It is all or nothing time for the six teams who have succeeded in beating out more than 600 schools across the country to make the finals weekend of the Coca-Cola Schools T20 competition taking place in Stellenbosch from 22 to 24 February. Hoërskool Framesby (Chevrolet Warriors), Rondebosch High School (Nashua Mobile Cape Cobras), St Andrew's School (Chevrolet Knights), St Stithians College (bizhub Highveld Lions), Hoërskool Waterkloof (Nashua Titans) and Westville Boys High (Sunfoil Dolphins) will go head to head for a chance to claim the 2012/2013 title.
With the Coca-Cola Under-19s coming off an outstanding ODI series whitewash over England, there will be some teams who will look forward to the return of their players and the experience they will provide during the weekend. Bowling wonder boy, Kagiso Rabada will reunite with St Stithians, while Sine Ntshona will rejoin his teammates from St Andrews ahead of the tournament.
Framesby may not have any well known players but coach, Konrad de Villiers has a quietly confident side that is waiting to get to each game and show the country the talent they have. He is wary of the Lions, whom they face on Friday afternoon because of Rabada, but remains sure that his team have it in them to beat whatever opposition comes their way.
He said: "We have really battled hard to get to this stage. We have worked tirelessly over the years and it feels like we finally have the team that is strong enough to take us all the way. Every opposition will have their star players and we are wary of Kagiso Rabada, but cricket is a team sport at the end of the day and we'll play our own game, not what is dictated to us by anyone else."
Finally breaking into the business end of the competition means a lot to the coach and his team, one of his aims is to ensure that his players are noticed and are given the chance to represent their province at the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U19 Week at the end of the year.
"I hope that us making the finals weekend will show everyone out there that our school has players who are good enough for Coke Week," he concluded.
Kagiso Rabada is looking forward to the change in format and playing with his school mates.
"The tour against England has been amazing. I've learned a lot about myself as a player and as a person and all those small lessons have contributed to my performances. It's been a privilege representing my country and now I'm just really excited to make my school extra proud by helping them do as well as possible in this tournament," he said.
Aims going into the tournament differ from team to team, but they all agree that the final prize money will go a long way in helping to further develop the game in their respective schools. One hundred and ten thousand Rands in total awaits the winning school and Cricket South Africa (CSA) Youth Cricket Manager, Niels Momberg looks forward to what will certainly be a weekend of top notch cricket.
"With the exception of Waterkloof High, all the other five schools have never been to the finals weekend and this is great news for cricket," he said. "This tells us that the floor is wide open for anyone to make their mark and that the competition among schools is getting stronger as each season goes by.
"This weekend is the culmination of backbreaking work by all the teams and coaching staff alike. I would like to congratulate them all for making it this far and would also like wish them luck for the next couple of days. May the best team win," he concluded.