"Just come out and support the boys, we've worked really hard for this day."
The South Africa under-19s are filled with excitement as they strive to make the nation proud ahead of their ICC under-19 Cricket World Cup opening match against Afghanistan in Kimberley today.
The youth tournament that has seen the emergence of current Standard Bank Proteas like Kagiso Rabada, Aiden Markram and Quinton de Kock, will be hosted in South Africa between January 17 and February 9 across four cities: Kimberley, Potchefstroom, Bloemfontein and Benoni.
This marks 20 years since South Africa hosted the global spectacle for the first time, in 1998.
The first game will get underway from 10am at the Diamond Oval and will be broadcast live on SuperSport 6. Entry into the ground is free of charge.
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 tomorrow.
“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,” the coach continued.
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. The SA Under-19s defeated the subcontinent 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 yourself 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,” he added.
The 15-man squad, led by captain, Bryce Parsons, will be looking to follow in the footsteps of those who came before them, particularly the victorious class of 2014 who picked up the country’s maiden World Cup triumph.
To be successful, the young men will be counting on their fellow South Africans for support as they represent the rainbow nation, on home soil, against the rest of the world.
Skipper Parsons’ message to the South African public is for them to come out in their numbers and back these future stars during this pivotal chapter of their careers.
He said: “Just come out and support the boys, we’ve worked really hard for this day. We are going to expect a crowd and hopefully show you guys what we can do, be the best we can be and put on a show,” he concluded.
Along with Afghanistan, the Junior Proteas will also host Canada at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom, before rounding off their Group D matches with a clash against the United Arab Emirates at the Mangaung Oval.
On the local front, the Diamond Oval is in pristine condition and a great game is expected, so hopefully the supporters will heed the call of the SA skipper and turn up in their numbers for the occasion, it is only once in a blue moon that a big tournament of this nature takes place in our city.
Marie Parsons, the president of NOCCI told the DFA that an event such as the World Cup is good for the city.
“I believe that from the recent big event of the ANC celebration, everybody involved learnt a lot and for us to grow we can learn from each other and improve where necessary, but any event staged in Kimberley is very positive for the City and a wonderful economic injection,”Parsons said.
“It will also be a good opportunity for any tourist destination to review the hours they trade to expose visitors to our tourist attractions and use this as an opportunity to market Kimberley,” Parsons added.
“We welcome all players and visitors and may they enjoy the hospitality that Kimberlites are known for,” she said.
Along with Afghanistan, South Africa will take on Canada and the United Arab Emirates in Group D.