 58 years.
“A wonderful tournament,” he said. “I just wish they’d had something like this when I was at school.”