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Ken Borland


More words written about Teeger than for any other U19 captain, but what of his successor, Juan James?

Posted on February 21, 2024 by Ken

More words have been written about former SA U19 captain David Teeger in the last week than for any other skipper ever before in the build-up to the junior world cup, but what about his successor, Juan James?

The 19-year-old James has more experience than Teeger, being 96 days older and having already played senior first-class cricket for Western Province and North-West.

The furore that followed Teeger’s comments supporting the Israeli defence force, the subsequent investigation into what he said at the Jewish Achievers Awards in October, his not guilty verdict but then Cricket South Africa’s decision to strip him of the captaincy anyway, would have made most teenagers exceedingly unhappy and one could have forgiven the national U19 team for going into their showpiece tournament feeling bitter and gloomy.

But this SA U19 squad is made of much more sterner stuff and it seems they have been able to handle the whole controversy more maturely and sensibly than their so-called adult leaders on the CSA Board.

Teeger’s comments, which were made five days before Israel’s large-scale invasion of Gaza, were the subject of no-holds-barred questioning from his team-mates when the squad did media training ahead of their world cup.

Other questions dealt with quotas and matchfixing.

Perhaps this willingness to engage with each other and confront any issues head on is why the team has been able to rally around each other in the wake of Teeger’s controversial axing as captain.

“The whole thing has not affected us at all,” James said earlier this week. “We are a very tight bunch and we stick to our processes as a team.

“David is taking the disappointment very well, he told me that he will give me his full backing and he is prepared to give everything in trying to score runs and take wickets for the team.”

They certainly showed more resolve and ability to handle tough situations than many other South African teams at world cups when they held off a ferocious challenge from the West Indies to win their opening game by 31 runs in Potchefstroom.

Teeger scored 44 and took an important wicket, and appeared to be leading them during the West Indian run-chase when James left the field with an injury.

The Caledon-born James made his senior first-class debut last season for North-West, but Western Province quickly decided to find the finances and bring him back home for this season. Before heading to Potchefstroom University, James had attended Wynberg High School and played club cricket for Ottomans.

While he has batted down the order for the SA U19s and been used more as a very handy off-spin bowler, he has batted at number six for the Western Province senior side.

Having been introduced to the game by his father as a three-year-old in the backyard, James is determined to make full use of every opportunity available to him. His most impressive first-class innings so far came against the Titans at SuperSport Park last season when he came in as a concussion substitute and lashed 37 off just 35 balls.

“It wasn’t a lot of runs, but it was definitely a confidence boost for me because it was the first time I felt I belonged at that level,” James said.

Teeger’s blacklisting by CSA has placed James firmly in the spotlight, but he has captained the SA U19s before, during their series in Bangladesh in July last year.

“It’s second nature for me and the team seems to be engaging quite well with me,” James said ahead of the World Cup. “I’m a fairly relaxed captain, I just want everyone to be themselves.

“But I do like to take the opposition on. I like to take control as a captain, but I don’t mind getting ideas from my team-mates.”

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