Cape Town - Following a disappointing performance in the recently concluded Youth One-Day International (ODI) series against Pakistan, the South Africa under-19s' head coach, Lawrence Mahatlane and captain Bryce Parsons have reflected on where things went wrong.
The home side suffered a seven-nil series defeat against the sub-continent outfit in Chatsworth and Pietermaritzburg.
Mahatlane, obviously disappointed with the results, gave credit to the opposition for their success and explained where the difference was between the two sides.
"Firstly, congratulations to Pakistan," he began, during the post-match interviews on Sunday.
"They are well-deserved victors. They really played good cricket throughout the seven matches and won all the important moments. From our side, very disappointing. I think we had opportunities in at least three of the matches, but we just never took them."
Parsons, who led the team for the first time as the newly appointed captain, echoed his coaches' comments, adding: "Seven-nil is obviously really tough for us. Coming into the series, we were confident and had good preparation.
"All our players felt good in the pre-series nets, so going down seven-nil is really tough for us (to take)," he continued.
Despite the results, the series provided a platform for individuals to stake their claims for a spot in the upcoming 2020 ICC U19 Cricket World Cup in South Africa. No player took advantage of that more than Jonathan Bird. The tall left-hander ended the series as the top run-scorer with 356 runs thanks to a half-century and back-to-back hundreds in the fifth and sixth matches.
Mahatlane singled out Bird’s performance while highlighting the gap in performance between him and the rest of the batsmen as a concern. He also mentioned Lifa Ntanzi, who was in a three-way split at the top of the SA under-19s' wicket-takers' list alongside Gerald Coetzee and Imraan Philander with seven wickets each.
"Jonathan Bird was the top run-scorer of the tournament and the gap between him and the rest of the guys was disappointing. We needed guys to play around him and make sure they were part of the partnerships with him," Mahatlane added.
"From the bowling point of view, I thought we again had moments. Lifa was our top wicket-taker but unfortunately got injured in the last game just before bowling. We've just missed those crucial opportunities.
"If we had taken those, we could have been talking a different story," he said.
Parsons also mentioned players that impressed him during the 24-day tour that included a week-long training camp. The skipper wants his players to take heed of the lessons that the tour presented to find the consistency that will turn the results around ahead of the World Cup.
"All these games are preparation for us for the World Cup in 2020, so we got a lot of learnings from it. There were key performances from Bird, Achille Cloete and Coetzee. We just need to bring it all together and take it forward into the World Cup," Parsons added.
While some players made their mark through promising displays, there were others who let themselves down and Mahatlane will now provide opportunities to other youngsters as he continues to fine-tune his plans for the global showpiece.
"I was excited by a few guys. A few players really put their hands up, but a few guys were very disappointing and this will create opportunities for other guys, as we’ve got quite a bit of cricket coming after a 10-week break.
"Hopefully we can settle on a few combinations and really be competitive against India in December in preparation for that World Cup," Mahatlane concluded.
The SA under-19s next face India in a three-match Youth ODI series in East London in December before taking on Zimbabwe, New Zealand and India in a quadrangular in Durban in January.
South Africa U19 squad against Pakistan : Bryce Parsons (captain, Gauteng), Luke Beaufort (Eastern Province), Jonathan Bird (Western Province), Achille Cloete (Boland), Gerald Coetzee (Free State), Khanya Cotani (North West), Micheal Copeland (Gauteng), Andrew Louw (Free State), Heinrigh Pieterse (Gauteng), Levert Manje (Gauteng), Lifa Ntanzi (KZN Coastal), Imraan Philander (Western Province), Siya Plaatjie (Western Province), Ruan Terblanche (Boland), Nonelela Yikha (Border).