After ending runners-up in the Varsity Cricket final this year, the University of Johannesburg squad will be chasing further success in the University Sport South Africa tournament next month.
The premier 50-overs competition for varsities will be hosted by Wits in Johannesburg from December 2 to 6.
Coach Dumisa Makalima admitted their recent form in the USSA tournament had not been at the level they wanted and that they were keen to change that this year.
“In the last few years we have performed much better in the [Twenty20) Varsity Cricket format and in the Gauteng league matches,” he said.
“But we have been working on a number of aspects and the culture of the side has changed. That has come through in the last six months and we are ready to show up and be competitive.”
Although they are missing one of their key players in Delano Potgieter, who is part of the Mzansi Super League franchise Jozi Stars, Makalima said they had good continuity from the team which competed in Varsity Cricket.
In that Twenty20 tournament in September UJ were shaded in the final by UP-Tuks – and Makalima said they were eager to achieve similar success next month.
“It is very close to the same combination as we had for Varsity Cricket, although we realise there are differences between the 20-overs format and the longer version at USSA.
“We have been involved in a fair amount of league cricket over the longer format so that has got us up to speed with what will be required at Wits.
“We have a balanced outfit, ready to perform, and they are starting to gel well as a team.”
The UJ coach added that they had made allowances for the year-end examinations during the build-up to the tournament.
“We understand that, as students, academics must come first for the cricketers, so it’s important to give them enough time to study and to work the practices around that,” said Makalima.
“However, we have had regular cricket over the weekends, so to have a bit of break is a blessing in disguise.
“It’s important not to over-practise and I believe the squad will be fresh and ready for the USSA week.”
He said UP-Tuks would always be strong contenders for the title “regardless of the competition”, while NWU-Pukke and Stellenbosch were other teams to watch.
“I also think, though, that the conditions on the Highveld will play a major role, especially for the teams from the coastal regions.
“The biggest challenge will be to adapt to the harder pitches, where the ball comes onto the bat.
“But I know that USSA and Varsity Cricket have been strong competitions in recent years so we expect another very tough tournament.”