Connect with us




19 August 2019, by: Sibusiso Mjikeliso


Thabiso Enoch Nkwe was the kind of cricketer that the Proteas could do with in order to add balance to the line up – a tough as teak, handy all-rounder with a calm demeanour – says a man who played with and was coached by the new national team director.

Stephen Cook (36) knows Nkwe’s competitive drive first hand, after having witnessed it on opposing dressing rooms when they were both rising cricketers in the Johannesburg schools system, the former at King Edward VII School and the latter with St Stithians.

They went on to debut for their province, Gauteng, around the same time. And it was Nkwe (36) who made the more blistering start, composing a crafty debut century against Easterns that the record books show was the 13th by a Gauteng debutant in the province’s history.

“We used to play against each other at school when he was at St Stithians and I was at KES, so we certainly go back a long way,” said Cook.

“In many ways our careers ran parallel through the age groups and we broke into the Gauteng team at more or less the same time.

“He was a pretty handy all-rounder but maybe his playing career didn’t quite as go as he would have planned. And that would have been for a number of different reasons, in particular injuries. Injuries set him back significantly.

“He burst onto the scene very strongly. I remember him getting an excellent First Class hundred against Easterns in his first game, at the Wanderers on a tough wicket. And then soon after he got a five-for against Eastern Province.

“He was gonna go places but the stop-start nature of his career made it difficult to build up rhythm. But I suppose, certain things turn out a certain way for a reason. Maybe that allowed him to get into coaching a little bit earlier than he would have wanted to and it’s worked out, with him as the interim Proteas team director.”

Cricket South Africa raised plenty eye-brows when they named Nkwe as interim team director in this baby new setup that has seen not just the removal of head coach Ottis Gibson but the position altogether. A director of cricket, currently held in an acting capacity by pathways director Corrie van Zyl, was introduced, followed by a new team director role that Nkwe will fill for the tour to India in October.

There’s been a lot of doubt surrounding the interim appointment. Some have questioned whether the sole season he’s been at the helm at Highveld Lions and Jozi Stars has been enough to give him the national team top job – notwithstanding that he won three of the four trophies his team competed in, including the inaugural Mzansi Super League.

Lions batsman Omphile Ramela was neither surprised by Nkwe’s appointment nor the criticism that followed forthwith.

“From what I know of Enoch as a coach, I was not surprised that he got the nod,” Ramela said.

“And with how South Africa performed at the World Cup there was obviously going to be some type of change and he naturally became the front runner because of the season he had.

“It’s almost a question of timing, right? Right place at the right time. Sometimes that’s what you need as a coach, is for things to start stacking up in your favour.

“He is a guy with a vision. He always comes in with a vision and from that perspective, I think he’s got big plans for South Africa and how he wants to influence the system.

“I’ve had the privilege of talking to him about what he wants to do. One thing I can guarantee is that we won’t be visionless. There will be an enormous amount of planning around the team and he will make sure he creates the necessary environment for the team to operate optimally. He kind of cordons the team off to allow it to do its work and he’s a high-performance coach, as one would put it.”

And despite having coached in the Netherlands, coached the Gauteng Strikers, the SA ‘A’ national team and assisted at SA Under 19 level, the naysayers cast heavy aspersions as to whether the young, relatively inexperienced team that will tour India, with a novice international coach, will be competitive. Ramela had a wholely different view.

“I don’t think he would have gotten a different response, even if he had coached for 15 years at franchise level. You’ll always get naysayers,” said Ramela.

“The guy coached in the Netherlands, ran the high-performance structure there, he was part of the high-performance group in SA, he coached the Strikers … the guy has close to 10 years of coaching experience.

“He was part of the SA ‘A’ team that went to India in 2015, so he has experience of coaching in India, in very tough conditions. He had the exposure. This is South Africa, so of course, he was going to get criticised.

“I was part of that group and even then you could see that this guy is at that level – he’s got the desire. I think he will get to India and remind the guys how good they are and how good they’ve been in the past.”
And Nkwe himself, what does he make of his “Voyage to India?”

“I don’t feel this is a suicide mission at all for my career. I was asked a similar question when I took over the Lions. I strongly believe that every challenge is an opportunity to thrive personally or for the team to thrive. It’s important that we create that thriving environment as soon as possible,” he said at his unveiling in Johannesburg last Thursday.

Cook also mentioned something interesting, that this new “super” team director role could be right in the slot for Enoch. “His strengths are more in the organising, discipline, setting up structures as opposed to pure coaching, getting down to the nuts and bolts. That’s just from my personal experience,” Cook said.

It could be a match made in Sub-Continent heaven.

Open your account here
Deposit using your preferred method
Your bonus gets added immediately!


More in Latest