The South Africa U19 team leaves for their tour to India on Friday and Andile Mokgakane, Lifa Ntanzi and Thamsanqa Khumalo are excited to compete against the four-time U19 Cricket World Cup champions.
Ntanzi, Khumalo and Mokgakane worked their way up the KZNCU development pipeline and were first introduced to cricket as part of the Department of Sports and Recreation (DSR), Sunfoil KZNCU Township and Rural Development Programme (which was re-aligned to the KZNCU RPC/Hubs Development Programme last September).
‘I really can’t wait to play against them,’ said Khumalo. ‘We will be playing the best U19 team in the world and I’m very excited about it.’
Mokgakane said that he hopes that the sub-continent will teach him more about the game. ‘I’m feeling very excited as India is known as the “home” of cricket.’
Both Khumalo and Mokgakane have represented SA U19 before, but it’s a first for Ntanzi.
‘I’m so excited – I can’t wait to be wearing green and gold for my country, but beating India in India would mean a lot to us, but that won’t be easy,’ he said.
Both Mokgakane and Khumalo expressed their gratitude to the Willowton Group which made it possible for them to attend high school at Northwood Boys High and Glenwood High respectively as part of the company’s Sunfoil Education Trust initiative.
‘I would like to say thank you for giving me this huge opportunity,’ said Khumalo. ‘If it wasn’t for them, maybe I wouldn’t have made the SA U19 team so I really appreciate their assistance a lot.’
‘I’d love to thank Sunfoil and DSR for everything they’ve done for me and for everyone that plays cricket in KZN,’ said Mokgakane. ‘If it wasn’t for them, I wouldn’t be here, so I really hope they carry on helping others so that we can have more players doing well for the province.’
Ntanzi expressed his gratitude to Glenwood High School for assisting him with a bursary, and said that he wanted to make his family proud: ‘I’m happy and excited to be the first person in my family to go overseas, and this means a lot to me and especially to them.’
Mduduzi Mbatha the KZN Coastals U19 and Dolphins Academy head coach said that Ntanzi, Khumalo and Mokgakane have served as good examples for the rest of the squad.
‘They have had their fair share of hard times,’ he explained. ‘Andile has been selected back in the SA U19 side after being dropped, so he is even more hungry this time round. Lifa missed out on the tour to England last year, so he is hungry to show his skills. Thamsanqa went on that tour and wants to do better this time round, and mentally he is in the right frame of mind.’
He also made special mention of the Willowton Group and DSR, who are major backers of cricket development in the province.
‘The boys are ever so grateful for the support they have received from Willowton and DSR – without them all this wouldn’t be possible. A massive thank you to them, and we would like to take our hats off to them for changing these young boys’ lives.’
Jay Mannikam, the manager of club development and academies for DSR in KZN, said it was exciting to see talent emerge from the RPC/Hub Development Programme: ‘This success story is what excites the department and government as a whole.
‘The return on our investment is indescribable. To summarise, it’s life-changing. As the DSR we take this opportunity to wish them well on their tour to India. You have done KZN and the country proud. Work hard and stay focused.’
Heinrich Strydom, CEO of KZN Cricket, said he could not wait to see what the future holds for Khumalo, Mogkakane and Ntanzi.
‘We are incredibly proud of them and look forward to seeing them perform on an international stage. They have immense potential to make it all the way in their respective roles as opening batsman, all-rounder and fast bowler.’
There were also strong words of encouragement for the trio from Sanelisiwe Mzimela, the manager of the KZNCU RPC/Hubs Development Programme.
‘I wish all the boys the best of luck. Go there, play well, play safe, make friends and believe in yourself. The time is now for you to shine. The time is now for you to begin with your goals that you’ve all been longing for – to represent your country.
‘So go there and showcase your talent. We are all behind you. The coaches are waiting to have a smile on their faces, seeing you perform. The KZNCU is behind you. The whole South Africa is behind you, so go there and make us proud.’
Photo: KZN Cricket Union