Assupol Tuks are representing South Africa at the T20 event for the first time and will be joining the student champions from the United Kingdom, Australia, Bangladesh, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and the West Indies in the finals, with 106 universities taking part in the qualifying tournaments.
The eight finalists will be split into two round-robin groups of four, with the draw only being done on Sunday evening. The top two teams in each group will then contest the semi-finals next Saturday, with the final to follow later the same day.
Tuks have been the national club champions for the last three years, enjoying an 18-match unbeaten run in the process, they are the South African Students Sports Union champions and in the last week they have beaten SA A twice in warm-up games.
“We’ve put a lot of work in for the last 12 weeks and I’m really chuffed with our preparation. It was great for the guys to play against SA A and measure themselves, and we managed to ruffle a few feathers as well.
“So everyone’s looking confident and very excited. We’re expecting a very high standard at the tournament, but we’re going there to win. The trophy looks like the real World Cup and we want it here,” coach Pierre de Bruyn said before the team’s departure on Thursday evening.
Tuks will arrive in England on Friday confident of their chances of winning the title in South Africa’s debut appearance at the Red Bull Campus Cricket Finals.
The strength of the Tuks team would seem to lie in their batting. Opener Aiden Markram was not only the inspirational captain of the SA U19 side that won the Junior World Cup earlier this year but was also named the Player of the Tournament for the runs he scored at the top of the order. He has shown no signs of easing up since then and is joined in a powerful Tuks batting line-up by Theunis de Bruyn, one of the brightest batting talents in the Titans franchise, and strokeplayers such as Heinrich Klaasen, Sean Dickson and Johan Wessels, all of whom have been in fine form lately.
Left-armer Vincent Moore and Corbin Bosch, another SA U19 star who was man of the match in the Junior World Cup final, spearhead the bowling. Both have immaculate skills in the death overs, while seamers De Bruyn, Tian Koekemoer and Wessels, and off-spinners Markram and the lanky Ruben Claasen, slow left-armer David Mogotlane and leg-spinner GC Pretorius provide a wealth of options in all conditions.
The success of the Tuks side in the last three years also means they have mastered the knack of winning under pressure and coach De Bruyn, one of the most tenacious players of his era, takes pride in the ability of his team to get the job done.
“Some people don’t like pressure, but we want it, we thrive on it. We don’t pretend it’s not around and we’ve coached the players to deal with it. They make sure they find a way to perform under pressure and that plays a massive role, they have belief when they’re under the pump because they’ve overcome most pressure situations in the last three years,” De Bruyn said.
“I don’t think we could be better prepared, we’ve done the hard work and now we just need to express our skills with confidence. We’re a tight unit, we’ve been tested under pressure and we’ve won matches which we shouldn’t have won. I’m very confident in the batting and we have all the bases covered in our bowling,” Theunis de Bruyn, the captain, said.
The tournament starts on Monday at the Wormsley Cricket Club, while Saturday’s semi-finals and final will be held at the famous Oval.
Participating teams: Leeds Bradford MCC (United Kingdom); University of New South Wales (Australia); University of Liberal Arts (Bangladesh); Rizvi College (India); Karachi University (Pakistan); University of Pretoria (South Africa);International College of Business and Technology (Sri Lanka); Jamaica University (West Indies).
Tuks squad: Theunis de Bruyn, Heinrich Klaasen, Sean Dickson, Gerry Pike, Aiden Markram, Corbin Bosch, David Mogotlane, Tian Koekemoer, Vincent Moore, Nsovo Baloyi, GC Pretorius, Ruben Claassen, Johan Wessels.