The South Africa U19s are excited as they strive to make the nation proud ahead of their ICC U19 Cricket World Cup opening match against Afghanistan in Kimberley on Friday.
The youth tournament, where current Proteas such as Kagiso Rabada, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock emerged, will be hosted in South Africa between 17 January and 9 February 2020 across four cities: Kimberley, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein and Benoni. This is 20 years since South Africa hosted the global spectacle for the first time, in 1998.
Speaking at the team’s final training session at the ground, head coach Lawrence Mahatlane spoke of his and the team’s excitement ahead of the match and how the side will approach the contest.
‘We are excited,’ Mahatlane began. ‘The boys have worked hard, put in a lot of effort and we are looking forward to the opening game of the World Cup.
‘We’ve played Afghanistan twice at the beginning of last year, we’ve seen them around and they are an interesting team. They’ve got six spinners and five seamers, so it’ll be interesting to see what mixture they put out there.
‘From our side, it is about looking after our processes, if we do that right and our disciplines are in a good space, then I believe we’ll pull through.’
Although the South African side’s recent results haven’t been a true reflection of their performances, Mahatlane and his charges can take confidence from their last two encounters against tomorrow’s opponents. SA U19 defeated the sub-continent outfit by nine runs and 55 runs, respectively, during a Youth One-Day International quadrangular series in Thiruvananthapuram, India.
Playing in a home World Cup is a special moment for any cricketer, particularly as a youngster looking to make a name for oneself on the biggest stage, but it also comes with its pressures and challenges.
‘The pressure is a privilege,’ Mahatlane said. ‘The fact that you are sitting here, means that somebody has recognised that you have the ability to handle the pressure. There are many young men that are not here, that wish they were here.
‘For me, it’s about them expressing themselves and showing off the talents that they were given and being at home, is a very exciting thing.’
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