Northerns Premier League winners Assupol Tukkies are the defending champions and will be aiming for a hat-trick of titles, as well as the R50 000 prizemoney for the winning club.
The University of Pretoria may be bringing a new-look side to the club championships – missing nine of last year’s triumphant squad – but they remain in impressive form and full of confidence.
Tukkies not only won the Northerns Premier League in convincing fashion but are also on their way to London in July as South Africa’s representatives in the Red Bull Campus Cricket World Finals, having beaten the University of Stellenbosch 3-0 in the local T20 finals in Pretoria two weeks ago.
But Tukkies coach Pierre de Bruyn says his team cannot afford to rest on their laurels this week, with Maties one of their main challengers in Section Two of the competition.
“We’ve won the last two club champs and have been unbeaten in both, which means there’s a lot of pressure on us this year. We’ll have to start from scratch and put the Red Bull competition behind us, which was a different format anyway.
“We’ve set the benchmark the last couple of years in the club champs, but the teams chasing us are meeting that now and we need to be even better. The other teams are getting closer and closer and it will come down to who plays the better cricket on the day. Every day is highly important and we can’t afford any slip-ups, you can’t have any bad days,” De Bruyn told The Pretoria News yesterday.
The other teams in Tukkies’ section are Cape Town Cricket Club (WP), Kempton Park (Easterns), Madibaz George (SWD) and United, the Border champions, while the sides competing in Section One are Crusaders (KZN), Madibaz PE (EP), North-West University Pukke, University of Free State, University of Johannesburg (Gauteng) and West End from Griquas.
The Tukkies squad has been boosted by the presence of all-rounder Graeme van Buuren, the Titans’ Newcomer of the Year award-winner, and the hero of the University of Pretoria’s triumph in last season’s National Club Championships.
The triumphant SA U19 captain, Aiden Markram, as well as Corbin Bosch, the fast bowler who took four for 15 to win the Player of the Match award in the ICC Junior World Cup last month, are also in the Tukkies squad, but the hard-hitting Theunis de Bruyn has been forced to withdraw due to illness.
Left-arm paceman Vincent Moore is also unavailable as he does not play in the Northerns league, but Tukkies do have the services of experienced non-students like Sean Nowak and Gerhard Linde, both of whom are pace bowlers.
The Tukkies quest for a hat-trick of titles begins today against Kempton Park Cricket Club, the club champions from Northerns’ franchise partners Easterns, at the Tshwane University of Technology Oval.
Section 1: Crusaders (KZN), Madibaz PE (EP), NWU Pukke (North-West), University of Free State (Free State), University of Johannesburg (Gauteng), West End (Griquas).
Section 2: Cape Town (WP), Kempton Park (Easterns), Madibaz George (SWD), Tuks (Northerns), United (Border), University of Stellenbosch (Boland).
Tukkies squad: Aiden Markram, Gerry Pike, Tian Koekemoer, Sean Dickson, Heinrich Klaasen, Graeme van Buuren, Johan Wessels, Tertius Gouws, Sean Nowak, Ruben Claasen, Gerhard Linde, Corbin Bosch, Murray Coetzee.
Today: Section 1 – West End v UJ (Mamelodi Oval); Pukke v Crusaders (Memorial Park); Madibaz PE v UFS (Tuks Oval). Section 2 – Tukkies v Kempton Park (TUT Oval); Madibaz George v Cape Town CC (Sinovich Park); Maties v United (Irene Villagers).
Tomorrow: Section 1 – West End v Crusaders (Memorial Park); UJ v UFS (Tuks Oval); Pukke v Madibaz PE (St Albans). Section 2 – Tukkies v Cape Town CC (Sinovoch Park); Kempton Park v United (Irene Villagers); Madibaz George v Maties (TUT Oval).
Friday: Section 1 – West End v UFS (Laudium Oval); Crusaders v Madibaz PE (Mamelodi Oval); UJ v Pukke (St Albans). Section 2 – Tukkies v United (Sinovich Park); Cape Town CC v Maties (TUT Oval); Kempton Park v Madibaz George (Irene Villagers).
Saturday: Section 1 – West End v Madibaz PE (St Albans); UFS v Pukke (Groenkloof); Crusaders v UJ (Laudium Oval). Section 2 – Tukkies v Maties (Irene Villagers); United v Madibaz George (TUT Oval); Cape Town CC v Kempton Park (Sinovich Park).
Sunday: Section 1 – West End v Pukke (Mamelodi Oval); Madibaz PE v UJ (Tuks Oval); UFS v Crusaders (St Albans). Section 2 – Tukkies v Madibaz George (TUT Oval); Maties v Kempton Park (Sinovich Park); United v Cape Town CC (Irene Villagers).
Monday: Final – Winner Section 1 v Winner Section 2 (SuperSport Park).