The third instalment of South Africa's premier T20 competition officially got under way when the 2021/22 Mzansi Super League (MSL) mini-draft was held in Kimberley on Friday following the conclusion of the CSA T20 Knock Out competition final.
The MSL makes its long-awaited return after the tournament was postponed in 2020 due to national and international logistical reasons caused by the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.
The draft featured over 100 cricketers from Division Two sides, with only 16 players chosen to join the eight Division One teams that will be battling it out for the MSL 3.0 title when the first ball is bowled between 7-28 February 2022.
Under the new South African domestic structure, the top division teams, namely North West Dragons, Knights, Rocks, Western Province, Titans, Lions, Dolphins, and the Warriors, form part of the country's elite professional setups.
In addition, the Proteas and overseas player quality are still to come during next year's four-week T20 tournament.
The 16 players were split evenly across the eight teams, with only two standout second division players drafted into each MSL side to rub shoulders with some of the world's best.
Cameron Delport, who has an extensive record of playing in T20 leagues around the world, headlined the mini-draft with the Knights picking up the left-hander as a third pick in the first round.
The breakout star from the CSA T20 Knock Out competition, Herschell America, who is aptly nicknamed 'Captain America', will show off his latest dance moves in the shirt of the new Division One side, the Dragons.
Jerry Nqolo's recent performances for the Eastern Cape Iinyathi earned him a nod for the Warriors, while the big-hitting Marco Marais will don the Sky Blue of the Titans.
CSA Director of Cricket Graeme Smith emphasised the importance of hosting the premier T20 event and the inclusion of more players down the domestic structures.
"What a time to be an up and coming and ambitious cricketer in South Africa," Smith began.
"We just witnessed it with the CSA T20 Knock Out Competition, where rising stars took huge leaps towards making a name for themselves in professional cricket. We believe the MSL and
its inclusion of second division players will certainly provide our rising stars with another platform to showcase their skills, alongside and against some of the game's very best," concluded Smith.
"This is an exciting time, for not only our cricketers but for every fan out there as we finally welcome back the long-awaited thrill-a-minute Mzansi Super League," said Pholetsi Moseki, acting CSA chief executive officer.
"The Mzansi Super League was one of the many casualties of the advent of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are, however pleased to be able to confirm the kickstarting of MSL 3.0 with this mini-draft. This is a clear indication of the progression being made towards hosting a memorable festival of big hits and flashing stumps across the country next year, in front of supporters.
"Congratulations to this evening's drafted players, all the best to them, the teams and coaches involved. This herald the first step towards nail-biting action that is soon to get under way," Moseki added.
Mzansi Super League 3.0 Mini-Draft Results:
Round 1 - Grant Thomson
Round 2 - Malcolm Nofal
Round 1 - Evan Jones
Round 2 - Rubin Hermann
Round 1 - Nqaba Peter
Round 2 - Gideon Peters
Round 1 - Marco Marais
Round 2 - Johan van Dyk
Round 1 - Cameron Delport
Round 2 - Aubrey Swanepoel
Round 1 - Onke Nyaku
Round 2 - Jurie Snyman
North West Dragons
Round 1 - Khwezi Gumede
Round 2 - Herschell America
Round 1 - Jerry Nqolo
Round 2 - Clayton Bosch