A full-strength University of Johannesburg cricket squad will aim to transfer their league form to the Momentum national club championship, which gets underway in Pretoria on Friday.
Under the guidance of captain Neels Bergh and coach Richard das Neves, UJ emerged as the Gauteng premier league champions this season and the club trophy will be the cherry on top.
There will be no easy route to the final as their section is littered with previous winners such as NMMU and Tuks and quite rightly qualifies as the “pool of death”.
UJ, themselves, are among the former champions, having first won the tournament in 1998 when still known as RAU. They followed up with successive titles in 2006 and 2007 and were runners-up to NMMU in 2011.
KwaZulu-Natal’s Crusaders are the current titleholders after defeating Maties by one wicket on the Duckworth-Lewis method last year.
UJ cricket manager Karel Mouton said they were well prepared and keen to make an impact, despite league cricket having ended last month.
“We have a full-strength squad and have had some good preparation against the Strikers.”
However, he said they were in a tough pool and singled out Tuks, NMMU and Kempton Park as their main rivals.
Mouton said they were highly motivated as the tournament played a key role in the development of their club players.
“We feel it is very important for club cricket and a key objective in any club player’s career.”
Cricket South Africa general manager Corrie van Zyl said the championship was the culmination of the affiliate club championships around the country and featured the cream of their amateur players.
“As such it is one of the most important windows to showcase the talent coming through our pipeline structures.”
He said club cricket played many important roles.
“The obvious one is to identify talent that has not been picked up at youth level and to make sure that it takes the next step.”
The tournament concludes with the final on April 27.
UJ squad: Neels Bergh (captain), Yasar Cook, Grant Roelofsen, Ryan Rickleton, Lee Gruskin, Keith Dudgeon, Matt Varner, Matt McGillivray, Ndumisa Mvelase, Delano Potgieter, Brandon Verwey, Harry van Straaten and Chad Claasen. Coach: Richard das Neves.