Proteas must be inspired by Under-19 bunch of winners – Fikile Mbalula

2014-03-18 17:41

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The Proteas should use the victory of the South African Under-19 side as inspiration in the T20 World Cup, Sports Minister Fikile Mbalula has said.

“We have not done well at a high level in terms of T20,” Mbalula said today in Johannesburg after presenting the Under-19 team with a R200 000 cheque for winning the ICC Junior World Cup Final in Dubai earlier this month.

“The achievements of this Under-19 side must inspire our senior national team to do well in Bangladesh and fight for the nation.”

The Proteas play their first World Cup fixture against Sri Lanka in Chittagong, Bangladesh, on Saturday.

“Even the ‘old ones’ we have sent to Bangladesh for the T20 World Cup, they will not misrepresent us there now. They will, if possible, bring us the trophy.”

The last time a South African team tasted victory in an ICC tournament was the Champions Trophy in 1998, and Mbalula said the efforts of the Under-19s was all the more significant.

“You’ll be proud to look back and see where you started. You have made history. This is a team that has made South Africa proud.

“These are wonderful young people of South Africa – these players are a bunch on winners and their achievement is great.”

Mbalula said positive play on the cricket field was a welcome distraction from some of the more negative stories in South Africa.

“Some of the people might not have not known this team won because they watch the Oscar Pistorius trial.

“You don’t even see important moments in our country, I don’t say you must not watch, but watch and come back to this.”

The 15-man squad had eight players of colour, and Mbalula was pleased with the transformation taking place in South African cricket.

“These Under-19s beat the best in the world, and brought home the trophy.

“These youngsters are the most representative side that we have. That is why I say transformation is on course in cricket. You can see where we are headed.”

Winning at such an early age would set a precedent for the next generation of cricketers, said Mbalula.

“This is what we are about as a nation – winning and winning for our people.

“These young people have understood the message very clearly. They’ve got a great future ahead of them. Cricket will look after them and never forget what they did for South Africa.”

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