It is a little ironic that one of the longest-serving coaches in South Africa’s national cricket structures is afforded the least time to influence those under his charge.
Lawrence Mahatlane will have to reapply for the position of South Africa’s U19 coach, a role he has held since 2014.
The biennial U19 World Cup is usually the focus for coaches in the age group, but performances at the tournament aren’t the only way to judge Mahatlane’s performance.
What is most important to Cricket South Africa is that members of the U19 set-up go on to become full internationals.
At the three U19 World Cups under Mahatlane, South Africa have finished 11th, fifth and eighth.
The U19 scene has consistently provided internationals, and most of their number have gone on to play franchise cricket.
Mahatlane can’t be held responsible for what happens to players after they age out of his programme.
The age range of players in his care are at the highest risk of giving up the game, even if their careers hold promise. An U19 coach has to prepare young cricketers for life as a professional and do so in a short space of time. The players in his care are seldom on full professional contracts, with some of them still in school.
As U19 coach, he is also responsible for a larger group of players. At that level, a coach cannot focus too much on results.
Mahatlane has focused his attention on encouraging his players and preparing them for the mental aspects of international cricket.
What makes judging his work over the last five-and-a-half years even harder is that some of the seeds he has planted have only just started to bear fruit.
Mahatlane took Kyle Verreynne, Wiaan Mulder and Lutho Sipamla to the 2016 U19 World Cup in Bangladesh. The trio have only just broken through on to the full international scene now.
The long-serving coach has also seen players he has worked with make moves overseas, such as Dean Foxcroft, who is a regular in the Otago lineup in New Zealand.
Mahatlane is not ultimately responsible for the progress of players from U19 to full international level.
His experience in the role is invaluable to Cricket South Africa, and he is the closest thing to a specialist U19 coach operating in South Africa. Unless someone else presents a mind-blowing vision for U19 cricket in South Africa, it would be better to stick with Mahatlane.
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