Warriors on the Gane in G’town

SID PENNEY

READY TO PLAY: Chevrolet Warriors coach Piet Botha (centre, at the back) is flanked by four members of theWarriors squadwith Grahamstown connections, prior to the preparation match on the Kingswood College campus this week. From left are Kelly Smuts, Jon-Jon Smuts (both Old Graemians), Andrew Birch (Old Andrean) and Warriors assistanat coach and development manager Adi Birrell (Old Andrean) Picture: SID PENNEY

IN what is essentially part of the franchise’s intensive pre-season preparation programme, the Chevrolet Warriors cricket squad has been engaged in a friendly three-day match on the Gane field at Kingswood College in Grahamstown this week.

Within the space of ten days at the end of September and the beginning of October, the Warriors have two four-day Sunfoil Series fixtures to contend with, hence the intensity of their pre-season preparation.

The Chevrolet Warriors franchise draws its players from Eastern Province, Border and South Western Districts.

The Warriors squad has been split into two teams for this week’s match, and several “new” faces have been drafted into the sides. The match began on Tuesday and ends this afternoon.

Warriors coach Piet Botha said that almost 50% of the Warriors players are overseas at the moment, either with the Proteas in England or representing counties and clubs in England and elsewhere.

Warriors regulars not involved in this week’s game in Grahamstown are Wayne Parnell (Proteas), Johan Botha (Proteas), Ashwell Prince (Lancashire), Craig Thyssen and Michael Price (club cricket in England), Simon Harmer (club cricket in India) and Christiaan Jonker (with the South African A team in Ireland).

Of particular interest to Grahamstown cricket fans on the opening day’s play was Kelly Smuts reaching 100 runs off the bowling of his brother Jon-Jon Smuts. The brothers learnt their cricket at Graeme College and are now part of the Warriors set-up, living in Port Elizabeth.

The Warriors team batting first put together the mammoth score of 362 for 2, with Kelly Smuts retiring with 102 off 113 balls and former Rhodes University student Kevin Bennett retiring with 100 runs to his name off 111 balls.

Both batsmen retired to “give the others in the team a chance”.

This is the Warriors’ second visit to Grahamstown and the Kingswood campus this year. In February they were involved in matches on City Lords where country districts players and schools’ players were also involved.

The squad of 22 taking part on City Lords this week comprises: Davy Jacobs, Arno Jacobs, Jon-Jon Smuts, Lyall Meyer, Basheer Walters, Atti Dyili, Gurshwin Rabie, Kelly Smuts, David White, Andrew Birch and Vuyisa Makhaphela ( all Warriors), Brendon Louw, Reece Williams, Ayavuya Myoli and Luthando Mnyanda (all South Western Districts), Aya Gqamane, Kevin Bennett, Lucky Pangabantu and Gionne Koopman (all Border), and Warren Bell, Lionel Vaaltyn and Sisanda Magala (all Eastern Province).

Coach Botha said the match at Kingswood was arranged to provide Warriors management with an idea of the strength of their fringe players, and to give these players “exposure”.

Asked why Grahamstown had been chosen for the match, Botha said that with the recent high rainfall in Port Elizabeth, fields in that city were not ready.

Warriors management had approached Kingswood for the use of the Gane field and other facilities, and the school had been “very accommodating”.

Botha explained that all three provinces – EP, SWD and Border – have cricket academies which act as “feeder systems” for the Warriors.

The Chevrolet Warriors’ first fixture for the 2012/2013 season is a four-day Sunfoil Series match against the Nashua Titans at the Axxess St George’s Stadium in Port Elizabeth from September 27 to 30.

The following weekend sees them taking on the Sunfoil Dolphins from KwaZulu-Natal at Buffalo Park in East London.

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