Tukkies and Maties, who meet in the local T20 finals at the University of Pretoria on Tuesday and Wednesday, are the first South African teams to take part as Red Bull Campus Cricket expands into a truly global competition.
The Pretoria and Stellenbosch campuses were chosen because they were the two finalists in the national universities week held in December.
India, Pakistan and Sri Lanka, who competed in the first Asian finals in 2012, were joined by Bangladesh, England and Australia’s champion university teams last year and, now, 2014 sees the entrance of South Africa and the West Indies.
This week’s best-of-three finals at the L.C. de Villiers Oval will decide who will represent South Africa in the World Finals in London in July. India’s DAV Chandigarh are the reigning champions, but will be dethroned as Rizvi Mumbai have already qualified from India this year.
Red Bull Campus Cricket is way more than just a tournament that brings together over 170 universities on four continents, trying to qualify for their national finals and then aiming to be the tertiary institute that represents their country in the World Finals; it is also an invaluable safety-net for talent that is going to waste.
“The tournament started in India with the first qualifiers in eight cities in October/November 2011 and we went after college students because the insight from India was that students tended to be ignored if they hadn’t made the age-group squads. They were considered to be non-starters by the state teams.
“But it was not necessarily because they didn’t have talent. A lot of students focus on their education at school. They could have been very good at cricket, but they didn’t get the opportunity to play, or they didn’t have a good school team, so they didn’t make it very far.
“These students haven’t had the platform earlier in their career and Red Bull Campus Cricket is about giving these people wings, giving them an opportunity to compete and show that they have the ability,” Red Bull ambassador and Indian star Gautam Gambhir says.
Many pundits have warned that there is a similar weakness in the South African cricket system – that boys who don’t make provincial age-group teams are forever lost to the system.
While there are players in both sides who are already in the franchise system, who knows what other talent is lurking in the ranks of the Tukkies and Maties squads?