Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Young Cricketers on the Fast Track to Stardom

The Audi Q5 Fast Track, South Africa’s first cricket development initiative designed to utilise state-of-the-art technology to identify bowling talent, held its national final this week at the Clifton Oval in Cape Town.  The final included Proteas players who were on hand to scout for the next fast bowling stars and brought together 24 of the best young bowlers from around the country. The aim of the day was to allow standout young bowlers to showcase their talent in front of Cricket South Africa’s (CSA) development team.  Gerhardus Fourie from Limpopo and Constance Sardick from Gauteng emerged as winners in the day, recognising their all-round bowling skills.

Sardick, who experienced her first trip to Cape Town, said “The Audi Q5 Fast Track final was definitely one of the most exciting experiences of my life.  Not only did I get to experience the amazing technology of the Audi Bowling Lab or have the opportunity to show my talent in front of Cricket South Africa but I also got to meet my heroes and experience Cape Town for the first time.”

The Audi Q5 Fast Track initiative, in collaboration with CSA, was conceived with the aim of utilising the Audi Bowling Lab (a set-up which uses world-leading Pitchvision technology to assess a bowler’s action, line, length and speed) to identify young bowling talent in untapped rural areas.  It has since visited Gauteng, Eastern Cape, Kwa-Zulu Natal, Limpopo and Western Cape.  Former Protea fast bowler, Mfuneko Ngam, served as the lead talent scout and was directly involved in selecting standout bowlers in each region who would ultimately make it through to the national final.      

Ngam commented, “The Audi Q5 Fast Track was one of the most eye-opening experiences of my career. Audi has helped us to realise the depth of bowling talent that exists across our country – something which makes me very hopeful for the future of South African cricket.”

On the day of the final, the young bowlers were put through their paces by what was undoubtedly the foremost scouting team ever assembled in South African cricket.  The team included: Corrie van Zyl (General Manager: CSA); David Mokopanele (Director: Mass Participation); Victor Mpitsang (SA u19 Convenor of Selectors); , Ottis Gibson and Hilton Moreeng (Proteas national coaches); Kagiso Rabada, Dale Steyn, Andile Phehlukwayo, Dane Paterson, Dwayne Pretorius and Shabnim Ismail (current Proteas). The scouting team took the boys and girls through a series of training sessions and motivational talks before assessing their bowling potential using the Audi Bowling Lab.

“I was immensely impressed by the level of talent we witnessed here today,” commented Ottis Gibson, Proteas Head Coach.

“Having come from a fast bowling background I am very excited about this initiative and to have been a part of it.  South Africa has a great fast bowling tradition, my hope is that one of the young bowlers we witnessed here today will continue that legacy in the future,” he added. 

The national final sees the culmination of the 2017 edition of the Audi Q5 Fast Track with all those involved in the program holding high hopes for the talent uncovered around South Africa.

“In conducting this initiative, we hope that we have not only provided opportunities to individuals who may never have had the chance to show their skills but that we have also broadened the talent pool for CSA to develop their next crop of Protea bowlers.  As a Progressive Partner to the Proteas, Audi is proud to have utilised our resources to drive progress for South African youth within sport development.” concluded Trevor Hill, Head of Audi South Africa.

For more information on the Audi Q5 Fast Track go to https://nowiscalling.co.za/fast-track.

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Life changing trip to the USA for the under-12 soccer team from rural KZN

Competing in the under 12 Danone Nations Cup world finals was a life changing experience for the 12 young soccer players from Mophela Primary School in Ilanga, KwaZulu-Natal. 

The school is based in a poor community and does not have a soccer field on which to play and therefore the players have to walk a couple of kilometres to a nearby piece of ground.

But they did not let their circumstances hold them back in any way as they played against professionally run, well-resourced teams from around the world, finally finishing in 27th position.

It was a case of firsts all the way for the boys – the first time away from home for many of the boys, the first time on an airplane and the first time overseas for all of them.

Seeing New York, as well as meeting boys their age from all over the world was an obvious highlight.

The big football lessons learned were that soccer is a mind game – you must learn to anticipate and to read the game. It’s about performing for the entire game, not about producing isolated moments of brilliance.

The boys came home as improved and well rounded players from the experience, ready to implement what they learned.

They played seven games in all, winning three and losing four. They ended up 3rd in the preliminary round pool, which put them into the playoffs for positions 17 to 32 and they eventually beat England 2-1 in their final match for the 27th place.

They beat England 3-2 in the preliminary stage and their other victory was a penalty shootout win over Senegal in the second round.

The team was beaten by the United Arab Emirates 2 – 0 in their first game of the tournament and they went on to beat England ending their league in third place after being beaten 3 – 0 by Indonesia.

A Lesson learnt from the Group phase of the tournament was that South Africa is not that far behind the other nations in terms of skill and physicality.  The main difference is that they lack the self-confidence to take their chances when they present themselves, and they are sometimes guilty of over-elaborating, dribbling for a moment too long and often losing possession as a result.

Against the UAE the SA team was extremely skilful and often did little tricks to get past their opposition, while the UAE was a well trained and structured team. South Africa dominated territory and possession and had many chances, but they did not take advantage of any of them. The UAE had fewer chances and managed to score two goals on the counter attack.

The second match was against England. South Africa dominated the match and went up 3-1 in no time, thanks to a hat trick by Njabulo Ndlovu. They then made a couple of substitutions that nearly cost them the game. It was important, however, that all the players got a chance to play and that they feel part of the tournament. They eventually won 3-2.

Indonesia’s strategy was simple: defend solidly, and don’t concede goals. They then used their giant number 11 player on the counter attack and he scored two goals for them, and set up the third.

The second day of the tournament saw the teams involved in classification games for positions 17 to 32. In their first second-round playoff game South Africa took on Belgium. They let a weak side dominate them. Belgium had quite a few chances in the first 10 minutes of the game but it took a goalkeeping error for them to score the only goal of the match.

They got their second victory when they beat the team from Senegal on penalties following a tight 0-0 draw in regulation time. The game was a tense affair.  Neither team was prepared to lose and did not manage to capitalize on the few good chances to score.  South Africa finally won the penalty shootout 3 – 2 with goalkeeper, Ndumiso Gumede scoring the winning goal.

Coach, Siyabonga Ndimande, decided, in the final game of the day, against Bulgaria, to start with all of his substitutes. Unfortunately the experiment backfired, and the team soon found themselves 3-0 behind. He made some substitutions and they made an impact, clawing back to 3-2.

Even though the team lost the game the coach was very happy with the decision that he made to play the substitutes. “There are no tourists in the team,” he said. “All of the players flew to New York to play and it is not fair on the bench players if they do not get a chance.”

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Fast Bowler Search Hits Polokwane

The search for South Africa’s next great fast bowler continued when the Audi Q5 Fast Track visited Pietersburg High School.  The initiative, which is led by Audi, Cricket South Africa (CSA) and former Proteas quick and development guru, Mfuneko Ngam, is the first designed to utilise state-of-the-art technology to unearth the hidden gems of South African fast blowing.  It is currently taking place around the country and today identified a number of talented local young bowlers who will now be given the chance to prove themselves in front of CSA’s development structures.  

Lead talent scout Mfuneko Ngam, commented, “The Audi Q5 Fast Track has so far been a resounding success and Polokwane was no different.  I have been very impressed by the level of talent we have uncovered so far.  We are very excited at the prospect of one of these young bowlers following in the footsteps of the great Proteas bowlers who came before them.”

On the day, local bowlers between the ages of 15 and 18 were given the opportunity to showcase their talent in front of a powerful development team.  Bowlers were given the chance to illustrate their skills in the nets with the most promising selected to have their bowling measured on the Audi Bowling Lab - a set-up which utilises state-of-the-art PitchVision technology to instantly analyse a bowler’s performance by comparing pace, line, length, deviation and bounce to that of a current Proteas bowler.

Ngam and his team, which included CSA representatives and local coaches, utilised the scoring system of the Audi Bowling Lab to select the talented boys and girls who will now be put in front of CSA development structures.  The standout bowlers on the day were Abigail Mantjane, 17 from Mokopane who impressed all in attendance with her consistent line and length and Gerhardus Fourie from Louis Trichardt who, at 15, is consistently hitting the 130km/h mark with his bowling.  

Trevor Hill, Head of Audi South Africa, concluded, “Today continued our search for standout fast bowlers and Limpopo Province did not disappoint.  As Progressive Partner to the Proteas, Audi is proud to be able to take our partnership with CSA to the next level by driving progress in a development space.  The prospect of potentially uncovering the next Ntini or Ngam, together with CSA, is something we are not only excited by but which we are striving towards.”

For more information on the Audi Q5 Fast Track go to https://nowiscalling.co.za/fast-track.