Tukkies have won South Africa’s National Club Championships for the last two years, they have been the champion university five times since 2006 and have totally dominated the premier league of their province, Northerns, winning the title for the last five years, going unbeaten for 85 matches.
But the Red Bull Campus Cricket T20 Tournament provides new challenges for Tukkies and coach Pierre de Bruyn is unequivocal about how motivated his team are to succeed when they take on old rivals Stellenbosch University, known as the Steinhoff Maties, in the three-match finals in Pretoria on April 8 and 9.
“To be the first South African team to play in the World Finals of Red Bull Campus Cricket is a huge incentive for us. It’s an opportunity to play on a world stage, this is the Varsity World Cup. Just to get there and be one of the eight countries playing in England will be huge and we’ll be going there to win it,” De Bruyn says.
By rights, Tukkies will be favourites to be the South African qualifiers, given their recent dominance over Maties, but De Bruyn is wary of writing Stellenbosch University off.
“It’s never easy playing against Maties and it’s always been a big rivalry against them, a very competitive edge.”
“If we were playing long-form cricket against them I’d be a lot more confident, but in this format it’s always 50/50. You just need one or two individuals to come off and good sides get beaten, and Maties certainly have guys to make it very difficult for us,” the ex-Titans, Dolphins and Norfolk cricketer says.
De Bruyn is far removed from the reserved type of coach and he freely admits that he only had a relatively small amount of talent as a player, but he thrived on challenges and was the sort of tenacious cricketer who really bugged the opposition.
He is in charge of nurturing some of the best talent in South Africa and one of the first lessons he teaches them is to suck it up when times are tough.
Amongst the exciting talents in the Tukkies team are Theunis de Bruyn, the top-order batsman who turned 21 in October and has come of age this season, scoring half-centuries for the Titans on both his T20 Challenge debut and four-day Sunfoil Series debut.
Left-arm paceman Vincent Moore also played for the Titans and knocked over 10 batsmen in three four-day matches at an average of just 23.80.
Two of the stars of South Africa’s ICC U19 World Cup triumph, batsman and captain Aiden Markram and fast bowler Corbin Bosch, have also enrolled at Tukkies and those overseeing their development are perfectly happy that they are at the right place to make the most of their talent.
Batsman Sean Dickson, wicketkeeper Heinrich Klaasen and leg-spinning all-rounder GC Pretorius are also showing that they could belong in franchise cricket with their performances in the CSA Provincial competitions.
The one notable absentee from the Tukkies squad is opening batsman and left-arm spinner Regardt Verster, a member of the 2012 SA U19 team, who is constantly in the thoughts of his team-mates as he recovers from a serious car accident.
The form book is clearly in favour of the University of Pretoria as they have won the last three matches against the Stellenbosch students. They won the 2012 National Club Championships final by six wickets and beat them by four wickets in round-robin play in 2013. They then beat the Maties by 14 runs on the Duckworth /Lewis Method in the final of the SA Universities Week in December.
University of Pretoria squad: Gerry Pike, Aiden Markram, Theunis de Bruyn, Sean Dickson, Heinrich Klaasen, Johan Wessels, Tian Koekemoer, GC Pretorius, Corbin Bosch, Vincent Moore, David Mogotlane, Ruben Claasen, Bantu Dandala.