Future stars could be on show at College

2009-09-23 00:00

FIFTY-ONE years on from the first Michaelmas Week, arranged jointly by the late Ronnie Chambers, coach of Maritzburg College, and the late Les Theobald, coach of DHS in 1959, 16 school cricket sides will play over four days at this year’s festival. Sixteen sides at the 50th anniversary of the longest-running schools’ cricket festival in the country, is a record number at the event hosted by Maritzburg College.

The Michaelmas Week, beginning tomorrow, cannot operate without some financial help and for the sixth year, Jonathan Oppen­heimer, on behalf of the Oppenheimer Group, is again involved with the major sponsorship. This enables the costs to the players to be kept more manageable.

In the early years it was College and DHS against KES and Jeppe with combined school sides playing Country Districts Men teams. Only in 1963 did it become an entirely schools’ festival, with six sides that included the two foundation schools, together with Michaelhouse, a combined Midlands Schools XI, Pretoria BHS and KES.

In 1965, the week was increased to 10 sides, five from Natal and five from outside the province. This format remained until 1980 when it was increased to 12 teams. This remained for 10 years before two extra sides were added. The first sponsor of the week was Metropolitan Homes Trust, which came forward in 1979 with the additional funds. Since1984, other sponsors have been FNB, Kagiso Khulani Supervision Food Services, Mandate Meal Management, Jackson Sports together with Gunn and Moore, and currently the Oppenheimer Group.

Only Maritzburg College have played in all 49 weeks to date, with DHS playing in 48 weeks. Hilton and Glenwood have both played in 39 weeks and Michaelhouse in 38 weeks. KES (44 weeks) and Pretoria BHS (42 weeks) lead the “foreign” contingent.

The seven schools invited from KZN this year to join hosts Maritzburg College are DHS, Michaelhouse, Hilton, Glenwood, Kearsney, St Charles and Westville. From outside the province are Pretoria BHS and Affies from Pretoria, KES, St Johns, St Stithians and St Davids from Johannesburg, Grey College from Bloemfontein and Hudson Park from East London.

Some men who made their names in the past playing international cricket in the Michaelmas Week while at school include Ali Bacher and Ray Jennings (both KES), Barry Richards, Lee Irvine (both DHS), Tony Greig (Queens), Kepler Wessels (Grey College) and Roy Pienaa­r (St Stithians), among others from pre-1990.

In the recent past, some of the better-remembered cricketers from various years at the week were Richard Snell and Lance Klusener (both DHS), Andrew Hudson (Kearsney), Derek Crookes (Hilton), Dale Benkenstein (Michaelhouse), the late Hansie Cronje, Nicky Boje, Boeta Dippenaar, and Morne van Wyk (all Grey College), Jonty Rhodes (Maritzburg College), Dave Callaghan (Grey HS) and Jacques Rudolph (Affies).

Of the current Proteas, Graeme Smith and Neil McKenzie (both KES), Makhaya Ntini (Dale), AB de Villiers (Affies) and Hashim Amla (DHS) were at the week relatively recently, as was Kevin Pietersen who was at Maritzburg College and now plays for England.

As in the past, where recent and current Proteas and provincial players took part in the festival, there are possible future stars who will be playing. There are a number of school provincial players from 2008 — Thomas Kaber from Affies who played in the SA Schools team and Matthew Hulett from St Charles who was in the SA Colts team. In addition to these two players, the following also played for their provinces at U18 level in 2008: Devon Conway (St Johns), Njabulo Mgenge (DHS), Sahil Ramdin (Glenwood), Dean Pengelley (Maritzburg College), Chad Bowes and Jarryd Phillips (both Kearsney), Quinton de Kock (KES), Ian Finlay (Grey College), Gionne Koopman (Hudson Park) and Chris Abrahams (St Stithians).

There are a further 27 boys who played for their provinces at U17 level. Thus the cricket played, while on a friendly basis without playing for any cups or points, will still be of a high calibre and, for cricket lovers, well worth watching on any one of the eight grounds being used each day.

A full list of fixtures and grounds will be published tomorrow, together with relative strengths.

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