The Crusaders are out to defend their National Club Championships title, as the 2016 edition gets underway in Pretoria on Friday.
The Durban side were the first traditional club to win Club Champs in more than 10 years when they beat Maties last season. Coach, Duncan Muller is looking forward to their return to the competition this year and believes that his side has what it takes to successfully defend their title even after the retirement of stalwarts Robert Clift and Sean Dixon at the end of last season.
‘We have an exciting group of players coming to the tournament this year,’ he said. ‘Losing Rob (Clift) and Sean (Dixon) was a big blow, but this has opened up opportunities for younger guys to put up their hands and take on those roles. Our new captain, Michael Alexander, is one of those guys. He’s been groomed for the role for a while and he’s taken to it well and we’re looking forward to seeing him lead the guys in this exciting competition.’
Muller believes that there is still a place for traditional clubs in the competition that has seen university clubs such as NMMU, Maties and North West Pukke win their leagues in the previous season to make it to Club Champs.
‘The nice thing about a tournament like this is that it gives an opportunity for teams to go up against the best teams in the country, and if it happens that those include university clubs, then so be it. I think one of the reasons we were successful last year was that we still have a very traditional, old-school club cricket environment. The guys are very close, we’re not just a squad that’s been put together, we are all genuinely here for the love of the game and we are all committed to the team and making it a success.’
The Crusaders’ squad includes Sunfoil Dolphins all-rounder, Cameron Delport, whom Muller credits to be one of the leaders of the side.
‘Cameron has a wealth of experience which he brings to the table,’ Muller continued. ‘He’s one of those guys who can play any role in the side and has the ability to take the game away from a team and dig us out of trouble if we get into it. It’s safe to say that we are really excited to take part in the competition this year and we’re looking forward to getting to Pretoria on Thursday.’
Cricket South Africa General Manager of Cricket, Corrie van Zyl said:
‘The National Club Championships is the culmination of the affiliate club championships around the country and features the cream of our amateur players. As such it is one of the most important windows to showcase the talent coming through our pipeline structures.
‘Club cricket plays many important roles. The obvious one is to identify talent that has not been picked up at youth level and make sure that it takes the next step into our semi-professional competitions which are the gateway to the franchises and then to South Africa A and full Proteas international selection.
‘A glance at the scorecards from last season’s NCC reveals a number of players who are now regular selections for their franchises. These include the likes of Edward Moore, Anrich Nortje, George Linde, Keegan Petersen and Thandolwethu Mnyaka.
‘To all competitors, managers and all the other people who make the game possible, enjoy the week, make new friends and make sure that the spirit and values of cricket are upheld by the way in which you play both on and off the field.’
As per last season, the winning club will receive R50 000 with R20 000 going to the runners-up.
The tournament also includes the following individual awards:
Player of the Tournament – Weekend getaway anywhere in SA for two including flights, accommodation and car hire.
Best Batsman – R5 000
Best Bowler – R5 000
Live scoring will be available at www.crichq.com, which regular updates will be provided via CSA’s social media platforms; Facebook – www.facebook.com/cricketsouthafrica and Twitter – www.twitter.com/officialcsa.
The official tournament hash tag is #ClubChamps16.