Geoffrey Toyana’s eye for young talent makes him the prime candidate to replace Russell Domingo.
The time has come to ruminate on the Proteas’ future and who should be the coach to lead South Africa’s new generation.
￼With talks of Domingo stepping down as coach after the England series, there is no better time to uncover his potential replacement.
It’s out with the old and in with new, as the saying goes, as time runs out for some of South Africa’s world-renown stars.
Besides AB de Villiers (33), who ruled himself out of selection for the Test side, there are others on the brink of being retirement ready – Stephen Cook (34), Hashim Amla (34), Dale Steyn (33), JP Duminy (32), Faf du Plessis (32), Morne Morkel (32) and Vernon Philander (31) to name a few.
Domingo has gained a reputation for picking experience over youth, so it would be the perfect time for him to hand over the torch to someone who has an affinity with younger players.
Firstly, let’s take the fact that he could be the first black national coach out of the equation and look at the important aspects which could make him the leading candidate for the position.
Toyana, irrespective of his disappointing season with the Lions, has a history of identifying potential stars and this is vital to South Africa’s future.
He has been very complimentary of Andile Phehlukwayo and Lungi Ngidi in the past and has predicted that the pair would be front-runners for a call-up to the national side.
He has also singled out Aiden Markram, Zubayr Hamza, Jason Smith, Dominic Hendricks, Bjorn Fortuin, Wiaan Mulder and Khaya Zonda as potential stars.
Toyana did, however, warn us of the dangers of labelling players as the future of South African cricket too soon.
‘We must be careful of branding players as the future. For example, we have Aiden Markram who has done well, but he has only had one season. The challenge for him is to be consistent,’ says Toyana in a conversation with SA Cricket Magazine.
The Lions, who have one of domestic cricket’s strongest youth academies, are also the hub for one of South Africa’s most successful feeder schools, St Stithians.
Kagiso Rabada is one of the players who boarded the Saints-Lions-Proteas train, with Mulder the latest prospect tipped to follow in his footsteps.
Matthew Erasmus is a third of the way there, having sparked some attention after his performance for the Lions in the T20 Schools challenge.
Other than St Stithians boys, Toyana is responsible for introducing a number of other young talents, with Bjorn Fortuin and Wihan Lubbe receiving debuts under him.
The Lions coach explains how he identifies future prospects and confidently manages to give young players debuts at the top level.
‘The Lions gave KG, Quinton de Kock and Mulder early debuts,’ says Toyana.
‘When we see players like that and the talent they possess, there are times when we throw these players into the deep end, but only to help them develop and learn how to deal with challenging roles.
‘As they come in, we haven’t worked with them much. We first identify their raw talent and as they develop further we look at their other attributes and their mental attributes.’
A coach hungry to develop the stars of tomorrow and that has the ability to identify young replacements for vacant spots in the national side, is what South Africa needs.
Photo: Lee Warren/Gallo Images