Sinethemba Qeshile’s inclusion in the South African T20I team this week was, in many ways, the logical conclusion of a process that has been going on at East London’s Hudson Park High School for the past 17 years, writes THEO GARRUN.
That’s how long Dave Alers has been at the school, and in that time the former provincial cricketer and schools provincial coach has transformed the school into a leading cricket nursery in South Africa. This is a school that has produced more black South African Schools players than any other.
Alers played in what was then the Nuffield Week for Rhodesia (now Zimbabwe) four times, from 1972 to 1975, and made the SA Schools team in 1975. He went on to play first-class cricket for Rhodesia, Eastern Province and Border, as well as representing SA Universities in 1977 and 1978.
SA CricketMag.com caught up with Alers at the Schools T20 national finals tournament in Pretoria where Hudson Park was competing as the CSA Coastal Focus School.
It wasn’t the school’s first appearance at the finals, he reminded us.
‘We were also the Coastal Focus School in 2017, and we made it all the way through to the final where we lost to St Stithians that year,’ he said.
They very nearly made it to this year’s national tournament in their own right – they were in the Warriors franchise final against St Andrew’s College, but the game could not be played because of rain, and they eventually lost to St Andrew’s on a bowl-out in the indoor nets.
‘We had a very good season, beating all our Eastern Cape rivals. We won the Border knockout tournament, the Alge Cup and the CSA Focus Schools title,’ Alers explained.
‘Our only losses were to St Andrew’s School and to Menlo Park at a pre-season festival in January, and before that to Northwood at the Michaelmas Festival in October last year.’
There were five Hudson Park boys in the Border side at the Khaya Majola Week at the end of last year, and a further three in the U17 team. Nonelela Yikha, their 2019 captain, made the SA Schools team and the national U19 team that toured India in February.
‘It didn’t go according to plan in India, although we improved as the tour went along,’ Nonelela said. ‘I played in all four ODIs and made a contribution, so I’m pretty happy with my personal performance.’
He was the school’s first team flyhalf last year, but won’t be playing rugby this year. ‘I’ve decided to focus on cricket. There are U19 camps that I will have to attend and my goal is to make the team for the 202 Junior World Cup.’
Nonelela’s story is one of remarkable resilience and dedication, Alers pointed out.
‘He lives in a township called Berlin, and for three years he would get up at 4am, walk 2km to the station, take a two-hour train trip and then walk for an hour from the station to school. It was only in grade 11 that Cricket South Africa gave him a bursary and he was able to move into the hostel.’
So it’s all cricket now, but Nonelela also recognises the importance of his academic work. ‘CSA sent a tutor, Mr Paul Guthrie, with us to India, so I managed to keep fairly up to date and I will be applying myself now.’
Everyone at Hudson Park is excited and proud about Sinethemba Qeshile’s achievements. Don’t be too surprised if there are other old boys following in his footsteps in the near future.
The Hudson Park SA Schools players are
Cebo Tshiki – 2006
Ngazimbini Sigwili – 2012 & 2013
Sinethemba Qeshile – 2016 & 2017
Akhona Mnyaka – 2016 & 2017
Jason Niemand – 2017
Nonelela Yikha – 2018
Photo: Theo Garrun