Lions coach Wandile Gwavu says winning back-to-back 4-Day Domestic Series titles was a massive achievement for the franchise this past season, adding he was now looking ahead to the new campaign with even more anticipation.
The 2018-19 champions secured a second successive first-class crown on 16 March when Cricket South Africa (CSA) terminated the season early due to the Covid-19 outbreak that has since grinded the world to a halt.
Even though only eight out of the 10 matches were played, the Lions won the title by virtue of sitting top of the table with 121.62 points, a little over eight points ahead of the Titans (113.16).
They were, however, the standout team, having won double the number of games (four) compared to any of the other teams.
On the flip side for the Lions, the early finish to 2019-20 did mean that they missed out on the opportunity to challenge for the One-Day Cup, a title that went to the Dolphins after they finished top of the regular-season table.
The KwaZulu-Natal side (30 points) ended two points ahead of the Lions (28), but the playoffs were still to come – and the possibility of challenging for the title.
However, Gwavu feels his team can feel very satisfied by their achievements of the past term.
‘I think it was a very eventful and successful season, honestly speaking,’ he said. ‘It was always going to be a challenging season where the teams would be coming at us harder after the previous season where the Lions dominated.
‘It’s always very tough for any team which has won trophies to maintain the standard they had set and to stay right at the top.
‘I think it was a very good season for us where we showed a lot of character, that said we still wanted to dominate. We also showed a lot of hunger to show we wanted to improve on Lions cricket.’
In the wake of the season finishing, Gwavu in the subsequent weeks saw his official title at the Lions change from ‘interim head coach’ to ‘full-time head coach’. He signed a new deal after initially stepping in when Enoch Nkwe joined the Proteas even before the season got under way and remained with the national set-up on a permanent basis.
‘I’m really pleased to be staying on and I look forward to building on the work that had been done already,’ he explained.
‘I guess now I’m really looking forward to next season and I’ve take a lot from my side as a head coach and I’m sure the players have learned a couple of things from this past season that will help them improve and make sure overall as a franchise, we don’t make the same mistakes that we made this past season.
‘We’ll be trying to improve on the good that we did this past year.
‘The feeling was good and capping it off with the four-day trophy was fantastic. It’s just unfortunate that we missed out on the one-dayers, but also with that we played some really good cricket there and were looking forward to the playoffs.’
The Lions have already announced some big new arrivals for next season, with Gwavu bringing in Warriors fast bowlers Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala as well as Wesley Marshall and Tladi Bokako.
‘When you look around there are not many franchise cricketers who can dominate with the red ball,’ he added. ‘I know there are a lot of guys that can do the job in white-ball cricket, but with the red ball there aren’t many and that’s why I went out and looked for some of the few that are out there.
‘We needed them because we are a team that plays on the Highveld, which is well known for pace. For us to dominate, I think we needed that extra boost of pace, and more than pace I think those four guys are coming in with a wealth of experience.’
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