The Coca-Cola Schools T20 Challenge is in essence the only truly national schools cricket championship which features some 650 schools from around the country.
The Coke Schools T20 Challenge began back in the 2009-10 season under the name of the Standard Bank Schools Pro 20 Challenge, before Coca-Cola came on board as the major sponsor in 2012. The tournament has unearthed many future stars of the professional game including the likes of Kagiso Rabada, Quinton de Kock, Theunis de Bruyn and Diego Rosier.
Each province conducts their own knockout style competition to determine a winner after which the winners of each provincial region battle it out to earn the right to represent their franchise. The top school in each of Cricket South Africa’s six franchises (Cobras, Dolphins, Knights, Lions, Titans and Warriors) then head to the National Finals to determine the country’s best 1st XI. This year’s National Finals are set to take place in Potchefstroom from 18–20 March.
The tournament serves as a feeder to CSA’s other youth cricketing structures such as the Coca-Cola Khaya Majola U19 Cricket Week as well as the South African U19 team. Despite the SA U19 team’s poor showing at the recent World Cup, it is impressive to note that the likes of Dean Foxcroft, Willie Ludick, Sean Whitehead, Kyle Verreynne and Dayyaan Galiem have all featured at the National Finals of the Coke Schools T20 Challenge in the past.
2015 winners, Menlopark High of Pretoria, are the only team to have won the National Finals more than once. Menlopark clinched the 2015 title by just two runs when they defeated Hilton College in the final in Stellenbosch. The star performer for Menlopark at the 2015 Finals was none other than the aforementioned Foxcroft who guided the SA U19 team to a morale-boosting win over New Zealand in their final World Cup match on February 12.
Whilst the 2016 event is winding down towards the closing stages with the National Finals set to take place within a month, no Franchise winners have yet been determined. Most regions are still in their round-robin phase, however the Dolphins are perhaps the closest to determining a winner. The franchise final is set to take place on 29 February between KZN-Inland winners Hilton College and KZN-Coastal winners Kearsney College. Meanwhile, Oakhill High caused an upset in the SWD region, clinching the title from Outeniqua High. They will now battle it out with the Eastern Province and Border regions to earn the right to represent the Warriors.
Hoërskool Noord-Kaap (Kimberley) once again claimed the Northern Cape title and will next face the winner of the Free State region in a bid to earn the right to represent the Knights franchise. In the Gauteng region, King Edward VII (KES) advanced to the final of the Johnny Waite Knockout by beating Jeppe. They will face St Stithians in the final, after Kagiso Rabada’s alma mater beat St David’s in their semi-final. The winner of the Johnny Waite Knockout will play the winner of the North West region for the Lions Franchise spot.
2015 – Menlopark
2014 – St Stithians
2013 – Rondebosch
2012 – Paarl Boys’ High
2011 – Waterkloof
2010 – Menlopark
Compiled by Warwick Austin