Canny Warriors have many hidden Proteas gems, says Peterson

Sine Qeshile. (Gallo Images)
Sine Qeshile. (Gallo Images)
  • The Warriors have gained a reputation for being the cheery but highly competitive underdogs in local franchise cricket, but their squad for next season is arguably strong enough to challenge for a title.
  • In fact, head coach Robin Peterson believes his group for 2020/21 has at least 'six to seven' players that can challenge for higher honours or return to the international fold.
  • The franchise certainly has a tradition for that, with their two biggest departures, Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala, both attracting significant national attention.

Dogged, underrated and consistently competitive.

For years those three phrases have been associated with the Warriors, the bulldogs of South African franchise cricket.

Except for Russell Domingo's 2009/10 vintage, when Proteas stars like Ashwell Prince, Makhaya Ntini, Mark Boucher, Jacques Kallis, Johan Botha and Lonwabo Tsotsobe were all present and won a domestic double, the franchise's success has been quite sporadic.

However, it has also become increasingly rare for the Warriors to suffer a so-call blowout season, pointing to smart coaching and decent players consistently being employed.

As Shafiek Abrahams, general manager for the franchise said upon the announcement of next season's contracted squad: "We believe that the squad selection embodies the Warriors’ commitment towards affording opportunity to those who are most deserving and those who show a sheer love for the game."

That would suggest an almost old-fashioned, wholesome view on the game.

But punching above their weight doesn't mean that the Warriors don't produce high-profile players.

The departure of Lutho Sipamla and Sisanda Magala, who have moved to the Highveld Lions, are a case in point as they've risen in national prominence the past year.

"The frustrating thing about those two players is that as a franchise, you want to keep your home-grown players. They came up through the system and are an advertisement for the team," Robin Peterson, the Warriors' head coach, told Sport24.

"They are definitely players who'll be difficult to replace. The blessing in disguise though has been that because they were called up to the Proteas last season, we've had to deal with their absences anyway. So we've gotten used to playing without them. We wish them the best."

Peterson though makes the key point that dealing with absences is very different to actually replacing departing players effectively.

And that's something the Warriors seem to gotten right.

Sipamla and Magala indeed leave sizeable holes, but you won't be despairing too much when you have Aya Gqamane, Marco Jansen and Stefan Tait as your new pace attack.

That extends to the rest of the squad, with gifted cricketers like Wihan Lubbe and Tshepo Ntuli both crying out for opportunities to become key players instead of just useful backups.

"What stands out for me about this squad is that there's a lot of ambition," said Peterson.

"These are players who not only want to compete for extended game-time, they also want to become seriously good cricketers. They want to rise in prominence.

"In fact, I believe there are at least six to seven players in our group who can become Proteas or regain their international spots. I won't name them individually, but I really believe in their ability. This is a strong group."

One can fully understand the former Proteas left-arm spinner's reluctance to nitpick names, yet his point is well-merited.

Matthew Breetzke, skipper Jon-Jon Smuts, Gihahn Cloete, Sine Qeshile, Lubbe, Marco Marais, Eddie Moore, Glenton Stuurman and Jansen are all players with the pedigree for top-level cricket.

At a more immediate level, the Warriors have the squad this year to shed the "competitive" tag in favour of something more, well, champion-like.

Voting Booth
What is your favourite sport to watch on TV?
Please select an option Oops! Something went wrong, please try again later.
45% - 5545 votes
11% - 1374 votes
18% - 2301 votes
2% - 278 votes
1% - 108 votes
2% - 278 votes
5% - 612 votes
8% - 982 votes
3% - 392 votes
Water sports
1% - 109 votes
American sports
1% - 117 votes
3% - 359 votes