With the cricket, Under-20 and women’s football World Cups all but over for South Africa, S’Busiso Mseleku looks at what went wrong and offers some possible solutions.
Problems: That more and more young locally bred players are moving overseas seemed to create a selection headache rather than a blessing for coach Thabo Senong.
Being a Shakes Mashaba protégé, Senong appears to share his mentor’s uneasiness about overseas-based players. This saw him ignore a number of them for his provisional squad and he even dropped more in his final squad. It should not have happened.
Several players committed a number of fundamental mistakes at the tournament, such as poor decision-making, stray passes and failure to bring the ball under control. Goal scoring also proved to be a major problem.
These are signs of a lack of proper development.
Senong and his technical support staff seemed to be at sea and devoid of game-changing ideas when the team was in trouble.
Solutions: Safa must retain Senong as coach because it has invested a lot of money in him and he has shown a keenness to learn. He has managed to qualify the team for two successive World Cups and must be assisted in cracking the code of progressing past the first round.
Safa and the PSL must work together to ensure that young and talented players are given an early breakthrough and are utilised regularly by professional clubs.
Problems: From the time that they let a 1-0 half-time lead slip away to lose 3-1 to Spain, the team was in trouble.
Their weaknesses defensively, transitionally and in attack were exposed and, by the time they went down 4-0 to Germany following a 1-0 loss to China, their fate had been sealed.
It was obvious that they were out of their depth.
One positive is that they gave it their all.
Unfortunately, the opposition was just too strong.
Giving older players such as Janine van Wyk and Noko Matlou a chance at the World Cup as a swansong was a mistake and to the detriment of the team.
Solutions: Safa must retain coach Desiree Ellis and help her improve, because getting silverware at the Women’s Afcon and qualifying the team for the World Cup was no mean feat.
The national league must start in August as scheduled.
Safa must get into partnerships with countries that have strong leagues and successful national teams, and help place talented young players with clubs in those leagues. The PSL must make it a prerequisite that all their clubs have woman football sides.
Problems: The decision to allow top players to go to the money-spinning Indian Premier League (IPL) so close to the World Cup was a mistake. Our batsmen and bowlers performed way under par and the fielding was appalling. Only one batsman scored a century.
In hindsight, it was a mistake to take an off-form Hashim Amla and an injured Dale Steyn to the World Cup. Also with hindsight, the selectors should have considered AB de Villiers’ offer to make himself available, more so given Amla and Steyn’s state at the time.
Solutions: Cricket SA chief executive officer Thabang Moroe has said that the board will convene an emergency meeting on July 20. They must not extend coach Ottis Gibson’s contract and must strip Faf du Plessis of the captaincy.
They must appoint either Aiden Markram (24) or Temba Bavuma (29) as Du Plessis’ replacement. The selectors must not be deterred by Makram’s age. Graeme Smith was only 22 when he was appointed and did not disappoint.
They must create a cluster of senior players to form a protective leadership around the new captain, and draft a thorough four-year plan with tight, stringent, proper time lines and realistic (but non-negotiable goals) for the next four-year cycle.
Cricket SA needs to get its financial house in order, otherwise it won’t have the money to retain talented players who get lucrative IPL and Kolpak contracts. It must also focus on developmental cricket, given that the Under-19s recently lost 6-0 to Pakistan.
The way forward
The sports department must formulate and implement a proper national sports plan, resuscitate Sascoc and ensure that it carries out its mandate successfully. A national high-performance centre must be established pronto to not only look at the physical side, but build character and inculcate a winning mentality.