Sport

MOREENG DEPARTURE

Post-Moreeng, new Proteas women coach has a solid foundation to build on

Post-Moreeng, new Proteas women coach has a solid foundation to build on
Outgoing Proteas women coach Hilton Moreeng during at Cricket SA's head office in Johannesburg on 1 March 2023. (Photo: Lefty Shivambu / Gallo Images)

The Proteas women are in search of a new head coach following the departure of long-serving Hilton Moreeng.

When Hilton Moreeng took over as the head of the Proteas women 12 years ago, the side was far from being the force it is now in world cricket. After countless highs and lows with the team, the Kimberley-born tactician called an end to his measured innings of more than a decade.

Moreeng and Cricket South Africa (CSA) announced on Friday, 10 May that the long-serving coach was vacating his position with immediate effect. In the interim, assistant Dillon du Preez will steer the ship while CSA’s hierarchy searches for someone to take over the hot seat full-time.

The sudden departure was unexpected, CSA director of cricket Enoch Nkwe told journalists during a press conference following the announcement of Moreeng’s departure.

There was hope that while they sought the perfect successor to seize the reins and raise the level of the Proteas higher than Moreeng’s immense contribution, the coach would hold the fort. That included leading them at the T20 World Cup in October 2024, in Bangladesh.    

“He opted not to continue. And the timing of it is not great, but we really respect and understand his position,” Nkwe said.

Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas women’s head coach steps aside after more than a decade at the helm

“He’s invested a lot, you know, obviously, into women’s cricket. He’s taken this team from basically nothing to great heights. He’s reached a point where, and he was completely honest, he needs to allow the next person to take the team to the next level,” he added.

Proteas women

Dillon du Preez – who steps in as Proteas women coach in the interim – at a training session at the Groenkloof Oval in Pretoria in May 2022. (Photo: Lee Warren / Gallo Images)

During his tenure the Proteas boasted a win percentage of 56% and shattered a number of glass ceilings — including a first victory over the best women’s team in global cricket, Australia, in early 2024.

At international tournaments the 46-year-old guided South Africa to the brink of glory as he became the first senior national team coach to reach a cricket World Cup final, at the Women’s T20 World Cup 2023 held on home soil. That was preceded by two semifinal appearances, in 2014 and 2020. 

In 50-over World Cups, Moreeng’s charges featured in two semifinals, in 2017 and 2022, losing to England on both occasions.

Proteas women Enoch Nkwe

CSA director of cricket Enoch Nkwe during the 2023/24 CSA men’s domestic season launch at the Pietermaritzburg Oval on 26 August 2023. (Photo: Rogan Ward / Gallo Images)

Internal turmoil 

Despite Moreeng’s incredible achievements as head coach there have been several obstacles on the path.

Although not directly at fault, as South African women’s cricket stepped deeper into professionalism, weight and fitness issues among the Proteas’ old guard came to the fore. 

In 2022, then 30-year-old opening batter Lizelle Lee quit the national side after failing a skinfold test. She still plays in T20 leagues across the globe.

Former skipper Dané van Niekerk was left out of South Africa’s T20 World Cup side last year after failing several fitness tests. She subsequently announced her retirement from international duty a month later, at just 29.

Both of the above fitness requirements have since been adjusted by CSA, with coaches now able to select players despite failing a fitness test.

Marizanne Kapp of South Africa during the third ODI against Sri Lanka at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom on 17 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Some contention followed in 2023 when Moreeng’s tenure was extended on a short-term contract after the success of last year’s T20 showpiece. 

Several players appealed to CSA for a new coach with a different approach to take charge of the national side, citing the need for fresh ideas to reinvigorate the team. Nevertheless he stayed on. 

CSA, meanwhile, went on a head hunt for a new coach and interviewed several candidates but none fitted the bill, and Moreeng’s contract was extended once more.

Despite expectations to lead the team at the World Cup this year, he elected to leave the post on his own terms, five months before the tournament.

Proteas future: immediate and long-term

South Africa’s next challenge is an all-format away series against India in June and July, where they will play three ODIs, three T20Is and a Test. 

This will serve as interim boss Du Preez’s audition for the permanent role. It will be the first time he serves as head coach of a side, having been assistant coach with the Proteas women for the past four years.

The T20I portion of the tour has been scheduled for the backend, with the ODIs and Test match – in that order – preceding it. This serves as building towards the World Cup only three months later. 

Marizanne Kapp bowls against Sri Lanka during the ODI at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom on 17 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Sinalo Jafta of South Africa during their ODI against Sri Lanka at the JB Marks Oval in Potchefstroom on 17 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Du Preez has indicated that he will not change too much to begin with, having been mentored by Moreeng.

“He’s been here for about 11/12 years in this space and to learn from him meant a lot to me,” Du Preez told journalists.

“Whatever you know about cricket, the moment you move into the women’s space, you actually find out that you might know nothing. What he has done for women’s cricket, and for me, in the last four years is amazing. I couldn’t pick a better guy to learn from.”

Nkwe also hinted that they would do their utmost to retain Moreeng in some capacity, since his experience in the women’s game is second to none. “The way women’s cricket has evolved over the last few years, his experience will go a long way in helping our women’s pathway to grow even more.”

South Africa’s Masabata Klaas in action against Sri Lanka in Potchefstroom on 17 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

Laura Wolvaardt bats for the Proteas against Sri Lanka in Potchefstroom on 17 April 2024. (Photo: Sydney Seshibedi / Gallo Images)

About their ideal candidate for the job, he said: “We need to make sure that the person that’s going to be taking over the project really understands where the team is at and how they can grow it further.

“They must have a lot of coaching experience. Be it at domestic or international level, leadership qualities. Those are some of the things we are going to be looking at. 

“Also, their playing philosophy and also a deep understanding of the environment that is women’s cricket and where it’s going. How do we become the best in the world?”

Read more in Daily Maverick: Proteas women skipper Laura Wolvaardt a superior generational talent with records to boast

The Proteas are in a tough World Cup group alongside England, West Indies, Scotland and hosts Bangladesh. 

While England are favourites to top the group, South Africa – with a different coach at a World Cup after more than a decade – cannot be written off, having finished as losing finalists at the tournament on home soil last year.

Moreeng’s tenure was a roller coaster ride, and despite losing their last ODI and T20 series to Sri Lanka, he departs the team at a height exponentially higher than when he hopped onto the journey at the end of 2012. DM

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