Paying attention to detail will be a key element for the University of Johannesburg cricket team when they join seven other sides in the Varsity Cricket tournament in Potchefstroom next week.
Starting on January 29, South Africa’s leading varsity teams will test themselves in the annual Twenty20 competition to decide the student champions in cricket’s most hectic format.
UJ coach Dumisa Makalima said this week the squad had been hard at work since the beginning of the season, but he acknowledged that the 20-overs format was the most difficult version of cricket to prepare for.
“Because the game moves at such a fast pace, it is not easy to plan everything down to the last detail,” the former provincial player said.
“I do believe any of the eight teams have the ability to compete for the title and the side that pay the best attention to details are likely to come through in the end.
“The key to success in this sort of tournament is to stay calm under pressure and to win the small battles that will transpire throughout the 40 overs.”
Makalima said UJ had an equal chance of being title contenders, pointing out their work ethic and the fact that they had just emerged from a Twenty20 competition in Johannesburg.
“The boys have trained really hard from the beginning of the season and we have done a lot of work focused on what is needed at the Varsity week.
“Besides gaining much knowledge from watching T20 cricket on TV, we have been involved in a T20 competition in which we did very well and did a lot of simulation of what will face us in Potchefstroom.
“So everything seems to be on track at this stage.”
The tournament will again be spiced up by the Power Play Plus rule.
It gives a team double the number of runs they score during an over of their choice and allows the batting side to select the bowler they would like to face.
And for every wicket they lose during that over, the batting side lose five runs.
Makalima said the power play rule could be a “definite game-changer”.
“I feel the team that use this rule to its best effect and take it at the right time can go far in the tournament.”
North West University-Pukke won their first title last year, defeating University of Pretoria (UP-Tuks) in the final. The home team would be serious contenders again, the UJ coach said.
He also rated UP-Tuks and Stellenbosch highly, due to their track records and experienced coaching staff.
“But we hope to put our plans in place and outsmart them,” said Makalima, whose team will take on Nelson Mandela University in their opening game.
The UJ squad is: Ryan Rickleton (capt), Neels Bergh (vice-capt), Josh Richards, Juan Landsberg, Delano Potgieter, Michael Mahlaba, Justin Watson, Zane Green, Tristan Blackie-Roden, Tumelo Thlokwe, Andrew Rasemene, Cameron Brunner, Chad Claasen, Matt Varner.