Giants coach on a mission
Nelson Mandela Bay Giants coach Eric Simons is on a mission to win over Port Elizabeth cricket fans when the Mzansi Super League gets under way next week.
The Giants play their first home game against Durban Heat at St George’s Park on November 23.
They open their programme six days earlier against Jozi Stars in Johannesburg.
A former national coach and Proteas player, Simons said the crowds at St George’s, SA’s oldest Test venue, had been legendary in the past.
“The atmosphere at the ground is going to be crucial,” he said.
“Everyone talks about the flavour created by the band and the intimate nature of the ground and I have no doubt that can be an extra man for us.
“It is important to win the fans over and you do that by playing exciting cricket.
“Obviously winning helps, so creating a favourable impression is a big priority.”
Simons said he was quite happy with the conditions at St George’s Park, which he felt had become more versatile in recent years.
“Traditionally it had lower and slower surfaces, but having watched things over the last few years I believe it is quite capable of offering us different pitches, which will be conducive to good cricket,” he said.
One of the major challenges in a tournament of this nature, Simons said, was to transform a group of individuals into a cohesive unit in a short period.
“That is the first step for any coach in this situation,” he said.
“Admittedly, it has become a little easier because the experience of playing in the IPL [Indian Premier League] has meant players are getting accustomed to the requirements of the job.”
Simons said it was more difficult in South Africa because many players lagged behind a bit as they were not all exposed to tournaments such as the IPL.
“A lot of the coaching job is focused on getting people to know each other and to understand each other, so the first objective for me as a coach is to get them into a squad which works together,” Simons said.
He said during the recruitment process the coaches went as far as identifying players they felt would adapt best to fitting in with their teammates.
“We want to know the players’ strengths and weaknesses so we can focus on that in the build-up to the tournament.”
The Giants squad will assemble in Port Elizabeth early next week.
The tournament gets under way when Cape Town Blitz host Tshwane Spartans on November 16.